Friday, July 25, 2008

It won't play in Peoria

The Peoria Chiefs (Cubs) were at the Dayton Dragons (Reds) last night and the game made the national news. That's almost never a good thing. When minor league teams make the national media, it's either because a player did something particularly unusual (there's the famous highlight of the right fielder literally running through the outfield wall to make a catch), or because the news is bad. More often than not, the big league team doesn't want to see their affiliates' names in the press unless it's in the context of, "Ortiz reported to the Sea Dogs for a rehab assignment."

Otherwise they're looking at news like Mike Coolbaugh's freak death, or Delmon Young's assault of an umpire.

The Cubs can't be happy this morning. And of the two teams, they're the ones that should have the most trouble from today's news. The roots of the incident were summarized in the AP report as -

Dayton pitcher Kyle Lotzkar hit Peoria's Nate Samson with a pitch in the top of the first. In the inning's bottom half, Castillo hit Dayton's Zack Cozart in the head with a pitch. Cozart fell to the ground, was helped to the dugout and didn't return.

Several batters later, Castillo hit Angel Cabrera, who angrily threw his bat and batting gloves toward his dugout before taking first. Dayton's next batter hit an infield grounder, and Cabrera made an aggressive slide into second to break up the double play.

Castillo followed that with a high-and-tight pitch to the next batter, Brandon Menchaca, prompting Dayton manager Donnie Scott to complain to the home plate umpire. Interim Peoria manager Carmelo Martinez came on the field to join the discussion.

That led to an argument between the two managers, and when Martinez pushed Scott, the benches emptied.
All of this led to Castillo, after the benches emptied, throwing a fastball at the opposing dugout which went into the stands and injured a fan. Castillo is currently facing charges for aggravated assault and, if you saw the footage, is likely facing jail time.

I want to dissect what happened here, because a lot of this should never have happened, and almost all of this can be laid at the feet of Martinez, the team's interim manager while Ryne Sandberg is in Cooperstown for the Hall of Fame ceremonies, and the umpires.

Lotzkar was a compensatory first round pick in the supplemental draft. On the season, according to he's 0-3 in four starts (16 innings pitched) with a 6.19 ERA, giving up 14 runs (11 earned) on 14 hits, and 15 walks with one hit by pitch (I don't know if that includes yesterday's game) and one wild pitch. Not a pitcher with the best control in the world.

Contrast that with Castillo who has appeared in six games with three starts over 22 innings and put together a 2.86 ERA with 22 hits and 10 walks.

Lotzkar, projected for the same number of innings gives up 19 hits and walks 21. Tell me, which of the two of these guys sounds like they have no trouble finding the strike zone? The one who has less than half the number of walks than hits allowed, or the one who has issued more free-passes than given up hits?

Yet, somehow Castillo hit the first batter in the head, then beaned another and nearly, according to reports, hits a third in the head.

After Castillo hit the first guy - considering he hit him in the head and the player didn't return - the ump should probably have tossed him then. At the very least a warning should have been issued and there's no way Castillo should have still been on the mound after the second batter was hit.

Given that the umps didn't do this, it was certainly understandable that Dayton manager Scott would want to talk to the umpire. What I don't understand is why Martinez felt he needed to be out there. There was no reason for him to be out there.

All Martinez did was escalate the issue, attacking the other team's manager when he shouldn't have been anywhere near the man.

The only way for this to be handled properly - Castillo needs to serve jail time and the Cubs need to can Martinez. I can't help but think that if Sandberg was sitting on the bench, at least some of this wouldn't have escalated the way it did.

If you missed it, here's the ESPN footage -

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Mid-week observations after a couple of busy ones...

Well, it's official that the Boston Herald is definitively not having John Tomase walk into a Patriots locker room ever again. Currently Tomase is either no longer employed by the paper, or he's on vacation, as it's been ten days since they have printed anything by the reporter who ran with the story on the Patriots allegedly taping a Rams Super Bowl walk through.

After taking a beating at the hands of the Angels, the Red Sox went into Seattle to find a tonic to cure what ailed them. The Mariners, tied for the second worst record in the league dropped three in a row after the Sox did the same in Anaheim.

Lester continues to cruise, and the Sox are about to get what appears to be a healthy David Ortiz back into a line-up that, despite their offensive road woes, leads the AL in average (.280), and is second in the AL in runs with 517 scored.

For years a number of pundits have asked what the Red Sox line-up would do without David Ortiz in the heart of it. Now we know.

The team has alternately been carried by Dustin Pedroia (.321, 47 RBI's), Kevin Youkilis (.311, 68), JD Drew (.291, 57), and Mike Lowell (.287, 61). In spite of Manny's impressive numbers (.301, 62), and maybe it's because of all the stupid stuff - the whine about the contract, the attack of the traveling secretary - but something about his numbers feel a little hollow this year. At no time does it feel like he was part of the effort to keep the team afloat. Realistically, I would have to check the situations surrounding his RBI's, but something about Manny feels decidedly A-Rodish this season.

And on a final note - is there just something about Detroit and Basketball, or what?

Monday, July 21, 2008

Taylor-made trade

So Jason Taylor is now on the Redskins for the reasonable ransom of Miami's second-rounder next year, and a sixth-rounder in the 2010 draft. The debate has begun as to who won - who made out best at the end of the day.

Let's begin by noting that no one will really know, of these two teams, who the real winner is for a couple of years, but here are some thoughts on the trade...

In the long run, it's likely that the Dolphins were winners here if you consider the following...a second rounder and a sixth rounder used right can amount to some significant long-term help. Consider Matt Light (2nd rounder) and Tom Brady (6th rounder), or Adalius Thomas (6th rounder) and Lawyer Milloy (2nd rounder) - all of those are players that have contributed long-term in the NFL. Especially considering Jason Taylor's expressed intent to retire at the end of next season, the Dolphins team has a chance to make this trade work out well for them - but that depends on Bill Parcells' ability to buy the right groceries.

As for the Redskins...well, sure, they get a six time pro-bowler, but this isn't the first time under Dan Snyder's watch that the 'Skins have brought in a multiple pro-bowler...Bruce Smith, Deion Sanders, Jerome Mathis, and Mark Brunell are a small cross-section of the high end players that the Snyder regime has brought in. They are members of a fraternity of Washington players that accounted for 26 pro-bowls previous to signing with Snyder in the nation's capital (Taylor will bring the number to 32).

The 'Skins, of course, are hoping to break that jinx with Taylor, but even if they do, they're only getting a season, maybe two from him. I would be surprised if he played any longer, given his very public sentiments to get involved in other post-career endeavors. Given the division, and everything the 'Skins have going against them, I don't see Taylor in a significantly better situation...

Yes, the Redskins made great strides last season finishing third in the NFC East with a 9-7 record - this in spite of a quarterback who often looked not-quite-ready for prime time. However, they are starting from scratch with a new coaching staff and a new system in a division in which they have the fourth best quarterback and an unproven commodity at coach.

Taylor now finds himself anchoring a defense on a team looking up at the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants, the defending NFC East champion Dallas Cowboys, and perennial contender Philadelphia Eagles.

Let's look at it a little differently - if Taylor had his choice of teams, rather than being shipped in a trade, yet still limiting it to the NFC East, is he choosing the team with Super Bowl winning coach Tom Coughlin? The team with Andy Reid, the only coach to go to the NFC Championship Game four consecutive seasons? Or Wade Phillips who has had only one losing season as a head coach? Or Jim Zorn, a career coordinator? I'm guessing it's not the last one.

So, who is really the winner in this case?

I don't think it's either the 'Skins who get a one year rental or the 'Phins who get question marks.


It's Tom Brady and Matt Light.

While the Patriots have beaten the Dolphins pretty regularly over the last couple of years, the games against them have been about a struggle. Jason Taylor has been a big part of that, making life miserable twice a year for Brady and Light and now he's gone.

They win.