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Baseball Sunday


The tension between a big-time base thief leading off first and the pitcher holding him on is one of baseball's best attractions.

And then he goes! Did the pitcher slide-step to shorten his time to the plate? Did the manager call a pitchout? Is the throw on target?

How cool is it when the runner zooms into second headfirst and grabs the bag with one hand to rein in all that explosive momentum?

Statistical analysis teaches us that unless a player and team are successful on 75 percent of steal attempts, the team scores fewer runs and wins fewer games.

So what was Angels skipper Mike Scioscia thinking when he gave rookie Erick Aybar a green light and Aybar got nailed stealing to end two games in one week?

Aybar was caught 36 times in A ball, 23 in AA and, last year as a Salt Lake Bee, 18 in AAA. That's a 63 percent success rate.

Wrong runner to send, especially with Howie Kendrick up seeking his fifth hit of the game. — Tad Walch

You've no doubt been exposed in some degree or another to those "American Idol" audition episodes.

It's good entertainment, as one hopeful and oftentimes delusional contestant after another walks through the door and subjects the audience to some awkward, embarrassing "singing." Then, when you least expect it, someone hits you with a stunning performance, and you realize there will be another season of "Idol" after all.

It's kind of like to watching the Angels' offense, where batter after batter steps up to the plate for at-bats that have the aesthetic quality of a Bill Gramatica field goal celebration.

Then every once in a while, Vladimir Guerrero will crush a pitch and knock that zero off the scoreboard, and you realize the Halos may not go scoreless the rest of the season.

Not good entertainment.

So, what does this have to do with Aybar attempting to steal with two outs in the ninth?

The fact is, it really doesn't matter if Scioscia made two ostensibly bad decisions. This team's offense is awful. Right now, the hitters look like they're swinging at sunflower seeds, and when they do make contact, it's like their bats are made by Nerf.

Proponents of the Angels' offensive approach often cite the need to put pressure on the defense. Scioscia should value his team's outs more, but when your best hope of getting a run home is to have the catcher throw the ball into center field, then maybe it's a decision you have to make. — Aaron Shill


TEAM Last week

1. Boston Red Sox 1

Went 5-1 against Angels, Blue Jays

2. New York Yankees 2

Rodriguez is suddenly very popular

3. New York Mets 3

Beltran off to good offensive start

4. Detroit Tigers 4

Top 3 pitchers have been delivering

5. Minnesota Twins 9

Santana is 3-1 with 3.00 ERA

6. Los Angeles Dodgers 10

Fourth in majors in team ERA (3.00)

7. Atlanta Braves 8

Important series against Mets

8. Oakland Athletics —

Scutaro shocks Rivera with 3-run shot

9. Toronto Blue Jays 7

Series vs. Red Sox, Yanks this week

10. Milwaukee Brewers —

Cordero pitching well in closer's role

Dropped out: Angels, Indians


BUY: Josh Hamilton, CF, Reds: The former 1999 No. 1 overall pick whose career was interrupted due to drug problems is hitting .333/5/11 as a fourth outfielder, but very soon Cincy will move CF Ryan Freel back into a utility role to get Hamilton in the lineup every day.

SELL: Alex Rodriguez, 3B, Yankees: His stock will never be higher than it is right now. Sure, you could keep him on your team all season and reap huge benefits. But if there's a Yankee fan in your fantasy league, you could probably pry three or four top-tier players from him for A-Rod and some bench fodder.

HOLD: Mark Buehrle, SP, White Sox: Some fantasy pundits have counseled to sell high on Buehrle after Wednesday's no-hitter, that he's no longer the pitcher he was in 2005 (16-8, 3.12 ERA). But consider this: Buehrle just turned 28 and is making a salary push for free agency this winter. — J.G. Askar