That thud you heard the other night was not that ancient oak keeling over in your backyard but the sound of the Cleveland Indians falling back to earth.
Running like a quarter horse in the mile and a half Belmont Stakes, the Indians shot out of the gate and for the opening two months of the season were the surprise story of the year.
But now they appear to have snapped out of their coma and may sink out of sight in the up-for-grabs AL Central.
Heading into Friday night’s action, the Indians lead in the division had been cut to one game. They have lost seven of their past 10 and 11 of their past 15. On May 23rd they had a 30-15 record and a seven-game lead.
Now they are plugging leaks in the dike.
No player on their roster is fighting a greater uphill battle than outfielder Shin-Soo Choo.
Since he was arrested for suspicion of drunk driving on May 2, Choo has gone into the tank. Clearly embarrassed by the incident, he has allowed it to affect his performance on the field.
“I wanted to show better play and try to make people forget about what happened,” he said recently. “It’s not only that, but a lot of little things were happening at the same time.”
Now he is clearly pressing at the plate.
“I know what the problem is: I’m trying too hard, I’m thinking too much,” Choo said. “That’s just my natural thought. It’s given me a lot of stress. I need to slow down my mind.”
The way the Tribe is playing these days, he may well have been speaking for the team.
It appears that Aroldis Chapman is back on the rails and the express bullet train that is his right arm will be visiting a National League city soon.
Chapman is the Cincinnati Reds flame throwing phenom who last year set hearts racing when he arrived in the big leagues with his heat-seeking missile of a fastball.
Chapman’s heater has topped out at 105 m.p.h. both in the Major Leagues — last September — and in a couple of minor-league games both this season and last.
In 15 appearances in 2010, Chapman had a 2.03 ERA and in 13 1/3 innings, had 19 punchouts against five walks.
This season has been a harder grind as Chapman had a 6.92 ERA in 16 relief outings before he was placed on the 15-day disabled list May 16 with left shoulder inflammation. His final four appearances were especially brutal and highlighted by bouts of wildness. In those final four outings, a total of 1 1/3 innings, Chapman walked an incredible 12 batters.
In his rehab outings, Chapman has shown that his velocity is still there but, alas, so too is the wildness.
In his most recent appearance at double-A Carolina, Chapman did a pretty fair imitation of Bull Durham’s Nuke LaLoosh as he allowed two runs, walked two and also fired a pickoff attempt into the bullpen. Sadly there was no mascot bull to hit.
The velocity, of course, was there as his first pitch clocked 97 and he topped out at the magical 105 mark.
The Reds are looking at one more minor-league assignment before they bring him back.
Few hitters will be digging in when he makes his return.
Truth sets you free
Is Carlos Zambrano one crazy mother or what?
The Chicago Cubs mercurial starter managed this past week to be more quotable than White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen and that’s almost impossible.
But Zambrano, who has the shortest fuse this side of Lou Piniella in his prime, completely lost it last Sunday when closer Carlos Marmol blew a save and afterwards threw said closer and his teammates under the bus. Then he put said bus in reverse and backed over Marmol just for spite.
In his post-game rant he called the Cubs “embarrassing”, that they are “playing like a triple-A team” and that “we stink.”
The next day he was gushing apologies and letting the b.s. really fly.
“I just want to get together with this team and play better, be a good leader for this team, do the best I can to help this team win a ball game,” Zambrano said. “We can be 11, 12, 15 games out, but we start winning games, who knows?
“It’s not over yet. Believe me guys, it’s not over for the Cubs.”
Believe me Carlos, it is.
Strikes and misses
There are games where you come through in the clutch and there are games when you don’t.
Then there are games like the one suffered by Blue Jays reliever Marc Rzepczynski on Monday night. The lefty came into the game against Kansas City with two out and one on in the seventh inning. The first pitch he threw was a strike and unfortunately for Rzepczynski, it would be his last. His next 12 pitches were balls, his final one bringing the tying run in from third. His line was three batters, three walks, 13 pitches, one strike, 12 balls.
End of the line
Jason Bay is the pride and joy of Trail, B.C., but these days he appears to be reaching the end of the road.
In a season that is falling apart for the New York Mets and their ownership, Bay may be having the worst season of all. The harder he tries the worse it gets and it has now reached the point where Mets manager Terry Collins believes that a rest is best. For how long, nobody knows.
All they know is that Bay is a shadow of his former self.
Hitless in his past 23 at-bats, Bay is batting .207 with two home runs and 10 RBIs in 39 games.
But whether it be time off or extra work, nothing seems to be helping.
“With the way I’ve been going, I’m not really helping a lot out there,” Bay told reporters the other day. “Get some other guys, give them a chance.”
The Mets thought they had signed a stud outfielder as a free agent before the 2010 season giving him a four-year deal worth $66 million US.
In his first season a concussion limited him to 95 games and this year he has simply been unable to get untracked.
“In batting practice I’m still that guy,” Bay said of his glory days as a former all-star. “The ball’s coming off and it feels good. We just need to get that translated to the game. I feel like I’m putting the bat on the ball, I’m just not finding holes.
It looks like it’s the beginning of the end.