18 and Counting: Will the Pirates Ever Have a Winning Season?

Top draft pick Jameson Taillon brings hope to a moribund and hapless franchise.

And I thought I had it bad as a Mariners’ fan… 

With their loss to the New York Mets on August 20th the Pittsburgh Pirates clinched a record 18th consecutive losing season and furthered their reputation as the worst franchise in professional sports (apologies to the L.A. Clippers, Oakland Raiders and some NHL team that I don’t care enough about to research. The Florida Panthers?) To make matters worse, reports were leaked early this week that the Pirates’ ownership had been pocketing nearly $30 million a year while slashing payroll and trading away fan favorites like Jason Bay, Jack Wilson and Freddy Sanchez. 

Uh-oh. 

That news isn’t likely to settle well with a fan base that hasn’t tasted success since before Miley Cyrus was born, and with a team that ranks at or near the bottom of most statistical pitching and hitting categories, things aren’t likely to get much better anytime soon. 

But the Pirates can’t be terrible forever, can they? Well… 

There are certainly signs of life from Pittsburgh, and besides borrowing with no intent to return $30  dollars every year from revenue sharing, the Pirates new front office seems to have a game plan for contending in the NL Central. One of the most important steps that the organization has taken is drafting based on talent (Pedro Alvarez, Tony Sanchez, Jameson Taillon, etc.) rather than signability (no offense to you personally Danny Moskos). For a team with a limited budget, building a strong farm system through trades and the draft are essential for building a winning franchise (just look at the model put in place by Tampa Bay) and the Pirates have a bevy of talent in the minors and in the big leagues that should allow them to reverse their bad fortune in the coming years. 

Pedro Alvarez soared through the minors and is finding quick success at the big league level.

While it’s been a lost season for Pittsburgh at the big league level, several players have shown enough promise to give Pirates’ fans optimism heading into 2011 and beyond. Second-year centerfielder Andrew McCutchen (.278-12 HR’s-37 RBI’s-26 SB’s) continues to look like a five-tool star in the making and he’s been complemented nicely by rookie leftfielder Jose Tabata (.309-3 HR’s-19 RBI’s-14 SB’s) who arrived in Pittsburgh through last season’s Xavier Nady trade (which now looks very lopsided) with the Yankees. Former top prospect Neil Walker (.296-5 HR’s-41 RBI’s) is excelling at the plate and in the field and, after a slow start, rookie third baseman Pedro Alvarez has flashed a blend of power and patience that could make him an all-star for years to come at the hot corner. The pitching hasn’t fared quite as well, though newly acquired James McDonald (24 K’s in 22 innings) has the makings of a future staff ace and Ross Ohlendorf (4.07 ERA in 108 innings)  looks like a solid, work-horse type starter. 

There’s more good news down on the farm too, where the Pirates improved decision-making and baseball academy in the Dominican Republic have started to yield some promising results. Eighteen-year-old flamethrower Jameson Taillon was the gem of last year’s draft for Pittsburgh, and the organization envisions him as a front-line starter with a Cy Young-caliber ceiling. Though his season was ended early by a broken jaw,  catcher Tony Sanchez (.314-4 HR’s-35 RBI’s-.416 OBP) proved worthy of his number four spot in the 2009 draft, and will hope fill a long void at backstop for the Pirates when he reaches the big league level. Andrew Lambo, who came to the Pirates along with James McDonald in a trade with the Dodgers, has a well-rounded approach at the plate (.287-6 HR’s-35 RBI’s), and should be ready to compete for a starting job within the next few years. 

So, while another 100 loss season is on the horizon, there is reason to believe that the Pirates might win again. 

Just not before their losing season streak reaches its drinking age…

Bad News Bear: Cubs’ Manager Lou Piniella to Retire at Season’s End.

Apparently Sweet Lou has had just about enough of sour Chicago and the calamity-stricken Cubs’ losing ways.

According to a statement from the veteran skipper, 2010 will be his final year as manager of the Cubs, as he plans to retire at the end of the season and pursue a role in the front office.

Piniella was brought to Chicago to do what hadn’t been done in over 100 years–win a World Series with the Cubs.

But like many others before him Piniella wasn’t able to climb that seemingly insurmountable peak, and it became apparent this season that Chicago wasn’t likely to contend with him at the helm. While announcing his decision before the season ends might seem strange, it gives the Cubs time to find a suitable replacement from among the likes of Ryne Sandberg, Joe Torre and Fredi Gonzalez.

Piniella’s time in Chicago wasn’t all bad. He has a 308-272 record (.531) with the Cubs and won the National League Manager of the Year Award in 2008 when the North Siders won a league high 97 games. But back-to-back postseason flops and run-ins with Milton Bradley and Carlos Zambrano obscured the regular season success, and helped make it easy for Piniella to say goodbye to baseball’s most cursed and critiqued franchise.

While Piniella’s time in Chicago has been forgettable, his career as a manager was anything but. When Lou wasn’t busy entertaining fans with his memorable tirades, the cagy skipper was guiding the Cincinnati Reds, Seattle Mariners, Tampa Bay Devil Rays and Chicago Cubs to a record of 1827-1692 (.519). He led the Reds to a World Series title in his first year as manager (1990) and also steered the 2001 Seattle Mariners to a Major League record 116 wins. Whether his accomplishments as a manager are enough to secure Piniella a place in Cooperstown remains to be seen, but one thing is clear:

Baseball will never forget Sweet Lou.

Plugging a Leak(e): Rookie Pitcher Keeps the Reds’ Season Afloat.

Leake has seamlessly made the transition from college to the pros--and the Reds are benefiting in a big way.

Coming into Spring Training it was Aroldis Chapman, not Mike Leake, who was receiving all the attention in the Cincinnati Reds camp. The Cuban flamethrowers triple digit fastballs easily overshadowed the quiet consistency of the rookie out of Arizona State University. Yet, a quarter of the way through the season, Chapman is still toiling in Triple-A while Leake is doing is best to keep Jason Heyward from running away with the rookie of the year award—not to mention helping the Reds soar to first place in the NL Central.  

The 22-year-old right hander is among a small group of hurlers who went straight to the majors without ever having thrown a pitch in the minor leagues (including such household names as Darren Dreifort, Tim Conroy and David Clyde) and Leake is making it look easy. In eight starts on the year, Leake is 4-0 with a 2.70 ERA and 42 strikeouts against 22 walks, and has flashed more control with each passing start. Leake’s makeup on the mound and pitching repertoire reminds many of Greg Maddux and the Reds can only hope that their young star has the same kind of career as the “Mad Dog”. Leake also shares another similarity with Greg Maddux—he handles himself at the plate with aplomb (.353 in his first 23 at-bats).

Though most pitchers not named Tim Lincecum struggle initially in the major leagues, Leake has been able to thrive in spite of his size (5’10”) and less than stellar stuff (topping out in the low 90’s). Leake explains his quick success in the major leagues:  

“It’s tough for me to get intimidated. I’m more of a self-competitor rather than competing against people. For example, people worry about or ask questions about who you’re facing. Say it’s Pujols — I’m not really worried about facing him. I’m worried about hitting the glove.”

Cincinnati is 26-20 after a loss to Pittsburgh on Tuesday night but still sit atop their division despite a slow start and inconsistent pitching outside of Leake. The Reds have built a strong nucleus to contend with St. Louis and Chicago for the next half decade, but few expected Cincinnati to be in contention this soon.

Of course, few expected Leake to become the team’s de facto ace less than a year after graduating from college…but that’s exactly what happened.

Major League Baseball and Its Players Continue to Drop the Ball: Cincinnati’s Volquez Tests Positive for PED’s.

Edison Volquez's suspension won't cost him anything more than money.

Another mysterious fertility drug, another failed PED test and another black eye for baseball and its players. Yeah, it sure seems like the sport has this steroids issue under control.

Major League Baseball announced on Tuesday that Cincinnati Reds’ starting pitcher Edinson Volquez tested positive for a banned substance during Spring Training and would be suspended for 50 games, effective immediately.

The catch? Volquez was already on the disabled list and unlikely to return to game action until mid-season. His suspension runs out June 15th—a date sooner than the Reds had anticipated Volquez being ready to pitch for their big league club. As it stands, Volquez will be able to continue his rehabilitation from elbow surgery while serving his “suspension” and will forfeit around $130,000 of his salary for the season. Somehow, I think Volquez will find a way to squeak by with the other $300,000 he is due to make in 2010.

Even his own teammates were stunned by the loophole in baseball’s punishment system. Fellow pitcher Bronson Arroyo reacted to the situation in an interview on Tuesday saying,  “I’m actually surprised they’re letting him do that.” Yeah, so is everyone else Bronson.

I’m not even mad at Volquez for using a banned substance…I’m mad at baseball for a punishment that doesn’t fit the crime. Despite a supposedly tougher stance on steroids, Volquez will miss exactly zero game-time for failing a drug test. Who is that fair to?

In the words of TV’s greatest lawyer Jackie Chiles: “Outrageous! Egregious! Preposterous!”

Preposterous indeed.

From King of the Court to Lord of the Diamond: Lebron James Signs 5-Year Contract with Pittsburgh Pirates.

Pittsburgh fans were initially stunned by the LeBron signing, but most agreed the move was a slam dunk.

Apparently LeBron James really does want to be “like Mike“.   

In a move that sent shock waves through two sports and broke the heart of every New York Knicks’ fan, the Pittsburgh Pirates reported Thursday that they had reached a contract agreement with basketball superstar Lebron James. Though exact terms of the agreement have not yet been made available, sources close to the situation speculate the contract to be in the neighborhood of 5 years/$200 million dollars. Additional terms of the deal allow LeBron to finish the season with the Cavaliers before reporting to the Pirates Double-A affiliate at the beginning of July, with additional work scheduled in the Arizona Fall League.   

Pittsburgh GM Neal Huntington released the following statement regarding LeBron to the AP:   

“Obviously we’re thrilled to have a player of LeBron’s caliber here in Pittsburgh and we really feel that he is going to be a difference maker for the Pirates. He’s got nothing left to prove on the basketball court and athletes with his skill set don’t come along often; it was a no-brainer for us as an organization. The plan is to have LeBron patrolling centerfield for us fulltime in 2011 with Andrew McCutchen shifting to left. With his size, speed and vertical leap it’s hard to imagine any homeruns leaving the yard against our pitching staff. We’ve been working him out over the past few months and he has shown the ability to hit for power to all fields and with his length it won’t take more than a few steps and a slide to steal bases. The Pittsburgh Pirates are turning over a new leaf as a franchise and it starts today with the signing of Lebron James…I just can’t wait to see him on the field.”   

Huntington has raised quite a few eyebrows as GM of the Pirates by trading away popular players like Jason Bay, Freddy Sanchez and Jack Wilson, but nothing could have prepared the sports world for this stunning move. Message boards and radio shows were quick to criticize the move, calling it a publicity stunt or simply an April Fools joke. Huntington also responded to those comments:   

Michael Jordan never panned out in baseball. Does LeBron have what it takes to save the Pirates?

“LeBron is a world-class athlete and we have no doubt that he will be an All-Star outfielder as soon as next season. Obviously we realized that this move would be met with some skepticism, and that’s fine, because it won’t be long before other teams discover what they missed out on. We would not have made this move unless we were 100% convinced as an organization that LeBron would help the Pirates win a World Series. Sometimes in sports it’s necessary to think outside of the box, and with 17 straight losing seasons, it was evident that our franchise needed a radical change to reverse our fortunes. LeBron was already the next Michael Jordan and now it’s time for him to become the next Ken Griffey Jr. He’s got the chance to be a very special player for a long, long time.”  

LeBron James could not immediately be reached for comment but tweeted to his followers that: “Cavs gonna take da Finals this year n its time 4 me to rule another sport. I already own football now its on 2 baseball” and also “@BillSimmons I ain’t like Mike cause I chose to leave da league, I didn’t gamble my way out. LOL!” 

While that may be the case, Pirates’ fans had better hope that LeBron has better luck in baseball than Jordan (career .202 hitter in the minors). With $200 million dollars invested in just one player, Pittsburgh is betting the farm on LeBron leading them out of the cellar and back into the World Series. Of course it he doesn’t, what’s one more losing season for the longest suffering franchise in sports?

Baseball’s Top Five Breakout Stars for ’10

Gutierrez won't be able to hide out in the fog of Seattle much longer.

Besides “free Krispy Kremes” and “Ken Griffey Junior”, no three words in the English language are more exciting to me than “pitchers and catchers”. When I hear that magical combination of words I know that Spring Training has arrived and another season of baseball is on the horizon. With each new year a fresh crop of stars emerge and make their mark on the game, elevating themselves from good players to great players. Just like Jessica Simpson on the last stages of her “In This Skin” tour, the following players are poised for a major breakout.  

1) Franklin Gutierrez: In the eyes of most Mariners fans Gutierrez already had his breakout season—though no one outside of Seattle or the sabermetric community seemed to notice that in 2009. With a retooled roster that doesn’t include Carlos Silva (that’s one of my last shots at El Guapo, I promise) the M’s are a serious contender in the AL West and, if the team can stay in the playoff hunt late into the season, the best defensive centerfielder in baseball will finally receive the credit he deserves (or at least a Gold Glove). The affectionately named “Guti” made significant improvements at the plate last season, and if he continues to mature as a hitter, has the chance to become a legitimate 5-tool star. Don’t be surprised if Gutierrez goes for a line similar to .300-25 HR-90 RBI’s-20 SB’s in 2010…it is the Mariners year after all.  

2) Madison Bumgarner: You can laugh at his last name all you want (and his first name while you’re at it), but it won’t change the fact that Madison Bumgarner is one of the top pitching prospects in all of baseball. In two ridiculous minor league seasons, Bumgarner has posted a combined 27-5 record with a 1.65 ERA, 0.97 WHIP and a nearly five-to-one strike-to-walk ratio. I don’t care if you’re playing in the Soda Pop Valley League…those numbers are hard to ignore. If Bumgarner can replicate his success in the minors for a Giants’ pitching staff that already includes Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain, San Francisco would become a very dangerous team in the wide open NL West.  

Will McCutchen become the best pirate since Captain Cook in 2010?

3) Andrew McCutchen: Hidden in the baseball wasteland that is Pittsburgh, McCutchen enjoyed a terrific rookie season, proving once and for all that the Pirates can occasionally do something right (although let’s be honest, A-Mac will be traded in two years). The former first-round draft pick finished fourth in the rookie of the year voting and put together a solid season at the plate (.286-12-54) and on the basepaths (22/27 in stolen bases). The young right-hander exhibited good patience at the dish and has the potential to become a 30-30 player for the next decade in Pittsburgh (or New York). It might seem like baby steps, but players like McCutchen are a step in the right direction for the Pirates…give ’em another 10 years and they’ll be right back in the thick of it (the middle of the NL Central that is). 

4) Matt Weiters: Sure “Orange Jesus” didn’t quite save the Orioles as they walked through the Valley of the Shadow of Death (aka the AL East) last year, but that just means he’s in no danger of a sophomore slump in 2010. One of the most hyped prospects in recent memory, Weiters got off to a slow start in 2009 (.259 pre-All Star batting average) but finished the year with a flourish (.301) and he will be counted on to lead a group of young talented Baltimore hurlers that includes Chris Tillman, Brian Matusz and David Hernandez (each of whom could have made this list themselves). Weiters should be one of the top three catchers in the AL in 2010, and it won’t be long before he’s challenging Joe Mauer for batting titles and MVP’s.  

Bailey and the Reds are looking to make some noise in the NL Central this season.

5) Homer Bailey: The number seven overall pick in the 2004 draft, Bailey has been anything but a homerun in his short major league career, though his finish to last season showed why the Reds thought so highly of him. The hard-throwing Bailey went 4-1 in September, with a 2.08 ERA and 42 strikeouts in 43 innings (numbers eerily similar to Zack Grienke’s last five starts of 2008–and we all know what he did the next year). Bailey will combine with Johnny Cueto, Edison Volquez and eventually Aroldis Chapman to form one of the best young rotations in baseball, and should turn quite a few heads in 2010. The Cincinnati Reds will be one of the biggest surprise teams in baseball next season due in no small part to the emergence of Bailey. Expect Homer to win 13-15 games with a sub-4.00 ERA and about 150 K’s.

Cardinals’ Fans First Public Reaction to Mark McGwire…A Standing Ovation?

Congratulations Cardinals fans! Your hypocrisy knows no ends.

Mark McGwire made his first public appearance in St. Louis since admitting the shocking truth that he used steroids for over 10 years in a news conference early Sunday morning. The conference was held in a narrow hallway (at least it was narrow in comparison to McGwire) and lasted just over six minutes, most of which McGwire spent dodging questions like Neo dodged bullets. Apparently since Big Mac talked about the past once he doesn’t ever have to do it again. There was no chance for reporters to ask McGwire about the myriad holes in his story, though he was kind enough to warn kids not to use steroids (unless they help with health problems of course). And how, you may ask, did Cardinals fans respond to their beleaguered slugger? With cheers and a standing ovation… 

Not to go all Steven A. Smith on you, but quite frankly that’s preposterous! I hate to go all Mike and Mike on you, but c’mon man! And finally, I really can’t stand to go all MSN Messenger on you, but WTF Cardinal fans? Mark McGwire lies to you for years and then goes on national television and lies again—and you give him a standing ovation? I might expect this kind of thing from Yankees fans, who have continually shown themselves to be completely delusional, but I thought St. Louis held it athletes to a higher standard. The level of hypocrisy among sports fans is downright shocking and they’ll catch up to politicians soon if they keep up this kind of behavior. Fans are willing to crucify Barry Bonds, Rafael Palmeiro and everyone else from the steroid era, yet when McGwire says he’s “really sorry” Cardinal followers treat him like nothing ever happened? I realize that McGwire admitted what he did (sort of) but that doesn’t mean he should get a free pass and be welcomed back with open arms. McGwire broke the law, cheated the game and lied about it until it was convenient for him to come out with the “truth”. Some people deserve second chances but Big Mac isn’t one of them, at least not until he is ready to come clean about what he really did all those years. 

Mark McGwire was arrogant enough to think that baseball fans would believe whatever he had to say about the past. Apparently he was right.

Big Mac, Little Balls: Mark McGwire’s Steroids Confession is Too Little, Too Late for Once Revered Slugger.

(AP Photo/Ed Reinke, File)

Yesterday’s news that Mark McGwire used steroids and human growth hormone on and off for 10 years shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone (especially not Tony Larussa and Bud Selig). It was painfully obvious that the man was a liar. Baseball players don’t hit 70 homeruns in a season through hard work and God-given ability, they just don’t.

When he told a congressional committee that he “wasn’t here to talk about the past”, McGwire really told America that he had used steroids to set the all-time single season homerun record, but didn’t want to be held accountable for his actions. The hulking beast of a man was nothing more than a coward and a cheat, and McGwire hoped that disappearing into the shadows would allow him to eventually restore his broken image. Well, after five years and four Hall-of-Fame ballots it was clear that silence had done nothing but further tarnish his reputation, so he decided on another course of action.

When Mark McGwire agreed to become the hitting coach for St. Louis he realized that he would eventually have to talk about the past, and he decided to do so on his own terms with a written release to the AP and a carefully staged interview with Bob Costas. McGwire was able to say what he wanted to say (while glossing over details like what kind of steroids he took) and used the media platform to tout his past exploits and pave a smooth return to the sport. McGwire talked at length about what he had done and why he turned to steroids, but what did he really say when he wasn’t choked up with tears? Let’s take a closer look at some of the major points of the interview and press release:

1.) “I was given a gift to hit home runs…the only reason I took steroids was for health purposes.”: Throughout the interview McGwire continued to reiterate the point that “the man upstairs” had granted him the ability to hit homeruns, and in a sense, that’s true. McGwire was always a good homerun hitter, including a record-setting 49 in his rookie season, but he  makes a point of saying that he could have hit 70 homeruns without the help of PED’s. Does he even believe what he’s saying? No, steroids won’t help your eye hand coordination, but they sure as heck are going to make a baseball travel farther. How many of his warning track outs turned into homeruns because of steroids? Normal human beings don’t hit 70 homeruns in a season no matter how talented they are. McGwire knew full well that steroids did more than just keep him healthy, yet refused to acknowledge this important fact. I guess I can’t blame him, it was a pretty “loosey-goosey” era.

2.) “I’ve never been asked point-blank, ‘Have you ever taken steroids?'”: McGwire wants us to believe in the interview that no one in his life; not his wife, kids, parents or manager (LaRussa) had any knowledge of his steroid use. Really? Look, I’ll readily admit that the America public is generally gullible, but he expects us to believe that no one in his family ever asked him about steroids? His wife never once talked to him about steroids when he was asked to speak in front of a congressional committee? His son never brought up steroids when McGwire was labeled a cheat and liar by the media? He said plenty of farfetched things in his interview, but this might be the most unbelievable of all. News flash Mark, “coming clean” does not involve continuing to lie—your arrogance is dumbfounding.

3.) “All I tell you is, I’m sorry and it’s been one of the toughest days of my life and I totally regret everything I’ve done.”: Is McGwire sorry that he did steroids or is he just sorry he got caught? It’s not like he accidentally did steroids once and then magically cleaned up his act (looking at you Andy Pettite). Look, people make mistakes, but when they make the same one for 10 years straight they’re way past regret. Did he really have 10 years of “health issues” that forced him to take steroids? Was the increase in strength and batspeed just a nasty side-effect? The only reason McGwire is “sorry” is because the Cardinals told him to and his publicist decided it was the best way for Big Mac to repair his reputation. McGwire is not sorry for what he did, he’s sorry because he’ll never be able to get into the Hall-of-Fame because of it. True repentance involves no ulterior motive.

Mark McGwire finally came out on Monday after years of solitude and told America he was sorry for ever using steroids and that he wished he had never played in the steroid era. Well Mark, I for one don’t forgive you. You didn’t tell the truth five years ago when you had the chance and you aren’t telling the truth now. Baseball fans are not stupid or ignorant; don’t treat them like they are. Tell the truth, apologize and you be will forgiven. Keep on lying, and you will be forever branded a cheater and all of your accomplishments will be marked with an asterisk.

Baseball fans and the entire sport deserve a real apology for what you did Mark. Now go put your shirt on, and give us a call when you’re ready talk.

Seattle Continues Busy Offseason: Carlos Silva Traded to Cubs for Milton Bradley.

How will Milton Bradley's temperament fit in with the Mariners' good mojo?

In what is becoming almost a daily occurence in the Emerald City, the Seattle Mariners have acquired yet another player in hopes of capturing the AL West in 2010, though this deal is anything but a sure thing. According to ESPN’s Jayson Stark, the Mariners have finalized a trade that will send pitcher Carlos Silva to the Chicago Cubs in return for outfielder Milton Bradley. Both players had long since worn out their welcomes in Seattle and Chicago respectively, and with each being slated to make around $25 million dollars over the next two years, this trade was the only real option for two teams looking to get rid of their constant source of headaches.

The Carlos Silva experiment was an absolute disaster for the Mariners. After signing a four-year/$48 million dollar contract in 2007 (a move which was widely mocked throughout the league) Silva went 5-18 over the past two seasons, including a 1-3 mark with an ungodly 8.60 ERA in 2009. In fact, about the only positive thing Silva accomplished during his time in Seattle was getting hurt last season, allowing the Mariners to develop young arms in their rotation. One of the last painful reminders of the Bill Bavasi era in Seattle, the fact that the Mariners were able to get anything for Silva is a miracle, and while Bradley does come with his baggage, he also offers tremendous upside at the plate.

It didn’t take long for the Cubs to figure out that Bradley wasn’t a good fit for them. In fact, it didn’t even take a full season (he was suspended on September 20th). Plagued by injuries throughout the year and serving as a constant distraction to the team with his outbursts and tirades, Chicago was dead-set on moving Bradley this offseason but couldn’t find any suitors other than the Mariners. Signed to play in the outfield last year, Bradley struggled defensively and only hit .257 with 12 HR’s and 40 RBI’s. Still, his keen batting eye allowed him to post a .378 OBP (which would have been second on the M’s last season), and Bradley has constantly shown himself to be an adept hitter—when he’s healthy and happy. Long regarded as a clubhouse cancer, Bradley seems to create controversey wherever he plays, and may prove to be more trouble than he is worth for Seattle if they can’t find a way to keep him under control.

The Mariners needed to find a designated hitter after the news that one of their primary targets, Nick Johnson, planned to sign with the New York Yankees. Keeping Bradley off the field will help neutralize the risk for an injury, but will his disruptive presence ruin a clubhouse that was one of the best in all of baseball last season? Seattle is gambling that veterans like Ken Griffey Jr. and manager Don Wakamatsu’s zen-like personality will be able to keep Bradley in line, and if that works, they’ve acquired a top-flight hitter who will be a welcome addition to their lineup. There’s no debating Bradley’s talent (career .371 OBP) but his off the field problems are a very real issue. Jack Zduriencik has certainly earned the benefit of the doubt thus far, and Mariners’ fans hope that Bradley will be a key factor in the team returning to the playoffs…and not just Carl Everett part two.

Sunday Night Spread: A Look at the Day Around Major League Baseball

PuffDragonAre you too lazy to read an entire game recap? Do you find yourself looking for something more than a boxscore, but less than a novel? Or are you just tired of waiting until the morning’s paper to find out that your favorite team lost yet again? If you said yes to any of the above, then you’ve come to the right place! Viva la Vidro presents its first (and possibly last, depending on the author’s motivation level) edition of the Sunday Night Spread, a look at each game in the majors in 50 words or less. Dig in!

Cleveland 3 Minnesota 1: David Huff the Magic Dragon becomes the major’s least deserving 9-game winner after allowing 1 run in 7 innings against the Twinkies to lower his Carlos Silva-esque ERA to 6.23. Somewhere off in the distance, Matt Cain’s 2007 and 2008 seasons are weeping.

Toronto 14 New York Yankees 8: Canada’s dominance over America continues as the Jays pound out 15 hits and capitalize on four Yankee errors (undoubtedly all by Jeter) to win by a touchdown (extra-point was wide right). The real loser was Randy Ruiz’s face; not a good time to play baseball if you have a head.

New York Mets 4 Chicago Cubs 2: Two teams that were supposed to be good but actually suck squared off in a game that no one cared about. The Mets got four RBIs from Daniel Murphy, currently owned in 1.7% of fantasy baseball leagues, after tonight.

Cincinnati 4 Atlanta 2: The Braves continue to fade faster than Lindsay Lohan’s career as Cincinnati takes the lead on a hit-by-pitch of the opposing pitcher, go figure. Drew Stubbs falls a double short of the cycle, but if no one outside of Ohio notices, did it really happen?

jeremy%20guthrieBaltimore 7 Texas 0: Baseball’s best pitching Mormon, Jeremy Guthrie, six-hits the potent Rangers’ offense over 7 innings as the ghost of Brigham Young cheers him on from behind home plate. Texas falls 3 back in the AL Wild Card chase.

Washington 5 Florida 4: The Nationals would be the best team in baseball if they could reverse their record (47-90), but that’s not allowed till after Labor Day, so Washington had to settle for a walk-off dinger from Ryan Zimmerman.

Pittsburgh 6 St. Louis 5: Pujols homers (again), but Ryan Franklin and his goatee blow the save in the 9th against the suddenly scorching Pirates (currently riding a one-game winning streak). See, GM Neal Huntington knew what he was doing all along (what, why’s everyone laughing?)

Detroit 5 Tampa Bay 3: 40-year-old Russ Springer celebrates receiving his first social security check by coughing up a go-ahead grand slam to Brandon Inge in the 9th. The good news is he still gets 15% off at the Old Country Buffet.

Boston 6 Chicago White Sox 1: In yet another lesson why you don’t mix colors with whites, the Red Sox topped their pseudo-rival White Sox behind 7 shutout innings from Jon Lester in a game that had everyone seeing pink by the end. Use Oxi Clean, or just don’t wash ’em at all.

Milwaukee 2 San Francisco 1: America’s fattest favorite vegan came through with a game-winning homerun in the 12th and then proceeded to eat 27 pounds of Rice-A-Roni in mock tribute to San Fransisco’s favorite treat. This could get ugly the next time these two teams meet, likely in the World Series.

Houston 4 Philadelphia 3: The Phillies lose and Brad Lidge isn’t to blame? Cole Hamels gave up 4 runs in 6 innings, and Miguel Tejada went 4-4 for the Astros after a hearty portion of “b-vitamins” with his breakfast.

94928-004-72912736L.A. Angels 7 Kansas City 2: Former Mariners Yuniesky Betancourt and Willy Bloomquist each went 1-4, but it just wasn’t enough as the mighty Halos rode 5 innings of 10-hit ball from Joe Saunders to their 81st win.

Colorado 13 Arizona 5: The humidifier seems to be broke again in Colorado, as the Rockies and Diamondbacks combined for 8 HRs, three of which came from .198 hitter Chris Young. We can build on this Diamondback fans!

Oakland 5 Seattle 2: Fister’s got a blister, but besides that fun rhyme the M’s didn’t enjoy themselves much in Oakland, as the A’s used a 7th inning grand slam from Scott Hairston to cruise to a win. Ichiro collects career hit 2,000 in America, next stop: the moon?

San Diego 4 L.A. Dodgers 3: The freeway series? The smog series? The dear God our state is going to get annexed from the union series? The Padres are almost as bad as California’s economy, but they gutted out a win against division foe L.A. as Adrian Gonzalez hits his 35th HR. The Dodger’s lead is down to 3.5 games in the NL West.