Another Desert Dandy; Darvish and Desmond Dial Long Distance

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Hi all.  Here’s how I see baseball on this Thursday, August 25.

For the second time in 3 games, two awful ball clubs have provided exciting, if not artistic games.  The latest was a D-backs 10-9 win over the Braves in 11 innings in Phoenix, following their 9-8 win there over the Braves Monday night. These games are a throwback to the late 1990’s when, as it turned out entirely too many players were hitting drug-assisted home runs.  In this game, the D-Backs took a 9-5 lead into the 9th but Enrique Burgos gave up 4 runs without retiring a batter, tying the game. In the home 11th with the bases full Brandon Drury hit a scoring fly ball sending the Phoenix faithful home happy. Michael Bourn put on a heroic performance with 4 hits including 2 triples. While the D-Backs have a franchise-record 49 3-baggers. Bourn is the only one to have two in a game. Five D-Backs have put up two triples in a game in past seasons.  For the Braves, Ender Inciarte had 4 hits of his own. For the D-Backs, Jean Segura, Jake Lamb and Paul Goldschmidt contributed home runs. Patrick Corbin, usually a starter came in from the pen to claim his 5th win against 13 losses.

Forget the M&M boys of Mantle and Maris. Last  night it was the D&D boys,  Yu Darvish and Ian Desmond hitting home runs for the Rangers en route to their 6-5 wins over the Reds in Cincinnati. Nomar Mazara  hit a 3-run long ball in the second inning for the Rangers, but it was a double by Adrian Beltre in the 8th that gave them the lead for good.  That happened to be his 2900th hit in the bigs. All the home runs came off Reds rookie Tim Adelman.  Darvish hit the ball a lot better than he threw it, giving up 5 runs in 6 innings and leaving in a 5-5 tie. The Rangers now host the other Ohio team, the first-place Indians of the Central Division in a 4-game series in Arlington.

As usual on a Thursday there is some daylight baseball.  The Red Sox and Rays have the earliest game, at 1:10 Eastern. Drew Pomeranz goes for the Red Sox against Jake Odorizzi.  Both pitchers have been going well of late. The two teams played 11 innings last night with the Rays earning a walkoff win. The Tigers and Twins start at 1:10 as the Red Sox and Rays do. The Twins will try again with Jose Berrios in spite of his 8.47 ERA. All the other games are under the lights. The O’s-Nats game should have featured Max Scherzer and Chris Tillman, but the O’s have had to put their ace on the Dl as the Nats did with Stephen Strasburg and the Mets did with both Steven Matz and Jonathan Niese. For Toronto, J.A. Happ is on the hill. He’s their ace and could win 20 but he’s historically done poorly against the Halos. Robbie Ray goes for Arizona against the Braves. Considering he struck out 13 men in his last outing, just maybe this won’t be another slugfest in Phoenix.

A longtime veteran has to call for the moving van, and no matter that the trade deadline has passed.  The Braves have sent Jeff Francoeur to Miami for a minor-league catcher.  Francoeur is 32, an Atlanta native and a capable outfielder.  With Giancarlo Stanton probably finished, the Marlins need warm bodies in the outfield, whether they can hit or not. And Frenchy, as he’s been called can hit a little. He has over 1300 hits in a career that started in 2005. Had he not been a first-round draftee in 2002 he planned to go to Clemson and play football and later coach the game on the high school level. The Braves’ phone call changed all that.  He’s no stranger to packing up and tipping moving men-this will be his 9th team in 11 seasons. The Dodgers, desperate for healthy pitchers have activated Rich Hill off the DL. At the same time, Rob Segedin who hit a home run for them the other day went on the paternity list. Also on that list is the Mets’ Neil Walker, whose wife gave birth to a baby girl. The Mets’ lefty Jonathan Niese needs knee surgery and is in all likelihood finished both for the year and as a Met.  To keep  him the Mets would have to pay him 5 million dollars, which seems extremely unlikely to happen.

Our first baseball birthday is Justin Upton, who is 29 today. While his brother Melvin is now a Blue Jay, Justin toils for the Tigers. He’s put up a .268 average beginning in 2007 with Arizona. He’s been an All-Star 3 times and should have 1300 career hits before the season ends. He was taken first overall in 2005 by the D-Backs, 3 years after Melvin had been taken second in the country. Though he was just 19 the D-Backs put him on the postseason roster where he hit .357, though the team lost to the Rockies in the NLCS.

Yankees pitcher Adam Warren is also 29. He was their 4th-round pick in 2009 from University of North Carolina.   He has compiled a 17-17 record and been up and down between the bigs and AAA since 2012, both with the Yankees and Cubs.  The Yankees traded him to get Starlen Castro, then got Warren back at this year’s trade deadline as part of the Aroldis Chapman trade.

Former Phillies outfielder and ESPN commentator Doug Glanville is 46 today.  The Hackensack, New Jersey native was taken first by the Cubs and second overall in the country in 1991 from the University of Pennsylvania.  He made the show with the Cubs though it took 5 years, and he lasted until 2004 with the Phillies. In 1999 he  hit .325 for the Phillies and was second in the league in hits, notching 204 safeties. By 2003 he was with the Cubs, and he won game 3 of the NLCS with an 11th-inning triple. After baseball he took to writing-first for the New York Times, then a book about his career.

One of modern baseball’s more combustible players-Albert Bell-is 50 today. A native of Shreveport, he chose nearby LSU over Notre Dame or the Air Force Academy for his college baseball. This was when LSU was a perennial contender, and Bell got drafted in the second round by the Indians in 1987.    He played in the majors between July 1989 and the end of the 2000 season, his career shortened by injury to his hip. Even considering that he hit .295 with 381 home runs. He was an All-Star 5 times, but that vote wasn’t taken by the media.  In 1993, when I was broadcasting for New Britain and we were in Canton, I got to talking to a member of the Canton. press.  I said I’d heard of a Joey Bell who had been an Indians minor leaguer, and heard that Albert Bell was an Indians major leaguer. It seemed the two were the same. So I asked, “Which is his real name?” To which this member of the press said, “Prick!” It turns out that joJuan is his middle name, which explains the Joey in the minors. Ill-tempered or not, he hit 30 home runs and drove in 100 runs or more 8 years running, which only Babe Ruth, Jimmy Foxx and Lou Gehrig had ever done. Since Bell’s retirement Albert Pujols and Alex Rodriguez have duplicated the deed. Bell hit 50 home runs and 50 doubles in a strike-shortened 1995 season. Nobody had before or has since managed that in any season. Bell nearly did it himself in 1998 with the White Sox, putting up 49 homers and 48 doubles. He also broke the  team’s RBI record that had stood since 1936. His 152 RBIs is still the record, crushing the old record of 138 into dust  like you would a 78-RPM from that period. On the debit side, he was suspended for using a corked bat and then trying to cover it up. He was fined for decking Fernando Vina of the Brewers who had gotten in his way on the basepaths.  The Indians routinely billed him for damage to road clubhouses, and he once smashed a teammate’s boom box. Among his teammates he was called “Mr. Freeze,” because he liked the clubhouse cold and once smashed a thermostat when somebody tried to turn up the heat. Remember, neither Cleveland or Chicago are particularly warm places until mid- to late May, then get cold again in the fall so he caused his mates considerable distress.  The best-known outburst was in 1995 in the direction of a group of media, including NBC’s Hannah Storm.  When the Indians wanted their stormy petrol to apologize to Storm and her colleagues he refused point blank.

Hall of Famer Roland Rollie Fingers is 70 today. There was no draft in his time. He signed with the then Kansas City A’s at the tail end of 1964, taking less money than the Dodgers had offered.  He felt he had a better chance to make it with the A’s, which he did in 1968 after their move to Oakland. His career ran from 1968 to 1985, during which he was on 3 World Series winners in Oakland.  He picked up 341 saves in a day when the term “closer” was just coming into vogue. He was an All-Star 7 times over, once a league  MVP and a Cy Young award winner, a prize that usually eludes relievers. He missed the 1982 playoffs with the Brewers with a similar back problem to the one I had addressed a year and a half ago.  His trouble cost  him all of 1983.  After 1985 he might have signed with the Reds, but their infamous owner Marge Schott demanded no facial hair, which would have meant Fingers getting rid of his trademark handlebar mustache.  He retired rather than get rid of it.

Former Red Sox manager Darrell Johnson was born this day in 1928 and died in May, 2004.  The Nebraska native piloted the Red Sox to the 1975 World Series and to within a blink of the World Series championship. This got him the manager of the year award.  In 1961 as a player he had played in the Series for the Reds against the Yankees.  He had coached in Boston before being named manager there.  He would manage the expansion Mariners and the Rangers after his days in Boston were done.

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