Diamond Hoggers Sunday Sermon: There's a new Sheriff in Town

We want to talk about the Texas Rangers this week. Fresh off three wins in a row they enter play today at 30-19 (that’s a .612 clip) and 5.5 games in first place ahead of the Angels who are sitting at .500 for the year.

The Rangers are winning because of their lineup. It’s no mystery. They have guys who can flat out rake 1 through 9. What’s scary is that their best hitter Josh Hamilton hasn’t even really begun to hit yet, as he’s still hanging around in the .230’s.

If Nelson Cruz keeps up his current pace all year (not safe to assume) he’s going to be an MVP candidate. But it’s not just Cruz. They’re getting offense from anyone who hits in their lineup. They have different leaders in the three main offensive stat categories. Micheal Young leads the team in average (.332). Cruz leads the team in homers (14). Ian Kinsler leads the team in RBI with 39. The team is also getting significant contributions from Marlon Byrd (.299), Elvis Andrus (.289), Hank Blalock (12 home runs), and Chris Davis (12 home runs). Even Andruw Jones is hitting .284 with 5 homers in a reserve role. This was a guy who the team was trying to get rid of at any cost in spring training.

Is anyone going to take notice of what closer Frank Francisco is doing right now? The man hasn’t allowed a run in 17.2 innings this season, 11 of 11 in save chances. He has 18 strikeouts to just 5 base on balls allowed. Darren O’ Day (1.35 ERA) and CJ Wilson have been remarkable out of the pen. Kevin Millwood is the starter with the most ability on the staff. He’s been a bull because a 3.25 ERA in that park is as good of a 2.00 ERA anywhere else.

They’re going to have to fight to stay on top because their pitching isn’t great. But it’s liberating to see a team slug their way to the top and that’s literally what this group has done. It’s fun to sit back and watch with no vested interest; a team with no postseason experience try and make the cut for the first time. And trying to make their way in such an unconventional method.

These Rangers have staying power. As unorthodox as they may be built, someone in that lineup is going to have an answer almost every night. When multiple guys get hot a lot of games will be over by the 5th inning. As the weather heats up and the mercury climbs to over 100 as it so often does in Texas in June, July and August; it should only further the offensive contributions of this home run hotbed near Dallas.

Make no mistake about it, the Texas Rangers are the new sheriffs in MLB. They’re bringing to justice anyone and everyone who offers them a fastball to hit. They don’t discriminate.

Song that needs played on loud speakers at a ballpark near you:

She Drives Me Crazy by Fine Young Cannibals

Fantasy Player about to boom:

David Price. You thought this guy was too young to be a factor? You thought wrong. Yesterday, in just 5 and 2/3 innings of work, Price struck out 11 Minnesota Twins hitters and walked just two, allowing 1 earned run on five hits and lowering his season ERA to 3.00; and if he keeps this up it’s going to keep going lower. It’s easy to see that Price is going to be one of those guys who bursts on the scene ahead of the learning curve. If you stashed him on your roster until now, you might have struck gold.

Fantasy Player(s) about to bust:

For one, Grady Sizemore. At week’s beginning, we were scrambling to pull together a trade for the perennial All-Star because he’s just got to pick it up, right? I mean he’s Grady Sizemore. He dabbled with a few hits here and there, even homering yesterday off CC Sabathia in Cleveland. And now he’s on the disabled list. The way things are going in Cleveland, this really might last all year.

Randy Johnson. The Big Unit is just one win away from 300. He’s 4-4 with a 5.71 ERA and a really nice strikeout number of 54 K’s. But he’s reached the complete end of the line. It’s amazing to think that for almost 15 years this guy has been some type of fantasy baseball factor. We honestly don’t expect the unit to finish with too many wins over 300 for his career. He’ll get that milestone win sometime soon, and he’ll fade into oblivion. You need to dump him fast if you own him after he gets that 300th win.

Quote of the Week: “It truly is remarkable to watch Justin do what he does,” Byrnes says. “He is probably the best athlete in major league baseball. If all players were lined up for a race, he would probably be one of the five fastest. He’s going to be a Gold Glove outfielder, and it won’t be long from now. He cannot remain under the radar for long.” –Arizona DiamondBacks GM Josh Byrnes on Justin Upton, who entered into Saturday’s game seventh in batting at .337, fourth in OPS at 1.030, fourth in total bases and third in extra-base hits.

Gameday dipper’s choice of the week:

Hawken wintergreen. This is some of the nastiest shit ever put in chewable form. I mean, even in terms of dip it’s nasty. In college I tried it once. It was hideous. It’s more akin to some type of tree bark instead of even mulch. It was offered to be by some hillbilly fraternity brother who grew up in a town with a population of about 35. Ah, those were the days. You won’t really see this brand of chew offered in gas stations where you’re located, since if you’re reading this you have internet connection.

Games of Note of the upcoming week:
Monday: Cincinnati Reds (Volquez) at St. Louis Cardinals (Wellemeyer). The Reds need to continue to play the NL central tough after dropping the first two games in Milwaukee. They’ll face four right handers in St. Louis beginning with Wellemeyer and finishing with Chris Carpenter. A huge series for the Reds and it will be without recently DL’d Joey Votto. < /span>

Tuesday: Arizona Dbacks (Haren) at Los Angeles Dodgers (Wolf). This game at Chavez Ravine has all the makings of a 2-1 victory for someone. Randy Wolf has been lights out and Danny Haren is a tough customer. The Dbacks have been playing better of late. The Dodgers cannot take them lightly.

Wednesday: Boston Red Sox (Beckett) at Detroit Tigers (Galaragga). Josh Beckett is having an awful quiet year. Both of these teams desperately need wins as they’re starting to feel teams on their tails. The Tigers simply need Armando Galaragga to pitch better if they expect to hang onto their lead in the AL Central.

Friday: Kansas City Royals (Greinke) vs. Toronto Blue Jays (Romero). This could be the pitching matchup of the week. Greinke has finally given the Royals something to be prominent about. Ricky Romero has the best stuff of any Blue Jays pitcher despite his young age. The Jays have been sliding of late. This weekend series is pivotal for both teams who are trying to stay in the hunt.

The Joey Votto saga continues to get weirder

In case you haven’t heard the latest about Joey Votto, he’s been placed on the 15-day Disabled List due to stress. Per Hal Mccoy’s blog:

Asked what he could tell us about Votto, Baker said, “Not much. He’s just dealing with a personal issue. He wants us to respect his privacy about that. And he’s dealing with it, trying to deal with it.”

Baker said it doesn’t involve his inner ear infection, “But it started with that.” Votto went back to Cincinnati and when asked if he’ll be back after the 15 days, Baker said, “We hope so. We don’t know.”

Today, Dusty Baker closed the clubhouse to inform Votto’s teammates of what was going on, kind of.

Of the team meeting, Baker said, “They weren’t informed about what’s wrong with Joey. They were just told we have to stick together more than ever. And whatever it is, we have to support him. It’s like a member of your family. Right now he needs support and love. They have to try to understand something that they may not understand.”

Said General Manager Walt Jocketty, “It’s basically something that Joey needs some time to get away and deal with and we gave him that time. It’s not a big deal, but it is something that was affecting his ability to play at the level he wants to play at. So we gave him a little time off.”

Jocketty added, “Yeah, the inner ear thing has been part of that. That’s part of it and we’ll leave it at that.”

Here’s my thoughts after the most recent developments: I think that Votto is having problems now with panic attacks and anxiety. I think it’s obvious although those in the organization aren’t coming out and saying it, it’s pretty clear that is what is going on. I think he’s had a few incidents that scared him to death on the field where he thought he was going to collapse or have a heart attack or whatever. This could be brought on by lyme disease or it could just be that he’s having anxiety problems and now they’re going to get him on some medication to help that. And at the very least this is one of the strangest stories I’ve ever followed involving a player as well. I think that Votto told them in that closed door meeting last night after the ballgame that “hey guys, I’m having fears that I’m dying” or something along those lines and they realized that they need to give him some time and allow him to get help.

This comes at a bad time for the Reds. They really need their most accomplished hitter in the middle of the lineup to hang in there with the Milwaukees, the St. Louis’, and the Chicago’s of the division. Obviously this young man’s health takes precedence, but it’s unfortunate.

This is without a doubt one of the strangest stories I’ve ever heard of in 20+ years of following the sport. At the same time, it’s understandable. This kind of stuff happens to 25 year old men in every walk of life every day.

Just another Saturday in the life of a baseball fan

Is there anything better then Saturday for the baseball fan? We really don’t think so. On a day like today when the sun is shining and the kids are at the park opening their Little Leagues all over the country, it takes us back to the best summers of our life. Those mornings where we’d comb through the box score and the breeze would creep through the windows of the kitchen while our mom cooked breakfast. We’d wait for This Week in Baseball and Mel Allen to come on FOX before the national game of the week. Then when that would wrap up we’d head outside and play backyard baseball until the sun left us. That’s what it’s all about. That’s what makes it the great American past time.

The New Attitude in Cincinnati. “In my eyes the number one reason for this new attitude is the emergence of young leaders like Bruce and Votto. They’re confident in their role as major leaguers and have taken ownership over their team. This wouldn’t have happened without the exit of two veteran mainstays (you know who I’m talking about).” [Blue Collar Baseball]

Clint Hurdle becomes season's 2nd managerial casualty

The Colorado Rockies have fired Clint Hurdle, replacing him with Jim Tracy. We’ve got mixed feelings on it. It was just two short years ago when the Rockies closed out a season 21-1 en route to their only World Series appearance as a franchise.

Hurdle had been part of the organization since 1994. While you could do worse then Jim Tracy as far as replacements go, you’d have to admit that Coors Field doesn’t exactly fit his small ball managerial style. In fact, what managerial does that albatross of a stadium favor? I mean really, what manager is ever going to be able to win there? It’s tough to sustain any consistency in that park. It’s tough to convince pitchers to come there. In my mind, since Hurdle has displayed an ability to win there at one time; and he’s the only guy to do it since the mid 90’s when Don Baylor did a little bit, he should be given a longer leash.

Under Hurdle, the Rockies went 534-625 (.461) and had one winning season.Tracy, 53, was hired as the Rockies bench coach after the 2008 season. Tracy has said what appealed to him most about joining the Rockies was that the first call he received from anyone in the organization came from Hurdle, rather than anyone in the front office.

Tracy was out of the game last year after managing the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2006-2007. Tracy also spent five seasons managing the Dodgers from 2001-2005. Under Tracy, the Dodgers won the NL West in 2004. His record as a major league manager is 562-572 (.496).

Kind of seems like the Rockies made a change to make a change. Then again, they reserve every right to do that. Clint Hurdle was definitely a better manager then he was a player. He’s got one of the best names in baseball. Here’s hoping that he lands on his feet in life.

Last team standing, wins.

Tonight begins what some are calling (and we’re one of them) the biggest road trip in the past decade for Cincinnati Reds baseball. It’s hard to believe it has been a full decade since that 1999 summer when the Reds caught some magic and won 99 ballgames, only to lose in game 163 and miss the playoffs. That team could win on the road. The good teams, the teams that get into the playoffs; they handle their business on the road.

Three in Milwaukee (beginning tonight with Johnny Cueto vs. Braden Looper). Four in St. Louis. Return home to play three against the Cubs. This next 10 game stretch; taking place in 10 days, is going to be paramount for the Cincinnati Reds season. They enter play tonight only a game and a half out of first place. They’re getting Brandon Phillips back from his several game absence tonight.

You want some national notoriety? Go 8-2 on this stretch and 6-1 on this road trip. That’s a little much to ask. I think that 4-3 is a lot more likely. But that won’t make a huge statement. Like Jay Bruce said, they want to come back to Cincinnati in first place.

It’s time to find out what this team is made of for real. And it probably won’t be the last time we say that this season. But this is the first giant test for this young team. Just keep it rolling. And we’ll follow it all here. For better or for worse. Remember, last team standing; wins.

Matt Wieters to make Major League Debut tonight

There’s a ton of buzz surrounding the new ray of hope who is set to begin a career tonight in Baltimore at Camden Yards. They’re calling it a watershed moment in Orioles history.

Big League Stew wonders if there’s been a debut as big as Wieter’s in recent memory. We remember when it was our turn to be the talk of baseball as far as debuts go, with Jay Bruce going 3 for 3 with the whole nation watching.

If you are a baseball fan, you’re sure to keep your eye on his name in the box score the next few weeks and especially tonight. We expect it to be a slow night for Wieters as he gets adjusted, and it could come against easier pitching as Dontrelle Willis has had things figured out as of late.

We’ll go ahead and say Wieters goes 1 for 4 with single in his last at bat and a couple strikeouts for funsies. We’re happy for Baltimore. They don’t have enough to be excited about and Wieters is going to make them a lot better lineup in the near future.

Rick Porcello will own Detroit one day

Just a short while ago I remember telling my friend Brian (a Tigers fan) that he needed to keep an eye on this Rick Porcello, and that in a few short years the baseball world would be talking about him as we talked about Josh Beckett a few years ago, with a dominance about him. I told him that in a few years, Detroit will be his town. It’s looking like that day could come sooner then later.

Porcello, at least for the moment; has arrived. From Nick Underhill:
By beating the Royals on Wednesday he became the first 20 year-old pitcher since Doc Gooden to win five games in a row. Gooden won seven as a 19 year-old. That’s no small feat. I mean, sure, anyone can win five a row, but consider this: over that span he has only allowed five earned runs, struck out 20, walked ten, and given up only one homer, all while accumulating a 1.50 ERA, bring his season total down to 3.48.
Okay, when you’re in Doc Gooden territory; you’re downright S-I-C-K. Gooden should have been one of the greatest of all time. And while it’s early in Porcello’s story to know if he’s the real deal or not, a lot of pitchers have came and gone since the days of Gooden. Porcello is showing us a dominance that he’s capable of.
Why Rick Porcello Matters [Deadspin]

Reds Win on Jay Bruce Day behind young sluggers 2 bombs

This was one of the best wins of the year. Not just because Jay Bruce had one of his best games as a pro. The Reds are now just a 1 and 1/2 out of first place before the most important road trip since I was in high school; and they’re believing they can return from it in first place.

Bronson Arroyo threw yet another sparkling start at the opposition, throwing the complete game and earning his 7th win. He has more wins in baseball not named Roy Halladay or Zack Greinke. I have to say, the guy has surprised me. His teammates must really love him. They score him runs and play defense behind him.

Other then a one run loss to the Cleveland Indians this past saturday, the Reds have rattled off 5 of 6 ballgames. Just keep it rolling.

Bruce hit two bombs to nearly the same spot in right field, and tripled to drive in Laynce Nix and put the game on ice in the 8th inning. To sweep the hated Astros with hated Hunter Pence, Lance Berkman, Roy Oswalt, and all the other pain in the ass ballplayers on their roster; it’s just a great feeling.

Happy Jay Bruce Day 2009

What, you thought we’d forget? Not a chance. It was one year ago today that the Godfather of Diamond Hoggers, “The Deal” Jay Bruce was called up to the big leagues. In his honor we named May 27th as Jay Bruce day. It has been a great and eventful first year in the big leagues for the young slugger with the smoothest of all swings.

Never before has an MLB player peaked our interest in the sport we already loved. So celebrate it as you wish. Hopefully Jay celebrates it with a few base knocks against the Houston Astros.

Photoblogging: Cleveland Indians vs. Cincinnati Reds (saturday night)

In the club seats, you do not just get a hot dog. You get jambalaya. You get LaRosa’s Pizza. It’s a pretty good deal but just like the Diamond Club Seats, you will see drawbacks that go with the economic hardships of the present day. We really enjoy the view from the club seats as well. Altogether it’s a really nice fan experience and pretty good bang for the buck. We recommend getting there early for batting practice and eating your meal at the sitting bar that faces the field. It’s really relaxing.

In case you haven’t seen them, here’s what the All-Star ballots look for for 2009. Vote for Jay Bruce and his .227 average. We’re only kidding. Well maybe if you’re at the ballpark and just screwing around with one ballot. Never mind.

Here’s the Reds lineup they sent out on this Saturday night. Joey Votto was back in the lineup, and what a night he would end up having. Bruce in the 6th hole we didn’t like so well, but it looks like that is what Dusty Baker is going to do against lefties. Johnny Gomes and Brandon Phillips are dependable right handed bats that can challenge a left hander.

Homer Bailey got called up. Homer Bailey couldn’t throw strikes. Homer Bailey got sent down. We’re pretty much done with him, except to poke a little fun. He’s really never going to figure it out at the big league level, at least not in Cincinnati. It’s just one of those things that wasn’t meant to be, I guess. He just doesn’t have ‘it’. No matter how many times we try to defend the guy, he doesn’t handle his business on the field.

Joey Votto returned after having Friday night off due to dizziness to hit two very impressive home runs. The first was a long line shot to left center field in the first inning. The next was a three run shot that was one of the highest home runs we’ve ever seen it. It was VERY impressive from our view.

Jay Bruce faced Kerry Wood in the 9th inning It was the 571st official at-bat of his career. He nearly won the game for the Reds with a homer, flying out to the track in right field. He would just miss three home runs on the weekend, two in this game alone. Still just a long out.

First time we’ve ever seen Kerry Wood pitch live. He ended up locking down the save despite many Indians fans at the park swearing that he’d blow any lead in the 9th. Even with the save, he’s not been quite the addition that the Indians figured they were getting when they signed him to the mega-contract in the off-season.

Photoblogging: Cleveland Indians vs. Cincinnati Reds (friday night)

Another friday night in the Diamond Seats. This was a great game. I ate trout, and a ton of peanuts like a little kid for the first time in forever. There was a pretty good crowd on hand in Cincinnati and not a ton of Cleveland fans. It was the beginning of a weekend that featured beautiful weather all throughout.

Here’s Johnny Gomes’ first at bat as a Cincinnati Red. This was a huge hit, as he pinch hit doubled down the left field line and scored what would be the go ahead and eventual winning run. All in all, it was a really nice debut weekend for Gomes who was called up from AAA Louisville before the game.

Just a view of the infamous Moon Deck out in right field on a friday night. Picture perfect night for baseball. Game time temperature was 84° F, with the wind 2mph in from Centerfield (according to Baseball-Reference.com).

One of my favorite Reds Brandon Phillips. Brandon ended up breaking his thumb in Saturday night’s game. It’s too bad as this could end up being a huge loss for the Reds if he is out any period of time. That’s a loss you really can’t make up for. The Reds have little to no right handed pop as it is. Phillips has to come back soon.

Jay Bruce up at the plate before drawing a walk against Indians starter Anthony Reyes. Reyes really had a hard time finding the plate and only went 3 innings. Bruce didn’t have the big night off him that we anticipated. In fact, he went 0 for the weekend. It has been too long since we’ve seen him get a hit. There should be added cheers the next time he manages to get a knock; by the grace of God.

Here is a shot of one of the best players of our modern era, Grady Sizemore. Sure, his stock has slipped a little bit. He’s struggling mightily. But at the end of the day, he’s going to have a chance at 3,000 hits and 400 home runs, and a boat load of stolen bases and runs. All while playing a sparkling centerfield. He’ll be back. This picture was before his broken bat home run, the Tribe’s only run of the ballgame. One of the better photos I took this weekend.

Eric Wedge is having a rough go of it right now in Cleveland. We wonder if this might be the last trip he makes into Cincinnati. We anticipate that he’ll be fired in the not too distant future. Towards the end of a game, an Indians fan near the dugout yelled to Wedge: “Bring back Hargrove!”. Wedge stared him down for a good 20 seconds. It’s too bad because Wedge is a nice guy, just a bad manager.

Here’s Jay Bruce coming out of the tunnel and getting ready to do battle. Not long after this he’d notice us and say whats up. Other then Willy Tavares he was the first Reds player out of the clubhouse to get his pregame warm-ups and stretching in.

Bouncing Bunny Arroyo. He won his 6th game of the year. The guy has some luck. He actually pitched really well in this start and went some good innings to give the bullpen a much needed night off. We wish we could have said the same for Homer Bailey the following night. One thing about Bronson Arroyo; love him or hate him, the guy more often then not keeps you in a ballgame and eats innings.

Here’s the Battle of Ohio ‘Ohio Cup’. We’d never seen this before but it’s given to the winner of the season series between the Reds and Indians. At least for a few more months it belongs to the Reds. And yes, that gentleman is polishing the hardware.

Here’s something around a baseball field that does not get a lot of mention. There’s the bubble gum and David Sunflower seeds containers. That’s how you know you’ve made it to the big leagues. This is where Reds ‘legend’ Billy Hatcher sits often during games. And Dick Pole of course.

David Weathers doing a pregame interview from the dugout with 700 WLW’s William Dennison before the game. Weathers is one of the nicer Reds players and for all the shit we’ve given him over the years, he’s pretty darn dependable. Thanks for your service, Dave.

Just had to take a good shot of the Reds on-deck circle. Who know when I’ll be that close to it again. It’s kind of neat to think about that before every amazing at-bat or big league feat accomplished at the plate, this is where the players reside.