28 April 2003

Alou Has Totally Feliped Out

Kevin Millwood pitched a no-hitter yesterday at the Vet.

It was the first major league no-hitter since Derek Lowe did it exactly one year ago.

It was the first NL no-hitter since Bud "Not Enough for Scott Rolen" Smith did it in 2001.

It was the first Phillies' no-no since the Immortal Tommy Greene did it back in 1991, at Montreal.

It was the first Phils no-no at the Vet since the Immortal Terry Mulholland did it back in 1990.

It was the first Phillies no-hitter by a righty at the Vet EVER. Just in time too, since this is the Vet's swan-song season.

It was the first Phillies no-hitter by a righty at Philadelphia since Red Donahue did it....in 1898. That's right. It's been 105 years since Philadelphia Phillies fans got to see their own righty pitch a no-hitter at home. That 1898 team had four future Hall of Famers on it (Nap Lajoie, Ed Delahanty, Sam Thompson and Elmer Flick. I'm guessing that this one has considerably fewer.

It was the first no-hitter by a pitcher with two sets of double letters in his last name since Jim Abbott did it back in 1993.

We could go on and on (don't worry, we won't) about how special this is...everyone else has already belabored the point, so I'll leave most of that to others.

Otherwise, there are two things of note about this particular no-hitter:

1) The Phillies traded a backup catcher to get Millwood from the Braves, in a trade much decried as an unfortunate residue of the slime that is the new collective bargaining agreement, by both the baseball-following public and even moreso, by the Braves' GM.


B) Giants Manager Felipe Alou practically handed the game to Millwood and the Phillies.

Lemme ask you something: If you're playing a game, and aware that you not only standa good chance of losing, but of being totally embarassed in the process, what would you do? Well, if you're a competitive sort (and hey, if you're not, what the hell are you doing in major league baseball?) you'll want to give yourself the best chance to win. And if not to win, at least to avoid embarassing labels next to your name in the record books. Right?

Well, apparently not. Apparently Felipe Alou likes having his name associated with embarassing records. Faced with the opportunity to make pone last-ditch effort to break up said potentially embarassing no-hitter, Alou removed light-hitting infielder Pedro Feliz (YAY!) and pinch-hit for him with...

...lighter hitting infielder Neifi Perez?

Yep. Given the choice of using:

SS Neifi Perez (roughly a career .230 hitter away from Coors Field),
3B Edgardo Alfonzo (career .289/.365/.442 hitter, admittedly having a bad month),
C Benito Santiago (career .262/.306/.415 hitter with a sore elbow), and
OF Ruben Rivera (career .216 hitter, and besides, he might have tried to sell the game-ball to a memorabilia dealer),

Alou chose Perez. Why?

Maybe because Perez is the only one of the four with much baserunning speed? Nope, Rivera has had much more success as a basestealer (49 for 69) than Perez has (46 for 84), and is therefore probably faster. Also a lousy hitter, but faster. Figures that he'd be good at stealing.

Maybe because Perez is a switch "hitter" and the others are righties? Of course, being able to see the ball from the pitcher better only really matters if you know what to do with it once it reaches the plate. It would seem that this theory is at least possible, given that he did use lefty-hitting Marvin Benard to pinch hit for the pitcher, despite that Benard is only 2-for-20 this season, and kept the righties on the bench.

In spring training, Alou was quoted as saying that his biggest concern for the 2003 season was finding playing time for Neifi Perez. I betcha a lotta Giants fans wish he coulda found Neifi's playing time in some other game this week.

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21 April 2003


In a continuing effort to remain gainfully employed, I have commited the sin of neglecting a few plug requests, for which I must now make ammends.

Cub Reporter Christian Ruzich was away for a while at spring training, and saw his readership fall off dramatically, as OBM's did during his computer problems saga. He asked for a plug over two weeks ago, and I'm just getitng around to him now, sadly. But thankfully, Christian was not relying on me to save his site, so i 'spek he's back upta normal by now, as any blogger worth his bandwidth will be saved on the strength of his writing, and not by how many other bloggers can help prop him up. Christian's excellent writing and following of the Cubbies stands out among nondescript, lackluster baseball blogs like...well, this one, for instance. Go check him out. Great picture of Sammy Sosa's head exploding, too.

Jay Jaffe, the Futility Infielder, also posted a review of his spring training trip, which you can check out here. Jay is also an excellent writer, and has the added bonus of being able to , howyousay...ah-yes, "pick a winner", as he is a Yankee fan. Not that it was a hard choice.

Baseball Ranting Mike Carminati has a review of the history of the designated hitter, which I have not yet had the opportunity to readin its entirety, but despite that he's a purist, he seems to think its OK. I happen to agree, even though Mike and I evidently disagree with a lot of other big name baseball people, I'm always interested to see what Mike has to say on such a subject. And you should be too.

Also, Mike did his weekly mangling of a Joe Morgan Chat session, which, if it's anything like last week's Beatles/Taxes themed post, will have you peeing in your pants before it's over. On second thought, maybe you don't wanna check that one out right now, especially if you're in public somewhere.

Baseball Crank always has interesting stuff on his site, which has now moved. I will update his link soon. But in the meantime, you can find him at http://www.baseballcrank.com/.

My hero, Rob Neyer, has a newly designed website (which will also be linked here soon) and a new book, which I'm hoping I can convince him to give me so I can post a review here and on my Boy of Summer's Book Reviews page.

The guys from Elephants in Oakland were actually at the game in Oakland where Carl "What Dinosaurs" Everett got hit with a cell phone, and they haven't stopped talking about it since. Go see.

And last, but not finally, Alex Belth's Bronx Banter passed 5,000 visits a few weeks ago, a neat little milestone, and deserves some congrats for it. Congrats.

And speaking of milestones, I just passed 10,000 readers myself. Wow. Thank you for your support. I couldn't have done it without you. Well I could have, but it woulda sucked.

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The Full Almonte

AP reported last week that Derek Jeter has started throwing again as part of his rehab assignment. As it was his non-throwing shoulder that was dislocated (turns out it was located under Ken Huckaby's shinguard...) this seems like something of a case of non-newsworthy news. Also, ESPN's version of the article reported that,

"The MVP of the 2000 All-Star Game and World Series hit a career-low .297 

last season with 18 homers and 75 RBI. His batting average has dropped three
straight years, from .349 in 1999 to his first sub-.300 average last season."

(italics added)

Wow. Two errors in two sentences. They're batting 1.000, just like Jeter, who hit .291 in 1997, his sophomore season, after winning RoY honors in 1996 with a .314/.370/.430 line. Not a career low. Not his first season under .300. Not that it matters.
Just shoddy journalism. Tisk-tisk. This is too easy. I'm in the wrong business.

Anyway, like I said, not really news, as Jeter is still optimistically expected back in 4-6 weeks. But a nice segue into an analysis of his replacement, Erick Almonte.

Almonte has played 15 games, has 6 runs and 6 RBI, even a homer! But after taking the Golden Sombrero (0-4, 4K's) on Thursday and two more lackluster performances this weekend, he's hitting only .231/.273/.327, for a .600 OPS, and has 14 K's against only 2 walks. After going 7-for-17 in his first four games (.412), he's hit only 5-for-35 since, or .143/.167/.171, for a .338(!) OPS. and he's made five errors in the field, again, in only 15 games. This puts him at a pace for something like 243 errors over the course of the year, or roughly the same number Fred Durst makes in a typical sentence.

But the rest of the Yankees hit like crazy (New York leads the AL in Runs scored and is tied with Texas for the lead in homers), and the starting pitching has been great (12-0, 2.57 ERA), and they keep winning, so nobody's noticed.

Yanks skipper Joe Torre keeps insisting that Almonte is his starter, and I suppose that Enrique Wilson isn't much better with the stick, but he could certainly hold up the defensive side of things a little better than this. I didn't really expect them to take my advice and go get a Mike Bordick type to play in Jeter's stead, but I didn't expect them to bring in a guy with stone hands just to spite me either. Eventually Yankees' radio announcer John Sterling is going to have to stop chanting that Almonte is doing a 'reasonable job' as the SS while Jeter's gone. He's not hitting, he's not fielding, and sooner or later someone more important than me is going to have to take notice and do something about it. Especially if Jeter's out longer than six weeks.

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15 April 2003

What are you doing reading Boy of Summer today? Go do your taxes!

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08 April 2003

"Hey! Speaking of Declining, Overpaid, Offensive Superstars Who've Dislocated their Non-Throwing Shoulders Diving During the First Week of the Season..."

Wow, how about that? Another has been added to the list. During a game on Saturday against the Chicago Cubs, Cincinatti Reds star centerfielder Ken Griffey Jr.dove for a fly ball, and sustained his Annual Debilitating Injury (ADI). Kudos to Griffey for getting creative with the ADI this year and not just pulling a hamstring, like he usually does. Griffey's expected to miss at least six weks, and more likely the whole season, if he needs surgery.

The fly ball came off the bat of lead-footed (and lead-batted) Cubs' catcher Paul Bako, who was credited with his Annual Only Triple (AOT) for his effort. Seriously, Bako has gotten exactly one triple every year since he broke in with the Detroits in 1998.

With Griffey out indefinitely, the plan apparently is for shortstop Barry Larkin to platoon in center field with Reggie Taylor. Larkin, once a top-flight SS, is now 38 years old and obviously in decline, after hitting only .247/.320/.368 the last two seasons, well below his career marks of .295/.372/.447. Larkin will spend some time playing CF as well as SS, and will undoubtedly be among the NL's worst centerfielders whenever he plays there. Thankfully, he will have competition for that honor on his own team, as Reggie Taylor might best be described as "Doug Glanville Lite". Ouch.

Reggie Taylor is a tools-guy drafted out of high school by the Phillies in the first round of the 1995 draft, ahead of Carlos Beltran, Randy Winn, Roy Halladay, Russ Ortiz, Jarrod Washburn, Brett Tomko, A.J. Burnett, Dave Dellucci, Mark Belhorn, and Mike Lowell, among others. Of course, hind-sight is 20-20, or maybe that's the number of steals and walks Taylor would get each year if he played every day? No wonder the Phillies never brought him up: they already had one of those.

Despite taking eight years to learn the trade and reach the majors, Taylor still doesn't know the strike zone from a No Parking Zone. He never hit higher than .280 in the minors, never walked more than 30 times and never hit more than 15 dingers in any year. The one thing he did do often was steal bases (20 to 40 each year), but with just barely enough profieciency that it was actually a useful skill. (Note: Baseball Cube (aka Sports-Wired.com) doesn't list minor league Caught Stealings, but Baseball Prospectus indicates that his minor league steals in 2001 and 2000 were 54/71 or 76%.)

Playing Larkin in centerfield will let manager Bob Boone get Felipe Lopez and Brandon Larson into the lineup more often. Lopez came over to Cincinnati from Toronto in a trade, and Larson has come through Cincinatti's own farm system. Both have "potential" (read: "haven't done anything yet"), having put up at least superficially impressive minor league numbers in 2002. Time, as always, will tell. The Reds probably lost about five wins to this injury, if you presumed that Griffey would have been healthy all year. But then you know what happens when you presume: You make an ass out of you and pre.

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02 April 2003

Amazing, but True

As you all probably know by now, New York Yankees shortstop, #2 hitter and #1 superstar Derek Jeter will miss at least the next month or so with a dislocated shoulder, which he suffered Monday Night in the third inning against Toronto. Jeter's a great player, but there are rarely many great players on the market in early April, at least for anything in way of prospects the Yankees have to offer (hint:not much), so now what? Yankees backup IF Enrique Wilson is not the long-term answer, and Yankees farmhand Eric Almonte is so not the answer that prospects guru John Sickels didn't even include him in his 2003 book (thanks, Aaron). So we need someone who's both decent and available.

Naturally, a player of Jeter's magnitude is not easy to replace....or is he?

Take a look at some of the Baseball Prospectus translated stats for three (sorta) players from last year:

Player J 157 .293 107 50 -27 5.9
Player B 117 .247 45 9 32 6.6
Player C 157 .247 60 12 43 8.9
Diff (C-J) nil -.046 -47 -38 70 3.1

First, some explanations of the stats:
G is games played. Baseball Prospectus's Equivalent Average (EqA) and Equivalent Runs (EqR) are all pretty obvious. You can go to Prospectus if you need further explanation on these. BRARP is Batting Runs Above Replacement Position, the number of batting runs the player was responsible for above a replacement-level player at that position. FRAA, similarly, is Fielding Runs above Average, the number of fielding runs more (or less) than an average player at that position. WARP is the drive that always malfunctions whenever Scotty needs something to rant about, but it happens also to stand for Wins Above Replacement Player. This takes into account all the player's contributions, for hitting, fielding and pitching, if applicable.

Now, given the context of the table in discussion, you probably know that player J is the aforementioned baseball demigod, Derek Jeter, and yes, the demi-god is, in fact, demi-god-awful at defense. Player B is what Mike Bordick did last year for the Baltimore Orioles, in 117 games, and Player C is a projection of Bordick's performance over the same number of games Jeter played. The Difference row is the difference between Jeter's actual performance and Bordick's projected performance.

So what strikes you? Well, first of all, you should notice that Bordick gives up 46 points of EqA to Jeter, which is a lot. It's roughly the difference between Mike Piazza and Ben Davis, or Alfonso Soriano and Ramon Vazquez, or between Eric Chavez and Craig Counsell. It's a LOT. Because Bordick played 40 fewer games, he naturally loses a few "counting" runs in the analysis, so the projection is intended to adjust for that. That EqA difference projects out to about 47 fewer runs somehow scored as a result of the Bordick's hitting compared to Jeter's, roughly four or five wins worth.

But on the fielding side, what happens? Despite what Tim McCarver tells you, Jeter is a terrible defensive shortstop, and always has been. Last year, he was 27 runs worse than a league-average defensive SS, while Bordick was 32 runs better, for a net difference of 59 runs, which more than covers the gap in offense. And that's just in the games Bordick actually played! If you take the projected difference over 157 games, Bordick's defense saves 70 runs more than DJ's would! Seventy runs! Holy cow!

So what are we saying here? Theoretically, if Mike Bordick had played every game that Jeter played last year, the Yankees would have actually won two or three more regular season games than they did. Obviously, this way over-simplifies these stats, and Bordick can't really be counted on to play such stellar defense again this year. But it does mean that Jeter may not be as hard to replace as we think: If the Yankees can get a mediocre-hitting SS, (they've got enough offense that they could afford to carry a guy like that, batting him 9th) who happens to be an excellent fielder, they should be able to make up most of what they're missing with Jeter gone, albeit in a different form.

Oh, and they could probably get Bordick or another such player for a song, and pay him beans, while collecting the insurance on Jeter's contract. He may even help Soriano learn some defense, and the Yanks could be better off in the long run.

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First and foremost, in case you haven't already heard, you must know that your hero and mine, John J(acob Jingle-Heimer) Perricone, has finally gotten Only Baseball Matters back online, after weeks of server problems, Macintosh problems, Blogger problems, Scud missiles, and attacks by packs of wild dogs. John is a great writer, who is knowledgeable about all things baseball, but still willing to listen to dissenting opinions. He's passionate about his Giants, but still fosters some affinity for the Yankees, on whom he was weaned. And despite that he is ten years older than I, and twice as old as Aaron Gleeman, he hasn't lost his touch ;) just a lot of his readership. So go check him out. Now, dammit. John happens also to be my biggest website referrer, bringing in roughly 10% of all my references, at least since I started keeping track.

Speaking of referrers, David Pinto's Baseball Musings (recently moved) is also excellent, and is running a close second to Perricone, especially since he plugged my fisking of Joe Morgan yesterday. With his new location comes a new logo, classy and understated, as is his style. This allows me to place his link up with the other picture links on the left, and he will go at the top of the list. This disparity has long needed a remedy, and I'm glad to change it.

While you're surfing, check out Mike's Baseball Rants, who finally finished his History of Relief Pitching a few weeks ago. The news is a little cold now, but since I started plugging these, I figured I'd finish.

Also, Alex Belth, who apparently is Somebody (unlike Yours Truly), has got an interview with Hall-of-Fame Negro Leaguer Buck O'Neil. Alex also had an interview with former players' union rep Marvin Miller, who probably belongs in the Hall of Fame himself, given his impact on it, but will likely never be elected because baseball owners and many old-school writers think that he's the Anti-Christ. Must be nice to be somebody.

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31 March 2003

Brooks and Done

One of the more interesting Spring Training Stories (and let's be honest, there aren't many) this year was the possibility that swing-man Brooks Kieschnick might actually have made the Milwaukee Brewers team out of camp. Normally, this would not be such a big deal, but this time, when I say 'swing-man' I don't mean reliever/starter, I mean reliever/hitter. Kieschnick was vying to make the team as a right handed relief pitcher and backup OF/1B. Unfortunately, for him and for us, the Brewers finalized their opening day roster on Saturday, and Brooks was not on it. Presumably he'll be in AAA until Billy Beane or Theo Epstein or another GM with a brain calls and offers a couple of cases of Skoal to the Brew Crew for the right to book Brooks, whereupon he will help some other team to a division title. Milwaukee wasn't going to win one anyway.

And therein lies the problem: Having a guy on the roster who can both hit and pitch (Kieschnick apparently is exemplary at neither, but competent at both) saves you a roster spot. That way, you can carry, say, a fourth catcher, if you're Bobby Cox, or another superutility guy, if you're Tony LaRussa, or a fifteenth pitcher, if you're the Rockies' manager, or even an extra infielder who can't hit, if you're Lou Piniella. But if you're the Brewers, then having someone like Kieschnick on the roster might actually help you win games, and that would be bad. Because then you'd have to admit that it's possible to win games being from a small market, and acting-commisioner-for-life Bud Selig would have to do the same, since the team is, for all intents and purposes, his.

I'm not sure what the purpose of making such a big deal about Kieschnick's presence in camp was. It's been a long time since anyone has carried a guy who got significant playing time as both a hitter and a pitcher, as Rob Neyer pointed out some weeks ago. But several of the guys who made the team ahead of Kieschnick could not possibly have made it for any reason other than that they were going to make it no matter what they did. Take a look (I left out the starting pitchers, since they're not really his competition):


Vizcaino 28 1.42 6 6.1 10 1 1 0 4 8
DeJean 32 1.64 10 11.0 6 2 0 0 8 9
Nance 25 1.84 10 14.2 13 3 1 0 3 11
Foster 24 3.65 9 12.1 15 5 1 0 6 9
Kieschnick 30 3.95 9 13.2 10 6 0 0 8 9
Leskanic 34 6.94 10 11.2 13 9 3 1 4 8
de los Santos 30 9.35 9 8.2 12 9 2 0 7 5
Ford 21 13.50 6 6.0 16 9 0 1 3 9

Granted, Kieschnick wasn't light-out or anything, but he was reasonably effective. And 'reasonably effective' is better than 'sucks ass'. But we'll get to that later.

Now, Luis Vizcaino, Mike DeJean and Shane Nance all had very good springs, so I can't begrudge them a spot, and the two former were pretty decent last year too, as was de los Santos, despite these numbers, so I have no real problem there. Leskanic is coming off an injury year, and so it seems to me that perhaps it wouldn't be such a bad thing to start him out in AAA until they're sure he's healthy AND he can get hitters out. John Foster is fairly young, but has progressed through the Brewers' farm system, and was decent in AAA last year, but lost about 3 K's/9 Inings, and his ERA rose more than a run for the second year in a row, so I'd say it's not a foregone conclusion that he's got nothing left to prove in Richmond.

So that leaves one player (here comes that ass-sucking I promised you...): Matt Ford. Ford is only 21 years old, has exactly one year of pro ball under his belt, and it's an impressive one: 9-5 2.37 ERA in 114 innings...at Class A Dunedin in the Florida State League. And as you can see from the above, he did a pretty good impression of a batitng practice pitcher against watered-down competition this spring, allowing 20 baserunners, and nine runs, in only six innings. Ouch. How a 21-year old, with no experience above the FSL and no evidence that he can prevent hitters from teeing off on him makes the team ahead of a 30-year old with decent pitching numbers in AAA last year (2.59 ERA and 30 K's in 31 innings) who can also hit a little, and play the outfield, is beyond me.

Now, what about the Bench?

Kieschnick OF/1B 30 14 4 6 2 7 0 0 .857 .429
Helms 1B 26 68 7 20 1 5 1 0 .412 .294
Podsednik OF 27 70 11 17 1 10 4 2 .343 .243
Vander Wal OF 36 67 12 13 2 13 1 0 .373 .194
Conti OF 28 36 3 7 1 1 0 0 .306 .194

Again, Kieschnick beat the tar out of the ball every time (not that there were many) he came up. C'mon, 2 homers and 7 RBI in 14 lousy pinch hit at-bats? What more do you want him to do? Sell ice-cream?

Podsednik is a speedy guy with no power and decent plate discipline, and is therefore handy, as are Conti and Helms, if they ever do anything (both have a career OPS around .700, which is bad for a shortstop, much less an OF or 1B). The Brewers traded for Conti from the Devil Rays ("you know you're in trouble when..."), sending catcher Javier Valentin, who probably should have beaten out either Kieth Osik or Eddie Perez for the starter's job, had he stayed.

At the time, Brewers' GM Doug Melvin said, "In Jason Conti, we have acquired an outfielder with major league experience that will provide immediate assistance, given the injuries our club has sustained during spring training." Well, in responnse to that, I'd like to quote inspirational self-help guru Matt Foley;


There are piles and piles of experienced major league outfielders who can help you right now, Dean. You don't have to trade a 27-year old catcher who can actually hit a little (NOTE: Perez and Osik can't.) to get one. The injuries to which he refers are Geoff Jenkins and Brady Clark, and probably Jeffrey Hammonds, who if he isn't now, will be injured soon. But they already had several guys with major league experience, all of whom could help now, if you'd let 'em.

John Vander Wal had a terrible spring, but has generally proven himself to be a decent guy to have on the bench, and his numbers for the Yankees last year were right in line with his career averages. But he didn't do anything in the spring, and was only signed to a minor league contract anyway, so they could have cut him loose, instead of paying him something like $750K to ride the pine and spot start until Jenkins comes back. Anyway, most of the bench is a toss-up, but given the relative weakness here, it couldn't hurt to have an extra pinch hitter. Could it?

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27 March 2003

Morgan Than I Can Handle

With apologies to Mike Carminati, I saw this today and couldn't let it go:

Morgan: Teams in mix for Series

As most of you know, Joe Morgan is a great analyst...if you need a laugh. If you're looking for hard core, well founded study and/or prognostication, go to Baseball Prospectus. If you're looking for head-in-the-sand, old-school, pitching-and-defense-win-Championships kinda writing, then Joe's your guy. I'll show you:

Let's take a look at the teams I believe are in the mix for the 2003 World Series (as well as one sleeper from each league). And as we preview this season, let's review how the 2002 champions got there -- because I believe their success will have a bearing on this year's eventual champion.

BoS:Yes, let's. But we know that this is what you believe, Joe. It's your column.

American League
Anaheim Angels
The Angels won the World Series not because of superior talent or dominant pitching or tremendous sluggers. They won because they understood what the word team means. Each player understood that he had a role in the run to the championship.

BoS:Joe, they won because they scored more runs than the Giants did in four of the seven games they played. Pretty simple. They got the runs they needed in the clutch like they did all season long, but such good fortune rarely follows a team two years in a row.

[...blah-blah-pitching-blah...] The other key for the Angels was aggressiveness. They were aggressive at the plate and on the bases, which enabled them to create offense and manufacture runs.

BoS:Ah yes, the old aggressiveness theory. Let's see...the Giants only stole five bases in the series, whereas those aggressive Angels stole...six! That's 20% more! Big factor. Didn't hurt that the Giants' pitching gave up five and a half runs per game and only held onto two of four saves either. Well, it hurt the Giants.

Anaheim's hitters wouldn't let pitchers throw a first-pitch fastball over the plate to get ahead in the count. They were aggressive from the moment they stepped in the batter's box. They also put the ball in play consistently. The '02 Angels had the fewest strikeouts in the majors (805). By contrast, the Cubs had 1,269 to lead the majors.

BoS:By contrast, the Cubs kinda sucked last year, so you're comparing apples and meatballs. The Yankees struck out an AL-leading 1171 times in 2002, en-route to winning an also AL-leading 103 regular season games, By contrast, the 62-100 Kansas City Royals had the second fewest K's, with only 921. I doubt you'd say that we should all hope for our favorite teams to emulate the Royals, so what's your point?

This season, I believe we'll see teams being more aggressive than before -- taking the extra base, going from first to third, putting pressure on the defense to make plays. While many teams may try to copy the 2002 Angels, we'll have to see how many can maintain that team concept for an entire season.

BoS:Yes, Joe, we know it's your column. But you know, aggressiveness on the basepaths only works if you have baserunners on the basepaths. A team that relies as much on batting average to get on base as the Angels did last year is bound to have trouble repeating its own success at scoring runs.

Oakland Athletics
Most people believe the A's are automatic World Series contenders because of their Big Three of Barry Zito, Tim Hudson and Mark Mulder. But I'm still not convinced they have the offensive philosophy to win a championship.

The A's approach emphasizes on-base percentage, which works well during the season when you play inferior teams. But when you get to the postseason and face better pitching, you draw fewer walks and are forced to rely on the home run. This has contributed to Oakland's first-round exit the past three years.

BoS:Joe may have a point here, beside the one at the tip of his duncecap. On the other hand, if you can't win in the regular season, then you don't have a chance to get eliminated in the first round of the playoffs.

The A's also must deal with the Miguel Tejada contract situation this year. I'm shocked that management would say before the season that they won't sign their star shortstop, who will be a free agent after the season. Usually, you say, "We'll evaluate that in the offseason." There seems to be some faulty logic at work there, and it will affect the A's this season.

BoS:This is very funny: Joe Morgan lecturing you about 'faulty logic' is like Geraldo Rivera lecturing you about 'sensationalism'. Or George Steinbrenner lecturing you about 'fiscal responsibility'. Or Keanu Reeves lecturing you about 'good acting'. Or Burt Reynolds lecturing you about 'hair'. Or...well, you get the picture.

Honorable Mention -- Minnesota Twins
The Twins are also in the World Series mix, but not quite as much as the above teams, in my opinion. Their newfound postseason experience could come in handy. And their style is similar to the Angels.

BoS:Oh, this is your opinion, Joe? I thought you were just reporting prophecies you had gleaned from the Almighty. Thanks for clearing that up. Again.

Sleeper -- Texas Rangers
They have baseball's best player, Alex Rodriguez, and one of these years their pitching and defense could come around. Will this be the season they put it together?


National League
San Francisco Giants
[...blah blah aggressiveness blah...]

This year the Giants have added speed guys -- second baseman Ray Durham and outfielders Marquis Grissom and Jose Cruz Jr. -- while slugging second baseman Jeff Kent departed for the Astros. The Giants want to get more runners on base in front of Bonds. Another big acquisition is third baseman Edgardo Alfonzo, who could offer protection for Bonds in the lineup.

BoS:Grissom is going to be a bust. He's got a little speed and power, but won't get on base often enough to be a factor and will lose his job by mid-season.

It will be interesting to see if the Giants can overcome the loss of Kent and Dusty Baker, the best manager in the baseball. It won't be easy.

BoS:Baker's refusal to play guys who know how to hit in spite of their ages or handedness is what lost the World Series. Anyone who calls in Tom Goodwin to pinch-'hit' for Reggie Sanders in a crucial point of the game cannot wear the title "Best Manager in The Baseball", whatever that means.

Atlanta Braves
[ Braves...blah...blah...pitching...blah...weak offense...yadda..yadda] And while their overhauled rotation appears to be weaker, Greg Maddux has said that this could be the best staff the Braves have had. When he says that, you take notice.

BoS:Yeah, and Wayne Campbell once said that monkeys might fly out of his butt, and everybody took notice, but nobody took him seriously.

There will be more of a race this year in the NL East -- remember, last year the Braves won the division by 19 games. But they certainly know how to win, and I expect them to be one of the NL's best teams.

BoS:I know how to win, too: Score more runs than your opponent does on any given day. No secret there. The challenge is actually doing that. An offense that gets really thin after Gary Sheffield and Los Dos Joneses and a pitching staff that gets really thin after, well, Maddux, can know all it wants to about winning. They just won't do it. At least not as often as the Phillies.

Arizona Diamondbacks
Someday, Curt Schilling and Randy Johnson won't be the dominant, fearsome duo they are now. But "someday" won't be this year. I believe they'll be as dominant as ever in 2003. The support they get from the rest of the staff and from the lineup will determine whether the D-Backs can win a second World Series in three years.

BoS:There he goes with those silly 'beliefs' again...

Sleeper -- Chicago CubsThe hiring of manager Dusty Baker, the rotation (led by Mark Prior and Kerry Wood), and an offense led by Sammy Sosa make the Cubs an intriguing team to keep an eye on.

BoS:Intriguing? Yes. Competetive? No, not this year.

So these are the favorites. But remember, the Angels went from 41 games out in 2001 to the world championship in 2002. And that can happen again -- other teams have similar potential this season.

BoS:Joe, you've been reading Jayson Stark's columns again, haven't you? The 2001 Angels won 75 games, and only finished 41 games out of first place because the Seattle Mariners happened to win 116 that year. Technically, this can happen, as there were two teams who finished 41 or more games out of first place in their divisions: The Devil Rays (48 behind the Yankees) and the Brewers (41 behind the Cardinals). But anybody who thinks that either of those two teams can make the playoffs, let alone win the World Series, must be "really stupid" ... if you get my drift.

But they must commit to a total team effort for it to happen. So keep this in mind on Opening Day: More than just the big-market teams have a chance to win.

BoS: You really believe that, Joe? Well, I guess he's not all wrong. Except that the total team effort to which the Milwaukee or Tampa teams must commit is kindnapping and brainwashing the Yankees' roster, dressing them up in Brewers' or Devil Rays' uniforms, and marching that team out there 162 times this year. Otherwise, they've got no hope in 2003, and you'll hafta look to some of the at least decent teams (White Sox, Astros, Phillies, Blue Jays) to take some big strides and surprise everyone.

Heck, maybe Joe Morgan himself will take some big strides and surprise everyone ... by making sense in consecutive paragraphs sometime this season.

Nah, probably not.

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26 March 2003


I have added or updated a few links.

David Pinto's King of all Baseball Blogs has moved to the aptly named www.baseballmusings.com. Do not adjust your sets, just your links.

Through my eXTReMe Tracker, I found that I am (or was) linked by a couple of political blogs. Ken Goldstein, who runs the hillarious Illuninated Donkey, was kind enough to provide me with some publicity last fall, and had me in his rotisserie links for a while again. The Donk is now my first official not-really-a-baseball-or-sports site link, though sadly he falls way under all the baseball bloggers on the left there. Doesn't mean I don't love him.

Also, I've added Skrythals (Loud Mouth in Norweigen) right below him. The proprietor of this politics/sports blog thinks enough of me that he's got me sandwiched right between Andrew Sullivan and John Perricone. I know, it sounds uncomfortable, but really, I'm honored. And Perricone and I are the only baseball blogs he's linked to anywhere. Pretty cool.

Twisted Fans Sports Blog is a tongue-in-cheek look at the world of sports, the bizarre things that happen in it, and our reactions to them. Evidently the keepers of Twisted Fans discovered my post about the beating of Royals' 1B coach Tom Gamboa last SeptOber, and therefore keep a link to that post on their main page. Hopefully I'll say something funny again sometime soon so they'll have a reason to link the main page of Boy of Summer.

Getting back to baseball, The New Giant Thrill has 100% more authorship than Boy of Summer does, as two guys (Matt and Josh) write about their favorite team, which just happens to be the reigning NL Champion San Francisco Giants (New & Improved, Livan Free Version!!). They asked me some time ago to give them a plug, so here it is: Plug.

And last, but not Finally, another book review, over at Boy of Summer's Books:
Joe DiMaggio: The Hero's Life.

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14 March 2003

Welcome Uecker Fans!
...somebody has to

For my birthday, which happened to coincide with the deadline to offer arbitration to your own free agents, I thought I'd buy myself a baseballreference.com player page, and simultaneously support Sean Forman's work over there. Because I'm a cheapskate, I looked for a bargain, something in the $10 range, and couldn't come up with much. Actually, I tried to get Dr. Strangeglove, but somebody beat me to him. So I found Bob Uecker, and his nearly 50,000 visits for a paltry $15. I've gotten a little traffic, but now my bet is paying off in spades.

Everyone's favorite self-effacing ex-backstop, Bob Uecker , has been elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Sorta. Actually, he's been given the Ford C. Frick Award for broadcasting, which is better than a poke in the eye with a sharp frick. Err...stick.

Mr. Baseball even got himself a little free publicity in Rob Neyer's chat forum today:

Bob Uecker (Front Row, MO): Hey, how come it's taken this long for me to get into the Hall of Fame? I was a better hitter AND broadcastert than Scooter...or at least I am now.

Rob Neyer: (3:04 PM ET ) I don't have any idea, Bob; you certainly should have been elected years ago. Technically, though, you're not actually in the Hall of Fame . . . but that's a topic for another day. Thanks for all the great questions, and I'll be doing this again soon.

OK, so that was me, getting Bob some publicity in his name. Rob never answers my questions in chat sessions, so I figured that this was the only way. Acyually, I first tried asking a question as "Buddy Bailedout (Macho Grande):" buddy wasn't having any of it.

So anyway, welcome, all you Uecker fans, to Boy of Summer. Hope you'll come back.

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13 March 2003

The Gambler Wins!

Not or some poser but this Kenny Rogers was signed by the Minnesota Twins to a one-year, $2 million contract.

My initial reaction to this news was to think that it's the classic knee-jerk, poorly thought-out, desperation signing, and I'm still not totally convinced it wasn't. The pricetag is not too bad for a team like New York, LA or Chicago, but $2 million is still a lot of money in the midwest. What's most surprising about the signing is that Rogers wasn't already signed by someone, given that Jamie Moyer had been able to negotiate a three-year deal with the Mariners. Take a look at their home/road splits the last three years:

Home 4.59 17 15 47 300.33 337 172 153 33 103 156 0.285
Away 4.70 14 13 40 258.33 282 143 135 26 94 152 0.276
Total 4.64 31 28 87 558.66 619 315 288 59 197 308 0.281

Home 3.45 22 13 48 318.67 273 132 122 33 71 197 0.231
Away 4.47 24 11 45 275.66 285 144 137 41 76 167 0.265
Total 3.92 46 24 93 594.33 558 276 259 74 147 364 0.247

At first glance, one might think that there's a pretty vast difference between the two pitchers, and certainly a 3/4 run disparity in ERA is nothing to sneeze at, but a closer look, as usual, reveals that the pitchers are not so different. Jamie Moyer's been helped tremendously by his home park, Safeco Field, where his ERA over the last three seasons is more than an entire run lower than it is on the road. Rogers had the presumed displeasure of pitching half of his games (more, actually) in Arlington Cemet..err..Ballpark, which is described as a "severe hitters park" by Baseball Prospectus. (His slight improvement in ERA at home belies the fact that all of his peripheral stats got worse there.) So they're probably as close to even with each other as any two pitchers could be.

I'm not saying that Rogers is going to suddenly morph into Warren Spahn, or even Tommy John, but he is two years younger than Moyer, but he's been almost as good as Moyer for the last three seasons, and would presumably have a better chance of aging gracefully, since he throws harder than Moyer does. (Actually, come to think of it, my cousin's 2-year-old daughter probably throws harder than Moyer, so forget I mentioned it.)

Eric Milton went down with a knee injury that should keep him out of action for about four months, which kinda sucks for him, but was not necessarily expected to hurt the Twins' chances much this year, as they already had six or seven guys who could start, and Radke, Mays and Milton all kinda underachieved last year. If one of the other two bounces back, and if they get even comparable performances from Kyle Lohse, Santana, or Juan Rincon, then the Twins are fine, and might have better spent the money shoring up their infield or bench.

Still, you'd understand it if they were maybe a little reluctant to go with an all-young guys rotation, and needed a "veteran presence" to steady the load. But Radke, Reed and Mays have all been around for a while (Reed's been around for two or three whiles), and Johan Santana is likely to be very good at the back of the rotation. Or at least he would have been, if not for Rogers. The only truly troubling thing about the transaction is this:

According to the AP story,

"The Twins were confident Johan Santana could fill Milton's spot, as he did
last season when Milton, Brad Radke and Joe Mays missed a total of more
than six months to injuries. But Santana, 8-6 with a 2.99 ERA last year,
is more valuable in the bullpen as a long or short left-handed reliever."

I'm sorry, but unless you think think that Santana is going to be a BAD starter, it makes no sense to say that he's more valuable as a reliever. As I mentioned the other day, an as Buffy will confirm, it is much easier to kill one vampire than ten, and it is much easier to find someone to pitch 70 good innings than 200. Duh. At least it wasn't a direct quote from anyone in the Twins' front office.

Not surprisingly, Aaron Gleeman expresses many of the same sentiments as me, but in more detail, and with a somewhat more positive spin, as he is a Twins fan. Aaron also goes into some discussion of the Jack "DH Waiting to Happen" Cust acquisition by Baltimore and the Joe Table-Omar Vizquel feud, which has already been overplayed, so I won't discuss it myself.

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10 March 2003


I have finally fulfilled my promise to the esteemed author Harvey Frommer, and written my review of his co-authored book Growing Up Baseball, which is on my book review website, Boy of Summer's Books. I've also got a review of Doris Kearns Goodwin's memoir, Wait Till Next Year, which I borrowed from my mom like a year ago and finally got around to reading last month. I'm a little behind. Which I guess is better than being a giant ass.

Christian Ruzich, the Cub Reporter, had the opportunity to visit the spring training home of everybody's favorite baseball team named for immature forest animals. I'm pretty jealous, being stuck here in Pennsylvania.

Stephen Keane sent me an email last week to inform me of his new site, the Eddie Cranepool Society, a Mets blog. Stephen writes kinda longwinded and stream of consciousness and spellling isnt always his strongest suit but he has some interesting things to say and hes very passionate about his Mets and you should go check him out if you havent already.

Also, as a public service message. Just over a month ago I added a tracker to the webcounter, so I have an idea of who's reading my stuff and where they're coming from. I don't check it everyday, but sometimes I see that I was referred to by a link on a website with which I am not familiar. If you have me linked, please let me know. If not to reciprocate the link, which I will usually gladly do, then to let me know who likes my stuff enough to spend the time placing a Boy of Summer link on their own website. I'm always honored when somebody does that. Thanks.

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07 March 2003

Kim The Merciless

Byung-Hyun Kim, the former Arizona Diamondbacks closer, is bidding to become a starter this year, and so far the results are promising. Kim has only made one start in the majors, and he gave up four runs in just over two innings. Otherwise, he's been exclusively used as a reliever, and more recently, almost entirely as a closer. Take a look at his stats:

Year GF% IP H R ER HR   BB   SO WHIP K/9 BB/9 H/9 HR/9  ERA
1999 40% 27.33 20 15 14 2 20 31 1.46 10.21 6.59 6.59 0.66 4.61
2000 49% 70.67 52 39 35 9 46 111 1.39 14.14 5.86 6.62 1.15 4.46
2001 56% 98.00 58 32 32 10 44 113 1.04 10.38 4.04 5.33 0.92 2.94
2002 92% 84.00 64 20 19 5 26 92 1.07 9.86 2.79 6.86 0.54 2.04
Total 64% 280 194 106 100 26 136 347 1.18 11.15 4.37 6.24 0.84 3.21
200IP 64% 200 139 76 71 19 97 248 1.18 11.15 4.37 6.24 0.84 3.21

Kim had been a starter throughout his career until he got to the majors. He was only 20 when he first came up, and despite the cultural stigma associated with relief pitching, Kim swallowed his pride and then promptly began chewing up and spitting out major league batters. His record (and Matt Mantei's annual trip to the DL) got him the closer's job, at which he has excelled. The challenge now becomes considering whether to take a guy out of a role in which he has thrived to place him in another in which he may not, leaving the pitching staff potentially weaker in two places.

TSN's Ken Rosenthal doesn't think it's a good idea, but then Ken and I don't often agree. His feeling is that Kim's not necessary as a fifth starter, since they have Miguel Batista and Armando Reynoso to fill out the back end of the rotation. First of all, counting on Armando Reynoso as anything other than a towel-boy has repeatedly proven itself an unwise expectation. The man has pitched all of 47 innings in the last two years, and hasn't had an ERA under 5.00 since 1999. Secondly, if Kim the Starter is even somewhat like Kim the Closer, he'll soon be their third starter, not their fifth. Patterson has talent, but won't likely turn many heads this year. Batista and Dessens are both decent, but nothing special (Dessens' 3.03 ERA in 2002 belies peripheral stats that indicate that he won't be able to sustain such success.)

The other concern that Rosenthal and others have raised is Kim's durability. Aaron Gleeman did a good job of de-bunking Rosenthal's pitch-count arguments, so I won't go into that again, but Ken's contention that the Korean's diminutive stature somehow makes him more susceptible to injury is almost laughable. What little we understand of the science and mechanics of pitching indicates that bad mechanics and poor usage patterns lead to injuries much more consistently than whether or not a pitcher has a 'rubber arm'. If anything, Kim's underhanded delivery should actually place less stress on the arm and shoulder than conventional overhand pitching, allowing him to pitch more innings, more often. If you can throw that way, and still have the velocity and control to get major league hitters out (which Kim has consistently done, his two World Series meltdowns notwithstanding) then more power to you, I say.

[Interestingly, Yankees farmhand Jay Tessmer's submarine-style delivery has not afforded him the same success that Kim has had, at least not in the majors. Admittedly, he doesn't throw as hard as Kim, but hey, you'd think that after the 23 innings spread out over five freakin' years the Yankees have given him to prove himself, he'd have done something by now, right? Maybe if he were pitching for Bob Brenly he'd get a shot to do something.]

The bottom line is that good relievers are much easier to find than good starters. Obviously, if you had the choice between getting 200 good innings or 70 good innings out of a guy, this becomes a no-brainer. Or, in the immortal words of Buffy the Vampire Slayer,

"Like, does the word 'duh' mean anything to you?"

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06 March 2003

Same Oriold Story

Orioles owner Peter Angelos has given his front office permission to take on the $79 million due Cincinatti Reds' centerfielder Ken Griffey Jr. in the final six years of his contract, several major-league sources told The Baltimore Sun in Wednesday's editions.

In a related story, several reliable sources have told Boy of Summer that President Bush is "more than willing to take all that bothersome oil" off Saddam Hussein's hands, as long as they can reach an acceptable compromise. Also, I understand that one-time pretty-boy Corey Haim has decided to stop holding out and begin making big motion pictures again. He's just waiting for the right deal to come along. Like Dream a Little Dream II. Wait, too late.

Anywho, ain't no way that nobody from no lousy-ass Orioles' farm system plus some sorry-assed major leaguers is gonna make Jim Bowden wanna give up his star CF, even if he has only played center stage about as often as Liberace the last two years. Griffey can still be one of the five best CF in the majors when healthy, which he's expected to be this year, pretty much. I don't see it, but you're allowed to wish. Besides, even if they did get Griffey, and didn't have to give up any of their major league "talent" the Orioles are still about five impact players away from, well, having an 'impact'. On third place.

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04 March 2003

Welcome to the Smart-Ass News...

TUCSON, Ariz. -- A CAT-scan has confirmed that Colorado Rockies shortstop Juan Uribe has a broken bone in his right foot. He will have surgery Wednesday and likely be sidelined for more than a month. Uribe will have a screw inserted into the bone.

Rockies trainer Tom Probst declined to estimate how long Uribe might be out.

``Everybody heals differently,'' Probst said Monday, ``so we're not throwing out an arbitrary date. A bone usually heals in four-to-six weeks. But is he going to be back playing then? No.''

Probst then elaborated, "We're gonna keep this guy outa the lineup as long as possible. I mean, did you see what he hit last year? Like .240 with no power and no plate discipline and no speed. And that's playing half his games at Coors! His OPS on the road barely cleared .500! Nope, I think if that right foot heals quicker than we think, we might hafta do something about the other one."

David Wells Either Is or Is Not A Big Fat Idiot
...and other non-committal observations

David Jumbo Boomer Big Giant Honkin' Lard-Ass Wells (who, to be fair, is roughly my size, except with some athletic prowess) like his pudgy basketball counterpart, Charles Barkley, seems to have been mis-quoted in his own autobiography. Imagine that.

First, it came out last week that he had been half-drunk, with a "skull-rattling hangover" or something like that, when he pitched his perfect game against the then-woeful Minnesota Twinkies back in 1998. Now he says that was an exaggeration, as was his originally quoted estimate that 25-40% of MLB players take steroids, and that this number is rising. Apparently Wells plans to change that number for the final re-write of the book, as it is too close to Jose Canseco's estimate in the tell-all book that he keeps threatening to write.

The whole problem with a tell-all book is that it's supposed to tell, well 'all'. If it only tells some, or if the author takes back a bunch of what's in it, before the public even gets a chance to read the darn thing, well then it isn't worth much, is it? Can you imagine how seriously people would have taken Ball Four if Jim Bouton had bowed to Bowie Kuhn's wishes and discredited the book when it was released? Not very, I betcha. Of course, there are two major differences here:

1) Wells is almost 40 years old, and planned to retire after this year anyway, probably, and he's already a bajillionaire, so he's really not risking anything by stepping on anybody's toes. Bouton was only 30 when he was writing Ball Four, and it basically ended his career in MLB, which had not yet made him rich. (Bouton made the double-mistake of being born in 1939 and having all his success when he was only 25.)

B) Nobody cares what David "Insert Weight-Related-Derogatory-Nickname Here" Wells thinks. Bouton had a reputation as quirky and unorthodox, but also intelligent. This morning I heard a certain radio personality use the old joke about how the first book Wells writes will make one more than he's probably ever read, and while that's probably not true, Wells has gone out of his way to let people know that he's anything but cerebral. Like in Blazing Saddles:

"You've gotta remember that these are just simple farmers. These are people of the land.
The common clay of the New West. You know ... morons

Feliz CumpleanosCumpleanosCumpleanos

The Bad News: It turns out that SanFran IF Pedro Feliz is actually 27 years old, not 25, as was previously thought.

The Good News: Statistically, this should be Pedro's peak year at the plate!

The Worse News: Baseball Prospectus only project him to an EqA of around .230. Some 'peak'.

In Other News...

David Pinto has a tongue-in-cheek lineup of the Democratic Presidential hopefuls. Clever guy, that Pinto.

Also through Baseball Musings, I found Baseball Primer's Kansas City Royals season preview in the form of Poe's 'The Raven'. (It's even better if you imagine it as recited by Tarzan, Tonto and Frankenstein!) Very funny and very smart, something the Royals' front office is not. Don't worry, I won't spend three days worth of posts detailing how bad the KC team is. But I could put a Devil Rays season preview to verse..."Stairway to Basement" anyone?

Speaking of verse, Mike Carminati adapts an old Franklin P. Adams favorite for the re-introduction of the beloved Joe Morgan Chat Days. Also very clever. (Mike, not Joe.)

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26 February 2003


Mike's Baseball Rantscontinues his look at the history of relief pitchers. Good stuff, as always. He does love those tables...

The second part of Alex Belth's Ken Burns Interview is posted over at Bronx Banter. It's a little dated, talking about a couple of guys who were up for Veterans Committee election into Cooperstown, but didn't make it, but this is my fault for not responding to Alex's request very quickly. Apologies, Alex, and for the rest of you, go read it if you haven't already. It won't take long.

The new issue of Mudville Magazine is out. Turns out that this is a monthly site.

And lastly, but hopefully not leastly, a surprise! Part of the reason that my blog posts have been a little sparse lately is that I've been immersed in books. Besides recently buying copies of Baseball Prospectus 2003, The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract(which I got for under $10!), What Do You Think of Ted Williams Now?, I have also gotten copies of Harvey Frommer's A Yankee Century and Growing Up Baseball.

My review of A Yankee Century appears on Boy of Summer's Books, which is now linked at the top left of Boy of Summer. I plan to review Growing Up Baseball as soon as I've finished reading it, and other reviews will follow as I can keep up with them. I will likely even go back and review some books I've already read, like Boys of Summer, Joe DiMaggio: The Hero's Life, Baseball Dynasties, and more.

I'll try to give you the straight scoop on whatever I'm reading, and anyone who has a book they've written and would like me to review, please email me, send me a copy, and I'll try to indulge you.

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Sorry, one last post about the Devil Rays before we pack this issue away. Some months ago, I indicated that I had arrived because I received a reply from Clay Davenport of BaseballProspectus, but now I realize that I was mistaken.

This time, I have really arrived: I got Hate Mail.

From: "Stephen Clark"
To: tmutchell@yahoo.com
Subject: I suppose you never heard of the Angels
Date: Sat, 22 Feb 2003 08:31:57 -0600

You are an idiot. I will never read your dribble again.

To which I responded:
Date: Fri, 21 Feb 2003 08:58:18 -0800 (PST) 

From: "Travo"
Subject: Re: I suppose you never heard of the Angels
To: "Stephen Clark"


This is entirely possible. I accept that I may very
well be an idiot. I prefer to think otherwise, but
I'm open to being proved wrong. Two things, however:

1) Please give me a chance to defend myself. It's
only fair. With which of my many idiotic posts did
you take issue? I have, of course, heard of the
Angels, assuming you mean the baseball team from
Anaheim, but I'm not exactly sure to what your comment
refers. Please let me know, I'm always interested to
hear opinions.

B) I think the word you're looking for is "drivel",
not dribble.


Stephen did not respond. This bothers me. I don't mind being hated nearly as much as I mind being ignored. I really didn't know what the heck he was talking about, but looking back, I figured that he must have been offended by my Devil Rays post last week (despite the date on his email, I actually received it on Friday morning). So I wrote again:

Date: Fri, 21 Feb 2003 15:30:12 -0800 (PST)
From: "Travo"
Subject: Re: I suppose you never heard of the Angels
To: "Stephen Clark"


OK, I'm doubting that you've been raptured from the Earth, so I guess you're
ignoring me. I will take an educated (for an idiot) guess at the source of your
ire, and say that you're probably a Devil Rays fan who's upset about my
disparaging comments on their infield defense plan. If I have guessed correctly,
you mean to say that the Angels won the World Series with offensively-sub-par
infielders, and that therefore, the D-Rays plan may not be such a bad one.
(I give you credit, because you can apparently type whole words, for not
believing that they're actually going to the World Series themselves this year.)

Let's look:

Baseball Prospectus (maybe they're idiots too?) ranks Scott Spezio's 2002
season as 16th among ML firstbasemen, 23.1 Runs Above Replacement Position,
or 2.7 Runs Above Position. Or, as they say in France: average, serviceable,
mediocre. (This was an uncharacteristically good year for him.)
Travis Lee, however, is ranked 37(!)th in RARP, at 2.7, or 20.5 runs *below*
an average MLB 1B in 2002. In other words, the Phillies paid Lee $3 million for
the privelige of fielding a guy who did what any number of AAAA guys coulda
done for the ML minimum. This year doesn't promise to be any different for the
D-Rays, except that they're gonna get ripped-off for less dough.

Similarly, Adam Kennedy was 7th in the majors among 2B, with 29.4 RARP,
while Marlon Anderson, Jay Canizaro and Brent Abernathy were 16th, 53(!)rd
and 61(!!)st in RARP last year. Mediocre, terrible and terribler.
Who goes out and intentionally signs guys like this?

David Eckstein was also 7th in the majors among SS, with 32.3 RARP,
while Rey Ordonez was 40(!)th with -1.9. Who trades for a guy who's
ranked ten notches *worse* than the number of extant teams??? No
amount of defense would compensate for this kind of putrid offense.
And even if their defensive reputations (not Anderson's) were all they're
cracked up to be, saving ten runs and allowing 20, for a lot of low-scoring
defeats, doesn't seem like the way to inspire young pitchers to me.
Ordonez and Lee only saved 6 or 7 runs more than the average players
at their respective positions last year anyway. Hardly worth giving up all
that offense to help the young pitchers.

Besides this, the Angels had Garret Anderson, Darrin Erstad, and Tim
Salmon in the OF most days, as well as Glaus and Fulmer, who all could
hit at least somewhat above average for their own positions. The D-rays
have no such compensation from the remainder of their lineup, except
maybe Huff.

C'mon, Stephen, I'm desperate here. Argue with me. Tell me I'm wrong.
Send me an email laced with profanity and grammatical errors and
CAPITALIZATION, but don't just leave me hanging. This is my first real,
unsolicited hatemail from Boy of Summer, and I'd hate to think that I may
have lost one of the couple dozen or so Devil Rays fans out there just
because he doesn't like to be told that his team sucks.

People tell me that, and I'm a Yankee fan. Don't take it personally.

Your hero,

Alas, Stephen Clark has yet to respond. (I resisted the urge to give out his email address so people could flame him for being so narrow-minded and force him to respond. That wouldn't be very nice.) I'll give him credit for sticking to his word and not reading my "dribble" anymore...but that's about it. Whereas David Bloom, Tampa Bay D-Rays blogger extraordinaire, has actually agreed with most of my assessments, some folks just aren't sufficiently open-minded or free-thinking to accept the possibility that their favorite team, losers of an average of 98 games over the last five years, isn't any good, and with the same General Management, might not have any idea how to change that circumstance.


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25 February 2003

Tampa? I Hardly Knowa!

I can't believe I'm spending this much time and effort on the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. Jayson Stark has a puff piece about the D-Rays, particularly the parallels between them and their Super Bowl-Winning NFL Counterpart, the Buccaneers. As I see them, the parallels are as follows:

1) Both teams hired a new field boss away from another team. (Lou Piniella from Seattle and John Gruden from Oakland)

...Did I mention that they're both in Tampa Bay?

Stark sees it a little differently, I guess, but then that's kinda what we've come to exect. Stark compares the current D-Rays team to the Seattle Mariners in charge of which Lou Piniella was placed prior to the 1993 season. That team had been bad, this team is bad. Sweet Lou turned them around, so why can't he do the same with this club?

Well, a few reasons: first of all, the major league talent the 1993 Mariners had is an order of magnitude better than what I see on the Devil Rays' current roster. They had some established, productive players like Ken Griffey, Jay Buhner and Edgar Martinez on that roster, plus role-players like Dave Magadan, Rich Amaral and Pete O'Brien, Omar Vizquel (who managed to provide needed infield defense without totally sacrificing any offensive contributions) and some rising prospects like Tino Martinez and Bret Boone. The pitchers weren't bad either with Randy Johnson and a decent supporting cast (Erik Hanson, Dave Fleming, Chris Bosio, Jeff Nelson, Norm Charlton, Ted Power). While obviously much of this is retrospective name recognition, I expect that you will be hard-pressed to find such a familiar list of names from the 2003 D-Rays' roster ten years from now.

Stark quips, "Ten years ago, the Mariners were also a laughingstock of a franchise, playing in a lifeless domed stadium, barely drawing a million people, coming off a 98-loss season, looking back at one winning season in the history of the franchise."

Makes them sound pretty similar, right? Except that the one winning season the Mariners had came just two years before Piniella was handed the helm. Their pitching (and injuries to it) did them in in '92, dropping the team ERA from 4th to 10th in the 14-team AL, while run scoring remained about the same. But there was talent, and suffucient run support, to help turn the team back around. Some, like Stark, would argue that the early '90s Mariners had been heading the wrong direction, and that Piniella righted that ship, so he could right this one. The problem is that the analogy doesn't hold up. From '88 to '91 the mariners had won 68, 73, 77 and 83 games, a nice gradual increase, and an apparent indication that the team was already headed in the right direction, before the bump-in-the-road known as 1992 came along (64-98). Piniella just came along at the right time, and kept the team heading in the right direction. It took a while for everything to click, but by 1995, they were in the playoffs. They were hardly a laughingstock, just having an off year in '92.

These Devil Rays have no such track record. The last (their only) five years, they've lost 99, 93, 92, 100, and 106 games. If anything, the trend is downward, and there's no indication that they're plugging holes or making any concerted or intelligent effort to repent from the baseball sins that have created the trend. They've relied way too much on free agency, losing draft picks in the process. Not that they'd have done much with them anyway. The Devil Rays draft picks have largely not amounted to much, typically because of their insistence upon blowing their early-round picks on high school pitchers and toolsy outfielders. On the other hand (where I still have five fingers...) Seattle's picks in the late 80s an early 90s were quite productive, giving them stars and role players (Ken Griffey, Alex Rodriguez, Erik Hanson, Tino Martinez) as well as surplus talent they could afford to trade to fill holes (Mike Hampton, Shawn Estes, Bret Boone).

Piniella seems to recognize this disparity: "If you ask me what my rotation is, I don't know. I'll tell you Joe Kennedy will be in it. That's about it. And if I look at my bullpen, I can tell you Lance Carter is going to be out there. Outside of that, we've got to fill in the blanks."

Piniella's team has more blanks than a revolver in a spaghetti-Western.

Supposedly, the expectation is that this team will be ready to contend in about two or three years when:

1) They're finally rid of some of the cumbersome contracts that have albatrossed them for the last few years (Greg Vaughn, Ben Greive, etc.)

B) They're due for some nice chunk of the new revenue-sharing money.To the tune of like $20 million.

iii) Their Young Toolsters will be maturing into Actual Baseball Players. And...

IV) The Beatles reunite to tour with Karen Carpenter and Nirvana.

Why so harsh? I'll tell you:

1) and B) Sure they'll get more money, but other teams who make more dough than Tampa still can't win first prize in a Spell Your Own Name Contest. Payroll isn't everything. Just ask the Mets. Or the Dodgers. Or Baltimore.

iii) It takes more than Tools to make successful Baseball Players. It takes good coaching, good direction, baseball skill development. Just ask Ruben Rivera. Or Jose Guillen. Or Pat Watkins. Or Shawn Abner.

IV) The Tampa Bay Devil Rays will never contend for anything until there's a change of leadership or of leadership philosophy.

Give them more money? Won't matter, they'll find some other way to squander it.

Give them better draft picks? Won't matter, they'll use them on the wrong kinds of players.

Give them better players? Won't matter. They'll either misuse them, misguide them, or trade them for more toolsy prospects.

The problem with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays is not Greg Vaughn or Wilson Alvarez or Vinny Castilla or Roberto Hernandez or even Rey Ordonez and Travis Lee. The problem is in the front office. Chuck LaMar has all but run this team into the ground, with no real indication that he'll be turning things around any time soon. How a guy in charge of a baseball team can see what people like scouting director Cam Bonifay have done in Pittsburgh or what SS Rey Ordonez has done in NYC and still want them on his team is simply beyond me. And how such a person manages to retain his position, year-after-nine-years, has to be up there with Noah's Ark and Fabian's singing career on the list of The Great Mysteries of Human Civilization.

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19 February 2003

The Tampa Bay Devil Rays are bad.

(How bad are they?)

They're so bad that...

...their lineup has less pop than an empty soda bottle.

...their batting practice pitchers have a 0.00 ERA.

...members of their infield defense are being sent to Iraq to try to overthrow Saddam Hussein.

... closer Esteban Yan is so bad at saving things that Tupperware won't let him endorse their products.

...their pitching staff allowed more homers than the doorman at a Simpsons Impersonation Convention.

...Louie Anderson has more plate discipline than these guys.

...their hitters ask Christopher Reeve for tips on walking. (ouch)

OK, OK, enough with the jokes. Everybody know that the D-Rays suck, and have since their inception in 1998. They've tried "proven" veterans, unproven rookies, development, free agency, trades, incantations, but mostly they've tried wandering aimlessly without any coherent plan, and... (surprise!) ...it hasn't worked. Amazingly, they still have fans, such as David Bloom, whose Devil Rays Blog will be linked here as soon as I get a chance to update them. Some more concrete measures of how bad this team was:

...nobody pitching more than 21 Innings had an ERA under 4.30. The AL average was 4.47.

...no pitcher with more than three decisions finished the season with a winning record.

...Greg Vaughn's .163 season marked the lowest BA by a non-catcher with at least 250 At-Bats in this century! (Note: Catchers' offensive contributions used to be considered secondary, so it was not uncommon for a Bill Bevens or a Bob Uecker or a Les Moss to hang around for a while without any indication that they knew what they were doing with that piece of ash they were handed three times a game.)

ESPN's Hot Stove Heater on the Devil Rays details some of their inneptitude, and more importantly, what to expect this year. My hero, Rob Neyer has argued that they aren't "historically bad" but in a way they are, or could be. It's been over two decades since an American League team lost 100 games in three straight seasons (the expansion '77-'79 Blue Jays had a better excuse), but the Tampa front office has all but sealed the team's fate in supplanting Toronto for this (dis)honor.

This is a team that Chuck LaMar has run since the start, and has never shown any indication that he knows how to draft players, sign free agents, or make decent trades, and yet he still has his job. To this, erstwhile Pirates GM Cam Bonifay, himself showing little evidence that he knows how to properly run a franchise, was hired in an assistant-to-the-innept-GM role last year. Results have not been surprising. Let me see if I can sum up the team philosophies for each season they've been around:

1998: The Devil Rays: We're an expansion team! Nobody expects us to win...so we won't.
1999: The Devil Rays: Did we mention that Wade Boggs plays for us?
2000: The Devil Rays: We're gonna slug our way to the...umm, basement.
2001: The Devil Rays: We've got an All-Star! ….whaddaya mean every team gets one?
2002: The Devil Rays: Did we mention that Wade Boggs used to play for us?
2003: The Devil Rays: Our new manager's SO good, we don't need good players!

And so they've gone out and assembled possibly one of the worst teams that will ever set foot on a major league baseball field. They took an "offense" that scored the third fewest runs in the AL last year, got rid of Randy Winn, arguably their best player, as compensation for new field marshal Lou Pinella. They released Steve Cox, a 28-year old hitter with some power (47 extra base hits) and patience (60 walks) and then sold him to Japan. Well, a baseball team in Japan. They lost two of their three top innings-munching pitchers (Paul Wilson and Tanyon Sturtze) to free agency, as well as Steve Kent, Wilson Alvarez, and their "closer", Esteban Yan. Actually, there's good news and bad news about this. Make that Bad News and Worse News.

The Bad News: The pitchers they lost went 24-53 with a 1.52 WHIP and a 5.10 ERA in 709 Innings last season. That horrendous 5.10 ERA is actually better than the team's MLB-worst 5.29 ERA in 2002.

The Worse News: Their replacements on the roster (Blake Stein, Jim Parque, Bob Wells, Steve Parris and the newly-signed Wayne Gomes) went 9-16 with a 1.74 WHIP and a 6.67 ERA in 227 innings. Now, of course, not all of those pitchers' 700+ innings will be eaten up by these five, as they have all been signed to minor league contracts, and aren't guaranteed to make the team. Ironically, GM Chuck LaMar had this to say about the Gomes signing:
``Well, this kid showed up yesterday and he wouldn't leave. So, because of that, we're giving him an opportunity. He's got some major league experience and we'll let him compete.''
He’s got some major league experience? How about ‘He’s got a lower 2002 ERA than all but two guys with at least 20 innings pitched last year who are still on our roster’? I’m not saying that Wayne Gomes is going to save the franchise or anything, but losers can’t be choosers, y’know?

The other pitchers expected to assume the bulk of the remaining workload aren't much more promising:

Victor Zambrano allowed 68 walks and 15 dingers in only 114 innings of "major league" work, to go with a nifty 5.53 ERA. He’s expected to improve on those numbers, but there’s not really much of anywhere to go but up from there.

Nick Bierbrodt apparently has some talent, but spent most of last year rehabbing from a gunshot wound in the non-pitching arm. Here’s what Baseball Prospectus’ Will Carroll had to say about him in the Tampa Bay Team Health Report:

”Being shot, I hope, is one of those fluke things that mean nothing in an injury history. For the Rays, it's not. Another rotation candidate, Nick Bierbrodt, was also shot[BoS: theother was Delvin James} , also at a restaurant. (Note to Rays: room service.) Bierbrodt was in the minors after losing complete control of his pitches, but reports indicate that Piniella has tabbed him for a starting slot, so we'll hope he can find the plate again. Still, past history plus the shooting plus Piniella equal a red light. “
Dewon Brazelton, despite an apparently talented arm as the D-Rays’ fourth best prospect, has exactly 18 innings of experience above AA ball, so expect some growing pains there. Also, he is a major injury risk, according to Will Carroll, so his best hope for future health is to suck enough that Piniella won’t overwork him and then pitch better when Piniella gets frustrated and quits, around June, hopefully to be replaced by someone other than Terry Francona.

Others expected to play a role this year include Jesus Colome, who was injured in an auto accident in the Dominican Republic that killed three people in the other car. He was cleared of any wrongdoing in the accident, but had the gall to say,

“This could affect my career because I don't know whether I feel OK to play this season”

First of all, three women just died: nobody cares how your career is going to be affected.

Secondly, Colome was 2-7 with an 8.27 ERA in 32 games last season. He allowed 91 baserunners in 41.1 innings. His opponent averages of .341/.446/.524 mean that his opponents generally hit like Mike Sweeney when they faced him. How much less OK could he possibly be this year than last? If anything, the accident may help him pitch better. Like to a Boeing ERA, say, 7.27. A whole run improvement!

On the other hand (where, in case you haven’t heard, I have five fingers), the Devil Rays have brought in quite a few players for offensive “help”:

Pos Name Age 2002 EqA MLB Pos EqA
C Jorge Fabregas 33 .165* .246
1B Travis Lee 27 .259 .287
2B Marlon Anderson 29 .250 .259
3B Chris Truby 29 .239 .264
SS Rey Ordonez 32 .226 .256
INF Jay Canizaro 29 .210 .256
OF Ryan Thompson 32 .272 .280
1B/OF Lee Stevens 32 .243* .287
(* approximate EqA for two different teams)

Eight guys, only one (Travis Lee) at an age where he might reasonably be expected to improve a little, none with an EqA above the the league average for his position, at least not with any significant playing time (Thompson's .272 was amassed in fewer than 150 plate appearances.

This might be the worst lineup ever assembled, if it ever got to play. Thankfully it won’t. Thompson is a one-time super prospect who probably won’t make the team, given all the hotshot young outfielders they currently have to evaluate (Josh Hamilton, Carl Crawford, Rocco Baldelli, and Jason Conti), not to mention Greg “The Human Black Hole” Vaughn, who isn’t young, but won’t be paid $8.5 million just to chew sunflower seeds on the bench). Lee Stevens probably won’t make the club either, since they’ve already got Aubrey Huff and Travis Lee to play the 1B/DH/OF roles (though if Lee Stevens did make the team, along with Travis Lee, and if they could get Cecil Travis as a coach and bring up young Stevenson Agosto, you’d have the makings of a good Laugh-In! joke.)

Anywho, these guys are all in camp for a tryout, with the expectation that Anderson and Truby will platoon with incumbents 2B Brent Abernathy and 3B Jared Sandberg, respectively. You would imagine that at least two of the five OF/DH spots would end up in a platoon situation as well, meaning that the D-Rays’ roster will burn up 9 or 10 semi-regular players on four positions. That’s a good way to make sure you have a nice, shallow bench.

Some people may be screaming “No, the D-Rays are following the Braves’ model, valuing infield defense over offense to help develop the young pitching!” (Baseball Prospectus got such a letter, but didn't even see fit to offer a response, given how ridiculous it was.)

Indeed Travis Lee and Rey Ordonez have excellent defensive reputations at their respective positions, though in reality they both saved only about half a dozen defensive runs more than an average player at their own positions, good for less than one win, combined, in 2002. And their offensive contributions more than made up for that. Besides, the Braves’ model isn’t really an accurate notion, since the pitchers who became the backbone of that staff in the early ‘90s (Glavine and Smoltz) all had success before Sid Bream, Rafael Belliard and Mark Lemke became regulars, or before they joined the team (Maddux). Only Steve Avery’s arrival at stardom coincided with the so-called defense focus, and those Braves generally had enough offense, especially in the outfield (David Justice, Fred McGriff, Ron Gant, Terry Pendleton, Lonnie Smith, even Otis Nixon) to compensate for the offensive slackers.

The D-Rays won’t have that kind of production out of their outfield, or anyone else whose name doesn't rhyme with "chaw-free snuff". Not this year, not if Hamilton can't stay healthy and Baldelli, Conti and Crawford don't learn some plate discipline, a skill the Tampa organization does not seem to value, it seems. How else would you explain the influx of players like Lee Stevens and Rey Ordonez and the jettison of Steve Cox to Yokohama, a player who showed real promise in the minors, racking up homers and doubles like breasts in a Joe Bob Briggs movie review and walking almost as often as he K'd (both were a lot). He'll probably become the next Roberto Petaguine or Tuffy Rhodes, and it will serve the Devil Rays right. So while they're tilting at the windmills of infield defense, even the Phillies managed to figure out that you can't play Travis Lee and Marlon Anderson everyday and expect to get the damsel. Um, pennant.

Anyway, Rob Neyer is still right, so far. There have been a lot of teams worse than this five-year stretch by the Tampa Bay Americans, but this sixth year could really be something special. We're talking unexplored territory here. We're talking a team OPS under .600. We're talking 120+ losses. We're talking mathematical elimination from AL East contention earlier than any team in history.

Like, yesterday.

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