29 July 2003


I have been remiss (miss, miss), not to be confused with or , in not giving appropriate props to a fellow blogger. Actually, I gave him props, but then I forgot to follow up on them.

For those of you out there who are Mets fans (the six or seven remaining), you may be particularly interested in The Eddie Kranepool Society, run by Stephen Keane. I had given him a reference a couple of months ago, but I forgot to add his link to my sidebar, so, upon his reminder, I have done so.

NOTE: Be careful not confuse his site with The Stephen Crane Society. Stephen Crane wrote The Red Badge of Courage, which is a book about the Civil War, as opposed to the Civil Injustice that has become the New York Mets franchise. Also I think that the punctuation was a lot better in The Red Badge of Courage. I believe I still have a copy of this from a summer reading assignment in high school. If the Lodi Public Library ("Featuring the largest collection of absolutely nothing you've ever seen!!") fines are still $0.10/day, I owe them $498.70, for a book that was worth about a buck when they acquired it in 1962. Nice return on their investment. For that kind of scratch, I could have assaulted a young woman in a sausage costume! And then taken her out for dinner!

Actually, come to think of it, that might be the Catcher In The Rye that I still have. Never mind.

While I've got your attention, go check out Alex Belth's interview with Moneyball author Michael Lewis. Alex gets opportunities to interview people like this every once in a while, and he always makes the most of it. I'm sure that this time is no different.

In addition, the new edition of Mudville magazine came out last week, so go check that out, too. Mmmm, skin pics.....

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28 July 2003

I Wanna Comb-Over! To Hell With the Consequence!!

The Hall of Fame induction ceremonies took place yesterday afternoon, in Cooperstown, NY. Catcher Gary Carter and 1B/DH Eddie Murray were inducted as players, and your hero and mine, Bob Uecker, was inducted as a broadcaster, getting the Ford C. Frick Award, and generally making people laugh, like he always does.

I only saw a few highlights of the ceremonies, but I understand that Carter was concerned about crying onstage during his speech, and so he mad a point not to dwell on the especially emotional aspectsof his story, as outlined in the 23-minute speech he delivered. Of course, he got kinda choked up anyway, but overall it wasn't really embarassing, and even if he had cried, it would not have been especially embarassing. Heck, Buffalo Bills QB Jim Kelly was practically a fountain of tears in Akron last year, as he gave his acceptance speech to the football Hall of Fame, all the while facing his disabled son, and everyone thought it was very touching, and it was. Not embarassing at all.

No, what Carter should have been worried about was his hair. I mean, did you see this guy? They call him "The Kid"? OK, so he's no spring chicken, but he's not fooling anybody with an 8-inch combover either, y'know? Gary used to have hair, see?

But not now:

And of course, the speeches are filmed from the worst possible angle for a guy with this problem, one to which I can relate, given my relative abundance of forehead these days as compared to my youth. They shoot you straight on, just a little above level, so that every time "The Kid" looks down at his speech notes, all you see is the combover. Bad news, man. Bad news.

And what's worse is that the plaques they make for these guys always look like the sculptor finished the bust perfectly and then took a sledge hammer to to the face.

He looks like the title character from Mask. All told, not a very flattering weekend for The Kid.

On a related note: F#

ESPN has Rob Neyer's take on which current players would make the Hall of Fame if their careers ended tomorrow, and he picks a dozen guys who are essentially locks: Rocket, Big Unit, Mad Dog, Glavine, Piazza, Pudge, Alomar, Biggio, Bonds, Rickey, Sammy and Junior. Not a bad group.

Just missing the cut, in Neyer's opinion are Palmiero, McGriff, Bagwell, Pedro, Big Hurt, Barry Larkin, and A-Rod.

Now as I understand it, Neyer's not saying who deserves to get into the Hall, but who would get into the Hall, as I know that he has advocated for Palmiero, McGriff and Thomas under separate auspices, if not others in that group. And surely, if four Cy Young Awards will get Steve Carlton, Greg Maddux, Randy Johnson (5) and Roger Clemens (6) into the Hall, certainly these should do the trick for Pedro Martinez as well, despite his "frailty".

The really interesting stuff comes up in the opinion polls. Readers were asked who they would vote for, and then the results are tallied, with anyone who gets the requisite 75% vote (the minimum BBWAA percentage for induction) highlighted. And who's highlighted? Only, Clemens, Maddux, Randy, A-Rod, Bonds, Henderson and Sammy.

Pedro Martinez doesn't make 75%, but he gets 10% more votes than Glavine, which is interesting considering that he has about hundred fewer career wins. I'm not saying that either of them isn't deserving. I just don't understand the thought processes involved in not voting for a guy with 250 career wins, five 20-win seasons and two Cy Young Awards.

None of the four relief pitchers (Hoffman, Rivera, Smoltz or John Franco) got enough votes, but John Smoltz, who has been a relief pitcher for... -what, about half an hour? ...got more votes than anyone else. Go figure.

Neither Mike Piazza nor Ivan Rodriguez received 75% of the vote, which is amazing considering that Piazza is easily the greatest hitting catcher EVER, and that Rodriguez is one of only ten catchers ever to win an MVP award. Most of those are either in the Hall already (Campanella and Berra with three each, Bench with two, and Ernie Lombardi, Mickey Cochrane, and Gabby Hartnett with one each), on their way (Joe Torre) or died too young to cap off what would likely have been a Hall-meriting career (Thurman Munson). Only Elston Howard was never a serious candidate for enshrinement.

Among the 1B/DH types, nobody got particularly close to 75%, with Palmiero coming in the highest, with less than 65%, and Frank Thomas bringing up the rear, around 30%. This is sad. How in the world a guy with 500+ career homers doesn't get 3 out of 4 internet users to vote for him is beyond me. And how Frank Thomas ends up with fewer votes than Edgar Martinez completely escapes my comprehensive capacity.

Neither Roberto Alomar nor Craig Biggio got enough votes, not even 60% for Alomar and not even 35% for Biggio. What a shame.

It's hard to argue with Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa and Rickey Henderson, who all have "First Ballot" written all over their careers. But Ken Griffey not only doesn't get 75% of the vote, doesn't get 60%, doesn't even get 50% of the votes??? The guy's got 2000+ hits and 480-something homers, and he's only 33! He's been among the top ten vote getters in the MVP race seven times in 14 seasons! He even won once! Ten Gold Gloves! Seven 100-RBI seasons! Six 100-run seasons! Seven .300 BA seasons! FOUR HOME RUN TITLES!!! Do you know how many players have led their leagues in home runs at least four times (Since 1920, the end of the dead ball era, when homers really became significant) and aren't in the Hall of Fame?


There are seventeen guys on that list, and they're all in the Hall, except Griffey, who's not elligible. Yet.
But when he is, he'll get in. You better, you better you bet. Anybody who's that good, for that long, eventually gets enshrined. Even if he does get hurt or lose a step when he gets older.

The trouble with these internet polls is that you can't tell who's voting. Don't get me wrong, the BBWAA has made more than its share of mistakes over the years (how do you not elect Joe DiMaggio on the first ballot?), but by and large, they do OK, because most of them kinda know their stuff. With the Internet, you never know who's out there clicking those mouses. Meeses. Mice. Buttons. Or do you?

It seems from the results of this poll, that the average baseball fan is about eight or ten years old, and can only rember back about as far as 1999 or so. Maybe 1998. This would explain why Pedro Martinez (one CYA and two 20-win seasons in that span) gets more votes than Tom Glavine (none and one). It would also explain why Edgar Martinez gets more votes than Frank Thomas, who was basically the best hitter in the AL for seven straight years, but seven years that ended in 1997. It also explains Griffey's lack of support, as his trade to Cincinnati before the 2000 season coincided with his plummet from super-stardom.

And, of course, it explains why none of the voters seems to have any idea how good Roberto Alomar, Craig Biggio and Barry Larkin were for most of their careers, before they got kinda old, and why they have no sense of history when it comes to rating two of the best players ever to strap on the Tools of Ignorance. Also, it explains why they think that Alex Rodriguez's nine seasons in the major leagues merit his enshrinement now, even though you need ten years just to be considered: They haven't learned to count yet.

So to sum up...

Bad News: The average fan of Major League Baseball is either ten years old, really stupid, or both.

Good News: The average fan of MLB is probably about ten years old, which means that the sport is doing a better job of marketing itself to youngsters than we thought!

Bud Selig, Bob DuPuy and their comb-overs will be so relieved.

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25 July 2003

Broken Record...

Barry Bonds, by all accounts, one of the greatest players in history, hit his MLB-leading 33rd homer of the season last night. It was his 646th of his career, and his 470th as a Giant, which is widely (but inaccuratley) being reported as eclipsing Willie McCovey's record for the club.

This is, as they say in France, a load of crap. Not only doesn't Bonds own the club record for homers, he doesn't even have the second most. That distinction belongs to Hall of Famer and beneficieary of the laughably short right field fence at the Polo Grounds, Mel Ott. Ott, you may recall, spent a long career as a New York Giant, smacking out 511 homers in 22 seasons as an outfielder and sometime thirdbaseman. And of course there was Willie Mays, who was no slouch himself, hitting all but 14 of his career 660 homers as a Giant. (That's 6-4-6, for those of you scoring at home. And hey, if you are, stop reading this and pay more attention to her!)

What Bonds owns is the San Francisco Giants record for career homers, which is like saying that the world (or at least that franchise) began in 1958, and that nothing that happened before that is valid. I think a lot of old-time Giants fans (and Dodgers fans, and A's fans, and Braves fans, and Senators fans) who might take issue with that.

And more importantle, we gotta give Jack Pfeffer his props! here's to the Dodgers career ERA leader! The greatest pitcher in Dodgers history!

Or not.

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23 July 2003

The Rich Get ...Older?

The Yankees, with their unbridled obsession to, either win the most, or make the most noise losing, have made yet another move, acquiring 309-year-old Jesse Orosco for three cases of Big League Chew and two tickets to a future Yankees home game. Or something.

It doesn't seem that they really needed another lefty reliever, since they've already got southpaws Dan Miceli, Chris Hammond, and Sterlling Hitchcock in the pen, not to mention right-handers Antonio Osuna, Armando Benitez and Mariano Rivera, who are all historically as good against leftys as they are against righties, if not better.

But for better or for worse (HINT: worse), they've now got Orosco, too. This will be Orosco's eighth different team (he pitched for LA twice), in his long, LONG, illustrious career. The only significant record he holds is for career games pitched, and so I suppose the only reason he's really hanging on is to pad that record, so that if some young whipper-snapper comes along, say, John Franco, and thinks that he can wrest this accomplishment from Orosco's dry, wrinkly, calloused, arthritic hands, he'll have another think coming.

Orosco used to be a pretty effective reliever against all comers, but of late (that is, the last ten years or so) he's been relegated to LOOGY status. Which is fine, because he sucks at getting righties out:

Right 47 22 2 10 6 6 0.426 0.482 0.660 1.142
Left 57 0 2 7 4 16 0.228 0.290 0.351 0.641

Or, to put it simply:

Righties: Think Rogers Hornsby
Lefties: Think Rogers, Fred

Can't you hear it?

"Pinch hitting for Jeremy Giambi, number twenty nine, Gabe Kapler..."

Of course, you had to expect that Orosco was gonna have a hard time maintaining his control as he got older. I understand that it's been especially tough for him to keep the walks down since they lowered the number of balls required for a walk from 5 to 4.

Actually, the guy they got Orosco to "save" them from, Chris Hammond hasn't been bad, overall. It seems to me that a 2-0 record, 3.02 ERA, with 13 holds and one save in 15 opportunities, pitching 41+ innings and striking out 32 while walking only 7 is pretty good, and it is. But there are two problems:

A) Hammond hasn't been nearly as effective against lefties (.303 BA/.342 OBP/.424 SLG/.767 OPS) as he has against righties (.253/.273/.295/.567). Being a LOOGY, this is his primary responsibility, and a .303 batting average against just ain't gettin' the job done.

2) Hammond hasn't been nearly as effective against anybody this year (respectable 3.02 ERA) as he was last year (insane 0.95 ERA). So they think that something's wrong. Bob Gibson's ERA nearly doubled from 1968 (1.12) to 1969 (2.18), but the Cardinals didn't run out and acquire Bill Henry, just because he was available.

Oh well. If anyone can afford to make this mistake, it's the Yankees.

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Wiley Coyote, Super Jeanyes Geenius Geneous...Genious

I found this article by Baseball Ranting Mike Carminati, in response to the inarticulate grouping of words that passed for a Ralph Wiley column last week.

Mike, as always, does an excellent job of picking apart Wiley's race "column", but I noticed that Wiley provided an alley-oop, and Mike missed the dunk! A rare occurrence indeed. Here's what Wiley wrote:

"[...]In other words, the cream will almost always rise.

I say "almost," because none of that helped Rickie Weeks.

Weeks went to Lake Brantley High, in Orlando, Florida. He was a starter on the high school baseball team. But somehow, all those in-state high-level college baseball programs like Florida State and Miami didn't offer him a scholarship, so he went to a historically black university, Southern U. in Baton Rouge, to be developed, and ended up as the No. 2 pick overall in the amateur baseball draft in June and just won the 2003 Golden Spikes Award as the best amateur player in the country. [blah-blah-race Dusty slavery-blah]"

Is it just me, or doesn't the evidence he cites actually work against his argument? He says, "Hey! The cream doesn't always rise to the top! Look at this guy!!" He then begins to propound what I expected would be some sob story about a poor black kid who grew up in the slums and could have been great if only some fat-slob, racist, honkey scout workin' for the Man woulda come watch him play for half an hour. Or something.

Instead I get the story of Rickie Weeks, a kid who, despite playing for (what I assume was) a relatively small high school program, got noticed as a college player, became the #2 pick in the amatuer draft and was named the Best Amatuer Player in the Country by a fairly knowlegeable and influential group of honkey racist slobs, the MLB Players Association and USA Baseball. Not to mention a littany of other awards.

This is it? This is your evidence that The Man is keeping you down? A kid who is all but universally acclaimed to be the best baseball player around not getting paid for it?

That's like arguing that the economy is in the dumps by pointing to Bill Gates' house. And then taking a tour of the place.

In a court of law, this is like arguing that the defendant is not guilty of murder because it happened at 12:03 AM, not 12:01, as the prosecution contends. And then showing a videotape from the 7-11 where the defendant clearly blows the cashier's head off at 12:03.

It sometimes amazes me what passes for "logic" in some sports columns.

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16 July 2003

Bucked Bucs: Ex-Pirates Starting All-Star Game

My esteemed colleague over at the Illuminated Donkey, Ken Goldstein, posted some ABC (Actual Baseball Content) on said blog, regarding the All-Star game and more specifically, its impact on the World Series. He looks at the effects of home field advantage in the World Series over its history, and has an interesting theory about it…but I won’t spoil his fun. Go check him out.

Another esteemed colleague, we’ll call him “Tim” (as we always do, since that’s his name and all), sent me an email yesterday:

Hey Travo, 

Here's a topic for your blog... How about 2 former Pirate
pitchers starting the all-star game against each other?
Thank you, Cam Bonifay!


“Tim” is very observant, as this didn’t even occur to me until he mentioned it, but he’s right. For that matter, several pitchers have left Pittsburgh to have significant success elsewhere:

Tim Wakefield was 6-11 with a 5.61 ERA for the pirates in 1993, was out of MLB in 1994, but then came back and won almost a hundred games for the RedSox since 1995, with an ERA as good as or better than the league average every year but one in that span.

Denny Neagle, who went to the Braves in the trade for Jason Schmidt (I think) won 20 games for them in 1997, and 51 games in the three years after the trade, despite his lack of success since joining the Colorado Rockies’ staff.

Jon Lieber was allowed to depart the Pirates and join the Cubbies, where he became a 20-game winner in 2001. Of course he’s injured now, rehabbing from Tommy John surgery on the Yankees buck, but the Cubs got about 720 quality innings out of his arm in three and a half years before he broke down.

So what gives? Well, obviously, the first answer is money. Unlike Wakefield, Jason Schmidt was actually a pretty good pitcher when the Pirates had him, but they couldn’t afford to keep him, and so he was traded to the Giants for prospects or Wendy’s coupons or something in mid-2001, where he promptly became one of the dozen or so best pitchers in the National League. Take a look:

Jason Schmidt									

1996-01 PIT 129 799.67 6.2 9.35 3.62 6.71 44 47 4.39 101
2001-03 SF 58 384.67 6.63 7.04 3.25 9.36 29 13 3.06 134

And his salary jumped from just over $3 million to just under $5 million in 2001,
which essentially priced him out of the Bucs’ market.

Interesting notes about these stats:

1) Schmidt walks about the same number of batters now as he did then, so it doesn’t appear that he’s really gained control since his Pirate days.

2) Schmidt’s hits/strikeouts ratio essentially flip-flopped, perhaps an indication that he found a little more “heat” on his heater, allowing him to punch-out roughly two batters per game that would previously have gotten a hit. This is a really nice improvement, and more than a little responsible for the drop in his ERA, for which the new pitcher’s park at Pac Bell, or whatever it’s called this week, is also a little to blame.

3) The difference in winning percentage is largely owed to the ability of his teammates to actually hit. Eat your heart out, Kip Wells.

What about Loaiza? Well, as you probably suspect, since many of you may never have heard of him before this season, there wasn’t much to hear.

Esteban Loaiza									

1995-98 Pit 87 513.33 5.9 10.2 2.81 5.12 27 28 4.63 94
1998-00 Tex 46 307 6.67 10.7 2.73 6.07 17 17 5.19 98
2000-02 Tor 69 433.33 6.28 10.9 2.16 5.38 25 28 4.96 98
2003 CWS 19 130.1 6.85 7.4 2.15 7.33 11 5 2.21 200

Before this year, the esteemed Esteban was moderately…well, mediocre.

He’s never pitched 200 innings, never won more than 11 games in a season, never had a winning record in a season in which he pitched enough to qualify for the ERA title (162 innings), allows about 11 hits and 2-3 walks per nine innings, and only struck out about 5 or 6 per nine. M-E-D-I-O-C-R-E. Not terrible, just not a guy, at the age of 31, you would have expected to learn how to strike out two more batters per game without allowing any more walks, and to shave three and a half hits and three earned runs off of each box score.

And again, the Pirates weren't necessarily wrong to trade him. He was decent, but nothing special, and stood to make a lot more money as he entered arbitration. When you're the Pirates, you have to consider that. Especially if you want to be able to retain the services of, say, Kevin Young, Pat Meares, Mike Benjamin, and Al Martin.

Frankly, I don’t know what the hell happened here, but I’ll tell you this: I pity the poor fool GM whom Loaiza’s agent convinces to sign him for something like five years and $50 million, because you only catch lightning in a bottle once, and this was it.

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11 July 2003

Pitch Count Issues...

My old pal (and most frequent reader-referrer) John Perricone has been writing and ranting over there at Only Baseball Matters about the pitch counts of some of his favorite Giants pitchers for the last few days, and I was composing an email response, but thought that this might be a better way to respond to him, to his readers, and to solicit comments from mine (who are admittedly, largely his readers as well).

John has been looking at the declining performances and recent injuries of Jesse Foppert and Kirk Reuter, relative to their seemingly needless pitch counts of 123 and 122 pitches in a given start, respectively. He has noted that the two pitchers suffered apparently significant declines in effectiveness over their following starts and are now in the minors (Foppert) or injured (Reuter). And more specifically, he's worried that Williams will suffer a similar fate, given his recent complete-game start of 127 pitches on July 7th.

One of the things I love John for, besides his Pink Cadillac,

is that he can write something like "There can be little argument that..." and what he really means is "Please, someone, argue with me!!!"

So here I am.

John had a reader answer his contention that

"There is no doubt that pitchers years ago threw many more pitches in their starts."

with a response outlining how pitchers had generally easier lineups to face at that time, requiring less effort (and often fewer pitches) for certain batters, as discussed in an unknown Baseball Prospectus article. The article, which I also recalled, was written by Joe Sheehan in mid-June and is here.

ASIDE: The only thing I kinda disagree with Sheehan about is the contention that A-Rod or other "big" shortstops would have been made into outfielders in the 1950's, thereby weakening the lineup.

As I understand it, the reason that people like Mantle and DiMaggio were playing that position in the first place is that they were the best athletes in their neighborhood/team, and that's where you put such people: the toughest defensive position. But these guys were moved to the outfield when they reached the big leagues because their arms were too erratic to leave them at SS (at least according to Richard Ben Cramer). It wouldn't take a rocket scientist of a manager to realize that if you come across a SS who can play the field reasonably well (i.e. without knoblauching the ball into the mayor's head on a routine DP) and hit like Mantle/Aaron/DiMaggio, you leave him there. In case you're wondering, this has almost nothing to do diectly with Jerome Williams' pitch counts. END OF ASIDE

Anywho, with that said, I think John's overreacting a little with the pitch counts issue, at least in these few cases. I happen to agree with Perricone (and with Baseball Prospectus) that the evidence exists to indicate that repeated high pitch counts decrease short-term effectiveness and increase long term injury risk, but to say that Foppert or Reuter or Williams or anyone's specific injury is due to throwing too many pitches in a particular start is more than a bit of a stretch. Even the guys who actually did the research were referring to for BP will tell you not to go out and buy a sniper rifle if your favorite manager leaves your favorite young pitcher in for 140 pitches, much less 128 or 122.

Their numbers indicate trends, and in terms of the injury, the guys to whom you refer actually don't fit the trend. Here's why:

1) The ineffectiveness correlation doesn't really even begin until 120 pitches. The starts to which you refer for Reuter, Foppert and Williams, respectively, (122, 123 and 127) just barely get in under the wire anyway.

B) The injury correlation is not between pitches in an individual start and propensity for injury, but between above average career PAP and injury. (PAP, as you know, is Pitcher Abuse Points, a metric derived by Baseball Prospectus and described by here and here.

None of these three pitchers, having averaged roughly 100 pitchers per start, as John was so kind to point out in his own posting, would be likely to fall into the "above average PAP/career pitches" category.

It seems to me that, in terms of inneffectiveness, both Foppert and Reuter have been teetering on the edge of awful for some time now. Reuter's one of the rare examples of a guy who hardly ever strikes anybody out, but gets away with it because he has pretty good defense behind him most of the time, and he doesn't walk too many. But when the hits start to regress to the mean, he's in trouble. Reuter was kinda over his head last year, and seems generally to be just coming back to what we expect from him anyway, minus the "strikeouts".

Foppert seems the same, in some ways: both before and after that start, he has walked more than 6 batters per nine innings, and consequently it takes him nearly 4.5 pitches per batter. He does strike out a few more than Reuter does (and I'm taller than a Smurf...), but it looks like he essentially stopped inducing popoup outs after that start (41/64 GB/FB before, 26/21 after) and that those extra grounders & line drives became hits (8.8 hits/9IP before that start, 12.8 after). Sounds like luck to me.

He's just a kid, and kids get lit up, often for a year or two, before finding a niche. It's not always because the manager abused him...sometimes it's just because he has a lot to learn about how to pitch to the best batters in the world, and his once-apparent effectiveness was a mirage created by luck.

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10 July 2003

Randall's Scandal: Simon Arrested For Beating Sausage In Public

Sorry, I couldn't help it.

Apparently, Pirates' 1B/OM (out-maker) Randall Simon was actually arrested for clobbering a young woman in a sausage costume with a bat, during the nightly "Sausage Race" at Milwaukee's new Miller Park.

Frankly, I don't see what the problem is. I mean, in the movie Nine Months, everyone laughed their asses off when the Barney-like stuffed dinosaur got the crap beaten out of it, but now a guy just bonks a girl in a sausage suit on the suit and her skinned knees are a national scandal? Whatever.

Here's the more interesting part: Simon was fined $432 for the misdemeanor offense. Relative to his purported $1.475 million salary (???), this means that I would have been fined about $13 for the same offense:

Travis: I'm sorry your Honor, I'll never do it again. Should I write a check to the City of Milwaukee?

Judge: How's about you just buy a Brewers' tee-shirt for my grandson and we'll call it even?

A-Rod's fine would have been $7615.00. Or roughly one Lime-Green 1988 Chevy Silverado from e-Bay.

In other terms, $432 is eight bucks for every walk Simon has drawn in his illustrious 6-year career (spanning two millenia!). Here's what some other players would have had to pay based on this metric:

Rank Player Walks Fine
1 Rickey Henderson* 2179 $17,432.00
2 Babe Ruth+ ** 2062 $16,496.00
3 Ted Williams+ *** 2021 $16,168.00
4 Barry Bonds 2002 $16,016.00
5 Joe Morgan+ **** 1865 $14,920.00
25 Reggie Jackson+ * 1375 $11,000.00
32 Frank Thomas 1348 $10,784.00
34 Fred McGriff 1289 $10,312.00
38 Ty Cobb+ ** 1249 $9,992.00
59 John Olerud 1158 $9,264.00
95 Jim Thome 1058 $8,464.00

+ Hall-of-Famer
* If he weren't Retired/Inactive
** If he weren't Dead
*** If he weren't a Splinter-sicle
**** If he weren't an Analyst...oh, wait, he's not!

That same $432 also works out to exactly $144/triple in Simon's career. By this method, poor old Hall-of-Famer Sam Crawford would have to pay a fine of $44,496! Just for bopping some girl on the head with a bat that never touched her! Conversely, former Brewers utility man Ed Romero would owe a paltry $144, with only one triple to his credit, despite going to the plate over 2000 times in his career. Doesn't seem fair, does it?

So don't let this injustice pass! For less than the price of a cup of coffee (every hour, 24 hours a day, for a whole month...) you can help Randall Simon to escape the tragedy of a system that would put a Hall of Famer in the poorhouse while allowing a disappointment like Kevin Maas to walk off scot-free!

Don't let another minute go by! Pick up that phone now...no, wait, you don't have my number...

Send your contributions to:

Randall Simon Sausage Beating Anti-Injustice Fund
c/o Travis M. Nelson
1234 Boy of Summer Lane
The North Pole OU812

Don't delay!

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09 July 2003

All-Star Hoopla...and a Few More Updates

I understand from ESPN Radio's Mike & Mike that Sammy Sosa and Barry Bonds have elected not to participate in this year's Home Run Derby as a part of the All-Star Festivities. Normally I don't much care about this sort of thing, and this is generally no exception. Every time I've watched any part of a home run derby I've found it to be exceedingly tedious and boring.

I, however, seem to be the exception and not the rule, as many fans will tell you that the Home Run Derby is actually more exciting than the All-Star Game itself. I happen to disagree, but there is a whole pile of merchandise-buying fans out there who evidently clamor to see Big Stars hit Big Homers in a Meaningless Exhibition on a Monday Afternoon. (As opposed to the Meaningless Exhibition that occurs on Tuesday Night. Oh, wait, I forgot, it's Meaningful now.)

Evidently Sosa and Bonds are not overly encumbered by any burden of responsibility to those who pay their checks. Bonds, citing his "right to do whatever he wants" (as though he's somehow prevented from doing that all the time or something) said he wouldn't go. It's his right to decline the invitation... but he doesn't hafta be so obnoxious about it.

Sammy, on the other hand (where, it turns out, I have one fewer finger than Antonio Alfonseca...and two more than Mordecai Brown!), is a different story. Sosa indicated that he turned down the offer because he wasn't going to play in the All-Star Game anyway and so he preferred to take the full three days off.

Now don't get me wrong. I'm all for vacation, time-off, a "little breather", whatever you want to call it. But, umm...hasn't Sammy had plenty of time off this season already? He missed 17 games with an injury and then another seven with a suspension for corking his bat, which reportedly has tarnished his reputation so much that he gets booed everywhere he goes to play now except Chicago. Cubs' manager and resident racial faux pas provider Dusty Baker and others have said that they agree with Sammy's decision to go "underground" for the three day All-Star break, but it would seem to me that the opposite would be true...

Shouldn't a player who's been maligned and injured, but who had in many ways been the Face of and Ambassador for MLB for the last several years, do everything in his power to regain some of that crediibility and stature? Given that his own income, via marketing contracts, depends not just on his ability to play the game but on the public's recognition and opinion of him, shouldn't Sammy be out there trying to get as much good publicity as possible to counteract some of the bad publicity he's received lately? Shouldn't a guy who's been accused of hitting cheap homers due to cheating go and at least try to prove that he can hit them without cheating? And if nothing more than for the sake of the Sport, and the Fans (read: his employers), shouldn't he at least try to kiss a few million asses by showing up? Guess not.


BTW, I have also added Royals Baseball Blog to my growing list. It's brandy-spankin-new! Hopefully it will last longer than the Royals' pennant hopes.

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08 July 2003

Happy Return...

Wow. Long time off. I was on vacation a few weeks ago, actually working with a group called NAILS in Cumberland, MD, on a Habitat-for-Humanity kinda trip, through my church. I'm hoping that a few of the pics I took and had developed at Wal-Mart will be able to be seen here soon, but I haven't figured out a way to do that yet. If not, well, sorry, you'll just hafta come visit.

In the span of the last several weeks, I actually have written something, but it's a book review, so you have to visit Boy of Summer's Books to see it. The review is of Michael Shapiro's The Last Good Season, which I thoroughly enjoyed. Highly recommended.

I have also gotten contacted by several people who wanted a reciprocal link, and I'm always happy to comply with such requests. No fewer than two Atlanta Braves bloggers will soon be added to my links, if they aren't already. One of these, David Lee, has a site called Braves Buzz, which is pretty good in spite of the fact that it's pink. I guess if you're a Mets or Phillies fan, you're used to looking at the pink of a Pepto Bismol bottle after Braves games anyway.
The other one is called **No Pepper** which I though is a pretty clever name, even though it has nothing in particular to do with the Braves. Actually, come to think of it, "Brad" never did ask for a link, I just found his site referring to mine, and I figured that it was only fair to give back. So there you go.

Also, a guy named Wil Everts asked for a link to his site, curiously located at wileverts.com. Not sure what "wile verts" are, but Wil's got an intresting and well-produced (read:non-Blogger) site that deals with lots of things. Specifically he has an area called Baseballtopia that deals with lots of baseball stuff, including Boy of Summer's favorite: smart-alecky commentary. Mmmmm. Smart alecks....

Someone named Steve asked for a link to his site where they legally scalp tickets to MLB games, in this case, specifically to Yankees games, though they have tickets to all of the teams, if you want them. In return for this, he'll link Boy of Summer to their site that lists schedules for all of the teams in Major League Baseball. Frankly, that site seems pretty superfluous, given that without even breaking a sweat I can think of at least half a dozen others where you could (and probably do) get the same info, plus previews, matchups and stats, so I doubt I'll really glean much traffic from it, but what the heck...it's not costing me anything.

I also added in a clever site called Replacement Level Yankees Blog, which has some good stuff about the Bronx Bombers. And a Tigers Weblog, which seems very well done. Unlike the Tigers.

Stick and Move is a general sports weblog it seems, for whom I am reciprocating the courtesy of extending a link.

And last, but not finally, Truth Laid Bear is a more political/social type of weblog, so it goes under the Not Just Baseball category.

Anywho, that's it for updates. Hoping to get back to writing about baseball again soon.

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16 June 2003

Breaking News...Orioles Discover New Offensive Philosophy: Score Runs

Peter Gammons column today on ESPN.com highlights, among other things, the way the Baltimore Orioles' offensive philosophy has changed for the better, and has actually worked out well. Or at least Gammons seems to think it has. He says...

Now led by Melvin Mora, who (Orioles' VP Mike) Flanagan calls "the poster boy for what we're trying to do (.338 OBP last year, .465 this season)," the Orioles are on a pace to score 170 more runs than last year, and they've done it without adding any significant offensive talent in the offseason. "The whole team has bought into it," said Flanagan, "and those who didn't (i.e. Gary Matthews Jr.) are out of here."

Umm, maybe I'm missing something, but isn't Melvin Mora the poster boy for what every major league team is trying to do? If you polled 30 GMs and asked all of them whether or not they'd like a player who can play five different defensive positions and hit .360 with patience and power, I doubt that any of them would have to think about it over lunch. Probably only Allard Baird would respond with, "No, we'll take the weak hitting middle infielder who gets hurt all the time."

The Orioles saying that Melvin Mora is the perfect example of what your team is trying to do is like a homeless guy saying that winning the lottery is the perfect example of what he's trying to do. Like I mentioned the other day, if you've got a 31-year old with a career .262 EqA (read: mediocre) and he goes on a tear and hits like the second coming of Babe Ruth for a couple of months, you count your blessings and maybe you reward him with praise and/or a bonus, but you can't expect anyone to take you seriously when you parade him around and toot your own horn as though you knew he was gonna do that.

The irony, of course, is that they really haven't added any significant offensive talent since last season, and the statistical record shows that. But I'll get to that later. The other irony, if Gammons is touting the importance of on-base percentage, is that by all indications, Gary Matthews Jr. does get it: his career minor and major leageu records show him walking about once every seven at-bats. It's not Barry Bonds, but it's better than the league average, which is around every 10 or 11 at-bats. It was hits that Matthews Jr. had trouble getting (career .238 hitter in the majors).

Gammons also said:

Last year the Orioles' on-base percentage was .309, second worst in the league. This year, it's .344, fifth best in the AL. "We were looking to add 100 runs when we made our runs at Clifford Floyd, Pudge Rodriguez and players like that," said Flanagan. "We may have found those runs, in a large part because of a philosophy. Hopefully this is just the beginning, up and down the organization, as we try to bring back the Orioles."

This is true, but it doesn't tell the whole story. Look at how the Orioles did last year and this year, with and without Melvin Mora's contributions:

                   R     H    HR   BB  AB/BB    BA   OBP   SLG   OPS

2002 Orioles 667 1353 165 452 12.15 .246 .309 .403 .712
2002 O's no MM 581 1223 146 382 12.92 .248 .302 .403 .705
2003 Orioles* 844 1572 169 517 10.88 .279 .340 .429 .769
2003 O's no MM* 737 1398 145 433 11.89 .272 .328 .414 .742
Difference** +156 +175 -1 +51 -1.03 +.024 +.026 +.011 +.037

NOTES: The * means the projected numbers over 162 games for 2003. The ** means the difference for everyone on the Orioles who isn't Melvin Mora, both for 2003 and 2002.

Gammons was right about the numbers he quoted, but if you remove the flukey contribution of Melvin Mora from the equation, the rest of the Orioles have not improved nearly as much as Peter would hae you believe. Sure, the rest of the team has gained 26 points in OBP, but 24 of those are due to batting average, not walks, an indication that the Orioles are a lot luckier this year, not a lot more patient.

The rest of the Orioles are on a pace to score about 150 more runs than they did last year, which is a big jump, but there was really nowhere to go but up from that dismal team. They're taking about one more walk every three games as a team, which is a start but hardly the byproduct of an organizational philosophy. Just another statistical anomaly. Their increased run scoring is due more to a statistical return to the mean than it is to any true increase in talent or patience on the parts of Tony Batista, Marty Cordova, Jay Gibbons, Jerry Hairston, BJ Surhoff, or anyone else. They're just getting more hits, which means that they're pretty susceptible to a backslide later this year or next year. Just ask the Angels.

Hopefully this is just the beginning. Maybe next season the O's can bring in Eli Marerro and Doug Strange and Mark McLemore and Pete Rose Jr. and they'll all hit like Babe Ruth too. But I wouldn't bet on it.

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12 June 2003

Oswalt & Five Conspirators Avoid Hits
Six Arrested For Drunkenness on Grassy Knoll

Well, that was interesting. I got to listen to the first inning or two of the Yankees' first experience of being no-hit since the Eisenhower administration. I heard Roy Oswalt leave in the 2nd inning, and then spent the rest of the night playing cards with my wife, blissfully unaware that my favorite team was being embarassed on national television.

In truth, I'd have preferred to see the game, if only to say that I got to weatch live one of the more interesting no-hitters in major league history. I have historically missed most of the Yankees' no-hitters in my lifetime, many of them haviong taken place while I was away at college in Pennsylvania, unable to watch the games live due to broadcast restrictions. I think I may have gotten to see Gooden's no-hitter in 1996 and Cone's perfect game (the only other Interleague no-hitter) in 1999, but I know I missed Wells' Perfecto, Jim Abbott's no-no and Andy Hawkins' 4-0 loss in a no hitter against the ChiSox (4-0?!?). Don't mind so much that I missed that last one.

Lee Sinins of the extremely useful Around the Majors reports that Hoyt Wilhelm's no-no against the Yanks in 1958 was not the last no-hitter against them, just the last 9-inning no-no. Melido Perez no hit the Yanks for six innings less than two weeks after Hawkins' debacle, in a rain-shortened complete game. Interestingly, Hawkins was the losing pitcher in that game too. I wonder if that's a record, to be on the losing end of two no-hitters in the same month?

Overall, in terms of no-hitters, Yankee fans have been pretty fortunate. To have watcher your guys pitch no fewer than five no hitters in the last 15 years, including two perfect games, is pretty impressive. To have avoided being no-hit (over 9 innings) for 45 years (almost as long as Jesse Orosco's been pitching!) is also pretty impressive.

Rob Neyer, playing the consummate Thursday Morning Manager, says that we shouldn't be surprised that the Yankees were no-hit, and maybe he's right. Rob also said that we shouldn't be surprised that Kevin Millwood pitched a no-hitter either. Smart guy, that Neyer.

On the other hand (where, in case you haven't heard, I have five fingers...) the disturbing trends are there, not to indicate that the Yankees will get no hit again any time soon, necessarily, but that they might need to do some work to make sure they actually win some games. Bill Chuck of BillyBall.com points out that the Yanks are only 16-24 since April 27, a decidedly less-that-stellar record, and the Red Sox now control 1st place in the AL East by a slim margin. Granted, it is only June, and the Red Sox usually wait until August to wilt, but with Bernie Williams and Nick Johnson missing time due to injuries and Derek Jeter not yet returning to form after his own injury, the Yanks need help they can't get from Rueben Sierra.

Thankfully, Giambi and Matsui seemed to have started hitting again lately. Godzooky Godzilla was 12-for-17 with two homers in the last five games before last night's embarassment. And Giambi was 15-for-42 with 6 homers since May 27, so I guess he can see again. Hopefully the Yanks' will get Johnson and Williams back healthy soon, and Weaver and Pettitte will start pitching like they're expected to, or the Bronx Bombers will have a long summer in front of them.

And an even longer winter.

Postscript: In a classic move of capitalizing on their rival's bad press, the Mets will announce the firing of GM Steve Phillips this afternoon, according to Lee Sinins. I guess they're hoping that all the NY beatwriters will still be thinking of ways to sing lamentations on behalf of the hitless Yankees and won't notice.

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11 June 2003

Say It Ain't Sosa Short a Suspension!

Brief update: I'm wearing boxer-breifs.

Also, Sammy Sosa's suspension for CorkGate was reduced from 8 to 7 games, as everyone kinda expected. I maintain that Sammy Sosa is either a fool or a liar. If he expects anyone to believe that he would own a corked bat, bring it to the ballpark and put it in the batrack with his game bats without clearly labeling it


then he's an idiot, for not doing so. Either that, or he knew he was using a corked bat, and is therefore lying when he tells us that it was a mistake. Either way, there's no evidence to suggest that the rest of his career has been anything but legit, Rick Reilly's steroids questions aside, so let's just allow the man to serve his suspension and move on to something else, shall we?

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Let me introduce you to two players...sort of. Player M and Player G. Or should I say Players Jeckyl and Players Hyde.

MB 162 490 69 122 27 12 55 51 98 .249 .334 .388 .722
MA 162 585 130 213 41 29 89 99 108 .364 .466 .592 1.058
GB 162 541 63 141 27 14 71 25 100 .260 .305 .398 .702
GA 162 493 79 165 26 36 102 23 93 .336 .371 .624 .995

MB is player M Before the start of this year, his projected average stats per 162 games. MA is player M after the start of the 2003 season, again, his projected average stats per 162 games. Ditto For player G, before and after 2003. Player M is 31, and plays several defensive positions on a lousy team going nowhere anytime soon. Player G is only 27, plays the outfield adequately, and is on a mediocre team in a tough division.

Now it's pretty obvious that the After versions of these two guys is much better than the Before's, right? But here's the real quandary: The Before versions are based on 1500-2000 plate appearances over the last several years, while the After versions are based on a paltry 150-200 plate appearances this year. Now it's not a question of which is better (Before or After) but "How long will After stick around until Before returns to right the ship toward the Straight of Mediocrity"? In a fantasy league, just like in the stock market, you try to sell high, but it doesn't always work out that way in reality.

By now you may (or may not) realize that player M is the Orioles super-utility man, Melvin Mora, and that Player G is the Reds' Jose Guillen. Sean McAdam has a nice little puff piece about Mora on ESPN, and that's OK. If you can't write something nice about the guy who's leading the majors in batting average, what can you write? But for some reason, McAdam writes,

But the Orioles don't anticipate moving Mora. Rather, as the Orioles dig out from five consecutive losing seasons and approach contender status, Mora becomes that much more valuable.

This is a problem. As great as it is to have a guy hitting .364 on your team and to be able to play him anywhere you need, it's also necessary to recognize taht a 31-year old utilityman with a career .249 batting average doesn't suddenly learn how to hit, and isn't likely to keep this pace up for the rest of the season, much less over the next few years of the Orioles' "rebuilding process"...

BUILDER ANGELOS: "Hey, this building is old and crummy. Let's knock it down and build a new one...No, wait! Let's just trade it for another old, crummy building instead!"

CONTRACTOR THRIFT: "Yes, sir! But can I at least try to sell that nice, cast-iron antique tub on the second floor while they're still en vogue? We might get something for it..."

BUILDER ANGELOS: "Heck, no! We need that tub to make the place at least look a little nicer while we shop it around!"


The other player, as I mentioned, is Jose Guillen, who at age 27, is at least supposed to be having a career year, and it probably will be, but not likely at the pace he's currently showing. A couple of weeks ago, Joe Sheehan at Baseball Prospectus gave Reds field manager Bob Boone a hard time for benching Adam Dunn, and I tend to side with Prospectus on the issue, as you might expect. Their suggestion is that if someone has to be benched, it ought to be Sean Casey, so that Dunn can play first base. (Austin Kearns and Ken Griffey have not given any real reasons to get benched consistently, so it's gotta be someone else.)

Casey is, as they say in France, a "professional hitter" which means that he's a firstbaseman who hits like a decent middle infielder. His career .283 EqA is just average for a firstbaseman, and this year's .260 is noticeably below average. However, there are a few GM's and GM's assistants around who don't know to look much past the .301 career batting average he also sports, but we won't mention any names. Besides Allaird Baird and Cam Bonifay and Chuck LaMar and probably a half dozen others.

So, as is typically the case in such situations, the fault in the organization lies not on the field (Dunn striking out too much) or even on the Manager (Boone benching the wrong guy) but on the front office. Reds GM Jim Bowden has pulled off a few decent trades in his time, and he ought to be shopping Jose Guillen, because

A) a guy with such a lousy history and lousy plate discipline never hits .336 for long, and

2) they need pitching!!!

I mean, have you seen who they're trotting out there? Their starting pitchers are 12-27 with a 6.67 ERA! None of them has a winning record, and only two of them have more than two wins (Danny Graves, 3-5, 5.31 ERA and Paul Wilson 4-4, 4.48 ERA) this season. I know that there are teams out there who need some offensive help, and would probably love to pick up a guy batting .336 with 11 homers before the middle of June. Heck, Arizona gave up Byun-Hyun Kim for a hitter who's less than half as good as Guillen looks. But the danger, as former White Sox GM Bill Veeck used to say, is holding onto a guy too long, rather than letting him go too soon.

The Reds and Orioles would do well to recognize how overvalued their commodities are in Guillen and Mora, and get something for them while they're hot.

But they won't.

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04 June 2003

Slammin' Cork-Crammin' Sammy

I had planned to spend my lunch hour with a little writeup about the Sammy Sosa Situation, but Christian Ruzich has beaten me to it, having made all the points I would liked to have made. Go check out what the Cub Reporter has to say, and try not to let the long excerpt from The Physics of Baseball scare you off. It's not that hard to understand. If you want some more depth, here's another professor's analysis of how a baseball bat works and can be modified.

Anyway, I guess that the reason everyone's making such a big stink out of this is that there exists a very real possibility, one we can never actually verify, that some of Sammy Sosa's 505 (and counting...) career home runs were accomplished with a corked or otherwise modified bat. And do you know what that means to his legacy?


Nothing is likely to happen to Sosa or his legacy as a result of this. While Sosa is the biggest name and the most likely Hall-of-Famer to ever be caught outright with a doctored bat, players have generally faced consequences for such offenses not much worse than being forced to watch reruns of The Magic Hour. Or the Nose-in-the-Book Penalty. (Not the nose-in-the-book-penalty!!) And nobody remembers primarily that Norm Cash or Mike Scott or Greg Nettles or someone else were cheaters. They remember that these guys were, at least for a little while, pretty darn good players, and a lot of fun to watch. Perhaps as a footnote in their careers, somebody occasionally mentions sandpaper or pine tar or Super-Bounce Balls, but nobody goes right to that in a discussion of such players.

People have been found to have doctored bats, or doctored balls, somewhat regularly over the years, and the penalty has generally been the same: When caught, the player and offending piece(s) of equipment are ejected, and the player is usually suspended 7-10 games and maybe fined. That's it. And these pansy-ass penalties often took place in eras when the players union either didn't exist or hadn't yet taken on the demeanor of a prissy, suburban mother defending her spoiled son who "just couldn't have done such a thing, my Lordy..." In this day and age I'll be surprised if they do much mor ethan take away Sammy's personal masseuse for a few days. This, I assure you, will not be the most memorable moment in Sammy's career.

You've heard the names: Gaylord Perry, Whitey Ford, Don Sutton... all Hall-of-Famers, all have essentially admitted to or been exposed to have cheated at some point, and it hasn't diminished any of their legacies one bit. If anything, it seems to make a pitcher more 'colorful' or clever to have thought to scuff up a ball with his wedding ring, or the catcher's shin guard, or a small piece of sandpaper, or whatever Perry could fit in his pocket that particular afternoon. In retrospect, we get nostalgic about such occurrences, with an "Aw, schucks..." and imagine giving a noogy to said offender like you would your kid brother when you found out that the only way he beat you at Go-Fish was by having your sister tellhim what cards you had behind your back. Perhaps the fact that they were so good without cheating (we think...) encourages us to lend them a little slack. It's Tim Leary eating a piece of sandpaper or Wilton Guerrero scrambling to reclaim the pieces of a shattered, corked bat that we remember...and rember to mock. They seem so pathetic. But Whitey and Gaylord? Cheating made them interesting. Rob Neyer concurs.

But for some reason, one I've not yet placed, we get really upset when Norm Cash or Greg Nettles or Albert Belle gets caught with a doctored bat. We think it cheapens there accomplishments...and maybe it does. But given the facts that physics has yet to show that doctoring a bat can do anything more than increase the chances that a bat will break and embarrass its owner, while scuffing/doctoring baseballs can even make Brian-Freaking-Moehler look like Sandy Koufax for three or four innings, maybe we should be more upset about the pitchers and less by cheating hitters. Of course, if you have to cheat to beat the Devil Rays, I have no sympathy for you.

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30 May 2003


Alex belth, he of the contacts with important people, has a couple more interviews available for your reading pleasure over at Bronx Banter. One is with NY Times sportswriter Allen Barra, and the other is with Ethan Coen, who has written some fantastic movies like Raising Arizona, O Brother, Where Art Thou? and The Big Lebowski, as well as at least one terrible movie in The Man Who Wasn't There. Gives a damn funny interview too.

Also, I got this in my Inbox yesterday, and I suspect that Mr. McLean wouldn't mind if I posted it here. Any thoughts?

Dear Commissioner Selig and Bob Watson,

I've long admired Curt Shilling as a stand-up guy, but I hope he is disciplined by MLB for destroying QuesTec's umpire/strike zone analysis equipment. For the good of the game, this discipline should certainly exceed the cost of the equipment.

I'm a baseball guy, my son is a current collegiate pitcher, and for years it has been obvious to me that the existing strikes zones are not reliable, but instead liberally-customized interpretations. Most of my adult life, the in-game MLB strike zone has been a distortion compared to the MLB rule book. It was too wide, too short and for whatever reason, most MLB umpires felt compelled to have their "own zones".

There is no room for lose interpretation here. Rewarding pitchers for hitting out-of-the-strike-zone spots that are physically impossible to reach is unfair. It is wrong that "established pitchers" should get three fists on the outside corners. If, as the rules state, Home Plate is: Five-sided, 17 inches by 8 1/2 inches by 8 1/2 inches by 12 inches by 12 inches, cut to a point at rear, there are no exceptions. If MLB wants a functionally wider zone, to change the offensive/defensive balance, then make the wider zone official.

Watching my team (The Royals) play home games without QuesTec review, I observe extreme strike zone changes during nearly every series. Watching certain TV games, where the more consistent zones are higher-than-wide, its obvious when the QuesTec review system is already in place. There will always be real borderline calls, but just getting close to the strike zone is not a strike!
Of course there will be some rough spots. I'm sure Schilling, Smoltz, et al will continue to protest, because they have clearly benefited from the wide and short zone. Simply put, the rules are the rules. The strike zone should be a standard size, rather than changed daily like a golf course pin position.

Every regular Joe, has some form of employment performance review. To be effective, these reviews should be as impartial and objective as possible. Computer technology is a natural ally in this effort. We already trust computer systems with such critical life issues as bank accounts, medical analysis, air traffic control and national defense. We can certainly trust hardware and software as a component of a MLB umpire's performance review.

Please, don't be bullied by any person or group, especially those driven by selfish self-interests.
Do the right thing. Universally deploy the QuesTec system ASAP. Ten years from now the game will be better for it.


Anthony Mark McLean

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29 May 2003

Morgan to the Rescue...

Baseball is such a great game because as soon as you think you have it figured out, it throws you a curve.

Baseball writing is such a great gig because as soon as you're convinced that you'll never have anything to write about again, Joe Morgan rattles off a column that begs to be shredded. Oh goody.

Joe: One month into the season, it looked like the New York Yankees and San Francisco Giants were the class of their respective leagues. But as Yogi Berra said, "It ain't over till it's over." Baseball's unpredictable nature is why I never predict a World Series winner at the beginning of a season. Now it appears that the Atlanta Braves -- with baseball's best record at 35-17 -- are head and shoulders above everyone else. We'll have to see if that lasts.

I gotta hand Joe this, sorta. He didn't actually pick any winners, just teams he thought would be in the mix, and even that was pretty funny at times. Depending on your bent, this was either wise if him or wishy-washy and non-committal. You pick.

Joe: Over the long haul, those ups and downs even out, which means the best team usually finishes first in the end. The Kansas City Royals started 16-3 and looked like one of the best teams in baseball. But you're never as good as you look when you're playing well, and you're never as bad as you look when you're playing poorly.

Well, actually, you didn't have to be psychic to tell that the Royals weren't going to keep that pace up. That great record, built on beating AL-Central powerhouses like Detroit, Chicago and Cleveland, was pretty obviously a mirage even then.

It didn't require a mystic to determine that Mike MacDougal, who had all of 24 major league innings under his belt coming into 2003, wasn't going to finish the season with 77 saves and a 1.64 ERA, or that Joe Randa and Raul Ibanez weren't going to hit over .325 all year, and Brent Mayne sure-as-hell wasn't going to hit .378 all year. Runelvys Hernandez wasn't going to finish the season 34-0 with a 1.10 ERA. Albie Lopez wasn't gonna finish the year 26-0 in relief with a 2.30 ERA.
Sorry, Joe, but even at 16-3, the Royals looked like a fluke.

Joe: The formula for MLB success is simple: The best team that plays most consistently will win over the long haul. Consistent, quality play is rewarded.

Oh CRAP!! And I've been measuring baseball teams by Average Road Attendance on Odd-Numbered Sundays all these years! This changes everything!

Joe: The Giants roared to a 15-2 start, and all the so-called experts in the Bay Area had given them the NL West. The Los Angeles Dodgers were playing poorly and the Arizona Diamondbacks were off to a slow start, and the Bay Area media said they wouldn't be able to challenge the Giants. Well, on May 9 the Giants were 25-9. Since then, they've gone 6-11 while the Dodgers ran off 10 straight wins. The Giants (31-20) now lead L.A. (30-21) by just one game.

Yeah, but LA is still last in the NL in Run Scoring, and are gonna have a hard time keeping that team ERA under 3.00 all season, which is what they're gonna hafta do to keep pace with the Giants if their hitting doesn' pick up.

Joe:The Yankees jumped out to an 18-3 start. On May 8, they were 25-9. Since then, they've gone 5-13, and now they're in second place in the AL East, trailing the Boston Red Sox by 1-1/2 games. In one of my ESPN.com chats earlier in the season, someone asked me if the Yankees would win 120 games. Because I've been in this game so long and realize there are ups and downs, I said, "No way." I don't think anyone will be asking that question anymore.

Of course they will! Just wait till next year when the Milwaukee Brewers start out 9-1, or the Braves start out 15-2, and some Brewers or Braves or other team's fan will undoubtedly ask you, like a kid that doesn't want to leave the amusement park, "Gee Wally, ya think we can keep this up all year?" It is the very nature of sports fans to hope against all reasonable logic until their team is mathematically eliminated from relevance. And even then, sometimes, it's tough to talk a guy down. I used to work with a guy who was convinced that the 2000 Phillies could still "surprise people" and contend for the Wild-Card, despite the facts that

A) There were 19 teams in front of them in the NL WIld Card race and
2) It was November when he said this.

Joe:I still believe the Yankees will win their division. But the Red Sox are a better team this season because they don't rely on Nomar Garciaparra and Manny Ramirez alone. Shea Hillenbrand, Trot Nixon and others make Boston's lineup more capable. And I've always felt that the bullpen-by-committee has promise, and it is holding its own.

Yep, the Red Sox are much better off now that they've got those new guys helping out Nomar and Manny. Of course, I guess the Red Sox offense is gonna go back in the tank now that they've traded Hillenbrand away, right?

It surprises me a little that Joe would be a fan of the Bullpen-by-Committee experiment, but it astounds me that he can look at the Red Sox bullpen's 5.38 ERA and say with a straight face that the experiment is "holding its own."

Joe:I expect the Giants and the Dodgers to have a close pennant race, but don't count the Diamondbacks out yet -- especially if Curt Schilling and Randy Johnson get on a roll. I viewed L.A. as the favorite heading into the season, followed by San Francisco and Arizona.

I think the Diamondbacks would be happy if the Big Unit could just get on a treadmill, much less a roll.

Joe:In baseball, the long haul counts. Short bursts, which sometimes are related to favorable or unfavorable matchups, become less important. And the beauty of baseball is that you can't ever predict what's going to happen. Just ask the Anaheim Angels.

Would those be the same Angels that you kept saying everyone was going to try to emulate this year? Playing scrappy, NL-style little-ball, taking the extra base, getting clutch hits, whatever happened to that? Doesn't seem like it's working so well for them this year.

Joe: I asked Ichiro about the difference between playing in Japan and here in America, and he told me that it had nothing to do with baseball. It was a question of how comfortable he was 24 hours a day, not just how comfortable he was at the ballpark. The cultural change was the biggest adjustment he had to make. There's a marked difference between how he lived in Japan -- from cuisine to cultural customs -- and how he lives here in Seattle. It's the same with Latin players who come to play in the major leagues. We live so differently here in the United States than people do in many other countries.

Yep, it turns out that baseballs on both sides of the Pacific Ocean are round and white with red seams. Go figure.

Oh, and it's different from, not different than. Than is comparative (more than, less than, uglier than, etc.), while from is contrasting (varying from, straying from, changing from, etc.) I actually had a Religion professor at Lehigh who would take off points for that. Of course, he also came to class barefoot sometimes too, so...

Joe:Ichiro's command of the English language is also much better than people realize. When he walked in, I was prepared to use the Japanese greeting "konnichiwa" -- which means "hello" or "good afternoon" -- because we were meeting in the afternoon. But he walked in and said, "Hey Joe, how are you doing?"

I wonder if Ichiro gets annoyed with people making attempts to speak to him in Japanese with phrases they learned from watching Shogun, but actually butchering some word or phrase in his native language. (I had a friend who was working at a Christian camp for high school students with me in 1993, and spent significant portions of the summer telling people that his stomach was a watermellon when he meant to say that he was hungry. Leo also spent half an hour explaining to one of the japanese students, on a trip back from the beach, that while swimming, a "cat" went up his nose. And by "cat" he meant "water".) I would get annoyed about that. But maybe Ichiro's nicer than I am.

Joe:What's the secret to Jamie Moyer's success? This year, the Mariners starter is 7-2 with a 3.66 ERA. (BoS note: now 8-2, 3.55) Since coming to Seattle via a trade with Boston in mid-1996, Moyer is 105-50. In all but one of those seasons, he's had a sub-4.00 ERA. My theory has always been that left-handers who are able to throw strikes and change speeds can win in the major leagues -- even if they can't throw hard. If Jamie Moyer were right-handed, he wouldn't be nearly as successful.I can't see a right-hander throwing in the low-to-mid 80s (like Moyer) and having the same success. For instance, Greg Maddux is not a power pitcher at all, relying on his control and location. But he throws harder than Moyer (upper 80s to low 90s). Hitters don't need to look for Moyer's fastball, but Maddux can keep them honest. I don't believe a right-hander can win the way Moyer wins.

True, Jamie Moyer is that rarest of birds: The Pitcher Who Gets Better As He Approaches 40. There aren't many of them (Randy Johnson, Warren Spahn) but he's one. But to say that a righty can't have success because he doesn't throw hard? C'mon, Joe, if a guy gets outs, he gets outs. John Burkett, Bob Tewksbury, Mark "Same-Up" Portugal and a boatload of other guys would argue with you vehemently about that contention.

Chat Reminder: I'll answer your questions in an ESPN.com chat Friday at 10:45 a.m. ET.

Reminder from Boy of Summer: Go check out Mike Carminati's send up of last week's Joe Morgan Chat session, a cheesy 1970's themed post in which he lists the most screwed up shows of the seventies and somehow omits The Magic Garden. Tisk, tisk. But the rest of it is pretty good.

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22 May 2003

Rocket Redux

On the cusp of his 300th career win, Roger Clemens evidently sat down with the New York Times for an interview, which ran in Sunday's papers, regarding his career and the prospect of his entering the Hall of Fame as a New York Yankee. Clemens was quoted as saying,

"It's pretty simple, the way I look at it. I became a Hall of Famer here [NY], with my numbers here and what I've done here, and hopefully 300 will be another big part of that. When Duquette said that I was done, if I'd have taken his advice and went home, I wouldn't have been a Hall of Famer. So it's a no-brainer. It's definitely pretty easy. Reggie spent five years here, and this will be five for me."

He's referring to Reggie Jackson, who bears the similarities to Clemens of having played only 5 seasons of his 20+ year H-O-F career with the Yankees, and being responsible for a LOT of strikeouts. Of course, Reggie was 'the staraw that stirs the drink' but technically only one of his five seasons in Yankee pinstripes ranks among his best five seasons of his career: 1980, when he hit .300 for the only time in his career and led the AL with 41 homers, but finished 2nd in the MVP voting to George Brett, who happened to hit .390 that year. BBWAA always did like batting average. Reggie probably should have gone into the Hall in an Oakland A's cap, too, but then they never ask me for advice.

Clemens' contention that he "became a Hall of Famer here" is almost laughable. HA! Well, I guess it is laughable. Take a look:
Yrs  TM   GS    CG  CG%  SHO   IP     IP/GS  BB/9    SO   K/9   W    L   W/Yr   W%   ERA  *ERA+

13   BOS  382  100  26.2  38  2776.00  7.27  2.78  2590   8.4  192  111  14.8  63.4  3.06   151

 2   TOR   67   14  20.9   6   498.67  7.44  2.82   563  10.2   41   13  20.5  75.9  2.33   203

 5   NYY  133    2   1.5   1   851.00  6.39  3.47   816   8.6   65   29  13.0  69.1  3.94   119

20   ---  582  116  19.9  45  4125.67  7.09  2.92  3969   8.7  298  153  14.9  66.1  3.15   142

*NOTE: *ERA+ is park adjusted, relative ERA. That 142 means that Clemens' career ERA is 42% better than the park adjusted league averages for that span of time.

When the Rocket blew out of Beantown after 1996, he had 192 career wins, 2500+ innings, 2500+ strikeouts, had won more than 60% of his decisions, and had an MVP and three Cy Young Awards to boot. He had led the league in shutouts and adjusted ERA five times each, in ERA four times, in strikeouts three times (including 1996, after which then- Boston GM Dan Duquette said that he was in 'the twilight of his career'), in Wins and Complete Games twice each, and in starts, innings, and winning percentage once each.

Want to know how many other pitchers had the wins/innings/strikeouts/winning percentage stats like that as of 1996?

Five, all Hall of Famers: Bob Feller, Christy Matthewson, Tim Keefe, Tom Seaver, and Cy-Freaking-Young. [Currently Randy Johnson, David Cone and Greg Maddux also meet those statistical criteria, and only Cone has a marginal case for Cooperstown. The other two are locks.] In case you've never heard of him, Tim Keefe was a 19th cantury pitcher who won 342 career games over 14 seasons with five different teams. I hear that girl Christy was pretty good too.

Want to know how many other pitchers had garnered at least three Cy Young Awards at the time?

Five, four current, and one future, Hall of Famers: Steve Carlton (4), Greg Maddux (4) Tom Seaver, Jim Palmer, and Sandy-Freakin-Koufax. (Big Unit and Pedro Martinez meet these criteria now as well, and will also be in Cooperstown when their time comes.) Of course Clemens has added three more of these to his display case in the den, but only one of them came with the Yankees.

So it's ridiculous to think that he somehow had not earned his ticket to Cooperstown on the merits of his first 13 years in the Majors. Maybe Clemens meant that he just hadn't pitched enough? 13 years was plenty of time for Amos Rusie, Dizzy Dean, Sandy Koufax, John Clarkson, Bob Lemon, and others, but now the baseball writers are gonna start counting "only 13 years" as a mark against you? No.

I don't think so, but then we've already established that my opinion doesn't count for much. But let's say that this is what Roger believes. What happens? He pitches two more years as a (yuk) Toronto Blue Jay, with those bright blue uniforms and fluorescent lights in the SkyDome and that fluorescent green turf as a backdrop. Not exactly the classic, nostalgic baseball of lore, but hey, he becomes the first right-hander to win pitching's triple crown (Wins, ERA and Strikeouts) in like fifty years, and he wins two more Cy Young Awards.

Now with fifteen years of pitching, 233 Wins, six ERA titles, five Strikeout titles, and a then-record five Cy Young Awards, Clemens has definitely paid his dues. There could be no arguing about his Cooperstown Credentials now. So by Clemens' own logic, if he didn't become a Hall of Famer in Boston, then he absolutely became one as a (fluorescent) Blue Jay. Right?

Except that

A) He only pitched two seasons there, and

2) The uniform's kinda tacky. So no dice.

So now Rocket's gotta convince himself that the last five seasons of his career, the span in which he has the highest ERA, the highest walk rate, the lowest innings/start average, the fewest complete games, the fewest wins per season, and one lousy shutout, is what made him a bonafide Hall of Famer? Just because he was on a few teams that won the World Series and he amassed some career numbers that look nice but wouldn't have been possible if he hadn't been so awesome the first 15 years? Just doesn't make any sense.

On the other hand, if you attribute Clemens desire to go into the Hall as a Yankee, and his meandering logic to support said contention, to his grudge against the Red Sox for how he was treated, it all makes perfect sense.

Hey, maybe we can get Wade Boggs to go into the Hall as a Yankee too?

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14 May 2003

Catching Up...

I am pleased to announce the first Boy of Summer Book Review in nearly two months! Harvey Frommer's Rickey and Robinson: The Men Who Broke Baseball's Color Barrier, has been re-released in paperback this month, and I had the pleasure toread an advanced copy. You can read my take on it here, or by clicking on the link to the left.

I'm hoping to publish an as-yet unconducted interview with Harvey Frommer next week. Stay tuned...

In the meantime, if you'd like to read another famous author's ideas about lotsa stuff, check out Alex Belth's interview with Rob Neyer over at Bronx Banter. Part I and Part II of the interview are both pretty cool reading.

As always, Mike Carminati has some weekly fun at Joe Morgan's expense. His Mothers' Day edition is here, and last week's is here. Mike's gotten pretty creative lately, adding graphics into the chat roundups, making them that much more fun to read. Didn't need them to mak it fun, but it's a nice touch.

And while, by his own admission, Christian Ruzich is not Mike Carminati, he does have some fun at Mike Kiley's expense on his Cub Reporter site, here. And while you're over there, check out his interview with the seemingly tireless Will Carroll, formerly of Under the Knife, currently of Baseball Prospectus, and perpetually in the inner circles of baseball injury news.

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13 May 2003

Other News...

Yankees SS Derek Jeter is expected to make his return from rehabbing a dislocated non-throwing shoulder, after missing six weeks. Jeter reportedly went 8-for-18 at AA Trenton during the rehab stint, according to the extremely useful Prospect Report.

Erick Almonte will reportedly be sent back to Columbus, having hit an unspectacular .272/.337/.373, which is roughly what Angel Berroa and David Eckstein have done this year. Not horrible, but not really helping. And his defense, by most reports, has been atrocious (Nine errors in 28 games). Can't say he'll be missed much. With more playing time, he'd have probably found the power he displayed in the minors, but probably would also have lost about 40 points in batting average. Now he'll likely do that for some other team. Suckers.


The Florida Marlins finally fired Jeff "Shut Up and Throw" Torborg and a boatload of his henchmen this weekend. Currently the Marlins have three starting pitchers on the DL, though you can hardly blame Torborg or former pitching coach Brad Arnsberg for breaking Mark Redman's thumb, or even for Josh Beckett's elbow sprain, as Beckett has rarely thrown more than 110 pitches in a major league start, and has never thrown 120.

However, I think that enough blame can be heaped on this dynamic duo for A.J. Burnett's injury to more than compensate for Beckett and Redman. The reckless abandon with which Torborg treated the 25-year old Burnett during the last year is perhaps only surpassed in creating bewilderment by the irrelevance of the games in which the atrocities occurred. The Marlins have not been a 'competitive" team in any real sense of the word, since 1997, and yet Torborg felt it necessary to repeatedly leave Burnett in far longer than was really necessary for such a young talent. And now Burnett's missing a year.

Baseball Prospectus has done quite a lot of research and found that excessive pitch counts can be directly connected to both long-term injury probability and short-term inneffectiveness. Rob Neyer has said that there isn't much evidence to support the notion that high pitch counts lead to such problems, but until I see someone de-bunk BP's research, I think I'd rather err on the side of caution, wouldn't you?

Ironically, the Marlins hired Jack McKeown, who has a reputation for riding relief pitchers too hard...

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12 May 2003

Palmiero Piloting His Path to Cooperstown

Rafael "Emerson, Lake &" Palmeiro hit career home run #500 on Sunday, in a 17-10 beat-down of the woeful Cleveland Indians. There is significant debate about whether or not Palmeiro is really a "Hall of Famer" and I expect that the debate will continue until (or even after) he is, in fact, given a plaque in Cooperstown.

And make no mistake: He will, someday, be presented with a plaque in Cooperstown. No player with 500 homeruns has yet been denied. In fact, only three eligible players with at least 400 homers have been denied so far: Andre Dawson (438), Dave Kingman (442) and Darrell Evans (414). The real question is "Should Raffy's 500 homers get him into the Hall of Fame without paying the price of admission?"

I don't know. I know he's got impressive career numbers: 500 homers, maybe 550-575 by the time he's done. Sixteen-hundred RBI, maybe 2000 RBI, before he retires. Maybe 3000 hits (he has 2666 now)? No question that numbers like that have always been an automatic Ticket to Immortality in the past, but if there's one thing we know always stays the same about the Game of Baseball, it's that it's always evolving.

Twenty-some years ago, there were twelve guys in the 500-Home Run Club. That number could be doubled by the end of this decade, since Fred McGriff, Ken Griffey Jr., Juan Gonzalez, Jeff Bagwell and Frank Thomas are all potentially within striking distance. And I hear that there's a shortstop in Texas who hits OK too. None of these guys is guaranteed, but there's a distinct chance that there could be quite a few more in this club within the next five years or so. So that makes:

1868-1980 (112 years): 12 guys
1981-2010 (30 years) : 12 guys

What's up with that? Well, offense, especially the home run, is cheaper now. With that said, it should be noted that Palmiero has been much more than just a slugger over the last 15 years. While he's rarely led his leagues in any offensive categories of consequence, he's been a model of consistency and durability, with an adjusted OPS (Onbase Plus Slugging %) better than the league average every year for a decade and a half. With the exception of 1989, when he was only about 4% better than average, he's been between 21% and 60% better than a league average hitter every season since 1987. That's pretty damn impressive.

His career adjusted OPS is 35% better than the league average (thanks, BaseballReference.com), which is better than Hall of Famer outfielders Dave Winfield, Al Kaline, and Carl Yastrzemski, to name a few, and HoF first basemen Tony Perez, Eddie Murray, Orlando Cepeda, George Sisler, and others. That +35% mark is like hitting .290 with 30 doubles, 40 homers and 100 walks in today's game. Except for sixteen years, and he's not even done yet! Plus he's played good defense and even stolen bases successfully, on occasion. Mark McGuire, eat your patellar tendon out.

So, back to our question:

"Should Raffy's 500 homers get him into the Hall of Fame without paying the price of admission?"

No. If he had hit .260 with so-so walk rates, piles of strikeouts, a sharp decline in playing ability and a reputation asa numbskull, the 500 homers might not be enough to make up for all of that. 462 homers definitely isn't, but that's a discussion for another time.

But his other career numbers probably merit the honor now:
500 homers
1600 RBI,
1400 Runs
2600 Hits

His in-season accomplishments, despite the general lack of having led the league much, are also significant:
Eight seasons with at least 95 runs scored
Nine seasons with at least 104 RBI
Six seasons batting .300+
Nine seasons getting on base at a .379 clip or better,
Three Gold Gloves as a firstbaseman (OK, two as a 1B and one as a DH)

In two or three years, when Palmeiro hangs up the spikes for good, and has 550 dingers, 1900 RBI, 1600 runs, maybe 3000 hits, and maybe 1500 walks under his belt, there will be no more debates. But he gets my vote now.

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07 May 2003

Stark's Ravings...

Jayson Stark churned out his weekly useless info column, and he details some of the inneptitude of the Tigers, which is kinda fun to look at, as long as you're not a Tiger. The comparisons with the 1962 Mets aren't really fair...to the Mets. In fact, calling this team 'bad' is almost an insult to bad teams. They may have to make up a new word to describe how horrendous the Tigers are, if they keep playing like this. Astonishingly, their pitching is not completely awful: The team's 4.53 ERA is 9th in the AL and 20th in the majors, better than a third of all the teams.

It's their offense that's really killed them: the entire team is hitting only .202 coming into tonight, and has scored fewer than three runs per game.

Stark makes a comparison with the 1899 Cleveland Spiders, which is also a fun team to look at, but he says that their record, "...an almost hilarious 20-134, thanks to kind of a tough finish (i.e., 1-40)." Actually, it's a bit more involved than that, and I'm not sure Jayson realizes it. This isn't the first time he's mentioned this Spiders team, and he's never really explained why they were so bad, so maybe I will, a little. Or maybe not: you can read where I explained it here: In a response to a previous Stark post. Only you should know that I was wrong: The Cleveland Owners were the ones who purchased the St. Louis franchise, not the other way around.

Stark also discusses Kevin Millwood's no hitter (a little late, dontcha think?), which I already did, so I won't get into that, except for:

Kevin Millwood and Jim Thome demonstrate 

the Phillies' new calisthenics program.

Cy Young vs. Cy Old

In a relatively unrelated note (F#)...

Last week's matchup of 2001 CYA winner Roger Clemens and 2002 CYA winner Barry Zito did not disappoint, providing a great pitchers' duel. I found it amusing that in the post game interviews, when asked what he thought of Zito, Yanks' Manager Joe Torre said, "He really gonna be something special when he grows up a little..."

Umm...excuse me? Isn't this the guy who just blanked your team for eight innings? Isn't this the guy whom the clueless sportswriters dubbed the best pitcher in the Al last season? What's left to grow up? The guy's pretty damn special now. Silly Joe.

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