29 August 2002

Mike's Baseball Rants was recently added to my sidebar. Mike had a piece a few days ago responding to Rob Neyer's column on the potential demise of the 300-win pitcher. This, Neyer argues, citing Rany Jazayerli of Baseball Prospectus, is largely due to the onset of the 5-man rotation and, of course, the increasing specialization of today's relief pitchers. (Last year was the first time a pitcher ever won the Cy Young Award without notching a complete game.) So I will now respond to Mike, who responded to Rob, who responded to Rany. Any responses to me?

Regarding the oddity of six 300-game winners starting their careers in the '60s, but none in either the '70s or '50s, Mike wondered:

Well, why? I can see that the use of 5-man rotations may have started to effect pitchers who started in the ''70s and 80s. But why none in the Fifties? And why are there six who started in the Sixties? Does the dearth of hitting have anything to do with it.

[Neyer] points to the Hall-of-Famers debuting in the '60s getting a decision in a slightly higher percentage of their games. To this he adds, "Over the course of a long career, the difference might cost a pitcher ... approximately 10 wins ... but that's not usually going to make the difference between winning 300 games and not winning 300 games." So what does? Neyer points to five-man rotations for the current and future classes and never again addresses the earlier non-300-winner eras.

I am intrigued. I have a feeling that pitcher-friendly eras breed young pitchers who have the ability to win a good number of games over their careers. That would mean that there would be fewer 300-game winners in the heavy hitting Thirties, for example. I do not know if this is true. I envision studying the effect of hitting (batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage) for each era and its effects on the ability for a young pitcher to amass a large number of wins over the span of his career. This may be a fun activity to perform during the strike, like when your mom reserved some activities for rainy days when you were a kid. I'll keep you posted.

Well, sorry to steal your thunder, Mike, but I think the explanation is just as Rob Neyer said it was: a statistical fluke. I looked at all the 300- and 250- game winners to start their careers in the 20th century (I ignored the 19th century, because, well, it's weird), and charted them by the decades in which their careers started. I got the following:

_______Number of Wins


Remember Sesame Street? "One of these things is not like the other..." With the exception of the first decade of the century, there was no other decade with more than one 300 game winner, and there were none with even more than three 250+ game winners. (Actually, Early Wynn is the lone 300 game winner from the 30's though he only pitched 20.3 innings in 3 games in September of 1939. He went 0-2.) Roger Clemens and perhaps Greg Maddux are likely to bump themselves up into the 300 win category in the next few years, while Tom Glavine and maybe Randy Johnson could join the fold of 250 game winners very soon.

All of this mostly suffices to tell us what we already know: It's really hard to win 300 games in the major leagues! That's why only 20 people have ever done it, and only 12 whose careers started in this century. But the point that Neyer made stands, in that we do have, if not a bounty of great pitchers, at least more than our fair share of greatness to watch. Enjoy it.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

George Will says that there are only two seasons in the year for a true baseball fan:

Baseball Season and The Void.

The Void may be approaching sooner than planned, if these buttheads in the labor negotiations don't get their act together. I understand that they're not too far apart at this point, but we'll see. Murray Chass of the NY Times ("All the News that Fits, We Print") had an article essentially kissing Bud Selig's ass, in which El Bud is quoted as saying, regarding the current labor problems, "I blame myself".

Finally, we agree on something.

Incidentally, I didn't bother to write this before because, well, no one was reading this before a few days ago, but now at least a few people are. If you have access to last weeks issue of Sports Illustrated, the one with Alfonso Soriano on the cover, the letter to the editor in the center column of page 16, under the headline Thorny Problem, is from me! It's just a one sentence response to a fluffy Pete Rose piece that Frank DeFord wrote, but it's an official publication. On paper. Pretty cool, eh?

Stumble Upon Toolbar

28 August 2002

A few notes on tonight's Yankees-BoSox game:

1) I got to watch it! This is harder than you would think, but ESPN was kind enough to show it. On television! In some places, if you want to see your favorite team you hafta pay lots of money to a satellite service or buy a whole package of games you don't want to see just to watch the few you do...oh, wait a minute, that's here. Must've been a fluke thing.

2) The boxscore will tell you that Mussina pitched a gem, and he did, but I don't think that from watching him he is out of the Mediocrity Woods yet. His location was not that good, as his curve was rarely over the plate, and he seemed afraid to come inside to righties, probably because his fastball rarely cleared 90 mph. He only gave up 3 hits, but there were a lot of hard liners right at people that could easily have been hits on a lesser defensive team, Soriano's and Jeter's shortcomings in this area notwithstanding.

Moose did throw something, some kind of slider/sinker thing that was about 80 mph and broke like a cheap camera. It reminded me a little of the late Darryl Kile's slider/sinker, which he threw sidearm, as opposed to the rest of his pitches, which were from an over the top delivery. It sorta went against the conventional wisdom of throwing everything from the same arm angle, but it broke so sharply that by the time you realized what he was throwing, there wasn't much you could do with it anyway. Mussina's was great tonight, at least as far as movement, but I don't think he had any idea where it was going. No matter, the Bosox were swinging at everything, perhaps pressing a little after being shut out last night, trying to avoid the first consecutive home shutouts since 1943. Didn't work.

3) A page right out of Bobby Valentine's book: In the third inning, 1-0 Yanks, and Carlos "One if by Land, Two if by Sea, Three if" Baerga on first, no one out and Trot Nixon up, Rey Sanchez up next, and Nixon sac bunts! First of all, what the hell is Nixon doing batting eighth anyway? He's at least as good a hitter as Daubach, Baerga and/or Varitek, and probably better than any of them. He's on a pace for 25 homers and 35 doubles, and hitting in a place where the Pesky Pole is generously described as 302 feet from home plate, and whomever's managing the Red Sox this week has him just give up his at bat? In the third inning, down by only one run, with El Pedro on the mound? Doesn't make any sense. There may be times when it's wise to bunt a guy over, but this sure didn't strike me as one of them. And it's not exactly like he was setting the table for Rey Sanchez to clear, either.

4) I saw something similar on Saturday, at my One Game I Can Actually Still Afford to Attend. In the 8th inning, with a man on first and down by a run, Kevin Mench sacrificed him over, despite the facts that:
A: This was a road game for Texas, so playing for the tie, especially when matching their bullpen for that of the Yankees, is not a good idea, since the Yanks will always get the last at-bats. and
B: Have they actually watched this guy hit? He's slugging over .500 and on a pace for 30 homers and 100 RBI over the course of a full season. What a waste.

Yankee manager Joe McCarthy was once asked if Joe DiMaggio was a good bunter, to which he responded,

"I'll never know."

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Quote of the Day:

"I have a hard time believing athletes are overpriced. If an owner is losing money, give it up. It's a business. I have trouble figuring out why owners would stay in if they're losing money."

This one was said by Reggie Jackson, Mr. October, and though the page where I saw it doesn't have it dated, I'm guessing that it happened back in the prime of Reggie's career, maybe somewhere around the strike in '81. Which means that The Straw That Stirs the Drink was ahead of his time, preemptively echoing a sentiment expressed by Jesse "The Governing Body" Ventura during congressional hearings last autumn, when he said,

"These owners are not losing the money they claim to be losing. If they were, they wouldn't be paying the salaries they're paying. It's asinine. These people did not get the wealth they have by being stupid."

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Down to the wire: The labor talks are getting uncomfortably close to the strike date, August 30. There are all sorts of people out there with all sorts of opinions as to whose fault it is and what should be done about it. I'll go into some of the options for change in another piece. Right now, let's talk blame:

Some think it's primarily the Owners' fault, or primarily the Players' fault. David Schoenfield thinks it's all the Yankees fault, to which I would respond (if he had asked me, which he didn't) that Steinbrenner and the Yankees did not create the system, they're simply taking advantage of their natural...well, advantage. Supposedly, the Yankees should just let free agents go by, so that other teams can sign them, or at least bid lower for their services, so as not to raise the salary bar so much. While it's true that signing guys to huge, multi-year, multi-million dollar contracts raises the bar for everyone else, what is the alternative? Free agents and the Scott Borases of the world know what the Yankees can afford to pay, and if they bid under that, they don't get the player. Sure, they could just not sign free agents and King George could just pocket the profits that come from owning the Yankees, even if they lose, but isn't that exactly what everyone complains about when conversation turns to people like Carl Pohlad, the Twins' owner, and Jeffrey Loria, formerly owner of the Expos? Not signing those guys, or not retaining their own, home-grown talent when they become free agents, does not make the Steinbrenner and the Yankees "fair" players, or benevolent or even-handed. It makes them fools. And they would also be fools to want to change a system that has made them both successful and profitable, for a long time. On the other hand, they'd be even bigger fools to stand in the corner holding their breath, waiting for a deal they like while the whole system collapses around them. But I don't think anyone of consequence really thinks that the whole system is going to collapse. Well, maybe Jim Bunning.

Sure, it makes the Yankees greedy and selfish to operate this way, but who isn't? The Yankees are just better equipped to be selfish and have more to be selfish about than most of the other owners.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

27 August 2002

David Pinto has graciously added me to his list of co-bloggers, even though mine is more of a notebook (hence the description change). I'm also adding Aaron Gleeman's blog to my listing, because it's a good one, and because I'm hoping he'll return the favor. What I'd really like is to figure out a way to find my blog if you're looking for something like it on a search engine. Anyone who has any pointers on this, feel free to clue me in. I'm pretty new at this.

BTW, on an unrelated note, does anyone else find ESPN's Baseball Tonight demonstrations amusing? It's funny/weird enough to watch two middle-aged men in $750 suits, wearing makeup, standing over a batting tee, in a studio, with a shiny new bat, trying to explain hitting techniques to all the people out there in TV-land. But then, the irony of the pairing: Tony Gwynn (.338 career BA) and Harold Reynolds (.327 career OBP, .341 SLG%!). Seems a little like pairing up Steven Spielberg with Tom Green for a seminar on movie directing, y'know?

Stumble Upon Toolbar

26 August 2002

Hall of Famer Hoyt Wilhelm died yesterday, at the age of 79 or so. He was the first (primarily) relief pitcher elected to the Hall, and first knuckleballer (I think). Rollie Fingers and Phil Niekro have both followed Wilhelm into the Hall since, respectively, in those categories. This brings up the following comparison:

______W - L__ SV__IP____H __SO_ERA
Rollie 114-118 341 1701.3 1474 1299 2.90
Goose 124-107 310 1809.3 1497 1502 3.01

Why isn't Pete Rose in the Hall of Fame? Frankly Pony, that one's kind of obvious, isn't it? The real question is why isn't Goose Gossage in the Hall of Fame? He had fewer saves than Rollie, but more than 20 games difference in their won/lost records (+10 wins, -11 losses). He pitched more innings, allowed fewer hits, struck out batters more often, allowed homers less often, and had a slightly lower adjusted ERA (relative to the league) for his career. Goose was on nine All-Star teams to Fingers' seven. Both led their league in saves 3 times, finished among the top 10 in the MVP voting twice (Fingers won it, with the Cy Young, in 1981). Fingers was among the top ten in Cy Young voting four times to Goose's 5 times. Rollie did win four Rolaids Relief awards to Goose's one, but this is a kind of contrived award anyway, based simply on statistics rather than value, and statistics that can be manipulated, no less.

I think that there are probably two main reasons that Goose is not yet in the Hall. Rob Neyer has argued that in the time it took Rollie Fingers to retire and then to be elected to the HoF, the status of the Save, as a statistic, changed. People like Tony LaRussa started using pitchers like Dennis Eckersly and Lee Smith specifically for the purpose of getting saves, and pretty soon, Goose's 310 didn't look so impressive anymore. Lee Smith (478), John Franco (422), Dennis Eckersley (390), Jeff Reardon (367) Randy Myers (347), Trevor Hoffman (346), John Wetteland (330), Roberto Hernandez (318), Rick Aguilera (318), Tom Henke (311), Jeff Montgomery (304), Doug Jones (303), Bruce Sutter (300), and Robb Nen (302) all have 300 or more saves now, and I guess it just looks bad to elect a guy who has only eight more saves than Doug Jones.

Rollie and Goose were approximately contemporaries, with mostly overlapping careers, though Fingers ('68-'85) started sooner and retired sooner than Gossage ('72-94), but if Goose had retired two years earlier, he would have had a 2.93 ERA instead of 3.01, and the memory of him as one of the premier stoppers would have been fresher in the voters' minds when voting time arrived. Instead, he stayed a little longer than some of the BBWAA might have liked, pitching into his 22nd season, and still effectively I might add, with an ERA below the league average when the strike hit in 1994. I guess these guys want their favorites to ride off into the sunset as soon as their skills begin to diminish a little, that if you can't be The Stopper you should just Stop. It's ironic that the same men who don't elect people like Ron Guidry for not pitching long enough also punish people like Gossage and Bert Blyleven for pitching so long.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

20 August 2002

Dave Sheinin, who covers baseball for The Sporting News and the Washington Post, wrote an article in TSN magazine last week indicating that the reason the Atlanta Braves have not won in the postseason, despite having gotten there at every available opportunity since 1991, is that they have lacked depth. They have not had the "lock down closer" like Mariano Rivera, that the Yankees have had, and therefore, it makes sense that they have not been able to get past the Yankees. He makes a pretty good argument for not investing totally in starting pitching, as having two extra really good starters doesn't really help you much in the post season as having two good bats on the bench might. This is mostly true, though Rob Neyer made this point in one of his columns about two years ago, if I recall correctly. Neyer's point was more focused on what percentage of the Braves' payroll is allotted to starting pitching, and indicated that the number (something like 40%) was way too high.

While it's true that the Braves have generally wanted for bench depth, the statement that their relief pitching has somehow left something to be desired is patently ridiculous. Though the Braves' World Series hopes have ended, often dramatically, at the hands of their relief pitchers, it is much more difficult to really blame the Braves' bullpen for not being "good enough". Atlanta's relief pitchers have perenially been among the league's best, if not the best in the NL in ERA and saves, and for what innings they have been allowed by their great starters, have been very effective, at least during the regular seasons. It has become fashionable, in recent years, to say that Mark Wohlers or Juan Bereunger or Greg McMichael or Kerry Lightenberg or John Rocker weren't really that good, because they're not that good now, or not well remembered now, or because someone once hit a dramatic October home run against them. Or, if you prefer, their middle relievers (Mike Bielecki, Mike Stanton, Pedro Borbon, Steve Bedrosian, Kent Mercker, Mike Remlinger etc.) weren't that good, because they were sort of patched together, relative unknowns and/or did not continue their success for long. But the fact of the matter is that when these guys pitched for the Braves, they pitched very, very well. Leo Mazzone and Bobby Cox saw to that. And when they stopped pitching well, or when they got too expensive, they were out. No, the Braves may not have ever had much in the way of "name players" in their bullpen, but whoever they had did their jobs well, often better than anyone else's bullpen in the major leagues. The fact that people like Jim Leyritz got to them on occasion is as much a matter of luck on the part of the Twins/ Blue Jays/ Phillies/ Yankees/ Marlins/ Padres/ Yankees/ Mets/ Diamondbacks as it was skill (or the lack thereof) on the part of the Braves' relievers. Besides this, as usual, if the Braves' hitters had scored more runs, the relief pitchers might never have come into question.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

19 August 2002

AJ Burnett may be, unfortunately for us, done for the season, with a deep bone bruise on his pitching elbow. Actually, this may be a fortunate thing for him. If this injury keeps him on the shelf for the rest of the year as though it were, it might just save his career. I know, you're saying "Save his career? He seems to be off to a great start! What's to save?" But if something isn't done to help preserve Burnett's arm soon, he could burn out, much like too many talented, young pitchers have in the last 20 years. Steve Avery is a prime example of a guy who was great for a few years when he was very young, but because of overwork, could not sustain the same levels, or even useful levels, of skill into his late 20's. And now Burnett is being abused at almost Livan Hernandezian rates, as the guys at Baseball Prospectus will tell you. Only Randy Johnson has suffered more abuse at the hands of his manager than Burnett, and at least the Big Unit has proven that he can take it. Burnett is only 25, and has averaged over 111 pitches per start. Yes it's great that he's leading the majors in complete games and shutouts, but let's face it folks, the Fish are going nowhere, slowly, and leaving Burnett in for 110, 120, 130 pitches is really not helping anybody. This is the future of the franchise, and racking up pitch counts like you're trying to win a prize at a carnival is a good way to run the "franchise" into the ground.

The funny (funny-strange, not funny ha-ha) thing is, Marlins' manager Jeff Torborg was quoted all over the article saying things like "We would never do anything to hurt him" and "It's an absolute shock." which I'm sure it is, for him. But if he were worth his salt as a manager, he might have done a little research on how to handle young pitchers, since he's been given the charge of developing the likes of Burnett, Josh Beckett, Ryan Dempster (since traded), Brad Penny, and even Carl Pavano and Braden Looper. In doing said research, he might have come across the work that Rany Jazayerli and others at Baseball Prospectus have done in examining pitcher abuse and realized that a pitcher with pitcher abuse levels (based on high pitch counts in individual outings) above a certain threshold are three times more likely to experience a serious arm injury than those whose arms are better cared for. Seems to me like a pretty good reason to take a guy like Burnett out when he's already logged 110 pitches. He's already a pretty damn good pitcher at 25, if perhaps a little wild. I'd like to see him still pitching well when he's 30, y'know?

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Dave Pinto (whose own website is now linked here) made a point on his blog about how Bobby Valentine should have pinch hit for Rey Ordonez in the late innings of a close game, but didn't. I must agree with the point, which I noticed a few weeks ago, and would have written about at the time, but didn't have this blog yet. In a game against Arizona on Monday, 5 August, it was bad enough that Valentine started the likes of Ty Wiggington, Timo Perez, Joe McEwing and John Valentin against Randy Johnson, but then, in the 8th, only down by 2 runs and with Rey ".244" Ordonez due up, Valentine lets him hit, (though I use the term loosely). And then he pinch hits for the pitcher, not Alfonzo (.467 OBP vs. RJ), not Alomar (.341 OBP vs. RJ), but Vance Wilson (0/0 vs RJ), who promptly struck out.

The next day people made a big deal about the shutout Johnson had pitched, but in reality I don't think Valentine could have done any more to give the game away. If he ever was a good manager, he seems to have lost it. There are very few times when I think that the manager can really be blamed for poor production by his team, and I think he can almost never be blamed for poor production by particular players. But not getting the most out of the team you have is no one's fault but the manager's. Here's to a change at the helm of the SS NY Mets, before Valentine runs them aground or into an iceberg again, like he has this year.

Maybe Davey Johnson's available?

Stumble Upon Toolbar

15 August 2002

ESPN Radio occasionally plays a clip of a Pete Rose interview on the Dan patrick Show in which he states"I was suspended from baseball for betting on football. I have a signed document from the commisioner that says that there are no findings that I bet on baseball. To me that puts the question to rest. It says that ther's no finding or admission that I bet on baseball. I've lived up to my part of the agreement but they (MLB) haven't lived up to theirs...I know it says a lifetime ban, but I didn't look at it that way, because I could apply for reinstatement in one year..."

Well, I don't know why ESPN keeps playing this clip, whether it's because they believe him or because they don't, but you'd certainly think that their continued use of their own airtime to play this clip somehow indicates support for Rose's Hall of Fame candidacy. The thing is, Rose is lying, but then, what else is new? At the very least he's bending the truth. The agreement he signed, which can be seen in its entirety here, actually says:

Nothing in this agreement shall be deemed either an admission or a denial by Peter Edward Rose of the allegation that he bet on any Major League Baseball game.

But what Charlie Hustle(r) doesn't tell you is that this statement occurs in the following context:

a. Peter Edward Rose is hereby declared permanently ineligible in accordance with Major League Rule 21 and placed on the Ineligible List.

b. Nothing in this Agreement shall deprive Peter Edward Rose of the rights under Major League Rule 15(c) to apply for reinstatement. Peter Edward Rose agrees not to challenge, appeal or otherwise contest the decision of, or the procedure employed by, the Commissioner or any future Commissioner in the evaluation of any application for reinstatement.

c. Nothing in this agreement shall be deemed either an admission or a denial by Peter Edward Rose of the allegation that he bet on any Major League Baseball game.

Neither the Commissioner nor Peter Edward Rose shall be prevented by this agreement from making any public statement relating to this matter so long as no such public statement contradicts the terms of this agreement and resolution.

And of course, he really doesn't want you to know that it says:

4. Peter Edward Rose acknowledges that the Commissioner has a factual basis to impose the penalty provided herein, and hereby accepts the penalty imposed on him by the Commissioner and agrees not to challenge that penalty in court or otherwise. He also agrees he will not institute any legal proceedings of any nature against the Commissioner of any of his representatives, either Major League or any Major League Club. (bold added)

Well the rule doesn't say that someone can be suspended from baseball for betting at all, or betting on football, it says:

Rule 21(d):

Any player, umpire, or club or league official or employee, who shall bet any sum whatsoever upon any baseball game in connection with which the bettor has no duty to perform, shall be declared ineligible for one year.

Any player, umpire, or club or league official or employee, who shall bet any sum whatsoever upon any baseball game in connection with which the bettor has a duty to perform, shall be declared permanently ineligible.

So if he admits that there's a "factual basis to impose the penalty" then why didn't he contend at the time that the punishment he was receiving was inappropriate and not warranted by the rules of MLB?

The answer is simple: he couldn't, because he understood that he was being suspended permanently because there was overwhelming evidence of his betting on baseball games, including Reds games he managed, and he knew it. He didn't want to admit it, so he signed, anticipating that he could apply for reinstatement in one year, but with no guarantee that his application would be granted, and acknowledging that he would not challenge either the penalty itself, the agreement, or the commisioner's response to his applications for reinstatement. And, of course, he has done just that, any chance he gets. So it's actually Rose who has not held up his end of the bargain, rather than the Commisioner's office, as Pete would have you believe.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

14 August 2002

The owners' lawyer seems to think that a deal can be worked out before a strike, which would be great. But it looks like George Steinbrenner may get fined for remarks he made about how the new CBA (Created for Bud's Allies) may not really be in the large market clubs' best interests. He said, essentially, that El Bud's interests lie with the small market teams much moreso than with the large market owners, though he did not go as far as to say that Bud was colluding with said small market owners to screw people like Steinbrenner and Rupert Murdoch. People like Royals' owner David Glass have criticized him back, indicating that his perspective is kind of warped, and that "If the rest of us had as much revenue as he has, we might take that kind of selfish approach as well."

Selfish? Of course he's selfish, you dolt! He's a Capitalist! He likes to make money! Almost everybody does, and why shouldn't he? In fact, what Glass' comments don't address/admit is that David Glass is also selfish. If he were not, he wouldn't be own a baseball team. And he wouldn't be whining, along with the owners of teams like the Pirates, Brewers, Tigers and Expos that they're losing money fist-over-hand. If he were really unselfish, he would simply run the franchise by spending all of his own money to make the best team he could, regardless of how little or much money the team made (or lost), in an entirely altruistic effort to make sure that his players and fans were completely happy. But he's not doing that, is he?

Steinbrenner is in an interesting position. He's an owner, but he's one of a few owners who have a pretty large revenue stream, though there are not as few of these as Selig would have you think. The presumption on the part of the mainstream media has largely been that the owners have a pretty united front, or that they have as united a front as they ever have, at least since the salad days of collusion. But the reality may simply be that the $1million gag order imposed on the owners by the Commish has prevented anyone from really seeing the dissention that's there. This seems especially true in light of the fact that every time the order is lifted, Ol' George runs to the nearest group of reporters, adjusts his turtleneck, and begins to explain how this whole process is going to screw him, and consequently, the Yankees. This is invariably followed by someone like David Glass or Cleveland owner (the team, not the town) Larry Dolan saying that George is a Big Fat Idiot, at which point George starts describing how he could wallpaper his house with all the AL pennants the Yankees have won, and it just goes downhill from there.

But really, how can the owners be totally unified? People who own teams like the Yankees and Dodgers can't possibly be happy about the proposal to have half of their revenue shared amongst the clubs, though this idea makes a lot of sense. This way, big market clubs still have an advantage, just not an enormous one. And they really can't be happy about the proposed 50% luxury tax on salaries over $98 million. That would have meant that this year, George would have had to spend something like $21 million more on his roster than he did, which was already a ridiculous $140 million! I think Steinbrenner sees this as funding the incompetence of these other owners, who have not had the creativity and ingenuity to make a winner with a low payroll/low revenue, such as Minnesota and Oakland, and I don't blame him. Why should Steinbrenner have to pay for the Pirates to spent $9 million each on Terry Mulholland and Derek Bell? Why should he have to help a team like the D-rays to sign Jose Canseco, Vinny Castilla and Wilson Alvarez to long-term contracts? Why should he have to subsidize the man who let Tony Loser, um..Muser be a "manager" the Royals for not one, not two, not three, not four, but almost 5 years! With absolutely no evidence whatsoever that he knew how to

A) develop a young pitching staff
2) develop young hitters
iii) manage a bench, or
IV) organize a lineup.

What else is there to do as a manager? And what more evidence do you need as an owner than his record to indicate that he's not any good at it. As far as I'm concerned, if you won't take responsibility for your own team and admit to having made poor decisions and work on changing that pattern, then you have no business being in the conversation about what to do to help alleviate baseball's problems, because incompetent, irresponsible ownership is one of the top problems in the first place!

I'm getting off my soap box now.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

12 August 2002

Enos Slaughter died today. He was memorialized in an article posted on ESPN that indicated that his delay in election to the Hall of Fame might have been due to his plotting a player strike if the Major Leagues became integrated in 1947. He denied ever having done this, as well as being a racist, and I do not know the evidence against him in this area, so I cannot speak to it.

However, I do know that
A) some of the writers, probably quite a few, were likely at least somewhat racist themselves, and
2) they never seemed to have any trouble electing racists to the hall before (see: Ty Cobb).

More likely, Slaughter simply wasn't elected for 20 years after he was eligible because he wasn't a clear-cut Hall of Famer. His supporters would say that he hit .300 for his career (so did John Kruk) and that he was on five World Series teams (winning it four times. I imagine that if he had produced similar stats for the St. Louis Browns instead of the Cardinals, there would be a lot less support for him. Frankly, a .300 lifetime average is not that difficult to come by, and Stan the Man was always a better player than Slaughter was. Enos only led the league in RBI once, and never led in any of the percentage stats or power numbers. In an era when many players hit 25-40 homers routinely, Slaughter never smacked 20 in a season. He didn't amass 2400 hits, or 1400 runs or RBI, or have even one truly great season, despite playing in an era when Ted Williams, Joe Dimaggio, Musial, Mays, Mantle, Duke Snyder, Ralph Kiner, Ted Kluszewski, Hank Aaron and others were doing just that. Don't get me wrong: Lots of players would love to have had the career he did. "Country" was a very good player for a long time, but his contemporary writers saw him as just that, and no more, not a HoFer. It was only the Veterans' Committee, with the benefit of 25 years of perspective, that seemed to think he belonged, but then they also thought that Jim Bunning and Phil Rizutto and Larry Doby belonged, so it's tough to take their word for it. I think he was better than that group, but certainly not a lock for the Hall. Enos Slaughter was, in some ways, the Paul O'Neill of his day. They both finished their career with a batting average about 20 points higher than the average, with moderate power (this is a generous assesment in Slaughter's case) and the good fortune to have played on Center Stage five or six times. Comparable career numbers, and average seasons, based on the leagues they played in, though Slaughter spent more seasons on the various statistical leaderboards. But otherwise, very similar. And I doubt that Old Pauly Girl will get much support when it comes his time.

Actually, current players like Fred McGriff and Rafael Palmiero may face similar scrutiny when they come up for election in 6 or 8 years. What do you do if Crime Dog hangs on for a couple more years and finishes his career with 522 dingers? How do you keep a guy out who has more homers than Ted Williams? He's had 9 or 10 seasons with 30+ homers, but never 40. Seven or 8 seasons w/ 100+ RBI, but never 110! Only 2 seasons with 100+ runs! Hit .300+ four times, but never topped .320! We, his contemporaries, know that he was always pretty good, but never great, and therefore should probably not be in the hall of fame, especially as a firstbaseman, even if he ends up with 540 homers, because it's all about perspective. McGriff shouldn't be compared to Jimmy Foxx and Duke Snider and Mickey Mantle. He should be compared to Palmiero, Todd Helton, Frank Thomas, Mo Vaughn (when they were good), Jason Giambi and Jeff Bagwell, his contemporaries. And when you do that, it's hard to justify electing him.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

09 August 2002

I just read Sean McAdam's piece on AL MVP hopefuls, and I have to admit that I'm a little frustrated with his logic, or at least his lack of consistency in it:

He contends that Alfonso Soriano is not the best candidate because of his lack of plate discipline, which I agree is a significant factor, but he ignores that his favorite, Torii Hunter, is not much better in this department. He says that Soriano and Giambi probably won't/shouldn't win because they play on such a good team, which diminishes their relative value, but he also says that A-Rod is not a good candidate because he plays for a lousy team! Well, which is it?

He says that Ichiro is not a good candidate because of his lack of power, but last year he only hit 8 dingers and he never walked, so he's actually having a better year, but is somehow less of a candidate because he doesn't do what he never did. How'd he win it last year?

Miguel Tejada is evidently not the best candidate because the A's are only in the hunt due to their starting pitching. Excuse me? Last time I checked, Tejada wasn't exactly thrust into the middle of Murderer's Row Revisited, and yet Oakland is holding it's own, 7th in the AL in OPS, 9th in runs, and 3rd in homers. No one on the team besides Eric Chavez is even having a good year at the plate, so someone's got to be responsible for those runs, right?

Pedro and Derek Lowe aren't likely candidates because they're not having "historic" years or great years in a vacuum, meaning a great pitching season in which no one is having a great hitting season. But shouldn't it be the other way around? Shouldn't a guy on a pace to go 22-3, leading the league in ERA (2.25) and Strikeouts (pace for 278) be considered more valuable in a year in which 30 different guys hit 30 gomers and drive in a hundred runs than in a year when lots of pitchers do very well?

So, according to McAdam, and maybe a lot of BBWAA members, a player has to have a great (or at least surprisingly good) offensive season, on a decent club, but not one with a lot of other offensive talent, but not a lot of pitching talent either. Boy, this really narrows it down, doesn't it?

Personally, I'd like to see A-Rod get it. He's widely acknowledged as the best player in the AL, maybe in baseball, and has been for a few years now. And if they don't want to give it to a player on a last place team, they should give it to Giambi, who's second only to A-Rod in RARP, and RAP, according to Baseball Prospectus.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

An anonymous baseball source yesterday announced that MLB's total operating losses would total over $450 million, which has got to be one of the most preposterous lies ever told, right up there with "What Holocaust?" OK, maybe not quite that bad, but still ridiculous. ESPN's stats page has attendance figures indicating that over 48 million people have gone to some ballpark, somewhere this year. This pace would lead to a total of about 70 million people going to games this year, all told, probably more. That means that if those people only spent an average of $35 each, including tickets, concessions, parking, etc, which must be an extremely conservative figure, then revenues from people going to games would exceed $2.4 billion! And that doesn't include broadcasting contracts, advertising revenues, merchandise sales or anything of that nature, which could easily total another billion dollars in revenues, all told. This would indicate that it must cost about $4 billion to run the 30 franchises, or an average of $133 million per franchise. For teams like Montreal and Kansas City and Minnesota, whose players' salaries only total about $30-60 million, where is the rest of this money going? Are we supposed to believe that the stadium lease and salaries for the accountants, travelling secretaries and janitors cost an average of $70 million? Preposterous.

BTW, I'm still trying to figure out how to use this Blogger thing. If you want to contact me, I can be reached at tmutchell@hotmail.com.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

07 August 2002

Pennsylvania has got to be one of the worst places to be a Yankee fan, at least if you're not rich. I'm close enough to NYC to get the YES Network, if I get DirecTV, which costs a fortune. However, because of blackout restrictions, I can't actually watch Yankee games on the Network. I have to get the MLB Extra Innings package, which also costs a fortune. I suppose it's just as well. If I had Yankee games on my TV all the time, I'd probably never get any work done on my house.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Ah, look at this. Yet another person who thinks he has an opinion about which anyone other than himself really cares. Well, maybe you don't but if you're reading this, then you probably have some interest in baseball, so I like you already.

A friend asked me if I'll still watch/follow baseball after a strike, if there is one, and it elicited this response:

I'm a baseball fan. Also, the sky is blue. But seriously, as a baseball fan, I can't help but like baseball, and I can't help but desire to see it played the best it's played anywhere, which is in MLB. Yes, I like the Yankees. Also, I like ice cream, if it tastes good. If they suddenly started to make my favorite ice cream taste terrible, I'd switch to something else. Similarly, if the Yankees suddenly started to make lots of really stupid decisions, I'd hafta look for another team to follow. I like that Oakland and Minnesota and Cincinatti have found ways to win without having the deep revenues of Atlanta, LA or Chicago. I dislike teams like Pittsburgh and Kansas City and Milwaukee for using their stature as an excuse, when clearly there are ways to find some success without high revenues, and I resent even more teams like Philadelphia and the Cubs who pretend to be small market clubs, even though they're not, and use their cheapness as an excuse for why they never win.

It sucks that the players and owners can't be a little more self-interested by being a little less selfish, because if they were really that interested in their own well-being, they'd realize that it's ultimately in BOTH parties' best interests to have a non-partial, binding arbitrator sit down with the numbers and figure out a way for everyone to make money almost all the time. Mostly, they both seem to be predominantly interested in sticking it to the other side.

There's really plenty of money out there. They bring in over $3.5 billion in revenues anually, with 55% of it going to the players, which allows for an average of over $2.5 million/player, and an average of $52.5 million in revenue per team. That's after players' salaries are paid. Seems to me that there's no reason one can't reasonably expect men who were smart enough to become multi-millionaires and billionaires to figure out a way to make a baseball franchise that rakes in over $50 million annually (again, after players' salaries) profitable. Because if they can't, or more accurately, if they won't, they're going to lose a lot of fans, and a lot of revenue, for a long time.

The owners don't want to have to give up the privelige of keeping their actual bookkeeping secret while showing the world how much money they're "losing" every year. (This phenomenon is very similar to how I "lose" money when I take change out of my pocket and put it in a jar in my basement.) And the players' association is too damn proud to concede anything, since they've never even lost an argument about whether to get pizza or Chinese for lunch during negotiations for the last 30 years.

For the players and the owners, they know what baseball is "really about": Money. These are people who are blessed with a talent that makes them orders of magnitude richer than almost anyone else, which only whets their appetite for more. This statement applies to both sides. It's only the fans for whom it isn't about money, though it should be. There are other ways to spend your entertainment dollar here in the 21st century, and people have already found that some of them are cheaper and more satisfying than being a major league baseball fan. More of them will discover this soon, if there's a strike. It's not me they have to worry about, I'm a die-hard, dyed in the wool (whatever that means), hard-core baseball fan. And I'll go to a game or two a year for as long as I can afford it, which may not be long. Otherwise, I'll continue to follow it on TV and the internet. It's the marginal fan they have to worry about. The kid who's growing up playing soccer and football and baseball and basketball, trying to decide where he most wants to spend his energy and time. Those other sports, plus hockey, NASCAR, college sports, all sell themselves well. Heck, curling sells itself better than Bud Selig sells baseball. For a former used car salesman, he sure doesn't seem to know how to make a pitch anymore:

"Yes sir, this is a nice car, but you know, it gets lousy gas mileage, and the seats aren't very comfortable. This one here? Well, it's OK, I guess, but there's not much head-room. That one has some nice features, but it'll cost you a fortune...you should really go down the block, to my competitor's dealerships. Yeah, Stern & Tagliabue's Jeep/Chrysler seems to have some much better products. Boy, I wish I wasn't stuck with all these lemons...Bye!"

So they're in for a rude awakening if they do strike. People will come back, but it'll be a long, arduous process, and they'll have to can Selig. I don't see how they can justify keeping the guy in power after two Strikes, one or both of which cancelling part of the season and/or playoffs. People like me, junkies, will come back right away. Others will take a while, which will lower attendance, lower revenues, and hopefully lower ticket prices to compensate for lowered demand. This will bring more people back to the sport, allowing them to raise prices again, and I will be back to affording only one game per year.

Y'know, when the simple question of "Will you still watch baseball if there's a strike?" elicits a response like this, maybe I should look into becoming a baseball columnist...

Stumble Upon Toolbar