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Playing for Stats

How Dare You?! What are you doing--trying to win? I remain completely tickled by Arizona manager Bob Brenly's open criticism of San Diego's Ben Davis for breaking up Curt Schilling's perfect game last week. Schilling had a perfect game going into the eighth inning when Davis bunted for an infield hit. Schilling eventually finished with a three-hitter. Brenly and others have lambasted Davis for "intentionally breaking up Schilling's perfect game." Like he did it on purpose. 

Wait a minute. Isn't the idea to win? I'm all for sportsmanship and professional courtesy. Sure, that means sometimes walking the fine line between not running up the score and padding your stats, but common sense and competition usually are good guidelines that drive that walk. But, as my dad used to say, "The problem with common sense is that not everyone has it." How can you fault Davis for TRYING to win--especially when the Padres were only down by 2 at the time. To make matters worse, San Diego had already been humiliated two weeks prior when the Marlins A.J. Burnett no-hit the Padres despite giving 9 free passes (walks). Thankfully, most folks with SOME sort of reason agree that Davis did nothing wrong. Dodgers great Tommy Lasorda put it best, telling an AP reporter, "I wouldn't want a perfect game thrown against me," when asked about the Davis flap. 

What it points out, though, is the need by some in sports to "create" records and so-called historic moments--such as changing errors to hits to artificially keep streaks alive. It happens all the time, it's just not done out in the open. A good example was during the 1998 "magical" chase for 70 home runs by Mark McGwire (a.k.a. Paul Bunion) and Sammy Sosa, which some pitchers reportedly gave each "fat" BP-like pitches to smack. Some questioned Sosa hitting his 60th homer off of fellow Dominican Valerio Lorenzo De Los Santos like he knew what was coming. While everyone wants to see something special happen, no one--at least not me--wants to see disingenuous play. C'mon folks, this isn't the Harlem Globetrotters versus the Generals. Or is it?


Good Guys Comeback

Good guy SP Charles Nagy (Cle), with 124 career wins, scattered 4 hits and 1 run in 7 strong innings to get his first major league win since his last victory on May 16, 2000. Three days after that last win, Nagy went under the knife to repair bone chips in his pitching elbow. He attempted a comeback in late 2000 but was shutdown after 3 starts and more elbow pain. This year, after extended spring training, Nagy was 5-1 with a 2.56 ERA at Class AAA Buffalo while rehabbing to build arm strength. Nagy's return could not have come a better time, after SP Chuck Finley went on the DL and the Tribe was finishing a series with the Yankees. 

Another good guy SP John Smoltz (Atl) earned his first win since Oct. 1, 1999, against the Expos on May 28. Smoltz missed the entire 2000 campaign after tearing medial collateral ligament in his right elbow in spring training, leading to the infamous "Tommy John" surgery. He returned to the Braves lineup May 17 but went 0-2 with an 8.89 ERA in his first 2 starts. He followed up the May 28 win with a solid win on June 3 against the Pirates, going 7 innings and giving up just 2 earned runs. He compiled a 2.63 ERA in the two outings. 


Ones to Avoid

Last week I highlighted some of the last 30 days' trends to show HOT players. Well, there's always a downside. Here are some pitchers to avoid: 

SP Willis Roberts (Bal) 1-5 with a 7.79 ERA (overall 5-5, 5.10 ERA)

SP Britt Reames (Mon) 0-6 with a 6.90 ERA (overall 2-8, 6.33 ERA)

SP Bartolo Colon (Cle) 0-6 with a 6.06 ERA (overall 4-6, 4.43 ERA)

SP Albie Lopez (TB) 0-3 with a 8.72 ERA (overall 3-6, 5.15 ERA)

Locker Room is written by Michael Skordeles


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