30 October 2002

If I Can Make it There...

Everyone's favorite City That Never Sleeps is in the forefront of baseball news quite a lot these days.

It seems that the Yankees plan to:

- Pay additional millions to a 40-year old pitcher to whom they already owe $10.3 million next year, whether he pitches half of his games in the Bronx or not (*in case you read the Free-Associating Press story, Clemens has six Cy-Young Awards, not five);
- Trade for a pitcher who has lost 28 games with a 5.75 ERA over the last two seasons, who's owed over $103 million over the next six years;
- Trade away their All-Star catcher, who switch hits with power, is signed to a reasonable long-term deal, and is only 31;
- Spend several million more dollars on an unproven Japanese hitter nicknamed for a giant, ficticious, radioactive lizard
- Sign an unproven Cuban pitcher who could turn out to be 109 years old, if history is any indication; AND...
- Raise ticket prices!

What a plan.

- This Just in:, The Yankees are also planning to...
- Sign a Japanese third baseman endorsed by former Astros/Cubs flop, Tuffy Rhodes!
- Trade away or allow a 30-year old, home-grown, star pitcher to become a free agent, even though he has won 73% of his games at Yankee Stadium in his career, and would be reimbursed about as well as Darren "$9 million paid, No pitches thrown" Dreifort next year.

Oh, and did I mention that they're going to RAISE TICKET PRICES?!?!?!?

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Hey, We're Movin' On Up!

Well, the two months of whimsical, half-assed work have paid off: I've been re-published over at Only Baseball Matters, with a few of my commentaries on PeteRose having been cut, pasted and otherwise Vulcan-Mind Melded together to make one semi-coherent post expressing my opinion on the subject. You may think, "Big deal, OBM is just another blog, like The Boy of Summer." But you'd be wrong! OBM was mentioned in the Chicago Tribune not long ago. Do you know what that means? It means that the BoS is thisclose to being important! Kind of.

Speaking of notoriety, I am now third on Google's list if you look up "Boy of Summer"! And I'm on the top of the second page if you look up "Travis Nelson." (One of the first sites to come up leads you to, not surprisingly, a country singer. Golly.) Unfortunately, I don't come up until the third page if you look up "baseball blog". I guess I'll have to start using that phrase more, right?

Baseball blog. Baseball Blog. Baseball blog. Baseball Blog. Baseball blog. Baseball Blog. Baseball blog. Baseball Blog. Baseball blog. Baseball Blog. Baseball blog. Baseball Blog. Baseball blog. Baseball Blog. Baseball blog. Baseball Blog. Baseball blog. Baseball Blog. Baseball blog. Baseball Blog. Baseball blog. Baseball Blog. Baseball blog. Baseball Blog. Baseball blog. Baseball Blog. Baseball blog. Baseball Blog. Baseball blog. Baseball Blog. Baseball blog. Baseball Blog. Baseball blog. Baseball Blog. Baseball blog. Baseball Blog. Baseball blog. Baseball Blog. Baseball blog. Baseball Blog. Baseball blog. Baseball Blog. Baseball blog. Baseball Blog. Baseball blog. Baseball Blog. Baseball blog. Baseball Blog. Baseball blog. Baseball Blog. Baseball blog. Baseball Blog. Baseball blog. Baseball Blog. Baseball blog. Baseball Blog. Baseball blog. Baseball Blog. Baseball blog. Baseball Blog. Baseball blog. Baseball Blog. Baseball blog. Baseball Blog. Baseball blog. Baseball Blog. Baseball blog. Baseball Blog. Baseball blog. Baseball Blog. Baseball blog. Baseball Blog. Baseball blog. Baseball Blog. Baseball blog. Baseball Blog. Baseball blog. Baseball Blog. Baseball blog. Baseball Blog.

So there, Aaron.

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29 October 2002

We're Going to....um...Six Flags?

With the World Series now (seemingly) long over, I can muster only a little energy to comment on a few of my observations on the baseball games played in the last week. I cannot say with any integrity that I wanted the Californ...er...Anaheim Angels to win, but I can't say either that I really resent them or anything. I don't especially like the Angels: Their small-ball style of play, their "little-engine-that-could" mentality in spite of the fact that they're owned by Disney (kind of like Ted Kennedy running for Senate on a grassroots campaign), that stupid monkey, the fact that nobody shaves....all of these things just rub me the wrong way. But I will give them proper credit for playing hard, playing well, and winning when they had to. I had wanted Barry Bonds to get a Ring to add to all of his other awards, so that no one could ever talk about him the way Joe D. spoke of The Splinter:

"Sure, he could hit...but he never won a thing."

On the other hand, I can't really be that upset at the denial of team success to a man who stands at the plate admiring his own work for longer than most of FOX's commercial breaks (some of which are still going on, I think). It seems a sort of poetic justice that someone so wrapped up in himself should have five MVP awards and zero championship rings.

I had hoped that the rare baserunning mistakes committed by the Angels on Sunday night would have been an omen of their impending doom, but alas, it turns out that the Giants had used up all available excess runs in Game Five, and therefore had none left for Game Seven, when they really needed them. Some will blame Dusty for not carrying a better bench, and they'll be right, but it's not his fault that the best he could do for a #5 hitter was Benito Santiago. Besides, JT Snow more than picked up his slack. Dusty may not be back in SanFran next year, which may not be an entirely negative thing, but the possibility of losing Jeff Kent forbodes a very long, arduous season for the Giants and their fans, if you ask me. Which you did, because you're reading this.

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27 October 2002

Smelling Like a Rose...A Rhinoce-rose!!!

John Perricone, over at Only Baseball Matters, had a few pieces last week about Pete Rose and his candidacy for reinstatement from baseball's ineligible list, in the wake of Charlie Hustle's appearance in the opening ceremonies of Game Four of the World Series for MasterCard's Most Memorable Stuff For Which Almost Nobody Who Knows Anything About Baseball Woulda Voted. John thinks that Rose was deceived/robbed/slighted and should be allowed to be let in the Hall of Fame, but I disagree. The following is correspondence I composed a few days ago but did not post properly, so here it is again. John tells me that he is doing some more research to try to come to a conclusion, and so I'll keep you posted as well. What I want to know is: Am I missing something? After reading this, if you still disagree, tell me so. I'd be interested to hear what ther compelling (sentimental or otherwise) reasons are for Pete Rose's advocacy. But don't tell me how great a player he was, I'm not making that argument. Tell me why either he didn't do what I think he did or why he shopuld be forgiven in spite of these things. Thanks.

Hi John,

Great work over there on OBM. I just got a chance to catch up because Blogger is down for repairs and I wanted to interject something about the Pete Rose issue. I imagine that you've been a fairly faithful reader of Rob Neyer's for some time, and he has made some pretty convincing arguments against Rose in the past, issues of undermining the integrity of the Game, as well as of individual games, so I won't get into that. I imagine that you've read them. I also had something to say on the subject a few months ago, which you can see here.

You're right to say that the HoF isn't a church, but it IS a shrine: a shrine to the people who have exemplified the talent, creativity and innovation that make baseball America's pastime, preferably without compromising or abusing the game for its own purposes, and without violating the rules that allow baseball to remain as great as it is. Nobody's saying that you have to be perfect to get in, so invoking Ty Cobb's or Babe Ruth's or Rogers Hornsby's or any other jerk's names as evidence that his being a jerk should not preclude him from having a plaque in the hall is moot. The point has already been conceded to you.

The argument against Rose is not that he's a jerk (a point which, it seems, is not especially contested) but that he bet on baseball games, both ones in which he was involved and ones in which he wasn't. I cannot argue from having seen the evidence, as I have not, but if you presume that there are at least some actual facts and some substantial evidence in the Dowd Report, then it is hard to defend Rose. The betting slips may not be as hard as we would like simply because most of us are not experts in handwriting analysis and/or betting protocol. But there seems at least to be some evidence, between testimonies, signatures on slips, motives and character of Rose himself, to believe that he did at least some, if not all of the things of which he is accused. What do you think? There's a vast, right-wing conspiracy against him? That someone went out and bought a poorly groomed hippie wig and a trenchcoat and learned to forge Charlie Hustle's signature? That he didn't think about all the money he was going to owe in taxes? That someone who would get married and then fly to meet his mistress on the same night wouldn't "stoop so low" as to bet on his own team? What would MLB have to gain from villifying a player as loved and revered for his passion, work ethic and accomplishments as Pete Rose? Only the ire of the masses.

Sure, the low-lifes with whom he associated may not be of utmost repute, but what do they have to gain by fabricating lies about Pete? What does John Dowd or Bart Giamatti or even Seligula or anyone else have to gain from keeping Rose out, as it seems that much of the (albeit uninformed) public sentiment is on Rose's side? The only reason is that there's some integrity to be kept for baseball and the HoF. (I know, Bud Selig lecturing us on integrity is like Chris Farley lecturing us on organic farming, but hear me out.) Rose "acknowledges that the Comissioner has a factual basis to impose the penalty provided herein" (a lifetime ban from MLB), which is a penalty consummate with the actions of betting on one's own team (for OR against) and nothing else. If the punishment didn't fit the crime, why make such an acknowledgement? He could have agreed to the ban without that statement if he didn't believe it was true. Lawyers change documents all the time to tweak them until they're completely satisfied with the language. You say it's because he expected to be able to apply for reinstatement in one year, which he was. No one and nothing has prevented him from such applicaitons, but no subsequent comissioner is under any obligaiton to follow through on a promise/implication/wink-wink made by a previous comissioner, just as the new CEO of a corporation is under no obligation to fulfill promises made by a previous administration. The agreement says "This document contains the entire agreement of the parties and represents the entire resolution of the matter of Peter Edward Rose before the Commissioner." Even if there was a side-deal, it was never official, and so it's not fair to hold the next comissioner to such a requirement. The comissioner has the right to refuse Rose's application for reinstatement, according to the agreement, and he has used that right.

You also have contended several times that Dowd violated the agreement by stating publicly that he thought that Rose bet on baseball games, including those in which he played a role. Well, if you look at the signature page of the agreement, Dowd's name does not appear. The agreement only states that "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." Nothing about John Dowd not being allowed to speak his mind in public on the matter. You can't hold him to that standard. No one ever has. Rose had his chance for a hearing. He turned it down. He had a chance to clear his name, to defend against the allegations. If the evidence is in fact as thin as tissue paper, it should not have been very hard to de-bunk in court. Don't tell me he was trying to avoid more of a scandal or more bad press, as he stood only to gain from going to a hearing if he was in fact innocent of betting on baseball. Even with all of MLB's money and lawyers, he should have been able to prove his innocence, if there was any to prove. No, Rose refused the hearing because he knew that only negative things would come from it. He knew that the evidence would all be made public (as it has), but also that there would be an official legal finding of his guilt (there hasn't). And that would have really killed his chances.

With all due respect to Bill James, I don't think he's a lawyer himself. The notion of "innocent until proven guilty" is in the U.S. Constitution, a guideline for state, county and local laws to stay within, but having nothing to do with the inner workings of private businesses, groups, partnerships, or alliances. MLB is entirely permitted to make no public official finding in a case but still sanction someone within its own jurisdiction based upon mutually agreed upon criteria. Rose had a choice. He made a choice based on what he thought would be best for him at the time, just like everyone always does. He was probably correct, that this course of action gave him the best chance of getting reinstated, but it didn't work out that way. Shit happens. Rose brought this on himself. MLB didn't lie to him. He just wants it to look that way. Don't believe the hype, John, you're too good a thinker for that. Your friend,

Well, that's it. I'm really interested to hear people's opinions.

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25 October 2002

World Series Commentary

Well, the Giants took a 3-2 lead in the Second Place Series last night. I only got to see the first inning or two of the game, including the a pitcher who was obviously having some control problems intentionally walking Reggie Sanders to pitch to JT Snow, who walked on his own. And so did David Bell. In fact, the only thing that got Washburn out of the inning was the gift of getting to face Jason Schmidt with the bases loaded and two out. I felt a little short-changed, as it would have been nice to see Washburn buckle down and get a real hitter out, which he would normally have had to do in the regular season against a team with a DH (a real DH, not Shawon Dunston).

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24 October 2002

Rumours Making us All Dizzy...

Considering that there was only one actual baseball game played yesterday, there's a helluva lotta news today. Apparently Lou Pinella is unofficially-officially managing the Devil Rays, who, if they contend for anything in the next few years, may get a stranglehold on the title of Worst-Run Team in MLB, if the Brewers don't beat them to it. According to the Associated Press, the Mets have agreed to terms with Art Howe, who, is staying in Oakland next season, according to the Associated Press. Maybe they should be called the Free-Associated Press. Then they could just write whatever they feel like saying, for no reason at all! Oh, wait. Never mind.

Baseball's Most Memorable Moments That Took At Least 15 Years to Accomplish

Like most of you, I was interested to see the Memorable Moments stuff at the beginning of yesterday's game. OK, so I had completely forgotten about it before I turned on the TV at about 8:10 last night...but since it was on anyway, I watched it. I only saw it from about #8 on, so as it got closer to #1 and I hadn't yet seen Carlton Fisk waving it fair, I was telling my wife to watch, as it MUST be the #1 moment...but it wasn't. And neither was Bill Mazeroski hitting the most dramatic homer in World Series history. Come to think of it, I hadn't seen The GIANTS WIN THE PENNANT!!!, or The Catch, or The Imperfect Man, or Rajah, or Reggie! Reggie! Reggie! or even Joe Carter. What gives? Most of the most memorable moments in baseball history were left on the cutting room floor, because the same people who vote for Lou Gehrig, Mickey Mouse and Phil Donahue for the 2002 All-Star Team got to decide who runs out onto the field during the opening moments of Game Four of the 2002 World Series. So instead of Maz and Fisk and Mays, we had Cal and Mark and Pete. Again.

At least Ichiro didn't make the cut.

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22 October 2002

All the Comissioner's Men...

Everybody's favorite emprical scientist, Jayson Stark is reporting on ESPN.com that there is a possible conspiracy to make the baseballs used in the World Series harder, evidently to produce more offense. As is typical in such a case, the pitchers tend to play it up, while the hitters tend to play it down, and the writers....well, none of the writers except Stark seem to be saying anything about it, which either means that Stark got the scoop or he's making a mountain out of a pitchers' mound because there's nothing to report the day after no game has been played. You pick.

It makes sense to me that it was simply an unseasonably cool night for southern California, and that the pitchers naturally would have had a harder time gripping the balls. Sure, 21 runs were scored on Sunday night, but Saturday's game, despite the homers, was only 4-3, hardly an offensive paradise. And even with all that offense on Sunday, K-F-WXYZ-Rod still racked up three more perfect innings of relief, with four strikeouts.

Cultural critic and AM radio talk-show host Michael Medved holds "Conspiracy Day" every time there's a full moon, and every wacko from Tulsa to Timbuktu calls in with some theory about how the Apollo Moon landings were faked, or the FreeMasons killed JFK, or that green beans are really blue.....or that the baseballs are juiced. The thing that he usually points out to these people is that the more people are involved in a potential conspiracy, the tougher it is to keep them all quiet. Do you really think that the women in Costa Rica, sewing baseballs together for 12 cents a day, wouldn't jump at the chance to expose some such conspiracy to the media for, say, $500? I didn't think so.

So enough with this silliness and let's get back to appreciating what we do have: Two second-place teams duking it out for the gaudiest trophy in professional sports. Woo-hoo!

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Oldest Link to Jesus Found

WASHINGTON (AP) - A burial box that was recently discovered in Israel and dates to the first century could be the oldest archaeological link to Jesus Christ, according to a French scholar Andre Lemaire, whose findings were published Monday, in Biblical Archaeological Review. An inscription in the Aramaic language — "James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus" — appears on an empty ossuary, a limestone burial box for bones.

Lemaire writes that the distinct writing style, and the fact that Jews practiced ossuary burials only between 20 B.C. and A.D. 70, puts the inscription squarely in the time of Jesus and James, who led the early church in Jerusalem. Until now, the oldest surviving artifact that mentions Jesus is a fragment of chapter 18 in John's Gospel from a manuscript dated around A.D. 125, discovered in Egypt in 1920.

Though there were no actual bones found in the nearly 2000 year old relic, there was one artifact of significance:

A baseball signed by Jesse Orosco.

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17 October 2002

Philadelphia Phollies

I learned from Mike's Baseball Rants today that the Phillies signed Joe Kerrigan to replace Vern Ruhle as pitching coach. Ruhle, you probably won't recall, was canned by the Astros after the 2000 season when (who'd a thunk it?) the Houston pitching staff had trouble going from the Astrodome to Enron/Homerun/Minute Maid/PhoneBooth Field, especially when Billy Wagner started sucking and then got hurt. I thought Ruhle got a raw deal then, as now, but Kerrigan is purportedly a great pitching coach, and the BoSox were foolish to let him go.

Mike's article goes into very good details on the task at-hand for Kerrigan in the next few years, though I think the outlook is a bit more hopeful than his Rant would lead you to believe. That is to say, I don't think that there is necessarily "salvaging" to do in the cases of David Coggin and Brandon Duckworth: I think they can both be reasonably expected to develop into decent starters, given their relative youth, experience, and some statistical evidence of talent. I wrote a little about the Phillies' 2003 pitching staff in the latter half of this post myself, and I actually think that there's hope for improvement if they can find cheap help from the farm to compensate for expensive non-help like Turk Wendell and Rheal Cormier. But most of the dead wood will leave as free agents, so they have a real shot at improvement, as long as they don't go do something stupid, like signing Jesse Orosco to a five-year contract. Also, Cliff Politte, who seems like a pretty good reliever, evidently rubbed some people in Philly the wrong by throwing too hard and/or getting too many batters out(?), and so was traded to the Blow Jays for 40 year old Dan Plesac in May, which is a little like your ex-wife trading in your '63 corvette for an '83 Plymouth Omni, so he won't be part of the picture. I've seen Politte pitch, and he could very well have been the Phils' Francisco Rodriguez, if they'd let him.

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Almost Forgot...

Even though it may seem like it's been forever since you've watched any baseball, The Void is not here yet. There is still a World Series to be played, in which two teams that didn't even win their own divisions will square off for the title of World Champion, despite the factt hat there are roughly 30-50 professional teams in Japan and Cuba who don't get a chance to vie for this title. Oh well.

Your pal and mine, John J(acob Jingleheimer) Perricone, has a preview of what you might expect from the Second Place Series. John knows more about the Giants than you do, so you should read his stuff, but only after you finish mine. And those
brussel sprouts.

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LONDON (Reuters) - Scientists said Wednesday they have discovered at the center of our galaxy a huge black hole, a mysterious celestial object that sucks in everything around it including light. This marks the first real, scientific evidence of an immensely dense, invisible gravitational field, which slows everything anywhere near it to a crawl, though its effects have been seen for years.

Despite its enormous mass, the object cannot be detected directly, but is observed by its effect on objects around it: Creating a drag on everything in its path, holding back what might have otherwise been strong, fast and energetic entities until they collapse and give in to its gravitational pull. Despite its deleterious effect on its surroundings, the object cannot be changed, fixed or removed, due to its extremely large mass, and so it is destined to continue destroying everything around it as it sucks unassuming objects into its powerful field.

The scientists have not yet named the black hole, but they are considering seriously the option of calling it "Greg Vaughn".

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16 October 2002

Hey Joe, Where You Goin' With That Baseball Abstract in Your Hand?

Joe Morgan has probably forgotten more about baseball than most of us will ever know: It’s hard to compete with a guy who spent about two decades making a pretty convincing argument for himself as the Greatest Second-Baseman in History. Despite this, many of us in the sabermetric/baseball commentary community have nearly swallowed our own gum as we’ve read/heard some of the asinine things that Morgan has written/said about baseball in recent years. My colleague over at Mike's Baseball Rants even has a weekly feature in which he makes fun of some of the ridiculous statements Joe makes in his weekly ESPN chat sessions. (Mike's a little overly harsh about the typos, but it's usually pretty funny.) Rob Neyer has said that Morgan's propensity for saying things that get your attention, both right and wrong, is what makes him a great personality. Of course, Neyer's statement came in the midst of an article (16 August 2000) in which he made it very clear that Joe didn't know what the hell he was talking about, though Joe usually does a pretty good job of this himself.

The TwinsGeek recently did a piece responding to another of Morgan's columns, this one saying that on-base percentage is not that important for a leadoff hitter. Unfortunately, when Joe wrote this particular article, I was forced to simply yell at the screen, much as one might do when the Dumb Blonde in a Horror Movie walks into a room in which the Killer is likely to be without bothering to turn on a light. Or, like, when Chuck Knoblauch argues with the umpire instead of throwing out Enrique Wilson, scoring from first on a bunt. I could yell at an inanimate object, or I could bite my tongue, as I had not yet discovered my Secret Identity, and my wife, love her though I do, simply would not have wanted to hear it. But now, I have entered the phonebooth of cyberspace and have emerged as The Boy of Summer! Faster-witted than Joe Morgan! More logical than most of the rabid fans out there who thought the Pirates had a shot at, say, 70 wins! Able to conquer simple-minded logic in a single post! Running out of analogies to Superman!

Anyway, Morgan's list of necessary leadoff skills goes like this (in order of importance):

1) Speed
B) Awareness
iii) On-base Percentage
IV) Stealing Bases
Five) Power

The TwinsGeek himself actually does a great job debunking the crap that Morgan spews. He runs a correlation test and shows, at least for the last three years' data, that there is essentially no correlation between a leadoff hitter's steals and the #2 hitters OPS, and that the correlation between the leadoff hitter's OBP and the #2 hitter's OPS is about .300. Now, please understand that this correlation is not a batting average, but in this case, we can evaluate it similarly, as the .300-.350 range is sort of the benchmark of a good correlation in most studies (at least that's whay my Psych 1 prof told us). So statistically, Joe Morgan's idea just doesn't hold water, which, incidentally, is wet, in case you didn't know that either.

I tell ya, for a guy who was smart enough to figure out that he had the talent to become the Greatest Second Baseman in History, he sure sounds like a complete idiot sometimes, y'know? Can you imagine how good he might have been if he'd had all that talent AND understood the few basic principles of statistically successful baseball? It seems like he understood how to use these things as a player, but since then he has lost any ability to explain it as a commentator, which, unfortunately for the rest of us, is his job these days. What he calls "Awareness" is basically taking pitches, "plate discipline", which ultimately helps the player to either get a good pitch to hit or to take a walk: essentially deja-OBP all over again. Stealing bases and speed could also be combined into essentially one category. While each of the two skills does not necessarily mean that the player has the other one, not having one almost definitely precludes the second, in either case. So really, there are only three necessary categories: OBP, Speed and Power. These qualities, in case it is not immediately obvious, are the skills that ANY hitter needs to succeed in the majors. It's just that "table-setters" (#1 and#2 hitters) need the first two more, and "clean-up hitters" (#3-6) need the first and third more.

The irony is that Morgan, in his own words, actually de-bunks his own argument:

"Hitting behind Pete for the Reds was valuable to me as a left-handed hitter. Every time he got on base, the hole opened between first and second base. Any time I hit the ball through the hole, he automatically went to third; he never stopped."

Every time he got on base, Joe. And when he didn't get on base? Nothin'. A leadoff hitter's prowess at stealing bases, distracting the pitcher, shifting the defense, telling dirty jokes to the firstbaseman (You got any naked pictures of your wife?) or anything else doesn't mean squat if he doesn't get on base! As they say in France: "You can't steal first base."

Morgan uses Rickey Henderson as the prototypical leadoff hitter, which he was, but having the speed of a jet would not have made him the Greatest Leadoff Hitter Ever if his career OBP had been, say, .320, instead of .402. You'd probably have to take away at least 500 runs over his career, and you know that he couldn't have just hit for the averages he did if the opposing pitchers had known that he had the plate discipline of Homer Simpson at the Sizzler All-You-Can-Eat Salad Bar, would he? And of course, he wouldn't have hung on as long as he has without getting on base often enough to justify hiring a 42-yr old left fielder with no arm.

I think Morgan's view is kind of skewed by the fact that he (Joe) did have great plate discipline, so he can't grasp how tough it is to succeed without it. Because Morgan and Pete Rose were on base all the time, Joe can't see how important that was to everything else: He just takes it as a given, and thinks that his speed and power were what made him so successful. It's a little like Marie Antoinette's "Let them eat cake" mentality: A complete lack of ability to relate to or comprehend the defficiencies of lesser people.

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Twins' Decisions

Aaron Gleeman did a nice breakdown on the pending contract issues between the Twins and their CF. He contends that the Twins will probably sign him for something like 4yrs@$8million each, based on their desire to continue to win, to make good PR, and on the fact that Darin Erstad, a similar if not inferior player, recently signed for 4 yrs @$32million.

I think it would be great if they were able to sign him for 4 years at $8mil per, but I doubt it's likely, or even necessary. Erstad may have signed for only four years, but he's a year older than Hunter and the trend seems to be toward longer contracts, not shorter. If stars in their mid twenties to early thirties (Giambi, Hampton, Helton, A-Rod, Jeter, Ramirez, Williams, Mussina) are signing 7 to 10-year deals, it seems to me that Erstad's comparatively short contract was the exception, not the rule. Hunter, if his agent is worth his salt, won't settle for less than 6 years with an option for 7.

Plus, Erstad didn't have the leverage of being able to say that he's the best player on that team. Hunter does. I don't see him signing for less than 6-7 years and $9-10 mil/each, which will likely price him out of Pohlad's market. And it may be just as well, if his historic lack of plate discipline and newly-found defensive mediocrity continue. Rob Neyer, as usual, goes a little more into depth discussing several other decisions the Twins need to make, and it seems fairly logical to let Hunter go and allow their corral of young, stud outfielders to get some more playing time, especially since Hunter has probably peaked and some of the youngsters may have higher ceilings.

I like the Twins. I like how they've been able to finally climbout from underneath the pile of financial rubble heaped upon them by their ownership. And I'd like to see them continue their success, if only to give the Indians someone against whom to compete, but now is not the time to get sentimental. Recognize your strengths (outfielders) and use them to fill weaknesses (infielders). Recognize where you underperformed this year (starting pitching) and try to improve to compensate for where you overperformed this year (relief pitching). Gosh, it all seems so simple now.

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15 October 2002

Counter In-Lou-ition

Unlike most baseball fans, trying to put as much distance between themselves and Tampa Bay as possible, there are in fact a few managerial candidates who seem to be ambling perilously close to the precipice of inneptitude that is the Devil Rays. There are rumours flying about that have the new Devil Rays field manager variously named as Willie Randolph, Chris Chambliss, Lou Pinella, Jerry Narron, Bucky Dent, or someone else. The list would be longer, but there are only so many of the 1979 Yankees remaining. Sweet Lou was released from his contract, to free him up to explore other options, in much the same way that an occupant of the community in The Giver is "released" to another community when expressing dissatisfaction with the current one. Only instead of a quick, secretive execution, Piniella's career will be slowly poisoned to death over the course of the next few years if he takes Hal McCrae's old job. Sometimes, when a big-name, high profile baseball guy might change teams, ESPN or some website will make a computer-enhanced picture of what he might look like in his new threads. In this case, they could not show what Lou might look like as the Devil Rays' manager, as there were no available file photos of him crying.

Anyway, the more interesting question, frankly, is not "Who will manage the Tampa Bay club to another year of bumbling futility?", but "Who's gonna take the helm for the Mariners?" ESPN has a decent run-down of the candidates, with no real surprises: Ken Macha, El Dusto, Bobby V and His Travelling Fake Moustache Show, Cito Gaston, and some less likelies, right down to the Bone. The Seattle coaches, Bryan Price and John McLaren, may be the front runners at this point, though it would be unfortunate to lose Price's skills as a pitching coach, and especially his hand in the development of pitching in the Seattle farm system, for him to attempt to manage, a stretch which pitching coaches historically have not made well (Ray Miller, Joe Kerrigan, etc.) McLaren may be the most likely, though Seattle GM Pat Gillick essentially has his pick, as this is probably the most coveted managerial job in MLB this off-season.

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13 October 2002

Weird Postseason Accomplishments

Jayson Stark, the erstwhile Philadelphia Enquirer scribe, now writes a weekly column for ESPN about Useless Facts/Stats/Info which might better be titled "Accurate but Misleading Stats", for some fairly obvious reasons. This would be a great place to go into some of those, but...

A) It's a waste of my time, and
2) Stark's got the Elias Sports people to do it for him anyway.

But while I'm on the subject, in Stark's column about a week ago, he made the argument that the Twins had a good shot at the World Series championship, because they had home field advantage in both the ALCS and the WS, and because,

"So the Twins are now 12-2 all-time in postseason games in the Metrodome. They get to play four games there if this series goes seven. And remember, they've never lost a Game 7 in the Dome."

Gee, thanks, Jayson. Let's see what this really means:

Two different teams, who played eleven and fifteen years ago, respectively, none of whose players have any role on the current team, and most of whom aren't even in MLB anymore, went 11-1 at the Metrodome. This team went 1-1 in this postseason at the HHH Dome coming into this series. Whoopee. Sure, teams that played for the Twins franchise back in the Regan-Bush Era never lost a Game 7 at the Metrodome....but they only played two lousy freakin' games! Two. Nothing like making sure you've got a nice, representative sample from which to extract your data, eh Jayson?

Anyway, I did notice that Adam Kennedy was named the ALCS MVP, despite having gone 1-for-10 in the series before tonight's 3-homer, 5 RBI fluke performance that didn't even have much bearing on the 8-run victory. It seems to me that Francisco Rodriguez, with 2 holds, 2 wins (now 4-0 in the postseason), 4 baserunners and 7 K's in 4.2 IP, would have been a better choice. At least he contributed in every winning wame. Kennedy didn't do crap before tonight, and didn't even play in Game 3. For that matter, Kennedy had never had a 3-HR game before tonight. Heck, he'd only had three 3-HR months before tonight.

Looking at the NLCS, which is shaping up to be a much more interesting series, I notice some out-of -character performances there as well. JT Snow is hitting .314 currently, Benito Santiago has 11 RBI. Livan Hernandez has an ERA of 3.07, and hasn't lost yet. The Angels haven't choked (yet). Tino Martinez stole a base. Tim McCarver was quiet for like, a few seconds. Amazing stuff.

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11 October 2002

One-Man Show(alter)

Buck Showalter, apparently in high demand in an off-season that saw managers drop like files after the last pitch in September, has been hired by the Texas Rangers, on a four-year contract. Buck was rumoured to be headed for The Freindly Confines, Flatbush, Cow Country and even Siberia.

I would have liked to see what Buck could have done with the Cubbies, as I think that their recipe (a few good, seasoned veterans and some fresh, young talent, on a bed of crisp, green money with loyal fans on the side) would have suited his tastes very well. If I had ever written the column I promised on the managerial guillotines administered since the end of September, I would have said that I think that Jerry Narron was one of the least deserving of the axed-ones. The team really wasn't that bad, being 5th in the majors in runs scored, and closer to second than they were to sixth. But they used 27 pitchers, and, as they say in France: when you've got 27 pitchers, you've got no pitchers. That's not Narron's fault.

What I don't get is that the Mets didn't seem to have any interest in him. He was easily the most experienced manager out there who seems willing to get back into it (Davey Johnson seems to have dropped off the face of the Earth), and the Mets didn't even extend him an interview. Their criticism of him apparently, is that he's too much of a control freak, too big on "rules" (Like the rule about how you're not allowed to go back out onto the field after being ejected from a game?)....but the knock on Bobby Valentine was that he lost the control and therefore the respect of his club.

This seems to happen in lots of places, especially sports, business and politics:

1)Team/Group fails to have the success it wants/expects;
1-a) leadership is scapegoated and sent packing;
1-b) leader with opposite personal style/charachet from previous leader is brought in to "right ship";

Now, one of two things happens:
2) Team/Group continues to stink
2-a) new leader's personality traits are blamed for lack of success, or

3) Team improves temporarily,
3-a) new leader's traits credited, and then
3-b) team goes back to stinking and new leader's "act has worn thin" [go back to 1)]

This happened in Philadelphia last year when Terry Francona's lackadaisical approach was blamed for the Phillies' suckiness, so they brought in Larry Bowa, who promptly began to wear grooves in the floor of the Vet's home dugout. When the Phil's won a few games in 2001, Bowa's high-energy, take-charge attitude was said to rub off on his players, making them all want to play harder. When the Phillies returned to their established levels of play in 2002, Bowa's high-energy, take-charge attitude was said to rub his players the wrong way, and there are some who don't think that he'll last next year if the Phils don't win.

I'm not sure texas will be the best place for a guy like Showalter, though. They have no pitching, lots of overblown contracts on teh pitchers they do have, and a few primadonna-type players, who always seem to get on Showalter's bad side. If Carl Everett pulls the kinda crap on Buck's watch that he did under Jimy Williams with the Sawx, he'll find his ass on the first bus to Kansas City. Tom Hicks can afford to eat the rest of his contract. Good luck to Buck in his new digs, he's gonna need it.

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10 October 2002

Past-Due Acknowledgements

I got an email from reader Aaron Haspel last week, in which he informed me that he has a searchable database for historic baseball stats. It does everything Baseballreference.com does in terms of finding players' names and career stats, but you can also search for specific statistical criteria(batting or pitching). So if you want to know who scored the most runs in a season with no at-bats (Herb Washington, OAK, 1973) you can find him. If you want to know who had the fewest hits while still driving in 100 runs in a single season (Phil Plantier, SD, 1993) he's there. The only thing it doesn't seem to cover is stolen bases, but maybe if we all give him some flack about it, he'll include that, too.

Also, David Levens of Elephants in Oakland did a great job of debunking my rant about Oaklanders not showing up for the playoff games, both in the comments on my page and in an article on his page. I am happy to have been wrong about this one. I am also happy that Levens et.al. are actually complemented by my characterization of them as "zealots" (his word) or "ape-shit" (mine). Shows they have a sense of humor, in case you couldn't tell by reading his blog.

Also, astute reader Jonathan Brook pointed out that:

For various and obvious reasons, the first Yankees-SF Giants World Series will not take place this year; it already happened in 1962.


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09 October 2002

John Perricone, the illustrious keeper of Only Baseball Matters, the only blog of which I know whose title is actually a complete sentence, had this to say about the much-maligned Yankees defense:

Looking farther ahead, I'd say Brian Cashman's got some real hard thinking to do this off-season. He's got a shortstop with a third baseman's range, a first basemen whose really a DH, a centerfielder who should be in left, a second baseman who kind of looks like a centerfielder, and a catcher who should be a DH.

So I took it upon myself to respond to him and defend (sort of) my favorite team:

John, I just noticed your take on Yankees you deem to be out of position, and I'd have to say that you've got some points. Jeter and Soriano are both just about the worst defensive players in the majors at their positions. Jeter made 56 errors in AAA Columbus one year, and I guess the way he's evaded that kind of statistical sore thumb is by not getting to anything hit more than five feet from wherever he happens to be standing at the time. Hey, if you don't make the play, you can't be credited with an error, right?

Soriano, I think you have to cut a little slack, because he only started playing second base last year, and It's gotta be tough to learn that on the job in the Majors. Nevertheless, if he still can't improve next year, they might want to consider making him a centerfielder or something. At least then he'd have some excuse for being way out there

in shallow right center on a play that's clearly the CF's ball. He'd need a lot of training though, as I seem to remember him stinking very much bad when they put him in LF during Spring 2001. For all that effort, they might as well leave him at second.

Giambi's never going to be mistaken for Kieth Hernandez or Donnie Baseball with the leather, but he's basically a middle of the pack defender, as his Range Factor, which is right around those of Thome and Konerko, will attest to. You can live with that kind of "mediocrity" for a guy who hits like Giambi.

Bernie should definitely be in left field. No question. He has lost a lot of range, and couldn't throw well BEFORE his shoulders started hurting at the beginning of last year. If he can swallow his pride and move to left next year, and allow Juan Rivera or some free agent/trade acquisition to play CF, the Yanks will be better for it.

Posada, I think, gets a bad rap for his defense. He led the majors in errors, but he also was second in assists, second in Range Factor (which admittedly is helped significantly by catching a pitching staff that was second in the AL in strikeouts), and at least decent in other areas. Posada is not nearly the liability at catcher, if he is a liability at all, that Jeter, Soriano or Williams are at their positions.

Maybe the Yankees can get someone to impart knowledge of how to read pitchers and position themselves if Willie Randolph gets hired away by the Mets or someone else. Willie was a pretty good defensive 2B, as I recall, but maybe they just don't listen to him much because he's been there so long. A new hitting coach (Jeff Pentland) turned around Sammy Sosa's career, maybe it'll work for Jeter and Soriano. Maybe not. Keep up the good work, and good luck to the Giants, Travis Nelson

.....To which John responded:

Yeah, it's really an accumulation of all of them being below average that hurt the team so much. If they could just solve the CF, SS and 2B problem, the rest of it is background noise. Trouble is, it ain't gonna be easy. Offensively, Jeter is just off the mark as a SS, as a 3B, he's below average. Yeah, Soriano has played second for just a little while, but why keep him there? I'd say they would be better off getting a second baseman, jeez, they could pick up Alfonzo from the Mets for nothing, and then move Soriano to center field so his offensive talents could really blossom.

Then either hire an Alan Trammell [Ed's note: Trammell is apparently employed for at least the first six games of next season.] or somebody like that to help Jeter postion himself better. The problem I have with Posada is that he can't throw anyone out, and even worse, he's not even a threat to. Once the playoffs start, he can be run on with impunity, sort of like Rob Nen. This eliminates the chance for a DP, among other things. Again, this is an accumulation, Jeter's got no range, Soriano is inexperienced, Giambi is a lunk, Posada can't throw, Williams has no arms. That's a lot of extra hits and bases, and look what happened.

Don't be afraid to give me a plug for my LCS preview.

Your friend,
John J Perricone
Only Baseball Matters

...And so I responded, rather cleverly, I think:

I don't know that they could get Alfonzo for "nothing". the guy had an off year, but he still hit .308/.391/.459, which put him right behind Kent and Vidro (had he been a 2B), and he hit .330 with runners on base or in scoring position. There just weren't any runners most of the times he came up. I'm not convinced that Jeter would field 3B any better than he does SS, as I think that the smaller coverage area would be more than accounted for by the decreased time to react. But he's got the arm for it. They could shift both of them over one, putting Soriano back at SS where he started, and stick Edgardo Alfonzo in at 2B. Then they could trade for Antonio Alfonseca, and record the first ever Alfonseca to Alfonso to Alfonzo double play on a comebacker to the mound! (Let's see Franklin P. Adams write a poem about that.) Anyway, Posada's not great at throwing out basestealers, but he's really not that bad, and if you've seen the Yankees pitchers, they're not the best at holding runners on or getting to the plate quickly. At least some of the blame has to go to them, just as some of the credit for Posada's high range factor goes to the pitchers. Besides, if the opposing team doesn't hit .376 against them, and they usually don't, there won't be as many baserunners to worry about. Will plug your site when I get a chance.

With all of that being said, I mostly agree with John, though I think that the Yankees lousy pitching in the postseason had more to do with their early exit than the defense. But the lousy pitching was a fluke, even if it was a particularly wretched, 400-pound mutant fluke with green eyes and purple smoke emanating from its gills. The defense was pretty much what it was all year: Wanting. Hopefully George won't hit the Panic Button and clean out the front office because the pitching staff happened to have four consecutive bad games.

( Was that enough of a plug, John?)

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08 October 2002

All Blogged Up, & Nothing to Write

It's a little hard to get very excited about the playoffs, much to my dismay, as there are really no teams in which I have any sort of vested interest.

I'd like to see the , go all the way, just to see the look on El Bud's shriveled face when he has to hand over that trophy.

It'd be nice to see the , win, after all they've gone through this year. Not that we need another bad, sappy baseball movie.

I wouldn't mind seeing the , win, to give Barry Bonds the only thing his incredible career is lacking.

, for all I care, can go scratch. Besides the resentment I'm fostering because they beat the Yankees, I just don't like the team that much. They're another team in a huge city but doesn't market itself well, keeps its payroll low, makes bad personnel decisions (Mo Vaughn, Pat Rapp) when it does spend on payroll, doesn't walk much, and manages to win anyway. Heck with 'em.

What I am interested in is next year. Rob Neyer has a neat little column in which he "rates" the managerial openings (six and counting...). He deduces (surprise!) that the Mets' job offers the best possibility of significantly improving next year, whereas (supplies!) the Devil Rays suck ass.

My plan is to examine the managers who have been or may be fired and try to assess which of them most richly deserved the boot in their hind-parts, and which were most untimely ripped. I don't think I'll have any sorta nifty mathematical system, but I'll try to come up with some reasonably insightful commentary. Coming soon...

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07 October 2002

What in the Wide, Wide World of Sports is a-Goin' on Around Here?!

I heard on ESPN radio this AM that the Twins-A's game, at Oakland yesterday afternoon, played host to 20,000 empty seats in Network Associates Colliseum. It turns out that 20,000 is something of an exaggeration, as the paid attendance was listed at 32,146 and the capacity listed on ESPN.com is 43,662, but on a scale of 1-to-10, eleven thousand five hundred is a hell of a lot of unpurchased tickets. Where was everybody?

Oakland A's fans may assert that there were two other major sporting events in the Bay Area that day. This is true, but hardly an excuse. One of them was the 49ers game in San Francisco, which drew about 68,000 people, a sellout. The other was the Braves-Giants game, also across the Bay, which more than sold out, with 43,000+ paid ticket holders in a stadium that nominally seats 40,800. And this wasn't even the last game of the series, unless the Giants lost, which they did not.

Shame on Oakland and the Athletics' supposed supporters. A team that wins 103 regular season games and is facing elimination in the playoffs should be able to fill a stadium, especially one that only seats 44,000. There were plenty of people to come see the Giants stave off elimination and plenty more to watch the 49ers demolish the suddenly inept Rams, but only moderate interest in the best team in northern California? When were they planning on coming out? How much more impoortant or potentially dramatic does a baseball game have to be to induce these long-haired, pot-smoking, sandal-wearing, buncha tree-huggin-hippie-crap Oaklanders to come? Billy Beane works too hard and is too good at his job to have to deal with this kind of response to the mordern miracle he has engineered in Oakland for the last several years. I hope that some other team comes along, sweeps him off his feet, and allows him to work his magic for a city that might actually give a crap.

As long as it isn't Philadelphia.

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06 October 2002

You Lose Some, You Lose Some

Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit amphetamines. First, my favorite team loses. Loses badly. Plays ugly. Elephant-man ugly. Beaten like a red-headed step-child. Then, my second favorite team loses. Beaten not so badly, but beaten nonetheless.

So, congratulations are in order:

To the Twins Geek, for doing a great job of following and analyzing the Twins throughout their year. And to Aaron, who really did a great job of analyzing the playoff teams himself, though it's a little late for all that now. To the Twinkies, of course, for progressing to the ALCS. Send those Angels back to heaven, if you don't mind.

I actually haven't followed the Twins-A's series closely enough to comment on it much, but suffice it to say that if you can hold Miguel Tejada, David Justice, Terrence Long and Ramon Hernandez to a combined batting average under .200, you have a pretty good shot at winning. Oakland mostly got the pitching it needed, three quality starts in five games, though the relievers did not do so well to stop the bleeding when they needed to. This notion that the Metrodome somehow intimidates opposing teams into playing badly is, as they say in France, poppy-coque. Both teams have to play there, and without having had a sellout, playoff crowd at the Triple-H in eleven years, there's no reason that the Twins should be any more adapted to the circumstances than should the Athletics.

My condolances go out to fellow blogger, Elephants in Oakland. The interesting thing about a blog dedicated to observations and analysis of just one team is that you get really detailed, in-depth commentary on a team you would not otherwise be able to read about were you not in that city. And of course, you're getting fans' perspectives on the team, so you get commentary you might not normally hear from the genetically cloned sportswriters who simply parrot whatever they think people want to read (...even Epsilons are useful...). However, the fact that a fan is willing to spend so much of his/her time and energy following and commenting on one team means that you are getting the perspective of a fan in the very definition of the word: a Fanatic. Totally ape-shit. Now, given their locality and fervor for the team, it seems to me that they probably know a little more about the situations across the Bay than I do, but it is at least possible, I think, that perhaps Art Howe is not, in fact, the Anti-Christ, and that every move he makes is not necessarily wrong. Howe was given a team that was expected to contend, a team that was expected to feel a big absence when The Giambino defected, and didn't miss a beat. I think that a manager who's used to getting .320/40hr/120rbi out of his first baseman and who's then given Scott Hatteberg, and still wins 103 games in the regular season, deserves at least a little credit.

I don't know how impulsive a man Billy Beane is, and I hope Howe doesn't lose his job over this. But it seems to me that the A's had some of the same problems as the Yankees did in their series. The Yanks are usually built for the Short Series, with four quality starters, patient hitters with power, and solid defense. They often don't have a great fifth starter, or a league leading offense, but they have enough to be top-five in pitching and offense, and in the Short Series, they have enough pitching to give the offense a chance to make a game out of it. This year, they seem to have gone with a different approach. They had six quality starters, meaning that they had to put two of their best pitchers in the bullpen, out of their normal roles, and it showed. They had a great offense, hitting homers and walking like it was going out of style, but also striking out a lot. Their defense was sub-par, at best, and terrible up the middle, except for Posada. Jeter, Soriano and Bernie Williams all have perhaps the least range of anyone in the majors at their respective positions. Over the course of a full season, playing often against lesser teams, these things even out. A 2B who hits over .300 with 39 homers and 40+ steals makes up for making more errors than the first version of Windows and striking out more often than John Tesh's attempts at a musical career. But in a short series, against good pitching, that same 2B gets all of two hits the entire series, misses routine grounders (both to his right and right to him) AND interferes with two differnet outfielders on plays they could have made if not for his intrusive presence in the no-mans'-land between second base and right center field. Jeter hit .500 with two homers, but again, did not make plays on grounders that most other shortstops can reach with ease. Those are the things a team has to do to win a series like this, because against playoff pitching, it's rare that you can just bludgeon a team into submission. Especially if your own pitchers have a collective 8.21 ERA. Ouch.

Well, at least SanFran is still Alive, and my pich for the Cards/D-Backs series was right. It would be neat to see an all-Midwest World Series, but I'm getting ahead of myself. More coming soon....

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04 October 2002

I tell ya, it's nice to see good, quality infield play during postseason games. Of course, it'd be even nicer if said plays were being made by the middle infielders of my favorite team...but it's nice nonetheless. Adam Kennedy just made an actual play ranging to his right (you payin' attention here Soriano?). Joe Morgan called it a "tough play" or some such nonsense. I don't know if it's just because he's been retired for a long time, and has therefore forgotten that a major league second baseman ought to be able to make that play, or if he's required to say nice things about the Angels or he'll get fired, but it doesn't seem to me to be such a difficult thing to ask of a guy to be able to reach a ball hit 5 or 6 feet to one side of second base. If Jeter and Soriano would spend half as much time working on defense during The Void as they do on photo shoots and restaurant openings, the Yanks' middle infield defense could be mediocre in no time!

Mike Scioscia's managerial miscues are already coming back to haunt him. His bullpen handling of Percival the other night may have lost him that game as much as his use of "The Shift" did. Rob Neyer argues that Giambi's having hit the ball as hard as he did may have had to do with knowing that the ball would be over the inside half of the plate, given the shift in defense to the right side, and therefore led to the big inning that put the Bombers up to stay. Tonight, in the first inning, the lack of a third baseman on third base meant that Jeter's steal of second became a trip all the way to third when the player covering second (Glaus?) didn't field the catcher's throw cleanly. Of course, the ball should never have been thrown, trying to thwart a steal atempt on ball four, but that's hardly Scioscia's fault.

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Based on the recommendation of avid and insightful reader Ken Goldstein, I have added comment tags to my posts. Feel free to chime in. Believe it or not, I'm interested in what you have to say! Well, I'm trying to anyway....If they ever work, they're provided by haloscan, which was both free and easy. Two of my favorite words, right up there with "ice cream".

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02 October 2002

Playoff Ramblings

I actually got to see a meaningful Yankee game last night! Well, most of it anyway. There's little to say about it that hasn't already been said, but hey, this is my website. So there.

Roger Clemens, despite his copious Cy Young Awards, has not had similar success in the postseason, sometimes for lack of run support, sometimes for lack of run prevention. Last night exemplified the latter. He still throws damn hard, as Darin Erstad could testify, since he whiffed on some 95mph gas with the chance to tie the game in the 4th or 5th. But his control is not what it used to be, at least this year, and so he left a few pitches up, one of them to Garret Anderson, which essentially ended Clemens' night. Like David Pinto, I can't understand why Rocket was trying to blow high heat past Anderson, who walks about once every 24,687 At-Bats, it seems. Garret has hit only 8 for 39 (.205) against Clemens in their careers, with 13 K's, no walks, 1 RBI and one extra base hit, so maybe Clemens was just trying to overpower him, but with someone like that, who can hit it when he puts it in play, you're better off throwing sliders and/or splitters in the dirt, I think.

I usually get annoyed when someone touts players like Craig Counsell, or David Eckstein as great players because they "do the little things", like "moving runners over", "taking the extra base" or my favorite, "being a great clubhouse guy". The problem with this, in my opinion, is that they have to do the "little things" because they're not much good at the big things like "hitting". That having been said, I saw something I've never seen before, except in a movie: David Eckstein hitting against Clemens in the 5th, with Adam Kennedy on first and one out. Kennedy was doing his best to pester Clemens into paying attention to him instead of Eckstein, and it seemed to work, as Clemens threw over to first about 324 times in that inning. Anyway, with Kennedy going, Clemens and Posada tried a pitchout, and Kennedy would have been nailed but Eckstein reached out and slapped the pitchout foul! You may not realize it simply from my statement, but this was truly an accomplishment, as Eckstein is barely three feet tall. OK, three and a half. Maybe this happens more than I think, but I can't remember ever having seen it before. It kept both of them alive, and allowed him to single, continuing the inning in which Clemens' poor pitch selection would eventually allow the Angels to tie the game at 3-3. It was a clear case of doing a little thing to help the team win. Except that they lost, because the Yankees hit four home runs. (One of those "big things" I mentioned earlier.)

Other than the Yanks, it was the Night of the Underdogs, as St. Louis beat the Big Unit and the Arizonas, and the Twinkies beat Oakland, despite a mediocre performance by both Brad Radke and their defense. If Schilling continues his past month's trend, The Cards have a real chance to win that Series, which I would like, because I don't want the yanks to have to face the Dynamic Duo again in the World Series. Also, the Twins will likely have a harder time against Mulder and Zito, as they have struggled against lefties all year and rarely walk, so they're not likely to score many runs, since Mulder and Zito are pretty stingy with hits, too. We're not talking Detroit-Tigers-kinda-"rarely-walks" (I hear that Randall Simon has a motorized chair at home so he won't hafta walk there either.) but the Twins easily have the lowest OBP of any AL playoff team, and are only a hair better than Atlanta among all MLB playoff teams.

The Boy of Summer's Picks:
Yankees out-homer Anaheim, 13 to 4, win series, 3 to 1.
Oakland out walks Minnesota, 22 to 8, wins series 3 to 1.
St. Louis takes advantage of Dynamic Duo's temporary mortality, wins series, 3 to 2.
SanFran keeps Atlanta's pathetically hitting infielders at-bay, wins series 3 to 2.

Yankees keep Balance of the Universe, beat Oakland 4 to 2. Some Athletic forgets to slide/makes error at crucial moment.

'Frisco beats St Louis, whose Magic/Fate/Destiny runs out, 4 to 3. Kent is NLCS MVP despite hitting .238 w/RISP, because SuperMan is on base 23 times when he comes up.

In first ever Yanks - SF Giants World Series, Yankees' bats come up big against 'Frisco's overrated pitching, 4 to 1. Baker continues to start JT Snow at first, despite his not having done anything to justify said decision in three years. Livan Hernandez throws 273 pitches in a complete-game, 18-hitter for the Giants' only win. After the game, Dusty is quoted saying, "We would have run him up to 300, but his right arm fell off in the seventh, and we weren't sure how much more his left arm could take."

Prove me wrong.

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01 October 2002

Ex-Lax Go-Go-Go Man of the Year

A while ago, I whined about the Rolaids Relief Man Award, and I won't go into those details again, because you could look it up. However, I will comment on it a little, if you'll suffer me. Maybe sometime soon I'll compile data for the late-inning stolen bases award that I think Ex-Lax should sponsor, but not right now.

Not surprisingly, John Smoltz and Billy Koch won the Rolaids Awards for their respective leagues. Much was made of Koch's winning 11 games in addition to saving 44 games for the AL West leading Oakland Athletics, the most wins ever by a pitcher with 40+ saves. But is this really an accomplishment? I mean, isn't the fact that the closer won 11 games more an indication of the fact that the bullpen and some of the starters couldn't last and/or hold a lead long enough to get it to Koch? Or that the hitters didn't hit enough earlier in games to give a lead to Koch in the ninth? Or that Koch himself blew leads (that should have been saves) but then held on for the win, which he did 5 times this year? We need to start distinguishing between an accomplishment and a coincidence.

Also, as far as Smoltzy is concerned, even more was made of his 55 saves, which set a new NL record. Big deal. His 3.25 ERA qualifies him for the... (are you ready?) ...42nd best ERA in the NL, (min 40 relief IP). Woo-hoo! Heck, he only had the 6th best ERA on his own team! I know, I know. "But most of those runs came in two or three bad appearances!" So what? They still happened. Am I supposed to praise a guy who, over the course of the year, prevented runs about as well as Giovanni Cararra because he "only" got his ass handed to him a few times? I think not.

And how ridiculous is the talk that he should be considered for the NL Cy Young Award? Smoltz gave up four home runs this year. Not too bad. The last reliever to win the CYA was Dennis Eckersly, who did it in 1992. But The Eck's more impressive performance came in 1990, when he gave up 5 RUNS all year. He walked four batters in over 73 innings. Four, or in today's terms: twenty fewer than Smoltz did this year, or half as many as Smoltz walked in May alone. That was an accomplishment. This is mostly another coincidence.

John Smoltz taking credit for getting 55 saves is like a rooster taking credit for 55 sunrises. Well, almost.

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Better Scyence...

It occurred to me, upon further review, that I had not actually followed my own advice and looked into the 1898-99 Brooklyn Bridegrooms, as any good analyst should have. Shame on me. So I looked them up, and found some remarkable things. I imagined that there must have been some extenuating circumstances surrounding such a jump in the standings and I was not disappointed.

So, as long as we're on the subject, Jayson, let's not forget that the 1898 Brooklyn team went from 54-91, 46 games out of first place, to 101-47, 8 games up in first place just one year later. Brooklyn went from awful to great, whereas Anaheim simply went from mediocre to good. Significantly less impressive. That same year, the St Louis Perfectos went from 39-111, dead last and 63.5 games out of first, to 84-67, 18.5 games out, but a 46 game jump in games back from the previous season. You may be asking yourself, "How?" (OK, so just pretend you were.) How did two teams make such drastic jumps in one year?

Easy: They cheated. Well, technically it wasn't cheating because there were no League bylaws saying that you couldn't do it, but it certainly wans't fair. The owner of the Brooklyn club purchased the Baltimore Orioles, switched all of its good players with the lousy ones on the Orioles, and improved their record by 47 wins, almost doubling the previous year's total. The St Louis Perfectos did the same thing: purchased the Cleveland Spiders, made the necessary switches, and turned that team right around. Of course, they also turned the Spiders around, sending them reeling to a 20-134 record, the worst team in the history of the NL. The Spiders finished 84 games out of first place, and 35 games out of ELEVENTH place! Shortly thereafter, the rules were implemented that prevented an owner from buying stock in another team in the same league. You can read all about this in Rob Neyer's and Eddie Epstein's book, Baseball Dynasties. It is an excellent book, which, in addition to discussing the greatest teams of all time, also spends a chapter on the worst teams ever, and the Spiders run away with that title.

If there is to be any comparison at all, Anaheim's accomplishment is actually greater than those of the Brooklyn Bridegrooms/ Superbas or the St. Louis Browns/ Perfectos, because the Angels turned themselves around with largely the same personnel. Almost everybody simply got better, all at once. Should Mike Scioscia win the AL manager of the Year Award? Well, despite my hesitancy about rewarding a guy who employs a hitting coach once quoted saying that he didn't want Troy Glaus to walk a lot, yes, he probably should. But let's give him credit for turning his own team around, not for somehow miraculously causing the Seattle Mariners to lose 23 more games than they did last year. And lets not diminish Anaheim's accomplishment by comparing them to a team that got turned around by plundering the roster of another team, as the rampant corruption of the owners of the end of the 19th century totally skews any comparisons one might like to make.

We've got our own rampant corruption to worry about.

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