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07/11/2004 Archived Entry: "MLB news: Franco moves to No. 2 all time"

Milestones: June 29 to July 11
By Michael Toeset

RICH AURILIA has yet to perform an encore of his awesome 2001 season, and he’s pretty much disappeared from the limelight, but he’s still chugging along. And on June 29, he collected his 500th RBI. Outside of Aurilia’s 2001 season, in which he drove in 97 runs, he has yet to have more than 80 RBI in a year. He’s not on track to top that number this season, as he’s only hitting .241 with 28 RBI, so the question is: Why was Aurilia so good in 2001 and so average every other year?

IVAN RODRIGUEZ has pretty much single-handedly lifted to the Tigers to mediocrity, and he’s doing it with his .369 average, 12 home runs and 23 doubles. I-Rod has always been a good doubles hitter, and he reached 400 on June 30. Over his career, his top doubles numbers read 47, 40, 36 and 34. With the help of the spacious Detroit stadium, Rodriguez should be able to top his season high of 47 doubles.

Remember LARRY WALKER? Everyone thought his myriad injuries had sent him to the retirement home, but he came back late last month and promptly registered his 2,000th hit. Walker’s hits are accompanied by a .314 average, so it’s interesting to speculate on what might have been had Walker not been so brittle. … In his 15 seasons, Walker has only topped 500 at-bats twice.

For years I’ve been waiting in vain for the next Tim Raines, even being disappointed by Raines Junior. It appears, though, that CARL CRAWFORD might be the player to carry on the torch held in the 1980s and early 1990s by Raines and Rickey Henderson. Crawford is in only his second full season, and he’s already topped 100 steals. He stole No. 100 on July 2, and for the season he has 38 SB. Last season he hit .281 with a .309 OBP, 55 steals and 5 HR. This season, he’s at .304, .337, 38 and 4. While those aren’t exactly Raines numbers (Timmy had an OBP in the .390s his first two full seasons), Crawford has shown flashes of lead-off brilliance and should get to Raines/Henderson level in the not too distant future.

STEVE TRACHSEL tossed his 2,000th inning on July 2. Up until 2002, Trachsel was basically a product of too many teams in MLB, posting terrible win-loss records and even worse ERAs while still being able to hold down a job, but in the past few years he has earned his keep. In 2002, he was 11-11 with a 3.37 ERA, then he followed that with a 16-10, 3.78 season, and this year he’s 9-6, 3.36. Whatever the reason for Trachsel’s turnaround, he has become a Glavine-type pitched to be reckoned with and deserving of climbing up the career innings list.

JOSE CRUZ has never lived up to his potential, but he’s been a solid player, and on July 3 he drove in his 500th run. Cruz has been decent enough, in fact, to surpass his father in career home runs. He may never be the All-Star his dad was, but he’ll keep chipping away at Cruz Sr.’s stats and will likely better most of his numbers if he stays healthy. The comparison:
Sr.: .284 AVG, 165 HR, 317 SB, 1,036 R, 1,077 RBI, 7,917 AB
Jr.: .250 AVG, 168 HR, 97 SB, 564 R, 502 RBI, 3,556 AB

SCOTT SPIEZIO hit his 100th home run on July 6. Over the course of his career, Spiezio hasn’t been all that great, but he’s been able to hang around thanks to his decent play. His 100 career homers come with a .258 average.

In recent years GARRET ANDERSON has been able to step into the limelight despite numbers that don’t inspire the media’s fervor, which is somewhat of a rarity, but he’s definitely deserving of the recognition. His numbers keep piling up, and on July 7 he hit his 200th home run. Along with those homers, Anderson sports a .300 average and 356 doubles. It’s a shame that doubles hitters aren’t as highly regarded as home run hitters (a good case in point is Hideki Matsui, who had a “disappointing” rookie year despite bashing 42 doubles), but at least Anderson is being recognized for his contributions.

JOHNNY DAMON collected his 1,500th hit on July 7, proving to the world that excess hair isn’t a detriment. Damon is in the midst of a fine season, hitting .321 with 10 HR, 11 SB, 70 runs and 46 RBI. Perhaps if he keeps up his torrid pace, the Grizzly Adams look will catch on. Wouldn’t it be great to see Greg Maddux with that look?

Ageless wonder JOHN FRANCO pitched his 1,072nd game on July 8, moving him past Dennis Eckersley into second place on the all-time list. Franco is pretty much a lefties-only pitcher nowadays, but he’s still quite efficient, and he has a 4.59 ERA this season in 37 games. Franco’s career path is remarkably similar to Jesse Orosco’s, and interestingly enough, Franco is chasing Orosco’s games record. Old Man Orosco retired this past offseason, having pitched in a mind-boggling 1,252 games. But if Franco decides to pitch a few more seasons, he could catch Orosco.

Five hundred RBI seems to be the “it” number as the first half of the baseball season winds down, and MIKE LIEBERTHAL is another to reach that mark. He reached that milestone on July 9, joining Aurilia and Cruz as the newest members of that club. Lieberthal isn’t having a super season some were expecting out of him, but he’s still putting up decent numbers for a catcher. He currently has a .256 average, 11 HR and 36 RBI.

Another “it” stat is franchise records. Three were set in a span of two days: On July 9, LUIS CASTILLO registered his 425th walk, breaking Gary Sheffield’s Marlins record. On the 10th, BRAD PENNY set another Marlins record, pitching his 760th inning, surpassing Ryan Dempster. Also on July 10, ERIC GAGNE recorded his 130th save for the Dodgers, breaking Jeff Shaw’s record.
Gagne also was in the news recently for another record, this one being the end of his consecutive saves mark. On July 5, Gagne’s streak of 84 saves came to an end. While the record is fairly remarkable, it’s not exactly on par with records like Orel Hershiser’s scoreless innings mark, as some have suggested. Saves are an overrated stat and are relatively easy to collect, so I don’t know exactly how exceptional Gagne’s record is, but that’s a topic for another article.

TONY BATISTA collected hit No. 1,000 on July 9. If you’ve ever seen Batista’s batting stance, you might question his ability to make contact with the ball, but he’s been able to do so with moderate success. His career average is .251, and he also has 193 home runs.

Five hundred RBI. … Where have we seen that milestone before? Anyway, CARLOS LEE joined the fun on July 9, driving in his 500th run. Lee is relatively unknown outside of Chicago, but he has developed into a good player. This season he’s batting .290 with 11 HR and 50 RBI, and for his career, he’s batting .285 with 132 HR.

DEREK LOWE threw his 1,000th inning on July 10. Lowe is in the midst of a hellish season (he has a 5.57 ERA and almost as many walks as strikeouts) but he’s still adding to his innings totals in Boston – at least until the Red Sox can find a way to dump him for someone more reliable.

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