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Juan Pierre Cracks Dodgers Lineup … Batting 9th Behind the Pitcher

Poor Juan Pierre. All the guy’s ever done was be Juan Pierre yet that’s not been good enough for the Dodgers. Between the signing of Andruw Jones, the acquisition of Manny Ramirez, and the emergence of Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp, there hasn’t been much room for J.P., the Dodgers’ $9 million-a-year man. On Wednesday, for only the second time all season, Pierre was able to crack the Dodgers’ starting lineup because they sat Matt Kemp against Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum. Problem is the team was slapping him in the face at the same time that they were rewarding him. Sort of. Joe Torre pulled a Tony LaRussa, batting Pierre 9th behind the pitcher. The logic was sound and apparently Pierre was OK with it:

“I’ve been threatening it, right?” Manager Joe Torre said. “It just seemed like a situation, with a player like Juan, he’d be freer to steal and stuff with [Rafael] Furcal hitting behind him instead of the pitcher. . . . To me, it makes sense with a guy with speed. . . . I just don’t want to take away some of his tools from him.”

Pierre said he had no problem with the alignment, joking that he would bat 11th if that’s what it took for him to crack the lineup.

Like I said, the move appears as an insult on its surface, but it actually makes sense. Just because the “standard” way of doing things involves the pitcher batting last doesn’t always mean it’s the right move. Torre’s correct — speed is a big part of Pierre’s game, and that bonus of his game is more or less nullified by the pitcher batting behind him.

Video: Jacoby Ellsbury Steals Home Against Andy Pettitte and Yankees

It’s not too often that we see a player steal home. For the Red Sox, until Jacoby Ellsbury pulled off the feat Sunday night against the Yanks, the last time a Boston player had stolen home was 1994. There are several reasons why this play was so cool. For one, it’s just an absolutely thrilling play in baseball, probably second for me to watching a speedster leg out a triple (think Jose Reyes). Next, it happened in a rivalry game between the Red Sox and Yankees with the score really close (2-1). The run was really critical and it was like Boston rubbing it in New York’s face that “we’re more clever than you are.” Furthermore, that was like the emotional nail in the coffin helping Boston get the sweep. How inept and clueless do you think the Yankees felt about letting someone steal home without them knowing it? That really is a humiliating play which is strange because there isn’t anything funny about it. Anyway, enough of the foreplay, here’s the good stuff:

The Yankees didn’t even know what hit them. So embarrassing. That’s probably the biggest stolen base in Boston since Dave Roberts.

Kason Gabbard err … Darren O’Day Debuts for Rangers and Blows Game

So the Blue Jays beat the Rangers on Wednesday night going to 11-5 on the year. Texas was super thin on pitching which isn’t exactly something new for the team from Arlington. They were so thin on pitching entering Wednesday’s game that they had to claim Darren O’Day off waivers from the Mets. That’s where I’ll let the AP recap tell the rest of the story:

O’Day was at home in Panama City Beach, Fla., when he got a lunchtime call from his agent telling him he had been claimed by Texas. Within two hours he was on a flight to Memphis, Tenn., where he connected to Toronto.

“I got off the plane in the eighth inning and had to go through customs and all that jazz,” O’Day said. “The traveling secretary was texting me back and forth. We originally planned to go to the hotel and he said ‘Go to the field, we might need you.’ I got here, got on a uniform and went out there.”

O’Day pitched wearing Kason Gabbard’s jersey because there wasn’t time to get him one of his own.

Gabbard’s a left-handed fastball pitcher. Darren O’Day is a right-handed side-armer. The difference between the two is quite distinct. How crazy is it to meet your teammates when you’re warming up on the mound during a game? How about having the traveling secretary tell you that you need to get to the field because the team needs you? Baseball is a crazy, crazy sport. Any wonder why pitchers kick around the majors for years after their best days are done? Teams are just desperate for arms. They’ll even give you another player’s jersey too. Oh yeah, and O’Day gave up the game-winning double to Kevin Millar.

Video: Umpire Kerwin Danley Knocked Out by Shattered Bat

It’s been a rough couple years for umpire Kerwin Danley. The chipper fellow got dosed in the dome by a 96mph fastball from Brad Penny last year and suffered a jaw injury. Now it seems like freak injuries just follow this guy wherever he goes. Check out what happened Tuesday night in Toronto:

The good news is Danley apparently never lost consciousness. This guy might need to join the UFC just for a break in all the physical punishment he’s been taking.

Nationals Jump the Gun Extending Ryan Zimmerman for $45 Million

OK, so I see all the positives there with third baseman Ryan Zimmerman. He was a first-round pick by the Nats in ’05 coming out of Virginia. He made it to the majors the same year he was drafted. By his second season he had surpassed the 100 RBI mark, and in ’07 he played in every game belting 24 home runs and scoring 99 runs. And the guy plays good defense, too. So I see how quickly he’s developed his career and why the Nats would have been eager to extend him … three years ago. Now we’re in ’09 and the Nats have garbage pitching, Zimmerman’s coming off an injury, and he hasn’t taken that next step despite showing excellent promise. For all those reasons I’m wondering why the Nationals were so eager to negotiate a five-year $45 million extension for Zimmerman, especially in this economy.

Even two years ago I still would maintain that $45 million is overpaying for Zimmerman — by a good 20-25%. When you’re 2-10 you need to manufacture interest in the club, but this move would make me question the organization even more, not be pleased that the team has signed a “cornerstone” for the next five years. I understand the whole homegrown talent, local kid angle, but an average of $9 million a season for a guy putting up slightly better numbers than Casey Blake makes me scratch my head. The only positive aspect of the deal is Zimmerman’s reaction. The guy clearly has his head on straight:

“It just gets to the point where you think, ‘How much [money] do you really need? How much do you need, and do you really want to be here?’ I think that’s the most important thing,” Zimmerman said earlier this year. “The whole point of being a free agent and having a negotiating power is to play where you want to play. And I don’t really need to go into that. I’m happy here.”

If he does have a good attitude about things it’s probably because he knows he just got some excellent security he really didn’t earn. He’s much closer to Casey Blake than he is to David Wright.

Bad Pitching + Good Hitting = Home Runs, Not a New Yankee Stadium

So the Yankees get blasted twice by the Indians in two of their four games at the new Yankee Stadium and already analysts are going mad trying to account for all the home runs being hit. They say the ball is carrying to right field and use the stats that 14 of the 20 home runs hit in the series went out that direction as evidence support the argument. I guess they’re discounting the fact that Grady Sizemore, Shin Soo Choo, Travis Hafner, Victor Martinez, Mark Teixeira, Johnny Damon, Hideki Matsui, Jorge Posada, Robinson Cano, and Nick Swisher are all powerful bats who happen to hit from the left side of the plate.

I guess when they’re examining the data and freaking out, they’re overlooking the fact that Cy Young winners like C.C. Sabathia and Cliff Lee combined to pitch 11.2 innings and allowed only one home run. I guess they’re ignoring the “who” aspect of the pitchers otherwise they’d realize it’s the likes of Anthony Reyes, Damaso Marte, and stiffs like Edwar Ramirez and Andrew Claggett (who’s already been sent back down to the minors) that got bombed on. Seriously, how much can the wind account for home runs if Carl Pavano went six innings without allowing a homer? And last time I checked, Chien-Ming Wang got blasted equally as badly as he did by the Indians at home as he did by the Orioles and Rays on the road in his first two starts. Oh yeah, but it’s all about the new Yankee Stadium. Coors Field East. Uh-huh.

Even if this were a factor, I’d hope people would wait longer than four games to draw a conclusion or even start speculating. Besides, the right field line at Yankee Stadium has always been short. Add a few good left-handed bats to the lineup and you should expect more home runs to right. Common sense.

$800 Million for Citi Field and They Can’t Afford to Get Hot Water Running

I’m not a big fan of the Yankees or Mets because of many reasons — the unveiling of their new ballparks would be the most recent. I understand that both organizations planned to have the parks built years ago and couldn’t anticipate the current economic conditions that make the stadium unveilings look ill-timed. Still, when you spend $800 million on a park as I’ve read and have all the bells and whistles, how can you screw things up in the visitor’s clubhouse as badly as the Mets did? According to Padres pitcher Jake Peavy who got the win on Thursday night, Citi Field didn’t have hot water running in the visitor’s clubhouse. For that reason, he had to take a cold shower. Peavy still said they did the park right and that it’s beautiful.

On a related note, there wasn’t much more satisfying than seeing the Yankees get hammered 10-2 on the day they open up their new stadium. Spending over a billion bucks on a new stadium and nearly half a billion on players and you get blown out giving up nine runs in the 7th is a great way to reward your fans. What bothers me most is that the ticket prices for each of these places is astronomical. I remember hearing someone say a few years ago that baseball games would become like the opera before long, only affordable and attended by the super wealthy. When I see that the average ticket price at Yankee Stadium is $75, I have to cringe. Fans shouldn’t have to spend as much as they do to watch Yankees and Mets home games. And just because they have new stadiums and their games cost so much doesn’t mean they’re that much more important than every other team in the league either.