Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Tuesday's Starting Five

Here are the five persons, places, minerals, vegetables and/or Knickerbockers that you should be talking, thinking about and/or critiquing today.

1. Chris Carpenter. Since the All-Star break, the pride of Exeter, New Hampshire is 6-0 in seven starts with a sterling 1.96 ERA. He's quietly perched behind Adam Wainwright for the NL lead in wins even though he took a Mets-like two trips to the disabled list. He won a Cy Young Award in 2005 and could find himself in the running again if he keeps this up down the stretch (and Lincecum stumbles down the stretch).

2. Vladimir Guerrero. The Talented Mr. Roto may not believe that Vlad's recent power surge is for real. But it's happening. Or, at least it happened. Maybe next week it won't be happening any longer but last night he cracked two more home runs sans batting gloves. Even as he ages and breaks down, I've found him fascinating to watch. It's just "see the ball, hit the ball" for him. His confidence in the batter's box is impressive even when the results are not. For one, I hope that this resurgence is for real and I get to watch him at or near his peak in October.

3. The Washington Nationals and Stephen Strasburg. Both parties had to get this deal done. Just had to. The Nats couldn't let the player hyped as a once-in-a-generation talent go unsigned because they wouldn't pay and Strasburg couldn't miss a year (and expose himself to injury playing in an indie league) because he was too good for what was widely known to be the richest contract offered to a drafted player. But with super-agent Scott Boras involved it seemed possible that everyone would go home empty handed. Thankfully the story today isn't about Boras. It's about a kid with darn good arm and a team with its first glimmer of hope.

4. Jeff Feagles. Preseason football is usually interesting right up until the third series of the first game. And then it is a chore. To watch on television, to attend in person or even to write about. This is largely because the best players rarely play much. Or at all. The best players and even the starters who aren't that good sit out and I don't blame them. It's hot in August. And even if injuries can occur at any moment in any game it makes everyone feel better if they don't occur before the regular season gets underway (see Chad Pennington's fractured wrist in 2003). So, the fourth quarter of a preseason fixture - when the game is sort of on the line - is generally a wasteland. The play-by-play men are usually rambling on about anything but the action on the field and guffawing at one anothers jokes. The stands are sparsely populated. And Pro Bowlers are usually not trying to seal a win for their club. Except for arguably the best player on the New York Football Giants: Jeff Feagles. With 10 seconds to play in a tie game on Monday night against the Carolina Panthers, Feagles launched a 56 yard punt down to the Carolina 18 yard line. The Panthers would turn the ball over on the next play and some rookie defensive end out of Colorado State returned the ball for the game-winning score as time expired. A good friend of mine who bleeds blue (and screamed to everyone on 1st Street in Hoboken, N.J., that "Eli is better than Peyton!" for hours after the Giants' comeback win over the Broncos in 2005) has long insisted that Feagles is the organization's best player. Last night only proved it further. This guy even makes big plays in preseason openers. Where's his hundred million dollar contract?

5. David Wright. He's on the 15-day disabled list. He's concussed. Because he got hit in the side of the head with a 94 mph fastball. Right in the head. But he doesn't seem confused. And he's still impressing me. Because in his first meeting with the New York press corps since taking the Cain fastball he told them that he was "embarrassed" that he had to be placed on the disabled list. That's right, on a team that has seen All-Stars at first base, shortstop, center field and in the bullpen miss extended time due to injury, the third baseman said, “I’m embarrassed to be on the DL. I want to play. I’m supposed to play. I’m not supposed to be on the 15-day DL. I take a lot of pride in playing every day.”
Not only is that a message to his injured teammates (and a pretty pointed one when you think about it) but it's exactly what you want to hear from a guy that your pinning future hopes on.

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