Rich Waltz and Tommy Hotton gave their usual call of “and his name is… Dan Uggla!” as Uggla hit his 23rd home run of the 2010 season, but more importantly that home run made him the Florida Marlins career leader in home runs. Truth is Dan Uggla is the best home run hitter in the league that very few people actually know of. Since his rookie year in 2006 only Ryan Howard, Albert Pujols, Adam Dunn, David Ortiz, Miguel Cabrera, Lance Berkman, and Alfonso Soriano have hit more home runs then Uggla (144 home runs), and Dan could easily pass both Soriano and Berkman by the end of this year.
What most people outside of South Florida remember Uggla for was his horrendous performance in the 2008 All-Star game. Dan Uggla had a total of 3 errors in that game, the most by a single player in an All-Star game, all coming in extra innings and two of them came on back to back plays in the 10th inning. It also didn’t help matters much that Dan also went 0-4 with three strike outs and also grounded out to a double play. What people don’t remember is that, that was actually Uggla’s second All-Star game appearance. He was also an All-Star in his rookie season on 2006 and he became the first Rule 5 draft pick to ever go to the All-Star game the following year.
Thats right, Dan Uggla was a Rule 5 draft selection. Dan was originally drafted by the Arizona Dimondbacks in the 11th round of the 2001 draft out of Memphis. Although Dan was productive in the minors for Arizona, he never made it above Class-AA, and was left off of the Dimondbacks 40-man roster. This gave the Marlins the opening to draft him, and he became the starting second baseman for the Marlins the following season. Remember 2006 was the season after the Marlins traded away most of there talent form the 2003 World Series team, and were the youngest team in the majors. In his rookie year Dan hit 27 home runs, went to the All-Star game, and came in third in the NL Rookie of the Year vote, but he was named the NL Players Choice and NL Sporting News Rookie of the Year.
Since that rookie year Dan Uggla has become the fastest second baseman to 100 home runs (only 502 games). He became the first second baseman to hit 20 or more home runs in his first 5 seasons, and is two homers away from being the first to hit 25 in his first 5 seasons. Dan is also on pace this year to hit 30 home runs for the fourth consecutive year and 90 RBIs for the third consecutive year.
As soon he came up I had to look at the Marlins schedule. I had to find out when the Marlins were playing the Washington Nationals. Earlier this week I again had to find out who the Nationals projected starters were going to be, and when he was going to pitch. The person that I am talking about is of course Nationals rookie pitching sensation Stephen Strasburg. He is the most hyped pitching prospect to come to the majors ever, and the hype around his greatness can probably only be compared to that when LeBron James entered the NBA. After watching him pitch in the minor leagues, Curt Shilling said that Strasburg could be the best pitcher in the majors the day he arrives in the Nationals clubhouse. In his first outing he proved that he was worth all the hype winning his first start in the majors and striking out 14 Pittsburgh Pirates. And after tonight getting to see him in person I can admit that he is as good as advertised.
Tonight the Nationals were in Miami playing there first game after the All-Star break. Stephen Strasburg took the mound for his eighth start of the season and got off to a vert rocky start. In the first inning alone Strasburg threw 34 pitches, 16 for balls, and walked two, Nationals pitching coach Steve McCatty even came out to talk to Strasburg after 28 pitches. However after walking Hanley Ramirez, who was then caught stealing, in the third Strasburg seemed to find his grove. Strasburg finished the night throwing 100 pitches in 6 innings giving up 4 hits, no runs, 3 walks, and striking out 7. Even though it was obvious (even from my seats in the outfield) that he did not have his best stuff tonight he still managed to throw 97 mph consistently and at times made the Marlins’ batters look foolish. Gaby Sanchez and and Cody Ross especially took some swings that it looked as though they were just guessing where the pitch was going to go, and no Marlins hitter real made any great contact.
With tonight’s win, Strasburg lowered his ERA to a mere 2.03 and his strikeout to walk ratio is now just under 5 to 1. There is no doubt that Strasburg is already one of the top pitches in the major league, the only real test left for Strasburg is to see how he will fare after an inning or start where he gives up five or more runs (most runs giving up so far is 4, 3 of which were earned, against Atlanta).
The only major whole in Strasburg’s game seems to be his hitting. I have already said what my views are about pitchers batting in the National League are, but Stephen is a really poor batter. After the game against the Marlins, Strasburg is hitting .071 with one hit for the year. In the fifth inning today with one out and a runner on first, Strasburgh whiffed so badly on a bunt attempt that the bunt sign was taken off, and he tried a hit and run. After fouling a ball straight back, Strasburgh swung and missed and Ian Desmond was thrown out at second.
It was not all bad news for the Marlins as Rick Nolasco actually looked like the better pitcher through the first five innings, striking out eight and giving up just two hits. But it all fell apart in the sixth inning when he gave up a bases loaded triple to Josh Willingham. The Marlins bullpen then came in and pitched 3 2/3 innings of scoreless ball, which is a good start to the second half for a bullpen that in the first half of the season was pretty bad.
However it might be to little to late as the 4-0 loss tonight pushes the Marlins to 5 games under .500 and 11 games behind Atlanta. With just over two weeks left till the trading deadline the Marlins may start looking towards the future and trade away players like Jorge Cantu, Dan Uggla, and/or Cody Ross to make room for players like Logan Morrison and Cameron Maybin, who many in the Marlins’ Management believe to have long major league careers ahead of them.
Unless Florida starts to get hot, it looks as though the Marlins and Nationals are heading for fourth and fifth place finished in the NL East. While this will disappoint many fans on both sides, one thing they will both have to look forward to is that in Josh Johnson and Stephen Strasburg they will have two of the best aces in baseball to build around.
I do not think that most people in baseball were surprised at all that Marlins fired Fredi Gonzalez last week. It actually seemed like it was fairly inevitable that the two were going to split ways at the end of the year anyways. The Marlins owner Jeffery Loria had said earlier that he expected the Marlins to be a playoff team this year, despite the fact that the Marlins were picked almost universally to be third in the NL East this year by various media outlets, and Fredi is the guy that may people have expected to replace Bobby Cox in Atlanta next year, despite getting a contract extension with the Marlins before the season. Originally I would have said that this is one of those firings that both the manager and organization are to blame.
For his career Fredi was 276-279 and had the Marlins in the hunt for a Wild Card birth the last two years, but this year the Marlins have had an up and down year. The 2010 Marlins have been a real Jekyll and Hyde team who will win 3 games in a row and then drop 4, and despite being 2 games under .500 there +/- is over +20. Through out his tenure as the Marlins manager, Fredi has been second guessed on may of his moves involving when he uses pitch hitters and how he has used the Marlins bullpen. Also the tipping point for the Fredi was during infamous vuvuzala game against Tampa Bay there was a mix up in which Marlins pitch hitter was said to have batted out of order late in a tie game.
The Marlins also need to be blamed for some of Fredi’s failures as well. Loria belief that the Marlins should be a playoff team is not that far fetched. The Marlins were in second place in the NL East last year, they paid Josh Johnson with a nice contract extension, did not trade away Dan Uggla, and a healthy Anibal Sanchez gives the Marlins a playoff caliber 1-2-3 at the front of their rotation. However where the front office has failed is by not opening there wallets to get any real bullpen help. As of today the Marlins are 36-40 with a +/- of +26, they have scored the 4th most runs in the NL and their starting pitchers and closer have put up decent numbers. The problem with the Marlins is that the middle relievers have let teams back into games and have let up the leads late. In the off season the Marlins tried to sign former proven bullpen guys who were looking for second chances like Mike McDougal, Jorge Sosa, and Derrick Turnbow, none of which were successful. Only closer Leo Nunez and Clay Hensley have been consistently good. The Marlins also lack left handed bats and have a weaker bench this year then last year with veteran Wes Helms being the only player of note.
After reading a report by Mark J. Miller on Yahoo Sports that the Marlins and Bobby Valentine stopped talks for Valentine to take over the manager job because of philosophical differences, I now have to say that the problem with the Marlins is Loria and the other higher ups in the organization. Valentine is a very good manager, and also a strong willed manager who could keep the ego of someone like Hanley Ramirez in line, remember Hanley had issues with Fredi after Fredi benched him for not hustling after a ball. While it may not be uncommon for an organization to have philosophical differences with someone they are interviewing, with the Marlins its different. The Marlins fired manager Joe Girardi after Girardi led and very young 2005 Marlins team to a 78-84 record and won NL Manager of the Year because of the philosophical differences he with Loria on how to play some of the players. This is the same Joe Girardi who just won the World Series with the New York Yankees last year. To make matters worse, after firing Fredi Gonzalez team officials publicly said that the organization did fail Fredi by not putting together a better bullpen for him to work with. So to sum up the Marlins last week fired a guy who had won 3 of 4 games, someone who will be managing another team next year, replaced him for the year with an interim manager from the minors, and it was partly the organizations fault that he was not winning…then why fire him?
Like I said at the start, I like a lot of other people was not shocked by the firing of Fredi Gonzalez, and I thought it would have been great if the team could have added Bobby Valentine. However with the team announcing today that Edwin Rodriguez will manage the team for the rest of the year I really do think that it fair to question what this organization and Jeffery Loria are doing. Although the last time the Marlins changed managers in the middle of the season was 2003 and the Marlins won their second World Series, so who knows.
1. New York________1. Chicago___________1. Texas
2. Boston_________2. Minnesota_________2. Los Angeles
3. Tampa Bay______3. Detroit____________3. Seattle
4. Baltimore_______4. Kansas City________4. Oakland
5. Toronto_________5. Cleveland
1. Philadelphia_____1. St. Louis_________1. Colorado
2. Atlanta________2. Chicago__________2. San Francisco
3. Florida________3. Cincinnati________3. Arizona
4. New York______4. Milwaukee_______4. Los Angles
5. Washington_____5. Houston_________5. San Diego
New York over Texas______Chicago over Boston
St. Louis over Atlanta______Philadelphia over Colorado
New York over Chicago_____Philadelphia over St. Louis
New York over Philadelphia in 6 games
Dark Horse Teams–> AL: Detroit_____NL: Cincinnati
I was at last night Phillies v. Marlins game and I thought I would come back and write about Roy Oswalt's solid second start as a Phillie, then I thought I would write about the Marlins doing a great job of battling back to avoid the sweep against their divisional foes. But then something happened, something that got me extremely angry, and something that will not doubt be talked about today on all the talk radio shows.
With the Marlins and Phillies tied at 4 in the bottom of the ninth inning and Hanley Ramirez on second with one out Gaby Sanchez hit a game winning double down the third base line for the walk-off win. Or at least he did if it was not for third base umpire Bob Davidson. Davidson called a ball that was fair by a good half foot a foul ball. On the next pitch Gaby struck out and two batters later the inning ended with a Cody Ross strike out. The Phillies then went on to win the game in the tenth inning on a Carlos Ruiz solo home run. The Davidson call is amplified by an earlier close play that went against the Marlins. He called another ball foul, that looked fair, that would have been an inning ending ground out, but instead the foul call lead to a Ruiz two run double three pitches later.
This is just the latest example of why baseball needs to update its game and include replay. Baseball purist say that the umpires and human error is part of the game, but that is load of bull. The entire reason that we as humans have created things like cameras, calculators, computers, ext. is because human error is not good enough. Fans don't go to sporting events and just hope that the referees and umpires make the right calls. No we want to have our games called correctly and for the umps and refs to have as minimal effect in the game as possible. Certainly a judgment call should not be the difference between winning and losing.
MLB wants to know why they are losing their fans, it is because the game is slow, not a lot of actions, and because of its refusal to embrace change. Right now baseball only will do replay for home run calls and for fan interference. I don't really know how baseball would implement replay, maybe having one or two manager challenges for base out calls, and let umps go to replay on home runs and fair/foul calls when necessary. Baseball fans will say that this will cause the games to go longer, but will it really? Do you think going to replay will really take longer then when a manager goes out to argue a call? No it won't, if anything it could speed up the game. And most importantly, THEY WILL GET THE CALL CORRECT!
I know baseball purist will point out that the Marlins did blow a 4-2 lead in the top of the 9th, they had opportunities to win the game in the bottom of the 9th or 10th. But A, that is not the point. Yes, the Marlins should not have been in that position, but they were. What if the Marlins had rallied to tie the game at 4 when this happen, would it have made a difference? No. And B, the Marlins did rally to win the game, but it was because off an incorrect call by an umpire they lost.
Baseball should be embarrass by something like this. Tennis is using replay to see if a ball was in, out or on the line, and has been embraced as a great thing. The NFL loves using technology to improve its game so much that it is looking to put a microchip in its ball so that they can better tell if the ball crosses the first down marker and the goal line. Heck even the Little League World Series is going to have manager replay challenges for things like force outs, tags on the base paths, missed bases and hit batters. Thats right, Little League World Series will be more advanced then the MLB. Managers in the Little League World Series will get one replay challenge for the first six innings and another challenge for extra innings.
It is time for baseball to wake up and smell the technology. If MLB does not embrace replay and at least try and catch up to all of the other major sports then they will run the risk of being left behind. Again Americans don't give a damn about purity and human error, we want things done right and for calls to be made correctly. That's it, that's all.