The stores that line Main Street in Cooperstown are a baseball fan's dream. Memorabilia is a way of life there. Whether it is autographed baseballs that are your game or you stick with picking up some hats of your favorite team, there is something for every fan.
One place in particular has always drawn a large crowd. Mickey's Place has the best selection of hats, t-shirts, and jerseys on the street. When you have that, it immediately becomes one of the places that nearly everyone in town stops at least once.
As several friends wandered the open floor, we did not realize that on the second floor above us, the greatest living ballplayer was signing autographs. Sure, as with many Hall of Famers, the prices were way too high for us to think about getting one, but we all thought it was worth just being in the store.
Slowly, though, the crowd got silent and Willie Mays began to make his way down the stairs. There were people keeping the crowds away, but the cameras were all able to get a decent look at him. Nearly everyone understood the significance of who this was and what it meant to be there.
Mays smiled, waved to the crowd, and paused so people could get a decent picture. No, we were not able to get him to sign a ball, but we do have a picture of the greatest living ballplayer no more than five feet away from us. It is a fair trade.
On to the notes.
- How about the last two weeks for Jimmy Rollins? Rollins seems to be back from the fantasy dead, as he has registered a .370 batting average in going 17-for-46. While he is not generating much power, he has stolen five bases and scored 12 runs. The Phillies will take that at the top of the order.
- Matt Holliday has multiple hits in four of his last seven games after his two home run game last night. Holliday has raised his average up to .284 for the season. Given the depths that he had fallen to in April, this is a substantial recovery. Holliday, after hitting .240 in April, hit .291 in May, .280 in June, and is now at .333 for July.
- Jorge De La Rosa is throwing some legit games. In his last three starts, De La Rosa has allowed four earned runs in 21.1 innings pitched. He has now won his last five decisions and is 7-1 in his last eight. Colorado pitching has suddenly taken a turn for the better between his work and that of Aaron Cook and Ubaldo Jimenez to go with Jason Marquis.
- Frank Francisco is headed to the DL for the Rangers with pneumonia. Francisco is making his third trip there this season, but this one could be relatively short. Because the move is retroactive to the 11th of this month, the Rangers reliever could return as soon as Saturday.
- John Smoltz looked done last night. He pitched well through five innings, but the wheels simply came off the wagon in a bad way. Through five innings, Smoltz had decent velocity and good movement. It simply looked like he ran out of gas. Until he figures out how to get through some more innings, he is barely a fringe starter in AL-only formats.
- At some point, Joe Torre is going to realize that .459 over a two-week span is too good for your number seven hitter. That is what Matt Kemp has done over the last two weeks to go with two home runs and nine RBI in that 37 at-bat stretch. Kemp would provide solid protection in the number four or five spot in that lineup while seeing better pitches to hit and having more opportunity to generate runs for the Dodgers.
- David Price is having nothing but problems on the road. The Rays starter now has a 6.94 ERA away from home this season after allowing four earned runs last night over six innings of work. Price's stat line indicates some better command, as given by fewer walks, but he had to have been missing spots with eight hits given up.
- Another one to pay attention to splits with is Ted Lilly. It was mentioned here yesterday, and is worth repeating. Lilly's opponents average on the road is now .279 as opposed to the .220 at home. His record fell to 3-6 after losing last night and his road ERA now sits at 5.40 this season. The injury may have had something to do with it, so owners should pay attention as to if there are problems leading in to his next start.
- Nelson Cruz missed his second straight game last night with a fracture in his finger. It was simply recommended that he not swing so the swelling could go down. Look for Cruz to take the bat in another day or so, but expect there to be some pain through the rest of the season. Michael Young played with this last year, so do not expect it to impact production once he is used to how it feels.
- Oliver Perez is another pitcher that gives Adam Dunn fits. Dunn is just 6-for-28 against Perez, but does have three home runs against him. It is likely that the Nationals look away from Willie Harris, given that he is 0-for-10 against Perez in his career. No concerns regarding other Nationals.
- Josh Beckett has largely found success against the Rangers. Michael Young has struggled against the Boston starter, posting a 1-for-12 mark in his career. While Andruw Jones has hit .250, his recent struggles even with the power numbers make this a no-go. Beckett has been dominant in his four of his last five starts, and nothing should change that here.
- Cliff Lee has struggled once this season with the Blue Jays, and there are no concerns in terms of historical numbers when it comes to starting any of them against him. Still, Lee is struggling more with run support than anything else. Three runs over seven innings should, generally, be good enough for a no-decision if not a win. Lee loses those battles. He will give you decent innings, strike out some batters, and keep a low ERA. Just do not expect tons of wins.
- While Aaron Rowand has had a run of tough luck lately, he is 10-for-20 against Derek Lowe. Bengie Molina and Randy Winn have put up good numbers against the Braves starter as well. Lowe has had some decent starts and lacked run support, but the Giants have done well against him overall.
- Some rought numbers for a few Pirates against Braden Looper. Looper has held Jack Wilson to 1-for-14 and Freddy Sanchez to 3-for-15. Adam LaRoche at 3-for-16 is no better. Looper is a reach play in any format, and this should not have owners going to reach. He gives up too many base runners to be viable. Just adjust lineups if you have better options for your Pirates.
- Odd to see Albert Pujols struggle against anyone, but he is only 3-for-20 against Wandy Rodriguez. The Astros hurler has thrown very well at home this season, and only Mark DeRosa poses any real historical threat against him. While this should not have you benching Pujols, it should not have you concerned about starting Rodriguez.
- Max Scherzer has been impressive of late. He has not allowed more than three earned runs in any of his last seven starts. The Diamondbacks starter has held opponents to a .231 BAA on the road, despite his 2-3 record. Colorado is a different animal, but Scherzer has proven that he can just flat-out pitch.
- There was some concern over Aaron Cook missing his start before the All-Star break with stomach and back issues. He pitched well against the Padres, though, even striking out eight hitters. While he did not get a win last time out against Arizona, he pitched well enough to get a win. Still have to like Chad Tracy to get a start in this one, with his 20-for-47 numbers against Cook.
- Joe Blanton has pitched well, and the Cubs only have limited at-bats against him. Still, though, even a 4-for-11 like Alfonso Soriano has is worth a play. Blanton's last eight starts have largely been impressive, but something still does not sit right. The Cubs have some struggles on offense, but Blanton is still a risk to start.
- Spot Starts: Dallas Braden, Randy Wolf, Chad Gaudin
- The Rangers may look to have a good team average against Tim Wakefield, but much of that is skewed by the performance of Omar Vizquel, who they are not likely to play. Hank Blalock, Michael Young, Ian Kinsler, and Andruw Jones are all below .235 against the Boston starter in at least 11 at-bats.
- Do not read into Jamie Moyer's last outing as a sign of things to come. Moyer destroys the Marlins and Nationals, but that's about it. The Cubs are going to be a much more patient team against him, and will make owners remember who is actually pitching. His 6.79 ERA at home does not scream "start me."
- Aubrey Huff is 7-for-48 against A.J. Burnett in his career, and should be avoided in this one. Nick Markakis and Brian Roberts are always good plays and both are above .300 against Burnett. Luke Scott has gone 4-for-8 against the Yankee starter in his career.
- Mark DeRosa has gone 10-for-23 against Roy Oswalt. Look to Rick Ankiel as well, as he is 5-for-16 against the Astros starter. No major red flags in this one beyond Chris Duncan and Yadier Molina. Duncan is 4-for-22 while Molina checks in at 2-for-13 lifetime against Oswalt.
- Jeff Suppan is much more effective on the road than he is at home. He has gone 4-2 outside of Milwaukee with a 3.29 ERA. The Pirates have hit him well overall, with most of your regulars going over .300 against him. Issue is, that is basically only three players with a track record. Suppan is nothing more than a deep league and NL-only fringe play, but if you must use him, on the road is the better bet.
- Spot Starts: Paul Maholm, Ubaldo Jimenez, Joe Saunders