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Article:Baseball Notebook: Catching Up on Lost Weekend

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Having worked 32 hours in a 40 hour stretch on Saturday and Sunday, I am just recapping some of the highlights of the weekend.

The biggest news is that Manny Ramirez hit his 500th home run the day after his 36th birthday. I think it is safe to say that he will hit his 600th homer before he retires, but then again, it seemed like Gary Sheffield would hit his 500th this season (and look where that's going). It is looking very unlikely it will ever happen, let alone happen this year.

The most inspiring thing about the Ramirez home run is that Damon Woo who caught the historic homer presented the ball to Ramirez instead of trying to make money off of it. In a day and time when money is paramount in the thoughts of most of those recently catching historic home run balls, Woo gave the ball to Ramirez with no strings attached and forfeited any chance of making money off the home run ball.

Jacoby Ellsbury has stolen (an amazing) 8 bases in his last 4 games, and has been caught stealing only 3 times while stealing 27 bases this season.

Jim Edmonds must have read what I wrote about him being near the end of his career last week. Since then, he has been 5-for-7, and has driven in 5 runs in his last three games. On the first day of June, he already has hit as many doubles as he hit in all of May, as well as one more triple. I have to give Edmonds credit for proving me wrong for one weekend at least, and I hope this is the beginning of a good season for him.

The Ken Griffey Jr. 600th home run watch has officially begun and he lost a chance at his 600th homer when he was in the on-deck circle when Jay Bruce hit a walkoff homer on Saturday to end the Cincinnati Reds' 8-7 win over the Atlanta Braves. The Reds made a great move by calling Bruce up when he was red hot down in the Minors, and his confidence at a high level helped him continue his torrid hitting at the Major League level. In only 6 games, Bruce has had 13 hits in 22 times at bat, including 3 doubles and 2 homers. He has walked 6 times, which is a big part of the reason he has an on base percentage of .690. He is currently slugging 1.000, hitting for a .591 average, and has driven in 6 runs. To put his numbers in perspective, Ryan Freel has batted 98 more times than Bruce, but only has 4 more RBI's. It is very safe to say that Bruce has been a huge upgrade over Corey Patterson, with Bruce having 6 walks in 6 games while Patterson walked 8 times in 44 games.

Second Home Run Binge For Utley This Season

Chase Utley is in the middle of his second home run binge of the season. Earier this season from April 17th through April 23rd, Utley hit 7 homers and drove in 12 runs in 7 games. Now, he is currently in another hot streak that started on May 25th, hitting 6 homers, and driving in 17 runs in his last 7 games. In the two streaks combined, he has hit 13 homers and driven in 29 runs in only 14 games!

Last season, he hit 22 homers in 132 games. After 58 games in 2008, he is already halfway to having his fourth consecutive 100 RBI season with 50. Just two seasons ago in 2006, Utley struck out 132 times and walked 63 times, but this season, he has struck out 34 times and has walked 27 times with the season being more than a third over, and will be half over in 23 games.

Cody Ross Also on Home Run Binge

Cody Ross is another player on a home run binge. At the end of April, he had no homers and 2 RBI's in 44 at bats. However, in May, he had 10 homers and 18 RBI's in 52 at-bats. One negative for Ross is that he is only hitting .216 for the season. However, the Marlins will put up with that average if he continues to hit homers and drive in runs.

Chipper Showing Chinks in His Armor

Chipper Jones has been extremely consistent this season having hit .422 in April and .417 in May, but is showing some chinks in his armor by having 2 hits in his last 12 at-bats, dropping his average from .420 to .405 since last Thursday. Since the 14th of May, Jones has only hit one homer and drove in 3 runs.

Ozzie Guillen Could Make Changes in White Sox Lineup

It is easy to understand why Ozzie Guillen is upset with the lack of offense from the Chicago White Sox lately. In their last 7 losses, the White Sox have scored only 7 runs and have been shut out in 3 of those losses. Guillen says there will be some changes made in the lineup if they don't hit better in Tuesday's game against the Kansas City Royals. The White Sox are 5th in the Majors in homers (64), but are 26th in batting average (.247). Five of their regulars are hitting .241 or less: Orlando Cabrera (.241), Jim Thome (.212), Paul Konerko (.205), Nick Swisher (.201), and Juan Uribe (.198). If Guillen makes changes, I look for Swisher to be on the bench. Just two seasons ago, he had 35 homers, but only has 4 so far this year in 55 games and 189 at-bats. It may be time to give Alexei Ramirez a shot at an everyday job in the outfield since he hit .295 in May after hitting .138 in April.

Josh Hamilton: Mr. Consistent

Texas Rangers' Josh Hamilton has hit well from the very start of the season. He hit .333 in April with 6 homers and 32 RBI's. In May, he hit .322 with 8 homers and 29 ribbies. His .328 average is only two points below AL leader Hideki Matsui at .330, and that is all that is keeping him from leading the AL in all of the Triple Crown categories, as he is leading in homers with 15 and RBI's with 63.

Hamilton has come a long way from being the No. 1 draft pick of 1999, and has followed a rocky road to where he is today. He took a detour on the road to drug abuse and when given a chance by the Reds to play again last season, he had a good, if not spectacular season, partially due to injuries. This season was definitely a change though, as he has shown why he was the No. 1 pick by theTampa Bay Rays nine years ago.

I am not sure how he is faring in the All-Star voting for 2008, but if he is not in the starting lineup, a grave injustice will have been done. If someone had mentioned two years ago that Hamilton would be on the 2008 All Star team, they would have been laughed out of town, but now it is a very real possibility.

Adrian Gonzalez Also Took The Long Way to Stardom

Adrian Gonzalez was the No. 1 pick in the 2000 amateur draft by the Florida Marlins. By 2004, he was with the Rangers, but only played 59 games total over the 2004 and 2005 seasons.

His big break came on January 6, 2006 when he was traded with Terrmel Sledge and Chris Young to the San Diego Padres for Akinori Otsuka, Adam Eaton, and Minor Leaguer Billy Killian. There is no doubt who got the best of that trade with Gonzalez and Young being an integral part in the Padres success last season, and all three of the players the Padres traded to the Rangers no longer with the Rangers or never play for the Rangers.

In the 2006 season, Gonzalez gave the first indication that he could help the Padres when he hit 24 homers and drove in 82 runs. Then, in 2007, his power numbers improved to 30 homers and 100 RBI's. In slightly more than a third of the 2008 season, he already has 15 homers and 50 RBI's. His slugging percentage of .500 in 2006 has improved to .502 in 2007 and .570 currently this season.

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