April 2008

Berkman NL Player of the Week

Lance Berkman of the Houston Astros has been named Bank of America Presents the National League Player of the Week for the period ending April 27th. Bank of America, the Official Bank of Major League Baseball, is the presenting sponsor of the National League and American League Player of the Week Awards, which reflect Bank of America’s long-standing tradition of promoting and recognizing higher standards of accomplishment.

Berkman led the National League with 12 RBI and a 1.136 slugging percentage and tied for the N.L. lead with four home runs and 25 total bases. The 32-year-old first baseman hit .455 (10-22), including one double and one triple, and recorded a .517 on-base percentage. On April 24th at Cincinnati, the four-time All-Star went 3-for-3, including a three-run home run and a double. The home run was the 18th of his career at Great American Ball Park, giving him the most for any opposing player at the park since its 2003 opening. The Rice University product hit two homers against St. Louis on Saturday. Lance recorded three multi-hit games and four multi-RBI games and hit safely in six of seven games en route to capturing his third career weekly award.

Other nominees this past week included Berkman’s teammate Miguel Tejada (.414, 1 HR, 7 RBI); Washington’s John Lannan (2-0, 0.00 ERA, 7 SO); Arizona’s Brandon Webb (2-0, 2.25 ERA, 12 SO); Colorado’s Garrett Atkins (.344, 3 HR, 9 RBI); Philadelphia’s Pat Burrell (.375, 2 HR, 8 RBI), Chase Utley (.379, 2 HR, 4 RBI) and Jayson Werth (.323, 4 HR, 7 RBI); Cincinnati’s Edwin Encarnacion (.357, 2 HR, 3 RBI), Brandon Phillips (.321, 4 HR, 8 RBI) and Edinson Volquez (2-0, 1.29 ERA, 17 SO); James Loney (.300, 8 RBI), Russell Martin (.524, 3 2B, 3 RBI) and Brad Penny (2-0, 2.77 ERA, 6 SO) of the Dodgers; Aramis Ramirez (.296, 2 HR, 8 RBI) and Carlos Zambrano (2-0, 0.64 ERA, 9 SO) of the Cubs; Florida’s Hanley Ramirez (.273, 3 HR, 4 RBI), Dan Uggla (.393, 4 RBI) and Josh Willingham (.458, 2 HR, 7 RBI); Pittsburgh’s Xavier Nady (.296, 4 2B, 8 RBI) and Paul Maholm (2-0, 1.20 ERA, 8 SO); Albert Pujols (.455, 6 RBI) and Adam Wainwright (1-0, 2.81 ERA, 12 SO) of the Cardinals; Atlanta’s Matt Diaz (.391, 3 RBI); Milwaukee’s Prince Fielder (.304, 3 HR, 7 RBI); Luis Castillo (.429, 2 RBI) of the Mets; San Diego’s Adrian Gonzalez (.296, 2 HR, 8 RBI); and San Francisco’s Fred Lewis (.393, 2 HR, 5 RBI).

Tourneau, the world’s largest watch store, will award Lance Berkman with a luxury Swiss Timepiece, suitably engraved, in recognition of his accomplishments as Bank of America Presents the National League Player of the Week.

OK. Tejada fudged his age. So what?

The news is already making the rounds on MLB.com, Chron.com and even on those emails Roto League owners subscribe to for their breaking news.

Miguel Tejada lied about his age ever since he was signed by the Oakland A’s back in 1993, when he was signed by then scout and current Dominican Sports Minister, Hall of Famer Juan Marichal.

So Tejada wasn’t really born on May 25, 1976, as originally stated even on the Astros media guide, but two years before, in 1974. That means Tejada will turn 34 next month.

Has Tejada something to be ashamed of? Not really. It’s true that he wasn’t a hundred percent truthful when he turned in his data, and it’s totally true that he is not the first nor will be the last Latin ballplayer to do something like that.

José de Jesús Ortiz just stated in his blog something I will have to repeat. You have to go to our countries, see the poverty and misery these kids grow up with. They play with balls made of cardboard and duct tape, and hit it with broomsticks turned into bats. As a matter of fact, Tejada’s story is quite well documented and you can look it up.

You try to picture yourself with that choice, of a ticket on your way out of that misery and few opportunities, and into a life of glory and economical stability. Then you’ll realize fudging about your age is not such a bad thing after all. Our Latin baseball history is full of similar cases. Even cases of players who were thought of being born on a different month just because in the Spanish Language when stating a date the structure is of day/month/year, instead of month/day/year as used in the English language.

Tejada himself would have been the one confessing the truth to Houston GM Ed Wade, when he realized a new era was about to start with the Astros, and we can only applaud him for that. I don’t want to sound like singing Tejada’s praises one note too many, but if there’s a baseball player loved in the Dominican Republic because of his actions, is precisely the shortstop born in Baní. He has turned the blessings he has received through baseball into huge sums of charity work. He has never stopped playing in his country. He has not forgotten his humble beginnings.

So don’t think Tejada is looking for your compassion by excusing his age fudging with his story of poverty. Because it’s the whole truth. And there’s nothing else to it.

PS: Wow. Wikipedia is fast.

Closing in on a dilemma

311xInlineGallery.jpgEarly today, everyone who greeted me, called me, even those who sent me SMS or emails, said hi to me with two words.

José Valverde.

I believe everyone remembered me about what happened at Philly on Tuesday. A friend of mine said he could only think of my face watching that meltdown. Why describe it, right? The ballgame was going 3-0 Astros. Shawn Chacon pitched one heck of a ballgame. Obviously, Cecil Cooper relied on his closer to finish things off.

But finishing things off was the least thing for Valverde. The Phils took advantage and ended up with a walk-off victory, leaving the ‘Stros looking for answers.

Talk radio was almost explosive today. Many people trying to make sense of what happened. Many will tell you Valverde’s amazing 2007 was a fluke, so he’s returning to his usual, iffy self.

Tonight, Roy Oswalt did what he’s expected of him. Pitched wonders. Cooper went this time with Doug Brocail. A perfect excuse: Valverde threw too much last night, the guy’s arm must be tired. The experiment ended up nicely. Brocail got his first save in approximately 3 years. Astros win.

Tuesday was Valverde’s second blown save this season. Let’s be clear about this. This is just beginning. There’s a lot of baseball left to be played. Valverde will bounce back. I can almost assure you that.

But it is also true that if Valverde keeps on failing, now the Astros have something they haven’t had in ages: Options. Cooper has chips to gamble this time around. That makes me breathe a bit easier tonight.

So bad that talking and worrying so much about Valverde will make us stop thinking about what a great ballplayer Michael Bourn is, and how great starting pitching for this team has become, instead of being that huge burden they were supposed to carry.

Welcome home

r1901214050.jpgWe’ve heard a lot about the Astros’ initial woes. That’s our topic for a feature at astrosdehouston.com, the official Spanish-language website of your Houston Astros. For those of you already swearing to tune in to Grey’s Anatomy or whatever else is on TV, I have a message for you:

Don’t panic yet. There’s a very long way to go.

In fact, this isn’t the Houston team that was destined for the cellars last year; not even the 2005 team which rode all the way to the World Series, with pitching so good they could bear a lack of hitting so bad I wouldn’t even want to think about it again. And they were NL champs with that.

You can see all Astros starters have had at least very decent outings. Some even could be considered brilliant. That was the case tonight. Wandy Rodriguez was again at home, and you could feel it. Heck, he has even pitched great on the road.

7.1 solid innings, and he had his teammates’ support to back him up this time. Lance Berkman, Carlos Lee and J.R. Towles went yard. All Astros runs were scored courtesy of the good old homerun.

Jose Valverde’s missteps were erased with a Miguel Tejada walkoff homer. Yes, you read that right. The Dominican-born player couldn’t have dreamt with a better welcome to Minute Maid Park, turning the tables for good against the Cardinals.

Fans can’t say they didn’t get their money’s worth tonight. It was a very entertaining ballgame to watch, defined in the most dramatic way possible. They have not won the World Series, very far from it. They’re celebrating their season is starting to show different shades and colors, instead of gray.