The Hanging Curve – Baseball Opinion Blog with MLB Analysis that won’t Bend or Break

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May. The time of the season when slumping hitters get “days off” they never wanted or needed. Hitting bad in April is a little slump. In May, it is the dreaded “slow start”.

Starting pictures have it no easier. We’ve already covered the trials and tribulations of Barry Zito and Matt Morris, and how the hell is Shawn Estes back in the majors?

But perhaps the most difficult job to keep in the majors is the closer position, which is ironic since it is the most fabricated job in baseball. It’s a pitcher who can only come in during the ninth inning (sometimes the eighth if they are particularly durable) when some magical contrivance of events creates a “save opportunity”.

This year, the list of chopped closer’s include Accardo (only filling in until BJ Ryan returned from Tommy John Surgery), Eric Gagne, and Jason Isringhausen, who punched a TV around the time he was yanked from the job and now sits on the DL as a result.

Now, Billy Wagner’s job hangs in the balance. The Mets’ clubhouse can be described perhaps as “cancerous” to their cause. The team lacks any real “clubhouse guy” and it appears there is quite a bit of friction between the young talent that carries the team and the ANCIENT veterans who are good enough to carry the team if they spent less than half the season on the DL.

Billy Wagner Badmouths Teammates While Making Important Phone Call

After Willie Randolph told his team to keep complaints in-house, Wagner torched his teammates (while also apparently ordering a pizza on his bluetooth headset) after a 1-0 loss to the Nationals in a game riddled with mistakes by asking the following: (obscenities extrapolated)

Someone tell me why the fuck you’re talking to the closer. I didn’t even play. They’re over there, not being interviewed [gestures to empty lockers of Beltran, Reyes, and Delgado].

I got it. They’re gone. Fucking shocker.

The Mets held a meeting yesterday to discuss situation. Willie Randolph needs to do something before it becomes obvious that he has no control over his players.

Pirates Coming On?

At the end of last year, the Pirates had a shift in ownership, and the “new” principle owner was fed up with the management. He ended Littlefield’s reign of what should be remembered as one of the worst managed teams in History.

Littlefield could’ve been a decent manager if his team had money to blow. But they didn’t, and they don’t. He made countless terrible trades, (Aramis Ramirez and the lack of any decent third baseman since 2003, besides Freddy Sanchez filling in; or how about Chris Young?), signed ancient veterans to contracts that ranged from slightly overpriced to downright silly in attempt to acquire “leaders” to mold the rest of his young club. Jeromy Burnitz comes to mind, who apparently after a few months of sub-mendoza batting and subsequent benching decided to enter the exciting field of car detailing. Of course, sometimes he was just unlucky. I still like Casey as a sign at first base; however, a freak accident at first in May and he broke vertebrae in his lower back. But the Mother-Fuck-Lode of Indomitable Stupidity occurred before the trade deadline last year. He traded away Rajai Davis, one of the countless Juan Pierre types he paraded through center field–he was too old for a prospect and I frankly wasn’t too worried about his loss, although he has now found a home with Beane’s band of merry men–for (drumroll…) Matt Morris. Matt Morris and the FULL remainder of his contract. That’s $11 million for 2008. The Pirate’s ENTIRE PAYROLL hovers in the 40’s. In his prime, Morris was good, and probably even worth $11 million. But in his aging, he had begun to lose his edge, (read: velocity).

So, saddled with the terrible burden of Morris, the Pirates trudged on under the new general management of Neal Huntington and skippering of John Russell. Almost no changes were made over the off season. The reason was not that they thought the Pirate’s roster, as-is, could win a pennant. The reason was they had no leverage. Bay was coming off the injury-induced worst season of his young career. Nady had played well but been riddled hamstring injuries, again not playing a full season. Their primary trade targets couldn’t fetch what they should (the new management is committed to selling veterans for prospects) and everyone else was either untouchable (the young starting pitching would NOT be traded) or untradeable (Paulino had a good rookie season but terrible second season; Bautista, who’s that guy?)

Thusly began the season with the hope of simply ending the losing streak. They won two out of three in Atlanta to open the season, and things were looking good. Then, it all started going awry. Jack Wilson went down with a strange calf injury coming out of the box (after a soon-to-be-game-winning hit at least) and the defense, which should be solid, began to record errors at least once per game. The pitching, the perceived strength of the team, walked batters at an alarming rate and was contributing to a 5+ team ERA; the defense produced countless unearned runs. The offense was producing in the upper half of MLB, but they only came to the park on some nights. On others, they couldn’t even produce one timely run and went down 3-2, or 2-1.

Now, again playing Atlanta, the Pirates may have reached a crux in the young season. The starting pitching has come around. Morris was dropped and Dumatrait has been rather serviceable in his absence. Gorzellany, looking healthy after skipping a start with back pain, pitched a downright gem last night. The outfield is leading the league in average, HRs, and slugging, (the trade bait corners and McLouth, heretofore hidden by Littlefield’s Parade of Pierres), the defense has tightened, even before Wilson’s return, and they are scoring when they need to. Just two games under .500 now, and playing two more with Atlanta and their godawful road record. If the Pirates get and hold on to a decent record, the team will stand pat, or even try to add a piece to make a run for the division. Worst case scenario, however, is not that bleak. The trade bait is having great years, and could fetch quite the bundle of prospects to begin the Huntington-Russell Era. The fate of a dozen or so fans hangs in the balance.

Report: Clemens Accused of Injecting Something Else Entirely

Roger the 'Rocket'
Clemens making his “O” face.

Generally I wouldn’t write about topics along these lines, but this is just too hilarious (for viewers with moral fiber that should read: tragic) to not post. Please note that this closely beats out me reporting Matt Morris being demoted to AAA-Pack your shit and go. Plus, I’m sure Jason has enough pain already.

The NY Daily News reports shit that is just too hilarious not to cover.

“Roger Clemens carried on a decade-long affair with country star Mindy McCready, a romance that began when McCready was a 15-year-old aspiring singer performing in a karaoke bar and Clemens was a 28-year-old Red Sox ace and married father of two, several sources have told the Daily News.”

I wonder if she has a big pile of used condoms she kept for DNA testing. That’s pretty much the only way this whole thing could get any better. I guess Yahoo! trotting out this jock-itch attorney for his opinion on the matter is real classic. Guy looks like he sells “premium” life insurance out of his fake leather briefcase. You can almost smell him just by looking at the picture, and it’s not a pleasant odor.