Twelve Thoughts: Cardinal Sins, Zach Lee, Colombian Connection
When the Cardinals play their "A" game, they look capable of beating anybody. Yet they've been prone to more lapses this year than a typical Tony La Russa team.
Great for the Cardinals that they swept the rival Reds after Cincinnati's Brandon Phillips called them out. But the great teams generally don't need external prodding.
• California is home to the Yankee fan who is not so sophisticated.
You see them when the Evil Empire visits Southern California. On their Yankee jersey above the No. 2 is Jeter's name. Saw a few of these in the stands two months ago. If baseball had fashion police, these folks would be fined for felony redundancy.
• West Coast Bias is growing to really like Dick Enberg, the play-by-play announcer for the Padres.
"How about this one," Enberg told me with a shake of the head. "Sporting News Radio had two experts on, talking about the surprises in baseball this season, and the one guy doesn't even mention the Padres. Later in the discussion, he gets asked again, and he still doesn't talk about the Padres."
• Hearing ESPN interview a Phillies broadcaster, Enberg would've let out another incredulous chuckle.
Upshot was that Charlie Manuel should be manager of the year if the Phils reach the playoffs, because injuries have been such a test. Sounded like the Pentagon should award Purple Hearts to the Phils.
Not once was Bud Black mentioned. This just in: Black's Padres (72-47) are next-to-last in payroll, first in the National League in victories and ahead of their preseason over-under line.
• Grab Chargers tight end Antonio Gates for your fantasy football team
Take it from West Coast Bias, no Chargers player was angrier than Gates about the playoff loss to the Jets eight months ago. Gates, though, was unusually upbeat this week when I asked him if he's moved past that defeat. "That's a feeling you always try to remember," he said. "What it does is motivate you to never want to come back to that feeling."
I told Gates that the Chargers choked against the Jets; he didn't disagree.
• Matt Kemp's agent is a funny man.
Dave Stewart, either defending or enabling his client, blasted Dodgers coaches for publicly admitting to their frustration with Kemp. Funny, as pitching coach of the Padres, Stew often talked tough to his pitchers through the local newspapers. I know, because I was quoting him in 1998.
Several pitchers, notably Sterling Hitchcock and Joey Hamilton, seemed to respond to Stew's pulp friction.
• The Mariners gained a few IQ points recently.
Seattle is starting to eye Padres bench coach Ted Simmons for its managerial job. Padres players past and present say Simmons is part of the Padres' rise.
It's not clear that Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik will have total say-so, but he and Simmons are longtime friends who worked together with the Pirates and the Brewers. Earlier this summer, the Marlins gathered information on Simmons for their managerial search.
• Congratulations to the Dodgers for joining the party.
As noted here in June, baseball's two-sport exemption gave the Dodgers a chance to sign first-round pick Zach Lee, and the club got that done this week. The Dodgers played to their strengths, trusting in scouts such as Gib Bodet who've hit for a high batting average with high school players.
"Zach Lee obviously watched a lot of John Smoltz growing up -- his mannerisms are similar," said an American League scout who rated Lee the best high school pitcher in the draft.
The Dodgers have been remiss in reseeding what was a rich farm system, at a time when the Red Sox and other revenue giants have made a habit of inking tough-to-sign amateurs. Kudos to GM Ned Colletti, who's also pressing ownership for a bigger international budget, notably in Venezuela.
• When his single won the 1997 World Series for the Marlins, Edgar Renteria set in motion events that would make life tougher for both him and the Giants in 2010.
"I was watching in Colombia, and when I saw that hit by Edgar Renteria, I decided that I was going to play baseball," Padres reliever Ernesto Frieri told FanHouse.
Frieri was 12 years old then, playing only soccer. Signed in 2003 by the Padres for $12,000, Frieri joined the team a month ago and strengthened a bullpen that was the NL's best. With help from Frieri, who had an ERA of 0.75 after 14 games, the Padres are pulling away from the second-place Giants.
• However the Padres spin it, the Karsten Whitson saga is a blow that begs an in-house review.
The Padres rated Whitson as the best high school pitcher in the entire draft and no worse than the fourth-best player overall. So why didn't they sign him after drafting him ninth? GM Jed Hoyer told the club's flagship radio station (1090-AM) that Whitson's camp declined both a draft-day deal and a sweetened offer of $2.1 million. But perhaps the Padres didn't know Whitson or those close to him as well as they thought.
Believing Whitson would go to the University of Florida, some clubs were wary of drafting him.
• The Potomac Swamp Gnats can give the Padres a pep talk.
After failing to sign Aaron Crow, the pitcher they drafted ninth overall in 2008, the Gnats used the compensatory pick on Drew Storen last year. The former Stanford closer is having a big rookie season.
• Angels prospect Mike Trout, pictured right, is still triggering hyperbole alerts.
Scouts say Trout's combination of speed and size is Mantle-like. Trout, 6-foot-1 and 217 pounds, consistently clocks at 3.9 seconds to first base from the right side.
Whether Trout can handle advanced pitching remains to be seen, but the center fielder turned 19 only this month and is in advanced Single-A with a .287 batting average and .365 on-base percentage.