Man, I am full. Full, full, full. I just finished up the most awesome steak ever. I actually cooked it on the grill, and I can generally cook a steak well but I've never quite nailed one the way I just did. Toss in my newly discovered steak rub - which makes Paul Prudhomme look like an amateur - and that was just the perfect way to wrap up a father's day that included a viewing of Toy Story 3, which was pretty good. You're the best ever, WonderbabyTM.
And thanks for everything, dad.
WHO WAS AWESOME
1. Scott Baker. This guy is maddening, isn't he? He always looks incredibly stressed on the mound and looks like he's going to cry if he gives up a run, and at times is wound up so tight he can't put the ball anywhere near where he wants to and gets destroyed and is extremely proficient in allowing home runs. Then, just when you think he's no better than an end of the rotation type, he busts off a game like Wednesday against Colorado when he allowed just 2 hits and struck out 12 over 7 innings, and was basically unhittably brilliant. He does this just enough to tease. A 3-hitter in 8 against Baltimore earlier this year. The two near no-hitters. Multiple games with more strikeouts than innings or 7 ips or better and 3 or less hits. When he's good, he's very good. Unfortunately he's about as consistent as Ron Artest's jumper.
2. Ron Artest. Speaking of Ron-Ron, you got to hand it to the guy, he got his title and game up huge in the biggest game of his career. He scored 20 (against a season average of 11), pulled down 5 boards, and grabbed 5 steals all while playing excellent defense on Paul Pierce who was just 5-15 in Game 7 and shot just 38% for the finals in Staples. Artest also hit the biggest shot of the game, and thus the series, with his 3-pointer with just a minute left in the game. Celtics were down by three, and with the shot clock winding down he let go with a heave despite being fairly well covered. It was the exact shot the Celtics would have wanted to see the Lakers take in that situation, it just happened to go in and now Artest is a hero. He's clearly insane, although I blame Stephen Jackson more for that brawl than Artest, but is there anything more entertaining than an insane person who is also deliriously happy? I think his post-game interview answered that question.
3. Wimpy, limp-wristed, slap-hitting Twins. Specifically, Matt Tolbert, Nick Punto, and Drew Butera. All three of those little wiener kids hit a home run this week. And Tolbert also kicked in two doubles and a triple this week. Punto overall hit .450 this week and had four multi-hit games. And even Butera hit .667 and is now the proud owner of a 2-game hitting streak. Those five total bases he had this week? Just one shy of his season total previously. I suppose getting production from anywhere is a good thing, even if it means Gardy is going to feel validated going with these clowns as often as he does, and assuring that we are going to be in for a lifetime supply of Matt Tolbert and Matt Tolbert clones as long as Billy Smith and Gardenhire are in charge. Oh joy.
4. Josh Johnson. You know, in all the Ubaldo hoo-ha, we seem to be missing out on the fact that Mr. Johnson is having a pretty damn good season for the Marlins. This week he pitched twice, going 7 innings on Tuesday, allowing just four hits and one run and striking out seven, and then following that up on Sunday by going 8 innings, allowing six hits and again one run and striking out nine. Those two starts drop his ERA to 1.80 with a WHIP of just 0.98. In exactly 100 innings he's struck out 98 while giving away just 26 walks and allowing only 72 hits. In short, he's having an insane, incredible, out of this world season. So try to remember that as Ubaldo marches toward 30 victories with an ERA under 1.00.
5. Chicago White Sox. I still hate them, and always will, but it's time to recognize that the Sox are playing pretty good ball. Yeah, I know their six game winning streak has come against the Pirates and the Nationals so it's not like they're playing world beaters, but the week prior including winning 2 of 3 against the Tigers, and they've cut the Twins lead over them to 5.5 games and are within four of the Tigers - close enough that it's maybe time to take notice. Their hitting is still pretty poor, but the pitching is starting to come around, with Danks and Peavy each pitching a gem and Gavin Floyd tossing two, and Freddy Garcia and Buehrle having a couple of nice outings as well. I'm not worried, because any team with Bobby Jenks as a closer isn't scary, but we might need to start paying some attention here.
1. Nick Blackburn. Yuck. One and 2/3rds innings and 8 runs allowed? I praised Baker earlier for hitting one of the good squares on the wheel of random, and it seems Blackie hit the big double-zero. And that's why I really hope they trade for Cliff Lee, even if it includes trading Wilson Ramos. Baker, Blackburn, Pavano, and Slowey are all way too random and way too inconsistent. All of those guys have games where they get destroyed too often. Liriano is the only Twins pitcher who when he takes the mound you know you have a chance to win every time. Those other guys have too many games where they get destroyed early and the game is basically over. Blackburn just gave up 8 earned runs. Cliff Lee (since becoming good in 2008) has never allowed 8 earned runs in a game. He also pitched less than 4 innings in a game just three times in three years. Blackburn has done in it three of his last four games. Lee also has failed to pitch at least seven innings just once this year.
The current four are fine and they'll win some games and probably get you to the playoffs, but if the Twins want to make any kind of a run they need another top-shelf arm. Go get Cliff Lee, Mr. Smith. Just do it.
[UPDATE: Funny story. I wrote the above on Saturday morning. Not more like five hours later, Kevin Slowey helps hammer my point home by not getting out of the second inning, going just one and 2/3rds innings and giving up 7 runs. Which is less than Blackburn, so I guess that's an improvement. Please Billy. Go get Cliffy.]
2. Europe. A lot of people think Europe is full of smelly, non-showering drunks with bad teeth, but that's not what I'm referring to here. I actually enjoyed the hell out of Europe the one time we visited, so I have nothing but love for those weirdos. But I have to admit that they suck at soccer. And I'm talking about all of Europe, I'm talking about the big boys who were supposed to be title contenders and are now going to have to struggle to make it out of group play; specifically Germany, France, Spain, Italy, and England.
England tied with both the U.S. and Algeria. France tied Uruguay and got rolled by Mexico 2-0 and is almost certainly out of the playoffs or whatever they call the tournament part. Germany destroyed Australia 4-0 in their opener and was looking like a possible juggernaut, but then got beat by Serbia, and Spain, who was maybe the strongest European team, lost their opener to a bunch of mincing nancies from Switzerland. Italy might have had the biggest mismatch of the pool round, going against a pretty crappy New Zealand squad, but even they couldn't pick up a win, playing the Kiwis to a draw at 1-1. Even though the continent has some nice surprise teams like the Netherlands and Slovenia, it is an ugly, ugly Cup so far for the Euros. Probably a good time to invade. Pay attention Obama.
3. Manny Corpas. Corpas, the Rockies' current closer, had himself a pretty awesome weekend. He had been pretty solid, saving nine of his last ten opportunities, and not being over remotely shaky in those chances, giving up no runs and more than one hit just once. The this weekend happened. First, on Saturday, he came in to save a game against the Brewers only two give up two singles and then a game-tying home run to the suddenly superstar Corey Hart. Then, on Sunday, he had a chance to redeem himself, coming in again in the ninth, this time in a 1-1 tie against the Brew Crew. Just to mix it up a bit, he didn't even bother getting an out, giving up three doubles (amongst other things) on his way to allowing five runs and turning a tie game into a 6-1 loss. For christ's sake, Trevor Hoffman got people out in that game. Trevor. Hoffman.
4. Baltimore Orioles. God they're just so bad. They're now 19-50 (19-50!!!!!), and there aren't really any signs of getting better. Their two young pitchers of the future, Chris Tillman and Jake Arrieta went with their Blackburn/Slowey impersonation this weekend against the offensive juggernaut that is the Padres, with neither of them getting to the fourth, and Tillman's ERA is now over 8 and he's been shuttled off to the bullpen - a great, great way to help build the confidence of one your building blocks. And speaking of building blocks, two of the supposed biggest - Matt Wieters and Adam Jones - have been absolutely terrible this year. I don't know if it's still true, but I read somewhere earlier in the week that there are three teams in the NL whose pitchers have a collective slugging percentage greater than the Orioles' first basemen. Yuck. No matter what they try to do, it seems they'll never turn this thing around and get better. The curse of Jeffrey Maier lives on.
5. Dustin Johnson. It's not often you see someone totally dominate and then completely and completely fall apart all in one weekend. He raced out at Pebble, shooting 71-70 in the first two rounds, and then had a monster 66 on Saturday to set himself up with a three shot lead over Graeme McDowell and a five shot lead over Tiger, who was alone in third place. Since he had won the previous two tournaments held at Pebble Beach, it was looking like a possible runaway situation. He then came out on Sunday and threw up all over the place He triple-bogeyed the second, double-bogeyed the third, and bogeyed the fourth. He ended up with five more bogeys on the day (and zero birdies) to finish up with a +11 round of 82. Nightmare. The fall from the first three rounds to the final round would be just like the Ohio State football program turning into the Gophers. Yeah, it was seriously that bad.
And I want to give a special shout-out to Hunter Mahan. Thanks for making me look like an ass, jerkface. That's two majors this year, two guys I was absolutely convinced were going to win, and two guys who missed the cut, and not only missed it, but were basically already so far out of it after one day that they would have had to pull out a miraculous second round just to stay alive for the weekend. Obviously, neither of them did. You can now consider Mahan on my list along with Furyk. Betrayers! The both of them! J'Accuse!