Around The Bases Vol IX: Phillies Can’t Win, Red Sox Can’t Keep ’em Out and Sammy Finally Gets Caught

This has been a busy week in baseball: The Philadelphia Phillies still haven’t found a way to win in one of the nicest ballparks in the country; Sammy Sosa’s name showed up in the news again, the Boston Red Sox hit the magic 500, Pudge Rodriguez became the most prolific catcher in baseball history, and where’s Pedro going?

We examine all of this and more in this week’s edition of Around the Bases:

In what has become one of the strangest stories of the season so far, the Philadelphia Phillies, reigning World Champions, lest we forget, just cannot win a game at home. They have the best road record in all of baseball (23-9), a full 4 games ahead of the Dodgers (19-13).

But they are nearly all the way at the other end of the spectrum when it comes to their home record. Their 13-19 record at Citizen’s Bank Park ranks them 3rd from the bottom, only 3 games ahead of last place Washington Nationals (10-22) and 2.5 games ahead of 2nd to last place Arizona Diamondbacks.

They have lost in extra innings, they have lost in blow outs, and they have lost in one-run games. They have lost in pitchers’ duals; they have lost in slug-fests. They have lost to National League teams and American League teams. Thank God they haven’t played any sandlot teams. Basically, they have lost nearly every way you can lose, except for giving up the losing run in an error. We’ll save that gem for other teams.

One thing that’s not helping is that the Phillies are being out-homered by opponents 56-45 at home. That’s even with HR machines Raul Ibanez (22, 3rd NL/ML), Ryan Howard (19, 6th NL/ML) and Chase Utley (16) (9th NL) in the lineup. By the way, this is going to be seriously hampered by the fact that Ibanez is now on the shelf with a groin injury for the next couple of week.

OK, so we know it’s not hitting. So, that leaves pitching. And that, my friends, is the Phillies real issue. The National League ERA average for home teams is 4.11. The Phillies home ERA is a whopping 5.40, 30th out of 30 teams. That’s last for those of you who have trouble with the higher math. They also have the 2nd highest amount of walks allowed (137) at home in the NL and the highest home OBP allowed in all of baseball (.361).

In away games, the Phillies ERA plummets to a much more manageable 4.15. Their 97 walks ranks 2nd least in the majors (to St. Louis’s 92), and their .329 OBP not only ranks in the bottom 10 (8th, actually), it falls below the Major League average (.341).

Maybe they should just consider playing the rest of the season on the road? Citizen’s Bank Park is beautiful, and a great place to watch a game, but is it really worth it?

Was anyone really at all surprised when it was announced on Tuesday that Sammy Sosa was one of the 103 names on the list of players who came up positive on the banned substance list in 2003?

Sosa will forever be linked to Mark McGuire, and steroids, and quite frankly, it didn’t matter whether he ever came up on a list or not. This just made it easier for us. Fair, probably not. But considering all that we know about HGH and steroids now, that we didn’t know five or seven years ago, that’s the way it is.

Looking at the list of top HR hitters from 1998 through 2007, 4 of the top 5 have now been found to have cheated. Not thought to have cheated, but actually found to have cheated.

1) Alex Rodriguez – 454 HR
2) Sammy Sosa – 402 HR
3) Barry Bonds – 388 HR
4) Manny Ramirez – 381 HR
5) Jim Thome – 374 HR

Absolutely staggering, and so very sad. And just to complete the circle, the other two major players from that era who will forever be linked to the steroid scandal, Jason Giambi and Rafael Palmiero were ranked 9th and 14th in HR respectively during the same time frame.

Wednesday night, against the Florida Marlins, the Boston Red Sox played in front of their 500th consecutive sold out crowd. Yes, I am well aware that Fenway Park is the smallest ballpark in the country, seating a mere 37,373 people. But still, you have to admit, 500 straight sold out games is impressive by any measure.

To this point, I was at the Phillies-Red Sox game last Friday night in Philadelphia and I was chatting with some others in Sox gear (we tend to congregate). The delightful woman I was speaking with explained to me that although she was from Pittsfield in western Mass, it was easier, although far more expensive, for her and her husband to fly to Philly and see the Sox there once a year than it was for them to see them at Fenway.

Now, I love the Sox and always will, and I admit that I see them every time they come to Philly and I praise Bud Selig and interleague games for it. And, I travel to Baltimore to catch them at least once a year if I can, but I don’t think I would actually fly somewhere and stay overnight in a hotel to see them. I think my wife would scalp me, then my tickets, in that order.

Back to the point. 500 games is a pretty long time in baseball terms. That’s just over 6 years worth of baseball. In fact, the last time the Sox didn’t sell out was May 15, 2003. There are plenty of Red Sox players who have never played there in a Red Sox uniform when Fenway hasn’t been stuffed to the gills.

Actually, the only players who were on the team when this streak started are Jason Varitek, newly signed David Ortiz, and Tim Wakefield. Manager Terry Francona wasn’t even there yet.

There are many reasons for this phenomenon. History, they’re a great team, it’s one of the cathedrals of baseball, the atmosphere is amazing, the big green monster, etc… The bottom line is that Boston is just a baseball town. Always was, always will be.

Congratulations to Houston Astros’ catcher Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez on passing Carlton “Pudge” Fisk for most games as a catcher with 2,227 on Wednesday.

While Hall of Famer Fisk played in a bit of a different era (’75-’93) and for only two teams (Red Sox and White Sox), Rodriguez is now on his 6th team. He played most of his career with the Texas Rangers, then moved on for a season with the Marlins, then a few years with the Tigers, followed by a season with the Yankees, and now he’s with the Astros. Wherever Pudge has gone, he’s done well.

He has a career batting average of .300 to go with his 301 HR and 1244 RBI.

OK, we know that Pudge Rodriguez now holds the record for the most games caught with 2,227, and we know that he passed Pudge Fisk, who had the record with 2,226.

Who is ranked 3rd in most games caught?

Submit your answer/guess on the form below. The first person with the right answer receives a copy of the Nickleback Live at Sturgis 2006 DVD.

Has it crossed anyone’s mind that it’s only 25 days until the All-Star Game, and Pedro Martinez, who not so long ago was the best pitcher in baseball, does not have a job? And he’s not the only one.

Ben Sheets, Chuck James, and Mark Mulder are all good pitcher coming off of surgeries that teams should consider taking a chance on as we near the second half of the season.

Other players that can still contribute include: Paul Byrd, Moises Alou, Ray Durham, Paul Lo Duca, and a host of others.

Some of these guys are better than what’s out there right now. I think Philly is looking for pitching. And Byrd did go 15-11 for them in ’99. They’d love to have him back. And if Durham can move over to play SS, I think Boston may be looking for someone…. I’m just sayin’.