26 November 2002

Simon Says Swing at Everything

I once heard someone, I believe a politician from Ohio, saying that he loved watching Jim Thome hit (a sentiment that the Boy of Summer echoes), and that one measurement of his greatness is the fact that he puts the ball in play less often than anyone else in the majors. It made sense to me, given Thome's swing-from-the-heels, grip-and-rip style, but I decided to check on this. Surely enough, Thome only put 253 balls in play in 613 plate appearances, for a 41.2% In-Play%, which led the AL, (I think that Adam Dunn and/or Mark Bellhorn might have him in the NL). But here's the interesting part: Near the opposite end of the scale is Randall Simon, putting the horsehide in play at a 65.8% clip. Two 1B/DH types, totally different approaches at the plate.

A friend wrote to me today to alert me to Simon's trade yesterday, sadly, to his favorite team, the Pirates. My friend, whom we'll call "Tim", wrote:

I'm not sure if you've heard, but the Pirates traded for Randall Simon yesterday, giving up a bunch of minor leaguers. Littlefield hasn't done a bad job, but he's starting to concern me, especially when he makes a comment like the following:

"It's hard to give up good young players when we have a lack of AAA and AA prospects, but as head of baseball operations, I have to make sure we address our needs at the major-league level," Littlefield said.

Excuse me, but isn't the Oakland A's [franchise] successful because they have a great minor league system that can replace guys who leave for FA when they get too expensive?

Yes, of course, Tim, you should be concerned. The Pirates do have a dearth of quality players, at both the major league and minor league levels, but what else is new? Given the fact that they're not really in danger of winning anything anytime soon, they ought to be focusing on developing prospects instead of trading them away for so-so players who are soon eligible for arbitration. Randall Simon only managed to muster 8 (eight!) unintentional walks in 506 plate appearances last year, which means that he purposely walked only 1.5% of the time! Or, to put this in perspective, you were more likely to see Joe Randa go yard than you were to see Simon go to first without hitting the ball or being put there intentionally.

OK, so what have we established?

1) Jim Thome doesn't appear to like running to first base.
2) Stephen Hawking walks more often than Randall Simon.

But is this really a problem? Well, of course it is, but how much of a problem? Simon swings at everything, but incredibly, he hardly ever misses! His 30 K's last year made him the toughest guy to KO in the AL last year. He's only 27, which means he's not likely to get much better, but he shouldn't start any kind of serious decline until 31 or 32, you'd hope, so you can pencil him in for a ~.295/20HR/85RBI season for each of the next few years. In other words, he'll be one of the worst hitting firstbasemen in the NL, now that Rico Brogna's retired. That is, unless David Littlefield suddenly becomes David Copperfield and magically teaches Simon to walk ~50-70 times/year. The Pirates already have Kevin Young under contract to play 1B, who's admittedly an even worse hitter than Randall Simon, but Simon is not enough of an improvement to justify a $7-8 mil/yr platoon. The combination of these two may hit .300/.350/.500, given their respective strengths, but that will still only bring their status up to "mediocre" and they'll have burned a roster spot. They ought to just bide their time with Young for another year, and spend the extra funds scouting minor league free agents who might put up similar numbers.

The Pirates traded Adrian Burnside, 25, who was 6-9 with a 4.55 ERA at Double-A Altoona last season, which means that he is not a prospect in any real sense of the word. As long as the two PTBNLs they send are of similar ilk, it's not a terrible trade, unless the Pirates go and sign Simon to a multi-year contract for more than, say, a million per. But now that Simon's got the ".300 hitter" label, that will never happen.

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25 November 2002

Things To Do In Philly If You're Stupid

On 23 October 1999, Norm McDonald hosted Saturday Night Live, which is not such a tremendous accomplishment when taken out of context, as hundreds of people have done the same over the years. What made it of particular interest is perhaps best explained by Norm himself, with his monologue:

"When the people here asked me to do the show, I've got to say, I felt kind of weird. I don't know if you remember this, but I used to actually be on this show. I used to do the "Weekend Update" news routine, you remember that? That's where I did the make-believe news jokes. That was me, you know? So then, a year and a half ago, I had sort of a disagreement with the management at NBC. I wanted to keep my job. Right? And they felt the exact opposite. They fired me because they said that I wasn't funny. Now, with most jobs, I could have had a hell of a lawsuit on my hands for that, but see, this is a comedy show. So, they got me. But, now, this is the weird part, it's only a year and a half later, and now, they ask me to host the show. So I wondered, how did I go from being not funny enough to be even allowed in the building, to being so funny that I'm now hosting the show? How did I suddenly get so goddamn funny?! It was inexplicable to me, because, let's face it, a year and a half is not enough time for a dude to learn how to be funny! Then it occurred to me, I haven't gotten funnier, the show has gotten really bad! So, yeah, I'm funny compared to, you know, what you'll see later.

Okay, so let's recap.
The bad news is: I'm still not funny.
The good news is: The show blows!"

Now, obviously, this is all tongue-in-cheek.

The real reason for his firing is not that Norm was ever not-funny, and the show didn't particularly blow any more than it ever did, especially when you have the Joe Piscopo Era for comparison. The real reason is that they wanted him off the show because of his constantly swearing on live TV and the fact that they thought he couldn't do anything well other than read the fake news. But, when given a chance to blossom on another show, suddenly Norm's phone is ringing off the hook.

Similarly (you were wondering where this was going, weren't you?) there are people like Tuffy Rhodes, Alex Cabrera and Roberto Petagine, who go from being so "not-funny" (in baseball terms, "not-hitty") that they're not even offered a job in MLB, to being so funny (read: kicking ass in Japanese, Mexican, Korean, Timbuktu League) that they're suddenly wanted back on the show, or, more accurately, back in The Show. Peter Gammons reports that Petagine suddenly has a whole boatload of suitors for a major league firstbaseman's job, after coming close to leading Japan's Central League in a bunch of offensive categories. Obviously, these guys weren't ever all that bad, and the quality of the Japanese Leagues is not so far below that of MLB, and nobody "learns" to hit in two years. These guys just needed a shot.

Which means that there are probably dozens of guys out there somewhere who can and would hit just like David Bell, for less than a tenth of what Bell will reap over the next four years. If there's anything to be learned in this era of free agency and high-priced mediocrity, it's "Don't sign a 30-something mediocrity coming off a career year to a long-term contract." But the Phillies can't be bothered with things like "research" and "fiscal responsibility". They want to be able to point to David Bell, or Heathcliff Slocumb, or Gregg Jeffries, or Danny Tartabull, or Mike Jackson, and say to the City of Brotherly Boo, "See? We tried! We signed a free-agent, and look where it got us! Why should we bother? It's the Market's fault!" Without acknowledging that they help to skew the market by paying for mediocrities like David Bell.

I want to like the Phillies. I do. Really. But then they go and sign David Bell for four years at ~$17 million, and I am instantly reminded of why I have such a hard time rooting for them, at least consistently. John Perricone, over at OBM, has compared Bell to Edgardo Alfonzo, another free-agent 3B looking for a job, and has shown how remarkably similar their counting stats and such were. I would submit (and I think John would agree) that Fonzie was actually the better player last year, when he was healthy.

John is upset that Bell spurned SanFran for Philly, and particularly that Larry Bowa is attributed as the main reason that Bell split, which is like your wife telling you that she's leaving you for Jake LaMotta. However, this potentially opens up the Giants to go get Alfonzo, or any of the other half-dozen third basemen on the market right now who are better than Bell. David Pinto correctly points out that Bell had the third most WinShares on the Giants last year, and accurately predicts that Felipe Alou will have his hands full trying tor eplace the production of Bell and Jeff Kent, but fails to mention that there was a STEEP drop-off after SuperMan and BatMan. According to Baseball Prospectus, Bell was only about the 15th or 20th best 3B in the majors last year, by EQa, depending on how many plate appearances you want to use as a qualifier. The Phils are not "breaking the bank" by today's standards, but $4.25 mil/year is a lot for essentially a league-average 3B. It's also a lot because it might not have cost much more to get Alfonzo, given his injuries last year, and they already have Placido Polanco, who should never play daily on a good team, but who is a serviceable backup and could play a few weeks if The Fonz goes down again. Too late now.

The so-called experts and insiders who are comparing Bell to Scott Rolen and lamentig the dropoff in expected production are totally right. And completely missing the point. Rolen is moot. He wasn't an option, so the comparison is worthless. The real comparison should be between Bell and Alfonzo, or Robin Ventura, or Phil Nevin, or Mark Loretta, or Todd Zeile. None of these guys is perfect, or they'd already be signed, but a lot of them will hit better than Bell over the next four years. Or at least until Chase Utley is ready.

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22 November 2002

Rainy Joe Morgan Chat Day Woman #12 & 35(sorry Mike)

Every once in a while, an idea comes along that is so brilliant in its simplicity, a creation so ingenious in its blatancy, that you kick yourself for not having thought of it first yourself.
The Bag-Clip.

Air Bags.

Edible Underwear.

OK, so the jury's still out on airbags.

My ranting colleague, Mike Carminati, had one such idea: Joe Morgan Chat Day. Throughout the baseball season, every week, ESPN hosts an Internet chat session with the Best Secondbaseman In History (apologies to Rogers Hornsby, Jackie Robinson, and Roberto Alomar), which is a great honor for anyone whose question gets answered by Joe. However, he also happens also to be, arguably, the Worst Baseball Analyst In History, which means that....

A) Rarely do you even get the question you asked answered appropriately, if at all. This is a sign of both politicians and idiots. I'll let you make the call. Example:

Clint (Danbury, CT): You were one of baseballs best alltime hitters. What young pitcher today do you think that you would have the most problems hitting against?

: Probably, being left-handed, Randy Johnson. Other than him I can't think of anyone who could be that difficult…

What other baseball commentator can be asked to name a "young pitcher," respond with [39-year old] "Randy Johnson," and be allowed to keep his job? Of course, Joe's pushing 60 himself, so maybe The Old Unit seems young to him.


2) When he does answer your question, more often than not, he's wrong. Especially about statistics. Example:

Denis (Dover, NH): How valuable is a great base stealer to a ballclub? Statistically, a player needs to be around 70% successful not to hurt his club, but what about the effects on the opposing pitcher? …

: Stats can't be used to measure the effect of a base stealer because he changes the defense and the pitching patterns. A great base stealer should steal 80 percent or more, I think. Seventy percent is a good number, but that's not how you measure his effect. You measure the intangibles of what he brings to an offense.

Ahh, the old "measurement of the intangibles". My favorite. Right up there with the old "definition of 'God', including two examples".

Mike's happening upon the idea of a weekly proof that Joe Morgan is something less than Albert Einstein, or at least Eddie Epstein, is, as they say in France, a great blessing. Because Joe really proves this himself every week in these chat sessions, and Mike's job is simply to point the instances out. It's a sportswriter's (or a blogger's) dream! If Mike were, say, Rush Limbaugh, it would be like Al Gore going on the radio or TV every week, addressing the Nation, and making an ass out of himself by recounting conversations with people he's never met and memories of places he's never been! What? Oh, he did that? Well, there you go!

And I must kick myself because now the man who provides fodder for baseball bloggers' troughs as though he somewhere has a storage silo labeled "Stupid Things To Say On Internet Today", the man who sometimes says things so asinine that you have to ask yourself whether Morgan and Carminati have some sorta scam going to keep Mike's Baseball Rants in business, the man who, in spite of decades worth of research and evidence to the contrary, still thinks that wins/losses, and Runs/RBI are THE definitive statistics for measuring baseball players, this man of such staunch, ridiculous and unsupportable convictions, is taken. He is off the market. Sure, I can make fun of him sometimes. I can call him funny names and draw attentiontion to dumb things he says and writes (Stupid Morgan Tricks, anyone?), but by and large, I cannot make a regular practice out of this without being labeled a copycat, a fake or a RedSox Fan.

So I must find other material, an original source for my musings, preferably one who makes sufficiently egregious errors that I will have a somewhat steady flow of quotes to pick apart. Thankfully, there are enough bad sportswriters out there that you could probably wrap all of your Christmas (Hannukah, Kwanzaa, Whatever) gifts in a week's worth of their columns and have enough left over to line the hampster cage. I, however, have chosen someone whom I actually think a rather decent writer: Jayson Stark. Mr. Stark writes a column for ESPN and acts as an anchor on Baseball Tonight sometimes. If you've read my blog for any length of time, you know that I've taken issue with things Stark has written in the past. And if you haven't been reading, well, a pox on you! But now I will try to make a more or less regular occurrence of such writings, if only to establish some semblance of consistency in your feeble, aimless, woebegone life. And also so I won't have to peruse every stinkin' baseball writer's columns to find something to gripe about every week.

As I mentioned, I actually think that Stark is a decent baseball writer, so my posts likely will not be as harsh as Mike's often are, but Jayson does have some shortcomings. One of these is his use of statistics, not that he doesn't take seriously the work done by Bill James, Rob Neyer, Baseball Prospectus and the like. His use of stats ranges from inaccuracy to blowing certain, nitpicky coincidences completely out of proportion. In addition, Stark, just like everyone else from Philadelphia, shows a Philadelphia bias, which sometimes gets him into journalistic trouble. Or at least it will by the time I'm through with him, since I don't really like Philly, especially its fans, players and writers, with a few exceptions. His Philly bias is not a terrible vice, though, as everyone has some bias, and hey, at least he's not Bill Conlin.

I doubt that I will ever have the kind of material from Jayson that Mike gets from Joe Morgan, but like dentists with any kind of integrity, Mike and I will both labor on in the hopes that someday, somehow, our efforts will eventually lead the people who keep us in business to stop doing the things that keep us in business,and that we will be forced to find someone else on whom to pick. (Get it? "Pick"? Dentists? Oh, never mind.) So, I will begin (next week) by reviewing some of Stark's recent work, and commenting on its shortcomings as well as lauding its accomplishments. And then I will make attempts to do the same at least once a week with his columns. And we'll just see how it goes.

Now I hafta be able to come up with clever names for the posts...Any ideas?

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19 November 2002


I have had, on occasions throughout my life, Brushes With Greatness (both real and imagined), or at least acknowledgement, a few times.

- When I was about eight or ten, I went to Yankee Stadium for the first time with the Lodi Boys&Girls Club. We sat in the bleachers, got sunburn, and watched the Toronto Blue Jays beat my favorite team. When I got back, I told my mom how I had seen Ron Guidry, my favorite pitcher, warming up in the bullpen, how he had acknowledged me and even shook my hand! My mom was so proud! I must now admit, for the first time in public, that this story was a total fabrication. Well, not the part about going to the Stadium, or the Yankees losing to the Blow Jays. But all that stuff about Louisiana Lightning was total bull, made up just for the attention. (Mom, if you're reading, I'm sorry.) Actually, I did that sorta fishing-for-attention thing a lot when I was younger, but it's been a lot better lately. Ever since that pep-talk Marlon Brando gave me, after I provided him with some acting tips during the filming of On the Waterfront, I haven't felt that I had to do that as much. Neat guy, that Marlon.

- When I was about 15, I met Lou Piniella in Nordstrom, at the Garden State Plaza. Honest. My mom was even there this time. I got his autograph. Really!

- When I was about 12, I saw Mark Collins, then a cornerback for the NY Giants, in a McDonald's in Hasbrouck Heights, NJ. Had no idea who he was, just knew he was someone famous and it wouldn't hurt to get his autograph. (Does McDonald's really need a restaurant locator on its website?)

- As a senior in high school, I was featured twice in 1993 in articles in the Bergen Record, a paper I delivered for three years as a child, and the paper for whom Bob Klapisch writes, when he's not writing for ESPN. (Alas, Bob and I have never met.) I was Scholar of the Week on 23 February 1993 and I was the most prominently featured of several students in an article on college financial aid (read:smart, poor kids) that appeared on 30 June 1993.

- In college, I got a letter to the editor of the Brown & White, Lehigh's student newspaper, published in reposnse to a column written about school prayer. The writer of the column called me about it and we have since become friends. We even played poker at my house last night. Then, a few weeks later, my picture appeared in the Brown & White. Actually, a member of the Harlem Globetrotters dunking a basketball at Stabler Arena appeared, but I was in the audience right behind him, with two friends.

- On 11 September 1999, I was featured on ESPN's SportsCenter. OK, not really. But I was in the left field stands at Yankee Stadium, right where Nomaaah's second homer landed, during a BoSawx blowout . The ball ricocheted off my right hand (the one day I forget my glove...), spraining my index finger, and hit some lady five rows back in the neck before some fat guy with no shirt finally came out of the scrum with it. But if you slow the tape of the highlight down, you can just make me out.
Not catching the ball.

- In this past year alone, I have received emails from such sages as ESPN's Rob Neyer and The Sporting News' Ken Rosenthal, who was thisclose to publishing one of my questions in his mailbag section in TSN. I think he changed his mind when he realized that my name wasn't really Cleveland Millhous Fitzgerald, the nickname I was using on my Hotmail account for a while.

- In September, I got a Letter To the Editor of Sports Illustrated published, as I discussed a while back, but cannot crosslink you to it because Blogger's got PMS or something right now, and she ate all my archives. Sorry. But it's in this issue:

- But now I have really arrived. I received a reply email from Clay Davenport. That's right, the Clay Davenport, of Baseball Prospectus and the Davenport Translations, which do a better job of evaluating players' performances, abilities, and potential than any other I know. Just ask the other nine guys in my Yahoo! Fantasy League, who got their butts kicked over the course of the last year.

I thought it was cool when I met a physics prof at Lehigh who had written a textbook, but this is much cooler. I had written to Prospectus to ask about their fielding stats, as these are excellently done and easy to use, if not to understand exactly how they come up with them, but you cannot find players ranked by such information anywhere on their website. You can do player searches, by name, for lots of players, including those who aren't even active, and their fielding stats are available there, but again, no rankings. I didn't really expect a reply at all, much less one from The-Man-His-Self.

Clay's (we're on a first-name basis now...) reply said, essentially, that these are coming, but that the guys are all working hard to get next year's Prospectus done ASAP, and so I hafta wait. But it was worth it. Hey, I'd never met a man who had a Translation named after him before.

Now if I can just get King James to return my calls...

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18 November 2002

Keeping Up With the Perricones, Carminatis, Gleemans, Pintos...

It looks like my priorities have been all out of whack for the last several days: Spending time with my wife and good friends, going to church, buying groceries...instead of doing what's really important: Writing yet another slant on the current baseball news. Frankly, I haven't had much to say about a lot of the stuff that's happened. But some of it's worth discussing.

The Headaches for Headaches Trade I discussed last week turned out to be a Headaches for Headache and money for Tim Spooneybarger (a headache to write, in itself!) and a PTBNL . Nothing's really changed from what I wrote, except that Atlanta may be a more attractive option for Hampton than Florida, what with their eleven consecutive division titles and all, and the Bravos won't hafta pay but about $35 million of the $80+ mil owed to His Gopherball-ness. Not a bad deal. If he doesn't keep sucking. Mike Carminati does a good job of hashing out all the creative accounting involved in the deal.

El Dusto was named as the Cubbies' new field manager, to nobody's surprise except maybe Osama Bin Laden, who has evidently been under a pile of rocks until very recently. Serves him right. Many are not sure Dusty has what it takes to take a young, talented team that needs a chance to develop and make it a contender, but then he's never really tried, so we can't knock him just yet. But soon. Don't you worry, soon. Christian over at the Cub Reporter has some good analysis of Dusty's future.

Bob Melvin was named the new manager of the Seattle Mariners, who seem to do a better job of not leaking these types of decisions too soon than the Cubs do. All I know about Bob Melvin is that

A) He has three first names. This is not such a terrible thing as you might think. Heck, so do I!

2) He spent the last few years as the bench coach for possibly the worst tactical manager to win a World Series in recent memory

iii) He was once a fourth-string catcher for the Yankees, and was needlessly placed on the DL with something called a "strained neck" in order to make room for someone important coming back from a rehab assignment.

This tells me two things, and only two things, about his prospects as a manager of the Mariners:

He probably knows less about in-game strategery than Bob Brenly, which is bad. And he may know some good roster-shuffling tricks. Hopefully this is not his greatest asset.

Felipe Alou was named manager of the SF Giants, also not much of a surprise. This is an interesting choice, too, because like Dusty Baker, Felipe Alou is being asked to do something he's never had to do before: He must take a predominantly veteran team that is already a contender, and make it a champion. He's already 67, which isn't as bad as some would have you think, but since he's from the Dominican Republic, that probably means that he's really about 207, which is not so good. John Perricone has a seriously thorough breakdown of what Alou might do based on (what else?) what he's done in the past. Good stuff.

Cory Lidle was traded to the Blue jays for two prospects no one but their parents have ever heard of. This is a good trade for both teams, potentially. Billy Beane makes his living dumping replaceable, thirtysomething pitchers making $5 million on other teams. The fact that he got two prospects in return is just gravy. Beane must have a stash of league-average innings-munching starters (Gil Heredia, Tom Candiotti, Mike Oquist) in his linen closet. Right between the sage hand towels and the utility infielders with plate discipline. With the three great, young pitchers the A's already have, and the possibility of another one developing in Aaron Harang, the A's didn't need Lidle, not at that price. What surprises me about it is that JP Riccardi, a former pupil of Beane's and now the GM of the Blue Jays, was on the other end of the deal. He should know better.

New Links...

I have added a few new links, one new blog, on the left, and two non-blogs on the right.

The one on the left is Bronx banter, a brandy-spankin' new blog by Alex Belth, a New York native who will keep you up on some of the things going on there. Alex seems to be just learning about how to set up his blog, but the writing is quite good. I suggest (if he ever reads my stuff) that he find a different template before he makes too many modifications to the existing one. Mike Carminati and Misha Berkowitz (whom Alex replaces on my page) both use that one already. Just a suggestion.

It's pretty mean and vindictive, but then, I don't watch Todd Hundley play every day, and I'm not exacxtly Mr. Nice Writer myself all the time, so who am I to preach? Hundley has hit near or below the Mendoza Line four of the last five years, so maybe it's past-time for the Cubs to cut their losses. The fake interview part is pretty funny.

The other is for a book I have not read, but hey, if Rob neyer says it's good, then it's good. besides, the site itself has lots of stuff worth reading. Go check out

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14 November 2002

ESPN.com is reporting the following headline:

On the table: Hampton, Johnson in six-player deal

Unfortunately, the headline doesn't tell you who the teams are; you have to read the article for that. Since there has been talk of the Yankees trading for Mike Hampton, my first thought was "Nick Johnson?" and then I nearly soiled myself, as the thought of my favorite team trading away a young, cheap firstbaseman (whom last year's BaseballProspectus said could turn out to be a cross between John Olerud and Barry Bonds) for a 30+ year old pitcher who sucks AND is owed more money than we have in Fort Knox did not sit well with me, to say the least. Thankfully, the story indicated that Charles, not Nick, was the Johnson involved in the deal, and that the Marlins, not the Yankees, were the other team. What a relief. Now I don't have to change my shorts for a few more days!

That being said, the deal would probably be good for almost all parties involved, though it sounds like Hampton won't let it go through anyway.

The Rockies would get:

Charles Johnson - a once-great defensive and pretty good offensive catcher who still has some power, when healthy. Coors Field should only boost his overall stats.
Preston Wilson- Average defensive OF with speed and power, whose main weaknesses (walks & strikeouts) should both be helped by Coors.
Vic Darensbourg and Pablo Ozuna - Replaceable relief pitcher and utility IF, respectively.

The Marlins would get:
Mike Hampton - Once-pretty good pitcher whose change-up and ground ball tendencies and the denser atmosphere of Miami should bring his pitching back to resembling Kenny Rogers in no time (instead of pitching like Fred Rogers, as he has done the last two years) . No wait, the other Kenny Rogers. Which is better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick.

Juan Pierre - The only player who stands to really be hurt by the trade. Pierre's fast, VERY fast..but that's about it. He's only average defensively, and doesn't hit well enough to justify a full-time job. Without the Coors effect, it will show a lot more. Anyone looking for evidence that stolen bases don't lead to runs need look no further than Juan Pierre's Career Home/Road splits:

Home 703 129 234 54 44 11 50 18 .333 .381 .391
Road 706 95 200 56 41 9 50 17 .283 .330 .351

He has nearly identical plate appearances, steals and caught-stealings (~748, 50 and 18, respectively), but got on base 39 more times at home than on the road in that span and somehow, mysteriously, managed to score 34 more runs. Who'da thunkit? And this year's split was even worse. At home, he was Luis Castillo, without the "patience." On the road he was Rey Ordonez. In bad year. With a broken arm. Swinging a lead bat. OK, tungsten. The only difference is that Pierre could occasionally steal second before the next guy in the lineup killed a rally, and Ordonez pretty much has to stay put unless Trachsel bunts him over. This trade would essentially kill Pierre's career, or at least his career as a starter and a chance at another multimillion dollar contract.

Essentially, the trade would boil down to the two 1993 expansion teams exchanging headaches (unproductive players tied to cumbersome contracts), which could work out for one or both teams. If it doesn't, though, neither team is really much worse off than they were before, so why not do it? Oh, yeah, because Mike Hampton wants to go to a winning team.

"They're pretty much in the same situation we're in," Hampton said. "They've been in a cycle where they've been trading good players and going young. If I am going to be traded, I wanted to go to a team that could win right away."

Yeah, Mike, have you ever heard the old adage,

"Pitchers who have the worst ERA in the National League two years running can't be choosers"?

What right should Mike Hampton have to make a request to go to a contender? This is like a convict refusing to be released on probation unless he's guaranteed a free room at the Hilton. Get a grip, Mike. Not just on your curveball.

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13 November 2002

Nothing To Do With Baseball...but I Can't Help It

I heard on the Imus in the Morning Show on my way to work today that some people got together and did a tribute album for Johnny Cash, one of the great Country/Western singer-songwriters of all time, which is great, you would think. But you'd be wrong. Because I also heard that some bozo named Keb-Mo covered Folsom Prison Blues on the album, but called the producer and refused to sing the lyric:

"But I shot a man in Reno, just to watch him die."

So producer Marty Stuart, who himself ought to be taken out and shot in Reno*, told Keb Mo that he could change it!

Excuse me?! Change one of the greatest lines in the history of recorded country music?! How exactly is that a "tribute" to the songwriter?

"Hi, Mr. Brown, James Brown? Yes, this is Joe Schmoe. No, the other one. Listen, I'm working on a tribute album for you...well, you're welcome...but I'm not sure I can sing the lyric "I Feel Good." You see, I don't want to offend people who might be kinda depressed. Wait, stop yelling. I was hoping to change it to "I Feel About as Well As Can Be Expected, Given the Circumstances." I haven't figured out how I'm gonna get it to rhyme yet but...Mr. Brown? Mr. Brown? Hello?"

He apparently changed the lyric to:

"They said I shot a man down in Reno, but that was just a lie."

Which RUINS THE ENTIRE DAMN SONG! It doesn't make any sense with that line changed! The song is about a BAD guy, who wants to get on the train he can hear from the prison, but he can't, because he's paying his debt to society. It's NOT about someone who's been framed, because if it was, the contrast supplied by the word 'but' at the beginning of the line in the original song ("...my momma told me, 'Son, / Always be a good boy; don't ever play with guns./ BUT I shot a man...") wouldn't be appropriate. And the line in the next verse (I know I had it comin', I know I can't be free.) wouldn't make any sense! If you listen to Cash explaining his thinking as he wrote the song (available on the Willie Nelson/Johnny Cash VH1 Storytellers album) he says that he was trying to think of the most evil reason someone could have for killing another person. Keb Mo is an idiot.

Can somebody please remind me which of the Constitutional Ammendments tells us that Americans have the Right To Never Be Offended by Anything, Ever, Including Things They Don't Understand Because They're Morons? I must have been sick the day we covered that one in history class.

(*In the ear, with a water pistol...just kinda grazing it...but shot, nonetheless!)

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12 November 2002

This Just In...

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) Barry Bonds, on the eve of the announcement of his unanimous selsection as the 2002 NL MVP, his fifth Award, made it clear that he is still not satisfied. He wants to be liked, to have the love of the fans and press, just as Wayne Gretzky, Michael Jordan and Joe Montana did in their respective sports.

"I wish I was liked as much as them for the accomplishments I have. I wish I had the same respect as them. People really admire their accomplishments,'' Bonds said from the American All-Star tour of Japan.

Bonds' abrasive personality and flagrant self-centeredness have led many fans and sportswriters to shun him, in spite of his great accomplishments between the foul lines.

"I wish [my media reputation] could be erased,'' he said, "I'm a business-type player. I want to give the fans their money's worth.''

In a related story, pop stars David Bowie and Michael Jackson held a press conference at the Neverland Ranch to state that they also would like their reputations with fans and media to be "erased". While wearing the matching pastel uniforms of deceased Beatles John Lennon and George Harrison, accented by matching polyester feather boas, Jackson and Bowie confirmed that they wish to be thought of as "less bizarre" and/or "less gay."

(File Photos)

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11 November 2002

Say It Ain't So, Eddie...

Speaking (albeit briefly) of
Shoeless Joe, I have wondered for some time about another of the permanently banned Chicago Black Sox players, who seems to me to have surprisingly little acclaim as a pitcher, though (I think) if not for the Black Sox Scandal, he might have made the Hall of Fame: Eddie Cicotte. If you saw the movie Eight Men Out (based on the book of the same title by Eliot Asinof), Cicotte was the ace knuckleballer played by David Strathairn, who happens to be one of my favorite actors.

In the movie, Cicotte is cheated out of a $10,000 bonus he had been promised if he won 30 games that year. He won 29, even though he had missed three weeks in August simply because White Sox owner Charlie Comiskey had Cicotte benched "to save him for the [World] Series." He could easily have won at least one of his four starts during that span, but was not given the chance, because Comiskey was such a cheap bastard. (And to think, just five years ago, Steve Avery was purposely given a sufficient number of starts to kick in a $3.9 million option for the following year with the BoSox, despite having an ERA over 6.00 at the time!)

This slight, I suppose, Cicotte felt was justification for taking part in throwing the Series against the Cincinatti Reds. (Not "Redlegs", the moniker used in the movie. The term "Red" did not develop negative, Communistic connotations and subsequent taboos until later, and the Reds did not use the name Redlegs until McCarthyism was at its height in the early 1950's, I believe.) However he rationalized it to himself, the evidence is there that he took money from gamblers, took part in fixing the Series, and took his own name from the running for Cooperstown (though it didn't exist at the time...the HoF, not the town). His career similarity scores include four members of the Hall: Stan Covelski, Chief Bender, Jack Chesbro and Dazzy Vance. Carl Mays, also with very similar career numbers to Cicotte, might have made it to Baseball Immortality as well, if he hadn't first achieved Baseball Infamy as the Only Man Ever to Kill A Player With A Pitch.

But consider the following, about what was and what might have been for Edward Victor Cicotte:

What Was: Cicotte's 208 career wins place him 88th on the career list, ahead of HoFers Bob Lemon, Rube Marquard and Hal Newhouser.]

What Might Have Been: Cicotte only pitched 14 years, having been expelled from baseball after the 1920 season when he was only 36. If he'd gotten to pitch another four or five years (not uncommon for a knuckleballer), he should easily have had 250-270 wins, putting him in league with Jim Palmer, Bob Feller and Carl Hubbell. The fact that Cicotte's "shine ball" would have been legally grandfathered under the new rules would have only prolonged his career.

What Was: Cicotte's career 2.38 ERA places him 24th on the all-time list, in the same neighborhood as Eddie Plank and Chief Bender, both Hall of famers.

What Might Have Been: Well, with four or five more years of pitching, his ERA likely would have risen a bit, but even if he finished around 2.70 or 2.80, he'd have still been in pretty good HoF company (Whitey Ford, Sandy Koufax, Chesbro).

What Was: Cicotte's career .583 winning percentage is better than Cooperstown members Ted Lyons, Jim Bunning, Dons Drysdale and Sutton, Burleigh Grimes, and Eppa Rixey, just to name a few.

What Might Have Been: Eh, probably about the same, maybe a slight drop, but still very good. Over the course of his career, the teams Cicotte played on had a .570 W%, slightly below his own.

What Was: Eddie Cicotte, according to the increasingly useful and wonderful fount of searchable knowledge over at , was one of only SIX 20th century pitchers to win at least 200 games, have an ERA under 2.50, pitch at least 3000 innings, and win over 58% of his decisions. The other five?

Walter "Big Train" Johnson
Christy "Big Six" Matthewson
Charles "Chief" Bender
"Gettysburg" Eddie Plank
Mordecai Peter Centennial "Three-Finger" Brown (my favorite baseball name)

Wow. Or, as they say in France: Holy Schnikies.

What Might Have Been: Do we really need to ask what might have been?! Isn't what actually happened good enough? Look at that list again! Five Hall of Famers. OK, so Bender's kinda marginal, but the rest are all top-notch Cooperstown cronies.

So what's the point of all this? Before people start sending me piles of flaming hatemail with lots of mis-spellings, I am NOT advocating for Eddie Cicotte's enshrinement in the Hall of Fame. Obviously, I cannot do so in good conscience, especially after rallying against Pete Rose's candidacy as vehemently as I have. I am simply trying to spread awareness that Charlie Hustle and Shoeless Joe are not the only great players kept out of Cooperstown because of their alleged dealings with gamblers.

On the other hand, hatemail may be better than no mail, so flame away!

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09 November 2002

Rose Wrap-Up

In the continuing saga of the blogger community's Pete Rose discussions, David Levens, of Elephants in Oakland, wrote this piece, published on Only Baseball Matters, which I think does a pretty good job of covering all the bases on the argument. I recall when I read it that I felt that it was an article that someone on either side of the issue could read and feel like their side won, which either means that David is a good writer or that he's an aspiring politician. This, however, certainly does not end the discussion. Mike of Mike's Baseball Rants wrote this short play (read: long post) about the issue, on which he must have spent an inordinate amount of time, so if you haven't read it yet, you might want to. On the other hand, it's about 28 pages long, so don't say I didn't warn you. Personally, I don't think it's Mike's best work, so if you want a better example of how insightful and clever he can be, while slightly more pithy, read his weekly Joe Morgan roasts.

John Dowd, the chief investigator in the Rose case, sent this letter to the NY Times, which shows us that, if nothing else, at least Dowd's opinion on the subject hasn't changed. He mentions in the letter that no one who's been put on the permanently inelligible list has ever been taken off. Therefore, it would be extremely difficult to justify taking someone like Pete Rose off the list, for two more reasons than before: First, Rose's innocence is still very much in question. Opinions are like anuses: everybody's got one, and they're all different. Nobody has really definitively made an argument one way or the other. Second, if you do let Rose off the permanently inelligible list, then what? Then you've got Shoeless Joe Jackson supporters holding nightly candlelight vigils outside the commisioners house, taking out ads in major periodicals, appearing on Letterman and the Today Show, sticking fliers under your windshield wipers at the supermarket, accosting your children and brainwashing them to believe that Western Culture is Evil....oh, wait, that's something else. But anyway, it would suck. It would compromise the whole system.

Tomorrow: The Best Pitcher You've Never Known


John Perricone has correctly pointed out that I was wrong to parrot John Dowd's assertion that nobody on baseball's permanently inelligible list has ever been reinstated. The list of those who have been expelled is quite long in fact, with 27 people other than the Eight Men Out crew, including Steve "Seventh Time's the Charm" Howe, Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays, George Steinbrenner, and almost anyone who ever owned the Philadelphie Phillies, to name a few. Eight of these have been reinstated, but it is safe to say that no one who has been banned in connection with throwing a game, fixing a game or betting on games this century has ever been reinstated. I hope.

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08 November 2002

So Far, So Good...

Well, the BBWAA has managed not to royally screw up any of the 2002 season awards yet. They've named:

- Tony LaRussa and Mike Sciocia Managers of the Year, in the NL and AL, respectively. You could have guessed this one, given the Cardinals' success in the face of tremendous adversity and the Angels' success in the face of...well, being the Angels. During the Cardinals' NLCS loss to the Giants, LaRussa proved almost unquestionably that if he ever was a genious, he isn't any longer, but the playoffs aren't considered in the evaluation, so he won the Award anyway, his fourth.

- Jason Jennings and Eric Hinske the NL and AL Rookies of the Year, both deservingly so. Jason Jennings managed to win nine games at Coors Field and another seven on the road, toughing it out to a 9-4 record at home despite a 5.65 ERA. If he doesn't get the RoY award, he ought to at least get a Medal of Honor. No, not the one from Congress.

- Barry Zito the AL Cy Young Award winner, after going 23-5, 2.75, becoming the first AL pitcher not named Clemens or Martinez to win it since 1996. He paced in the Junior Circuit in starts and wins, was third in ERA and Strikeouts, and fifth in innings and walks allowed, but he made up for the walks by allowing only a .218 opponent batting average, fourth in the AL. Frankly Pedro Martinez was better in almost every respect when he pitched, but injuries and selfishness prevented him from racking up a fourth CYA. Five extra starts, 30+ inninings pitched and three wins are kinda hard to ignore when you're making this decision. A good choice, if I do say so myself.

And, in a surprising development, the BBWAA "made it anonymous" and picked:

- Randy Johnson as the NL Cy Young winner. This is no real surprise, except that he got all 32 first place votes. I figured at least some idiot would ignore the last three weeks of the season and pick Curt Schilling as #1, but alas, no one did. This is The Big Unit's fifth Cy Young, and fourth in a row, joining him with Roger Clemens and Greg Maddux as the only other member in those respective clubs. This, however, does not begin to describe how dominant El Rando has been over the last decade or so.

With the noted exception of missing most of 1996 with a back injury, RJ has essentially kicked ass at an almost unfathomable pace since 1992.

*He hes been the quintissential workhorse: Pitching 200+ innings and/or among the top 10 in the league in innings pitched every year. He has also led his league in IP and shutouts twice, Starts and Complete Games three times each.

*He has been the quintissential power pitcher: Pacing the Majors in strikeouts every year since 1992, except 1997, when The Rocket beat him by one measley K. Oh, but it took Roger fifty-one more innings to get that one. He led the majors in Strikeouts/9 IP every healthy year since 1992 (10 of 11 years), and he was second in the AL in 1991, with 13 fewer than Clemens, who pitched 70 more innings that year.

*He has piled up the wins, but not as quickly as you might think. Amazingly enough though, this is the first time in Johnson's career that he has ever led a league in wins. At the age of 39, he was by far the oldest first-time Major league leader in wins in the history of baseball.

While searching BaseballReference.com's database to verify this, I found that most of the first-time ML leaders in wins were right around 30 or 31, and that occasionally there was a 33 or 35 year old, but no one older than 36, until Johnson. This is mostly a confluence of circumstances, much like John Smoltz's success as a closer or Keanu Reeves' success as an 'actor': A pitcher who is very good at a somewhat old age, with great run support, while having been surrounded by pitchers on other teams who pitched better and/or got better run support than he did for the first 15 years of his career. I don't usually place too much stock in such things, as it makes it too easy to establish an argument that a player is/is not more wonderful/fantastic/smarter/faster/taller/a better cook than anyone ever has been before. For example, if you go to GodoftheMachine.com (a new link on your right that I meant to add a month ago and forgot about) and search for pitchers who threw less than 200 innings ina season and won more than 19 games, you'd find one: Bob Grim. Most of you are saying, "Who the hell is Bob Grim?" and you're right to question. He's nobody. A flash-in-the-pan who never won as many games or pitched as many innings again as he did in his rookie year, 1954.

The point of all this is: Friends, not only do we have the pleasure of being able to go to the park and see any of at least four different future Hall of Famers, two of whom can make pretty convincing arguments for themselves as the greatest pitchers of all time, but we now have pitchers who can give us that pleasure for longer than we are accustomed to seeing such excellence. Everyone keeps waiting for the other cleat to drop with RJ, and it just never does. He's fourth on the career strikeout list, and could end up in second or third place, depending on how long Roger Clemens hangs on.

It's unlikely that he'll derail the Ryan Express, as he'd hafta strikeout 300 batters/year until the end of the 2009 season. In other words, there's no room for him to slow down, if he wants that record. But he could possibly get to 300 wins, with continued success at pitching and run support, though he'd need almost 20 W's/year for the next four years or more, and I doubt that he'll still be pitching at 45. So let's enjoy him while we can.

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06 November 2002

I took this test the first time, trying to be as diplomatic as possible, and it turned out that the Founding Father I Most Resembled was John J. Perricone. So I took it again, being more honest, and it turns out that I am a total jerk. Who'dathunkit?

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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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