Monthly archives: August 2002
Nobody's Perfect Angel Ramon Ortiz
Angel Ramon Ortiz has just lost a bid for a perfect game against the Orioles with one out in the top of the sixth. Geronimo Gil singled to right on a 2-2 pitch. Jerry Hairston and Melvin Mora then both singled to load the bases. The next batter, Luis Lopez, struck out and finally Chris Richard flied out to preserve the shutout.
Off-Joe-Morgan-Chat-Day We here at Mike's
We here at Mike's Baseball Rants love Fridays, and especially this Friday, because we got to stand at the precipice and grin in the face of bugbear called a baseball strike-we also get to mix metaphors with ease.
But usually Friday is just plain ol' Joe Morgan Chat Day. And why is that special you ask? Why not ask yourself why the sky is blue? Or why birds suddenly appear every time you are near? Go ahead-ask yourself. I'll wait...Are you done? Did you find out that these are unanswerable questions? Well, they are (except that we do know that the sky is blue because of the refraction of light through the stratosphere, but you get my point).
Joe Morgan is baseball's answer to the Gordian knot. He is without solution. He can be brilliant one moment and ludicrous the next. Sometimes he achieves perfection and is both brilliant and ludicrous at once. Those are the moments we most savor. He is truly a knot that even Alexander the Great (no relation to Manny or Pete) could solve. But we try to slice through to his core.
I have to admit that this week is a poor JMCD, as we say in the biz. Basically, it happened right before the strike was averted. It is rank with pessimism, something that seemed to fade pretty quickly after the agreement (prediction: the Angel fans will stop throwing baseballs onto the field and will get back to enjoying their disregard for the team by Labor Day). So what we have is a snapshot in time of the ultimate pessimism of baseball fans, like a tiny little time capsule of hate. But Joe, to his credit, is pretty right on (in a groovy kind of way) with almost all of the questions. So this week I will have to supplement with some dumb questions from the Rob Neyer chat session.
Yes, apparently Neyer deigned to grace us with his presence for a full 20 minutes today. Praise be to him and to even his lowly minions who perform the holy task of transcribing his mellifluous tones into an electronic version the world can enjoy. Amen.
Also, I will check out the post-strike-averted Rob Dibble chat. Dibble is basically Morgan without the brilliant side. I hope this does not profane the spirit of JMCD. So in that spirit we now proceed. Oh, one last note, I'm sure next week Joe will be back to getting questions related to on-field activities. And then we'll back in business.
Chad (KC): Joe, I have reading your chat and article for the last couple of days, and I think you miss something. Yes, baseball players, doctors and the like have special skills. Can you honestly say AROD deserves $25 million a year? NO! The fact is we love baseball, but we don't need it. WE need teachers and doctors and those with special skills that help us. WE DO NOT NEED BASEBALL. Do the players and owners understand that? And do they realize without fans, they don't have jobs?
Joe Morgan: You missed the point, not me.
[Mike: You tell him, Joe. Chad, my sympathies if that is your real name, get out of here with that weak s&^*. There's a sale at the Gap. Why don't you run along, Chad.]
Gator in FL: How can people always comment that the big-market teams are dominating baseball and the teams with lower salary levels can't compete? You only have to look at Oakland and Minnesota to know that it's not necessarily true. Granted, there is an advantage to having a bloated payroll, but there is a lot to say about good scouting, crafty trades and good business sense. Wow, I didn't think I would put those last three words in a sentence regarding baseball.
Joe Morgan: I have never bought into the big market, small market theory. It's either good or bad management, and that's what it amounts to. Management is the reason that teams win and lose. It's not just the amount of money they have to spend. Having money is not the only way to win.
[Mike: Right, besides the concept of large and small market is skewed when Cleveland and Seattle are large market and the Phillies are small.]
Jim (Chicago) : Well Joe...thanks for all your great work on ESPN....It has been said that there has been no "magic" in baseball this year...No Sosa McGwire race...No Bonds chasing 73....My question is...with the last second deadline basically come and gone...do you think that all the future "magic" for the season has gone now too....and do you think that even though there has been no "Official strike" yet that there has been just as much damage with this "down to the wire" negotiations?
Joe Morgan: There has been a lot of damage done. It shouldn't have come down to this. I disagree that there isn't any magic. Schilling is having a great season. Lowe and Pedro have been a great 1-2 punch. A-Rod, Bonds, Sosa, Berkman -- they are all having great seasons. It's been exciting to this point. There doesn't need to be one monumental achievement to make it a magical season.
[Mike: Yeah, and how about that AL West race? And what about Scarecrow's brain? Jim, just because baseball has been horrific this year in Chicago, doesn't mean there isn't some great ball being played out there.]
Rick (Vienna, VA): You said earlier that the players have actually given up a lot during these negotiations...maybe you could help all your readers understand what these things are? However, I think that regardless of whatever real or perceived things they have given up, they are losing the battle of public perception and it may be hard to recover.
Joe Morgan: The players always lose the battle of public perception because they are visible and the owners aren't. So you take your animosity out on the players. Ever since there has been a union, it has said there would never be a salary cap. That has been the union's battle cry. A luxury tax is a modified salary cap, so they have given in on that. And on revenue sharing.
[Mike: Yeah, Joe. Take it to the limit one more time. Also, why do you think we know those players' salaries? Who discloses them? Who owns the newspapers, TV and radio stations on which these things are proffered? It ain't Wendell Wilkie, that's for sure. Do we find out how much the owners make?]
John (Seattle): Hey Joe, you had mentioned in an article about the salaries being inline with the revenues, and how people don't complain when Tom Hanks makes $50 million. but i'm concerned you may miss the point...the reason salaries are so high and there's so much revenue is because the fans are paying such high prices to watch baseball. it's tough for the average middle-to-lower income family to afford a game. how do you feel about that?
Joe Morgan: When I used to go to the movies, it would cost 25 cents. Now it's $10. The ticket prices do not pay the players' salaries. The TV revenue does. It costs you just as much to see the Devil Rays as it does to see the Giants, and they are not the same team. A team with a $40 million payroll has the same ticket prices as a team with a $100 million payroll. So it's not about the fans paying their salaries. It's the same in every sport.
[Mike: Oh, at first I thought you were going to burst into Hendrix, John. Right, salaries do not directly affect ticket prices. This has been shown.]
Mike(Alenntown): Joe, would you agree that if the current negotiations do not produce a long term (4 to 5 years) agreement then the financial damage to Major League Baseball from reduced television contracts and sponsership will be so great that a number of teams will really fold?
Joe Morgan: I don't think the teams will fold. And I heard it would be a four-year contract, which I don't think is long enough. We will have the same problem four years from now. They should have a longer agreement. No teams will fold.
[Mike: Well, I know you're living there in Allentown. And they're closing all the factories down, Mike. But it's not the case here. By the way, ESPN's contract for next year is supposed to be a huge increase.]
Jacob (Chicago): SSSSAAAAAAMMMMMMMMMMMYYYYYYYY SSSSSSSSAAAAAAAAAAMMMMMMMMMMMMMYYYYYYYYYYYYY
Joe Morgan: I agree.
[Mike: Joe's so smooth he could talk a jumper off of a building. "I agree." I love it. I was a big Sammy Davis fan myself, so I understand the excitability.]
Zack (New York): Do you think it makes any sense that the proposed contract does not include a minimum salary? There is no guarantee that small-market teams will use the proceeds from revenue-sharing to improve their teams, which defeats the point of a pseudo salary-cap.
Joe Morgan: That's Steinbrenner's complaint. He has given a lot of money in revenue sharing, and the owners have pocketed the money and not reinvested in their teams. The union doesn't want a mininum because when you set a mininum you then have to set a maximum, and the union doesn't want that either.
[Mike: Why a max? Who says there has to be a max if there's a min?]
Mike, Raleigh: First of all Joe, you do a great job. I agree with you 100% taht baseball has done a poor job marketing the sport. But how do you market a player like Bonds who only talks to the media when he breaks a record but shuns them all other times?
Joe Morgan: Well, there are 749 other players. There are a lot of great players in the game today. Ivan Rodriguez, Jim Thome, Jose Vidro ... go to every position and there is a big star. You don't have to dwell on one guy.
What about Sosa? He is always pleasant with the fans and interacts with them. He plays to the fans. He would be perfect to market.
[Mike: Why not market Bonds? I find him charismatic. He speaks his mind and often has insightful things to say. He's sort of MLB's version of Sir Charles Barkley, who certainly was marketed well in his niche. Look at Dennis Rodman, he got more than his fair share of publicity. The aptly named Latrell Sprewell (get it "spree" and "well") attacked his coach in Golden State but has been the Knicks' biggest star since Ewing left. So Bonds doesn't like reporters? Big deal. Did he ever spit on a fan? David Stern has developed a league where even that kind of player is marketable. The Bud boys have not.]
Roy (Ireland): Who do you think will win the AL West if there isnt a strike? Or rather make the playoffs in the AL?
Joe Morgan: I would think Oakland and either Anaheim or Seattle as a wild card. I don't think Boston will make it. We'll have to see. It's hard to tell.
[Mike: Finally the decisive Joe Morgan we love shows up. By the way, what is a guy named Roy doing in Ireland?]
Tim (Boston): A strike right now, with 9-11 right around the corner, would be disrespectful by putting a game that grown men play for millions of dollars center stage instead of remembering last years tragedy and those brave people who lost their lives. Your thoughts?
Joe Morgan: I don't equate baseball with that. At one point you want to say it's a game, and then you want to say it's part of the tragedy. Last year we didn't play after 9/11 out of respect for what happened. We don't equate football with Pearl Harbor. It was a tragedy that we should observe as Americans and not get confused with sports being involved with that tragedy. You can't equate the two. In fact, I don't think there should be baseball on 9/11. There should be a day of mourning for the country. That would show that what happened last year was bigger than any sporting event.
[Mike: How about: it's a business. And businesses have work stoppages. Enron was run out of business by the poor (and financially remunerative, at least personally) decisions of its leadership. Are we appalled that the executives of Enron are not personally supporting their laid-off employees during the September 11 anniversary (Well, maybe we are)].
Matt (Dubuque) : Mr. Neyer, what are your feelings about Joe Morgan's comment that players are justified in being paid whwat they're being paid? How is it ok for A-Rod to earn $115,000 per GAME while my boss works 80 hr weeks and earns 30,000 per year? I'm sorry but Joe isn't selling the sympathy card to me very well
Rob Neyer: I don't have any "sympathy" for the players, but I also don't understand the impulse to compare players to people who work for a living. Do you frequent chat rooms and express outrage about all six "Friends" making a cool million bucks per episode? I've never understood exactly why we hold baseball players to higher standards than other entertainers.
[Mike: Your boss works 80 hours a week and makes $30K a year? That's about $7.50 an hour, and he's your boss. What do you make? How can you afford to access the Web to join a chat session? Man, am I glad I don't live in Dubuque.]
Jim (San Diego): One on your cohorts said if there was a strike you'd be walking around in your bathrobe, unshaven, with Alice in Chains playing in the background. So what would really be playing?
Rob Neyer: The new Aimee Mann disc, probably. And not to get literal or anything, but I don't own a bathrobe.
[Mike: Jim, thank you for that image.]
Bob (Washington DC): As far as I'm concerned, they went on strike when the players shipped things home, delayed charters, etc. Baseball has lost me.
Rob Neyer: Well, I have no idea how your brain works. But I do hope you spend your new-found leisure time on something worthwhile, rather than football.
[Mike: Uh, Bob, I don't think that legally qualifies as a strike. Otherwise, I was on strike every time that I moved. A strike is the thing with picket lines and signs bearing anti-management slogans and people chanting, "Heck no, we won't go," and Woody Guthrie singing.]
John (Kansas City): A lot of KC sports radio guys were almost rooting for a strike because they believed that a compromise such as the one that was reached would not help the Royals become competitive, but that a strike might have led to a more hard line approach by owners that could have resulted in a hard cap and reasonable revenue sharing that would level the playing field. What is your opinion of such a notion?
Rob Neyer: Well, it's just my opinion and I could be wrong, but I think that anybody who thinks a strike would have been good for teams like the Royals is a lunatic. A strike of any length would have killed fan interest in Kansas City, and a few other cities, too.
[Mike: John, was the radio guy trying to be controversial, funny, or stupid. As David St. Hubbins once said, "There such a fine line between clever and stupid."
Peter (Milwaukee): The deal was a mistake. It will solve nothing and result in at least a team or two going under in the next couple of years. That said, do you think the owners will finally hold a hard line and save baseball during the next round of negotiations in 2006?
Rob Neyer: I'm amazed at the degree of pessimism I've seen in some of the questions today. I mean, I know time flies when we're having fun, but 2006?
Baseball doesn't need to be "saved." It was never in danger of dying. It could use some tweaks, but that's always been true. The notion that someday someone's going to wave a magic wand and solve every problem just isn't realistic.
[Mike: Well, thanks for putting in an appearance, Mr. Commissioner. I'm glad to see that you are back at home in Milwaukee again. Even though your offices are in New York, a minor point. I see that you are continuing your good will tour. Excellent.]
Truman (Chicago): You seem to think players salaries are justified. What do you think of this: the public doesn't go to see a Tom Cruise movie 81 times a year at at 25 bucks a pop. That's the difference. The game has become too expensive a product for the average consumer. The cost of a ticket should be reduced while maintaining reasonable profits, and the players and owners should be willing to be part of that process. I think both parties should re-examine what they consider to be reasonable profits. Even Hollywood is restructuring salaries in an effort to increase profitability.
Rob Neyer: No, I didn't say that baseball salaries are "justified." I said they're comparable to salaries in other sorts of mass entertainment. Movies, TV, boxing.
As for baseball being "too expensive," that's a load of horse hockey. The average movie ticket costs eight or ten bucks, and you can get into most ballparks for that price. What's more, baseball on TV is essentially free, and baseball on the radio is free. So please, spare me the irrational outrage. As a season-ticket holder, I'd like to see lower prices, too. But baseball tickets are not out of line with other mass entertainments.
[Mike: Hey, yo, Truman, I saw your movie. Remember the part where you were on TV, but you didn't know you were on TV...That was awesome!
By the way, A) If I said it once I must have said it at least two times: salaries do not affect ticket prices. And B) maybe if Tom Cruise could put out 81 movies a year it would be analogous. Barbra Streisand has an annual farewell tour and charges $2500 per seat. Average consume that! The Who have some sort of tontine that requires them to tour until all but one member is dead. To him goes the explanation of what Tommy is really frigging about. Oprah is a brand unto herself for chrissake. Baseball players make a good deal of money if they're lucky and make it to the majors, but they make it on average for under 10 years.]
Rob Dibble: A strike has been averted... no harm, no foul? Not necessarily. Did this whole thing consider the fans? Unfortunately I don't think so. I'm still upset that high ticket prices was not addressed. Now let's get to your questions...
[Mike: Leave it to Dibble to tick me off before even getting a question. When were ticket prices on the table? In what bargaining agreement ever were they even discussed? He says that he was a former player rep-he should know this. The players have no control over how much the owners want to charge the fans, nor should they.]
AL(MIAMI,FL): BASEBALL, AMERICA'S FAVORITE PASTTIME RIGHT?
Rob Dibble: Al, no matter what, baseball is still the best game around. The owners and players can do their best to tarnish the game but once the players are on the field, almost everything is forgiven. I'm definitely with the fans on this one. In the past, most of the arguments were about salaries and benefits and now the union has to stick up for the large-market owners. As a former player rep, I think that's something the owners should work out on their own. But now the players have it so good that they don't even realize that the only thing they're fighting for was for George Steinbrenner to help teams possibly come back and beat him. It's all almost senseless to me. If anything, the players should have been fighting to lower ticket prices so that more fans could come watch them play.
[Mike: Geez, it makes me appreciate Morgan. Dibble put down the bottle. You've barely started.]
Johnny (SF): Hey Dibs, do you think Bonds would be a legitimate Triple Crown threat if the giants could actually get people on base ahead of him? When half your RBIs consist of you driving yourself in, it's pretty pathetic. And how good would Kent be right now, if Bonds was not hitting behind him?
Rob Dibble: No. Because Jeff Kent bats in front of him, and the former MVP doesn't leave much for Bonds. Bonds was the one who gave up the third spot in the order, months ago when Kent was struggling. This unselfish act has still gone pretty much unnoticed. But not by me. If Bonds held on to the three-spot in the order, it would have enhanced his personal numbers but may not have given the Giants a chance at the playoffs. Bonds is still having an amazing year despite frequent walks, injuries and not having much left on the plate after Kent hits.
[Mike: Well those walks really eat up opportunities to drive in runs. Unless the bases are loaded (and it's happened with Bonds), a walk won't get him a ribbie.]
Arthur: Do you think that any kind of balance (like the NFL) is possible in baseball?
Rob Dibble: Good question Arthur. No, I don't think it's possible. The NFL salary cap does not allow teams to stay together for four or five years at a time. If you look at the Baltimore Ravens they've lost the majority of their Super Bowl team from two years ago. With baseball's luxury tax, the large-market teams might not spend as much money but you can still put a pretty good team together with a $117 million payroll. I like the parity in the NFL, but baseball can't set up their schedule to help the weaker teams. In the NFL if you have a good team, you get a tough schedule you're next year. In baseball, you play everyone in your division 19 times regardless if you finish first or last. It sounds great in theory but they are just two different beasts.
[Mike: It's been shown that baseball since free agency has put more teams in the playoffs and World Series than football (well, that would be Super Bowl, but you get what I mean). Did you ever hear of the Cincinnati Bengals? They make the D-Rays look good.]
Philip (Austin): Would you rank the pitching duo of Roy Oswalt and Wade Miller with the likes of Johnson and Schilling, Pedro and Lowe, or MAddux and Glavin?? Oswalt does have a 31-9 career record..
Rob Dibble: I rank pitchers by how they perform in the post season. Until last year, I would not have put Johnson and Schilling in the same category as Glavine and Maddux or Clemens and Pedro. I hate to be vain, but championships give you more credibility. I love Miller and Oswalt but they have to succeed in the post season. For this reason, see: Bert Blyleven. Bert should be in the hall of fame with his 287 wins. But people say, because of his lack of post season stats, the 287 wins aren't that big... In that case I disagree, but overall people want to see pressure situations.
[Mike: Well, Dibbs, I rate pitchers by their performances on full moons. And I have found that Glendon Rousch and Esteben Loaiza are tops. By the way, I think this Clemens guy is overrated. He'll never last.]
Bill (NJ): Dibbs, do the Angels have the horses to get to the post-season, or do you think they'll fade?
Rob Dibble: I love the Angels. Forget about their good offense and defense. The rotation pitches deep into ball games and takes pressure off of their bullpen. I think they'll keep it going into the playoffs... Skipper Mike Scioscia has been to the playoffs before. He knows what to expect. Garrett Anderson and David Eckstein don't get much attention but they've played great all year.
[Mike: Garrett Anderson gets more attention than better players on the team (Tim Salmon and Jarrod Washburn to name two). He's one of the most overrated players in baseball.]
Shaun (Boston, MA): Hey Joe. I have more of a comment then a quesion! If the MLB decides to go on strike, why dont they get replacement players? I would love to play in Fenway Park, man I would do it for free!
Joe Morgan: That's a good statement. Everyone thinks about how much the players make and all that. Every player has played for free longer than he has been paid for it. I played longer for free, and I played in the majors for 20 years. In the majors, you only see the finished product.
[Mike: Joe, I know, you're in the fray. You want to make a point, but you played for free longer than you got paid? You started playing professionally in 1963 at the age of 20. Your career lasted 22 seasons. Unless you started playing for free two years before you were born, I think you kind of exaggerated.]
Mike (Milwaukee): Hey, I was curious as to how you felt about Bud Selig's methods of running the league. Also, do you think we will ever see another commissioner that was once an owner or otherwise affiliated with a certain ball club?
Joe Morgan: I think you might see that happen again because the owners feel like Bud is one of them. And they are making gains in these negotiations. They will view him as someone who has helped them. The biggest mistake I've ever seen anyone make is when Bud said two teams may not make payroll.
[Mike: Woah, Joe, did you have a flashback there in the middle of your point? Selig is well liked by the other owners. OK. Let's leave it as that.]
Miller Time, Not Paul Lo
Miller Time, Not
Paul Lo Duca led off the top of the fifth. He took a called strike and then beat out an infield single to short. Oh well, wouldn't it have been a great way to reinvigorate fan interest--a no-hitter on the first night "back"?
Miller Time? Wade Miller is
Wade Miller is throwing a no-hitter against the Dodgers in Felony Field through 4. The Dodgers have their 4,5, and 6 hitters coming up in the top of the fifth.
Striking Change "I am light
"I am light as a feather, I am happy as an angel, I am merry as a schoolboy. I am as giddy as a drunken man."
I feel like a kid at Christmas. I can't wait to open some ballgames this weekend.
By the way, attendance at Wrigley today was 36,311. Do you have a feeling that the fans will start returning in droves?
The Swiftian Baker-You Burnt My
The Swiftian Baker-You Burnt My Gulliver!
Any lingering doubts that Jim Baker is the Sonny Tufts of the baseball world were put to rest with his high-larious sendup today on ESPN. He was promoting the Reg'lar Folks League, a league of players with average ability like you or me, making fun of all the fans who say they could do better than player X (no relation to Racer X).
Unfortunately, ESPN pulled the article, and I can't find it anymore. It could be due to all of the non-strike coverage. If you're on ESPN, look for it. It's worth the search.
Today's a Day of Independence
Today's a Day of Independence for All the Munchkins and Their Descendents!
Ding Dong, the strike is dead! For the first time in nine tries they signed the collective bargaining agreement without a work stoppage.
- The three-team AL West race.Cons:
- Less Bud Selig, Donald Fehr, and Bob Dupuy.
Yes, I'll take that trade.
Gloating over Fearless Predictions One
Gloating over Fearless Predictions
One week ago there was a three-way tie for first in the AL West with some theorizing that tonight would be the end of baseball's regular season should there be a strike. I made a prediction that the A's would take over first and that the Angels would end up leading the wild card by the end of the week. If the Angels win tonight (they are ahead 4-0 in the third against Tampa at home), that is the scenario that would play out. I would like to gloat because none of my predictions ever pan out. Here are the standings if the Angels win and my predicted standings:
Since Aug. 22 W-L GB Prediction Actual Prediction Oakland 83-51 - 81-53 - 8-0 6-2 Anaheim 79-54 3.5 80-53 .5 5-4 6-3 Seattle 79-55 4 79-55 2 4-4 4-4
Staff Infection Jamey Wright was
Jamey Wright was acquired by the Cradinals tonight from Milwaukee. When he starts his first game for St. Louis, he will become the 14th starting pitcher that they will have used this year. No one has stayed in the rotation all year long except Matt Morris (28 games started). The man with the next highest games started total is Jason Simontacchi (20), who was sent down today to make room to activate Garrett Stephenson. Simontacchi and Morris are the only two Cardinals starters with more than 6 wins as a starter on the year.
Bellhorn, Which Is It? Tonight
Bellhorn, Which Is It?
Tonight Mark Bellhorn became the first National Leaguer and only the second player of all time (Carlos Baerga in 1993 being the other) to hit a home run from each side of the plate in the same inning as the Cubbies defeated the Brewers 13-10.
The first came with Bellhorn batting righthanded with Alex Gonzalez on first and a 1-0 count in the fourth of a 0-0 ballgame against lefthanded starter Andrew Lorraine. Lorraine, by the way, was pitching his first major-league game in two years. One-third of an inning and 3 runs (and one throwing error on a sac. bunt) later Lorraine was replaced by rightie Jose Cabrera. Bellhorn then came up batting left with men on first and sceond and two outs. Cabrera got ahead of him 0-2 and then Bellhorn evened the count at 2-2. The next pitch he sent over the rightfield wall. Bill Mueller followed Bellhorn with a solo homer of his own.
In total Chicago scored 10 runs on 7 hits, 3 of which were home runs, 2 walks, and one throwing error. They sent thirteen men to the plate and left no one on base at the end of the inning. Bellhorn hat five RBI on the inning. It's odd that Bellhorn and Baerga are the only two men to accomplish this feat and both are second basemen (though Bellhorn played first in this game). In Bellhorn's career as a first baseman, he had been batting .227 in 22 at bats with 2 home runs and 8 RBI. He had never before his a home run with a 1-0 count (29 AB). He batted sixth for the Cubs. Lifetime he came into the game batting .175 with 2 home runs and 6 RBI in 40 at bats when he batted sixth. He doubled his career totals for home runs with a man on first (1 in 53 AB) and home runs with men on first and second (1 in 18 ABs). The two home runs give him 23 for the year and 30 in his five-year career. OK, have I done this to death yet?
Though Bellhorn has only hit 30 home runs in 670 major-league at bats, he did hit 75 in 1939 minor-league at bats. His career high was 24 in 117 games with Sacramento of the Triple-A Pacific Coast League in 2000. On June 30 of this year, Bellhorn hit two home runs from each side of the plate in one game. He is one of many players to have done this, but is the only man to have done it this year (and did it twice) besides Jorge Posada. He is one of 39 men in baseball history to have hit two home runs in the same inning.
Bellhorn is second among switch-hitters in home runs this year (behind Lance Berkman, 37). He is 32nd among active major-league switch-hitters in home runs. Here are all active switch-hitters with home runs totals of at least 20:
Rk Name HR 1 RUBEN SIERRA 275 2 CHIPPER JONES 248 3 BERNIE WILLIAMS 224 4 ROBERTO ALOMAR 200 5 TODD HUNDLEY 197 6 JOSE VALENTIN 162 7 TONY CLARK 159 8 J. T. SNOW 157 9 DAVID SEGUI 133 10 CARL EVERETT 131 JOSE CRUZ 131 12 CARLOS BAERGA 126 13 DAVE HOLLINS 112 14 RAY DURHAM 108 15 JORGE POSADA 105 16 ORLANDO MERCED 100 17 LANCE BERKMAN 96 18 DMITRI YOUNG 79 19 CARLOS BELTRAN 74 20 SCOTT SPIEZIO 71 21 JOSE VIDRO 70 22 OMAR VIZQUEL 56 23 CHAD KREUTER 54 24 JOSE OFFERMAN 52 GREG NORTON 52 JASON VARITEK 52 27 MARK MCLEMORE 49 28 LUIS ALICEA 47 29 NEIFI PEREZ 46 30 BILL MUELLER 41 31 GEOFF BLUM 35 32 MARK BELLHORN 30 33 GREG ZAUN 29 34 ROGER CEDENO 28 35 MATT WALBECK 27 CRISTIAN GUZMAN 27 37 JOSE VIZCAINO 25 GARY MATTHEWS 25 39 BEN DAVIS 24 DESI RELAFORD 24 41 JIMMY ROLLINS 23 42 DENNIS HOCKING 22 43 MIKE MORDECAI 21 CARLOS GUILLEN 21 45 LUIS LOPEZ 20
In the Year 1985, 85,
In the Year 1985, 85, If Baseball Is Still Alive
Doug Pappas has a great article on ESPN comparing this labor negotiation with the one in 1985, the year of the two-day strike. Of interest is the statement:
The season resumed the following day. MLB set an all-time attendance record in 1985, then broke it in each of the next four years.
Hopefully, this negotation will end as successfully and will be as easily forgotten by the population at large.
Why I'm for the Players,
Why I'm for the Players, Part 1
It's 1986 and Andre Dawson has just finished his third straight disappointing, injury-plagued season. He is now a free agent and has decided not that he will no play for his current team, the Montreal Expos. You see, on the Expos he would be required to play at least half his games on Astroturf which will continue to wreak havoc on his injury-prone knees. There is only one problem: no one but the Expos is offering him a contract even though he is a well-established star.
His agent, Dick Moss, leaves a blank contract for Dawson's services in the Cubs' offices with a note to fill out the amount as the team sees fit. The Cubs, of course, played on a natural surface in Wrigley Field (even the walls are natural there). Moss also has the foresight to mention this to the press. The Cubs offer Dawson a contract at a 60% reduction over 1986. Dawson signs with the Cubs and goes on to hit 49 home runs, drive in 137 runs, and win the league Most Valuable Player award. His Expo teammate, Tim Raines, had won a batting title in 1986 and yet could not get a contract offer as a free agent. He had been precluded from resigning with the Expos until May 1 because of the existing free agent rules. Nevertheless, he ended up leading the league in runs for the second straight year with 123.
Dawson and Raines were two of the many players whose salaries were negatively impacted by a policy that MLB led by commissioner Peter Ueberroth secretly imposed over a three-year period in the Eighties. It came to be known as "collusion". Eventually, the baseball arbitrators ruled that this policy was unfairly oppressive in our free-market economy, that the owners conspired in violation of the labor contract. The contract stipulated that "clubs shall not act I concert with other clubs [with respect to free agents]." The players won a total of $280 million in Collusion I, II, and III (one per year, 1986 to 1988). Though this sum seems quite overwhelming, it did not contain any penalties. Its design was to make the affected salaries whole again. Of course, the players had to pay legal fees so the settlement did less than was intended. Finally, new commissioner, Faye Vincent, imposed no sanctions whatsoever on the owners.
It's 1947 and Jackie Robinson has just broken the "Color Line" to become major league baseball's first player of African-American heritage in over 60 years. Robinson soon becomes one of the most exciting players in baseball history. He is also one of the most admired and is the only man to have his number retired throughout baseball. During his career but especially at the onset, Robinson must endure racial abuse and personal threats on and off the field.
His heroic actions are not diminished one iota by the realization that had the owners not acted in concert to bar players for the previous 60 years, he would never had to withstand such overt racism.
It's 1887 and Moses Fleetwood Walker is the catcher of the Newark, NJ, International League and has had to endure years of abuse on and off the field because of his race. Technically, he was the first African-American major-leaguer in 1884 when his Toledo Blue Stockings moved from the Northwestern League to the major-league American Association. His brother Welday played the outfield for the club for a handful of games that season but decided that his baseball career was not worth such a continual onslaught and retired to become a barber. They are to be the last black major-leaguers until Jackie Robinson.
In 1883 Walker's Toledo club had an exhibition with the Chicago National League team. When White Stocking team captain, Cap Anson, refused to play due Toledo due to Walker's presence and the Toledo club refuse to have their player decisions dictated to them. When the decision was made that if Chicago did not play, they would forfeit their claim to the gate, Anson reneged on his refusal to play.
After his one major-league season, Walker turned to the minor leagues. Bud Fowler (2B-P), another African-American ballplayer, had been finding success in the minors as well. 1886 saw five black men playing professional baseball in the minor leagues (Walker, Fowler, George Stovey, Frank Grant, and Jack Frye). Also in 1886, an all-black team named the Cuban Giants defeated the Cincinnati Red Stockings of the National League. The Cuban Giants would almost defeat the NL champ Detroit Wolverines the next year, but would loss 6-4 on an error in the ninth. 1886 also witnessed the birth of the first black league, the Southern League of Colored Base Ballists, though it was a regional league and is short-lived.
1887 becomes the apogee of this early African-American renaissance with 13 players on twelve different teams in five different minor leagues. In the International League, the highest minor league, seven African-Americans toil (Walker, Fowler, Stovey, Grant, Robert Higgins, William Renfro, and Randolph Jackson). Sol White in his Rosetta Stone of black baseball history, The History of Colored Base Ball, states that there are in total 20 black professional players throughout the country in 1887. Also, an all-black league consisting of six teams (league of Colored Base Ball Players, a.k.a., the Colored National League) is created in 1887 but only lasts 13 games. This league has been recognized by organized ball's National Agreement.
In 1887 Walker forms an all-black battery with 34-game winner (still the International League record), George Stovey, on the Newark club. The influx of blacks has not gone on unnoticed. The Sporting News says on June 11, "A new trouble has just arisen in the affairs of certain baseball associations [which] has done more damage to the International League than to any other we know of. We refer to the importation of colored players into the ranks of that body."
On July 14 the Newark club is scheduled to play an exhibition game with the Chicago White Stockings and Cap Anson. Walker, perhaps because of the 1883 incident, is not scheduled to play. George Stovey, however, is scheduled to start even though Walker is his regular catcher. This is when Cap Anson makes his famous utterance, "Get that nigger off the field!" Anson refuses to play unless Stovey is taken out of Newark's lineup. Newark refuses to allow Anson to dictate the use of their personnel. The game is declared a forfeit to Chicago.
On the same day the directors of the IL act to bar teams from signing African-Americans in the future. The confluence of these two events cannot be merely a coincidence. Sol White states that, "All the leagues, during the Winter of 1887 and 1888, drew the color line, or had a clause inserted in their constitutions limiting the number of colored players to be employed by each club."
White also claims that New York Giant captain John Montgomery Ward will try to acquire Stovey from Newark later in 1887 but is barred from doing so when Anson speaks out against integration.
Just why Adrian C. Anson, manager and captain of the Chicago National League Club, was so strongly opposed to colored players on white teams cannot be explained. His repugnant feeling, shown at every opportunity, toward colored ball players, was a source of comment through every league in the country, and his opposition, with his great popularity and power in base ball circles, hastened the exclusion of the black man from the white leagues.
White probably overstates Anson's influence. There are reports that the Newark manager refused to sell Stovey and Walker to the Giants, something that is within the rights of the minor-league clubs of the day. Anson probably becomes a lightning rod for these issues to serve the purpose of more powerful men. Whatever the reason, the Giants never sign Stovey, and major league baseball instead institutes the ironically designated "Gentleman's Agreement" not to sign Asfrican-American players. This apartheid lasts until Jackie Robinson.
Due to the new policies, the number of black players dwindles in 1888 to six in four leagues.
1889 introduces the concept of an all-black team in a white organization, a new answer to the segregation pressures. The great Cuban Giants represent Trenton (NJ) and the New York Gorhams represent Philadelphia (?) in the Middle-States League. There are seven other African-Americans in organized ball. By now, only Fleet Walker is left in the renamed International Association.
This trend of all-black clubs continues until 1898 when Celeron (NY) fields the last such team in white minor-league history, playing in the Iron and Oil (I&0) League. Only two other African-Americans play minor-league ball that year. They will the last two black players to play in white organized ball on American soil until Jackie Robinson debuts for the Dodgers nearly fifty years later.
In 1899, Bill Galloway becomes the last African-American to play in white organized ball appropriately in Canada (for Woodstock, Ont., of the Canadian League) until Jackie Robinson starts to play for the Montrel Royals of the International League in 1946.
Fleet Walker eventually will become the editor of a black paper and in the end an advocate of black migration back to Africa publishing a book called Ourt Home Colony in 1908. Had the owners acted to reverse the on-field decision to forfeit the 1887 game and to abolish the decision of the IL directors to bar blacks in the future, Walker's fate, as well as a good deal other black players', would have been different. The IL was in baseball's National Agreement and the major-league owners help sway in this organization. Their decisive action would have stemmed proliferation of segregationist leagues. The only negative result would have been that Jackie Robinson would have only been a hero to his family and friends instead of to the world.
For over sixty years a group of owners colluded and conspired to prevent black Americans from having an equal, or for that matter any, chance to play in the major leagues. Some found employment elsewhere on their own teams and in their own leagues to varying degrees of success. MLB chose to present an inferior product to their consumers, and individual owners chose to be less competitive than they might have otherwise been. Cap Anson is now demonized as the man who created the Color Line, and deservedly so, but the owners allowed him to do it. Teams changed hands over he course of those sixty years, but no new owners employed blacks, at least not as players.
Talkin' Baseball... Negotiations (Say Hey!),
Talkin' Baseball... Negotiations (Say Hey!), Epilogue
Regarding my query on the revenue tax numbers, Eric Naftaly had an answer:
Mike: Not sure whether anyone's gotten back to you on this, but according to one of Baseball Prospectus'
This would explain part of the discrepancy and also why the players' and owners' base revenue differed-since they have different commissioner slush, er, discretionary fund proposals.
I have updated my table adding the commissioner fund, the new total, and the difference between each total and 2001 revenue total ($835 M). There have been no formalized proposals, at least none that were made public, so there are no new lines to add to the table (Note: all numbers are in millions):
Proposal Pct Actual Act. Pct Result Com. Fund Total Diff Current ('01) 20% $167 20% $835 $0 $835 $0 Owner 1 N/A $282 33.77% N/A $85 N/A N/A Player 1 N/A $235 28.14% N/A $70 N/A N/A Owner 2 37% $270 32.34% $729.73 $85 $814.73 $20.27 Player 2 33.3% $242.30 29.02% $726.90 $70 $796.9 $38.1 Owner 3 36% $263 31.50% $730.56 $85 $815.56 $19.44
Con-, er, Retractions In "What
Con-, er, Retractions
In "What the A's?" I said that the there had only been 3 teams since 1977 to win 15 in a row. I forgot the 1991 Twins and the 2000 Braves. The Twins did indeed win a World Series that year, so that makes 1 out of 4 making it to the World Series instead of the 0-for-2 that I reported. Still that's not so hot an average.
In "One-Two-Three Strikes Yer Out!" I erroneously said that the Yankees had 19 hits the other day, of which 15 were singles and 4 were doubles. Soriano homered in the game. (I swear it was not in the ESPN boxscore when I looked.)
Thanks for the emails.
What the A's? Oakland won
What the A's?
Oakland won it's 15 straight tonight behind Barry Zito. This is only the third time in the last 25 years and the 26th time in the last 100 years that this feat has been accomplished. Of course the other two teams to do it since 1977 (Seattle 2001 and Kansas City 1977) failed to make it to the World Series, so that turnishes it a bit. Oh, well. It is still kind of nifty.
On the Clock Though there
On the Clock
Though there are only 40 hours left until the strike, there are a number of favorable signs. Today they finalized (finally) the steroid plan. Bud Selig showed up for his photo op. And both sides are meeting into the night. Let's play two, boys.
In a related story, Murray Chass of the New York Times has appointed himself Bud's press secretary. Witness this ode to the commissioner. I love the picture of Bud signing balls for the wee little fans. It's also nice to hear that Bud is punctual in returning phone calls. Keep in mind that this is The New York Times, all the news that fit to print and all that.
It is amazing that in New York where both Yankee owner George Steinbrenner and former Met owner Nelson Doubleday have openly questioned Selig (Doubleday in court and Steinbrenner threatening to follow suit as it were), Chass can say with no snese of irony, "If there is any owner who does not feel he gets a full hearing from Selig, he has not talked about it publicly." Also the following quote is amusing: "He is a master politician; he'd be at home in the U.S. Senate or the House of Parliament," Larry Lucchino, chief executive of the Boston Red Sox, said. He really impressed Rep. Maxine Waters last December: "Remember, Mr. Selig, you are under oath."
Take Two (from the) Red
Take Two (from the) Red Sox and Call Me in the Morning
It seems that all the Yankees pitching needs is to play the Red Sox and all their woes will all be cured. The Yankees shut out the Red Sox 7-0 tonight. Mike Mussina pitched a 3-hit shutout and won his 16th game. It was Mussina's first shutout of the year, as well as his first complete game. He struck out 9 Bosox, a figure he hadn't matched since May 12. The last time he allowed three or fewer hits was on April 9 (only 2 hits), his second start of the season. He used 103 pitches in disposing of the Sox, his lowest total since May 7 when he has pitched at least 7 innings. It was just the third time that he had gone at least eight innings all year. Mussina also lowered his August ERA to 4.11 (it was 5.54 for the month before the game). It will be the first month since April that he has had an ERA under 5.00.
It's hard to tell if Mussina has turned a corner or if the stars just happened to have aligned for him tonight. Keep in mind that he has had some success against Boston (4-1 this year and 6-5 with a 1.78 ERA from 1999-2001). I'm sure thaough that the Yankees and especially Roger Clemens, who is next in the rotation, are unhappy to be leaving Boston so quickly.
New Blog I just added
Break Up the Phillies (Please)
Break Up the Phillies (Please)
Never mind that the A's, winners of 14 straight, have springboarded from third to first (by 3 games) in the AL West. The Phillies story is even more remarkable. The Phillies reached .500 yesterday afte winning 6 straight. This is a team that has not been at .500 since April 11 and has been over .500 a total of 1 day (April 10) all year.
They traded their All-Star third baseman during the year. They have labored with a major-league caliber center fielder or first baseman. Three-fifths of their rotation from the start of the year has been recycled. Their one offseason free agent signee, Terry Adams, is now relagated to the bullpen. Much has been made of the Devil Rays opening starter Tanyon Sturtze puny win total. The Phils opening day starter, Robert Person, has only 4 wins on the season (he has been injured often this year, but he has also been ineffective when not injured).
That this team has made it to .500 is a testment to the Peter Principle. Let's look at the lowlights:
- On April 29, the Phillies lose their sixth straight (and 10th of their last 11) to fall to ten games under .500 at 8-18.
- The Phillies go on a seven-game win streak to get within three games of .500 at 16-19 (and then 17-20).
- They then lose 17-3 at Houston on May 15 (a game in which reliever Hector Mercado eventually takes one for the team giving up 8 runs, 7 earned, in two-thirds of an inning) to start a six-game losing streak.
- The Phils end May with an 8-7 loss to Montreal at home (after allowing 5 runs to lead off the night and struggling all night to catch up) and are 11 games under .500, their nadir of the year.
- On July 22, the Phillies travel to Wrigley and extend their win-less streak to five games losing 5-4. It will be the last time (so far) this year that the Phillies are at least 10 games under .500.
- On August 2, the Phils beat the Dodgers at home 3-1 to run their record to 52-56. It is the first time since the May 13 drubbing at the hands of the Astros that they are only 4 games under .500. They then lose two straight.
- The Phillies enter the August 7th game only four games under .500 and proceed to lose 4 straight.
- On August 16 the Phillies win their fifth straight to get to 3 games under .500 for the first time in more than three months. They then lose three straight.
- On Saturday the Phils win 4-0 at St. Louis. They pull within 2 games of .500 for the first time since April 18.
- On Sunday they complete a sweep of the Cards 5-3 an pull within 1 game of .500. This makes the fourteenth day, that's 2 weeks out of almost five months of play, that they Phillies are at one game under .500 or better this season.
- On Tuesday on the strength of a 4-2 win over the Expos the Phillies find the .500 promised land. They are lead by Joe Roa, apitcher who had not pitched in the majors in five years.
Given the streaky history of the Phillies (and the fact that they are already down 4-0 to Montreal tonight), expect a nice fat losing streak from this team. Having lived in both places, I now see the Phils as a cut-rate version of the Red Sox. Neither team seems to let themselves go through a full rebuilding process. Each year the Red Sox play just well enough to think that that one missing piece will put them over the top. The Phils have no illusions of such grandeur: each year they surge towards the end, promote a pitching prospect or two that they are expecting to build from, and then fall apart come the next spring, only to go through the surge again by the end of the next year. (This goes back to Marty Bystrom's 5-0 September, 1980, which won him the Pitcher of the Month award). So every year they are 2-3 years away from competing, at least in their minds.
Comparisons to New York are inevitable for both cities, but at least in the Phillies' case their New York team is anything but a dynasty. Maybe both the Red Sox and the Phillies are guilty of playing second fiddle to while attempting to emulate their New York counterparts. The Red Sox have just had a more successful analogue to follow.
Where Have All the 300
Where Have All the 300 Men Gone?
Rob Neyer has a good column on how the death of the four-man rotation may spelled the death of the 300-game winner as well. I do have to admit that I got deja vu all over again when I read it. I thought Neyer covered this ground before.
Anyway, he makes an interesting point that he never really resolves:
How many pitchers whose careers began in the 1950s won 300 games? Zero.
Well, why? I can see that the use of 5-man rotations may have started to effect pitchers who started in the ''70s and 80s. But why none in the Fifties? And why are there six who started in the Sixties? Does the dearth of hitting have anything to do with it.
He points to the Hall-of-Famers debuting in the '60s getting a decision in a slightly higher percentage of their games. To this he adds, "Over the course of a long career, the difference might cost a pitcher ... approximately 10 wins ... but that's not usually going to make the difference between winning 300 games and not winning 300 games." So what does? Neyer points to five-man rotations for the current and future classes and never again addresses the earlier non-300-winner eras.
I am intrigued. I have a feeling that pitcher-friendly eras breed young pitchers who have the ability to win a good number of games over their careers. That would mean that there would be fewer 300-game winners in the heavy hitting Thirties, for example. I do not know if this is true. I envision studying the effect of hitting (batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage) for each era and its effects on the ability for a young pitcher to amass a large number of wins over the span of his career. This may be a fun activity to perform during the strike, like when your mom reserved some activities for rainy days when you were a kid. I'll keep you posted.
Air Bud to the Rescue
Air Bud to the Rescue
In a last ditch effort to appear relevant commissioner Bud Selig will fly to New York to join the collective bargaining agreement negotiations. Never mind that MLB's offices are in New York to begin with and today is a work day. Bud, in a move that emulates George W. Bush's proclivity for vacationing, has been spending his time away from the fray in his ancestural home in scenic Milwaukee.
Apparently, Bud smells blood, and he now wants to get his puss on TV signing the agreement with a pen wrestled from Rob Manfred, the owners' chief negotiator, who will be rewarded with milk and cookies in a back office somewhere. Or maybe Bud actually sees himself as a letter-day Kennesaw Mountain Landis, above the game, trying to avert catastrophe, as opposed to just the owners' figurehead. Given that the players know otherwise, don't expect much from Air Bud.
ESPN meanwhile in its continuing effort to be as impartial as their pocketbook allows (they're owned by Angels owner Disney), is running a headline on its baseball page that reads "Bud to the Rescue?" above a picture of Bud with his hand over his heart standing solemnly erect for the national anthem. I guess the one with him eating apple pie and driving a Chevy was not available.
Save a Little, Save a
Save a Little, Save a Lot
In a text book explanation of why the save statistic is practically meaningless, not to mention the pursuit of the save record, tonight John Smoltz practically stole defeat from the jaws of victory (with pointy pointy teeth). In the process he earned his 46th save and is just 11 behind the all-time record.
Smoltz entered the game in the bottom of ninth with two men on, no outs, and his Braves leading 5-1. Set-up man Kerry Ligtenberg had done just that. He had set the table for Smoltz to walk right into a save opportunity. Witha 4-run lead and 2 men on, Smoltz was guaranteed the save (add the men on base, the batter, and the on-deck batter and if that number exceeds or matches the lead you've got yourself a save. But you do have to finish the game, and Smoltz did his darnedest not to. He gave up a double (scoring two), an RBI grounder, and a walk. He then had a man on first and third with one out and a two-run lead. He got Pokey Reese to strike out after running a 3-0 count. Abraham Nunez then singled, scoring Kevin Young and moving Hyzdou from first to third. So with men at first and third, a one-run lead, and two out, Smoltz got Jason Kendall to hit a weak fly to right on the first pitched offered to end the game. Smoltz's line doesn't even look that bad: 1 inning pitched, 2 hits, 1 run (earned), 1 walk and 1 strikeout. 13 of his 24 pitches were for strikes. His ERA only goes up seven points. And he gets the save. Funny how I haven't heard his name mentioned when the NL MVP is discussed lately. I wonder why that is?
Along the same lines, I just read that the Indians are converting soon-to-be 25-year-old Danys Baez (a man who refers to himself in the first person plural) into a closer. He did pitch much better last year as a reliever (more strikeouts, lower ERA) than this year as a starter, but...A) Baez has been the Indians' best starter (sadly) since Bartolo Colon and Chuck Finley were traded. B) Cleveland's rotation now consists of second-year man C.C. Sabathia (the last man left from the April rotation), three rookies with 20 games (and two wins as starters) among them, and a scrub to be named later when the rosters get expanded. That's a starting rotation with 27 career wins as starters, barely more than 5 per man. C) How valuable will Baez be as a closer as opposed to a starter, even if he is a very good reliever and just an average starter? Who knows maybe he will be breaking John Smoltz's all-time save record next year. Of course, that would mean that their rotation will have to win at least 57 games for him to do it. I wish him luck.
Rivas' Boner and Other Small
Rivas' Boner and Other Small Matters
The Twins beat the Mariners 5-2 tonight dropping Seattle to 3.5 games behind surging (though boner-less) Oakland. Joe Mays was the winner, improving to 3-5. That's not all: Mays caught a ball deflected off the speaker in the Contraction Dome for an out. He must have read the ground rules before the game.
Also, in the third Luis Rivas got caught trying to stretch a double to center into a triple. You see, he forgot, or at least failed to recognize, that third was already occupied by A.J. Pierzynski, who had been held there. Rivas then held a multi-dimensional sprint back to the second-base bag with Bret Boone who had retrieved the ball from center. Rivas lost.
Along the boner line, Derek Jeter was doubled at second in a bizarre play in the Yankees 6-0 win over suddenly listless-again Boston. With Jeter at second and Giambi at first, Bernie Williams hit a shallow fly to right that Manny Ramirez couldn't hold on to. Jeter evidently never saw the ball lying on the ground nor did he see the charging Giambi. He stayed at second and was tagged out without an attempt to display any sentience whatsoever on his part. Of course, this in no way detracts from his remarkable heads-up relay throw home in the playoffs last year nor from the spectacular plays that he made at short tonight at least in the minds of the Yankees commentators, men who would be debating one inning later the merits, or rather the lack thereof, of pitch counts. They forgot the year was 2002. On one of Jeter's "spectacular" plays, it appeared that his ankle had been shackled to the ground prior to the play, and the spectacular-ness consisted in diving after doing nothing whatsoever to get in position to make the play. Again the impartial Yankee commentators loved it. They also tell David Wells that he's not fat when they stay up nights discussing who likes who and do each others' hair.
There was one spectacular play by, of all people, David Wells (you see, no real physical movement was involved). With Manny Ramirez at third and Shea Hillenbrand at first in the bottom of the second in a 0-0 game, Carlos Baerga hit a high chopper to the pitcher. The ball was chopped so hard that Wells just about set for a fly ball. He caught it and throw home in one motion, like a tip drill, getting Ramirez by a step.
I am required by law to end this bit with the words, "Well, how about that?"
Identity Crisis in Baseball's Labor
Identity Crisis in Baseball's Labor Dispute
The New York Times has an analysis of the labor negotiations that explains that the roles of the owners and the union have been reversed.
Making a demand that would be anathema to most labor unions, the Major League Baseball Players Association wants to let salaries rise and fall as market forces dictate.
Andrew Zimbalist, author of Baseball and Billionaires, explains in the article that "What we're seeing here is pragmatism more than ideology."
The basic premise, that the players "to let salaries rise and fall as market forces dictate," is flawed, however. The players want nothing of the sort. They want to let certain salaries rise and fall with the salary market. Those certain salaries are of arbitration-eligible players and of free-agency-eligible players whose contracts are expiring. Free agency controls the supply of players upon which teams may bid, driving up the demand. Arbitration uses, in part, the salaries set by free agency to drive up salaries for players who are not yet eligible for free agency. This is essential to the goal of free agency for the union.
The players do not want a totally free market, one in which all of the players are free agents at the end of each year. This would cause a glut in the market and lessen the supply, suppressing salaries. Marvin Miller in his epiphanic baseball autobiography, A Whole Different Ballgame explains why. Note that this after the arbitration decision to make Andy Messersmith and Dave McNally the first true free agents (that is by letting their contract expire-Catfish Hunter had became a free agent earlier because of the A's owner Charlie O. Finley not fulfilling the terms of his contract) and the owners locked out the players in protest:
By flexing their muscles with a lockout, the owners hoped to negate the impact of the Messersmith decision, which meant that no players would become free agents, whether they had signed 1976 contracts or not. Throughout the winter, we had advised players wanting to become free agents not to sign. By the time spring training was scheduled to start, almost 350 players had followed Messersmith's lead. This led to two sets of nightmares: the owners' and mine. The owners', for obvious reasons-a potential "loss" of so many valuable players. To me, a large supply of free agents each year would defeat one of the purposes of free agency, namely, the bidding up of salaries. Luckily, Oakland's owner, Charlie Finley-who generally was ignored-seemed to be the only one smart enough to recognize that opening the floodgates by making all players free agents would work to the owners advantage (by holding salaries down); the rest screamed bloody murder: "This SOB, Miller, said there'd only be a handful of free agents. Now I'm going to lose my entire infield, outfield, and pitching staff!" Instead of negotiating realistically, management insisted that a player be required to have ten years (nine years plus option year) of major league service (something few players achieved) in order to become a free agent and then hedged that with a provision that the player still could be held by his club if it offered him at least $30,000 a year.
The Times article failed to mention that supply and demand is an even more important salary determiner than having (semi-)free enterprise. Altering the effect of supply and demand is the pragmatism to which Zimbalist refers.
Owners want the luxury tax and revenue sharing plan to retard salary growth by lessening their fellow owners' demand. Players want to ensure that there is enough demand so that salaries continue to keep pace with revenues. This is a new approach in that the owners have always considered altering the supply side by setting the criteria high enough (service time usually) that only a handful of upper-echelon players would be affected. The players have always wanted to lower those criteria so that there would be large enough supply of players to drive up salaries through arbitration while still adhering to favorable supply-and-demand principles. Free Agency cannot fully achieve the union's goals without arbitration.
Though this is a new collective bargaining approach, it is basically a continuation of the reserve clause that was in effect for the first hundred years of organized ball and of collusion, which the owners tried in the mid-1980s and paid for dearly in the courts. The thinking being that if your lessen the demand that all of the owners have for certain players, then salaries in general will be less or will grow less rapidly. This is a revolutionary approach in that the owners are bargaining with the players so that they become compictious participants in the process for the first time.
Pure Prattle I read the
I read the Philadelphia Inquirer's sport section yesterday-I had to since it was the only reading material in the men's room at work-and instead of being greeted with news of the Phillies sweeping the Cards, what did I see on the front page? The headline on the front page was "Phils' Pratt No Supporter of Union Hardliners."
The tone of the article was a bit less propagandistic than the headline (it had to be), but basically some blue-skying by a journeyman role player was really being oversold. Pratt did say:
I'm just sick to my stomach about this. I relate more to the people in the stands than to either side. I can't believe that both sides can't figure this thing out. It's a joke.
But then he did admit that he would stand by the union.
The article then takes great pains to plumb Pratt's spleen regarding the last strike. Pratt had just established himself as a backup to Darren Daulton in his first tour with the Phillies. Pratt says:
The only thing I remember is losing money for nothing...The thing about the last strike is that it was the players like me who got hurt. The union told us that the salaries would be spread out among everybody, but they weren't. I'll stick by the union if we walk, but sometimes I don't feel like the union sticks by players like me.
Ballplayers may be excused for their ignorance in these matters. For men who know too little about Honus Wagner and Tris Speaker, how can one expect them to be well-informed about Marvin Miller? As the article points out Pratt makes $650 K, his career high. He has made an average of $344 K in 8 major-league seasons from age 26 to 34. The article call this "[r]elatively speaking...a modest living." Modest as compared to what? This is a phenomonal sum for someone this age to make especially as a backup player who has never played more than 80 games in a season. Before Marvin Miller the minimum salary was $6000. That, or slightly more, is what Pratt would be making if he played 30 years ago. If he didn't like what his team paid, he could find a different line of work since he was tied as a ballplayer to that team for as long as the team desired. Those are but a few of the benefits that Mr. Pratt has enjoyed as a ballplayer in the late 20th and early 21st centuries because of the union.
The article then points to "Gavin Floyd, their [the Phillies'] first-round draft pick last year, [whom they paid] $4.2 million just to get him to report to the Florida Instructional League." They say this is to help "understand Pratt's discontent with the union." How is this the union's fault? The player is not even in the union until he reaches the majors. A team could pay a minor-leaguer minimum wage or a $4.2 million a year, and the union has no say in the matter. That the Phillies paid this player with no professional background and no union to help him this much money tells you that the majors are still monetarily sound.
Such a misleading a factually-flawed article made me wonder who owned the Inquirer and what was their agenda. It turns out that the Philadelphia Inquirer and Philly.com, its web enabler, are owned by Knight-Ridder, the number 3 newspaper chain in the country. Unlike the top two newspaper chains, Gannett (Reds) and the Tribune Company (Cubs), Knight-Ridder does not own a major-league team. It does, however, have a division (Knight-Ridder Digital) that has a joint initiative with the Seattle Mariners and Arizona Diamondbacks to sell tickets on their web sites via a third party called LiquidSeats.
It must be nice for MLB to have the two largest newspaper chains in the country in their back pockets and to have a deal with the third. Well, and then there's ESPN, Baseball Weekly, CNN, and Fox Sports. I'm sure that they are all working hard to bring us a fair and balanced picture of the labor talks. Just like they did in this case.
Bonds Market Barry Bonds is
Barry Bonds is leading the NL in batting average by one point over Larry Walker. If he wins the title, he would be the oldest first-time batting champ at 38. ESPN quotes Bonds as saying, "I want to win that batting title." And after witnessing the drive he had to become a 40-40 man not metion his immense talent, I would not put it past him.
But in his 16 seasons, he has only finished in the top 10 three times. His highest appearance was at number 4 in 1993. His .336 average was only 34 points behind the NL champ, Andres Galarraga (.370). As a matter of fact, of the 23 statiscal categories that Baseball Reference lists for Bonds, he only appears on yearly leaders fewer times for hits (once), at bats (never), strikeouts (once), and hit by a pitch (zero).
One-Two-Three Strikes Yer Out! The
One-Two-Three Strikes Yer Out!
The Yankes beat the Rangers yesterday 10-3 while collecting 19 hits, of which 15 were singles and the rest doubles, an oddity in itself for the AL leader in home runs. But the oddest moment of all was when starter El Duque Hernandez threw not one but two eephus pitches-in a row-to Alex Rodriguez, the major-league leader in home runs. The first was a ball. The second landed in the left-field seats. It came in at 53 miles per hour and probably went out a little faster.
I have never understood the eephus pitch. The idea is that the pitch is so slow that it throws off the hitter's rhythm. But a major-league hitter should be well-equiped enough to spot the ball and make the necessary adjustments.
Pittsburgh Pirate Rip Sewell is well remembered for inventing, if you can call it that, the pitch. He had a good career with 143 wins against 97 losses, winning 20 games twice, and appearing in 4 All-Star games. He is probably best known for giving up a home run to Ted Williams (his second of the game) in the 1946 All-Star in Fenway Park with the eephus pitch. The legend of that pitch has grown as tidbits like Williams asking for the pitch, Sewell announcing the pitch on the toss that resulted in the homer, and Williams moving up a few feet to greet the ball.
Bugs Bunny established the major-league record while striking out three Gas House Gorillas with one slow pitch. He, of course, was pitching as well as playing all nine defensive positions.
The last appearance of the eephus that I know of was Dave LaRoche's LaLob, which he developed towards the tail end of his career. In the early '80s ('81, I think) with the Yankees, LaRoche struck out Gorman Thomas on an eephus after Thomas had tried to bunt the pitch earlier in the at-bat.
Lidle Worship Corey Lidle's consecutive
Corey Lidle's consecutive scoreless innings streak is dead-long live the streak!-but more importantly the A's extended their winning streak to 13 and are now 2.5 games in front in the AL West. The run was unearned and he remains a perfect 5-0 with a 0.00 ERA for August. Opponents batted .147 against him in August. His average game score is 75.2. His WHIP (walks plus hits per innings pitched) is .684. His strikeout-to-walk ratio is nearly 3.3. His ERA is now under 4.00 for the first time since April 26.
Even before the streak he was pitching well. Since the All-Star break he is 6-2 with a 1-85 ERA. He also was a quiet 13-6 with a 3.59 ERA last year.
Could Lidle have emerged as a quality starter after three years in the majors and seven organizations? Maybe. It kind of reminds me of another Oakland pitcher who established himself as a star at the age of 30 after playing seven major-league seasons with four organizations and a total win-loss record of 39-40. This man then won 20 games four years straight. You probably guess that this is Dave Stewart. I don't know if Lidle will be the next Stewart, but his career turnaround is remarkable.
Big Night in Beantown The
Big Night in Beantown
The Red Sox beat the Angels 10-9 in 10 innings after scoring 4 in the bottom of the ninth to tie it. The Red Sox are now 2.5 behind the Angels and 3 behind Seattle in the wild card. The Angels fell 3 behind the A's in the AL West.
The Red Sox won on a Johnny Damon's lead-off home run in the tenth off Scot Shields. The count was 2-2 but Damon had fouled off four pitches after getting behind 1-2. The home run landed in a section of Fenway that juts out towards the field right down the rightfield line. Had it been 10 feet farther into fair territory, it may have been caught.
The Red Sox ninth was equally improbable. The Angels leading 9-5 had set-up man Al Levine in the game and closer Troy Percival ready to go if necessary. Over the last two years the Angels had been 129-1 when leading after 8. Levine had finished off the last two-thirds of the eighth only relinquishing a single and throwing seven pitches to 3 batters. Two of his next four picthes were stroked to left for singles by Manny Ramirez and Cliff Floyd. Percival relieved Levine and gave up a single to Shea Hillenbrand, loading the bases. Percival got Tony Clark to foul off two pitches and then proceeded to walk him with 4 straight balls, scoring Ramirez. Percival then got Varitek to strike out on four pitches. Trot Nixon then lifted a fly ball to right plating Floyd. Hillenbrand also moved up to third. Rickey Henderson, who was running for Clark, stole second and then scored along with Hillenbrand on Rey Sanchez's single that ended the inning when he tried to stretch it to two. This was Percival's worst outing since April 21 to Oakland in which he gave up a 3-run home run to Greg Myers with none out in the ninth of a 6-5 loss (the one in the aforementioned 129-1).
Manny Ramirez was 5-for-5 with two home runs. Johnny Damon was 3-for-6 and Hillenbrand and Sanchez were both 3-for-5. But not all was well in Beantown and I'm talking out more than the wait for the Green Line after the game. Bobby Howry saw his ERA rise 50 points after allowing 4 runs in an inning. Starter John Burkett gave up 11 hits and 4 runs (3 earned) in five and two-thirds innings. Since the All-Star game which Burkett claimed he would not seek nomination to nor if selected would he serve in, he is 3-3 and has raised his ERA nearly a point. With Casey Fossum who gives up a buckets of hits and runs, mostly unearned, when he pitches (33 hits and 17 runs, 7 unearned, in 28.2 innings as a starter).With Marinez and Lowe being stellar all year and the recently re-inserted Wakefield doing alright, their rotation seems to still be evolving. Frank Castillo, Dustin Hermanson (apparently), and injured Fernando Arroyo are all now in the bullpen. For all of the talk the Sox are alive and well, they are still only 11-12 for the month and 4-3 in the current homestand. I guess we will see in which direction they are really pointed when the Yankees come to town tonight with Fossum facing David Wells.
How Much for a Morgan
How Much for a Morgan Bulkeley Card?
Jim Caple has an interesting article today on the Veterans' Committee's inclusion of George W. Bush, the former owner of the Texas Rangers for 9 years, on their preliminary ballot of 60 non-players. Of those 60 only 15 go on the final ballot, so chances are against Bush. For the record the Rangers were 795-759 for a .512 winning percentage, with 2 division titles (and the division lead in '94 despite being 10 games under .500). He also helped orchestrate the building of the new stadium in Arlington. This is basically the golden age of Ranger baseball (their only other division title came in '99, the year after the Bush era). Obviously Bush is not much of a Hall of Famer.
Bush would, however, be the perfect way for the newly configured Vets' Committee to start off on the wrong foot just like every other such committee that's been set up since day one. He would also bookend nicely with the first such appointment, the man who is the most glaring example of veterans' committee blunders of all time. That man is Morgan Bulkeley, the first president of the National League in 1876. He was selected by the Committee on Baseball Veterans in 1937, that is, the second induction class. He was the owner of a long-forgotten team, the Hartford Dark Blues, from 1874-77 (i.e., in the National Association from 1874-75 and then the NL 1876-77). The team never finished any higher than third. Bulkeley, the Hall's site points out, "was elected unanimously as its first president. In the league's initial season, Bulkeley enhanced Baseball's image by reducing gambling and drinking...From 1889 to 1893, he was governor of Connecticut and then a United States senator. "
What it doesn't say is that the league presidency was set up as an honor that would be bestowed upon each owner in succession. The man who held the real power was Chicago White Stockings (now Cubs) owner William Hulbert. Hulbert was a totalitarian dictator, who ruled with an iron fist. When the teams representing the two most populous cities in the league (New York and Philadelphia) refused to complete a road trip out West, Hulbert dropped them from the league. Hulbert became league president in 1877 once he realized that the roud-robin election system was a farce. Hulbert was not enshrined at Cooperstown until 1995 though he was the man most responsible for making organized, professional baseball a successful venture. That shows you how much research went into the Vets' Committees original selections.
George Bush's plaque along with the 2003 class resting on the wall facing the 1936 and '37 classes would be the perfect statement that this new Vets' Committee could make. It wouldn't hurt if Joe Morgan could get a few old vets to vote in his buddy Dave Concepcion, too. All the while Ron Santo, Gary Carter, Dwight Evans, Bobby Grich, and dozens more-worthy players are left in the cold.
Talkin' Baseball... Negotiations (Say Hey!)
Talkin' Baseball... Negotiations (Say Hey!)
Over the weekend first the players and then the owners proffered counter proposals in the collective bargaining agreement negotiations. The owners termed the players' proposal "regressive bargaining". The players said the owners proposal still looked "very much like a salary cap." And the wheel goes on.
As the players and the owners play their game of poker hoping that the other will fold while chipping in $7 million revenue money a pop into the pot, three days and change remain in the negotiations. The luxury tax proposals did seem to be getting much closer but rather are becoming more and more multivariegated-percentages rise with each offense or thresholds change over time. I guess we should be happy that they are still at the table.
I am left, however, trying to reconcile their numbers. Even Doug Pappas' peerless baseball business website cannot help. The luxury tax numbers are almost always referred to by percentages and thresholds that are set independent of the team salaries. However, the reportage of the revenue sharing funds reveals numbers that just don't add up.
Here is what I mean: Using the ESPN article today and Doug Pappas' current negotiation status page as sources, in 2001 revenue sharing stood at 20% which translates into $167 million. That would mean that local revenues in total would be $835 million (if 20% of X is $167 M, then X = $167M /.2 = $835 M).
The latest proposals are 36% from the owners ($263 based on 2001 revenues) and a phased-in 33.3% from the players ($242.3 million based on 2001). The only thing is that the actual percentages don't match those numbers. Here are the numbers for each proposal, percentage and its impact based on 2001, plus the actual percentage based on 2001 total revenue ($835 million) and the resultant total revenue if the provided percentage were multiplied by the actual 2001 revenue:
Proposal Pct Actual Act. Pct Resultant Revenue Current ('01) 20% $167M 20% $835 Owner 1 N/A $282M 33.77% N/A Player 1 N/A $235M 28.14% N/A Owner 2 37% $270M 32.34% $729.73M Player 2 33.3% $242.3M 29.02% $726.9M Owner 3 36% $263M 31.50% $730.56M
Bonds Hits Ruthian non-HR Barry
Bonds Hits Ruthian non-HR
Barry Bonds hit two doubles yesterday for the Giants, but one of those doubles appeared, at least from the SportsCenter replay, to have cleared the fence and to have been a home run.
In the third inning with two outs and none on base, Bonds hit an 0-1 pitch to left-center that appeared to bounce off the top of the fence and back into the area of play. Bonds got to second on the hit. However, with shades of Jeffrey Maier, the replay seemed to show that a fan in attempting to catch the ball deflected it towards its new path. In the Maier-Tony Tarasco fiasco (I'm a poet...), there were at least umpires in the outfield to attempt to get the right call on the play (though they clearly did not). That was the playoffs in which additional umpires are employed. During the regular season it's left to the regular umpiring crew to make the call from over 200 feet away. Whether or not Bonds was robbed, it seemed an odd occurrence on the weekend in which the four living players with the most home runs (Aaron, Mays, Bonds, and Expos manager Frank Robinson, the Giants opponent) were celebrated.
If and when Bonds passes Babe Ruth at 714 home runs at least they could both say they were equally robbed. On July 8, 1918, in the bottom of the ninth, Ruth hit a ball over the wall at Fenway with Amos Strunk on first and Ruth's Red Sox and the Indians locked in a 0-0 tie. It was a 2-run walk-off home for Ruth, right? Wrong, the existing rules dictated that Ruth be credited with a triple since three bases were all that were required to score the winning run. Since the game was over once Strunk crossed home, how could Ruth be credited with a home run? At least that was the thinking at the time. The rule was changed two years later so that on balls that leave the area of play (home runs and ground-rule doubles), the hitter gets credit for the hit in full. Of course, the rule still applies for balls that stay in play: If a player hits a gapper with the bases loaded and the score tied in the bottom of the ninth, he only gets credited with a single and one RBI, once the run scores.
On April 26th, 1969, the Baseball Records Committee attempted to credit Babe Ruth and the rest of the players affected by the ruling with their home runs, but its recommendation fell on deaf ears. There would be some problems with doing so, 1) what about opening up the record book for every other rule change that affected old records and 2) technically Ruth and the others never crossed home plate to score the runs with which they would be credited, thereby denying the opposition the opportunity to appeal their touching the re-credited bases and home itself.
Think that Hank Aaron's 715th home run trot, perhaps the best remembered baseball moment of all time, could have been to tie not surpass Ruth's record.
So the next time you watch another walk-off home run that wins a game by more than a run, remember that 90 years ago it would have been anything but a home run. Just don't tell Bud Selig. It might be the next thing that he considers to install in the best interest of the game so that he can drive away more fans.
Mabry, R.F.D (Really F'ing Dangerous)
Mabry, R.F.D (Really F'ing Dangerous)
The streaking A's rallied for seven runs in the last two innings to beat the Tigers, 10-7. The win maintains their 2-game lead on Seattle and Anaheim (who rallied for 5 in the ninth to beat Derek Lowe and the Red Sox, 8-3) and extended their winning steark to 12 games. Eric Chavez had a big game going 3-for-5 and 3 RBI and Jermaine Dye was 2-for-4 with 2 RBI and 3 runes scored. The biggest hero of the night may have been John Mabry, who pinch-hit for Mark Ellis with men at second and third with one out and the A'd trailing 7-6. He doubled to right-center scoring both runners and putting the A's ahead to stay.
Mabry was acquired by the A's from the Phillies in the Jeremy Giambi trade as part of the A's mass purge May 22. He was seen as a journeyman throw-in the deal by most (he's 31 and plays first, left, and right, and used to be a third baseman and probably could be enlisted as one in a pinch), but has proven a key player in the A's resurgence. Since the trade:
- His batting average is nearly 40 points higher than his career average (.313 to .274). In fact his next highest average was .307 (the only time he hit .300 for a season) in 1995, his rookie year, with the Cards.
- His on-base average is 20+ points above his career average (.348 to .326). The last time his OBP was this high was 1997 (.352).
- His slugging average is 164 points above his career average (.571 to .407). His pervious slugging high was .431 in 1996 and his slugging average had declined steadily since 1999 from .401 to .286 in his almost two months with Philly this year. In fact, in Oakland he has nearly doubled his slugging average from before the strike.
- His OPS would rank eighth in the AL if he qualified, before Nomar Garciaparra, teammates Eric Chavez and Miguel Tejada, MVP hopefuls Alfonso Soriano and Torii Hunter, and last year's MVP Ichiro Suzuki, to name a few.
Here are his totals for Oakland this year with a projection out to 162 games:
Season TM G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG OPS 2002 Oak 65 147 20 46 12 1 8 33 8 26 1 1 .313 .348 .571 .919 162 games Oak 162 366 50 115 30 2 20 82 20 65 2 2 .313 .348 .571 .919
Repeat after me: "Destiny. Destiny. No escaping as for me." Everything is firing right for this team even when they make a seemingly lopsided trade like the Mabry-Giambi one.
Yester-Joe-Morgan-Chat-Day All My Troubles Seemed
Yester-Joe-Morgan-Chat-Day All My Troubles Seemed So Far Away
We (and yet another reference to myself in the first person plural) here at Mike's Baseball Rants would like to say that we almost declared a one-week moratorium on Joe Morgan Chat Day because of Joe's excellent article on ESPN today entitled, "Why Strike?" Joe hits just about everything in the article out of the park.
Well, we almost suspended but finally we come-as always-to praise Morgan and Joe Morgan Chat Day not to bury him, er, them. Joe Morgan is to baseball analysts what Jean-Paul Sartre's Being and Nothingness is to literature. He'll say things like, "I am the self which I will be, in the mode of not being it." Some people will sit there agape, some will coo approval, and some will scratch their heads and, "That makes no sense whatsoever, but it's kind of cool." If you count yourself among this last group, welcome, brother, to the world of Joe Morgan Chat Day (with the added bonus of Joe Morgan Article Day):
Joe Morgan: In 1972, the owners wanted a salary cap, and the players said no. Discussion of a cap was always a deal breaker. When I first came to the big leagues, former MLBPA executive director Marvin Miller always preached that the players did not want a salary cap.
As I've said in the past, to make it happen, the words "salary cap" had to be changed for something to get done. So now "salary cap" has been changed to "luxury tax" because a luxury tax is sort of a salary cap. At least that's what it is meant to be. And the players have agreed to it.
By allowing for a luxury tax and for revenue sharing, players are basically agreeing with the owners that the monetary system needs to change. The players are happy with the status quo, but they realize the status quo may not be good for the game. So they have made concessions on things they fought to gain in the past...
[Mike: Right, Joe. To all those misinformed columnists who claim that Donald Fehr is still trying to emulate Marvin Miller when the world of baseball has changed so dramatically, why is Fehr accepting a salary cap in the form of a luxury tax when Miller never would?]
Joe Morgan: [T]he players... Their slogan could be, "We are not asking for anything." They just want to be treated fairly and to not give up on too much of what they gained from past negotiations...Therefore, it is unfair to blame the players.
[Mike: Still think the players won't compromise?]
Joe Morgan: First, however, the owners need to stop blaming George Steinbrenner for their problems... He has played within the system, one the owners created, which is indicative of where the problems really lie.
[Mike: Take it to the streets, Joe]
Joe Morgan: The players are the game. Without the players, there is no game.
[Mike: You're preaching to the choir, man. Who ever went to a ballgame to see John Moores or Tom Hicks?]
Ben (Boston): Hi Joe. You mention in your most recent piece about the strike that the players are not to be blamed, that they just want to keep what they allready have. My question is how can the players justify making amazing salaries when the rest of the country is cutting way back? Many have lost their entire savings to Enron or Worldcomm, taken pay cuts and even lost jobs. It seems that the ball players of today do not want to have to make the sacrifices that many amaericans have allready had to make due to the economy. I believe, and I could be wrong, that the majority of pro ball players could never make another penny and live out their life in a very lavish style. I certainly dont think it is too much to ask for them to slow down the rapid growth of salaries. I do think the owners also have a responsibilty in this too and hopefully, if they get what they want they can pass off their savings to the fans. I havnt been to a game at Fenway in three years and dont plan on ever going again due to the price of tickets. thanks for your time.
Joe Morgan: First of all, I didn't say the players weren't to blame. I said the players have given a lot. Comparing a ballplayer to an average player is not fair. An average player can work 30 years; a ballplayer's average life span is five years. It's apples and oranges. You can't even compare players to movie stars, who can work longer. I understand, though, your feeling in that they make more than the average fan. In '94, I said both were to blame. If they strike again, both will be to blame again. But the players have given a lot in terms of agreeing to a luxury tax, which is like a salary cap. Unlike what people believe, there are a lot of people who work a long time and make a lot more than ballplayers do in a lifetime. Not every player like Bonds, A-Rod and other players. And as far as Enron and all that, that has nothing to do with baseball.
[Mike: You're on a roll, Joe]
Bob (Woodstock): What does a short career span have to do with anything? Players make so much money they don't need to play forever. Why not compare ball players to the average Joe? Are they that much better than us?
Joe Morgan: If you have a special skill in this country, you are paid for that skill. Whatever it is. Doctors, lawyers -- they are paid more than the average Joe too. Baseball players have a special skill too, but not all make $8 million a year. A lot make the minimum or a little more. You only read about the guys who make a lot of money. In this country, we reward people who have special skills. Will you compare yourself to Tom Hanks or Steven Spielberg? Should they be compared to the average Joes as well?
Joe Morgan: Entertainers are paid differently than anyone else in this country. They are paid more than school teachers, which I don't agree with, but it's a fact of life. Baseball players are paid more than I make, and I agree with that. They are paid more than the average person who works 9-to-5, and I agree with that too.
[Mike: Right, it's entertainment but it's also a business. If you don't like it, enjoy some other form of entertainment.]
Bryan (Kentucky): A lot of these people seem to be trying to criticize you and discredit you Joe. But what it seems that they don't realize is that not just anyone can play professional baseball. I am now into the college level of baseball as a pitcher and I see guys trying out for the team who have never played before. Why do so many people take basbeall for granted? Is it because it is so accesible to the public to see? When will they realize that regognizing a fastball that is going 90 miles an hour and THEN trying to hit it is the hardest thing to do in sports physically?
Joe Morgan: Finally, a sane voice in the wilderness. People think baseball is just a game because they tried to play it at one time. It takes a special skill to be a professional athlete. One more time: Baseball players make a lot more than I do, but I'm not mad at them. I don't have the skill to do it anymore.
Joe Morgan: I love what I do, and I'm not complaining because I can't do what someone else does.
[Mike: Joe, we feel your pain.]
John (Hamden, CT): With one week untill the strike, who will be the first party to budge, the Union or the owners?
Joe Morgan: I can't answer because I'm not in the meetings. I think the players have given a lot in admitting the need for a luxury tax, and I think the owners realize that both parties lose if there is a strike. I don't think of it as blinking; I think of it as being more concerned about baseball than their own personal agendas.
[Mike: Right, it's not a game of chicken. It's a negotiation process. I think you're going to make this week, Joe.]
Joe (Peoria): Pardon my ignorance, but if the players have played this long without an agreement, why can't they wait to strike until November and have all off season to work it out?
Joe Morgan: The players reasoning is if they wait until the season is over, the owners can implement their own rules without a contract. The only way the players have power is to strike now, which causes the owners to lose something. If they wait until the end of the season, the owners wouldn't lose anything and wouldn't be obligated to make a deal. The players feel a strike is the only weapon they have in the dispute, to cost the owners money down the stretch.
[Mike: Geez, Joe from Peoria, read the papers one time in maybe the last year before you join the venerable Joe Morgan Chat Day session. Oh, no. I feel that that bit of negativity may have jinxed Joe's roll, like when Linus said, "If the great Pumpkin arrives" and not "when" and the Great Pumpkin didn't arrive. Come on, Joe. You can do it.]
Stack (NYC): Earth to Joe - Baseball IS just a game!!!
Joe Morgan: OK.
[Mike: Uh, what was that? Was that a question? This can't be good. Oh, no!]
Andy (DC) : Joe, do you remember a better race than this years AL West? Who do you think has the best offense out of the three? We all know Oakland's pitching is superior.
Joe Morgan: That's a good question. Neither Seattle's nor Anaheim's offenses are as consistent as last year. If Glaus and Salmon hit like they are capable, the Angels would have more power. Both teams have been inconsistent offensively. The A's offense is inconsistent as well, although they are starting to use more speed at the top with Durham and Ellis. But they don't have a lot of power, other than Chavez and Tejada. It's a great race at this point. There are still a lot of games left. I expect one team to get hot and get up by a few games. I don't know which team it will be. It could be Oakland with its pitching, but Anaheim and Seattle are good teams and will hang in there.
[Mike: Psst. Joe, you didn't answer the question. Besides, Salmon is ninth in the AL in OPS, above MVP favorite Alfonso Soriano. He's really have a great year. Besides the Angels are 8th in OPS and 2nd to last in HRs in the AL because the have a first baseman with 8 HRs, The four position players up the middle (Erstad, Kennedy, Eckstein, and Molina) have not provided much offense (they have 30 HRs among them). But the team is stil first in batting average, for what that's worth. Oh, and the A's are 4th in the AL in home runs, 1 behind the White Sox for third, and they are actually last in the AL by ridiculous comfortable margin in stolen bases. The Mariners are fourth in the AL in batting average and OPS and second in on-base. Also, the three teams are 1 (Oakland, 3 (Anaheim), and 4 (Seattle) in ERA in the AL. It's debatable which is best. But that's Ok, Joe, get back up on that horse. No, that's just a figure of speech, Joe.]
Utek (LA): Certain players have been known for their intensity on the field---Guys like Pete Rose, Jackie Robinson and Ty Cobb. Is there a player today who brings that same burning intensity to win each and every inning?
Joe Morgan: There are a lot of players like that today. A lot of players who played with those three guys played that way. Those three were more outgoing on the field than other players may have appeared. Bob Gibson probably had more intensity on the mound than anyone I know. You are looking at their personality more than their intensity on the field.
[Mike: Psst. Joe, you forgot to answer the question again. Besides, Cobb was probably the most hated man in baseball. The only way in which he was outgoing was when he was going out into the stands to beat up on heckling fans. Bob Gibon is not playing today, but that's OK. If at first yuddah yuddah.]
Jay (Oneonta, NY): I want to comend you on taking the time to answer some very tough questions. I thought your article on nothing to strike for was insightful. If there is not a settlement by Friday can the players overrule Fehr and extend the deadline, or are they committed to August 30?
Joe Morgan: Very good question. They can always overrule Fehr. I don't think they will. Even Fehr can extend the date. Just because you come up with a date, it's not etched in stone. You can always extend the deadline. Like what they did that Monday, saying they wouldn't set one until Friday. I'm sure they will extend the date, but they can.
[Mike: Uh, excuse me, Joe, but Donald Fehr did not set the strike date. The players did. They voted on it. Hey could vote to extend it, but depending on the situation, it might make them look kind of weak. Don't you think? By the way, your last sentence made no sense. Are you OK? Remember you're ahead in points. You want to jab and move.]
Andrew (San Jose): If the Giants make the playoffs is Barry a lock for MVP? and if not?
Joe Morgan: I don't think he is a lock either way. There are a lot of players contributing to their teams' success. Shawn Green gets credit on the Dodgers. Albert Pujols gets credit on the Cardinals. There is Sosa, who is having a great year. Even though I don't like it, Schilling may be as valuable to his team as others are to theirs. I don't usually think a pitcher who pitches every fifth day qualifies as an MVP candidate.
[Mike: What?!? What have you been smoking? Bonds has a 266-point lead on the second-place man, Larry Walker, in OPS (1.339). That breaks down to a 134-point lead in on-base (.566) and an 131-pont lead in slugging (.773). Let's put that in historic perspective: His OPS is the fourth highest all-time-only Babe Ruth (twice) and Bonds last year ever exceeded it. His on-base would be the highest ever beating Ted Williams in 1941 by a good 13 points. His slugging average would be the fourth highest behind only Ruth and himself, again. He's on a pace to break his walk record from last year. He's batting .354. I dare you not to give it to him.
Pujols is 12th in OPS in the NL, Green is 9th, and Sosa is 4th but on a team that has not contented all year (not that that would eliminate him for me, but it would for the voters). ]
Being and Nothingness
Red_ice: Are you seriously comparing doctors to baseball players? Gee, I wonder which one is more important in this country. You don't see doctors going on strike, do you?
Joe Morgan: Yes. I guarantee you every profession has been on strike in this country. All I said was if you had a special skill, you are paid more. I didn't say anything about baseball players and doctors. I talked about their special skills. Read what I say rather than putting words in my mouth.
[Mike: Right, baseball players and doctors have special skills. Uh, I don't think doctors are striking much, Joe. You might want to reconsider that one.]
Tony, Everett (WA): Hi Joe, always love the chats. Alfonso Soriano is having an amazing year, becoming the first 2nd baseman to hit the 30-30 mark. But I can't stand people talking like this is the greatest season ever for a 2nd baseman. He's got a long way to go before he beats Rogers Hornsby's .756 SLG in 1925, or your own .444 OBP with 27 HR and 60 SB in 1976. Heck, I'd probably even call Jeff Kent's 2000 numbers better. What do you think?
Joe Morgan: I agree that this is not the greatest season by a second baseman, but he plays in New York, and that adds to anything you do. But make no mistake, what he is doing is very special. It's awesome, and he could end up with 40-40. Hornsby had some unbelievable years. When the Yankees won 114 games in '98, they were heralded as the greatest ever. But when the Mariners won 116 games last year, they were talked about in the same way. Everything in New York is heightened.
[Mike: Huh? OK, let's piece it back together. Exhibit A: Soriano is having a great year. Exhibit B: Hornsby had some great years. Exhibit C: The Yankees were considered the best team when they won 114, but then when Seattle won 116, they were considered better. But Exhibit D: Everything in NY is heightened. How? What does it have to do with Soriano and a player most people, regrettably, don't remember and who had not played in living memory? Dammit, Sam, I just can't figure it out. I am giving up forensic pathology and am moving in with a neat freak. Bye.]
Will-ful Negligence George F. Will
George F. Will is one of the most popular (and most conservative) columnists and news show personalities in the country. He has won a Pulitzer Prize for his work. And yet he may be best known as a huge baseball fan.
He has written two popular books on baseball and appeared in Ken Burns' Baseball documentary. It only seems natural that he would appear on MLB's Blue Ribbon Panel on economics whose findings are the basis of the owners' proposals in these labor talks. It seems that whenever there is a forum in which the grand ol' game is discussed that Will is present.
And yet a number of muckrakers have the temerity to call him a shill especially after a recent article he wrote entitled Baseball's Disparities. Merriam-Webster's online defines "shill" as "one who acts as a decoy (as for a pitchman or gambler); also : one who makes a sales pitch." That would appear to be someone who acts at another's behest. Shame on anyone for calling Will a shill (even if it rhymes). I take exception at such a description of such a popular and respected gentleman. Will is far from a shill; rather he is an outright scoundrel. Anyone calling him a shill owes every shill in America an apology. The article of which I spoke (wrote?) is dated August 11, and it has taken me this long to remove the remnants of bile (figuratively) from my system. That this individual occupies a position of respect and authority on any subject, but especially on baseball, is perhaps the worst indictment of our society since they outlawed Pop Rocks because of the fictional death of Mikey from the Life cereal commercials.
So what is the cause of my consternation? Well, said George Will sits on the Commissioner's Blue Ribbon Panel and then reports its findings in his article as if the were his own ideas and deductions. Well, that's not so bad if the information is factual, right? The panel consisted of 16 individuals, 12 of whom, as Doug Pappas states, "own or operate major league baseball teams. The four "independent" members are Yale president Richard C. Levin, who drafted the owners' 1989 salary cap proposal; former Federal Reserve Board chairman Paul Volcker, who represented the owners on the last blue-ribbon economic panel, in 1992; former Senator George Mitchell, often mentioned as a possible Commissioner; and columnist George Will, who in a remarkable conflict of interest serves on the boards of both the Orioles and the Padres." Does this sound like an independent body. But there's more re. Will: Hoovers online states it even more strongly, "the team's (Orioles') minority owners include author Tom Clancy, columnist George Will, filmmaker Barry Levinson, sportscaster Jim McKay, and tennis player Pam Shriver." I could not find any evidence that he is an actual owner of the Padres.
Wait a minute, I read his article (as well as his online bio) and nowhere does it mention that he is a minority owner or a board member of any team. Well, that must have been an oversight. Since George Will is obviously representing the owners' side, as he is an owner, there must be equal time given to the players' columnist. Sorry, the Washington Post does not believe in fair play nor does it investigate its columnists particular financial interests before providing them with a forum from which to vent their views. The First Amendment is a wonderful thing, isn't it?
Now that we know whom Will represents, let's take a look at the contents of his screed:
All I can do is quote Chuck D. in saying, "Don't believe the hype"-You can't believe anything George Will is saying.
Marked Quotes Here are some
Here are some quotes from the greatest page on the web, BP's Week in Quotes:
Feet First The New York
The New York Mets are in the midst of an 11-game losing streak (just 6 short of their rookie-year nadir of 17) and are experiencing a 3-17 August. They started the current streak one game over .500, 13.5 games behind the Braves, in 2nd place in the NL East. They are now ten games in arrears at 58-68, in last place in the NL East, 23 games behind Atlanta. They started the month at 55-51, in third place in the wild-card standings just 4.5 games behind the leader, Los Angeles. They are now 14.5 games behind the Dodgers in ninth place in the wild-card standings (with only four teams behind them).
For the month they are batting .233 with a .298 on-base percentage, a .331 slugging average, and a .629 OPS (on-base plus slugging). They have been outscored 96 to 53 for the month. Of the position played who have played regularly in the month, only Rey Ordonez is batting over .264 (.328 with an .806 OPS). The pitching has held its own with a 4.27 ERA, but with a run support average of 2.7 runs per game for the month, it has not mattered.
All of this probably spells the end in New York for manager Bobby Valentine and GM Steve Phillips before next season if not sooner. The NY Times evidently has sooner in mind when it recounts the ouster of Dallas Green six years ago Monday that gave then Triple-A manager Valentine his chance. It occurred when Green and the Mets returned to New York after a road trip. The Mets return from their current road trip on Thursday.
Valentine apparently sees the writing on the wall and has chosen to go down fighting, fighting with his players that is. "Some guys have shown their true colors...Just a sense some guys could've done more," Valentine is quoted as saying in the Times. He backed away from comments that he had made in a radio interview that owner Fred Wilpon should fire him if Wilpon feels he is to blame, saying that he was stating the obvious.
Valentine pointed to Edgardo Alfonso and Al Leiter whose contract issues he claimed "made them less team-oriented." Leiter, who re-signed with the Mets during the season, didn't take kindly to Valentine's remarks: "If he's accusing me of not being a team player, he's wrong."
The Times then states that "[t]oday Valentine mentioned David Weathers, Scott Strickland, Mark Guthrie, Vance Wilson and Joe McEwing as players who had kept the team first during the losing. Later, he added Timo Perez and Jeromy Burnitz."
For the record, Alfonza has been hurt but was 4-for-9 in the two games he played in August. Leiter has a 4.33 ERA, about the team average, and has one of their three wins for the month. In August Strickland has been good with a 3.27 ERA, but Guthrie (8.22 ERA with two losses) and Weathers (5.68) have not. McEwing is batting .185 for the month with a .399 OPS but still has gotten decent playing time. Wilson is batting .231 in August, about the team average, but maybe singling out backup catcher Wilson is a way to send a message to starter Piazza, who is struggling. Perez is batting .250 (4th among the regulars), and Burnitz .200 for the month.
It seems that Valentine has decided to bestow his approbation while ignoring actual performance. Maybe he is just expressing his frustration with the team for "rolling their eyes" when he says things like his clubhouse "disciples" need to carry his message, and so now he is singling out those disciples who have. Maybe he was just sending some love out to his peeps. Whatever the reason, he is not being very empowering or synergistic or any of the other '90s buzzwords for proactive and playing nice.
Phillips, however, has decided to go out with the "Let's put on a show, kids" mentality:
"I haven't studied the numbers," Phillips said, "but it would probably be one of the biggest comebacks in the game if we come back this year. But we have to play every day and every inning like we believe that can happen. We have to play with the kind of pride a champion has even though we haven't played like champions."
The Mets though not mathematically elimated are as dead as door nails. Phillips must know that on some level. Phillips probably realizes that he is more responsible having re-built this team in the offseason and is just trying to save his job, but it is highly likely that both will go and possibly soon.
Just think that if the Mets were to endure a streak like their current one going forward, they would be second to only league doormat Milwaukee in futility. Whatever happens with the rest of the Mets season, it will be a far cry from what had been anticipated.
Fixing a Hole My friend
Fixing a Hole
My friend Mike Markowitz directed me to this article. Evidently, the Phils-Brewhas fiasco was the last straw-Stadium and team officials are now vowing to permanently fix Miller Park. Make sure to click on the graphic of the park, about a third of the way down the page on the right. It will link you to an interesting page that details the problems that have been encountered. A number of them were apparent in the game the other night. Though the rain between first and second that was apparent durting the game is not listed. Hmm... I hope they spackle there too.
Mike also informs me that "Selig" is German is for "Blessed". And "dog" spelled backwards is "god". It kind of makes you think, huh?
By the way, I just found this online German-English dictionary. I discovered that the German expression "Wer's glaubt, wird selig!" means "A likely story!" in English. If I could pronounce it, it would be my new tagline.
Loopy Lupica Mike Lupica of
Mike Lupica of the New York Daily News usually writes thought-provoking, well-researched pieces. That is why his last two articles on the baseball labor situation have seemed so odd. He has apparently taken on the role of the owners' pit poodle. It's as if he has started channeling George Will. He admits that "Bud Selig isn't a saint here," but then proceeds to blame the players for all of the evils of the game, real or imaginary.
Witness the following bits from the two articles:
Lupica next time get your facts straight.
AL West Still Enjoying A
AL West Still Enjoying A Three-Way?
The Angels fell like the freshly clipped Lucifer into third today with a 4-2 loss to the Yankees. The A's and Mariners, both victors tonight, now have a two-way tie for first with a one game lead over Angels, right?
Not so fast. They are all still tied in losses at 51. The Angels have two games in hand and, therefore, are two wins behind. But for the time being I will try to view this wonderful pennant race still as a dead heat. Anaheim will have a tough time of it playing the newly inspired (Ranger pitching coupled with a Nomar pep talk will do that to you) Bosox at Fenway while the A's and M's go a-feeding on the easy pickings of the AL Central (Detroit and Cleveland, respectively).
Why Curt Schilling Should Win
Why Curt Schilling Should Win the NL Cy Young
With nods to Roy Oswalt, Tom Glavine, and Matt Morris, the National League Cy Young race has now become a two-man contest between Arizona teammates Curt Schilling and Randy Johnson, the men that finished second and first, respectively, last year. Both have had outstanding seasons, but I think that Schilling's has been just a tad better. If the Cy Young were awarded for the 2002 season today, Schilling should win.
The statheads like to point out that Johnson has a lower ERA (Johnson is 1st in the NL while Schilling is 5th currently) and more strikeouts (Johnson is first by a grand total of 4) in fewer innings. They would also point out that while Schilling has three more wins, he has been helped a lot by his relieving corps (in Baseball Prospectus's top ten in this category), has gotten 6.19 runs per game to Johnson's 6.02, and is only .4 support-neutral wins ahead of Johnson according to BP. Johnson has allowed 10 fewer hits in 3.1 fewer innings which translates into 6.95 hits per game to Schilling's 7.27. These are all valid points, one's by which I would usually be convinced and one's that were convincing last year, but they are just part of the equation this year.
Schilling run average (i.e., runs divided by innings pitched times 9 innings) is 2.73 to Johnson's 2.90. Well, some of that is not within Johnson's control. True. How about WHIP (walks plus hits per innings pitched)? Schilling leads .904 to 1.060. This translates into 9.54 base runners per game for Johnson to 8.13 for Schilling. Schilling's ungodly strikeout-to-walk ratio (12.95) is nearly 3 times Johnson's (4.46). Schilling has also used fewer pitches in pitching his games, 14.2 per inning pitch to 15.7 for Johnson. His average game score, a dubious stat I will give you, is 1 point higher than Johnson's (66.6 to 65.6). While batters are hitting 5 points higher against Schilling (.218 to .213), Schilling's opponents' on-base percentage is 40 points lower (.238 to .278, first and third in the NL) and he is almost 20 points lower in opponents' slugging average (.342 to .359, 3rd and 11th in the NL). The result is that Schilling has the lowest opponents' OPS (on-base plus slugging) in the NL (.580, 25 points lower than #2 A. J. Burnett), while Johnson is fifth nearly 60 points behind (.638). Finally, comparing the somewhat esoteric statistics employed by Baseball Prospectus (Adjusted Pitcher Wins, Support-Neutral Value Added, and Support-Neutral Wins Above Replacement-Level), Schilling wins hands down.
Johnson has been great, but Schilling has been even better. In the AL, there is a similar race between teammates Derek Lowe and Pedro Martinez, but Lowe seems to be a more salient choice. We'll have to see what happens down the stretch, if there is one.
They Call Me...Tim Tim Kurkjian
They Call Me...Tim
Tim Kurkjian has an article today on why there won't be a strike. As usual Kurkjian misses the boat entirely. His five reasons are as follows:
1) There's too much to lose on both the players' and the owners' parts. Well, this is always what they say in these situations and yet we are 8 for 8 in work stoppages. The owners always say that the players are making so much that they can't avoid to stop--how does that make sense? Kurkjian also prints the owners' claim that a number of teams won't make it back if there is a strike without realizing it was just a PR statement.
The problem with this sophistic argument is that there is always something to gain, and that is why there are negotiations. If there was nothing to gain in the labor process, then the owners and players would both concede to each other's demands, and puppies and kitties would rule the earth.
2) September 11. He may have a point here. The players do not want to be on strike on the anniversary of the attacks. They remember how important the sport was to the country last year and do not want to spoil it now. They are also human beings with a conscious, who realize that they have been very fortunate.
That said, baseball is a business. A number of things have happened in the business world since last September 11th, and most have not been for the better. There have been massive layoffs in the last year. Will all of those people be re-hired before the anniversary so that the companies will not lose face for being so callous on this somber day. I think not.
3) Bud's legacy. None of the owners care about Bud's legacy except for his daughter and himself if you still consider him an owner. Actually, having a convenient scapegoat is a great advantage for the owners. The owners can be swayed and channeled by Selig, but cannot get them to do something that they do not believe in. They will settle if it is in their best interest to do so.
4) It's about the money. He admits the fallacy of this argument at the end of the paragraph. Donald Fehr has been quoted as saying that the luxury tax is a de facto salary cap in his leaked memo to the players. Whether that was a negotiating position, propaganda to his constituency, or a strongly-held belief has yet to be determined, but it's safe to say that it is about slightly more than money.
5) Public relations. Baseball has made it abundantly clear that they are not concerned with public relations. Contraction, claims of teams' insolvency to the point of their being unable to make payroll, and statements regarding competitive balance, or the lack thereof, have all made headlines in the past year. They are concerned about public perception of their product, but no so far as to alter their plans dramatically to garner public approval. I'm convinced that the key people believe as Barry Bonds stated so eloquently, "People still ride the bus."
If you need a reason why there will not be a strike it's that a new Collective Bargaining Agreement will have been signed. That's it. I believe that there will be baseball on August 30, not because of PR or Bud or 9/11, but because they are close enough, from all reports, to get a deal done. Of course, all bets are of until we get Bud Selig's and Don Fehr's John Hancocks on a new CBA.
Cry Me a Rivera The
Cry Me a Rivera
The Angels beat the Yankees 5-1 in eleven innings yesterday. No, that wasn't a typo, the Angels scored four in the 11th to beat Jeff Weaver. The three-way logjam at the top of the AL West will persist for one more glorious day since Oakland and Seattle both won as well. The Yankees failed to score in their last ten innings. The hit that lead off the inning, a slicing blopper (if that's possible) by Brad Fullmer, spun like it had English on it past John Vander Wal for a single and an error (even though ESPN erroneously reports that it was a double--My mistake: it had been changed from a hit and an error). Ironically, Shane Spencer had made a great diving catch in left earlier in the ballgame but was pinch-hit for by Vander Wal, who took over his spot in left as well.
If you look at the pitch-by-pitch game log it seems even odder. For one thing Scott Spiezio whose homer broke open the game started his AB bunting and hit the home run on an 0-2 pitch taking off the bunt. In total Weaver threw a total of 19 pitches to 9 batters in the inning, 5 of whom got hits and four of whom scored. Four of those batters hit the first pitch offered. It reads as if some one had recorded batting practice. Weaver threw 14 strikes and 5 balls (3 of which were to Troy Glaus, the final batter of the inning) which sounds great but nine of those strikes were put in play and 5 became hits. I didn't see it but he must have been throwing some pretty inviting pitches. Why did Torre stick with him?
Well, maybe the bullpen was depleted with Rivera injured and all? The Yankees used four pitchers to the Angels five. They had lefty Sterling Hitchcock who had not pitched since August 13 and righty Mike Thurman who had not pitched since August 10 available. Ramiro Mendoza was also available but had pitched in 6 of the last 10 games going into last night's ballgame. The Angels had a well balanced lineup: 4 lefties and 5 righties batted in the 11th inning. They also had three righthanded bats on the bench Shawn Wooten, Benji Gill, and the injured and possibly unavailable Tim Salmon.
Why didn't Hitchcock come in after the home run to pitch to the lefthanded Adam Kennedy? Well maybe Torre saw the righthanded bats on the bench and the two righty batters in the lineup after Kennedy. But then, after two more men got on, it was first and third with one out and lefty Darin Erstad at bat. Why didn't he bring in Hitchcock to keep it close then? Weaver had just thrown 10 pitches to 5 batters, only one of whom did not reach base. Erstad sent a ground ball to first, Giambi went home too late scoring Kennedy from third, and leaving two men still on base. Weaver then got two of the next three men out on fly balls using 8 pitches and allowing one more run in the process.
This broke a 24-inning scoreless streak for the Yankee bullpen. Well, that might be deceiving since the Yankee bullpen has been basically Ramiro Mendoza, Steve Karsay, Mike Stanton, and, when not on the DL, Mariano Rivera. It appears that Torre has been purposefully resting Karsay (2 appearances in last 6 games) since overworking the bejesus out of him August 4 to August 14th (seven appearances in nine games). Stanton has appeared in 8 of the last 12 Yankees games. Mendoza as mentioned above has pitched quite often lately. And of course Mariano Rivera is serving his third DL stint of the year.
The other Yankee pen mates have had little to no work of late. Hitchcock and Thurman haven't pitched in at least a week. Weaver had pitched once since August 9 going into the game. Is it any wonder he was rusty? Joe Torre has said that he is not relying on Rivera's return for the postseason. The Yankees had better find a way to work these other pitchers in before Mendoza, Karsay, and Stanton's arms fall off. If they do not feel that these are the men for the job, there must be some veteran relievers that can be had for a reasonable price before the end of the waiver-trade deadline (August 31). The Yankees were so concerned with collecting starting pitchers and outfielders during the season that now they have a surfeit at both those positions. The one hole that they never filled was the bullpen. It was an issue before Rivera went down (each time) and even more of an issue now.
One Note: How cool is it that the Angels now have half of the Molinas to ever play major-league baseball not only on the roster but constituting their catching corps? Yesterday Jose started but Bengie pinch-hit for him and took over manning the tools of ignorance.
The Faith of 250 Million
The Faith of 250 Million People
The owners submitted a counter proposal today in which they dropped the amount of revenue that would be redistributed from $282 million to $270 million annually. This may be seen as a baby step given that the players had already agreed to go up from $169 million to $235 million. But given that there is only a $35 million dollar difference now, they should be able to work out a deal. Considering that Darin Erstad's deal was almost that much money, this would appear to be chump change for the owners.
It Never Rains But It
It Never Rains But It Pours
I finally got to see the infamous Miller Park leaky roof in action tonight. The Phillies and Brewers were playing while a steady stream like a sheet pour down on the first base line and between first and second. Cameras showed children cavorting in the stands dodging the downpour.
The Brewers moundsmen proved even leakier allowing 13 runs on 17 hits, tying a season high for the Phillies. It was the most runs by the Phillies since they won 15-4 on May 24 at Florida, the other game in which they had 17 hits.
Lidle Hands Corey Lidle pitched
Corey Lidle pitched a 1-hit shutout tonight for the A's against the Indians in Cleveland running his consecutive scoreless innings streak to 31. In total Cleveland had two baserunners: the one hit, a single by Ellis Burks and a walk to Jim Thome, which were back-to-back in the first inning. Lidle was perfect through the last eight and one-third innings. The scoreless streak is set to go another three games before the Devil comes to collect his soul.
This was his second one-hit shutout of his season, the first coming July 19 against Texas (the first one also had one walk). He did pitch 7 scoreless innings of one-hit ball (with 2 walks) on August 4 against Detroit to start his scoreless streak (relivers itched the last 2 innings without a hit). Before the streak he was 3-9 with a 5.15 ERA. He is now 7-9 with a 4.04 ERA.
How improbable is all this for Lidle? In 65 major-league starts he has three complete games and two shutouts, both in the last month. In his 87 minor-league starts, he had 10 complete ganmes (6 for independent Pocatello of the Pioneer League) and one shutout in 1994 (for Beloit of the Midwestern League). Of course Lidle has had a rather improbable career. He has been in seven organizations (including Pocatello) though he only made it to the majors with three of them. And of those three major-league teams that he has pitched for, only the A's have allowed him to be a starter. He has pitched in a grand total of 293 professional games and has only started about half of them (152).
One last Lidle note: He was acquired by the A's from Tampa Bay in a three-team deal January 8, 2001. The A's also received Mark Ellis, their starting second baseman, and Johnny Damon, their former starting outfielder, from the Royals. The A's gave up Ben Grieve, who has proved a bust; A. J. Hinch, the Royals backup catcher; and Angel Berroa, who had a cup of coffee with the Royals last year.
No, You Stay 'Ere And
No, You Stay 'Ere And Make Sure 'E Doesn't Leave
The American Swimming Coaches Association wants to kick union chief Donald Fehr off the board of the United States Olympic Committee. They are concerned about steroid drug use in athletics and claim that "Mr. Fehr is waffling on this issue."
Didn't they resolve this, or am I crazy? Yes, the plan is weak and won't stop a darn thing, but the owners and the players agreed on this issue. Besides, Fehr is the players' representative and must act in their best interests. He is not acting out of personable beliefs. Do you think that these people are a bit jealous of the press coverage that baseball gets while their sport languishes out of the public eye?
"It's My Last Beer." "We'll
"It's My Last Beer." "We'll Split It."
Here's a cautionary tale: Next time that you go to Vegas or AC and promise to place a bet with the proceeds to be split among your buddies, consider Jay Arsenault. Arsenault is the lucky man who caught Barry Bond's 600th nome run ball. Well, "caught" may be an inappropriate word. He's the guy who emerged from the resultant scrum with the ball. He is now being sued by three friends with whom he allegedly promised to split any proceeds should he catch Bond's 600th, a laughably remote prospect at the time. Expect other friends, relatives, and every girl with whom Mr. Arsenault ever had intercourse to start lining up for the big pay day soon.
Come And Knock on Our
Come And Knock on Our Door
The AL West is now a three-way tie, and with the strike date set for August 30, it may be a mad dash for the Mariners, A's, and Angels to be on top on that day. The theory is that the rest of the season may be lost, but the strike will be settled for the playoffs, and the standings as of the strike day will be final. Let's see who each team plays before August 30:
Anaheim (9): 2 games @ New York, 4 @ Boston, 3 vs. Tampa Bay
It seems that the Angels have the hardest row to hoe with the Yankees (who are playing well even though they have nothing to play for at this point) and the Red Sox (who are fighting for their playoff lives but not playing particularly well), though they do have a slam dunk series with Tampa Bay as well. Oakland, the hottest of the three teams, plays three sub-.500 teams from the AL Central. The M's don't have such a difficult schedule either with only Minnesota (who like the Yanks have nothing to play for, but unlike the Yanks just seem to be coasting) to worry about. Well, the way they have been playing the Tigers, maybe they have to worry about everyone.
The Mariners seem set to become the Janice of this situation. Oakland seems to have the easiest ride. My prediction (which are always notoriously wrong) is that Oakland wins maybe 6 (6-2). Seattle plays .500 ball (4-4). Anaheim splits with the Yankees, wins two in Boston, and takes all 3 from TB at home, for a total of 6 wins (6-3). The A's head into the strike up half a game on the Angels (because of their extra game). If the scenario described above plays out and these are the final standings, the Angels would be the wild card. Boston and Seattle would both be out of the playoff pitcure, something that seemed unlikely before the All-Star break.
Of course, if this does happen, fans will be robbed of what could have been an all-time classic pennant race. Each team is scheduled to play each other a number of times down the stretch including a final series between two. It would be a shame for it to end with Tampa Bay, Kansas City, and Minnesota their opponents on the last day of the season.
Outcrumbing Vinny One postgame note
One postgame note on Sunday's Phils-Cards game: On Philadelphia's WMMR radio station there is a uh, let's call him a personality, named Vinny the Crumb. He does short sports blurbs on the AOR/MOR radio station. His sense of humor consists of calling the Phillies "the Sillies" and Eagle coach Andy Reid "Fat Ass" using a South Philly accent. He borders on the offensive when he calls Vicente Padilla "Vicente Clemente Tortilla Padilla" (yeah, some latin names end in vowels-get over it) and crosses way over to very offensive when he calls Padilla "the big-lipped Mexican."
So when this very same Vinny the Crumb chastised the Vets Stadium faithful on Monday for booing Scot Rolen I was surprised. When he asked why the fans boo a player who didn't want to play for a team that didn't want to win instead of booing management I was shocked. Someone as boorish and crude,-I know the joke is that he is purposely so, but it seems to come a lttile too naturally-when he has more class than the fans of Philadelphia that sould tell you something.
Loria's Midas Touch Jeffrey Loria's
Loria's Midas Touch
Jeffrey Loria's new team, the Marlins, has now passed his old team, the Expos, for worst attendance in baseball.
Now I get it. Bud Selig orchestrated the sales of the Expos, Marlins, and Red Sox in order to 1) establish MLB's ownership of the Montreal club and 2) provide Loria with another club to decimate, so that 3) they can fold the Expos and the Marlins at the end of the season.
Sound plausible? Read the book!
Damn You, Thomas Wolfe Ever
Damn You, Thomas Wolfe
Ever since organized baseball climbed out of the primordial slime of town ball and cat o' nine tails, you could say that Philadelphia has been second fiddle to New York in the baseball annuls. Baseball was first played on a diamond in the "New York Game, " which proved more popular than the square-based "Massachusetts Game." New York clubs led by the first team, the Knickerbockers, organized the first amateur association, the National Association of Base Ball Players (yeah, two words). The organization proved successful and it survived until professionalism tore it apart. But like a phoenix it was reborn as the National Association of Professional Base Ball Players (NA), the father of today's National League.
Anyway, Philadelphia became the first non-New York area city to supply teams in large numbers, starting with five clubs in 1861 to the National Association of Base Ball Players (Detroit had had a short-lived club two years earlier). Philadelphia and New York were the only two cities to be represented by multiple teams in the NA. (That is, if you include Brooklyn which would not be incorporated into New York City proper until 1898. Also, note that Philadelphia had three teams in 1875 to New York's 2.) Philadelphia and New York were also yoked together as the two cities, though they were the two largest in the country at the time, to be unceremoniously jettisoned by the William Hulbert-controlled NL in 1876 for not completing a road trip out West (well, Midwest). Neither city was re-admitted to the majors until the NL felt pressure to re-group in 1883-taking over the forfeited Worcester and Troy franchises-because of the growth of the rival American Association, the so-called "Beer and Whiskey" league.
As the American League became the rival and then partner major league to the NL, clubs for each city were established in both leagues. The Philadelphia Athletics became the stronger of the two Philly teams and bore the city's original and signature nickname. The Phillies somehow survived while being one of the worst of the original 16 teams. The A's moved to greener pastures in Kansas City after the 1954 season. The Phillies had become more popular than the A's right before the relocation-happy Fifties so they remained in Philly. They also secured a wealthy ownership in the heirs to the wealthy DuPont family in the Carpenter family. The Phillies went through a few more decades of ups and downs culminating in their golden period 1976-83, in which they won the World Series once, were NL Champs twice, and were NL East Champs 5.5 times (they split it with Montreal in the strike shortened 1981 season). Former Met Tug McGraw said during the parade to celebrate their 1980 World Championship that "New York could take this World Championship and shove it," while holding aloft the seemingly no-longer-desired World Championship trophy. Since then the Phillies have been reduced to also-ran status in their good years and doormats in their bad, the one exception being their improbable 1993 World Series appearance. And New York has had more than its far share of World Series championships.
What does this have to do with a damn thing, you ask? Well, on Sunday I returned for the first time this season to my childhood stomping grounds, the Vet, to see the Phils play the Cards and to see them honor recently inducted Hall-of-Fame broadcaster Harry Kalas. And I was reminded in every brush stroke, great or small, of why Philadelphia is the second-rate city that it is. First, I was set to arrive at the game a half-hour early with tickets already reserved. You see, I was taking my three-year-old to her first major-league baseball game, one with a give away-twin bobblehead dolls of long-time booth partners Harry Kalas and Richie Ashburn-and a half-hour early was the best I could do. Of course, I did not realize that this would be the first sellout (besides the Scot Rolen trade) for the Phillies all season and that the X-Games-can't they just replace that so-called event with a video game or something-happened to be across the street at the Spectrum. Needless to say, my half-hour early arrival time was insufficient, and as I was redirected by desiccated and apathetic Philly police officers to a lot about two miles from the Vet, which had an admission price of $20, it became an hour late arrival instead.
By the time we got to the turnstiles, all of the bobblehead dolls were gone and their were giving out vouchers to pick up ones on October 31 (!) at the Vet. As if this weren't annoying enough, Dominic my ticket taker explained this by saying that our tickets were no good and that we would get a rain check. It took two or three minutes and a fellow ticket taker as interpreter to understand what he was saying. By the way, while watching the game practically everyone I saw had more than one of these dolls, some as many as a half-dozen. Also, a group of young entrepreneurs had set up shop in the concourse selling dolls at $20 a pop. They evidently did not observe the "No Shirt, No Shoes, No Dice" policy. But enough about the damn dolls.
Back to the game itself. It was a good pitchers' duel until the sixth when Vicente Padilla gave up a grand slam to Edgar Renteria. That was basically the ballgame. The locals didn't seem to care. The highlight for them was an eighth-inning solo shot by Bobby Abreu, which though only narrowing the lead to four elicited high fives all around.
Of course, any cheering for the home team has to be exceeded by booing at the former draft pick who sat out a season to force a trade, J.D. Drew. You have to respect the Phils fans for remembering-it's been four years-but you have to wonder what basic need expressing their anger at the former Phillies' property fulfills. The biggest hand of the night, however, came when two sober lads in faux diapers sauntered around the 600 level with a hand-painted sign that read, "Rolen's Cry Babies." Scot Rolen, the recently traded Phil, was out of the game with an injury. He did come out to congratulate Harry Kalas before the game (I found out later) and was roundly booed for his respects-paying. I heard a group of cranks, as they used to be called, discussing his cowardice. They then chastised Travis Lee for a botched play at first and lamented the woebegone days of Rico Brogna, declaring that Rico would have turned two on the play (while ignoring that neither player is much of a major-league first baseman).
The day culminated with the purchase of a Phillie Phanatic doll for my daughter that, of course, could not be purchased with a credit card because the souvenir stand folks could not get the card reader to work, either through ignorance or mechanical failure. Then we trudged back through Camden to our car in the 100-degree heat.
Needless to say, I will not be hurrying back to the Vet for some time. On the way to our car we passed the site of the ground-breaking for the new Phillies stadium, which is to be completed in 2004. They might get me back by then. But given that my daughter has declared that the Yankees ("the Ankees") are her team, I might forego the reunion and start enjoying my baseball in a real facility in a first-rate city surrounded by more evolved fans. I can't change allegiances, but I can at least enjoy the game.
A Wholesale Attack On The
A Wholesale Attack On The Salary Structure
That's how union chief Donald Fehr termed the owners' main objective in the labor talk in a memo to the players. Fehr claimed that the owners' luxury tax threshold would affect seven teams if imposed in 2001 to the tune of $282 million in tax and that there are five other teams within $10 million of the threshold.
"Simply put, the clubs' proposed tax is designed to and would apply enormous pressure to reduce payrolls," Fehr said. "Its purpose is to lower salaries."
Both sides are preparing for a siege. This does not look good.
The Greatest Living Pitcher Baseball
The Greatest Living Pitcher
Baseball Prospectus today has an analysis of the greatest living pitcher. It's analogous to the ever-popular greatest living hitter question. They proceed to compare the greatest pitchers from all time by normalizing across eras. They then compare the peaks for all pitchers to determine the greatest living pitcher. Their conclusion? Roger Clemens, they claim, is the greatest living pitcher, a wholly defensible position. The study is fascinating as pitchers from various eras are juxtaposed.
I also believe that the study is inherently flawed. As I surveyed the peak values, I was, at first, surprised and, ultimately, highly suspicious of the ranking of pitchers from my childhood, especially Steve Carlton and Tom Seaver. I don't want to be one for era bias, but I find it hard to believe that five current pitchers had better peaks than Seaver, i.e., Clemens, Maddux, Martinez, Johnson, and Brown.
I then investigated the metrics used. The metric that they based the study on is called normalized runs against (NRA, a rather unfortunate acronym):
NRA: RA (Runs Allowed) normalized for league and park. Measured on a scale like ERA, with 4.50 being average in any given year.
They then convert NRA to a 100-based standard-where 100 is average-called RA+.
Pitchers are ultimately ranked by a stat called Value. Value is "represented by the number of seasons leading the league in IP with a league average RA+." It is determined, as far as I can tell, by a combination of innings pitched and RA+. "For instance, leading the league in IP with an RA half of league average is worth 2.00 VALUE."
I have a number of issues with this Value. First,-and this may just be me-I do not fully understand how it is derived. Second, from what I do understand, I am not sure what it is measuring. Third,-and this is the big one-I think that it is fundamentally flawed.
Here's my argument: BP normalizes the statistics for ballpark and era, but there are era differences that affect these metrics that cannot be normalized away. First the choice of IP (innings pitched) as a key metric. They rank the leaders in IP from 1.00 to .99 down to 0. So it's normalized right? Consider that there are 10-12 man staffs, using five-man rotations, and a large number of relief pitchers per game on 30 different clubs today. In the past much smaller staffs were used, relief pitchers did not have today's connotation, and four-man rotations were employed on as few as 16 teams. There are so many more pitchers today that ranking IP would be unfair to today's pitchers. Or at least that's what I would expect though it does not seem so in the results of the study.
Let's try the other metric, RA+. Is it affected by era even though normalized? I believe so. What is different about today's era as opposed to say the Sixties? Well, scoring is way up, but if we normalized the data then this should not affect things, right? Let's see. Take the reasons that I mentioned above coupled with higher scoring and consider ERA even normalized. Wouldn't a higher average ERA and greater number of pitchers cause there to be a greater spread between the ERA values. I think this is part of the nature of the ERA statistic-it is bound at the lower to zero but unbound at the higher end. Think about it, you could have a zero ERA by not allowing any runs and by getting at least one batter out. You could also have an infinite ERA by allowing a run but not getting any batters out. So I maintain that in eras with lower average ERAs, the ERAs tend to converge or cluster around the average. As you add more pitchers and raise the average ERA, the values will tend to cluster less and less. Batting Average differs from ERA in that it is bound at both ends, at .000 for a minimum and at 1.000 for a maximum.
Therefore, I do not believe that Randy Johnson having a 2.50 ERA which is, let's say, half the league norm today compares to Bob Gibson in 1968 having a 1.12 ERA, which is, let's say, half of the league normalized average. I believe that this is why the current pitchers clustered at the top of their analysis unduly. Their conclusion may be correct. Roger Clemens may be the greatest living pitcher. But, I think, their analysis is too flawed to be used to back up that assertion.
Too Close For Comfort? Hello,
Too Close For Comfort? Hello, Mr. and Mrs. Rush!
The AL West now has three teams within 1 game of each other. Anaheim leads Seattle by two percentage points and Oakland lags in third, one game back. Anaheim also leads Seattle by one game and Oakland by two in the ever-important loss column.
Here are the teams' remaining playoff-caliber opponents:
Anaheim (39 games remaining): 3 vs. New York, 4 vs. Boston, 8 vs. Oakland, 6 vs. Seattle (including last series of season)
The Angels have the advantage of two extra games on hand. Seattle has the advantge of playing the last nine games against the other two with the greatest ability to make up ground at that point if it's close. Oakland has no advantages but is hot. Texas has a ticked-off Tom Hicks. The Rushes have a wacky house guest named Monroe.
It's going to be interesting if there's no strike.
Gammons: gammon [1, Noun] :
The Phillies re-signed 30-year-old catcher Mike Lieberthal to three-year, $22.25 million deal (with an option for a fourth year). Lieberthal is a good catcher but has had three healthy seasons as a starting catcher, including this one though it's not yet complete, in his nine-year career. One has to wonder how healthy he will remain of the course of the next three to four years.
That said, $7.42 million per season is a lot to pay for an oft-injured catcher given baseball's current market, in which Peter Gammons theorizes that even Jim Thome will "be fortunate to top $12 million -- and he comes with stats and character." Could it be that Gammons is overstating the chaotic state of MLB?
Padres Owner Ready To Cut
Padres Owner Ready To Cut Off Nose To Spite Face
San Diego Padre owner John Moores said yesterday that he is prepared to remain out of business for a year if there is a players' strike in order to get the kind of deal that the owners need. He offered to make that year this one and to make it retroactive to April 1st so that he can forget his team's wretched season.
He claims that other teams feel the same way, "I'd say 8 or 10, off the top of my head." Of course, you have to remember that this employs Ken Caminiti-steroid math so there is a plus/minus of 200 teams.
Moores expressed his concern for the common man by saying, "I'm not going to be a part of a crazy system where we have to keep raising ticket prices." Andrew Zimbalist in Baseball and Billions demonstrated that ticket prices are set to maximize profits, to find the best combination of high ticket price and high attendance. Therefore, the average ticket price during the free agent era has actually gone done when compared to 1950 ticket prices when inflation is taken into account. Actually what cause the greatest increase in ticket price are new stadiums. Owners believing that a new stadium is enough of an attraction in and of itself to command a higher fare have increased ticket prices: According to CNN, when the Pirates moved into a new stadium in 2001 the "average ticket price soared 82 percent to $21.48 from $11.80" the previous year and the Milwaukee Brewers also the recipient of a new stadium in 2001 "raised prices by more than half to an average of $18.12 from an average of $11.72." Now those teams are complaining of decreased attendance in the new stadium's second year. What do they expect when the gouge the locals as soon as they open the gate? CNN also reports as far as 2001 ticket prices are concerened "that baseball still is the lowest-price option among major sports." So much for playing to the gallery.
Moore is a member of a cadre of owners referred to as "hawks". Their influence over the commissioner is apparent by the degree to which he is prepared to deny their existence: "It's as wrong as wrong can be. There were no conference calls. There are people with all kinds of different views. Has there been any discussion by this so-called hawkish group? It's wrong; it's a bogus issue. There isn't a hawkish group putting pressure on me. I'm the one who knows who I talk to. I haven't talked to anyone." Methink he dost remind of the Martin Short chracter on SNL who has a meltdown while being interviewed by Mike Wallace saying, "Don't you think I know that? It's my business to know that." It's also reassuring to hear that Selig is not talking to any of the owners but just woking completely on his own as he maintains.
Meanwhile, the Yankees, who could lose a potential $100 million over the next four years if the proposed owners' plan is implemented, are contemplating legal action in the form of "a lawsuit they would bring against the commissioner and baseball if they consider the results of negotiations too financially onerous." The Yankees are joined by a group of wealthier and higher-salaried teams in opposing the commissioner's plan.
Of course, Bud Selig has continually maintained that some teams would go out of business if the system is not changed. He has yet to weigh in on how many teams would go under if there were a year-long strike. Evidently, San Diego has deep enough pockets to withstand the down time. Given that San Diego has always been termed a small-market team, it gives one pause to consider how many other teams have similarly well-line wallets. Which makes one wonder how much credence can be attributed to Selig's doom-and-gloom contentions or to the rest of his bluster for that matter.
Stranded Mariners The Mariners lost
The Mariners lost 4-3 tonight to the Tigers in Detroit and in the process stranded 23 total runners (that is the total for all players, 11 as a team). The M's fell into second place by percentage points behind the Angels in the process. In total the Mariners had 12 hits but only two extra base hits (doubles) and three walks. Usual sink holes Desi Relaford (0-for-2) and Jeff Cirillo (0-for-4) each stranded four (actually the two Seattle right fielders, Relaford and Sierra, stranded 7 on the night). Even old reliables John Olerud and Edgar Martinez stranded 3 and 4 runners each ahile having a decent night at the plate (Olerud 3-for-5 and Martinex 2-for-5).
Especially egregious was the Seattle fifth inning, in which the M's hit three consecutive singles and failed to score. Ichiro was caught stealing (his SB% is only 68% ever so slightly above the break-even point), McLemore was thrown out by 10 feet trying to go from first to third on a single. In the sixth they had runners at first and third and no outs, but failed to score. In the first they had the bases loaded with one out and Sierra grounded into a double play.
A Thousand Monkeys... Since Sandy
A Thousand Monkeys...
Since Sandy Alomar, Jr. became the Rockies starting catcher on July 31, the team ERA has dropped nearly a run per (5.02 pre-Alomar, 4.09 since), their WHIP (Walks Plus Hits Per Innings Pitched) has dropped 20 points (1.49 to 1.26), but their HR/IP has gone up slightly (.13 to .17). They are 10-6 since his acquisition.
The starting rotation in particular has been greatly affected by Alomar's presence:
Pitcher Pre-Alomar Since Alomar W- L ERA W-L ERA Mike Hampton 5-13 6.87 2-0 3.16 Denny Neagle 4- 7 5.92 2-0 0.45 Jason Jennings 10- 5 4.76 4-0 1.35 Denny Stark 6- 2 3.69 2-1 4.91 Shawn Chacon 5- 7 4.88 0-3 10.29
If he can calm this staff maybe he is worth keeping around.
What A Relief? Jose Jimenez
What A Relief?
Jose Jimenez came in to pitch the bottom of the ninth tonight in Atlanta with his Rockies leading 6-5. Jimenez quickly relinquished back-to-back home runs to the only men he faced, Gary Sheffield (on a 2-1 pitch) and Chipper Jones, who hit homers in back-to-back innings (on a 1-1 pitch). Jimenez had given up only 4 home runs in his 56 prior appearances this year and only 2 since the All-Star break.
Poor Mike Hampton went 6 2/3 giving up just 2 runs (but 4 walks and zero K's) but got the ND. He also lowered his ERA to 6.25, the lowest it's been since May 22.
Being Beaten with the 30-30
Being Beaten with the 30-30 Club
Alfonso Soriano accomplished the feat of being the first second baseman ever to gain entry into the 30-30 Club. My reaction is, "So What?" Is this season for Soriano really going to be defined by that accomplishment? Does it make anyone think any better of him?
Besides, Tommy Harper accomplished the feat as a third baseman in 1970, one year removed from his being a starting second baseman for the incomparable Pilots. Ron Gant entered the golden circle in 1990 (and again in '91) as a center fielder, two years removed from his last starting gig at second base.
My question is, does the 30-30 Club still serve a purpose or is it a throwback to an era when those numbers really were special? Today, scores of players routinely hit 30 home runs (33 MLB players project to 30 this year alone). Not many steal 30, but it's not because there is a dearth of speed (there are 18 players who project to 30 SBs this year). Rather, the stolen base has been relegated to the scrap heap by a number of teams who realize that the payoff is no longer so great when any of a number of subsequent batters may drive the runner in from first with one swing of the bat and the risk of using one of their outs is too great.
Look at A-Rod in 1998. He had a great year and was even a member of the 40-40 Club, but it was not his best year by a long shot. I would like to do an analysis one day of 30-30 men vs. players who either hit at least 30 homers but did not steal 30 bases or stole 30 bases and did not hit 30 homers to see if there is any real significance in actually doing both. Are the 30-30 men more valuable? I tend to doubt it but would have to do the analysis first.
By the way, I saw the ESPN report on Soriano yesterday and found out a few tidbits. If you missed it, it was kind of interesting. I knew that Soriano played in Japan for Hiroshima, but did not realize that he lost an arbitration hearing (basically between him, the commissioner, and the baseball officials-no reps allowed) and declared himself a free agent. He had been offered $40K to return to the minors in Japan where foreign players typically make $200K. He asked for $180K and lost. He turned down the contract, returned home, and waited to sign with an American team. Although the Carps threatened legal action should a MLB team sign Soriano, the Yankees took the chance, outbidding Mike Shapiro and the Indians in the process. Kind of cool.
Bell and Benoit and Pray
Bell and Benoit and Pray for Detroit
The Texas Rangers traded starter Ismael Valdez to Seattle yesterday. His competency has stuck out like a sore thumb in their rotation all year, and the Rangers felt that he deserved a chance to play on a team where his obvious lack of ineptitude would not prevent him from partaking in the reindeer games. The similarly skilled Kenny Rogers appears to still be a shoppable commodity.
With the loss of Valdez, the released Dave Burba, Chan Ho Park (to injury though he's due back 8/23), the demoted Doug Davis, and potentially Rogers, the Rangers could recycle their entire staff in one year. Unfortunately, a staff of Aaron Myette, Rob Bell, Joaquin Benoit and two scrubs to be named later does not fill the opposition with fear, but rather gets their salivary glands a-goin'. Expect lots of scoring in Texas, at least by the opposition, down the stretch.
Spare the A-Rod And Spoil
Spare the A-Rod And Spoil the Loaiza
Alex Rodriguez is back on top of the major-league home run heap. he hit two yesterday, one off Toronto starter Esteben Loaiza and one off reliever Corey Thurman. He tied the AL record of six homers in three days and has five in his last two games, although that's been done twice already this year (birthday boy Garciaparra and Green).
Is there still any doubt who the AL MVP is? What does the guy have to do to win the damn award?
Role-ing Rock to Retire-Will He
Role-ing Rock to Retire-Will He Gather Moss?
Tim Raines has announced his retirement at the end of this year, strike or no. Raines is batting .179 (still with a .360 OBP) for the Marlins this year. He is destined to be one of the great forgotten ballplayers, the Ron Santo of the past era. He is a living baseball anechronism, a throughback to the small-ball Eighties. Unfortunately, he never amassed the records that Rickey Henderson did to demand the respect that should be his (except for that silly nickname thing). But Raines was not as far behind Henderson as far as ability and deserves inclusion in the Hall when his time comes.
I have a feeling with all of the tremendous numbers being put up today, Raines smaller power numbers coupled with ungodly stolen base totals that may be without a reference point in today's game will leve him out in the Cooperstown cold. Even statheads will turn up their noses at his career .811 OPS (On-BasePlus Slugging) while only once breaking the .900 level in OPS in his career. What they will miss is that his career OPS is 24% better (as of 2001) than the league (adjusted for ballpark) during his career and that he once had an OPS 53% higher than the adjusted league average. His 84% stolen base percentage is outstanding for someone with 808 stolen bases in his career. The man deserves our respect if for no other reason than his long road back to major-league baseball after being diagnosed with Lupus. People will instead remember that he spend the last chunk of his career as a role player on various teams. This is unfair when one considers that he still played at a high level (his OPS was 20% better than the adjusted league average in 2001 at age 41).
Raines appears set to be the player unearthed by the next generations' Bill James. Let's see if Bill James Mach II can do more for Raines than the great Bill James did for the still un-enshrined Santo.
Double "Doh!" Colorado starter Jason
Colorado starter Jason Jennings beat Greg Maddux and the Braves today for his 14th win against only five losses. But the game was anythig but pleasant for Jennings. In the top of the second, he then took a 1-2 fastball off the earflap. He lay on the ground for some time but was able to continue. In the bottom of the inning Chipper Jones lined a ball back to his head which the surprised Jennings gloved almost effortlessly. Of course, he gave as good as he got hitting Vinny Castilla with an 0-1 pitch to lead off the bottom of the 2nd. Bob Gibson would be proud.
Pontificating Peter Peter Gammons bloviates
Peter Gammons bloviates on the insignificance of baseball and on how the owners and players are like spoiled Kenndey children trying to split the inheritence. It all seems pretty disingenuous coming from a guy whose career has been built suckling at the teet of Major League Baseball. His prediction that baseball will be become a second-tier sport ("[T]he NFL... will soon be to baseball what the Yankees are to the Souix Falls Canaries."), are unfounded.
Why is the situation so different from '94? He asserts that, "[T]he '95 comeback isn't happening again: the entertainment attention span is far different, football has lapped baseball in interest (hmmm ... maybe competition has something to do with that? ...), Ripken and Mark and Sammy ain't coming back through the door and, oh yes, these are completely different economic times." Well, let's take those in reverse order. Yes, today is a fairly bad financial time for many, but hasn't baseball been a form of cheap entertainment during poor financial times? I understand that the squabbling between the owners and the players is alienating a number of fans because of its juxtaposing with layoffs in many industries, but how will the players accepting less money help former Enron employees anyway? In 1994 Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire weren't the monoliths they appeared to be in '98: Sosa, who had just hit 25 home runs in strike-shortened '94 season, had yet to learn to lay off pitches and take a walk once in a while; McGwire had just completed two injury plagued seasons in which he played a total of 74 games with 18 home runs. No one anticipated them resurrecting baseball four years later. Perhaps greater stories are yet to be told by players for whom we have hardly any expectations. Cal Ripken's streak was a very rare story and one whose importance to society as a whole will be difficult. But maybe Barry Bonds chasing Henry Aaron would do it. As has been asserted a dozen different ways football is no more and arguably less competitive that baseball. It outpaces baseball in viewership but cannot replace baseball in the heart of thinking fans. Besides hasn't football been more popular than baseball since before '94? Our "entertainment attention span" may be shorter or it may not be. How do you measure that for certain? Yeah, the Sopranos are starting up again, but there were good shows in 1994, too.
He then takes the owners' party line: "Is there a long-term problem with competitive balance? Absolutely, when teams in the lower half of revenues have won five postseason games in five years." A) Why are they using postseason games when we are in the midst of dynastic run by a team in New York? Or maybe the question answers itself. B) Why is there a problem with competitive balance just because the owners say so? They won't divulge their real financial numbers. Teams are selling for more than ever. Team revenue growth is outpacing player salary growth according to the owner's own numbers. Owners are still willing to hand over cash in astronomical numbers (witness the recent Darin Erstad contract). Team ownership is more secure than ever with extremely financially strong backers.
"Should the players tell the owners how to share their revenues? How presumptuous, considering that labor lawyers have no experience running anything but briefs." The players would rubber-stamp the last CBA. If the owners want more revenue sharing in the next one, then the players have the right to put in their two-cents worth. It's called negotiating, Peter. The union may not know much about running a team but neither do most of the owners.
"Will the theory of bringing the bottom and the top closer together work? No one knows for sure, but it's worth trying as long as there is a floating threshold based on revenues and the teams taxed are limited to something in the four-to-seven range." The problem with any plan based on revenues alone is that small markets can generate big revenues (e.g., Cleveland, Seattle, St. Louis) and big markets can generate small revenues (Phillies). Besides the revenues as reported are, let's say, questionable and some teams are openly hiding money in cable contracts to sister companies. A plan based on salaries is even worse. His provisos seem good ones (4 to 7 teams, floating threshold), but how does he know a) that the owners and/or players agree and b) if this is an equitable plan? Has he done the research? If the players and their "labor lawyers" are "presumptuous" in dictating revenue sharing terms to the owners, how is Peter the Great (or Grate) better equipped?
"What makes this all so preposterous is that this has nothing to do with the majority on either side." Has he polled the owners and the players?
"[T]hey can't figure out how to split the difference between a threshold of $102 million and $130 million? The players can't live with the same 35 percent luxury tax they agreed to in the last deal, a tax that, incidentally, slowed down nothing?" The players would re-sign the last CBA in a heartbeat. If the luxury tax and revenue sharing of the last CBA did nothing, why are the owners willing to lose the playoffs to expand those programs? Of course, they could maintain that it's not the programs that are in error but the ratios used for them. But that's why negotiating and splitting the difference is so important. It's to get the right ratios.
"What they ought to be doing is coming up with creative ways to market and grow baseball, something they have never done, both because of a lack of leadership and creativity among owners... and the lack of responsibility accepted by the union." He left out "and so's your old man." Gammons needs an editor more than I do. His ego won't allow it. My funding is my major stumbling block. I guess he wants the union to be more responsible. Responsible for what? Helping to drive up revenues and attendance for a sport that was mired in a rut in the late sixties until a strong union created free agency and intrigue and millionaire players? Please. As far as marketing and growing baseball, how about spending a whole offseason promulgating contracting their business? Or telling the press that a good number of teams are ready to go under and that most should not think about the postseason as a possibility even in spring training? Or lining their pockets by mining local (interleague) rivalries at the expense their two crown jewels, the All-Star game and the World Series?
"Commissioner Bud Selig should have gotten this deal done without all this." Yes, but that wasn't his agenda. If it were, why would Paul Beeston have been fired after making a good deal of progress with the players? "He [Bud] should also have set up a management office to teach some of these teams how to run their baseball businesses, because while the playing field is unlevel and there are gross inequities inherent to the current system, the fact is that the Brewers, Tigers, Royals, Devil Rays and other teams are what they are for a reason -- bad management. The A's, Reds, Astros and Giants compete every year because of good management." Bud teach the poorly managed teams how to do it right? That's like Mario Mendoza being a batting coach (oh yeah, he is). Look, Bud still owns the Brewers and they are chasing the Devil Rays for worst-run franchise and will probably pass them next year. He obviously is not concerned with bad management.
Gammons then makes some assertion on evaluating talent that a 12-year-old with a decent baseball card collection could have come up with. (Wow, players start to produce less as they get older? How interesting!) Then he lays a big one: "Contraction is a good idea, and the union leaders always believed it...[I]n 2004 or 2005 Montreal and one of the Florida teams should go." The union believed in reducing the number of salaried positions that its constituency could occupy? Why should two teams go? Who does this benefit? The only affects are the damage done to the fan base in the contracted communities. Do revenues go up in the resulting baseball business? If so, why did they agree to expand in the first place?
He concludes: "This is an industry that needs to seriously re-evaluate itself, its leadership, its business practices, its understanding of the product and its customer." Miss Foley from English class would be giving him that puritanical, pedantic look with the crumpled up nose regarding his run-on sentence by now. ("Is the industry actually re-evaluating its customer or its understanding of the customer?") Evidently, baseball does not feel the way that Peter Gammons does, because it is not pausing one minute to re-evaluate a damn thing. When they try to, they instead appoint Blue Ribbon Panels to assert what their own positions are. Either that is because it is an extremely poorly managed business or it's because they feel these issues do not seriously impact their bottom line. I kind of think that it's a little of both.
Just Plain Terrrific There was
Just Plain Terrrific
There was another comment from Tom Seaver and/or Gary Thorne as they were broadcasting the Mets-Dodgers game. They said that what no one is saying through this labor negotiation is that if the owners confirmed that they would not lock out the players come spring, there would be no need for a strike date now. The players are just using the only weapon they have given the circumstances. Thanks, guys.
Sour Ape Mets manager Bobby
Mets manager Bobby Valentine, who either feels that acting a bit off-kilter gives him an air of genius or is just plain kooky, today adaciously claimed that Dodger Odalis Perez in pitching 6.1 perfect innings against the Mets yesterday was tipping his pitches. Bobby V claimed that Perez gave the Mets hints as to what pitch he was going to throw, especially before breaking pitches. Perez had the perfect rejoinder, "Even if I was tipping my pitches, they couldn't hit it."
It is difficult to know what Valentine is trying to prove. Was he trying to psych up his moribund club before another game with the Dodgers? Was he trying to get in Jim Tracy's head? Or is he just some pathetic loser who doesn't want to admit when his team was outplayed? You make the call.
Derek and the Dominoes I've
Derek and the Dominoes
I've just read Derek Zumsteg's revenue sharing plan on Baseball Prospectus and must say that I agree wholeheartedly with its two main conclusions. The first conclusion is that a system based on expected revenue per capita is the fairest way to compensate small-market teams that grow their revenue. The second conclusion is that "it has no chance." Unfortunately, that is true as well.
First, the plan itself is wonderfully fair and simple-well, maybe not simple, but direct. Take the revenue that all of the teams generate and determine a per capita threshold, the dividing line between the top two-thirds and the bottom third, here $23 per capita. Determine the population base needed to sustain a team in today's player market again with the two-thirds dividing line-here 4 million. This creates a sustainable revenue base of $92 million. Multiply the sustainable revenue base with the number of possible franshises per city and then divide by the current number of teams. Subtract the sustainable revenue base, and you have the contribution for that team. Teams are paid according to the difference between the sustainable population (4 million) and their actual population multiplied by the sustainable per capita ($23).
I like that it is not based on the actual revenue generated, which is subject to poor management and the vicissitudes of business. It is based on potential revenue of the team. Large-market teams (read the Phillies) are not compensated for their inability to generate revenue. Small-Market teams (e.g., Cardinal and Mariners) are not penalized doubly for being able to generate revenue in a small market. If George Steinbrenner won't allow another team in the New York metro area, then he has to pay and pay dearly for that privilege. Also, as Zumsteg points out, there is no reliance on owners to report revenue properly.
The reason that the owners will never go for it is that it flies in the face of everything they hold dear about owning a team. When you buy a team, you buy territory. Not only should you not have to pay for that territory, other people should pay you to cede control of it. It's how baseball views expansion. And the big-market teams who paid for big-market teams are not going to be pushed toward opening their markets to avoid a tax.
Besides, in my opinion, the owners as a whole do not want real revenue sharing. They like their revenue, thank you, and want to keep it to themselves. If the sport were in such dire financial straits as the owners love to profess than this is the sort of equitable plan they would be pursuing. Linking revenue sharing to salary is a means to slow salary growth. The Blue Ribbon Panel states as much and declares the last CBA a failure because its revenue sharing and luxury tax plans failed to slow salary growth, not because revenues are more equitable. If there were a competitive imbalance, wouldn't you expect the reverse?
It's too bad because it could really justify the baseball monopoly and make baseball into a more equitable business, precisely the reasons why it would never be implemented.
Rhoden Scholar Thank you, William
Thank you, William C. Rhoden, for redeeming the Fourth Estate.
Frugal Ranger Owner Pushes For
Frugal Ranger Owner Pushes For Cap
Tom Hicks, the Texas Ranger owner, is asserting that the owners will push for a salary cap should the players strike. In a series of statements that are so ironical they would cause Buck Mulligan to split a seam, Hicks speaking from his yacht yet says apparently with a straight face:
I think a majority of owners, including me, would probably like to have even stronger cost-containment than we're talking about right now.
This is the man who offered Alex Rodriguez $10 million dollars more than the going rate just last year. This is what Rafael Plameiro had to say about it at the time, "At first they were talking about $200 million -- $250 (million) came out of nowhere. It's just incredible." Here are the 18 men that the Rangers are paying over a million dollars this year. Take a look at this list and tell me if this team "has any kind of business sense:"
Alex Rodriguez $22,000,000
Isn't Hicks' last statement the best argument that the luxury tax is seen as a salary cap? No team with business sense will transgress it. Then isn't it a de facto cap, exactly what the players have been stating and the owners have been denying all along? Isn't he confirming that?
Is Hicks speaking for himself or is this another PR leak on the part of the owners? If he is just spouting off by himself, then shouldn't the commissioner's $1 million dollar labor gag fine? What are the odds that he'll be fined? If the owners are leaking this as a thinly veiled threat, why would they use the free-spending Hicks to convey it?
These and other questions will be answered. Same Bat Time. Same Bat Channel.
Odious Mets Lose Otiosely to
Odious Mets Lose Otiosely to Odalis
The Mets-Dodgers game tonight was started by two pitchers, Odalis Perez and Pedro Astacio, each with 11 wins and a 3.14 ERA. That's were the similarity ended though. Perez was perfect through 6 1/3 innings. Astacio lasted three innings and allowed eight runs on 12 hits. Needless to say they are no longer tied in those statistics any longer.
Perez lost the perfect game on a controversial 3-2 ball call, walking Rey "Don't Call Me Bork" Ordonez. He then lost the no-hitter and the shutout on a home run to Mike Piazza on the very next pitch. Three pitches later it appeared that John Valentine would follow Piazza with a trot around the diamond, but his ball was caught on the warning track. Perez struck out Mo Vaughn (which has become a description as much as a name) to end the inning. He was then pulled, and mop-up men (that's what Paul Shuey has been reduced to) finished the last two innings.
I think that Perez got a raw deal on the 3-2 ball call to Ordonez. The replay showed that the ball was six inches inside, but it appeared that Rey Must Go took a decent enough hack to be punched up. It seems that typically a player that goes around that much gets called with a swinging strike. Perez, having lost a previous perfect game in the seventh this year, grooved a fastball for Piazza, and that was that. I wonder what would have happened had Ordonez been called out.
By the way, Dave Roberts made a great catch in center, fully extending himself on a shallow fly ball, to preserve the perfect game. He also pulled a triple out of a double in driving in the last two Dodger runs. Not bad for a guy who was two different players by that same name when I was a kid.
Other notes: The Shea faithful chanted "Go on Strike! Go on Strike!" early in the game. The thing that the fans did not realize was that the Mets already had.
The Mets are now in last place in the NL East, a full game behind third-place-tied Florida and Philadelphia. Are they still wild card contenders?
Mets announcers Tom Terrific Seaver and Gary Thorne, to keep awake in this snoozer after the bid for perfection was gone, debated the merits of a two-wild card playoff system. They proposed that the two top non-division-winning teams in each league play a one-game playoff the day after the season ends to determine who advances the next day to the Division Series round. These teams would not, therefore, be so quick to accept the wild card. The teams would have to fly to the site of the team with the better record and play one game, and then the winner would have to fly basically after the game to play the Division Series opponent. It gives the division winners a real advantage and forces the wild card contenders to continue to fight for the division title. It's an interesting idea, but it has some holes. Let's take the NL West this year as an example, the D-Backs have a big lead (8 games). The Dodgers and Giants have been duking it out for the wild card and are now three games apart. Assume that the Astros were further back and LA and San Fran were basically the only two teams fighting for the wild card. What incentive do they have down the stretch if they know that they will face each other in a one-game playoff on the day after the final day of the season? Home field advantage? Doesn't it make more sense to rest your key players and orchestrate your rotation so that you best starting pitcher and best lineup are available for that one-game playoff than to continue to fight for home field? The argument then falls in on itself like a house of cards. The wild card is a too solipsistic. The only way that you can make it less pernicious is to eliminate it altogether. This will be achieved once baseball settles this labor dispute, resumes expanding for quick cash fixes, and realigns with four-division leagues. Unless they expand to another round of playoffs--ugh!
Killing Worms Poor Josh Paul.
Poor Josh Paul. The White Sox catcher had to block ten balls in the dirt from two different pitchers in one inning. In the bottom of the third, Rocky Biddle and Jon Garland relinquished 5 Oakland tuns on 4 hits, 1 error, and a hit batsman. Josh Paul also retired the last two batters of the inning on fly balls.
The 5 Sox pitchers had a combined line of 8 innings pitched, 7 hits, 9 runs, 6 earned, 9 walks, 2 strikeouts, 2 home runs allowed, and 4 hit batesman (Miguel Tejada twice). In total they threw 167 pitches with only 88 for strikes.
Coming Home to Roost Minnesota
Coming Home to Roost
Minnesota state legislatures are playing hardball with the Twins. They say that a strike may put the kibosh on a new stadium plan. Yesterday Roger Moe, the Democratic gubernatorial candidate, who had been supportive of past stadium bills as the Senate majority leader sent a letter to MLB, the Twins, and the players threatened to pull his support should there be a strike:
If I am elected governor of Minnesota, I simply will not allow Minnesota to become partners with people whose greed is so uncontrollable and so far removed from the financial difficulties that most Minnesotans face.
Actually, I sent the same letter, but it carried less weight.
It's great to see a city using baseball's extortionate tactics against them for once.
More Batting Order Disorder (Starring
More Batting Order Disorder (Starring the Fat Boys)
Here's an interesting email that I received re. the batting order chaos the other day:
Hey Mom, Can I Have
Hey Mom, Can I Have Some Coco Crisp for Breakfast and Play One of My Milton Bradley Games?
Coco Crisp and Milton Bradley are real ballplayers' names on the Indians roster today. I had to add Crisp to my all-time favorite ballplayer names. I'm cocoa for Coco Crisp.
Fit to Be Tied? Or
Fit to Be Tied? Or Suspended?
If a game gets rained out when tied after 9 innings, do
Joe Morgan Chat Day-O, Joe
Joe Morgan Chat Day-O, Joe Morgan Chat Day-A-A-O. Come Mr. Tally Man-Tally Me Bananas
Here we are again. It's Joe Morgan Chat Day, the day that we (again with the royal we) at Mike's Baseball Rants await in sweaty palpitations like a priest awaiting the delivery of his new edition of "Boy's Life".
But why you ask? Let us count the ways. First, Joe Morgan was the greatest second baseman we ever saw with one of our favorite batting stances (arm pump...pump...pump). Two, He is the happy puppy dog of baseball, the Mozart to our Salieri, the Spongebob to our Squidward. As far as analysts go, he is to baseball what Escher was to art. Sometimes he sees directly to the truth like a laser. Kind of like the faceless guy in the Escher painting just walking straight up the stairs. Sometimes he's as wrong-minded and curmudgeonly blinded stick-in-the-mud, as wrong as the man walking upside down up the stairs-but somehow going down-in the Escher print. The most amazing thing is that he can be both things at once, like both the man going up the stairs normally and the man walking up the down stairs, upside down on his head, carrying a bowl of soup without spilling a drop, while turning into a lizard at the same time. You got me?
This week Joe has really outdone himself, lots of highs and lots of lows sometimes at the same time, and possibly a possession by an otherworldly spirit. So without further ado we present a little thing that we call Joe Morgan Chat Day. We hope you like it...
Peter (Cincy): Will Estes help our beloved Reds get into the playoffs, He really didnt help the Mets so what made us think that he will help us?
Joe Morgan: That is a very good question. The Giants felt like he couldn't help them in tough games. The Mets found out he couldn't win the tough games. Now the Reds will find out. He is still left-handed, and lefties who throw strikes can win. We will see how the rest of it goes. I don't think it's a bad acquisition, but I don't think it's great one either.
[Mike: True, but the Mets were dumping him for prospects.]
Jason (Coffeyville): Joe, the theme of this season seems to be great moments in baseball history. What's your favorite?
Joe Morgan: The one I got goose pimples on was the Hank Aaron home run (No. 715) because I saw it on TV. I was broadcasting the game when Pete Rose broke Ty Cobb's hit record. The Bobby Thomson HR would be right there. My order would be Aaron, Thomson and Rose.
[Mike: Nice, Joe. You picked nice moments, and unlike MLB you know what the word "moment" really means.]
Adam(New York): why didnt you mention the Angels - but speak of the A's and the Red Sox as tough compeition for the Yanks - the Angels have played the Yanks great this year and as it stands today the Red Sox and the A's wouldnt even make the playoffs?
Joe Morgan: I was asked a question, and I answered it. We aren't talking about today; we were talking about the playoffs. You are entitled to your opinion, and I'm entitled to mine.
[Mike: Joe is always such a gentleman with these boorish cretins. I respect the guy.]
Andy (DC): Do you enjoy working with the flamboyant Jon Miller? I love you guys
Joe Morgan: I never heard Jon described that way before, but I enjoy working with him. We both respect the game and enjoy the game.
REDS FAN: Will Ken Griffey Jr. ever get back to being the great player he was?
Joe Morgan: I don't think there is any doubt he will get back to being a great player, but how far he goes will depend on what kind of conditioning he can do to overcome the injuries that have plagued him in recent years. When he is healthy, he will be as good as anybody in the game. But that's the question, how healthy will he be?
[Mike: Well, yes, but he had slipped a bit even before the injuries though he was still great.]
Kelso (NYC): As a former 2B, are you upset that Willie Randolph has yet to get a managerial job? Seems like he's paid his dues coaching the Yankees for 10+ years!
Joe Morgan: I'm upset, but as a former 2B. I'm upset as an African-American who thinks he should be at the top of everybody's list. Jim Leyland -- all the guys on his staff in Florida, they got jobs. Chris Chambliss hasn't had a shot yet either. Usually, if you coached on a championship team, you got an offer.
[Mike: Right! Fight the good fight.]
Tim (Springfield): Joe, I've always believed that the whole "Small market/Big market" phenomenon is fake. A potential baseball market exists in every city! It's what the owners do that make or break the attendance levels. Seattle is an excellent example of this. 10 years ago they were considered small market. Now they have one of the highest attendance rates in the MLB! Any thoughts on whether "market size" is real?
Joe Morgan: I agree with you 100 percent. The team makes the market, but the problem is the people who are making the decisions think like small-market teams and the teams in the big markets think like big-market teams. They need to think about baseball. You are correct; it's all about management, and in most cases they are not doing a good job.
[Mike: That wasn't Joe, was it?]
Rob(North Carolina): Why don't they automate the strike zone?
Joe Morgan: We are not playing a video game. The human factor is involved in MLB, and it should always be involved. It's an integral part of the game. Years ago, the umpires needed to be held more accountable, and now they are. Human mistakes are part of what makes the game great.
[Mike: Joe? Joe? Joe, come out of it! What's wrong?!?]
Rat: Joe, as a former player yourself, do you get tired of hearing that MLB players are selfish babies? And another thing, if there is a strike, I know Rat will be back to watching baseball. I don't believe anyone who says that just because of a strike they'll never watch baseball again. It's OK to be ticked off during the strike, but afterwords, you should be happy to see baseball again. The fans will come back, won't they, Joe?
Joe Morgan: There are a lot of people who will not watch, but they are in the minority. If there is a strike, the fans will come back. It will just take longer for them to come back and enjoy the game. Some players are selfish. So it only bothers me when the word "selfish" is directed at the wrong guys. Baseball players are like other human beings. There are selfish people everywhere. It's part of human nature. It doesn't bother me, again, unless it's misdirected. There are a lot of selfish players, but there are also a lot of great players as well.
[Mike: Who are you and what have you done with Joe?]
Jim(New Jersey): The Mets have a $100 million payroll and are under .500 How come nobody complains about a high payroll for a losing team. It seems everyone is out to get the Yankees. Any thoughts?
Joe Morgan: I agree 100 percent, and their payroll is $104 million. When you are on top, everybody shoots at you. The Yankees won the title with an under $100 million payroll in '96. They make wise decisions with their money, while other teams spend money to spend it. You are right; the Mets are the model for incompetence, and the Yankees are the model for a team that spends money the right way.
[Mike: Hey, it's not Joe Morgan. It's Joe Jackson (no, not the "Steppin' Out" guy). Mr. Jackson, what are you doing here, being that -sorry to break this to you -you're dead and all.]
[Eerie Disembodied Voice (actually Jackson was a ventriloquist on the Vaudeville circuit after he was banned: If you deride it, he will come.]
[Mike: You mean I brought here? Why? Besides weren't you an illiterate idiot who couldn't even sign his name.]
[Joe Jackson: I was the smartest man in baseball. I just hid it to dodge the ban. I figured idiocy was the best defense. It didn't work though. Anyway, I'm here to set things straight around here. No more of this yellow press. And another thing...Oh no! Blue Ribbon Panel member George Will! That hair! The humanity!
[George Will: Die! Die! Die!]
Twonk, New York: If you had to pick 1 team to beat the Yankees in a post-season series, what team?
Joe Morgan: Seattle, because the Mariners have played them a lot and know what they have to do. But also Oakland have a chance. So does Boston, with Pedro and Lowe. In the NL, the Braves and, of course, Arizona, because the D'Backs have already done it.
[Mike: Joe, thank God you're back. That indecisiveness is the touchstone of your analytical career.]
Sean Goodrich (Falls Church, VA): Hey Joe, Do you think the Cubs have the best young pitching staff in baseball? Next year, they will have 4 starters under 28, 2 of whom are barely legal to drink. And, do you think Mark Prior is a candidate for rookie of the year?
Joe Morgan: He may be one of the top candidates, but we still have a month and a half to go, barring a work stoppage. The fact that they are young pitchers, all that means is they have a lot of guys with potential. And that means they haven't done anything yet. Major-league pitching is tough. The future looks brighter than the present.
[Mike: Joe likes his young players with heaps of major-league experience. Preferably they should be born with it. That failing there is now an operation that can be performed on post-pubescent males to implant some major-league service. Unfortunately, the operation has only been successful when the donor is a Devil Ray.]
Darius(Mpls): Joe, Harold Reynolds and Buck Showalter have been saying that the Twins should start resting some of their players. They say it's more important to be rested and set your lineup than to go for home field advantage. What are your thoughts?
Joe Morgan: I agree with Harold and Buck to a certain point that it is important that some guys with minor injuries and fatigue need a rest for a game or two. Rest one guy one day and another the next. That's how Sparky Anderson did it. The Twins play on artificial turf, so home field is important to them. So both are important -- resting players and trying to get a home-field advantage.
[Mike: What about some effort to play for home field in the playoffs. They are just 3.5 behind Seattle and 5.5 behind the Yankees. Their current position would put them in a series against Seattle with the Mariners having the home-field advantage.]
Andy (DC) : Do the Giants have the pitching to win the NL wild card?
Joe Morgan: Before, I thought they could. It will depend on which team is the hottest the last two weeks of the season. They have a chance, but they all do. I don't know if they have enough pitching. Robb Nen has not been anything close to automatic the last two weeks.
[Mike: Well, no. The Brewers could get hotter than a fresh, steaming cow pie, and it wouldn't matter. The wild card appears to be a two-team race between San Fran and LA. Houston is within striking distance. Cincinnati is right behind but seems to be faltering. Everyone else seems to be out of it.]
Calvin (Atlanta, GA): In your opinion, who is the NL Cy Young? I know Schilling and Johnson are pitching lights out, but John Smoltz has to get some consideration doesn't he?
Joe Morgan: I think Schilling is. A Cy Young Award, to me, is about innings pitched, wins and losses. It's easier to save a game than it is to win one as a starter. To save a game, you get three outs. To win as a starter, you need at least 15 outs. I lean toward starters. And then there is the Rolaids award for the relief pitchers.
[Mike: Joe's back to full power. "To save a game, you get three outs." Well, no. "And then there is the Rolaids award for the relief pitchers." There is also TSN's Player of the Year for the real MVP.]
Steve (Milwaukee): What are the chances of another ouster of the Commissioner? I can't imagine another work stoppage would look good on his resume after stopping the All-Star Game in his hometown.
Joe Morgan: First, I don't think there will be a work stoppage, but there are a lot of people unhappy with the commissioner. Again, it wasn't the commissioner's fault that the game was stopped; it was the fault of Joe Torre and Bob Brenly. They mismanaged the game, not the commissioner.
[Mike: Well, only the owners count. If he breaks or subdues the union, all sins are forgiven. Besides his sins are theirs. However, if by scragging Bud, they can deflect some negative press in the future, then his ass is grass.]
Don't spill the soup lizard man
Jason (Coffeyville, Kansas): Joe, As a longtime midwestern Cubs fan I just wanted to tell you how wonderful your article on Sammy Sosa was. With that being said Do you think Sammy has a shot at MVP?
Joe Morgan: Thanks for the comments. It will be difficult for him to win MVP with the Cubs not in contention. But there is no doubt he is more valuable to his team than most players are. He will not get as many votes as he would if they were in contention.
Joe (IND): Joe whats your opinion on the AL MVP? Does the winner have to be on a good team?
Joe Morgan: If I'm voting, I'd say no. The MVP means the most valuable player, good or bad team. Winning should carry some kind of weight in the discussion. I don't think any player is more valuable to his team than A-Rod. But by the same token, it's easier to put numbers up on a bad team than it is on a good team. You get better pitches to hit when you are behind by a lot, whereas players on good teams are in more competitive situations and get fewer pitches to hit.
[Mike: There goes the damn bowl! Sammy is not an MVP because the Cubs are losers but A-Rod is even though the Rangers blow? These were one right after each other. I didn't edit a thing. By the way, if "it's easier to put numbers up on a bad team than it is on a good team... You get better pitches to hit when you are behind by a lot", then wouldn't bad teams come back from big deficits more often? Does that seem logical? Also, what about the alleged lineup protection that is created by a better lineup. He's always prattling on about it. Does it just disappear when it's convenient?]
You Gotta Fight For Your
You Gotta Fight For Your Right To Potty Mouth
An Indians fan won the right to heckle his team's players. He was escorted from Jacobs Field and subsequently arrested last September for commenting on the size of Russell Branyan's derriere. The judge ruled for the man, and opined, "Some in attendance may even have shared his sentiments."
Hey, that's nothing in Philadelphia where I grew up the fans have the god-given right to throw batteries and icy snowballs, and the NRA lobbies to ensure that they will have that right in perpetuity.
'Tis done If it were
If it were done when 'tis done, then 'twere well
Yeah, I unpacked the ol' quote book. I thought in these trying times, why not turn to one's superiors or, in this case, superior writers, Shakespeare and God (allegedly).
Oh, did I mention-the players set a strike date today.
Full Court Press On Only
Full Court Press
On Only Baseball Matters I found a link to a Newsweek article by Mark Starr entitled "Remember the Fans?" It's a scathing diatribe against the players, that has fundamental problems that Only Baseball Matters covers well. I had never read anything from Mark Starr and do not think that he is a sportswriter but merely a fan with a forum. Actually his bio bears this out: his title is Senior Editor and Boston Bureau Chief. But he seems like a reasonable man who is not grinding any axes, unlike George Will, who is basically the owners' propagandist. He seems like someone that one could have an interesting conversation with over lunch.
That's why it's all the more disturbing to see that the owners' disinformation brigade has gotten to him, too. I am sick of this labor war. I am sick of having discussions with friends, relatives, and colleagues, in which I feel that I have to defend the players. I feel almost embarrassed and try at first not to say anything, but once they start spewing the owners' party line I feel compelled. I don't even want to go into who's right, the players or the owners. I want to point out how odd, unfortunate, disturbing, fill in your own depressing adjective here, it is that the owners' concerted effort to lie, inveigle, and obfuscate has worked so well. It has permeated every level of the conversation when it comes to the labor wars: from call-in show idiots to Newsweek.
I guess that I should not be surprised. On the owners' side is ABC, ESPN, AOL/Time-Warner, Disney, Fox, CNN, Sport Illustrated, the Gannett newspaper and television chains, the USA Today, Baseball Weekly, and the Tribune Company's newspaper, radio, and television chains. They all own teams or parts of teams. As I said, George Will is their propagandist, a well-known national figure who has written books on baseball, appeared in Ken Burns' Baseball documentary, and sat on MLB's hand-picked Blue Ribbon Panel, who also happens to sit on the board of two major-league teams. I heard Goebbels was great on TV as well. Did I forget anybody? (Who owns Newsweek?) The players' have Donald Fehr's pained expression on the tube and interviews with their constituency after the game when they're sweaty and half-naked.
With the maelstrom of information that is not only biased towards the owners, it is bought and paid for by the owners, there is hardly a forum for the players' side. When something positive comes from the players, like a strike date not being set, it gets buried under layers of yellow journalism, like the "I Love Bud" show on ESPN.com. The journalists who are independent of these organizations swallow whole the lies of the owners and their propaganda divisions. I think the word is dupe. It is all the more gauling becauase the players' union would rubber stamp the old agreement and are asking for nothing in the new one. The owners have to cook their books, feign contraction, and spread stories of missed payrolls and doom and gloom to justify demanding changes when revenues have nearly trebled since the last agreement. While salaries have not even kept pace with the revenue increase (they've doubled). This is in MLB's Blue Ribbon Panel's published findings.
I feel that these smear tactics have been successful and that the owners are at the verge of victory. The players do not want to set a strike date-they are fearful of it-as they demonstrated the other day. But it is their only weapon. They probably will play this card today, and unless the seemingly unlikely event of concessions being made by both sides on the luxury tax issue is realized, we will be without an agreement by the strike date. What will the players do? I think that there are enough players who remember 1994 well and who do not want to be on strike during the anniversary of the September 11th attacks that the union may have to cave into the owners to avoid a strike. That failing, the union may break apart and the owners will have total victory. However, it plays out I just wish that it would already.
[Some additional comments on the Starr article: On steroids, how about smaller, more hitter-friendly ballparks, expansion, a more lively ball, or a myriad of other causes, which are more plausible than steroids, for the home run explosion. I'm sick of these journalists who jumped on the Sosa and McGwire band wagon in '98 jumping off when there is a sniff of impropriety in the game's inflated numbers. If players were induced to take steroids, were not the news services who lionize the home run somewhat complicit? He overlooks Anahiem in his conversation about the Twins being an "aberration". They all forget the Angels, maybe because they play in the second largest city in America and are funded from Disney's coffers. Also, he theorizes that the Twins will be compelled to dismantle the team because of all of the arbitration-eligible players next year. Carl Pohlad is possibly the richest man in baseball. Why can't he open the old wallet and pay his great players a decent living? Why is no one asking that-see the article above.]
Stark Reality Jayson Stark writes
Jayson Stark writes that the latest so-called "bump in the road" in the labor negotiation process might prove to be more of a "line in the sand." He doesn't go into specifics but the players' union counterproposal on the luxury tax was met with disapproval on the owners' part. ESPN reports that their proposals were not all that far apart:
Owners have proposed a 50 percent tax that would start with teams over $100 million [actually $98], including 40-man rosters and benefits, with the full rate phased for the very highest spenders. The union has discussed a tax that would start with teams over about $140 million -- only the New York Yankees project to be above that next year -- with a much lower tax rate.
Howver, the players' proposal ($140 M) would only affect one team (the Yankees) while the owners' would have affected six teams last year (Arizona, Boston, Cleveland, Los Angeles, New York Yankees, and New York Mets). That's the top fifth of baseball payrolls, very close to the Quartile I (the top fourth) that MLB's Blue Ribbon Panel is always prattling on about. I would say that a 50% tax on salaries for the top fourth or fifth of teams comes pretty close to constituting a salary cap.
The funny thing is that with teams cutting back on salary, only four opening day payrolls (Yankess, Boston, Texas, and Arizona) would be over the proposed threshold. These salaries can go up as the season progresses but they appear to still be going down from last year on their own. In other words, self-censure and self-restraint on the part of the management of these teams are working. The total 2002 opening day payroll for MLB declined about $117 million from last year. That's about $4 million per team.
Cub Caught Hibernating An undisclosed
Cub Caught Hibernating
An undisclosed Chicago player was caught sleeping in the clubhouse during the Cubs 5-4 loss to the Astros Tuesday. Manager Bruce Kimm called a meeting to remind his players to stay awake during games. ''We are way back, but you can still go about things in a championship way,'' Kimm said. Sammy Sosa offered, "Sometimes it's tough to wake up day by day at 8, but you have no choice."
I am the last person to begrudge the players the money they make. They have specialized skills that provide us with a great deal of entertainment. But I cannot believe that men paid on average over $2 million cannot stay awake for three or four hours at a time at their place of business because they happened to wake up at an hour when most people are either traveling to or already at their workplace. If their fans can stay awake during the dreck the Cubs promulgate as baseball, the least they can do is stay awake and endure it as well.
Contraction's Real Objective According to
Contraction's Real Objective
According to this article in the Dallas Morning News, the real goal of contraction may be as a bargaining chip in the ongoing negotiations:
It is possible that management will agree to drop, or at least delay significantly, the effort to eliminate two of the 30 major league franchises in exchange for concessions from the union on a luxury tax, which has become the key issue in the talks.
I'M out of order?!? YOU'RE
I'M out of order?!? YOU'RE out of order! The whole damn courtroom is out of order!
The batting order is at once something that is so simple and yet so sacrosanct that it seems incredible that a major-league team could manage to disobey it. Come on, regular folk do it in weekend softball games: "I'm 1, you're two, etc." But because of a mix-up between the official lineup card exchanged before the game and the one posted on the dugout wall, the Detroit Tigers figured out a way to bat out of order. And you thought they were just inept at hitting, pitching, and fielding.
The number eight hitter, Brandon Inge, missed his turn in the second inning. Instead #9 hitter Chris Truby struck out to end the inning. ESPN blamed the confusion on the two hitters' order being swapped fom the previous game, but Inge said that the posted lineup had them switched. Angel manager Mike Scioscia called the umpire crew's attention to the Detroit screw-up after the second inning and before the third and then protested the game. Lead-off hitter Hiram Bocachica struck out to lead off the third even though Inge was announced on the PA. Scioscia came out again after Bocachica batted and again protested the game.
The Angels won the game so the protest was moot, but let's check the rulebook to see what it says:
If I read this correctly, rulings (b) and (d) taken together indicate that when Scioscia appealed after the second inning if it was the end of the Detroit half, Inge should have been called out and Truby should have led off the third. Since the game was in Anaheim, the Angels batted second. Therefore, If the appeal came after the Angel's half of the second, then according to ruling (c) the Angels appeal would be too late. Also, according to ruling (d)(2) Boccachica would lead off the 3rd, just as he did.
Since ESPN said, rather awkwardly, that Scioscia protested after the second inning AND before the third, I am assuming that these are two separate events. Therefore, Scioscia did protest after the Detroit half and 1) Inge should have been out and 2) Truby should have led off the third even though he just struck out. I wonder how you would score that??? Does the pitcher lose the strikeout?
Here's what first base ump Gary Darling had to say about the incident:
"We were 100 percent right. Mike noticed that they were batting out of order, so he came out and told the home plate umpire. But Mike didn't want to do anything about it yet.
I think that it's kind of funny that Pujols had to consult the umpires to figure out the proper lineup. Didn't he make it up just a few hours before? I guess he was paying as much attention then as when the game was in progress. I don't blame him with such a dreadful team to watch night after night.
Kudos to Scioscia for a) realizing the mistake and b) being a hard-ass about the umps coaching Pujols on making up a lineup (tip one: there are always 9 batters). Here's what he said about it later (according to the LA Times):
"The umpires are not supposed to counsel [Pujols] on who to send up," Scioscia said. "All of a sudden Bocachica comes up, which I know wasn't right."
Scioscia seems to be the only person paying attention since the umps screwed up as well: They were not 100 percent right at all. Once Scioscia appealed the play, if no one has batted since the mix-up, Inge's out Truby's leads off the third. That's it. ESPN, CNN/SI, the N.Y. Times, and the L.A. Times all failed to recognize this. You have to read Mike's Baseball Rants to get the real scoop.
Tee (As In Tee Off)
Tee (As In Tee Off) for Texas
The Rangers beat the White Sox 11-6 tonight to continue the trend of high-scoring affairs in Arlington. In their previous homestand, at least one team scored in double digits in seven of the ten games. They returned to the aptly named "The Ballpark" yesterday only to lose to the White Sox 12-3 and then earn a split with the victory tonight. This now marks the ninth double-digit scorer in the last twelve Ranger home games. Their record is 6-6 over the course of that run.
Breakin' Up Is Hard To
Breakin' Up Is Hard To Do
For all of you still supporting the owners in the labor wars, read this. Wilpon would begrudge his partner of 16 years a pair of $1200 season tickets?!? Sure, some of the players are shallow and narcissistic, but the owners' egocentricism knows no bounds.
Hometown Boy Does Bad Dodger
Hometown Boy Does Bad
Dodger Eric Gagne went in to pitch the eighth inning last night and was treated to a standing ovation by his hometown fans. Strangely, those fans were Expos fans who were cheering on the Montreal native. Or maybe they knew what was going to happen next.
Gagne entered the game with two outs, Vladimir Guerrero on first, and LA leading 3-2. His first pitch was deposited over the right field wall by Troy O'Leary allowing the winning run, blowing Gagne's 3rd save in 42 opportunities, and losing his first game of the year.
I was left wondering why Gagne came in in the eighth anyway. I applaud the unconventional use of closers-why not use your go-to guy when the game is one the line?-but wondered whether it was by choice or necessity. Too many managers hold off to use the closer to start off the ninth and never get the opportunity to do so having lost the game an inning or two earlier.
How often does Gagne enter the game in the eighth anyway? Is he effective in this role? Well, out of his 56 games pitched, he has pitched more than one inning nine times. Of those eight appearances 6 resulted in saves, one in his only win, and one in a blown save, one of his three on the season. His line in those games is impressive: 14.1 innings pitched, 5 hits, 1 run (earned) on a solo home run, 1 walk, and 18 strikeouts, and a 0.63 ERA.
Well, how had he fared in the first half as opposed to the yet-to-be-completed second half? Maybe he's slowing down:
G IP H R ER HR BB K BF K/BB WHIP H/9IP K/9IP BB/9IP BF/IP OBA OOBP HR/BF% W-L S-BS-H ERA Pre AS 42 45.1 26 7 7 3 6 62 165 10.333 0.706 5.162 12.309 1.191 3.640 .164 .194 1.818 0-0 32-2-0 1.39 Post AS 14 13.1 10 7 7 3 3 16 53 5.333 0.975 6.750 10.800 2.025 3.975 .200 .245 5.660 1-1 7-1-1 4.73
Well maybe he is getting more work and being overused. Let's compare his pre- and post-All-Star usage comparing his appearances against Dodger games, calendar days, and Dodgers wins-since closer usage usually corresponds to win situations.
GP LAG W Days App% App/Day App/W IP IP/App IP/LAG IP/Day IP/W Pre AS 42 88 54 97 47.73 0.433 0.778 45.1 1.079 0.515 0.467 0.840 Post AS 14 33 12 34 42.42 0.412 1.167 13.1 0.952 0.404 0.392 1.111
So is it a matter of not staying sharp? Well he is still appearing in a good number of games. Here's a new theory that's sort of reverse of the ever-popular "He's a rookie and has never pitched this many innings in the majors" theory which is used for young starting pitchers. Could it be possible that Gagne, always a starter until this year, has never had this many appearances and that sort of wear and tear, even though it comes one inning at a time, is taking its toll on him? Let's see how his second half plays out. Looking at the rest of the Dodgers bullpen (aside from the overused Paul Quantrill and the barely used Jesse Orosco), it doesn't look like he'll be getting much help.
Where's the Love? Contrast the
Where's the Love?
Contrast the coverage of Bud Selig in ESPN (see below) and CNN/SI. They rank him 31st, last, in their power rankings. Of course, this is before the Doubleday settlement so things have changed slightly, in the commissioner's favor. But at least CNN/SI remembers the more salient Bud Selig peccadillos that have happened this year starting with the rigged Red Sox sale. Even though they are owned by a conglomerate that also owns the Braves, they still have the journalistic integrity to report the news without burying it knee-deep in Selig's preference for stadium mustard over stadium sauce on his bratwurst.
Love Letters to Bud As
Love Letters to Bud
As ESPN continues to wage the owners' PR war with the players, they have devoted their baseball page this morning to the commissioner. (You see ABC owns both ESPN and the Angels.) I guess they felt that they have to counter the good press that the players got in not setting a strike date. If inaction is to be applauded who better than Bud Selig to become the day's cynosure.
They have a headline of "Bud Unplugged" on the ESPN Baseball site. It's the kinder and gentler side of the man, kind of like when Bob Dole started wearing sweaters. And then an oh-so-soft interview with Jim Caple who claims to have an adversarial relationship with Bud because he once made fun of his hair. Caple spends more time describing Bud's base-and-bat constructed bench than in interviewing the man. Witness:
I did ask Selig whether he thinks he can still do the job effectively after his credibility has been called into serious question over the past year. Not surprisingly, he says he is the best person for the job.
Of course, Caple being the hard journalist that he is followed up by saying, "What mess? Forbes says that you are not in the poor financial state that you claim. Even one of your owners, Nelson Doubleday, said that it was a sham. Can you prove to me that there is a financial crisis in baseball right here and now." No, he got off the topic completely and asked poor little Buddy how he feels when people dislike him (sniff).
The rest is fluff except that Caple witnesses Selig watching the players union no-strike-date announcement, which was no surprise to him, he said.
There is another page with Caple's "10 Burning Questions" for the commissioner. It reads more like a Playboy Turn-on/Turn-offs list. Witness:
7. How much do you tip?
I hope that they do sign an agreement soon. I don't think I can stomach a Bud Selig centerfold.
TV Money Loopholes There's an
TV Money Loopholes
There's an interesting article on the NY Times regarding what would happen to the national TV broadcast fees. Baseball would owe Fox Sports for not broadcasting the playoff games and it would also be assessed a penalty. The total damages would be about $520 million but doesn't have to be paid at once.
First the playoff games' money, about $300 million, would be paid thusly:
[B]aseball.. can keep all of Fox's money (which is paid at midseason and after the season) even if there is a strike, for up to a year, and accrue interest in a money-market fund. But then a check for the full amount must be sent to Fox - whose six-year baseball deal is worth $2.5 billion - to compensate for the lost games.
Then there is a penalty phase:
Fox would create a catalog of losses associated with the impact of not broadcasting the playoffs and World Series: fixed production costs; talent and studio costs that cannot be recouped if games are not played; the value of advertising that is not booked in 2003 because sponsors are skittish about buying time on a poststrike league championship or World Series; and the effect on Fox advertising if the 2003 postseason garners significantly lower ratings and harms its prime-time shows.
It seems that ESPN would get a rebate for regular-season games lost but would get screwed since the have a number of shows that are basically accretions of MLB. That's OK though since their owners, ABC, also own the Angels and have had a hand in all this anyway.
Solomon-like Selig: Splits Mets Baby
Solomon-like Selig: Splits Mets Baby in Two
Nelson Doubleday and Fred Wilpon have reached an agreement in the sale of the Mets after kissing the papal ring of Bud Selig and asking him for guidance. The sale amount which was originally set at $391 million by an "independent" appraiser (handpicked by MLB). The final figures were not disclosed. Believe me, they were more than $200M. Witness Doubleday's comments now:
"While I was not happy with the results of the appraisal, I deeply regret and apologize for the conclusions many drew from the papers that were filed last week by my lawyers. I did not in any way mean to impugn the integrity of the commissioner, who has been a long-time friend and will continue to remain one, or anyone from his office. Nor did I intend the counterclaim to get in the way of the ongoing collective bargaining process. That was not my intent or goal. If it did, I apologize to the commissioner and to Don Fehr if it in any way had a negative effect on bargaining."
And his comments then:
"MLB orchestrated a sham process that not only mistreated Doubleday and betrayed his trust; it actively favored Wilpon and engineered a result that served MLB's other and conflicting interests...Unbeknownst to Doubleday, MLB was at the same time engaged in a systematic effort to undervalue baseball franchises as part of its labor-relations strategy. In short, MLB -- in a desperate attempt to reverse decades of losses to MLB's players' association -- determined to manufacture phantom operating losses and depress franchise values."
Hmmm... do you think the terms may have improved for Doubleday? Hush money sure is sweet.
Crackerjacks via Cell Phones The
Crackerjacks via Cell Phones
The minor-league Bowie Baysox have a new system that allows patrons to order food and drink using their cell phones and have their order delivered without getting their butts out of their respective seats. They even have a jingle to go with it: "Take me out to the ballgame. Take me out with the crowd. Order me by cellphone, PDA, or cell modem some peanuts and Crackerjacks..."
I used to complain about people getting up for food in between, and sometimes during, innings, but at least they get a little exercise during the game. If you've ever seen a game at Camden Yards, you'll notice that no one sits for more than a half an inning at a time.
I do have to say though that there is nothing quite like the rubberized hot dogs and watered-down swill that passes for beer being ordered using leading-edge technology. Especially when it still costs more than your average dinner for four at the Russian Tea Room.
San Diego Chicken Little Harvey
San Diego Chicken Little
Harvey Araton opines in the New York Times that the George "The Boss" Steinbrenner is in trouble:
THE BOSS sounds scared, as well he should be. The sports and entertainment empire he has masterminded on the strength of four Yankee championships in the last six years is beginning to crack.
The basis for this argument is that if there is a strike, the Yankees will have to show reruns of old games on their YES network. Also, Steinbrenner no longer has the fast track to a new stadium with the mayorial change in New York and the YankeeNets NBA team's new arena in Newark is stuck in "a political quagmire." Oh, and the small-market teams are giving him a comeuppance and he is a crashing bore. Like that's news.
We should all have his problems: He owns the top sports franchise in the world. The team seems to have the infrastructure to compete for a championship for the foreseeable future. They play in one of the most storied stadiums in the game. They have the largest population base in the country to draw from.
All of these labor struggles are just a blip on the Yankees' radar screen. What about teams like the Twins who have just been subjected to contraction threats all through the offseason? They now are a virtual lock for the playoffs. Imagine the fallout in their fan base if there is a season-ending strike. Think of the Tampa Bays, Kansas Citys, and Floridas, who claim that they are treading water financially. What will happen to them if there is a strike? What about the young players who will lose needed salary? What about the players who will not have enough games to reach a goal in their careers? What about the vendors, ticket takers, bar and restaurant owners, souvenir shop owners, etc., who work in or around the stadiums? What about the fan who has been following a team his/her whole life who will not get to see them in playoffs this year? What about the Tijuana steroid dealers and their families? Whose heart could possibly bleed for the Boss?
Bud Selig's Wet Dream I
Bud Selig's Wet Dream
I though that it might be fun to see what the standings would be if Bud Selig had gotten his wish and Montreal and Minnesota had been contracted out if existence. I took the current standings and subtracted out the record of each club against those two.
I know that a new schedule would have been arranged and that probably one team (Milwaukee again?) would have to have gone from the NL to the AL, given that each would have an uneven number (15 in the NL and 13 in the AL). No one mentioned this but contraction would have required another interleague team shift since with an odd number of teams in each league, interleague play would otherwise have to be a daily occurrence in the sport.
Also, the transactions that teams made during the offseason as well as the regular season would differ. The Twin and Expo players would be redistributed throughout the league in some manner prior to the season. If Chicago were now leading the AL Central sans Twins, they would not have started their firesale before the trade deadline. Etc.
So there are holes in the what-if analysis. But anyway, it's all just for fun until someone loses an eye. So here it goes:
Standings Current With Contraction NL EAST W L G PCT GB GB WC W L G PCT GB GB WC Atlanta Braves 77 40 117 .658 - - 67 34 101 .663 - - New York Mets 58 59 117 .496 19 7.5 50 52 102 .490 17.5 8 Philadelphia Phillies 55 62 117 .470 21.5 10.5 49 53 102 .480 18.5 9 Florida Marlins 56 62 118 .475 22 10 47 55 102 .461 20.5 11 NL CENTRAL St. Louis Cardinals 63 52 115 .548 - - 60 49 109 .550 - - Cincinnati Reds 61 55 116 .526 2.5 4 60 53 113 .531 2 3.5 Houston Astros 61 56 117 .521 3 4.5 58 53 111 .523 3 4.5 Pittsburgh Pirates 52 66 118 .441 12.5 14 49 63 112 .438 12.5 14 Chicago Cubs 50 66 116 .431 13.5 15 49 64 113 .434 13 14.5 Milwaukee Brewers 42 75 117 .359 22 23.5 38 67 105 .362 20 21.5 NL WEST Arizona Diamondbacks 73 45 118 .619 - - 69 43 112 .616 - - San Francisco Giants 65 52 117 .556 7.5 .5 64 50 114 .561 6 +1 Los Angeles Dodgers 66 52 118 .559 7 +.5 63 51 114 .553 7 1 Colorado Rockies 55 63 118 .466 18 11 53 62 115 .461 17.5 11.5 San Diego Padres 48 69 117 .410 24.5 17.5 45 69 114 .395 25 19 AL EAST New York Yankees 72 44 116 .621 - - 66 44 110 .600 - - Boston Red Sox 68 48 116 .586 4 1 66 47 113 .584 1.5 2 Baltimore Orioles 56 59 115 .487 15.5 12.5 53 59 112 .473 14 14.5 Toronto Blue Jays 52 65 117 .444 20.5 17.5 49 55 104 .471 14 14.5 Tampa Bay Devil Rays 39 78 117 .333 33.5 30.5 37 73 110 .336 29 29.5 AL CENTRAL Chicago White Sox 57 62 119 .479 13 13.5 52 54 106 .491 - - Cleveland Indians 51 65 116 .440 17.5 18 45 56 101 .446 4.5 17 Kansas City Royals 48 70 118 .407 21.5 22 44 56 100 .440 5 17.5 Detroit Tigers 45 73 118 .381 24.5 25 39 63 102 .382 11 23.5 AL WEST Seattle Mariners 72 46 118 .610 - - 70 44 114 .614 - - Anaheim Angels 70 48 118 .593 2 +1 66 43 109 .606 1.5 +2 Oakland Athletics 68 51 119 .571 4.5 2.5 67 49 116 .578 4 2.5 Texas Rangers 50 67 117 .427 21.5 19.5 47 61 108 .435 20 18.5
The first thing that you notice is that the AL Central becomes a race again. The NL wild card changes hands-the Dodgers are now a full game behind the Giants as opposed to leading them by one-half game. The Red Sox are a bit closer to the Yankees. Aside from those and new battles for third in the AL East and for second in the AL Central (the Royals could be in a pennant race?), there is not a lot of changes.
So unlike George Bailey, it seems that the disappearance of the Twins and the Expos, except for some happy paupers in the AL Central, would not affect the majors as a whole all that much. Sorry Clarence.
An Act of Good Faith
An Act of Good Faith or Blind Faith?
The players met tonight and decided not to set a strike date. I hope that the impetus towards inaction is driven more by the movement on the ancillary labor issues rather than a desire not to further enrage fans. I am afraid that if the players do not go full bore until a new agreement is reached, the owners will smell blood and cease to bargain in good faith. I don't think that the fans, players, or owners realize how much having a strong union has helped the popularity of the sport as well as the financial remuneration of its players. The call-in show types who profess their hatred for player and/or owners (but usually players) will come and go as will their guarantees to never attend another game should there be a strike (like Barry said, people still ride the bus). The players will have to live with this agreement for a long time, not just the number of years that it will be in effect.
I hope that I am completely wrong and that an agreement will be reached soon that is to everyone's satisfaction. And if the owners do start stalling the players can always set a date in the future. I just keep thinking about Patrick Ewing and the NBA's players union and how quickly they caved into the owners. I cannot believe that that would be good for the sport at this stage of the game, not that a strike would be either.
Game Not Chi on Weirdness
The Cubs-Astros game highlights include three hit batsmen, both starting pitchers being ejected, and the loss of Houston's starting shortstop for six weeks. In a game that featured lots of nasty heat from both Houston's Oswalt and Chicago's Wood who would think that first Wood would get ejected after arguing balls and strikes and then Oswalt would get ejected (along with manager Jimmy Williams) for hitting a batter, clearly not intentionally, after the home plate umpire had earlier warned both benches. The warning came after Wood hit Houston lead-off hitter and starting shortstop Julio Lugo in the third with a rising, inside fastball. Lugo was setting to bunt and appeared to got frozen by the pitch. He was hit on the forearm, breaking it. He'll be spelled by Jose Vizcaino for the next six weeks. The oddest attraction of all was former Chicago Bear quarterback Jim McMahon throwing out the first pitch and singing "Take Me Out To The Ball Game." They should have known better.
Homeric Odyssey Before Nomar Garciaparra
Before Nomar Garciaparra hit three home runs on his birthday, July 23, hitting three or more homers in a game had only been done four times this year (Cameron and Green with 4, and Berkman and Durazo). In the three weeks since then five men have had three or more (Sosa, Woodward, Branyan, Boone, and Lieberthal).
Sosa now has six home runs in 4 games with another tonight. The Cubs hit four in the game but are losing to Houston 9-6 and only have 3 non-homer hits.
Rocky's String of Violence Started
Rocky's String of Violence Started with His Falling Out With the the Bullwinkle Gang
Vicious Squirel's Reign of Terror Ends
Authorities in Illinois believe they have put an end to a vicious squirrel's reign of terror. They think the same animal was behind four separate attacks on people in Ithasca. Three previous victims had described the same bald spot on its tail. The squirrel was caught during its last attack. A man pulled it off his wife's shoulder after it jumped on her and started biting her. He managed to throw it into a trap and call police. Animal control officers were forced to kill the squirrel and took its body for testing.
Bad to the Bone? The
Bad to the Bone?
The Tampa Devil Rays currently own a 39-78 record, good for last place in the AL East, 33.5 games behind division-leading New York. This is their fifth straight year destined for a last-place finish in their division, starting with their inaugural 1998 campaign. Their 2002 record is the worst in baseball. Their 62-100 record last year tied the Pirates for worst in the majors. In 2000 (69-92) and 1999 (69-93), they were the 6th worst. In their inaugural year, 1998, they were 2nd worst-to the defending world champion Marlins. This year they project out to a 54-108 record, 47 behind the Yankees. This would be their worst record (by eight games) ever. Overall they are a combined 179 games behind the division leader, the Yankees all five years (that is, including the 2002 projection). The closest they have ever finished is 18 games out of first. The last time in 2002 that they were at .500 was April 11.
The Devil Rays deserve their record, not only because of their nonsensical nickname but because they currently are at or near the bottom in nearly every aspect of the game. In major-league team offense, they rank:
29th in home runs, on-base percentage and OPS (on-base plus slugging).
In major-league team pitching, they rank:
Last (30th) in ERA, runs allowed, earned runs allowed, home runs, opponent's on-base percentage, opponent's OPS, and wins (of course).
In major-league team fielding, they rank:
26th in range factor.
What makes it even worse for the Rays is that their 1998 expansion partners, the Arizona Diamondbacks, are on their way to their third division crown in four years and are attempting to repeat as the World Champs.
With new contraction rumors circulating seemingly with each Bud Selig appearance, one has to wonder why this incompetent bunch was not considered for liquidation before the division-leading Twins and the at least average Expos. That would, however, presuppose that contraction was more than an attempt to extort new stadium deals from the local gentry for those two franchises as well as to purchase a few more bargaining chips in the owners' poker game with the players union.
Why not contract the Devil Rays? If there's a team -outside of Milwaukee and in that case only on moral grounds-that deserves euthanasia more I don't know who they are. Tampa Bay has no real history, no apparent future and no real fan base. Put them out of our misery, please!
Their opening-day starter, Tanyon Sturtze, didn't win his first start until June 26 and is still seeking his second after 24 starts. Big name free-agent signee, Greg Vaughn had a .163 batting average, 8 home runs, and a .601 OPS in 251 at-bats before landing on the DL, hopefully prematurely ending his horrific season. Their team leader in home runs has 15, tying for 74th in the majors.
Look at their history: after entering 1998 with big salaries for Fred McGriff ($5.5M), Wilson Alvarez ($4.5 M), Roberto Hernandez ($4M), Paul Sorrento ($2M), Kevin Stocker ($1.8M), John Flaherty ($1.6), Dave Martinez ($1.5), and Wade Boggs ($1.150), they added Jose Canseco ($3.325M), Quinton McCracken ($1.85M), and Bobby Witt ($1.1M) for 1999. When those big salaries didn't do the job, 2000 brought even bigger ones, higher expectations, and only a half-game improvement in their record:
Greg Vaughn $ 7,097,962
The Devil Rays are basically still reeling from that expenditure and its lack of improvement in their fortunes. It's odd because they followed the D-Backs' same expansion-team formula for success by spending early and often. Now they are becoming more austere and their lineup more closely resembles a Triple-A team. Randy Winn is the only established regular who could legitimately start on most other teams.
They remind me of another initially unsuccessful Tampa Bay expansion team, the NFL's Buccaneers. The Bucs ended their first season (1976) winless at 0-14. Their second year started just as bad with the Bucs losing their first 12 for 26 straight losses. They had been shut out 11 times in that streak, including four times in the final five games. Then incredibly -and I mean that literally since no one at the time could conceive of this happening-the Bucs won their last two games of the season by comfortable margins. In two seasons they would win the NFC Central and play in the NFC Championship game. Now they are one of the better NFL franchises.
Could such a turnaround be in the Devil Rays future or is the team totally unredeemable? Would their success after such poor seasons be without historic precedent? Let's take a look at the first five years of each of the major league expansion teams as compared to their records since to find out (2002 seasons projected):
First Five Years Team W L PCT Rank NY Mets 260 547 .322 14 Toronto 270 482 .359 13 San Diego 294 506 .368 12 Texas 309 499 .382 11 Seattle 290 465 .384 10 Tampa Bay 317 492 .392 9 Houston 333 475 .412 8 Milwaukee 337 466 .420 7 Montreal 345 458 .430 6 Anaheim 383 425 .474 5 Florida 354 390 .476 4 Kansas City 383 418 .478 3 Colorado 363 384 .486 2 Arizona 442 368 .546 1
Note that Tampa Bay ranks 9th out of the 14 expansion teams, higher than I expected. Now let's compare the teams overall records dropping the two new teams:
Total 1st 5 Total Team W L PCT Rank Rank Change NY Mets 3096 3408 .476 12 7 +5 Toronto 2018 2070 .494 11 3 +8 San Diego 2460 2921 .457 10 11 -1 Texas 3094 3563 .465 9 10 -1 Seattle 1930 2157 .472 8 9 -1 Houston 3229 3285 .496 7 2 +5 Milwaukee 2547 2829 .474 6 8 -2 Montreal 2602 2772 .484 5 5 0 Anaheim 3240 3434 .485 4 4 0 Florida 705 848 .454 3 12 -9 Kansas City 2679 2690 .499 2 1 +1 Colorado 742 815 .477 1 6 -5
Toronto, Houston, and New York improved the most. Florida and Colorado declined the most. The standard deviation of the change was 4.6 places, meaning that the most one would expect is a 4 to 5 place improvement/decline. Given that Tampa Bay is ninth, that's a swing from .485 to .454, any of which would be an improvement. Overall, the prognosis is not great given that no expansion team is projected to have a franchise record over .500 by the end of the year.
Given that Florida and Colorado constitute the previous expansion let's use them as guideposts. Doing this, the prognosis is not good for Arizona or Tampa Bay. The Marlins and Rockies represent the sharpest decline after the first 5 years. This may be due to an initial push to recoup the large expansion fee that MLB exacted. Those two clubs then slid in the standings. Tampa is already facing austere times after their great expenditures in the first three years, some of which they are still living with (e.g., Vaughn).
What does this all mean? On one hand, it seems that even the poorest expansion team improves to at least a .454 win percentage. That's about an average of 73 wins, something Tampa Bay has never even done before. On the other hand, it seems that there is a trend with the recent expansion teams to decline after the first five years. The aging Arizona lineup will probably face that fate soon. Why not the talent-poor Devil Rays? I think that these two competing forces, one towards mediocrity and one for a steep decline after year 5, will limit Tampa Bay to also-ran status for years to come. But as Baltimore showed this year, even with a young lineup that is not steeped in talent, great strides can be made toward near-mediocrity. I wouldn't be surprised to see Tampa Bay have its best year ever (not that that's such a feat) next year if it just lets its core of young players stick it out together. Of course, they'll start salivating when the overpriced free agents become available, and next year the starting outfield will consist of Vaughn, Brady Anderson, and Derek Bell. If so, Bud, please pull the plug now.
Schilling Wins 19th on Third
Schilling Wins 19th on Third Try
Curt Schilling finally garnered his nineteenth win after two one-run losses with seven shutout innings in the Diamondbacks 9-2 win over the Marlins. Schilling now has as many wins as walks on the year. To put that in perspective, tonight's Cincinnati-San Diego game, admittedly not a pitcher's duel at 9-7, featured 17 walks.
My 'At's off to Aaron (As Andy Capp Would Say)
Aaron Myette finally won a game in his fifth try for Texas. He went the minimum five innings, allowing two runs, both unearned, two hit batsmen, and four walks. In the process, he lowered his ERA by two runs to 9.76. Unfortunately, though, he will no longer be able to draw comparisons between himself and Curt Schilling. Both had entered tonight's games with 19 walks, Myette's in 22.2 innings and Schilling's in 185.1 innings.
Middle INFs leading MLB with
Middle INFs leading MLB with HRs (Sponsored by the Acronym Council)
Until a recent push by Sammy Sosa, Alex Rodriguez had been leading the majors in home runs for most of the season. Sosa is now only one ahead, 39 to 38, with five home runs in his last three games (and in the process raising his slugging percentage nearly 40 points while still striking out four times in twelve ABs). Rodriguez is still on a pace for the most home runs for a middle infielder, projected to edge out his total of last year by one (53 to 52). Rodriguez's 52 home runs last year, the all-time record for a shortstop, was still only fourth best in the majors.
If A-Rod does pass Sosa and earn his first major-league home run crown, he will be only the fourth middle infielder to do so. Here are the others:
Ernie Banks: 1958 (47 HRs, previous high for SS), 1960 (41)
With the perception being that the shortstop is usually the weakest hitting postion player, it's odd that Rogers Hornsby is the only second baseman to ever lead the majors in home runs while three shortstops have done it a total of four times and another may do it this year.
Whoever Gets to 15 Wins
Whoever Gets to 15 Wins First Might Be the More Underrated
Jarrod Washburn and Roy Halladay, both with 14 wins on the year, faced off tonight in Toronto. The game lived up to expectations ending in a 1-0 win for Anaheim. Both of these guys have been tremendous this year but seem to get no recognition for it. Here's a comparison of their performances tonight:
IP H R ER BB SO HR PC-ST ERA Washburn (W, 15-3) 8 3 0 0 0 5 0 87-63 2.97 Halladay (L, 14-5) 8 9 1 1 1 6 1 116-76 2.67 Total 16 12 1 1 1 11 1 203-139
Washburn was a little better giving up six fewer hits and using nearly thirty fewer pitches in the same number of innings, and nearly three-quarters of them for strikes. Oddly Halladay, who had only given 7 home runs to Washburn's 16, lost on a fourth-inning, lead-off home run by David Eckstein. It was only Eckstein's seventh homer of the season.
More on the Heart Breaker
More on the Heart Breaker
My friend Mike Markowitz was at the 16-inning Yankee loss the other day and has this to say:
And I was there for every heartbreaking pitch.
Every successful manager seems to have an odd player that he maddenly calls on at oddest times. Bobby Cox had Rafael Belliard and then Ozzie Guillen. Tony LaRussa had Lance Blankenship and Jamie Quirk. Earl Weaver seemed to start (and perfect) the trend with John Lowenstein, Benny Ayala, and Jim Dwyer. At least Weaver had a platoon system behind his moves. Torre has had Luis Sojo and his successor Enrique Wilson. These men are smart baseball managers but there seems to be some sort of arrogance that leads them to choose these men in situations in which common sense would dictate another choice. Either taking these chances is what made them great managers in the first place, or these choices are the product of these managers believing that they are invincible due to the "genius" tag that the press has hung on them. Or maybe a little of both.
Joe Morgan Chat Daydream Believer
Joe Morgan Chat Daydream Believer
Here at Mike's Baseball Rants, Fridays are special because they are Joe Morgan Chat Days at ESPN. Have you ever had the feeling that Joe was avoiding you? Well, we (again the royal we) do, and it's not just because of that restraining order. Joe moved his chat session last week up one day. This week he cuts it short. It's enough to make one say, "Hmm," and mean it.
The reason that we love Joe Morgan Chat Day is that Joe is totally incomprehensible. He was one of the greatest players of all time, is a fine commentator, and has some good insights, but those insights are awash in a bilge (mixed metaphor?) of good ol' illogical baseball horse sense. Joe is the Zeno's Paradox of baseball. He poses puzzles like, "Ernie Lombardi and Rickey Henderson are in a race. Now suppose that Henderson runs 10 times as fast as Lombardi and that Lombardi has a 10 meter head start at the beginning of the race. By the time Henderson runs the 10 meters to the point where Lombardi began, Lombardi will have traveled one meter and will therefore still be one meter ahead of Henderson. Then, by the time Henderson covers a distance of one meter, Lombardi will have traveled one tenth of a meter and is still ahead of Henderson. After Henderson travels one tenth of a meter, Lombardi will have traveled 1/100th of a meter. Each time Henderson reaches the previous position of Lombardi, Lombardi has reached another position ahead of Henderson. Therefore, Henderson will never catch Lombardi."
When you explain that, "The assumption that the sum of an infinite series of numbers is always infinite seems intuitively logical but is in fact wrong." He just shakes his head knowingly, and says that you computer guys just don't get the inner workings of the game.
Without further ado, here are this week's highlights:
John (Hamden): Hey Joe I was just wondering if they install steroid testing this year and players test positive for it, how will it affect the playoff situation? Will players be banned from post-season play or will they be given untill spring training to clean up their act.
Joe Morgan: They have not agreed on any methods of testing, or ramifications -- just that they would. Testing wouldn't start before next season. So, at this stae of the game, they haven't decided on what the punishment would be or the paticular finer points of the deal. They still need to negotiate and work out the details of what would happen.
[Mike: Joe, Just tell the guy to read the damn paper!]
Steve (Walnut Creek): Hey Joe, I just read your latest article on veteran influence and was wondering who you thought were the two best veterans (pitcher/hitter) for a young guy to play with today?
Joe Morgan: We saw Tom Glavine on the pitcher side tutoring Damien Moss on Sunday night. And for hitters, Rafael Palmeiro. He has a very straight forward approach to hitting.
[Mike: Do the Rangers even have any young players to take under Palmeiro's wing. Oh yeah, Kevin Mench and that oh-so-young Juan Gonzalez.]
Chris (Memphis) : Joe, what do you think of Barry Bonds reaching the 600 milestone??
Joe Morgan: Obviously it's a fantastic accomplishment! But I'm more impressed by his four MVPs because that helps his team.
[Mike: How do awards on Bonds mantelpiece help his teammates? Home runs drive in runs that's good for winning and winning is what helps his teammates. So they can afford to buy the G.I. Joe with the Kung-Fu grip for their kids at Christmas. I know that what you meant was by his being an all-around great player-and bon vivant man about town-so consistently, it helps his team more than a HR record. I'm sorry to mess with you, Joe.]
Adam (Highland): Hi, Mr. Morgan. Do you think Kaz Ishii's recent struggles are a result of fatigue, mental instability, or is he just not pitching well, and will return to form soon?
Joe Morgan: It could be fatigue. After pitching over 100+ innings, you go through one stage, then you get to 200+ and you get to another stage. So you're always susceptible to arm fatigue. Ishii is a quality pitcher. His control is what gets him in trouble when he's not pitching well.
[Mike: Don't bloviate Joe. I'm sure that the man pitched more than 133 innings in Japan. His ERA's been on the rise since June and his strikeout-to-walk ratio has been out of control since May. Maybe opponents just made adjustments, and he has yet to do so. Maybe there's a little difference between Japan and the National League.
Paul (Charleston): Joe, I was reading about a comparison of Jeter and Tejada, and was wondering what your thoughts on the subject are.
Joe Morgan: Physically Tejada is second only to A-Rod in terms of ability. He's capable of hitting for high average, home runs and stealing a few bases. Jeter is a winner, he's proven to do winning things on the field and that's what the game is about. If you're looking at just ability, Tejada has an edge, but you can't take away Jeter's edge of being a winning player.
[Mike:How do we measure this winning-ness of Jeter's? Is it just something a player has? Just trust Joe. They said the same thing about Dave "Hendu" Henderson. Henderson was a fine player that happened to be on three consecutive, different teams that each won a pennant. How did he do it? Did he have magical powers? "Read the book." No one noticed that when the A's tanked in '93 and when the Mariners sucked in the early to mid-'80s, who was there? Dave Henderson. What happened? Did he lose his mojo? No, a winning player is a myth. That's all. Anyway, why not mention that Tejada is two years younger than Jeter, that he needs to take a base on balls more often, and that his OPS (On-Base Plus Slugging) is the highest for his career but its still one point below Jeter's average OPS.]
Heart Breaker The Yankees just
The Yankees just lost a heartbreaker in the 16th against the A's, 3-2. Ventura struck out with men at second and third to end it. In total 38 players were used, 13 of which were pitchers.
Six Hundred Bonds did it
Bonds did it in his third at-bat. With Pittsburgh leading 4-2 in the sixth, Bonds batted with two outs and no one on against Kip Wells. On a 2-1 pitch Bonds hit a monstrous shot to deep centerfield. There was no doubt about it. Now, I guess he had better get started signing those 600 thousand-dollar bats.
Ode to the MVP A
Ode to the MVP
A reader, Brian Rodriguez, writes:
I used to think the MVP should go to the best player (e.g., a-rod this year), but lately I've come to believe that perhaps it should depend on how the team does. After all, a-rod's presence has his team finishing last this year. How many fewer wins would they have without him? It doesn't really matter because Texas would still finish in last, albeit with a worse record.
It's similar to the argument Branch Rickey as GM of the Pirates presented to Ralph Kiner after Kiner asked for a raise: "We finished last with you; we could have finished last without you!"
Interesting question. The funny thing is I used to think that who was voted the MVP should depend on how well his team performed. Now, I think that the best player should be elected, but more on that later. There is a basic problem with the award in that what the MVP should be is never clearly defined, or at least if it is, that definition is never really followed by the voting press. It's the most valuable player to whom? His team, the league, baseball, humanity, a higher being, who? The voters' answer to this has seemed to change over time. The MVP now seems only to be awarded to a star player on a playoff-caliber team. Ernie Banks won the award back-to-back in 1958 and '59, both years playing for a sixth-place team (in an 8-team league). Mark McGwire broke Maris' home run record and had an historically dominant year in 1998 but lost the MVP to Sammy Sosa, in part due to the perception that Sosa played on a winner and McGwire did not. Sosa's Cubs were 6.5 games ahead of the Cardinals in the NL Central. The Cubs finished second but won the wild card on a one-game playoff with San Francisco and then were swept by the Braves in the Division Series, scoring only four runs in three games.
Also, whom the voters would consider for the award has changed over time. At one point, a starting pitcher could be, and often was, voted the MVP. The last starting pitcher voted MVP was Roger Clemens in 1986. The thinking was that a) starting pitchers were given their own award, the Cy Young, in 1956 and b) they were not as valuable since they aren't everyday players. Starting in the '80s relief pitchers started winning MVP awards, but it seems to have been a fad since none have won one since Eckersley in 1992. Note that the season record holder in saves, Bobby Thigpen in 1990 with 57, only finished fifth in the MVP vote. However, there is a lot of talk this year about Smoltz getting some votes. Also, among position players RBI has been a statistic that voters seem to identify with MVPs, even when cognoscenti have anointed another for the award. There is also the odd phenomenon of players being snubbed with MVP-type numbers after having won the award (e.g., Giambi in 2001). Ted Williams was overlooked a number of times. It seems that the voters are looking for a break-out type player.
Brian's suggestion of a "wins created" statistic is highly topical given that this year Bill James finalized his Win Share system. The number of Win Shares per team is calculated by taking the team's wins and multiplying them by three. Then, these Win Shares are distributed to the team members based on their performance offensively and defensively. Defensive Win Shares comprise 52% of the total and are divided between the pitchers and the defensive position players. Given this arrangement, pitchers are seen as less valuable (i.e., receive fewer Win Shares) than position players. Perhaps this perception or realization (depending on your stance on this issue) is what led voters to exclude or overlook starting pitchers and then relief pitchers as candidates. Anyway, the Win Shares system is based on a player's performance above the replacement level whereas previous systems (especially Total Baseball's Total Player Rating) were based on his performance above the average player. The result is that a player's Win Shares are a good means to measure his value as a player. You could divide the player's Win Shares by three and in effect have the number of wins (above replacement level) that the player contributed to the team.
Now, back to the team-performance argument. If a player contributes ten to fifteen wins to a team, it does not matter if that team is first last or in the middle. Each player is helping his team win or at least trying to. How much more valuable is a guy who is having a tremendous year when the team around him is sucking eggs than a guy who is having a very good year on a good team. Let's use that as our premise and look at some MVP races.
Ichiro Suzuki had 36 Win Shares in 2001, which translates into 12 wins attributable to him. The Mariners finished 14 games ahead of the A's. How much was Suzuki really worth to that team? Ichiro had a very good year and was worthy of the award, but Jason Giambi had 38 Win Shares, led his team to the playoffs, and seemed to be the type of leader that the voters usually love (he was pointed to as the player that helped the most in turning around Oakland's season). But without Giambi (i.e., his Win Shares), the A's would have finished 89-74 and would have still been the wild card. Hmm, that does not seem to stick to our premise.
Let's look at McGwire again. Without his 41 Win Shares, the Cardinals would have been fighting Pittsburgh for last in the NL Central rather than having been an above-average team. Without Sammy Sosa's contributions (35 Win Shares) in 1998, the Cubs would not have gotten the wild card. But by the same token, without Mark Grace, Mickey Morandini, Jose Hernandez, Henry Rodriguez, Kerry Wood, etc., the Cubs wouldn't have made the playoffs either. Does that make each Cub who contributed to a win (since the Cubs won the wild card by one playoff game) more valuable than McGwire? I think not. The difference here is that McGwire had a statistically superior year to Sosa in 1998, whereas Giambi and Ichiro's 2001 season's were so close, it's harder to call. That sort of adds a little gray area to our premise.
Now let's look at Alex Rodriguez and Juan Gonzalez in 1996. This is pointed to as one of the worst MVP results in recent memory. Alex Rodriguez was unbelievable, as always, that year, and earned himself 36 Win Shares, but the Mariners finished 4.5 behind the Rangers in the West and 3 behind the O's for the wild card. Juan Gonzalez had a good year (21 WS), racked up a ton of RBI, and after Texas won the division, he won the MVP. Without Gonzalez, the Rangers would in theory have finished behind Rodriguez's M's, but according to James he was only the third most valuable player on his team (Pudge Rodriguez, 26 WS and Rusty Greer, 23). The problem with the "where would the team be without player X" argument is that the argument may work for too many people. It's a spurious argument in that it doesn't necessarily measure a player's individual value to the team, rather than how much a good player affects his team's record. It leads to poor decisions like Gonzalez. Also, in all these cases the effect of removing a player from a team assumes that a replacement-level player would be inserted. Most if not all of these teams had other players in their organization who could have filled in more capably than that.
Win Shares is somewhat problematic in that the calculations required to get the results are monstrous. It also uses seemingly every possible metric in every facet of the sport. Therefore, it's difficult to have a running total during the year. Baseball Prospectus has a statistic called VORP (Value Over Replacement Player). Here are the VORPs for the top-ten position players and top-ten pitchers in baseball:
Position Player Bonds, Barry 90.4 Rodriguez, Alex 68.7 Giambi, Jason 58.1 Kent, Jeff 56.1 Giles, Brian 55.4 Thome, Jim 52.3 Edmonds, Jim 50.3 Soriano, Alfonso 50.1 Walker, Larry 49.9 Berkman, Lance 49.5 Pitcher Lowe, Derek 66.8 Schilling, Curt 57.8 Moyer, Jamie 55.6 Johnson, Randy 55.6 Martinez, Pedro 53.4 Halladay, Roy 48.9 Washburn, Jarrod 46.4 Glavine, Tom 45.4 Zito, Barry 44.9 Oswalt, Roy 40.8
First, you may notice that the position player's value ranges are higher than the pitchers (defense is not included for position players). Second, you will see that Barry Bonds is playing in an entirely different league. I don't care where the Giants finish, if he doesn't win the MVP, it's a gross miscarriage of justice. Alex Rodriguez leads the AL, but a case could be made for Derek Lowe (who won't win because of pereception) or Jason Giambi. We'll have to see.
So where does that leave us? It is my considered opinion that the MVP award should go to the best player. Any and all statistical means should be employed to make that decision, but each statistic should be used only as a tool not the sole determining factor (that is, voters stop relying on RBI to pick your winner). If it's too tough to call, sure give it to the guy on the playoff team, but get the right guy. Not Gonzalez in 1996.
Bronx Cheer The Yankees and
The Yankees and the A's are playing a great on in Yankee Stadium. The score is 2-2 at the end of 11. Bernie Williams just ended the inning by getting tagged out by more than a step trying to steal second, of course just after the commentator said that Greg Myer was not a great defensive catcher and that Bernie should go. No one scored until the A's went up 2-0 in the top of the eighth. The Yanks tied it up in the bottom of that inning, and that's how it has stood since.
There's one thing that rankles me though. The A's held off on using Billy Koch, their closer, until the 11th. The pulled starter Tim Hudson after seven shutout innings and put in the Chad Bradford, who allowed the tying runs. Bradford is a fine pitcher, but if you have a closer why do you not use him at this point? I know that the thinking was that there were two innings left and your closer typically goes one, so why not let your short guy picth an inning to set Koch up. They didn't want to us Koch for two innings in the 8th and 9th innings but no they are using him in the 11th and 12th. Managers are so stuck up on that closer role.
I love records. I am not old enough to have seen anyone hit 600 home runs. Bonds will only be the fourth man to do it. Bonds is just one away, and I'm excited. But it's incidental to the game. Players should play the game and let the records take care of themselves (Bob Brenley be damned). Fans should applaud when a record falls. They shouldn't take photographs in the stands on each swing that Bonds takes. And they shouldn't boo when he doesn't homer. Especially at home.
Tonight in the bottom of the first, Bonds took a 2-1 pitch and hit a grounder up the middle for a single (somehow that Jack Wilson got a glove on the ball and almost made a close play of it--that guy is fun to watch). When the ball left the bat an apparent solid hit--but not a home run--the San Francisco crowd booed! The man is representing your city. He's trying to get your team into the playoffs. And he just got a hit. Treat him with respect. And the fans say that the players today have no loyalty.
Aaron Boone's Big Night II
Aaron Boone's Big Night II
Aaron Boone just wiffed on a 2-2 pitch from Mike Holtz. The Reds only have three hits since the first, and he may only get one more at-bat. Oh well, I guess there goes the 5-homer night.
Kenny Roger's Roaster II The
Kenny Roger's Roaster II
The lead is gone. The next batter, Travis Fryman, struck out, but then Ricky Guitierrez doubled both runs in. Tough break.
Kenny Roger's Roaster Ranger Kenny
Kenny Roger's Roaster
Ranger Kenny Rogers had a perfect game going into the eighth inning. Also, Texas led Cleveland 2-0. Jim Thome led off the eighth witha 6-pitch walk. Bye bye, perfect game. Then, the next batter, Milton Bradley, doubled to left on an 0-1 pitch. Bye bye, ho-hitter. With no outs and a man on second and third, the lead may go bye bye, too. Baseball is a tough sport.
Aaron Boone's Big Night Aaron
Aaron Boone's Big Night
Aaron Boone has three home runs tonight in three at bats for the Reds through the first four innings. Of the three homers two came in the first inning. Boone will get at least two more chances barring injury.
The Reds lead the game 10-6. They scored nine of those runs in the first and oddly were the first of the two teams to pull their starting pitcher. San Diego starter Brett Tomko lasted until the fourth and was pull after relinquishing the tenth run. His line for the night: 3.1 IP, 9 H, 10 R, 10 ER, 3 BB, 3 K, 4 HR, a 50-point increas in his ERA (3,96 to 4.46) and a potential loss. Oh, but he did walk and score a run, so it's not a complete loss.
Way Too Smoltz-y Phil Rogers
Way Too Smoltz-y
Phil Rogers has his NL MVP ballot and steps he took to derive it on ESPN. His final ballot has John Smoltz number 1 and Barry Bonds #2.
His case for Smoltz, is that
1) pitching is why Atlanta has the best record in baseball.
Let's take those one at a time:
1) They have great pitching, but if they are all pitching why does he then list Gary Sheffield seventh on his ballot. You can't have it both ways.
As far as Bonds chances, Rogers points to Bonds' high batting average and his record-breaking walk and on-base numbers as positives. However, he erroneously states that "[b]arring a late surge, the Giants once again will fall short of reaching the playoffs." The Giants were the wild-card leaders at the time. Rogers also points to Bonds' hamstring problem as limiting his base running and defense.
AS John Sheehan explains:
Bonds has a .448 EqA (Equivalent Average). That's 105 points better than Brian Giles' second-place .343. Factoring in playing time, the difference between Bonds and Giles is about the same as the difference between Giles and Carlos Lee.
Only Baseball Matters points out:
A team of nine Barry Bonds' would outscore a team made up nine Larry Walker's (#2 in runs created per 9 innings) by almost double, 18 to 10.
Bonds is having a season of historic proportions. Smoltz is chasing a marginalized record. Who would you vote the MVP?
A Big Lie Hitler once
A Big Lie
Hitler once said, "The great mass of people will more easily fall victim to a big lie than to a small one." So what do I think of reports that MLB projects a $220-million dollar loss and that one "official" expects a $450-million loss with only one unnamed team in the black? Well, I don't want to compare Bud Selig to Hitler-Hitler had more charisma-but they do both know the importance of a big lie.
Try to swallow this one:
"As of June, given where payrolls ended up and attendance being down more than five percent, net operating losses will be over $450 million "
First, has attendance gone down? I checked the reported attendance for 2002 on ESPN against the 2001 attendance in TSN's 2002 Baseball Guide. The 2001 average was 29,813.89 per game. The 2002 average so far is 28,466.25. That is a decrease of 4.7%, not the over 5% we were promised but close. However, given that the season is not over we may not be comparing apples to apples. I would assume that attendance goes up for the pennant race, so there may in actuality be no decrease. Let's just assume a 4.7% decrease.
The official also states that salaries are up. Doug Pappas estimated that salaries when the season began 2002 vs. 2001 rose 5.2%. Taking the numbers as reported by MLB for 2001 and assuming all remains the same except for the salary increase and the attendance drop, we get:
A Big Lie Hitler once said, "The great mass of people will more easily fall victim to a big lie than to a small one." So what do I think of reports that MLB projects a $220-million dollar loss and that one "official" expects a $450-million loss with only one unnamed team in the black? Well, I don't want to compare Bud Selig to Hitler-Hitler had more charisma-but they do both know the importance of a big lie. Try to swallow this one:"As of June, given where payrolls ended up and attendance being down more than five percent, net operating losses will be over $450 million " - MLB officialFirst, has attendance gone down? I checked the reported attendance for 2002 on ESPN against the 2001 attendance in TSN's 2002 Baseball Guide. The 2001 average was 29,813.89 per game. The 2002 average so far is 28,466.25. That is a decrease of 4.7%, not the over 5% we were promised but close. However, given that the season is not over we may not be comparing apples to apples. I would assume that attendance goes up for the pennant race, so there may in actuality be no decrease. Let's just assume a 4.7% decrease. The official also states that salaries are up. Doug Pappas estimated that salaries when the season began 2002 vs. 2001 rose 5.2%. Taking the numbers as reported by MLB for 2001 and assuming all remains the same except for the salary increase and the attendance drop, we get:
Bonds Oddity Follow-Up Dan Lewis
Bonds Oddity Follow-Up
Dan Lewis has a story entitled Bonds Oddity #2 discussing how Bonds could potentially win two legs of the Triple Crown, home runs and batting average, but is not anywhere near the lead in the third, RBI (currently 14th). He had asked if any "player has ever lead the league in both HR and BA and not been top 10 in RBI." I thought I would investigate.
Of the 22 seasons in which the same man has lead his league in home runs and batting average, 16 have resulted in a Triple Crown. They are:
Player League Year Medwick NL 1937 Klein NL 1933 Hornsby NL 1922 " NL 1925 Hugh Duffy NL 1894 Paul Hines NL 1878 Tip O'Neill AA 1887 Yaz AL 1967 F. Robinson AL 1966 Mantle AL 1956 Williams AL 1947 " AL 1942 Gehrig AL 1934 Foxx AL 1933 Cobb AL 1909 Lajoie AL 1901
Three 3rd-place finishers:
Player League Year Mize NL 1939 Heinie Zimmerman NL 1912 Levi Meyerle NA 1871
And one player whose league did not record RBI: Fred Dunlap (UA) 1884.
Finally, the highest place anyone finished in the RBI lead who lead their league in batting average and home runs is 4th, one time: Ted Williams (AL) 1941. So Bonds not even being in the top ten is pretty unusual.
Very Bad Gilbert and Sullivan
Very Bad Gilbert and Sullivan
There's a scene in the great, and largely forgotten, fifties political thriller Seven Days in May in which Burt Lancaster plays a general who is testifying before Congress when it becomes apparent that one Congressman is merely feeding him lines to allow him to expound on his own political agenda. Frederick March plays a slovenly and most often drunk, southern Senator, who interrupts by saying something like,"Gentleman, if you're going to work from a script, these proceeding will take on all the appearance of very bad Gilbert and Sullivan." It's a great line, and after reading the latest doom-and-gloom message from MLB, or rather from an unidentified "baseball executive, with knowledge of the financials," I am reminded of it.
His estimate nearly double the projections released by MLB yesterday. Both items mysteriously appear after Nelson Doubleday harshly criticized MLB's financial disclosures. Did anyone else notice that the Doubleday story has now been relegated to obscurity? It doesn't even appear on the ESPN MLB page. But each of these stories occupied the top spot on the site. ESPN is owned by ABC, and ABC is owned by Disney. Disney also happens to own the Anaheim Angels. Interesting, huh? So each time a story like this is released, please try to keep Frederick March's comments in your head. Remember that you cannot accept everything at face value. There is an agenda behind it.
What, No "Chicken BLEEP"? That's
What, No "Chicken BLEEP"?
That's what Arizona manager Bob Brenley called Ben Davis' bunt-single that broke up Curt Schilling's perfect-game bid in the eighth inning. The Padres were trailing 2-0, and Davis later said he was just trying to win the game. Brenley after the game said, "Ben Davis is a young player and has a lot to learn about how this game is played."
Yesterday, Greg Maddux had just completed three innings of no-hit ball, when Tony Womack started the fourth with a bunt single to break up the no-hitter bid. I know that there is a world of difference between a no-hitter in the 4th and one in the 8th, but if Brenley felt so vehemently that what Ben Davis had done was wrong, how can what Womack did be right? I have seen no commments, chicken-excrement-related or otherwise, from Brenley regarding the play. I have checked ESPN, USA Today, and the Arizona Republic online. I guess Brenley will only comment negatively on other team's players not his own.
It's My Strike Zone And
It's My Strike Zone And I'll Cry If I Want To
The Braves are angry at last night's homeplate umpire Angel Hernandez or rather at the strike zone he was calling. From the USA Today:
The Braves were most incensed by Remlinger's pitch to Womack to start the eighth that was called a ball when it looked like strike three...Womack said Hernandez told him "he was calling them up and down, not in and out." Arizona starter Rick Helling said he'd been told the same thing by Hernandez.
Why is Hernandez allowed to call his strike zone? Isn't there one strike zone? And why does Hernandez get to modify from day to day the strike zone that he will be using? Couldn't that determine the outcome of the game given Maddux is more of a corner nibbler, especially if the ump tells one side but not the other? I thought that the whole idea of calling the strike zone according to the rule book was to eliminate this kind of nonsense. Why isn't MLB even talking to Hernandez?
Stop the Bandwagon, I'm Getting
Stop the Bandwagon, I'm Getting Off
As you may have heard, the players union and MLB agreed on mandatory drug testing for illegal steroids starting next year. I know that with all of the bad press resulting from the Caminiti and Canseco steriod-use admissions, MLB, the players, and the fans want to clear the air on this issue. That's fine, but they should make sure that whatever proposal they implement will be effective. From what I've read about steroids, and I am by no means an expert, their proposal is woefully insufficient.
First, the "players would be subjected to one or more unannounced tests in 2003 to determine the level of steroid use." From what I've read, steroids can only be traced within hours of introduction to the body. Checking someone once a year for steroids is like trying to find a needle in a haystack.
Second, what happens to the an individual who tests positive? "The union did not say what penalties, if any, would be levied against players who test positive for steroids." Why not? Is it established but is not being made public? They had better have the penalties laid out before someone actually tests positive. There are reportedly a good percentage of false positives (positive results even though the substance has not been consumed by the individual) with the steroid tests, just like with almost any test. Does an individual have an opportunity to prove that his positive result was a false positive? How would that work given the small window available for testing? If an individual tests positive, claims that it was a false positive, and is re-tested, that process could take a matter of days if not weeks. Given that steroid use is undetectable in hours, the player would, if he were using the substance, know to stop after the first test and make sure that he passed the follow-up.
Third, how will the tests be conducted? Who is conducting these tests and can they be trusted? Will the samples be coded so that the players' names are not displayed directly on th tests, adding another level of security? Who in the team's organization and at MLB will know the results? How would penalize the player if necessry, the team, MLB as a whol, or the players union? Will it be public? When will the tests be administered, at once for all players or for an entire team, or on an individual basis? Who establishes the schedule? There will be "one or more" tests, who will have the "or more"? Is it just players who failed or suspicious players (i.e., ones who have recently bulked up) and who determines the "or more"-ness? What are the repercussions if the information gets leaked to the press?
Fourth, steroids are illegal. Aren't there legal ramifications? Is a player even obligated to comply with the testing just because the union agreed to it? Is it really within their purview? Does he have a right to turn down the test? Does MLB have the authority to administer the test? Does MLB have to get the authorities involved? Is MLB legally culpable if a player fails the test and the authorities are not involved, and then that player later dies or his health is compromised due to steroid use?
Finally, "[i]f more than 5 percent of the tests were positive in either survey, players would be randomly tested for two years." Setting a threshold for something like this is dangerous. It is a political football that can be easily manipulated by the paarameters of the test. If the owners want to reach this 5% threshold, they may tend to test players more likely to test positive and not test those who are likely to test negative (i.e., middle infielders). The rules of the test must be established, must be fair to all players, and must be followed before a threshold like this can be instituted.
I am just like everyone else. I want to be able to trust that when my team wins or, more likely, loses, it is due to one set of players using the talents and abilities to the fullest to defeat another set of players. I don't want to wonder if anyone's performance was compromised or unduly improved due to a bet he has placed, an illegal piece of equipment, a substance on the ball, or a substance in or on the ballplayers body. But if that means compromising the players rights and in the process creating a test that cannot truly be trusted, how does that reassure me? I know that this a popular bandwagon to jump on right now. I just hope that in the rush to look proactive, all of the issues have been well though out. And knowing the way baseball does things, I kind of tend to doubt it. Take a look at football--how effective are their steroid tests?
Walk-Off Nab How about that
How about that catch last night by Terrence Long ostensibly robbing Manny Ramirez of a 3-run homer, ending the game, and preserving a 3-2 Oakland win. I especially like the range of expressions on the face of Boston cop who was located in the Red Sox bullpen right behind the leaping Long. He went from ecstacy to disbelieve in a fraction of second.
With the win, Oakland pulled even with the Red Sox in the wild-card standings. They are now tied for second a game and one-half behind Anaheim. I hate the wild card but it is great to see two good teams compete so intensely. Of course, the competition would be greater if there were fewer playoff spots but that's nitpicking.
Pulp Fiction The major-league owners
The major-league owners will now take their dog-and-pony show into court in Mets co-owners' (Fred Wilpon and Nelson Doubleday) Solomon-esque court battle. According to ESPN:
The 30 major league teams began the year projecting an operating loss of $220 million in 2002, down $12 million from last year, according to minutes of...a Jan. 16 owners meeting [from a projection] by accountant Robert Starkey, a consultant to the commissioner's office..
I'm not sure if this is just the owners trying to counter the bad press from Doubleday yesterday. Or if they are foolish enough to think that a memo from a meeting is sufficient evidence for a court of law.
Bu there's more: According to the minutes, Bud Selig never called for contraction until after the World Series on purpose:
The commissioner began the discussion of contraction by stating that he had decided not to cause widespread discussion of contraction during the postseason, even before the events of Sept. 11
Who gushed like a schollgirl at the prom every time that he got to discuss contraction or the fact that every team is in dire financial straights? Selig. Who announced erronously, and rather embarrassingly, right after the All-Star game that two teams would not make payroll and oh yeah, one of those teams will really surprise you? Selig. But now we're supposed to believe that Selig "decided not to cause widespread discussion of contraction during the postseason"? He spoke about it in the 2001 postseason. He spoke about it in Spring Training. He promised contraction would happen. He speaks about it at the drop of a hat during the season. Who else keeps bringing the topic up? Come on!
At the time of the November 27th owers' meeting, a trial court had issued an injunction enjoining MLB from removing the Twins, but this is what Selig had to say at the meeting:
Selig told owners "he would not have done anything differently, and that every problem that has occurred was anticipated.''
How can this be? If you believe that one, try the statement by Selig that contraction will happen before the 2002 season. There's no way that they had anticipated that the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission would have obtained the injunction enjoining them from dissolving the team. If so, why would MLB's attorney Bob Dupuy have instructed the Twins to renew their contract for 2002, a contract that stipulates that they have to field a team? Keep in mind that they had to renew just six weeks before the contraction plans were made public. How then can we rectify the statement that Selig had anticipated contraction but delayed calling for it?
This is a house of cards that cannot possibly support itself. Will some teams lose money this year? Did some lose money last year? I don't know. I am dubious. It seems a little too convenient that this financial situation has arisen right before the labor negotiations.
But the more the owners try to disseminate what amounts to, at worst, boldface lies and, at best, misrepresentations, the more that I will doubt their financial statements. When they blatantly flout the fans' intelligence, they do not deserve the fans' trust. The only way that I can possibly believe them now is if the open their books, but they won't do that. Before you as a fan blindly accept what they say at face value, ask yourself why that is. What are the hiding? If you love the sport, you have to consider it.
Rocket to the Rescue? Roger
Rocket to the Rescue?
Roger Clemens will be activated from the disabled list to pitch tonight against the Royals. It's not a bit too soon: the Yankees staff ERA since the All-Star break (excluding Clemens 5 innings of shutout ball before getting hurt) is 5.06, more than a run higher than their pre-All-Star ERA (3.95). Somehow they have still widened their lead over Boston by two games in that period.
Loyal Indians The Indians have
The Indians have re-signed Dave Burba to a minor-league contract. (I guess it is consistent with a team that has held onto Charkes Nagy who is on his fifth straight unproductive year.) Burba was a hell of a pitcher for Cleveland a few years ago but is 35 and has had two straight bad years, and with Cleveland likely going through a wholesale rebuilding process, it does not seem to make a lot of sense. But it could be a great move: he could turn it around next year and anchor a young staff. Or at least be a serviceable member of the rotation. The odds are very much against him. But even if he fails, what have they wasted in signing him for the last two months of the season. I can't imagine he will make more than the league minimum on a minor-league contract anyway.
There's a Sale at Macy's!
There's a Sale at Macy's!
I read Tony DeMarco's article on MS/NBC explaining how the surprising Angels are in the playoff hunt. It is basically a love letter to Garret Anderson. The article is so poorly written that I cannot for the life of me understand why NBC paid for it. "I don't know what the artist got, but he should've gotten life." Here are some gems:
And still-underrated Garret Anderson, owner of the second-most hits in the major leagues over the past 51/2 seasons, delivering one clutch hit after another in the middle of the lineup.
There are so many ridiculous comments and incorrect facts strung together that it's hard to know where to start:
1) Garret Anderson is probably one of the most overrated players in baseball. He can't take a walk to save his life. He is having a good year this year but is well over his career average in OPS. Second most hits over the last 5-1/2 seasons? If you're swinging at everything and your team let's you to do so on a daily basis then you're going to get some hits. Anderson has had over 600 at bats each of the last 6 seasons and is on track for another one.
2) Let's be clear about this Tim Salmon is the best player (with nods to Troy Glaus) and leader of this team. He had a lousy year last year and so did the Angels. He's having a very good year this year (though not as even as good as his career average OPS) and so are the Angels. Salmon was batting .167 with no home runs and had an OPS of .485 through the Angels first twenty games during which their record was 6-14 (Anderson hit .269 during that span). Since then he is batting .319 with 18 home runs, is getting on base about 40% of the time, is slugging almost .600, and has an OPS around 1 (.982). Salmon also plays a more demanding defensive position. Salmon is not even mentioned in the article.
3) The Angels are first (he said 3rd) in ERA and sixth (he erroneously said 5th) in runs. That's not a bad combination. The offense is not the best in baseball, but it's among the playoff teams in the AL (with poor pitching Chicago and Texas in the mix). Who cares about fielding percentage? They're number on in STAT's Zone Rating.
Here's more from his "Question and Answer" section:
Q - Who in your opinion is the most underrated player on a contending team who has put his team over the top?
Counsell is a third baseman with a .706 OPS who has gotten tons of postseason exposure. How can he be underrated? Izturis (.540 OPS) has been a drag on the Dodgers offense all year. You've read my comments about Anderson.
This is just uninformed, shoddy journalism. With all the great work that Bill James has done over the years, we still have to be subjected to this tripe. Shame on you, MS/NBC.
Erstad Mugging A number of
A number of analysts have been bemoaning the financial wastefulness demonstrated by the Angels' signing of Darin Erstad to a four-year, $32-million contract. I agree totally with their analyses: It is highly unlikely that Erstad will be worthy of the money, given that he is not far from replacement level now and has had a poor season in three of his last four.
But I've been k'velling over the whole thing. It's wonderful to see teams spend gobs of money futilely after a year in which everyone in baseball, especially Bud Selig, has been decrying the owners' wasteful ways and warning of the coming apocalypse. I love to seeing a team that reportedly made only $25,000 last year (according to MLB--Forbes estimated that the Angels made $5.7 million) flushing $32 M down the toilet. It kind of makes you think that maybe these guys are not as poor as they put on. Right?
Buddy and the Mets Dan
Buddy and the Mets
Dan Lewis' web log has some good insight into the latest Bud Selig scandal.
Denny McLain Can Rest Easy
Denny McLain Can Rest Easy
Curt Schilling's bid for 30 wins is officially over. He had a no-decision last night as his D-Backs lost to the Braves. Schilling had needed to win his 11 remaining starts plus either a playoff or make-up game on the day after the season (which would count in the regular season stats) to reach 30. Oh well.
Moose on the Lose What's
Moose on the Lose
What's wrong with Mike Mussina? ESPN claims that he has had two bad outings in a row, which is certainly true, but his troubles go further back than that. Look at his monthly breakdowns for the season and notice that he hasn't pitched consistently well since April and that he has been bailed out by tremendous run support from his teammates (RS = runs for the entire game not just while Mussina is pitching):
Month ERA W L G IP H R ER BB K AVG K/BB BB/9 K/9 WHIP HR RS April 3.71 3 1 5 34 24 14 14 7 31 .190 4.43 1.85 8.21 0.91 7 4.6 May 5.03 4 1 6 39 37 23 22 9 34 .243 3.78 2.06 7.78 1.17 4 7.8 June 5.35 4 1 6 35 42 21 21 7 25 .300 3.57 1.78 6.37 1.39 7 6.8 July 5.22 2 2 5 29 36 18 17 6 18 .300 3.00 1.84 5.52 1.43 3 6.8 August 6.43 0 1 1 7 14 5 5 0 3 .438 -.-- 0.00 3.86 2.00 0 2.0 Total 4.90 13 6 23 145 153 81 79 29 111 .268 3.83 1.80 6.89 1.26 21 6.4
Bonds-zo's Montreux As Barry Bonds
As Barry Bonds prepares to hit his historic 600th home run, I thought it would be fun to look at the next four starting pitchers that he will face. I know that I just upbraided Jayson Stark for doing just this yesterday, but it's just so damn fun:
Pitcher AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO hbp AVG OBP SLG OPS HR/PA Kerry Wood 14 3 0 1 0 3 2 2 1 .214 .353 .357 .710 .000 Matt Clement 10 4 1 0 1 4 1 0 0 .400 .455 .800 1.255 .091 Kip Wells 2 2 0 0 1 4 1 0 0 1.000 1.000 2.500 3.500 .333 Kris Benson 10 6 0 0 1 1 6 1 0 .600 .750 .900 1.650 .063 36 15 1 1 3 12 10 3 1 .417 .553 .750 1.303 .064 Career 8204 505 73 1614 1318 71 .294 .424 .592 1.016 .058 2410 599 1848
Those are some great numbers. Notice that in the small sample, Bonds HR-per-Plate-Appearance rate is higher than his career average. I don't think it means anything at all, but it's kind of interesting.
Just Because You're Paranoid Doesn't
Just Because You're Paranoid Doesn't Mean People Aren't Against You
The generally redoubtable Murray Chass pooh-poohs the conspiracy theories circulating over the Cliff Floyd Gambit. Chass details the reaction to the Strickland-to-Mets trade, the Colon trade, and the last Floyd trade, showing that the reaction has transformed to fit the conspiracy theory du jour. Well, there will be criticism for nearly every deal (by the way no one questioned J. P. Ricciardi for trading Billy Koch because he was a closer with a 4.80 ERA in 2001). Besides, I think the reaction to the Colon and first Floyd trades was very favorable.
Quoting the ever-equanimable Larry Bowa does not lend an air of credibility to Chass's theories, but maybe Bowa was right-maybe the directive of the team is to make it as attractive and/or profitable as possible for a potential sale. Collecting star names, generating some press and possibly competing for a playoff spot would certainly increase a team's value. By the same token, once you've determined that a playoff spot is not within your grasp traded a slumping star with a $6.5 million contract for two middling prospects after renting him for 19 days and pocketing the $1.5 million bonus from the team that traded said star to you also would make the team more profitable and therefore, more attractive to a potential suitor. Maybe the Red Sox were the only team that didn't demand that the Expos eat some of Floyd's contract to consummate a deal, something that was highly popular at the trade deadline. Maybe MLB baseball plans to sell the team after the season and wants to boost its value as much as possible to make as large a profit as possible off its sale. I don't know if it qualifies as a conspiracy, but it stinks of conflict of interest. Maybe having Bud Selig's lapdog acting as the Red Sox owner didn't hinder the proceedings either.
Whatever the motivation behind the Expos moves, the relationship with MLB will wreak of conflict. Hopefully, the owners are primping the Expos for a sale after the season so that this embarrassing episode can come to an end.
By the way, Chass's suggestion that people are against Omar Minaya because he is the majors' first Latin (is that even the preferred term now?) General Manager. This is totally unworthy of inclusion. Minaya's future appears far from "promising" when he continues to pour through players as quickly as he does (Chris Truby, Bruce Chen, and Cliff Floyd have all been acquired via a trade later to be traded during the 2002 season). The best reply to the conspiracy theorists is that Minaya demonstrates pretty clearly that there is no conspiracy plot behind his motives since there is no intelligible plan driving his actions, other than having George Steinbrenner apologize to his team for criticizing a highly questionable trade.
Truly Useless Info I usually
Truly Useless Info
I usually enjoy Jayson Stark's Useless Information columns. Today's wild card one is a bit silly:
Here's the breakdown of where the 14 wild-card teams since 1995 stood as they plowed into August.
It's somewhat interesting that 9 of 14 wild-card teams were the wild-card or division leaders at the start of August. The others are just kind of odd, but they don't tell you anything about this year's wild-card race. It's such a small sample, it doesn't tell you anything.
Basically, sports reporters do not understand the basic concept of probability but they'll spout off predictions based on, say, an 0-for-8 that a batter has against a certain pitcher. Who cares? If you flip a coin ten times and it comes up heads seven of those flips, what does that tell you about the probability of next flip being heads? Nothing. It certainly isn't 70%. The probability is 50% heads always. The probability is determined by a set of circumstances that are independent of the coin flip history.
What does it tell you about the Mets' playoff chances if in 14 tries, no team has come back from a 5-game deficit to win the wild-card? Nothing. The probability is dependent upon how the Mets perform, how the teams they trail perform, intersecting schedules, luck, etc. But since the '96 Rockies trailed the Cardinals by 5 games in the wild-card (I'm making this up) and failed to win it, the Mets have a harder row to hoe?!? At least that's what they'll tell you. Maybe that's why they still don't get OPS.
Numbers can be informative, numbers can be interesting, but very rarely can numbers be good predictors.
Selig's Watergate? Nelson "Deep Throat"
Nelson "Deep Throat" Doubleday, co-owner of the Mets, says that commissioner "Trickie" Bud Selig and a former Arthur Anderson accountant were "in cahoots'' with fellow Met co-owner Fred "Checkers" Wilpon to "manufacture phantom operating losses and depress franchise values."
This should be interesting! Stay tuned.
MLB: Ump Jumped the Gun
MLB: Ump Jumped the Gun in Dumping Gagne
MLB has ruled that ump Dan Iassogna made a mistake ejected Eric ("Don't Call Me Greg") Gagne in the August 1 game in which the Dodgers, then leading 4-2, eventually lost 6-4 in 16 innings.
OK, so given that the game has playoff implications for both teams and the ump screwed the pootch, replay it from that point on. Isn't this the same as the George Brett pine tar incident (other than the game was played on from that point whereas Brett's call ended the game)? Iassogna's ejection was not only illogical (why would Gagne throw at a man when the tying run would bat next?), he overstepped his boundaries by ejecting Gagne without issuing a warning first. Gagne is not a head hunter (2 hit batsmen this year, though 16 last year) nor has he demonstrated a penchant for hitting men after a homer: 5 HR allowed to 2 HB in 2002, 24 HR to 16 HB in 2001.
Of course, they won't replay because a) LA does not travel to Cincinnati, the site of the incident, again this year (nor do they play each other at Dodgers Stadium) and the schedule is too tight and b) the Dodgers are happy to have Gagne back sans suspension and will not try to muck that up.
But what about Iassogna? What happens to him? Here are the results of his poor decision making according to resident enforcer Bill Watson:
There were a whole lot of things that happened to the Dodgers as a result of the umpire making that call, and we just really felt that nothing else needed to be done. Their closer and manager were ejected, they lost the game and had to make roster moves because of all the pitchers they had to use.
Ralph Nelson, vice president of umpiring for MLB, had this to say about Iassogna:
Nelson... probably would not discipline Iassogna, a reserve umpire from Triple-A with extensive service in the majors, because he made a judgment call and "believed he did the right thing at the time."
Oh, well I forgot murder was against the law. It seemed a good idea at the time. Wow, he doesn't even get reprimanded. Rule 8.02 says:
(d) Intentionally Pitch at the Batter. If, in the umpire's judgment, such a violation occurs, the umpire may elect either to: 1. Expel the pitcher, or the manager and the pitcher, from the game, or 2. may warn the pitcher and the manager of both teams that another such pitch will result in the immediate expulsion of that pitcher (or a replacement) and the manager. If, in the umpire's judgment, circumstances warrant, both teams may be officially "warned" prior to the game or at any time during the game. (League Presidents may take additional action under authority provided in Rule 9.05) To pitch at a batter's head is unsportsmanlike and highly dangerous. It should be and is condemned by everybody. Umpires should act without hesitation in enforcement of this rule.
So it's all dependent upon his judgment. Well, he used his judgment, and it was clearly wrong. Shouldn't he at least be instructed as to what qualifies as a situation in which a pitcher may be intentionally throwing at a batter? Just an idea.
New Web Log Go check
New Web Log
Go check out Misha Berkowitz's (or Berkowitz'?) blog . Don't cost nuthin' and it leaves your web browser minty fresh.
Favorite Toy Critique I have
Favorite Toy Critique
I have seen a good deal of analysis regarding Barry Bonds reaching 600 and 700 home runs and surpassing Mays, Ruth, and Aaron using the Bill James "Favorite Toy." The Favorite Toy is a great, fun tool. However, I have some reservations with using it exclusively for predictions.
I feel that it sees things too linearly to be an effective analysis tool. Basically, it takes the number of years remaining based on age and the number of home runs in the last three years, with each year weighted appropriately, calculates the expected home run total for the player and then determines the likelihood of reaching a certain preset threshold. I just feel that the expected home run totals are calculated way too uniformly for all players.
Barry Bonds is an exceptional home run hitter and to base his expected home runs based on his age without taking into account his performance level is too limiting. A player who hits 30 HRs at age 38 will not "age", I believe, the same as a player who hits 5 at 38. The 5-HR player will reach, or already has reached, replacement level and will not be long for the baseball world. A 30-HR player generally has farther to go. I know that Favorite Toy takes into a account the player's performance level but it assumes that that level has no bearing on the player's reamining playing time.
I am trying to devise an expected home run total for Bonds (and strikeout total for Randy Johnson) that unites the idea of the Favorite Toy with a weighting for a player of Bonds caliber. I have a plan for deriving the data and just have to find time to do it. I'll keep you posted.
The Far-Reaching Legacy of the
The Far-Reaching Legacy of the League That Never Was
Part Two: The Continental League's Legacy
The Continental League was proposed as a third major league after two New York teams relocated to the West coast. It failed to field a team, but as a concession from the existing major leagues four of its owners were allowed to purchase new teams (except the Twins which relocated from Washington) in the two extant leagues. Eventually baseball would either expand into or shift teams to all but one of the CL's proposed cities (Buffalo). So what aside from an interesting anecdote in the histories of four major-league teams does the CL's legacy add up to?
First and foremost, the CL engendered the concept of expansion to baseball. Today it is difficult to understand the degree to which the existing major leagues were calcified against expansion. Every new league was seen as a threat to be subdued. The American League was the strongest, and it gained equality with the existing National League within two years of proclaiming itself a major league. After the Federal League of 1914-15 was broken, some of its owners were allowed to buy into teams in their respective cities in organized ball and the rest were paid nominal fees. The Federal League's Baltimore Terrapins brought suit and their case ended in the 1922 Supreme Court case that bestowed baseball's so-called antitrust exemption upon organized ball (though it was more a referendum by the court for Congress to formulate laws to regulate the sport, one that was never fulfilled). The Mexican League had been broken and has been a nominal Triple-A league ever since.
The concept of expansion was a brokered solution, and a rather ingenious one at that, to avoid both the existence of a third major league and the threat of a lawsuit and possibly loss of antitrust exemption if that third major league were not allowed to exist. MLB went into siege mentality, hunkering down to wait out the new league. When they wouldn't fade away but rather started to threaten the majors both by attempting to access their greatest resource, the players, and by lobbying what political leadership they could muster. The majors came to the solution of a controlled expansion orchestrated by the existing regime as the best answer. Once half of the owners were admitted into MLB, the need for a third major league was obviated.
The CL was something new in baseball annuls when it comes to new or rival leagues. Prior to the CL, leagues had two results. One, they failed to materialize either due to internal strive or external pressure from other leagues. Or two, they fielded teams and soldiered sometimes successfully (for example, the American League and to a lesser degree the American Association, whose teams were co-opted by the NL) and sometimes not (for example, the Players League and Union Association, which did have one team, St Louis, enter the NL). Some had mixed successes like the FL and Mexican League that "survived" via brokered deals. The CL, however, never materialized as an on-field entity, but through expansion CL owners and CL cities were allowed to enter the major leagues. MLB would now buy out or pressure any future proposed major league, that was de riguer, but now if the league withstood, instead of fielding its own teams, they would be absorbed into the existing structure. Organized ball seized on the idea and quickly added it to its repertoire when dealing with pockets of recalcitrance either in the government or in a community itself.
Donald Trump proposed a 1987 league that died on the vine, in part due to the economic woes of the time. The A-League was proposed during the 1994-95 strike, but never fielded a team and evaporated once the strike was settles. The Triple-A owners threatened to form their own major league once negotiations broke down for a new National Agreement with MLB. A new agreement was then worked out and the minors have seen a boom of merchandising (the main concession from MLB) and attendance gains since.
Expansion became the way to avoid lawsuits, congressional pressure to remove baseball's antitrust exemption, and the threat of too many viable yet vacant cities forming a third major league. The CL experience taught the majors how to maintain its monopoly by allowing slow, contained growth overseen by MLB itself, of course, with the best interests of baseball (theirs) in mind at all times.
Seattle was granted an expansion team in 1977 in part to avoid a lawsuit over the relocation of the Seattle Pilots to Milwaukee in 1970 (the Mariners expansion fees were reduced $500K as a partial settlement of their lawsuit as well).
The two Florida expansion team and the Colorado Rockies were added to placate Senators Connie Mack III (Fla.), grandson of the Hall-of-Famer, and Tim Wirth (Col.) lead members of the Congressional Task Force on Baseball Expansion and proponents of legislation ending baseball's antitrust exemption. The Task Force had set a goal in 1990 of six new teams by the year 2000. However, it lay fallow after the Miami and Denver expansion teams were granted in the NL expansion decision of 1991 and failed even to meet again.
The Tampa Bay franchise was launched to avoid a possible lawsuit by St. Petersburg against MLB for blocking the relocation by the Giants. The White Sox, Mariners, Orioles, Indians, and Rangers
As the various lawsuits and Congressional pressures were being exhausted, a new impetus for expansion started to take hold, one that the CL never did presage. That would be exorbitant franchise fees. Actually, franchise fees were initially an afterthought. In the 1961-62 expansion, the four teams had to pay for players that they were obliged to draft from the existing teams' rosters. The resulting fees ranged from, $1.8 to $2.15 million in player draft fees. And the Los Angeles Angels were required to pay a $550 thousand indemnity fee to the Dodgers for invading their territory of only three years. But there were no franchise fees.
The 1969 expansion saw the creation of the first fees but they were still small in the AL ($100, 000). Only the NL had caught on ($4 million plus $2.5 in "working capital"). The player draft fee was still large ($6 million in the NL and $5.25 million in the AL). The AL also barred the new teams from a share in the national television contract for 3 years, which cost them an additional $2 million. Therefore, the AL though behind the NL in franchise fees had invented hidden fees that would come more into play in the future.
The 1977 expansion saw the fees grow to $7 million (Seattle paid $6.5 million but their fee was lowered as partial settlement of their antitrust lawsuit). The expansion fee included the player draft fees ($5.25 million). Finally, the franchise fee reigned supreme. It had subjugated the player draft fee and would now become the biggest driving force in future expansions.
There was a long hiatus from expansion (14 years between the 1977 expansion and the 1991 expansion announcement), the longest in its short history. Without a pending lawsuit, the majors dragged their feet on expansion. It took a groundswell of Congressional pressure, criticism over different schedules between the two leagues given the disparity in their size, and owner greed to finally grant two new NL teams in 1991. The franchise fees in 1993 were $95 million and $14 in a hidden fee barring them from TV rights for a year. The player draft is no longer even itemized. The expansion teams were just granted the right to draft 36 ballplayers.
In 1998, the franchise fees were a staggering $130 million spread over 4 years. Additionally, there was a hidden fee barring the new teams from sharing in MLB's central fund for five years, a total cost of $25 million. Again the player draft is not itemized-the right to draft 35 players is merely ceded to the new teams.
It's no wonder that MLB so wants to foist their ill-conceived contraction plan as to draw the ire of whole populations of fans and risk debasing their product in the national media. Once two teams are desolved, there will be two more cities begging for an expansion team (witness Houston, Baltimore, and Cleveland in the NFL) as well as two more communities to threaten to move to. The fees can only go up if there is a demand and by contraction baseball will help create that demand.
There is one thing that they are forgetting. Expansion was not born to extort millions from new baseball communities. It was started to control minimize Congessional pressure, avoid lawsuits from denied cities, and to obviate the need for a third major league. Those pressures had reached an equilibrium in the last decade or so. However with contraction, MLB may be arrogantly turning a blind eye to these very powerful, primordial forces behind their business. They should remember the lessons of the Continental League.
Underachieving Red Sox I was
Underachieving Red Sox
I was just wandering along amid the ESPN expanded standings trying to figure out if the Braves were really that good when I noticed something unusual. While most teams are a game or two within their expected win-loss records, the Boston Red Sox are a full 7 games worse than expected. They are trailing the Yankess by a hefty four games when they should be four games up on New York. I found that a little hard to believe so I thought I would check it out.
Sure enough, the Red Sox are way behind what would be expected of them. By the way, I use the Pythogorean Win Percentage with the values raised to 1.83, and the ESPN site uses to the power of two but we get similar results. Witness:
Actual Pythagorean ESPN W-L PCT GB HOME ROAD RS RA W-L PCT GB W-L PCT GB NY Yankees 69-41 .627 - 33-17 36-24 650 506 67-43 .613 3 68-42 .623 4 Boston 65-45 .591 4 28-24 37-21 610 445 70-40 .640 - 72-38 .653 -
That's one game difference, but still the Red Sox should have a comfortable margin over the Yanks. Wha'appened?
I noticed that the Red Sox home record is not all that spectacular (28-24). Also, their record in one-run games is 11-16 and in extra inning games is 1-4. Then I looked at their schedule and noticed that had had a large number of games decided by large margins. There were 8 decided by 10 or more runs, seven of which the Red Sox won. Their runs for and against in those games is 104 to 31 for a Pythogorean winning percentage of .902. This translates into 7 expected wins, which is how many the Sox won. However, if you subtract the totals from these 8 games from the Boston record you get 506 runs for to 414 runs against for a Pythagorean win percentage of .591. Or a 60-42 record just two better than their actual record (minus the eight high scoring games) of 58-44. The difference, I would assume, was made up for by the issues I mentioned above and a few other high-scoring affairs (though not with double-digit differentials). Eight high-scoring games can really affect the expected win-loss totals for a team.
Hit Me With Your Best
Hit Me With Your Best Shot
The Phillies have just taken a 2-run lead on the Dodgers at the end of eight innings. The Phillies scored 3 in the bottom of the eighth to take the lead. They had scored one run to tie and had the bases loaded with two outs when Giovanni Carrara relieved Paul Shuey. Carrara proceeded to hit the next two batters to give the Phillies the lead before getting Tomas Perez to line out to end the inning.
Of course, in the top of the ninth Jose Mesa had to find a way to make it interesting. He had one out and then Adrian Beltre reached first after swinging at a third strike that got away from the catcher and was called a wild pitch. After a single, a strikeout, and a walk the Dodgers had the bases loaded with two outs as Dave Roberts flied out to end the game. There's nothing like a good closer, and Mesa is nothing like a good closer.
Same Old Song and Dance,
Same Old Song and Dance, My Friends
Commissioner Bud Selig is still spewing the partyline regarding contraction. As far as relocating franchises is concerned:
"I've said about relocation -- they'll be relocation after we've changed our economic system. Contraction is going to be take place before relocation. We will relocate teams in the future, but we need to solve out internal problems first.''
Well, that would be fine and good had they always stood behind this stance. They claim that the 1996 collective bargaining agreement was so highly flawed that they can no longer do business. Why then did they expand by two teams in 1998 (Tampa Bay and Arizona)? I know that the ludicrously high franchise fees ($135M) were enticing, but aside from the Pavlovian response that baseball owners have whenever money is mentioned, if the owners had a "system [that] is so, in my [Selig's] judgment, badly flawed, it's going to take a myriad of solutions," why add fuel to the fire?
In truth, relocating a franchise does nothing to the system as a whole. It should improve one team's situation at the expense of no other team. It could have nothing but a salubrious effect on MLB as a whole. Expansion, however, could exacerbate existing problems. So why did the majors expand in '98? Maybe, just maybe because the problems are complete fiction that were invented for the labor negotiations to promulgate the owners' position. What else makes sense?
Spreading the Smoltz on Extra
Spreading the Smoltz on Extra Thick
Michael Wolverton of Baseball Prospectus writes on ESPN that John Smoltz is having a better year than his ERA would indicate:
I'm not here to overstate the case for Smoltz. He's not the most valuable reliever in the majors this year. He may not even be the most valuable reliever on his own team. The MVP buzz surrounding him is ridiculous. At the same time, this is not just another Alfonseca season. Smoltz has spent most of the year recovering from one bad game and doing the things that don't show up in the box score. He's having a fine season despite the ERA. With a deep bullpen anchored by Smoltz, the Braves should be in terrific shape come October.
All good points there. However, I think that Wolverton still may be overemphasizing Smoltz' season.
Point 4 in the article states that one bad outing in April 6 is still costing Smoltz. Here are his statistics with and without the outing:
G IP H R ER HR BB SO W-L Sv ERA K/BB WHIP Total 55 59.2 47 25 25 4 18 68 2-2 39 3.77 3.78 1.09 4/6 1 0.2 6 8 8 0 2 2 0-1 0 107.95 1.00 11.99 Result 54 59 41 17 17 4 16 66 2-1 39 2.59 4.13 0.97
That is quite an improvement, but a 2.59 while being very respectable is not exactly overpowering. Here is the adjusted John Smoltz compared to the rest of the Atlanta bullpen:
NAME GP S IP H R ER HR BB K RS WHIP ERA RA K/BB Hammond 46 0 56.1 40 13 8 1 26 49 4.6 1.17 1.28 2.08 1.88 Remlinger 56 0 53.2 34 10 8 1 19 55 5.0 0.99 1.34 1.68 2.89 Holmes 37 1 38 27 7 6 3 8 27 4.3 0.92 1.42 1.66 3.38 Gryboski 42 0 39.2 35 10 10 4 29 26 2.5 1.61 2.27 2.27 0.90 Smoltz (adj) 54 39 59 41 17 17 4 16 66 - 0.97 2.59 2.59 4.13 Ligtenberg 35 0 47 39 15 14 4 23 38 5.2 1.32 2.68 2.87 1.65 Spooneybarger 31 1 30.1 22 11 10 1 16 18 0.3 1.25 2.97 3.26 1.13 Smoltz (tot) 55 39 59.2 47 25 25 4 18 68 0.5 1.09 3.77 3.77 3.78
He moves up from seventh to fifth in ERA. The first point in the article is that he has not given up any runs not included in his earned runs; therefore his run average (RA) is much lower than the league average. True, but it still is fifth in the Braves bullpen. His adjusted WHIP (walks plus hits per innings pitched) and Strikeout-to-Walk ratio are excellent (2nd and 1st in the Braves bullpen respectively). However, I believe this just indicates that Smoltz is the most logical choice for the closer role, as currently defined in post-Eckersley baseball, on the staff. He is still not by a long shot the best nor even average on the excellent staff.
Angels Redux Since moving into
Since moving into a tie for first with Seattle on July 26th, the Angels are 4-5 against three playoff-caliber teams at home, the Mariners, Yankees, and Red Sox. They are now three games behind Seattle in the AL West and tied with Boston for the wild card. I had said earlier that their difficult schedule-half of their last 62 games are against playoff contenders-could take a toll on the team. We will have to see if they rebound against also-rans, Detroit, Chicago, and Toronto as the start a road-trip tonight.
Jay Bell, First Baseman? Jay
Jay Bell, First Baseman?
Jay Bell, a lifetime shortstop who was converted to second base by the Diamondbacks (and a huge wad of cash), came off the disabled list two weeks ago and has played four of his six defensive games at first base (plus one at second and one at third). This is not an ideal situation for the D-Backs, who had missed injured righty Erubiel Durazo. Even though Bell has hit 38 home runs in a season, at 6' and 184 pounds and with a .764 OPS in his career he is not your typical first baseman. With Durazo back we may not get another chance to see Bell covering first.
Collusion IV? As of this
As of this morning Al Leiter and Darrin Erstad are the only potential free agents to be resigned for next year. Even though teams are preaching fiscal responsibility, this strikes of another round of collusion among the owners. Even were it true, proving collusion in this case would be nearly impossible. With the strike looming the owners can individually claim financial nervousness. Besides, if a new collective bargaining agreement is signed, new deals would be proffered. If a strike does occur, contracts are superfluous anyway.
Were the Phillies Unbeknownst to
Were the Phillies Unbeknownst to Us Asymptotically Approaching a Pennant Race?
For those of you who failed to notice, the Phillies beat the Dodgers 3-1 on Friday and were 7.5 behind them in the wild-card race with 2 games left in the series. I actually read a headline (well, a caption) in a Philadelphia newspaper that brazenly proclaimed that the Phils were in the wild-card race. They were last in their division, four games below .500, with seven teams between them and the wild card (and had just traded their star third baseman) yet they were playoff contenders.
They have since lost both remaining games in the series, the second one at the hands-and bat-of phormer Phillie Omar Daal, and are 9.5 games behind LA, with their playoff dreams all but a memory. It seems that this was just another in a string of meaningless Phillie apogees starting with the 1993 season and culminating with the unexpected playoff run last year.
Were the Phillies actually in the race? If they had swept the Dodgers (they lost by slim margins in both games), could they now be in the thick of pennant fever? Let's say they did beat Los Angeles in the last two games. The wild-card standings would be:
San Francisco 61-50 .550 - Los Angeles 60-51 .541 1 Cincinnati 58-52 .527 2.5 Houston 57-53 .518 3.5 NY Mets 55-55 .500 5.5 Montreal 55-56 .495 6 Florida 55-56 .495 6 Philadelphia 54-56 .491 6.5
Did you notice that the Phils would still be basically out of the race even after sweeping the Dodgers? As the knock off one team another just takes its place. There are too many teams and too many interdependencies to overcome. If a wild-card leader loses, probably another contender wins. The grains of sand shift but the end result is the same. A seven-game deficit may be overcome in a division race with a hot streak and a couple of head-to-head series, but the wild-card is just too complicated a nexus to best so easily.
It's just another reason to hate the wild card: The Phillies appear to be in a race, can advertise to the fans that they are in a race, and yet it's just an illusion. It allows teams to play it both ways. They can sell off talent like the Phils, Marlins, and Expos did before the trade deadline and still promote a pennant race. The Mets are the only team that seems not to notice this dual benefit, or maybe they realize their rabid press wouldn't allow them the luxury
Bonds hits #598 Barry Bonds
Bonds hits #598
Barry Bonds hit his 598th home run tonight approximately a week after his 38th birthday. As Bonds soon becomes only the fourth man to hit 600- the other three being Aaron, Ruth, and Mays-and begins to catch up to the other three, there will be a great deal of press conjecturing as to whether or not Bonds is capable of supplanting these three legends. You will hear reporters spouting that Bonds cannot hold their jockstraps (maybe not, since they're in the Hall of Fame in the Underwear Division).
However, keep this in mind: Mays turned 38 in appropriately May of 1969. He hit a total of 13 that year and 73 from 1969 to the time he retired in 1973 (Bonds, of course, had 73 last year alone). Aaron had 116 home runs left in his tank at age 38, including one last 40-homer year at 39. Ruth like Aaron hit 34 home runs the year after turning 38. However, he only had three seasons and oddly 62 home runs left.
Bonds appears to be in better condition (give or take an injury or two) than those three at 38 and, given his recent success and the era in which he plays, should be able to surpass their totals (i.e. from 38 on). But one has to wonder given the rapid decline of these three immortals and Bonds recent string of injuries. Also, a strike now could really throw a crimp in his chances.
Also, had the 1994-95 strike not occurred, Bonds' total in '94 of 37 homers in 112 games and in '95 of 33 homers in 144 games (the full schedule for his team, the Giants, both years) projects out to 54 and 37 respectively based on 162 games. Bonds had played 158 games or more the three non-strike years between 1993 and 1997 inclusive, so his playing the entire schedule is not unrealistic. He would stand today at 619 with Mays easily within his grasp by the middle of 2003.
Big Scores in the Big
Big Scores in the Big State of Texas
The Texas Rangers lost to the Red Sox at home tonight by a score of 11-3. This after breaking a three-game streak in Texas of at least one team scoring in double digits-a game which did, however, feature 14 total runs. That makes seven of the last ten games (that is, their current homestand) in which at least one team has scored at least ten runs. The three games which fell short still were by no means low-scoring: the winning team scored 9, 9, and 8 in those games.
The Rangers ended the homestand 5-5 against three playoff-caliber teams in the A's, Yanks, and Sox. Texas was outscored 83-79 in the ten games even though they won 17-6 over the Yankees and 19-7 over Boston on successive nights. Four of the ten games ended with the winning team outscoring the loser by at least 10 runs. The average advantage in the homestand was 7.8 runs for the winner.
Are the high scoring contests that were expected when Texas signed Alex Rodriguez finally becoming the norm? We'll have to wait until the 13th when the Rangers return home to host the White Sox in order to see.
By the way, Adam Myette, the losing pitcher tonight, has thrown 6.2 innings and given up a total of 14 runs in his last two starts since Dave Burba was released. He has lost both games and has seen his ERA go from 9.39 to 11.91, over twice Burba's ERA at the time of his release. Some thought the notion of holding on to the aging Burba (35) when younger arms could use the work, would be advised to remember that those young arms had better be major-league caliber or the work will come at the fielders' expense. Strking out over a hitter per inning is nice, but holding opponents to fewer than one run per inning is even nicer and might lead to actual wins.
The Far-Reaching Legacy of the
The Far-Reaching Legacy of the League That Never Was
Part One: The Continental League's History
We twenty-first century baseball fans proudly look back on the past century and know with complete certainty the developmental history of major-league baseball was a progressive evolution from primordial bucolic avocation to a highly organized, billion-dollar business. First, baseball emerged from the Dark Ages of 19th century ball and became "modern." That's why we can completely discount any record before 1900 (the true end of the 19th century just as 2000 was the true end of the last century).
Then baseball went through a brief period of flux like the seven days in Genesis required to create the earth. The American League was created. And it was good. AL teams moved around a bit and then team names and identities developed.
Next, there were about fifty years without any changes-there were the same eight teams per league in the same ten cities, none further West than St. Louis. This was known as the "Golden Age" because most of the great teams ('27 Yankees, '44 Cardinals, '29-'31 A's, etc.) and great players (Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Walter Johnson, etc.) played.
Then in the fifties, somehow on by a combination of Jackie Robinson's breaking the Color Line and Manifest Destiny, baseball suddenly moved into new areas: Milwaukee, Kansas City, Baltimore, and especially the West Coast with the Dodgers and Giants moving to Los Angeles and San Francisco respectively.
In the 1960s more changes came (and now new clubs were needed to meet the demand). Expansion was born. The New York Mets replaced the relocated Dodgers and Giants. Houston, Los Angeles (a second team), Minneapolis/St. Paul, San Diego, Seattle, and Montreal were new cities added to the major-league roster. Teams still moved and MLB branches into Oakland, Atlanta, and finally Dallas/Ft. Worth in 1972.
Since then no teams have moved but expansion has continued to be a useful tool at growing baseball's fanbase. A second Canadian team, Toronto, was added in 1977 (and Seattle was re-added). In the '90s Denver, Miami, Tampa/St, Petersburg, and Phoenix were all added. And thus the 20th century ended. Baseball now is more concerned with eliminating existing rather than adding new cities and fans to its fold.
There are many fallacies made out of whole cloth in this commonly held history of major league baseball's development. Perhaps the one that is the most glaring and has the most resonance today is that team movement led directly and logically to expansion. And that the Powers That Be in the majors embraced expansion with the optimism and foresight needed to expand their business into new areas. Actually, they had to be dragged into expanding their market kicking and screaming. The impetus for expansion lay not within organized baseball but from the outside, from a new league that at first just wished to join the majors quietly and amicably but that quickly became organized baseball's ultimate threat. That league called itself the Continental League.
When the Dodgers and Giants moved out West after the 1957 season, the New York metroplitan area was left with only one major-league baseball team for the first time since 1883 (technically, New York and Brooklyn were separate cities until the 1898 incorporation of modern New York). New York mayor Robert Wagner was outraged that New York now had one team while Chicago still had two. He established a committee to lure a National League team to the city. The task was ill-fated. The Giants and Dodgers had just left for greener pastures and could not be lured back. By the way, the relocation of the two NL clubs had evicted three Pacific Coast League teams (LA Angels, San Francisco Seals, and Hollywood Stars) in one fell swoop and also helped remove the PCL's "open" classification. The Open classification was a designation designed specifically for the league when it had grown extremely powerful and semi-autonomous, with the idea in mind that the PCL would one day become a third major league. It was a classification that the league had held for six years and they had controlled their our players and had their own development teams all the while.
Even if New York could lure one of the California teams back, due to travel expenses the other would have to incur being the sole West-coast team, there would certainly be a fight either in the league office or in the courts to consummate the deal.
Of the remaining 6 candidates, the Milwaukee Braves could not be lured having just moved from Boston and enjoying success on the field and an exuberant fanbase. St. Louis and Philadelphia clubs were just starting to enjoy the rewards of being the sole representative in their cities, which would certainly have fought tooth and nail to prevent the lose of a second team. The Chicago, Cincinnati, and Pittsburgh teams were the only other possibilities left but New York was unsuccessful in bagging any of them.
Wagner next turned to eminent lawyer William Shea, who in turn called on septuagenarian Branch Rickey to organize a third major league. Rickey lined up both the money and the baseball men, and the Continental League was all but ready to hang up their shingle and begin operations. Teams were set for New York, Minneapolis, Atlanta, Denver, Houston, Toronto, Dallas, and Buffalo.
They proposed integrating the CL with the existing major leagues with revenue sharing, common player pools, and cross-scheduling. MLB met on May 21, 1959 and issued a statement welcoming a third major league. Of course, they may have been influenced by Congressional interest in legislating a third major league into being. Shea and Rickey lobbied Seantor Estes Kefauver and Representative Emmanuel Celler. Those two Congessmen represented the subcommittee on the Study of Monopoly Power, which in 1951 began protracted hearings with many baseball players and officials involved. Though nothing came of it, there were then three bills and eight antitrust cases pending against MLB.
Baseball had also recently survived the threat of a rival league in the form of the nascent and rogue Mexican League (founded 1946). Commissioner Happy Chandler had declared a ban of five years on all players who jumped to the league. Danny Gardella was one such player who changed his mind and petitioned for re-instatement. When he was denied, he sued MLB. The ban was finally lifted in 1949, and Gradella settled out of court. But those in MLB still remembered the incident.
MLB started stalling on the issues with the CL. They demanded usurial repayments for the territorial rights to the CL cities which were at the time occupied by minor-league teams in organized ball. Senator Kefauver then proposed a bill to limit the number of minor-leaguers that MLB could control, though it was defeated 45-41.
In March 1960, the CL attempted to create a minor league to develop the players for the soon-to-be major league. Then-commissioner Ford Frick would not allow it. Rickey threatened to raid existing teams.
On July 18, 1960, the National League voted to expand and the American League followed suit. MLB promised the CL group four new major-league teams. The Mets, whose stadium was later named for Shea, and Houston were added to the NL in 1962. Two Continental League owners were given teams in the AL in 1961 (the Minnesota Twins relocated from Washington and the Los Angeles Angels, even though they were not originally among the CL group). Four more CL cities acquired teams subsequently: Atlanta in 1966 (relocated from Milwaukee), Toronto in 1977 (expansion), Dallas/Ft. Worth in 1972 (relocated from the second Washington Senators, that was poorly conceived as a replacement when the originals moved to Minnesota), and Denver in 1993 (expansion). Despite drawing over one million people from 1988 to 1992 inclusive in the minors, Buffalo has tried unsuccessfully to nab an expansion team in both the 1993 and 1998 expansions.
Part Two: The Continental League's Legacy-coming next week.
Topics Still To Come Do
Topics Still To Come
Do the Yankees Have an Unfair Advantage in In-Season Acquisitions?
Email me if you have any other questions/comments/ideas.
Heating Up in Texas The
Heating Up in Texas
The Texas Rangers beat the Red Sox last night by a score of 19-7, one night after beating the Yankees 17-6. That's not all-five of their last seven games had at least one team score in double digits (the two not in double digits featured nine runs for the winner).
In Total Texas has had 20 such games this year, and all but four were at the Ballpark at Arlington. The Rangers at Texas are 11-9 (.550) in those games and have outscored opponents 176-167. Their Pythagorean winning percentage is .524, which would translate 10.48 wins and 9.52 losses (Pythagorean win percentage = Runs For ^1.83 /(Runs For ^1.83 + Runs Against ^1.83)). Those Rangers found a way to get an extra .52 wins out of the deal. Well, how about that!
These Are the Joe Morgan
These Are the Joe Morgan Chat Days of Our Lives
Joe Morgan thought he could avoid us this week by moving his chat a day up to Thursday, he claims because of a scheduling conflict. This begs the question that if a Joe Morgan chat session was held in the woods, would anyone hear it? Well, we would here at Mike's Baseball Rants because it is our (again my overuse of the royal we manifests itself) rasion d'etre so to speak and you know, le coeur a ses raisons que la raison ne connait point. Joe is the Gödel's Theorem of baseball analysts: at once he's intriguing, ludicrous, and stupefyingly inscrutable, saying things like, "This statement of baseball theory does not have any proof in the system of Principia Baseballica and claiming it's a tautology of all things, until you have to rub your temples to make the pain stop. Joe is in rare form this week-nary a lucid statement to be found. So without further ado...
Elias, New York: How are you doing Mr.Morgan. Any chance of Texas trading A-Rod in the near future because of his salary? If so how many teams can afford him$$$$ And also at what point do we star saying he is the greatest ball player ever!!! Thank you
Joe Morgan: A-Rod, in my opinion, is the best player in the game today because of his age and his production, etc. I've always said Bonds was the best, but because Bonds is toward the end of his career, he doesn't run as well and do some things A-Rod can still do. He is on his way to becoming one of the best players ever at any position. I don't think they will trade him because they won't trade the best player in the game. Trading him will not make the Rangers better. They need players around him.
[Mike: Sounds reasonable. Almost lucid.]
Jeff Schwartz: Which team after the trading deadline has improved themselves the most approaching the stretch run of the season and why?
Joe Morgan: A lot of teams improved themselves, but we have to wait and see how the new players perform at the new places. Like Ryan Dempster in Cincinnati or Jeff Weaver in New York. They haven't done anything. The Giants were in need of a starting pitcher and a leadoff man and only got one. They were OK, not great. Again, these teams only think they improved themselves. We don't know if they actually have yet. It will depend. On the surface, St. Louis improved with Scott Rolen. Cliff Floyd in Boston. He didn't do anything in Montreal. A lot of them look good, but we have to wait and see.
[Mike: Way to go out on a limb, Joe. That's the kind of insightful reporting we've come to expect from you.]
midwayMonster: Why didn't Seattle make a move to keep pace with the AL West and do you think they'll make any moves via the waiver wire?
Joe Morgan: They may have felt like Boone was starting to hit better. They are getting more production from guys who were struggling. And they say they are at the limit of their spending, which I don't understand. The Mariners make money, and may have made more money than Steinbrenner last year, but they don't want to spend it. Steinbrenner reinvests in his team.
[Mike: Obviously, Joe subscribes to the owners' numbers when it comes to team profitability. Forbes magazine, that scandal sheet, claims that the Yankees made about $4 million more than the Mariners. Besides that's a conservative estimate considering what Steinbrenner's Yankees will make with their new YES network.]
Scott (Nashville): I know the Cardinals upgraded the offense and defense by picking up Scott Rolen. However, do you think that their pitching staff is "champion" material without picking up a good #3 starter and the return of a healthy Woody Williams and Garrett Stephenson?
Joe Morgan: Just about every team needs another starter, except maybe the Yankees. They just need their guys healthy. The D'Backs are looking for pitching. Everybody wants Kenny Rogers. I think the Cards upgraded the defense, but we will wait and see if they upgraded it on offense. I'm a big fan of Placido Polanco; I never saw him make a mistake on the field. Pitching won't kill the Cardinals because everybody needs it. Look at the Reds. They still need it too.
[Mike:Of course Joe loves Polanco. It makes perfect sense. As a third baseman, Polanco is a converted second baseman. Rolen has won three Gold Gloves at third. Polanco has good range and makes fewer errors but does not possess Rolen's arm. Although looking at Polanco's smaller sample, the numbers don't completely bare this out (their Range Factor and Zone Rating are almost identical though Rolen's RF is slightly higher; Their Fielding Win Shares are both about 11 for 2000-01, but they are not divided up by position-Polanco played a lot of second and short in 2000). Rolen's Fielding Win Shares per 1000 Innings is 4.23, which is slightly behind a group of recent greats: Boyer (4.97), Schmidt (4.51), Nettles (4.40), Robinson (4.24).Rolen is rated a B+ overall. Polanco did not play enough innings at 3rd to be listed. I think there is enough evidence to say that Rolen is a very good third baseman. Polanco is good but just how good cannot yet be determined. The disparity in batting is more pronounced. Polanco's career OPS (On-Base Plus Slugging) is .714 or 85% of league park-adjusted average, OK for a middle infielder. Rolen's is .877, 25% above the park-adjusted league average. Nuff sed?]
Chris (Tacoma): Do you think wins/losses for a pitcher are overrated? Half of this statistic depends on run support, which in the American League the pitcher has no control over.
Joe Morgan: No. A pitcher is sent to the mound to win, not to just pitch a good game. Wins and losses are important, like runs and RBIs are important to a hitter. An ERA is like a batting average; it's a personal thing. It doesn't make your team better. It's the same with a batting average. It's what you do with it. Do you hit with guys on base or with no one on base. Do you win when your team scores 10 and lose when it scores four? ERA and batting average are just a tape measure.
[Mike: One Joe Morgan special to go please. Where to start? A pitcher is sent to the mound not to win all by himself but rather to pitch well enough to give his team a chance to win. Harvey Haddix threw 12 perfect innings against Milwaukee in 1959 and finally allowed the winning run in the 13th. By Joe's criterion ("wins and losses are important"), Haddix pitched poorly, but other than his times at bat he had no control on how many runs his team scored. When Nolan Ryan led the Nation League in ERA in 1987 (2.76 which was 42% better than the park-adjusted league average) but had an 8-16 record, was he just a losing pitcher? ERA's are not like Batting Averages at all except for the fact that they average things for a career, a season, a team, etc. What matters in baseball? Runs. Batting average has not a whole lot to do directly with runs. In ERA runs (earned ones) are what you're counting. Who's better a .275 hitter with a .400 on-base percentage and .450 slugging average or a .300 hitter with a .325 on-base percentage and a .375 slugging average? Obviously, the former is much better-he gets on base more and is productive as a hitter. Who's better a pitcher with 2.75 ERA, a run support of 3.25 runs per game, and a 10-8 record or a pitcher with a 4.00 ERA, a 5.50 run support, and a 12-6 record? Who would you trade for? (All this assumes similar park factors and league averages.) Situational statistics are also important-how someone hits or bats under pressure. But ERA with the bases loaded tells you more than batting average with the bases loaded. (Take, for instance, a batter who hits a single with the bases loaded and one that homers. They both are batting one thousand in the AB, but the second batter did more to help his team win.)]
Bruce (Columbia, SC): After reading your column about Mays being the greatest living ballplayer I was struck by your hypocrosy. How, on one hand, can you say Mays waws better than DiMaggio and Williams, but on the other hand, not draw a comparison between Bonds and Mays because they played in different eras. Did not Wlliams and DMaggio, for the most part, play in different eras than Mays? It appears that you change the rules midstream to justify your opinion. Joe, your bias, is blatantly obvious.
Joe Morgan: The game only changed completely in the last 10 years, not from the time DiMaggio played to win Mays played. The balls weren't juiced, the players weren't accused of taking steroids, and the pitchers were better. I'm glad you have an opinion; I gave you mine.
[Mike: Bruce, don't you be nasty to Lil Joe. He won two MVPS and is arguably the greatest second baseman of all time. He deserves your respect. He also happens to be right about Mays. I agree that he has always been the best. And he is right again that everyone is entitled to his opinion. But he is ludicrously wrong in saying that the game has only changed over the last 10 years. Here are the runs scored in the NL and AL along with the attendance per game in 10-year increments over the last 100 years:
Year NL R/G NL Att/G AL R/G AL Att/G 1992-01 4.64 29054.48 4.99 27972.75 1982-91 4.11 23909.46 4.49 23715.39 1972-81 4.09 18872.63 4.24 16302.52 1962-71 4.03 15963.58 3.97 12366.31 1952-61 4.42 13981.82 4.36 13179.90 1942-51 4.32 11532.78 4.34 12514.31 1932-41 4.47 6556.03 5.16 6737.23 1922-31 4.88 7588.17 4.97 7605.81 1912-21 3.91 4546.31 4.10 5527.98 1902-11 3.91 4614.41 3.85 5111.21
Bowden and His Size-11 Mouth
Bowden and His Size-11 Mouth
Yesterday Reds GM Jim Bowden made comparisons between the Sepetember 11th attack and a players strike to the press. He later apologized, and I'm sure that offending the people affected by the attack was the last thing on his mind and that upon reflection he regretted the remarks. By the way, this is what he said:
"If players want to strike, they ought to just pick Sept. 11, because that's what it's going to do to the game. I don't think there's going to be a work stoppage. I don't think anybody's that dumb. If they do walk out, make sure it's Sept. 11. Be symbolic. Let Donald Fehr drive the plane right into the building, if that's what they want to do.''
But I have two things to say about this. One, Cincinnati is far from New York, both geographically and mindset-wise. In NY, Bowden would have been on the first shuttle out of town. Actually, no one in the New York area who was slightly affected by the attack and is slightly evolved would say such moronic things. Two, Bowden's intelligence, or at least savvy, has to be questioned. He's representing the Reds team, the city of Cincinnati (who everyone now thinks is peopled by insensitive boobs), and MLB as a whole. He cannot make such stupid comments, especially to the press even in supporting the owner's company line. This will come back to haunt him and soon.
Missed It By That Much
Missed It By That Much
Curt Schilling gave up a first-pitch, ninth-inning, walk-off gopher ball to Vladimir Guerrero yesterday to break a 1-1 tie, thereby failing his in his first attempt at 19 wins. But in the larger picture, Schilling whose Diamondbacks had 55 games remaining before the game, lost even the remotest possibility of getting 30 wins given the team's remaining schedule. Prior to the game, Schilling would have needed the stars to align to get to 30: he had to win all of his remaining starts (12 based on his pitching every five days). Now the only possibility is for him to win his next ten scheduled starts and then get a break to pitch one day early on the last day of the season at home against the Rockies (9/29). Would the D-Backs risk such a thing with a playoff series starting two days later, a series for which Schilling could be well rested to pitcher the opener? I would have to think not.
There is one other possibility, or maybe two. The first is a playoff game for the division or the wild card. If the D-Backs are tied with another team at the end of the regular season, the would play a one-game playoff, it would be Schillings turn in the order, and the statistics would count in the regular season. This is rather a rare occurrence (especially given Arizona is 5 games up in the NL West) but the addition of the wild-card team increases the possibility.
The other possibility is even more remote. Say the D-Backs get rained out between now and the end of the season (not on a Schilling start day), and the game cannot be made up during the season. If the game affects the pennant race, they would have to play the game after the season. This is remote given that they play half their games in the arid Ariozona air. But again Schilling would be the pitcher and the results would be counted in the regular season stats.
Big Unit Looms Large Yesterday
Big Unit Looms Large
Yesterday Randy Johnson threw a complete game with one run allowed against his former employers in Montreal. Everyone is saying that he is now back on track, but aside from three bad outings this year, I would be hard pressed to say that he has ever gotten derailed. Take a look:
G IP H R ER HR BB SO GB FB PIT BF W-L ERA Total 24 172 144 60 53 20 50 215 210 135 2729 695 15-4 2.76 per game 7.17 6.00 2.50 2.21 0.83 2.08 8.96 8.75 5.63 113.71 28.96 Good 21 155 121 40 33 14 39 193 189 120 2389 609 15-2 1.92 per game 7.38 5.76 1.90 1.57 0.67 1.86 9.19 9.00 5.71 113.76 29.00 Bad 3 17 23 20 20 6 11 22 21 15 340 86 0-2 10.59 per game 5.67 7.67 6.67 6.67 2.00 3.67 7.33 7.00 5.00 113.33 28.67
If Johnson had held form during those three bad outings, we would be discussing an historic season not just a great one.
David Pinto has a good analysis of Johnson's chances of reaching Nolan Ryan's strikeout record. I would like to try a different tact and marry Ryan's decline after 40 with Randy Johnson's recent numbers. I have to mull over a few things before it's ready (first attempts gave me whacky numbers like 400+ IP). I will work on it over the coming week. Add it to Upcoming Topics.
Quid Pro Quo? The one
Quid Pro Quo?
The one dissenter to the Floyd-trade conspiracy theorems, Rob Neyer, points out that, "[I]f Selig fixed the sale of the Red Sox, wouldn't it be the Sox who owe Selig a favor, rather than the other way around?"
Doug Pappas' article on John Henry counters this argument. Pappas asserts that John Henry with his Sox heading towards the playoffs and making handfuls of money is being courted: "The hard-line position isn't in the best interest of the high-revenue, high-payroll Red Sox team." Therefore, Selig and his cadre of owners still need to curry favor with Henry, giving him Cliff Floyd for practically free can't hurt.
One other Pappas quote puzzles me:
Unlike 1994, the parties aren't that far apart. The owners and players have all but agreed on reforms to the amateur draft which will save the owners millions of dollars. They're within $70 million of one another on a revenue-sharing formula, and while the players oppose the owners' demand for a 50% "luxury tax" on payrolls over $98 milllion, they accepted a temporary 35% luxury tax in the last labor agreement. A reasonable compromise to avoid a strike is still possible.
What puzzles me is that ESPN has been running a headline/hyperlink on its baseball page entitled Players, owners still divided on most key issues all week. Maybe it's explained by another Pappas quote: "But Bud and his buddies may not want a reasonable compromise..." Are ESPN and ABC, its parent company, allowing themselves to act as propagandists for the owners willfully or unknowingly? Or is Pappas' point of view too extreme and too biased against the owners? After reading the information on both sites, I would tend to believe Pappas-he is more forthcoming with the facts and I don't think he has a monetary stake in the outcome.
Labor and Contraction News ESPN
Labor and Contraction News
ESPN reports that the arbitrator's decision as to whether owners can unilaterally disband a franchise may come as early as today.
Keith Olbermann writing for Salon.com (huh?) reports that three undisclosed teams have voted against setting a strike date. I agree with Dan Lewis who says:
I don't know which is weirder: that Salon hired Keith Olbermann, or that he has a source saying three teams voted against setting a strike date.
Also, weird is the fact that neither ESPN nor CNN/SI has anything related to this. Could Olbermann (that is, his source) be right and Salon.com is breaking the news?
Selig Admits Ownership of Brewers
Selig Admits Ownership of Brewers
Here's a great quote from the always high-larious Baseball Prospectus Week in Quotes:
"I will be in this office until my extension expires. And that's 4 1/2 years from now. That's what I was contracted to do, and I will fulfill my obligations to the other owners."
Thanks for confirming what we all already knew, Bud.
Sophomore Slump Since 1997 for
Sophomore Slump Since 1997 for Rookie Flop 1999
The Colorado Rockies and Texas Rangers traded disappointing former prospects, Todd Hollandsworth and Gabe Kapler, in a move that nearly reaches satiric perfection. Not only does it involve two now marginalized players (Kapler has zero HRs in almost 200 ABs this year!) for whom everyone had such high expectations (Kapler had a national commercial when he was in the minors). The marginalization of the trade underscores how marginalized the July 31 trade deadline has become with the August waiver deadline growing in importance and with skittish owners loath to acquire new salaries with a strike looming (or at least wanting to appear so).
That said, I don't get why the Rangers made the deal unless they just can't stand Kapler in the clubhouse. Kapler is having an awful year but is still only 26. Hollandsworth is not worth much outside of Coor's and is a free agent after this year. They both make about $5.5 million but Kapler has another year on his ludicrous contract. The Rangers will save on Kapler's contract next year but did agree to kick in $1 million of the $5.6 million 2003 salary. The Rockies, and Coor's, may be able to turn his career around and his .617 OPS is not much worse (only 8 points) that starting center fielder Juan Pierre's. The Rangers also threw in a prospect while only receiving journeyman reliever in Reyes (who they may convert to a starter in another scattershot attempt to resuscitate their moribund starting rotation).
Tom Hicks seems to be serious about cutting payroll, but are his moves now any more logical than the ludicrous offers he was making to players a couple of years ago?
This is my site with my opinions, but I hope that, like Irish Spring, you like it, too.
About the Toaster
Baseball Toaster was unplugged on February 4, 2009.
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