Category Archives: Florida Marlins

You Forget How Close They Came

I know Cleveland has often been the subject of my ridicule – and it’s deserved. But there was a time in my life when I dabbled in Cleveland Indians baseball. Admittedly, as an early teenager it was hard not to get sucked into the 1996-2000 Cleveland Indians. I studied tape of Manny Ramirez’s swing and tried to model my offensive approach after him; hitting to all fields. Plus the Reds were floundering and the Tribe was in the playoffs every year.

The height of this crush was the 1997 Indians. No team ever came so close without actually delivering. Which brings about the question: would it be better to have never even made it to this spot at all? It might have been.

But it’s easy to forget how close the Indians actually were. That’s what I realized as I wasted about three hours yesterday breaking down this game and revisiting the agony of that night all over again. I was so heartbroken over it I actually cried after the game as Charles Nagy sat on the mound in disbelief.

Everyone who watched this game remembers Edgar Renteria’s game-winning, flip single into centerfield that scored that little no-talent ass clown Craig Counsell. Everyone remembers Tony Fernandez’s error that set everything up, including him being the scapegoat you remember.

But watch the top of the ninth inning. The Indians have a chance to go up 3-1 and make Jaret Wright the hero forever. Except Renteria goes to the plate on a sharp ground ball hit to him instead of going for the double play, nailing Sandy Alomar Jr. (who didn’t attempt to slide) at the plate. If Renteria doesn’t go home with that ball – if he tries a double play there to end the inning and the Indians get that third run – they end up World Champions.

Then make sure you watch that agonizing bottom of the ninth where the Marlins tie the game on Counsell’s sacrifice fly. Jose Mesa allows a flip single to Moises Alou. Then he strikes out Bobby Bonilla. They’re so close you can feel it. People were popping champagne in Cleveland by this point. Bob Costas frames the moment so eloquently to try to make you forget it’s Cleveland and Florida playing on the game’s grandest of stages.

The camera pans to Mike Hargrove; and he appears to be talking to himself. Going through every little situation in his mind. By this time he surely knows what is to come. He hangs his head after a few moments, before the camera focuses closely in on Jose Mesa; who is about to blow the save in the biggest game of his life.

On a 1-2 count; after relying on exclusively fastballs to get ahead of a light hitting catcher Charles Johnson, Mesa actually does the smart thing. He throws a slider on the outside part of the dish. It’s a pitcher’s pitch. Johnson slashes it into right field to an actual hustling Manny Ramirez. Bob Costas tells us the obvious – that there’s no play – and Alou slides into third. The slide has begun itself. The toothpaste cannot be put back into the tube. Cleveland is going to blow this now, it’s just a matter of how.

The camera shows Mesa, looking exhausted already. It then goes quickly to Hargrove who is wearing an expression mixed of panic and anguish. Then you see him. One of the smallest World Series heroes there ever was. It’s Counsell. The rookie out of Notre Dame. His awkward and memorable stance not fully evolved into what it would just yet. He still looks like a kid Craig Counsell and not the Counsell you probably remember bouncing around towards the latter part of his career.

Grover is rocking and nodding his head. He’s telling himself that this is really happening, but this can’t be happening. We were two outs away. We’re still two outs away. But exactly that – this has already taken on a life of it’s own and the dream is over by now. Young Jim Leyland adjusts his glasses. Counsell slashes a ball on a line to right field. It looks like it could be over right there. It’s probably one of the hardest balls he’s ever hit in his life. But no, they will play on at least a little longer. Somehow, Manny Ramirez is there and he’s waiting on it. Ramirez makes the catch lazily jogging after it somehow; just as he always seemed to be able to do. But game seven of the World Series is tied.

And here we are, some 16 long years later. The Indians have never gotten that close again. No Cleveland team has been that close in fact. And we press on in our lives, with the lives of many whose hope was lost that night at Joe Robbie Stadium already ended. We all wonder if Cleveland will ever get another shot. But as the days go on and we are further apart from the actual moments within this game, it’s easy to forget how close Cleveland actually was to really winning it all. So close that even watching this noir, you almost find yourself hoping for a different outcome for them. Even though it’s inevitable.

Rank Relief: Walk off Granny

John Mayberry hot two extra inning home runs.  Even Dominic Brown is impressed.

John Mayberry hit two extra inning home runs. Even Dominic Brown is impressed.

The rankest of relief performances happened tonight.  You can’t get much worse than walking off and winning by 4 runs.  there is only one way to do that.  Load up the bases and hit a home run.  You need an assist form a late inning reliever and tonight Edgar Olmos provided that.  Olmos didn’t even give up a hit except for the final bomb shot.  See below:

RR 6.4 - 2

An error, sacrifice and two walks later, Olmos was giving up a grand slam on a 1-1 fastball.  Neither of these teams is going to make the playoffs or contend, so it probably doesn’t really matter, but I’m guessing the morale in Miami can’t get much lower.

Rank relief: The Miami Marlins have lots of problems

rank relief1 4.21

Jon Rauch stares at Todd Frazier’s bases clearing double

The Marlins were able to win one of the four game series against the Reds and were tied today going into the 7th.  Then Jon Rauch showed up for work.  He didn’t land in a great situation, coming into the game with the bases loaded courtesy of Alex Sanabia.  The bases were loaded via a walk and two hits.  Rauch came in to face Brandon Phillips, who has been lights out this season.  The following ensued:

rank relief2 4.21

The damage was bad.  Only two outs, 2 singles, 2 doubles, and one walk.  Both Phillips and Bruce had long at bats by extending them via foul balls.  This seemed like another relief situation that Mike Redmond just didn’t care after the Reds scored a few runs to take a lead they would not relinquish.  Miami did score three more runs in the 9th so if Rauch could have gotten Frazier out, they may have tied it.  Of course, if the Reds were only up 3, we may have seen Aroldis Chapman instead of Manny Para.  Word is Rauch is thinking of getting another tattoo to commemorate the events.  I haven’t confirmed yet.

 

Rank relief: John Maine is the sacrificial lamb for Jeffrey Loria

rank relief1 4.18

John Maine turns to watch Todd Frazier’s hit clear the wall.

Not too many people would have picked the Marlins against the Reds even with rookies Tony Cingrani and Jose Fernandez on the mound.  The Reds tagged Fernandez for 5 runs through four innings and then they decide to send John Maine in.  John Maine did not pitch well.  here is what he did in the 5th:

rank relief2 4.18

Here’s the talley:  3 singles, 4 walks, and 1 wild pitch.  It was about to get really ugly, but Joey Votto grounded into a double play with the bases loaded to end the inning.  On the intentional walk him almost hit Devin Mesoraco in the head twice…impressive.  The core was 5-1 before the 5th and 9-1 after.  You’d think that’d be it for Maine.  Nope.  They ran him back out for the 6th inning.  He still did not pitch well.

rank relief3 4.18

This isn’t as bad, but a walk and a home run put another 2 on the board for the Reds.  He did strike out the side though.  Just a little hiccup in between.  I get that the Marlins were saving their bullpen, but these were two brutal innings.

Mark Buerhle is Bryce Harper’s latest Upper Deck Kill

The Bryce Harper rookie wrecking derby rolls on.

Today he absolute shits on lefty Mark Buerhle, launching a parabola into the upper tank at Nationals Stadium. The Nationals stole an 8-7, 10-inning win from the Marlins.

Harper is raking like he wants that Rookie of the Year trophy above his fireplace.

I’m sorry that Harper is filling is up this page so much. Actually I’m not. When he homers, we pin it here. This is because he’s the greatest 19-year old home run hitter of our lifetime.

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.

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.

Reinvented Carlos Zambrano

As I sat and watched Carlos Zambrano string together inning after inning against the Washington Nationals yesterday, I couldn’t help but think about the guy who we heard had major mechanic troubles at the tail end in Chicago. He was left for dead, but I think the baseball society would officially declare him “back” as of right now.

I remember hearing tales of a bad delivery that was putting too much pressure on his elbow. That ‘Big Z’ was a candidate to break down at any moment. And then he got hit and threatened to retire. That seems like forgotten history now.

From the SweetSpot article I linked:

For Big Z, this has been equal parts reinvention and renewal. The beefy right-hander’s fastball has lost yet another tick, sitting around 89 instead of 90, and as much as you can place faith in Pitch F/X’s ability to properly pigeon-hole off-speed offering, it looks like he’s relying on his splitter more now than he did in his days in Wrigleyville.

Perhaps more significantly, his ratio of ground balls to fly balls is higher than it’s been since 2003, something a lot more important for his future than a nice dip in his ratio of home runs to fly balls: If he allows fewer fly balls in the first place, it’s going to be harder for more people to hit home runs at all. Regression monkeys will no doubt despair over an FIP or xFIP a run higher than his current ERA, fearing what that portends for the future, but I’d suggest that if, two months ago, you’d get an ERA anywhere between 3.80 and 4.00 from Zambrano every fifth day, the Fish would still be down with this deal.

So he isn’t the power pitcher he was back in his heyday, back when he was the best Venezuelan import among the Cubs’ highly-touted power arms in the early Aughties. But he is the guy who has actually delivered while the other, more famous guys like Mark Prior and Kerry Wood tried and failed and broke down. He’s the one who’s still here, having pitched 500 more innings than the now-retired Wood, or 1,200 more than Prior, the man with the so-called “perfect mechanics.” He’s the guy from the 2003 Cubs with the most career WAR, though that might be seen as a case of setting the bar low.

In layman’s baseball terms, a guy who was has thrown his fastball some 66.8% of the time over the course of his career is throwing it just 40.6% of the time right now. He’s living around 89 MPH rather than the 93 MPH that he became known for.

And suddenly I began thinking of what I read in Sunday morning’s Ne w York Times. It’s quite possible that Zambrano’s arm is a mess inside but he’s hanging on a little longer for more paychecks or more glory or whatever.

The Marlins held on for a 5-3 victory yesterday afternoon. For the moment, all is on the upswing for Zambrano for the time being, and my Memorial Day burgers turned out great (Trader Joe’s patties with a special touch of seasoning and sauce). The Bullish Zambrano lives to fight another day as a member of this large baseball world fraternity we’re all part of.

VIDEO: Giancarlo Stanton Vandalizes his Home Stadium & Jamie Moyer with a Granny Bomb

When you’re getting ESPN alert text messages to let you know that ‘ESPN MLB – Giancarlo Stanton hit HR of LF video board knocking off portion of digital display at Marlins Park’ (I actually got the text twice, for some reason) you know it’s a bomb you better get to a computer and see somehow.

Giancarlo didn’t disappoint, taking old man Moyer’s pitch to Biscayne Bay on this full count offering.

Moyer has now pitched in 50 big league stadiums. I can guarantee you he’s never seen a swing destroy things like that in any of them.

As for Stanton, love this guy. He’s obviously playing on a bad wheel and it doesn’t matter. He’s just that good. Mammoth power down in Vice City where he fits right in. What a time to live and die in Miami.

Examining Bill James 2012 Mike Stanton Projection

I love me some Mike Stanton. Anytime there is a power hitting corner outfielder with youth on their side, there’s a good chance I’ll feel the exact same way about them as I do Stanton. The tape-measure video game bombs, the build, he’s got it all right now. It could be said that Mike Stanton makes our world a better place.

I knew that I was onto something with Stanton about the middle of last year, and here’s the story with it. I’m in a fantasy league where we score categories beyond the typical 5 x 5 ROTO metrics. The added categories are walks, OBA, OPS, and slugging. There’s an owner in the league that has won the league every year until finishing second last season.

I was enchanted with Stanton heading into last year’s draft and I was lucky enough to snag him in the middle rounds. It’s a keeper league, so a guy like Stanton was worth the flier over aging outfielders that were available.

That consistently successful owner came knocking at my door in the form of one text message after another with hopes to land Stanton. He told me anyone from his roster was available, but the guy he consistently asked for was Stanton. This was a condition I was not willing to accept. When this particular owner is that hot for a player, something is up. It’s like when Billy Beane saw something in Scott Hatteberg; when this guy picks up an aging player for a few weeks there’s always more perceived value in that said player in our league from that point forward.

Stanton went on to have a nice season and bigger things are in store. He’s already receiving early consideration for 2012 NL MVP; so I figure it’s time to see what Bill James sees coming for Stanton this year in that loaded Marlins lineup.

Bill James 2012 Mike Stanton Projection:

150 Games Played, 532 AB, 145 hits, 32 doubles, 4 triples, 39 HR, 88 runs, 103 RBI, 73 BB, 160 K, 5 SB, .273 AVG, .366/.568/.934

Last year Stanton posted a .356/.537/893 slash line, which is beautiful for a guy who was in his age 21 season. Mr. James is expecting Big Mike to go out and bash at a clip that is exponentially more productive than last season, which as a Stanton fantasy owner I would happily sign up for again.

If he can just stay completely healthy, Stanton is going to have an opportunity to do huge things in the Florida lineup where he’ll probably be hitting in that five slot to begin the year and work his way right into being a 22-year old cleanup hitter.

What’s not to love about this guy?

Marlins Offer Albert Pujols a 10-year Contract

I was thinking about something this morning on my drive into work. I really want Albert Pujols to leave the Cardinals, thus increasing the chances he stays in St. Louis. If Albert leaves the Cardinals, I think the Reds clearly become the front-runner in the National League Central. Let someone else worry about Pujols putting up a career year in the form of lifetime stats against them (see Pujols’ career stats against Cincinnati).

It looks like things are moving closer to a reality. ESPN breaks the news on this one:

The Miami Marlins have made a 10-year offer to the biggest fish on the free-agent market, first baseman Albert Pujols, baseball sources told ESPN the Magazine’s Buster Olney on Tuesday.

It is unclear what the monetary figure of the offer is, and a key question is whether the Marlins would agree to include a no-trade clause in their offer. The club did not offer shortstop Jose Reyes such a clause, which Pujols had with the St. Louis Cardinals.

The Marlins’ latest offer is an increase from the nine-year proposal made in their first meeting with Lozano.

Well this news makes me happy. I know it makes Danny Lozano happy. I just want my Reds to have a run at things in 2012. I’m not scared of a baseball team from Miami that will be in full panic mode come July. Go ahead Albert, sign down in South Beach with your superstar Dominican buddy Reyes. Similar paths worked out well for Lebron.

Let me also add that there’s just no way a legend like Pujols should ever play for a franchise like the Marlins. And he’ll be back in St. Louis even if he has to take fewer years or money. It will be interested to see what happens now that the Marlins have put a little pressure on the Cardinals.

Reds bring the Heat in Miami

[Box Score]

[Cincinnati.com] [The Real Mccoy]

Last night’s win said an awful lot about the character of the Reds. But before I talk about the game, I just want to talk about my state of mind as a fan right now.

It’s been really hard to maintain this blog this season. For anyone that has ever written about sports on the internet, you realize that if there is emotion involved–it’s not an easy thing all of the time. The Reds performance this year has really complicated me writing about baseball on this blog. So if anyone wonders about the future of Diamond Hoggers and the amount of writing that will be done on here; the show will go on as always and the tempo will pick up.

The Reds can’t stink forever, and I’ve been preparing to get married in September. Losing 15 pounds and planning a wedding has been some work albeit minimal. But baseball is what I love and on any random summer night it’s easy to remember why I love it.

Last night was one of those games. Hell, I even fired up the post game show on 700 WLW last night (too much Jimmy Buffett talk, not enough baseball but oh well) and watched Little Big League on Netflix as I was falling asleep. After games like last night, I’ll let it be baseball season until December!

A lot of Reds fans who my relationship has been in a stalemate with suddenly crept out of the woodwork last night as the Reds battled back on the road from a 5-2 deficit. Everything seemed to happen by design. Yonder Alonso hits a bomb to get things going a little bit, and then Jay Bruce (hitting 3rd in the lineup) hits a bomb to right field to cut the deficit to 5-4.

Nick Masset came in and promptly shit his pants as he’s so often done this season and gave up a sac fly to Emillio Bonifacio in the bottom of the 8th to seemingly end the game.

Dusty Baker makes a Dusty Baker move in the 9th inning. He allows Paul Janish to lead off, and even listening to the radio I’m wondering what the Hell a .217ish hitter is doing leading off when we need one base runner. The Reds would bail their manager out from there; as Joey Votto pinch hit and had a Joey Votto at-bat where he fouled off a few tough pitches and got the full count walk, his 93rd of the season. Brandon Phillips did the same, had a tough at bat and ended up fouling off a few pitches until he got something he could handle and singled to center.

From there you’ll see the highlights below that took the Reds home winners down in the Miami humidity.

I think the reason people are so happy is they feel in a lot of cases that the Reds have given up just because this season is over and so many of us have given up our hopes and expectations we had. While this time last summer was a magical time in our lives, we’re left adjusting at the present time and wondering how to feel. Last night the Reds reminded us that meaningless baseball on a summer night can still be great because it is baseball.

And soon enough the boys of summer will be giving way to another sport. So we best enjoy it for all we can for another few weeks here before we say goodbye for another long winter.

This has been a really weird season. I’m not sure what it is. But it’s not unlike any other baseball season I’ve lived through despite having it’s share of ‘blah’ moments. There are points when the season seems a few days long and then when you think back to the beginning parts you can’t believe that this is the same season at all.

It’s the puzzling life of being a baseball fan. We all go through it and there is no exact psychology that fits a textbook of how to do it correctly. You just exist, you take it in, you watch. You try to draw conclusions or deductions or similarities to past seasons. If we’re honest with ourselves, baseball is so unique that while many players and teams are patterned after their past, in some ways every day is statistically unique and unpredictable. And that is what keeps us hooked.

You never know when the Cincinnati Reds–who you had thought had ‘quit’–score four in the 9th to win the damn thing. God I love this game.

Top Plays:

Yonder Alonso’s 2nd home run of his career

Jay Bruce hits a Ricky Nolasco hanging breaking ball into the seats

Dave Sappelt’s double to the wall ties the game in the 9th

Alonso puts the Reds ahead with a 2-run double

Potpourri

-Due to another damn hurricane, the Reds and Marlins will play a doubleheader today.

-Ricky Nolasco passed Dontrelle Willis as the all-time strikeout leader in Marlins history last night.

-It was about a year ago that I wrote this about Jay Bruce. I don’t know if it’s ever been more true.

-It was about a year ago on a Sunday, the Reds were playing the Marlins. And they took over first place for good. We were there.

Trader Jack McKeon is back

For all the things that change as the years go on, Jack McKeon returning to manage the Marlins and be in baseball as an 80 year old should be one that comforts us all.

Jim Bowden has worked with McKeon in the past. If you read his post about him, you’ll learn that Jack McKeon is a lot more than just a guy who has held a few managerial posts. This guy is a rare artifact in the game of baseball. A rich and genuine baseball man that understands the game at it’s roots. And he’s arguably going to be closing out a Hall of Fame career.

It’s funny because when I was younger–I would have never understood how Baseball could have a guy who was once a Manager that would also later be a front office guy. As a kid and a young adult, guys were either typecast to be either: A) Manager or; B) Front Office GM.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized there are hybrid types. Few can do it well, but Jack McKeon could probably succeed in any operation he’s asked to do around a baseball field.

With all the catastrophe, calamity and distraught that goes on in our world today, Jack McKeon returning to the field to manage at 80 years old (making him the oldest man to do it other than the legend Connie Mack) should be something that restores a bit of innocence to the game. He’s one of the grand old grandpappies of baseball. And I’m happy to see him back whether it lasts only the remainder of this season or into next.

Enjoy it folks, you’re seeing a legend who is before his time.

Wow! Brian Sabean would like to maim Scott Cousins

“If I never hear from Cousins again or he never plays another game in the big leagues, I think we’ll all be happy. He chose to be a hero in my mind, and if that’s his flash of fame, that’s as good as it’s going to get, pal. We’ll have a long memory. Believe me, we’ve talked to (Mike) Matheny about how this game works. You can’t be that out-and-out overly aggressive. I’ll put it as politically as I can state it: There’s no love lost and there shouldn’t be.” [Extra Baggs]