Tempting though it is, in some ways, to go see Canada play Mexico at Chase tonight, think we're going to skip it. Man can not live by ballpark food and carbonated beverages alone, y'know. I don't think I'd like to be a fulltime baseball journalist: I think it'd get old pretty quickly, having to write about games every day. I like the novelty angle, and being able to blow off the ballpark to go see Ultraviolet instead. Which is quite probably what we'll do tonight. So, popcorn and carbonated beverages it is, then. 8-)
I did watch a chunk of the Puerto Rico-Netherlands game last night though, and it took PR six innings to go ahead - as with South Africa, I was credibly impressed with the performance of the underdogs (obviously, I exclude Andruw Jones!). There may be a couple of reasons for this. The gap between the majors and the levels at which these "outsiders" play could just be less than anticipated. Certainly, watching an A-ball player like Loewen carve up Team USA yesterday, while Willis fell apart, you could never have told which man got 11 first-place Cy Young votes last year.
However, it is also likely the case that the lower-level guys are playing out of their socks. For the superstars, this is perhaps little more than a a week-long diversion from spring training. But if you play in the Dutch leagues, facing Bruce Chen perhaps represents the highlight of your career. You will, literally, step up to the plate. I'm pleased that the mercy rule has been largely uninvoked.
Split-squad action yesterday for Arizona. Half our team faced half of the Rockies, beating them 8-4. Tracy scored his first home run of spring training and went 3-for-3, while the surprising Chris Carter belted his third (but despite batting .556 with eight RBIs in nine at-bats, according to Melvin, "Defensively, he's got a ways to go." - see Andrew's diary on the right for more on Carter). D'Antona, Haley and Andy Green also had two hits apiece.
On the mound, Vargas was very wobbly to start, allowing the first six Rockies to reach base, but then settled down to allow three runs over three innings. Mulholland pitched two scoreless innings, Jarvis allowed only one unearned run over his two frames, while Choate and Daigle posted zeroes as well.
Meanwhile, the other half were also playing the other half of the Rockies, in a slugfest that produced 33 hits and 24 runs, as Arizona improved their spring record to 7-1 with a 13-11 victory. Quentin, Terrero, Estrada and Barden all had two hits, though we were outhomered 4-0. Terrero had three RBIs, and there were two each for Drew, DaVanon and Estrada.
As you can imagine, not a great day for our pitchers, though it was mostly the B squad for this one. Neil Musser was the whipping boy, allowing six hits and a walk in his two innings; Doug Slaten struck out five in his two frames, but also allowed three earned runs. Halsey remained shaky in his second spring outing, giving up four hits and a walk in the first two innings, so neither he nor Vargas have exactly laid a rock-solid claim to the #5 spot to date.
With one week of Spring Training under our belts, let's take a look at the Heroes and Zeroes of the first seven games...
Hitting [more than 10 at-bats]
Chad Tracy: 9-for-13, 4 RBI
Chris Snyder: 6-for-12, 2 HR
Jerry Gil: 8-for-15
Eric Byrnes: 3-for-11, 1 HR
Damion Easley: 3-for-11, 0 RBI
Shawn Green: 4-for-15
It's quite comforting to realise that of the 18 players to accumulate double-digits in at-bats, none are hitting less than .267. Even that last-placed Green is posting an OPS of .913, which we would take in a heartbeat during the regular season. So "Zeroes" is perhaps too harsh, or at least should only be used in a relative sense, given we're hitting .393 as a team so far. For we are simply murdering opposing pitchers - we lead the NL in the following categories this spring:
- Runs: 85 (next best is 58)
- Hits: 125 (86)
- 2B: 34 (22)
- 3B: 4 (tied)
- HR: 14 (tied)
- BB: 46 (33)
- BA: .393 (.342)
- OBP: .469 (.422)
- SLG: .657 (.547)
All obviously early days though. Small sample sizes duly acknowledged, Tracy's clip would still be impressive if he had nine hits in 26 at-bats, never mind half that many. But he's being outslugged by Chris Snyder, who has had four extra base hits: mind you, veterans will recall his excellent spring in 2005, and we all know how well that ended... The resurrection of Jerry Gil is perhaps the biggest shock, though naturally, Gil has yet to take a single walk.
Pitching [3 IP or more]
Brandon Webb: 5 IP, 0 H, 1 BB, 4 K, 0 ER
Terry Mulholland: 4 IP, 4 H, 1 BB, 3 K, 0 ER
Randy Choate: 3 IP, 4 H, 0 BB, 2 K
E Gonzalez: 3.2 IP, 8 H, 2 BB, 3 K, 4 ER
Brad Halsey: 4 IP, 8 H, 1 BB, 2 K, 5 ER
Russ Ortiz: 4 IP, 8 H, 2 BB, 1 K, 8 ER
Things have been less astonishing on the pitching front, where our team ERA of 5.13 puts us dead in the middle of the NL pack. We're tied for third most HR given up, but our 55 K's in 72 IP does lead the league, and with only 24 walks, the ratio is also looking pretty nifty.
Brandon Webb is doing everything possible to show why he'll be the Opening Day starter, with a pair of excellent performances - he's more than half way to posting a Spring Training "no hitter"! :-) Mulholland and Choate have both allowed their fair share of runners, but have got the outs when they needed them [Brandon Lyon has, similarly, posted a 0.00 ERA in 3 IP]
On the down side, one of the E Gonzalez's appears to be doing not so well, but as mlb.com coyly refuses to say which one it actually is, I'm reluctant to condemn them too much. Brad Halsey has done his chances of getting the fifth spot in the rotation no good at all with his work so far. And, hey, look who's lurking at the bottom? It's Russ "What? Me Worry?" Ortiz, whose spring performances have largely been working out his excuse-generating skills.
Finally, was perusing the back of my WBC T-shirt, bought at Tuesday's game. It features the phrase "Baseball spoken here" in all the languages of the competing countries. And I learned that, in the Netherlands, baseball translates into the somewhat unflattering word, "honkbal". From which I can only conclude that Conor Jackson would play "eerste honk" in the Dutch leagues. :-)