RCS Sidelines

May 23, 2008 3:30 PM

It's a Race to the Milestones

Call me old-fashioned (it wouldn't be the first time), but I always associate Memorial Day with BBQ and afternoon baseball. This particular holiday-weekend is no exception, but it could be quite the historic few days. Three future Hall of Famer's are on the cusp of some special numbers in baseball: Chipper Jones is two home runs away from 400, Manny Ramirez is two away from 500 and Ken Griffey Jr. is two away from 600.

The question is: who will get there first? (Warning: lots of numbers ahead.)

Chipper Jones: He was hit in the shin Wednesday night, but had two hits the next day (he's now hitting .412 this season), so, he seems to be OK. He has just two homers in his past 15 games (55 at-bats), but did hit one in Wednesday's 4-2 win over the Mets. The Braves play host to Arizona this weekend in a four-game series, so that doesn't bode well for Jones. After facing Doug Davis on Friday in his first start since surgery for thyroid cancer, Jones will face Randy Johnson (4-1, 4.42), Micah Owings (5-2, 3.81) and Brandon Webb (9-1, 2.69). Jones is a combined 17-49 with seven homers against those four pitchers, with his best numbers coming against Johnson, surprisingly (12-30, 6 HR).

Manny Ramirez: Manny's perhaps the most "due" of these three sluggers. He has just two long-balls the entire month of May, and hasn't hit one since May 12. It certainly feels like it's just a matter of time before he has one of his four-home-runs-in-three-games stretches, but will it be this weekend? The Red Sox are on the road, playing three games in Oakland and then are at Seattle for a game Monday night. Manny has managed a combined 25 of his 498 homers at the two parks. Against the four starting pitcher he'll be facing this weekend (Rich Harden, Justin Duchschere, Joe Blanton and Jarrod Washburn), Manny is a combined 20-52 with four home runs, and he owns Blanton, who he'll be going against Friday night: three hits in eight at-bats, all home runs.

Ken Griffey Jr.: Junior is two home runs away from becoming just the sixth player ever to hit 600 in a career. Griffey has just five homers this season, and his round-tripper last night was only the first in his past 24 games. The Reds are at San Diego for three games this weekend, and don't play on Monday, which doesn't help Griffey's chances. Moreover, Petco Park is a 91 in batting park factors (anything under 100 favors pitchers), and Griffey is just a combined 14-42 with three home runs against the three starting pitchers he's set to face (Shawn Estes, Wilfredo Ledezma and Greg Maddux).

So, who's the pick? Griffey plays the fewest games, and is struggling the most this season, so I don't think it will be him. Plus, the apparent fact that he's getting dealt as soon as he hits No. 600 has to be weighing on his mind. Then there's Chipper, who has missed an average of 61 games each of the past four seasons. He's bound to tweak a hammie this weekend or something.

That leaves Manny, who has actually been waiting for this West coast road trip to hit No. 500:

"There's something I've been meaning to tell you about the 500 home runs," Ramirez said. "I don't want to hit 500 right now. I want to wait a little while. No one is talking about it. No one's excited about it. I want to wait until everyone's excited about it."
Ramirez reiterated, "No, I don't want to do it. I'm going to do it on the West coast."

So there you have it: Chipper's hitting .412 but tempting fate with the Injury Gods, Griffey is a lame duck in Cincinnati and Manny has been lying in wait for the sunny shores of the West coast. "Official" prediction: Manny will have 500 by the time I'm eating my burger and drinking a beer on Memorial Day.

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