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1) using profanity or any euphemisms for profanity
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Tops in Pops
2003-09-08 08:55
by Jon Weisman

Less than three weeks ago, I had reason to post a list of the all-time best games at the plate for baseball's worst regular hitter, Cesar Izturis. Now, the game's most unlikely leadoff man has topped them all.

The way Izturis lost out on hitting for the cycle, tagged out at second by a hair, can only be compared to a pitcher losing a perfect game on an infield tapper by the 27th batter.

In 67 appearances at the No. 1 spot in the lineup, Izturis is now batting .354, basing .373 (thanks to his two big walks), slugging .538 and OPSing .911.

Edwin and Ramon

First thought upon hearing that the Dodgers will start Edwin Jackson on his 20th birthday Tuesday against Randy Johnson and the Diamondbacks: Ramon Martinez.

Martinez made his debut as a 20-year-old in the championship season of 1988 and threw seven shutout innings before allowing a run in the eighth of a game the Dodgers won in extra innings over the Giants.

The game, however, that imprinted itself in my mind forever came the following year. Martinez did not start 1989 with the Dodgers, who began the season following their last World Series title with a rotation of Orel Hershiser, Fernando Valenzuela, Tim Belcher, Tim Leary and Mike Morgan. On June 5, however, needing an extra pitcher for a doubleheader in Atlanta, the Dodgers called up Martinez. He threw a shutout, allowing six hits and one walk while striking out nine. Despite the sterling performance, the Dodgers sent Martinez straight back to Albuquerque after the game, and he did not return for good to the Dodger rotation for another five weeks.

It's safe to say that Martinez began his career in a saner environment than Jackson, who by starting the game on his 20th birthday, will become the youngest Dodger pitcher since Fernando Valenzuela in 1980 and the youngest Dodger starting pitcher since ... Dick Calmus. (Ever heard of him? Calmus was 19 years, 8 1/2 months old when he started and lost to the Milwaukee Braves on August 23, 1963.)

The 1988 season was a crazy one for the Dodgers, as in crazy fun. This season has just been crazy.

The Dodgers continue to hang in the wild card race. Manager Jim Tracy even pronounced Los Angeles an "excellent team" in the Times today - this based mainly on the fact that the Dodgers actually scored some runs in ... wait for it ... Coors Field. Admittedly, the Dodgers did much better this weekend than they had in other recent forays to Denver.

Now the Dodgers head to Arizona. Amid all the hullaballoo that Jackson is facing the great Randy Johnson, few seem to have noticed that Johnson is at best the No. 4 starter in the Diamondback rotation. Brandon Webb is by one measurement the leading pitcher in the National League. Curt Schilling has recovered from injuries to regain most of his former form. And in games started by tonight's Arizona pitcher, Miguel Batista, the Diamondbacks are 17-8.

The Diamondbacks are just about out of the wild card race, but they gave San Francisco a tough time in Pac Bell Park over the weekend and are still a tough opponent for the Dodgers and Jackson.

Jackson went 7-7 with a 3.70 ERA for the AA Jacksonville Suns. (Yeah, he's so good, the town appears to have named itself after the pitcher.) He struck out 157 in 148 1/3 innings, but walked 53 - which makes him a near-perfect replacement for the wild and wooly Hideo Nomo.

Jackson was not even the best pitcher on the Suns. That was Joel Hanrahan, who led the Southern League in ERA at 2.43. In addition, Jackson's ERA was higher than Jacksonville's team ERA of 3.50. However, Jackson was second in the league in strikeouts, and apparently it is on that figure that the Dodgers are pinning their hopes.

Anecdotally, pitchers making their debuts can confound hitters who aren't used to their motion - assuming those pitchers can get the ball over the plate. So there is every reason for the Dodgers to hope that Jackson's debut will be more Ramon Martinezesque than Dick Calmusish.

Whether or not Los Angeles can bring their Coors Field offense to Phoenix remains to be seen.

* * *

Update: Dodger postseason chances, from Baseball Prospectus
Today: 5.4 percent
September 7: 5.3 percent
September 6: 4.8 percent
September 5: 3.5 percent
September 4: 4.3 percent
September 3: 7.9 percent
September 2: 4.8 percent
September 1: 7.9 percent
August 31: 6.9 percent
August 30: 5.5 percent
August 29: 4.8 percent
August 28: 2.6 percent
August 26: 3.6 percent
August 25: 3.1 percent
August 24: 4.4 percent
August 23: 6.5 percent
August 22: 5.8 percent
August 21: 4.2 percent
August 20: 2.3 percent

Projected NL Wild-Card Standings as of September 8
Wins ... Team ... Chance of winning wild card
89 ... Philadelphia (59.8 percent)
87 ... Florida (23.7 percent)
87 ... Houston (4.9 percent)
85 ... Los Angeles (5.4 percent)
84 ... St. Louis (1.4 percent)
83 ... Arizona (1.0 percent)
82 ... Montreal (0.2 percent)

(Division leaders account for the remaining wild card possibilities.)

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