The Nexus Of The Universe
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Is it just me or are most teams hitting crazy roadblocks every night? Granted, that's the daily grind of baseball. But this season a ton of terribly bizarre things have taken place that you can't make up. Everything from G.M.'s bashing left-fielders to umps bumping managers instead of the other way around. And the lack of a truly dominant force in the league has certainly left everything even more wide open. The teams that are doing great all have their set-backs either now or when looking back in the history books. The Cubs will need extremely thick skin to keep up this season. The pressure will mount as October comes (the 100 year old monkey on their back will keep coming up) and they must learn to win consistently on the road. Even though they're with mostly everyone on the boat; most teams have fallen under the illness of losing a lot away from their home crowd. The Red Sox just lost 2 out of 3 at home to the those out of nowhere Cardinals. Speaking of the Cardinals, how the hell are they 12 games over .500? They've lost their best hitter, basically the whole starting rotation, and their closer has been a bomb. Give credit to Duncan and La Russa who have somehow taken this weird mix of no-names and has-beens and make them a winning, pesky ball club.

But how long will that last? Surly their good fortunes will have to end right? The same goes for the Rays. How long can Gabe Gross hit walk-off doubles every night? How long can Troy Percival close out games when he's walking the bases loaded? How long can the A's win before Billy Beane breaks the "SELL" button and they start dropping their best players like they're going bankrupt? Can the Yankees please get a hot stretch going without getting a beat down at the hands of the Pirates? And the Angels might want to rest K-Rod's arm a little. The man has over 30 saves before the halfway point. Come playoffs, his arm wouldn't even be an arm. It will be a lifeless noodle of flesh and blood vessels if they keep putting him in every game. Those are enough issues and concerns for the good teams. Then, there's everyone else.

Everyone following baseball has heard by now the on-going war of words between Blue Jays G.M. J.P. Ricciardi and Reds' LFer Adam Dunn. Ricciardi calling Dunn a player who doesn't care about the game and who isn't good and all that jazz. Dunn retaliates by calling Mr. Ricciardi a clown. Ricciardi first started this on his radio show up in Toronto. I find it incredibly weird that the general manager of a professional baseball team has a radio show, but nevertheless. He was partly right about Dunn, but it was still completely unnecessary to say. It's not surprising he'd be a bit hostile though; as his team has been pretty lifeless and mighty disappointing this season. But at least the Jays got a pick-me-up yesterday against Dunn‘s team, thanks to the historically horrid performance of Bronson Arroyo (10 runs, 11 hits in 1 inning...yesh). So after the laugher, there was only one other thing to talk about besides Arroyo having a breakdown on the mound. And that one other thing was the Dunn/J.P. saga (the movie is already in the works. Dunn will be played by Vincent D' Onofiro and J.P. will be portrayed by John Turturro). Ricciardi said earlier that he apologized to Dunn over the phone. When an interviewer asked Dunn if that was true, Mr. Dunn went off:

"Not true, one million per cent. I'm so sick and tired of this, foremost, but the real truth is, no, I have not talked to him." Again, I'm not going to go out of my way to get an apology from a guy I don't even know. No, it didn't happen and I hope this is the last time I have to talk about it. I'm sick and tired of it."

J.P. than explained it must have been some kind of prank or something. It's either that, Dunn is lying, or maybe Ricciardi forgot to take his medicine and never called anyone in the first place. Even so, it's very funny because of how all of this has no connection to anything. Dunn and Ricciardi have never meant and according to Dunn, have never even talked. One guy is a player from Cincinnati and other is the general manager of a big baseball organization in Canada. Sounds like the perfect dysfunctional/ odd-couple story Hollywood would eat up.

For the randomness of all that, at least it's not as sad and ugly as the New York Metropolitans. I know I've been beating up the Mets a lot, but it's unavoidable. The 11-0 loss to the lowly Seattle Mariners sparked a new chapter in the "How Bad Can This Get?" book. This would make a great horror movie. The loss is horrible in itself. Getting blown out 11-0 to the worst team in baseball at home with the worst offense in baseball is sad enough. Getting shut-down by a 33 year old journeyman knuckleball in R.A. Dickey who doesn't even have a ligament in his arm is even worse. But the reason I mention it was for the bizarre ejection of Carlos Beltran and Jerry Manuel in the 4th inning. For one thing, Brain Runge acted like a complete buffoon trying to perform some kind of horrible comedy act. Cleaning off home plate when it was already good, bumping into Manuel, and then fanning the fire by knocking Beltran out. He must act more civil next time and remember no one is at the ballpark to see him. At the same time, I've had enough of Beltran. Saying after the game how great Manuel was and how he's sticking up for the team. First thing Beltran, you really shouldn't have been mouthing off in the first place. You're one of the key clogs in this underachieving team. And let's not praise Manuel just yet after getting embarrassed by the Mariners, Win some games first.

Right now, I'm not even going to say this team is underachieving. I'll go one step further and say this team just isn't good. Delgado just takes up space, they are getting next to nothing from their corner outfield spots, Oliver Perez is either pretty good or notorious, the middle relief is a wasteland, and the clubhouse has no chemistry or no leader. Johan Santana bashed David Wright after giving up an opposite field grand slam to the pitcher (Felix Hernandez on Monday night) who had a whopping total of 8 at-bats before that. I know David made a bad play before that that extended the inning, but if you, Johan Santana (the guy who's been the best player in baseball the past few years and was given a monster contract this year) can't get an American League pitcher out in the 2nd inning, you're the one to blame. No excuse.

Another pitcher who has imploded too much lately: Chad Qualls. He's was a dependable late inning guy when he was with Houston and when he got traded to the D-Backs in the Valvarde deal, it seemed like a solid pick-up. While his stats don't show it that much, he's been pounded like a piñata far too much this year and last night's game against the Red Sox was the latest example. He's blown a ton of good performances and solid games from the Arizona starters thus far this season and it magnifies the biggest problem for the D-Backs. They began as the best team in baseball but since have fallen hard. If it wasn't for the dreadful NL West, they wouldn't be a first place team anymore. And a big reason why has been the bullpen. While Valvarde has always been erratic and has had his ugly moments this year, they could use him now in the worst way. At least Qualls isn't giving up grand slams to pitchers. Ok, enough Mets bashing.

Here's one good thing about the Mets: The rest of the NL East has seemed to take a vacation from playing good baseball. Case in point are the Phillies. After beating Boston in the first game of their series against the Sox in Philly, Cole Hamels proclaimed this beautiful nugget:

"I believe we're destined to play each other in the World Series. We can compete with them any day of the week."

There's nothing wrong with being confident. Hell, a little bit of cockiness never hurt. Just back it up. That's what this team did last year when they promised a division title and they delivered. For this one, we won't know if it comes true until October. But the next few days didn't make the statement look that smart. The Phillies lost the next 2 match-ups against the Sox and then got swept by the Angels. Entering tonight's game, they've dropped 6 in a row. Either Hamels was dead wrong or it was just sad timing. Either way, it's looking stupid now. What's not stupid is the Phillies no doubt need some fixes. They could use another pitcher (Sabathia, Bedard, Burnett, etc.) in a large way. Adam Eaton isn't getting the job done for the whole year; not that he's gotten anything done already. Because if the Mets heat up and the Phillies continue this downward spiral, then Beltran will be the one laughing. And I'll finally give him some credit.

To close out this rambling read, what's the deal with the umpires this year? Besides of the crazy situation mentioned above, the tale of the umpires (another future movie. From the creators of "J.P. Vs. Dunn" and "Greet The Mess") has been a strange one. Bad HR calls every night it seems, umpires getting hit in the face by fastballs, umps getting asked questions about the K-K-K, and now the maple bat incident. The maple bats issue has been a growing concern for baseball and the injury to Brain O' Nora has intensified matters. Bats have been breaking a ridiculous amount this season and it's a real safety hazard for the players, umps, coaches, and fans. It should be as big of an issue as the replay dilemma. Both are heavy dilemmas right now.

This season, there's crazy dilemmas this year with every team. More so than usual. Like roadblocks popping out of nowhere. Hamels thinks he can overcome them, J.P. blames Dunn and Dunn has no idea what the hell is going on, Qualls is a roadblock, and Brain Runge was the one building the roadblock in his case. Or maybe he's trying to distract everyone from the missed calls by his peers. Or maybe he's just a little ticked at those damn maple bats. Or just maybe there's no explanation. The Cubs, for the first time in a century, have the best record in baseball this deep into the schedule. Anything can happen from here on out. All bets are off.

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