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The Baseball Cluster: Ken Griffey Jr. Sleeping and Trey Hillman Packing

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The Baseball Cluster: Ken Griffey Jr. Sleeping and Trey Hillman Packing
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THE MEAT OF THE ORDER

Every week there are three things I deem to be really important. It's kind of like the "meat" of my lineup. This week, there is only two because my DH is on the disabled list.

1. Trey Hillman Fired

I’m a little shocked that the Kansas City Royals decided to pull the trigger on firing Trey Hillman this early. Not so much because I believed the vote of confidence that Drayton Moore cast in favor of Hillman, though.

You would think that a team in the Royals position would realize the manager isn’t the problem, but maybe the talent is just too far away. They’ve got some talent, but they need someone at this level that can help develop the talent they do have.

Quite frankly, it isn’t there. I don’t really know if Hillman is to blame for Alex Gordon’s failures, but this team shouldn’t be concerned about winning ball games. If the culture isn’t there, or the development isn’t there, than firing Hillman was a good move.

And maybe Ned Yost is a good choice to take over. He did a great job with Milwaukee as they brought up their young core of players throughout the years.

But I thought Hillman was doing an admirable job of what he did have to work with. That being said, Hillman is probably just another gear in this cycle for the Royals. They look like the Pirates in terms of just going around and around in this vicious circle.

The drastic difference is some of the players the Royals advance through their system. Players like Alex Gordon and Luke Hochevar are high-prized prospects that should be finished off at the MLB level. Is Hillman to be blamed for that?

Guess the Royals believe he is.

2. Don’t rock the crib, Junior is asleep.

The Seattle Mariners have lost 10 games in the final at-bat this season. While I’m not sure Ken Griffey Jr. and the rest of the Mariners veterans are to blame, you’d expect a team with the veterans they have to be better in these situations.

That is beside the point, though. The big story this week concerning Griffey and the Mariners is the whole “Was he asleep in the clubhouse or not?” debacle. Reporter Larry Larue credits two young Seattle players in finding Griffey asleep at his locker when he was needed for a pinch-hit appearance.

Not only has Griffey refuted the rumor, the Mariners have collectively banded together in claiming what happened isn’t true and even going as far as not speaking to Larue during sessions with the media.

This all has gotten real ugly and real fast. Initially ESPN reporters like Buster Olney and Tim Kurkijan both said Larue is respected and wouldn’t make something like this up or hastily report something.

The Tacoma News Tribune came out through Griffey’s agent saying the story was published by accident, which doesn’t make any sense to me, but now that it appears Larue is on his way out, it kind of makes sense.

Regardless of what really happened, Griffey isn’t hitting right now and there should be some serious thought put into what to do with him.

Was Larue publishing an unfounded rumor based on an agenda like some believe? Is Seattle’s little boycott of Larue silly and sophomoric? Only the players involved know, but what we do know is that the central figure in this, Griffey, is the one that needs to perform regardless.

Seattle probably won’t cut ties with him out of respect, but if they are going to turn it around, he needs to at least hold his own in what little playing time he gets.

 

THAT'S JUST WEIRD, MAN

Baseball never has a shortage of weird and wacky statistics or situations. These are those situations. Cue the "Law and Order" chime.

Why is everyone falling asleep? In addition to the debacle that has gone on with Ken Griffey Jr., Mets announcer Keith Hernandez fell asleep during a game the Saturday before last. Sometimes I wonder if people in the radio booths take naps if I don’t hear them for awhile, so I believe this is totally possible.

Many know Hernandez from his mustache and I’m always fascinated by players and their facial hair tendencies during a season, especially if someone tries to pull of a Keith Hernandez.

Matt LaPorta has the early makings of a mustache and while this picture is from a few days ago, it still is visible. My guess is that he decided to do it after a double he hit on Thursday. It might be working after LaPorta hit his first home run of the year on Sunday.

LaPorta knows about the seagulls that invaded Progressive Field last year (and guess what, they made their reappearance this past week!) but it’s safe to say that Twins players have to adjust to life with the birds.

We’ve seen the Minnesota fans have to deal with rain and weather due to their new outdoor stadium, but now they must also battle nature. During Thursday’s game against another bird (the Orioles) most fans had their attention turned to a bird that was resting on the right field foul pole.

Reportedly it was a falcon chewing on moths. Sounds delicious.

There is no clever way to tie in a falcon and Tim Stauffer diagnosing appendicitis on his iPhone. Yes, the Padres pitcher didn’t feel right, pulled out his iPhone and correctly diagnosed himself. Every time I pull up WebMD I think I’ve acquired a fatal disease. Those sites scare me.

Remember last week when we found out that recently released Eric Byrnes would be joining a softball team, rather than trying to catch on with another major league club? Turns out that wasn’t a joke and neither are his softball skills, thankfully.

Byrnes said he didn’t give up on baseball and he’s good with leaving the way he did knowing full well that his time has come up. Byrnes got a chance to extract some revenge off the coach that didn’t take him for a Little League team 25 years ago.

 

YOUR LUKE HOCHEVAR UPDATE

Every week we look at Luke Hochevar, because a first-round pick needs pressure, even if he plays for Royals.

Last Week's Line: 1 GS, 0-1, 6.1 IP, 7 H, 5 R, 2 BB, 3 K

Our boy Luke Hochevar turned in another shaky outing after his short four-run performance against Texas the previous week. He’s now 3-2 with a 5.86 ERA in 43 innings pitched this year.

Hochevar has now given up at least four runs in four of his last five outings and he’s lost three of those games and very well could have lost all four.

Hochevar is slated to go this upcoming Thursday against Cleveland, which means I get my first look at him this season.

 

I'M A STAT MAN

I'm not really a big statistics guy, but I guess it's better than being a scat man, because I don't know what that is.

We might as well lead off strong, quite like Dan Haren did last week when the first nine outs he recorded were strikeouts. I’ll finish stronger than he did though.

Some more factoids rolling in from that Dallas Braden perfect game on Mother’s Day a week ago. The Rays being involved in the last two perfect games has created some fun facts for the future, but the coolest one involves Gabe Kapler.

According to the St. Petersburg Times, the Tampa outfielder is the first player ever to bat in the ninth inning of two perfect games.

Braden’s encore performance wasn’t too bad, but he ran into a stellar outing by Joe Saunders. Braden threw a complete game and is the second pitcher ever to throw a complete game following a perfect game. The other was Lenny Barker in 1981.

Mat Latos was one measly hit away from throwing a perfect game of his own. The Padres pitcher shutdown the San Francisco Giants big time last week and was actually his own offensive support, as he knocked in the only run of the game.

Latos is just one of the many Padres pitchers who seem to be more than just pushovers with the bat. Padres pitchers are hitting .227 on the season with nine RBI. That’s better than or just as good as some nine-hole hitters in the American League!

Lou Marson - .221 AVG, 1 RBI; Cesar Izturis - .206 AVG, 6 RBI; Jack Wilson - .253 AVG, 7 RBI; Nick Punto - .262 AVG, 9 RBI; Adam Everett - .193 AVG, 2 RBI; Brandon Wood - .170 AVG, 7 RBI

Oh and Ronny Cedeno hit .205 during his stint as the No. 9 hitter for the Pirates. I’d be ashamed if I were those players.

Omar Vizquel was a light-hitter coming into the league, but he has since turned himself into a very capable bat. Still he was never really a designated hitter because he was so valuable defensively. Plus he played on teams with Manny Ramirez, Travis Hafner, Jim Thome, and Albert Belle.

But Vizquel got his first career appearance at designated hitter this past week in his 22-year career. There’s a first for everything, even the 43-year-old Vizquel.

Alright we need some muscle, all this light hitting talk is making me feel like we don’t have enough flash in The Cluster. The Braves manned up and broke a 235-consecutive-game streak without a grand slam this past week.

That seems like a long time for one franchise not to do that.

Put it this way, two teammates have had at least five hits in the same game more times in that 235-game span, which is weird because you’d think that feat would be tougher to accomplish.

Friday both Andrew McCutchen and Garrett Jones combined to go 10-for-11 while the rest of the Pirates lineup went 6-for-31. They are also the first pair of five-hit teammates to homer in each game since 1999 when Mo Vaughn and Randy Velarde did it for the Angels.

Let’s keep up the scoring with a nice little bit from Elias. Only three teams in the past 30 years have done what the Cleveland Indians did on Saturday night against Baltimore.

They scored all eight of their runs in the ninth inning after being shutout for the previous eight.

The last time it was done was in 2005 when the Phillies cored 10 against the Marlins and before that, 1983 when the Athletics did it to Cleveland.

Finally, remember last week when I brought up the point about Zack Greinke starting the season 0-5 as a Cy Young winner? Well he won his start against Cleveland, preventing that from happening, but I found out that Frank Viola started 0-5 a year after he won the Cy Young award. Turns out I just had to go back one more year to 1989 to find that out.

 

THE UTILITY PLAYER

For all the stuff that defies categorization, this is the utility player of the weekly feature. We play everywhere and anywhere here!

We cover a lot of stuff in The Utility Player, which is why it is named as such. However this week we are all over the place and there really is no good place to start.

Starlin Castro committed three errors in game (welcome to the big leagues, kid), Pat Burrell was designated for assignment, and Oliver Perez was finally moved to the bullpen. All important stories, but I actually have much bigger fish to fry this week.

Jose Valverde has always been one of those guys who probably over-celebrates after he nails down a save. But he is in the mold of a Joba Chamberlain and Francisco Rodriguez in terms of being very emotional.

Chamberlain is probably a reason that many of the Yankees had no problem with Valverde’s excessive fist-pumping after he shut one down against New York this past week.

The Dallas Morning News had a story about how the Texas Rangers have joined in the trend of scouting umpires. Yes teams are now tracking umpires in terms of ball and strike consistency and even what location the crew is coming from.

The basic balls and strikes are nice for a pitcher and catcher to know, but does where the umpire crew come from really matter? How can you really impact the game by knowing this information?

Carlos Guillen on the move again, this time to second base in place of Scott Sizemore, who was optioned to Triple-A Toledo after opening the season as the Tigers starting second baseman. Sizemore was hitting just .206.

The Tigers are getting tremendous production from the other rookie that started the season, Austin Jackson, so they can’t be all that disappointed.

Oh and that Brennan Boesch guy, he’s doing pretty well, too.

Why do these stories from the Phillies not interest me? Last week it was the fan getting tased and this week it is binocular gate. As I’m sure you’ve heard, the Phillies were slapped on the wrist for using binoculars in the bullpen. The Rockies were not really, who would be?

Were they stealing signs? Who really knows, maybe they were. Point is stealing signs is a part of the game. Using binoculars to do so, however, is not. You would think a team would know better, but people do what they can to get the upper hand.

This story about the Phillies does interest me. Turns out they are gaining three home games due to a G20 Summit in Toronto. The Jays and Phillies series slated for later in June is being moved from Toronto to Philadelphia, instead of say, to a neutral site?

When Vernon Wells was told that Cleveland was a possibility (and actually quite convenient since the team would be traveling there to start a series the day after the Phillies series) he remarked that they would “then have to spend a week in Cleveland.”

Look I’m not a Cleveland apologist or anything, but why does the city get such a bad rap from some players? Is it the greatest city ever? No, but being a little more courteous didn’t hurt anyone.

I have to call out the MLB here. Obviously with the whole Mother’s Day thing the MLB embraces the use of Pink wristbands, bats, batting gloves, etc. However they put the kibosh on Matt Wieters wearing a chest protector with pink padding and his mother’s name etched into the collar.

It’s their own fault for starting the thing. They should just let Wieters do his thing instead of looking like a bad guy by stopping something they basically opened the gates to.

Finally, on the subject of catchers, remember Greg Zaun’s issues last week? Jarrod Saltalamacchia has been having some issues of his own down at Triple-A and it may be the reason he hasn’t been called back up.

 

"HE'S GARBAGE, STILL GARBAGE, GOING TO DIE AS GARBAGE"

The above is Ozzie Guillen's feelings towards columnist Jay Mariotti. It is the representation for The Cluster’s section on weekly rants.

This originally was in the following section as it was going to transition nicely from our Tweet of the Week, but it kind of stroked a fire with me.

Bengie Molina is not pleased with ESPN for emphasizing his…lack of speed?

I actually agree with Molina 100 percent on what he’s saying and it is part of the problem I personally have with ESPN.

I can complain all I want about the other things, but the fact that actual highlights have taken a serious hit over the years is the most infuriating part about ESPN and Sportscenter.

The Molina stuff aside, why is that the only highlight you are showing in a game that, as Molina pointed out, had plenty of highlights to recap?

Then you add in the fact that they are throwing him under the bus. Their not-top ten plays is funny once a week when they do it, but is there any reason to, basically as Bengie said, humiliate a ballplayer who simply isn’t fast?

The answer would be no. Would anyone like to invest in the MLB Network for me?

 

AWAY FROM THE DIAMOND

Everything from Rasmus girl to the latest commercials, this is your weekly update about things that really have nothing to do with baseball on the field.

I’m going to lead off this section with the latest and greatest feature of The Cluster that is sweeping the nation. I’m of course talking about Tweet of the Week!

Matt Antonelli is quickly becoming the dominator of this newly born feature after he churned out this gem on Wednesday.

Woah this is weird...the Yankees are on ESPN tonight”

He narrowly beats out Brett Anderson who, despite being very mundane and quick, watches a ton of The Office , which is very respectable by my standards.

From The Office to Letterman, Dallas Braden appearing on the show only made sense after he achieved superstar like status for the week after he did something only 18 other players in the history of baseball have done.

He used that opportunity to do Top Ten and of course his landmark line was “Grandma was right, stick it A-Rod.” Oh boy this feud will just not die.

And neither will this Jason Varitek story. I think I’ve seen Boston Mayor Thomas Menino say “Varitek splitting the uprights” quite enough already. But I credit Varitek with the greatest part of the story.

Varitek told the Boston Globe that he actually did some kicking and punting for his high school football team. Someone should really tell Mayor Menino his mistake actually wasn’t that horrible.

Okay it was pretty bad; you are the mayor of Boston.

There is joy in Cincinnati as Uncle Phil’s Düsseldorf Mustard has returned to the Great American Ballpark. I don’t know where it went or why it went away (who takes Mustard away from a baseball stadium?) but thankfully it is back. I’m not really a fan of mustard, but no fan base should be deprived of it.

Some say that the brown ballpark mustard at Progressive Field is some of the greatest mustard ever. I don’t like mustard, period, so I can’t say for sure.

 

GOOD DEED OF THE WEEK

Because we aren't all fun and games, I highlight one good deed that I've come across in the world of baseball. If you know of one, please send it my way.

Love the idea of the Civil Rights game that seems to have become a tradition every year now in Major League Baseball. Also love the spotlight it puts on their Reviving Baseball in the Inner Cities program.

Shift focus to people like Mike Collins and Vince Ward, who are just two of the people doing what they can to increase the presence of African-American kids playing baseball.

And then you have the Reds who are doing their part in the RBI program by coordinating an offseason academy that will focus on younger kids.

Overall it’s just good to know some of the strong initiatives that are out there.

 

AND THIS WEEK IN THE CENTRAL

Every week we take a look at the latest happening in one of the game’s Central divisions. Why? Because it provides us with the most entertainment, that’s why!

The Cincinnati Reds are in first place.

WHAT?!

The Cincinnati Reds are in first place!

I sort of feel dignified, even though we are only halfway through May, that the Reds are in first place because I picked them to finish at least second in the division. In a way, it feels like vindication.

On the flip side, this became possible due to the poor play of the St. Louis Cardinals, who I fully expect to snap out of it soon enough. They’ve lost seven of their last ten and their ace, Adam Wainwright, went toe-to-toe with rookie Mike Leake and lost.

It’s going to be a long summer, but the initial fight from the Reds is a positive to see, especially for the likes of people that picked them to do well this season.

 

FOR THE LOVE OF GLOVE

Each week I pick my top three defensive plays, because Ozzie Smith didn't make the Hall of Fame for swinging the stick.

3. Ike Taylor gets an eight for his catch; his teammates get the other two for being brave enough to catch him.

2. We talked about the misfortunes of Seattle earlier and this was one of them. Yeah props to Corey Patterson but this was all Matt Wieters.

1. Little did Denard Span know, he would later rob Derek Jeter of a hit, but even his play did not top the highway robbery that Brett Gardner pulled off.

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Nino Colla writes "The Baseball Cluster" every week, or so he hopes. If you've got something that you think fits one of the sections, send him a private message. All absurdities are welcome.

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