Monthly archives: February 2006
My Hall Runneth Over
You're gonna need a bigger boat.
Wow! The special committee of Negro Leaguers and Pre-Negro Leaguerswhat no Post-Negro Leaguers?didn't miss when given an opportunity. They selected 17 (count 'em! 17!) individuals for Hall of Fame induction this summer, including the Hall's first woman and the first white man selected for his work in the Negro Leagues.
My first reaction was how are they going to fit all those plaques? When I last went to the Hall, about five years back, they had just finished a renovation that allowed them to expand the Hall area itself quite a bit. But 17 plaques?!?
To put that in perspective, the two long-standing voting bodies, the baseball writers and the veterans, have inducted 17 in total this decade. That's seventeen in seven elections (2000-2006). And two of those 17 were Negro Leaguers (Hilton Smith and Turkey Stearnes).
With Bruce Sutter joining the group, this will be the largest induction class ever, 18. It blows away the previous leader, the infamous 1946 group of 11 inductees, all selected by the extremely cronyistic Old Timers Committee, the precursor to the Veterans Committee. That was the class that brought us probably the worst Hall of Fame player, Tommy McCarthy, not to mention Tinkers-to-Evers-to-Chance en masse.
And yet, I am pleased as Pudge, and it has nothing to do with the fact that I correctly picked 13 of the 17 that selected by the committee (even though I picked the wrong Taylor brother twice and predicted that the voters would be overly impressed by Buck O'Neil's press). I can't wait to take my kids there this summer though it all might be lost on a seven- and a two-year-old.
I like the idea that a committee of credible individuals might have completed the Hall discussion on one of baseball's tougher Hall issues or at least settled the bulk thereof. That was the original intention of the old timers, to take care of the nineteenth century players.
I also get the feeling the powers that be at the Hall might apply a bit of pressure to get the remodeled Veterans Committee to get off their duffs and actually pick somebody.
So some may quibble about the size of the class and the largely unsubstantiated qualifications of some of the individuals selected. And then there's the fact that the population of Negro Leaguers in the Hall practically doubled overnight (from 18 to 35). But overall I'm OK with it.
For the record here are the biggest Hall classes of all time:
And if one table isn't enough, here are the largest classes for any voting body:
Now, this class does tip the balance of Hall of Famers more into the Negro Leagues' favor. In fact in 1945, there was actually one more Negro League Hall of Famer than there were in the major leagues (17 to 16), helped in part by World War II.
Overall, during the segregated era (1883-1945), the ratio of Negro Leaguers to major leaguers who ended up in the Hall was about one to three. Here is the entire era broken down by year:
Note the number of total active Hall of Famers peaked in 1930 at 73 but remained above fifty pretty consistently from 1922-1941. And still Bert Blyleven can't get in the Hall. I guess my biggest problem with the vote today is that it perpetuated to the prejudice favoring players from the Thirties. Sheez, you kill one prejudice while you deepen another. Go figure.
Darren Dreifort has reportedly retiredSurprise!after watching his $55 M, five-year contract run out with the Dodgers at the end of last season. And when I say "watch", I mean that Dreifort spent all of 2005 on the disabled list, while garnering $13.4 M yet.
Dreifort hasn't pitched in a game since given up two runs in 1.2 innings in a 4-2 loss to the Marlins on August 16, 2004. The loss ran Dreifort's career totals to 48 wins against 60 losses. Dreifort, a starting pitcher at the beginning of the contract, hasn't started a game since he lost 6-0 to the Rockies on May 28, 2003. He lasted just three innings and gave up nine hits, four walks, six runs, and one home run. It ended his season 52 games into the Dodger schedule.
In total, Dreifort only pitched in three of the five years in his elephantine contract, and in that span he went 8-15 in 86 games only 26 of which were starts, he threw 205.2 innings and had a 4.64 ERA. Basically, the Dodgers paid $55 M for what amounts to one bad year for a starter.
It made me wonder, now that Dreifort's career is apparently in the can (and I won't say what can that is unless I wish to incur the FCC's ire), could Dreifort's be the most expensive career of all time. That is, did he give his team, the Dodgers, the least production for the most pay ever?
I ran the numbers, and well, I'll let them speak for themselves. Just keep in mind that I looked at total salary over a player's career and total career Win Shares. A player had to make at least one million dollars over his career and collect at least one Win Share. Here are the top 25, or rather bottom 25, in terms of dollars per Win Share:
Congratulations to Darren. That's quite a list of characters to lead. And Dreifort did it in dramatic fashion, costing his team $1.6 M per Win Share, over $400 K more than the next worst. It's quite a way to go out.
Walk Like a Brady Anderson
They other day when it was a slow news day and I was dredging up the corpse of Sammy Sosa's career for the umpteenth time, I was asked if there had been any players who did not "learn" how to take a walk (as I contended Sosa did), but rather who had a one-year walking renaissance and then went back to his old non-walking ways. Ergo, the Brady Anderson reference.
Anderson as you will recall famously hit 50 homers in 1996 after never hitting more than 21 in a season before that in his first eight seasons. In his six remaining seasons he would never hit more than 24.
So who was the base on ball's version of Brady Anderson?
Well, first I have to explain that the answer is not as easy as it sounds. In the early days, baseball kept redefining not only the strike zone but the number of balls required to draw a walk. From nine to eight in 1880, to seven the next year, to six in 1884, to five in 1886, and finally to the current four in 1889 (with the three-strike-yer-out rule coming the previous season).
So numbers fluctuated throughout the era. But for the heck of it we will include all seasons. What we will look for is the player season in which the player's walks per plate appearance ratio exceed his career ratio (minus the given season) by the most (400 PA minimum for the season and for the rest of the player's career).
Here are the tops of all time:
Aside from an odd Manny Sanguillen or two, most of those player seasons were byproducts of a base on balls rules change. But still, quadrupling one's walk ratio in one season?
Anyway, to determine who was the true Brady Anderson of the BB (and to avoid these rule-induced pretenders), I will look just at those players from 1900 on:
Gentlemen, I give you the infamous El Guapo, er, I mean, Clarence Huber. It's a bit anticlimactic, eh? Well, how about if we instead shot for Sanguillen? He did have a far more substantial career (four times as many plate appearances) than the three men ahead of him. And he had a stellar year in 1975 when he had his Brady-esque walk total. His .391 on-base percentage that year was almost fifty points higher than his season-high for the rest of his career and nearly seventy more than his career average.
Sanguillen stands out even more if you look at player seasons from 1970 on:
Manny's great 1975 season leads me to another question: Does a high-walk season improve one's batting ratios? I would think that it would have a direct bearing on one's on-base percentage and, therefore, a strong effect on OPS (since one of its two components is OBP). Let's test that theory.
Here are the OPS and OBP numbers for the three tables above. First, the all-time list:
Now, since 1900:
Finally, since 1970:
OK, so it does not appear that on-base percentage and OPS don't seem to improve with high-walk years. But maybe that's just what happens at the extremes. Let's see how well they correlate.
I ran the numbers for all qualifying player seasons, and here's what I found. Actually, they correlate not that well. The coefficient for walk improvement and OBP improvement was just 0.517. To OPS it was just 0.257.
So what does this mean? Not a whole lot, and that's meaningful. Let's say you have an epiphany and learn to walk one year, but the next year rolls around and you decide this walk thing isn't so hot. You would probably be right. That is, you probably didn't notice a tremendous change in your production in that year. Maybe it's the players who persist in this unproductive walking thing for one than a year that eventually reap the benefits.
OK, finally, here are the players who had the least Brady-like walk years. Alfredo Griffin makes a cameo:
Pitchers and catchers reported to the spring camps last week, and I was set to say, "Great! Now, if the Phillies only has some ." The only problem is that Pat Gillick beat me to it, which is rather odd given that he's the GM of the club.
Given that Gillick's biggest deals since joining the club in November have been 1) to jettison aging former franchise player Jim Thome (thereby clearing the way for NL RoY Ryan Howard, a good move, but Gillick had to eat have Thome's gargantuan contract in the process) and 2) to sign former Action News sportscaster Scott Palmer ("There goes that news van again") as some sort of PR guru. Hey, I'm for any guy who helped rid the club of the bane of Ed Wade, but when hiring him is one of the best moments in a team's offseason Well, they don't can him Stand Pat for nothing.
Well, maybe that's unfair. Gillick has picked up players, just not the players the Phils need in most cases. Aaron Rowand is potentially a very good pickup given his excellent defensive skills and especially if he can duplicate his 2004 offensive stats (24 HR and .905 OPS). However, one has to be concerned with his offensive malaise last year (.736 OPS) and the appearance that 2004 was a career year at age 26 as opposed to the breakthrough year it appeared to be at the time.
So Rowand is a potential mixed bag, but there's more: he's the only decent pickup by Gillick. The rest of the roster has been peppered by veteran backups who have been given overpriced contracts, a sub-par starter (5.10 ERA in 2005) who will be 33 this year and yet has one season with an ERA under 4.00 and that was three seasons ago, oh, and a flotilla of sub-par third baseman replacing/buttressing lamb duck starter David Bell.
So when Gillick opined right before camp opened that the Phils were not contenders given the lack of a number one starter, unless he was trying to incentivize Brett Myersan approach that has not worked in the past, ask Joe Kerrigan, I have to say the fault is not in our stars (or rather the lack thereof) but in ourselves, or more to the point Gillick himself.
Besides, realistically given the talent throughout the division, the Phils appear to be a lock for third no matter what they do. The Marlins destroyed their club this offseason and should have one of the worst records in baseball history. The Nationals should look more like the team that fell apart in the second half rather than the one that surprising led the division at the start of 2005. Pencil them in for fourth.
Then there's the revamped Mets who barring another Mo Vaughn-type of talent shortfall should be the only challengers to the suddenly revamped Braves. The Braves will have a great deal of good young talent and should start another run like they did after the 1991 season.
Then there's the Phils, who could have six pretty good starting position players but will have an offesive sinkhole at third and behind the plate as well as a continually sub-par rotation of number three and number four pitchers, and a closer who has been a setup man for four years.
But maybe I'm being a bit tough on them. If Rollins and Rowand have good years and they rest do as expected, they could have six starting position players with an OPS over .800. Of course, that would go along with potentially sub-.700 OPSs from Lieberthal and Bell. But does that matter?
I looked up all the teams in baseball history that had similar lineups. That is, all but two position players (with a minimum of 200 plate appearances) had an OPS over .800, and the other two had a sub-.700 OPS. Here's what I found:
In 2001, Ausmus has a .625 OPS and Lugo had a .698 OPS for the 'Stros. The '96 White Sox has Karkovice and Guillen, the '87 Mets had a sub-par Gary Carter and Rafael Santana. Those are all catcher-shortstop combos, not that far from the Phils situation at catcher/third.
All of those teams had winning records, and all but one had a better record than the 2005 Phils, who missed the playoffs after playing a full season (as the Astros beat the Cubs on the final day of the season).
If you think that the 2006 Phils don't fit in with these teams given their sub-par rotations, look at the average ERA for the group (4.03), not far from the team's sub-par 4.21 ERA last year, especially if you factor in the era and the park.
So what does this tell us? Could the Phils contend? If a lot of "if"'s work out in their favor, it is not out of the question. If Rowand bounces back to his 2004 offensive If Utley and Howard continue to develop If Madson and Myers can anchor the rotation If Gordon can be a reliable closer. There are a lot of "if"'s, but none seem out of the question.
I hate to admit it but the Phils could be contenders even given some of the sinkholes in the lineup and in the rotation. Then again there is always Charlie "I Need a Friggin'" Manuel around to screw things up. Hmm, let me rethink this.
Sammy's Legacy—So-so or Explosivo?
Apparently, Sammy Sosa has reached the end of the line, or so abounding theories would have us believe. He drew his line in the sand and stuck to it, turning down the Nationals' offer since it did not come with a guaranteed starting job.
Lifetime Dodger Jackie Robinson retired instead of playing for the hated Giants. Sosa refuses to spend more time cheering his teammates from the dugout rather than from on the field. At least he's taking a stand, I guess. One man's meat yudda yudda.
The rumor that Alex Rodriguez has been wooing him to platoon with Bernie Williams in the DH spot is now being drowned with rumors that Sosa either has already retired (but just doesn't know it) or will retire when he gets around to it.
Let's assume the rumors are true and Sosa is retiring 12 homers short of being the fifth man in major-league history to amass 600 dingers in his career. So what will his legacy be?
I have to admit that I was very slow to warm to fan-favorite Sammy. I was in the camp who early in his career looked at his inability to draw a base on balls and labeled him a sabermetrically weak player though he had very impressive conventional stats. I think his being awarded the 1998 NL MVP awards was one of the worst decisions by the writers since Pete Rose won the Good Guy Award in 1965.
However, Sosa convinced me that a player could develop at the major-league level. I would call his peak from 1998-2003, extremely impressive and definitely Hall-worthy. The only problem is that the eight-plus years before that peak and the two since have been anything but revelatory.
The prototype for these years was 1997 in my opinion. Sosa hit 36 home runs and drove in 119 but he batted just .251, slugged .480, and got on base just 30% of the time. He stole 22 bases but got caught 64% of the time (12 times). His OPS (.773) was ever so slightly worse than the park-adjusted league average. Oh, and he led the league in strikeouts, 174, while walking just 45 times. He was a sabermetrician's nightmare.
Then he turned his career around in one of the most over-publicized performances of all time. His OBP shot up 77 points, his batting average 57, his slugging 167, and his OPSget this244 points. It was now 60% better than the adjusted league average. And, of course, he hit 66 homers, did you hear?
He had a great season by anyone's standard, just not as good a season as Mark McGwire's historic onehis OPS was 117% better than the adjusted league average, for example. But they both saved baseball, as legend has it (Did you hear Abner Doubleday apocryphally invented the game, too). Sosa won the MVP on the strength of his Cubbies qualifying for the playoffs as a wild card after winning a one-game tiebreaker. Never mind that Chicago got swept that postseason. Sosa was so dang cute, smiling and kissing fingers and hugging Mark McGwire and whatnot.
After saving the game, Sosa's legacy seems now as uneven as his career was. He famously got caught with a corked bat. He was ridden out of Chicago on a rail after some non-story about his leaving the clubhouse during the last game of a disappointing 2004 Cubbie season.
Next, he makes history joining Rafael Palmeiro in Baltimore thereby setting a record for career homers by two teammates (and broke it on a regular basis during the year). Not only that, the O's start off the season strong and lead the AL East for a long while. It seemed that his career would witness a rebirth.
So what happens next? The Orioles collapse, Palmeiro gets embroiled in a steroid scandal, and Sammy ends up having his worst season since leaving the South Side of Chicago. The scent of steroid use, true or not, seems to have attached itself to him. And after one season he is dropped by Baltimore and may be forced to retire because he can't find a job to his liking.
So back to his legacy How will Sammy be remembered? Will it be a corked bat or a finger kiss? Os somewhere in between (a kissed bat)?
Sosa's legacy might be both, the incredible highs and the ignominious lows. At least it will be for me. That alone makes him a remarkable player. I mean, how many players learn how to draw a walk after eight years and then forget it after another six or so?
Well, actually, I studied that and found that there were 25 major-leaguers who had a more dramatic turnaround than Sosa. But few ahead of him on that list were able to turn their careers around as dramatically as Sosa did after "learning" to walk.
I guess the real question is how will his minor peccadilloes affect Sosa's Hall chances. It seemed unthinkable a few years ago, but could Sosa suffer the same fate as his ex-teammate Palmeiro. That is, could his contributions to the game be outweighed by the negatives, at least in the minds of Hall of Fame voters? Only time will tell.
So when all is said and done, where does Sosa rank among the best right fielders of all time? I looked up the players whose primary position was right field or, in the years in which all three outfield spots' fielding stats were lumped together, I took players whose primary position was outfielder and who played the most games in right (we do have the splits by game per outfield position at least).
I took the players that met these criteria and either had 250 or more career Win Shares or were in the Hall of Fame. Hopefully, those two lists will have a bit of overlap. Here are the qualifying right fielders by career Win Shares first:
Sammy and the Nats, II—Goodbye Goldbricker Road
After my little Sammy Sosa's study yesterday, I was asked to tailor it a bit more to his career. So here goes. I limited the field to players who were at least 36 years old, had a sub-.700 OPS one year, but also had an OPS that was at least .800 the year prior to that and a .900 OPS two years before. That is a .900 OPS year, an .800 OPS, and then a sub-.700 OPS.
The field is extremely narrow and includes a dude named Estel:
I'm not sure what five players tell us, but a) three are Hall of Famers and b) McCovey is the only one who had much of comeback after his sub-.700 season. On average they declined by 35 points though much of that can be attributed to Lowenstein's demise.
OK, I can't think of another way to slice it. History just isn't on Sosa's side here.
Sammy and the Nats—Sosa's So Spaced Out
Sammy Sosa is reportedly ready to retire instead of accept a non-guaranteed, one-year deal worth $500K from Washington Nationals.
Sammy's Scooter, that is the guy who is leaking Sammy's side, is quoted as saying, "Sammy doesn't think of himself as someone who has to beg for a spot on a big league roster."
Really? Did Sammy watch Sammy play last year?
He continues, "Sammy wants to get to 600 home runs, but he's not willing to humiliate himself to keep playing. He feels that the lack of interest in his services this winter constitutes a humiliation."
Remember when this prima donna was America's sweetheart, with the finger-kissing and the McGwire hugging? Rickey Henderson was supposed to be a conceited player, but he was willing to play independent ball in St. Paul and Newark just to get a shot to play in the majors again. Sammy won't even drive down I-95.
This is a guy who was caught corking his bat and seems to picked up a whiff of juicing, whether that is or is not justified. Sosa's just damaged goods. He may not be as much or a pariah as his ex-teammate, Rafael Palmeiro, but his legacy has been damaged, perhaps irreparably.
Besides he's 37 years old and has seen all his batting ratios drop every year starting with his career 2001 season (from .328/.437/.737/1.174 in 2001 to .221/.295/.376/.671 last year) along with his home runs, runs batted in, and runs scored. He just isn't aging well.
But maybe we are being a pit tough on Sosa. This is a guy who has hit 588 career home runs and had 35 taters just two years ago. Could he bounce back?
Well, I looked up all the players 36 or older who registered an OPS at or below .700 with at least 200 plate appearances. On average their OPS's continued to plunge by 11 points while they lost about 108 at-bats the next year. Only a handful registered an OPS over .800, a number that would be respectable for a corner outfielder:
So is a Sammy revival out of the question? No, but the odds are not good. Only 17 men out of 301 that met the criteria made our list. And of those 17 only seven has 200 or more at-bats.
As for me, I'm fine with him retiring with less than 600 homers. Not that I have anything against Sosa, but I don't think he's anywhere near the level of Aaron, Ruth, Mays, and Bonds. Especially, if it causes poor Sammy a little "humiliation".
Sore-ano?—He Loses Arbitration But Still Gets Record $10M
Alfonso Soriano may have lost his arbitration case. Heck, he may not even have a position on his new team, the Nationals. But the man he did break the arbitration record when he was awarded ten million dollars yesterday.
That sounds impressive, but really, he will be making just $2.5 million more than he made last year in Texas. I mean, I wouldn't turn it down, but is that in actuality a big pay raise by baseball standards? I don't know.
That made me wonder what exactly was the greatest pay raise in baseball history and where does Soriano's 2006 hike fall on the list of all-time increases?
So I looked it up.
Well, There are 315 pay hikes that were at least as much as Soriano's $2.5 M pay increase though many were due to free agent signings.
Here are the one-year salary increases of $5M or more:
As far as the percent increase, Soriano comes nowhere near the top. Here are the players who have seen their pay increase an Exxon-like tenfold in a single offseason. Most are arbitration specials:
The Great Stun
This is how lame hockey has gotten: the country that invented it lost to a country that doesn't care about it, in a state that has NO natural ice!
As the greatest player to ever play hockey, Wayne Gretzky, gets sucked down into the sinkhole that is the Rick Tocchet gambling scandal, I am left trying to plumb its depths.
Who was involved? Did Gretzky bet through his wife? What about other hockey personnel? And doesn't using Gretzky wife make a) The Great One seem like a big wussy and b) make the scandal even worse because of the cover-up? It also makes him seem more culpable or at least creates the impression that he knew he was doing something wrong.
And what will be the fallout? It seems that there were some illegal activities that at the very least Tocchet was involved. If Gretzky did bet through his wife, what are the legal ramifications?
Of course, the legal fallout has more of an immediate affect on the lives of the people involved, but what happens in the hockey realm? Do they get suspended and/or banned? How does this affect Gretzky's legacy? Will he become hockey's Pete Rose? And remember Rose and Joe Jackson were big names, but they weren't the best to ever play their sport.
The big question as far as the sports world is concerned is whether they bet on hockey. If all their bets were on the coin toss at the Super Bowl and such, then hockey can really only suspend them for unbecoming behavior, right? Or maybe trafficking with gamblers and other unsavory characters.
If there were hockey bets, then one would expect the men involved would be suspended for life and possibly banned from the Hall of Fame, not like Tocchet had to worry about it.
Right now, it seems there are more questions than facts, but it doesn't look good.
However, unless they straighten out the details, I don't think that it can unseat steroid use in baseball as the scandal of choice in sports today. The hurdle that no one cares about hockey outweighs the headlines that Gretzky's name will garner, in my opinion.
All in all, however, hockey seems to be in the death throes as one of the four major sports. It may already lag behind golf and tennis and now they say bowling is coming into vogue again. And there is always poker and so doku to contend with.
Remember when hockey was the hot sport after the rollerblading craze of the early Nineties? And Gary Bettman was supposed to be the next David Stern? Then team USA took a quick exit in the Olympics right before completely trashing their hotel in a nice show of bad sportsmanship. It's star then dimmed a bit. Next there was the strike last season. Now this. And I thought the lords of baseball were screwing up their sport?!?
Could It Be I'm Falling in Hate?—R&B Group Should Ask for Their Name Back
When you are a kid playing baseball it is pure fun and worrying about what team you are on should be the least of your concerns.
The first thing the Red Sox did after winning the World Series was force Doug Mientkiewicz, the first baseman who made the Series-ending putout, to relinquish control of the final-out ball for the good of, basically, all humanity. Mientkiewicz called it his "retirement fund." The Sox called it "ours".
Mientkiewicz finally agreed to loan the ball to the Sox and then was promptly traded to the Mets.
Amidst all the blather regarding the ball, Larry Lucchino, Sox President, proposed changing team policy to "avoid another fight over, say, the ball that clinches the first Red Sox World Series repeat since 1916."
In December the Sox filed a lawsuit to retain the ball.
The Sox then scheduled the doling out World Series rings to personnel ostentatiously in front of their rival, Yankees, in the home opener. Even though the Yankees were fine with that plan ("The Red Sox won them, they earned them and they have the right to pick the game and date to present them and it's not a personal affront to our players or to me," said George Steinbrenner), the Sox demurred and moved the ceremony until overwhelming fan support for the home opener forced them to move the ceremony back to the home opener.
This past offseason has witnessed the Red Sox front office's own Peyton Place with Theo "The Rubber Band Man" Epstein quitting as GM, returning in some undefined position, and then assuming the GM role again.
And as if the Red Sox Nation didn't have enough to worry about, they needed to create another pointless issue. The Single-A affiliate of the Sox, the Lowell Spinners, is trying to remove the team name Yankees from New England little leagues out of concern for stress caused to young players. They offer Spinners as an alternative, of course, with no thought to the free advertising they would receive.
"We figured the easiest and best solution was replace those Yankee teams with the Spinners, who are part of the Boston Red Sox system," Bawmann said. "We would like to make a point that this promotion is all in good fun and is merely meant to appeal to Red Sox Nation in New England."
The season hasn't even started and I am sick of the Red Sox. If there is a god, please let them go 0-162. It would be wicked.
The Phils Continue To Get the Alex S. End of the Gonzalez Stick
The Phils, in a variation of their acquiring the lesser of two brothers, signed Alex S. Gonzalez to further muddy the third base picture. Alex S. is not to be confused with the Alex "No Middle Initial" Gonzalez, who left the Marlins for greener pastures at Fenway (must be the Florida sun).
The Red Sox continue to acquire every ex-Marlin shortstop. Next year, why not Andy Fox? Meanwhile they traded to the Marlins-cum-Cleveland Spiders their best shortstop prospect (Hanley Ramirez) since Nomar was a weird name. Maybe Bud will give the Sox another Mulligan next year to retrieve Ramirez. Why not set up the Marlins to play the KC A's to the Red Sox version of the 1950s Yankees?
Anyway, at least Alex "NMI" can play some D to go with his usually sub-par batting. Alex S. has been shifted from short to third, will be 33 this season, and has been a SABR albatross around his teams' collective necks since his Blue Jay days (a career OBP of .303 for crissake!). He could barely start for the D Rays last year.
So now the Phils have three third basemen, none of which is really good enough to start: David Bell, Abraham Nunez, and Alex S. I guess the plan, if there is one, is to go with Gonzalez (righty) and Nunez (switch-hitter) as a platoon or some recreation of the season finale of American Idol, while Bell in the last year of an ill-advised contract gets traded. There are only two problems: 1) Who will take Bell (and his $4.7 M 2006 salary) off their hands and 2) Nunez-Gonzalez is no better than Bell. Why not just give the job to the relatively inexpensive Tomas Perez?
Alex S. does continue the Phils' tradition of acquiring mediocre analogues to players who were brothers, sons, or some other relative of a superior player. It's creatively efficient to go after players with the same name as a better player. (They did have Dave W. Roberts but was he any worse than Dave A., the pitcher, or the current Dave "NMI"?)
Instead of Greg Maddux, the Phils get his brother Mark. Instead of Al Leiter, get hisbrother Mark. Instead of George Brett, they have his brother Ken. They get Tim Worrell, not Todd. Jeremy, not Jason, Giambi. Tom, not Marty, Barrett. Ron, not Gary, Roenicke Mack, not Zack, Wheat. Vince, not Joe or even Dom, Dimaggio.
Bell's dad Buddy was a far better player. Bob Boone was a pretty good catcher, but nowhere near the hitter his dad Ray was and his sons Bret and Aaron are probably better.
At least the got the right one of the five Delahanty brothers in Ed, though of course he died a mysterious death at Niagara Falls.
The Phils bad luck with relatives of other players goes back to their first manager, Hall of Famer Harry Wright, who was never as good as his brother George as player. And of course, Bill Giles was the main owner of the team for years, a man who booked Spaceman, while his father Warren was a Hall of Fame executive.
I guess if you can't build a tradition of winning, any tradition will do.
The Rockies announced today that general manager Dan O'Dowd and manager Clint Hurdle were given contract extensions through the 2007 season, and I am left wondering what a guy has to do to get fired in Colorado.
This is a team that has witnessed one winning season in the last eight and that hasn't made the playoffs in the last ten. They have seen their attendance slip from first in the NL in their first 7 seasons (and as high as 4.5 M in their inaugural season) to fourteenth in the 16-team NL last year with their first attendance mark under two million for a season.
O'Dowd has held his job over six seasons and has job for over six seasons and has registered one season (barely) over .500 and that was over five years ago (82-80 in 2000) and has never had a team finish higher than fourth in a five team division. Since O'Dowd took over no Rockie team has finished within 15 games of first and his teams have finished on average 21 games out. And it should be mentioned that the Rockies fell from first in attendance in his first full season as GM and have been falling steadily since.
Here is the Rockies' record in the years prior to O'Dowd:
Now, here is their record under O'Dowd:
Even though they were an expansion club in the first table above, they outperformed the later edition of the team by a decent margin.
You may also note that they O'Dowd's teams consistently performed worse than expected (and recorded one winning season instead of the two expected) while the Rockies before O'Dowd consistently outperformed expectations. And if you think that the high scores at Coors had something to do with it, keep in mind that all but two or the pre-O'Dowd seasons were played outside of Coors.
As for Hurdle, he simply has the worst record with his club of any manager active in 2005 who wasn't fired by his club or wasn't in his first season:
And these are the men who get contract extensions?!? Maybe the intention was to ensure that they were not worried about their jobs going into the season, but sheez, shouldn't they be worried?
The more I looks at this franchise the more I think they will be ready to join their expansion-mates, the Marlins, as the two clubs being bandied around after next season when the inevitable contraction rumors start to spread.
Swapping the Decks
There are no warmed-over leftovers left over to be warmed over leftover.
When I was a kid, we had a rule while playing poker that allowed a player to drop every card in his hand after a deal if he had absolutely nothing of use in his hand, not even "Ace high". You just had to say, "I got nothing," show the nothingness to the dealer, and voila, you were rewarded with five new cards. It was kind of like using first or second card instead of the third in Solitaire after you reached an impasse. It was cheating within the rules.
It's kind of like what the Marlins management have done to their team this winter. With just one starting position player and two pitchers from the rotation remaining from the 2005 Marlin roster and a 70% payroll cut (which I've documented ad nauseum in the past), Florida hasn't technically broken any rules, but if you were a fan before these moves (if there are any Marlins fans), you have to feel cheated.
I just realized that the Marlins have done something that has never been done before and they haven't even played (and inevitably lost) a game yet.
Unless new third baseman Miguel Cabrera switches back to left field, the Marlins will become the first team in major-league history to replace every starting position player in one offseason. Cabrera is the only starting position player returning and he has been shifted back to his natural position, third base, with Mike Lowell leaving the team.
Throw in departed Todd Jones, who had the most appearances as a pitcher, and a new manager and you have something truly unprecedented.
Here are the only clubs with no more than one holdover from one season to the next. The Marlins make the list two other times, in two consecutive years (1997 & '98, no surprise):
The 2005 Marlins are listed with nine starters including DH, i.e., Jeff Conine (3 games at DH), who has also left.
You may notice that none of these teams is from before 1996 and that they all employed DHs in some capacity (at least in interleague games). No teams replaced all but one player in the pre-DH era2 holdovers is the least of any pre-DH team.
This is my site with my opinions, but I hope that, like Irish Spring, you like it, too.
About the Toaster
Baseball Toaster was unplugged on February 4, 2009.
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