October 22, 2004

Padilla makes shipments, leaves engravings

Phillies pitcher Vicente Padilla pitched five innings of shutout ball in Chinandega's home opener Tuesday night. Some would even say, the performance was from another dimension.

La Prensa, Nicaragua's daily paper, reported that Vicente Padilla pitched outstanding in his home debut with his hometown Chinandega Tigers Tuesday night. Here's the story, filtered through Alta Vista's translator:

Big leaguer Vicente Padilla last night offered five episodes of pitcheo of another dimension that will be left engravings in the memories of approximately the seven thousand fans who jammed the stage Efraín Tijerino de Chinandega, to be witnesses of the victory of their equipment 5-0 on the Lions.

Padilla, in its effort of 72 launchings, hits received two, struck to one, solely gave an intentional ticket and "it shot" to eight, including a five in row.

After a brief ceremony, because this it was the inaugural game for the Chinandega in its house, Padilla stood in the hill and it did not leave doubts of its level.

"He is incredible the difference between Padilla and the rest of throwers of Liga. When you are batting, you feel that there just the launching arrives. There is no time to make adjustments. I believe that she made shipments of 95 miles ", considers Oscar Mairena, the first batter who faced it.

Phillies fans are hoping for better engravings in 2005. He's reportedly scheduled to pitch every fifth day for three months with the Tigers.

October 21, 2004

From the beginning, lack of SP cursed NY

The Yankees will reflect upon the worst collapse in postseason baseball history and starting pitching that wasn't quite there all season.

The Yankees tried to sneak by with a thin rotation and got caught.

In spite of two marquee acquisitions, there were serious doubts back in April as to whether New York’s rotation would have the dexterity to last into the postseason.

To fill the holes left by Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte, they traded maligned starter Jeff Weaver to the Dodgers for six-time all-star Kevin Brown, who overcame elbow and back trouble to pitch well in 2003.

And on December 4, they dealt one-time prospect Nick Johnson and Juan Rivera to Montreal for starter Javier Vasquez, considered by some to be the prize pitcher of free agency – ahead of Bartolo Colon, Kevin Millwood, and Curt Schilling – in spite of having no experience in big games.

The staff was also to include Jose Contreras, inconsistent in his first two seasons in Pinstripes since coming over from Cuba in 2002, and Jon Lieber, working his way back from Tommy John surgery.

Nevertheless, George Steinbrenner thought he replaced his two aces well enough if all the “ifs” went his way: If Brown had anything left; and if Vasquez could pitch in big situations.

The answers came last night in Game 7 when Brown gave up a two-run homer in the first and Vasquez, who immediately gave up a grand slam to Johnny Damon in relief of Brown.

After Steinbrenner assembled the most expensive team money could buy - a payroll in excess of $184 million - it wasn't enough to return to the World Series.

But the real bottom line is a rotation that wasn’t there at the end, and wasn’t there to begin with.

October 19, 2004

ABC looking to give CBS a black eye

Led by ‘Desperate Housewives,’ ABC gives chase to No. 1 network by scoring breakout hits.

With "Friends" gone from NBC Thursday, "CSI" (CBS, 9 p.m.) has absolutely taken over this fall, pulling in 28 million viewers a week, and becoming the new icon for network dominance. At present, CBS has a stranglehold on five of the top seven shows, thanks in large to its flag-ship show: "CSI" first, followed by "Without a Trace" (Thursday, 10 p.m.), "CSI: Miami" (Monday, 10 p.m.), "Everybody Loves Raymond" (Monday at 9 p.m.), and "Survivor: Vanuatu" (Thursday, 8 p.m.).

Things are looking mighty fine for the Eye, but in television, you can only stay on top for so long, and that Eye is staring straight into the heart of a rival network these days: ABC.

ABC has emerged this fall by implementing a new tactic: Give the people something different and they will watch it.

Leading the resurgence for ABC is "Desperate Housewives," (Sunday, 9 p.m. on ABC), an edgy new domestic drama that has already done what no show was able to do in the last few seasons: become an instant breakout hit.

Nestled inside a crazy day of hodgepodge programming, "Housewives" has been winning its time slot with more than 17 million viewers, and is currently the fourth-highest rated show on television.

There’s nothing quite like it anywhere, networks or cable. It's not exactly a prime time soap opera, but there's definite cheese there. There's mystery, and there's something "Twin Peaks" about it, too. Of course, it doesn’t hurt when the narrator offed herself in the first few minutes of episode one. David Lynch would be proud.

This is a drastic change of tactics for Disney-owned ABC, which tried a few years ago to become the official "family" network.

The whole TV scene may in fact be ripe for a major shift, which usually comes when the industry becomes too diluted with similar shows.

History has also proven that networks don’t stay down for long. It was only a few years ago that CBS was considered too old, with viewership considered unattractive by advertisers. That was back when NBC trotted out a stable of viable sitcoms, including "Seinfeld," "Frasier," "Friends," and the ageless "ER," which still manages 17 million viewers.

But before NBC’s "must-see" lineup cornered the 18-49 demographic of the mid-’90s, ABC had thoroughbreds of its own during a frequently overlooked epoch in TV history.

"Roseanne," which is hard to find even in syndication, was a powerhouse in the late '80s and early '90s. A rare darling of both critics and fans, the show resurrected the working class family from the TV graveyard, something that hadn’t really been done since "All in the Family." People forget that "Roseanne" was in fact so successful, ABC would air it twice a week.

ABC went different with "Roseanne," and went different with another big hit – this one panned by critics. "America's Funniest Home Videos" bulled its way into Sunday nights in 1989, a night that traditionally reserved, almost by default, for "60 Minutes" and "Murder She Wrote" on CBS. Now ABC has infiltrated Sunday — again.

Over on Wednesday nights, the infection has spread. Another break-out show, "Lost," (8 p.m.) has been winning that night for the network.

Again, using a traditional formula, but mixing in a touch of the bizarre, ABC has found a blueprint to win, not just time slots, but entire nights.

The Eye must be twitching.

From an upcoming column in the Reading Eagle

October 17, 2004

Varsho, Pendleton, get our nods for next skip

On a team desperate for new blood, a couple of clean-slated first-timers would top our list.

The universal “blah” over the list of possible replacements for Larry Bowa indicates the names getting the most press - Charlie Manuel, Grady Little and Jim Fregosi - aren't exactly envigorating.

According to GM Ed Wade, six candidates will be interviewed. But the two guys that get the OK from BPF are longshots, and one of them, though in-house, appears not to be on Wade's list at all.

The first candidate, not on the list, was named best Eastern League managing prospect for two straight years by Baseball America, the other is a former NL batting champion.

Like a prospect who’s worked his way through a farm system to earn a spot in the majors, Gary Varsho has followed the same path on his way to Philadelphia. A one-time Phillie, but not in the old-boy’s club like Mike Schmidt and Larry Bowa, the Phils would do well on taking a chance on Varsho, who led Reading to a share of the Eastern League Championship in 2001. His 235-191 record in Baseballtown is fourth best in franchise history.

That kind of success is hard to ignore, and so are the good words coming out of Atlanta on the readiness of Terry Pendleton, hitting coach since 2002.

When the Braves talk, the Phillies should listen, and it seems that Wade has. Here’s what he had to say about Pendleton in Friday’s Inquierer:

"He's a very knowledgeable baseball guy," Wade said. "If there's somebody out there who doesn't have the length from the experience standpoint, but brings different qualities and has a chance to be a guy to hit the ground running... Terry has the ability to be that type of person."

Fantasy insiders bluff their way into offseason

When October comes, the fantasy baseball scoop marches on, but it's the quality that comes to a halt.

Like many fantasy baseballers, our season ended two weeks ago.

And for the first time, I’ve had an extended opportunity to see this year’s fantasy stars play real games. Stars like Beltran, Pujols, Schilling and A-Rod are at the absolute center of the baseball world, playing toward an actual goal alongside players on their own team.

It’s a jolting experience for a dedicated fantasy player like myself, when you’re used to seeing Roy Oswalt and Matt Morris on the same roster, or seeing Brad Lidge, of Houston, throw the ball to Brad Ausmus, of Houston, not Jorge Posada, of the Yankees.

And though all eyes are squarely focused on four teams playing real baseball, the work of fantasy insiders marches on, as the tips keep rolling in from online services.

Like a lifeguard sitting under a pile of snow on the beach at Wildwood, they refuse to go away.

I play in the free Yahoo league, where the tips come in the form of sticky notes that appear alongside players’ names. If a player is injured, he gets a note. If he’s in danger of losing his starting position, he gets a note. Just click on the note, and read what’s up. “Billy Wagner’s hurt? Time to pick up Tim Worrell.”

Even though three-quarters of players are drinking Mai Tais with Benny Agbayani somewhere in Hawaii right now, the post-its keep rolling in.

At this point, one might ask, what’s there to write about, besides contract extensions, exercised options and surgery?

The answer: Contract extensions, exercised options and surgery.

Here’s a sample post-it for Dodger pitcher Elmer Dessens, posted Oct. 16 a few days after the Dodgers season had ended:

"Elmer Dessens became eligible for free agency on Friday, after the Dodgers declined the option on the pitcher for next season. Dessens would have received $4.5 million next season. The 33-year old went 2-6 with a 4.46 ERA in 50 games this past season."

And the fantasy scoop we’ve all been waiting for:

"Dessens will most likely find a roster spot on his fifth major league team next season."

So, shouldn't you "go away," too?
Darn. I hate it when that voice does that.

I guess I'm speaking for the endless stream of baseball data available on the Internet long after the season has ended, including sites like this one. No other sport has that lasting effect.

Though his season ended two weeks ago, Felix Rodriguez still gets a sticky note from Stats Inc., which generates fantasy baseball information for Yahoo Fantasy Baseball. For fantasy insiders and bloggers, the game meanders on long after the season ends.