Injuries: AL | NL
MLB Stat Search
|Saturday, July 22|
|An everyman for all of us|
| If this were a perfect, red-white-and-blue-tinted world, you can bet your
stars and stripes that our Olympic baseball team would be heading for
Australia in September led by Mike Piazza and Alex Rodriguez instead of Terry
Steinbach and Pat Kelly.
But a slight technicality -- also known as a "season" -- got in the way of
that dream team. So here at Week in Review, we've got a new dream.
If it takes courage for a real pitcher to pitch at Coors Field, then what does it take for a position player to pitch at Coors Field? No, the correct answer is not: A court order. The correct answer would be: Guts, fortitude and, of course, desperation -- possibly not in that order. And for living proof, we cite the heroic tale of Frankie Menechino, trusty middle infielder for those resourceful Oakland A's. Tuesday in Denver, Menechino was Oakland's final pitcher in an 18-3 loss to the Rockies. He got summoned by manager Art Howe with two on and no outs in the eighth, after reliever T.J. Mathews developed a blister. What followed wasn't exactly Pedro-like -- but then again, when's the last time Pedro volunteered to work in Denver? Menechino became just the second position player ever to pitch at Coors. (Gary Gaetti, who miraculously twirled a shutout inning, was the first, on July 24, 1998.) And as great claims to fame go, "that's pretty good," Menechino said. "No question." It would have been better without all those baserunners, naturally. But you've got to take these claims to fame however they come along -- especially because this one fell under the category of Careful What You Wish For. "I'd been telling Art all week: 'Say, if you need some innings, I can throw,' " Menechino reported. "I wouldn't call it lobbying. I was just kind of kidding around. But then I was just hanging out at shortstop, and T.J. got hurt and he pointed at me. And I said, 'ME?' But then I was like, 'OK, what are the rules again?' " That would be 60 feet, 6 inches, three strikes you're out, and keep your foot on the rubber. Menechino did fine with all that. It was just that lack of atmospheric pressure he was having difficulty with. He said it was his master plan to throw all knuckleballs -- "but then I threw a couple, and they didn't move at all. I said, 'Uh-oh.' Then I threw a couple of curveballs and they barely broke. So I knew I was in trouble." Actually, he was in trouble when the plane landed in Denver. He just didn't know it yet. When he entered this game, the score was 12-3. Next thing he knew, he'd faced seven hitters, and it was 18-3 with still just one out. But fortunately, he got Butch Huskey to hit an inning-ending double play. So his final line looked like this: 1 IP, 6 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 0 BB, 0 K, 2 more runs charged to Mathews, 1 HR to Todd Walker. Best we can tell, Menechino was the first position player to give up six hits in an inning since Braves shortstop Whitey Wietelmann did it in in a 24-2 loss to the Cubs on July 3, 1945. But Menechino chalked up half of those hits to "three chinks." "Bobby Chouinard (who was pitching for Colorado at the time) got his first major-league hit off me," Menechino reported. "He gets on first, and I hear, 'Time out. Give me the ball.' I didn't know what was going on. They said, 'First hit.' I said, 'Come on, you can't count this. You're not gonna take this, are you?' It shouldn't count. Check the rules on that." Menechino claimed he did "throw one by Todd Helton." But he later conceded: "Well, he fouled it off" (and then doubled). Our hero also complained that the Rockies were actually trying to get hits off him. No fair on that. "They didn't want to make outs against me," he said. "You could tell. They were taking pitches. They were geared up." So Frankie Menechino emerged from this adventure with a 36.00 ERA. But, hey, that's about an average ERA at Coors Field. What's important here is not the numbers. It's that he pitched at all -- in a ballpark that could have made Rafael Belliard look like Sammy Sosa. Now, we think, he deserves an opportunity to show what he can really do -- at sea level. "Yeah, I've got to get one more chance," he said. "Get my ERA down. Do my Nomo impression. I've got a great one. But I forgot to do it. I got a little flustered." So don't touch that mouse. Coming right up (or possibly not): Menechino does Nomo at a sea-level ballfield near you. Followed by a heavy dose of knuckleballs. Rockie road of the week
While we're on the subject of those amazing Colorado Rockies, what a week they had. All right. So we say that every week. But this time for sure. Their week included: A brawl with the Reds. A losing streak that hit 11 games. An insane day-night doubleheader Monday featuring 40 runs, 70 baserunners in 19 innings, 21 runs scored from the seventh inning on, more lead changes than the Lakers-Pacers series (OK, only seven), five straight half-innings in Game 2 in which a team blew a lead and a 3-hour, 55-minute second game of a day-nighter. Which was followed by an 18-3 game the next day. To recap all that, we bring in our official Coors correspondent, Rockies coach-humorist Rich Donnelly.
Normally, the best compliment you can pay a middle infielder is to say he has great hands. But what do we do about Robbie Alomar and Omar Vizquel, baseball's Bolshoi division over in Cleveland? How can you say they have great hands -- when they don't even use their hands? Not the bare ones, anyway. Three times in three games against Houston this week, Alomar and Vizquel started double plays by flipping the ball to second base with their gloves. The last time leather was put to this good a use, it was for the invention of the wallet. At one point Tuesday, Alomar and Vizquel turned four double plays in five innings. Which resulted in the first curtain call for a double play in the history of ovations. "You know what that was?" observed Astros broadcast-witticist Jim Deshaies. "That was the Harlem Globetrotters -- and we were the Washington Generals." Now we suppose there might be some purists out there complaining that Alomar and Vizquel don't play by the book. But Deshaies counters: "They use two hands on every double play -- just one for each guy." The only problem we see with being this spectacular is there's nowhere to go from here. Maybe they ought to try wearing gloves on both hands. "Put them out there with ping-pong paddles," Deshaies proposed. "Looks like they're bored with the whole glove thing." Wild pitches
Box score line of the week
The last thing anyone wants to do is become a perennial winner of this award. But Oakland's Mark Mulder now has won it for the second time in three starts -- a Jaime Navarro-esque ratio. His line Tuesday in Colorado: 4 IP, 9 H, 10 R, 9 ER, 3 BB, 2 K, in an 18-3 loss that led to the pitching debut of Menechino. That vicious Coors Field now has been the home of four of the 14 games this year in which starters gave up double-digit runs. So A's manager Art Howe announced afterward: "You can throw this one right out. They even hit Frankie today." Yogi-ism of the week
When the Tigers visited the Bronx this week, the great Yogi Berra popped in to see Tigers manager Phil Garner. Asked afterward if Berra had delivered any Yogi-isms, Garner reported the following instant classic, on the subject of Joe DiMaggio: "He said, 'Joe was very graceful. He always had that 'goat' when he was running." Uh, that would be "gait." It was the grounds crew that had the goat. Burglar of the week
He was the only player in America with 3,000 career at-bats and exactly ONE career stolen base. He was once told by his college coach: "My staff feels you're maybe the slowest teenager in America." And it took him nine years just to steal his first base, after which his friend, Larry Walker, wondered: "What -- did the catcher go blind or something?" So fine. Maybe Blue Jays catcher Darrin Fletcher isn't exactly Maurice Greene. But just because he hadn't stolen a base since July 18, 1997, it didn't mean he'd never steal another one. So in the 1,000th game of his career, on July 9 in Montreal (the scene of his only other stolen base), Fletcher took off on a delayed steal. And made it. "That's kind of like Halley's Comet," Fletcher said. "If you miss that, you won't see another one for another 75 years." Injuries of the week
When Hal Morris got traded from the Reds to the Tigers on Tuesday, he didn't need to consult his travel agent to figure out how to join his new team. Thanks to the miracle of interleague play, he just had to walk down the hall of Comerica Park. Morris started his evening in a Reds uniform, getting scratched from the lineup just before game time. Then he was sitting in the dugout in the middle of the game when he was told he had a phone call from GM Jim Bowden. Bowden informed him he'd been traded. So Morris headed for the Reds' clubhouse, where he was told by pitcher Pete Harnisch: "Go over there and pinch-hit." That would have been illegal, actually, since Morris had started the night as a Red. But he did attend a sixth-inning press conference announcing his acquisition by the Tigers -- while wearing a uniform of the team they were playing. He then finished the night hanging out in the Tigers' clubhouse. Talk about your confusing trades ... "Hal came up to me about the fifth inning and said, 'I'll see you,' " said Reds manager Jack McKeon. "I said, 'Well, who's team are you on?' He said, 'I'm not sure.' " Insider of the week
We've heard of some unlikely home runs. But Tuesday in San Diego, Ruben Rivera hit one he'll never forget. Two outs in the ninth. Nobody on. Two strikes, no balls. His team trailing by a run (2-1). And a man at the plate who had struck out in 22 of his previous 40 at-bats. Then Rivera sliced a ball off the right-field wall. Angels rightfielder Orlando Palmeiro slipped. And Rivera circled the bases for a game-tying inside-the-parker. The bad news is that the Padres still wound up losing in extra innings. The good news is that Rivera was believed to be just the eighth man ever to hit a game-tying inside-the-parker for a team down to its last out -- and the first, according to SABR's David Vincent, since Lee Lacy, on Aug. 3, 1978. "There's always hope," teammate Trevor Hoffman told the San Diego Union Tribune's Tom Krasovic. "That's what makes baseball what it is." Amen. Debut of the week
How out of control are the Cardinals? They've called up four position players from Memphis this year. The first, Larry Sutton, hit a home run in his third at-bat. The second, Keith McDonald, homered in his first career at-bat. The third, Eduardo Perez, hit a home run in his fifth at-bat. Then along came the latest call-up, Chris Richard, to upstage them all -- he homered Monday on the first PITCH of his career. McDonald, who had just become the second player in history to homer in the first two at-bats of his career, told the St. Louis Post Dispatch's Rick Hummel that he'd dispensed the same advice to Richard that minor-league hitting instructor Todd Steverson had given him. Which was: "Anything you see above the knees, swing as hard as you can." But McDonald said he didn't pass along any advice about how to homer in his second at-bat, too. "Can't be sharing all my secrets," McDonald said. Collision of the week
Another guy who had a thunderous debut this week was Phillies catcher Gary Bennett. In his first game since being recalled from Scranton, Cubs outfielder Gary Matthews Jr. steamrolled him in a collision at the plate. But despite being belted flat on his back, Bennett held onto the ball for an out -- and a Web Gem nomination. The next day, Bennett told the Bucks County (Pa.) Courier Times' Randy Miller that his wife, Ruby -- seven months pregnant -- saw the replay on TV. "She covered her stomach," Bennett said, "and said, 'Don't look at that.' " Blubbermouth of the week
One more debut note: Quotes just don't get any cooler than Australian pitcher Cam Cairncross' reaction this week to being called up by the Indians, nine years after his professional debut. "I could have blubbered," he said. Hall of Fame invitee of the week
Finally, this fitting note for Hall of Fame weekend: Pete Rose continues to be left out of the Baseball Hall of Fame. But the Seattle Post-Intelligencer's (and ESPN.com's) Jim Caple found one Hall of Fame Rose can get into. We just regret to report it's the Cockroach Hall of Fame, located in the back of a pest-control supply store in Plano, Texas. "We could easily put him in," said Michael Bohdan, curator of the Cockroach Hall. "If someone could get a cockroach and glue a picture of his face on it and put a miniature baseball bat next to it, we would put him right in, no problem." Trivia answer
Ken Griffey Jr. (Mariners), Mark McGwire (Athletics), Sammy Sosa (Cubs), Cal Ripken (Orioles), Frank Thomas (White Sox), Juan Gonzalez (Rangers). Jayson Stark is a senior writer at ESPN.com.
Jayson Stark archive
Stark: Perez finally in the spotlight