MLB News and Notes: Dog Days Edition

Crosley Field, Cincinnati 1969If you are a dyed-in-the-wool Cincinnati Reds  fan, chances are you are simply a MLB fan in general. And sometimes rather than looking at just the picture, you may want to cast an eye upon the BIG picture, you know the one the size of a mural on the side of a tall building.

This is the time of year that resembles  Szechuan House to me, my favorite Chinese buffet in Sharonville with all that is going on now. Szechuan House is open for its lunch buffet Monday-Friday. Take I-71 North to exit … Only kidding. They are not an advertiser, but it is a time true fan’s heads are filled with baseball with the races in earnest and the postseason looming and the excitement in Cincy is equal to that of mine when I sit down at this buffet.

Seriously, the big picture has its merits. Say the Reds will face San Francisco or the LA Dodgers in the playoffs. Wouldn’t you like to know that Giants hurler Tim Lincecum has struggled at home all season but has won his last three road starts? Or that the Dodgers Chad Billingsley has found his groove winning six of his last seven starts? Just a few tidbits of which this notebook will have many for the overall fan, even if it is CINCY Unscripted.

Oh I am sure there are a few displaced Cubs or Tigers or Brewers fans around our area too that may enjoy reading notes on the big picture. And if you are say a Houston fan you would enjoy reading anything but Astros stuff.

So it is time to clean out the proverbial closet to end August as the Reds (and us) get ready to echo some famous back alley words, “Let’s get it on,” when the calendar turns in a few days.

In September I have scheduled a week in Boston and am making sure I am packing at least a half-dozen Reds shirts and a couple of Cincy caps and cannot wait to hear all the Blue bloods bitching about the BoSox, how they want manager Bobby Valentine’s head and how all their “former” heroes are big babies. Kevin Youkilis is smiling on the Southside of Chicago in a White Sox uniform now.

And with the first snippy comment about my Reds gear, I will simply respond with “1975.” That gets them every time!

Speaking of Boston, with the passing of 92-year-old legend Johnny Pesky, not only did the game lose one of its finest people, but the planet lost one of its finest human beings. He was the most sincere, instantly likable man you could ever meet and I could rattle on at length about the character of that man. What a gem. What a gentleman.

Not that it comes as a big surprise, considering the length of time he was away from the game, but Atlanta took a big hit when the Braves had to put pitcher Ben sheets on the 15-day DL. Sheets was a stop-gap to an already hurting staff.

It is pretty certain now that the Tigers, in a real cat fight with the White Sox who just won’t give in, in the battle for the top spot in the AL Central, will not have Victor Martinez who they had hoped to have at some point in the season. He has missed the entire year with injury and will not return.

New York Yankees ace C.C. Sabathia came back just at the right time from the DL. Tampa Bay had closed to within 2 ½  game of first place behind them in the AL East and the Yanks were forced to place starter Ivan Nova on the DL.

A huge smile creased my face when Seattle’s Felix Hernandez tossed his perfecto. I was part of a panel of sports scribes for a question and answer and was asked two questions and silenced the gathered throng. You could have heard a pin drop in the audience. When asked who I would want with a big game on the line you had to one to get into the playoffs on the final day of the season in all baseball, I responded King Felix. I turned as red as, well a Reds cap.

I hushed them again when asked who I wanted in that same situation for the big hit to win the game on the final day and answered Miguel Cabrera. Speaking of which, Cabrera was the first player in the majors this year to reach 100 RBIs.

Ok, a Reds rhetorical question. Who would have thought a pair of rookies, Todd Frazier and Zack Cozart would play such prominent roles in the Reds march to the playoffs at the outset of the season?

Before handing Frazier the NL Rookie of the Year hardware, and I think he should be, Arizona southpaw Wade Miley will get some votes as both should out distance Colorado catcher Wilen Rosario, the early leader. And everyone expected the honor to just be handed to the Nationals’ Bryce Harper didn’t they?

The Tigers have the AL strikeout leader currently and if you guessed reigning Cy Young/AL MVP Justin Verlander you would be incorrect. It is Max Scherzer.

What a difference a season makes in many places. In this case what a difference a decision makes. Looking like he was banned for violating MLB drug policy over the winter, for 50 games, Milwaukee’s Ryan Braun shook off all the stigma attached to that well publicized decision and is likely to lead the NL in homers.

While in Pittsburgh, the Pirates are about to break a 19-year string of losing seasons and have already announced to their fans an increase in 2013 ticket prices. Hope the Reds brass didn’t see that.

Speaking of the Pirates’ success, A.J. Burnett became the Pirates first 15-game winner in 13 years.

So much attention has been paid to the surprise teams of baseball, the Pirates and Nationals. Baltimore and Oakland are every bit the surprise of the aforementioned to be very much in contention for the playoffs at this point in time.

Much too much was made of the Roger Clemens case that would just not go away. Now he won’t. He may have been acquitted in his case that he lied to Congress about steroid use, but a comeback at 50? Is he lying to himself this time?

I covered the Red Sox in his heyday and it is all about ego, the Superman feeling this guy has and he really feels he can still pop a fastball past Father Time in this case. But given the state of pitching in a lot of places around the league, who knows?

Prized hurler Zack Grienke seems to be coming around now as a member of the Angels staff, finally, but if LA falls back even further, they also trail Oakland in the standings, but I don’t think for long, LA is in trouble. They have a lot f work to do in a short time now despite all that talent.

By the way, two more homers and Albert Pujols will add to his unprecedented streak. He already is the only man in baseball history to hit 30 homer sin his first 11 seasons, soon to be 12, despite his slow start..

If I were a betting man, with the starting staff the Rays throw at you, I would wager on them to be in the playoffs as a Wild Card. They have been playing good baseball and some nights still draw in the 9-11,000 range. Pity.

Norm Cash. Hall of Famer Al Kaline. Willie  Horton. Some of the great names of Tigers lore. Yet Miguel Cabrera is the first Tiger to ever post six consecutive 30 homer seasons.

I just wonder if the Pirates will ever get any respect. I have worked for a national baseball publication since the late 70s and at the outset of this season pitched a story on McCutchen and not only did they not want him … they only want stories on stars … but didn’t even get an email back saying no. The disrespect was not at me, but at a guy who is as good as it gets in the National League.

Passing thoughts: I would not want to be new Houston manager Tony DeFrancesco.  Not only does he have an uphill climb with baseball’s youngest (and worst) team by far, but has a team built for NL ball and the Astros are moving to the AL next season … With Roy Halliday, Chase Utley and Ryan Howard back and healthy, if I were a contending team, I would not want any part of the Phillies in the final month. Same can be said for the way … no really .. the San Diego Padres and especially Seattle has been playing. Ask the Pirates what happened three nights in a row last week in San Diego … What has happened to NL all-Star Brian Lehair? First half star selection, second half he has lost his starting job … And any true-blooded Reds fans has not let this one get past him. Toronto’s Juan Encarnacion is suddenly a star in Toronto. At last look the former Red has 33 homers and the other numbers are there as well. .