Thursday, April 27, 2006

My Baseball Wishes...

by Scott Silversten

If there is a higher power looking down on the sports world, these are the things we will see on a baseball field this season …

-- Albert Pujols’ 74th home run. This is by no means a knock on Barry Bonds, a person whose crimes against the game pale in comparison to his crimes against human decency. Rather, a season for the ages by Pujols will forever put to rest the notion that records set 50 years ago can be debated and discussed against records of the present. Sports medicine has evolved to the point that even players who haven’t broken any rules or used illegal substances are much better conditioned than their peers of the past. Smaller ballparks, expansion, juiced players and juiced baseballs have all contributed to the homer explosion in the last 20 years.

-- Barry Bonds’ 715th home run. This moment appears to be a train wreck waiting to happen, but Bonds is hands down one of the top five players in baseball history. He has clearly been the best of his era, even if the era is one defined by steroids. More than any great of the past, including Babe Ruth, no one changed the game’s strategy the way Bonds did. Since it looks more and more like he will not be able to surpass Henry Aaron, Bonds deserves the No. 2 spot on baseball’s all-time homer list.

-- Managers pitching to Barry Bonds. There is an argument that Bonds was pitched around way to often during his greatest years. At the very least everyone in the National League needs to find out if he is still a dangerous force, or instead just a decent hitter who will capitalize mostly on mistakes this year.

-- A pitching matchup between Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine. The Mets and Cubs meet six times in a 13-day span in mid-July and a campaign should start now that will influence managers Willie Randolph and Dusty Baker to align this clash of former Atlanta Brave aces. Maddux is off to a truly remarkable start with a 4-0 record and Major League leading 0.99 ERA. Glavine has slotted in behind Pedro Martinez in the New York rotation to help propel the Mets to an early lead in the National League East.

-- The Tigers playing meaningful games into August. Detroit has been one of the pleasant surprises of the early season and currently stands second in the American League Central behind world champion Chicago. Any top-10 list of the season’s best moments thus far must include Jim Leyland’s tirade following the Tigers’ 10-2 loss to Cleveland on April 17. Oh, and Chris Shelton? Despite winning Tigers Player of the Month honors last July (a dubious distinction to say the least), his name was probably unfamiliar to most fans until his offensive explosion to begin 2006.

-- A microphone on the mound at Safeco Field. Exactly how does Seattle Mariners catcher Kenji Johjima communicate with his pitching staff?

-- Metallica! For those outside the New York city area, there was a big controversy in early April when Mets’ closer Billy Wagner took the mound to the tunes of Metallica’s “Enter Sandman.” That is also the song that Mariano Rivera of the Yankees has made famous in the Bronx. For all the publicity the group received in the New York tabloids, the least they could do is perform a benefit concert at Yankee or Shea Stadiums this summer.

-- Dontrelle Willis in a different uniform. It’s unfair to say the ace of the Florida Marlins is having his talent wasted pitching with such a young squad, because sports really would not work properly if everyone could only play for winning teams. However, not only is Willis fun to watch on the mound, but as one of the best hitting pitchers in the game, he’s just fun to watch, period.

-- The Royals and the Pirates series. Believe it or not, I wouldn’t mind viewing the June 20-22 series between the teams that appear to be the worst in their respective leagues. Why? To remind myself that an awful baseball game is still quite an enjoyable experience.

-- Kerry Wood and Mark Prior on the mound in back-to-back days for the Cubs. It would just be good for baseball.

Scott Silversten's column appears every Thursday


Anonymous John Lill said...

You gotta be kidding me! Bonds has changed the strategy of the game more than Ruth? The only thing Bonds has introduced is the ill-advised automatic IBB. And that's not even his doing - it's Brian Sabean's fault for not having a group of hitters behind him good enough to keep managers from putting him on.

Ruth was the ultimate outlier. Before Ruth, if you weren't a good fielder with great bat control, you weren't wanted. He changed the way rosters were shaped, players were scouted, and lineups are formed. Sure, other factors made those changes, but he spearheaded it all.

Bonds is a magnificent player, chemical advantages or not. Easily in the top 10 players of all time, and if you believe he's clean, then he's gotta be in the top 5. But he didn't change the way baseball was played across the majors. His impact is just not that great.

Thursday, April 27, 2006  
Anonymous Dave said...

Interesting stat from ESPN the other day...

Pujols' numbers have been through the roof so far this season and he's gotten 2 intentional passes.

The numbers for Bonds have been less than stellar yet he's received 11 intentional passes.
(from which Alou has benefitted greatly)

So I ask, why do you think managers decide to keep pitching to Pujols despite the fact that he is one of the most dangerous hitters in baseball right now. Bonds gets walked because he is Bonds - No respect for Albert, and I bet he's lovin' it!

Thursday, April 27, 2006  
Blogger j-bird said...

i gotta tell you i hate the intentional walk around a power hitter, especially in the early innings. i particularly hate it when it is my team batting! but, i am not sure why people are not pitching around Pujols more. Rolen is hurt, once again. Encarnacion is batting .200 and Edmonds has been worse this season. if those hitters don't step up, Pujols will start getting walked more and more.

Friday, April 28, 2006  
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