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Monthly archives: March 2003

 

Ugly Canadians Remember when Canadians
2003-03-31 15:15
by Mike Carminati

Ugly Canadians

Remember when Canadians were lovable hosers in the Bob and Doung McKenzie mold? Well, Canadians are now out-phillying Philly fans in boorishness booing the American national anthem on a few occasions.

Now even the Candian teams are getting into the act. The Toronto Blue Jays have an ad campaign which might be preparing them Napoleanically to fight on two fronts, Japan and the USA.

Taped to the door of the Yankees' clubhouse was a team-sponsored newspaper ad that targeted Matsui. "Boo Matsui," it read, in English and Japanese, with a photo of a Yankee cap pelted by bird droppings.

My thoughts:

A) Matsui has yet to proof himself a boo-able commodity. There are doubts among many that he will as big a power hitter in the states as he was in Japan. No one posts adds to "Boo Todd Zeile."

B) Even if Matsui becomes the next power-hitting Ichiro, he had better take a number and get in line when it comes to Yankee personalities to boo. Now, an ad campaign to boo David Wells is something even a number of Yankee fans could get behind.

C) What ever happened to being a gracious host? I guess this is a back-handed compliment but in the simpler days of my youth teams would feature the stars of the opponents with a subtle nod to the division rivalry: "Come see our Phils play Willie Stargell and the Big Bad Bucs" (or words to that effect).

D) As a regular visitor to the Bronx shrine, I would advise the Blue Jays to let those sleeping giants lie. Trust me, there is nothing that the pathetic Canadian fans can say that would be new to anyone who has played in the Bronx. All this does is invite payback for their players, if any are known to Yankee fans, on their next trip to the Stadium. To quote Rick Blaine from Casablanca, "There are certain sections of New York [the Bronx being one of them], that I wouldn't advise you to try to invade."

E) Finally, are the Blue Jays advocating that the local Torontoan bird population empty their spleen, literally, on Mr. Matsui in some sort Mel Brooks-ian refraction of Hitchcock's The Birds? Domo arigato..not.

Matsui, to his credit, seems unfazed:

"I don't have anything special to say," he said through an interpreter. "I guess I'm happy that the fans are actually aware of my name."

Manager Joe Torre wasn't exactly pleased by the ad:

Torre saw the ad while riding the team bus this morning. He believed it was inappropriate and said it went "beyond having fun."
"I thought it was tasteless, especially in the climate of what's going on in the world," Torre said. "I can understand fun and games, but I thought it was a little bit too much."

I consider sports a form of escape from serious issues like war, but I guess I see his point.

Jason Giambi, after only one year in Yankee garb, was surprising circumspect and blase about it:

"I don't think everybody who comes out is going to boo Matsui," first baseman Jason Giambi said. "They're going to boo the Yankees, period."

It is surprising that such a young and exciting team like the Jays needs to resort to these tactics to sell tickets. I guess that's what happens when one's currency is so debased that it converts almost even up with lire.


Fearless Predictions Which Are Invariably
2003-03-30 20:49
by Mike Carminati

Fearless Predictions Which Are Invariably Wrong, II

Great Diamond Minds think alike...and then there's me.


Flaherty Clarity So the biggest
2003-03-30 20:47
by Mike Carminati

Flaherty Clarity

So the biggest issue in the Bronx is finally resolved...John Flaherty will be the backup catcher for the Yankees. Phew! It's nice to have such trivial problems like a superfluity of starting pitchers and a nip-and-tuck battle for backup positions by players who had been starters in previous incarnations.

This "race" was even a bigger fix than rotation, which may have been set by Joe Torre standing by his promise to slip Weaver into a spot. Torre made it abundantly clear in 2002 that he would rather use Don Zimmer as a receiver than Widger (21 games and 64 at-bats). Widger produced adequately when called upon, but Torre treated Widger's spring return like Roger Ebert viewing the latest Adam Sandler epic.

Torre said that it came down to defense, but looking at their defensive numbers, which I admit do not tell the full story especially for catchers, over at Baseball-Reference.com, both players look equally sub-par (Flaherty's 6.05 range factor compared to the league's 6.33 and Widger: 6.11 to the league's 6.58).

Neither catcher can be accused of channeling Josh Gibson, but both have hit as many as 14 home runs in a season as a starter. Widger is a bit handier with the bat with a slugging average 33 points higher than Flaherty. Neither gets on base more than 30% of the time though.

By the way, Flaherty is almost four years older as well.

Given the fact that Torre didn't let Widger catch some members of the staff I can't disagree with Widger's statements that he was predestined to be cut (But what about free will?):

"It just bothered me that they tried to play it off like it was wide open, and it wasn't."

This is again an example of Torre preferring role players due to apparently idiosyncratic reasons. His dislike for the little-used lefty reliever Randy Choate allowed heretofore-unknown Jason Anderson (who I keep on referring to as Jason Alexander) make the team. Torre likes backup catchers in the Joe Girardi mold. Widger didn't fit that mold. Neither did Todd Greene nor Bobby Estelella, both of whom have found new lives in other organizations.

So let's assume that Widger is superior to Flaherty--is this a bad thing for the Yankees. I think not. If Torre will use Flaherty and rest Jose Posada at least occasionally, Posada will have a little left in his tank for the inevitable Yankee postseason appearance. The same goes for Anderson. Maybe the Yankees will rely on more than three healthy arms this year. And if you're a Yankees fan, that's a good thing.


Fearless Predictions Which Are Invariably
2003-03-30 11:39
by Mike Carminati

Fearless Predictions Which Are Invariably Wrong

Today is opening day, so I'm willing to go on the record with some fearless predictions that will look miserably wrong by June:

NL East
1. Phillies
2. Braves
3. Expos
4. Mets
5. Marlins

NL Central
1. Astros
2. Cardinals
3. Cubs
4. Reds
5. Pirates
6. Brewers

NL West
1. Diamondbacks
2. Giants
3. Dodgers
4. Rockies
5. Padres

AL East
1. Yankees
2. Red Sox
3. Blue Jays
4. Orioles
5. Devil Rays

AL Central
1. White Sox
2. Twins
3. Indians
4. Royals
5. Tigers

AL West
1. A's
2. Mariners
3. Angels
4. Rangers

Wildcards: Giants and Mariners
League Champions: Yankees and Diamondbacks
World Series Champs: Yankees


Jack Russell Terrier Down (They
2003-03-29 02:12
by Mike Carminati

Jack Russell Terrier Down (They all can't be gems, folks)

The Phils played their final game at Clearwater's Jack Russell stadium today. Their first was in 1955 and Robin Roberts throw out the first pitch in both games--it was only a ceremonial one today.

The Stadium was named after a former pitcher who went 85-141 over 15 major-league seasons. He was an All-Star in 1934 after his career year of 12-6, 2.69 ERA (56% better than average) in '33.

In reminiscing, former Phillies cited a moment from my childhood (though I didn't know about the underwear):

Former outfielder Greg Luzinski and [manager Larry] Bowa recalled reliever Tug McGraw showing up one spring for a St. Patrick's Day game in a green uniform. Luzinski said the green motif extended all the way to McGraw's protective undergarment.

The stadium will be used this year by the Phils' Florida State League affiliate and then be torn down.


Missing Link I have organized
2003-03-29 02:00
by Mike Carminati

Missing Link

I have organized my links by category and have added just about any link I could think of. If I missed anyone, let me know.

I have also devoted a section to my idle, er, idol, Joe Morgan. Praise be to him.

Look for these links in a theater near you. They will be available whenever a Blogger bug is not preventing them from being shown, which is probably rare.


YES, We Have No Yankee
2003-03-29 01:57
by Mike Carminati

YES, We Have No Yankee Games...

The proposed deal between YES and Cablevision has unraveled. Why can't the two Expo co-owners ink a deal? If Bud had any cajones, he would get the Steinbrenner and Dolan in a room and solve this. It's in the best interests of baseball after all: ant additional money garnered through the wider TV audience will end up in other owners' pockets anyway.


Contract Al Martin, Please Al
2003-03-29 01:46
by Mike Carminati

Contract Al Martin, Please

Al Martin, the man who has typified the average left fielder for more than a decade, was given his walking papers today by the Florida Marlins. It seems that Martin didn't want to accept a condition that gave the Marlins power of attorney to demote him to the minors. Apparently, that was what was on the Marlins mind, since they then cut the former Pirate loose.

Don't cry for Martin though, Argentina. You see, he didn't have far to walk with those papers (where does that expression come from anyway?). Martin landed in Tampa Bay later on today. It appears that the Devil Rays strategy is improvement by waiver wire as they acquired the recently released (by the Braves) Mike Venafro as well.


It Aint Easley The Tigers
2003-03-29 01:36
by Mike Carminati

It Aint Easley

The Tigers cut Damion Easley today. Easley is still owed $14.3 M by the Tigers, making him the most expensive dumping ever (and you thought Darva Conger held that record).

Easley signed the contract prior to the 1998 season and as his salary has been going up, his stats have been tanking:

Year Age HR RBI SB  AVG  OBP  SLG  OPS Adj     Salary
1997 27  22  72 28 .264 .362 .471 .833 117   $675,000
1998 28  27 100 15 .271 .332 .478 .810 107 $2,050,000
1999 29  20  65 11 .266 .346 .434 .780  97 $3,350,000
2000 30  14  58 13 .259 .350 .416 .766  96 $3,950,000
2001 31  11  65 10 .250 .323 .376 .699  85 $5,075,000
2002 32   8  30  1 .224 .307 .355 .662  82 $6,250,000

I guess that's what you get when you lock in a player after a career year. To follow the mid-'90s Indians' model of locking up young talent for many years, a) the young talent has to be young, which 27 is not, and b) you have to make sure that they are not a flash in the pan. The Tigers saw Easley as a 30-30 middle infielder and salivated. That's why the Tigers are where they are now...in Detroit ("Detroit! No, not Detroit!" Thank you, Kentucky Fried Movie).


Neifi Say Neifi Here's a
2003-03-29 01:18
by Mike Carminati

Neifi Say Neifi

Here's a great tidbit from Lee Sinins ATM Report earlier today:

According to Giants MGR Felipe Alou, the biggest question facing the team is "how to get Neifi Perez enough game time. He's a giant of a player. He's proven it before, he's proving it in this camp and, unfortunately, I don't have the room for a talent like that. I say this because I don't want anybody to get hurt or hit a bad slump so Neifi Perez could become a regular. It's really a tough situation. There are a lot of challenges. But I hate to have talent like that sitting on the bench."

Alou also says, "My concern is Neifi Perez. On Opening Day he will not be in the game. That's the way it is." According to Alou, he's going to "negotiate" with the starters to see if Perez can start a couple of times a week.

According to the Kansas City Star, Perez has asked his agent to ask the Giants to trade him. Unfortunately for Giants fans, not only does GM Brian Sabean say, "We have no plans of trading Neifi Perez," he compounds the damage by also stating, "No promises were made to him. He's a valuable asset, and Felipe has talked with him about the situation. He will get him more than 300 at-bats by resting guys and keeping them fresh, especially in day games after night games."

Lordy mama, sing the blues! Perez should be happy to collect his inflated paycheck. Give him 300 ABs? Where will they come from? Aurilia, Alfonso, and Durham, unless they plan to use him as DH. What a waste!

I'm beginning to think that Alou's presence is going to ensure that the NL West is a two-team race. Between the D-Backs and the Dodgers, that is. I liked this team last year, but Barry Bonds may have to hit a hundred dingers to make up for the myriad mistakes Alou will make. I'm speaking in hyperbole, of course, but with the liabilities on this team (Grissom coming off a late career year, Santiago's age, J.T. Snow's decline, Jose Cruz's head, and an asi asi staff), they don't need another at manager. And Alou proved in Montreal that he can drain the life out of a franchise. At least in San Francisco, he won't have Jeffrey Loria to help him.


Brewers Brook No Kieschnick The
2003-03-28 12:48
by Mike Carminati

Brewers Brook No Kieschnick

The Brooks Kieschnick experiment has ended at least temporarily for the Brewers. Kieschnick was trying to make the club as a power-hitting role player and a right-handed relief pitcher but was sent down by the Brewers yesterday.

It was a great story. What with teams looking for more and more versatility out of their role players, bringing back the old position player/pitcher seemed a natural progression. When teams now carry 12 pitchers, wouldn't it be greart if one of those twelve could be used to pinch-hit or be able to stay in a ballgame longer because he can hit for himself?

But the one flaw with the logic: it requires that the pitcher-position player's team have a pressing need to save a roster spot. With the dreck that the Brewers are using to fill out their roster, who cares if there is an extra Keith Ginter or two?


Cone-back Complete Despite my warnings
2003-03-28 12:09
by Mike Carminati

Cone-back Complete

Despite my warnings to the contrary, the Mets have decided to put 40-year-old, ex-shuffleboarder David Cone in their rotation. He's even their number 4 starter.

I think it's part of an errant plan by Steve Phillips to coerce the Mets into the playoffs and thereby save what is left of his career, a la Dan Duquette and the pre-John Henry Red Sox. Youngsters Mike Bacsik and Jae Seo will fill in as the number five starter until Pedro Astacio returns. Then the Mets' superannuated staff will be complete.

As a Phillies fan I love it. The Mets will waste innings on a dead-end player while their young arms languish. Don't get me wrong: I like Cone. I think that he is as underrated a player as anyone who has spent the bulk of his career in New York can be. He is also a very intelligent and thoughtful man. But I don't expect much from him in this comeback.

Then again given that the Phils can be no-hit by the Devil Rays of all teams, it may not matter who's opposing them.


Shane! Don't Come Back, Shane!
2003-03-27 23:59
by Mike Carminati

Shane! Don't Come Back, Shane!

The Astros released veteran starting pitcher Shane Reynolds in a turn events that ESPN calls a "Spring Shock". Leonard Malton calls it a "rollercoaster ride-great fun for the whole family." While Ebert and Roeper give it "two thumbs way up!"

But what's so shocking? Reynolds had been slotted as the 'Stros number three starter and Tim Redding and Jeriome "Cheerioios" Robertson had been competing for the final spot in the rotation. Now Reynolds is out and Redding and Robertson are both in the rotation.

Maybe the oddest thing is that the two men that benefit most by Reynolds' departure seem the most broken up by it:

"It was kind of a somber moment," Redding said. "I know Jeriome's thrilled and I'm happy too. But at no time do you think you could see a guy like Shane Reynolds released.

"I kind of have mixed emotions, though. I'm thrilled to have a spot on the team and a spot in the rotation."

"That's a tough loss for us,'' Robertson said. ``That guy has a lot of knowledge about the game, and a young staff like ours needs that. I feel he's a good pitcher, too."

Even Gerry Hunsicker, the man who gave Reynolds his walking papers, seemed

"You had the trade off -- two talented young kids who are unproven at this level versus a veteran that has performed well at this level, but has recently struggled and has now had back surgery in the background," Hunsicker said.

Recent struggles? Reynolds hasn't had a sub-4.00 ERA or an injury-free season since 1999. His strikeouts per nine innings had also dropped precipitously since then. The man is 35 as of yesterday (nice birthday present, eh?) and not only oft-injured but currently injured. The million dollars still owed to him should ease the pain.

So the Astros will start the season with four starters who are either 25 or 26 years old. The old man of the rotation will be Brian Moehler at 31. Redding does not really impress me even with his mid-90s fastball. He seems too inconsistent. Robertson had a very good year last year in the PCL with very good ratios but worked out of the bullpen in 2001 and had some poor seasons prior to that.

Even with the question marks that surround these two, they ought to be better than Reynolds. Besides Peter Munro, Jimmy Barrett, Rodrigo Rosario, and Kirk Saarloos aaree all available for recall at any point from the minors. I guess the only issue is the lack of experience in the rotation, but that doesn't seem to be holding the A's back. Besides given Reynolds fragility, the club would probably have to turn to unproven commodities at some point this season.

Rob Neyer characterized the Livan Hernandez trade as "addition by subtraction". I disagreed with him regarding Hernandez, but I think that the phrase applies here. Honor Reynolds with his one "Shane Reynolds Day", fete him, make him V.P., but there really is no room for sentimentality for a club that should be in a dog fight for the Central crown this year.


Morgan by Numbers It will
2003-03-27 13:54
by Mike Carminati

Morgan by Numbers

It will soon be April and the regular season is just days away but Joe Morgan has apparently forgotten to get a new calendar. Morgan has a World Series preview that basically predicts that 2003 will be, well, 2002.

From the estimable Joe's scant article it is clear that there are no more than four or five teams per league that even have a shot of playing in October and one of them is the Rangers who lost their All-Star catcher and staff ace this offseason. Oh, and they finished last albeit in a strong division in 2002. But Joe's logic is "They have baseball's best player, Alex Rodriguez, and one of these years their pitching and defense could come around. Will this be the season they put it together?" No, it isn't and why would one think it were when they just lost their only starter with a sub-4.00 ERA? So Joe picks the lowly Rangers but ignores the Mariners (who won 116 games just two years ago), Red Sox, White Sox, Blue Jays, Phillies, Mets, Expos, Astros, and Dodgers, among other, all of which had better records in 2002 than did Texas.

Here are some other gems:

The Angels won the World Series not because of superior talent or dominant pitching or tremendous sluggers. They won because they understood what the word team means.

So they had the sense to look the word team up in the dictionary. The other teams thought there was an I in team, but the Angels knew better? Uh, no. They slugged .512 in the postseason. Thet's why they won the Series. The got to the postseason because of good pitching (second in the league in ERA, only 1 point behind Oakland), and an effective offense. They did have an unusual offense with very few walks, strikeouts, homers, and grounded-into-DP but a high batting average with lots of doubles, sacrifice bunts and flies, and hits batsmen. The 2001 Angels had largely the same stats, but in 2002 they reduced the strikeouts and upped the batting average. Oh and they learned the definition of team.

The fact that the Angels won in this manner will be reflected in the way other teams try to play this year. It's common for teams to attempt to imitate the success of other clubs and build their teams accordingly. This season, I believe we'll see teams being more aggressive than before -- taking the extra base, going from first to third, putting pressure on the defense to make plays.

Well, home runs are down slightly from their historic level a couple of years ago. Those sorts of strategies should be dusted off and given new life. However, keep in mind that the Yankees were an "NL"-style team during the late '90s, and their success didn't seem to produce too many converts.

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

Well, the A's did drew fewer walks and they did rely on their power, slugging .500 in the 2002 playoffs. I don't know if that is the reason that they lost. Their offense looked OK until the last two games of the series. They were done in by a poor defense and pitching in game four and lost a squeaker in game 5. I don't know if anything conclusive can be said other than Art Howe having to learn to set up his postseason rotation a little better.

Superior pitching has been the Braves' staple during their amazing run the past decade-plus. But after Gary Sheffield and Chipper Jones, their offense is suspect. And while their overhauled rotation appears to be weaker, Greg Maddux has said that this could be the best staff the Braves have had. When he says that, you take notice.

I don't know why Maddux said that, but it is not really a defensible position. Maybe it's hopeful thinking. Behind the aging Maddux are monumental washout Mike Hampton, the mercurial and often injured Paul Byrd, the underachieving and largely average Russ Ortiz, and the still untested Jason Marquis. Add in a rebuilt bullpen and there is a large potential for failure. I'm not saying that Cox and Mazzone won't do their usual miraculous job with the staff. I'm just saying that it is a longer shot than they've had in Atlanta since Charlie Leibrandt's day.

This year the Giants have added speed guys -- second baseman Ray Durham and outfielders Marquis Grissom and Jose Cruz Jr. -- while slugging second baseman Jeff Kent departed for the Astros.

Not really, Grissom hasn't been a speed guy since 2000. Cruz and Durham were acquired as the best players available to fill holes.Cruz only stole 7 bases last year and was acquired more for his bat. Durham does have good speed but he isn't exactly Rey Ordonez with the bat either. In fact, aside from losing Kent's pop at second, one could make a decent argument that the Giants have better sluggers at the four positions that changed hands (center, right, third, and second) than in 2002.

Mr. non-sequitor sums it all up in a stream of consiousness that flows nowhere:

So these are the favorites. But remember, the Angels went from 41 games out in 2001 to the world championship in 2002. And that can happen again -- other teams have similar potential this season. But they must commit to a total team effort for it to happen. So keep this in mind on Opening Day: More than just the big-market teams have a chance to win.

So anyone can win? Great Joe, I hadn't figured that out yet. I thought the Yankees already had a playoff spot assigned to them.

Joe, you have to do better than this. If you are going to make predictions, you have to pick somebody. You did the first stage, picking playoff teams. Well, that was easy because you just listed the 2002 playoff teams, but you did offer an opinion, I guess. So, now pick the league champs and World Series winner. Will the Angels continue to dazzle or will the new blood in the Bronx bring a championship to the Yankees? Can Johnson and Schilling bring another championship to the desert? Heck, pick the Rangers--it's nutty but it's at least a position.

Joe, on second thought just pick the Giants and Angels. They won last year, and that appears to be your main criterion anyway.

I do have to admit that the man is in mid-season form and the season hasn't even started. I can't take that away from him.


Spreading the Belth-Miller Time in
2003-03-26 23:33
by Mike Carminati

Spreading the Belth-Miller Time in the Bronx

Alex Belth over at Bronx Banter conducted a quite an interesting interview with the estimable Marvin Miller a few days ago. Miller should have gone in the Hall in the last Vets' Committee vote, but appears his ever-affable self when discussing the sport.

The man has a great mind for the business of baseball. He succinctly summed up Curt Flood's involvement in the advent of free agency:

Q: Flood's legacy is often misconstrued. A lot the time I hear him referred to the first free agent, or the guy who started free agency, which isn't the case at all.

MM: You are right; it wasn't the case at all. The case lost, beyond appeals. Nothing concrete came of it other than the educational aspect that we talked about before. The union itself, which through the unity of it's members, through the understanding of the members of what needed to be done, through the skills of people like Richard Moss, who was the general council, who argued the case, to the union's successful effort to have both a grievance procedure and eventually impartial arbitration, all these factors and more, were responsible for the progress that was made.

Without taking anything away from the bravery that Flood evinced, Miller explains the real turning point in the war was the negotiation of the impartial arbitrator:

Q: So the provision in the 1970 basic agreement that arranged for an impartial arbitrator was far more important to how free agency came about than Flood's case.

MM: Oh, without any question. Because as you know, what eventually over-turned the Reserve Clause was a grievance heard by an impartial arbitrator in 1975, and without that having been gained in the contract, it would have been heard by the owner's commissioner, who could tell you up till today, how he would have ruled.

Miller's baseball autobiography A Whole Different Ballgame is a must read for any baseball fan, whether pro-player or pro-owner. I don't think that it's an overstatement to say that Miller is the most influential person off the field since Branch Rickey. The interview is a great leaping-off point in delving into Miller's well-oiled mind.

Also, I wanted to express my thanks to Alex for some very flattering, and I'm sure undeserved, comments that he posted regarding my series on the history of relief pitching.


Central Issues The NL Central
2003-03-26 23:17
by Mike Carminati

Central Issues

The NL Central is perhaps the best argument against small-market and large-market distinctions presaging a team's destiny that there is in baseball. The two large-market teams, Chicago and Houston, look pretty good, but small-market St. Louis is still the favorite among most analysts.

Besides the size of the market is not determining where these teams end up: it's the poor decisions that they make. Witness these three moves that have happened in the last few days:

- Pittsburgh cut recently acquired and reportedly "shocked" Matt Herges. Herges had a good spring, cost the Pirates a top prospect, and makes under a million dollars. The Pirates get to save the extra $500K they would spend on him and they hold onto Salomon Torres in the bullpen as a safety starter should #5 man, Jeff D'Amico prove ineffective. A) No one really uses their fifth starter for a month anyway, so Torres is a backup to a backup and B) Torres was out of the game for 5 full years--why the interest in retaining his services if he can't make the rotation?

- Cincinnati sent down Chris Reitsma. Reitsma is far from an All-Star but there should be a spot on the weak Cincinnati staff for a 25-year-old who had a 3.64 ERA, 1.37 WHIP, and a 1.87 strikeout-to-walk ratio last year. Why is Reitsma gone? Because he had a poor spring and because he was 6-12 last year. And he was the only guy with options left.

Consider that journeyman-cum-staff leader Jimmy Haynes had a 4.12 ERA, a 1.55 strikeout -to-walk ratio, and strike out only 5.77 men per nine innings last year. Oh, and he won 15 games. That's what impresses the inimitable Reds manager, Bob Boone. When you look at the dreck in the Reds' rotation and bullpen, it's amazing that Boone couldn't find a job for a decent young starter.

- Tonight the Cubs sent second baseman Bobby Hill down to Triple-A and gave his job to veteran Mark Grudzielanek. Hill had a poor spring batting .154 and committing 5 errors, but the Cubs' bringing in Grudzielanek as his understudy probably didn't help build his confidence.

The Cubs are left with a poor choice at second base, both offensively and defensively. There are rumors that Grudzielanek (.301 OBP in 2002) may even lead off. Meanwhile, one of the clubs' biggest prospects languishes in the minors.

Expect the same treatment for Hee Seop Choi at first with Eric Karros waiting in the wings. Consider that Grudzielanek was batting only .133 in limited action this spring himself. Choi is having a good spring (.304 BA), but rumors are already circulating that he has too slow a swing to be a power hitter. And Dusty does love those veterans. Karros is already set to start against left-handers.


Livan on a Jet Plane
2003-03-26 15:24
by Mike Carminati

Livan on a Jet Plane

When I first heard about the Livan Hernandez trade, my reaction was, I would assume, about the same as those of many Giants' fans: I thought that it was a great move by the Giants. They rid themselves of an underperforming, overpaid troublemaker. Hernandez gets to serve out his contract in baseball's version of Elban exile--at least until his troubles pass and the great Omar Minaya decides to recycle the Hernandez brothers to whomever Bud owes a favor to that week for that team's doghouse residents du jour. They'll make sure that it comes after the trip to San Juan to exploit the ex-Cuban giants.

Here's what Rob Neyer had to say about the move:

What a brilliant move by Giants GM Brian Sabean.

You've heard of addition by subtraction? You'll rarely see a better example than this one. Livan Hernandez figured to be the fourth-best, or perhaps even the fifth-best, starter in the Giants' rotation. Now that he's off to join his half-brother in Montreal (and San Juan), the Giants are practically forced to give rookie Kurt Ainsworth a shot. And if somebody can convince Sabean to dump Ryan Jensen in favor of Jesse Foppert (another rookie), the Giants will really have something interesting.

However, after looking over the trade, I can't say that it actually reflects well upon the Giants. The trade the pitcher that they (foolishly) chose to pitch the seventh game of the World Series a scant four months ago. Now the throw him out with the garbage, er the Edwards Guzman, whoever they are. The Giants are still paying all but the league minimum of Hernandez's contract. They got Jim Brower, who'll out-Witasick any other pitcher in the pen. Meanwhile Ainsworth and possibly the foppish Foppert move into the rotation. They are both highly touted, but when you fill out your rotation with three number-three pitchers and two rookies, it does not bode well for the season. (I see the headlines now, "Foppert Flop".)

Hernandez was far from a staff leader, but the Giants are still paying him to pitch, just in Montreal. He is still just 28 (at least until his visa is reviewed). I still have the impression, inaccruate though it may be, that his abuse in Florida is the root of his sub-par pitching. But maybe he's the root. Or maybe it's his golf game. Or maybe it's too late for him to bounce back even if the abuse was the cause. I would have to think Hernandez in the bullpen is preferable to Brower (though an embittered Hernandez may not be). Besides Hernandez has been a very good pitcher on occassion (1997 and 2000) even without Eric Gregg behind the plate.

There is something to be said for ridding a team of problematic players, but to do it at the expense of getting decent return on said players is foolhardy. Besides isn't this a team that came alive in 2002 when controversy swirled?

Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe by mid-summer Livan will be practicing his putts in a minimum secuirty prison while Ainsworth and Foppert become staff leaders. I like the Giants and hope that it plays out that way. But I still think it's far from the excellent move that Neyer and others make it out to be.


A Rose Isn't a Rose
2003-03-26 13:25
by Mike Carminati

A Rose Isn't a Rose

In a move that somehow makes Pete Rose look classy in comparison, the organizers of the Reds' opening day parade have replaced the demurring Rose with a look-alike.

In an obvious tribute to the brilliance of Mark Twain, the parade sponsors will host a Pete Rose look-alike contest before the game. The spurious Hit King will "gets a place of honor in Monday's parade and two tickets to the game against Pittsburgh." The real Chuckie Hustle will not be in attendance.

Contestants will be not be required "to do headfirst slides to win, but they are encouraged to appear in costume" according to contest officials. No headfirst slides, but running out walks, rocking one's batting helmet, bouncing a ball hard on the ground, and general hotdoggery are a plus. No mention was made as to the amount of Grecian Formula a contestant would be allowed to slather on his be-bowl-hewn coiff. Ah, to quote Joel Robinson, "It's fun when it's fun!"

Early leaders include:


Herve "De Cinnamon" Villechaize


Dr. Moe Howard (Niagara Falls! Slowly he turned....)


Robbie "Cousin Oliver" Rist a.k.a the Jinx

But you too could be Peter Edward Rose Sr. So break out your old Beatles wig and head on down. Do it today!


Brand New Pinto David Pinto
2003-03-26 11:09
by Mike Carminati

Brand New Pinto

David Pinto has an explosive new website and URL (Get it? Pinto...Explosive. You see, if it bends, it works. If it breaks, it doesn't work. That's comedy.)

Go check out David's previews for each of baseball's divisions for the upcoming season.

[By the way, I attempted to update my link on the left to David's new site but Blogger, as usual, has some sort of bug with updating templates right now. I will keep trying and will get it fixed at Blogger's earliest convenience.]


Johnson Extended By now you've
2003-03-26 00:48
by Mike Carminati

Johnson Extended

By now you've heard that Randy Johnson has signed a $33 M, 2-year extension with the Arizona Diamondbacks. The contract not only makes him the highest paid pitcher in baseball history; it assures Johnson will be a D-Back until the age of 42.

It's hard to argue with the Johnson signing. He sure has been more than worthy the last couple of years. However, there's always that age bugaboo. How can a team sign a man to such a large, multi-year deal when he will be 40 before the deal even kicks in, you ask?

Well, I asked the same thing. I wondered what one's expectations should be for a 40-year-old. Maybe the salary is justified. So, I made a list of all pitchers with the records after turning 40 (i.e., in the seasons after turning 40 before July). There were 132 such pitchers (including Wade Boggs and Dave Concepcion). From that list I selected just those pitchers who started at least 35 games, about one season. I just wanted to compare Johnson to his peer group-let's assume he garners at least a season's worth of starts in his two years. There were 33 such pitchers.

Here they are:

Name          #Yrs   W   L  PCT   G  GS  CG SHO   IP    ERA WHIP K/9IP K:BB
Phil Niekro      9 121 103 .540 300 294  62  11 1977.0 3.84 1.39  5.23 1.46
Charlie Hough    7  67  88 .432 209 207  29   3 1346.3 4.06 1.36  5.05 1.21
Nolan Ryan       7  71  66 .518 196 196  19   7 1271.7 3.33 1.15 10.17 2.73
Tommy John       7  51  60 .459 180 165  17   2 1000.7 4.43 1.48  2.94 1.24
Warren Spahn     5  75  63 .543 179 156  77  12 1163.0 3.44 1.22  3.89 1.82
Jack Quinn      10  96  80 .545 342 154  69  12 1427.7 3.49 1.35  2.37 1.19
Gaylord Perry    5  47  59 .443 151 149  28   3  992.0 3.91 1.36  4.84 2.07
Cy Young         5  75  60 .556 153 142 119  15 1227.0 2.13 1.04  3.81 2.57
Don Sutton       4  44  38 .537 119 118   5   2  712.0 4.06 1.24  4.63 2.04
Joe Niekro       4  28  37 .431  92  88   5   1  509.7 4.66 1.50  4.79 1.12
Red Faber        5  36  55 .396 182  83  30   2  779.3 3.87 1.39  2.58 0.96
Pete Alexander   4  46  30 .605 102  83  48   3  665.3 3.31 1.23  1.97 1.40
Early Wynn       4  29  31 .483 100  82  30   7  570.7 3.66 1.33  5.39 1.49
Jerry Koosman    3  31  26 .544  92  76   8   3  493.0 4.05 1.34  5.24 1.95
Connie Marrero   4  33  30 .524  91  75  43   6  583.3 3.46 1.32  3.61 1.21
Danny Darwin     3  23  32 .418  98  74   1   0  470.7 4.51 1.36  5.14 2.22
Dazzy Vance      5  33  31 .516 130  70  24   3  621.3 3.87 1.32  5.65 2.18
Steve Carlton    4  16  37 .302  84  70   3   0  430.0 5.21 1.62  5.53 1.15
Sam Jones        3  26  31 .456  75  70  29   3  500.0 4.19 1.47  2.84 0.90
Johnny Niggeling 3  22  27 .449  66  63  28   4  478.7 2.88 1.30  4.61 1.21
Dennis Martinez  4  26  22 .542 110  62   5   4  439.0 4.24 1.37  4.63 1.73
Tom Seaver       2  23  24 .489  63  61   8   1  415.0 3.53 1.27  5.14 1.90
Babe Adams       5  32  27 .542 114  54  28   4  507.7 4.20 1.31  1.90 1.57
Ted Lyons        3  27  20 .574  47  47  44   3  410.3 2.85 1.16  2.70 1.71
Rick Reuschel    3  20  16 .556  51  46   2   0  306.0 3.26 1.33  4.82 1.78
Tom Candiotti    2  15  22 .405  51  46   3   0  272.3 5.49 1.47  4.59 1.49
Lefty Grove      2  14  13 .519  43  42  19   1  287.3 4.17 1.41  3.63 1.26
Curt Davis       3  20  21 .488  56  41  22   1  345.7 3.36 1.28  2.29 1.42
Eppa Rixey       3  15  15 .500  63  40  15   3  332.7 3.27 1.28  1.24 0.79
Eddie Plank      2  21  21 .500  57  40  25   4  366.7 2.14 1.13  2.80 1.09
Charlie Root     3  18  19 .486  90  39  15   0  386.0 4.36 1.41  3.75 1.55
Orel Hershiser   2  14  17 .452  42  38   0   0  203.7 5.61 1.51  4.51 1.12
Rip Sewell       3  25   8 .758  73  35  13   2  318.7 3.62 1.36  2.77 0.93
Total          4.2    1229 .502    3006 873 122        3.73 1.32  4.34 1.57
                  1240         3801           21,810.3
Total, all 40+ 2.6    1878 .503    3588     148        3.74 1.33  4.37 1.52
                  1900         9721    1056   33,173.3

It seems to me from this that those pitchers going strong at 40 continue to go strong for some time. Only a few (Carlton, Candiotti, and Hershiser) could be called poor pitchers after turning 40, and some were still very good. A few were tremendous.

It's not as if this is conclusive, but if Johnson continues to be a dominant pitcher into his forties, it won't be unprecedented.

Keep in mind that Johnson is 76 wins away from 300. He has averaged 20.25 wins a year since joining Arizona 4 years ago. When his new contract runs out, if his win average holds, he could be just 15 wins from 300. I know that this is a supposition built on a what-if, but given Johnson late start and seeming slow development, who ever imagined he would get that close?

Consider that Johnson's record stood at 88-75 after 1994, the year in which he turned 30. Johnson is 143-44 since then, good enough for 30th on the all-time list for wins after the age of 30. His projected win total over the next 3 years would put him at 205 post-30 wins, good for 5th all-time behind Cy Young (295), Phil Niekro (264), Warren Spahn (255), and Gaylord Perry (219) (and one post-30 win ahead of Sam Jones).


Competitive Balancing Act I [Mike:
2003-03-25 00:25
by Mike Carminati

Competitive Balancing Act I

[Mike: For the opening salvo in a series on competitive balance, I asked Chris DeRosa if I could post a piece of his that I had read in his annual baseball review. Chris writes the review and distributes it among his friends on a yearly basis. I was lucky enough to hear about it through my friend Murray. The review is a scholarly, scathing, and oftentimes hilarious appraisal of the game, all things that I enjoy tremendously. Please enjoy Chris's piece. Future posts in the series will be coming soon.]

Reinsdorf Award 2002

I'm the kind of Yankee fan who tries to understand the perspective of the person who doesn't get to go to a lot of ticker-tape parades. Last year though, they pushed me too far. Every year, for the amusement of my friends, I single out my least favorite person in baseball for a special distinction I call the "Reinsdorf Award" (previous winners include Bud Selig, JD Drew, etc.). I ended up giving the Reinsdorf Award for 2002 to my fellow fans - the fans whose bad behavior and whining undermine their cries of victimhood:

· Fans who run on the field.

· Fans who throw things when the Red Sox lose.

· Fans who punch, gouge, and sue each other to get Bonds' 600th home run ball.

· Fans who cheer fights in the stands, fans who attack first base coaches, fans who beat drums continuously throughout entire Indians games, fans who can't keep a beer upright, fans who beg for autographs, fans who force kids to throw back home run balls, and fans who stand up when everyone is sitting.

· Fans who cast All-Star ballots for Cal Ripken Jr. as a .204 hitter, and then throw a fit when Derek Jeter makes the roster as a .315 hitter.

· Fans who spend hours making and carrying around obsequious signs so they can be on TV for three seconds.

· Fans who say Vladimir Guerrero is underrated, when half the sportswriters in the country willfully look right past Barry Bonds to say Guerrero is the best player in baseball.

· Fans who sit next to me in the RF upper deck in Yankee Stadium and screech "F' you!" at the top of their lungs for three innings, as if this were not solely for the benefit of the people around them and actually could be heard by the Boston Red Sox down on the field.

· Fans who threaten "fan strikes." [If that's how you feel, fine. Do it and shut up, already!]

But most of all, I'm giving the Reinsdorf Award to the fans who swallow and spit back baseball's Big Fat Lie: the ones who say that my team, the Yankees, has unfairly "bought" its recent championships, that New York has destroyed fair competition, and the sport is therefore hopeless.

When the 1996 Yankees won the club's first championship in 18 years, I heard the low level sniping: how could the Braves compete with a team that could keep an overpaid vet like Cecil Fielder on their bench? Up 2-0, sleek, model-organization Atlanta drew comparisons to the 1927 Yankees. Four games later, they were doomed have-nots for the lack of a fat pinch-hitter.

In 1999, a group of Royals fans in "share the wealth" t-shirts ostentatiously turned their backs to the field (where KC was in the process of beating NY), and marched out in protest of the fact that the Yankees were better than the Royals. In 2000, putative Yankee fan Bob Costas came out with a book, Fair Ball, saying that most baseball teams could no longer compete with the Yankees.

In 2001, even though the Mariners were taking down our precious AL win record, I enjoyed talking this big M's fan I know about how astutely Seattle had built its team, and what a great player Edgar the Hammer is. He was having a ball. As soon as we beat them, he told me he really hadn't been into baseball since junior high (please note passive-aggressive putdown), and baseball was pointless because nobody could compete with the Yankees' unfair advantages. Can't compete?! They broke our goddamn record! They won 116 games!

George W. Bush, the official First Fan, was polite enough not to number the Yankees among the axis of evil, but when he threw out the first ball after September 11th, he announced that he was rooting for "anybody but the Yankees." In the World Series two months after the attack, the nation rallied not around New York City, but behind an Arizona team that possessed but two home-grown players on its roster (I don't want your pity, I'm just pointing out the double standard). So MLB's September 11th video, shown in all parks including Yankee Stadium, has Luis Gonzalez blooping that pathetic hit off of Rivera while the voice-over prattles happily about baseball overcoming terror and comforting America (Yankee fans booed, rightly).

But all this pales in comparison to 2002. You know when the RNC gives out those talking points memos, and whole Republican Party goes on TV and says the exact same annoying thing, like incessant infield chatter? That's what the fans of 2002 sounded like. They got the memo: the Yankees have ruined baseball. First day of the winter meetings, the Diamondbacks and Rangers, among the biggest spenders around, were taking shots at the Yanks. Fans made lists of which teams can't compete in a season that hadn't even started. Whereas they used to say "big market teams" now they dropped the pretense and just said "Yankees." The part Red Sox-owning New York Times routinely called the team the "economic juggernaut," and "big market Goliaths." In game stories! As in, "the Yankees payroll was too much for the Devil Rays this afternoon at Yankee Stadium." It was totally nauseating.

The Big Fat Lie is the fantasy of choice for the hordes of Yankee-haters who can't bear the greatness of the late 1990s team and seek to devalue and delegitimize their championships. As Allen Barra pointed out, they are belittling an amazing run of clutch playoff performances in which the Yankees have defeated seven teams with superior records. Some Angel fan holds up a sign, "Half the payroll, twice the heart." Twice the heart! How can anyone question the Yankees' heart? Twice the heart of Mariano Rivera, the guy with the World Series record for scoreless innings? Twice the heart of Derek Jeter? They've overcome inning-inning or ninth inning deficits in postseason games eighteen times! Twice the heart of Orlando Hernandez? We led the majors in comeback wins last year too, with 63. Mr. Twice-the-Heart is just diminishing his own championship when he runs down the Yankees.

So that just burns me. It's not like we have the best record in baseball every year. Last year there were at least five teams essentially just as good as the Yankees, including obviously the Angels. But to hear fans tell it, the Yankees are on a completely different plane, winning 120 games every year.

Not that that would bother them if it weren't the Yankees. When the Bulls won six championships in eight years, winning 72 games one year, nobody said, "basketball is broken - we have to change everything!" No, basketball freaked out when there was a one-season power vacuum. Who will replace Michael?!? Oh, Shaq and Kobe, whew. All's well in the best of all possible leagues, despite inert franchises struggling to play .250 ball. Meanwhile in baseball, the Braves' utter domination of the NL East draws zero ire from the caterwauling fans who swear, every time the Yankees make a roster move, that they will never attend a baseball game again.
Fans' double standards are completely resistant to evidence. My favorite is the Jason Giambi signing, because that one ratcheted up the whining to its current deafening level. No matter that Giambi was willing to re-sign, but Oakland wouldn't give him a no-trade clause. No matter that he signed with New York for less money than Manny Ramirez got from Boston the year before.
How about Mike Mussina? That was another one that allegedly ruined baseball, making large numbers of fans take up stamp collecting or the WNBA. We got him from the Orioles, one of the richest, free-agent-signingest teams around. They'd recently finished messing up their team by signing Albert Belle when Mussina decided to bail.

OK, well how about... whoops! That's it! Those are the only stars the Yankees signed in their big run, and neither played for any of the four world champion teams. Point this out, and your smarter Reinsdorf-winning fans will start in about players on poorer teams for whom the Yankees traded. Aside from Hideki Irabu, there weren't many cases in which the team wasn't actually anxious to get rid of the guy. One was Roger Clemens.

The Jays didn't want to lose Clemens, but he could just have easily wound up with Houston. All the Yankees had to give up was an 18 game winner, a lefty reliever with a 1.67 ERA, and a fast back-up second baseman. In a world where Mark McGwire gets traded for TJ Matthews, you'll excuse me for not feeling guilty. And let's not forget how Toronto got Clemens in the first place: they signed him as a free agent, making him the highest paid pitcher in baseball history at that time. They got him when the Blue Jays were perceived as a quality organization. When the Yankees didn't have that going for them, they couldn't get the best guys either. In 1992, they tried to sign Greg Maddux, Doug Drabek, and Barry Bonds, and struck out. The stars turned down NY's money to sign with better-regarded organizations.

Unless you want to count scatter-armed head case Chuck Knoblauch, you have to go back to 1995 to find a real example of the Yankees trading for a true star off an actually poor team, John Wetteland. And Wetteland left us as a free agent two years later. Look, the Yankees have 25 roster spots like everyone else, and some of those have been occupied by people like Shane Spencer. We can't have destroyed all your teams. If every team in baseball had to give back their Expos products, half a dozen teams would have been worse off than the Yankees, starting with Boston and their ace, who Red Sox fans now believe they drafted out of the Cape Cod League or something.

Yes of course the finest whine comes not from Minnesota or Oakland, but from Boston, whose fans like to cast themselves in the ill-fitting role of underdog. After kicking our asses in 7 of our first 11 meetings, the Boston Herald previewed the late July NY-Bos series by saying that it was impossible to compete against the Yankees' 130 million dollar payroll, and the Yankees had no excuse for losing.

Then there's the Red Sox. They've always got an excuse. The Yankees just go out and get whoever they want, whined Johnny Damon, as if he hadn't come to the Red Sox as a free agent only months before. Interviewing a "stern and determined" Jason Varitek, the Herald writer was impressed to find the Red Sox willing to slog on even under these hopeless conditions. Quick, Jason Varitek is:

(a) a Dustbowl migrant worker, or
(b) a catcher on a professional baseball team with a 110 million dollar payroll?

The answer is "b." The Red Sox have a payroll almost as big as the Yankees', despite the fact that the Yankees' repeated champions naturally accumulated the league-leading figure. Sox fans set themselves up to win either way, while the Yankees are one of the only teams in baseball that tries to win a title without first preparing a soft cushion of excuses.

The players to whom Hubtown Johnny was referring were the Yankees mid-season acquisitions, Jeff Weaver and Raul Mondesi. The Yankees have "added another superstar," baseball fans howled. Superstar! First of all, it's Weaver, not Seaver. And to describe Mondesi as a superstar is ludicrous. Sammy Sosa is a superstar. Mike Sweeney is a star. Kevin Millar is a quality regular. Mondesi once was a quality regular who was hitting .230 and was available not because he was good, but because he was bad. Despite Damon's professed willingness to stand pat and face down Yankee Tyranny with his courageous little band of brothers, the We Happy Few went and got Cliff Floyd, a player palpably better than superstar Mondesi.

I can't stand it, but really, I'm loving it. Having everyone railing against us gives the season a thrilling edge. Every Yankee loss carries the extra bitterness of having gratified the baseball ignorami, and every win is sweetened because it sticks it to same. Even in Colorado in mid-June, the place is packed (they're like Europeans at McDonalds: they hate us but they come out all the same), and on TV you can hear the noise rolling out of the stands: "Yankees suck." Awesome - we've never even played them before! There are teams we've been beating up on for a century. Take a number and get in line!

But the Big Fat Lie threatened to do more than merrily cheese off a Yankee celebrant. For a while there, it looked like the owners were going to take their ball and go home. The high volume of anti-Yankee fan sentiment was, among other things, part of Bud Selig's brilliantly orchestrated campaign to destroy baseball. Shrewdly, Selig and friends avoided the usual owner tactic, to bash the players, and instead stuck to bashing the Yankees and George Steinbrenner. The fans were totally on board for that view of things.

For a year, Selig laid the groundwork. By repeating the Big Fat Lie over and over, he sold it to almost every corner of the baseball world: the Yankees had killed "competitive balance," and the teams were losing vast sums of money. After firing Paul Beeston and rejecting the players' offer of a no-strike/no-impasse pledge, it appeared that the owners wanted a bloodletting rather than a settlement. Selig threatened to wipe out two teams, and in a series of tactical coups, he maneuvered big market clubs like Boston, Atlanta, and the Mets into his camp.

The media did quite a credible job in getting the facts out about the owners' machinations. Journalists (Forbes most famously) reported that the owners have lied about how much money they make. Reporters spotlit Selig's lying to Congress. They noted his blatant conflicts of interest, his breaking of baseball's financial rules.

But the fans' anti-union-anti-player-anti-Yankee paradigm was impervious to all of this. An ESPN.com poll showed that 51% of fans were "pro-owner," 37% blamed both sides, and only 12% blamed the owners. Even though they knew the owners were lying! The position of the fans was that the owners might be lying, but that the players should cave in and agree to a de facto salary cap anyway.

The owner's victory in the public relations battle shouldn't have mattered. Strikers are always unpopular. If strikes depended on public favor to succeed, no American unions would ever try to strike. It wouldn't have mattered, if Marvin Miller were still in charge. But immediately after the players surrendered, player rep Steve Kline said it was either cave in or face "having our reputation and life ripped by the fans."

The same fans for whom the capitulation of the player's union was not enough! They're calling this sweetheart deal for owners an inadequate compromise! The revenues of all teams must be totally equalized! The same fans to whom a smidgen of economic leveling is totally anathema when it comes to a living wage and rudimentary health care, but confiscatory redistribution is just fine so long the beneficiaries are crybaby baseball teams like the Kansas City Royals and Milwaukee Brewers!

I mean, forget "revenue sharing." Let's just go the more direct route of "run sharing." Every third run, no let's be certain of this, every other run the Yankees score will be donated to the opposing team. Fair ball for everyone.

I know most of you disagree with me, and you're in good company. Two of my favorite writers argue it the other way. Malcolm Gladwell, in an interview with Rob Neyer, said he loathed baseball because unlike the NFL, not every team has a chance to win the title every year. Bill James, in his masterfully revamped Historical Baseball Abstract, writes that the 1990s may be remembered when baseball separated decisively into big market and small market camps.

But the evidence that baseball is in a competitive imbalance crisis is scant. James himself devised an Index of Competitive Balance that shows that the 1990s were more balanced competitively than any decade in baseball history, including the 1980s. He notes that balance did take a dip in 1998. But 1998 was baseball's second expansion year of the decade, and as he has pointed out in other contexts, expansion effects can wash out over a few years. Isn't it a little premature to conclude that a crisis is upon us?
Hey, truth is, I'm in favor of priming the competition pump a bit. But New York having a good, lucky team for a few years is not serious evidence that baseball is going to hell in a hand basket. The Royals having a bad decade doesn't convince me either. If you've got thirty teams, doesn't it stand to reason that a couple of them are going to have bad decades? Most teams enjoyed some success in the 1990s. The fact that the Pirates were good in the early 1990s and bad now, while the Yankees were bad in the early 1990s and good now, is not compelling evidence that the state of the game was good in the early 1990s and bad now.

That there is no crisis hardly matters, because the owners don't really want competitive balance anyway. They want non-competitive balance. Like the NFL, they want a system where teams just hold their hats under the league money spigot, and have no responsibility to their fans to try to improve at the expense of one another.

And like Gladwell, today's short-attention span fans like it that way. They'd rather play the NFL lottery, where any team might jump up and win, than see their team struggle to build a winner the honest way, the Yankee way. You've got a whole generation of baseball fans now who grew up in towns that gave every kid in the little league a trophy at the end of the year. Of course their sense of entitlement is ever-expanding. But thirty teams can't all be good at once, and they only give out one trophy in the major leagues.

You know what I did when the Yankees lost to the Angels last year? I felt disappointed, and then I enjoyed the rest of the playoffs. I also enjoyed baseball in the years when my team was bad (The Era of Despair, 1989-1992). I didn't just complain about how my team had, sniff, no chance, and how it was so unfair that another team was good. Nor did I just wallow in Yankee crapitude. I watched local amateur ball, I got into cool teams like the A's and Blue Jays, I enjoyed close playoff games, I read about the history of the game, I pulled for the Phillies when I moved to Philadelphia, I gave out Reinsdorf Awards and stuff. There are plenty of ways for fans of bad teams to take pleasure in baseball, if only they would stop being such unbearable crybabies.

Chris DeRosa is a historian living in Long Branch, NJ, who writes season-in-review newsletters for all his baseball friends. You can reach him at christopherderosa@yahoo.com.


"Welcome to the Hall's of
2003-03-23 01:37
by Mike Carminati

"Welcome to the Hall's of Relief", VIII

Previous entries:
The 1870s, '80s, and '90s
The 1900s and '10s
The 1920s, '30s, and '40s
The 1950s
The 1960s
The 1970s
The 1980s

To Come: Final analysis-best reliever of all time and greatest bullpen of all time.

The 1990s and 2000s

The Chase.--Third Day...

"D'ye see him?" cried Ahab; but the whale was not yet in sight.

"In his infallible wake, though; but follow that wake, that's all... Here's food for thought, had Ahab time to think; but Ahab never thinks; he only feels, feels, feels;...How the wild winds blow...as the torn shreds of split sails lash the tossed ship they cling to. A vile wind that has no doubt blown ere this through prison corridors and cells, and wards of hospitals, and ventilated them, and now comes blowing hither as innocent as fleeces. Out upon it!--it's tainted...And yet, 'tis a noble and heroic thing, the wind! who ever conquered it? In every fight it has the last and bitterest blow. Run tilting at it, and you but run through it. Ha!...Would now the wind but had a body; but all the things that most exasperate and outrage mortal man, all these things are bodiless...These warm Trade Winds, at least, that in the clear heavens blow straight on, in strong and steadfast, vigorous mildness; and veer not from their mark, however the baser currents of the sea may turn and tack, and mightiest Mississippies of the land swift and swerve about, uncertain where to go at last. And by the eternal Poles! these same Trades that so directly blow my good ship on; these Trades, or something like them--something so unchangeable, and full as strong, blow my keeled soul along! To it! Aloft there! What d'ye see?"

"Nothing, sir."

"Nothing! and noon at hand!...I've oversailed him...Aye, he's chasing ME now; not I, HIM--that's bad; I might have known it, too...About! about!

Steering as she had done, the wind had been somewhat on the Pequod's quarter, so that now being pointed in the reverse direction, the braced ship sailed hard upon the breeze as she rechurned the cream in her own white wake.

-Moby Dick-Or the Whale, Chapter 135, By "Don't Call Me Babe"Herman Melville

After killing many e-trees with my last two installments on relief pitching (covering the 1970s and '80s) and anticipating the final analysis phase of this little project, I will keep my comments on the last thirteen years to a minimum. For the sake of brevity-and since I do not know how to refer to the current decade, which is only three years old anyway-I will refer to this period as the Nineties.

So what happened in the Nineties? Basically, baseball continued on its megalomaniacal course. Bullpens got bigger and more specialized. The closer role became synonymous with the save statistic as closers earned their arbitration and free agent living based on the stat. Save totals went up. Swingmen became an endangered species. "And Leon is getting laaaarrrrrger."

It is my assertion that the entire system has, like Ahab in the excerpt above, passed its goal by without realizing it. I am intently interested in what the Red Sox will be doing this year to "rechurn the cream" of the relief pitching wake. But more on that in the analytical section. For now, I'll try to keep an open mind.

In the Nineties:

The 50-save reliever was born and born again. In 1990, Bobby Thigpen set the one-year record of 57 saves that still stands today. Two years later Dennis Eckersley became the second to reach 50. Reaching 50 saves in a season has now been done eight times and five times since the last round of expansion in 1998.

In 1993, Lee Smith became the first pitcher to surpass 400 saves in his career. Smith ended his career with 478 saves in total. John Franco joined Smith in the 400-save club in 1999.

The number of men in the 300-save and 200-save clubs exploded as well. Here is a progression of those men at the end of each decade (I used 100 as the minimum in previous analyses, but given that there are now 99 men with at least 100 saves for their career, this figure becomes cumbersome):

After 1969         | After 1979         | After 1989           | Today               
Name            Sv | Name            Sv | Name              Sv | Name               Sv 
Hoyt Wilhelm   210+| Hoyt Wilhelm   227+| Rollie Fingers   341+| Lee Smith         478
                   | Sparky Lyle    223 | Rich Gossage     307 | John Franco       422*
                   | Rollie Fingers 221+| Bruce Sutter     300 | Dennis Eckersley  390
                                        | Jeff Reardon     266 | Jeff Reardon      367
                                        | Dan Quisenberry  244 | Trevor Hoffman    352*
                                        | Sparky Lyle      238 | Randy Myers       347
                                        | Lee Smith        234 | Rollie Fingers    341+
                                        | Hoyt Wilhelm     227+| John Wetteland    330
                                        | Gene Garber      218 | Roberto Hernandez 320*
                                                               | Rick Aguilera     318
                                                               | Robb Nen          314*
                                                               | Tom Henke         311
                                                               | Rich Gossage      310
                                                               | Jeff Montgomery   304
                                                               | Doug Jones        303
                                                               | Bruce Sutter      300
                                                               | Rod Beck          266*
                                                               | Todd Worrell      256 
                                                               | Dave Righetti     252
                                                               | Troy Percival     250*
                                                               | Dan Quisenberry   244
                                                               | Mariano Rivera    243*
                                                               | Sparky Lyle       238
                                                               | Hoyt Wilhelm      227+
                                                               | Jose Mesa         225*
                                                               | Gene Garber       218
                                                               | Gregg Olson       217*
                                                               | Dave Smith        216
                                                               | Jeff Shaw         203
                                                               | Bobby Thigpen     201
* indicates active
+ indicate Hall of Famer

The Eighties save totals were explosive when compared with the Sixties and Seventies, but they were nothing compared to the Nineties. The totals for 200-save men per decade are one as of 1969, 3 after 1979, 9 after 1989, and 30 today (six of which are still active). That's basically 30, 31,32, and 33 (well, plus 3)-a nice exponential progression.

Meanwhile, the men who had led in saves in the past-i.e., Wilhelm and Fingers-were getting elected to the all of Fame. Now, Fingers is 7th in saves, Wilhelm is 24th-right ahead of the redoubtable Jose "Make A" Mesa-, and no one else has been elected to the Hall.

The saves numbers have changed so rapidly that the change has obscured the value of pitchers like Goose Gossage (13th), Bruce Sutter (16th), and Dan Quisenberry (21st), all of whom were arguably more valuable to their teams in the day than three of the top four in career saves (Lee Smith, John Franco, and Jeff Reardon) were to theirs.

This argument I feel is a stronger explanation for the current dearth of Hall of Fame relievers than the ubiquitous "The Hall voters don't value saves" argument. They value saves, just not the relievers who have high totals in that statistic. I believe that there are voters who do not select the worthy candidates that I mentioned because they are over one hundred saves behind John Franco, a player who will not be regarded as a strong Hall candidate when he retires. No one would vote for Ned Williamson because his 27 home runs in 1884 were astronomical when put in context (if with the home field help). 27 home runs just isn't that impressive a number. More investigation is needed into the context of the earlier save totals but the Hall voters are not interested in investing time in such a project.

OK, I'm back down from my soapbox. In the Nineties closers became poster children for the save stat. Here as a table of the cumulative stats for closers per decade. I posted this in the Eighties entry but for the Nineties, I would like to base the numbers on team save leaders not on an arbitrary save cutoff (20 saves) as I used in the Eighties study (RA= Relief Appearance; percentages are of games pitched):

Decade	%RA	%W	%L	%Sv	IP/G
1970s	98.63%	11.71%	10.79%	28.16%	1.67
1980s	99.43%	9.89%	10.13%	36.08%	1.49
1990s	99.65%	6.05%	7.57%	46.81%	1.12
2000s	99.57%	5.70%	6.58%	47.77%	1.07
30-yr diff	0.94%	-6.02%	-4.21%	19.61%	-0.60

A closer in the 2000s pitches a hair over one inning, records a save in almost every other appearance, and has little to do with wins and losses, especially wins. Look at the change since the 1970s especially in saves and innings per appearance.

Here is a table of the percent of team save leaders who amassed a certain percentage of the team's total saves. For example, the 100% column tells you the percentage of all "closers" who registered all of their team's saves. Note how each bracket is increasing especially into the late Nineties and early 2000s:

Year	100%	90%	75%	50%	25%	10%
1980	0%	0%	12%	58%	100%	100%
1981	0%	0%	19%	54%	100%	100%
1982	0%	0%	12%	58%	100%	100%
1983	0%	4%	15%	50%	100%	100%
1984	0%	0%	19%	62%	96%	100%
1985	0%	4%	27%	62%	100%	100%
1986	0%	0%	12%	58%	100%	100%
1987	0%	0%	15%	42%	100%	100%
1988	0%	4%	27%	85%	100%	100%
1989	0%	0%	31%	88%	100%	100%
1990	0%	4%	23%	69%	100%	100%
1991	0%	8%	35%	65%	100%	100%
1992	0%	4%	35%	69%	100%	100%
1993	0%	21%	43%	86%	100%	100%
1994	0%	4%	32%	79%	96%	100%
1995	0%	11%	54%	82%	100%	100%
1996	4%	7%	54%	86%	100%	100%
1997	0%	11%	46%	75%	100%	100%
1998	0%	17%	53%	87%	100%	100%
1999	0%	30%	57%	83%	100%	100%
2000	0%	17%	53%	83%	100%	100%
2001	0%	20%	57%	90%	100%	100%
2002	3%	40%	77%	90%	100%	100%

The closers became save machines pitching one inning at a time. So how did this affect the rest of the staff?

First starters almost never complete a game today. The number of pitchers per game is approaching an average of four. The concept of swingmen has disappeared almost completely. A reliever was a reliever by trade even if he didn't close. They began to start games less often. Here's the closer table from above for middle relievers:

Decade	%RA         %W	%L   	%Sv    	IP/G
1970s	94.30%	9.50%	9.37%	8.95%	1.85
1980s	95.81%	8.86%	8.62%	7.92%	1.72
1990s	97.23%	7.07%	6.81%	4.63%	1.33
2000s	98.04%	6.29%	6.19%	3.07%	1.18
30-yr diff	3.74%	-3.21%	-3.18%	-5.88%	-0.67

The percentage of relief appearances goes up while the wins, losses, saves and inning pitched go down. Well, why is that if the middle relievers are taking up the slack from the starters and closers? Because there are more of them (6.37 per team in 2002).

Study One: 1990, the Year of the Reliever?

When one looks at the history of relief pitching, one year stands out as a high water mark: 1990.

It is the year in which the current saves record was established by Bobby Thigpen, who, though he only had a handful of serviceable years as a closer, cracked the once-elite 200-save club (see above). Thigpen had a truly impressive season adding a 1.83 ERA, 110% better than the park-adjusted league average, and 70 strikeouts (though 32 walks) in 88.2 innings to his record 57 saves. Thigpen not only broke the record; he obliterated, by 11 saves.

Dennis Eckerlsey's 1990 season may have been even better: 48 saves (2 better than the pre-1990 save record), a 0.61 ERA (506% better than the league average), 73 strikeouts (about one per inning), and only 4 walks and 41 hits allowed in 73.1 innings. Though Thigpen beats him out in Win Shares (which I feel are somewhat more than problematic in measuring reliever effectiveness), Eck's season may be the most singular achievement for a reliever. Here's a quick comparison (SV% is the ratio of saves to appearances):

1990	WHIP	K/9IP	K:BB	HR/9	IPSV %
Eckersley	0.61	8.96	18.25	0.027	76.19%
Thigpen	1.04	7.11	2.19	0.056	74.03%

Eckersley's ratios are, to quote Wally Shawn, "inconceivable". His 18.25 strikeout-to-walk ratio is the best I have run across for a closer all-time. And he recorded a save a larger percentage of the time than Thigpen did. I realize that there is a great deal of worth in Thigpen's extra appearances (14 more), but c'mon, that's pretty good.

Here's what Bill James had to say in The Baseball Book 1991 about Thigpen's record-breaking accomplishment and what it meant for the future of the save statistic:

Thigpen broke the old record by eleven, saving 57. That's impressive, but it has very little to do with whether the record will or will not be broken. That's looking backward, comparing Thigpen's performance to the past. The record, if it is to be broken, will be broken in the future, so the question is how this will compare to future performance norms.

I would argue that the more stunning an individual performance is, the greater the likelihood that the record will be broken. Consider, for example, the home run record. When Babe Ruth hit 59 home runs in 1920 this was a shattering event-more than twice the previous record, which Ruth himself had set the previous year. But did that mean that the record could never be broken, or did that merely mean that the game of baseball had changed in some way so that more home runs would be hit? When Ruth himself hit 60 home runs in 1927 no one paid much attention, because by that time seasons of 40 or more homers were no longer shocking, and so no one really thought that the record of 60 would stand-but it did, lasting for 34 years.

Think about it. If you edge past an existing record, then it may be that the previous standards still apply, and the record was broken simply by a superb individual performance. If the record is smashed, however, it must be because the performance norms in this category have changed. Bobby Thigpen is a fine reliever, but there have been fine relievers before, right? If the performance standards for saves remained the same, would it be possible for him to be 25% better than anybody else ever has been, in his best season?

Of course it would not. Obviously, Thigpen's record was brought about in part because of a change in the way that relief pitchers are used-a generalized change, operating thoughout [sic] baseball.

He does have a good point about records. Look at the home run record in 1998. Mark McGwire destroyed the old record by 9 homers. Sammy Sosa also broke the home run record in finishing second overall. Ken Griffey's total was only five homers behind the old record. And just three seasons later Barry Bonds passed McGwire.

In 1990, Thigpen and Eckersley both passed the old save record, and Doug Jones was only three off the mark. Surely, the saves record would fall soon especially when the save-producing trend to which James points reached maturity. Well, the trend did continue as we have seen. Closers became more specialized and were brought in more and more in save situations.

So why has the record lasted so long? Well, there are a few things that James did not anticipate. First, it is extremely difficult for a player to get over 60 save opportunities in a season especially when he is pitching one inning at a time. James could not have known about the offensive explosion of the Nineties in which leads seemed never to be safe. Closers were rarely used for more than an inning because teams became fearful of giving up a lead in the ninth. Second, the ratio of saves to innings pitched did increase quickly (more on that later), but the number of innings a typical closer threw shrank even more quickly. Therefore, the saves did not continue to explode.

OK, so 1990 had two historically impressive seasons by a closer, but it may be best remembered for what has been called by many the greatest bullpen of all time, the Cincinnati Reds' "Nasty Boys" (I reserve judgment for my analysis epilogue).

Here are the numbers for the five main relievers and the totals for the entire Cincinnati bullpen:

Name            G  W  L SV  IP     ERA WHIP K/9IP K:BB HR/9IP
Rob Dibble     68  8  3 11  98.00 1.74 0.98 12.49 4.00 0.28
Randy Myers    66  4  6 31  86.67 2.08 1.12 10.18 2.58 0.62
Tim Layana     55  5  3  2  80.00 3.49 1.44  5.96 1.20 0.79
Norm Charlton* 40  6  4  2  50.67 3.02 1.38 10.12 2.59 0.36
Tim Birtsas    29  1  3  0  51.33 3.86 1.81  7.19 1.71 1.23
1990 Reds     316 27 22 50 472.67 2.91 1.27  8.57 2.28 0.69
* = as a reliever

However, I prefer the A's bullpen to the Reds that year:

Team            G  W  L SV  IP     ERA WHIP K/9IP K:BB HR/9IP
1990 Reds     316 27 22 50 472.67 2.91 1.27  8.57 2.28 0.69
1990 A's      303 14 10 64 417.33 2.35 1.05  6.02 2.23 0.52

Both pretty impressive, but the A's have an edge in every stat but innings pitched and strikeouts per nine innings. Also, remember than the five main A's relievers that year had ERAs under 3.00 (Eckersley, Rick Honeycutt, Gene Nelson, Todd Burns, and Joe Kink). The A's bullpen points was 1.15 points better than its starters; The Reds bullpen was 71 points better than its starters.

Whichever bullpen one prefers doesn't really matter. What I'm interested in is what made 1990 such a big year for relievers. There's nothing at first blush that reveals the solution. In 1990, complete games were down, but that's been going down ever since John McGraw turned to Iron Joe McGinnity to save ballgames. Relief appearances increased by about 7% but that was hardly unusual for the era. For the first time, teams averaged three pitchers per game, but they're approaching four per game now.

I think the answer to the 1990 hegemony lies in the 1985-'87 offensive outburst and the then impending offensive outburst from 1993 until pretty much today. In the Eighties section I wrote that 1985-'87 offense helped develop what I call the "post-modern" closer, i.e., the closer in the Dennis Eckersley mold brought in to save games almost exclusively.

I contend that the bullpen infrastructure and depth effected by the mini offensive boom created inflated bullpen stats during the offensive "lag" of 1988-'92 with an apex right at the center at 1990. The bullpens were built to withstand an offensive-minded game and they were more than enough for a somewhat less offensively minded era. Let's test that theory.

Check out the runs, home runs, and saves per game (both teams) for the "modern" closer years:

Year R/G HR/G SV/G % Inc
1977 4.47 0.87 0.201
1978 4.10 0.70 0.191 -4.81%
1979 4.46 0.82 0.200 4.63%
1980 4.29 0.73 0.214 7.07%
1981 4.00 0.64 0.217 1.28%
1982 4.30 0.80 0.221 1.92%
1983 4.31 0.78 0.232 4.73%
1984 4.26 0.77 0.236 1.83%
1985 4.33 0.86 0.232 -1.52%
1986 4.41 0.91 0.239 2.76%
1987 4.72 1.06 0.231 -3.38%
1988 4.14 0.76 0.250 8.29%
1989 4.13 0.73 0.254 1.62%
1990 4.26 0.79 0.264 4.17%
1991 4.31 0.80 0.269 1.76%
1992 4.12 0.72 0.263 -2.12%
1993 4.60 0.89 0.263 -0.24%
1994 4.92 1.03 0.243 -7.56%
1995 4.85 1.01 0.249 2.70%
1996 5.04 1.09 0.246 -1.30%
1997 4.77 1.02 0.251 2.11%
1998 4.79 1.04 0.260 3.48%
1999 5.08 1.14 0.251 -3.64%
2000 5.14 1.17 0.242 -3.24%
2001 4.78 1.12 0.249 2.72%
2002 4.62 1.04 0.252 1.28%

Saves shot up in 1988 and 1990 after the offensive onslaught of 1985-'87. Saves per game shot up in 1990 and '91 to their highest figures. Apparently what was being brewed during the 1985-'87 seasons came to fruition after Dennis Eckersley's role re-defining 1988 season.

As offenses started to creep back up (i.e., runs and home runs per game) in 1990 and '91, teams followed the Eckersley "post modern" example. It seems to be viewed as successful as offensive went back down in 1992. However, ever since the expansion of 1993 and the attendant historic offensive outburst in the intervening ten years, the number of successful save attempts per game has declined.

Given the circumstances, I'm not sure if 1990 was such an historically tremendous season for relievers or if a strategy reached maturity just as it was made available to counter an slight upsurge in offense. The circumstances were very favorable for fine relief stats: the upsurge was enough to spur managers to go full bore with the new "post modern" relief strategy but they were not so much to change the perception of the newly defined role.

The last tens years on the other hand have left managers scratching their noggins. They rely just as heavily on their closers as managers did in 1990, but because of the offensive surge the closer does not record a save as successfully. Instead of chucking the strategy altogether managers have instead relied on it more heavily. The average closer in 2002 recorded 32.93 saves a year (81 of his team's saves) while the closer in 1990 recorded just 26.81 saves (only 62.62% of his team's total).

So the feats of the average bullpen today are more impressive than they were in 1990, so the "Year of the Reliever" appellation may no longer fit. It's especially so with perceptions of and expectations for closers and relievers in general starting to change. Will managers continue to save his best reliever for the ninth inning of a ballgame and use him only in save opportunities? Let' check that out as well.

Study Two: The Future?

Managers have been accelerating their reliance on closers to save ballgames and middle relievers to bridge the game from starters to closers. Complete game percentages and average number of pitchers per ballgame state this pretty firmly.

However, if the past is any prologue to the future for bullpens, things should change and change very soon. In the history of baseball there have been few periods in which reliever use was not reinvented every 10-12 years. The exception in the post-19th century era came in the 1920s, '30s, and 40s. Ever since then the reliever role has been revamped sometimes due to the success of one or two individuals, for example Joe Page in the late Forties, Sutter in the late Seventies, and Eckersley in the late Eighties.

Ever since Eckersley redefined the closer role in 1988, managers have been steering the same course ever since. The only change overall has been to more heavily rely on the strategy at all costs. As a result, managers are criticized more and more for not bringing in their best reliever when the game was on the line before the ninth inning. Many teams have tried closer- or bullpen-by committee over that period, but that has usually been due to a lack of a quality closer.

That's fourteen years with the same strategy for relievers, which is a long time. The Red Sox with the help of Bill James this spring have developed a new approach in which a quality, veteran staff of middle relievers will be used in a true closer-by-committee system. It is too early to determine if it is a success since it has yet to be used in regular-season game situation. Suffice it to say though, that if the Sox wrest the pennant away from the Yankees while employing the strategy, it may became the new standard. It should be interesting to watch.

Whatever happens with Sox pen in 2003, expect some change over the next few years as the baseball mood is rife with discontent on the issue. Again don't expect this strategy, be it closer-by-committee or a return to 100-inning closers, to last for much more that a decade itself, if history is any indication.

So is James onto something? Certainly having a number of quality pitchers who can pitch more than an inning, i.e., potentially the most ballyhooed but least important one, the ninth, is more valuable than a closer who gets fewer than one save opportunity every three games and is rarely used otherwise. Even if the closer is supported by quality setup men, the best reliever in theory, the closer, is completely underutilized.

But is there something in the statistical trends in the last few years to indicate that the ground has been properly prepared for such a drastic change? Let's see. First, I want to review what has happened since the birth of the "post modern" closer. Let's start with some more of James' 1991 comments on Bobby Thigpen breaking the save record:

The record for saves in a season will settle somewhere above 80, possibly as high as 90.

Why? Because there is nothing to stop the trends which are in motion from continuing in motion before that point is reached. In 1985 Dan Quisenberry saved 45 games-but he pitched 139 innings to do it. Quisenberry pitched primarily in save situations, but he was normally called into the game in the seventh or eighth inning. Only on occasion would he pick up a save by getting one or two outs, and his ratio of innings pitched to saves was about 3 to I.

When Dave Righetti saved 46 games in 1986 he pitched 107 innings, so his ratio was more like 2 to 1. He was being called into the game later than Quisenberry was. When Jeff Russell saved 38 games in 1989 he pitched only 73 innings, a ratio of less than 2 to 1. Last year Thigpen picked up 57 saves while pitching 89 innings, a ratio about one and a half to one.

In theory, a relief pitcher could save 60 games while pitching only 20 innings. That's not going to happen, of course, but the ratio between saves and innings pitched has been flattening out for fifty years. It is nowhere near its theoretical limit. Is there any reason why it would stop flattening out right now?

None at all-none that I can see anyway. Next there's going to be a pitcher who pitches 80 games, 80 innings and saves 60 games, or some combination like that. Then there's going to be a pitcher who pitches 85 games, 75 innings and saves 62 games, and so on.

What is the limit? Where does it have to stop?

Well, think about it. Pitching less than an inning a game, as some relief aces already are, how much can a pitcher pitch? Maybe 110 games, 90 innings a season? That would certainly seem to be possible, wouldn't it? Mike Marshall in 1974 pitched 106 games, 208 innings, and major league pitchers have told me that while they wouldn't want to try that, they could certainly pitch 110 games if it was just a couple of hitters a game.

How many games could a pitcher save if he was used in that way?

All records tend to be set in a combination of near-optimal circumstances. Home run records are set in home run parks, etc. Let's assume near-optimal conditions for some un-named relief pitcher, at some un-named point maybe twenty years from now. That means:

a. pitching for a great team, a team winning more than a hundred games,
b. in a season when they have a lot of close games-say, 80% close games,
c, and having a great season himself.

This is more likely to occur in a pitcher's park than in a park like Wrigley, where scores are higher and one-run margins therefore less common, but really, no team wins all that many games by more than three runs. Most games are won by less than three runs.

Anyway, how many saves would this create? I don't know exactly, but the answer is clearly over seventy, and could be as high as the low nineties. In the year 2025, if the save rule isn't changed, the record for saves in a season will be about 83.

As I said earlier James did not anticipate some other forces keeping save totals from breaking Thigpen's mark let alone 80 or 90 saves. Those 80 or 90 save opportunities for a 100-game-winning team never presented themselves as offensives ran up bigger scores and greater margins of victory. Closers were used less frequently as teams grew fearful of losing games, even ones they led by a healthy margin, in the ninth inning. They were held back in case the opposition got back into games. Sometimes it wasn't necessary and sometimes the lead change hands so quickly while managers were running their fourth best relievers out to the mound that the closer was never used. The "closer equals save opportunity" mentality limited the closer's use and number fo save opportunities available as the closer became more and more pigeonholed.

James' saves per innings concept is very interesting though. Here is a list using James' stat of saves per innings pitched for all closers (i.e., team leaders in saves) over 60%:

Name              Year SV/IP SV
George Wood       1888 100.00% 2
Lee Smith         1994 86.09% 33
Lee Smith         1993 86.00% 43
Matt Mantei       1999 75.86% 22
Randy Myers       1997 75.42% 45
Mike Williams     2002 75.00% 46
Lee Smith         1995 75.00% 37
Mike Henneman     1996 73.81% 31
Trevor Hoffman    1998 72.60% 53
Jose Mesa         1995 71.88% 46
Trevor Hoffman    2001 71.27% 43
Troy Percival     2002 71.01% 40
Jeff Shaw         1998 70.75% 25
Jeff Russell      1993 70.71% 33
Randy Myers       1993 70.35% 53
Mitch Williams    1993 69.35% 43
John Smoltz       2002 68.46% 55
Randy Myers       1995 68.26% 38
Dennis Eckersley  1997 67.92% 36
Dave Righetti     1990 67.92% 36
John Wetteland    1998 67.74% 42
Troy Percival     2001 67.63% 39
John Wetteland    1996 67.54% 43
Kazuhiro Sasaki   2001 67.50% 45
Jeff Reardon      1991 67.42% 40
Todd Worrell      1996 67.35% 44
Ugueth Urbina     2002 66.67% 40
Bill Bishop       1889 66.67% 2
Eddie Guardado    2002 66.50% 45
Tom Henke         1995 66.26% 36
Randy Myers       1998 66.14% 28
Rick Aguilera     1995 65.93% 20
Todd Jones        2000 65.63% 42
Dennis Eckersley  1990 65.45% 48
Mariano Rivera    1999 65.22% 45
Bryan Harvey      1993 65.22% 45
John Wetteland    1999 65.15% 43
Gregg Olson       1993 64.44% 29
Lee Smith         1991 64.38% 47
Jeff Montgomery   1998 64.29% 36
Antonio Alfonseca 2000 64.29% 45
Bobby Thigpen     1990 64.29% 57
Trevor Hoffman    2002 64.04% 38
Troy Percival     2000 64.00% 32
Jeff Reardon      1992 63.78% 27
Dennis Eckersley  1992 63.75% 51
Tom Henke         1991 63.58% 32
Rod Beck          1998 63.49% 51
Mike Fetters      1995 63.46% 22
Eric Gagne        2002 63.16% 52
Troy Percival     1998 63.00% 42
Duane Ward        1993 62.79% 45
Mike Jackson      1998 62.50% 40
Billy Wagner      2001 62.23% 39
Robb Nen          2000 62.12% 41
Mariano Rivera    2001 61.98% 50
Jeff Brantley     1996 61.97% 44
Dennis Eckersley  1988 61.93% 45
Rick Aguilera     1992 61.50% 41
Mike Henneman     1995 61.36% 18
Jeff Russell      1995 61.22% 20
Tom Henke         1992 61.08% 34
Kazuhiro Sasaki   2002 60.99% 37
Rick Aguilera     1991 60.87% 42
Mariano Rivera    2002 60.87% 28
Rick Aguilera     2000 60.84% 29
Jose Mesa         2001 60.58% 42
Rod Beck          1993 60.50% 48
Billy Taylor      1999 60.47% 26
Jeff Montgomery   1994 60.45% 27
Mariano Rivera    1997 60.00% 43
John Franco       1994 60.00% 30
John Franco       1997 60.00% 36

You'll notice that aside from a couple of 19th-century anomalies and Dennis Eckersley's groundbreaking 1988 season, the pitchers are all from 1990 on.

But is this becoming more the norm or holding steady? Here is a table of the saves-per-innings pitched for the average closer over the last 25 years:

Year	Sv/IP
1977	16.55%
1978	19.37%
1979	18.56%
1980	19.51%
1981	19.46%
1982	19.46%
1983	21.29%
1984	24.62%
1985	24.36%
1986	25.59%
1987	23.60%
1988	34.88%
1989	37.10%
1990	36.74%
1991	38.35%
1992	38.32%
1993	49.12%
1994	39.71%
1995	46.58%
1996	43.42%
1997	42.53%
1998	44.89%
1999	42.07%
2000	41.35%
2001	45.87%
2002	47.33%

1993 is the highest but 2002 is next. It appears that the numbers are climbing over the last couple of years as offenses are coming back down to earth, analogous to the 1990 season. I don't see anything here that indicates that managers are willing to junk the one-inning closer any time soon. But then again someone reviewing the state of pitching circa 1979, would think by Kent Tekulve's and Mike Marshall's performances that closers would continue to pitch 90 games and 130 innings a year for some time.

Something tells me though that something like what the Red Sox are doing, something so much different, will be tried and will be successful over the next few years. That new germ of an idea will reinvigorate the bullpen and the closer role specifically. It may be James' closer-by-committee. It may be the second coming of Kent Tekulve. Who knows?

However, I doubt that it will be closers pitching fewer innings and recording more saves, like James envisioned twelve years ago. I think that some asymptote (read limit) has just about been reached. Given that closers are now pitching fewer innings, there is a greater volatility year-to-year in the ERAs and general overall effectiveness. A guy may look great in a small sample like 60 innings in year one but terrible in the same number of innings in year two. Case in point, here are the team leaders in saves since 1977, whose ERA was over 5.50. Note that most of them had their fair share of successes as well in the careers:

Year	ERA	Closer
1994	8.71	Mike Perez
1994	8.49	Paul Shuey
1997	7.27	Norm Charlton
1999	6.84	Jeff Montgomery
1994	6.65	Joe Grahe
1993	6.48	Rob Dibble
1991	6.00	Dave Smith
2001	5.96	La Troy Hawkins
1987	5.89	Jay Howell
2000	5.86	Jeff Brantley
1996	5.79	Mike Henneman
1997	5.79	Heathcliff Slocumb
1989	5.74	Willie Hernandez
2002	5.74	Hideki Irabu
1983	5.61	Dave Beard
1993	5.56	Doug Henry

So all I can say is that I believe that the current strategy will not last long though I don't know what will replace it. I guess that is in the nature of a discontinuous break from history: it's a new road that can head anywhere, in theory. Let's all watch what the Sox are doing this year, and as other closers with 4.00+ ERAs struggle on various teams, let's see how those teams react. It should be interesting.

Here are the leaders in relief appearances and saves for the last thirteen years. Note that there is a good mix of closers and middle relievers:

Name                RA  SV   G
Mike Stanton       814  64 815
Dan Plesac         782  56 796
Mike Jackson       769 130 769
Roberto Hernandez  693 320 696
Jesse Orosco       691  23 691
Steve Reed         671  18 671
Doug Jones         668 225 672
Mike Timlin        660 114 664
Mark Guthrie       652  14 687
Jeff Nelson        644  23 644
Paul Assenmacher   643  42 644
Rod Beck           642 266 642
Robb Nen           639 314 643
Chuck McElroy      636  17 643
Trevor Hoffman     632 352 632
Jeff Shaw          614 203 633
Todd Jones         607 184 607
John Franco        605 274 605
Jose Mesa          605 225 695
Buddy Groom        604  25 619
Rich Rodriguez     604   8 606
Bob Wickman        599 156 627
Dennis Cook        589   9 638
Rick Aguilera      588 311 607
Mike Fetters       585  99 591
John Wetteland     582 329 587
Doug Henry         582  82 582
Jeff Montgomery    578 285 578
Stan Belinda       577  79 577
Dave Veres         574  94 574
Scott Radinsky     557  52 557
Paul Quantrill     552  19 616
Eric Plunk         549  27 557
Eddie Guardado     548  75 573
Gregg Olson        548 190 548
Heathcliff Slocumb 548  98 548
Mike Myers         545  14 545
Mark Wohlers       533 119 533
Randy Myers        531 291 543
Jeff Brantley      531 171 547
Dennis Eckersley   530 293 530
Mel Rojas          525 126 525
Graeme Lloyd       516  17 516
Bob Patterson      512  27 518
Tony Fossas        511   6 511
Darren Holmes      503  59 509
 
Name                RA  SV   G
Trevor Hoffman     632 352 632
John Wetteland     582 329 587
Roberto Hernandez  693 320 696
Robb Nen           639 314 643
Rick Aguilera      588 311 607
Dennis Eckersley   530 293 530
Randy Myers        531 291 543
Jeff Montgomery    578 285 578
John Franco        605 274 605
Rod Beck           642 266 642
Troy Percival      475 250 475
Lee Smith          436 244 436
Mariano Rivera     438 243 448
Doug Jones         668 225 672
Jose Mesa          605 225 695
Jeff Shaw          614 203 633
Gregg Olson        548 190 548
Tom Henke          322 189 322
Todd Jones         607 184 607
Billy Wagner       386 181 386
Armando Benitez    495 176 495
Ugueth Urbina      355 174 376
Jeff Brantley      531 171 547
Mike Henneman      381 156 381
Bob Wickman        599 156 627
Billy Koch         277 144 277
Jeff Russell       339 143 339
Bryan Harvey       218 135 218
Todd Worrell       336 130 336
Mike Jackson       769 130 769
Danny Graves       363 129 367
Mel Rojas          525 126 525
Mitch Williams     309 124 311
Antonio Alfonseca  340 121 340
Mark Wohlers       533 119 533
Kazuhiro Sasaki    193 119 193
Mike Williams      345 116 400
Ricky Bottalico    460 114 460
Mike Timlin        660 114 664
Bobby Thigpen      248 110 248
Jason Isringhausen 219 108 271
Jeff Reardon       233 101 233
Keith Foulke       349 100 357
Billy Taylor       317 100 317

Here are the totals per role for the decade:

Year    GP   GS   SV  CG    CG%    RA   P/G #P   SP    SP%  RP    RP% SP/RP Swing%
1990 12694 4210 1113 429 10.19%  8484 3.015 483 100 20.70% 209 43.27% 174  36.02%
1991 13171 4208 1132 366  8.70%  8963 3.130 475 102 21.47% 212 44.63% 161  33.89%
1992 13251 4212 1109 419  9.95%  9039 3.146 441 101 22.90% 177 40.14% 163  36.96%
1993 14839 4538 1192 371  8.18% 10301 3.270 507 101 19.92% 238 46.94% 168  33.14%
1994 10642 3200  777 255  7.97%  7442 3.326 469 129 27.51% 223 47.55% 117  24.95%
1995 13865 4034 1000 275  6.82%  9831 3.437 551 108 19.60% 279 50.64% 164  29.76%
1996 15596 4534 1116 290  6.40% 11062 3.440 539 104 19.29% 260 48.24% 175  32.47%
1997 15859 4532 1139 266  5.87% 11327 3.499 534 114 21.35% 253 47.38% 167  31.27%
1998 16827 4864 1265 302  6.21% 11963 3.459 557 126 22.62% 274 49.19% 157  28.19%
1999 17277 4856 1217 236  4.86% 12421 3.558 586 111 18.94% 301 51.37% 174  29.69%
2000 17220 4858 1178 234  4.82% 12362 3.545 606 124 20.46% 307 50.66% 175  28.88%
2001 17624 4858 1210 199  4.10% 12766 3.628 591 138 23.35% 299 50.59% 154  26.06%
2002 17611 4852 1224 214  4.41% 12759 3.630 609 129 21.18% 301 49.43% 179  29.39%

Year

The Kindest Cut Of All?
2003-03-23 00:48
by Mike Carminati

The Kindest Cut Of All?

Today the Devil Rays took a deep breath and released team albatross Greg Vaughn. Vaughn is guaranteed $9.2 M this season, but the Rays are looking in a new, younger direction with new manager Lou Piniella. Vaughn is coming off a 2002 season (or half season) in which he batted .163, hit 8 home runs, and drove in but 29 runs.

To put that in an historic context, here are the men to have amassed at least 250 at-bats in a season and have failed to hit better than .175:

Name            Year AB HR RBI BA OBP SLUG OPS
Will White      1879 294 0 17 .136 .153 .156 .310
Bill Bergen     1909 346 1 15 .139 .163 .156 .319
Fritz Buelow    1904 255 0 10 .141 .201 .176 .377
Jack Burdock    1888 325 1 12 .142 .167 .166 .333
Charley Bassett 1885 285 0 16 .144 .197 .186 .383
Henry Easterday 1890 289 2 21 .149 .241 .197 .438
Harry Sage      1890 275 2 25 .149 .230 .229 .459
Sam Crane       1886 301 1 19 .153 .208 .199 .407
Bill Traffley   1885 254 1 20 .154 .207 .220 .427
Joe Gerhardt    1885 399 0 33 .155 .203 .195 .399
John Humphries  1884 257 0  2 .156 .211 .163 .374
Les Moss        1947 274 6 27 .157 .252 .255 .508
Doc Bushong     1882 253 1 15 .158 .174 .194 .368
Bill Bergen     1906 353 0 19 .159 .175 .184 .359
Silver Flint    1880 284 0 17 .162 .176 .225 .402
Billy Sullivan  1909 265 0 16 .162 .213 .174 .386
Stump Wiedman   1884 300 0 26 .163 .198 .183 .381
Greg Vaughn     2002 251 8 29 .163 .286 .315 .601
George Baker    1884 317 0    .164 .177 .183 .360
Frank Meinke    1884 341 6 24 .164 .179 .273 .451
Joe Battin      1884 286 0  0 .164 .173 .192 .365
Ray Oyler       1969 255 7 22 .165 .260 .267 .526
Herman Pitz     1890 284 0  9 .165 .307 .165 .473
Bill McClellan  1881 259 0 16 .166 .212 .185 .397
Jim Canavan     1892 439 0 32 .166 .248 .239 .488
Dave Roberts    1974 318 5 18 .167 .246 .252 .497
Charlie Bastian 1885 389 4 29 .167 .236 .252 .488
Bill Kuehne     1892 339 1 40 .168 .203 .224 .428
Red Kleinow     1908 279 1 13 .168 .229 .204 .434
Jimmy Peoples   1884 267 1 16 .169 .187 .202 .389
John Henry      1914 261 0 20 .169 .272 .226 .498
Kid Butler      1884 255 0    .169 .206 .227 .433
Juice Latham    1884 308 0 23 .169 .190 .198 .388
Davy Force      1880 290 0 17 .169 .197 .203 .400
George McBride  1906 313 0 13 .169 .212 .208 .420
Adonis Terry    1885 264 1 20 .170 .201 .208 .409
Ben Conroy      1890 404 0 21 .171 .254 .208 .462
Deron Johnson   1974 351 13 43 .171 .237 .305 .542
Jimmy Cooney    1892 263 0 24 .171 .248 .183 .431
Ed Crane        1886 292 0 20 .171 .207 .229 .436
George Scott    1968 350 3 25 .171 .236 .237 .473
Al Weis         1968 274 1 14 .172 .234 .204 .438
Clay Dalrymple  1967 268 3 21 .172 .271 .239 .510
George Pinkney  1892 290 0 25 .172 .264 .197 .460
Taylor Shaffer  1890 261 0 21 .172 .253 .215 .467
Henry Easterday 1889 324 4 34 .173 .266 .275 .540
Joe Sugden      1905 266 0 23 .173 .239 .188 .427
George Strief   1879 264 0 15 .174 .204 .208 .413
Dal Maxvill     1969 372 2 32 .175 .263 .228 .492

Vaughn can take some solace in having the best OPS of the group but it is not an enviable group to be a part of, especially when the last member was added 28 years earlier.

But what does it mean for Vaughn's future. Well, only 31 of the previous 48 even had a next year to their career. Of those only 14 recorded 250 or more at-bats the next season. Their overall average for the next season was just .215. It appears that when a player's career hits such a nadir, it's hard for that player to comeback. Whether this will hold true for Vaughn will have to be seen, but I wouln't be surprised to see a team giving him a try as a role player for the league minimum. Who knows--given that the type of season that he had in 2002 is such a rarity today, who's to say he can't turn it around? Though 37-year-old power hitters rarely do turn their careers around after being dropped by arguably the worst team in baseball.


Expo Extortion The Expos owners,
2003-03-21 11:27
by Mike Carminati

Expo Extortion

The Expos owners, that is the major league owners who also own the Montreal Expos team, heard proposals from the cities of Portland and Washington, D.C. yesterday. They still have a group from Northern Virginia set to perform their dog-and-pony show Friday before the estimable owners convene to make their decision. But don't expect to see any white puffs of smoke emanating from the commissioner's office anytime soon, even though Bob DuPuy expressed an interest "to get it done as rapidly as we can."

Why, do you ask? There's this little gem at the end of the article:

Owners want the highest possible percentage of government funding for a ballpark, and want the funding in place before deciding on a move.

Well, what's the "highest possible"? You'll never know until you pit each group against each other. Here's how they stand right now:

Washington offered to pay between 50 and 80 percent of the cost of a new ballpark for the Montreal Expos, and Portland said government financing would cover $300 million for a stadium if the team moves to Oregon.

Portland even sweetened the deal:

David Logsdon, Portland's spectator facilities manager, presented a draft financing plan for a $350 million ballpark that would be built with $150 million from the state and $150 million from the city, which would raise its money through a hotel and ticket tax and a charter seat program.

"No public votes would be required," Logsdon said.

No public vote? Those words are magic to the owners' ears. So the new Expos owner gets a guaranteed new ballpark for $50 M? Not bad. Wait until they negotiate. The other two areas had better knock the owners' socks off to best Portland. And don't forget that San Juan is getting their tryout this summer as well. They have to be a player though they were not represented in this round.

I think the owners will set up a sweetheart deal in which the new Expos owner can step into a new, free stadium with a good concessions deal in one of these areas.

Then all they will need to find is a potential owner whom they can gauge for a 50-100% markup on the Expos buying price. Why not? The owners took over a moribund franchise in a dying market and turned it into a competitive team in an excited, wanting-to-please market. And they get rid of the poor Canadian exchange rate.

I think that those incentives will be enough to placate even the rather territorial Peter Angelos if needs be.

Expect the areas that lose plus Montreal to be the key names in the next round of expansion. Oh, add the two cities they contract out of existence once they are free to do so after the 2006 season to that mix as well.


What You Talking 'Bout, Willis?
2003-03-20 15:12
by Mike Carminati

What You Talking 'Bout, Willis?

I get the impression that Eric Wedge will be the impetuous managerial type. On the day on which he replaced pitching coach Mike Brown with his Triple-A coach from last year, Carl Willis, he also set his rotation (in order: C.C. Sabathia, Ricardo Rodriguez, Brian Anderson, Jason Davis and Jason Bere, though the seeding is to spread out the vets--Bere won't miss starts like a typical 5th starter).

Note that this is 11 days before the season opener. From the looks of things (Brian Anderson #3?), Willis has work cut out for him. Hopefully he will meet his staff before they head north.


Means Devious Saints in English
2003-03-20 14:56
by Mike Carminati

Means Devious Saints in English

Here's a great tidbit from Lee Sinnins' daily report:

The Giants sent INF "Deivis" Santos and Ps Mike Johnson and Brian Powell to the minors.

Santos is still in the Dominican Republic. He's having visa problems, has already confessed to being 29, instead of 23, and he may also be using a false name.

There is a world of difference between a 23- and 29-year-old prospect.Why not release the guy? Maybe because they don't know to whom to give the walking papers.


Finch Pitch The M's welcomed
2003-03-20 00:18
by Mike Carminati

Finch Pitch

The M's welcomed University of Arizona softball pitcher Jennie Finch to camp as she filmed a segment for This Week in Baseball according to an article in Baseball "I don't acknowledge that other name" Weekly (no link possible, well, how about that!).

Finch also won the ESPN poll for "hottest" female athlete, impossibly beating the vaunted Anna Kournikova. She's not just another pretty face though (although the pretty face is the reason that I read the story on her Mariners visit in Baseball Weekly). She won 60 straight games and had a 0.15 ERA in college.

But in case you're interested, here's the face:

Anyway, if you're still reading, she pitched in the M's camp to manager Bob Melvin (not much of a hitter as a player) and Mikeameron. At first no one would face her, but these brave souls volunteered. She set up only 45 feet from home (evidently where the mound resides in softball) and allowed only one dribbler to short and a couple of fly balls. It wasn't clear from the article if she used a baseball or a softball.

I couldn't help but think of Jennifer/Loni Anderson on WKRP in Cincinnati, who in a company softball game posed near the mound as the awestruck batters struck out one by one (probably because I'm a sexist pig). However, let's just say that she has Henry Rowengartner-type stuff:

While warming up, Finch threw two pitches so hard that bullpen catcher Allen Wirtala couldn't catch them.

Wow, why didn't they try her off the rubber? (Kiss your mother with that mouth?)

Bob Melvin had this to say about his BP:

It's not like I haven't struck out before. It wasn't just the velocity but the way the ball starts out so low. I think we've found that fifth starter we've been looking for."

Yuck! Yuck! Clarence Thomas thought he was funny, too.

Seriously though, how could a major-league team see an arm that impressive and not even try her out on the mound with a baseball? I know almost nothing about organized softball, but have always heard that the pitchers, male and female, pitch tremendously faster than baseball pitchers. Why not try to convert the best of them to baseball?

I have never heard of any such experiment (though that does not mean it was never tried). There are cricket players throughout the world who pitch much faster than in the majors as well. Laugh if you must, but in the early days of base ball (when it was still two words), many cricket players were converted to the game, including the Hall-of-Famer Harry Wright. I know that they use different equipment and have different rules (heck, cricketers curve their wicked googleys on the bounce), but why hasn't someone tried to harness some of that pitching power? And in this case, they didn't even have to seek her out-she was standing right on their field.

Besides who would you rather see in you dugout, Finch or Jeff Nelson?

I rest my case.


Everybody's Cryin' Poverty When They
2003-03-19 23:31
by Mike Carminati

Everybody's Cryin' Poverty When They Don't Know The Meaning of the Word

Reuters reports that Ted Turner is no longer interested in buying back the Braves. His excuse:

"No. I can't afford them. They've gone up in value anyway."

Turner made $7.5 billion on the sale of his broadcasting empire, including the Braves (and Jane Fonda's sequins Braves cap), seven years ago. And he can't afford a measly $424 million? I guess when one loses 7 to 8 billion dollars on the AOL/Time Warner's debacle, one must give up such perks, mustn't one?

Anyway, here is further-albeit anecdotal-proof that baseball clubs are not only solvent but are going way, way up in value. A year ago with labor struggles in the air, the owners cried poverty and the fans and the media bought it. It didn't hurt that the media were largely owned or affiliated by the power-that-be in MLB, of course.


War in Iraq By the
2003-03-19 23:24
by Mike Carminati

War in Iraq

By the way, we're at war. This is a baseball site with no idiom to converse about such heady matters.

I have my own opinions on the topic but shall keep them to myself. Again, this is a baseball site, not CNN.

I just wanted to let you know that I do keep up with what's going on in the world.

And that is all that I want to say on the topic here.


Meth-Julio, II The Sports Frog
2003-03-19 23:21
by Mike Carminati

Meth-Julio, II

The Sports Frog has an interesting take on the Julio Franco assertion that he will play until 50. They suggest that he has lied about his age all along and is actual much closer to 50 than his baseball age (44) would indicate.

I would tend to doubt that he is the 48 years of age that the Frog suggests. He came up at the age of 23 with the Phils and started for the Indians at the age of 24 (Damn you, Von "5-for-1" Hayes!). If we add 4 years to that, he was not an established major-leaguer until the age of 28.

It is possible and even probable that he shaved a year or two from his actual age when he was signed and the "mistake" has yet to be corrected. He was signed by the Phils on June 23, 1978, just a couple of months shy of his 17th birthday. Sixteen is a very popular age for a young shortstop to claim to be upon signing, especially in San Pedro de Macoris. So anything is possible.

Also, I should have mentioned that Franco missed a good two and one-half years of major-league ball from 1998 to 2001. So his post-40 stats are not as impressive as they might be.


Arizona Dreaming Bryan Stroh has
2003-03-19 20:58
by Mike Carminati

Arizona Dreaming

Bryan Stroh has a preview of his spring training trip to Arizona. Check him out. He will posting about the trip through the weekend.


Rappelling Everett, II The repellant
2003-03-19 15:47
by Mike Carminati

Rappelling Everett, II

The repellant Carl Everett may be all but set to be jettisoned by another club. The Texas center field job has reportedly been awarded to ex-Phil (and Penn graduate) Doug "At least he's not an a-hole" Glanville. Glanville and his sub-.300 OBP for the past two years will also lead off for the Rangers.

Glanville really has not been much of a player since 1999 and has little prospect to become one at age 32. But he is a competent player whose personality does not become an issue unlike Everett.

Everett has had two sub-par seasons in a row and will also be 32 this year. But he would probably get the nod if it were based solely on ability. Everett is also owed $9.15 M for this season, so there's added incentive.

Basically that salary is the only reason he is still around. If the Rangers can find someone (good luck) to take it off their hands, they'll let him go for a song. He may get released. He may be kept around to DH, but the Rangers are leaning to Mark Teixeira to get regular time there.


Uma, Oprah. Rondell, Bubba. Lee
2003-03-19 15:10
by Mike Carminati

Uma, Oprah. Rondell, Bubba.

Lee Sinnins reports that the Yankees and Padres have pulled the trigger on a Rondell White-for-Bubba Trammell trade (the Yanks also get minor-league pitch Mark Phillips in the deal).

White will replace Phil Nevin, who is out for the season, in left field for San Diego. Trammell provides some depth at the outfield corners and at DH for the Yankees.

Xavier Nady and/or Brian Buchanan will probably fill in in right field for the Padres.

It might be a pretty good pickup for the Padres if Rondell White returns to his pre-2002 form. The Yankees basically had too many (starting) outfielders and had already given left field to Hideki Matsui. It just reduces their record-breaking payroll by White's $5 M. Trammell is owed at least $7.5 M over the next two years, but the Yankees can handle a role player making that much money.

White will become a free agent after 2003. If he plays well, the Padres can try to resign him and move Phil Nevin elsewhere in 2004. If he falls flat, Nevin slips back into left next year. Besides, the insurance on Nevin's and Hoffman's contracts should pay White's 2003 salary anyway.

It was the perfect move. It was so perfect I am surprised it actually happened.


Meth-Julio 44-year-old Julio Franco wants
2003-03-18 22:52
by Mike Carminati

Meth-Julio

44-year-old Julio Franco wants to play until the age of fifty.

"My eyesight is good and I still have good hand-eye coordination," Franco said. "I know I have a few more years in me."

Franco has been OK since rejoining the Braves, but will he be able to play another 6 years? I think not. He's a non-roster invitee this spring. He is fighting Robert Fick and Matt Franco (no relation) for playing time at first. Maybe he should worry about making the team.

It did get me to think about player performance after the age of 40 (i.e., the season in which he turned 40). Has anyone played successfully for another 10 years? I found one, Jack Quinn, but he was a pitcher. Pete Rose (surprise!) played the most games after turning 40 (732). Cap Anson had the most at-bats (2597, just 23 ahead of Rose). Anson also had the most runs (444), hits (822), doubles (135), and RBI (520). No wonder his nickname became Pop as he aged and looked after his "Cubs".

Hans Wagner had the most triples (36). Carlton Fisk had the most homers (72, appropriately). Rickey Henderson has the most stolen bases (106). Ty Cobb has the best post-40 batting average (.344 in two seasons). Eddie Collins has the best on-base percentage (.452 in four seasons). Ted Williams has the best slugging percentage (.540) and OPS (.954--wow!).

Franco is 35th in post-40 OPS. Here are the men with an OPS .750 or better after turning 40 (min. 100 AB):

Name              AB	BA	OBP	SLUG	OPS
Ted Williams     582	.287	.415	.540	.954
Cy Williams      320	.275	.424	.475	.899
Ty Cobb          843	.343	.419	.460	.879
Eddie Collins    268	.325	.452	.399	.851
Stan Musial     1142	.294	.375	.471	.846
Brian Downing    727	.278	.390	.443	.833
Tony Gwynn       229	.323	.373	.450	.823
Willie Mays      870	.251	.391	.426	.818
Walker Cooper    257	.272	.311	.506	.817
Hank Sauer       629	.251	.341	.475	.817
Davey Lopes      573	.276	.384	.426	.810
Bing Miller      185	.303	.361	.443	.805
Cap Anson       2597	.317	.399	.404	.803
Sam Rice        1714	.321	.379	.421	.801
Harold Baines    797	.272	.350	.450	.800
Jimmy Dykes      175	.303	.371	.429	.800
Tony Phillips    406	.244	.362	.433	.795
Luke Appling    1620	.301	.408	.381	.789
Gabby Hartnett   150	.300	.356	.433	.789
Dave Winfield   1539	.268	.341	.446	.787
Jack Saltzgaver  117	.325	.368	.419	.787
Willie Stargell  335	.260	.340	.445	.785
Carlton Fisk    1781	.266	.342	.438	.780
Bob Thurman      372	.239	.312	.462	.775
Paul Waner       368	.299	.406	.367	.772
Ken Griffey Sr.  225	.293	.363	.409	.772
Darrell Evans   1212	.228	.347	.424	.771
Mickey Vernon    454	.275	.352	.419	.771
Dummy Hoy        279	.290	.389	.380	.769
Carl Yastrzemski1541	.266	.352	.416	.768
Andres Galarraga 691	.258	.334	.431	.765
Tris Speaker     191	.267	.310	.450	.761
Rickey Henderson1416	.256	.384	.373	.757
Julio Franco     429	.287	.360	.394	.754
Paul Molitor    1040	.293	.343	.410	.753
Wade Boggs       727	.289	.360	.391	.750
Reggie Jackson   755	.232	.345	.405	.750

By the way, the only other active players are Andres Galarraga, trying to catch on with the Giants, and Rickey Henderson, who is directly ahead of Franco...and can't get a job.


Pulling for Tugger It seems
2003-03-18 21:46
by Mike Carminati

Pulling for Tugger

It seems that the prognosis for Tug McGraw is now very good. From his doctor:

"He should be up and about tomorrow and if he has no further complications, I expect him to go home soon."

That's great news. I wish him the best.


The Old Statue of Liberty
2003-03-18 21:16
by Mike Carminati

The Old Statue of Liberty Play, II

I have an explanation for the ruling of the play in which Shea Hillenbrand did his best Jerry Lewis imitation ("Hey Lady!"). And it comes from an umpire:

Mike,

Just read your report on the Shea Hillebrand play in yesterday's Sox-Devil Ray game. You're on the right path with the rule you quote but you picked the wrong references. There is no specific rule dealing with equipment or apparel that is not-detached. The two rules invoked are unfortunately 9.01(c)- umpire rules on plays specifically not covered in the rulebook and they base this on 7.05(d) For scoring purposes it may be an error, that's outside of my area of knowledge. However it is two bases as the ball is declared dead and the award is made based on the batter/runner's position at the time of the pitch. Since he had not legally obtained 1st base at the time of the pitch, the award is 2nd base.

I have an e-mail into Mike Fitzpatrick (PBUC) and Gerry Davis as well as a AAA umpire I'm friends with, I'll let you know if there are changes in how I ruled above.

Alex
Umpire-in-Chief, Windham (ME) Little League
Maine District #6 Staff Umpire
Western Maine Baseball Umpires Association

Rule 9.01(c) states and I repeat:

Each umpire has authority to rule on any point not specifically covered in these rules.

So my assertion that this play fell between the cracks, er rules, was basically correct. But there's a rule to handle plays that fall between the cracks.

Rule 7.05(d) says:

Each runner including the batter runner may, without liability to be put out, advance...[t]wo bases, if a fielder deliberately touches a thrown ball with his cap, mask or any part of his uniform detached from its proper place on his person. The ball is in play...In applying (b c d e) the umpire must rule that the thrown glove or detached cap or mask has touched the ball. There is no penalty if the ball is not touched.

I wrote back to Alex with a few questions:

Very interesting. I was aware of rule 7.05d as it relates to throwing your glove or cap to knock down a home run or a line drive over your head. I always think of Bugs Bunny throwing his glove up from the top of the Empire State and catching the last out in his game against the Gashouse Gorillas (and the Statue of Liberty confirming that the batter was out to end the cartoon).

But I didn't realize that it applied here. The AP report said that the ruling was based on the "lodging" rule and the one I cited was, I thought, the one concerned. I do believe that you are correct since the batter was awarded two bases. The umpire apparently used his judgment according to rule 9.01(c) to apply 7.05(d) even though that rule was intended for detached equipment not a jersey [that was not detached from the ballplayer].

As you mention, it does not explicitly call for an error. The only other thing that I can think of it being scored is maybe an obstruction, but Hillenbrand was fielding the ball, which puts the kibosh on that. I guess that the play was close enough that Hillenbrand, in the scorer's opinion, should have made a play on the ball.

All in all, the ruling seemed fair. But I think it still falls between the cracks. I think the ump made a good judgment call under the circumstances. The scorer's job was made easier since it seemed to be a playable ball. I have to give them credit for creatively resolving the issue in an equitable fashion.

I do, however, wonder how it would have been scored had Hillenbrand been making an exceptional play (racing across the diamond to snare a infield popup that no one else could get to, jumping up to spear a liner, etc.) while the ball lodged in his jersey. Surely, that could not be called an error since it would have been more than a routine play. It couldn't be defensive interference or obstruction as they are defined. If it were a hit, then the ump ruling it a dead ball would seem odd, given that it had yet to be controlled by the defense. I remember seeing a ball or two get lost or wedged in the ivy at Wrigley and I believe that they were ruled ground-rule doubles. But getting lodged on a person is a bit different. If the ump ruled in a similar fashion, I guess the scorer would be stuck calling either a two-base error, and a tough-luck one at that, or calling it a ground-rule double, which it technically is not. Any opinion?

Tonight I got a response from Alex as follows:

It's an interesting ruling because it's a one base award if the ball were to lodge in the umpire's equipment. In looking at it a bit more by myself, the award for a ball getting lodged in any obstruction is 2 bases so it seems they considered the fielder an obstruction. If nothing else if this were to ever happen to me on the field, now I have a ruling.

So it is similar to a ball getting stuck in the ivy in the outfield walls at Wrigley. I always thought that was a ground-rule double, but it's a two-base obstruction. Hmmm. you learn something new everyday. Anyway, I still want to know how the scorer would score my hypothetical play, but I might be risking beating this dead horse into the ground.


I Think They're Not Turning
2003-03-18 20:57
by Mike Carminati

I Think They're Not Turning Japanese, I Really Think Not

Major League Baseball announced tonight that the season opener scheduled to start in Japan has been canceled due to a looming war with Iraq.

If the war-to-be lasts a week and induces no terrorist activity, then baseball will be viewed as skiddish by future generations--especially given that its announcement comes on the heels of the NCAA's announcement that they will not cancel nor postpone their championship tournament. However, they are thinking of the players' safety and that is a good thing. Imagine how traumatic it would be for the US and Japan if something terrorist-related were to happen. I guess the rationale is not that Japan is a less safe environment in which to host a baseball game, but rather that the players competing would be targets all the more if participating in a high-profile international baseball event.

I think it's being overly cautious, but erring on the side of caution when it comes to the ballplayers' saftey isn't the worst thing that could happen, especially when there will be enough soldiers putting their lives on the line should there be a war.


"Welcome to the Hall's of
2003-03-18 00:36
by Mike Carminati

"Welcome to the Hall's of Relief", VII

Previous entries:
The 1870s, '80s, and '90s
The 1900s and '10s
The 1920s, '30s, and '40s
The 1950s
The 1960s
The 1970s
The 1980s

To Come: Final analysis-best reliever of all time and greatest bullpen of all time.

The 1990s and 2000s

The Chase.--Third Day...

"D'ye see him?" cried Ahab; but the whale was not yet in sight.

"In his infallible wake, though; but follow that wake, that's all... Here's food for thought, had Ahab time to think; but Ahab never thinks; he only feels, feels, feels;...How the wild winds blow...as the torn shreds of split sails lash the tossed ship they cling to. A vile wind that has no doubt blown ere this through prison corridors and cells, and wards of hospitals, and ventilated them, and now comes blowing hither as innocent as fleeces. Out upon it!--it's tainted...And yet, 'tis a noble and heroic thing, the wind! who ever conquered it? In every fight it has the last and bitterest blow. Run tilting at it, and you but run through it. Ha!...Would now the wind but had a body; but all the things that most exasperate and outrage mortal man, all these things are bodiless...These warm Trade Winds, at least, that in the clear heavens blow straight on, in strong and steadfast, vigorous mildness; and veer not from their mark, however the baser currents of the sea may turn and tack, and mightiest Mississippies of the land swift and swerve about, uncertain where to go at last. And by the eternal Poles! these same Trades that so directly blow my good ship on; these Trades, or something like them--something so unchangeable, and full as strong, blow my keeled soul along! To it! Aloft there! What d'ye see?"

"Nothing, sir."

"Nothing! and noon at hand!...I've oversailed him...Aye, he's chasing ME now; not I, HIM--that's bad; I might have known it, too...About! about!

Steering as she had done, the wind had been somewhat on the Pequod's quarter, so that now being pointed in the reverse direction, the braced ship sailed hard upon the breeze as she rechurned the cream in her own white wake.

-Moby Dick-Or the Whale, Chapter 135, By "Don't Call Me Babe"Herman Melville

After killing many e-trees with my last two installments on relief pitching (covering the 1970s and '80s) and anticipating the final analysis phase of this little project, I will keep my comments on the last thirteen years to a minimum. For the sake of brevity-and since I do not know how to refer to the current decade, which is only three years old anyway-I will refer to this period as the Nineties.

So what happened in the Nineties? Basically, baseball continued on its megalomaniacal course. Bullpens got bigger and more specialized. The closer role became synonymous with the save statistic as closers earned their arbitration and free agent living based on the stat. Save totals went up. Swingmen became an endangered species. "And Leon is getting laaaarrrrrger."

It is my assertion that the entire system has, like Ahab in the excerpt above, passed its goal by without realizing it. I am intently interested in what the Red Sox will be doing this year to "rechurn the cream" of the relief pitching wake. But more on that in the analytical section. For now, I'll try to keep an open mind.

In the Nineties:

The 50-save reliever was born and born again. In 1990, Bobby Thigpen set the one-year record of 57 saves that still stands today. Two years later Dennis Eckersley became the second to reach 50. Reaching 50 saves in a season has now been done eight times and five times since the last round of expansion in 1998.

In 1993, Lee Smith became the first pitcher to surpass 400 saves in his career. Smith ended his career with 478 saves in total. John Franco joined Smith in the 400-save club in 1999.

The number of men in the 300-save and 200-save clubs exploded as well. Here is a progression of those men at the end of each decade (I used 100 as the minimum in previous analyses, but given that there are now 99 men with at least 100 saves for their career, this figure becomes cumbersome):

 After 1969         | After 1979         | After 1989           | Today               
Name            Sv | Name            Sv | Name              Sv | Name               Sv 
Hoyt Wilhelm   210 | Hoyt Wilhelm   227 | Rollie Fingers   341 | Lee Smith         478
                   | Sparky Lyle    223 | Rich Gossage     307 | John Franco       422*
                   | Rollie Fingers 221 | Bruce Sutter     300 | Dennis Eckersley  390
                                        | Jeff Reardon     266 | Jeff Reardon      367
                                        | Dan Quisenberry  244 | Trevor Hoffman    352*
                                        | Sparky Lyle      238 | Randy Myers       347
                                        | Lee Smith        234 | Rollie Fingers    341+
                                        | Hoyt Wilhelm     227 | John Wetteland    330
                                        | Gene Garber      218 | Roberto Hernandez 320*
                                                               | Rick Aguilera     318
                                                               | Robb Nen          314*
                                                               | Tom Henke         311
                                                               | Rich Gossage      310
                                                               | Jeff Montgomery   304
                                                               | Doug Jones        303
                                                               | Bruce Sutter      300
                                                               | Rod Beck          266*
                                                               | Todd Worrell      256 
                                                               | Dave Righetti     252
                                                               | Troy Percival     250*
                                                               | Dan Quisenberry   244
                                                               | Mariano Rivera    243*
                                                               | Sparky Lyle       238
                                                               | Hoyt Wilhelm      227+
                                                               | Jose Mesa         225*
                                                               | Gene Garber       218
                                                               | Gregg Olson       217*
                                                               | Dave Smith        216
                                                               | Jeff Shaw         203
                                                               | Bobby Thigpen     201
* indicates active
+ indicate Hall of Famer

The Eighties save totals were explosive when compared with the Sixties and Seventies, but they were nothing compared to the Nineties. The totals for 200-save men per decade are one as of 1969, 3 after 1979, 9 after 1989, and 30 today (six of which are still active). That's basically 30, 31,32, and 33 (well, plus 3)-a nice exponential progression.

Meanwhile, the men who had led in saves in the past-i.e., Wilhelm and Fingers-were getting elected to the all of Fame. Now, Fingers is 7th in saves, Wilhelm is 24th-right ahead of the redoubtable Jose "Make A" Mesa-, and no one else has been elected to the Hall.

The saves numbers have changed so rapidly that the change has obscured the value of pitchers like Goose Gossage (13th), Bruce Sutter (16th), and Dan Quisenberry (21st), all of whom were arguably more valuable to their teams in the day than three of the top four in career saves (Lee Smith, John Franco, and Jeff Reardon) were to theirs.

This argument I feel is a stronger explanation for the current dearth of Hall of Fame relievers than the ubiquitous "The Hall voters don't value saves" argument. They value saves, just not the relievers who have high totals in that statistic. I believe that there are voters who do not select the worthy candidates that I mentioned because they are over one hundred saves behind John Franco, a player who will not be regarded as a strong Hall candidate when he retires. No one would vote for Ned Williamson because his 27 home runs in 1884 were astronomical when put in context (if with the home field help). 27 home runs just isn't that impressive a number. More investigation is needed into the context of the earlier save totals but the Hall voters are not interested in investing time in such a project.

OK, I'm back down from my soapbox. In the Nineties closers became poster children for the save stat. Here as a table of the cumulative stats for closers per decade. I posted this in the Eighties entry and have but for the Nineties, I would like to base the numbers on team save leaders not on an arbitrary save cutoff (20 saves) as I used in the Eighties study (RA= Relief Appearance):

Decade	%RA         	%W	%L   	%Sv    	IP/G
1970s	98.63%	11.71%	10.79%	28.16%	1.67
1980s	99.43%	9.89%	10.13%	36.08%	1.49
1990s	99.65%	6.05%	7.57%	46.81%	1.12
2000s	99.57%	5.70%	6.58%	47.77%	1.07
30-yr diff	0.94%	-6.02%	-4.21%	19.61%	-0.60

A closer in the 2000s pitches a hair over one inning, records a save in almost every other appearance, and has little to do with wins and losses, especially wins. Look at the change since the 1970s especially in saves and innings per appearance.

Here is a table of the percent of team save leaders who amass a certain percentage of the team's total saves. For example, the 100% column tells you the percentage of all "closers" who register all of their team's saves. Note how each bracket is increasing especially into the late Nineties and early 2000s:

Year	100%	90%	75%	50%	25%	10%
1980	0%	0%	12%	58%	100%	100%
1981	0%	0%	19%	54%	100%	100%
1982	0%	0%	12%	58%	100%	100%
1983	0%	4%	15%	50%	100%	100%
1984	0%	0%	19%	62%	96%	100%
1985	0%	4%	27%	62%	100%	100%
1986	0%	0%	12%	58%	100%	100%
1987	0%	0%	15%	42%	100%	100%
1988	0%	4%	27%	85%	100%	100%
1989	0%	0%	31%	88%	100%	100%
1990	0%	4%	23%	69%	100%	100%
1991	0%	8%	35%	65%	100%	100%
1992	0%	4%	35%	69%	100%	100%
1993	0%	21%	43%	86%	100%	100%
1994	0%	4%	32%	79%	96%	100%
1995	0%	11%	54%	82%	100%	100%
1996	4%	7%	54%	86%	100%	100%
1997	0%	11%	46%	75%	100%	100%
1998	0%	17%	53%	87%	100%	100%
1999	0%	30%	57%	83%	100%	100%
2000	0%	17%	53%	83%	100%	100%
2001	0%	20%	57%	90%	100%	100%
2002	3%	40%	77%	90%	100%	100%

The closers became save machines pitching one inning at a time. So how did this affect the rest of the staff?

First starters almost never complete a game today. The number of pitchers per game is approaching an average of four. The concept of swingmen has disappeared almost completely. A reliever was a reliever by trade even if he didn't close. They began to start games less often. Here's the closer table from above for middle relievers:

Decade	%RA         %W	%L   	%Sv    	IP/G
1970s	94.30%	9.50%	9.37%	8.95%	1.85
1980s	95.81%	8.86%	8.62%	7.92%	1.72
1990s	97.23%	7.07%	6.81%	4.63%	1.33
2000s	98.04%	6.29%	6.19%	3.07%	1.18
30-yr diff	3.74%	-3.21%	-3.18%	-5.88%	-0.67

The percentage of relief appearances goes up while the wins, losses, saves and inning pitched go down. Well, why is that if the middle relievers are taking up the slack from the starters and closers? Because there are more of them (6.37 per team in 2002).

To be continued...


Blue Jay Way The Blue
2003-03-17 21:44
by Mike Carminati

Blue Jay Way

The Blue Jays have signed two of their young stars, Eric Hinske and Vernon Wells, to five-year, $14 M contracts, a la the mid-1990s Cleveland Indians.

Some may say it is too early to lock these players into long-term, guaranteed contract since they each only have one full year as a starter. Also, Wells had the league average OPS (adjusted for Sky Dome) and a .305 on-base percentage. Hinske was rookie of the year, but remember the Joe Charboneau.

I say that they locked in two good young players for five years for slightly under $3 M dollars, half a Rey Ordonez. Hinske will be 29 when the deal ends and Wells 28. If they don't work out then they are cheap enough to trade or eat if needs be.

Besides it increases the number of teams acting optomistically by one. That's 50% when you consider that the Phillies and Yankees are the only others that qualify in my mind.

To the rest: "Mr. Potter, in the whole vast configuration of things, I'd say you were nothing but a scurvy little spider!"


Selig Hokum by the Pound-Bud
2003-03-17 16:36
by Mike Carminati

Selig Hokum by the Pound-Bud Knows What He Likes in His Baseball History

The other day-Thursday to be precise-commissioner Bud Selig addressed the World Congress of Sports. I have no idea what the World Congress of Sports is. It sounds like something Batman and Aquaman would attend, amid the requisite Ted Knight voiceovers. But Bud seemed to take it seriously, using it as a forum for his state of the baseball union address. The speech wreaks of Old Spice and recalcitrant hair being held in abeyance by slathers of Bud's best possum grease. The crinkle of taffeta is almost palpable (come see the softer side of Selig). Bud speechifies like one who has gussied oneself up. He displays his fanciest ciphering.

Prof. Selig begins with a history lesson cribbed from the oeuvre of Messrs. Costas and Will or possibly gleaned by fast-forwarding through Ken Burns' Baseball documentary:

There is no doubt in my mind that baseball is the greatest game ever invented. Its result is not determined by the expiration of a set amount of time. It is not a simulated war game in which two sides battle mightily over turf; nor is it a mad dash from one end of a field or court to the other in the pursuit of an accumulation of goals. In territorially based games, there are two goals or nets or baskets. In baseball, there is only one place where a score is counted: home plate, where play begins and also where play may come to an end...

The essence of the game, I believe, is near perfect. I often wonder if Alexander Cartwright truly understood the symmetry he had created more than a century and a half ago when he marked off ninety feet between the bases on Elysian Fields in Hoboken, New Jersey. Also perfect is the distance between the pitcher's mound and home plate -- 60-feet, six-inches. Bart always wondered about the mystical multiples of three and four that permeated the game, such as four balls and four bases; three strikes, three outs, nine innings, and 60-feet, six-inches.

George Carlin does a better job of comparing baseball and football, and he's funny. Selig even tries to raise the game to mythic or elegiac status by channeling commissioner-cum-martyr Bart Giamatti and using his comparison of a base runner to Odysseus. Pretentious much? You see, they both want to return home. And both were almost eaten by a one-eyed monster. Hmm, the analogy seems to break down there.

Selig comes close to rehabilitating the much-maligned, one-time "inventor" of baseball, Abner Doubleday. But he got him confused with the former Met co-owner and had to chuck that portion of the script (I'm joking of course).

But Bud lays on the nostalgia so thick the audience needs boots:

Baseball has always served as a bridge that binds the generations. The ballpark is a venue at which fathers and daughters, mothers and sons, grandparents and grandchildren can congregate and share their experiences. How many of you still remember the first time you walked into a ballpark on the hand of a parent or grandparent and first experienced that great expanse of green? The experience has been depicted in films and described in books and magazine articles. The experience is one of our game's greatest strengths and one of its most powerful and enduring features. We must continue to build on the mythology that surrounds it...

The enduring failures of the Red Sox and Cubs are treated with near religious fervor. Throughout New England, the "Curse of the Bambino" has become a sacred creed. In St. Louis, the color red is godly, and, on the north side of Chicago, Wrigley Field is referred to as the shrine.

Those poor Yankees! Look at what they've lost in winning all those championships. What profiteth a man if gaineth the entire world and loseth his soul? (Well, he does still have the worldeth.)

Instead of building on the mythology how about selling the game today as it is played by the greatest players in the world? He seems completely out of touch with the game as it is played on the field today, alluding only to Sammy Sosa's 1998 season and to Barry Bonds' home run record as the sole accomplishments by a player today worth even mentioning (and Bonds was just a reference to the number 73).

I guess that's due to the players causing every problem in the game over the past 35 years:

As you know, Major League Baseball has been involved in an internal war with labor for thirty-five years. It has been owners versus players; the clubs versus the Players Association; and sometimes clubs versus clubs with the Commissioner in the middle. This conflict, which began with the players arguing for basic rights and continued through financial uncertainty where the clubs were compelled to seek financial relief and competitive balance, hopefully, can be put to rest. In fact, I believe the conflict must be put to rest for the game to proceed as a relevant and popular attraction...

The direct and residual damage caused by thirty-five years of bickering, accusations, and threats has been immeasurable. Just the perception of baseball as a troubled sport became a self-fulfilling prophecy and created a negative dynamic that affected every part of our game and our business. This new Basic Agreement, I hope, will provide the foundation for a lengthy peace in which we can promote the many positive features of baseball and work together for the betterment of the game.

Bud should get his history straight: the players and the owners have been feuding ever since day one. The players formed their own league in 1890. Whenever there has been an opportunity to do so the players have jumped to another league outside of "organized" ball. The owners have used their antitrust "exemption" and nifty tools like the reserve clause and hobbling, or rather banning, of escapee players to combat the uppity ones, who had the temerity to ask for a free market in America of all places. Commie Pinkos!

So what challenges does the game face as it careens wildly into the 21st Century?

One area in which we must never waver is in the effort to bring more kids to the game, whether through greater participation or through greater attendance and viewership...Nothing is more important than bringing kids to the game. Kids are our lifeblood; they are the future of the game.

Right, so what is he going to do? MLB has some nice programs for inner-city kids and they have Jackie Robinson's daughter teaching values to our youth. That's nice.

He then points to African Americans and Hispanics' indifference to the game. (Do we still say Hispanics?) "As the National Pastime, baseball should have a wider appeal to people of all ethnic groups."

But wouldn't promoting the game's young, mostly ethnic stars go a long way to attracting young and ethnic fans? You can start by at least mentioning Barry Bonds or Alex Rodriguez.

He then moves on to the "broadcast area." But his concerns are largely with ratings and cozying up to the networks to provide more graphics during the average game. He makes no mention of making games shorter and therefore, more easily digestible for the average fan. Nor does he mention putting some games on earlier at night, adding doubleheaders to the schedule, or broadcasting Saturday afternoon games throughout the year, all of which would increase the young fan audience. But they would potentially cut into baseball's profit.

As usual, he next takes potshots at the game he should be promoting:

For most of our history, baseball has been regarded as stodgy and old-fashioned, a dinosaur, big and slow and reluctant to change. And like the dinosaur, the game, critics presumed would soon disappear.

First, that's not actually true, unless baseball history dates back to 1981. Second, the owners have always been the stodgy ones. It's always been in their best interest not to change if the profits are up.

Then, he toots his own horn, right there on stage for everyone to see!

We have responded to the challenge over the last decade and have introduced more change to the game than we have seen in the previous 100 years combined.

C'mon, more than integration, expansion, rival leagues, the development of the American League and the World Series, the All-Star game, league divisions, the league championships, international players, etc?

Well, it was the critics who were always resistant to change, not the owners:

In baseball, because of the archaic and cumbersome league structure, which lasted through much of the 20th Century, and because of critics who were and continue to be resistant to change, it was treacherous going.

He must be referring to purists since his next topic is inter-league play, that Bud-induced panacea. Sure, knock your best fans to promote a stupid and annoying interruption that still has not been worked out to nearly anyone's satisfaction as yet.

Then he touts the wild card as the greatest thing since sliced dog doo-doo. "More than 90 percent of our fans love the Wild Card because more teams through September are battling for playoff berths." No, they love the wild card (if that's true) because they don't know any better. I don't dislike the wild card, but imagine the great pennant races we have been robbed of (Angels and A's last year for one) when both teams know that they will make the playoffs in early September.

"The most important change -- one that I believe will forever alter the economic landscape of the game -- is revenue sharing." Of course, it's clear that they botched this since teams are not forced to use the revenue money on the product that people see on the field. Instead baseball is creating welfare mothers, who have more incentive to keep costs down even to the point of compromising the quality of a team that is usually in dire need of improvement. That is apparent from one offseason under the new CBA.

Bud then points to internet delivery as the future of the game:

The internet and interactive potential for baseball, the richest sport in terms of games and statistics is unlimited. Our ability to make the game -- audio, video, statistics, highlights, historical games -- convenient and accessible to fans is here today and will grow exponentially in the next decade. From the mobile phone to the desktop PC, from Cincinnati to Tokyo, 24 hours a day, our great game is available.

Baseball is making its first forays into e-commerce and it's only five years behind the rest of the world (and two years behind the collapse of e-commerce). Right on time! It's nice to get these services on your PC, but unless they can make a good business case for baseball e-commerce aside from merchandizing, I'm not sold. Citing the number of hits on MLB.com (750 M) and number of updates to MLB.com database is pointless. It also reminds me of those e-commerce companies shenanigans before the went belly-up.

Next he points to the recovery after the last strike:

Throughout the second half of the 1990s, I often talked about the great Renaissance the game was enjoying, particularly in light of the difficult times brought on by the 1994-95 players' strike. Attendance fell off by 20 percent in 1995 and it appeared that a full recovery would take years, perhaps more than a decade. Fortunately, thanks to a number of terrific on-field developments, the turn-around came more quickly than we could have imagined. First, in 1995 there was Cal Ripken and his remarkable record-breaking streak, eclipsing the previous mark of consecutive games played set by the legendary Lou Gehrig. That was soon followed by the compelling 1998 home run duel between Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa, in which both sluggers broke Roger Maris' single season mark of 61 homers. Game attendance surpassed 70 million for four straight seasons, beginning in 1998, and single season attendance records were set first in 1998 and then in 2000. Major League Baseball's attendance is greater than that of the National Football League, National Hockey League and National Basketball Association combined, and, when you add minor league attendance, baseball's total routinely exceeds 110 million fans per season.

First, how can compare the attendance of all organized baseball where there are more teams and more games to that of the other team sports? It's apples-and-oranges. Second, baseball has yet to recover from the 1994-'95 strike. Attendance went up in 1998 because baseball expanded by two teams. Check out the per-game attendance since 1990:

1990	26,044.55
1991	27,002.74
1992	26,529.19
1993	30,964.27
1994	31,256.26
1995	25,021.93
1996	26,509.65
1997	27,876.74
1998	29,053.97
1999	28,887.72
2000	29,377.90
2001	29,881.06
2002	28,169.32

He also compares New York's baseball attendance today to 1950, a ludicrous argument since the same could be said of Cincinnati (538,794 in 1950 and 1,855,787 in 2002). I doesn't hurt that the schedule was extended by 8 games either.

He finishes up by pouring on the ole nostalgia. Baseball led during the civil rights years and kept us together after September 11th. Selig has the temerity to read Jack Buck's post-9/11 poem. Buck is visibly spinning in his grave.

To sum up:

Baseball is a great game. It is interwoven into the fabric of our country. When I was President of the Milwaukee Brewers, I would often travel around the state of Wisconsin giving a speech about hope and faith, about how on the first of April of each year it is our responsibility as the stewards of the game to assure that the fans of as many clubs as possible would have hope and faith in their club's ability to succeed. That is the essence of our great game, and it applies not only to the nature of the game, but to the marketing of it as well.

"Stewards"? That's great. Kansas City lets any starting pitcher over the age of 25 leave in order to save as much cash as possible at the expense of the product on the field and that's stewardship? I'm confident that the owners will continue to shepherd "not only to the nature of the game, but to the marketing of it as well" in the right direction to make as big a profit for themselves as possible in the short term at the expense of the long-term health of their teams and the sport in general. Then in five years they will sell their team for 100% profit.

Good night, Mrs. Calibash and all the ships at sea.

[By the way, the title was an allusion to the classic Genesis album from the Peter Gabriel days. Hey, I'm just trying to emulate my hero, Peter Gammons.]


Eine Kleine Chin Music, III
2003-03-17 10:47
by Mike Carminati

Eine Kleine Chin Music, III

Our friend Gregi Gross in Germany has some more interesting info about German baseball. Our ongoing convesration has become even more topical as baseball announced yesterday that there is a good possibility that major-league games will be played in Europe in July 2004.

The previous discussions are here and here. Below is what we have been discussing of late:

Gregi:What you say about baseball and its international relations is right. It would be interesting to see what kind of players you would get from international scouting, and that baseball is busy destroying its fan base in the US rather than spreading it all over the world is
ridiculous. [Mike (Aside): A) Amen and B) this becomes more of an issue after baseball's announcement to play in Europe.]

Mike: I have one question about your answers: why are games seven innings? One would expect that there was some rationale for changing it from nine at some point. Do you happen to know?

Gregi: No. I did send out an e-mail-query to the german baseball leagues to find out. I do think, though, the seven innings were only played in the lower levels, in the big league you'd go the usual nine...

Mike: Also, do you know how old the amateur system is and how it developed?

Gregi: Well, that will also be in the e-mails I sent out. I do think, though, the GI´s had something to do with it. After all, the only baseball diamonds in Berlin that I do know of are where GI´s worked. One is at the airfield Tempelhof (which also has the fourth largest building on the planet ). Its a beautiful thing, it's just that its on the airfield ground so no one can go there without permission.

Gregi: (Later email)) From checking out the websites of the german baseball bundesliga, I found out that they premier league plays 9-inning-ball, they seldom hit homeruns (the whole league hit 96 homeruns in 7292 plate appearances), but they walk ( 908 BB in 7292 PA ). Figures are from the 1. Bundesliga South ( League BA .288, SLG . 403, OBP .404 ). So some things I said changed obviously. Figures for 1. Bundesliga North ( League BA .275, SLG .372, OBP .383 )

Quite a high batting average and on base percentage, I dare say.

As for the history, the first german champ was played out in 1951, which indicates that the GIs had something to do with it. Interestingly, though, no german champ was determined between 1971-1980...

That is a high on-base percentage, higher than the league slugging. That has never happened in MLB. The closest was a difference of .005 points between the slugging and on-base in 1907 and 1909. The home runs are about the 2002 MLB rate, but historically it is no lower than MLB had been for much of the offensive-minded 1930's. Actually, the Thirties seems the best fit all around:

	HR%	BB%	BA	OBP	SLUG	OPS
DE North	1.32%	12.45%	.288	.404	.403	.807
DE South			.275	.383	.372	.755
1932	1.41%	7.82%	.277	.337	.400	.737
2002	2.71%	8.71%	.261	.331	.417	.748

It would be interesting to see the historical trends for these stats in Germany. The German walk rate is much higher than any year in MLB history (1949's 10.42% was the highest).

I would venture that the average game in Germany is different from what we've seen in the majors. Perhaps it has something to do with the issues I mentioned last night when discussing the Mets-Dodgers series in Mexico City. It would be interesting to compare the ratios to those at the various minor-league levels in 2002 (which I do not have handy right now) to see if they more closely match the German game.


It Must Be The Exchange
2003-03-17 00:19
by Mike Carminati

It Must Be The Exchange Rate

The Mets-Dodgers two-game series in Mexico City (o Ciudad Mexico por supesto) resulted in 57 runs scored from 14 home runs and 74 hits.

It makes me wonder about the differences between the majors and the Mexican League. The Mexican League has been playing in the 7200-foot elevation of Mexico City since 1937 (according to Spanish-only Enciclopedia del Beisbol Mexicano, Segunda Edicion (1994), which I proudly have a copy of). However, I would have to believe that even with the somewhat inflated offensive numbers from the Mexican League, a 20-10 score like was witnessed today (with 10 homers) is a rare occurrence. It leads me to believe that the Mexican League's Triple-A status is even more suspect than one would expect given the dearth of major-league players who have played there.

It also makes me wonder if major-league baseball could become an international game. MLB announced that it would play some games in Europe in 2004, but baseball may be a sport that is more closely tied to the areas from whence it was generated than any other. Basketball and hockey are (now) played indoors so the conditions can be much more easily controlled. That hockey can be played in Florida in June tells you how little the environment has to do with a hockey game. The size of a football limits the effects of the elements to the kicking game (unless of course, there is a blizzard or a rain storm). However, no one seems to say that John Elway's passes went farther because he played in Denver.

But in baseball elevation matters, humidity matters, precipitation matters. Perhaps even longitude matters. It's been 10 years since major-league ball set up shop in Denver and the shopkeepers are still trying to figure out how to play in that environment. And they had been playing minor-league in Denver for over 100 years (107 to be precise). Imagine what the game will be like in San Juan this summer. Or Mexico, or Japan, or Italy.

If baseball ever were able to become the international game it envisions itself to be, the game at the major-league level could become vastly different from even the high-scoring one we witness today. It could be tough to be a purist in fifty years if the sport catches on internationally. So you'll either be stuck rooting on a major-league sport that is relegated to North America while the other major sports are potentially expanding across the globe or you'll have to remain devoted to a sport that would be going through changes that make Bud's tinkering seem downright pedestrian.


The Old Statue of Liberty
2003-03-16 01:22
by Mike Carminati

The Old Statue of Liberty Play

Talk about smothering a ball.

Boston's Shea Hillenbrand attempted to field a Toby Hall grounder to lead off the third inning, but the ball disappeared into Hillenbrand's shirt and was ruled a two-base error. After the play, the Devil Rays scored three runs, all unearned, off Pedro Martinez.

As for Hillenbrand's crazy play, [Boston manager Grady] Little said it was the right call.

``I thought (Hillenbrand) was going to grab the ball and throw him out, but he couldn't find it,'' Little said. ``It was extraordinary.''

Hall was first credited with a hit and a one-base error, but the call was later changed to a two-base error. The umpires apparently invoked the ``lodging'' rule that calls a play dead when the ball gets stuck.

But was it the right call?

Here's the rule to which, I believe, the article refers:

5.09
The ball becomes dead and runners advance one base, or return to their bases, without liability to be put out, when...

(g) A pitched ball lodges in the umpire's or catcher's mask or paraphernalia, and remains out of play, runners advance one base; If a foul tip hits the umpire and is caught by a fielder on the rebound, the ball is "dead" and the batsman cannot be called out. The same shall apply where such foul tip lodges in the umpire's mask or other paraphernalia. If a third strike (not a foul tip) passes the catcher and hits an umpire, the ball is in play. If such ball rebounds and is caught by a fielder before it touches the ground, the batsman is not out on such a catch, but the ball remains in play and the batsman may be retired at first base, or touched with the ball for the out. If a pitched ball lodges in the umpire's or catcher's mask or paraphernalia, and remains out of play, on the third strike or fourth ball, then the batter is entitled to first base and all runners advance one base. If the count on the batter is less than three balls, runners advance one base.

But this rule deals solely with foul balls. The ball that Hillenbrand fielded was clearly fair or it would have only counted as a strike on the batter. So the ruling does not apply at all. The runner according to the rules should have been allowed to run the bases until Hillenbrand retrieved the ball.

That said, I would say that the extrapolation of the given rule to accommodate the game's circumstances was an appropriate one. I think that the underlying principle of the rules is to maintain the fairness and the elegance of the game. Allowing Hall to lumber around the bases while the Red Sox performed a cavity search on Hillenbrand for the ball would have been both unfair and inelegant.

Clearly, the runner is not out, but how many bases he is awarded is unclear even if the rule is applied. The rule awards one base for a "lodging" but Hall was awarded second base. I guess the decision was that one cannot assume the runner would not have beaten the throw even if the untoward play had not occurred. Therefore, the sole base awarded was second.

However, the ruling was a two-base error, which made the subsequent runs unearned. There are two problems with this call: 1) The rule provides for one base. If that one base is second then how could it be a two-base error? He would have been granted first on the basis of the lack of a throw. If first bases is the one base awarded then how did the runner end up at second? The umpire evidently applied the rule and also granted an extra base as a penalty against the Sox. 2) There is no provision in the rule to charge the fielder with an error due to a "lodged" ball. If the ball lodges in a catcher's mask, is it an error on the catcher? I would think not, though how it would be scored evades me. It does seem a draconian ruling on Hillenbrand as well unless the scorer felt that he should have caught the ball and by missing it allowed the ball to disappear in his jersey. That's fine, but then how is it a two-base error? It's a one-base error to allow the batter to first and then another base awarded by rule 5.09g. I guess here is one of those situations where a team error is advocated by some.

I guess overall it was fair and elegant: The D-Rays got an extra base, at least. Hillenbrand was charged an error for a play he should probably have made. Martinez was not responsible for the runner. It's incredible that this game still has plays that are new or at least rare enough to evade the rulebook. I have to hand it to the umps to come up with an equitable solution even though it was not really a kosher one according to the rules in the book today.


Jeff Kent-Walt Weiss Memorial Baseball
2003-03-15 01:48
by Mike Carminati

Jeff Kent-Walt Weiss Memorial Baseball Darwin Awards, IV

What is up with the Padres? First they lose closer Trevor Hoffman and now possible replacement Jay Witasick strains the elbow on his pitching arm taking out the garbage.

"He was taking some bags of trash out,'' Padres manager Bruce Bochy said Friday. "They were heavy, had some watermelon in them, apparently. He tossed them into the dumpster and strained his elbow.

Yankee fans may think that Witasick's pitches actually look like watermelons when they approach the plate. Also, Bochy was allegedly picking through the garbage at the time, explaining his ability to cite verbatim its contents (I'm joking of course).

Apparently, if it had been a little harder, it may have required "Tommy John" surgery. So now I have to feel bad for laughing. I'm the bad guy.

This is a running log of inane injuries. Here are entries I, II, and III in the series.


What a Difference a Mediocre
2003-03-15 01:34
by Mike Carminati

What a Difference a Mediocre Player Makes

After all that talk about how Brian Giles would prefer to play center because it's actually smaller in Pittsburgh--baseball's version of the Tardis I guess--, the Pirates have decided to reconfigure their entire outfield as well as the top of their order. The reason being that the putative Vicksburgian siege that were the Kenny Lofton-Pirates contract negotiations have finally ended.

Lofton is signed. He will play center field and lead off. Giles moves back to left. Recently-signed Reggie Sanders moves to right. I'll get to Scotland before ye.

That's the extent of the changes due to Lofton's defensive presence. Offensively, the signing means that Jason Kendall drops down to number 2 in the lineup and the heretofore number-two hitter, Jumpin' Jack Flash Wilson, drops to eighth.

This does improve them both offensively and defensively, but so would luring Garry Maddox out of retirement to lead off and play centerfield. The Pirates have some holes in the ole lineup, more holes than it takes to fill the Albert Hall (I'd love to turn you on, whatever that means). Wilson, Pokey Reese, Kevin Young, and Aramis Ramirez were all deplorable offensive players in 2002 (all much worse than the league average in OPS). Kendall wasn't much better, and is not nearly the offensive player he was just a few years ago, but at least he gets on base (.350 OBP). Signing Lofton means that two players who are above average Craig Wilson and Matt Stairs, who were set to platoon in right field, will see less playing time. That is, unless the Pirates wise up a relocate the platoon to first, where the avuncular and now inappropriately named Young still patrols.

Lofton is not the player he once was but promises to play an average offense and get on base around 35% of the time. He displaces Jack Wilson, who had a .306 on-base percentage last year. The Pirates can now properly set the table for the awesome Brian Giles and the meat of the order, which I would assume would consist of Ramirez (on the hopes that he returns to his 2001 form), Sanders, and/or whoever is playing first. That leaves the all-mitt-can't-hit double-play combo to finish out the order. It's not pretty but it beats giving Jack Wilson the extra at-bats. Given the price Sanders and Lofton must have commanded and the dreck that the Pirates have been parading in the outfield for the last few years (all with the surname of Brown seemingly--Rios means brown, too, right?), the signing shouldn't be much of a liability.

And I think Brian Giles can accept the move back to left to have a few extra baserunners to drive home during the year.


The Waives of Confusion, II
2003-03-15 01:07
by Mike Carminati

The Waives of Confusion, II

Benny Agbayani was signed by the Reds and Bruce Chen by the 'Stros today, both to minor-league contracts.


Tugger My most heartfelt well-wishes
2003-03-14 16:18
by Mike Carminati

Tugger

My most heartfelt well-wishes go out to Tug McGraw, who was hospitalized today.

The man brought me one of my happiest baseball moments in 1980. He is an icon in Philadelphia. I wish him and his family well.

As my friend Murray writes, "Think of him when you slap your leg with your glove."


Piazza Del Toros Dodger GM
2003-03-14 16:12
by Mike Carminati

Piazza Del Toros

Dodger GM Dan Evans filed a complaint against former-Dodger Mike Piazza (and sidekick Alf, I believe) for storming the LA clubhouse in hot pursuit of the already long-departed Guillermo Mota:

Evans was in the Dodger clubhouse at the time, along with trainer Stan Johnston, clubhouse manager Jerry Turner and two reporters. Piazza, in what one observer described as a "controlled rage," first asked Turner, then Johnston, where Mota was.

It kind of puts that Rocket Clemens feud in a whole different light, huh?

Piazza, not that there's anything wrong with it, will be addressing this and other issues in his next 10-10-220 commercial. Maybe he got confused as to which clubhouse he was supposed to report to having played for the Dodgers for some time in the past. Emmitt Smith and Terry Bradshaw were not available for comment.


If You Honor It, They
2003-03-14 00:25
by Mike Carminati

If You Honor It, They Will Leave

In a story that screams of "cutting off your nose to spite your face", the Cubs are threatening to leave Wrigley if it is designated a landmark, since it "could hinder the team's ability to keep the ballpark functioning."

This comes from a team whose ability to keep itself functioning has been severing hindered for decades by its own management. The Tribune Company seems much more concerned with profits than pennants, and it shows. The Cubs enjoy all the benefits of playing in probably the most beautiful and awe-inspiring stadium in the world but are not willing to accept any of the disadvantages, such as interlopers just outside the fences getting a free view of the action and having to ensure that the stadium stays beautiful.

I have no sympathy for the freeloaders who think that just because they have been lucky enough to enjoy free baseball games for years it is their birthright. Not only that, it is also a means to turn a tidy profit, when they charge admission or rent or sell their baseball-stealing domiciles. Put up a screen to block their view or make them pay for the privilege. They remind me of the crybabies in Manhattan who fight for rent control so that they can rent out their cheap apartments for exorbitant sums of money.

However, all that landmarking Wrigley will do is prevent the Cubs from performing renovations, such as luxury boxes, that are detrimental to the ballpark's appearance. The Cubs' lawyer protests calls this the "first-ever landmarking of vegetation" (i.e., the ivy in the outfield) and claims:

"We are taking a park that has changed progressively for 89 years and making a determination that, as of today, it needs to change no more."

Changed progressively? Wasn't this the last major-league ballpark to install lights? (On 8-8-88, they played their first night game to be exact.)

Andy MacPhail thinks that the move will alienate the fans:

"This landmarking ordinance will at very best delay and, at worst, deny us the ability to adapt to the always evolving desires and requirements of our fans," MacPhail said. "Ballparks that don't respond to their fans' needs, particularly 89-year-old parks, become endangered."

The fans like the stadium. Why else would they follow this team that has been wallowing in mediocrity for decades.

I say landmark the stadium and let the Cubs leave. Nobody likes the new Comiskey. Let the White Sox play in Wrigley. Why not, the Cubs stole it from the Federal League Whales in the first place (well, more precisely the majors allowed the Federal League owner to buy out the Cubs and help submerge the independent league). Let the Cubs move to the soon-to-be vacated Montreal or to Portland, Las Vegas, D.C., or any of the myriad of cities being mentioned as a new home for the Expos. Then they will actually have to put a quality product on the field after the glow of immigrating to a new city dims, and we'll see if a minor issue like playing in a landmark in the third largest market in the country is really at issue.


Spring Fling, V Well, it
2003-03-13 23:52
by Mike Carminati

Spring Fling, V

Well, it seems that Guillermo Mota, who started to backpedal into the Dodger dugout after plunking and being intimidated by Mike Piazza, is still backpedaling. He now claims that it was unintentional and had nothing to do with a similar incident last spring. Oh, and apparently Brian Jordan wisked Mota away in the seventh inning so that he could avoid being attacked by the raucous fans, not to avoid a post-game confrontation with Piazza:

"I know what I did and it was not intentional," said Mota. "Whatever they (the Mets) think . . ."

"It's not about last year," Mota said. "That was 2002. This is 2003."

"If I had intentions, I'd be ready," he said. "He surprised me, like he surprised me last year."

Apparently, the Dodgers are not pleased that Piazza stormed into their clubhouse. I think some big suspensions (10-game?) are due all around. We shall see.


Spring Fling, IV Evidently, Jose
2003-03-13 17:36
by Mike Carminati

Spring Fling, IV

Evidently, Jose Mesa was misquoted when he said that he would kill Omar Vizquel.

Mesa now claims:

"I was hurt by remarks by a former teammate," Mesa said in a statement Thursday. "I would never injure anyone."

Boy, that sounds like the articulate Mr. Mesa. Obviously no one wrote that prepared statement for him.

Vizquel seems fine with it, saying that it was an idiomatic thing. You see kill in Spanish means I love that guy.

Yesterday, there was another plunking with Mike Piazza, or rather his left shoulder, being on the receiving end of a Guillermo Mota pitch. Piazza charged the mound and Mota threw his glove and called for his mommy, allegedly, as he backpedalled into the dugout.

Everyone concerned seemed to either state outright or hint that the pitch was intentional:

"If he wants to hit somebody he needs to stand there and fight," Mets manager Art Howe said. "He backpedaled faster than I can run forward."

Howe did steal only 10 bases in eleven years.

"It was intentional, and they knew it, too," Howe said. "It was a setup."

Howe continued, "You're out of order! The whole damn clubhouse is out of order!"

"Obviously, he remembers the fact that the guy reached up and tried to choke him a year ago," Dodgers manager Jim Tracy said. "I'm sure major league baseball will sort this out. We'll sort this out and we'll move on."

Jim Tracy seems to be anticipating some fines and/or suspensions. He also seems to be the last reasonable person in baseball right now.
Then again, his player wasn't the one hit.


I Must Be In the
2003-03-13 14:45
by Mike Carminati

I Must Be In the Front Row

He would be the first to admit that he was far from a Hall of Famer as a player, but Bob Uecker will deservingly enter the hallowed halls as a broadcaster this year after winning the Ford C. Frick Award earlier today.

I would put him in for his work in Major League alone. I just can't wait for his speech.


The Waives of Confusion You
2003-03-13 14:02
by Mike Carminati

The Waives of Confusion

You may have noticed a few recognizable names among the transaction blurbs in your local newspaper, be it the Bee or the Times-Courrier-News-Inquirer-et al. Mark Quinn, Benny Agbayani, Kevin "Kid" Orie, Willie Banks, Bruce Chen, Osvaldo Fernandez, Wayne Gomes, Mike James, and Rob Bell all were once established major leaguers if not stars. Now they are all unemployed.

Yesterday was the final day that players on the 40-man rosters could be released for only 30 days' worth of termination pay (then it will be 45 days' pay). So teams started looking to their marginal players to determine if they are still worthy of their contracts.

Bell gets "only" $71,721 of his $437,500 salary.

Banks: $122,951 of his $750,000, one-year contract.

Agbayani: $100,000 of his $610,000, one-year contract.

Quinn receives $81,967 in termination pay from his $500,000, one-year contract. He was supposed to be the Royals' starting right fielder. He had hamstring problems and was 1-for-8 in only a handful of games this spring.

Manager Tony Pena was sympathetic:

"We said coming into spring training there were going to be no gimmes," manager Tony Pena said. "Somebody would have to earn it. At that point, everybody believed he was not going to help this ballclub. That was the decision."

Though there were rumors initially that the Royals would re-sign Quinn after he cleared waivers, but now it appears they are going in another direction (i.e., Michael Tucker and/or Dee Brown).

Here is yet another indication that baseball teams are doing whatever is necessary to pare down salary. They non-tendored contracts en masse earlier this offseason, swamping the free agent market. However, those were mostly million-dollar players that they teams felt would not be worthy of such an investment. Now they appear set to cut salary for those making near the $300 K league minimum.

Maybe teams are starting to realize that, as Stephen Jay Gould first articulated in his .400-hitter study, the general improvement in play has made many major-league players expendable. Why pay Benny Agbayani twice the league minimum as an average outfielder when someone can be had for half that that is almost as good?

For years the baseball men would demand that veteran players be brought in to fill certain roles because they were known commodities. Now, the pendulum is starting to swing the other with the money people demanding a rationale to pay the extra money on veterans. Actually, in this market they have been able to acquire those veterans for less, pleasing both the money and the baseball camps.

Indeed, a few of the players released will catch on with another major-league club but probably for less money. And there'll be no more "gimmes".

Of course, this a great basis for an argument to expand by more teams. If there is such a large pool of talent that players can be dropped to shave off a few hundred thousand dollars, then maybe it's time to add a team or two to offload the excess talent.

Of course, there's always the con argument that states that teams are bleeding cash and no further expansion is practical in our economy today. However, the proposed Dodgers sale, which basically doubles the value of the team in five years, five post-expansion and post-strike years, puts the kibosh on that argument.

However, the cartel that runs major-league baseball isn't about to add more teams to their ranks to suckle from the baseball teat until they see some direct benefits from doing so: usurial expansion fees and/or removal of Congress from their collective backs. The truth is baseball is more likely to contract, which they are free to do after 2006 according to the new CBA. Contraction is much more attractive now given the benefit of extorting a new stadium or better concessions from the locals by threatening to move. In the early-to-mid-Nineties baseball was much more interested in collecting those excessive expansion fees.

So what does the future hold? It will be extremely interesting to see what sorts of new contracts replace the long-term deals that will expire over the next few years. They will probably be both shorter in duration and for less money. That is, unless the players can prove collusion. Money will continue to be one of the main considerations in any trade that is made. Baseball will make a tidy sum on the Expos sale.

When 2007 rolls around, the owners will determine if the continued extortion of the local municipalities outweighs the ridiculous sums they can demand for an expansion team or two. If extortion is the way to go, expect a Florida team or two to go bye-bye. If not, say "Howdy" to San Juan, Portland, D.C.-basically whatever cities do not get the Expos. Count the number of new stadiums completed by 2006 and that may be a good indicator. Also, if the average salary falls under the Mendoza Line ($2 M), the owners may be more willing to welcome new boys into their clubhouse.


Stark Surrealism Jayson Stark's article
2003-03-13 00:26
by Mike Carminati

Stark Surrealism

Jayson Stark's article today was about Craig Biggio's move to center field and the historic difficulty involved in making that switch. Again Stark plumbs the depth of someone else's research-this one is rank with a slathering of Elias Sports Bureau.

Basically, Stark in his inimitable style finds an obscurity and presents it as history. Biggio has moved from catcher to second base to center field. No one else has ever down that he points out.

Well, listen up friends and I'll tell you a tale about B.J. Surhoff. What's so great about Surhoff, ya say? Well, B.J. is the only man to follow the straight line from catcher to third base to left field. Isn't that significant?! Why were we so unimpressed when Surhoff finally landed in left? It was an historic event.

What about Mike McGeary? He is the only man to be a starting catcher and then play second and short. The whole middle infield! Isn't that historic!

How about the great Brian Downing, the only man to qualify as a starter at catcher, left field, and DH? Historic, right?

Buck Ewing is the only man to follow the straight line from catcher to first base to right field. Hmm...Cal McVey is the only man to play catcher, first base, third base, right field, and pitch. Wow! Cap Anson is the only man to play catch, play both corners, and then left field. Holy Moly! Joe Torre and Todd Zeile are not exactly historic since there're two of them, but they are the only men ever to start at catcher, first base, and third base besides Anson. (By the way, Dale Murphy never started as a catcher in the majors but had he, he would have also qualified at first and center and right.)

That's a whole lot of history or maybe it's just the result of a bored intern who wanted to do a seven-table join. Well, it took me all of five minutes to put a query together to find all starting catchers who started at two other positions according to his criteria. It's not magic and it's not historic. I could have done the same for second base (and did but too many were found).

It's called happenstance. It's interesting but does it really mean anything? No.

Biggio may or may not become a decent center fielder but it has nothing to do with the fact that Juan Samuel had a hard time. (By the way Stark also makes it sound as if Sammy returned to second after one season as an outfielder and stayed there, not true. Samuel lasted most of four years at second and then was a 1B-OF-DH type for the rest of his long career.) A number of other players move from second to center (Derrel Thomas and Ron Gant to name two) but it may have taken them more than a season to make that move. Big deal! (Also, Hardy Richardson went from 3B-CF-2B-CF-LF-2B-LF. And I thought Bobby Bonilla moved around alot.)

I've said it before and I'll say it again Stark is the Carrot Top of analysts. He's more in love with quirky facts than real reporting. Yes, it's interesting to hear what Samuel encountered when he moved from second to center, but to couch it in these "historic" overtones is a disservice to his readers.

Jayson, just because something is unprecedented doesn't make it historic. Write a decent article without a gimmick. Now that would truly be historic.


Spring Fling, III Jose Mesa
2003-03-12 23:58
by Mike Carminati

Spring Fling, III

Jose Mesa is now being investigated by the commissioner's office after he made threats towards ex-teammate Omar Vizquel.

It's probably a good thing and maybe the affable Mesa can get a little therapy out of the deal. But it might be much ado about nothing since the Phils and Indians do not face each other again this spring nor during the regular season. No wonder Mesa could be so bold.


Twins Gamble on Rogers Minnesota
2003-03-12 23:02
by Mike Carminati

Twins Gamble on Rogers

Minnesota has signed lefthander Kenny Rogers to a one-year, two-million-dollar contract tonight to replace injured Eric Milton. That means that Johan Santana will probably return to the bullpen from whence he came this spring and that millions of rotisserie-league GMs, who were ready to jump on the Santana bandwagon, are now scrambling to recover.

Rogers was pretty good last year but had not had a truly superior season since 1998 in Oakland (16-8 and 3.17 ERA, 44% better than the league average). Before that it was 1995 with Texas: 17-7, 3.38 (38% better than average). He's now 38 and his habit of staggering his good years every fourth or fifth season means that his next one may not come until after he retires. He'll have a heck of a shuffleboard season come 2008.

Maybe he'll be able to duplicate his 2002 numbers, but I'm skeptical. I'd rather go with the kid, but I guess they could have done worse. Rogers also staggers his really bad seasons (1991, 1997, and 2001). His really bad seasons seem to be followed by one really good one and then slightly above average ones for 2-3 years. So the Twins may have a pitcher who's slightly better than league average and given Milton's slide over the last four years (his ERA adjusted for league average has gotten worse each year), that may be enough.


Angels in the Offal The
2003-03-12 10:53
by Mike Carminati

Angels in the Offal

The AP reports that not only were the World-Series champion Anaheim Angels one of the teams targeted in last year's contraction plans, a plan to move the A's to Anaheim had been delineated according to official major-league documents including a December 11, 2001 internal memo that the AP somehow got its hands on.

The basis of the move is spelled out in a Contraction Issue list that Selig's office put together: "Angels want to 'sell;' Athletics want to move." It also mentioned that the deal was "complicated by public ownership (i.e., via Disney) of the Angels."

The complete list of considered teams is: Anaheim, Arizona, Florida, Kansas City, Minnesota, Montreal, Oakland, San Diego and Tampa Bay. Arizona, you may recall was the reigning champs at the time. Four of those teams made the playoffs in 2002. And Florida and San Diego had made it to the World Series in the past five years. Interestingly Milwaukee is conspicuously absent from the list.

I believe that Rob Neyer came up with a similar list last year when it was leaked that 6-8 teams were being considered.

The Powers That Be in baseball shrug off the Angels' inclusion in the list:

"We looked internally at dozens and dozens of options," [COO Bob] DuPuy said. "This one was one of the options discussed based on the ownership situations at the time. It was never given serious consideration."

As far as I am concerned, this just underscores the wanton greed behind the contraction rhetoric. For the want of a Carl Pohlad-type owner the Angels happened not to make the final list. The Angels were a viable team in the number-two market. They had been a perennial competitive if not exactly good team for decades (1980 was the last full season in which they failed to win 70 games). They had drawn betwen 2 and 2.5 million fans since 1998 and had not failed to draw a million fans since 1974. They had one of the world's biggest entertainment companies funding them. Why not consider contracting the Yankees if the Angels are a potential target?

What ticks me off even more is that baseball was so blase about the issue that they considered moving the A's to Anaheim, players and all, as if the fans wouldn't notice the change. If they had done that Robert Irsay's spiriting the Colts out of Baltimore under cover of darkness would have seemed fan friendly.

Of course, baseball needs to move forward to bring back the fan base. But with Ephedera, Pete Rose, and stories like this one this spring, it appears that Bud and the boys' already strained coping techniques are on overload. All they need is another tied All-Star game for the house of cards to come tumbing down.


Spring Fling, II Here are
2003-03-11 20:07
by Mike Carminati

Spring Fling, II

Here are a couple of notes to put the "bean ball" in perspective:

- First, Vlad Guerrero's manager, Frank Robinson, tries to defend the saturnine superstar:

Expos manager Frank Robinson was surprised Guerrero rushed the mound, but he understood why.

"After watching it last year, I think pitchers take their liberties," Robinson said. "The pitcher thinks, 'I'll go inside and if I hit him, I hit him. If he's hurt, he's out of the lineup, and we have a better chance of winning.' "

Guerrero was hit by a pitch just six times last year, 15 behind the league leader.

- Second, in the Phillies-Astros game yesterday, Kevin Millwood plunked Jeff Kent on the helmet and yet no one felt compelled to charge the mound, gesticulate wildly, or retaliate against Jim Thome. And unlike Guerrero's HBP it actually was in the "head area".

Millwood had this to say:

``It was a bad curve ball, it just came out bad,'' Millwood said. ``I think he kind of dove in on it. I think he might have gotten mad. If you get hit you are going to be mad.''

Quite succinct. Crash Davis would be proud.

Of course, Millwood had said earlier that Richard Hidalgo's home run pitch had been "the only bad mistake [he] made all day." So was the Kent dinger a goodmistake?

- Finally, Jose Mesa wants to kill former teammate Omar Vizquel for the things Vizquel wrote in his unnecessary autobiography. Let's listen in:

"I will not forgive him. Even my little boy (Jose Jr.) told me to get him. If I face him 10 more times, I'll hit him 10 times. I want to kill him."

Ah, isn' that special? The family that beans together... Isn't this more worthy of a fine then David Wells discussing his blood-alcohol level on pitching days?

Besides when did Mesa become a literary critic? I mean, I don't know what Vizquel got for the autobiography, but he should have gotten life. But does that mean that he deserves to get knocked down every time he bats?

"If he comes to apologize, I will punch him right in the face. And then I'll kill him. If you're a writer and you want to write a good book, you don't write a story about somebody else."

First, he's gonna s--t and then he's gonna kill him, or words to that affect. As far as good writers not writing stories about somebody else, I guess that Shakespeare guy had it all wrong.


Spring Fling Brawl ball is
2003-03-11 12:24
by Mike Carminati

Spring Fling

Brawl ball is apparently back and better than ever. The Expos' Vlad Guerrero charged Marlin Brad Penny after a ball deigned to near his person:

``He first threw me up and in, very close,'' Guerrero said. ``It barely touched my shirt. It was the principle. I felt it was intentional. I expect pitches inside, but I felt it was in the head area.''

Highly principled fellow he, eh? It was his lucky shirt after all-the reporter failed to mention that. It apparently is also a hooded jersey since it was in the vicinity of his "head area".

In the Ms-D-Backs game, they played a bit of "Knock knock. Who's there?" If you know what I mean. Nudge, nudge. Wink, wink. Say no more.

Arizona's Miguel Batista hit Bret Boone on the arm and Seattle's Jeff Nelson hit Luis Gonzalez in the back.

See, Vlad. That's how you get someone's attention, not with a tight fastball across the numbers.

Also, ever equanimitous, Gonzo had this to say:

``It's just a spring training game,'' Gonzalez said. ``By no means are we trying to hit Boonie. He's one of their stars, one of the marquee guys on the team. All of us in here are big fans of his. He plays in the other league. I just thought it was stupid what he (Nelson) did.''

He continued, "Besides Batista couldn't hit the broad side of a barn with a pumpkin," but the reporters missed it.

To quote Sgt. Hulka with the big toe from Stripes, Lighten up, Frances!"


Nevin-Sent? The Padres' Phil Nevin
2003-03-10 13:58
by Mike Carminati

Nevin-Sent?

The Padres' Phil Nevin apparently will miss the entire 2003 season after shoulder surgery. This comes after a year in which he missed a good third of the season due to injury and saw his production drop off considerably. He was also moving to left field this spring, meaning that he has created two holes on the team this spring.

Rookie Sean Burroughs will attempt to fill the one left at third base. Unfortunately last season's left fielders, Ray Lankford and Ron Gant, are both gone. That means that the replacements in camp are resoled (re-souled?) journeymen Bobby Kelly and Brady Anderson (really), role player Brian Buchanan and an untried rookie, Xavier Nady.

Surely, the Pod People will trade for a spare Yankee outfielder or a leftover free agent (Kenny Lofton?) to replace Phil Nevin, right? Well, that's not the plan so far according to GM Kevin Towers:

"The first people we are going to look to are the people we currently are looking at in our camp," Towers said.

It's a bit surprising when one considers the huge windfall that the Hoffman and Nevin injuries ensure the Padres:

As it was, the Padres were projecting a payroll of about $43 million, which likely would've ranked among the smallest five in the big leagues. Hoffman ($9 million) and Nevin ($4.5 million) account for about 30 percent of the team's payroll, but because both Hoffman and Nevin were protected by disability policies, the Padres stand to recoup seven-figure sums on each player.

One official said the club could recoup $5 million or more on Hoffman - who had shoulder surgery on Feb. 28 - but that it might take several years to settle a claim.

If you subtract Hoffman's and Nevin's contracts from San Diego's project payroll, you will get about $30.5 M. This would be lower than any team salary in 2002 (Tampa Bay's was the lowest at $34.38 M according to the AP). Given that a) they should be able to recoup most if not all of the $13.5 M devoted to the injured players via insurance, b) two of the Padres three stars-Klesko being the third-will most likely miss 2003, and c) the Padres move into a new stadium in 2004, there appears to be good incentive for them to open the coffers for a starting major-league left fielder.

However, when one considers that they have budding star Mark Kotsay in center field, Burroughs at third, second-year man Ramon Vazquez at short, and a young group of starting pitchers, the Padres appear committed to their youth movement.

The brass seems set to spin Nady as the heir apparent:

"Nady is one of our young players we're awful excited about," Towers said.

"He has the mental toughness you are looking for," Bochy said.

He started and played well yesterday (2-for-4) and will continue to get playing time in left. Nady did hit 23 home runs last year in Single- and Triple-A and batted around .280. However, Baseball Prospectus projects that to around .225 at the major-league level. Nady himself (like Nevin) just moved from third base to the outfield last year and spent much of 2002 in Single-A after recuperating his surgically reconstructed throwing arm. The Padres have extra incentive to give Nady a try given that he was "[s]igned to the largest guarantee ($2.95 million) the club has ever given an amateur".

So what's the best option? Given that the Padres are probably not going anywhere this year anyway, why not give the kid a chance if they feel he has potential as a major-leaguer?

That said, I would also sign Lofton, too. He can be had for about a million dollars, is still a decent major-league hitter, and provides a left-handed bat. The Pirates are said to be interested in Lofton but appear to be in no hurry to sign him-besides which team would you rather play for?

I would platoon Lofton and Nady or at least split their time until Nady becomes accustomed to major-league pitching. After that, if Nady is ready to play at the major-league level, Lofton would be a valuable fourth outfielder especially given Mark Kotsay is the only other left-handed hitter in the outfield and their weakness in rightfield with Bubba Trammell being the best option. If Nady does not work out then Lofton is a cheap solution. Either way, the move works.

This team has the potential to be a big flop this year and for years to come. If their young staff does not mesh, if Burroughs does not develop, if Klesko starts to show his age, if Kotsay does not become the next Bobby Abreu this team could give the Devil Rays a run for their money and then move into a cavernously empty, new stadium in 2004. Do I think all of those things will happen? No, but for each there is a good possibility that the scenario will not play out in the Padres' favor. Will signing Lofton cure all of these evils? No, but he's cheap and should not hurt them.

This is a pivotal year for the Padres with all of the youngsters being relied on so heavily, even more so with the key injuries. If the Padres do turn it around, then their fans may look back fondly at 2003 as the start of it all. I know that the new paradigm-outside of Arizona and the Bronx-is to have a young lineup that reduces the team liability and can be sold to the fans as the beginning of a new era.

However, young teams that have done well (the early Nineties' Braves, the mid-Nineties Indians, etc.) have had a veteran network to support the youth (remember Charlie Leibrandt). The idea of plugging in a player who was happy to be in Single-A and not in the trainer's room at this time last year and saying, "Good luck," is ludicrous. It's like handing your kid the car keys at 16 and expecting him to become a good driver on his own.

The resulting car wreck may be a good analogy for this team's season if the management continues its neglect. They at least need another major-league outfielder. Jay Witasick can't fill in for all their injured players.


Eine Kleine Chin Music, II
2003-03-10 09:19
by Mike Carminati

Eine Kleine Chin Music, II

I have some new information from our new friend Gregor Gross. Not this Greg Gross. Gregi is in Germany and we have been emailing each other regarding the state of baseball in Der Fatherland. Please go visit Gregi's site, and don't be intimidated by the language barrier. Here's a free translator or two to help.

I hope that I am not being overly Weekly-Reader-ish by posting our conversations. I find the minor differences among cultures as far as the way my favorite sport is played incredibly interesting. It's like going abroad and seeing different cultures without the headache of actually travelling. And it reduces international travel to the most important site-seeing topic of all, baseball.

Well, enough ado... I had a slew of questions for Gregi regarding Das Baseball and he was kind enough to provide some well thought-out and often funny answers:

Mike: Do they [German teams] play by the same rules as the major leagues?

Gregi:Yup. Only we play seven innings instead of nine.

Mike: Are there any major distinctions that you see in strategy, style, approach, etc. between the majors and the German game?

Gregi:Well, I have no clue about the premier league. I recall there were not so many walks, only if the pitcher was awful wild. I can tell you of the league I was playing in: there were no walks at all, I recall. I'd hack at everything close to me, the plate and the space between me and first base it seemed. Even if a ball was in the dirt, the most I'd be able to do was checking my swing. And my approach was not unusual. That had to do with how the umps called the strike zone, and also with the fact that we had batting practice only 2 times a week.

The pitchers, on average, would throw their junk anywhere near you and into the catcher's glove. Sometimes there'd be a fellow that really could throw, and his team would ride him all the way. Guys who had two or three pitches ( if you could call a difference between them ) were incredibly valuable. We had one. The other guy was a big folk who would only throw heat or slow heat. I don't recall having relievers on the team-we used one of the catchers if the starter was retiring.

What was absolutely going wild was the amount of steals. Everyone except me would steal a lot. I am a fast guy, but not the explosive one, and I had problems taking my lead and timing my run down. Since the catchers had difficulties finding their target in time, and the middle of the infield had difficulties applying a tag, the steal was common. We also had almost no home runs in our league, so you needed to move the runners anyway. Usually, both teams would combine to score 15 runs or such a game. In the premier league there were some homeruns, but not from everyone.

Mike: How would you rate the caliber of play against the American major- and minor-league systems?

Gregi:My league was absolutely a spare time project. No one had any realistic idea of baseball. If you had, you'd be playing in the upper levels. In our big team was some guy from the Caribbean that knew Sandy Alomar Jr. from his youth. Both had played on the same team once, and that fellow also had played in AA or AAA once. He was by far the offensive motor of the big team.

Mike: Have any of those players been signed by American clubs?

Gregi:As to German players in professional baseball: Mitch Franke is one and he got signed by the Milwaukee Brewers. He is playing Rookie League, therefore his way to the show is a long one. Longer still, because he returns to Rookie League ball, I noticed. Out of 30,000 Germans playing baseball, he appears to be the only one getting attention.

I know of no one else. I do know of Dirk Nowitzki, Detlef Schrempf and Olaf Kölzig, but those fellows come from sports that are bigger around here. Compared to the 30,000 Germans playing baseball, you have more than 2.5 million Germans actively playing soccer, by the way.

[Mike: By the way, I did notice that German-born Steve Kent was sent down over the weekend by Seattle, though they say that he will be back up soon.]

Mike: Do they compete in the Olympics?

Gregi:I guess they do. Its just they don't qualify.

Mike: Is there a Little League system to develop interest among the German children in baseball?

Gregi:Yup. You can find it here, I guess. We had a little league team, also, and as a matter of fact, I hope my son plays there one day. He takes a baseball in his hand sometimes, but since he is but one year old, I limit his pitch count to one or two.

Mike: Does the champion ever play teams from Italy or the Netherlands where there are, I understand, strong semipro or amateur leagues?

Gregi:That may be. As a matter of fact, I checked, and it is so - for you, if you like to see (it's in different languages ). I don't know if German teams get their asses whipped or not. Teams from the western part of Germany tend to have a better financial situation, a good field (a real diamond instead of a soccer field ) and stuff. So they might as well have good players.

That is all. If you like, I can recount some more memories of my time as a hacking leftfielder:

We had a catcher, Greg, who would throw himself on the ground even on the ash field. Greg loved the game. He was a fine catcher who could also carry a stick, leading our teams in doubles and average. He would just injure himself by throwing his body in the dirt. Once he even injured while warming up, playing fungo...

My own glove, since it was the only black one on the team, was called Dark Force. That started when in one fielding session I didn't drop it on the ground like the coach wanted to. I probably did not like the ash there, because the glove was new. Since my fellows also had their share of problems, the coach gathered us to deliver a speech. Pointing to my glove he said, what is that you think, is the force with you on this one? So my glove now was the dark force.

Next to our training site were gardens with houses. We often bombed their evening meals with our baseballs. My longest shot dropped on a roof, rolled down and hit the cake of birthday party. Since it steered foul shortly before it went out, it was no home run either.

Back when I was playing baseball, I was also looking forward to the winter. Because in the winter you had snow and with my trained arm I was able to throw lasers like never before and after. A victim once was a sightseeing bus with no roof, that happened to wait for a green traffic light. By the time the bus rolled on, we three team members had emptied the upper deck of the bus from passengers.

Mike: Gregi, good to hear from you. Very interesting stuff. I daresay that German baseball sounds very similar to the early days of baseball in America (and I mean no offense by that): very few home runs and walks but high-scoring affairs all the same and pitchers having just one pitch

It's my favorite sport and the more international it gets, the better the athletes will be and the better the sport as a whole will be. I am sure that there are dozens of athletes in Germany that could be major-league players, but they probably didn't have an interest in the sport as they were growing up or became interested in another sport like soccer. I'm also sure that Germany is not alone in this. That's why I pull for the Matsuis and Ichiros. The first step will be to integrate Japanese players since they are so close to the majors talent-wise. I envision MLB being like the NBA one day, attracting players from all over the world-well, they do already but even more so. Of course, baseball's management is going to have to attempt to grow that support (like by ensuring that it's available on public TV as you suggested and by little league systems), and they are too concerned about breaking up the players' union and siphoning off the Yankees' billions to care right now.


Born A-Chen Lee Sinins reports
2003-03-10 00:11
by Mike Carminati

Born A-Chen

Lee Sinins reports that Bruce Chen has been sent down to Triple-A by the Cincinnati Reds and that he has accepted that assignment. Chen won't be 26 until June 19 but he is on his fifth organization (5 in the last three years). He played for three major-league teams last season and has yet to spent a full major-league season with one team.

Chen's overall stats are not bad: a 20-16 record with a 4.53 ERA (3% worse than average). However, he has gotten progressively worse as he has been spun through the major-league revolving door over the last three seasons. In 2000, he was 7-4 with a 3.29 (43% better than the league average) with the Braves and the Phils. In 2001, he was 7-7 witha 4.87 ERA (14% worse than average) with the Phils and the Mets. Last year he was 2-5 (with only 6 starts) and had a 5.56 ERA (23% worse than average) with the Mets, 'Spos, and Reds.

Maybe it is time for an organization to take stock of his talent as well as his mechanics in the minors before throwing him to the lions (or trading him) again. Clearly the pan-to-the-fire aproach is not working. This could prove the swan song for Chen or a whole new begining.

One thing that I find odd is that I looked him up Baseball Prospectus annual and saw that he had a 16% chance of having a breakout season, a 19% chance of total collapse, and a 56% chance of improvement. That seemed a bit overly optomistic to me. I mean, no disrespect to Chen, but a player who has had his recent history will be lucky to continue to find gainful employment at the major-league level, let alone improve or "break out". I haven't reviewed the PECOTA system behind BP's player prognastications, but aside for being named after a lousy ballplayer, it seems not well grounded in baseball reality. However, I don't want to rush to judgment (who me?) until I fully understand the system.

Anyway, Chen's odds seem to me to be closer to 5% breakout, 25% improvement, and 70% total collapse. He has to improve if he continues to pitch, but the question remains if he will do so at the major-league level. Other player predictions that I have scanned in BP are similarly overly sanguine. I just may check that SHUMPERT system out.


Hurry Up and Wait Major
2003-03-08 17:47
by Mike Carminati

Hurry Up and Wait

Major League Baseball is now giving players a 20-minute video presentation on how to speed up games. Of course, and this barely touched upon in the article, if they cut back on the commercials between innings and dyring every pitching change, they could reduce game times dramatically. Since that eats into the profits they would rather do a dog-and-pony humiliating Manny Ramirez.


It's Milton, Your Brand New
2003-03-08 16:32
by Mike Carminati

It's Milton, Your Brand New Liability!

The Twins now say that Eric Milton will be out for 4-6 months with his knee injury.

I, at first, wrote that Milton's injury was a blessing in disguise for the Twins since Johan Santana would be assured a spot in the rotation. That was when Milton would just miss the the baseball-scimpy month of April. Losing Milton for potentially the entire season is a big blow to the Twins and the hopes to repeat as the AL Central champs.

That said, the Twins are lucky to have Santana and Kyle Lohse to fill out the rotation. Santana may blossom give an entire year in the rotation. But no team wants to head into the season without its probable number-two pitcher. It's a long season and anything can happen, but an injury like this limits a team right out of the gate.

[By the way, the title is a bastardization of the last line from the theme song to Milton the Monster, a long-forgotten cartoon from my youth.]


Starting Byung the Pale?, II
2003-03-07 14:17
by Mike Carminati

Starting Byung the Pale?, II

One further note on Kim after I read that manager Bob Brenley was concerned about Kim's pitch counts:

Most significantly, the 24-year-old sidearming right-hander threw just 42 pitches, 30 for strikes. Manager Bob Brenly has said Kim must cut down his pitch count to become a starter. He was known to throw 30 or more pitches in an inning as a closer.

I think that this is a concern for Kim. Using his 2001 and 2002 game logs (NP=number of pitchers, BF=batters faces):

2001:

Length	  NP/IP	NP/BF	BF/IP
<=1 IP	16.73	4.13	4.05
>1	15.91	4.72	3.37
>=2	15.29	4.96	3.08

2002:

Length	  NP/IP	NP/BF 	BF/IP
<=1 IP	16.77	4.13	4.06
>1	15.87	3.97	4.00
>=2	15.39	4.08	3.77 

His first inning numbers remained almost unchanged from 2001 to 2002. However his longer outings were much different. Well, the number of pitches per inning is about the same, but how they are distributed changes dramatically. The number of pitches per batter increase in 2001 as he pitches more innings, but the number of batters faced per inning dropped dramatically (3.08!). In 2002, the Number of pitches per batter faced stayed pretty flat and so did the batters faced per inning: they both improve slightly.

I think we may have the answer to the strikeout anomaly in 2002. It seems that in his longer outings in the past Kim tried to blow the ball past batters and tended to strike more men out but as more batters saw his pitches they battled him more (almost 5 pitches per at-bat). In 2002, Kim took a different approach apparently trying to get batters to put the ball in play earlier in the count and I would think threw more strikes and stayed ahead of the count (though I have no data to support these claims directly).

Here are his ground ball to fly ball and ball in play to strikeout ratios:

2001:

Length	  GB/FB	In-Play/K
<=1 IP	1.14	2.14
>1	0.89	1.33
>=2	1.06	1.01

2002:

 Length	  GB/FB	In-Play/K
<=1 IP	1.91	2.04
>1	1.43	2.14
>=2	1.65	2.21

Not how the balls in play tapered off as Kim pitched more innings and how few ground balls he threw in 2001? In 2002, he threw more ground balls and his balls in play increased as he pitched more. Actually, I said earlier that he changed his approach, and in actuality, I'm not sure if that is the case or if it is a byproduct of his improved pitching in 2002.

Whatever the reason, he shows some improvement in 2002. That is, if the end goal is being a starting pitcher. Now, whether this change will carry into this year or if Kim falls back on his old ways remains to be seen. But this may be that limiting factor that makes him another Kent Tekulve but not another Derek Lowe. Time will tell.


Civil Disobedience, II My friend
2003-03-07 12:25
by Mike Carminati

Civil Disobedience, II

My friend Murray suggests that it was a trick question:

I love the answer, but here's the reason it's cruel: it's a trick question. What Biddy needed to do was look at last year's Red Sox schedule, and see what the last interleague home game was. That's where the answer lies.

Three years of law school and eight years of private practice led up to that answer.

Good point. So I investigated, and guess what? The answer's the same either way, the Braves. The Braves completed a three-game sweep of the Sox in Boston on June 30. They were the last NL team to play the Sox last year. Could the teacher have been cool enough to know this? Read the book...


Starting Byung the Pale? I
2003-03-07 12:01
by Mike Carminati

Starting Byung the Pale?

I have been watching Byung-Hyun Kim's attempted conversion from closer to starter this spring with a healthy dose of skepticism. I know that Derek Lowe made the conversion rather easily and successfully last year with the Red Sox. But Lowe came up as a starter and was converted to a closer once he joined the Red Sox. Besides Lowe was converted because he had an unsuccessful year as a closer in 2001 (4.04 ERA with only 24 saves as a reliever, substandard for a closer today).

Kim is coming off his best year to date with 36 saves, a 2.04 ERA, 3.5 strikeouts per walk, almost 10 strikeouts per nine innings, only half a home run allowed per nine innings, and a WHIP just over 1.00. He was an asset in a sputtering Diamondbacks bullpen last year.

He has only started one game in his career whereas Lowe was switched to a starter for his last three appearances of the 2001 and pitched well in the trial.

Not only that, he has a slight build (5'11" and 177 pounds), and his famous meltdown in game 4 of the 2001 World Series happened when he pitched the final 2.2 innings of the game including two outs of the 10th inning. Surely he is an inappropriate, at best, candidate to convert to a starter.

Well, perhaps not. I took his 2001 and 2002 appearances (including the playoffs) and broke them down by the length of the outing: one or less inning, more than one inning, and two or more innings. I know that these are still relief outings and that they are nowhere near what he would be doing as a starter, but I just wanted to see if Kim appeared to tire or got stronger when he pitched longer outings. And I got that, but I got more, a whole lot more, to quote Marti DiBergi.

First, here are Kim's yearly numbers:

Year	  ERA	WHIP	K/BB	K/9IP	HR/9 IP
1999	4.61	1.46	1.55	10.21	0.66
2000	4.46	1.39	2.41	14.14	1.15
2001	2.94	1.04	2.57	10.38	0.92
2002	2.04	1.07	3.54	9.86	0.54
Total	3.21	1.18	2.55	11.15	0.84

It looks like a pretty good progression for Kim. He gets better each year. The one odd thing is that his strikeouts per nine innings has actually gone down each of the last three seasons as he has improved. Keep this in mind.

Now let's take a look at his 2001 outings:

Length	  IP	  ERA	WHIP	K/BB	K/9IP	HR/9 IP
<=1 IP	42.2	4.64	1.29	1.75	8.86	1.48
>1	65	2.08	0.89	3.38	11.22	0.83
>=2	48	0.94	0.65	5.31	12.94	0.56

Now 2002:

Length	  IP	  ERA	WHIP	K/BB	K/9IP	HR/9 IP
<=1 IP	47	2.68	1.19	2.63	9.57	0.77
>1	38	1.66	1.03	4.20	9.95	0.24
>=2	23.1	1.16	0.77	3.43	9.26	0.39

In both years his ERA and WHIP went down the longer he pitched. Also, his home runs allowed and strikeout-to-walk ratio tended to improve. It is odd that in 2001, his strikeouts per nine innings went up the longer he pitched and in 2002 they went down. I'm not entirely sure what that is indicating. I know that he has pitched better as he has learned to go for the strikeout less in his career and 2002 would indicate that translates into his performance within a game, but then 2001 contradicts that. Go figure.

Anyway, there is some indication that he could do better with longer outings. And if you have a pitcher who can start and close, it is preferable to use him as a starter and bleed more innings out of him. That said, whether or not he is a credible starter has yet to be determined. Kim may be more of a Kent Tekulve (similar deliveries too) or Ramiro Mendoza type: he may be best used in long relief for two to three innings per shot. That may be the extent of it, but we'll never know until he tries.

Given the Red Sox closer-by-committee, Lowe's possible continued success as a converted closer, and Kim's attempted conversion to starter, this could prove a pivotal year for the closer role for years to come.


Civil Disobedience Come, civil night,
2003-03-06 23:51
by Mike Carminati

Civil Disobedience

Come, civil night,
Thou sober-suited matron all in black.

- Juliet on that fateful night (moral: be careful what you wish for)

You get some interesting emails when you decide to throw up a weblog. I now turn over the mike to Andy Rooney:

Did you ever notice how people aren't as civil as they used to be? The clerk in the supermarket who rolls his eyes when you question him if the pomegranates are fresh, the waitress who is too busy to hear your views on the newspaper story that you are reading because you are again eating alone since no one can stand to hear your whiny voice while eating, the English teacher who corrects you when you have ridiculously long, run-on sentences consisting of a tangentially-related laundry list of ideas, each expressed in a rather prolix phrase form?

Time was when you when the mule-drawn streetcar was so genially accommodating that a lady could whistle to it from an upstairs window, and the car would stop and wait for her while she shut the window, put on her hat and cloak, went downstairs, found an umbrella, told the "girl" what to have for dinner, and come forth from the house.

The previous passengers made little objection to such gallantry on the part of the car: they were wont to expect as much for themselves on like occasion. They had time for everything: time to think, to talk, time to read, time to wait for a lady! [Mike: I must warn the patient reader here that I strongly suspect that he has lifted this streetcar story from Booth Tarkington's The Magnificent Ambersons.]

Today, if you take too long at the local Quickie Mart digging for change in your pockets to purchase your girly magazines, the thug behind you who's dying to imbibe his tightly gripped slurpee-if that's what you do with it-will cut right in front of you with a self-assured grin.

Mike: Sorry, I can't take any more of this so I had to off Rooney. My point is that no one has any social graces nowadays. Sorry, it's hard to concentrate on this piece while Rooney's groaning on the floor-I must not have hit him hard enough.

Anyway, witness these two emails I received lately. The first is a fellow blogger, who evidently feels that my blog is a flophouse for any squatter who stumbles past. Let me just say that I have never before refused a link exchange with a colleague even when he has some unflattering comments for my views. However, this guy had all the earmarks of a bad house guest with a fiercely overdeveloped sense of entitlement:

Subject: a small advert for my blog

I see you have links to baseball blogs. As it happens, I just kinda started one,.... Feel free to link to it if you like it, or send me a nasty Email if you don't.

Well, there is always the third option of utterly ignoring you. I did notice that one of my colleagues did link-swap with the gent, so maybe he reserved his insouciance for me. I guess when you call your site Rants you open the door to being treated like a sports radio personality.

That one could be easily ignored, but an email that I got earlier tonight screams for a response:

Subject: baseball trivia question

Hello.
My son needs to find the answer to this question for extra credit on a test. Here goes:
"Who was the last national league team to play in Boston?"
Any help would be greatly appreciated.

This I appalling to me on so many levels, I just don't know where to start, but I'll try. First, the answer is of course the Braves who played in Boston until 1952, moved to Milwaukee, and then to Atlanta in 1966. They were and are the oldest, continuously operating club in the majors. Any fair-to-middling baseball fan should at least know their name if not the particulars of their history. But there is no way in H-E-Double Toothpicks I am sending this woman the answer.

Why? Let me count the reasons:

First, it's pathetic that this woman has to resort to me and can't Google up her own answer.

Second, the son is too lazy to even cheat for himself ("Why can't Johnny Google?").

Third, It's cheating, right? It's extra credit on a test. I am not in the class, am I? I'm not the kid's chem partner or anything. I know I have that dream where I'm in my underwear and the twelfth grade finals are about to commence, but that always ends when I click my heels together three times and repeat, "There's no place like home."

Fourth, if she is going to cheat for her lazy-ass son, she could at least pay me my props and lie about it. Come up with some decent story like, "Me and my buddy's got this here bet..." Lie to me. Come on, baby, lie to me.

My last thought was, "Who invented liquid soap and why?" but then I realized that I had just lifted it from a John Cusack film. I was as bad as the rest.

I had to cleanse myself. But what to do? Giving her the answer was out of the question. How 'bout a rude letter detailing her and her son's offenses? How 'bout looking up their school and telling the teacher? How 'bout sending their email addressed to some spam-inducing address? How 'bout posting her email address andletting the world have at her? Those were all too kind.

Then the answer struck me. Here was my response:

Dear Madam,

The last National League team in Boston was called the Plymouths so named for the the famous rock that bears the same title. They played in the NL between 1885-1896. They then became the Worcester Ruby Legs, who in turn became the St. Louis Arcs, which are today's Cardinals. Best of luck to your son.

Yours,
Mike

Kill them with kindness. It was perfect. Now if I just had the cajones to send it.


Thank You, Sir-May I Have
2003-03-06 16:22
by Mike Carminati

Thank You, Sir-May I Have Another?

You cannot give anything to a magnanimous person.

-R.W. Emerson

The righteous and beneficent Peter Angelos, the O's owner, has deigned to take Ken Griffey's salary off of the Reds' hands according to Lee Sinins' ATM Reports. O, the humanity!

His offer? Sidney Ponson, Brian Roberts, and a bucket o' ice. Wow, all I want for Christmas is an average pitcher, a marginalized non-prospect, and a stiff to be named later. Thanks, Pete. And those D.C. people said that you had a problem sharing, too territorial.


Another Twin Killing on Palatine
2003-03-06 12:36
by Mike Carminati

Another Twin Killing on Palatine Hill?

There is an article today in the AP regarding the different approach taken by the Twins after the retirement of Tom Kelly. The basis of the piece is that Tom Kelly was a fine ol' manager but his approach became outdated and though he did help develop the young core underpinning this team, he didn't have the wherewithal to take them to the proverbial next level. Kelly was basically the Twins' General George McClellan for you history buffs. Ron Gardenhire is the U.S. Grant who can lead this once-ramshackle crew to victory.

OK, enough of the Civil War allusions. So how did Gardy do it? According to the article by allowing the Twins to swing as free and unfettered as Larry Dallas on a Saturday night.

Here's a long quote, but it's just so chock full of gibbering goodness:

``I think when you start telling young kids, 'Let's go be more patient at the plate,' you're going to screw 'em. Young kids, let 'em swing,'' Gardenhire said. ``Go find it. They're going to learn how to take pitches, they're going to learn how to take the count deeper. But it's only going to come with time and at-bats.

``When they get in a game I tell them be aggressive, get yourself a good pitch and take a whack at it and let's have some fun. That's what we're trying to do.

``It's great to have a .480 on-base percentage, but how many times does that guy go up there and not swing with men on base? Jacque Jones, he may not have a great on-base percentage, but he's hacking, he's gettin' his swings. I like that.

``You talk to other teams, other pitchers, they hate throwing to us, because if it's around the plate they know we're going to swing at it.''

Howard Johnson is right! Let the last be first: opposing pitchers typically hate people who are patient in the box, who battle a pitcher and run counts deep. Pitchers love guys who hack at the first pitch and ground out to short or who chase 0-2 balls in the dirt.

Jacque Jones, the so-called "poster boy" for this approach, did improve in 2002, but whether a more free-swinging lifestyle had anything to do with it is debatable. Jones turned 27 in 2002. That's the typical age for players to reach their peak. Besides Jones was moved up in the lineup in 2002 and accrued over 100 extra at-bats in the same number of games as in 2001. His walks, however, remained about the same. Jones renaissance actually pre-dates Gardenhire. In the second half of 2001 Jones' numbers looked remarkably similar to those he would have in 2002: .850 OPS, .300 batting average, etc. However, Tom Kelly was still the manager and Jones' walk rate went up in the second half as his numbers improved. Actually the biggest improvement seemed to happen after he was moved to the leadoff spot on August 20. In 2002, he was used almost exclusively to lead off and his 1.000+ OPS the first time that he faced a pitcher was being used very effectively there. He still can't hit lefties though (.590 OPS) and he did tank in the playoffs. His on-base percentage is acceptable at .340 but if it dives 20 points, he will be a liability in the leadoff spot.

Gardenhire's free-swinging approach did not really improve the Twins in 2002. They scored 4.77 runs last year just under the league average of 4.81. That's almost identical to their 2001 figure of 4.76 (4.86 league average). Their batting average, on-base, and slugging averages remained about the same, too. Their walk rate dropped from 8.01% of their plate appearances to 7.62%, about 0.5% change. Big deal. Besides, this was not the most patient crew to begin with: they ranked 19th in the majors in team walks in 2001 (25th in 2002).

So how did the Twins win their division in 2002 if their batting remained about the same? Their pitching of course. The team ERA went from 4.51, 5 points above the league average, in 2001 to 4.12, 32 point below the league average, in 2002.

Besides this team improved by only five and one-half games according to their expected (Pythagorean) won-loss record (81-81 to 86-75). They benefited greatly from the collapse of the Indians and the White Sox, who were not far behind them based on talent (86-76 expected won-loss), spinning their wheels in second place.

This is a team that did not learn to take pitches under Kelly and is unlearning the little Kelly taught them now:

``He'd tell Torii he's swinging at too many bad balls,'' Hawkins recalled. ``And Torii says, 'I can't get on base unless I swing. And my grandfather says, 'Well, I guess he's got a point.'''

What did his grandmother have to say about the matter? My grandfather's dead, but even he knows that you can draw a thing called a walk to get on base once in a while. (By the way, Hunter walked 29 times in 2001 and 35 times in 2002. His OBP went from .306 to .334.)

Look, this team is too good for an utter collapse but they will be faced with a real challenge this year by the Sox, and I don't think that telling them that they can't get on base unless they swing is going to match the St. Crispen's Day speech from Henry V for inspiration.

Gardy on the few, the happy few: ``We have to scrap for runners. We know that. Move runners over, get them in. That's the only way these guys know how to play. I don't see that changing. Our guys understand that we play defense and pitch. We throw the ball over the plate, and everything's going to work out.''


Eine Kleine Chin Music Today,
2003-03-05 23:58
by Mike Carminati

Eine Kleine Chin Music

Today, I ran across a German site-read, in German-that proffered my little site to an unsuspecting Germanic people. I hope no one in the Fatherland is basing his view of the American idiom on the variety presented herein. I sent the fellow who runs the site a heads-up and asked him about the state of the game in Germany today.

His name is Gregor Gross and I couldn't help but notice the similarity to one of my favorite role players on the Phils when I was growing up, Greg Gross. I passed on that I once saw Gross as the first-base coach of an independent North Atlantic League (I believe) team who played against the one-year Rhode Island Tigersharks. I was on vacation in Rhode Island and attended a game with 80-odd stalwart fans. The stadium had tree trunk-sized supports that jutted out in plain view. An injured Rhode Island player sat in the row in front of me (directly behind home) and groused to his girlfriend about his lack of use and having to live with his parents. And amid all of the under-talented ballplayers was Greg Gross manning the coach's box at first. That made my night.

Anyway, I explained that I did not know much about the German brand of baseball. I've noticed that German immigrants once dotted major-league rosters until about the 1920s. In 2002, Steve Kent become the first German-born player in the majors in 25 years, and I don't know if was a native German or an American service man's son, who happened to be born while his father served in Germany. I know that Spalding's White Stockings conspicuously averted Germany in their famous 1888-'89 World Tour. But that was all.

Gregor sent me a treasure trove of information regarding the amateur system, what it's like to play in that system, the availability of Major League ball in Germany, etc. By the way he's an Indians fan. Here 'tis:

In Germany we have an amateur-league-system that is similar to one we have for soccer. Let me explain, and start at the top. In Soccer you have the Bundesliga, with 18 teams playing for the champion. If you like, I can tell you how they play and determine who the champ is, but right now, lets look at the relegation. The three teams with the poorest record at the end of the season get relegated to the Second League Zweite Liga ) with 18 teams. That is also, where my favorite soccer team player (FC Union Berlin). There, the three best teams advance to the Bundesliga, and the four worst teams are relegated to the Regional League. Now here it gets complicated, because you have one Zweite Liga but three regional leagues placed all over germany ( and you have to sort the relegation teams in their region, but what if four teams are relegated that belong in one ? ). From every regional league one team advances to the Zweite Liga ( that makes three, if you have counted ). And in one regional league a second place team advances. That second place will rotate through the regional leagues, so every three years you have two teams advancing in your region.

Now, if for example three teams relegate to one regional league, there will be lesser teams relegated from that regional teams to hold the team count at 18 ( so sometimes you would be relegated but are not, if there is no team relegating from the Zweite Liga to your regional league, and vice-versa ).

And so it goes on, we have a hierarchic system with ten levels. As you see, at the bottom level, you have the most numbers of leagues at the same level ( in Berlin alone 4 leagues there ), and with every level you advance you get lesser leagues at the same level. Until you get to the fourth level, when there is only one per region. However, you then have many regions, until with every advance in level those get put together, so in the end at the regional league level you have three regions all over germany.

If I could not make it clear, feel free to ask a question here and there. This is complicated stuff, until you have been growing into it. An oversight of the european system can also be found here.

Now, in baseball it is similar, only that you have only four levels in that hierarchic system. You also have relegation ( though it never works, because almost no one wants to advance to the highest level. You´ve got to cover all of germany then with your team, as the premium league is nationwide and only the teams already playing there have enough sponsorship to cover the costs. ). The league is to be found here and the hierarchic system of leagues can be found here. Statistics of the First League are to be found here ( as you can see, they play have no DH sometimes ). Champs were the Paderborn Untouchables.

To the state of the game: I had playing leftfield in the lowest level for some seasons. Back then ( 93-95 or something ) we played on ash. When you played on grass everyone was throwing himself in the dirt just for the fun of it. It still hurt, because we were not allowed to play on the good fields ( those were only for soccer ). The team I played for had three teams in three levels, our big team playing in the first league. Even they had to use those poor grass fields ( though they never played on ash ). You had ridiculous short right field ( ground rule doubles only ) and a big left field ( like Polo Grounds mirrored, I believe ). Most players in the first league were either american soldiers or ex-american soldiers who lived here, or caribbean people who lived here. The game was fun, we even had a batting cage and a pitching machine.

To baseball in TV: Some years ago, you could watch baseball for free here. It was one game a week. Since TV in germany is generally for free, and Pay-TV hasn´t made it on the market, that was good until it lasted. Now Pay-TV wants to make it, and therefore has been trying to buy all sports. In soccer they got half of the games, in american sports they now have all. However, from 82 mio. germans there are not even 1.5 mio. who pay for their TV. Someone ought to tell MLB that if they like to have a german audience, they should broadcast their games on free TV. So my baseball ( and football ) consum is now down to Internet. But I am going to go DSL very soon, and I hope to get a videofeed of some Tribe games, even if I have to pay.

Why I am so interested in baseball ? I watched Major League Baseball, the movies, and since became addicted to the Tribe. Bill James and Baseball Prospectus ( Baseball Prospectus first, for accuracy ) then formed my interest for statistics and my dislike of many major league general manager. As we speak of it, I apply for diamondmind - leagues as Cam La Thrift, if you know what I mean. But as a Tribe fan, I also do wonder what GM´s like John Hart think ( Brian Giles trade ). The jury on Shapiro is still out ( as someone on BP has put it: for every step forward comes a step backward ), but in general is the direction that the Tribe heads, a good one.

Your Phillies may be congratulated to Jim Thome, as he is by far my most loved player. I like his true outcome stuff, BB, K, HR and I like this stance from last season with the stick up hovering over his head. What I don´t like on this situation is that the Phillies, they of the third biggest town in US, get their pockets full of luxury tax money from the Indians, who ran their team wisely throughout the 90s, and now lure their top slugger away with all that money. But no Philly ever brought that system up, it was a sucker like Bud, so who am I to blame them for using loopholes ?

I love to see that Bud being a weenie, or rather a schnitzengruben, transcends cultural barriers.


The Peasants Are Revolting, II
2003-03-05 22:49
by Mike Carminati

The Peasants Are Revolting, II

The umpires have now filed a grievance for unfair labor practice with the NLRB.

The umpires complaints are that the system "frequently malfunctions" and that "has not been subjected to independent evaluations, reviews or reports."

Heck, I don't even have to see it and I know that the darn thing doesn't work, but who cares? Can the NLRB do anything for the umps and if so, what?

The owners want the system. The umps are at their mercy. End of story. Unrestricted monopolies are funny that way.


Christian's Crusade Check out the
2003-03-05 20:21
by Mike Carminati

Christian's Crusade

Check out the Cub Reporter Christian Ruzich's full description, including numerous photos, of his trip to the Promised Land, the Cub's Spring training site, that is.


Rappelling Everett From my friend
2003-03-05 19:45
by Mike Carminati

Rappelling Everett

From my friend Mike, here is the muthah of all sports interviews: A Dallas Observer columnist and Carl Everett.

This is from a player on a last-place team, who is coming off of two disappointing years. As a Phillies fan, I couldn't understand why the Rangers would be interested in the declining Doug Glanville. Now I understand. Everett carries on the tradition of obnoxious star, whose career decelerates quickly since no one can stand to be around him unless he maintains that star performance level. Everett is not at that level anymore. The Red Sox got rid of him after one bad year. Houston got rid of him for a song. The man is on his sixth organization and may not have many bridges left to burn, especially if he repeats his 2002 performance.

Glanville may not be the most talented player going, but he's pleasant and intelligent. Everett is the Derek Bell du jour.


The Peasants Are Revolting ("You're
2003-03-05 00:23
by Mike Carminati

The Peasants Are Revolting ("You're Telling Me?--They Stink On Ice")

Today a number of umpires released a statement denouncing baseball's reliance on the Questec Umpire Information System. MLB feels that the system can be used to evaluate umps. The umpires who are just starting to merge their two factions are afraid of the repecussions:

The umpires said in their statement that the computer is "heavily dependent upon decisions and actions by the Questec ballpark operators, almost none of whom have any experience in professional baseball" and that it "often incorrectly interprets the strike zone,'' producing "unacceptable inconsistencies between strike zones from ballpark to ballpark and from day-to-day in the same ballpark."

The funny thing is that they are right. I wrote extensively about this last summer, twice. Given the physics involved there is no way that the system can be accurate.

But it doesn't matter. The owners are in control and they want to use it, petitions be damned. The umps are just too fragmented and weak to stem the tide. Expect the system to be instituted throughout baseball, but also expect the acrimony between the owners and the umps to increase as their contract runs out. At least they won't be dumb enough to quit en masse again, I hope.


Feliz Cumplianos The Giants' Pedro
2003-03-04 13:20
by Mike Carminati

Feliz Cumplianos

The Giants' Pedro Feliz has finally wrestled free of his visa problems and joined the team in Scottsdale for Spring training. It took him two years to do it however. When Feliz left the Dominican Republic his baseball age was 25. When he arrived in camp it was 27. In April he will be 28. You see, the discrepancy betwen the player's doctored birth certificate and reality was finally discovered.

So Feliz, who has gone from a potential starting third baseman for the Giants after David Bell's departure to a bench player with potential after Edgardo Alfonzo's signing, can now take on the role of veteran bench player, a not too darn good one at that.

He was greeted with birthday balloons at his locker, a joke from his fellow players. For his career, it's not quite a comical matter. A 25-year-old non-starter may still have some potential to grow into. A 27-year-old non-starter will probably be no better than a bench player for life. The Giants' brass is probably not laughing too heartily.

However, team management has reacted with total sangfroid when these discrepancies have cropped up over the past two offseasons. Aging two years has to lower a player's value substantially, but the teams seem to accept their now-damaged goods happily. Pehaps they've been in on the joke. Or perhaps the positive approach is the best way to arrest the declining value of the asset. However, I just get the feeling that baseball people involved don't want to look stupid in being duped so they just tell the business people that all is well.

I do pitty the poor souls having to update all those records at Baseball-Reference.com, ESPN, etc. And the analysts who rely on them.


Phil-O-Logical Study The Philadelphia Inquirer
2003-03-03 23:55
by Mike Carminati

Phil-O-Logical Study

The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that the Phillies' 2003 payroll should climb to over $70 M. This is at least a $14 M increase over last year's payroll and would be a team record. One can quickly see that the signing of free agents Jim Thome ($9.5 M) and David Bell ($3 M) comprise the bulk of the increase.

However, it should be pointed out that this franchise has been run like a small-market club while playing in one of the largest cities in the country. And that the Phils move into a new stadium in 2004, with the promise of recouping their investment. Finally,-and the article does point this out-the Phils' projected 2003 payroll would still rank just fourteenth among the 2002 figures. Of course, with the severe austerity measures instituted by many teams, the Phils may move up slightly compared to 2003 payrolls. Still, it's been a long time coming and for a fan of the team, it's gratifying to see the Phils finally pony up some jack.

The Phils brass is, of course, spinning the story as if they were the Yankees continually building for success:

"We didn't do what we did this off-season to make a financial statement," said Ed Wade, the Phillies' general manager. "We did it to improve our club."

Wade goes on to hint that more spending will be in the offing as the Phils gear up for their new stadium:

"We should be somewhere between 7 and 12 in payroll when we get into our new ballpark."

A valid concern that the article raises is that the Phils may be back-loading too many contracts at a time when many teams are trying to divest themselves of expensive long-term deals. The Phils did go the mid-Ninties Indians route by locking up some young talent (Wolf, Burrell, and Abreu), but they have also spent freely with the veteran crowd (Thome, Bell, and Lieberthal). It is doubtful that all of those deals will work out in the Phils' favor especially as the vets continue to age.

That said, so what? The Phils coffers will be overflowing in the new stadium, especially if the spending helps them become a playoff-caliber team. I've said it before and I'll say it again, I would rather follow a team that is acting positively in pursuing its future goals, like the Phils this offseason and the Yankees throughout their dynasty, than follow a team that is just filling holes with warm bodies, like so many teams have done this offseason. The Phils strategy may come back to bite them, but I for one-and I would think there are more fans that feel similarly-appreciate the effort, even if it doesn't bear fruit. It's preferable to the approach of attempting to catch 1983/1993 lightning in a jar that seemed the favored strategy-that is whenever they had a strategy.

So payroll be damned. The increase has been a long time coming, and they're still no way near luxury tax land. Just let the team look forward. It's at least a strategy that sets the team apart in this cannibalistic environment. Time will tell if it is also a winning strategy.


Hot Dodger Blue Blooded-Checketts and
2003-03-03 14:04
by Mike Carminati

Hot Dodger Blue Blooded-Checketts and Soros (Got a Fever of one hundred and four-o's)

(Yeah, so it's a stretch.)

David Checketts fund drive to buy the Dodgers is about two-thirds of the way toward his goal of $620 M. If you donate $50, you get a free Gallagher CD, and $100 gets you the entire Doo-Wop video collection.

Checketts has evidently lined up one big name as a backer in multi-billionaire George Soros. If anyone was worried about the financial well-being of the sport, the proposed investment by a investor's investor should speak volumes.

My friend Murray has a funny comment regarding Soros:

Can you picture him at the Winter Meetings? The only guy he'd have anything to talk about with would be John Henry.

Gee, another owner for Rob Neyer to genuflect in front of.


Managing To Get Into The
2003-03-03 12:19
by Mike Carminati

Managing To Get Into The Hall

Rob Neyer has a couple of good articles regarding the Veterans' Committee vote last week. First is a reprint of his August 9, 2001, article in which Neyer channels Nostradamas ("Read the book!" Thank you, Time-Life.) to accurately predict that getting elected to the Hall by the then-newly formed body would be extremely difficult at best:

I think that Santo has something like a 1-in-3 chance of finally making it ... and I think there's something like a 2-in-3 chance that nobody makes it. Because that 75-percent standard is going to be very, very tough for anyone to meet. With the old Veterans Committee, 13 or 14 old men would go into a big room and get to horse-trading. You vote for my guy this year, and I'll vote for your guy next year. Everybody's happy because everybody gets to eventually get their buddies into the Hall of Fame...

Is the new system perfect? Of course not. Bad Bill Dahlen's out of the running now, and so is Parisian Bob Caruthers and Pebbly Jack Glasscock and Carl Mays and just about anyone else that didn't play in a league with Joe Morgan or Harmon Killebrew...

That said, a system that might (or might not) give us Ron Santo and Dick Allen is immensely preferable to a system that did give us Vic Willis and Phil Rizzuto and Hack Wilson.

[A]s the years pass, ... candidates overlooked by the BBWAA will come before the Veterans Committee, and a few will get their pass.
But just a few. And of course, that's the way it should be.


The second is a response to a few reader emails. In it Neyer predicts that the 75% threshold will be lower to perhaps even 60% eventually. I agree that the system needs revamping, but I would think that the Vets will be loath to induct someone that slightly more than half of them believed was a Hall of Famer. Perhaps having shorter ballot would help given that the voters displayed their desire to vote for someone (approx. 5.4 candidates selected per ballot according to Neyer). It was just that there were so many to choose from that the voters couldn't focus on the best candidates well enough.

Neyer also mentions the injustice in the case of Minnie Minoso:

Yes, I do think that Schmidt and his peers should know that Minoso probably lost at least two or three seasons to segregation. But if you're going to educate the voters about Minoso, then you have to educate them about everybody else? And how, exactly, do you do that?

Good point about Minoso, but it is probably closer to five years that he lost to segregation. Minoso was the starting third baseman for the New York Cubans from 1945 to '48. Two of those years he was an All-Star. He was signed by Cleveland and spent two years undeservedly languishing in their minor-league system until he was rescued by the White Sox and was instantly a star (his OPS was 50% better than the adjusted league average in 1951). That adds up to 5 years in my book-sorry to nitpick, but if Neyer can't get it right, how does he expect retired baseball players to?

Neyer's last letter concerns various non-player candidates who fell short in the vote. He rightly points out that Marvin Miller, Doug Harvey ("generally considered the greatest umpire of the last half-century or so"), Walter O'Malley ("generally considered the most influential owner of the last half-century or so"), and other non-players have very little possibility of ever getting elected, which is fine except then why have them on the ballot?

Frankly, I am not sure what to do with the executive and pioneer types other than to form a committee not peopled by players, but perhaps by historians, to weigh their fate. Perhaps the least deserving inductee to the Hall was Morgan Bulkeley, who was the first president of the NL, and a short-lived one at that, by happenstance more than anything else and who happened to be the owner of an also short-lived and long-forgotten Hartford team, the mayor of Hartford, the governor of Connecticut, and a U.S. Senator. The shoddy research done by past Veterans' Committees has peppered the Hall with such baseball dreck.

However, managers, one would think, worked closely with players for many years and they, the players, may be the best judge of a manager's Hall of Fame mettle. So why did managers considered worthy candidates like Dick Williams, Whitey Herzog, and Billy Martin receive so little support (Williams led them with only 41.8% of the vote)? Were they just not worthy? How do we know?

I thought it would be interesting to use the current Hall membership as a standard for evaluating the candidates from the managerial ranks. It seems straight forward, but it gets a bit tricky. There are 17 Hall of Famers who are listed as managers. One is Rube Foster who was so much more than that, but also was never permitted to play in the white major leagues. That leaves 16 men, right?

Well, there are also a number of executives/pioneers and players whose managerial career was a large part of why they got into the Hall. Pioneer Harry Wright was a long-time manager. Fred Clarke, who was voted in as a player, may be the historical antecedent to Joe Torre: his managerial career was maybe more than 50% responsible for his getting a Hall plaque. His plaque actually starts with the phrase, "The first of the successful 'boy managers'," and does not mention his playing career. By the same token, Connie Mack entered the Hall as a manager even though he owned the A's for many years as well.

So I tried a different tact. I would dictate the standard and see how the current HoFers fit. I assumed that to be eligible for the Hall a manager would have to have piloted a team for 10 years. This is based on the ten-year requirement for players. Then I assumed that those managers would have to win approximately 80 games a year to play .500 ball-I know it's less pre-expansion but you've got to start somewhere. That means that to be considered, a manager would have to have won 800 games in his career.

There are 60 managers who meet those criteria. Here they are with their managerial career totals. Note that there is a column designating which managers are in the Hall of Fame (codes: M= "Manager", P= "Player", E= "Pioneer/Executive"):

Name                W    L  PCT Hall?
Connie Mack      3731 3948 .486 M
John McGraw      2763 1948 .586 M
Sparky Anderson  2194 1834 .545 M
Bucky Harris     2157 2218 .493 M
Joe McCarthy     2125 1333 .615 M
Walter Alston    2040 1613 .558 M
Leo Durocher     2008 1709 .540 M
Tony LaRussa     1924 1712 .529  
Casey Stengel    1905 1842 .508 M
Gene Mauch       1902 2037 .483  
Bill McKechnie   1896 1723 .524 M
Bobby Cox        1805 1404 .562  
Ralph Houk       1619 1531 .514  
Fred Clarke      1602 1181 .576 P
Tom Lasorda      1599 1439 .526 M
Joe Torre        1579 1448 .522  
Dick Williams    1571 1451 .520  
Clark Griffith   1491 1367 .522 E
Earl Weaver      1480 1060 .583 M
Miller Huggins   1413 1134 .555 M
Al Lopez         1410 1004 .584 M
Jimmy Dykes      1406 1541 .477  
Wilbert Robinson 1399 1398 .500 M
Chuck Tanner     1352 1381 .495  
Lou Piniella     1319 1135 .537  
Ned Hanlon       1313 1164 .530 M
Cap Anson        1296  947 .578 P
Charlie Grimm    1287 1067 .547  
Frank Selee      1284  862 .598 M
Whitey Herzog    1281 1125 .532  
Billy Martin     1253 1013 .553  
Bill Rigney      1239 1321 .484  
Joe Cronin       1236 1055 .540 P
Harry Wright     1225  885 .581 E
Hughie Jennings  1184  995 .543 P
Lou Boudreau     1162 1224 .487 P
John McNamara    1160 1233 .485  
Davey Johnson    1148  888 .564  
Tom Kelly        1140 1244 .478  
Frankie Frisch   1138 1078 .514 P
Bobby Valentine  1117 1072 .510  
Danny Murtaugh   1115 950 .540  
Jim Leyland      1069 1131 .486  
Billy Southworth 1044  704 .597  
Red Schoendienst 1041  955 .522 P
Steve O'Neill    1040  821 .559  
Jim Fregosi      1028 1095 .484  
Chuck Dressen    1008  973 .509  
Bill Virdon       995  921 .519  
Alvin Dark        994  954 .510  
Art Howe          992  951 .511  
Frank Chance      946  648 .593 P
Mike Hargrove     925  872 .515  
Paul Richards     923  901 .506  
Don Zimmer        885  858 .508  
George Stallings  879  898 .495  
Dusty Baker       840  715 .540  
Charlie Comiskey  839  542 .608 E
Fred Hutchinson   830  827 .501  
Bill Terry        823  661 .555 P

Of those that went into the Hall as a non-player, only Anson, Cronin, Frisch (see below), and Terry's candidacies did not benefit from their managerial career. They would probably have gotten in without ever being a successful manager.

Of all the men in the table, only Mack (13 more years), Frisch (3 more), and Schoendienst (1) were still active managers when elected. Mack was already a legend when he was elected to the Hall and Schoendienst had only a 24-game interim stint as a manager left. But even though Frisch had only three poor seasons with the Cubs playing .418 ball left in his managerial career, it was enough to push him over one thousand wins. That makes his managerial career look more impressive than his .514 winning percentage. That's why I assert that the Fordham Flash made it because of his playing stats.

Anyway, if you average all of the managers in the Hall from the above group, you get 1596 wins and a .542 winning percentage. I decided to include the four that made it into the Hall mostly based on their playing career since their stats were not out of line with the rest in the group. They averaged only 1123 wins but had a .546 winning percentage, superior to the Hall group as a whole. Given that they were from an earlier era when fewer games were played, I thought this expressed a similar caliber of manager.

OK, so enough of the small print, the de facto standard for the Hall then is 1596 wins and a .542 winning percentage. Actually, there are very few managers who meet both of those criteria who are in the Hall (McGraw, Anderson, McCarthy, Alston, and Clarke). Apparently, if a manager has one of those stats, then he meets the standards of the Hall.

So who meets those criteria and is not already in the Hall? Well Mauch, LaRussa (active), Cox (active), and Houk are already over 1596 wins, and Torre will be there before the All-Star break. As for winning percentage, Cox (active), Grimm, Martin, Johnson, Murtaugh, Southworth, and O'Neill make it.

Of the four candidates that were on the ballot (Martin, Herzog, Williams, and Richards), only Martin makes our cut. Given that these four candidates and not Gene Mauch or Charlie Grimm are on the ballot, does the Committee see something that is not expressed in this analysis? Could there be a reason to select these managers with inferior stats to others not in the Hall?

To answer this, I took all of the full years as manager for the men above and calculated their expected wins and losses (from Bill James' Pythagorean formula). Then I determined if their expected winning percentage was better or worse than the actual. The reason that I used full years is that the expected win-loss formula is based on runs for and against the manager's team. For partial years it would be cumbersome to allocate runs scored to a particular manager.

Here are the results for our list:

Name	Act PCT	Exp PCT	Diff
Mack	.489	.488	-.001
McGraw	.595	.599	.004
Anderson	.545	.540	-.005
Harris	.495	.503	.008
McCarthy	.618	.616	-.002
Alston	.558	.551	-.007
Durocher	.543	.544	.001
Stengel	.515	.517	.002
Mauch	.489	.490	.001
LaRussa	.528	.523	-.004
McKechnie	.525	.514	-.011
Cox	.564	.554	-.010
Clarke	.582	.588	.007
Lasorda	.526	.533	.007
Houk	.516	.505	-.010
Griffith	.524	.518	-.006
Torre	.523	.519	-.004
Lopez	.588	.580	-.008
Weaver	.586	.577	-.009
Robinson	.506	.497	-.010
Tanner	.499	.501	.002
Huggins	.554	.544	-.010
Williams	.533	.531	-.002
Selee	.599	.586	-.013
Anson	.577	.569	-.008
Cronin	.540	.536	-.004
Hanlon	.545	.546	.001
Wright	.582	.578	-.004
Piniella	.537	.536	-.001
Rigney	.484	.482	-.002
Jennings	.538	.530	-.008
Kelly	.478	.476	-.002
Herzog	.548	.539	-.009
Dykes	.482	.472	-.010
Johnson	.573	.566	-.007
Boudreau	.500	.500	.001
Leyland	.486	.486	.000
Murtaugh	.543	.547	.004
Grimm	.559	.558	-.001
McNamara	.498	.491	-.006
Schoendienst	.522	.522	.000
Valentine	.523	.507	-.016
Frisch	.534	.529	-.005
Howe	.499	.495	-.004
Martin	.553	.545	-.009
Dark	.529	.532	.003
Southworth	.614	.610	-.004
O'Neill	.547	.543	-.004
Chance	.606	.593	-.013
Hargrove	.533	.523	-.010
Fregosi	.481	.487	.005
Comiskey	.606	.598	-.009
Stallings	.491	.494	.003
Terry	.561	.553	-.007
Richards	.488	.477	-.011
Virdon	.532	.529	-.003
Baker	.534	.521	-.013
Dressen	.520	.505	-.015
Zimmer	.526	.516	-.011
Hutchinson	.509	.495	-.013

You'll notice mostly negatives in the difference column. This means that the manager's teams performed better than expected. Whether this does actually measure how much a manager helped his team perform is debatable. Bobby Valentine, a manger for whom I don't have a whole lot of respect, leads the list with an actual winning percentage 16 points better than expected. John McGraw, clearly one of the greatest handful of managers ever, has a worse actual winning percentage than expected. Fellow Hofer Bucky Harris is at the bottom of the list (8 points worse than expected).

However, I think it is a valid tool to evaluate borderline candidates to determine if there is something not conveyed by the managerial record directly. Given Herzog's performance was 9 points above expected, his .532 winning percentage can be "counted" as .541, one point off the average. I think that's close enough to put him in.

It also boosts Lou Piniella's credentials-his .537 is one point better than expected. That is, until his numbers nosedive managing Tampa Bay this year.

Finally, the number of men that appear to merit election to the Hall is now 12, four of which have been active in the last five years: Mauch, Houk, Grimm, Martin, Murtaugh, Southworth, O'Neill, Herzog, Cox (active), LaRussa (active), Torre (active), and Davey Johnson (active-ish). That would be a 43% in the Hall's managerial population. That seems kind of high.Even if we remove the bordeline Herzog, that's still high.

I wanted to ensure that the ratio was not too high. I checked the number of managers all-time. It was 2,965 in total as of 2002. However, there were just 90 with ten years of experience or more, the sixty above and the following 30:

First	Last	W	L	PCT
Patsy	Tebeau	726	583	.555
Fielder	Jones	683	582	.540
Del	Baker	419	360	.538
Jimy	Williams	779	671	.537
Cito	Gaston	683	636	.518
Johnny	Oates	797	746	.517
Birdie	Tebbetts	748	705	.515
Jack	McKeon	770	733	.512
Bill	Watkins	452	444	.504
Buck	Rodgers	784	774	.503
Roger	Craig	738	737	.500
Felipe	Alou	691	717	.491
Luke	Sewell	606	644	.485
Frank	Robinson	763	830	.479
Burt	Shotton	697	764	.477
Al	Buckenberger	488	539	.475
Pat	Corrales	572	634	.474
Lee	Fohl	713	792	.474
Branch	Rickey	597	664	.473
Jeff	Torborg	618	696	.470
Gus	Schmelz	624	703	.470
Phil	Garner	730	829	.468
Rogers	Hornsby	701	812	.463
Dave	Bristol	657	764	.462
Fred	Haney	629	757	.454
Jimmy	McAleer	735	889	.453
Bob	Ferguson	417	516	.447
Billy	Barnie	632	810	.438
Patsy	Donovan	684	879	.438
Jack	Chapman	351	502	.411

Of these men, the only one who would meet any of our criteria is Tebeau of Cleveland Sipder's "fame". He had a great record, but this was in an era when a .646 team could finish second (as the Spiders did in 1895). Besides he has fewer wins than anyone else so enshrined.

So am I advocating that 40 of our original set of 60 managers be inducted and indeed 40 of the 90 in total to have managed for ten or more seasons get be-plaque-ed? Consider that only 254 men are in the Hall out of 15,965 ball players all-time. That's 1.6% (and that 254 includes some non-players).

I guess I am. My defense is that 40 managers out of the 2965 managers all-time are even lower than the players' percentage (1.3%). You can be a 10-year utility man in the majors; it;s very hard to have a ten-year career as a bad manager. I think that given the current de facto standards, these men deserve enshrinement. Considering that Richards and Williams, who are considered great managers, did not make my cut, it may be that the number is even higher than forty.

We'll have to see what happens in the coming olympic-like elections (i.e., every four years). It won't be long until Cox, Torre (as a manager), and LaRussa are eligible for the ballot. If those clear-cut Hall-of-Famers don't make it, the Hall may be using a new standard to identify those who qualify. Or it may be that modern managers will only be seen at Cooperstown if they buy a ticket.


Jeff Kent-Walt Weiss Memorial Baseball
2003-03-02 23:57
by Mike Carminati

Jeff Kent-Walt Weiss Memorial Baseball Darwin Awards, III

From Lee Sinins' ATM Reports:

Brewers 1B Richie Sexson had to miss an intrasquad game last week, after suffering a strained neck. The cap he was given to wear for photo day was too small, so to stretch it out, Sexson pulled so hard on the bill that he hurt his neck.

In Sexson's case, it's safer to put on a batting helmet than a regular cap. After 11 RCAA/.848 OPS and 13 RCAA/.889 OPS seasons, he hit .504 SLG, .363 OBA,. 867 OPS, 25 RCAA in 157 games in 2002. Sexson has a .862 career OPS, compared to his league average of .780, and 47 RCAA in 651 games.

All that, and for a Brewers' cap no less.

This is a running log of inane injuries. Here are entries I and II in the series.


Scrollin' Scrollin' Scrollin' I have
2003-03-02 21:38
by Mike Carminati

Scrollin' Scrollin' Scrollin'

I have fixed a table problem that caused the page to be too wide for some browsers and for people using laregr fonts. It was in the 1980s section of the history of relief pitching. All is now well with the world.


Gagne Ewedscray Ybay Odgersday (Igpay
2003-03-02 16:40
by Mike Carminati

Gagne Ewedscray Ybay Odgersday (Igpay Atinlay)

The Dodgers re-signed Eric Gagne to a $550K contract today, APreported.

They further offer that Gagne is "Coming off one of the best seasons for a reliever in the big-league history." Gagne did save 52 (out of 56 chances) last year with a 1.97 ERA in 82.1 innings. Those 52 saves are the fifth highest all-time, though only good enough for second place last year (behind John Smoltz' 55 saves).

Anyway, aside from the high save totals, was his season really that impressive, I wondered. Opponents batted .189 against him, he has a .89 WHIP (walks plus hits per innings pitched), and he had 16 and 114 strikeouts, which translate into a 7-1/8 strikeout-to-walk ratio and 12.5 strikeouts per nine innings. All very worthy numbers, but are they among the best "for a reliever in the big-league history"?

Well, I have a table of team closers from my reliever history study. It contains all of the team save leaders from the dawn of time. Since what constitutes a closer has changed over time, this, probably the definition, is what I use. Anyway, there are 210 such "closers" with ERAs under 2.00.

If you want to limit this definition to something more closely matching the definition of a closer from the late-Seventies until today, we can limit this group to just those pitchers who recorded 20 saves in the season discussed. That gets us down to 83. Here they are in ascending ERA order:

Name              Year SV  IP    BB  SO  ERA K:BB K/9 IP WHIP
Dennis Eckersley  1990 48  73.33  4  73 0.61 18.25  8.96 0.61
Rollie Fingers    1981 28  78.00 13  61 1.04  4.69  7.04 0.87
Jose Mesa         1995 46  64.00 17  58 1.13  3.41  8.16 1.03
Ted Abernathy     1967 28 106.33 41  88 1.27  2.15  7.45 0.98
Ugueth Urbina     1998 34  69.33 33  94 1.30  2.85 12.20 1.01
Bruce Sutter      1977 31 107.33 23 129 1.34  5.61 10.82 0.86
Ken Tatum         1969 22  86.33 39  65 1.36  1.67  6.78 1.04
John Wetteland    1993 43  85.33 28 113 1.37  4.04 11.92 1.01
Frank Linzy       1965 21  81.67 23  35 1.43  1.52  3.86 1.21
John Hiller       1973 38 125.33 39 124 1.44  3.18  8.90 1.02
Trevor Hoffman    1998 53  73.00 21  86 1.48  4.10 10.60 0.85
Robb Nen          2000 41  66.00 19  92 1.50  4.84 12.55 0.85
Randy Myers       1997 45  59.67 22  56 1.51  2.55  8.45 1.16
Robb Nen          1998 40  88.67 25 110 1.52  4.40 11.17 0.95
Bruce Sutter      1984 45 122.67 23  77 1.54  3.35  5.65 1.08
Mike Jackson      1998 40  64.00 13  55 1.55  4.23  7.73 0.88
Steve Farr        1992 30  52.00 19  37 1.56  1.95  6.40 1.02
Dennis Eckersley  1989 33  57.67  3  55 1.56 18.33  8.58 0.61
Billy Wagner      1999 39  74.67 23 124 1.57  5.39 14.95 0.78
John Franco       1988 39  86.00 27  46 1.57  1.70  4.81 1.01
Jim Kern          1979 29 143.00 62 136 1.57  2.19  8.56 1.13
Jay Howell        1989 28  79.67 22  55 1.58  2.50  6.21 1.03
Gregg Olson       1993 29  45.00 18  44 1.60  2.44  8.80 1.22
Bryan Harvey      1991 46  78.67 17 101 1.60  5.94 11.56 0.86
Phil Regan        1966 21 116.67 24  88 1.62  3.67  6.79 0.93
Rich Gossage      1977 26 133.00 49 151 1.62  3.08 10.22 0.95
Dave Smith        1987 24  60.00 21  73 1.65  3.48 10.95 1.00
Lee Smith         1983 29 103.33 41  91 1.65  2.22  7.93 1.07
Al Hrabosky       1975 22  97.33 33  82 1.66  2.48  7.58 1.08
Bill Landrum      1989 26  81.00 28  51 1.67  1.82  5.67 1.09
Ron Perranoski    1963 21 129.00 43  75 1.67  1.74  5.23 1.20
Gregg Olson       1989 27  85.00 46  90 1.69  1.96  9.53 1.21
Bryan Harvey      1993 45  69.00 13  73 1.70  5.62  9.52 0.84
Tug McGraw        1972 27 106.00 40  92 1.70  2.30  7.81 1.05
Randy Myers       1988 26  68.00 17  69 1.72  4.06  9.13 0.91
Joe Sambito       1979 22  91.33 23  83 1.77  3.61  8.18 1.13
Jeff Shaw         1998 23  49.67 12  29 1.81  2.42  5.26 1.05
Tom Henke         1995 36  54.33 18  48 1.82  2.67  7.95 1.10
Rich Gossage      1985 26  79.00 17  52 1.82  3.06  5.92 1.03
Mudcat Grant      1970 24 123.33 30  54 1.82  1.80  3.94 1.09
Mariano Rivera    1999 45  69.00 18  52 1.83  2.89  6.78 0.88
Bobby Thigpen     1990 57  88.67 32  70 1.83  2.19  7.11 1.04
Greg Minton       1982 30 123.00 42  58 1.83  1.38  4.24 1.22
John Franco       1996 28  54.00 21  48 1.83  2.29  8.00 1.39
Rich Gossage      1975 26 141.67 70 130 1.84  1.86  8.26 1.19
Mark Davis        1989 44  92.67 31  92 1.85  2.97  8.94 1.05
Armando Benitez   1999 22  78.00 41 128 1.85  3.12 14.77 1.04
Ellis Kinder      1953 27 107.00 38  39 1.85  1.03  3.28 1.14
Doug Jones        1992 36 111.67 17  93 1.85  5.47  7.50 1.01
Mike Henneman     1988 22  91.33 24  58 1.87  2.42  5.72 1.05
Roy Face          1962 28  91.00 18  45 1.88  2.50  4.45 1.01
Jim Brewer        1971 22  81.33 24  66 1.88  2.75  7.30 0.97
Mariano Rivera    1997 43  71.67 20  68 1.88  3.40  8.54 1.19
Stu Miller        1965 24 119.33 32 104 1.89  3.25  7.84 1.00
Jeff Russell      1992 28  56.67 22  43 1.91  1.95  6.83 1.29
Al McBean         1964 22  89.67 17  41 1.91  2.41  4.12 1.04
Mariano Rivera    1998 36  61.33 17  36 1.91  2.12  5.28 1.06
Rick Camp         1980 22 108.33 29  33 1.91  1.14  2.74 1.12
Dennis Eckersley  1992 51  80.00 11  93 1.91  8.45 10.46 0.91
Roberto Hernandez 1996 38  84.67 38  85 1.91  2.24  9.04 1.22
Ken Sanders       1971 31 136.33 34  80 1.91  2.35  5.28 1.06
Troy Percival     2002 40  56.33 25  68 1.92  2.72 10.86 1.12
Rollie Fingers    1973 22 126.67 39 110 1.92  2.82  7.82 1.15
Bob Lee           1965 23 131.33 42  89 1.92  2.12  6.10 1.04
Donnie Moore      1985 31 103.00 21  72 1.92  3.43  6.29 1.09
Sparky Lyle       1972 35 107.67 29  75 1.92  2.59  6.27 1.05
Willie Hernandez  1984 32 140.33 36 112 1.92  3.11  7.18 0.94
Dave Giusti       1972 22  74.67 20  54 1.93  2.70  6.51 1.06
Terry Forster     1978 22  65.33 23  46 1.93  2.00  6.34 1.21
John Wetteland    1997 31  65.00 21  63 1.94  3.00  8.72 0.98
Dan Quisenberry   1983 45 139.00 11  48 1.94  4.36  3.11 0.93
Robb Nen          1996 35  83.00 21  92 1.95  4.38  9.98 1.06
Rollie Fingers    1984 23  46.00 13  40 1.96  3.08  7.83 1.11
Eric Gagne        2002 52  82.33 16 114 1.97  7.13 12.46 0.86
Dick Radatz       1963 25 132.33 51 162 1.97  3.18 11.02 1.10
Doug Bair         1978 28 100.33 38  91 1.97  2.39  8.16 1.25
Doug Corbett      1980 23 136.33 42  89 1.98  2.12  5.88 1.06
Jeff Russell      1989 38  72.67 24  77 1.98  3.21  9.54 0.95
Jorge Julio       2002 25  68.00 27  55 1.99  2.04  7.28 1.21
Hoyt Wilhelm      1964 27 131.33 30  95 1.99  3.17  6.51 0.94
Bill Dailey       1963 21 108.67 19  72 1.99  3.79  5.96 0.91
Jack Aker         1966 32 113.00 28  68 1.99  2.43  5.42 0.96
Tom Burgmeier     1980 24  99.00 20  54 2.00  2.70  4.91 1.08

The things about Gagne's 2002 campaign that impress me more than the saves are the strikeout-to-walk ratio and the strikeouts per nine innings. I thought, how rare is it to have a closer with at least five times as many strikeouts as walks, at least 10 strikeouts per nine innings, a WHIP under .90 and an ERA under 2.00.

Of the list above, nine besides Gagne exceed five strikeouts per walk with Dennis Eckersley twice exceeding ten (18.33 and 18.25).

14 besides Gagne top 10 strikeouts per nine innings (and Rob Nenn barely misses at 9.98) with Billy Wagner (14.95) and Armando Benitez (14.77) leading the list.

Eleven besides Gagne have a WHIP under .90, with Dennis Eckersley twice leading the pack (with .61 in 1989 and '90, he's the only person under .78).

Finally, there are just three other men who meet all three criteria (BB:K, K/9 IP, and WHIP). They are Bruce Sutter in 1977, Billy Wagner in 1999, and Bryan Harvey in 1991. Harvey just missed (9.52 K/9 IP) in 1993, and Dennis Eckerlsey was even closer (.91 WHIP) in 1992.

That's a pretty unique set of circumstances. However, I do not know if that means that he had one of the greatest seasons by a reliever all-time. For my money the Eckersley 1989-'90 seasons, and even his 1992, blow away Gagne's 2002 year. Gagne's numbers are not that much better than Troy Percival's and even Jorge Julio's last season (and Byung-Hyun Kim wasn't far behind). But that you can make an argument for Gagne's 2002 being among the best still cannot be ignored.

That said, the Dodgers get off easy with Gagne's salary in 2003. One has to wonder if the strategy is penny-wise and pound-foolish. We'll have to see when Gagne becomes arbitration-eligible next year (Rotowire reports he was just 18 days shy of qualifying this year) and a free agent to follow.


Lee Way, II Here are
2003-03-02 02:18
by Mike Carminati

Lee Way, II

Here are some interesting notes from Lee Sinins' ATM Reports from earlier today:

A Tale of Two Pitchers

Orioles P Scott Erickson will have surgery to repair a torn labrum in his shoulder and could miss the entire season.

Orioles co-GM Jim Beattie says the team is always interested in adding starting pitching, but this news won't necessarily intensify their efforts to sign someone. Beattie says the team is interested in free agents Chuck Finley and Kenny Rogers--but only if the price is right.

After a 7.87 ERA/-33 RSAA in 16 starts in 2000, Erickson missed the entire 2001 season and had a 5.55 ERA/-21 RSAA in 28 games (29 games) in 2002. He has a 4.51 career ERA, compared to his league average of 4.53, and -6 RSAA in 355 games.

And...

Twins P Eric Milton will knee surgery and may miss the first month of the season. It will be his 2nd knee surgery in 7 months. Johan Santana is expected to move into Milton's spot in the rotation.

Milton's 4.84 ERA/-9 RSAA in 29 starts in 2002 marked the 3rd consecutive year in which his performance declined. He has a 4.80 career ERA, compared to his league average of 4.69, and 3 RSAA in 163 games.

Santana has a 4.58 career ERA, compared to his league average of 4.63, and 5 RSAA in 72 games in his 3 year career, including a 2.99 ERA/17 RSAA in 27 games (14 starts) in 2002.

Both Erickson and Milton have been on the decline for some time. Milton (who I think has declined for each of the last four years) is at least still effective and young. Erickson is a waste of a roster space.

For the Orioles, it's the best thing that can happen. Erickson has one year left on a 5-year $32 M contract. He is 35 and has not had a better than average year since 1998 (right after signing the contract). His last two years have been atrocious (7.87 and 5.55 ERAs). The injury happens early enough that the Orioles will now not have to throw useless spring-training innings to a man who has no purpose on the club other than to play out his contract. He is out for the year, so certainly the club's insurance will bail out the contract. The Orioles could not deal him because of his contract, performance, and age. It's such a windfall, one has to wonder if Tony Soprano were not contacted to help with the injury (a joke of course).

Milton is expected back by May 1, but until then the Twins will have to carry on without their probable number-two starter. So what may have been a decent fight for the number 5 spot between Kyle Lohse and Johan Santana, will now end with them both starting the year in the rotation. This may end up being a break for the Twins since Lohse was expected to win the 5th spot, Santana was expected to work out of the pen, and Santana has the potential to be the staff leader. As the fifth starter, Santana may not have much of an opportunity given the usually sparse April schedule, but he should make the most of it. This just moves his timetable up for eventually becoming the Twins' number-one pitcher, if they are not so dumb as to move him back to the pen. Maybe Tony Soprano can prove useful again.

O Yes-Padres Have a Base-A-Ball Jones

According to the Rocky Mountain News, the Orioles are still talking to the Rockies about OF Jack Cust, but the Orioles aren't interested in taking P Todd Jones. The Orioles are reportedly offering OF-1B Chris Richard for Cust.

The Orioles are apparently learning from past mistakes. Why employ Jones when he is two years and three franchises removed from being an effective starter and is soon to be 35 years old? Besides he won't come cheap ($3 M).

Sinins reported the other day that the Padres are interested in acquiring Jones to replace Trevor Hoffman until he recuperates. He did not report what Kevin Towers was smoking at the time.

Slouching Toward Kansas City

According to the Kansas City Star, the Royals and Rangers are both admitting to contacting trade talks regarding Carlos Beltran. According to the paper, the Royals are very interested in Hank Blalock, but also want more than just him, while they are believed to have also asked for 2B Michael Young and OF prospect Layne Nix.

The Royals have three good-to-great players in Mike Sweeney, Raul Ibanez, and Carlos Beltran. Beltran is probably the one with the lowest ceiling of the three, he just earned $6 M in losing his arbitration case with the team, and is a potential free agent after the 2004 season. He rejected a three-year, $25+ M deal this offseason. All of this adds up to Beltran's head being on the chopping block.

Blaylock star's has been falling since his disappointing 2002 start. He was set to start at third but has become expendable because his eventual replacement Mark Teixeira is reportedly crushing balls in Spring training.

What complicates matters are current Royal third sacker Joe Randa and his $4.5 M contract in 2003. I would have to think that the Royals do not pull the trigger on this deal without haven't another set up to move Randa (perhaps the Mets are listening).

Yankee Yucks

Yankees P David Wells claims that he was "half drunk" when he pitched his perfect game in 1999.

This is a nonstory, mentioned only to put the story into context. Wells is trying to hype his new book. Yankees P Roger Clemens may have accurately assessed the situation when he said, "I call him Ely because if a story goes over 30 seconds, he's lying."

I wonder how long Wells' testimony in his attack case earlier this winter lasted.


This is my site with my opinions, but I hope that, like Irish Spring, you like it, too.
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