Monthly archives: December 2002
"I don't want to achieve
"I don't want to achieve immortality through my work ... I want to achieve it through not dying" (Woody Allen)
Yesterday, my friend Murray and I were emailing each other regarding the Jim Rice/Hall of Fame post I made they other day. I had a thought about Rice and his ilk, thus:
There are a number of players like Rice (Parker, Murphy, Dawson, Allen, Mattingly, etc.) that are going to be interesting litmus tests for the writers and especially the Vets' Committee. I'm not sure if I would put any of them in, but given the dearth of players from the '70s and '80s in the Hall (I have to re-check this but I remember there being something like half as many players as the other eras) someone else from those decades will have to go in. And Joe Morgan only has some many ex-Red teammates left. After he fast-tracks Ed Armbrister, they will have to look elsewhere. I just wonder who'll make the cut. We may not know for some time.
Well, the issue stuck in my craw, and we all know how painful that is. So I did a little research:
By the way, I checked out the HoF data I was discussing earlier... Attached is a spreadsheet with the # of active HoFers (MLB players only), # of total ballplayers, and the % of HoFers per year. I also graphed it in the spreadsheet. I would post it, but I don't know how to embed graphs. Anyway, note the decline in the number of HoFers since around 1973 and in the % of HoFers since around 1968. There are a bunch of players who are not yet eligible (Henderson, Bonds, Clemens, etc.) who will boost some of these numbers but it's still pretty low. And it starts to decline a good 10 years before any of those guys even started. (E.g. only 2.87 of all players active in 1977, not coincidentally an expansion year, are in the Hall of Fame.)
Here's the chart to which I referred. Unfortunately, I can't post the graphs, so I'll do the next best thing. The average percentage of Hall of Fame players in the chart is 5.34%. Let's call a year in the average range if the percentage is between 4 and 8%. I have underlined the years below 4%, and italicized the ones over 8%:
Year # HoFers # players % in Hall 1871 1 115 0.87% 1872 2 144 1.39% 1873 2 122 1.64% 1874 2 120 1.67% 1875 3 190 1.58% 1876 2 121 1.65% 1877 2 92 2.17% 1878 4 77 5.19% 1879 6 119 5.04% 1880 11 127 8.66% 1881 11 120 9.17% 1882 13 229 5.68% 1883 12 257 4.67% 1884 14 635 2.20% 1885 15 322 4.66% 1886 15 326 4.60% 1887 15 316 4.75% 1888 19 331 5.74% 1889 20 322 6.21% 1890 24 508 4.72% 1891 26 358 7.26% 1892 26 266 9.77% 1893 24 259 9.27% 1894 23 260 8.85% 1895 22 281 7.83% 1896 22 270 8.15% 1897 24 263 9.13% 1898 22 298 7.38% 1899 24 308 7.79% 1900 25 188 13.30% 1901 27 369 7.32% 1902 26 389 6.68% 1903 28 368 7.61% 1904 31 363 8.54% 1905 30 388 7.73% 1906 31 412 7.52% 1907 30 413 7.26% 1908 31 434 7.14% 1909 31 500 6.20% 1910 29 497 5.84% 1911 25 529 4.73% 1912 29 578 5.02% 1913 29 560 5.18% 1914 32 730 4.38% 1915 35 719 4.87% 1916 35 516 6.78% 1917 33 480 6.88% 1918 27 471 5.73% 1919 28 466 6.01% 1920 30 483 6.21% 1921 33 478 6.90% 1922 38 480 7.92% 1923 40 494 8.10% 1924 47 509 9.23% 1925 50 508 9.84% 1926 52 488 10.66% 1927 52 491 10.59% 1928 53 490 10.82% 1929 53 497 10.66% 1930 53 477 11.11% 1931 48 483 9.94% 1932 52 482 10.79% 1933 51 448 11.38% 1934 47 478 9.83% 1935 44 472 9.32% 1936 41 469 8.74% 1937 41 487 8.42% 1938 36 486 7.41% 1939 36 517 6.96% 1940 33 500 6.60% 1941 36 531 6.78% 1942 31 500 6.20% 1943 20 508 3.94% 1944 16 525 3.05% 1945 16 536 2.99% 1946 27 601 4.49% 1947 32 521 6.14% 1948 29 514 5.64% 1949 28 511 5.48% 1950 28 504 5.56% 1951 29 522 5.56% 1952 29 535 5.42% 1953 30 516 5.81% 1954 31 517 6.00% 1955 34 571 5.95% 1956 36 525 6.86% 1957 32 538 5.95% 1958 31 557 5.57% 1959 32 546 5.86% 1960 31 554 5.60% 1961 32 598 5.35% 1962 34 669 5.08% 1963 34 668 5.09% 1964 31 664 4.67% 1965 37 672 5.51% 1966 34 677 5.02% 1967 36 684 5.26% 1968 35 644 5.43% 1969 36 807 4.46% 1970 34 813 4.18% 1971 35 801 4.37% 1972 34 789 4.31% 1973 31 661 4.69% 1974 27 681 3.96% 1975 26 670 3.88% 1976 23 664 3.46% 1977 20 698 2.87% 1978 21 692 3.03% 1979 21 685 3.07% 1980 20 709 2.82% 1981 19 705 2.70% 1982 19 720 2.64% 1983 17 735 2.31% 1984 13 721 1.80% 1985 12 706 1.70% 1986 11 726 1.52% 1987 10 747 1.34% 1988 9 717 1.26% 1989 6 734 0.82% 1990 6 742 0.81% 1991 6 755 0.79% 1992 6 752 0.80% 1993 6 820 0.73% 1994 3 722 0.42% 1995 3 822 0.36% 1996 1 832 0.12% 1997 0 908 0.00% 1998 0 967 0.00% 1999 0 960 0.00% 2000 0 1132 0.00% 2001 0 1220 0.00%
All of the time periods that fall outside the norm can be explained by some phenomenon or another in the sport except for two, the highs of 1923 to 1937 and the lows since 1974. (Aside from the salient issues I raise above: The lows of 1871-77 are a product of a still developing major league system. As the AA folds after 1891, the percentage skyrockets.) As I already said, the 1923-'37 aberration is due to the excesses of past Veterans' Committees.
Part of the explanation for the historic lows since 1974 can be attributed to players who either a) are not yet eligible or b) are eligible but have not served their time in purgatory but will be inducted eventually (e.g., Gary Carter).
Here are all of the Hall of Famers who retired after 1936, the first year of inductees, with their last major-league year, the year inducted, and the number of years that they had to wait to be inducted:
FirstName LastName Inducted Last Year Diff LOU GEHRIG 1939 1939 0 ROGERS HORNSBY 1942 1937 5 CARL HUBBELL 1947 1943 4 FRANKIE FRISCH 1947 1937 10 LEFTY GROVE 1947 1941 6 MICKEY COCHRANE 1947 1937 10 PIE TRAYNOR 1948 1937 11 CHARLIE GEHRINGER 1949 1942 7 JIMMIE FOXX 1951 1945 6 MEL OTT 1951 1947 4 PAUL WANER 1952 1945 7 AL SIMMONS 1953 1944 9 DIZZY DEAN 1953 1947 6 BILL DICKEY 1954 1946 8 BILL TERRY 1954 1936 18 GABBY HARTNETT 1955 1941 14 JOE DIMAGGIO 1955 1951 4 TED LYONS 1955 1946 9 HANK GREENBERG 1956 1947 9 JOE CRONIN 1956 1945 11 BOB FELLER 1962 1956 6 JACKIE ROBINSON 1962 1956 6 HEINIE MANUSH 1964 1939 25 LUKE APPLING 1964 1950 14 TED WILLIAMS 1966 1960 6 LLOYD WANER 1967 1945 22 RED RUFFING 1967 1947 20 GOOSE GOSLIN 1968 1938 30 JOE MEDWICK 1968 1948 20 KIKI CUYLER 1968 1938 30 ROY CAMPANELLA 1969 1957 12 STAN MUSIAL 1969 1963 6 WAITE HOYT 1969 1938 31 JESSE HAINES 1970 1937 33 LOU BOUDREAU 1970 1952 18 CHICK HAFEY 1971 1937 34 SATCHEL PAIGE 1971 1965 6 EARLY WYNN 1972 1963 9 LEFTY GOMEZ 1972 1943 29 SANDY KOUFAX 1972 1966 6 YOGI BERRA 1972 1965 7 MONTE IRVIN 1973 1956 17 ROBERTO CLEMENTE 1973 1972 1 WARREN SPAHN 1973 1965 8 JIM BOTTOMLEY 1974 1937 37 MICKEY MANTLE 1974 1968 6 WHITEY FORD 1974 1967 7 BILLY HERMAN 1975 1947 28 EARL AVERILL 1975 1941 34 RALPH KINER 1975 1955 20 BOB LEMON 1976 1958 18 FREDDY LINDSTROM 1976 1936 40 ROBIN ROBERTS 1976 1966 10 ERNIE BANKS 1977 1971 6 EDDIE MATHEWS 1978 1968 10 WILLIE MAYS 1979 1973 6 AL KALINE 1980 1974 6 CHUCK KLEIN 1980 1944 36 DUKE SNIDER 1980 1964 16 BOB GIBSON 1981 1975 6 JOHNNY MIZE 1981 1953 28 FRANK ROBINSON 1982 1976 6 HANK AARON 1982 1976 6 TRAVIS JACKSON 1982 1936 46 BROOKS ROBINSON 1983 1977 6 GEORGE KELL 1983 1957 26 JUAN MARICHAL 1983 1975 8 DON DRYSDALE 1984 1969 15 HARMON KILLEBREW 1984 1975 9 LUIS APARICIO 1984 1973 11 PEE WEE REESE 1984 1958 26 RICK FERRELL 1984 1947 37 ARKY VAUGHAN 1985 1948 37 ENOS SLAUGHTER 1985 1959 26 HOYT WILHELM 1985 1972 13 LOU BROCK 1985 1979 6 BOBBY DOERR 1986 1951 35 ERNIE LOMBARDI 1986 1947 39 WILLIE MCCOVEY 1986 1980 6 BILLY WILLIAMS 1987 1976 11 CATFISH HUNTER 1987 1976 11 WILLIE STARGELL 1988 1982 6 CARL YASTRZEMSKI 1989 1983 6 JOHNNY BENCH 1989 1983 6 RED SCHOENDIENST 1989 1963 26 JIM PALMER 1990 1972 18 JOE MORGAN 1990 1984 6 FERGIE JENKINS 1991 1983 8 GAYLORD PERRY 1991 1981 10 ROD CAREW 1991 1985 6 TONY LAZZERI 1991 1939 52 HAL NEWHOUSER 1992 1954 38 ROLLIE FINGERS 1992 1980 12 TOM SEAVER 1992 1983 9 REGGIE JACKSON 1993 1987 6 PHIL RIZZUTO 1994 1956 38 STEVE CARLTON 1994 1986 8 MIKE SCHMIDT 1995 1989 6 RICHIE ASHBURN 1995 1962 33 JIM BUNNING 1996 1971 25 NELLIE FOX 1997 1965 32 PHIL NIEKRO 1997 1987 10 DON SUTTON 1998 1988 10 LARRY DOBY 1998 1959 39 GEORGE BRETT 1999 1993 6 NOLAN RYAN 1999 1988 11 ORLANDO CEPEDA 1999 1974 25 ROBIN YOUNT 1999 1993 6 CARLTON FISK 2000 1993 7 TONY PEREZ 2000 1986 14 DAVE WINFIELD 2001 1995 6 KIRBY PUCKETT 2001 1995 6 OZZIE SMITH 2002 1996 6 Average 15.44248 Median 10 Max 52 Min 0
It is also partially due to the rapid expansion in the last 40 years. There were over twice as many major league ballplayers at the end of the century than in the pre-expansion era. From 1916 to 1960 there were just 16 major league teams. The average number of major-leaguers in that period is 506, almost 32 per club per year.
Do the voters somehow have a preconceived notion as far as the Hall-of-Fame standards based on pre-expansion numbers? I created a new table based on the numbers above taken from 1969, the year that the downward trend starts, until 2001. I have added columns for the projected number of Hofers based on 4% (the low end of our average), 5.34% (the average percentage form the table), and 8% (the high end of our average) of the active players:
Year HoF # players % in Hall 4% HoF Diff 5.34% HoF Diff 8% HoF Diff 1969 36 807 4.46% 32 -4 43 7 65 29 1970 34 813 4.18% 33 -1 43 9 65 31 1971 35 801 4.37% 32 -3 43 8 64 29 1972 34 789 4.31% 32 -2 42 8 63 29 1973 31 661 4.69% 26 -5 35 4 53 22 1974 27 681 3.96% 27 0 36 9 54 27 1975 26 670 3.88% 27 1 36 10 54 28 1976 23 664 3.46% 27 4 35 12 53 30 1977 20 698 2.87% 28 8 37 17 56 36 1978 21 692 3.03% 28 7 37 16 55 34 1979 21 685 3.07% 27 6 37 16 55 34 1980 20 709 2.82% 28 8 38 18 57 37 1981 19 705 2.70% 28 9 38 19 56 37 1982 19 720 2.64% 29 10 38 19 58 39 1983 17 735 2.31% 29 12 39 22 59 42 1984 13 721 1.80% 29 16 39 26 58 45 1985 12 706 1.70% 28 16 38 26 56 44 1986 11 726 1.52% 29 18 39 28 58 47 1987 10 747 1.34% 30 20 40 30 60 50 1988 9 717 1.26% 29 20 38 29 57 48 1989 6 734 0.82% 29 23 39 33 59 53 1990 6 742 0.81% 30 24 40 34 59 53 1991 6 755 0.79% 30 24 40 34 60 54 1992 6 752 0.80% 30 24 40 34 60 54 1993 6 820 0.73% 33 27 44 38 66 60 1994 3 722 0.42% 29 26 39 36 58 55 1995 3 822 0.36% 33 30 44 41 66 63 1996 1 832 0.12% 33 32 44 43 67 66 1997 0 908 0.00% 36 36 48 48 73 73 1998 0 967 0.00% 39 39 52 52 77 77 1999 0 960 0.00% 38 38 51 51 77 77 2000 0 1132 0.00% 45 45 60 60 91 91 2001 0 1220 0.00% 49 49 65 65 98 98
Given that this is largely a moving target given the previous issue, it's difficult to say with any degree of certainty that there has been a change in attitudes. That said, the numbers do look low. Look at 1977, it's 8 players short of the minimum 4% level. Given that it's 25 years ago and that the average waiting period is about 15 years, a young player in 1977 or three could still get inducted (Eddie Murray for one). However, that still seems pretty low.
Let's try something else. Let's re-do the table above based on the average number of pre-expansion players (506):
Year HoF # players % in Hall 4% HoF Diff 5.34% HoF Diff 8% HoF Diff 1969 36 506 7.11% 20 -16 27 -9 40 4 1970 34 506 6.72% 20 -14 27 -7 40 6 1971 35 506 6.92% 20 -15 27 -8 40 5 1972 34 506 6.72% 20 -14 27 -7 40 6 1973 31 506 6.13% 20 -11 27 -4 40 9 1974 27 506 5.34% 20 -7 27 0 40 13 1975 26 506 5.14% 20 -6 27 1 40 14 1976 23 506 4.55% 20 -3 27 4 40 17 1977 20 506 3.95% 20 0 27 7 40 20 1978 21 506 4.15% 20 -1 27 6 40 19 1979 21 506 4.15% 20 -1 27 6 40 19 1980 20 506 3.95% 20 0 27 7 40 20 1981 19 506 3.75% 20 1 27 8 40 21 1982 19 506 3.75% 20 1 27 8 40 21 1983 17 506 3.36% 20 3 27 10 40 23 1984 13 506 2.57% 20 7 27 14 40 27 1985 12 506 2.37% 20 8 27 15 40 28 1986 11 506 2.17% 20 9 27 16 40 29 1987 10 506 1.98% 20 10 27 17 40 30 1988 9 506 1.78% 20 11 27 18 40 31 1989 6 506 1.19% 20 14 27 21 40 34 1990 6 506 1.19% 20 14 27 21 40 34 1991 6 506 1.19% 20 14 27 21 40 34 1992 6 506 1.19% 20 14 27 21 40 34 1993 6 506 1.19% 20 14 27 21 40 34 1994 3 506 0.59% 20 17 27 24 40 37 1995 3 506 0.59% 20 17 27 24 40 37 1996 1 506 0.20% 20 19 27 26 40 39 1997 0 506 0.00% 20 20 27 27 40 40 1998 0 506 0.00% 20 20 27 27 40 40 1999 0 506 0.00% 20 20 27 27 40 40 2000 0 506 0.00% 20 20 27 27 40 40 2001 0 506 0.00% 20 20 27 27 40 40
It appears that from 1969-'73 some allowance was made for the influx of players due to expansion. There have been more Hall-of-Famers inducted from that period than the pre-expansion average. Given that the late '70s have a handful of players like Murray (e.g. Henderson and Raines) who may boost its numbers, it seems that this trend will continue into the players from the 1980s. My one question is whether or not this trend will continue with the continued expansion (1977, '93, and '98). That answer we will not know for some time.
My last thought is that there are perhaps two other forces that will contribute to the levels of Hall of Famers from the present/recent era. The first is the offensive explosion since the mid-1990s. More players will be achieving impressive offensive numbers than in the past, and they will get a lot of attention. If the Thirties are any indication, more Hall of Famers than normal will be elected from the current period. Of course, that is assuming that the Veterans' Committee will play the same sort of role as in the past and that sabermetrical means to normalize these numbers will not be utilized in the assessment of these players. Given that the VC has been recently reconstituted and could be again, there's no way to know how they will act in the future.
The other force is a retarding one and it has to do with the phenomenon that sports economist Andrew Zimbalist calls "talent compression". Zimbalist maintained that certain performance levels are more difficult to achieve today than in the past because the level of play has evened out. There are more players nearer to an average major-leaguer and fewer poor players today. This causes milestones like batting .400 and certain batting records to be beyond today's players grasps-there just aren't enough poor pitchers to beat up on. Of course, Zimbalist wrote about talent compression before the recent offensive explosion. The home run record that stood for 37 years (and was a 162-game adjusted over the previous record that stood for 34) was broken twice in three years and was bested by more than 20%.
I am not entirely sold on Zimbalist theory. I am not sure if it just appears that way given a number of historic trends. I would want to verify it with some sort of comparison over time of the standard deviation of key (normalized) statistics. Still, it may not be convincing given that expansion increases the number of ballplayers. Whenever the number of subjects in a data set increases, the standard deviation decreases (the key problem with Rob Neyer's Dynasties book).
There are number of forces at work here. We won't know for sure which ones will be the strongest until all of the players from the current/recent eras are inducted. Given the history of the Hall, that may not be complete for maybe half a century. So I'll post something on this on New Year's Eve 2052. It should be an interesting 50 years.
The Road of Excess Leads
The Road of Excess Leads to the Palace of Wisdom, But Can You Build a Pitching Staff on It?
The Yankees GM Brian Cashman is quoted in the NY Times as saying that the Yankees are still in the Bartolo Colón sweepstakes even though they have eight starting pitchers on the roster:
"I'm prepared to say we will continue to pursue all the opportunities that might enhance our organization if it fits what we're trying to accomplish," Cashman said in a telephone interview.
The Yankees are trying to move Orlando Hernandez, Sterling Hitchcock, and their salaries. Unfortunately, unlike every other club they have the disadvantage of not having the Yankees to offload their overpriced players. If they cannot move these two, they will probably work out of the bullpen. Either way, they will still have six starting pitchers: Roger Clemens, Mike Mussina, Andy Pettite, Jeff Weaver, Jose Contreras, and David Wells. Weaver worked out of the bullpen last year for the Yanks, but in 2003 he was supposed to be the new anchor to the Yankees' future staff. Wells began his career as a reliever but has been a starter for some time now.
Let's assume that Weaver works out of the pen one more year. The Yankees would then have five starting pitchers. How could they fit another? Salaries would dictate that Colón, Clemens, Mussina, Pettite, and Contreras be in the rotation. Does that mean that Wells would be moved to the bullpen? He hasn't worked there regularly since 1992. He also was arguably their best starting pitcher last year. I had read rumors to the effect that Wells could be moved to the pen, and even posted the possibility. But the more I consider it, the worse it sounds. Maybe the Yankees are expecting at least one of their superannuated arms to be out of service on a daily basis.
I would have to think that the threats to pursue Colón are just a ruse to ensure that Boston does not get him too cheaply. Montreal had been asking for Casey Fossum and Shea Hillenbrand for Colón, Fernando Tatis, and their salaries. Rumors had been circulating that Boston had pulled Fossum back and lesser youngsters were being proffered. Maybe the Yankees are just trying to pry Fossum off the Red Sox roster, leaving the Red Sox without a young starter ready to pitch in the majors (after having traded Josh Hancock to the Phils earlier this year).
Or maybe the Yankees are looking to institute the first nine-man rotation in baseball.
Frankly, He Catalanotto Play Right
Frankly, He Catalanotto Play Right Field, II
ESPN reports that Catalanotto signed for $2.2 M. That's a bit pricey for an oft-injured right fielder who's barely even played right field. Of course, it is less than the projected $5 M it would have taken to retain Cruz, and that appears to be the only sentient thought involved in this selection. God bless them.
Frankly, He Catalanotto Play Right
Frankly, He Catalanotto Play Right Field
The Blue Jays signed Frank Catalanotto to a one-year contract today. Catalanotto has played mostly second base and left field in his career but will reportedly take over for non-tendored Jose Cruz Jr. in right field. There is a possibility that he was brought in to backup youngster Orlando Hudson at second even though the Blue Jays claimed they signed him as an outfielder.
I know that Cruz was going to make a lot of money and Catalanotto comes relatively cheaply, but I think it's a dumb move. And I'll tell you why.
First, Catalanotto is 28 and has played over 103 games only once in five seasons. He played only 68 in 2002 and had two stints on the DL, the first time missing seven weeks due to lower back problems and the second, a year-ending broken hand after being hit by a pitch on August 16.
Second, Catalanotto is more useful as a three-quarter time player. Stick him at first, second, left, DH, etc. to give someone a rest. If he starts in right, one of his main assets, his versatility, is minimized.
Third, I don't think he'll hit enough to be a corner outfielder. Aside from a career year in 2001, he has been an average to slightly above average hitter his entire career. Given that he's 28, he could have a break out season, but it's just as likely that he'll stay average.
Fourth, Catalanotto has played a grand total of 16 games in right field with zero assists. Well, maybe that's too small a sample, right? Well, he has played 104 games in left field in his career and has two assists to show for it. Maybe he doesn't have the arm to start in right.
Last, Catalanotto made almost $2.5 M in 2002. How much cheaper than Cruz can he be?
Don't get me wrong, Cruz was an average hitter who would have received a large salary increase via arbitration. They were correct to let him go. But they need a serviceable right fielder. The best free agent right fielder out there is Reggie Sanders. Or if they wanted to go the versatility route, why not go after John Mabry, who had a big second half with Oakland? Fellow free agent Alex Ochoa may also have been a better fit. He will be 31 next season and is just an average batter but is a pretty good defense right fielder. And there are probably a few others that I missed whoa re still available.
The point is that they did not get the best player available for the position. Given the bargain prices and the players available, they flubbed it. In the baseball vernacular, they pulled a boner. And every runner who takes an extra base rounding second on a single to right in 2003 is going to thank them for it.
St. George and the Dragon:
St. George and the Dragon: Thirty Years of Steinbrenner
The NY Daily News as part of a series to commemorate thirty years of Yankee ownership by George Steinbrenner had an interview with The Boss this weekend.
Before, I take a look at it, I just wanted to throw out a trivia question that I will answer at the end of this post. When did the first Steinbrenner-owned team win a championship?
The interview is a great slice of recent baseball history from one man's point of view. And when that man is George, it's like reading The Glory of Their Times on quaaludes. Here were some of my favorite moments:
GS (re. first day at Yankee Stadium): I walked in and saw flowers on every desk. Freshly cut flowers. I said, "What the hell is this? Is it Flowers Day? Is it Secretary's Day?" Somebody said, "Isn't that wonderful? Mr. Burke does this every day for us." (Former Yankee president) Mike Burke is a guy who I admired tremendously. He was a real heartthrob type of guy. Everybody liked him. I loved him, but for what I wanted, he didn't fit with me. When I saw the flowers, that was the trigger. I got involved.
There were the much publicized barbs pointed in Derek Jeter's direction:
GS (On the possibility of Jeter being named team captain): Joe (Torre) would like that right now, but I don't think now is the right time. I want to see Jetes truly focused. He wasn't totally focused last year. He had the highest number of errors he's had in some time. He wasn't himself.
For the record Jeter had 14 errors in 2002, his lowest total since 1999 and tied for the second lowest of his career. His fielding percentage was three points better than his career average. His fielding has gotten worse and it wasn't great to begin with (his Range Factor was 70 points lower than the league average whereas he was 20-30 better than the league average early in his career according to Baseball-Reference.com), but the errors weren't such a large problem. Also, he might want to work on his offense with his batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging average all down. His doubles, triples (his first season with none) and homers were down and his strikeouts up.
Besides Jeter is upholding a time-honored baseball tradition, cavorting like a frat boy. All the drinking never hurt Mickey Mantle's and Babe Ruth's careers. But he might want to take Mickey's (Rocky Balboa's trainer, not the mouse) advice and try to limit his female liaisons-"They're bad for the legs."
On Torre's past and his cadre of coaches:
GS: Joe is the greatest friend I've ever had as a manager. It's a great relationship. I don't want to destroy that, but I will tell you this: I want his whole staff to understand that they have got to do better this year. I will not see him drop back into the way he was before. Right now he's a sure-fire Hall of Famer. Before he came to the Yankees he didn't even have a job. Three different times as manager he didn't deliver, and was fired. Look how far he's come. He's come that way because of an organization, and he's got to remember that. I'm glad that Joe is an icon. He's a hell of a guy, a tremendous manager and tremendous figure for New York. I just want his coaches to understand that just being a friend of Joe Torre's is not enough. They've got to produce for him. Joe Torre and his staff have heard the bugle.
For the record, Torre was fired three times as a manger before he signed with the Yankees in November 1995. But he had won a division title with Atlanta in 1982. He had a wining record with the Braves, 257-229, and was fired after a 80-82 season. He was about .500 with the Cardinals, 351-354. He had a winning record in three of his four complete seasons in St. Louis. The Mets are an entirely different story (286-420, .405), but I don't think Stengel could have won there. Speaking of Casey, he had gone through two franchises-Brooklyn (373-491 in three years) and Boston Braves (208-251 in 6)-and had one winning season (77-75 in 1938) and no appearances in the first division (as they used to say) to show for it. He came to the Yankees and things changed.
As to the individual or individuals on coaching staff who incurred The Boss's rage, it appears that the last statement would point to pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre. Stottlemyre should be advised to develop a means of preventing his starting rotation from aging. Oscar Wilde had some thoughts on this matter, and perhaps a 2001 team pitcher in the attic at Yankee Stadium might help.
George also claims to have taken over a team that was a "doormat"\
DN: What were your initial impressions of the club you bought?
The 1972 Yankees were 79-76, 6.5 games behind division champ Detroit in fourth place, far from a doormat. They had won 93 games two years earlier. Aside from acquiring Graig Nettles, renting Matty Alou for two-thirds of a season, promoting rookie Doc Medich to the rotation, and trying retreads Pat Dobson and Sam McDowell in the rotation for half a season, this was basically the same team in 1973 that it was in 1972. Dobson and McDowell collectively were 14-16 with a 4.08 ERA (the league average was 3.82) for the Yankees in 1973. George may want to remember things differently, but that doesn't make it so.
His most scathing comment were reserved for the management of the rival Red Sox:
DN: John Henry, your former partner and owner of the Red Sox, was quoted as saying after you signed Contreras that he "was and is a big risk." What's your response?
Don't sugar-coat it, George. How do you really feel about Larru Lucchino?
The next article in the series consisted of friends and acquaintances of George relating George stories. Given that it's not George unplugged himself, it's not as good as the first article. However, it does have its moments. The first is from Lou Saban, Yankees president in 1981:
One night we were having a benefit for a police officer killed in the line of duty. George was in Tampa. I made a special presentation before the game. There was a full house, 54,000 people. We're up 5-0 in the third inning when the sky just opens up. It starts raining like I never could believe.
The Lou Piniella stories are pure gold:
We were playing a game in spring training in my first year as manager, in 1987. George was sitting behind the dugout and said, "You know, I can manage. It's not that hard."
Trivial answer: Steinbrenner owned the 1961-62 American Basketball League-champion Cleveland Pipers. He lured Jerry Lucas away from Ohio State, hired the first professional black coach John McLendon-who quit when George became too domineering and was replaced by Bill Sharman-, and failed in attempt to join the NBA as an expansion team at the end of the season (mostly to get Lucas into the NBA). The NBA and ABL had talked merger but when a deal was reached with Cleveland, the NBA announced that they would enter as an expansion team and merger talks were off. The move was blocked in the courts by the ABL, the Pipers folded, and the league followed suit before the end of the year.
Retro Rocket? Roger That As
Retro Rocket? Roger That
As expected, Roger Clemens has re-signed with the Yankees for one year at $10.1 M.
The Yankees with eight starting pitchers may want to deal with division-rival Boston to re-acquire reliever Ramiro Mendoza in exchange for, say, El Duque. I know it will never happen, but it would help both clubs. I guess that's why it will never happen.
I Don't Know-Third Base! The
I Don't Know-Third Base!
The NY Times reports that free agent third baseman Bill Mueller has turned down the Mets offer and is expected to sign with another team in days.
The two remaining candidates are free agents Tyler Houston and Jose Hernandez. Hernandez, a shortstop who has never played more than 95 games at third in a season, had been rumored to be going to the Mets as a shortstop and then to be shifted to third when minor-leaguer Jose Reyes was ready. That strategy evidently changed when the Mets signed free agent Rey Sanchez, who played second last year, to play short.
In both cases Colorado appears to be the main competition. The Rockies were set to sign Houstom a little over a week ago, but the talks fell through. They are now mainly focused on Chris Stynes but have considered paying a bit more for Hernandez given that he may come cheaply in this free agent market. The Mets shouldn't be able to scew up with Hernandez since they should have the funds to outbid the Rockies. So I fully expect Chris Stynes to be the New York staring third baseman next year.
Crossing the Mendoza Line Long-time
Crossing the Mendoza Line
Long-time Yankee swingman Ramiro Mendoza has signed a two-year contract with the division-rival Red Sox. This comes just a few days after Boston signed fellow pen men Chad Fox and Mike Timlin. The Red Sox bullpen appears set with Alan Embree (the only lefty) and Bobby Howry returning. Meanwhile the Yankees seem more concerned with acquiring every available starting pitcher in the western hemisphere while totally ignoring their already fragile bullpen.
The Red Sox have followed a plan to better themselves at their most problematic positions. Their bullpen did have an ERA .75 points higher than their starters. With the trade talks apparently stalling with Montreal over Bartolo Colon, the Sox may be trying to improve in other areas.
However, one may point to some chinks in their startegy. First, they have one one left-hander in the bullpen, something that may still be rectified. Second, they have no true closer in the bullpen. This may not be an oversite but rather may be by design.
However the final Red Sox product will actually perform on the field in 2003, it seems that their management is set to make their small upgrades continually, inexorably until they have the roster just the way they want it. Whether or not that will translate into victory remains to be seen, but it will be interesting to watch during this offseason and into the 2003 season.
Throwing Rice at the Hall
Throwing Rice at the Hall
Jim Rice's old teammates Bob Stanley and Bruce Hurst are cited in an MLB.com article advocating Rice's candidacy for the Hall of Fame. They quote Hurst as saying:
He was a Hall of Fame-caliber hitter. Of his contemporaries who are in the Hall of Fame, he was as dominant as any of them. Dave Winfield was consistent and steady, but he didn't dominate like Jimmy. Kirby Puckett and George Brett were great players, but were they that much greater, if at all, than Jimmy? If so, I'd like to hear evidence.
There's a whole lot of hokum in there, the type of tripe that was used by the spirit of Veterans' Committees past to get a good number of unworthy candidates into the Hall in the first place. I'm not saying Rice is unworthy but I'm not willing to put him in on a couple of old buddies' say-so. Aside from never missing the team bus at spring training, what makes Rice a Hall-of-Fame caliber player?
Let's compare him to the three other HoFers who played in the same era. I have a list of the players mentioned above and Rice with their Win Share totals, their adjusted OPS, and their Bill James Hall of Fame criteria:
Win Adj Years Black Ink Gray Ink HOF Std HOF Monitor Sim. in # WS/season WS/162 % > Shares OPS >120 (Avg 27) (Avg 144) (Avg 50) (Likely > 100) HoF seasons 120 OPS Rice 282 128 10 33 176 42.9 147.0 4 16 17.63 21.86 62.50% Brett 432 135 16 39 159 60.6 208.0 6 21 20.57 25.85 76.19% Puckett 281 124 8 22 122 38.8 155.0 2 12 23.42 25.53 66.67% Winfield 415 129 13 4 152 55.4 148.0 8 22 18.86 22.61 59.09%
Brett scores the best of all four in the career-related criteria (Win Shares, HoF Standard and Monitor), but he also sustained the highest level of excellence over his career with the highest Win Shares per 162 games and the greatest number of adjusted OPS's at 120% or of the league average or higher. Brett is ranked second all-time among third baseman in The Historical Abstract, and is clearly the best player here.
Puckett is similar to Rice in having a short career. However, he sustained a higher level of excellence (WS/162g) over his career. Puckett is ranked eighth among all center fielders by James.
Winfield may the most similar to Rice in many ways. They were both corner outfielders, and their average years are comparable (WS/season, WS/162g, career Adj OPS, and % Adj OPS > 120). However, Winfield had the longest career on the list and to sustain that level of success for an additional 6 seasons is what got Winfield the career numbers (Win Shares and number fo similar players in the Hall) that merited enshrinement. He ranks 13th among all right fielders for James.
Rice was basically washed up at 33. He had only one truly great season, 1978 (as defined by James as having 30 or more Win Shares). He was a poor fielder in a not very important defensive position. A quarter of his games (540 out of 2089) were as a DH. The other three players played more demanding positions, especially Brett and Puckett. He was a poor baserunner and he grounded into an incredible number of double plays (over 30 in three seasons and 315 for his career). James lists him 27th all-time among left fielders. And his career was not long enough to get him to those magical plateaus that call for their bearers' Hall inclusion.
I don't mean to badmouth Rice. Would I put him in the Hall? Given the established standards, I'm not sure. He would definitely be better than a good number of Hall-of-Famers, but I certainly am not clamoring for him to get a plaque.
I actually feel that his Red Sox teammate Dwight Evans is at least as deserving though you never hear his name mentioned (347 Win Shares, 21.57 WS/162g, 127 adjusted OPS and all over 20 seasons of fine defense).
Do I think Rice will get in? Eventually, probably as a Veterans' Committee choice.
I leave the last comment to Bill James who says this about Rice in The New Historical Abstract:
Probably the most overrated player of the last 30 years...Jim Rice was one of the best left fielders I ever had there [but] the fans never liked Jim Rice. No one could like Jim Rice. Jim Rice had one of the biggest egos I've ever seen. He treated people so abruptly, just had no need for anybody, gave no time back to the fans, just was not a nice person.-Bill Lee in Fenway
He may still have to do a little penance.
Rey of Light...Hitting The Mets
Rey of Light...Hitting
The Mets have replaced shortstop Rey Ordonez with Rey Sanchez while they await heir apparent Jose Reyes. I guess so much for "Rey must go!" Sanchez was signed to a one-year deal as a stopgap at short until the 18-year-old Reyes is ready.
Aside from the similarity in their first names, both Reys are light-hitting, good-fielding shortstops. Sanchez has started at second base as well throughout his career and did so last year with the Red Sox. He is at least a slight upgrade over Ordonez offensively, who for his career has an OPS that is only 59% of the adjusted league average. Sanchez is at a still-modest 70%. Sanchez's career batting average is 30 points higher than Ordonez. His paltry .311 career on-base percentage is 21 points higher than Ordonez'. To put it mildly, neither one is going to be in the running for a Silver Slugger award.
The Mets had a chance to sign a superior offensive shortstop in free agent Jose Hernandez, but for whatever reason the discussions never got past the beginning (i.e., faxing and voice-mailing) phases. Hernandez had an OPS that 21% better than the adjusted league average. He batted .288 with 24 HRs and 73 RBI and was an all-star. There were rumors that he would sign a long-term contract and slide over to third when Reyes was ready.
It must have been the name that threw the Mets.
A Miller Bound for Cooperstown?
A Miller Bound for Cooperstown? II
Our friend Murray has some comments re. my list:
Mike, I think you sold Chadwick short. Chadwick was baseball's premier evangelist in its early days. Chadwick is the father of baseball statistics. As the editor of Spalding's Guides, Chadwick was responsible for what passes for primary resources about the professional game's early history. As such, Chadwick is much more important than Rube Foster, whose legacy is minimized by the weak bonds that held the NNL together throughout much of its existence (especially the 20s and 30s).
Yo lo respondí thusly:
I was on the fence with Chadwick. He is a personal favorite and definitely the progenitor of baseball's relationship with the publishing world (newspapers and the early guides). And he came up with the box score. I do have him and James as my official sabermetricians in my "About Me" page [All-Star team].
- Henry Chadwick-father of baseball reportage and baseball statistics.
- Alexander Joy Cartwright-codified baseball (the "New York" game) and helped established first team, the Knickerbocker Base Ball Club.
That's one crowded mountaintop. If I had to eliminate people from your list, I'd probably jettison Landis (whose importance I acknowledge but who I think is a bit of a jerk), Foster (whom I've already discussed) and Ban Johnson (who viewed the hiring of Landis as a threat to his authority, which put him on the wrong side of the fence at a critical moment in baseball history). If I had to pick four heads for a baseball Rushmore, I'd probably stick with players. Ruth, Robinson, Young and Wagner would be enough for me.
Maybe we can build a totem pole instead. I was trying to imagine telling the story of baseball's history and for me Landis, Foster, and Johnson would be integral to that. But I do see your point. Foster especially may be an idiosyncratic choice.
Waiting to Implode My friend
Waiting to Implode
My friend Mike sent me this article on the imminent implosion of Riverfront Stadium/Cinergy Field. I've read that the event will be better attended than any Reds or Bengals game in years. Finally, the Bengals will have a stadium worthy of them.
Well, Albie, II I forgot
Well, Albie, II
I forgot that Kerry Ligtenberg was non-tendored. The Braves' bullpen currently consists of Darren Holmes, John Smoltz, and Kevin Gryboski. They also signed Chris Haney as a non-roster invitee and this year's Leo Mazzone project, as if he needed another.
By the way, Lopez has yet to sign with KC.
A Miller Bound for Cooperstown?
A Miller Bound for Cooperstown?
In today's NY Times, George Vecsey argues that stadium announcers, peanut vendors (!), and the judge who used Solomon-like wisdom to divide up the Bonds 73rd homer ball should all be considered for enshrinement in the Hall of Fame now that Marvin Miller is on the Veterans' Committee ballot.
I know that he is being somewhat facetious, but I think it underscores the baseball writers' misconceptions as to who is really Hall-worthy. Not only do I think Miller is worthy, I think he is the best candidate on the Veterans' Committee list. One can argue that the Hall should just be for players, but since baseball has already admitted executives, why not choose those most responsible for the game's development rather than the Tom Yawkeys of the baseball underworld?
In the introduction to Miller's epiphanic autobiography A Whole Different Ballgame, Bill James writes that if baseball were to erect a monument similar to Mount Rushmore for those responsible for the evolution of the game, Miller's face would be among them. Indeed, the story of baseball in the last 35 years cannot be told without mentioning Miller numerous times.
If I were erecting such a statue, I would have to consider the following baseball men:
- William Hulbert-established the nascent NL as the dominant baseball league.
- Ban Johnson-established the AL as a major league and a string equal to the NL.
- Kenesaw Mountain Landis-as the first commissioner guided and strengthened the majors.
- Babe Ruth-helped popularize the game and develop into the game we know today.
- Rube Foster-established the first strong African-American league, without which integration would never have occurred.
- Branch Rickey-helped develop the farm system and to integrate baseball.
- Jackie Robinson-you already know.
- Marvin Miller- developed and headed the first true players' union in over 70 years, which resulted in the boom era of the last 30 years.
- Bill James-developed a methodology for baseball research and analysis that informs all intelligent conversation today.
There are a few others (Henry Chadwick, A.G. Spalding, Alexander Cartwright, Harry Wright, Monte Ward, etc.) that one could make a valid argument for, but by and large these are the men who shaped baseball for better and/or for worse.
Given that the Vets took their time in identifying Foster and Hulbert, I am actually surprised that Miller has made it onto the list at all. In Hulbert's case, they instead enshrined the first NL president, Morgan Bulkeley, who occupied the job when it was largely a figurehead position (shared among the owners and held for one year), that is until Hulbert just donned the title along with the mantle, which he already had. (By the way, the argument for removing the unworthy from teh Hall starts with the upstart Bulkeley.) Given that such knowledgeable research is done on the executives enshrined and that the writers are providing such a sage beacon themselves, I fully expect Miller to be bypassed for years to come.
The Twelve Joe Morgan
[From a classic July 5, 2002, Joe Morgan chat session-classic in the ESPN sense, meaning old.]
On the First Joe Morgan Chat Day of Christmas, Joe Morgan Gave To Us
John Ashley (Aledo, Tx): Do Tom Hicks and John Hart have it in them to pull the trigger on a deal that involves Pudge? As much as I would hate to see him leave... they need to get something for him.
Joe Morgan: I don't think they have that control now. He's a 10-and-5 player. Pudge has to decide if he gets traded or not. The Rangers are in a bad situation. They say they don't want to spend money, but he deserves a lot. So he may not be there after this year.
[Mike: I didn't have anywhere to put this one and no Dave Concepcion quotes-but it was too good to pass up-so...This looks like a quote from a different era given the trouble Pudge is having getting signed. Teams are just afraid of all the injuries. The Rangers and Pudge were both in a bad spot though they didn't know it. They should have worked something out or traded him to a team that would have worked a deal with him, a la Mark McGwire and the Cardinals in 1997. Pudge based on his stats alone does deserve the money-he is still one of the best catchers in baseball-, but with all the missed time and the market today, he'll never get it. Just for the record, Morgan is partially right: Rodriguez could veto a trade as a 10-and-5 player, but of course, he couldn't initiate a trade, something that the Rangers couldn't or wouldn't do. ]
On the Second Joe Morgan Chat Day of Christmas, Joe Morgan Gave To Us
Cory (Vancouver, WA): Mr. Morgan, let me first start by saying, I have the highest level of respect for you and your knowledge of the game. I was a huge fan of the"big red machine" in the 70's. However, I feel as if your respect for Ichiro is very low. I have watched you do games on Sunday night Baseball, and sometimes it appears you try and down play his game/speed. I enjoy the Seattle team, but they are not my favorite. I must say, with the game's best players, I even try to find somebody better in every aspect then Ichiro, and I just cant do it. The kid is just flat amasing to watch. I'm curious about your feelings on Ichiro both for "pros" and "cons" of his game. tks for your time
Joe Morgan: I guess you are not listening. I have always respected Ichiro. He knows how to play the game, has a great arm, hits his way on base and is a smart player. That said, I don't think he was the MVP last year. I thought he was the most fun to watch, but Bret Boone was the MVP. He drove in the runs and made the biggest difference. I love watching Ichiro play. He may be the most exciting player in the game. I like that. But I would bet you the Mariners would trade Ichiro for Vlad Guerrero, A-Rod and a few others. He may be the most exciting, but he's not the best player. If that means I'm downplaying him, then I am.
[Mike: Classic Joe: equal parts brilliance and idiocy. Joe's right about Ichiro but wrong about Boone. The 2001 AL MVP should have gone to Jason Gimabi. He had it dead to rights and got robbed. Use any means that you want to-Win Shares, Adjusted OPS, etc-Giambi is the man. And he resurrected a team that was dead at the beginning of the year. I never understood how people could argue for Tejada in 2002 and against Giambi in 2001. They were similar except Giambi had a measurably superior year.]
Jared Ward: First off , I'm a huge fan, Mr. Morgan, and keep up the great work in the booth. Secondly, I want to know your opinion on whether you think the Bartolo Colon trade was wise of Indians GM Mark Shapiro.
Joe Morgan: I don't know all the details, but I wouldn't traded a No. 1 starter like Colon. I would have traded others if I were in a cost-cutting mode. There were other players with high salaries who were not performing. You don't trade a No. 1 starter, and that is what Colon has become.
[Mike: The Indians were in third place, seven games out of first after an 11-1 start. They felt that they could not compete, and did not think that Colon and his salary figured in their future. They at least traded him for prospects, and by all accounts good ones (two are at least: Brandon Phillips and Cliff Lee, both of whom made it to the majors in 2002). They may have jumped the gun on the season. They may have jettisoned a young staff leader. But at least they have a plan and they stuck to it unlike the second-half failures this past season who did nothing to better themselves (e.g., Red Sox and Mariners). As Tony Soprano said, more is lost by indecision than a bad decision.]
On the Third Joe Morgan Chat Day of Christmas, Joe Morgan Gave To Us
Brandon, NC: Joe, Do you think that Don Baylor is on his way out of Chicago?
Joe Morgan: There is definitely a segment in Chicago that believes he should be fired. Others think it's not his fault because of injuries, lack of performance, etc. He is on the hot seat, but I can't say if he'll be fired or not. He is definitely being scrutinized closely.
[Mike: Keep reading...]
andy(chicago): did you hear about don baylor? he just got fired!!!
Joe Morgan: I was just informed before you asked the question. I always felt Don was a good manager, but good managers get fired also. The Cubs have been a group of underachievers this year, and the manager, I guess, has to take the blame. Bruce Kimm was named as the interim manager; that should make Whitey Herzog happy. The Cubs are short in a lot of ways. They don't get any production from third, short or second, with DeShields. Alou wasn't hitting. Corey Patterson wants to be a slugger instead of doing what Baylor asked him to do. It looks like they have talent. But without any production from a number of positions, where is it coming from? Sosa is it. They don't have as much talent as people think. They have Sosa, McGriff (who is doing better now) and Alou. If two of the three aren't producing, how do you win? Managers make a lot of money now, so they have to take the fall.
[Mike: Why is Baylor a good manager? He has a losing record. He never did much with a pretty good Colorado team. The Cubs turned themselves around in 2001 and nearly made the playoffs. They fell apart in 2002 with arguably a better team. He's considered a good manager for the windfall in 2001. So why doesn't he bear the brunt when they suck in 2002? In 2002, the Cubs had three players with over 25 HRs and a .500 slugging average (Sosa, McGriff, and Bellhorn). Moises Alou had a very off year, but he was better in 2002 than his incumbent Rondell White was with the Yanks. Hundley improved, but Girardi was still overused. Mueller was an improvement over Coomer, the third baseman in 2001. Gonzalez, the 2002 SS, and Guitierez, the 2001 SS, were sort of a wash. The same goes for 2001 CF Gary Matthews Jr. and 2002 CF Corey Patterson (though Patterson's lack of attention to the strike zone-142 strikeouts and only 19 walks-was alarming). The rotation was greatly improved but still young. Alfonseca tanked as the closer but it didn't affect Baylor's term greatly (he was 11 of 14 save opportunities in the first half with a 2.61 ERA; 8 of 14 5.45 in the second half). Baylor did take the fall for a team that failed as a team, and rightly so.]
Jon (Chicago): If you may not have already heard, Don Baylor was just fired. Who do you think the Cubs should bring in for the job? I'm hearing Felipe Alou's named tossed around do you think but could that really happen?
Joe Morgan: We know better now. But I think Alou is one of the best managers in baseball, even though he is not managing. He would be a great choice for anyone.
[Mike: All the press to the contrary notwithstanding, Felipe Alou did a bad job in Montreal. The Expos were basically a doormat his last four years there. He did lead the team to some good years at first (1992-'94). But his inability to get them to be the least bit competitive for most of his tenure has to be weighed against him, especially since the Expos improved slightly after he was fired in 2001 and greatly in 2002.]
On the Fourth Joe Morgan Chat Day of Christmas, Joe Morgan Gave To Us
Rob (NYC): What do you think of La Russa moving Albert Pujols into left field? From the little I've seen, Pujols looks like he could be a gold-glove caliber third baseman in time. Is Polanco really that valuable (.305 OBP) that you don't develop Pujols as an infielder? Maybe I'm missing something. Thanks.
Joe Morgan: Pujols would be best at one position. By that I mean, put him at third and leave him, or put him in left and leave him. LaRussa may think it helps the team, though. I agree he could be a good third baseman, but again, neither of us are there everyday. I'm sure LaRussa has a good reason for what he does.
[Mike: Joe, make a decision already. In the immortal words of John Blutarsky, "I don't cost nothin'." Of course, Pujols is more valuable as a third baseman, and all indications are that he would have been a capable one. LaRussa fell in love with Polanco's versatility, and for some reason felt the need to move his best player to a new position to get him into the lineup. Of course it's all academic now that the Cards traded Polanco (and others) to the Phils for Scott Rolen and Pujols is officially an outfielder. But all Cardinal fans should thank their lucky stars that LaRussa's latest favorite toy (Polanco) was taken away from him.
LaRussa's good reason is that he's a pompous ass. He is a good, slightly anachronistic manager, and the Cards did well to minimize their exposure due to his eccentricities.]
Marty (Atlanta): Joe, how good do you think the Braves really are this year? I think this may be the best team they've had in years, perhaps since 1993. Do you agree?
Joe Morgan: I agree they are very good. The fact they have Sheffield to support Chipper Jones and Andruw Jones helps a lot. Their lack of power hurt their offense before. But now they have power. Their bullpen is unbelievable, even though the starters aren't as good as they have been. I don't know if they are better, but they are capable of winning the whole thing.
[Mike: Anybody could win the whole thing, but are they a better team? Sheffield was a slight improvement over Brian Jordan, the 2001 right fielder. As far as power is concerned, the hit fewer in 2002 (174 to 164), but finished 8th instead of 10th in league as they did in 2001. Their slugging percentage also improved from 12th to 9th. However, holes at first, second, and third base were never filled or were filled by obviously inadequate players. And Javy Lopez is really starting to show his age. The pitching staff was much better in 2002. Glavine, Maddux, and especially Millwood improved. Moss came into his own. It was a wash between 2002 fifth starter Jason Marquis and the 2001 version, Odalis Perez. As Joe points out, the Braves' bullpen in 2002 was incredible. The Braves were a better team in 2002, but they improved mostly in the places that were already strengths and ignored weaknesses. As usual, those weaknesses came back to bite them in the playoffs.]
On the Fifth Joe Morgan Chat Day of Christmas, Joe Morgan Gave To Us
Joe R. (Syr.): Hi Joe What was your reaction to losing out on the Rookie of the Year award in '65? I'm trying to figure out how you could possibly have finished behind Jim Lefebvre, who while a fine 2nd baseman and underrated manager, clearly had inferior stats. You scored 100 runs!! The only possible advantage I can see is that his team went on the World Series while the Colt .45s (love that name) finished back, back, back in ninth. Your thoughts?
Joe Morgan: First of all, I didn't understand how I lost either. To be a rookie and score 100 runs on a ninth-place team is pretty special, and it's still one of the highlights of my career, in terms of one season. But the Dodgers have always had better PR than anyone else. They have had more Rookies of the Year than anyone. It was more what the Dodgers did publicity-wise than what the Astros did. That's the only thing I can think of, anyway.
[Joe Mike: Yes, he was arguably better than Lefebvre. But Lefebvre had those juicy RBIs on a front runner, all things that writers love. For the record, Joe's OPS was 30% better than the adjusted league average while Lefebvre was only 6% better. Morgan led in Win Shares too, 30 to 23. The PR remark does sound like sour grapes though.]
Pud (Cleveland): Do you think that John McDonald taking out Derek Jeter was a cheap shot, or an accident?
Joe Morgan: It was more of an accident. It was a double-play situation, but it wasn't a DP ground ball. The runner is going there to break up a double play. That's how I got hurt in my career, on a very similar play with Tommie Agee slid into me and tore up my knee. On the replay, though, it wasn't a cheap shot. He was on the ground the whole way.
[Mike: "Pud"? Really? More power to you, my brother. Anyway, "Enough about me. Let me tell you a little more about myself." I didn't see the play (or at least don't remember it), but just because a runner stays down doesn't mean it was OK. If he slides a few feet to the outside of the bag to take out the relay man, the runner should be called out. Period. They should start calling the actual play at second instead of allowing the relay man to purposely miss the bag to avoid injury and the runner to purposely miss the bag to induce injury. Here's the rule:
7.09 (g) If, in the judgment of the umpire, a base runner willfully and deliberately interferes with a batted ball or a fielder in the act of fielding a batted ball with the obvious intent to break up a double play, the ball is dead. The umpire shall call the runner out for interference and also call out the batter runner because of the action of his teammate. In no event may bases be run or runs scored because of such action by a runner. (h) If, in the judgment of the umpire, a batter runner willfully and deliberately interferes with a batted ball or a fielder in the act of fielding a batted ball, with the obvious intent to break up a double play, the ball is dead; the umpire shall call the batter runner out for interference and shall also call out the runner who had advanced closest to the home plate regardless where the double play might have been possible. In no event shall bases be run because of such interference.
The (h) part is interesting. I hadn't heard of that version of the rule, i.e., that it could cost a run. It's so rare that The Rules and Lore of Baseball doesn't even have an actual example.]
On the Sixth Joe Morgan Chat Day of Christmas, Joe Morgan Gave To Us
Matt Durand (Winchendon,MA): Hi Joe. My question is, Do you think the Red Sox will be able to acquire a power hitting first baseman such as Jim Thome and or a quality third starter such as a Jeff Weaver before the trading deadline?
Joe Morgan: That's asking a lot of one team. I thought that Thome was the guy they were pursuing. He would make the most impact. But Weaver is a good pitcher. Thome is the guy they need at first base. Ideally, they would take both -- but that's a lot.
[Mike: Joe, the question was can they get those players, not gee, wouldn't it be nice if they did. As it turned out the Sox got no one and crashed-and-burned in the second half, right on schedule.]
Julian (Allentown PA.): I don't think any Yankee could win MVP because they are all putting up some big numbers especially Soriano and Giambi. But who is the Yankee MVP so far?
Joe Morgan: You have the two of them. Flip a coin. Soriano carried them at the beginning, and Giambi is doing it now. I think Giambi could win, and so could Soriano. Because Giambi hits third, though, I think he has a better chance. He is in a run-producing spot, hitting third.
[Mike: Joe, the question was who is the Yankees MVP so far. Just pick one. Go ahead make a choice. It won't hurt.]
On the Seventh Joe Morgan Chat Day of Christmas, Joe Morgan Gave To Us
Doug (Columbus): Hey Joe, big fan. I remember reading your column last year about how the all-star game isn't as good anymore due to its lack of competition. Why is it that the players aren't competitive in the All-Star Game? Would they rather just have the three days off?
Joe Morgan: I believe part of it started when they made it an exhibition, with all the skill games the day before. The players have picked up on that. The players used to just come and play the game and win it for their league. Now it's an exhibition.
[Mike: Grinchie Joe, maybe the All-Star game, perhaps, means a little bit more. It's always been an exhibition. You were just one of the combatants when the leagues still had strong identities and therefore took the game seriously. Free agency, elimination of the league offices, interleague play, increased player salaries, and probably a half dozen things I haven't thought of have changed the tone of the game. Who cares if it's not your father's All-Star game? It's still a great game (though elimination of interleague play would make it greater.]
David(Geneva,NY): Who is the Favorite to win the Home run derby and which league has the advantage to win the all star game?
Joe Morgan: I think someone from the National League will win. Based on last year's results, I think Giambi will be a favorite. I think Shawn Green has a chance. I think Sosa is the guy to beat, though. Sosa enjoys it the most and has the most fun with it. Then I would say Bonds, Green and Giambi have a good shot. As for the game, I think the NL has a few more established stars than the AL. It depends on how the managers manage. Will they manage it as an exhibition or a game? The winning of the game has become inconsequential.
[Mike: Dr. Evil Joe was right, it was so inconsequential that no one even won. Aside from that, Joe, you've got to slap people down for asking ridiculous questions like who'll win the Home Run Derby. Who cares!?! Go put your Mr. Spock ears back on David from Geneva, NY. You geek. Oh, sorry to ruin the holiday spirit. God bless us everyone.]
Joe Morgan (in closing): Let's hope the All-Star Game is played the way it should be -- that it will be competitive. And let's hope that the stars will shine in the game as they should.
[Mike: They did. It was a great game. Lots of excitement. All that people remember is the tie score.]
On the Eighth Joe Morgan Chat Day of Christmas, Joe Morgan Gave To Us
John (London): Is Kansas city going to going to be able to hang onto Sweeney? Why haven't we heard about teams looking to trade for him soon? He would be a welcome bat at first base on many contending teams
Joe Morgan: Sweeney is an excellent hitter. I just don't see a lot of teams going after him; he makes a lot of money. I don't know which team he would fit well with. I think Boston needs a left-handed complement to Manny and Nomar. Tony Clark would have been a perfect fit, but he hasn't produced.
[Mike: Sweeney made $8 M in 2002. He has five years at $11 M left. It rises to $12.5 M if he is traded. That is a bit of change in today's market, but Sweeney is a heck of a hitter. He would have fit in well with the Sox. Just a note on Tony Clark, Clark had been a slightly better than average first baseman for a few years and had missed a great deal of time in the previous two seasons, but even though everyone (including Joe) touted Boston's acquisition of him as a great windfall, he was horrendous in 2002. Should the Sox have foreseen this? Well he was turning 30 and had missed a great deal of time, but that complete a downfall was a bit unexpected. That said, Boston couldn't have anticipated great things for very long with Clark. He had to be seen as a stop-gap measure. That they had no one to fall back on besides Brian Daubach and Jose Offerman (Yeck!) and refused to get anyone was not exactly to their credit.]
On the Ninth Joe Morgan Chat Day of Christmas, Joe Morgan Gave To Us
Joe Morgan (in closing): That's all the time I have for now. That Ichiro question bothers me. I've always talked about how great and smart he is. It's easier to score runs than to drive in runs. He scored runs last year, and Boone produced more than he did last year.
[Mike: OK, Boone should have won the 2001 AL MVP because he produced more, but Lefebrve shouldn't have won the 1965 NL ROY even though he out-produced Morgan. Morgan had a piddly 40 RBI in 1965. I know that it doesn't mean a damn thing, but by the same token neither does Boone's out-producing Ichiro.]
On the Tenth Joe Morgan Chat Day of Christmas, Joe Morgan Gave To Us
Bosey (New Jersey): Hey Joe! Who would you rather have on your team, A-Rod or Vlad Guerrero?
Joe Morgan: Very good question. Personally, I may take A-Rod because of the position he plays. It's easier to find an outfielder who drives in 100 runs than a shortstop like A-Rod. That said, though, Vlad is arguably the best player in the game. There are more outfielders who do what Vlad does than shortstops who do what A-Rod does.
[Mike: No shortstop ever has done what A-Rod has done so far. It's still early in his career, but just that he has a chance to be the best ever is amazing. Guerrero is a great player, but he does have a few chinks in the armor. First, he commits a good 10 to 20 errors a year. Stupid errors. Lapses in concentration. Yes, he has the ability to make those plays, but he doesn't. He also has a very low stolen base success rate (63% for his career, a career high of 69%, and two seasons under 50%) for someone who steals a good bit of bases. Those may just be lapses as well. He may be able to overcome these weakness, but he hasn't yet.]
On the Eleventh Joe Morgan Chat Day of Christmas, Joe Morgan Gave To Us
Joe Morgan (closing): That's all the time I have for now. That Ichiro question bothers me. I've always talked about how great and smart he is. It's easier to score runs than to drive in runs. He scored runs last year, and Boone produced more than he did last year.
[Mike: Joe gets a burr under his saddle, and it really irks him. He takes an offhanded comment after the chatter has thoroughly kissed his bee-hind and before he simply asks Morgan's opinion of Ichiro's "pros and cons" and turns it into a personal attack. I love the guy.]
On the Twelfth Joe Morgan Chat Day of Christmas, Joe Morgan Gave To Us
Cliff (Jackson,Ms.): Hey Joe, why do you think Rick Riley was out of line with Sosa? Wasn't he just calling his hand? The fans, as supporters of the game, have a right to know if someone is cheating, don't you think?
Joe Morgan: What Reilly did was a cheap shot. Who appointed him the drug czar of this country? What you, as a fan, deserve to know is basically that this is still a free country. You are innocent until proven guilty. If you ask Sosa to take a drug test when the union has said no to testing, you are out of line. Everybody realizes that Reilly was out of line because he put himself in a win-win situation and put Sosa in a no-win situation. If Sosa says yes, then Reilly is a hero to the world. Since Sosa says no, he can write something about Sosa. It was an Enquirer style of interviewing. The players do not deserve that. It makes it very difficult for us to interview the players because they will be fearful of the media's motives. Reilly is not Bud Selig or Donald Fehr. Those are the only two people who should ask Sosa, if they wanted to do that. If Sosa would have taken the test, then every other player would have been angry at him because the union has not sanctioned drug tests. Reilly was doing it for Reilly, to make himself look good, and that's why he was out of line.
[Mike: Right on the money.]
Mike(Boca Raton): Joe why is Torre the bad man for not putting Thome in the all star game. He had his third chance to get in when we had the 30th man voting. It's not Torees fault someone evey year gets left out thats just part of the all star game.
Joe Morgan: People are looking at Torre because he took five shortstops. That hurts other positions. It takes chances away from other players who deserve to be there. If you think all five shortstops deserve to be there over Thome, then we have a difference of opinion.
[Mike: Joe is still classy even when dealing with incoherent, slavering freaks. By the way, Joe's right. Derek Jeter got his ticket punched but not Jime Thome? C'mon?!?]
Dex (Boston): Is there realistically a chance that an agreement will be reached between the players and management to head off a player strike in August? Also, what is the chance that any kind of steroid testing will be adopted?
Joe Morgan: There is a realistic chance for both. I think part of the agreement will have some sort of drug testing.
[Mike: If you can keep your head when all about you Are losing theirs...Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it, And-which is more-you'll be a Man, my son! Good call, Joe.]
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight, "Happy Christmas to all and talk to you again next week."
Happy (Belated) Holidays from Mike's Baseball Rants!
Well, Albie It appears that
It appears that the Braves will lose the third member of the excellent 2002 bullpen today. Albie Lopez was offerered a one-year contract with the Royals and he is expected to sign today according to RotoWire.
With rumors that John Smoltz will move back into the rotation, the defections of Lopez, Chris Hammond, and Mike Remlinger, and the trades of Tim Spooneybarger and John Foster, the Braves pen may look markedly different in 2003. At least they got that backup catcher that they were always looking for in Johnny "Don't Call Me Eric" Estrada.
Honest Tim in Lincoln Oh,
Honest Tim in Lincoln
Oh, how the mighty have fallen. Check this out from Sports Network:
Former Blue Jays manager hired by minor league team
Unlucky Lucchino? Murray Chass writes
Murray Chass writes in the NY Times that the Red Sox may come out ahead after losing the Jose Cotreras derby to the Yankees. His reasoning is that now that the Yankees have acquired another pitcher (and appear close to re-signing Roger Clemens), they will drop out of the running for the Bartolo Colon/Javier Vazquez derby with Montreal.
The Expos must cut payroll and now one of the bigger players, the Yankees, is out of the running. The Red Sox are the prime candidates apparently for offloading surplus Montreal salary.
The Expos, as Chass says, had counted on playing the two AL East teams against each other:
At the winter meetings in Nashville this month, Omar Minaya, the Expos' general manager, tried to get the Yankees and the Red Sox competing with each other for Colón, but they rejected his proposals.
Apparently, media darling Omar Minaya overplayed his hand not realizing that a) Contreras would soon be declared a free agent (after clearing some hurdles regarding his residency documents) and b) so many players would soon become free agents after not being tendored contracts by their teams. Minaya had his moment when the demand still outpaced the supply, and it was the winter meetings. He didn't make the moves he needed to make and now the Expos are scrambling to make the mandated payroll cuts.
But enough of that, the Red Sox will probably acquire Colon as Chass opines, and will have three twenty-game winners on their staff. Those three would be more dominant than any three pitchers that the Yankees could throw at a team. Besides Colon is \younger than Contreras and is an established major-league starter (By the way, Chass mistakenly states that Colon is only 27-he will be 30 in May). Casey Fossum, the starter for whom Colon will probably be swapped and whose spot he will take, started only 12 games last year and ended up 3-3 with a 3.65 ERA (and a 1.41 WHIP) as a starter.
However, the Yankees gave up nothing in getting Contreras. The Red Sox will probably have to give up Casey Fossum and Shea Hillenbrand to get Colon and take on Fernando Tatis' salary as well (one year at $6.25 M remains on his contract).
Fossum did start only 12 games last year, but he struck out over a man an inning (69 in 66-2/3 innings) and struck at over 3.6 men for each one he walked (69 to 19). He is only 24, and with the Josh Hancock to the Phillies, his loss doesn't bode well for the Red Sox' pitching future. The Red Sox would have no starters under 30 by the 2003 All-Star break should they acquire Colon (Martinez 31, Lowe 30, Colon 30, Wakefield 36, Burkett 38). They only have two other pitchers under 29 on the 40-man roster (Brandon Lyon and Andy Shibilo). With Burkett's $5.5 M of ineffectiveness, Boston's apparent lack of confidence Wakefield a starter, and no other viable options, the tail end of the Red Sox' rotation may be problematic in 2003 no matter what.
Colon finally put together the kind of season in 2002 that his former employer, the Indians, had been anticipating for years. His ERA was under 3.00 for the first time in his career. His strikeouts dropped severely though. He only struck out 5.75 men per nine innings, a huge drop from his career high of 10.15 in 2000. His strikeout-to-walk ratio has never been greater than 2.25 and his WHIP (walks plus hits per innings pitched) has never been below 1.24, his career best in 2002. Compare those numbers to Boston's Pedro Martinez who has only had a WHIP over 1.20 once, has never has a K/9 IP under 8, and has only had one K/BB ratio under 2.5. Colon did rank 10th among all major-league starters in Baseball Prospectus' Support Neutral Wins Above Replacement-Level, but there are still a good number of negatives in his makeup. That said, he would still be the best number 3 starter in baseball.
The Red Sox are apparently unhappy with uneven third baseman Shea Hillenbrand. He does have only 38 walks in over 1100 at-bats. But in 2002 his on-base percentage was actually one point better than the adjusted league average and his OPS was 9% better than the adjusted average (43 doubles and 18 HRs help). His apparent replacement in the trade, Fernando Tatis, had a deplorable 2002 season (.303 OBP and .702 OPS, which was only 83% of the adjusted league average). He signed a $14 M, four-year contract after a monster 1999 season (34 HRs, 107 RBI, .298 BA, .957 OPS- 40% better than the adjusted league average). He has been largely injured and/or ineffectual since then. He is just one year older than Hillenbrand but seems to be on the decline while Hillenbrand may still be able to improve as he did in 2002.
If acquiring Colon were such a boon to the Sox, one would have to wonder why they were so vehemently pursuing Contreras. Chass cites a source who states that the Sox were prepared to pay him more than the Yankees' offer, but Contreras liked the Yankee situation better and chose them.
All I Want For Christmas
All I Want For Christmas Is Two Starting Pitchers
The Yankees signed Cuban Defector Jose Contreras to a four-year, $32 M contract. They are still negotiating with Roger Clemens to re-sign for 2003. Quoth ESPN, "The Yankees anticipate that by the Jan. 8 deadline they will re-sign Clemens to a one-year contract worth $8 million to $10 million."
If Clemens re-signs, the Yankees will have eight, count 'em, eight starting pitchers on the roster: Contreras, Clemens, Mussina, Wells, Weaver, Pettite, Hernandez, and Hitchcock. The Yankees would love to divest themselves of Hitchcock's massive contract, but the prospect seems remote. He'll probably end up the left-handed long reliever in the bullpen. The same goes for El Duque if they cannot trade him.
That leaves six starters. Weaver seems the logical choice to be dropped based on last season (he was used out of the bullpen on many occasions). However, he was acquired to lead their staff in 2003 and beyond. If they cannot trade a starter, Mussina, Pettite, or Wells will have to move to the bullpen. Given his smaller salary, I wouldn't be surprised if the choice was Wells.
Chris Single-As-In-Can't-Take-A-Walk-To-Save-His-Life-ton The A's have
The A's have just signed 30-year-old, non-tendored free agent Chris Singleton to a one-year contract. The AP article claims that the "Athletics shored up their outfield" in doing so, and "[t]he acquisition of Singleton allows the A's to move Terrence Long from center field to left field, which would improve their outfield defense."
This leaves me with two questions: A) Who wants Terrence Long as a corner outfielder? His OPS (on-base plus slugging) was .688 last season. Only two starting major-league left fielders were worse than that (and they were both in New York: Rondell White and Roger Cedeno). Terrence Long is somewhat better than his 2002 season for his career, but we are only talking about a three-season career. Even if he performs at his career-average .740 OPS, he would still rank third worst in baseball based on 2002.
The second question is B) Why does a team like Oakland that is built around on-base percentage sign dreck like Singleton of the .296 OPS in 2002? He walked 21 times in 466 at-bats this past season.
Besides Singleton is 30 and in his 4-year career, has seen his skills deteriorate more each season. He was a pretty good ballplayer in 1999 (.300 BA, 17 HR, 72 R & RBI, .490 Slug, .818 OPS--8% better than the adjusted league average, and 20 stolen bases and an 80% stolen-base success rate, but only a .328 OBP and 22 walks). His 2000 season was horrific with an OPS that was only 69% of the adjusted league average, a terrible number for anyone outside of Bill & Ted. He returned to slightly below average in OPS in 2001, but his stolen bases (12) and stolen-base success rate (52%) dropped of severely. With Baltimore in 2002, Singleton slid closer to his 2000 numbers with a .706 OPS (87% of the adjusted league average). His OPS was actually only better than 6 other starting major-league center fielders, one of whom was Terrence Long.
Aside from those issues, I think it was a tremendous pick-up. I mean, how often can you weaken yourself in two positions by signing one man?
At First To Last Over
At First To Last
Over the last couple of days, two first basemen who were 38 years old last season were signed as free agents to, in all probably, start at first base in 2003. Those two are Fred McGriff (going from the Cubs to the Dodgers) and Mark Grace (who re-sigend with the D-Backs).
It made me wonder how unusual it was to have a a starting first baseman who was that age and how dicey a proposition it was to sign one. So I did a little research (thanks to Sean Leahman's database). I found that there have only been nine other 38-year-old starting first baseman in baseball history. Here is what they did in their 38th and 39th years (with McGriff and Grace's 2002 numbers; Also, OPS+ is Baseball-Reference.com's OPS adjusted for park and era as a percentage of the average):
At First To Last Over the last couple of days, two first basemen who were 38 years old last season were signed as free agents to, in all probably, start at first base in 2003. Those two are Fred McGriff (going from the Cubs to the Dodgers) and Mark Grace (who re-sigend with the D-Backs). It made me wonder how unusual it was to have a a starting first baseman who was that age and how dicey a proposition it was to sign one. So I did a little research (thanks to Sean Leahman's database). I found that there have only been nine other 38-year-old starting first baseman in baseball history. Here is what they did in their 38th and 39th years (with McGriff and Grace's 2002 numbers; Also, OPS+ is Baseball-Reference.com's OPS adjusted for park and era as a percentage of the average):
Don't Take My Love for
Don't Take My Love for Non-Tender, II
Her are a few more:
Sea: John Halama, Charles Gipson, and Desi Relaford.
Hoosier Daddy: The Uncollected History
Hoosier Daddy: The Uncollected History of Indiana Baseball, II
Professional baseball in Indiana went on hiatus until the good citizenry back in Ft. Wayne, after 12 years, were finally ready to support another pro team. It was 1883, and at the Grand Duchess a team calling itself the Hoosiers represented Ft. Wayne in the fledgling Northwestern League. They finished seventh (34-50) in an eight-club league, and only lasted one more season as the demised with the Northwestern League itself-they didn't improve in the second season finishing 22-43, in eighth place in a 12-team league.
But a few good things did happen. In 1883, the Grand Duchess in a promotional scheme became only the second site to host a game under lights ever (Methodist College played host to a team from Quincy, Il.). Also, the Ft. Wayne team's presence inspired a team from Terre Haute, a future hot bed for minor-league baseball, to join the Northwestern League in 1884 (and ended up with 15-50 record).
Also in 1884, Indianapolis returned to the majors. The American Association (AA), the NL's then partner in organized ball, was expanding to 12 teams in order to combat a threat from a rival league, the Union Association (UA). The Indianapolis Hoosiers-yes, the name was becoming popular-were born. The team left not much to remember them by. They were 29-78, 46 games behind in 11th place. The one-year franchise quickly faded from memory like the rival UA threat.
The only lasting impression that was left was one of dipsomania. The Hoosiers, apparently, took the "Beer and Whiskey" nickname that the AA had acquired a little too much to heart. They were repeatedly arrested for public drunkenness. They even showed up to games drunk. Worries of drunken rowdiness attended the birth of the next Indianapolis franchise in 1887.
To Be Continued...
Grist for the Millwood, III
Grist for the Millwood, III
Given the large number of non-tendors, a thought occurred to me. What if the Braves had just declined to offer Millwood a contract?
He would have become a free agent and almost certainly would have been lost to them. But the odds that he would end up on a division rival would have been somewhat reduced.
I would have taken the risk if all I was going to get out of trading Millwood to the Phils was Johnny Estrada anyway. Maybe that was the last screw-up in a litany that the Braves management had with their staff this week.
Don't Take My Love for
Don't Take My Love for Non-Tender
It's Marvin Miller's worst nightmare. What would happen if all of the players were free agents every year. They would flood the market and drive down salaries. It's simple supply-and-demand economics, right?
Well, we are not close to that, but this year an inordinate number of useful, arbitration-eligible players are not being tendored contracts. It seems that for whatever reason the whole of MLB has reached the proverbial tipping point and now teams would be hard pressed to retain these players given the talent available on the open market. It's the oddest offseason since the full bloom of collusion (that also could explain a lot about this offseason if it were a factor). Perhaps the oddest angle is that a number of these players are still of interest to their 2002 teams, just not at the current rate plus arbitration.
Sean McAdam has a very interesting article on the phenomenon on ESPN.
Here is a list of the non-tendors that I have noticed over the past day or so:
NYY: Spencer, Parker
Grist for the Millwood, II
Grist for the Millwood, II
Rob Neyer agrees with my assessment that the Braves assumed Maddux was not returning and totally fumbled their moves of the last week.
Uncle Floyd, III Well, surprises
Uncle Floyd, III
Well, surprises abound. The Red Sox did not tendor Brian Daubach a contract, thereby making him a free agent.
Theo Epstein says that the move "doesn't change Jeremy's (Giambi's) situation or the way we see first base. Again, Jeremy has a chance to be part of the solution at first base,'' Epstein said. ``If not, he'll be the designated hitter.''
I had speculated that Giambi would start in left, but it sounds as if the Sox are expecting Manny Ramirez to play there more regularly next year. By the way, he hasn't played as many as 100 games in the outfield since 1999. Giambi will be tried at first and, that failing, DH.
Boston claims to still be in contact with Daubach but are keeping their options open what with all of the holiday bargains on the market.
Nakamura For a Loop The
Nakamura For a Loop
The Mets got good news a bad news today. First the good news: The Mets will actually have a bona fide major-league outfielder on the roster this year. Cliff Floyd signed for reported 4-year, $26 M contract earlier today.
Now the bad news: Japanese free-agent third baseman Norihiro Nakamura has unexpectedly signed with a Japanese team after preliminary reports had his deal with the Mets a fait accompli (that's French, querida). Is Bobby Bonilla still available?
'Tis The Season The Cubs
'Tis The Season
The Cubs continue to play Santa Claus, handing out a one-year, $3M to of all people the ever-naughty Shawn Estes. Estes should be getting a lump of coal in his stocking after his 5-12, 5.09 ERA 2002. But this pitcher who arguably hasn't been better than average since 1997 (and at times has been a whole lot worse) now gets a spot in the rotation, apparently just for having pitched for Dusty Baker at some time in the past.
The crosstown Pale Ho-Ho-Hose were being similarly beneficent handing out a one-year contract to aging catcher Sandy Alomar (who was pretty good for them last year, but was rank for them in 2001 and even worse in the second half of 2002 with Colorado).
Grist for the Millwood I
Grist for the Millwood
I guess I was wrong-mark your calendars. Not only are the Braves willing to trade 18-game winner Kevin Millwood, they did so to the division-rival Phillies for a backup catcher, yet. Millwood is 27, but also had two sub-par years before his 18-8, 3.24 ERA 2002 season. He will also get a bunch via arbitration ($10M, John Schuerholz estimated). Oh, and the Phillies don't end up getting the left-hander that they were jones-ing after.
But the Phillies got one of the best young pitchers in the NL for a player that probably wouldn't even make the team (Johnny Estrada). That's a freebie, folks.
Schuerholz told ESPN, "The economics in baseball stink. The economics stink, and if this isn't a clear enough signal to the doubters and naysayers, to be forced to trade an 18-game winner to your arch enemy ... The economics stink." Apparently the Phillies were the only team with the funds to take Millwood off the Braves' hands. With all of their AOL and cable money, why can't they afford a true 5-man rotation, anyway? Besides, how did the get in this mess to begin with? Well, they acquired two pitchers when it turned out that they only needed one (after Maddux accepted arbitration). By the way, I would rather have Millwood than either of two pitchers that the acquired (Byrd or Ortiz).
The Phils did not get the veteran staff leader that they wanted but they now potentially have one of the best young rotations in baseball. Rob Neyer goes as far as to say "one of the league's best rotations...The odds seem to change every day. But on this day the Phillies are the beasts of the East." I am not that optomistic, but Wolf (26), Padilla (25), Myers (22), and Millwood make a pretty good, young group. Throw in a Duckworth (26), Coggin (26), Hancock (24), Bud Smith (23) or even a Joe-Ah Roa (31), and they might have something there for a few years. I suppose the rotation will be Millwood, Wolf, Padilla, Myers, and ? Millwood had always been at best a number 3 starter in Atlanta, so he will have a little added pressure. The group has a lot of potential but they could also pull a Pat Combs, as happens often in Philly.
According to the ESPN online poll the Phils are 2-to-1 favorites over the Braves to now win the division. I think it's premature, but I have to say as a Phils fan, it doesn't stink.
Godzookey, II Aaron Gleeman has
Aaron Gleeman has the numbers from BP for the two new Japanese sluggers translated into major-league numbers. I agree with Aaron that they should be good, but I still reserve judgment on their power numbers until they produce some sateside. It is interesting though.
Uncle Floyd, II David Pinto
Uncle Floyd, II
David Pinto reports that the Orioles are close to signing Floyd.
By the way, if he does sign with the Orioles, he will be a substantial upgrade over what they had there in 2002. Take a look at Floyd's stats a compared to Baltimore's left and right fielders for the season:
Floyd G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS OBP SLG OPS AVG 2002 146 520 86 150 43 0 28 79 76 106 15 5 .388 .533 .921 .288 Total 955 3132 510 891 225 17 132 508 347 627 115 37 .361 .494 .855 .284 LF GP AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS OBP SLG OPS AVG Gary Matthews Jr. 16 40 5 14 4 1 1 5 3 12 1 0 .386 .575 .961 .350 Marty Cordova 72 256 29 65 14 0 12 35 24 58 1 5 .322 .449 .771 .254 Jose Leon 2 8 2 2 0 0 1 3 0 2 0 0 .250 .625 .875 .250 Melvin Mora 74 247 39 58 12 3 11 33 32 45 10 2 .336 .441 .777 .235 Howie Clark 4 14 0 3 0 0 0 0 1 1 0 0 .313 .214 .527 .214 Larry Bigbie 6 17 1 3 0 0 0 1 0 6 1 0 .176 .176 .353 .176 Jeff Conine 6 24 2 4 1 0 1 3 0 5 0 0 .167 .333 .500 .167 Luis Matos 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 TOTALS GP AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS OBP SLG OPS AVG Orioles LF 162 606 78 149 31 4 26 80 60 129 13 7 .322 .439 .761 .246 RF GP AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS OBP SLG OPS AVG Larry Bigbie 6 6 0 2 1 0 0 1 1 2 0 0 .429 .500 .929 .333 Gary Matthews Jr. 76 244 43 70 17 1 6 29 31 44 11 3 .367 .439 .805 .287 Jay Gibbons 92 339 48 80 21 0 18 43 30 43 1 2 .298 .457 .755 .236 Melvin Mora 5 12 1 2 1 0 1 2 1 2 0 0 .231 .500 .731 .167 Luis Matos 7 14 0 2 1 0 0 1 0 5 1 0 .143 .214 .357 .143 Luis Garcia 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 TOTALS GP AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS OBP SLG OPS AVG Orioles RF 162 615 92 156 41 1 25 76 63 96 13 5 .323 .446 .768 .254
Actually, the were pretty well balanced between right and left, not great in either but OK. Where they really need help is at catcher, second, shortstop, centerfield, and DH, which makes me wonder why they stopped pursuing Pudge Rodriguez.
Uncle! Floyd Out of Boston-Red
Uncle! Floyd Out of Boston-Red Sox Feel Oggie
Cliff Floyd decline arbitration withe the Red Sox. The Sox can still negotitate with him but it seems apparent that he's headed elsewhere. There have been a lot of rumors about his going to the Mets.
Now, the Jeremy Giambi deal becomes pretty big. Giambi will probably start in left (instead of spreading him between first, left, and DH as the Sox probably intended). That means that Daubach will probaby be the starting first baseman (and that the Sox will actually offer him a contract before the deadline tonight).
That's kind of a spanner thrown into Epstein's works. He had been plugging some serious holes with modestly good player but apparently relied on retaining Floyd. So with all of his good work, he's kind of back to square one.
Maybe the Should Have Called
Maybe the Should Have Called AA Instead
The Cubs re-signed Antonio Alfonseca to a one-year, $4 M contract. Evidently, the Cubbies did not get the memo on fiscal responsibility that the other teams seem to have memorized. Alfonseca has never been a premier closer and was about a league-average pitcher last year (4.00 ERA, 19 saves but 9 blown saves). The Cubs seem undeterred though:
``I'm optimistic he'll return to his old form,'' Cubs general manager Jim Hendry said Thursday. ``He was returning from back surgery early last year and didn't get a lot of chances to save.''
Keep brimming with optomism, Jim. Alfonseca's "old form" isn't that great either. He has had an ERA under 4.00 in only two of his six seasons. He's averaged just over 6 strkeouts per nine innings for his career. His strikeout-to-walk ratio is nothing to write home about either (1.75). His WHIP (Walks plus Hits per Innings Pitched) is just under 1.5 and he has more hits allowed than innings pitched. ESPN has him saving less than 80% of his save opportunities. So with Ugueth Urbina out on the market, why give this guy $4 M?
Oh, one last piece of Windy City tomfoolery:
``We might give Dusty (Baker) the option or three or four guys who might close,'' Hendry said.
So, now he's a $4 M setup man with a 4.00+ ERA. Great signing, guys!
Can We Call Him Gamera?
Can We Call Him Gamera?
The Mets will announce that they have signed Japanese fre-agent third baseman Norihiro Nakamura on Friday according to New York Newsday. It's reportedly a two year deal for $7 M plus a $6M option for a third.
These two power-hitting players (i.e., with Matsui) will be very interesting test cases for Japanese ballplayers in the US. Should they succeed, the Japanese leagues may soon (10 years or so) start to close up shop a la the old Negro Leagues after Jackie Robinson et al's signing by the major leagues. Perhaps they will become another overblown lesser minor league like the Mexican League.
It may also create a new viable source for new players as well as a market to sell their product to for MLB.
Or they could both suck. We'll have to see, but it couldn't come at a better time for MLB.
What No Phil and Phyllis?
What No Phil and Phyllis?
The Phillies' fan newsletter is chock full of information about their new stadium, the one that won't open for another year and charge, this week. There's an article on how to choose the perfect grass, ah, turf--perhaps some Carl Spackler's special hybrid from Caddyshack. There's an interview of the man overseeing the construction. And then there's this:
I'm not sure why Pete Alexander, Chuck Klein, Billy Hamilton, and Ed Delahanty got overlooked, but it will be good to see the Phils celebrating their history a bit. The Vet has some cheesy genero-Phillies sculpture dating from around 1978 in the front. The only homages to their four recent HoF inductees are the be-pinstriped retired numbers resting above the retracted extra seating for football.
Maddux Redux, Deux ESPN reports
Maddux Redux, Deux
ESPN reports that the Braves will now have to trade one of their starting pitchers to accommodate returning Greg Maddux's salary. Given that Hampton was already untradeable when the Braves acquired him, Maddux is staying, and Paul Byrd was just signed as a free agent, that leaves Kevin Millwood and Russ Ortiz. Millwood made $3.9 M in 2002 but could make more in 2003 given that he is arbitration eligible. Besides the Braves would probably want to keep Millwood for staff stability.
That leaves just Ortiz, who will make $4.4M in 2003 plus a $5.7 M option ($300 K buyout for 2004). It probably won't happen until Colon, Clemens, and Contreras find homes. (By the way, Philly.com reports that the Phillies are now pursuing the Cuban defector, meaning that Contreras will sign with another team within days.) Expect the team left standing when the music stops to go after Ortiz. Woudn't it be funny if it was division-rival Philadelphia?
Domo Arigato, Mr. Rodriguez CBS
Domo Arigato, Mr. Rodriguez
CBS SportsLine reports that Pudge Rodriguez may be looking to the East, now that contract talks with the Orioles have soured. His agent is quoted as saying, "I think at this point our focus is slowly but surely turning to Japan."
Rodriguez is still a pretty good hitter and would not be liability if he DH'ed or played first. That is, if he is healthy, which he has not been for an entire season since 1999. Still, I am surprised that no one besides Baltimore tried to acquire the guy. He may pull a Bob Horner/Cecil Fielder deal: 1) Go to Japan for one year. 2) Put up compelling number (and in Rodriguez' case, show that he can stay healthy an entire season). 3) Triumphantly return to the States.
It is odd that a guy, who until recently was a sure-fire Hall-of-Famer in many's eyes (and a media darling), can no longer get a job in the majors. That would be like Greg Maddux becoming a free agent and no one making him an offer! No, wait that happened.
Maddux Redux The AP reports
The AP reports that Greg Maddux is set to accept salary arbitration from the Braves.
That would mean that the Braves rotation for 2003 would be Maddux, Millwood, Ortiz, Byrd, and Hampton. That could be pretty good though there's a potential for a few of those guys to go south.
Now all the Braves need is a first baseman, second baseman, etc. Their imminent demise may be forestalled however.
And Then There Were Three...
And Then There Were Three...
The Yankees are now pursuing three starting pitchers, free agent Roger Clemens, Montrel trade-bait Bartolo Colon, and now Cuban defector Jose Contreras. Contreras was finally declared a free agent yesterday after clearing up an issue with his paperwork that had caused his free agency request to at first be turned down.
Meanwhile, Greg Maddux may accept arbitration from the Braves today taking them out of the running for another starting pitcher (there are rumors that they are a dark horse in the Colon fire sale).
Chuck Finley remains unsigned although the media had him and the Cardinals just a signature away from a deal. Now that they picked up Brett Tomko (ouch!), they are saying they prefer a cheaper alternative to Finley. The Phils were hot for Finley about a week ago and have stated that they will acquire a veteran for their staff (and apparently a left-handed one), but so far the Phils have missed out on Tom Glavine and Jamie Moyer.
But is Godzookey Old Enough
But is Godzookey Old Enough to Be a Bat Boy?
The NY Post has the Yankees very close to signing Japanese free agent Hideki Matsui. Finally, their courtship appears to be coming to an end in this offseason in which everyone move seems to be in slow motion.
Astro Boy III According to
Astro Boy III
According to the AP, the Kent deal is for $18.2 M over two years (plus a $9 M option/$700 K buyout for a third).
That's quite a bit for a 34-year-old player that no one else seemed interested in signing. I'm not saying that Kent won't be worth it, but it does make the move a bit dicier.
I do have to hand it to the Astros: in a year that harkens back to the halcyon days of collusion, they did get a premier player when everyone else was twiddling their thumbs. If Biggio has a comeback this year, the move will look trememdous. It he doesn't, it will be hard to hide his offense in left. At least it beats talking about divorcing the team from the Enron name like last offseason.
Byrd Brained? II Rob Neyer
Byrd Brained? II
Rob Neyer likes the Braves rotation changes even less than I do. Take a look.
I think that Ortiz is a definite upgrade over Moss but agree that it's a big step down in general unless they resign Maddux. If I am Steve Phillips or Ed Wade, I am trying to make sure that doesn't happen. It'll come to a head on Thursday when Maddux will have to decide on the arbitration issue.
Astro Boy II Forget everything
Astro Boy II
Forget everything I just wrote. The Astros, perhaps to placate Jeff Kent, are moving Biggio to left field according to this report from the AP:
Kent will play second base with the Astros, Hunsicker said. Biggio, a four-time Gold Glove winner, will shift to the outfield. Biggio began his career as a catcher.
I think it's insane myself. Biggio would be among the worst starting left fielders offensively in baseball, unless he has a big comeback from the past season (I guess no matter what happens the Astros are relying on that). And they have not even broached the subject with Biggio. Oh, brother!
Astro Boy It seems that
It seems that the Astros will proceed with the saner alternative of moving Kent back to third base after a 6-year hiatus. This is as opposed to moving current second baseman Craig Biggio to left field (Does anybody remember Chuck Knoblauch, er, laughter?). The move makes a good deal of sense since if Kent can play passable defense at third, then he should out-hit every other third sacker in baseball and be a huge asset. Biggio doesn't hit well enough of late to be considered a viable major-league left fielder.
How does Kent's offense compare to the hot corner field? His 37 home runs were 7 more than the leaders at third (Rolen, Glaus, and Batista), and his .933 OPS would be 80 points higher than third-base leader Scot Rolen.
My one reservation-besides Kent's defense, specifically his arm and reflexes-is that the Astros did not in actuality have a problem at third base. Geoff Blum did a fine job there in 2002 for the 'Stros. His .807 OPS was 3rd among Astros "starters" and 6th among MLB third sackers. He may not be great defensively, but his Range Factor is 2.92 , which would be good for tie for fifth in the majors in 2002 (if he had played enough games at third to qualify). His Zone Rating was only good for 15th in the majors. (Thanks to ESPN.) Let's say that he is about average defensively. He would still be a better than average third baseman in the majors.
Compare that to Daryle Ward, whose OPS was the fourth worst in the majors for a left fielder, and Ricardo Hidalgo, who was 16th among starting right fielders. Also, Catcher Brad Ausmus, who is known more for his glove, was the fourth worst offensive catcher in the majors (by OPS). Signing Kent does nothing to help the offense in the corner outfield spots.
Robbing Russ to Pay Livan
Robbing Russ to Pay Livan
According to a number of reports, the Giants traded Russ Ortiz yesterday due in part to his 2003 salary. Said Brain Sabean:
"It was brutal. I really had a hard time getting on the phone with him. You draft him, see him develop under your eyes. If it weren't for Russ we wouldn't have gotten to the World Series...Anybody who's followed the transactions of our club lately, we're trying to improve our club and stay within the parameters of our payroll. People know we're committed to action. We're going to do something, and we also had a player people were interested in.''
Well, why trade Ortiz then? He was arguably the Giants best starter last year and he would have been third in the rotation as far as payroll:
Schmidt and Hernandez look like far better candidates from the Giants' point of view, but maybe there was no interest for those two. Did the Giants even try to trade them? I heard no rumors about it. It seemed like the Ortiz deal came out of the blue as well. Maybe I just wasn't keeping up enough with the Giants.
However, if payroll is a concern, why not trade some of the overpriced bullpen staff (read Robb Nen) instead of a starter?
Lastly, if the Giants chose to trade Ortiz because of his salary and because they felt that 2002 was a career year, one that he was unlikely to replicate, then why not foist him off to another club and get someone worthwhile in return. Moss barely figured in the Braves plans even though they were losing potentially two-fifths of their rotation. He obviously was not well thought of in Atlanta. Maybe the Braves were mistaken. After all, Randall Simon was a bit better than the Braves surmised. I would tend to doubt Leo Mazzone and Bobby Cox's fallibility when it comes to pitchers.
Even with the contract concerns, this was a very bad trade for the Giants.
Kent An Astro A TV
Kent An Astro
A TV station in Houston just announced that the Astros and Jeff Kent have inked a deal. Numbers were not disclosed but that the deal runs for two years with an option for a third was.
With Kent signing, the Astros have two fab second baseman, Kent and Win Share champ Craig Biggio. Either they move Kent to third or Biggio moves to the outfield. Frankly, given Biggio's offensive dropoff in two of the last three years, I wouldn't expect him to last long as an outfielder. For the record he's played 57 major-league games in the outfield (39 in center, 29 in left, and 2 in right). He would have to take a corner spot with star Lance Berkman in center. That would be bad news for struggling Richard Hidalgo and/or Darryle Ward (remember when the 'Stros had too many good outfielders?). Biggio played one game in left last year, that was his only game in the outfield since 1991. Kent on the other hand has not played third regularly since he left the Mets in the middle of 1996 (and his defensive numbers that year are appalling). His last game at third was in 1996 with Cleveland.
Bo Diaz Ex Machina Aaron
Bo Diaz Ex Machina
Aaron Haspel over at God Of The Machine posted a response to all the Pete Rose hoopla of late. Both John J Perricone at Only Baseball Matters and your humble servant (that's me) have been responding to Aaron on the issue since. And away we go.
I agree with a great [deal] of what you argue here. However, I am actually in favor of Rose's reinstatement because I don't feel that MLB made a good case proving Rose bet on baseball or the Reds. I find the evidence to be contradictory and not the least bit compelling. Oh, and I have read the Dowd Report (actually more than once).
Mikearminati has done a real good job of putting the situation in perspective.
Aaron then invited us to do something, to which my response was, "That's not even physically possible." I'm joking of course:
Thanks, John and Mike, for your sane and thoughtful remarks. You are both far better versed in the facts of the case than I, but we can all at least agree that the only relevant question is whether Rose bet on baseball in general and the Reds in particular.
John had a response on his site.
I responded to wit:
I actually have already done this. Well, I bypassed Zumsteg and went to the source, Dowd. It was part of Only Baseball Matters' Rose series about a month ago. It's in my archive here. It's a staged trial as refutation of the Dowd Report. Be forewarned that it is long and, I'm told, self-indulgent (I liked it though).
Byrd Brained? The Atlanta Braves
The Atlanta Braves just signed free agent Paul Byrd to a two-year, $10 M contract. Byrd had a great year this year, but has always been the poor man's Rick Reed, who is, of course, the poor man's Greg Maddux. With the move, it appears that the Braves are foregoing free agent Greg Maddux, the actual Greg Maddux and a Brave of 10 years.
The Braves appear to be completely revamping their rotation. They traded Damian Moss for Russ Ortiz earlier today. They acquired Mike Hampton earlier in the offseason. Tom Glavine and, now apparently Greg Maddux, left via free agency. There are rumors that John Smoltz may even return to the rotation.
Meanwhile, the Braves have one left-handed starter (Hampton). The three starters that they have acquired have had their share of success as well as failure. Staff retainees Kevin Millwood and Jason Marquis have had their failures as well. My first question is who's number one on the staff. I would guess Millwood with his 18-8 record last year, but Millwood had two sub-par years before 2002. Byrd, Hampton, and Ortiz will comprise the nest three spots in the rotation. Your guess as to their order is a s good as mine. Marquis or whomever replaces him will go 5th.
That's potentially a big step down from the Maddux, Smoltz, and Glavine years. The guys that they have now remind me more of the Denny Neagle types who the Braves have acquired in the past and who have performed well for them. However, the Braves never seem to build a staff around those types but rather quickly jettison them before their weaknesses show.
The Braves should be fine. It's a weak division. They have won with Julio Franco as their starting first baseman for two years for crying out loud. Mazzone and Cox do wonders with these types of pitchers (as a Paul Byrd fan, I couldn't imagine a better environment for the pitcher). But one has to wonder if the barbarians are not already within the gate, and the great Braves dynasty is no more. The moves feel more like attempts to prop up a collapsing franchise than ones designed to right it (like the Greg Maddux signing years ago). The Franco types were never in the rotation before, and now it's permeated with them. As Felix Unger said, "this is the way the world ends. This is the way the world ends. This is the way the world ends. Not with a bang but a whimper."
Enshrinement by Committee Last week
Enshrinement by Committee
Last week the Veterans' Committee's Hall of Vote ballot came out. As you may remember, the rules were changed to allow all Hall of Famers to vote instead of a bunch of septuagenarian ex-teammates meeting in a backroom somewhere. This may breathe a little life back into the Vets' Committee, and this year's class is the litmus test.
So who are the likely Hall of Famers in this year's class? Using Bill James' categories for comparing potential HoFers to actual hones-to-goodness HoFers, we get:
Black Ink >HOF Avg? Gray Ink >HOF Avg? HOF Std >HOF Avg? HOF Monitor HOF Likely? # Similar % HoF (Avg 27) (Avg 144) (Avg 50) (Likely >100) in Hall Similar Dick Allen 27 Yes 159 Yes 38.7 No 99.0 No 1 10.00% Bobby Bonds 6 No 132 No 35.8 No 65.5 No 0 0.00% Ken Boyer 4 No 138 No 35.7 No 74.0 No 0 0.00% Rocky Colavito 15 No 144 Yes 29.9 No 72.0 No 0 0.00% Wes Ferrell 25 No 164 Yes 33.0 No 75.0 No 0 0.00% Curt Flood 5 No 58 No 15.0 No 53.0 No 0 0.00% Joe Gordon 2 No 111 No 30.8 No 87.0 No 1 10.00% Gil Hodges 2 No 128 No 31.7 No 83.0 No 0 0.00% Elston Howard 0 No 27 No 24.0 No 74.0 No 0 0.00% Ted Kluszewski 11 No 112 No 24.0 No 77.0 No 0 0.00% Mickey Lolich 15 No 156 Yes 37.0 No 92.5 No 1 10.00% Marty Marion 3 No 10 No 16.9 No 57.0 No 1 10.00% Roger Maris 18 No 57 No 22.0 No 83.0 No 0 0.00% Mike Marshall 13 No 39 No 11.0 No 49.0 No 0 0.00% Carl Mays 33 Yes 172 Yes 3.0 No 99.0 No 3 30.00% Bob Meusel 9 No 107 No 31.1 No 76.0 No 2 20.00% Minnie Minoso 15 No 189 Yes 35.1 No 81.0 No 0 0.00% Thurman Munson 0 No 46 No 29.5 No 89.0 No 0 0.00% Don Newcombe 21 No 136 No 5.0 No 68.0 No 1 10.00% Tony Oliva 41 Yes 146 Yes 28.9 No 114.0 Yes 1 10.00% Vada Pinson 18 No 135 No 35.9 No 87.0 No 3 30.00% Allie Reynolds 18 No 161 Yes 33.0 No 86.0 No 2 20.00% Ron Santo 11 No 147 Yes 40.9 No 88.0 No 0 0.00% Joe Torre 12 No 71 No 40.1 No 96.0 No 2 20.00% Ken Williams 11 No 121 No 39.0 No 67.0 No 2 20.00% Maury Wills 16 No 67 No 28.6 No 98.0 No 3 30.00%
There are a lot of great near-immortal careers in there. Some were cut short when the players were still young. One, Minoso's, didn't get started until the player was old. One, Mays, killed a man, Ray Chapman, in a game.
Of these, Carl Mays, Tony Oliva, Dick Allen, and Wes Ferrell seem the most likely candidates. Santo may get a boost from all of the Bill James support over the years. Torre will probably go in as a manager.
There are a number of non-players on the ballot (Buzzie Bavasi, August Busch Jr., Harry Dalton, Charles O. Finley, Doug Harvey, Whitey Herzog, Bowie Kuhn, Walter O'Malley, Billy Martin, Marvin Miller, Gabe Paul, Paul Richards, Bill White, Dick Williams, Phil Wrigley). It's hard to predict who will garner support. Of all the individuals on the list, Marvin Miller made the biggest impact and should be well-known by all of the recent Hall of Famers. I wouldn't be surprised to see one of the managers (Martin, Richards, or Williams) go in. As far as the other owners and executives, I would think that the recent HoFers would be a little less likely to vote for an owner given the labor struggles of the last thirty years (though Wrigley and O'Malley are probably deserving enshrinement should we consider owners Hall material).
Ortiz-ian Plane The Twins let
The Twins let David Ortiz go yesterday, fearing the money he would be awarded in arbitration. Ortiz had 20 HRs and an .839 OPS, both good for third among Minnesota starters in 2002. And he will be only 27 in 2003. What gives?
It's my impression that the Twins want to be less susceptible to left-handed pitchers in 2003. Remember the playoffs? Ortiz is a lefty (and he had a poor playoff).
The Twins have a slew of young batters who can fill Oriz's DH role: Dustan Mohr, Michael Cuddayer "Maker", Bobby Kielty, Matt LeCroy, and Michael Restovich. And they all are cheap and right-handed (well, Kielty is a switch-hitter).
Ortiz was just in the wrong spot at the wrong time.
Royce Rolls The Week in
The Week in Quotes is great this week. Here are some statements that are so Brewers-esque that I had to post them:
"We felt unless we got a shortstop who could make the plays, we weren't going to win. We ended up acquiring Royce Clayton...He did make the difference."
Looking for Moss to Point
Looking for Moss to Point the Way
The Giants traded Russ Ortiz to the Braves today for Damian Moss and a Single-A pitcher. Moss is two years younger and did pitch better than Ortiz last year, but I'm surprised that the Giants gave up on Ortiz. They must feel that Moss has a better shot at becoming a staff leader than Ortiz. Ortiz has had his ups and downs in his 4+ seasons, but has won at least 14 in each of those years. Moss has never won that many games.
Maybe the Giants got tired of waiting for Ortiz to become that staff leader. His strikeout-to-walk ratio has been under 1.5 for most of his career while his strikeouts per 9 innings have plummeted (career low 5.75 in 2002).
The only problem is that Moss's numbers are even worse: 1.25 strikeout-to-walk and 5.58 strikeouts per nine innings.
I have to believe that the Braves are pleased. Here's a guy (Moss) who languished in their farm system for 7 years. He has a better year than expected in 2002. He is not expected to be more than a tail-end starter in 2003. And then they use him to land a well established pitcher in Ortiz just when their staff appears to be falling apart.
I would have to think that there is a very low possibility that this will be a big win for the Giants (I don't foresee Moss as a staff leader). But it is not difficult to imagine Moss falling flat in 2003 while Ortiz continues to pitch well for at least a few years. I have to tally this a big win for the Braves.
Hoosier Daddy Et Al I
Hoosier Daddy Et Al
I will be updating the story below re. the history of Indiana baseball. Please keep checking back from time to time.
Crosstown Traffic Mike Stanton signed
Mike Stanton signed a 3-year, $9 M contract with the Mets today. The Yankees had basically given up on him and signed Chris Hammond for two years at $4.8 M. I would rather have Stanton for $3 M per year, but hey, that's me.
"So lust, though to a
"So lust, though to a radiant angel link'd, will sate itself in a celestial bed, and prey on garbage"
That-the quote in the title-was Hamlet's Ghost. Right before he said, "Adieu, adieu, adieu! remember me."
Just as his spirit hovered over feudal Denmark, the late Bart Giamatti haunts the issue of Pete Rose's exile from baseball. And just like Hamlet, we are bound to listen when his specter speaks.
Today, Fay Vincent, Giamatti's faithful lieutenant and successor, wrote an editorial in the NY Times. Giamatti's spirit beckons to Vincent, always has. That's why Vincent continued to enforce Giamatti's draconian code of justice with the players. And that's why Vincent speaks out to whomever whenever the topic of rehabilitating the baseball career of Pete Rose, or so he would have us believe.
Of the very little substance that inhabits and informs Vincent's editorial, I found the following of interest:
The evidence collected by the commissioner's office - betting slips in Mr. Rose's handwriting, the testimony of his bookie - seemed overwhelming... But Mr. Rose would admit nothing, so Bart was left with no choice. Mr. Rose was banished from the game and placed on the permanently ineligible list. Eight days later, a heart attack claimed Bart's life.
I take issue at a number of items in this statement. First, the evidence was far from overwhelming. It consisted of: 1) Some COPIES (i.e., not originals) of papers, that were procured in an unusual fashion, that contain references to non-existent games, and whose purpose is not altogether clear, the originals of which may or may not have been in Pete Rose's hand. They were first referred to as his betting book, but when the term seemed ludicrous when applied to two sheets of paper the term betting slip was and is still being used. And 2) the testimony of Ron Peters, a bookie that Rose placed bets with usually through a go-between, and one of those go-between, Paul Janszen, and their hangers-on. Both of these men were facing criminal charges of their own and present information which contradictory or easily explained by solutions other than Rose's betting on the Reds (like Janzsen's betting on the Reds). I know I have gone over this umpteen times (actually umpteen plus 5 times), but I will continue to say it until I'm blue in the face-a rather difficult task over the internet-since the contention that the evidence was overwhelming or even compelling is ridiculous.
"Rose would admit nothing"-did it occur to anyone that he had nothing to admit regarding betting on the Reds. I know that Rose was not being helpful to the investigation and this colors all of his testimony, but could it be that he just didn't do it? Rose did say that "if there were telephone calls to Ron Peters (from his hotel suite or house), 'I'll guarantee you that Paul Janszen was in the room.' Rose said that Janszen was probably in Rose's home more frequently than Rose was." I'm not saying Rose is an innocent lamb, but couldn't it be possible that any circumstantial evidence points to Janszen at least as much to Rose? When Rose does deny something couldn't it be that he actually didn't do it?
"[S]o Bart was left with no choice..."-Bart and Pete and their attorneys came to an agreement to end the mess. It was not a unilateral decision by good ol' Bart. Further, Vincent implies that there was a connection between Rose's alleged gambling on the Reds and his expulsion. The agreement is purposely non-committal.
"Eight days later..."-Is he implying that the issue took Giamatti's life? He did choose it in his litany of events. I see no mention of "Two days later, I had a great BLT sandwich." He chose it as a salient event associated with the incident. Is he implying that the stress associated with the dark side of the sport he loved caused Giamatti's early demise or that Giamatti was fatally consumed with grieve over betraying the agreement that he signed with Rose as the ink was drying? If he's saying the latter, I then do see the connection.
He's another chestnut: "Everyone in baseball knows with certainty that betting on a game in which you have an interest will lead to a lifetime ban... After all, none of us was willing to reinstate Shoeless Joe Jackson." What does Joe Jackson have to do with gambling on one's own team or Pete Rose? Jackson admitted to throwing games, World Series games, for money. Rose and Jackson would not share breaking the same codicil of the rule (#21) even if the Rose allegations were true.
"My advice, unsolicited, is for him [Bud Selig] to move cautiously.": "Unsolicited"? Selig did as much as try to gag Vincent, whose caustic remarks have been plaguing the commissioner's office since his departure. One gets the feeling that Vincent is bitter that a man he once saw banished may once again "earn the seven-figure salaries managers receive today" while Vincent's phone calls go unanswered by everyone in the game.
"To get back in the game, Mr. Rose would have to admit that he bet on his team, demonstrate a reconfigured life and dedicate himself to public service on behalf of baseball." My first question is "Why?". If an admission is required, how about the lesser confession of betting on the game, which carries a one-year suspension? Besides baseball has no credible evidence that he did even that. Why would Rose admit to betting on his own team when a) it may not be true and b) it would be the kiss of death to his reinstatement?
For a more circumspect look back at the Giamtti's legacy, read his son Marcus's view. It certainly is a more considered one:
"I think the worst thing that could have happened was that my father died, because I think my father would have taken steps to help him (Rose)."
It makes me wonder more than ever if Vincent's motives are to revere Giamatti's memory or fulfill his own agenda.
[By the way, Murray Chass points out that Jackson may follow Rose off the permanently ineligible list, but he is in error in stating that Rose would be the first off the list. Fellow-New Yorkers Steve Howe, George Steinbrenner, Willie Mays, and Mickey Mantle (not to mention three 1865 New York Mutuals) have all been rehabilitated from the list.]
The Smart Getting Richer [Sorry,
The Smart Getting Richer
There have been a number of interesting moves and I just want to mention a few:
- The Giants were left for dead at the end of the season, but with the signing of Edgardo Alfonzo today they become a very interesting team. Alfonzo will cost more than outgoing David Bell but is a better, younger player. Kent apparently will now not be re-signed, but if he does then it would move recent acquiree Ray Durham to center. Durham's defense in the outfield is suspect, but he is a quality player and a good leadoff hitter, two things that the Giants could use. All that they need to do is sign/acquire a decent right fielder and possibly upgrade a spot or two in the rotation and they look pretty strong going into next year.
- The Red Sox swallowed up the Phils' expendable Jeremy "The Other" Giambi for minor-leaguer Josh Hancock. This gives them depth at DH, first base, and left field and they give up for little in salary. The Red Sox have had a string of smart, cheap moves to plug holes with better than average talent. It seems to be their new philosophy. However, Hancock could have made their rotation, possibly. In Philly he will be another young arm looking for a real staff leader. By the way, the Phils lost Chuck Finley--who re-signed with the Cardinals-- last week. That makes three free-agent, left-handed starters that they have pursued and lost. Hancock (though right-handed) may be some form of rotation insurance for them.
- In another persona non grata move, the A's picked up Erubiel Durazo for a player to be named in a 4-team deal. Durazo was no longer wanted in Arizona (and had been traded in a nixed deal earlier this offseason). He will get a lot of playing time at first and DH for the A's. The D-Backs get an interesting pick-up in Elmer Dressens, another unwanted man, from Cincinnati. If Dressens proves a decent tail-end of the rotation starter, this will be a good deal for the D-Backs. The Reds get Felipe Lopez to eventually replace the aging Barry Larkin.
- The Mets were able to rid themselves of Rey Ordonez and at least $2 M of his contract for two players to be named from the Devil REYS. This allows the Mets to move rookie Jose Reyes into the starting shortstop spot for 2003. The Devil Rays had begun a youth movement last year. Acquiring Ordonez and paying him $2 M is still a bad deal in my book, but I guess they could have done worse. They speak of his great defense but forget a) that it has been slipping of late and b) his offense is dreadful. But then again they are the Devil Rays and this is a typical deal for them.
Hoosier Daddy: The Uncollected History
Hoosier Daddy: The Uncollected History of Indiana Baseball
It recently came to my attention that my little weblog listed on an online publication called Hoosier Review. After a heap of research-actually via one hyperlink on their site-I found much to my surprise that they had nothing whatsoever to do with Canada nor even Bob and Doug McKenzie at all, eh? They're actually based right in the good ole U.S. of A. In one of them newish states called Indiana-see, it pays to read. It seems that Hoosier Review is affiliated with a university there, you see.
Anyway, in tribute to them-or more accurately as a sop to sites for linking to my weblog-we the Mike's Baseball Rants' Players now present a little thing we call the history of Indiana Baseball, and it goes something like this. Indiana's first foray into organized baseball started back in 1867, over 30 years before a Hoosier had ever heard of basketball, let alone a seen a re-run of that Gene Hackman cager movie. It was the tenth anniversary of baseball's first organization, the National Association of Base Ball Players (NABBP), founded by the first baseball team, the Knickerbockers of New York (by way of Hoboken-I'm dying again). The NABBP had grown from a local New York metro men's organization of just 16 clubs to sprawling conglomeration of clubs stretching from Massachusetts to D.C. to Tennessee to Kansas.
In 1867, more Midwesterners were being converted to the base ball craze and Indiana was no exception. Five Indiana clubs joined the NABBP: the Resolute of Evansville, the Woolen Mill of Lawrenceburgh, the Lone Star of Anderson, and the Active and Wetsren of Indianapolis. The first contest on record for an Indiana team was held July 1 with the Western club besting the Buckeyes of Cincinnati, 55-40 (scores were a bit higher back then, eh?).
The Westerns ended their season 4-4. They lost July 19 to the National club of Washington, D.C., 106-26. The Nationals were conducting the first "national" tour (essentially an extended roadtrip) in baseball history. This proved a seminal tour that spread interest in the game as the highly successful team traveled. On August 29, the Western club lost to the Cincinnatis of Cincinnati, 34-27. This eponymously-named club would make history two years later as the first openly all-professional baseball team-not that there's anything wrong with it. They would be known as the Red Stockings because of the sartorial splendor that belied the drabness of their actual moniker.
The seeds planted in 1867 by the Nationals' tour took root in Indiana in 1868, with 22 clubs gaining membership to the NABBP. There were nine clubs representing Indianapolis alone. One team began life that year that would prove to be of historical import, the Kekiongas of Fort Wayne, but more on them later. The Active club is the only one for which a championship record exists. They finished 7-8 and featured future star Cal McVey at pitcher, second base, and third base.
The baseball craze in Indiana proved somewhat short-lived as the state's membership in the NABBP fell to only two clubs in 1869. However, one of them was the Kekiongas. Two early wins over the Fort Wayne club (86-8 in their second game and 41-7 in their fourth) helped springboard the Red Stockings to their historic and much-heralded 57-0 record on the year.
In 1870 the Indianapolis club played at Camp Morton Field, charged 25-cent admission, and drew its largest crowd of the year in a 61-8 loss to the Red Stockings. The Keiongas of Fort Wayne started to grow in stature as an infusion of cash and ex-patriot Baltimore players helped buoy the club. They played at Hamilton Field (their home since 1862 and home to the independent Summit Citys since 1862).
Within a year professionalism had torn the NABBP apart. The Knickerbockers led an amateur revolt that lasted only one-year. The resultant organization was dubbed the National Association of Amateur Base Ball Players. The professionals formed their own circuit that is now known as the first major league and the forefather of the National League, the National Association of Professional Base Ball Players (the NA). Original they weren't in those days.
The first NA game, i.e., the first major-league game, was played in no other place than Indiana. The Kekiongas had built a state-of-the-art stadium named the Grand Duchess on the site of the old Hamilton Field. On May 4 they played host to the Forest Citys of Cleveland and won 2-0 behind ace Bobby Matthews-who threw a sort of underhand slider and stood but 5'4" tall (Matthews also recorded 297, the most of anyone not in the Hall of Fame, and is one of four men to have held the all-time wins record: Albert Goodwill Spalding, Bobby Matthews, Pud Galvin, and Cy Young).
The Kekiongas quickly became embroiled in controversy. Allegations of gamblers fixing games swirled almost immediately. The Kekiongas began losing on the road after being mobbed following a game against Troy (NY). Finally, the Fort Wayne nine succumbed, withdrawing from the NA in July. Their record stood at 7-12, but the rules dictated that they play at least three against each other team in the league. (The standings were not based on winning percentage of totals wins. Each team was to play five games against each opponent. Whoever won three of those fives would win the series. The team with the most series wins would be champion.) The Kekiongas were forced to forfeit nine games to meet the scheduling requirements. That is why you will find a 7-21 record against their names in the record book.
In 1876, Indianapolis fielded a team in South Street Park. It was named the Capital Citys and at first operated independently. The NL in those days had a rivalry with a long forgotten yet in its day very strong minor league called the International Association (IA). They didn't know at the time that history would see them as a minor league since the term had yet to be coined. In response the NL formed another strong circuit named the League Alliance (LgA). It was loosely based, but if a team succeeded there the autocrat of the NL, William Hulbert, promised that they would be admitted to the soon-to-be senior circuit (he also raided the IA for talented clubs).
Both the IA and the LgA were proving grounds for the National League, but instead of developing players, they developed teams. Indianapolis joined the LgA in 1877. Indianapolis ended the year with a 73-40-8 record and "[t]he Club was admitted to the [National] as the result of having made the best record of any club outside that body," according to the 1878 edition of Spalding's Official Base Ball Guide. (By the way, the team was led by a player identified only as Mack in the Guide. Connie Mack was only 15 and wouldn't make it to the majors until 1886, but it does make me wonder. Also, a Terre Haute independent team is mentioned in the Guide.) As they moved to the NL in 1878, they changed names in the process to the Blues. (By the way, the Buffalo Bisons also moved, but from the IA to the NL in 1879 and finished third. With Hall-of-Famer Pud Galvin, Hardy Richardson, and Davy Force, they are considered by many-or at least me-to be the best minor-league team of all time.)
The Blues were aptly named finishing fifth out of six teams with a 24-36 record (17 games behind the Boston Red Caps). The team featured Ned Williamson, the man to hold the single-season home run record for 35 years (with 27) before Babe Ruth broke it, at third. However, it was led by outfielder Orator Shaffer, the man who would lead the NL in adjusted OPS that year. Their pitching staff consisted of ironically named Edward "The Only" Nolan (13-22 with a 2.57 ERA that was well above the league average) and Jim McCormick (5-8), who won 265 games in his career, is the only man in baseball history to have won 20 games in a season while pitching for two different teams Twice (1884 and 1885), and like Bartolo Colon this past season, is one of four men to have ever won at least 10 games with two different teams in one season (1884). By the way, Nolan may have had the first identifying symbol on his uniform in baseball history, and it wasn't a number. Two feathers were placed in his cap for fans to be able to identify him. Nolan will be expelled from the team August 14 for claiming to have to take time off for a funeral that never happened.
The Blues drew poorly all year and relocated a July home series to St. Louis. They play some August dates in Pittsburgh (reportedly on the site of Three Rivers Stadium). Neither attempt does much to bolster attendance.
A number of Blues players sign with other teams for 1879-this is before the proliferation of the Reserve Clause. Ned Williamson and Silver Flint play on an exhibition team dubbed the "Chicagos of 1879". On September 23, they lose to their Indianapolis "teammates", 9-7.
The Blues find themselves $2500 in arrears at season's end. Owner W.T. Pettit withdraws the team from the NL at the winter meetings. They never do settle up completely with their players (distributing $60 per player each in lieu of his outstanding pay).
To Be Continued...
Rose Gallery Mike Paradiso asks,
Mike Paradiso asks, "Who all is barred from hall of fame other then pete rose?"
Here is a complete list. There have been 35 in total.
I have been reading that Rose is one of 14 men banned due to gambling on the game, and that none of them were ever reinstated. A) Rose was never found to be gambling on the game according to the agreement that he and MLB signed. B) I cannot find the other 13. I found two others who were accused of gambling: Phillies owner William Cox and player Lee Magee. There are 20 others accused of throwing a game or trying to get someone else to throw a game (the 8 "black" Sox plus Joe Gedeon of the Browns who was banned for his knowledge of the plot, the 5 1877 Louis Grays, the 3 1865 NewYork Mutuals, two 1924 New York Giants, and Eugene Paulette (there were also two suspensions that invloved umpires). And C) The three New York Mutuals were all later reinstated (though this is prior to the formation of the major leagues).
In total, eight men have been reinstated: Dickie Kerr (banned for quitting), Mickey Mantle (working at a Casino), Willie Mays (same), Steve Howe (drugs), George Steinbrenner (invasion of Dave Winfield's privacy), and the three Mutuals (Ed Duffy, William Wansley, and Thomas Devyr).
By the way, "Eight Men Out" may be a misnomer since A) St. Louis Brown Joe Gedeon was also suspended due to the incident, and B) 1919 White Sox Dickie Kerr was later permanently suspended on an unrelated issue.
Pete Rose is the only living individual who has been premanently banned. Mays, Howe, and Steinbrenner are living and were permanently banned at one point, but all have be reinstated.
[Side note: The famous Danny Gardella case, in which Gardella was banned for "jumping" to the brand spanking new Mexican leagues in 1946, was not due to a permanent suspension. Commissioner Happy Chandler had issued a 5-year suspension for all jumpers. Gardella attempted to return to the majors but was rebuffed. He sued, resulting in one of baseball's most famous antitrust suits. Gardella claimed that he had not signed a contract for 1946, so the only thing holding him to his '45 team was the reserve clause. Gardella won in the Federal courts on appeal and baseball settled with him out of court in 1949. He briefly returned to baseball in 1950, five years after jumping anyway.]
Championing Mediocrity? Theo Epstein, newly
Theo Epstein, newly installed still-wet-behind-the-ears (how long will we have to be told that he's 28 anyway) GM of the Boston Red Sox, made his first trade acquiring second baseman Todd Walker for two minor-leaguers. My first thought was why were the Sox going after the ever-average Walker when Jeff Kent is on the open market almost begging for a job.
There are some things on Walker's side of the equation though. First, he is 5 years younger. Walker made just over $2 M last year and will make $3.4 M in 2003, the last year of his contract. Kent made $6 and may be anticipating more through free agency.
However, Kent was the top second baseman based on OPS this year in the majors. Walker was ninth. Kent was third last year; Walker was seventh. Both are about average defensively.
So basically Boston is trying to plug a huge hole (repatriated shortstop Rey Sanchez was their second baseman in 2002) with a slightly above average player who comes relatively cheaply instead of making a blockbuster deal for a superstar that could blow up in their faces. Is that a good strategy? Time will tell. But at least it is a strategy, something that has been lacking in Boston for some time.
The Dowdy Doo-Doo Show John
The Dowdy Doo-Doo Show
John Corcoran referred me to an article that's in today's New York Post, in which John Dowd claims that if he had been given more time, he would have proved that Pete Rose not only bet on Reds games while their manager. He would also have proved that Rose bet against the Reds.
Dowd reminds me of a middle-ager who was high school sports star and now must revel in his past glories with grandiose claims. "Why, we could have taken the Pittsburgh Steelers back in our day." He had his shot. He completed his investigation, now he should just let it go. Anyway, here was John Corcoran's tip:
Any thoughts re: Dowd's comments in today's NY Post that had Rose not "settled," his investigation would have continued, terminating with some really damaging findings? I'm not sure why this guy has any reason to be sour about this, but it sure seems to me like he's carrying a grudge of some sort.
Here's what I wrote back:
Thanks for the tip on the Dowd article. I hadn't seen it yet. You're right. Dowd does seem bitter. I guess it is the thing that he will be remembered by and it not only was not convincing enough apparently so that the Giamatti-Rose had to say that there was no findings on his gambling on baseball, it has been trampled on for thirteen years, and no will be disregarded as Rose is let back into the fold. I guess that would make one bitter, but he seems an especially weasle-like individual.
Da History of Da Shutout
Da History of Da Shutout (Ditka Invented It)
It's always fun to read old baseball guides because so much is the same (standings, box scores, rule books) and so much is different (like batting average based on runs per game with an overage), especially the colloquialisms used. Fans were called "cranks". Players who jumped contracts to sign elsewhere for more money were "revolvers".
But my favorite was always the "Chicago" game. I ran across a list of Chicago games in one old baseball guide, I remember, where just the pitcher, the date, and the score were recorded. I noticed that all of the games were shutouts. I did a little research and found that the term went back to 1870. That year Chicago had formed a team to be the city's answer to the legendary Cincinnati Red Stockings. They called the team the White Stockings and they were the forebears of today's Cubs. The White Stockings joined organized baseball via the National Association of Base Ball Players, the grandfather of the National League.
Well, on July 23, the White Stockings hosted the New York Mutuals at Dexter Park. Five thousand spectators paid to see Rynie Wolters of the Mutual club allow no runs and only three hits in the 9-0 win. This was the first recorded shutout in organized baseball history. We're talking about a sport that allowed the batter to call for a low or high pitch for goodness sake.
Given the singularity of the game, the papers had to come up with a term for it. So the term "Chicago" game, meaning shutout, entered the baseball vernacular. It could be a verb as in, "Those pesky Red Stocking fellows chicagoed our local boys a fortnight ago." You still see the term used until maybe the turn of the century when shutout became the term of choice. It may have been difficult to distinguish between a Chicago game and a game with the team from Chicago. Imagine the confusion when Chicago chicagoed the opposition.
Whatever the reason, the term is now long forgotten, but I'm looking to bring it back. The next time you're at the ballpark and your team shuts out the opposition, go up to a fan for the other team, look him square in the eyes, and pronounce, "Our boys did verily best yours. It wasn't so much a pasting as we truly chicagoed your posteriors." Then see what kind of reaction you get.
Collusion Conclusion? The NY Times'
The NY Times' Murray Chass writes that there is a whiff of collusion in the offseason baseball effluvium. He cites Tom Glavine's inability to get the four-year contract that he desired, Robin Ventura's paycut, and Mike Stanton and Edgardo Alfonzo being cut loose from their teams as examples. It is something that I, too, have been considering.
In the Glavine case, baseball is trying to limit contracts to 3-years because of new insurance strictures, especially ones to aging players. Chass does point out that Glavine got a $3 M raise via free agency.
Ventura, on the other hand, signed a ludicrous contract that became an albatross around the Mets' collective neck until they traded him to the Yankees. He will also be 35 next year and had a poor second half. To expect that he be signed at the same salary would be unrealistic.
Chass does make his case by pointing out that:
[A] players' lawyer maintained that tax avoidance cannot fully explain what is going on at the moment because only three teams were over the $117 million threshold in 2002, with five others at or over the $100 million mark.
He also points out that the owners may be conducting a bank of offers to free agents. This is something that was introduced in the labor negotiations and nixed by the players. "But agents suspect that the clubs are still using some kind of bank, although they can't provide any specifics. Another lawyer close to players noted that clubs can simply resort to telling reporters the contents of their contract offers to free agents and letting the reporters spread the word."
I wouldn't put it past them, but as yet I am not convinced that collusion is dictating the tenor of the free-agent market. There are a number of issues that are at play. First, the insurance changes in the past few years make it difficult for teams to give out contracts longer than three years. Second, there is a new climate in the wake of the new CBA. Teams are hesitant to take on long-term debt. Even though they may not be near the threshold as yet, that doesn't mean they won't creep up to it in the next few years. Besides the luxury tax issue, local revenue sharing has been increased by 14%. This may have put a crimp in a number of teams offseason spending (though it does not explain why the teams receiving payments are not spending more money). Lastly, teams try to emulate the World Series winner. The Angels won with a modest budget, and now everyone is pointing themselves in that direction. Also, remember that the players negotiated treble damages in the case of collusion during the last CBA. That is a pretty powerful dissuader
Rose Is A Rose, Yudda
Rose Is A Rose, Yudda Yudda
I have to point out some issues related to the upbraiding letter from your reader.1) Yes, there is evidence. I'll even concede "tons" of it. But it boils down to the evidence of two individuals and their coteries and some creatively acquired so-called betting slips allegedly in Pete Rose's handwriting. I have no problem that it comes from "less than savory characters", aren't we all? I have a problem with the way that the Dowd report took everything that these individuals said at face value even though it was highly self-contradictory and inconsistent overall and it came from individuals who clearly had a motive to cast aspersions on Rose's less than savory character. The slips were acquired by one of these individuals, and they too were accepted as credible evidence even though baseball only saw COPIES of them.
As far as the second letter is concerned, the best reason I have heard regarding Rose's rationale for signing the agreement 13 years ago was that he was about to be embroiled in real legal issues and needed to cut his losses on the baseball front in order to devote his entire legal team to keeping him out of jail (which was unsuccessful). I think that "Collision at Home" goes into this in more detail. It also argues, as does John's reader, that the reinstatement provision was a bone that definitely intrigued Rose.
Rose could admit that he bet on baseball in general since that only carries a one-year suspension. He's served that 13 times over. I believe that baseball will require that much to save face.
I cannot imagine what kind of deal would bar Rose from managing but would put him in the Hall. Nor can I imagine why Rose would agree to it. If he is banned, he's banned; otherwise, he is just like anyone else. If baseball barred him by going against their stated rules, I believe that Rose could sue them and win. It's like your company printing something in the Employee Manual and then flagrantly disregarding it. Whether or not Bud can use his influence to prevent Rose from being hired as manager and whether the collective distaste for Rose is enough to prevent his managing again have yet to be determined.
Giamatti did leave it too open-ended. Oddly he remarked at the press conference surrounding the agreement:
The matter of Mr. Rose is now closed. It will be debated and discussed. Let no one think that it did not hurt baseball. That hurt will pass, however, as the great glory of the game asserts itself and a resilient institution goes forward. Let it also be clear that no individual is superior to the game.
Irony is so ironic.
Shrill Schill? I heard last
I heard last week from my brother that Philly talk radio was abuzz with Curt Schilling rumors. I found that the Phils had made inquiries as to Schilling's availability with the D-Backs but were turned down flat. I thought that that was, as they say, the end of that.
Then today my friend Mike sent me this link to am Arizona Republic article advocating Schilling's departure. Here's what I sent in response:
I love reading local sports op/ed pieces. They are so myopic. The guy is a moron. He claims that Schilling moaned his way out of Philly when he stuck it out with a moribund franchise for years, literally. He claims that Schilling is so upset that he's not the #1 guy that he wants out of Arizona. Schilling has been the second best starter in the NL for two years. Ben Sheets is the #1 pitcher on the Brewers. Whose shoes would you rather be in? He also claims that Schilling is ready to fall apart because of his age and some poorly pitched games at the end of the year. Yeah, right.
"As though a rose should
"As though a rose should shut, and be a bud again."
ESPN has a poll with a series of questions regarding Pete Rose. It states that 91.3% of respondents believe that Rose bet on baseball and 53.6% believe that he bet on his own team. However, 52.2% also believe he should be reinstated and be elected to Cooperstown. I guess that's a win for baseball's disinformation brigade, which began with commissioner Giamatti on the day that Rose and he signed an agreement that no finding was to be made on the subject just prior to Giamatti announcing the agreement by saying, "I have concluded that he bet on baseball."
I don't agree with the majority in those results. Maybe things would be different if they had phrased the question something like, "Do you think there is proof..." or if they had an "Unsure" option. I do understand that it is the prevailing spirit of cognitive dissonance on the topic.
I do not, however, understand how:
- 1.1% felt that Rose should be reinstated but still not be eligible for the Hall of Fame. On what grounds would they keep him out? Can you say lawsuit?
- 8.1% feel that he should be reinstated and go into the Hall because the gambling law is a silly one. Well, I could see attempts to modify the rule in the future. I do not agree with them, but I could see that as a proposal (a refinement or formalization of the process may be in order though). However, if Rose bet on the Reds, he knew the rules. He's a big boy. He should be banned for life IF he broke the rule, which I do not believe can be proved.
- The voters found gambling to be the least objectionable of all the possible offenses among failure to "hustle" (whatever that means), steroid use, and cocaine use. "Ah, Johnny, that was a nice line drive, but you failed to run out the play after the infielder snared it. Ah, you're banned for life. Sorry." Why drug use is a more egregious offense is beyond me. Drugs do affect one's performance. However, having two grand invested in a certain outcome will have more of an influence. I just have to feel that the fans don't realize how long-standing and pernicious a problem gambling has been almost since "cranks" expressed their preference for the New York game over the Massachusetts variety.
- 20.3% felt that the ban should continue but that Rose should go into the Hall anyway. This is nonsensical: "Ah, Pete, You can't step foot inside a ballpark in any official capacity but we are putting your mug on the wall in our most hallowed ground. OK?" [in David Letterman's goofy phone voice]
Finally, the last poll question was "If Rose is reinstated, should Joe Jackson be reinstated and made eligible for the Baseball Hall of Fame?" 80.3% said, "Yes". This is perhaps the best argument against reinstating Rose. Jackson was a great ballplayer. However, he admitted to accepting a bribe to lose the World Series. Rose never admitted to being involved in gambling on his own team nor is there conclusive proof to that effect. Joe Jackson is the last man who should be considered for enshrinement in the Hall. Besides, he only played until 30 and played only nine full seasons in total. His totals are impressive but not altogether demanding of enshrinement.
[By the way, the quote in the title is John Keats.]
Exposé Rob Neyer does a
Rob Neyer does a good job of breaking down the Expos' payroll issues. One point that he raises is something on which I wanted to comment. The Expos, I believe, on the day that there budget restrictions were announced, signed veteran Wil Cordero to a $600 K, one-year contract. These seemed insane to me at the time.
Neyer makes a good point regarding the signing: "Simply put, for $600,000 you can have either one Wil Cordero, or two players just as good as Wil Cordero." I would say two players better than Cordero, but the point is well taken. Cordero, perennially one of the more overrated players in MLB and a GM's delight, returned to his original team, the Expos, last season. He left a 23-year-old shortstop full of promise and returned a 30-year-old journeyman trying to hang on by playing corner outfield positions, first base, and DH. He played well as a backup in Montreal, but the Expos should have shaken his hand, thanked him, and sent him on his merry way. He will be 31 in 2003. He cannot be said to be a credible starting player in the majors any longer. The Expos are in a bind financially. Given their situation and his salary, he may have to be their starting first baseman next year.
Would that be such a bad thing? I could see Cordero producing 15 HRs, 60-odd RBI, and .260-.270 average. However, he also will walk only about 30 times, ground into 20+ double plays, and steal nary a base (unlike his early days). We're talking about a player that has a chance to be slightly better than average OPS-wise, something that should be a liability for a slow, defensively-poor first baseman. Maybe the Expos are OK with that, but that calls into question Omar Minaya's creativity that Neyer says is essentially to the Expos' restructuring process.
Though Minaya appears to be a media darling, I have to say that a GM who goes through as much talent as the Expos did last year, acquiring and then trading a number of players, either has an extremely detailed plan or doesn't know what he's doing from one day to the next. I, for one, am not convinced that this, the latter, is not the case.
Digame Que No Es Verdad,
Digame Que No Es Verdad, José
The Venezuelan Winter League players struck on December 2. Apparently, it is part of a larger bit of unrest within the country. American players are leaving the country.
The Venezuelan league has a long and proud history, and it would be a shame for this to be the death knell for the league. I guess there are larger issues to be faced within the country though.
Pasting Back Zuzu's Petals Today
Pasting Back Zuzu's Petals
Today it was disclosed that Bud Selig and Pete Rose have been meeting to discuss Rose's reinstatement after 13 years in exile. The whole thing is hush-hush. Even Rose, not exactly a reticent man, is keeping mum.
Rose applied for reinstatement in 1997. Selig never ruled on the reinstatement. It may all boil down to Bud finally telling Pete, "I got the paperwork."
More likely, Selig is tired of the negative publicity and just wants the Rose issue to go away. Also, reinstating Rose will allow MLB to use him for special promotions without appearing two-faced. Two exceptions were made to Rose's ban: for the All-Century Team celebration a few years ago and for Baseball Memorable Moments celebration in game 4 of this year's World Series. Selig did not allow him to attend the ceremonies attending the last game at Cincinnati's Riverfront Stadium early this year, however (possibly because their was no lucrative video tie-in that MLB could have exploited).
If I were Rose, I would rather keep the status quo. Once he is reinstated, he will have to go into the Hall, at which point he will just be an average Hall-of-Famer. Right now, he has the cachet of being baseball's bad boy, the anti-hero every fan seems to adore (rather than the low-life scumbag that he actually is).
I have said before that baseball is going to have to reinstate Rose because they have no credible evidence that he bet on the Reds. He may have bet on baseball, but the only thing that carries a lifelong ban is gambling on one's own team (betting on baseball carries a one-year suspension, something Rose has served 13 times over).
It appears though that baseball is going to exact a little humility out of Rose before they let him play their reindeer games again. If Rose apologizes, then MLB can save face in reinstating him. All will be forgiven, but the 13 years will not have been in vain. I have a problem with the sophistic logic underlying this: if Rose finally admits that he did something wrong, something that the Dowd Report never proved conclusively (other than his trafficking with gamblers), then he will be given papal absolution. But if he admits to wrongdoing, shouldn't he then be banned for life for the admission? I guess if they can agree on an admission of the lesser charge of gambling on baseball in general but not the Reds and sentence him to time already served, both sides are happy and a resolution can be reached.
I wonder if they would ever let him manage again or if anyone would consider hiring him as manager. One thing's for sure--MLB will be ready to make some profits on all the Pete Rose paraphernalia they will start to foist on the public, which may be the most effective and longlasting way to damage his reputation in the baseball world and wreak their revenge. So maybe Bud wins either way.
The Pitfalls of Playing in
The Pitfalls of Playing in a Pitcher's Park Near Poughkeepsie
The New York Mets now have at least $29 million invested in 2003 in the top four spots of their rotation after re-signing Steve Trachsel to a two-year, $8 M contract. That's pretty hefty for a number three starter in these parts. But a team may as well play to its strengths, and the Mets can't hit a lick. Besides Trachsel has pitched well over the last season and one half and he is the lowest paid member of the staff.
What seems odd is that Edgardo Alfonzo is being so easily jettisoned by the Mets. I understand that his salary demands may be out of their ballpark, but the aspersion-casting is getting a bit silly. The AP had this to say about the erstwhile Fonzie:
Alfonzo's production dropped off dramatically the past two seasons after two strong years in which the Mets reached the postseason in each.
Is that true? Alfonzo was second among all major-league third baseman in On-Base Plus Slugging, behind Scott Rolen but before Rookie of the Year Eric Hinske and Oakland Superstar Eric Chavez (as a third sacker). He also led all third baseman in on-base percentage and batting average. What works against Alfonzo are the two big seasons he had in 1999 and 2000 and the relatively low home run and RBI he has had since. His 2001 season was sub-par and when his 2002 statistics resembled 2001 more than his glory years, people wrote him off.
Well, Alfonzo had a very good year in 2002. He just played in a pitcher's park on a poor offensive team in a year in which production came down to earth somewhat. If you adjust his OPS for the era and the park in which he played his 2002 season was superior to his breakthrough 1999 season (130 adjusted OPS to 127) even though he had almost half as many RBI in the former. That is more an indictment of the Mets offense than anything else.
Anyway, Alfonzo is only 28. He will move on to another team. The A's like him so much that they are willing to sign him with a star third baseman in Chavez. I expect a big year from him, one that will be heralded as a comeback. But trust me, he never left in 2002.
And Generalisimo Francisco Franco Is
And Generalisimo Francisco Franco Is Still Dead
The Phillies.com newsletter may not be timely, but it is telling. Check out their take on the Jim Thome signing and tell me that they are not gearing up for 2004 with this offseason's moves:
THERE'S A NEW HERO IN TOWN: JIM THOME
The Phils, No Sinistrophobes They
The Phils, No Sinistrophobes They
The Phillies have been very active this offseason, and no, I don't mean that Ed Wade is going mall-walking. The Phillies are hoping to remake their lineup along with their fortunes before the start of the 2003 season. They have signed Jim Thome and David Bell. They re-signed lefty reliever Dan Plesac for $2 M (while better, younger lefty relievers remained on the free agent market). They vehemently pursued Tom Glavine and Jamie Moyer until they chose other suitors.
One pattern seems to be forming for Phils. They are emulating the Yankees. No, I mean besides the overpaying for talent. The Phillies seem to be building a predominately left-handed lineup. Now, why would they go and do a thing like that in the symmetry lover's paradise that is Veterans Stadium?
Well, I'll tell you. The Phils new stadium set to open in 2004 is still a shell, but the architects have done a little analysis. It seems that the Vet Mach II (so named for Spinal Tap's short-lived, free-form jazz ensemble), based on Shibe Park, will favor lefties.
The Conclusions of the Baseball Trajectory Study
- North winds have the most overall impact on the flight of the baseball due to the open design of the Ballpark.
After seeing that, I wouldn't be surprised if the Phils offered Chuck Finley a pot of gold. It also explains the Phils' crush on Tom Glavine when the superior Greg Maddux is available (that or perhaps the dimensions of the Phillie management's crania). If the Phils don't land Finley-I hope-, then will probably go after the Yankees' lefty Andy Pettite. The Yanks have some numbers issues in the rotation and Pettite can be had (maybe for some relief help and/or Jeremy Giambi).
Whatever happens before 2003, if this study holds true, I would expect the Phils to become even more left-handed as the 2004 opener looms. On a related note, I hear that Bob McClure and Tony Fossas are planning comebacks.
Holy Moses! First, Royal Blister
Holy Moses! First, Royal Blister Next Murrain? Inquiring Minds Want to Know
Royal pitcher Jeremy Affeldt may be forced out of the starting rotation next year, and that's not just because he is a Royals pitcher. Affeldt has been and continues to be afflicted with the mother of all blisters on his throwing hand. He has been placed on the DL for a third of the season because of it and now must leave Dominican winter ball to get it taken care of. Get this, he is going to visit a plastic surgeon to remedy the problem.
For all of you blister sufferers out there, until you get your own celebrity-hosted telethon, RealWoman.com recommends Ungvita Vitamin A ointment.
To quote the Violent Femmes, "Oh my momma momma mo my mother." (I know it's in "Add It Up" but it should be in "Blister in the Sun"). Well, my job here is done.
Huddled Masses The NY Times
The NY Times reports that the Yankees cut loose Stanton and Mendoza to have the funds to pursue Cuban right-handed Jose Contreras (who is yet to be declared a free agent) and the Japanese outfielder Hideki Matsui. Similarly, the Mets declined arbitration to third baseman Edgardo Alfonzo to puruse Japanese third baseman Norihiro Nakamura. They also report that Mendoza and Stanton were looking for three year contracts in the $4 and $3.5 M per year (respectively) range.
Yankee Doodles The New York
The New York Yankees made a number of interesting moves over the weekend, almost none of which do I agree with.
The first, was to offer Roger Clemens. Well, that was a no-brainer. Whether they sign him and for how much and how long remain to be seen.
The Yanks declined arbitration to John Vander Wal, who is a good hitter but an expensive backup. He will also be 37 next year. Those two I agree with.
Next, they offered arbitration to backup corner infielder Ron Coomer. Coomer is 36. He was a sub-par starter for Minnesota until 2000 and a semi regular for the Cubs in 2001, but on the Yankees he is nothing more than a spare part. He didn't make it to the majors until age 28, was effective very briefly as a backup, and then started to rapidly decline after he became a regular player. However, he will probably be rewarded with a $1+ M salary in arbitration due to his 15-homer average as a regular. His talents could be found on many a Triple-A roster for much less. It's not the most egregious example of the Yankees overspending. It just seems oddly inconsistent given their offseason austerity measures and their other moves on the day.
The Yankees also rewarded Chris Widger for his many a splitter in the derriere with a one-year, $750 K contract. I have nothing against Widger. He is a competent backup. But Joe Torre has already indicated his dislike for Widger by only using him in 21 games (with 64 at-bats!) in 2002. Jorge Posada needs a competent backup in whom Joe Torre has full confidence. John Flaherty and Sandy Alomar are free agents (though both are older and Alomar would want more money). (Tom Lampkin is too, but they probably want a righty bat to complement Posada.) There are also a number of part-time catchers that can be had in a trade. Paying Widger three-quarter of a million dollars and then not using him could be a big mistake next October when Posada is again worn out.
In the other Yankee problem area, relief pitching, they made some interesting choices. Mike Stanton and Ramiro Mendoza, two stalwarts of the Yankees' bullpen for years, were declined arbitration. The Yankees are pursuing free agent Chris Hammond to replace Stanton.
The way that they went about doing was interesting as well (from the AP):
"Mike Stanton was starting a weekend snowboarding trip in the Adirondacks when his phone rang.
Stanton was also quoted as saying of the offer that "it was a shock." ESPN had the figures slightly higher at around $5 M, but either way Stanton would probably make slightly less than the $2.5 M he earned in 2002. Mendoza earned $2.6 M in 2002.
I wouldn't say that I'm shocked but I am a bit surprised. The Yankees relied on four relievers in 2002, Mendoza, Stanton, Steve Karsay, and the oft-injured Mariano Rivera-no one else appeared in more than 18 games in relief. When Rivera was injured, they relied on just the other three. Each pitched well, but none of them had much left around playoff time. This was due to Torre's overuse of them during the regular season (see Posada/Widger above). So what do they get for a reward, 15 minutes to take a deal?
Maybe the Yanks are just pursuing a better player in Chris Hammond you say. Hammond was third in the majors in Baseball Prospectus' ranking of relievers (i.e., adjusted runs produced). However, Hammond will be 37 next season and missed most of four seasons before resurrecting his career with the Braves this year. Besides, he was relegated to relief duties his last three seasons before 2002 due to his ineffectiveness as a starter. Each of those years, he had an ERA near or above 6.00. His adjusted ERA is slightly worse than average for his career (thanks to Baseball-Reference.com). Each year but one since joining the Yankees in 1997, Stanton has had a better than average ERA and all but two he had had an adjusted ERA 20% better than average. He is 16% better than average for his career. Some Hall-of-Famers have a worse percentages. Mark Guthrie, the other man considered, has been a slightly better than average journeyman for years. He is also 37. Stanton will not be 36 until next June. Besides, Guthrie has not pitched as many as Stanton's 78 innings this season since 1991, when he was a part-time starter. Hammond pitched 76 this season, but never before pitched nearly that much in relief.
Hammond may pitch well, but seems like a worse gamble than Stanton. It's especially galling given the small amounts of money involved and the way that the Yankees handled the situation. Of course, the Yankees may not sign either Hammond or Guthrie-or perhaps worse yet may get into a bidding war and overpay for them-, but Stanton cannot be re-signed (at least until May) because of this decision.
The Yankees seem to be blind to the issues that caused their downfall in 2002 and by not learning by their mistakes, or so the proverb goes, seem destined to repeat them in 2003.
Shouts Out Aaron Gleeman does
Aaron Gleeman does a thorough job of breaking down the Hall of Fame class at his site. He does a nice job and not just because I agree with his final assessments for a good deal of the players' Cooperstown prospects.
I have added two new links on the left. The first is Roto World, which is like a rumor central for rotisserie baseball. I have been meaning to add it for a while.
The second is for Sports Central, a site for general sports news and stories. It is also my first foray into hyperlink buttons. Let's hope it works.
Fast and Flurry-ous There have
Fast and Flurry-ous
There have been many developments in the last few days. So here goes:
- Steve Finley re-signed with the D-Backs for two years at $11.25. He is 37 and had a poor year in 2001. But he still has a good bat and plays a good center field. He also improved his walks total (career high 12.9% of his ABs), strikeout rate (K's comprised 14.5% of his ABs in 2002 down from career high 16.6% in 1998), and stolen base percentage (his 80% success rate in 2002 was his highest stolen base total with that high a success rate in a decade). He will probably decline in the next two years, but it appears that he is making some small adjustments to keep himself productive and that will help.
One last thing about Finley, his rep was that he was a no-hit, speedster of a center fielder until his second season with San Diego, in which he hit 30 home runs-almost trebling his career high and more than his three previous seasons combined-at age 31. He has been considered somewhat of a run producer ever since. Well, he is actually more of a study in park- and era-adjusted stats. For example, compare the following two seasons:
Year TM G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG OPS lgOPS OPS+ 1992 Hou 162 607 84 177 29 13 5 55 58 63 44 9 .292 .355 .407 .762 .694 120 2002 Ari 150 505 82 145 24 4 25 89 65 73 16 4 .287 .370 .499 .869 .788 120
They look from two seasons from two different ballplayers. In 1992, he stole more bases and got many more at-bats, and in 2002 he hit 20 more home runs and drove in 44 more runs. However, in both case, Finley has an OPS (on-base plus slugging avg) that is 20% better than the league and park adjusted average. His on-base and slugging increased substantially but can be explained by the differences in playing in the Astrodome in 1992 and in the BOB in 2002. It also is a nice indications of how irrelevant RBI totals are and how they depend more on a player's position in a lineup rather than on his productivity. Finley has had a few poor seasons ('90, '93, '98, and 2001) as well as some very good ones mixed in with the rest, but he has basically been a ballplayer with an OPS around 10% than adjusted league average for most of his career.
- The Giants are all over the map. Their $13 M offer was turned down by Steve Finley. Free-agent Second baseman Jeff Kent was offered arbitration. And they signed second baseman Ray Durham and center fielder Marquis Grissom. However, the Giants still claim that they will continue to negotiate with Kent.
Durham is a good pickup for the team. He can lead off and is coming off arguably his best season in 2002 though he will be 31 next year. Durham is a very interesting selection and a strong replacement if they had decided that they couldn't re-sign Kent.
Grissom had a very good year with the Dodgers as a semi-regular with the Dodgers in 2002. He slugged over .500 for the first time in his career. He raised his average 50 points from 2001. He also collected almost as many total bases in 100 fewer at-bats while striking out almost 40 fewer times and walking 6 more times. However, he is 36, had five poor seasons in a row prior to 2002, and can no longer produce double-digit steal totals. He also has lost a good deal of range in center and had been used in left field about a third of the time by the Dodgers, something the Giants would be loath to do. Grissom signed for $4.25 M over two years. He could be a good fourth outfielder if used judiciously, but appears to be the starting center fielder right now.
Then there's Kent. The Giants left the Door open to signing him. The possibility of moving Durham to center field and Grissom to the bench was mentioned. There are a few problems with this. First, Durham has never played the position in his professional career, and it is a key defensive position. Second, Grissom believes that he will be a starter:
''In my 14th season, I'm kind of happy to become an everyday starter once again,'' Grissom said. ''I think I'm in the prime of my career, and healthy. My main interest in going to any team was to get out there and play every day. I think I've got a lot left. I'm nowhere near a fourth outfielder on nobody's team.''
And third, the may not be able to sign Kent. If they do re-sign Kent, then that means that they will have to add Durham to the outfield mix and that they will have to find time for Grissom lest he become disgruntled. If they cannot re-sign Kent, Durham stays at second and Grissom becomes the everyday centerfielder. Either way, they will continue to have outfield problems.
I cannot understand why the Giants signed Grissom when they could have pursued a choice with a higher ceiling in Hideki Matsui, or used the money to retain Reggie Sanders, who might be the best rightfielder available right now. Sanders made "only" $1.75 M in 2002 and is not being offered arbitration by the Giants. Fellow Giant-cum-free-agent center fielder Kenny Lofton was not offered arbitration as well though he played well in his short stint with the Giants and made around $1 M in 2002.
- The Phils re-signed lefty reliever Dan Plesac to a one-year, $2 M contract. Plesac will be 41 next season. The Phils have been vilified by some for giving free-agent signees David Bell and Jim Thome too much in their negotiations. I can defend those transactions on the basis of generating fan and media support, but this one is almost indefensible.
- Like a salmon returning to spawn, Hidecki Irabu returned to the Japanese leagues where he once flourished. Irabu was actually pretty good his first full season with the Yankees but never did live up to expectations. He is only 33 and could enjoy a productive few years in Japan. Major-league batters will lament his passing though.
By the way, his deal is only for one year, which opens the door to a return in 2004. One as eagerly anticipated as the Star Wars Episode I, I'm sure.
- Frank Thomas re-signed with the White Sox after his 10-day free-agent oats-sowing foray (which consisted of basically reading the want ads over breakfast). Thomas got a deal that gives him a few options should he return to his former glory.
Thomas is a far cry from his glory days, but who of us isn't. He was a productive hitter last year with a an OPS 17% better than the league average and ranking second among DHs in home runs and tied for first in RBI. Thomas still is a possible Hall-of-Famer and his treatment by his employers for showing his age has been extremely unkind. Besides his post-All-Star- break number indicate that he could have some gas left in the tank I would love to see Thomas have a comeback season and then sign for lots of mullah with the Yankees or Red Sox in 2004.
Methuselahic Malfeasance? The Seattle Mariners
The Seattle Mariners proudly re-signed Jamie Moyer to complete the offseason task of resigning its four top free agent today. Moyer landed a deal which will pay him between $15.5 and $21.5 M, depending on his performance, over the next three years. He also represented himself to pocket a little extra change. Moyer pitched well this year and was pursued by a few other teams. I'm not sure what the other teams offered but I was very surprised that the M's offered three years. Why, do you ask? Well, Moyer will be turning 43 just as the contract expires in three years. The other three ancient Mariners who were just resigned are Dan Wilson, Edgar Martinez, and John Olerud, and the average age of the four of them is 37.
It got me to wondering about the prospects of resigning a 40-year-old for three years, even one that won 13 games, were. There was a good bit of press explaining why giving future Hall-of-Famer a four-year contract was a bad idea since he would be forty when said contract expired. Given that Moyer is something short of a Hall-of-Fame caliber pitcher and will be 40 when the contract starts, I am left wondering why there hasn't been a great deal of backlash. ESPN touts it has the fulfillment of Seattle's offseason plan.
Well, here is a list of all pitchers, 40 in total, who won 10 or more games at the age of 39 followed by their performance in the next three years:
Name **Age 39** ** 40-42 ** G W L ERA G W L ERA Babe Adams 25 14 5 2.64 62 24 19 3.68 Pete Alexander 30 12 10 3.06 93 46 27 3.12 Steve Carlton 33 13 7 3.58 80 16 36 4.95 Murry Dickson 31 13 11 3.28 85 17 11 4.15 Red Faber 27 13 9 3.76 104 31 40 3.96 Freddie Fitzsimmons 20 16 2 2.81 23 9 5 3.52 Lefty Grove 23 15 4 2.54 43 14 13 4.17 Orel Hershiser 34 11 10 4.41 42 14 17 5.61 Joe Heving 39 12 7 4.01 84 11 6 3.10 Charlie Hough 40 18 13 3.79 96 37 41 3.86 Carl Hubbell 24 11 8 3.95 12 4 4 4.91 Tommy John 37 14 12 3.69 89 22 36 4.60 Jerry Koosman 42 11 7 3.84 92 31 26 4.05 Dutch Leonard 34 12 17 2.51 109 22 23 3.70 Dolf Luque 31 14 8 4.30 92 21 15 3.84 Ted Lyons 22 12 8 3.24 42 26 16 2.91 Sal Maglie 30 13 5 2.89 42 11 13 3.45 Dennis Martinez 24 11 6 3.51 57 22 16 4.19 Clarence Mitchell 25 11 3 4.02 35 14 14 4.08 Mike Morgan 34 13 10 6.24 91 6 5 4.70 Bobo Newsom 31 11 11 3.34 11 0 4 4.20 Joe Niekro 38 16 12 3.04 87 27 36 4.54 Phil Niekro 44 19 18 2.88 106 43 45 3.43 Johnny Niggeling 28 15 11 2.66 76 27 30 2.67 Fritz Ostermueller 26 12 10 3.84 23 8 11 4.42 Gaylord Perry 37 21 6 2.73 89 30 33 3.50 Eddie Plank 42 21 11 2.08 57 21 21 2.14 Jack Quinn 40 13 16 3.48 123 38 41 3.75 Rick Reuschel 36 19 11 3.12 51 20 16 3.26 Jerry Reuss 32 13 9 3.44 34 9 9 5.04 Allie Reynolds 36 13 4 3.32 (Retired) Nolan Ryan 30 12 8 3.34 99 36 37 3.17 Tom Seaver 34 15 11 3.95 63 23 24 3.53 Warren Spahn 40 21 10 3.50 105 62 34 2.89 Don Sutton 33 14 12 3.77 103 41 32 4.08 Frank Tanana 32 13 11 4.39 32 7 17 4.35 Kent Tekulve 73 11 5 2.54 197 9 14 3.68 Dazzy Vance 35 17 15 2.61 85 29 26 3.70 Early Wynn 37 22 10 3.17 80 28 29 3.81 Cy Young 39 13 21 3.19 114 61 41 1.84
However, is there something that sets Moyer apart? Is his career unusual in some way? I would say that it is. Looking at his record, one notices that Moyer made it to the big leagues at age 23, and pitched 200 innings in both his second and third years. By his third year his ERA was better than average, and he appeared to have a fairly successful career ahead of him even though he had yet to have a .500 or better full season.
But Moyer would go another 9 seasons before he again throw 200 innings (in the majors, he did it in 1993 when his Triple-A innings are added in) even though he was healthy in all but one of those seasons. In the process he went through seven organizations and was released by four of them. His age-26 through 29 seasons were extremely poor, and by the end of them, he was attempting to get back to the majors from Triple-A clubs in three different organizations, two of which released him. He finally managed to make it back with Baltimore at age 30. From that point forward he pitched better than average (ERA-wise) in eight of his next ten seasons.
He was traded to the Mariners in 1997 for Darren Bragg and has pitched well in all but one (his injury plagued 2000 season) for Seattle. Since joining Seattle at age 33, his win total each year has exceeded his pre-Seattle high (12, done twice) each year. He has also managed to top 200 innings in 4 of the last 5 years.
So it appears that Moyer has had something of an unusual career. Will the circuitous route to success as well as the fewer innings pitched in the usual prime years aid him over the length of this contract? That remains to be seen. He may be another Phil Niekro, but I still think that paying him $5M+ a season for three years is a big risk.
Ventura Bull of Yard Robin
Ventura Bull of Yard
Robin Ventura magnanimously accepted a $5 M, 1-year contract to return to the Yankees yesterday. The way that the press is spinning it, it's as Ventura will next walk on water or something.
Ventura had a good year last year, but there are a lot of reasons to believe he will not have as good a year in 2003. He will turn 36 in the middle of 2003. For a player who has seemed old for some time, the dropoff after 35 could be precipitous. He had an awful second half:
AB R H 2B 3B HR HR/AB RBI BB SO K:BB AVG OBP SLG OPS Pre All-Star 262 43 69 8 0 19 7.25% 62 45 55 1.22 .263 .367 .511 .878 Post All-Star 203 25 46 9 0 8 3.94% 31 45 46 1.02 .227 .371 .389 .760 Total 465 68 115 17 0 27 5.81% 93 90 101 1.12 .247 .368 .458 .826
That's a Jeckle-and-Hyde year. Which half is a better indicator of his career talent level? Well, both really. What do I mean? Take a look at his first- and second-half numbers for the last three years combined:
AB R H 2B 3B HR HR/AB RBI BB SO K:BB AVG OBP SLG OPS Pre All-Star 825 137 209 35 1 52 6.30% 156 147 156 1.06 .253 .364 .487 .851 Post All-Star 565 62 123 25 0 20 3.54% 82 106 137 1.29 .218 .343 .368 .711 Total 1390 199 332 60 1 72 5.18% 238 253 293 1.16 .239 .355 .439 .794
In both cases Ventura lost batting average and slugging points but remained relatively close in on-base (actually his walks improved in the second half in both sets of data). So what does this mean? First, that the much-publicized slide in the second half is par for the course for Ventura. And second, the Yankees can almost expect it in 2003. However, the chances that Ventura will have as good a first half as in 2002 aren't great.
One thing that I want to be clear on is that Ventura did have a pretty good year. He ranked fifth among third baseman in OPS in the majors (based on stats as a third sacker only; all around he is probably a notch or two lower). Even if he fell to be in the middle of the pack offensively, he still does have a pretty good glove and is only signed for a year. So it's not a bad deal for the Yankees, especially if Drew Henson actually is ready for the majors in 2004 (which may be a big if).
One thing that surprised me was that Ventura had only a .751 OPS at Yankee stadium (.233 BA and .386 slugging) and had only 9 of his 27 homers at home. You would think that Yankee Stadiums' short right field fence would be perfect for him. This may be specious logic, but that makes me think that a slide is more probable in 2003 given that I would trust the larger data set of data at home as opposed to the
Overall, a dropoff is definitely possible though I wouldn't say inevitable. Given that he is somewhat of a gamble, a similar payroll reduction is in order. People seem to forget that he was somewhat of an albatross around the Mets' neck soon after signing the four-year, $43 M contract to begin with. The Mets traded him to the Yankees in last offseason's perhaps prescient move to dump high-salaried problems. Given what Bell got and though Ventura has been a better player for longer, $5 M seems about right in this market.
The place that would be best suited-though his 2002 numbers don't necessarily bare this out-to Ventura would be Yankee Stadium. So there's incentive for him to stay, not to mention teh added bonus of playing for a known winner. The Yankees need at least a short-term solution at third, and he's the best fit for now. One could advise the Yankees to sign Edgardo Alfonzo and chuck both Ventura and Henson, but they are not prepared to do that as yet. Of course, if Ventura has a bad first half, a decent second half is less likely, and the time may be nigh to replace him. Whether Henson will be available to step in is doubtful, so they may be stuck with Ventura for the year no matter what. They can always find another Andy Fox/Luis Sojo/Clay Bellinger type to fill in short term I guess.
Tommy Knocking Well, Tom Glavine
Well, Tom Glavine finally decided which team was going to take him to the prom, the Mets. My first reaction is that it's always a shame when a Hall-of-Famer leaves the team that he's always played for to finish out his career elsewhere. I don't know why, but it just does. Those rumors of Mike Schmidt ending his career in St. Louis, for example. It just seems wrong.
My next reaction was that my Phils lost their Bell-Thome-Glavine trifecta, which was a shame. The next reaction was relief that the Phillies didn't end up breaking the bank to givehim the 4 years at $44 M he had been asking for. Now, maybe they can pursue potentially as good or better pitchers (Maddux and Clemens) whose demands are potentially not a s high.
My last thought was that if Glavine bombs, this has to be the last straw for Steve Phillips. Phillips survived the ineffectual roster resctructing of the last offseason but just barely. Another high-profile acquisition that does not pan out might be anough to tip the scales against Phillips.
Besides, should the number one priority for the Mets be a 36-year-old starting pitcher when they have so many holes on offense? The whole left side of their infield is in flux. The right side was a disappointment last year. And their outfield, as always, is a mess. Why didn't the Mets, just go out and re-sign Steve Trachsel, who has been tremendous over the last year and one half and then use the remaining cash to re-build their offense. Well, maybe it has more to do with filling the seats for the Mets' multi-tiered pricing strategy in 2003.
Taking Out the Garbage I
Taking Out the Garbage
I just had a final thought regarding the Todd Hundley and Chad Hermanson for Eric Karros and Mark Grudzielanek (plus $2 M) trade. I know that it was, as Rob Neyer put it, one "of those 21st-century classics whereby teams swap high-priced headaches." Neyer proceeds to illustrate why the trade is beneficial to both teamd. We've developed these jaded ways of viewing these trades.
I have been discussing it with the Cub Reporter. He had been posting rumors of a subsequent trade of one of the two former Dodgers, but they don't seem to be panning out. He pointed out some excellent points about the trade:
Taking a look at the trade on its own, and ignoring the other trade rumors, the only problem is with the additional salary the Cubs take on this year. I think it prices them out of the free agent market for the rest of the winter (at least for the big guys), which isn't a good thing. But the $7.5M they take on this year is balanced by the $5M they save next year, assuming they don't pick up either option.
I agree. In fact I wrote him the following:
You know the more I think about the trade, the more I think you must be right (about the trade rumors). I cannot fathom why the Cubs did it. I know that they unload Hundley's contract, but they pick up two more wretched contracts. I know that Karros' and Grudz's contracts have only one year left and they are insurance for the two rookies.
Baker has done more with less in the past, but has never really shown himself as a mentor for young talent. It is going to be an interesting seaon in Wrigley this year.
Peeping Tom Here's a little
Here's a little Tom Glavine info that I received from a mole (nuff sed?):
The thing that was disappointing is that he would have loved to have come to the (Red) Sox but they really didn't express enough interest. I would say that he wants to stay in Atlanta. He may end up in Philly or with the Mets. However, I wouldn't be a bit surprised if he's playing Philly and NY to get Atlanta to up the anti on the $ and the length of the contract. Ideally, I think he's looking for a 4 year deal for between 9M and 11M per year.
Over-Kile II There is an
There is an online poll at CNN/SI as to Darryl Kile's qualifications as a Hall of Famer. 13.2% polled responded that yes, Kile is deserving of enshrinement in Cooperstown. That's about 1 in seven or eight (actually 7.57 bar for you math students). Now, imagine that you are at a ballgame, and you stretch your hands out and flail them about wildly-C'mon, it's fun. One of the outraged patrons whom you would smack with your outstretched limbs before being escorted out in a padded bullpen car would think that Darryl Kile was a Hall of Famer. And you would be the one on the way to bughouse!
I thought it was a given that Kile was clearly not a Hall-of-Fame caliber player, and his presence on the ballot largely procedural and ceremonial. Don't get me wrong Kile was a fine pitcher and, by all accounts, a very fine individual, and his death was tragic. But there is no reasonable argument that could be made for Kile going into the Hall even if he had been able to finish career. This isn't tiddledywinks, people! This is Cooperstown! Retire his number in St. Louis, Colorado, and Houston if you want. Incorporate his number 57 into the Cardinals cap design. But don't make Kile into the new Ross Youngs.
First Kile wasn't Lyman Bostock. He was 33 this season. Let's say that he were able to finish this season and-let's be generous-were to play 5 more years at his current level. He pitched 11 more or less complete seasons prior to 2002, totally 128 wins, 115 losses, a nice .527 winning percentage, and a 4.14 ERA (incidentally a 1.41 WHIP, walks plus hits per innings pitched, and a 1.82 strikeout-to-walk ratio). I know that ERA includes some years in Colorado, but I'm not going to be so lenient as to lower it since he had some 4.00+ years in Houston and has been hovering around (though below) 4.00 in St. Louis. That's an average of 12-10 (actually 11.6 to 10.5 but why be picky) with 147 strikeouts in 189 innings. He was 5-4 this year before his death. Let's add a 7-6 record to his 2002 stats and then five 12-10 seasons. That would be a 67-56 record for his missed years, giving him a 200-175 career record. That's nice but is it Hall-worthy?
I found all of the Hall of Fame pitchers who were elected based on their major-league experience (regrets to Satchel Paige) and had fewer than 250 wins. There were 27. I then listed their career wins, losses, winning percent, ERA, Adjusted ERA (adjusted for park and league average), their peak adjusted ERA, and peak win total. Here's what I got (with Kile) [Thanks to Sean Leahman's database and Baseball-Reference.com's stats]:
FirstName LastName W L PCT ERA Adj Peak Peak ERA Adj ERA W Chief Bender 212 127 .625 2.46 112 168 23 Mordecai Brown 239 130 .648 2.06 138 253 29 Jim Bunning 224 184 .549 3.74 114 150 20 Jack Chesbro 198 132 .600 2.68 110 148 41 Stan Coveleski 215 142 .602 2.89 127 164 24 Dizzy Dean 150 83 .644 3.02 130 211 30 Don Drysdale 209 166 .557 2.95 121 154 25 Rollie Fingers 114 118 .491 2.90 119 331 13 Whitey Ford 236 106 .690 2.75 132 191 25 Lefty Gomez 189 102 .649 3.34 125 191 26 Jesse Haines 210 158 .571 3.64 108 145 24 Waite Hoyt 237 182 .566 3.59 111 150 23 Catfish Hunter 224 166 .574 3.26 104 141 25 Addie Joss 160 97 .623 1.89 142 205 27 Sandy Koufax 165 87 .655 2.76 131 190 27 Bob Lemon 207 128 .618 3.23 119 144 23 Juan Marichal 243 142 .631 2.89 122 166 26 Rube Marquard 201 177 .532 3.08 103 169 26 Joe McGinnity 246 142 .634 2.66 121 169 35 Hal Newhouser 207 150 .580 3.06 130 195 29 Herb Pennock 240 162 .597 3.60 106 158 23 Amos Rusie 245 174 .585 3.07 130 189 36 Dazzy Vance 197 140 .585 3.24 125 191 28 Rube Waddell 193 143 .574 2.16 134 179 27 Ed Walsh 195 126 .607 1.82 145 189 40 Hoyt Wilhelm 143 122 .540 2.52 146 236 15 Vic Willis 249 205 .548 2.63 118 167 27 Darryl Kile (proj) 200 175 .533 4.14 103 155 20
Now that's an extremely mixed bag: the two HoF relievers, special exceptions with high peaks but short careers like Sandy Koufax, and some of the well-publicized dregs of the Hall.
Now, let's remove the players with adjusted ERA's 10% or better than the league average (>=110) or with winning percentages over .575. Those are pitchers that are clearly superior to Kile. We are left with three HoF pitchers:
FirstName LastName W L PCT ERA Adj Peak Peak ERA Adj ERA W Jesse Haines 210 158 .571 3.64 108 145 24 Catfish Hunter 224 166 .574 3.26 104 141 25 Darryl Kile (proj) 200 175 .533 4.14 103 155 20 Rube Marquard 201 177 .532 3.08 103 169 26
Never mind that these three pitchers are the ones most often pointed to when you hear heated calls to rectify the mistakes made in past Hall elections. Hunter is still discernible better than Kile: 24 more career wins, a winning percentage about 40 points higher, a peak win total that's five wins better. Haines gets an edge with 10 wins, a 5% better adjusted ERA, and nearly 40 points in winning percentage. Marquad and the projected Kile are awfully close. However, Marquad had a better peak and had an ERA that is more than a run lower. I know that these are different eras but if Kile's ERA looks comparable to Marquad's because they are both 3% better than the adjusted league average then I'm a monkey's uncle. Why? Because standard deviations get smaller as the average ERA gets smaller. If the league average ERA were 1.00 and someone has a 0.97 that has to be better than a 4.85 ERA in a league with a 5.00 average. Consider that the league leader is around 0.70 in the first case and around 2.80 in the second.
So Kile cannot even be said to be comparable to the worst Hall of Fame pitcher even if we extend his career very leniently. If you look at the 10 most similar pitchers to him, you see what kind of career he had:
Todd Stottlemyre (966)
Kile was a good #2 or 3 pitcher in his best years and a rotation filler in his bad, but clearly not a Hall-of-Famer.
And just a word regarding his legacy. The only way Kile makes it into the Hall is if the voters radically change the established standards to allow him in. Do we want that to be Kile's legacy? Is that what his children want to hear about the rest of their lives?
Too Kind The Cub Reporter
The Cub Reporter did a survey of baseball sites the other day and had some kind word about yours truly:
After that, I hit the blogs. I start with general baseball blogs -- first is Mike's Baseball Rants. If I were writing about baseball in general, this is how I'd want my blog to be -- funny, insightful, prolific, and stats-based without being stats-heavy.
I'm kvelling. It really made my day.
Using the Old Beane Billy
Using the Old Beane
Billy Beane is a master. He takes what is clearly a mid-level closer in Billy Koch, one that will be well compensated for his overinflated numbers by the arbitration process this winter, and for him acquires a top-level closer in Keith Foulke whose team is too confused to realize is really that good. Oh, and he gets a quality backup catcher and a decent prospect and cash along with him.
The A's do take on Foulke's $6 M salary but given that Koch's salary will rise to that range after arbitration, it's a wash. The commitment to Foulke ends after 2003 and the in the deal the A's potentially picked up his heir apparent in Joe Valentine.
By the way, if you don't believe me that Foulke is a better pitcher despite Koch's 33 more saves in 2002, note the following:
1) Baseball Prospectus rates Foulke in the top 15 major-league relievers in adjusted runs prevented. Koch is not in the top 30.
Mark Johnson replaces Greg Myers, who the A's seemed reluctant to use in 2002, as the left-handed hitting backup catcher. So the deal strengthens the A's in two positions and frees up cash in 2004. Pretty sneaky sis.
Over-Kile My friend Murray (brother
My friend Murray (brother to my friend Mike) had some good questions that I wanted to post. Here goes:
Here's a leading question: don't you think that baseball is doing more damage to Darryl Kile's "legacy" by putting him on the HOF ballot this season than it would by waiting? Kile will probably receive too few votes this year, which means he will be expunged from the ballot. If, however, the HOF waited five years, it would remind everybody of Kile's untimely death just as the fans have started to forget about him. By then, his kids would be old enough to understand the tributes, and it would be a nice way to remember one of the game's fallen infantrymen. I know the rule doesn't work this way. But it seems to me that it's another flubbed grounder by MLB.
And then I said:
Darryl Kile: That's a good point. I think that it would serve Kile's legacy to a better advantage if they waited. However...
Murray has a excellent follow-up point: "I actually think it's more convenient to get that information out of a book, and the book also offered the important virtue of portability. It's easier to flip around in and read a book."
Oh, one last thing on Kile. Tommy Lasorda stepped down as manager due to medical reasons in the middle of 1996 and went into the Hall in 1997. I know that he was a manager and not a player and I know that he was selected by the Veterans' Committee, which has different rules, but my point is that a) he went in due to his managerial career, b) his managerial career ended on July 29, 1996 and he was selected for Cooperstown on March 5, 1997, and finally c) no one made a fuss about his not having to wait. I think that they are somewhat analogous. If Kile were a Hall of Famer (like Clemente), I would have no problem with him going in right away. I also tend to doubt, as Neyer claimed, that the writers would be easily swayed by a recently deceased candidate. I think they understand the importance of the vote, though they don't know the proper living players to vote for.
Yoshii Cut, By Goshii The
Yoshii Cut, By Goshii
The Expos released Masato Yoshii today. If you look at Yoshii's stats over the years, he is basically the prototypical average pitcher. In four of his five seasons, he has been within three percentage points of an average pitcher's ERA (park-adjusted), and in the fifth season he was only 7% away from (better) than average.
Given that he made only $300 K (the new major league minimum) in 2002, why get rid of him? Well, perhaps they were afraid of the money that he would be awarded in arbitration. But more likely, the problem was Yoshii himself. He's neither fish nor fowl. Neither starter nor reliever. He pitches well as a starter but does not have the stamina-he has averaged 5.5 innings per start since 2000 and slightly under that this year with only 74.6 pitchers per start-and doesn't strike anyone out. OK, so make him a long reliever you say? Well, he had a 6.38 ERA and allowed 6 home runs in 20 relief appearances this year. I would have to think it was somewhat of an aberration, but there's nothing about Yoshii that cries out to a GM to keep him around.
Thome Tuck From The Phillies
From The Phillies fan email: JIM THOME PRESS CONFERENCE The Phillies have called a 4:30 p.m. ET press conference today to announce the signing of free agent first baseman Jim Thome.
Fixing a Whole, VI Here's
Fixing a Whole, VI
Here's a follow-up from the Elephants in Oakland:
No...we'd go as far as to argue that the nickel arcade needs to be brought back. Movies should be shown for pennies and emphasis should be on making quality entertainment, not reaching a standard demographic.
Mi respuesta esta aqui:
Interesting points. I live in New Jersey where the minor-league teams take a backseat to their high-profile major-league counterparts, and their prices are set accordingly. Being a lowly Phillies fan, it's unfathomable to me that the in Bay area, with two excellent teams, fans would choice to patronize a minor-league team. It's also amazing that a team that no one is aware of outside the Bay Area can hold the interest of such a large fan base. I can remember in the mid-'90s when Sacramento was still in the independent Western League. Now they are drawing about half the fans the A's draw. The fans had come to see the A's when they put together a great team in the late '80s/early '90s (even though they barely broke one million during their dynastic early '70s run). They stopped coming when the A's lost, but that's to a certain degree to be expected. But why not come now?
Fixing a Whole, V Here's
Fixing a Whole, V
Here's some additional information from Joshua Wood regarding Francisco Rodriguez:
According to mlb.com, KRod was added to the 40-man roster on 9/15 (if I'm reading 'selected contract' properly as synonymous with 'purchased contract.') This makes the unnamed Gammons source wrong, and the move perfectly legal.
Blog Jam I'm sorry that
I'm sorry that I didn't post anything this morning. Blogger.com my über-site was not allowing any new posts for its free users. Whenever there is a problem, we free users take a backseat while they cater to the pay customers in first class. It's not as if they don't derive an income from the banner ads they require me to run at the top of the damn page.
Anyway, I'm back.
Out of the Box with
Out of the Box with Theo and Bill (Of Course)
The Red Sox hired a new bullpen coach yesterday. There's nothing odd about that except that the man, Euclides Rojas (cool name, by the way), is the Cuban national team career saves leader. He escaped Cuba by raft in 1994, pitched in the independent Western League in '95, and has coached in the Marlins and Pirates organizations ever since.
It's the first time that I can remember that a coach or manager has been hired at the major-league level after spending most of his career outside of "organized" ball. It could the first step in expanding the old boy network that has dominated coaching circles since Harry Wright called up his brother George to play short for him. And it's about time.
I know that Bobby Valentine had one ill-fated year managing in Japan between his Rangers and Mets gig. I cannot recall a player from Japanese, Cuban, Korean, et al leagues getting the same treatment in American organized ball.
It kind of reminds of the legend of John McGraw employing Rube Foster to tutor a young Christy Mathewson, after realizing that the great African-American pitcher could not be signed to a major-league contract. The allegedly apochryphal story of Foster teaching young Christy his famous fadeaway pitch is especially memorable. When baseball integrated in the late '40s, the Negro league managers, coaches, and execs were left out. Legendary African-American managers like dictatorial Foster (he's credited with every innovation under the sun: the bunt-and-run, catchers backing up first, making the ball round, etc.) and C.I. Taylor were no longer among the Negro league ranks, but their successors like Foster protege Gentleman Dave Malarcher and C.I.'s younger brother Candy Jim Taylor were still going strong.
There is one exception that comes to mind: the great K.C. Monarch manager Buck O'Neil was hired as a coach also with the Red Sox forty years ago, the first African-American to be named a coach on a major-league team. Let's hope that the Red Sox can similarly blaze a trail for attracting international instructors to the major-league ranks. I for one would love to see Sadaharu Oh managing in the majors one day.
Remlinger Steal Today, the Phillies
Today, the Phillies reportedly signed Jim Thome to a 6-year contract that pays him on average $14.5 M per year. Conventional wisdom dicates that since Thome will be 38 at the end of that contract and has already had back problems and since the Phillies play in the mostly DH-less NL, they have made a bad gamble. Thome is a great offensive player but the chances of him being able to play first in six years seem slim. Well, that may be.
However, I just read on ESPN that the Cubs signed Mike Remlinger to a 3-year, $10.5 M contract. My first reaction was, "Didn't that happen already?" And then I was left wondering how anyone could possibly criticize the Phillies for signing a premier player at possibly a salary above the current market when the Cubs make this lulu of a deal. Remlinger is 36. He has pitched well for the last four years with Atlanta, but in his six previous years with three different organizations Remlinger pitched poorly at best (only once did he have an ERA better than the park-adjusted league average but was cosiderably worse in the other years). Also, though he averages about a strikeout per inning, he has never been successful as a closer (nor as a starter) and his worst year with the Braves came when they tried to work him as a closer (2000).
So the Cubs get an old, long reliever who is iffy outside of Turner field. There is a very low probability that this move will substantively help the Cubs. If Remlinger matches his performance with the Braves for the last three years, which is iffy at best, he would still not be worth $10.5 over three years in today's market. Also, who is to say that the Cubs will compete in the near future. Do they even need an expensive long reliever? Meanwhile Greg Maddux's phone is apparently still awaiting its first free-agent ring.
Meta Awards? II Oops, I
Meta Awards? II
Oops, I forgot the link. It's fixed now. Sorry.
Ivan-t a Job Phil Rogers
Ivan-t a Job
Phil Rogers reports that Ivan Rodriguez, whose presence on the Rangers was once considered sacrosanct, is now left adrift scrounging for a job due to his frequent injuries. I found a few issues in the article quite interesting.
First, Rogers claims that "Ivan Rodriguez has Cooperstown numbers." Are we prepared to state this as yet? Rodriguez has 10 Gold Gloves, 10 All-Star appearances, and an MVP award. He has a 136 score in the Hall of Fame Monitor (100 implies a likely HoFer) and a 42.5 in the Hall of Fame Standards test (50 is average for a HoFer). Gary Carter had similar figures and has had to wait for the plaque. He also has four similar players out of 10 who are Hall of Famers. If Rodriguez quit the game today (or never finds another job), what are the odds of his enshrinement? Not very good, I would think. It's not that I have anything against Pudge. It's that the voters will view him perhaps unfairly as washed up before 30 and, therefore, not a Hall-of-Famer. It's a minor point, but Mama, that's where the fun is.
Second "Baltimore and the Cubs are the only teams that have expressed any interest..." I am at a loss as to why the rebuilding Orioles would be interested in plunking down millions on Rodriguez. Geronimo Gil had a wretched season last year (his .632 OPS was only 68% of the park-adjusted average), protestations by Rogers notwithstanding, but Rodriguez has not exactly shown a penchant for developing young arms and will not come cheap. Chicago seems a poor candidate as well, at least on the surface. The Cubs just acquired starting catcher Damian Miller and backup Paul Bako in the offseason. They also owe $12.5 M to returning catcher Todd Hundley. However, they do enter the season will untried rookie Hee Seop Choi at first base. If they could induce Rodriguez to switch to first to reduce the wear and tear on his knees and back, they might have a pretty good pickup. Only seven major-league first basemen (including Texas teammate Rafael Palmeiro) posted an OPS higher than Rodriguez's .895 last year. I doubt that Rodriguez, who prides himself on his defense, would go for it though. Two other points: Rodriguez has never played first, not that he couldn't pick it up if he had a mind to. Pudge's numbers as a DH (the only other spot besides catcher he has occupied) in the last four years are execrable (about a .525 OPS, .197 average, 1 home run, 10 strikeouts, and no walks in 76 at-bats), though they could have come from periods when he was recovery from an injury. Make that three: However, if you look at the three players most similar to Rodriguez over their careers (Ernie Lombardi, Bill Dickey, and Mickey Cochrane) and the three most similar at the age of 30 (Ted Simmons, Yogi Berra, and Joe Torre), none played more than 120 games at catcher after his 32 birthday and some had already switched positions.
Third, Rogers opines that "[h]ealth is the only reason Rodriguez didn't join Jim Thome as this winter's premiere free agent." Is that true? Well, Rodriguez's OPS has remained at or above the 25% above average (park-adjusted) that it was in his MVP year (52%, 30%, and 23% above average the last three years). His .931 OPS last year led all major-league starting catchers. I would say that it is true.
Fourth, Rodriguez, in Roger's estimation, "is likely to have found a team willing to give him $8-10 million a year for three or four years, possibly with vesting options that could make it even longer." I would be surprised if he made that much in these austere times especially given the lack of competition for his services, but you never know.
Lastly, Rogers states that "Texas... has almost no idea who will catch if Rodriguez leaves. It has explored trades for Montreal's Michael Barrett and Cleveland's Einar Diaz and would be interested in Miller if the Cubs signed Rodriguez." Shouldn't the Rangers be trying to rectify this situation even if they do re-sign Rodriguez, given the likelihood of injury. By the way, Todd Green was terrific in a backup role last year and as far as I can tell is still signed.
Phils Engorge Thome Jayson Starke
Phils Engorge Thome
Jayson Starke reports that the Phils have signed free-agent firstbaseman Jim Thome to the tune of 6 years and $87 M. The third player in the Phillies' trifecta, Tom Glavine, is still weighing his decision.
By the way, here's the Phila. Inquirer story with a picture of a menacing Phillie Phantic awaiting Thome with open arms.
Insuring Against Disaster: Did Belle
Insuring Against Disaster: Did Belle Ring Death Knell for Long-Term Contracts?
This Murray Chass story explains why clubs are so reluctant to extend to players anything longer than a 3-year contract. Evidently, the disability insurance that teams have changed substantially in the last couple of years:
"[P]remiums have risen more than 300 percent in the past 30 months, coverage has been reduced from five years of a player's contract to three years and the amount of coverage a broker can issue immediately is $18 million to $20 million, down from $42 million to $50 million just two years ago."
This will be an interesting variable in, among others, the Tom Glavine negotiations. Given that the 36-year-old Glavine is now demanding four years and $44 M, both of which exceed the amount that may be entirely insured, this may become a deal breaker for one or more of the teams involved.
One other note:
"If a player's five-year contract is insured for the first three years and the player sustains a career-ending injury in the first three years, the policy will pay off on all five years. But if the player gets through the first three years and the club wants to keep the contract insured, it has to apply for a new policy for the last two years. "
This may have some interesting consequences in contracts signed by older players. Similar scenarios to the Jay Bell involuntary retirement that the D-Backs instituted earlier this year may become common. If an older player is hurt in his third year, there is an incentive for the team not to allow him to return in order to collect the insurance. This is especially true if the player either had been displaying diminished skills prior to the injuries or has sustained an injury that promises to hasten the deterioration process. Why allow the player back onto the team if his skills can be replaced by another player at a reduced rate while the insurance pays the bulk of the high-paid has-been's salary?
14 K Is A-OK Mike's
14 K Is A-OK
Mike's Baseball Rants just received its 14,000th visitor since going live on July 11 of this year. Thanks for stopping by. Please come again.
...And Mr. Met is a
...And Mr. Met is a Delinquent Dad
An AP story floated over the weekend stating that the Mets were $1 million in arrears in paying their rent. When you consider that the Mets pay around $10 M per annum based on revenue and attendance for the right to call Shea Stadium home with its hokey big red apple from and frequent flyovers, isn't this oversight comparable to your owing the water company an extra $10 after they read your meter and find that their initial estimates were low?
As George Thorogood once said (in a great song stolen from John Lee Hooker), "She busy a-hollerin' about the front rent, she'll be lucky to get any back rent. She ain't gonna get none of it."
Class of 2003? ESPN reports
Class of 2003?
ESPN reports that the new Hall of Fame ballot has been established and sent to the voters in time to get lost in the holiday mail crunch. The ballot contains 32 players, including 17 newcomers (among them the recently deceased Darryl Kile).
Conventional wisdom points to Gary Carter, who missed by 2.3% last year, and newcomers Eddie Murray (no brainer: 500 HRs and 3,000 Hs), all-time save leader Lee Smith, and second baseman Ryne Sandberg as the best bets for 2003 enshrinement. Unfortunately, that makes it more difficult for the worthy Jim Kaat to garner the necessary votes in his last year of eligibility (though the Veterans' Committee will probably come to his aid).
Here is a rundown of all the candidates and their chances based on the Hall of Fame guidelines that Bill James invented (thanks to Baseball-reference.com). For each category, I have indicated if each candidate meets the standard. Also, I have included the candidate's first year of eligibility, his 2001 voting percentage, and an assessment based on all of these criteria as to the likelihood of the candidate's enshrinement :
First Black Ink >HOF Gray Ink >HOF HOF Standard >HOF HOF Monitor Likely # Similar >50% 2001 Verdict Year (Avg 40) Avg (Avg 185) Avg (Avg 50) Avg (Likely >100) HOF? in Hall HOF% Bert Blyleven 1997 16 No 239 Yes 50.0 Yes 113.5 Yes 8 Yes 26.27 Veterans' Committee Brett Butler 2002 16 No 117 No 36.0 No 50.5 No 3 No Dropped Gary Carter 1997 4 No 75 No 41.3 No 135.0 Yes 4 No 72.67 2003 inductee Vince Coleman 2002 12 No 49 No 12.9 No 27.0 No 1 No Dropped Dave Concepcion 1993 0 No 25 No 29.1 No 107.0 Yes 4 No 11.86 VC Darren Daulton 2002 4 No 22 No 30.9 No 25.0 No 0 No Dropped Mark Davis 2002 3 No 9 No 5.0 No 26.0 No 0 No Dropped Andre Dawson 2001 11 No 164 No 43.7 No 117.5 Yes 5 Yes 45.34 Not in 2003, maybe someday Sid Fernandez 2002 6 No 58 No 21.0 No 17.0 No 0 No Dropped Steve Garvey 1992 12 No 142 No 31.5 No 131.0 Yes 1 No 28.39 VC Rich Gossage 1999 9 No 41 No 19.0 No 118.0 Yes 2 No 43.01 Not in 2003, maybe someday Keith Hernandez 1995 14 No 118 No 32.0 No 86.0 No 0 No 6.14 Unlikely Rick Honeycutt 2002 6 No 21 No 9.0 No 30.0 No 0 No Dropped Danny Jackson 2002 6 No 54 No 6.0 No 25.5 No 0 No Dropped Tommy John 1994 8 No 137 No 44.0 No 100.0 Yes 7 Yes 26.91 VC Jim Kaat 1988 19 No 128 No 44.0 No 120.5 Yes 7 Yes 23.09 VC Darryl Kile 2002 1 No 79 No 12.0 No 31.0 No 0 No Dropped Don Mattingly 2000 23 No 111 No 34.1 No 134.0 Yes 2 No 20.34 VC Jack Morris 1999 20 No 190 Yes 39.0 No 108.5 Yes 7 Yes 20.55 VC Dale Murphy 1998 31 No 147 No 34.3 No 115.5 Yes 1 No 14.83 VC Eddie Murray 2002 11 No 181 No 55.8 Yes 155.0 Yes 7 Yes 2003 inductee Dave Parker 1996 26 No 145 No 41.1 No 125.5 Yes 2 No 13.98 VC Tony Pena 2002 0 No 8 No 22.8 No 97.0 No 2 No Unlikely Jim Rice 1994 33 No 176 No 42.9 No 147.0 Yes 4 No 55.08 Not in 2003, maybe someday Ryne Sandberg 2002 14 No 134 No 42.7 No 157.0 Yes 1 No 2003 inductee Lee Smith 2002 12 No 48 No 13.0 No 136.0 Yes 1 No 2003 inductee Bruce Sutter 1993 15 No 30 No 17.0 No 87.0 No 0 No 50.42 Not in 2003, maybe someday Danny Tartabull 2002 3 No 52 No 25.1 No 31.0 No 1 No Dropped Mickey Tettleton 2002 2 No 41 No 29.0 No 17.0 No 0 No Dropped Alan Trammell 2001 0 No 48 No 40.4 No 119.0 Yes 1 No 15.68 VC Fernando Valenzuela 2002 19 No 134 No 25.0 No 64.5 No 0 No Unlikely Mitch Williams 2002 2 No 23 No 0.0 No 27.0 No 0 No Dropped Todd Worrell 2002 6 No 21 No 0.0 No 56.0 No 0 No Dropped
By the way, if it were up to me, I would put Murray, Carter, Blyleven, Sandberg, Kaat, and Gossage in, probably in that order (I would also include some ineligible players: Ron Santo, Bobby Grich, and the Evans boys come to mind). There are a good deal of strong candidates however, and valid arguments could be made for a few others. In fact it appears (look at 2001 voting) that 3-4 strong starting pitching candidates are splitting the vote thereby preventing each other from approaching the magical 75% level.
Also, note that no one in the group compares to an average Hall of Famer as far as the black ink test is concerned. It seems that with all of the ballplayers today due to expansion, it's harder for a player to lead the league in a category. Even a clear first-year nominee like Murray didn't come close to the average 40 score (though his career was more about sustained excellence than one-year bursts).
Meta Awards? Baseball Never Met
Meta Awards? Baseball Never Met an Award It Didn't Like
My friend Mike sent me this link to MLB's own award page. He suggests that there be an award added for best award. I guess baseball needed to invent a whole series of awards for Alex Rodriguez to lose. Hey. maybe he'll get the blooper award (unless Juan Gonzalez is entered).
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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