28 April 2004

What are the Best and Worst of the New Ballparks?

Frankly, I am not very qualified to answer this question, having visited only one of the stadiums that have opened since 2000, PNC Park. Technically, that makes the Pirates’ new home both the best and the worst New ballpark I have seen, which seems like a cop-out, were I to finish my answer here.

However, thankfully, Al Gore invented the Internet, so I can go to Ballparks.com and find out what I would not otherwise know from people who have done their (and your) homework.

BEST: So, as best as I can determine, the best ballpark to open since 2000 is…PacBell…err…3-Com…um, no wait…

SBC Park!

Sorry ‘bout that. It gets a little confusing, you know?

But regardless of its name, the Giants’ new home represents everything that is good about today’s Major League Baseball. It’s a beautifully designed, baseball-only stadium set right on the San Francisco Bay, and built with a short (307-ft.) porch and high (25-ft.) wall in right field, so as to allow some of the numerous and impressive home runs hit by Barry Bonds (and others, once in a while) to land in the water. Fans and souvenir hunters in boats and kayaks can claim them without even paying the price of admission! This park feature has become as well known as any this side of the Green Monster, what with the proliferation of round-trippers launched by Mr. Bonds in the last few years.

With the recognition that SBC Park and McCovey Cove receive in commercials and highlight reels, that feature alone might be enough to call SBC the best park opened in this millennium, but it doesn’t end there.

SBC is situated in a place allowing for ample parking but also highly accessible to public transportation. It was designed to block the wind much better than its predecessor, Candlestick Park, did, and a waterfront promenade allows fans to actually watch the game for free through a fence from outside the park. How cool is that?

Inside the park, the seats are all tilted toward the pitcher’s mound, allowing for more comfortable viewing of baseball games, and the concourse is open, so you can watch the action while waiting in line for whatever it is that they like to eat in San Francisco during games. Take that, Yankee Stadium.

But most of all, I like SBC because the Giants ownership managed somehow to build all of this for only $255 million, less than any of the other new ballparks except Houston ($250 mil) and without a dime of public financing. The burden of building and maintaining the park, and therefore any profits, are entirely the Giants’ concern. That, my friends, in an age of millionaires and billionaires whining incessantly about how they need common taxpayers to buy them a new 300-million dollar toy every ten years, is greatness.

WORST: Speaking of whiny billionaires, how in the world did the owners of the Milwaukee Brewers manage to convince people that they needed $400 million to build Miller Park? The new venue in San Francisco, where you can’t buy a 2-bedroom Cape Cod with no yard for less than $300,000, only cost $255 million! And how on earth did they manage to convince the taxpayers of Milwaukee and the surrounding counties to pony up for over three quarters of that money? And almost half of the paltry $90 million the Brewers provided actually came from the Miller Brewing Company, in naming rights fees, so the owners of the team barely covered ten percent of the total cost.

Besides this, the park does not have any of the charm that its colleagues have. It seats 43,000, even though I’m not sure there are that many people who care about the Brewers left on the planet, and has the downtown location and revitalized neighborhood (also with government funds) typical of many of the newer ballparks. It also has open-air walkways and a view-of-the-skyline outfield that a lot of the other new ballparks have, along with the unique, fan-style retractable roof, so it’s not all bad.

By most accounts though, the park is pretty nondescript. It’s not a particularly pitcher- or hitter-friendly field, doesn’t really have any interesting quirks like an in-play flagpole, a manually operated scoreboard or wacky corners in the outfield, which is pretty symmetrical. Besides this, the park’s opening was delayed two years because of financing problems (“We’re sorry, Mr. Milwaukee taxpayer, 112 percent simply isn’t enough. You’re going to have to cover more of the cost for us or we won’t make you pay for the gentrification project, either.”) and the deaths of three construction workers. Not a good omen.

The only truly unique aspects within Miller Park are Bernie Brewer and his slide, which only get used every couple of games when the Brewers hit a home run, and the Sausage Race, which Randall Simon will tell you is not all it’s cracked up to be.

Oh, and did I mention that the Brewers play there? That’s reason enough not to bother.

See what some of my colleagues at Baseball Outsider think about this...

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I Want My Radio Back!

Let me give you my impression of the phenomenon known as Sports Talk Radio for the last several weeks...

Mike: ...I don't know what you're talking about. Zeke Duke is definitely going to go #46 in the Draft. There just isn't any way around it...

MIKE: [interrupting] You're a moron! There's no way Zeke Duke goes any lower than #45 in the Draft. I mean, the last five games of the season, he was playing out of his mind...

Mike: [interrupting] How can you say that!? Sure, he's good, but Central Southern North Midwestern State is hardly known as a breeding ground for middle linebackers. Zeke Duke will be lucky if they pick him at #46, and then he'll be lucky if they don't trade him immediately for 6th, 9th and 11th round picks in the 2009 draft! At the end of the day...

MIKE: [interrupting] Mike, you ignorant slut! You know that if he's traded at all, which I doubt, it'll be for 6th, 8th and 11th round picks...

Mike: [interrupting] Go wax your eyebrows!

And on and on and on and on and on.....

As you probably know, if you're interested enough in any sports to be reading this baseball blog, the NFL Draft was (finally) held on Saturday. Thank goodness. Don't get me wrong, it's not that I don't like football. Admittedly, I don't like it the way I like baseball, but it's OK. Violence punctuated by committee meetings, perhaps, but it can be fun to watch. Sometimes.

So it's not that I don't like football, it's just that I don't care about football. Not at all. It would not have made any less difference to me whatsoever if the Giants had instead traded Manhattan Island and $24 worth of beads to get the #1 pick in the draft and then chose , (as Choosy Moms do!), or to draft a Sam Adams instead of an Eli Manning. I couldn't care a whole lot less if they drafted Eli Manning and sent him to Afghanistan, just so long as they STOP TALKING ABOUT IT!!!

Therefore, as you might have guessed, I am glad that the stupid draft is finally over, and as soon as the stupid NBA and NHL playoffs are over, I'll have Sports Talk Radio back to myself again, which is to say, back to baseball.

On the other hand (where, it turns out, I have some sunburn from fishing all afternoon Saturday without any sunblock), maybe the media's distractedness with such trivial matters as the future stars of the NFL and the current potential NBA and NHL champions wasn't such a bad thing. You see, you probably know, if you're reading this blog, that the Yankees haven't been doing so well.

OK, that's a bit of an understatement. The Yanks have in fact been stinking up the joint. Their six losses out of seven games in two weekend series against the Hated Boston Red Sox (TM) had New York tabloids calling for Joe Torre's resignation, and Derek Jeter's (now 0-for-28) head. The starting pitchers' decidedly mediocre 4.92 ERA is certainly not helping things, but the real problem has been their bats. The Yanks are batting only .221 as a team, and their .697 OPS is better than only the Mets and Expos in MLB. Including yesterday's 10-8 win over Oakland, the Yanks have managed more than four runs in a game only six times this season, and not surprisingly, they've won all six of those games.

It got so bad (how bad was it?) that the kinder, gentler George Steinbrenner of the New Millennium felt compelled to issue a statement reassuring everyone that, at least for the next few hours, nobody would be fired for this:

"I have a great manager in Joe Torre, and a great general manager in Brian Cashman, and I have confidence in both of them. It's in their hands."

One of the main reasons that the Yanks were able to win this game was the Athletics' use of Jim Mecir and his screwball, which, as you'll recall is thought to be one of the ten best out-pitches in the major leagues by people who don't have any idea how to read a box score. Let me demonstrate:

0 4 5 5 0 1 0 22-12 5 9.45

This boxscore says that Jim threw 22 pitches, but only 12 for strikes, while facing five battters.
Of those five batters, he only walked one, which isn't bad, unless you take into account that he allowed hits to the other four, and that all five of them scored before he recorded an out, which gives him an in-game ERA of

Which is bad.

With any luck, the Yanks may get to beat up on Mr. Mecir again before the series is over, and then maybe they'll remember how to hit real pitchers once in a while too. If not, it's going to be a long season for Yankee fans like me.

T-minus-three hundred and sixty days to the next NFL Draft!!

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20 April 2004

Short Attention-Span Theatre

Yankees-RedSox Series...

I got to watch (parts of) my first few Yankee games of the season this past weekend. Bad timing. Living in Pennsylvania means that you either have to own a bar or shell out several hundred dollars of your own money to get DirecTV and YES Network, and neither category applies to me, so I have to wait for those rare games on Fox or ESPN. (Too bad I'm not a Giants' fan. I could have seen their entire first series against the Astros, all three games, and then another game, against the Padres, on Easter, as ESPN tried to ride the ratings bus with Barry's pursuit of Willie Mays. Oh, wait. I did.)

Anywho, as you may have heard, we lost. Three out of four. The defense was bad, the pitching was bad, the hitting was bad. The Yankees were bad. A-Rod is hitting .160 with a sub-Neifi .543 OPS. Mike Mussina's 1-3 with a 7.52 ERA.

However, as I told my boss, a Red Sox fan: Sure they can win three out of four in April, but it's four out of seven in October that really counts. They've never shown that they can do that against the Yankees or much of anyone else.

1918, baby. Nineteen-eighteen.

Larry Walker Finds a Body in His Yard

Now, you must understand, Larry Walker's "yard" is not like yours or mine. Heck, I personally don't even have a "yard" or at least I fon't have any grass. Just a slab of cement with astroturf on it, and a couple of small trees. Bushes, really. Vines, I guess. Well, weeds. OK, just one weed. And it's dead.

But Larry's gotta get on and ATV [sidenote: Isn't ATV riding one of those things that voids a major league contract? Shouldn't it be? I mean, the guy's already on the DL. ] to survey his property, and when he did so this weekend, he found a body. That's right, a real-live dead guy. No, Larry's not a suspect, as authorities pointed out that he hasn't been killing much of anything in about two years.

Rumour has it that Arizona GM Joe Gariagola Jr. sent a scout to measure the body's temperature and see if he was fit to help fill out the Diamondbacks' bullpen, maybe even lower their relievers' 8.20 ERA. Callouses on his left hand seem to indicate that the body was a southpaw, so he's been signed to a minor league contract with performance bonuses.

"Now pitching for Arizona: John Doe."

There are rumblings out of the morgue that he may have to be placed on the Disabled List. Will keep you posted.

Mark of the Beast

Barry Bonds hit career home run #666 last night. It's the sixth consecutive game in which he's homered and the sixth home run he's hit since tying Willie Mays for third place, which is half of sixth. His team ( G-I-A-N-T-S, six letters) now has six wins and the homer was it in the third inning, which, as you'll recall, is half of six. It was his 36th at bat of the season (6x6).

Bonds' teammate Jerome Williams pitched 6.66 innings for the win, so he may be in on the conspiracy.

Nasty Pitches, Nasty Omission

ESPN's got a feature article today highlighting what some scouts, managers and general managers described as the best "out pitches" in the majors.

1) Mariano Rivera's cut fastball
2) Kerry Wood's curveball
3) John Smoltz' slider
4) Eric Gagne's changeup
5) Roger Clemens' split-finger fastball
6) Tim Wakefield's knuckleball
7) Billy Wagner's four-seam fastball
8) Barry Zito's curveball
9) Kevin Brown's sinker
10) Jim Mecir's screwball

Jim Mecir's screwball???

Look, I'm all for equal opportunity and making the game a little more interesting, and I would love to see more pitchers out there with something besides the usual fastball/curve/change-up combo, but let's give credit where's it's due, y'know? And not to Jim Mecir.

While it may be one of the more interesting pitches in the majors right now, Mecir's screwball can hardly be accurately referred to as one of the ten best pitches in the majors. If the guy had a 5.60 ERA in 2003 and "...right-handed hitters don't have nearly as much trouble with [his screwball as lefties do]", by the writer's own admission, then it can't be one of the best, can it? An "out-pitch" that isn't very effective against slightly more than 60% of the batters in the major leagues isn't much of an "out-pitch", is it?

So how do they find room on this list for Jim Mecir, but leave off Pedro Martinez entirely? Granted, he's not exactly been himself lately, but when he's "on" (and he will be again, don't you worry) the guy's got a 95+ mph fastball that moves, a wicked curve, and a changeup that screws better than anybody's screwball! Heck, forget Pedro. Most of John Burkett's repetoire was better than Mecir's last season, and Burkett was so good that he's RETIRED NOW!

End of diatribe.

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15 April 2004

Old and In the Way...

I went to the movies to see The Alamo on Friday night with my wife. Everybody dies. Sorry if that ruins it for you.

Speaking of dying, on our way in, there were some teenagers there as well. OK, so it seemed like every teenager on the East Coast was there, but maybe that's just me. Don't worry, the teenagers don't die in this story.

So as Sunny and I were on our way into the theatre, I held the door for a couple of the teenage girls coming in behind us, and then continued walking to catch up with my wife, at which point I overheard one of the teenage girls speaking to her friends. (Teens don't develop the Volume-Control Gene until about 22.) She said, and I quote,

"See? That old guy..."

Now I didn't catch the rest of that sentence (guess my hearing is going...) but I think it had something to do with my politeness in holding the door for her. Frankly, I wouldn't much care if the sentence went,

"See? That old guy is really hot and I think I'll give him this one million dollars in cash just for being so tall."

Doesn't matter. The harm is done. Period.

In my defense, I'm only 29 years old, which, while no longer at my peak as a hitter, is still not 30, at least. And it's certainly not old. My wife held me back from trying to defend my self to (and doubtlessly embarass) this girl, though I suspect that if I had done so, I'd have only dug the grave deeper. It seems that I am probably almost twice the girl's age, and you'd have more luck finding hair on a half-eaten peach. Maybe I am old? Oh well.

Hey, speaking of old guys...

OUR TOP STORY TONIGHT!!! The Anaheim Angels have given Garrett Anderson a 4-year, $48 million contract extension, and Francisco Franco is still dead.

I'm not a huge Garret Anderson fan, though Garrett Morris, well, that's another story. Anderson's certainly a good enough player. He's got decent power, plays good defense in whatever outfield spot he's assigned, stays healthy and doesn't complain.

However, Baseball Prospectus' list of Anderson's most comparable players is led off by the following ten names:

Hitter EQA@31 Games EQA Drop
Oliva, Tony 0.284 471 0.262 -0.022
Oliver, Al 0.300 561 0.302 0.002
Pepitone, Joe 0.252 34 0.255 0.003
Cooper, Cecil 0.316 370 0.290 -0.026
Hall, Mel 0.272 25 -0.105 -0.377
Kluszewski, Ted 0.301 341 0.268 -0.033
Rice, Jim 0.278 540 0.285 0.007
Gonzalez, Juan 0.318 76 0.279 -0.039
Dawson, Andre 0.287 575 0.293 0.006
Chambliss, Chris 0.276 530 0.277 0.001
Bell, George 0.277 259 0.244 -0.033
Alou, Felipe 0.312 577 0.271 -0.041
Cepeda, Orlando 0.274 392 0.287 0.013
Horton, Willie 0.310 528 0.270 -0.040
Hendrick, George 0.298 485 0.272 -0.026
Bichette, Dante 0.291 622 0.267 -0.024
Parrish, Larry 0.263 401 0.269 0.006
Garvey, Steve 0.287 533 0.268 -0.019
May, Lee 0.269 570 0.272 0.003
Scott, George 0.303 538 0.268 -0.035
Wt. Avg. 0.288 421 0.255 -0.016

The first column in the table lists the players' Age-31 EQA (Baseball Prospectus' comprehensive measurement tool, configured to roughly equate batting average in terms of the measurement scale). What follows is the number of games they each played over the next four seasons. Gonzalez has only played two seasons since, and Hall and Pepitone only played a handful of games after age 31 before retiring. The next column is the aggregate (weighted) EQA for those four seasons, and then the change in EQA in the last column, with the weighted average change at the bottom.

The list is not a bad one. It's composed almost entirely of players who were All-Stars at some point in their careers, and even a marginal Hall-of-Famer or two (Cepeda and possibly Dawson or Gonzales, when elligible). What it doesn't include is a lot of players who aged well. Of the 20 players on the list, half of them didn't even manage to average 125 games per season for the next four years, and seven of them couldn't even suit up 100 times per year. Twelve of the 20 experienced a ~20-40 point drop in EQA in the following 4 seasons (Mel Hall is a special, small-sample-size case, so we'll mostly ignore him). Of those who did improve, only Orlando Cepeda did so by more than 0.006, and that modest 13-point increase occurred in fewer than 400 games over four years. And in all honesty, it probably looks even worse for Anderson than this, since the extension we're discussing doesn't kick in until 2005-2008, his age 33-36 seasons, and I evaluated the 20 guys above for ages 32-35. But I'm not going back to do it again. So there.

To Anderson's credit, he has been the model of health and consistency, racking up over 600 at-bats and 150+ games played each of the last eight seasons. In the last four, he has hit between .286 and .315, with 28-35 homers, 39-56 doubles, 116-123 RBI, and 80-93 runs scored. That's pretty damn consistent.

Oh yeah, by the way, he only walks about 25-30 times a year, and nearly a third of those are probably intentional. And he doesn't steal bases either. So what we've got here is a guy who's consistently productive, but also somewhat limited in his ability to develop any further, given his age and his skill set. Thirty-something year old hitters with no base-stealing speed who hardly ever walk tend not to last very long, or at least not to continue to produce at the same level for long.

Nevertheless, the Anaheim brass saw fit to reward the guy who's gotten more hits in an Angel uniform than anyone else in history with at least $51 million, including the $3 mil buyout they'll have to pay him if he's hurt or sucky by 2009. So they'll be paying an average of almost $13 million per season for a guy who's only hit 30 homers in a season once in his career, who's never walked more than 34 times in a season, and consequently has never had an OBP above .345 in a full season. And though he certainly drives in runs, his inability to get on base as often as Ron Belliard has prevented him from ever scoring more than 93 runs in a season.

Why might the Angels have done this?

Well, maybe they realize Anderson's limitations and the possibility of him getting injured (if only due to the law of averages), but they think that the market is going back up soon and that $13 million will be market-price for a centerfielder who hits like a good shortstop. Or maybe Travis Lee. Didn't see many general managers beating down Lee's door to offer him $13 million this off-season, did you?

Maybe they know he'll decline somewhat in production with age, but they think he won't ever get hurt (it's never happened before...) and this way at least they know what to expect in CF.

Maybe they think that there's no reason that the next four years won't be exactly like the last four years were for Anderson, and that this contract will atually be a bargain.

Or maybe they just think that loyalty is a higher value to fans than winning, and they think it's necessary to sign someone so closely associated with the franchise long-term to make sure they don't lose their fanbase. Maybe they fgure they'll score enough runs with Glaus, Guerrero and Salmon hitting around Anderson, so he doesn't have to become Sammy Sosa circa 1998 to make this a good deal.

On the other hand, this is the same team that gave Darin Erstad a 4-year, $32 million extension while he was in the midst of a season of hitting .283 with little power, at an age when he should have been at his best (27). Someone needs to explain to the Angels' front office that locking up players for the sake of locking them up is not the same as locking up the right players in an effort to win games and save money in the long-run.

The Angels are likely to have the third highest payroll in the majors in 2004, after picking up Bartolo Colon, Jose Guillen and Vlad Guererro in the offseason. Anderson may very well continue to be the backbone of the franchise's offense for the next half a decade, but if the wheels come off and they recede into mediocre obscurity despite the $100+ million payrolls in the next few seasons, well, let's just say that they can't blame it on the Yankees, for once.

Pretty soon age is going to catch up with Anderson, robbing him of his batspeed and ability to amass 180+ hits in a year, and/or robbing him of his otherwise spotless health record. And when one or both of those things happens, Anderson's disdain for the walk is going to catch up with him, and turn an aging .300/30-homer/100-RBI guy into a .275/20/80 guy, and who wants to pay $13 million for that? Especially when we've already got one in the NL, for only $17 million!

Wait, never mind. Maybe this will be a bargain after all.

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What was the Biggest Surprise of the Opening Week?

This whole first week was one series of surprises after another. What was most shocking? Was it the Mariners’ near-slide to 0-6? Was it the Tigers, who didn’t win game #5 in 2003 until May 5th, surging to 5-1? Was it Ken Griffey’s amazing ability to stay healthy for five whole games?

No, I think that this dubious honor must be awarded to…

…your 2004 Philadelphia Phillies!!!

Notice I don’t say my Phillies. I would, of course, like the Phils to win, but I won’t lose any sleep over it if they finish the season 2-160, a result which I don’t think we’re in much danger of seeing. On the other hand (where, it turns out, there’s a wedding band…and five fingers), if they don’t start scoring some runs, that second win of the season may take a while.

The Phillies’ starting pitchers were not stellar, but if they finish the year with the same 3.82 ERA they had after six games, it’ll be a good season. The bullpen, despite its Burba-esque 5.06 ERA, was not the reason for this slide. It was the hitters, or rather the lack thereof.

Catcher Mike Lieberthal was hitting .100, an even buck, even though he had one of the team’s only two homers. Second-year leadoff man Marlon Byrd was getting on base at a paltry .320 clip. Number two hitter Jimmy Rollins sported a measly .190 average, with an OBP under .300. Bobby Abreu, who should be protecting cleanup hitter Jim Thome, was batting only .091 in the #5-hole, which may help explain why Thome had not yet scored or driven in a run through the Phils’ first six games. The whole team managed only 16 runs, scoring less often than everybody but Montreal in the first week of the season, and everybody expects Montreal to suque.

But as shocking as this first week’s events may have been, if the Phillies don’t get their buts in gear, the next significant occurrence in Philadelphia will come as a shock to nobody:

Larry Bowa on the unemployment line.

What do some of my colleagues think about this? Find out here.

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12 April 2004

What opening series are you watching most closely?

Travis Nelson’s Run Down for this week is guest-written by Mr. Subliminal.

I am a huge fan of the [hopeless] Devil Rays. I just love those uniforms with teal highlights and the weird fish [hate ‘em]. Plus I lose sleep over that big Aubrey Huff/Tino Martinez debate [washed up]. That’s why I’ll be very closely watching the historic [publicity stunt] series between the Devil Rays and the hated New York Yankees [jealous] this week, half of which will be played in Japan [no I won’t].

These are technically “home” games [stupid] for the Devil Rays [no talent], even though both teams are playing as far away from home as they’ll be all season [other side of the planet]. In Japan, the Devil Rays [losers] have to wear their away grays because the “Evil Empire” Yankees are known all over the world and the Japanese fans [insane] want to see them in the famous Yankee pinstripes [Giambi looks skinnier]. But the Devil Rays will still have home-field advantage [bigger bathrooms] for these two games. All the [rabid] Japanese fans will be rooting for them more, knowing that they’re supposed to be the home team [not gonna happen]. Besides this, the Yankees have all the pressure on them [used to it] to win in front of the Japanese crowd [psychos].

Ironically, the games played in the Land of the Rising Sun [offensive term] will be played before the sun actually rises back home in Tampa Bay [retired Yankee-fan haven]. Most of the Devil Rays’ fans [all twelve of ‘em] will be asleep while the games are played. But not me [yeah, right]. I’m always [never] awake at 5:00 AM anyway [only to let the dog out]. I can have the game on the radio at work and then listen to the last few innings [are innings shorter in Japan, too?] on the drive home, since I work third shift in a manure processing plant [shoveling bull].

Read my colleagues' responses to this question here: Baseball Outsider.com

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04 April 2004

Opening Night

Some random notes while watching the Opening Night (as opposed to Opening Day, which is tomorrow, evidently, or opening morning, which happened last week, in Japan) game between the Baltimore Orioles and Boston Red Sox...

First Batter: Johnny Damon, with long hair and a full beard? Bringing new depths to that 'dirt-bags' theme the BoSox had going on late in the 2003 season. I'm no professional prognosticator, but I doubt that Damon's new look survives the month. It's one thing to wear a full beard and long hair when it barely breaks 40 degrees at gametime, but come may, June and July, you don't need any help sweating. Also, I remember a few years back that Jeff Bagwell started the season, or maybe just Spring Training, with an 8-inch long goatee, and it took less than a month for him to revert to his usual facial fare. Guys just get bored with looking at the same face in the mirror every day sometimes, but eventually they remember why they looked that way in the first place: It was easier.

Second Batter: Bill Mueller, I don't have to tell you, has an uphill battle ahead of him. When people note how great the 2003 RedSox offense was, and more importantly, how great they could be in 2004, Bill Mueller is the first one about whom they usually say, "He won't do that again..." Well, he's got three hits already tonight, so maybe he will...but for a guy who never slugged more than .450 or hit more than ten homers, I'll be very surprised if he repeats that performance. Though I haven't examined the numbers, I would venture a guess that he had a very high batting average on the balls he put in play last year, and that if those numbers revert to the norm, you'll get something a lot closer to the .285/.380/.420 line we were used to seeing from Bill, instead of that gaudy batting title and 19 homers. But you never know.

Sidney Ponson: Looking good so far. Throwing 95-96 mph early in the game. Ponson signed as a free agent with the team that traded him to the Giants for the stretch run. I guess he likes Baltimore. I guess he doesn't mind losing. The Orioles signed Javy Lopez, Miguel Tejada and Rafael Palmiero in the off-season too, but that pitching staff gets pretty thin after Ponson, and not just because he's pushing 250 pounds. He lasted 5 and two-thirds and managed to give up only one run to the vaunted Red Sox offense, but new Orioles manager Lee Mazilli left him in there for 138 pitches on Opening Night! Does Mazilli have that little confidence in his bullpen? Will Carroll may have a new whipping boy, when he's done with Dusty Baker, that is.

Correction: ESPN2 just said it was only 111 pitches, not 138, as their in-game box score had earlier indicated. Still a lot for opening night in 40 degree weather.

Red Sox Infield: Rob Neyer amusingly referred to the "guy" who replaced Damian Jackson in the Red Sox lineup as 'Pokey Bellhorn' assuming, of course, that Mark Bellhorn and Pokey Reese would split time at 2B, but with Nomar on the DL, both are in the lineup tonight. That's not gonna push the 2004 Sawx toward 1000 runs on the year...especially if it takes all month, as they fear it will, to get Garciaparra back.

Punk-Ass Pedro Martinez: Pedro gave up a solo homer to Javy Lopez on the first pitch he offered, and then his own throwing error led to a couple of more runs in the second inning. After that though, Pedro buckled down and hasn't allowed a run since. I do wonder about that hit-by-pitch in the 2nd inning. It happened immediately after Pedro gave up the homer, a single to Larry Bigbie and then a steal by Bigbie. Serves him right, though, since David Segui (the guy he hit) came around to score. Pedro left after 119 pitches, 6 innings, two earned runs.

Chuck Knoblauch, Eat Your Heart Out: In the third inning, Johnny Damon got called out when Ponson hit him in the back as he ran toward first base on a little dribbler back up the middle. They said that Damon was running in fair territory, not inside the baseline, and he was, but it was close. I still feel bad for Knoblauch in the playoffs a few years back. He was wrong not to pick up the ball, but the ump was clearly out of line with the call he made, just like Travis Fryman.

Gabe Kapler: What the heck happened to him? He looked like he was on the fast-track for stardom a few years ago. He averaged about 30 doubles, 15 homers and an .800-ish OPS from 1999-2001 with Detroit and Texas, but then injuries to his (perhaps too-) sculpted body shelved him for parts of the next few years, and his brief time with Boston last year was the first time he'd "hit" anywhere near the potential he showed in his mid 20's. I'd love to see him hit .290/.350/.450 over a full season, just not against the Yankees.

Bullpens Stink Very Much Bad: Pedro's relief wasn't much, as Mike Timlin came in and promptly gave up three more runs while only getting two outs. Rodrigo Lopez was OK for an inning or two, but Mike DeJean couldn't find the plate, and the Red Sox scraped another run out before BJ Ryan got out of the 8th inning. Scott Williamson gave up a run in the 8th inning as well, although that was more of a 'Defense Stink Very Much Bad' issue, but it's still a run.

Selig Interview: ESPN interviewed Commissioner Bud during the earlier part of the game, and Sam Ryan asked him some pretty good questions, which he (surprise!) mostly danced around. They discussed the international flavor of recent opening days, and he seemed to indicate that the trend would continue (sorry, Jayson).
They talked about the steroid issue, and he said that they're having dialogue with the players' union about getting something going there. They talked about the Expos moving, and when she mentioned Washington DC and how it would affect the O's revenue, he responded as though it were a foregone conclusion that there would, in fact, be some detrimental effect. Guess he didn't read my study on attendance.

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