23 January 2003

Catching Up...

I'm currently working on a Phillies (Philadelphia, not Reading. And not horses.) preview, but it's gonna take a little while longer. In the mean time, it turns out, teams keep signing players without regard to my needs, so I hafta comment on some of these:

1) The biggest name of the remaining free agents Ivan "to suck your bank account" Rodriguez signed with (get this) the Florida Marlins, for $10 million dollars. I'm pretty sure that nobody saw this coming, as all indications I'd read right up til yesterday had I-Rod going to Baltimore for something like 3 years at $18 mil. Reminds me a little of the opening scene in the remake of The Thomas Crown Affair, where the business men opposite Mr. Erstwhile James Bond are so proud of themselves for "finally getting [him] to sell something" right up until he mentions to them that they'll have to explain to their bosses how they paid $30 million more than anyone else was offering. They're deferring all but $3 mil of the salary, without interest, but it's still a lot of money for a 31-year-old catcher who hasn't been healthy for a whole season since 1999. What I don't understand is why they let Kevin Millar go, who's been a healthy productive hitter for the last few years, reluctant to splurge by spending $3million or so in arbitration, but now they're gambling three times as much on Pudge. The ESPN story says that,

"He replaces sluggers Cliff Floyd and Preston Wilson in the middle of the lineup and will help develop Florida's young and talented starting rotation that includes right-handers A.J. Burnett, Brad Penny and Josh Beckett."

And of course, he will help to develop the young pitchers, but then so would Tom Lampkin, so I don't see that as a particularly valuable skill set. Rodriguez can hit, but hey, Mickey Mantle would have a tough time replacing two players in a lineup, especially when one of them is as good as Floyd. Wilson had his difficulties last year, but can still be a productive hitting OF when healthy. And speaking of health, getting more than 110 games out of Pudge in recent years has proven to be a challenge already. Plus, he's not getting any younger, and there's not really any significant opportunity for him to DH in the NL, either, so I'll be surprised if that pattern of missed games changes this year. But even if he is healthy, he doesn't make up for Juans-the-Terrible (Pierre and Encarnacion), or for Todd Hollandsworth, or Alex Gonzales, or a weak bench.

Of course, Marlins owner-du-jour Jeffrey Loria is saying all the right things:

"We were dealing with a great and special opportunity to sign a special player. ... We feel like, for our team, this is a special year, and a special season, and he warrants it."

A special player? Certainly, and in more than a Stuart-Smalley-sense of the word. But a special year? Maybe, if by "special" you mean that this may be the first team in decades to field three regulars with an OPS under .600. (Todd Hollandsworth .618 OPS, Juan Pierre .594 OPS away from Coors in 2002; Alex Gonzales .623 OPS combined 2000-02. Yuk.)

Jayson Stark got it right, for once, that this is a great deal for Rodriguez. I just don't see what sense it makes for the Marlins. At least it's only a year.

 Ivan Rodriguez is shown dragging the sack of money the Marlins 

just gave him back to El Tiemplo de I-Rod in South Miami.

No Fair Ortiz-ing

Speaking (writing) of oft-injured sluggers getting one year deals, David Ortiz. This was expected, since Millar spurned the RedSox for Japan, but this quote from Boston's fledgling GM, Theo Epstein,

''David has shown the ability in the past to also hit left-handed pitching, not every year but he's shown he can do it.
The upside is him as an everyday player.

This quote is interesting for two reasons:

1) Epstein is part of the new wave (have you heard how young he is?) of GM's in MLB, who have a little better understanding of statistics and how to use them than, say, Allard Baird. So he realizes and even admits an apparent shortcoming of his newest player, but chalks it up (appropriately, I think) to a one-year-blip.

And the other reason...(drumroll)

B) ''The upside is him as an everyday player.'' This is really funny, when you think about it. Let's look at some other ways this could have been phrased:

* "The best we can hope for is that he doesn't get himself benched."
* "We're looking forward to not having to release him."
* "He's aspiring to be average."
* "We don't have any delusions here. Mediocrity is his goal."
* "Gosh, I sure hope we don't hafta platoon him."
* "We're looking for 'flashes of adequacy' punctuated by bouts of not-sucking."
* "Hey, he can't possibly hit as badly as Tony Clark did, right?"

I'm open to suggestions here, folks.

And finally...

He's Lieber, Not a Fighter...

Who can afford to give $3.5 million to a guy who probably won't even pitch for them in 2003? Why, the Yankees, of course. Jon Lieber has signed with the Yankees, who had to go out and get another starting pitcher, after paring the corps down to a paltry seven with the trade of Orlando Hernandez to the ChiSox last week, right?

Seriously though, this is an investment in the future. Lieber had Tommy-John surgery in the summer, and likely won't pitch again until late in 2003. If history is any indication, (and if it isn't, then why the heck do we spend so much effort keeping track of it?) Lieber will need until at least 2004 to get back to form. But that's what the Yanks are counting on. And if he comes back close to the form he's displayed recently, they'll have themselves a guy who can pitch 180+ innings of better than league average ball, and never walks anybody. Almost. Lieber's 7.25 K/BB ratio in 2002 would have been second only to Curt Schilling, if he'd pitched 20 more innings to qualify for the ERA title. And being a finesse pitcher, maybe he won't have to wait as long as a Kerry Wood-type to get his fastball back. And that $3.5 million investment will turn out to be a bargain. So the Yankees' 2004 rotation could look like this:

1) Mike Mussina
2) Andy Pettitte
3) Jeff Weaver
4) Jose Contreras
5) Jon Lieber

...or some up-and-coming rookie like Julio DePaula.

You could do worse.

This presumes, of course that Lieber rehabs fully, Contreras doesn't suck and Pettitte re-signs, but it would seem that these are all reasonable possibilities. After 2003, Rocket will likely retire, Boomer may sign elsewhere if he doesn't retire, and Sterling Hitchcock will probably go The-Way-of-the-Whitson, an underachieving, overpaid pitcher that Yankee fans will not soon forget.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

16 January 2003


In all the Delvis Fever I caught yesterday, I forgot to mention that I'm actually looking forward to Antonio Osuna as a Yankee. He seemed to always be just a lucky break away from assuming the closer's role in Los Angeles. (And I got burned a few times in my SmallWorld fantasy league because of it!) He did get the opportunity to finish off a few games with the ChiSox last season, and he didn't dissapoint, saving 11 games in 14 chances. Of course, there's a long hierarchy before Osuna will be nominated King Closer in New York, but he'll be a useful part of the bullpen behind Mo Rivera, along side Steve Karsay and Chris Hammond. That gives the Yankees three guys with experience closing games in the bullpen, not that Rivera is likely to lose his job any time soon. But if they wanted to go witht he bullpen by committee policy that the RedSox have adopted, they probably could. I think that the Red Sox have the right idea, even if for no other reason than the fact that they can save a few bucks by not having to pay "closer money" to anyone.

Speaking (writing, really) of relief pitchers, Mike Carminati is Ranting about the history of relief pitchers, and has been for weeks. It's very comprehensive, thorough research, and you know what? It turns out that there were a couple of decent relief pitchers before the advent of the one-inning closer. Go figure. Mike's been at it for a while now with this particular thread, so don't let him down. Go get yourself a Tootsie Roll Pop, start licking, and sit down to read one of Mike's Rants on relief pitching. I'm guessing that the pop will give out before Mike will, but you won't regret a minute of it.

Also, I'm obliged to tell you to check out Christian Ruzich's Cub Reporter's take on the lack of first-year HoF support for Ryne Sandberg. I expect he'll get in eventually, given that he was the best second-sacker in baseball for the better part of a decade, if not longer. Heck, Joe DiMaggio didn't even get in the first year he was eligible. But I understand Christian's angst. Well, not really. I'm a Yankee fan.

Also, I was asked to link to another baseball blog, called athomeplate.com, so I did. Despite it's name, this website is not about a collectible Jim Thome plate, but rather about baseball in general. Jonathan Leshanski seems to be the only writer at the moment, but others have promised to folow in his footsteps.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

15 January 2003

Delvis Has Left the Building...

Yankees Get:
Antonio Osuna (RHP)
Delvis Lantigua (RHP)

White Sox Get:
Bartolo Colon
Jorge Nunez
$2 million (from NYY)

Expos Get:
Rocky Biddle
Jeff Liefer
Orlando Hernandez
Cash (from CHW)

What's this all mean? It's a salary dump for the Expos, and even for the Yankees, not much more. The Yankees have too many starters, and don't want to hafta pay El Duque $6 mil not to be one of them. The Expos have to trim payroll, and Colon makes more than anyone else does, so he goes. The White Sox get Colon (and get to rub the Cleveland Indians' noses in it) by virtue of the fact that they are NOT the Red Sox, who seem to be achieving the status of "ugly kid no one want's to hang out with but no one has the heart to tell to go away" in many of these negotiations, as outlined by Mike's Baseball Rants (congrats on 20,000 visits!). This transaction just solidifies their position.

The Expos, under the royally screwed up construct of joint ownership by their competitors, had no choice but to trim payroll, and it would seem that at least half of El Duque's salary would be covered by the cash from the Yankees and Pale Hose, if not more. They get Hernandez, who's no Bartolo Colon, but is also no slouch, and if healthy, should give the Expos about 200 innings of better than average pitching, for a lot less than what they'd have to pay Colon. What else do they get? Not much. Jeff Liefer is 28, and can best be described as "Brian Daubach-Lite". A servicable bench guy, but not much else. Rocky Biddle (incidentally, if I had a name like "Lee Francis" I'd want people to call me "Rocky" too) is a replaceable swing man out of the bullpen, who's never finished a season in the majors with a winning record or an ERA under 4.00. He's only 26 right now, but is not really a prospect. Just bullpen filler.

In fact, nobody involved in this trade is a prospect. The White Sox also got Jorge Nunez from the Expos, who hit .291 in 91 games at Ottawa (AAA) last year, but walked only 12 times in almost 300 trips to the dish, and has no power. He does run a little, with 27 steals in 34 attempts, but that makes him "Pokey Reese Lite." Yuk.

The Yankees got D Lantigua:


Birmingham Barons (AA) 6-2 3.48 85.3 67 6 35 66
Charlotte Knights (AAA) 1-5 5.85 52.3 46 10 29 41

His age isn't even listed on Sports-Wired.com, since he wasn't Always On My Mind until just recently. Suspicious Minds are wondering who this guy is. At Birmingham he showed signs of becoming the Big Boss Man, but his attempt to Follow That Dream to the next level and become a Flaming Star got him All Shook Up, and had him longing For the Good Times and the Green, Green Grass of Home. If he had been dreaming of the majors and the Girls! Girls! Girls! he might encounter there, he wound up asking just to Help Me Make It Through the Night. He got a little Wild in the Country, essentially telling International League batters "You'll Never Walk Alone", issuing more than one free pass every other inning, after not getting in much more T.R.O.U.B.L.E. than a walk every third inning in AA. His strikeout rates and hits/9IP stayed decent, suggesting that his fastball would still get ticketed on the Speedway, but the Spinout in his home run rate had him wondering What Now, My Love? What I'd Say, after looking at those numbers, is that he won't get to the majors until A Hundred Years From Now.

If he's young enough, and this Mess of Blues during his half-season In the Ghetto passes next season, Delvis could still end up in a Long, Black Limousine bound for Fame and Fortune in The Big Apple. Or at least a cup of coffee and a Clambake in the majors. But I Just Can't Help Believin' that if he doesn't have a Change of Habit, he's gonna end up on thet Mystery Train back to writing Love Letters from the Kentucky Rain.


Stumble Upon Toolbar

14 January 2003

"You're Dead! ..And You're Ugly, Too!"

Sorry. I couldn't help myself.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Piracy of the Yankees' Roster

My friend, we'll call him "Tim", asked me if I knew anything about some wishful-thinking rumours he read about Raul Mondesi being traded to "Tim's" favorite team. We'll call them "the Pirates". ESPN's Insider echoes the rumour, but Boy of Summer brings it to you for free!

The rumour has it that Mondesi would go to the Pirates for a minor leaguer or two and that the Yankees would assume about $6 mil of his salary for next year, which would mean that three different teams would issue paychecks for Mondesi at some point next year, assuming that the Pirates don't flip him onto someone else at the trading deadline. Believe it or not, this is not a record, as Ruben Sierra was at one time paid by five different teams (Oakland, Yankees, Detroit, Reds, and Toronto) in 1997! And I have it on good authority that Bob Uecker was once paid by twenty teams. To retire.

Despite Mondesi's off-year, his .740 OPS would have placed him behind only Brian Giles, Rob Mackowiak, and Craig Wilson on the list of Pirates regulars last year, and only Giles actually qualified for the batting title, among those. Adam Hyzdu was better too, but only in 59 games. Mondesi also ties for the team lead in stolen bases, with 15 (Giles and Kendall). These are both bad things. When your speediest player, and second-best hitter (by a WIDE margin) is Raul Mondesi, you're in trouble. If Mondesi comes back to producing around his career averages, which he may, since he's only 31, the Pirates will have made themselves a good deal, and the Yankees will have made the only deal they could. If not, well, they're only out about one-third of what they once squandered on Derek Bell. Or Terry Mulholland. Or Mike Benjamin. Or Pat Meares. Oh, sorry, about 1/4 of what they spent on Meares annually.

The problem with this acquisition is, in case you haven't already noticed, that the Pirates who are comparable to or better than Mondesi are all outfielders. And last time I checked (...yep!) the National League still only allows you to play three guys out there. So now the Pirates will have the same problem as the Yankees, except with cheaper, generally less-talented players. Wilson can play some 1B, and Mackowiak can play 3B, but the Pirates already have Randall Simon/Kevin Young and Aramis Ramirez in those positions, respectively. This presumably gives them a decent bench, and enough OFs to keep Jason Kendall at catcher, where he belongs, but they still have the likes of Pokey Reese, Mike Benjamin, Jack Wilson and Abraham Nunez manning the middle infield spots. Yuk.

I also understand that young prospect Tony Alvarez is on his way, after hitting .318 at Altoona last season, but looking at his minor league numbers, 27 walks in 507 at-bats in AA ball does not usually translate into a lot of patience in the majors. Alvarez needs at least another year to prove that he can lay off a pitch once in a while, and to decide whether or not he really wants to be a base stealer, as he was successful in just over 60% of his 47 attempts. Of course, Sports-Wired's minor league numbers also indicate that he pitched about 25 innings over 15 games in the baltimore farm system in 1988. When he was nine. So maybe the numbers aren't everything, and he won't turn into thesecond coming of Jose Guillen. But I doubt it.

Bottom line: Team is going nowhere, with or without Raul Mondesi. Not this year, anyway.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

10 January 2003

Selig Plan To Permit Winner of Most Spring Training Games Choice of National Anthem Singer for Playoffs

In the latest of the brilliant ideas that have defined the reign of Acting-Commisioner-for-Life Bud Selig, he has proposed a plan in which the league that wins the All-Star Game will have home-field advantage in the World Series. If, that is, someone actually wins the All-Star Game. Doesn't always happen, you know.

This wouldn't be a bad idea, according to Jayson Stark, at least, giving some weight to the Mid-Summer Classic again, turning it back into the competitive, realistic, exhibition display of athletic skills rivaled only by...say...pro-wrestling! But seriously, there needs to be something to make these players want to compete, to make the managers want to try to win, to make the fans well, not boo at the end of it. This would do that, but why? What bearing does the All-Star game, an exhibition played with the intent of displaying the best and/or most popular players from each league pitted against each other in an epic battle for annual bragging rights, have on the World Series? A series of games between the two teams from each league that came closest to winning their divisions without actually doing so? If this policy had been in place last season, do you know how many All-Stars the Anaheim Angels would have had helping them toward home-field advantage int he World Series?


That's right folks, Garrett Anderson, he of the two and a half dozen annual walks, was the lone representative of the 2002 Anaheim Angels, who went on to win one of the most surprising and dramatic Fall Classics since, well, 2001. And what did he do? 0-for-4, RBI. So if the AL had lost the All-Star Game, and if the Angels had lost the World Series, and it was perceived that they did so for the lack of home-field advantage, then all the sportswriters could go back to one game played in the middle of July, in which the only representative of that team had done poorly, and blame Anderson for not having had the foresight to keep from doing so poorly. They could probably sue, if they wanted. How much more ludicrous could this be? Nobody even knew whether or not the Angels would be in the Playoffs by the end of the year, much less vying for the world championship. So what does it matter if the league from which the winning team comes in July gets home field advantage in October, when there might be no more than one player from that playoff team on the All-Star team, and that perhaps only for the sake of the rule requiring a minimum of one player from each team to make the All-Star game?

What Selig ought to do is issue a statement that the managers of the All-Star teams should make every reasonable attempt to manage this game like a regular-season game, as long as he doesn't physically jeopardize any of the players or something like that. Threaten a fine if there's indications of stupidity, like bringing in Barry Zito to throw three measley pitches.

Promise a quality product and the fans will love you for it. C'mon, Bud, they've hated everything else you've done so far. What do you have to lose?

Stumble Upon Toolbar

08 January 2003

"Prospectus? You Hardly Know Us!!!"

Baseball Prospectus is the coolest, most comprehensive book of its kind. Those guys are always working hard to bring us new stuff, better stuff, and they've done it again this year:

* Will Carroll of the wonderfully useful Under the Knife is now on their staff of writers, and will also be hosting a syndicated radio show. You can't really hear this through the book, I don't think.

* They've gone against their intuitions and added projections for pitchers for next year. I don't know how, and I don't know if they'll ever do it again, given the difficulties in such projections, but they did it this year, so I guess we'll see.

* You can even pre-order the book through them at 20% off the cover price, but then you make up the difference in shipping costs anyway. I reccommend going to bestbookbuys.com and getting ith through buy.com, where the book was only $13.82! You can even get free shipping, except that you take the chance of the book being delivered sometime in mid-August buy an old man using a rick-shaw. I went for the UPS standard at $3.85, which still brings the total to less than $18.

One of my only criticisms about the book, at least last year's edition, was their use of a particular quote:

"Their rankings by position are an invaluable tool. If more general managers understood it, they wouldn't do the trades they do." --Peter Gammons, ESPN

Sounds great, right? Except that last year's edition didn't include rankings by position. Which, besides eliminating what I thought was a very useful tool, made this quote kinda pointless. I wrote to them about it last year, but never got a response. That was before Clay and I were on a first-name basis. I guess it's just nice that Peter Gammons said something about you once, so you've gotta take advantage of it. I imagine that if Peter had said,

"With the season winding down, baseball fans from RedSox Nation and beyond
are realizing that this book is a piece of crap I use to wipe my wrinkly old ass,
and that it sucks so much that my living room gets cleaner every time I open it,
especially while watching Darrin Erstad grind out a gritty, epic, classic, line-drive
homer into the right-field bleachers at the beautifully classy, new, Edison Field
off Giants reliever Tim Worrell, with Dale Evans watching over him from above, the
love of millions of formerly unrequited Angels fans washing over him like a whirlpool,
thinking about the eckstrordinnarrilly underratedness of David Eckstein and Susan
Tedeschi, which flies in stark contrast to the overbearing, warmonger, micro-
managing owner of the hated, New York Yankees... "

they'd still have it right there on the cover, albeit in much smaller type.

Anyway, here's a quote from Boy of Summer:

"Go buy Baseball Prospectus. Now."

Stumble Upon Toolbar

07 January 2003

National Baseball Hall of Statistics Removed From Context and Manipulated to Serve My Own Evil, Narrow-Minded Purposes
- by Jayson Stark

Someone must have alerted my favorite empirical scientist to the fact that I had planned to tear apart his columns on a weekly basis, because for a while there, it seemed that he just stopped writing the silly, irreverent, non-contextual jibberish to which I had grown so accustomed to reading. But no more. The Jayson of old is back, today, with his Hall of Fame Ballot and Silly Explanations Column. Let's run through the ballot first. Stark voted for ten players this year, for the first time ever. They were, in the order he reviews their candidacies:

1) Eddie Murray
2) Ryne Sandberg
3) Lee Smith
4) Jim Kaat
5) Gary Carter
6) Goose Gossage
7) Bruce Sutter
8) Jack Morris
9) Andre Dawson
10) Dale Murphy

First of all, let me say that Murray, Ryno, and Goose are all HoFers in my mind. I won't argue much about Smith or Carter, though I think they weren't as great. I understand that Carter was a very good catcher for a long time, just as Smith was a very good reliever for a long time, so I'm OK with them. Dawson I could go either way: His low BA and OBP make me leary of him as a HoF, but his longevity helped him amass some nice career numbers. I'd prefer to leave him off personally, but won't argue much about him either. Kaat, Sutter, Morris and Murphy I would omit, all for the same reasons: Either they weren't excellent for long enough (Sutter, Murphy) or they spent too long not being excellent (Kaat, Morris, probably Dawson too, for that matter).

But I'm not here to take issue with Stark's choices. I'm here to take issue with how he made them. He's entitled to his opinions. No problem there. But as soon as Jayson the Empiricist starts citing reasons, I've got something with which to argue. Let's take the problems in order, shall we? These are quotes from the article, numbered by Stark's voting order.

1) Re: Eddie Murray "It's a funny thing about Eddie Murray. He played 21 seasons, and he never got as many hits, RBI or home runs in any of them as Albert Pujols has piled up in both of his first two seasons."

Jayson, he played 21 seasons in a different era of baseball. Offense is cheaper now. It's a funny thing about Warren Spahn, too. He pitched for 21 seasons without ever winning as many games as Cy Young piled up in his first two seasons. It doesn't mean anything.

4) Re: Jim Kaat
a. "He was an ace-type starter for a World Series team (the '65 Twins) -- and beat Sandy Koufax in a World Series game."

Yeah, but that was the only postseason game he ever won. In his career, he was 1-4 with an ERA over 4.0 in Octobers. You have to take everthing into account. If you're gonna give Kaat credit for beating Koufax, you have to give him demerits for losing to Koufax two other times, and another to Jim Palmer, plus not-so-great appearances against the Reds and Brewers in '76 and '82, respectively.

b. "He had a long period of excellence, winning 18 games at age 23 and 20 at age 37."

He had a long period. Period. In the twelve seasons between his 18-win and 20-win campaigns, he averaged a record of about 15-11, with an ERA around 10-15% better than the league average. Certainly very good, but not "excellence" by any standard. And let's not forget that Kaat pitched both before and after the period he cites, and not nearly as well.

7) Re: Bruce Sutter "...is still the only relief pitcher who ever finished in the top 10 in MVP voting six times in eight years."

This simply isn't true. Baseball Reference indicates that Sutter finished in the top 10 in MVP voting five times (in 8 years). Gotta be more careful.

8) Re: Jack Morris

a. "...his 3.90 career ERA, which would be the highest of any pitcher in the Hall. But Jack Morris wasn't defined by the ERA column, friends. He was defined by the Wins column."

Ah yes, "defined by the Wins column". But as we know, the Wins column has as much to do with what your teammates do while you're on the mound as it does with what you do. I completely agree that Jack Morris's career is defined by the number of wins he had. But I don't give him credit for playing on the second winningest team of the 1980's (The Detroits), and apparently Stark does. But we'll get back to this later.

b. "All you can do is compare a man to his peers. And in his 14 peak seasons (1979-92), Morris won 41 more games than any other starter of his generation. In that same period, he outwon Nolan Ryan by 65 wins (233-168)."

The irony here, of course, is that "comparing a man to his peers" is exactly what Stark did not do in his initial comments about Eddie Murray, as noted above. But that's another story. The real problem here is that he isn't comparing Morris to his peers at all here. Nolan Ryan may have retired within one year of Morris, but he started pitching in the majors eleven years sooner, in 1966, hardly a contemporary, in my mind. By the time Morris reached his prime ('79-92), Ryan's best seasons were behind him. If you're going to compare pitchers, the least you can do is compare their peaks. I seem to have missed where Abner Doubleday wrote that the best 14 seasons of a pitcher's career should be used to judge him, but we'll run with that, since Jayson picked it. Following are the career stats, "Peak 14" stats, Remainder (stats for the remaining seasons outside their 14 best consecutive years) and the team records for both Ryan and Morris during their 14 best consecutive seasons. Ryan's 14 best consecutive seasons were 1972-1985.
Morris      IP        W    L      W%   ERA

Career      3824     254  186   0.577  3.90

Peak 14     3378.33  233  162   0.590  3.46

Remainder   445.67    21   24   0.467  5.31

Team (peak)  ----   1193  1019  0.539  --- 


Career      5386     324  292   0.526  3.19

Peak 14     3426.33  212  180   0.541  3.08

Remainder   1959.67  112  112   0.500  3.40

Team (peak)  ----   1098  1111  0.497

So we see now that during his peak, Jack Morris went 233-162 with a 3.46 ERA, compared to Ryan's peak of 212-180 and 3.08. Not nearly the 65-win difference that Stark would have you believe. Ryan allowed fewer runs, on average, but won fewer games and lost more in essentially the same amount of innings. Ah, but then we look at the team records during those times, and we see that Morris had the benefit of a consistently good team behind him, the Tigers (through 1990) and then two World Series winning teams in Minnesota ('91) and Toronto ('92). Ryan's teams were mediocre, on average, not winning even half of their games during his "Peak 14". Of course, the real difference between them is that Nolan Ryan was a useful, even a good pitcher for about a dozen years besides those in his peak, with a .500 record and a 3.40 ERA, whereas Morris was basically a waste of rotation space in the two seasons each at the beginning and end of his career, going 21-24 with a 5.31 ERA. But then we wouldn't want to look at anything other than a pitcher's peak, would we? Nah...

c. "And his epic 10-inning Game 7 shutout in 1991 Series was the ultimate example of what people mean when they use the word, 'ace.'"

So what? So he pitched a good game when he needed to once. Overall, his career postseason record of 7-4 3.80 ERA isn't so different from his regular season record. There have been better pitchers to pitch badly in the playoffs on occasion, and there have been worse pitchers who occasionally did better than that "epic" performance in the playoffs. That's why we don't put people in the Hall of Fame based on singular accomplishments.

10) Re: Dale Murphy "But when you measure Hall of Famers, you don't measure them against the next generation. You measure them against their own generation."

Umm... Isn't that exactly what you just didn't do with Jack Morris? In baseball, a man eight years older than you, with eleven years more experience, hardly qualifies as part of your own generation.

But besides that, Murphy shouldn't be a Hall of Famer. He was great for about six years, but he played for 12 more years in which he wasn't so great, and having one-third of a great career, in my mind, does not make someone one of the best outfielders ever to lace up a pair of spikes for a major league team, which is what you ought to be to get into the Hall.

Incidentally, Aaron Gleeman takes Stark to task for this article as well, but he then proceeds to argue for Bert "Be Home" Blyleven's HoF case, which Stark just (inappropriately) disregards out of hand. Of course, Stark never said that he was going to defend choices he didn't make on his ballot, but still, I think anyone who votes for Morris and Kaat and doesn't vote for Tommy John and Bert Blyleven has some 'splainin to do. Aaron makes some good points, as Blyleven seems to have a much better case than Morris does, being unfairly penalized by the tough pitchers parks in which he spent most of his career and the bad teams for which he usually pitched.

As Aaron mentions, Joe Carter has a sort of similar perception among a lot of baseball fans and writers: "His Greatness cannot be measured by the conventions of BA/OBP/SLG like you measure most hitters. You have to measure him based on all the RBI he gathered. Look at all the pretty RBI!" Or some such crap.

You know, baseball isn't an exact science. Why, just fifty years ago, they thought that the statistics like RBI for a player like Joe Carter were caused by him being "great". But nowadays we know that Carter's apparent "greatness" is caused by an imbalance of bodily humors, perhaps caused by a toad or a small dwarf living in his stomach. No wait, I mean, the fact that he usually hit cleanup for teams with decent table-setters. Yeah. Dat's da ticket!

Anyway, we now know that wins and RBI have a lot to do with your teammates, because of the ground-breaking work of people like Bill James. And if the best thing you can say about a person is that he spent a long time being in the right place at the right time, well, that's not much of a vote of confidence in my book. Or on my Hall of Fame ballot. Which I don't have anyway.

The real problem, as Aaron also points out, is not that Stark has opinoins, but that he purports to ahve reasons for the opinions, whereas really he only has opinions and stats to back up what he always wanted to believe in the first place. Stark is a great journalist, as far as working hard and getting stories and all that. He's even an interesting writer who has (and provides us with) a little fun with his "Useless Info Dept" columns. But apparently he's begun taking this kind of work, which should only be considered light-hearted and silly, a little too seriously, thinking that you can actually do research like that, or build an argument on it. And you can't, at least not a solid one. It's half-assed, narrow-minded and blatantly irresponsible.

I wish Jayson Stark's email were available on ESPN.com like some of the other writers. I guess he just can't be bothered with people correcting him. I wrote to Bill Conlin of the Philadelphia Daily News once a few years ago when he wrote a particularly irresponsible article about the "similarities" between the Phillies and the Yankees (I think it was 1997), and he never responded. Maybe Stark's not as different from Conlin as I thought.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

06 January 2003

"YOUR HONOR, I OBJE.... never mind"

ESPN reported late last week that the MLB Players' Union is considering filing a greivance against the owners, alleging collusion to keep players' salaries down. The story is based largely upon the testimonies of three unnamed players' agents. As evidence, they have cited the fact that many of the top-notch free agents (Greg Maddux, Jim Thome, Pudge, etc.) have not garnered much interest in the off season, or at least that there have not been many teams bidding on such free agents. Other evidence of the supposed collusion between the owners is the fact that some of the agents' clients have received nearly identical offers from several teams, and that only after many days of negotiations did one of the teams step up its offer, at which point the player signed, an apparent indication that owners conversed with one another regarding these particular free agents, something the collevtive bargaining agreement does not permit, according to the AP story.

Sounds great, right? Owners' collusion, conspiracy to keep players' salaries down, arbitrators hidden in the Grassy Knoll...all wonderful fodder for the trough of the Free-Associating Press. Except that there's a myriad of problems with the story:

1) The first problem, if you saw the story on ESPN.com, occurs even before you read the story. Reading a headline that says,

"Agents hint union considering collusion grievance"

is all well and good, until you read the very next headline,

"Daal gets two-year, $7.5M deal from Orioles"

And no, that's not Marc von Daal, maker of fine uilleann bagpipes. This is Omar "Cabbage Patch" Daal, the erstwhile 19-game loser of just two years ago, who has a 4.45 ERA as a starter in the two years since his abysmal, Brian Kingman-threatening season of 2000. Personally, I think that the bagpipes would be a better way to spend $7.5 million, but maybe that's just me. When a pitcher as mediocre as Omar Daal is getting $7.5 mil, it's a little tough to argue that the owners are keeping salaries down.

B. The second problem is that there have been bidding wars for Jim Thome, Tom Glavine, Edgardo Alfonzo, and even (speaking of mediocrity) David Bell. The fact that only a few teams have actually been involved in these does not mean that there is collusion amongst all the other teams. It means that there is cheapness (or wisdom, depending upon your viewpoint) amongst them.

iii "The agents all recounted similar experiences: Their clients received similar initial offers from several teams and only signed when one of those teams, after many days of negotiations, finally made a higher bid." according to AP.

I've got news for you: This is how it's supposed to work!!! The market sets itself, it pays what it will bear. We're in kind of a recession, so it bears less than it did last year. That's the essence of Capitalism. If you don't want to pay above market value for a commodity, you don't have to, but you don't get the commodity either, someone else does.

And Fourthly, what the hell does the testimony of three agents mean? There are something like 800 players in the majors at any given time, not to mention thousands more in the minors. There must be hundreds of agents out there, and three of them, who probably had lunch together that day and fed off each others' stories. Reports from 1/2 of a percent of all the agents don't offer a very significant statistical cross section, do they?

Anyway, in other news...

Robert Fick just won the Braves another World Series. First of all, he became the best 1B option Bobby Cox has by signing for $1 mil with the Braves. He's not Hank Aaron, or even Fred McGriff, but he's better than Matt Franco. And he didn't cost much. And now Bobby Cox doesn't have to carry three catchers into October, as he invariably does, for no apparent reason at all. There are those who think that this lack of relief pitching and pinch-hitting depth has cost Bobby more than a few games in the last eleven Octobers, and now he doesn't have to worry about that, because now if the Braves are in the middle of a playoff game, and Lopez tears his ACL trying to crouch in the artificially large catcher's box and Estrada gets called away to lecture some punks making skid marks on the LA Freeway, Cox can bring in Fick to catch and play, um..., Terry Pendleton at first base....yeah, dat's da ticket!

BTW: Somebody named Mark Rosenberg beat me to Dick Stuart's baseballreference.com page, so I had to buy Bob Uecker's instead. I got one of baseball's foremost self-effacing humourists, and he's not even dead! Not bad for $15. You'll find a link to his stats (if you can call them that) on the right, under the baseballreference button. And of course, anyone curious enough to verify Uecker's claims about his playing career by checking Baseball Reference.com and looking him up will find my site, too.

If you like Boy of Summer and wanna buy another page for me, I'll certainly thank you for the publicity, and Sean Forman will gladly take the support.

"Anybody with ability can play in the big leagues. But to be able to trick people year in and year out the way I did, I think that was a much greater feat."

-Bob Uecker

Stumble Upon Toolbar

03 January 2003

Dealing With The Void...

"Baseball fans are generally a cheerful lot, at least between late February and late October. (Literary critic Jonathan Yardley says there are only two seasons: Baseball Season and The Void.)"
- George F. Will, Men At Work

There are essentially three ways to deal with the Void, other than Ralph Houk's idea of sitting and staring out the window until spring:

1) You can buy books and read about baseball. (Incidentally, in case I haven't already mentioned this, if you find a woman who will buy you books about baseball for Christmas or even for Valentine's Day, MARRY HER!)

B: You can follow all the minutae of free agent signings, waver wire transactions, trades, and libel suits (mostly between the Yankees and Red Sox).

iii. You can go to ESPN.com and read their Hot Stove Heaters, which are concise, insightful and well-written capsules of each MLB team's prospects for the coming Baseball Season. Their staff of writers takes turns writing the capsules for different teams, so you won't always be reading the same stuff, and you won't have as much of a bias as you might if it were done by an individual. Plus, they've been doing this every year since I was in college. Back then, I had to read these reports on my roommate's 486/25 w/4MB RAM, which is only about half a step up from that Flintstones' computer, with the miniature pterydactyl inside, pecking out instructions on a piece of slate.

Anyway, I recommend checking these out whenever you can, as they provide a nice synopsis of what's expected from and for each team next year. I'm putting a link for these on the right as well, in case you need it an can't seem to remember where ESPN.com's baseball page is.

Of course, this is still no excuse for not marrying a woman who buys you baseball books or making sure that you've read everything you can find about the Chicago White Sox hiring of Chris Cron as "bunting instructor" (honest!), but it's certainly more interesting than staring out the window waiting for the snow to melt.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

02 January 2003

Catching Up...

Not a lot to say of late, though I've had a few good email exchanges in the last week or so. I do want to mention a few new links. And I've tried to balance some of the existing links out, so your monitor won't list.

Right: Sports Wired.com. Despite the title, this is a site dedicated to baseball, not sports in general. I'd be lying if I said I went here every day, but it's a great site. I was reminded as I was cleaning out my email folders that I had promised them a reciprocal link a couple of weeks ago and forgot about it. They have lots of stuff there, but one of the best features is that they offer minor league stats for major leaguers, so you can see what Jeremy Giambi hit in the minors, and specifically how the Royals and A's jerked him around for four years, for really no justifiable reason. Site like that comes in handy sometimes, lemmetellya.

Sports Central is another good site, with plenty of stuff, but not dedicated to just baseball. Somebody once told me that there are other sports too. I didn't believe him, but these guys do a pretty good job of covering all this ficticious stuff like "football" and "basketball".

Also moved over Jamey Newburg's Texas Rangers site, Will Carroll's Under the Knife, Baseball Guru, and John Skilton's Baseball Links.

Left: As I was, you may be surprised to learn that there are actual Brewers fans out there, somewhere. I would have imagined that they existed somewhere between the Tooth Fairy and Santa Claus, in the mind of Bud Selig, but it turns out that they are as real as you and me. Al's Ramblings is a blog dedicated to the Brewers, though he often delves into topics pertinent to more successful franchises as well, like the Mets. And the Royals. Seriously though, Al and Kim Bethke, who run the blog, don't run the Brewers, or things would likely be very different around there. They seem to know what they're talking about.

By the way, Edward Cosette has a great, intellectually stimulating blog over at Bambino's Curse, and better yet, you get to decide how it looks! He's got six different designs from which you can choose, one of the benefits of paying for your own server. I'm so jealous, it makes my teeth hurt. We Yankee fans may have more World Championships than two Antonio Alfonseca's have fingers, but we don't have a fan website with six design options. Chalk one up for the BoSawx!

Stumble Upon Toolbar