Authored by Andrew Perna - 13th June, 2012 - 2:43 pm
Tuesday was a big day in Major League Baseball with Alex Rodriguez matching a record set by Lou Gehrig and Andre Ethier receiving a $85 million contract from the Dodgers.
A-Rod Adds Another Record
The Braves cooled the red-hot Yankees through seven innings on Tuesday night, taking a 4-0 lead at Turner Field. That all changed when Alex Rodriguez launched a line-drive home run to left with the bases loaded, tying the game in what would eventually become a 6-4 win for New York.
Winning allowed the Yankees to stretch their streak to five, and eight of nine, but Rodriguez accomplished an even greater feat with his game-tying blast. He is now tied with Lou Gehrig for the most grand slams (23) in baseball history.
Rodriguez matched Gehrig in the 2,462nd game of his career and plate appearance No. 10,895. The Iron Horse played in 2,164 games and recorded 9,663 plate appearances with the Yankees before ALS robbed him of not only his career, but his life as well.
Gehrig hit his final grand slam on August 20, 1938, meaning he smashed 23 big ones in 2,107 games -- one every 91.6 games. Rodriguez has averaged one every 107 games.
Hitting a grand slam requires a certain about of luck and happenstance; your teammates need to get on base and stay there. But there is no denying the greatness of both Rodriguez and Gehrig at the plate with ducks on the pond.
Ethier Cashes In With Dodgers
The Dodgers finalized a five-year, $85 million contract extension with Andre Ethier on Tuesday and just a few hours later he recorded the 500th RBI of his career. The outfielder opted to sign now rather than enjoy free agency this coming winter because the organization assured him that they would do what it takes to remain competitive.
The team is under new ownership (Guggenheim Baseball Group) and has put the dark period under previous owner Frank McCourt behind them quickly. The Dodgers entered Wednesday with a record of 40-23 and more than a four-game lead over the second-place Giants in the National League West.
Los Angeles has shelled out a lot of money recently, giving Matt Kemp an eight-year, $160 million deal last winter. If you include the vesting option the Dodgers have included for Ethier, worth $17.5 million for the 2018 season, the average annual value of his contract is just three million less than that of Kemp ($20 million to $17.1 million).
Locking up their young core while competing is admirable, but Ethier failed to play 140 games in each of the last two seasons and has only shown flashes of power in his six-plus seasons. His walk rate (.073) this season is the lowest of his career as he has been impatient at the plate (3.54 pitches per AB, another career-low).
With that said, Ethier hits well with men on base. He leads the NL in RBI (54) and has a line of .362/.434/.580 with RISP. The deal gets a quick B because there is always risk in long-term deals with players north of thirty.
Humber Perfect Game Still Aberration
Philip Humber threw a perfect game against the Mariners on April 21, but the White Sox right-hander has just one victory since he became the 19th pitcher to achieve the feat in the Modern Era.
Humber has struggled so mightily that he is in danger of being moved to the bullpen, according to rookie manager Robin Ventura. He allowed three home runs to the Astros on Sunday.
In nine starts since his perfecto, Humber is 1-4 with a 7.50 ERA. Overall, he is 2-4 with a 5.92 ERA in eleven starts this season.
No matter how poorly he pitches over the remainder of his career, Humber will always see his name alongside current and future Hall of Famers like Cy Young, Sandy Koufax, Randy Johnson and Roy Halladay.
Red Sox or Phillies?
The Red Sox and Phillies are big market, star-studded teams that also have something else in common: they both entered action on Wednesday in last place.
They have a host of talent on the disabled list with the Phillies missing Roy Halladay, Ryan Howard and Chase Utley. The Red Sox are playing without Jacoby Ellsbury, Carl Crawford, John Lackey and Andrew Bailey.
Philadelphia has a greater hole to dig out of, trailing the Nationals by more than nine games in the NL East, while Boston is six-plus games out of first in the AL East. That does not mean, however, that the Red Sox have greater odds of reversing their fortunes over the next three months. Both teams are 5.5 games back in the Wild Card race.
According to ESPN.com, Boston has a 26% chance of making the playoffs against just 9.8% odds for Philadelphia. Luckily for these clubs, each league with have two Wild Card entrants this postseason.
The Eastern divisions in both leagues are full of contenders -- the groups have the two-highest winning percentages in baseball -- which makes things difficult for both last-place clubs.
At this point, the Red Sox look like the better bet to rebound and play October baseball. All of the injured stars mentioned above are worrisome, with doubts surrounding their returns (aside from maybe Ellsbury) and the Utley and Howard injuries have caused anxiety in South Philadelphia for months.
How many stars each team gets back, and how they perform when they return, will decide how each team finishes the 2012 season.
One indication of a possible turnaround is that Boston is 6-8 in one-run games. Philadelphia has gone just 5-11 in such contests.