Get well, Scott Spiezio

August 10, 2007

spiezio.jpg

As Deadspin already pointed out, the Rick Ankiel story overshadowed another story about the Cardinals.

Scott Spiezio has entered a rehab program for drug and alcohol abuse. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports:

Spiezio’s problems apparently came to a head Monday night when he received intravenous fluid during and shortly after the team’s series opener against the San Diego Padres. Exhibiting an elevated heart rate and sweating profusely, Spiezio also was noticeably irritated and anxious, according to a person familiar with the situation.

I’ve been a fan of Spiezio’s ever since he became an Angel in 2000, helped then win the 2002 World Series, including hitting a home run that was kind of important. I still remember yelling for that ball to go over the wall. Obviously, I never knew Scott personally, but loved watching him play with all that energy, emotion and hustle.

I, and I know all of you, hope Spiezio takes care of whatever problems he’s facing and comes back healthy, physically and mentally. Best of luck to you, Scott.

diamondbacks.jpgSomehow, the Diamondbacks are in first place despite having been outscored this season by 28 runs.

They’re 65-51 with an expected pythagorean record of 55-61 (they’ve scored 484 runs, allowed 512), meaning they’re playing a ridiculous 10 games better than their pythagorean record. The next highest difference between actual record and pythagorean record belongs to the St. Louis Cardinals, six games better (53-59 compared to 47-65).

For those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about, studies have shown in the past that teams will generally win close to the number of games that the difference between the number of runs they score and allow. It makes sense when you think about it — the Red Sox are really, really good because they score a lot more runs than they give up, and the Tampa Bay Devil Rays are really, really bad because they give up a lot more runs than they score.

But Arizona has been an exception this year. While looking at those stats might lead you to believe that Arizona will regress, I’ve been waiting for that to happen for a couple of months and the Diamonbacks have only moved up in the standings, currently with a three-game lead over the Padres and a five-game lead over the Rockies and Dodgers.

Arizona may regress a little, but just because they’ve over-achieved to this point doesn’t mean they have to underachieve the rest of the way. If Arizona plays 22-24 the rest of the way, which is what their expected record says they should, San Diego would have to go 27-21 to pass them, which given the way they’ve played this year, is far from a lock.

And if the 83-78 St. Louis Cardinals can win the World Series, well, anything can happen in the playoffs.

Finally, a feel good story

August 10, 2007

ankiel-hitting.jpgI know I’m only the 8,791st blog to post something about this, but Rick Ankiel homered yesterday in his first game back in the majors.

I can still remember watching him pitch in 2000. He was amazing during the season and was one of the best pitchers in the league. Then he just fell apart in the playoffs and never recovered. It was painful for to watch, and I’m not even a Cardinals fan.

So when I heard he had made it back to the big leagues as an outfielder, I was thrilled and curious. Going from pitcher to position player doesn’t happen often in the majors, especially one with this kind of story. Then he homered and gave us, in this summer of negative sports stories, something to cheer about and be genuinely happy about.

How will Ankiel do the rest of the season? Who knows. I’ll worry about that later. Let’s enjoy this while it lasts.

Other blogs about Ankiel I liked:

Deadspin’s Will Leitch was actually there.

So was Doolittle Brothers.

The Dugout with, as usual, a hilarious chat about it.

Ladies… reminds us comebacks are hot.

Viva El Birdos is of course, thrilled.

Friday Links

August 10, 2007

vlad.jpgStuff to read while you marvel at John Daly being in first place at the PGA Championship:

The Orange County Register has an excellent feature on Vladimir Guerrero’s mother, who serves as a mother figure and cooks every day for a giant family and any other visiting players, mostly from the Dominican. It’s great to see someone care for so many people.

Jon Methven of Bugs and Cranks has the best take I’ve seen on the rumor about Derek Jeter, Jessica Alba and herpes.

Cal Ripken, diplomat? Really? (Lion in Oil)

Barry Bonds may not be a Giant in 2008, but he sure as hell better not be an Angel. He’s still very good, but I don’t want the headache. (Larry Brown @ AOL Fanhouse).

Beano Cook, my favorite 75 year old college football analyst, is back on ESPN. Now we get to hear about the glory days of Army and Cornell going at it. (Awful Announcing)

 Who will be the Cubs’ new owners? (Winter and Baseball)

martin3.jpgRussell Martin is an amazing player. He is a legitimate all star, and the hitting he provides while playing the toughest position in baseball, catcher, a position not known for its hitting. (He’s hitting .295 with 12 homers and 68 RBI for you traditional types and has a .366 OBP, .462 SLG and 114 OPS+ for the rest of us.)

He plays nearly every day — which catchers usually don’t, getting a day off every week or two (or more for the ones who aren’t very good, but that’s partially to let others play). Martin has played in 109 of his team’s 114 games, which, for a catcher, I’m not so sure is such a good thing. Being a catcher takes a toll on your body. Your major-league leaders in games played, catchers only:

1. Russell Martin, LAD 109
2. Jorge Posada, NYY 106
3. Victor Martinez, CLE 105
4. A.J. Pierzynski, CWS 101
5. Three tied at 96

Let’s dig a little deeper. The other three catchers on this list are all seasoned veterans, Martin is 24 and is in his first full major-league season. The other three catchers also play in the American League, meaning they can occasionally DH. Posada has played three games at DH and one at 1B. Martinez has played 23 games at 1B and two at DH. Baseball-Reference has Pierzynski playing only 96 games at catcher, meaning he must have pinch-hit in the other five. Meanwhile, Martin has caught 103 games, and played 2 at DH (during interleague play, of which there are no more games left).

So Dodgers’ manager Grady Little is asking Russell Martin to do what no other manager is asking his starting catcher to do, which is insane, because like I said, this is Martin’s first full season in the majors and he’s only 24. And it’s not like the Dodgers don’t have a capable backup. Mike Lieberthal, a two-time all-star and has five seasons of OPS+ 100 or better. Lieberthal has to be one of the better backup catchers in the league.

Grady Little may be burning Martin out. Martin had an OPS of .866 before the all-star break, only .700 since. That’s a big difference. So with Martin not playing as well as he was earlier in the year, is Grady Little nuts for never giving him a game off? I think so.

paulshirley.jpgI’m not the biggest NBA fan in the world. I typically only follow the NBA closely during the playoffs and when the Clippers are competitive, which in most years, consists only of opening night when they are tied for first place.

All that being said, I just finished reading Can I Keep My Jersey? by Paul Shirley, and can say without hesitation, it was one of the best books I’ve ever read.

I know this book came out in May, and it’s August now. But typically the books I read are about baseball, baseball and baseball. So if you’re really annoyed I’m writing this now, well, too bad.

Shirley, who many of you already know from various blogs and articles he’s written, uses that same witty, snarky, intelligent, thoughtful tone throughout his book. Can I Keep My Jersey? is a collection of journal entries he wrote during his first four years of professional basketball, which most notably included brief stints with the Chicago Bulls, the Atlanta Hawks and the Phoenix Suns team which played in the 2005 conference finals. But Shirley did so much more than that — in between all of his brief stays in the NBA, he played professionally in four other countries.

One of the recurring storylines in the book is Shirley’s struggle with himself as a basketball player — he’s not gifted with NBA all-star talent, as he’s played mostly garbage time in the NBA and is constantly being cut and passed over by different teams in the league. But he has developed his game to the point where European teams are interested in him, which gives him a chance to play, to see new cultures and to make some money, but it’s not the NBA, the league he grew up dreaming about playing in.

Among the best parts of the book were Shirley describing his interactions with teammates. Shirley is, well, a smart guy and knows about a lot of different things (he got a degree in mechanical engineering from Iowa State). Many of his teammates, well, don’t know things like how many stars are on the flag and what they mean, let alone what the stripes stand for. Many of his teammates grew up in a world were they were always the best at basketball, didn’t have to work hard at basketball or anything else, and constantly had people telling them how great they were. So Shirley, in his journals, spends a lot of time making witty comments about his teammates, his teams, the leagues he’s in, the places he’s in, the people he meets and everything else. His teammates don’t seem to care much for Shirley, and most of the friends he makes seem to be trainers and assistant coaches. Shirley’s thoughts about all of the different places he plays in Europe and the U.S. are entertaining too, as are many of his observations on society.

This is the first book review I’ve ever written, so if this book doesn’t sound appealing to you, it’s my fault. If you have free time, you should definitely read this book.

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