Cardinals meet Bryce Harper, your Nail in the Coffin just landed in the Bullpen

With one thunderous swing of his bat, the St. Louis Cardinals season went from bad to worse. In fact, stick a long overdue fork in these guys. They’re finished.

I don’t care that they were 10 games out at this point last year. I don’t care that they got a ring last year. The 19-year old phenom just buried them. And I of course was stupid enough to stream Jaime Garcia on my fantasy team last night thinking he would carve up the Nats lineup.

Nats win 8-1. Cardinals, better luck next season boys. A dynasty you will not be.

Bryce Harper shows us that Marlins Park can play small at times

Last night we saw what just might come to be known as “The Bryce Harper Hat Trick”.

Home Run. Monster Home Run. Ejected from the game.

The 8-4 win snapped the Nationals 5-game losing streak.

Here’s a video look at career home runs numbers 13 and 14 for Harper, who surpassed Mickey Mantle in home runs by a 19-year old. At the same time, no one can convince me that it wasn’t a different ballgame back then. Still, it’s neato that Harper is mentioned in the same breath as The Mick.

Saturday’s Betting on Baseball

Today’s edition of Betting on Baseball is brought to you by SBR Forum. Check out today’s MLB lines at SBR Forum before you place your baseball bets.

Let’s start things off in Cincinnati, where my Reds had a tough defeat last night against the Cardinals. Would you believe me if I told you today was the biggest game of the regular season? Adam Wainwright pitches for the Cardinals tomorrow and has been on a roll. The Reds aren’t going to win tomorrow. They have to win today to salvage, and guarantee that St. Louis gain’s only one game at most in this series. This is a huge game. Mike Leake is on the hill for the Reds and the odds aren’t strongly in the Reds favor. In fact, this game is -105 each and a coin flip in Vegas. Give me my Reds -105 on the Saturday they retire Barry Larkin’s jersey.

The Washington Nationals are in Philadelphia opposing Roy Halladay and the Phillies. The good thing is they’ve got Gio Gonzalez as their own weapon of choice. Mike Morse is out of the lineup after probably breaking his hand last night. My fantasy team sheds a tear, as I paid a pretty price to acquire him this year. Today will be Bryce Harper’s first lesson against Halladay. Take the Nationals +110 on the money line.

The Pittsburgh Pirates have been scuffling as of late. They send Jeff Karstens to the bump to oppose Shaun Marcum and the Milwaukee Brewers. The game is in Pittsburgh. I like the Pirates to get over in this one, take Pittsburgh -125 today.

Also, as a bonus pick: my buddy says that Sergio Garcia is going to win the PGA event this weekend. I know nothing about golf, and my friend is a Garcia homer. But he says he’s been playing really well and he has ‘a feeling’.

Nicknames for our Reds

I have a group of guys that I watch the Cincinnati Reds with. When we’re not watching them together, an endless string of texts seem to go back and forth between these guys and me. We have more inside jokes about the Reds roster than I can even begin to explain. We’ve also nicknamed a lot of the roster with affectionately stupid monikers. This is a group you’ll want to remember forever, so I’m going to put them down so you can enjoy them too and they can hopefully spread like wildfire. I’ll give credit where it’s do with an explanation.

Ryan Hanigan: “Backside Bert”, “Bert Hanigan”, “The Omelette Catcher”
We were in Cincinnati for a bachelor party. My buddy Smokey already took a liking to Hanigan because he hits everything accidentally backside, and if any member of the Reds squad was likely to wear his jersey to the bar to prove he was actually a Red, it would be Hanigan. One of the guys at the bachelor party was over-served and passed out fully clothed. That gentleman who will go without being named had his head shaved. We began to call him “Bert” from Bert & Ernie, because he had a little bit of hair left on his head like the Sesame Street character. Pretty soon we started calling the act he had committed “getting Bert Hanigan wasted”. The real Hanigan probably only drinks draft beer. He probably bags a good amount of overweight chicks. We also ate breakfast at First Watch in downtown Cincinnati and the waitress had an endless string of stories about Hanigan, what he ordered, his family and so forth.

Jose Arredondo – “ArreBOMBO”
I get full credit for this one, and it’s mostly a word play. Mostly. He’s only given up a few home runs. He gave up one tonight. Whenever I see that he gave up an earned run, I check closely to see if it was a long ball. For having such electric stuff, he does seem to get pounded pretty good. My buddies really like this one, it seemed to stick from the first time I said it.

Alfredo Simon – “Everday Alfredo Simon”
For some reason we like that token long-man in the bullpen who Dusty Baker seems to treat like a piece of used farm equipment. We sympathize with him. Simon has turned into that guy. He has really embraced the role and has pretty nasty stuff for a guy who just eats innings when the Reds are losing. He’s logged 46.2 insignificant innings and has a 2.31 ERA. He’s came a long way from murdering guys in the Dominican Republic.

Sam LeCure – “LeCuurve”
I don’t know. This one’s really dumb (credit to my buddy Tyler). It stuck. The reasoning behind it is so stupid I can’t even begin to type it; but it has something to do with the way the play-by-play guy in Sports Talk Baseball for the Sega Genesis says “currrrrrve….swing n’ a miss”.

Zack Cozart – “Magic Zack”
A little while back, Tyler’s wife and my wife made us attend the movie Magic Mike. It’s about a group of male strippers. It wasn’t a pretty sight. It’s something that I’m not proud to admit but I will say it turned out to be a better plot than I thought it would be. To get to the point, in the middle of the movie I get bored and ask my buddy Tyler if any Red were to be a male stripper, which one would it be. He thinks about it for literally only a half a second, and responds without even looking over; “Cozart”. This is compounded by his already well-documented love for Cozart. Tyler is a college coach. He uses coachspeak and often talks about a player having a ‘high-ass’ which means the guy looks extremely fit and athletic and like he doesn’t have an ass. Tyler’s wife also said Cozart was cute long ago, and Tyler always talks about Cozart getting whatever women he wants. Forget the fact that I’ve reminded him many times that Cozart is happily married.

Jay Bruce – “Jayne Bruce”, “Jay Wiggles”, “Jay Breeze”
My friends know he’s my favorite player, and they seem to delight when he’s slumping and I’m agonizing over it. They poke fun with these nicknames. One night at the bar when Bruce broke a long drought with a home run, my buddy says with a straight face “looks like ol’ Jayne got ahold of one there,” and walks away without saying a word. “Wiggles” because he looks nervousy and fidgety in the box in between pitches.

Bronson Arroyo – “Bunny Arroyo”, “The MILF Hunter”
I don’t even know. Bunny Arroyo has been around since like 2007 or 2008. The other one is self explanatory if you know anything about the guy.

Miguel Cairo – “Miguel Gyro”
Credit to Smokey on this stupid one. He also likes to comment on how Cairo looks like he’s running in the box when he swings the bat.

Drew Stubbs – “Drew Nubbs”
Stubbs can’t hit for shit and he never will. This is perfect. Tyler had this one.

Homer Bailey – “HB Moonwalker”
Follow me on this one. Tyler is at my house playing one of the MLB2k games on the XBox. He about hangs himself from all the game breaking glitches but presses onward. I’m doing work when he says, “now would you look at this shit”. I look up to see pixelated Homer Bailey, gliding backwards on the edge of the Reds dugout after recording the third out. It was the most hideous thing I’ve ever seen in a long line of hideous things that I saw in that video game. We love Homer Bailey. The longer he’s around, the more he’s like part of the family. This is a beloved nickname for one of our most beloved Reds.

Mike Leake – “Turd Leake”
Usually, but not guaranteed to have a theft joke thrown in there. Leake doesn’t deserve much more than a sentence. We don’t like him, we don’t have faith in him.

Brandon Phillips – “Clown Phillips”
Another one of our favorites because he’s been part of the family for so long. You come to love the very most flaws of your family members. He gets picked off on the bases talking to Jimmy Rollins. He plays games with himself on the infield. He catches fly balls behind his head because he gets bored. He re-invents ways to make putouts and assists on the fly. He’s always ribbing someone or something or giggling. Once threatened to steal Dusty’s toothpick. Also, I must give mention to his infamous ‘pinata swing’. It’s a hitters count, and Phillips gets a fastball way up in the zone. He’s not going to take it. He’s going to hack at that shit with everything he’s got. Like he’s trying to knock all the candy out of the damn pinata. That’s something a clown does at a party, isn’t it?

Dusty Baker – “Buffalo Baker,” (shortened more recently to “Buff Baker”)
In college there was an older African-American war veteran who would be at the bar when we got there. He was there usually when we got dragged out. He was known only as “Buffalo” and we later found out when he died his real name was Louis “Buffalo” Banks. He had spectacles just like Dusty. He chewed on unlit cigars instead of toothpicks. He drank anything that had alcohol in it. He had a yell that we called the Buffalo call, where he would go “A-Whooooooooooooo-ooooo-oooooo” at the top of his lungs. He was constantly telling any of the girls that we had in our company that they were “one of the Buffalo’s Angels”. He once said that he “was fucked up like a mushroom sandwich”. He is a legend that was a shepherd for us passing into manhood. He was at my 21st birthday. I feel like Dusty Baker has equally ushered me into manhood, albeit less circus. I have all the credit for this one, and it really stuck. The first time I called our skipper ‘Buffalo Baker’ the boys loved it.

Todd Frazier – “The Toddfather”
My wife grew up near him. They attended the same baseball camp. When I heard that Todd Frazier was good at ping-pong and everything else he wanted, I knew instantly it was true from stories I’ve heard while frequenting the New Jersey area. This guy can do whatever he wants, and he gets whatever he wants. He does it ugly sometimes, but he’s just an athlete. He’s a ballplayer. He’s got “it”. I know when I watch Todd Frazier he’s going to succeed both short and long-term. Plus you have the whole New York/New Jersey/Sinatra/Godfather/Mafia tie-in which is cool.

George Grande – “Grande” (pronounced how someone would in a Mexican way, rhymes with ‘Bombay’ almost)
We just can’t get rid of this friggin’ guy can we? Every time I think he’s retired he resurfaces like a case of the clap. He’s like that eccentric but benign uncle who travels to exotic locations and brings back strange souvenirs and artifacts. He sometimes invents things. We spend a lot more time making fun of the various ‘Grande-isms’ where he talks up the other team and says stupid shit when we’re getting pounded. But we love George.

Devin Mesoraco – “Little Goomba”, “Mendozaraco”
I’m sure he’ll turn into a really nice offensive player in that park, but he’s not there yet. You cannot deny that he looks like either a woman in drag without all the hair or a Goomba from Mario Brothers.

Ryan Ludwick – “Slugwick”
All the credit on this one goes to Smokey. Not sure there’s one more perfectly named than this. When he hits them, they aren’t cheapies. He’s carved a place of affection forever in the hearts of our little Reds fans group. If this is his only tour of duty with the Reds it won’t be forgotten.

Mike Costanzo – “K-Stanzo”
I think I covered it all right here. It was fun while it lasted I guess, but we won’t have the opportunity to use this much more.

Scott Rolen – “Old Man Rolen”, “Scotty Ballgame”
I don’t know about the second one, but I got a text one time that said ‘Rolen is so old, he has to pee. He needs to get in from the field and he needs to relieve his weak, old blatter. That’s how old he is’. It stuck, and it’s true.

Logan Ondrusek – “Logan OnGOONsek”
The dude is like 6 foot 6 isn’t he? He’s definitely a goon.

Bill Bray – “Bill Bad Body”
Doesn’t look much like a professional athlete. Small upper body. Short. The high socks don’t help.

That covers the 2012 group. For now, anyways.

In Memoriam:

Aaron Harang – “Guys a doosh”
Credit to Bobby B. for this one. I never understood why Harang was his whipping boy. Good outing or bad, he ranted to me about Harang.

Paul Janish – “Jane-ish” (pronounced like it looks)
I constantly talked up Janish, the Rice Owl product. I talked up his defense. I talked up his throwing arm and how many runs he saved. And all Tyler could ever do was talk about how he hit like a woman. He was right, and Jane-ish is now departed.

Ramon Hernandez – “Razor Ramon”, “Razor”
I credit my buddy Craig for the first time I heard it. I think Reds nation as a whole had this one though.

Carlos Fisher – We had a nickname for this guy, but I was too inebriated when we made it up to recall it.

Francisco ‘Coco’ Cordero – “148. Cordero”
I live next to a Mexican joint we’ve been going to since the college years. There’s a dish on the menu that’s numbered ‘148’. It’s Pollo Nayarit. You order up that number of grease, cheese, and chicken and it will be out on your table faster than Cordero can blow a lead. Plus we always drank margaritas and talked about how we could see Cordero in sombrero there bringing out the meals as a server when his baseball career was over. Yes, we are losers.

Bryce Harper Assaults the Upper Deck Facade at Nationals Park

In my opinion this was the most impressive of all of Bryce Harper’s 12 career home runs. This is just one of those majestic, tape-measure shots that impales the facing of the upper deck. It again comes in a Nationals victory, 5-2 over the Mets.

The poor soul who gives this up is Jeremy Hefner. I would imagine that when a generational talent like Harper gets a fastball down the heart of the plate from a guy like Jeremy Hefner, this is what is going to happen more often than not. Bow your head today, we’re going to allow a moment of silence for the victim, Jeremy Hefner.

Here’s the list of players in baseball history to record at least 12 homers in their age 19 season: Tony Conigliaro (24), Mel Ott (18), Ken Griffey Jr. (16), Mickey Mantle (13) and Bryce Harper (12). That’s decent company. Harper also tripled in the game for good measure.

Here’s footage of the 434-foot blast:

Fun factoid: I was supposed to be at Nationals Park this weekend, and due to some circumstances I didn’t make it. Our friend Craig Calcaterra from Hardballtalk had the opportunity to be there Friday. He writes up a similar-style post that I would have. I’ll get there someday. Everything happens for a reason, as I was planning to go to the game Saturday and Harper wasn’t in the lineup.

Weekend Wrap Up

-Congrats to Adam Dunn on his 400th career home run. An opposite field shot that landed in the Kauffman Stadium fountain; I find it fitting that this milestone blast came on a Saturday night. Adam Dunn is a Saturday night type of guy. I remember so many of the 400 Dunner. Right down to your first.

-The Pittsburgh Pirates survived 19 innings of baseball on getaway day in St. Louis to beat the Cardinals 6-3 today. As the game wore on, I had a thought. I decided that these two teams were playing for much more than just a single ‘W’ in the standings. The loser of this game could not possibly recover, and the winner would survive to fight another day. I think this is the nail in the Cardinals coffin, truly.

-The Cincinnati Reds pulled a little more magic from their hat on Sunday, winning in the bottom of the 9th inning against the Chicago Cubs. The Reds took 3 of 4 over the weekend. It’s just one of those rare years for the Cincinnati Reds. Everything is turning to gold. Xavier Paul? Ryan Ludwick? Todd Frazier? It’s all flowing for the Redlegs right now, and it’s not about to stop anytime soon.

-The only Grady Sizemore mention on any baseball blog today. Sizemore’s status? Yup, still hurt.

-Bryce Harper homered today, his 12th. Your Harper home run post coming momentarily.

Your Saturday Baseball Open Thread

It’s Saturday, and the Reds play a non-traditional doubleheader. Is there anything better? A full 18 innings of baseball lie ahead, and hopefully two wins at the end of the day are gained in the standings.

The Reds are firing on all cylinders coming off a 7-3 victory last night in which Ryan Ludwick hit his 23rd home run, Todd Frazier hit his 16th, and Jay Bruce hit his 25th of the year. Bruce could be entering one of his customary late August hot streaks, as he’s now hit four home runs in five games.

Also, did anyone see the home run that Giancarlo Stanton hit last night at Coors Field? If you haven’t yet, check it out. That is a strong, strong man.

It’s a late summer Saturday. Enjoy your day, and take in some baseball.

Bryce Harper’s Friday Night Rapier off Johan Santana

It had been around two weeks since Bryce Harper’s last home run.

On Friday night in the Nationals 6-4 win over the New York Mets Harper caught a low fastball from Johan Santana and hit it into the right field seats. Like all of Harper’s Bombs, it got out of the park in a hurry.

It was the 11th big league bomb of his career. His fifth career dong at Nationals Park.

This one carries a special value since it’s off a tough lefty. And it seems that in the early going, Bryce Harper is building a special reputation for loving to murder the Metropolitans.

We Live with him, We Die with him, and when he triumps we celebrate with him

Jay Bruce homered tonight in the 9th inning (to left field) in a 0-0 tie game to win the game for the Cincinnati Reds 3-0. The win was the Reds 70th of the season. It was Bruce’s 123rd career home run. While some may have come in bigger moments when the spotlight shined brighter, we’re not sure that he’s ever truly hit a bigger one.

This season hasn’t altogether gone as we had it written up for the Reds’ right fielder. We had him as the National League MVP coming into 2012. Fair or unfair, it just hasn’t materialized into that type of season.

After an April that saw him hit .296 and close out the month with home runs in four straight games, it’s been a season long slump. It’s felt that way. But Bruce’s manager has stuck with him through trying times. For all the grief Dusty Baker gets for his odd machinations and far out inventions in the form of a lineup, thank you Dusty for being a player’s manager on this night.

To hit a home run in the 9th inning of a game to the opposite field off a tough lefty with the way that things have been going, that’s just a huge moment. And maybe Bruce continues to slumber through the final six weeks and change of the regular season, who knows. But maybe this is the start of one of Jay Bruce’s epic hot streaks that carries a team to a division title.

Because tonight felt just a little bit like 2010 didn’t it? It seemed that not a body had left–and for good reason–when Bruce hit the line drive into the first row of seats in left field. It’s one of those nights where you’re mad that you had an excuse not to be there taking it in with 29,000 of your closest friends.

The end of 2009 and especially that August and September of 2010, was truly vintage Jay Bruce. It was a time where he seemed on top of the baseball world and no one could get him out. And more often than not when he connected, the ball left the yard. I’ve never seen anything like it in my life watching baseball. It was incredible.

He put together one of those epic hot streaks in May of 2011 and had the minor eruption in April of this season that we touched on, and has since gone missing.

He’s homered in two straight. Not surprisingly, the Reds won them both. Why is one player so paramount to the Reds success? When Bruce succeeds, the Reds are seemingly unstoppable. Or maybe it’s the other way around. Lifetime, in a Reds win, Jay Bruce OPS’s over an astounding .960 clip.

I don’t know how this chapter ends or where it falls in the story. I don’t know if we’re at the halfway point or beginning to ride the downward slope towards the end. All I know is that tonight when Jay Bruce rounded the bases I felt the joy you can only feel for someone when you’ve suffered through the good times and the bad with someone, even if he doesn’t know that we’ve all been along for the ride with him every step of the way.

Jay Bruce is one of us. Born and raised a Cincinnati Red. He provides us with another magical moment in what has thus far been a magical summer.

And if this is the beginning of one of those hot streaks that you never forget, I guarantee you the entire baseball world will be on notice.

Never Knew Pesky’s Pole Had So Much Grafiti on It

I figured that if the less famous distant cousin of the Green Monster is ever going to get a post on this blog, today had to be that day.

Johnny Pesky was a Red Sox legend who hit .307 for his career, and he died today at age 92. This is one of the most famous baseball landmarks in the game. When I make my first trip to Fenway (God willing), I’ll be sure to write something cool on that pole.

You want to read why they call it Pesky’s Pole, right here.

You want Pesky’s Baseball-Reference page, right here.

“Happy Birthday, Dear Trouty….”

Mike Trout turns 21 years young today.

Aaron Gleeman of HardballTalk makes a point to say that Trout is “the American League’s best player”, and he’s wrong.

I fall more in like with the thinking of my dear friend M.J. Lloyd, who has reminded me via text all season long that Trout is baseball’s top player.

Look at this snippet from the HBT link, and then try and disagree with us:

He leads the league in batting average (.348), steals (36), and runs (86), ranks second in slugging percentage (.598) and OPS (1.009), and rates third in on-base percentage (.411). And course he’s also an excellent defensive center fielder, which is part of how Trout leads all of baseball in Wins Above Replacement (7.4).

What this tells us is that Mike Trout is indeed the best player in all of baseball. There’s no guarantee that it stays that way for the next five years or anything; but at this moment in time if you hit the ‘pause’ button on the world of baseball (that would be kind of cool), Trout is on the top of the pyramid.

I think the best part about it all is at age 21, he could continue to climb in feats. As I watch the highlights every night of Trout taking a home run away from an opponent, jumping around the basepaths like a gymnast and generally sliding around the infield like he’s on a waterpark slide; the guy is just damn fun to watch.

I would also be prepared for much lengthier birthday card to Trout from M.J. Lloyd over at Halo Hangout at some point, in which he asks Trout to marry him or take him to prom.

Finally, MLB Network is the White Noise that Graces my home

When I got home last night, I wanted to watch the NFL Network and the annual Hall of Fame kickoff exhibition between the Saints and Cardinals. I just got home from vacation this past weekend, and I was looking to actually relax and recover from the drive home. Except something was really wrong.

Follow me here. Time Warner Cable owns Insight Cable. Due to this evil association that has little to do with anything besides getting more of our greenbacks, my Insight no longer had NFL Network. I was so pissed that I immediately called and switched to Direct TV. After years of threats and such to do so, I finally got the gumption to do something about it. See you later Insight.

While flipping through the channels in disgust, I found something in those mid-500’s that I never venture to. What is this ‘MLBN’ that I have only enjoyed at a friend’s house or when over at my parents (proud Time Warner suckers for their entire cable lives)?

I have to say, I’m completely hooked. They cover everybody, and everything. The live-look’s all night long are glorious. My wife went back to New Jersey to see her parents, so tonight I had dinner with Larry Bowa. I really enjoyed listening to the snake-eyed son of a bitch talking about how long Ben Sheets will stick around with the Braves and other mundane topics that no one but a baseball addict like me would give a random shit about.

The coverage is unreal. It’s everything that Baseball Tonight used to be when I was a kid. It matters not what market you are from, or even what standing your organization is in. MLB Network spreads the love evenly.

I’m not even mentioning the games of the week telecasts on sporadic nights when they feel like stuffing you to baseball overload. As much as I enjoyed the NFL Network, the MLB counterpart is a dream come true.

Bryce Harper Posterized Mike Dunn for Career Bomb Number 10

Bryce Harper caught a hanging curve from Marlins lefty Mike Dunn and added an exclamation mark on the Nats 10-7 come from behind victory.

I was actually watching on my iPhone when Harper connected, and it was hard to tell where the ball was going. Until I saw the fans sitting directly behind home plate. Watch their reaction. They knew it was a monster bomb off the bat. In fact, pause the video when Harper connects; right about when he’s ready to shuck the bat like it’s a disposed tool. Look at the spectators mouths fly open. This is a ‘holy shit’ bomb that was hit to an area of the park that baseballs don’t really frequent.