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Torii Hunter: The Ultimate Team Player

When the Angels initially signed Torii Hunter in 2007, I was not a fan of the deal. I thought 5 years and $90 million was way too much and I still believe that his $18 million per year is too high. But when I complained about the contract, I was constantly told that Hunter would be worth the money. One of the main arguments was that Hunter was an excellent clubhouse guy and that value could not be understated. I scoffed at that notion but three years later I see what people meant.

The Angels have been struggling offensively and Juan Rivera in particular has not been making up for his poor defense in left field with his typical production at the plate. The team decided to make a move on Tuesday, promoting prospect Peter Bourjos who was tearing it up at triple-A Salt Lake. The issue was that Bourjos plays center field — the same spot occupied by nine-time Gold Glove winner Torii Hunter. Naturally you would expect the spot to go to the veteran while the rookie earns his place. Not with Hunter. The gracious, ultimate team player put winning first and his ego second:

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A-Rod Misses Yankees Team Picture

OK, simple job for you: find the one non-Yankee player or coach in this photo. Alright, I’ll make it easier — Alex Rodriguez missed the Yankees team picture on Tuesday. Instead, team director of publications Alfred Santasiere III stood in for him and will later be photoshopped out. I have no idea why A-Rod missed it and neither does anyone else. Apparently he’s the only Yankee who can’t spare five minutes to participate in the team photo.

“Captain Kangaroo will probably get Alex for this one,” [Manager Joe] Girardi said. “Players aren’t always the best at reading memos put on their chairs.”

According to the New York Post, A-Rod showed up a half hour late for the photo because he missed the memo.

“I’m going to try to delay kangaroo court as much as possible because I know I’m going to get crushed,” Rodriguez said. “The boys are going to get me good. No excuse. I know one of our front office guys had to play Alex Rodriguez for a couple of minutes. I have to find that guy and shake his hand because it must have been a tough situation.” A-Rod semi makes up for things by going Rickey Henderson on us with that response but I’m sure he’ll get it in kangaroo court. It’s been a long couple of weeks for lucky 13.

Sources:
A-Rod misses Yankees team photo [New York Post]

Indians and Red Sox Clear Benches

The Boston Red Sox are a pretty frustrated bunch and understandably so.  As if they haven’t already been bitten hard enough by the injury bug this season, they lost Kevin Youkilis on Monday night to a hand injury.  Perhaps it was some of that frustration that prompted the fight that took place between the Red Sox and Indians on Tuesday night when the benches cleared.

Josh Beckett has a tendency to work inside, but the Indians seemed to think it was hardly a coincidence when he hit Shin-Soo Choo on the knee after he’d been hammering the Sox in the series.  That, along with a curveball that slipped out of Beckett’s and soared over the head of Shelley Duncan, inspired Cleveland’s pitchers to start throwing behind the Red Sox hitters, which they did first with David Ortiz and then Adrian Beltre.  The pitch behind Beltre resulted in the benches being cleared.  Check out the Red Sox and Indians team fight video:

Rick Porcello Should Be Ashamed

I was watching some of the White Sox/Tigers game in the afternoon Tuesday (the first game of a doubleheader) and saw the most rare occurrence. Leadoff man Juan Pierre stepped up to the plate to lead off the 5th and proceeded to launch a home run to right field. This was not some cheap shot that just barely sneaked over the fence nor was it an inside-the-parker like you would expect from Juan. This was a rocket that went clear over the right field fence at Comerica Park.

Not only was the homer Pierre’s first of the year, it was his first since September 15th, 2008. That’s right, Tigers pitcher Rick Porcello served up a dinger to little ole’ Juan Pierre who had gone 811 at-bats without homering in the Majors. 811!

To give you some more perspective on how long it’s been since Pierre went deep, JP was still a member of the Dodgers and the almighty combination of Angel Berroa and Nomar Garciaparra comprised the left side of the team’s infield. Also, the guy who served up that dinger — Marino Salas — hasn’t pitched in the majors since. Porcello gave up seven earned runs and saw his ERA rise to 5.91. Your move, Dombrowski.

Photo Credit: AP Photo/Duane Burleson

Cubs Season Comes to Embarrassing End

With the way the Cubs came charging out of the All-Star break taking three of four from the Phillies, I was convinced they were going to make a run at the NL Central title. And if they were not going to make the playoffs, I at least felt they would regain respectability. So much for optimism on the North Side.

In a span of four days, the Cubs suffered two of the most embarrassing losses of the season. On Friday, they got blistered by the Rockies 17-2. The game was actually close with the Rockies leading 5-2 through seven innings. That was until the disastrous 8th inning struck, where the Cubs shuffled through three pitchers while allowing 12 runs in the same inning. Oh yeah, all 12 runs came with two outs! After that debacle, you figured things could not get much worse. And then came Monday.

The Cubs lost that nail-biter 18-1 to the Brewers. Milwaukee’s scoring was much more balanced — five runs in each the 4th and 5th, and one, two, or three runs in every inning thereafter. Chicago surrendered 26 hits which tied a franchise worst. They also fell an embarrassing 14 games under .500 at 46-60.

You could feel badly for the Cubs at this point, but don’t bother shedding a tear for Lou Piniella. At least he doesn’t have to see any more of this past September.

Manny’s Career Ended When He Forced His Way Out of Boston

The Manny Ramirez experiment in Los Angeles has been a failure.  When Manny became a cancer in the Red Sox clubhouse and completely forced his way out of town, it looked like the Dodgers were grabbing a legitimate slugger that could anchor the middle of their lineup and help propel them to the next level.  Had he not been busted for steroid use, that could very well have happened.

When I say Manny’s career ended when he was dealt to the Dodgers, I’m not implying the tank was empty.  He’s certainly had his fair share of exciting moments while playing in L.A.  The phrase “Mannywood” became an instant hit and a sign was plastered in his honor on the left field wall at Dodger Stadium.  As a result of the circumstances that have surrounded Ramirez with suspension and injury, the “Mannywood” sign is now being removed.  Factor in the struggles the Dodgers have faced as a team this season, and it appears the removal of the sign signals the end of a short era that turned out to be a disappointment in the end.

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Are Bonds’ 73 as Safe as DiMaggio’s 56?

You don’t need a jury, a judge, or an LBS writer to tell you that Barry Bonds’ single-season home run record of 73 is a product of steroids.  Bonds, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, and the other poster boys of Major League Baseball’s steroid era shattered records that we all know they wouldn’t have touched if they weren’t juicing.  Many believe that the steroid era is behind us.  After looking at the numbers and considering the amount of no-hitters that have been thrown already this year, I must say I’m starting to become a believer as well.

When the topic of untouchable baseball records arises, Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak is always the first one that comes to mind.  That’s completely understandable and I’m a firm believer that no player will ever surpass Joltin’ Joe’s record, but I think it’s about time we started including 73 home runs in that discussion.

Since Bonds’ record-breaking year in 2001, no American or National League player has eclipsed the 60 home run mark.  Ryan Howard came closest when he belted 58 in 2006, but that’s still a whopping 15 homers shy of Bonds’ record.  I think people underestimate how far off the record that actually is.  The last two seasons — when the perception has been that Major League Baseball is really cracking down on the use of performance-enhancing substances — home run totals have been way down.  In 2008, Ryan Howard led the NL with 47 long balls while Miguel Cabrera led the AL with only 37.  In 2009, Albert Pujols led the NL with 47 while Mark Teixeira and Carlos Pena tied for the AL lead with 39.

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