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Baseball Notebook: Dodgers' bats -- An affront to mankind

Sunday, August 03, 2003

By Steve Ziants, Post-Gazette Sports Writer

Don’t let those talking epaulets at the Pentagon fool you. They did not pull the plug on their bet-on-terrorism Web site this week because they thought it sick for human beings to “invest” in the likelihood that Yassar Arafat would ask for the Sweet’N Low and be passed strychnine instead. And it wasn’t because lawmakers were nearly universal in assailing this Tom Clancy-meets-Stephen King commodities market as “ridiculous and grotesque.”

The Guy In The Stands believes it was a disaster far closer to home that made them change their gold-braided thinking. Something so ugly and so absurd that they could not help but see the error of their ways.

Dodgers vs. Diamondbacks, July 25-27.

In this era in which teams combine to average roughly 10 runs a game, the Dodgers and Diamondbacks somehow managed only five in three games-plus. Five! As in the number right after four and just before being traded to Detroit. The Diamondbacks won the first two by scores of 2-1 (in 15 innings) and 1-0; the Dodgers the finale, 1-0.

In case there were any doubt, it is the lowest-scoring series of the season, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. And it likely will remain that way unless Bud Selig awards an expansion franchise to the county morgue.

“I’m at a loss to explain it,” said Arizona pitcher Curt Schilling after losing to Hideo Nomo Sunday. “Five runs total in three games?”

To borrow the words of Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Pat Roberts (R-Kansas), it “defies common sense. It’s absurd.”

Consider some of the offense perpetrated (or not) under the guise of major-league baseball at Bank One Ballpark last weekend:

The other 28 major-league teams produced five runs or more in an inning 11 times in the same 72-hour period. The Braves even did it twice in the same game in a 15-4 rout of the Expos Saturday.

The Dodgers’ team ERA was 0.84 in the series ... and they lost 2 of 3.

Boston’s Bill Mueller needed just two pitches to plate five runs Tuesday (not to mention four more on a third). The Dodgers and Diamondbacks required 892.

They left 44 runners on base -- nine on third -- and hit .178 for the series.

Arizona pitchers flirted with a perfect game in the opener ... starting in the eighth inning. They retired retired 22 Dodgers in a row, or 7 1/3 perfect innings, before allowing a walk in the 15th.

Overall in that first game, the Dodgers mustered just three hits in 49 plate appearances. “There’s no batting practice or anything else that can take care of that,” muttered batting coach Jack Clark.

Arizona pitcher Elmer Dessens, with only two extra-base hits in 186 career at-bats, knocked in the only run Saturday. With a triple. A triple that improbably scored lumbering, 220-pound catcher Rod Barajas from first. “I don’t know what was the bigger surprise,” Diamondbacks Manager Bob Brenly said. “Elmer hitting the triple or Rod scoring from first on the triple.”

Little-used Dodgers reserve Larry Barnes knocked in the lone run Sunday. A shock? It was his first run batted in more than two years. And it was one more than Shawn Green knocked in all weekend.

In an epilogue befitting this series ...

The Dodgers bookended the series with a 1-0 shutout of the Rockies and a 2-0 shutout loss to the Phillies, meaning that over the course of 53 innings from July 24 through Tuesday, they scored a grand total of three runs. “It is what it is,” Clark says of the offense.

By the end of Friday night’s 2-0 shutout loss to the Braves, the number of games in which the Dodgers had scored one run or less was at 28 and the team batting average had slunk to .239. As a footnote, they loaded the bases in three different innings and still couldn’t score. “If the meek shall inherit the earth,” commented one Los Angeles-area sportscaster, “then the Dodger batters are in great shape.”

As for the Diamondbacks, they were obviously scarred by what transpired those three days at Bank One Ballpark, too. Barely better than the Dodgers, they flew to Florida and scored all of four times in a three-game sweep at the hands of the Marlins. “Just use yesterday’s [quotes],” says an exasperated Brenly after one of the losses.

Meanwhile, back in Washington, Sen. Barbara Boxer tells a Foreign Relations Committee hearing that “there is something very sick about [the terrorist betting scheme]. And if it’s going to end, I think you ought to end the careers of whoever it was that thought it up.”

Ah, Madam Senator, now there’s the rub. Unlike Yassar, Osama or the rest of the new age boys from Brazil, baseball players cannot be so easily ended. Baseball players, you see, have guaranteed contracts.

Run, Eddie, run

In perhaps the greatest sprint witnessed by humankind since Forrest Gump ran out of his leg braces, Milwaukee catcher Eddie Perez scored what proved to be the winning run in the eighth inning Thursday against the Mets by, ahem, sprinting in all the way from second on a wild pitch. Not to say that those who witnessed this feat of daring and speed by the generally slow-of-foot Perez were surprised, but his nickname is rather telling.

“They call me Seabiscuit,” Perez admitted.

The pitch from Mets pitcher Edwin Almonte bounced in front of the plate, then caromed off catcher Jason Phillips’ mask and toward the first-base dugout. Perez never thought about stopping as he chugged around third. “It would have been like trying to stop the Queen Mary,” third-base coach Rich Donnelly told Drew Olson of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

“That was nothing short of a miracle,” added Manager Ned Yost.

If his run was that important, someone asked Yost, then why not pinch run for him? “With that speed, who needs a pinch-runner?” Yost replied.

Bad to the bone

Guess there is no such thing as too much Yankee Hate in Boston nor too many ways to reinforce the Evil Empire label club president Larry Lucchino lobbed the Yankees way in the off-season. When the Yankees visited in May, the Red Sox invited composer John Williams to throw out the first pitch before a Roger Clemens start. It afforded them the opportunity to play Williams’ menacing “Imperial March” from his “Star Wars” score as Clemens strode in from the bullpen. Sunday, before the conclusion of their most recent series, they invited James Earl Jones to recite the national anthem. Or more accurately, they invited the voice of Darth Vader.

A master’s secret

With a 1-hour, 26-minute rain delay before the third inning Friday, some might’ve wondered how Atlanta’s Greg Maddux, at 37, could return and Los Angeles’ Hideo Nomo could not when play resumed. Simple. Maddux continued to throw during the rain. Every 20 minutes, he went to the Braves’ indoor batting cage and threw to live hitters for about five minutes. “You only get 35 [starts] a year. You don’t want to give one up because of the weather,” said Maddux, who went on to allow just two hits in five shutout innings in a 2-0 win vs. the Dodgers. He was so good that he probably gave up more hits in the cage. “Yeah, I gave up three or four,” Maddux admitted. “Got to get the boys locked in for down the road.” Then why not go longer since he was doing so well? Because no strategy is perfect. He had already thrown 108 pitches by the end of the fifth -- 67 in the game and 41 in the cage.

Spinning out of control

The Guy doesn’t know this for fact, but it is beginning to look as if the bobblehead craze is close to running its course. How does he know? The minor-league Lowell (Mass.) Spinners have had to turn to great literary figures of the 20th century to find their next bobble. Apparently, all of those great Lowell players past have been exhausted. So on Aug. 21, the Spinners will give fans bobbing likenesses of famed beat writer Jack Kerouac. The doll features Kerouac holding a pen and notebook and standing on a copy of “On The Road,” his best-known work. We suggest the Spinners include a note with every doll explaining to fans that “On The Road” is a real book and not a copy of the Expos’ 2003 schedule.

Father, son and holy smokes

Apparently, a father’s pride does have its bounds. Giants Manager Felipe Alou was beside himself after losing to the Cubs, 3-0, Tuesday. The only runs scored via a three-run homer in the first inning by a player Felipe knows of just a bit -- his son Moises. What galled Dad was that Giants pitcher Damian Moss threw Moises an 0-2 fastball on the home run in question. “He’s an outstanding fastball hitter,” Felipe muttered afterward. “... I wouldn’t throw him an 0-3 fastball with so many men on base.”

This ’n’ that

Rickey Henderson, 44, is the oldest Dodgers player to get a hit since Dazzy Vance in 1935. ... Giants pitcher Matt Herges, after Barry Bonds threw out the potential winning run in the top of the ninth, then hit a home run to beat Arizona, 3-2, in the bottom of the inning July 24 -- his birthday, no less: “My mind is too simple to comprehend what just happened out there.” ...Of note: Former Cubs favorite Mark Grace, playing out the string on the Diamondbacks’ bench, will likely make his final appearance at Wrigley Field this afternoon. Manager Bob Brenly is expected to give him a start. ...

The Yankees are turning up the heat in pursuit of yet another Matsui -- this one shortstop Kazuo Matsui, who they envision stepping in at third base. ... The pursuit of Matsui and the trade for Aaron Boone from the Reds would also seem to be an acknowledgement by the Yankees that former Michigan quarterback Drew Henson (.227, 12 HRs, 94 Ks at AAA Columbus) is never going to make it (or is NFL-bound). ... The trade of outfielder David Dellucci to the Yankees Tuesday marked the departure of the last of the original Diamondbacks taken in the 1997 expansion draft. ... And finally, how far have the Mets fallen? The Brewers(!) beat them, 6-3, Tuesday to run their winning streak at Shea Stadium to four games -- or a longer streak than any the Mets have had in their own park this season.

Shot and a jeer

Shot: Brandon Lyon’s was a short Pirates career, but one that likely shall not be forgotten.

Jeer: Twenty-four hours before he was actually traded and with games still to play in a Reds uniform, Jose Guillen was seen boxing up personal belongings in the Cincinnati clubhouse early this week in hopes of being dealt. There are those who wanted that sort of attitude back in a Pirates uniform?

Steve Ziants can be reached at or 412-263-1474. This notebook was gathered from personal interviews, wire services and other newspapers.

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