26 January 2007

Yankees Diving into China Baseball Talent Pool, Head-First

In a never ending effort to better the world in which they exist, the New York Yankees have found yet another way to provide social services for those in need. No longer satisfied with the retail efforts that principal owner George Steinbrenner had once spent on rehabilitating the likes of Steve Howe, Dwight Gooden and Darryl Strawberry, the Yankees have now found a way to help ease the ills of an entire nation: The People’s Republic of China.

Sure, they’ve got more people than any other country on earth, over 1.3 billion of them according to a U.S. Central Intelligence Agency estimate last summer. Sure, they’re finally rebounding from decades of industrial atrophy, buying up available resources at a torrid pace, and rapidly becoming a real competitor in the world economy.

But they suck at baseball.

Find out how the Yankees will help the Chinese, er..., not suck at baseball, at my new MVN.com blog...

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24 January 2007

Feeding the Monster: How Money, Smarts and Nerve Took a Team to the Top

Feeding the Monster: How Money, Smarts and Nerve Took a Team to the Top
by Seth Mnookin

Hardcover, $26.00 US ($36.00 Can.)
c. 2006, Simon & Schuster

"...by the middle of November, they had a $20 million per year left fielder who wanted out, an $11 million shortstop so offended by the team's offer for an extension that his agent had told the Red Sox to trade him, and in Pedro Martinez, a $17.5 million per year starting pitcher who was already warning the team that if they didn't sign him to an extension before the season began, he wouldn't even speak with them once it was over. In the midst of all this, the Red Sox decided to pursue one of the most outspoken pitchers in all of baseball."

Any baseball fan with a modicum of intelligence (and who hasn't been under a rock for the last three years) should be able to deduce that this quote refers to the Boston Red Sox, in the autumn of 2003. In the wake of yet another heartbreaking defeat at the hands of the Hated Yankees(TM), the Sawx threw caution to the wind, stockpiled the best talent available, and set out to win themselves the championship that had eluded the franchise for 86 long years.

It worked, of course.

Author Seth Mnookin, in his mnew (sorry, I couldn't help mnyself) book Feeding the Monster, chronicles not just how "Money, Smarts and Nerve Took a Team to the Top", as the subtitle indicates, but how ignorance, cowardice, mistrust, mismanagement and bad luck had kept that team down for decades at a time.

Read more about how the Hated Red Sox grew up, buckled down, and won themselves a trophy at Double Play Depth...

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16 January 2007

DPD: Big Mac's Attack by BBWAA Just a Slap on Wrist

The long-awaited 2007 National Baseball Hall of Fame voting results were announced last week, and as you know, there were two new entries. By nearly unanimous votes, San Diego padres outfielder Tony Gwynn and Baltimore Orioles SS/3B Cal Ripken, Jr. were both elected and will enter Cooperstown as the Class of 2007. Both were class-acts as people and as players, and both are richly deserving of this honor.

Speaking of honor, the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) largely chose not to honor former Oakland and St. Louis slugger Mark McGwire with their votes, as more than three-quarters of them left him off their ballots in his first year of eligibility. The big questions stemming from that event are "Why?" and "Will he ever be elected?" Let's look at why the voters did or did not vote for him first.

The first thing to consider, as should always be the case for the Hall of fame, is why anyone should vote for a given player, so let's look at Big Mac's credentials. McGwire retired after the 2001 season with 583 career homers, which was 5th on the all-time leader list at the time, though he's since been passed by both Barry Bonds (734 and counting) and Sammy Sosa (588, and not). McGwire's relatively lackluster batting average (.263) and hit total (1626) are arguments against him as a Cooperstown Cronie, as was his generally paltry contribution to team defense, but five years ago, it was thought that his prodigious power and patience would more than compensate.

20 December 2007 Update:
The rest of this post was hosted on All-baseball.com last year, but then their server crashed and they had no backup, so my hard work is lost to posterity. Suffice it to say that, in my investigations, it seemed to me that most players who started out with around 25% of the vote eventually picked up enough steam to get in. Of course, there's never been an issue quite like this before, and it remains to be seen whether the BBWAA writers will be content to let their punishment be not voting for McGwire for one or two or three years, i.e. if they intend to vote for him eventually, just not now, or if they plan to leave him off the ballot forever.

I would think that McGwire would welcome the Mitchell Report and other such research, as the more names get linked to steroids, HGH and other performance enhancing drugs, the better he looks, right? According to at least one witness, in 2002, even the Marlins and Expos were using PEDs, and they weren't even any good! I mean, seriously, his cheating is really only a big deal if nobody else was doing it, right? But the more we learn, the more rampant the problem appears to have been, or perhaps, to still be. In short, if everyone (or almost everyone) was using PEDs when McGwire played, then the playing field was basically level again, albeit on a much higher plateau, and McGwire's dominance of that level is still very impressive.

If you want to keep Big Mac out of the Hall of Fame because you think he did something ethically wrong, essentially to take the "character" part of the Hall of Fame considerations out to their logical end, then sure, you can leave McGwire off your ballot as long as you want. But if the usage of PEDs was as rampant as Jose Canseco would have you believe in Juiced, or even as the Mitchell Report would suggest, then perhaps McGwire didn't have the advantage we think, and he really was that good.

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07 January 2007

DPD: Sad Epilogue to Big Unit's Career in Pinstripes

Randy Johnson's brief, underwhelming tenure with the New York Yankees is officially over.

A trade was completed last week, sending Johnson back from whence he came, to the Arizona Diamondbacks, for journeyman reliever Luis Vizcaino and three minor leaguers, but its completion was contingent upon a contract extension for the Big Unit, which was not finalized until Sunday, and a physical, which wa snot done until Monday. Having successfully completed both of those, Johnson has naught left to do but pack his extra-long suitcases and buy a plane ticket back to Phoenix. The five-time Cy Young Award winner undoubtedly leaves the Big Apple with some regrets, having failed to repeat the success he'd experienced in Arizona, and having failed to bring New York its first championship of the 21st Century. With such high expectations on the lanky lefty, the saga could hardly have ended in anything but disappointment, but most Yankee fans could not be happier.

Join the Randy Johnson pity-party at Double Play Depth...

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