June 18, 2013
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Monday, July 16, 2012
Twenty years ago today was a dark day in the history of the Chicago Cubs. And for just that reason, it also helped ensure the next 10-15 years would be very pleasant ones for Braves fans.
On July 16, 1992, Chicago’s ace pitcher Greg Maddux announced he’d broken off negotiations with the team’s front office for a new contract. Maddux was in the final year of a contract and said he’d given them plenty of chances to sign him, but now negotiations were over.
Yeah, that’s big news.
The negotiations with Maddux that year were pretty contentious. Cub GM Larry Himes had done a great job building a winner on the South Side of town when he ran the White Sox from 1986-90 but was having trouble in his first year on the job on the North Side in 1992.
Maddux was their best pitcher by far. He’d emerged as a great talent in the first half of 1988, and since then alternated rough patches with stretches of obvious brilliance. By 1992, it looked like he’d put it altogether and was in the midst of a Cy Young Award season.
Himes made Maddux a big offer, one that would make Maddux one of the highest paid pitchers in all of baseball. Maddux held out for a bit more. Instead of upping the offer or waiting out Maddux, Himes went on a PR offensive. He blasted Maddux and, if I recall correctly, lowered his initial offer.
By midsummer it seemed pretty clear that Maddux wasn’t coming back. I even remember one interview with Maddux that July in which he noted he might hear boos in Wrigley Field when the club returned from its road trip.
Of course, Maddux didn’t sign with the Cubs. Instead, he went to Atlanta, where he won added three more consecutive Cy Youngs after the one he won in Chicago. And he helped turn the Braves into one of baseball’s greatest dynasties of all time. He eventually did return to Wrigley Field, but well after his prime had ended.
Aside from that, many events today celebrate their anniversary or “day-versary” (which is something occurring X-thousand days ago). Here they are, with the better items in bold if you’d prefer to just skim things.
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Braves 6, Mets 1: Ben Sheets emerges from the restorative chemical waters of the Lazarus Pits to throw six shutout innings against the Mets. Too bad this series is over. I heard the Braves were going to run Rich Harden out there tonight and maybe Mark Prior on Tuesday to see if the Mets are just as prone to zombies then as they were yesterday afternoon.
Nationals 4, Marlins 0: Stephen Strasburg put up a Ben Sheetsian performance, throwing six shutout innings. Meanwhile, Ozzie Guillen becomes just the latest person who should know better trying to intimidate Bryce Harper. And once again, Harper refuses to take the idiot's bait. At some point are people gonna just let the kid play instead of making themselves look stupid?
Angels 10, Yankees 8: A-Rod popped out with the bases loaded to end the game. I'm sure no one's gonna talk about this in the papers or on the radio today. Or the fact that, in defending him, Brian Cashman called him "above average." I mean, that's a few ticks above Vance Law, right? Approaching Richie Hebner almost, yes? Ah, I'm just stirring poop. A-Rod did hit a homer and had another hit. And if the Yankees had figured out a way to keep the Angels from scoring a ten spot, he wouldn't have had to be the hero in the ninth. Or if, you know, he hadn't gotten thrown out at home earlier. Oh well. Moving right along ...
Brewers 4, Pirates 1: Yovani Gallardo struck out 14 while allowing one run over seven innings. People have been asking me if I think the Pirates are for real. I say that they're not until they can prove that they have a big boy offense. Because as of now, they have the worst on base percentage in the National League.
Cubs 3, Diamondbacks 1: Matt Garza threw seven shutout innings a day after Ryan Dempster kept his scoreless streak alive. As far as trade deadline showcasing, Jed Hoyer could not be any happier if he tried.
Athletics 9, Twins 4: Yoenis Cespedes went 4 for 5 with a homer and three driven in. Don't look now, but the A's are three games over .500 and are only a half game out of a wild card spot. But the same caveat I applied to the Pirates applies to them: gotta get on base at a greater than .300 clip to truly stay in it, I reckon.
Phillies 5, Rockies 1: Cole Hamels pitched brilliantly, giving the Phillies their first series win since the last time they played the Rockies. Now, if they can just figure out how to play the Rockies all the time, they may be in business.
Rangers 4, Mariners 0: Matt Harrison threw a five hit shutout. He only struck out three and walked four, suggesting that the Mariners had no idea what they were doing at the plate.
White Sox 2, Royals 1: Chris Sale allowed ten hits, but he only gave up one run in eight innings. Since I was being pessimistic about the Pirates and A's, let's keep that up and note that Sale has now thrown 110 innings and is on pace to break 200. His annual innings pitched totals as a pro, majors and minors combined: 2010: 33.2; 2011: 71.0. If he tires -- and there is a lot of reason to think he might -- the Sox may find themselves in some pitching trouble.
Red Sox 7, Rays 3: Remember back before James Shields died? Nah, me neither. Shields (5 IP, 11 H, 6 ER) was killed again, and the Rays weren't able to take advantage of a pretty sick Josh Beckett. As in actually ill, not sick meaning impressive, as the cool children often say.
Tigers 4, Orioles 0: Apparently Justin Verlander took the blue pill, preferring not to stay in rabbit-hole filled Wonderland that he experienced during the All-Star Game. The Tigers' ace struck out eight shutout innings.
Giants 3, Astros 2: Houston has lost 13 in a row on the road. And usually people are better off when they leave Houston. Huh.
Blue Jays 3, Indians 0: Carlos Villanueva walked five dudes, but he avoided danger by allowing only three hits and striking out eight.
Padres 7, Dodgers 2: Chris Capuano ran out of gas and the Padres beat up on him and the pen.
Reds 4, Cardinals 2: Does it make me a bad baseball fan to admit that I watched the "Breaking Bad" premiere and not this game? Nah, didn't think so. In any event, Aroldis Chapman is the one who knocks.