When the Angels clinched their third American League West championship in the past four seasons on Sunday, the postgame party was old hat for some of the veterans on the team. But for newcomers and rookies, it was a wild scene.
"Gosh, this is unbelievable" center fielder Gary Matthews, who signed a five-year contract with the Angels last winter, told the Los Angeles Times. "I knew champagne stings your eyes, but I had no idea it stings your skin. But you know what? This is the reason I came here, because I thought this was the best opportunity to win."
The veterans picked up rookie Reggie Willits and dumped him into a bucket of ice. The Angels did the same thing in 2002 to Chone Figgins.
"I'm kind of speechless right now," Willits said. "I can't control my emotions. I feel blessed to be here. It's a great club. It's just been a great ride."
Sunday's starting pitcher, John Lackey, tried to put the scene into perspective.
"The goal in this clubhouse has not been reached," said Lackey, who won Game 7 of the 2002 World Series as a rookie. "We're going to have a good time tonight ... but we have three more [celebrations] to go. I've been through all of them, and it gets better as you go."
Holliday MVP chants heard in Denver: Fans in Denver know how important Matt Holliday is to the Colorado Rockies. Chants of "MVP! MVP!" are often heard from the stands when Holliday stands in the batter's box. Holliday is very appreciative of the chants.
"It's nice to hear," Holliday told the Rocky Mountain News. "I'm humbled and honored that anyone thinks enough of me to chant that."
But can Holliday actually win the National League MVP Award? He ranks second in the league in batting average (.337), is fourth in home runs with 36 and leads the National League in RBIs with 131.
But the Rockies are not well known nationally. That lack of media attention may hurt Holliday's chances of taking the MVP crown, though that is something he isn't concerned with at all.
"If it happens, it happens," Holliday said. "If it doesn't, then that's okay, too. It is not for me to decide. And it is not for me to have an opinion."
Cordero bids farewell to RFK with save: The Nationals played their final home game in RFK Stadium on Sunday. Chad Cordero gave up a run in the ninth inning, but he earned his 36th save of the season as the Nationals won, 5-3. Cordero also got the first save for the Nationals at RFK back in 2005 and has 61 saves in three years in the Nationals' soon-to-be ex-park.
"This place was our first home in D.C.," Cordero told the Washington Post. "Without RFK, who knows where we would be? We might still be in Montreal. We could be somewhere else.
"This place has treated us well. We have some great memories here. The whole '05 season was awesome."
While Cordero allowed the tying run to come to the plate, he escaped with the save. That has been a common occurrence during many of his saves for the Nationals.
"With Chief," said catcher Brian Schneider, "I've learned over the years to not get worried."
Bonds 'had fun' for 15 years as a Giant: The Giants informed Barry Bonds that they will not offer him a contract for 2008. Bonds, who has been with the team since 1993, was disappointed with the decision, but respected the rights of owner Peter Magowan to make the move.
"I don't work up there," Bonds told the San Francisco Chronicle, referring to the front office, "but my understanding as far as businesses and corporations go, if you bring value to a company, you normally have a job. I've brought value to this company."
Magowan and Bonds met for 90 minutes to discuss the decision.
"My conversation with Peter Magowan, in privacy, I told him I was not upset and I was not sad," Bonds said. "I said, 'I have respect for your decision.' I did not ever tell him I was sad or upset at any time during that conversation at all. He said he was sad.
"I never had a bad season in my hometown. This is business. I don't take it personally. ... I feel that I did what I could for the 15 years I was here, and I'm proud of that, and I'm not disappointed with that. I can walk out of here with my head high, and I'm very proud.
"I know there was a left fielder in San Francisco, and there was no one better, and I'm proud of that, and I'm proud of the fans and proud of my family here. ... I grew up here. I have nothing to be ashamed of and they have nothing to be ashamed or upset about. We had fun. For 15 years, we had a great time."
Isringhausen saves 30 games for fourth year in a row: Officially, Saturday night's game at Busch Stadium in St. Louis could have been the last time Jason Isringhausen plays at home for the Cardinals. The club's all-time saves leader's contract expires after this season, though the team has an option for next year, and it appears that they want him back.
"The type of year that he's had, with our club struggling as much of the time as we've struggled, for him to contribute what he's contributed has been really special," pitching coach Dave Duncan told the St. Louis Post Dispatch. "There's been a lot of games that he pitched in that the save just wasn't there. He was there just trying to keep us alive. There's no way to measure the importance of that."
When he recorded the final out of St. Louis' 7-4 win over Houston on Saturday night, it was the 30th save of the season for Izzy, the fourth consecutive year in which he's reached that milestone. That, he believes, is the tip of the iceberg as he hopes to pitch a few more seasons.
"I can be as good as I was this year, if not better," said Isringhausen. "There's no reason why I can't do the same thing next year as I did this year. I plan on being stronger because I'll be able to use my legs more. I couldn't do that much this year. I wanted to let it rest."
Duncan, meanwhile, stated his opinion rather clearly. "I want him back," he said.
Fuld gaining cult-hero status at Wrigley: When Sam Fuld made a nice catch last weekend against St. Louis then scored the winning run last Monday night in Cincinnati, he started to gain some sort of cult-hero status among the Cubs fans in Chicago. On Saturday against the Pirates, that status was elevated even further when he went headfirst into the Wrigley Field ivy-covered brick wall to rob Nyjer Morgan of a hit, then managed to recover and double Nate McLouth off of first base.
"I didn't even know where the runner was," Fuld told the Chicago Tribune. "I just had a feeling he'd be out there too far, so I didn't even think twice about throwing to first. I just wheeled and threw."
Luckily, he said, his shoulder took most of the impact from the collision with the wall -- as opposed to his head.
"Maybe it's good that I think I'm just stupid and [can] run right into the thing," he said. "I've never had to deal with any ivy or brick wall before. Hopefully I can remain fearless."
The catch brought excitement to the crowd of over 41,000 at Wrigley -- and to his manager.
"How about that play?" said manager Lou Piniella. "I just put him in for defense, and he went to the wall, made a great play and then turned around and made a one-hop strike to first base. Pretty impressive."
Orioles' Markakis brings on rave reviews: You wouldn't know that Nick Markakis was only 23 by the amount of attention he gets -- even from the opposition. Orioles second baseman Brian Roberts says he hears plenty about his teammate.
"I was talking to [the Boston Red Sox's] Mike Lowell the other day when he was on second base, and he said, 'Man, [Markakis] is one of my favorite young players. I respect those guys that can drive in those kinds of runs without hitting 40 homers,'" Roberts told the Baltimore Sun.
"I know guys on every team that are impressed daily by the way he plays and his ability level. It's been awesome. He's really become one of the best young players in the game."
Through Sunday, Markakis was hitting .290 with 21 home runs and 108 RBIs.
"You don't really appreciate what he's done until you stop and look at that line on the scoreboard," said teammate Aubrey Huff. "I know when I was 23, I wasn't putting up quite those numbers yet. For me, he just has a natural left-handed swing, and what helps a lot is his ability to take a pitch and be patient."
Phillies' Gordon happy to beat pneumonia: Tom Gordon could handle the shoulder problems. He's a Major League baseball player and these things happen. But on May 10 when he experienced chest pains and a headache while watching his son's baseball game and was diagnosed with pneumonia, he admits now that he was scared.
"Having pneumonia was the biggest thing," Gordon told MLB.com. "The important thing was my health. I went through something I had never gone through in my life. I knew what I'd feel like once I got healthy with my shoulder, but I had no idea what I'd feel like once I went through pneumonia."
The pain he was in and the misery he felt was nothing like he'd ever been through before.
"I never felt anything like that to the point where I felt so miserable," Gordon said at the time. "I had headaches for two days. I didn't know what to expect and what to do. Thank God I was able to get here and get to a hospital to where I could get seen. It actually gave me a little more time to allow my shoulder to get a little stronger, too, but that's not the way you want to do that."
So is Gordon able to say that now he feels "fresh?"
"I don't even know the meaning of that right now," Gordon said, with a laugh. "I went through so much. I thank God for helping me get through what I went through. It was tough on me, but I didn't give up."
Beltran braces for correction on knees: Once the season is over, Carlos Beltran will think of how to get rid of the pain in his knees due to chronic tendinitis. But with the New York Mets in the hunt for a spot in the playoffs, Beltran will wear a brace on his left knee.
"Right now, I don't feel comfortable playing like this," Beltran told Newsday. "It's one of those injuries where one day you feel fine, and you just do something wrong and it comes back again. As a player you don't want to play like that all season."
Beltran aggravated his knees on Friday while running down a double by Jeremy Hermida in the fifth inning and was forced to leave the game. So is surgery something Beltran is considering this offseason?
"I don't know. Whatever it takes," Beltran said. "After playing like this with tendinitis, I want to get that fixed. I don't want to play one more year like this."
For now, Beltran will rely on the brace and anti-inflammatory medicine.
Clemens moved back a day in rotation: Expected to start this weekend against Toronto, Roger Clemens instead will take the mound Monday night after being a late scratch for his Saturday start. Clemens told Newsday that he felt "a little sinter in the back of my left leg" while working out Thursday.
While Clemens is not scheduled to go Monday, he will be scratched again and Andy Pettitte will start if he feels anything while preparing for the start.
"I think Monday's a real possibility from how I feel today," Clemens said. "There's a little something going on, but I expect it to be better."
Clemens has battled a variety of ailments this season, including a "fatigued" groin, foot blisters and a sore elbow.
"Elbow's good," Clemens said. "I think they're just buying me a little time but I need to get back out there. I'll do everything I can to make sure it's right."
Mackowiak out with sports hernia: As the San Diego Padres battle for a playoff spot over the final week of the season, they will have to do so without the services of utility man Rob Mackowiak. Acquired from the Chicago White Sox at the trading deadline, Mackowiak will miss the rest of the season due to a sports hernia.
Mackowiak told the San Diego Union-Tribune that he felt a "pop" and "something weird" in his lower left abdominal area during a game in Cincinnati seven weeks ago.
"Gradually, it's gotten worse and worse," he said. "I've had multiple cortisone injections and done everything I possibly could do to get on the field."
The injury has kept Mackowiak from being as effective as he can be. He had a .354 on-base percentage for the White Sox but has hit only .196 with a .262 OBP with the Padres.
"I've been absolutely useless," he said. "It's frustrating for both sides, I'd imagine."
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.