I think this is pretty interesting.

Sun, May. 14, 2006

Colletti, Kent would rather avoid 'Shadows'

A short, rhythmic laugh is coming through the other end of the phone line. Ned Colletti, the Giants' ally-turned-enemy has just been told that escaping the Giants to run the front office for the Los Angeles Dodgers even as the "Shadows" were hitting the fan was a nice bit of timing. "I can't say I've ever heard it put that way," he said. "But it's a different perspective, no doubt about it."

His is not the only one. Jeff Kent came rolling through the city that considers him a hero-turned-traitor on Friday, and he wasn't laughing. He hunched over a table, sighed deeply and seemed pained with each question that concerned Barry Bonds and the "s" word.

"I didn't know," he said at one point, "that (the interview session) was going to turn into this."

It could be worse, both for Colletti and Kent. At one point, each has been fully entrenched in the Barry Bonds Show. Each has seen the best of Barry (the home runs) mixed with the worst (everything else).

But now that the show has gone national, Colletti and Kent are comfortably off the stage. In a sense, they received "Get Out of Jail Free" cards. Kent's arrived after the 2002 World Series in the form of a two-year contract with the Houston Astros. Colletti's came in November, when the Dodgers hired him to fix a franchise coming off its second-worst season ever in Southern California.

Colletti, the chief assistant to Giants general manager Brian Sabean from 1997-2005, had little to say upon his return to the shores of China Basin on Friday, but he was a bit more forthcoming before the Giants headed to Dodger Stadium a month ago. Colletti likely figured Bonds' chase would be over by now, but he's been around Bonds long enough to realize that the stories never really die.

"You hate to see everybody go through a tough time, whether it's the organization or an individual," Colletti said of the fallout from "Game of Shadows," the book that detailed Bonds' alleged use of steroids and cast the Giants organization in a seedy light. "But I've mostly stayed away from it. I've got enough on my hands down here to keep my plate full."

Indeed, he does. For all of Colletti's good work in the offseason, the Dodgers (18-19) still need fixing. Their bullpen already has 12 losses, and its 4.68 ERA through Friday was better than only three teams in the National League. The offense has been better than advertised (third in the National League in runs) but has struggled recently. Key free-agent additions Rafael Furcal (.229) and Bill Mueller (upcoming arthroscopic surgery on right knee) have combined for 17 errors on the left side of the infield, and Nomar Garciaparra spent the first three weeks on the disabled list.

Then there is Kent, who after pounding 29 homers and collecting 110 RBI in his first season with the Dodgers, has scuffled after offseason wrist surgery. Kent had only 22 RBI through Friday, a slower pace than usual for someone who has had at least 100 RBI in eight of the past nine seasons.

Yet as challenging as life has been for Colletti and Kent in Los Angeles, it beats the alternative. Living in a Bonds-ian universe for one weekend is wearing, much less living in it day after day. Witness the scene Friday, when Kent found himself amidst a pack of at least two dozen reporters who were one-subject candidates.

"I read the book, the 'Game of Shadows,'" he said. "... Was it a page-turner? Considering it's the only book I've read cover to cover probably in a whole year, maybe so."

Kent spent six seasons (1997-2002) as Bonds' teammate, and the two scuffled in the Giants' dugout during a game in San Diego during their final season together. But Kent stopped short of saying he suspected Bonds used steroids. "I don't know how to give you guys a quality answer other than to say he and I haven't been teammates for a while now. ... His legacy will be what he makes of this."

A few moments later, in a quiet moment, Kent was asked what he makes of this.

"I'm just glad I don't have to be here to deal with it every day," he said.

Apparently LA-LA land does have its advantages.

Agent Jeff Borris may think his most notorious client can get to 1,000 home runs, but he clearly hasn't consulted stat guru Bill James. Baseball's original sabermatrician has devised a formula to determine the probability of a player passing a home-run milestone if that player remains healthy. Since the start of 2005, Barry Bonds' chances of passing Hank Aaron's coveted 755 have fallen from 78 percent to its current standing of 28 percent. As for 1,000 home runs, there's about a 1,000 percent chance that won't happen.

James' favorite to usurp Hammerin' Hank? "The third baseman." New York Yankees star Alex Rodriguez, who was mentioned critically by position, not name, earlier this week by owner George Steinbrenner, has a 37 percent chance of surpassing Aaron. Rodriguez, who has nine homers this season, has hit 436 in 12-plus seasons.

The odds may to be increasing that Chicago Cubs manager Dusty Baker may not survive 2006, much less return in 2007. A Bay Area columnist wrote this week that Baker is "mildly annoyed" that he hasn't yet received a contract offer from general manager Jim Hendry, who continues to insist that an offer will be coming sometime this season.

The odds are significantly less that the Baltimore Orioles will start beating left-handed pitchers with any consistency. Entering its weekend series, Baltimore had beaten southpaws only 10 percent of the time it had faced them this season. Among the wrong-handers who have stymied the O's are the who's-that of Tampa Bay's Mark Hendrickson, Texas' John Koronka and Boston's Lenny DiNardo. The Orioles were hitting .200 vs. lefties, .287 vs. righties.

The Arizona Diamondbacks have had no such problems. Arizona was 7-5 vs. lefties despite having four left-handed hitters in its everyday lineup. Three of them -- Craig Counsell (.367), Shawn Green (.341) and Chad Tracy (.333) -- were having no trouble with lefty-lefty matchups.

It'd be interesting to see what Creighton University pitcher Pat Venditte Jr. could do against the O's and the D'backs. Venditte is a switch-pitcher, and he retired six batters in a relief appearance two weeks ago against Kansas. Three of them were right-handed. Venditte recorded two strikeouts, one from each side.

The Cleveland Indians might be smart to give Venditte a look. The Indians have had the majors' best offense this season (6.26 runs per game through Thursday), but they were swept by the sad-sack Kansas City Royals last week. Kansas City was hitting .236 before the series, then hit .373 against Cleveland during the three-game set. The Royals also scored at least 10 runs in consecutive games for the first time since June 16-18, 2004.

One more note about Cleveland's dismal pitching: Kansas City fans receive a dozen free doughnuts from Krispy Kreme each time the Royals record 12 or more hits in a home game. The Royals had done it five times entering their weekend series, four times against the Indians.

These days, the Royals are doing whatever they can to draw fans. On Tuesday, they gave away free T-shirts with the words "mustard", "ketchup" and "relish" on them. Fans who had the ketchup T-shirts received a voucher for a free hot dog at a future game.

Great promotions aren't limited to the majors. Bill Arnold's Beyond the Box Score reports that the Double-A Connecticut Defenders, now a Giants affiliate, are honoring their past connection with the Yankees by giving away bobbleheads of former Yanks who went to Connecticut on rehab assignments. A Roger Clemens doll with a bandage on his left thigh, a David Cone likeness with a bandage on his right elbow and shoulder and a Bernie Williams bobblehead with a bandage on his right knee will be among the giveaways.

The guess here is that a few players wouldn't mind necessitating a few bandages for umpire Angel Hernandez. The New York Mets are the latest team to be angry with him, saying that Hernandez told Mets pitcher Jose Lima during last Sunday's game against the Braves that, essentially, he wouldn't receive the same strike zone as Atlanta starter John Smoltz. Mets outfielder Cliff Floyd said Hernandez's reputation is such that he hopes Mike Port, baseball's vice president in charge of umpiring, would look into the matter. Port said he did but that nothing came of the investigation.

Hernandez makes considerably more change than minor-league umpires, who remain on strike in pursuit of better wages. Umpires union president Andy Roberts said Triple-A umps make $17,000 per year, Double-A umps $15,000, Class A umps $12,000 and short-season Rookie League umps just $4,000. The starting salary for major-league umpires is $84,000.

Another umpire, Charlie Reliford, on Wednesday did what no umpire at any level had ever done: He ejected Bernie Williams. The incident occurred when the Yankees outfielder made a backhanded flip of his batting helmet in Reliford's vicinity after taking a called third strike in the seventh inning for this third strikeout of the night.

Speaking of whiffs, the Toronto Blue Jays have mostly struck out with two of five spots in their projected rotation. Casey Janssen's victory over the Los Angeles Angels last Sunday is the only victory the Blue Jays have received from the two spots. Josh Towers has lost all seven of his starts, and A.J. Burnett (disabled list, elbow) and Scott Downs (demoted to bullpen) had been winless in a combined four starts before Janssen's victory. More bad news: Gustavo Chacin may be headed for the disabled list with left elbow discomfort.

Former A's reliever Ricardo Rincon, now with the St. Louis Cardinals, is already on the shelf. He'll miss the rest of the season after having surgery on his left elbow and shoulder this week. Cardinals manager Tony La Russa blames Rincon's ailments on his participation in the World Baseball Classic.

Cincinnati Reds starter Paul Wilson's return from major shoulder surgery has stalled. His velocity dropped from the upper 80s to the low 80s during a recent rehab start, and an examination showed inflammation in the shoulder.

The San Diego Padres are having another white-hot May. They snapped a five-game losing streak by scoring five runs in the ninth inning to beat the Los Angeles Dodgers on April 30, then won their next eight. Opposing hitters hit just .202 during the streak, San Diego's starters had a 2.80 ERA and the bullpen a 1.88 ERA. That's reminiscent of last year, when the Padres went 22-6 in the second month of the season.

Edgar Renteria has been slightly warm, too. He hit safely in his first 23 games with the Atlanta Braves (giving him a 26-game streak dating back to his final three games with Boston in 2005) before going hitless Wednesday. It was the longest hitting streak to begin a season since Ron LeFlore's 30-game run for the Detroit Tigers in 1976.

On the other hand, the Chicago Cubs' bats are mighty blue. Before Wednesday's 8-1 win over the Giants, the Cubs had scored 13 runs in their previous 11 games, the worst 11-game stretch since the expansion Padres of 1969. Chicago hit .130 as a team during a nine-game trip to Arizona, San Diego and San Francisco.

Speaking of blue, the Los Angeles Dodgers will offer 300 fans a chance to spend the night in the outfield at Dodger Stadium after a Sunday night game against the Giants. Beyond the Box Score reports that the cover charge for the party is $300, but only $250 for season-ticket holders. The deal includes game tickets, dinner, a Dodger pillow, a T-shirt and a late-night movie shown on DodgerVision.

Finally, pink bats will be the rage today as players try to raise money for the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation. Among the players using the pink bats will be the Chicago White Sox's Jim Thome, Boston's Manny Ramirez and Cincinnati's Adam Dunn.

Information for this notebook was obtained from wire services and writers in other cities.


Rank, team Comment Prev.

1. White Sox Jim Thome quickest in franchise history to 14 HRs 1

2. Red Sox Curt Schilling has struggled since 133-pitch outing 4

3. Mets Memo to Billy Wagner: Shut up and pitch 2

4. Cardinals Albert Pujols 2nd-fastest to 18 HRs (Cy Williams, 1923) 6

5. Yankees Johnny Damon hurt former team with glove, not bat 5

6. Blue Jays Hide your lefties: Jays tattooing them at .370 clip 7

7. Tigers Starters continue to provide quality 8

8. Reds Walk-off HR a great welcome back for Ken Griffey Jr. 10

9 Astros Looming June addition: Roger Clemens 3

10. Indians Bob Wickman becomes club's all-time saves leader 9

11. Rockies Haven't been this good since last century 18

12. D'backs Brandon Webb also started 6-0 last season 16

13. Padres Isn't hitting a maddening art? 19

14. Phillies The Cole Hamels Era begins 20

15. Rangers Great things in hurried trade packages: John Koronka 11

16. A'S Each day brings a new injury 13

17. Brewers Will they spend the money to sign Carlos Lee? 12

18. Angels Hit .204 over 16-game stretch 14

19. Braves Jeff Francouer has one walk in 144 plate appearances 17

20. Twins Offense finally showing signs of life 22

21. Dodgers Aaron Sele is back in the bigs 25

22. GIANTS Not what they were banking on from Matt Morris 16

23. Mariners Fantasy alert: Jose Lopez is their best clutch hitter 23

24. Cubs It's 99 years and counting 10

25. Devil Rays Scott Kazmir coming into his own 26

26. Orioles Melvin Mora, Javy Lopez, Brian Roberts among injured 24

27. Royals One of life's enduring mysteries: Allard Baird still GM 30

28. Nationals Livan Hernandez: 18.00 ERA in 1st; 4.23 in others 29

29. Pirates Right-hander Ian Snell living up to promise -- for now 27

30. Marlins Manager Joe Girardi already running thin on patience 28

Rankings reflect games through Thursday


714's PLACE

If nothing else, the difficulty Barry Bonds has had reaching Babe Ruth on the home-run chart has brought home to a new generation the lore associated with the long-hallowed mark. No matter the era or the substances available, it's hard to imagine anyone reaching that number easily.


Bonds' agent says his 42-year-old, physically-in-decline client wants to play again next season, and Roger Clemens says his family is warming up to the idea of a mid-June return. Doesn't anybody just step away when their skills decline anymore, much less stay away once they do?


The Yankees manager became just the fourth skipper in the franchise's storied history to reach 1,000 victories when he did so last Sunday. Torre, who has been managing for George Steinbrenner since 1996, joined Miller Huggins (1,796), Joe McCarthy (1,460), and Casey Stengel (1,149) in the exclusive group.


714's CHASE

Bonds' pursuit has gone on longer than even he probably imagined it would, and the longer it's lasted, the more awkward it has become. Unlike previous baseball milestones, the nearing of this one has inspired mostly joylessness and a sense of tedium.


It's been quite a year for some new ninth-inning faces. Red Sox rookie Jonathan Papelbon led the AL with 13 saves through Friday and hadn't blown any. Also, Orioles rookie Chris Ray was 8-for-8 in save opportunities, and the Phillies' Tom Gordon, who hasn't closed games regularly since 2001, converted his first 10.


The Yankees manager didn't have much time to savor his milestone win -- not with right fielder Gary Sheffield put on the disabled list with a wrist problem, not with left fielder Hideki Matsui out for three months with a broken left wrist and not with Randy Johnson in his worst five-start stretch (7.09 ERA) since 1998.


"To me, he looks like a little lost boy."

-- New York Yankees pitching coach Ron Guidry on the recent struggles of Randy Johnson. Johnson's 16 strikeouts in his past five starts were his fewest in a five-game stretch since 1989.


616: Career home runs, combined, by the eight Giants starters not named Barry Bonds on the night Bonds hit his 713th.

24: Home runs at Yankee Stadium by Boston Red Sox outfielder Manny Ramirez, the most by any opposing player since the stadium was renovated in 1976.

32: Home runs at Yankee Stadium before its renovation by Goose Goslin, the most by any opponent in the House that Ruth Built.

2:34: Time, in hours and minutes, of an average start by Chicago White Sox pitcher Mark Buerhle over the past five seasons, the fastest in the majors.

$191,500: Sale price, at an auction, of the only known baseball signed by both Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe



Torii Hunter, Twins: If his slow start caused you to bench him, rethink matters. Hunter was 15-for-29 during an eight-game hitting streak and had nine RBI in that stretch.

Corey Patterson, Orioles: After a season-plus long slump, he's regained his stroke, hitting .345 over his past 16 games.


Jason Marquis, Cardinals: He has always been streaky, which means his 8.74 ERA over his past four starts (all losses) should be a red flag to those with Marquis in their rotations.

Mike Sweeney, Royals: Same time last year, he fell victim to a twinge in his back. Same thing happened last week, and Sweeney hinted at retirement after going on the disabled list.