One pitcher came off the DL in a new role and lasted only one outing before going out for the rest of the season. Another pitcher left the bullpen to begin a new career as a starter, and got rocked in his first big league start. And yet another pitcher came off a long wait on the DL and did better than anyone could have anticipated.
This is where we begin this week’s look Around the Bases:
*After five starts this season where he went 3-2 with an ERA of 2.00 with 36 K and only 8 BB, Braves right hander John Smoltz decided that he couldn’t take the pain in his shoulder any longer and shut it down. He went on the DL for a few weeks, and after trying several different things, decided that he would try to comeback as a reliever again.
And why not? After all, Smoltz is already the only person in the history of baseball to have 200 career victories and 150 saves. As a reliever between ’01-‘04, Smoltz had a total of 154 saves (15 blown saves) with an ERA of 2.41. However, fate intervened and in his comeback bid, he only lasted one inning against the Florida Marlins. He gave up 2 runs on 3 hits and lost the game. The next morning, the Braves announced that Smoltz would be having season ending, and possibly career ending surgery on his shoulder.
Smoltz has said that the blown save had nothing to do with the decision and he would have made the exact same decision had he struck out the side and gotten the save. It was the constant pain that he felt at all times that he was not throwing the ball that led him to this. If this is the end of his career, and he never pitches another inning again, he has had one hell of a career that will certainly earn him a first-ballot entry into Cooperstown. Aside from the 200 wins and 150 saves, he also won the Cy Young Award in ’96 and was the NLCS MVP in ’92. He led the NL in wins twice (’96-24, ’06-16), and in saves once (’02-55).
* New York Mets pitcher Pedro Martinez had some different luck coming off of the DL this past week. Martinez last pitched on April1st, lasting just 3 innings that day before coming out with hamstring problems. On June 3rd against San Francisco, Martinez pitched 6 strong innings, giving up 3 runs on 7 hits while striking out 3 and walking 3. He did let his pitch count get high (109), however, and needs to be a little more economical with his pitches.
The good news for the Mets is that the next day Martinez said he felt great. The other good news for the team is that the preceding week there were rumors swirling that Martinez was considering retiring at the end of this season to move back to the Dominican Republic to care for his ailing father. Pedro put those rumors to rest and stated that he plans on pitching for a few more years.
After much deliberation and discussion, the New York Yankees finally moved relief pitcher Joba Chamberlain into the starter role. His first start was not a good one. Chamberlain lasted all of 2.1 innings and gave up 2 runs (1 earned) on 1 hit and 4 walks. His 62 pitches was nearly as much as his last two outings combined (68 pitches in 3.1 innings) as his nerves seemed to get the better of him.
According to Yankees manager Joe Girardi, Chamberlain was on a pitch count and was coming out after 65 pitches anyway, but you have to think the Yankees upper management had hoped for that he would have gone deeper into the game than the third inning.
His second outing as a starter, on Sunday against the Royals, went much better. This time he lasted 4.1 innings and gave up 2 earned runs on 5 hits, but had 5 Ks and only 1 BB. All in all, a very good start. Girardi pulled him after 78 pitches, as planned. It’s anticipated that Girardi will keep him in for up to 90 pitches in his next scheduled start, which will be Friday in Houston.
* Cincinnati Reds outfielder Ken Griffey Jr. seems stuck on 599 HR. He hasn’t hit a HR since May 31st against the Braves. Griffey only hit two HR in the entire month of May (100 at bats). The only other time in his career that this happened was in June ’90 when he hit 2 HR in 104 AB. Besides that, the last time Griffey hit so few HR in a month when he had at least 100 at bats was Sept ‘01 when Griffey hit 3 HR in 100 AB.
Once Junior reaches the elusive 600 HR mark, he will become only the 6th player in Major League history to do so, joining Sammy Sosa (609), Willie Mays (660), Babe Ruth (714), Hank Aaron (755), and Barry Bonds (762). There is very little doubt by anyone that if not for Griffey’s unfortunate injuries that plagued his career, he would undoubtedly be looking at 700 right now, if not soon passing Barry Bonds.
NOTE: After the writing of this column, Junior finally hit #600 off of Marlins lefty Mark Hendrikson.
Of ACTIVE players, Ken Griffey Jr. is the RBI leader with 1728. Who is 2nd in RBI among ACTIVE players? (Please don’t check the internet, that’s just too easy).
Fill out the form below to submit your answer. The winner will be drawn at random from all correct entries. First prize is Vince Vaughn’s Wild West Comedy Show DVD, courtesy of New Line Home Entertainment.
ANSWER TO LAST WEEK’S TRIVIA QUESTION:
Over the past 162 games, (since June 6, 2007) the Chicago Cubs have the 2nd BEST Won-Loss Record in all of baseball (96-66). Who has the BEST Won-Loss record in baseball during that same time-span? (Hint: It’s not the Rays.)
New York Yankees (97-65)
Congratulations to Paul Diak, who was selected amongst a few of the correct answers submitted.
* Last week, Sammy Sosa quietly announced his retirement. It’s a shame, really. This could have been one of the big stories of the year, but instead it was a blurb on Sportscenter. Barely even a mention. His numbers are staggering: 609 HR (5th All-time), 1667 RBI (23rd All-time). 66 HR in the storied 1998 season when he and Mark McGuire brought the masses back to baseball. 63 HR the next season. Sosa is the only person in the history of baseball to have 50 or more HR 4 consecutive seasons (’98-’01). Sosa was never actually found guilty of doing steroids or HGH, but there is little doubt that he did. The very possibility that he did makes all of the aforementioned numbers more than just a little dirty and makes one look at them just a little apprehension. Yeah, they’re some great numbers, but… It really is a shame.
* For the 2nd time this season, Phillies second baseman Chase Utley hit homeruns in 5 consecutive games. This really is quite a feat. To make it more interesting, Utley had 9 RBI in each of the two runs. And he just wasn’t hitting HR during this streak. During the first streak (17-21 Apr) he went 10-21 for a .476 avg. with a .522 OBP, 1.381 Slugging pct, and a 1.903 OPS. The second streak May 28 – June 2) was nearly as good. That time he went 8-18 for a .444 avg. with a .545 OBP, 1.278 Slugging pct, and a 1.823 OPS.
The last time anyone had two 5 consecutive game streaks with a HR in the same season was Barry Bonds in ’01, and they were actually six consecutive games with a HR. The first one (April 12-18), Bonds went 8-21 for a .381 batting average and 11 RBI. The second streak, just a few weeks later (May 17-21), Bonds went on a tear, hitting 9 HR, 11 RBI, and going 11-20 for a .550 batting average. Prior to that, the last time anyone had such a streak you’d have to go all the way back to the 1970 season when Twins 3B Harmon Killebrew had two 5 consecutive game streaks with a HR (May 3-8; July 11-18).