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The Uncertain Glory of an April Joe Morgan Chat day!
2004-04-12 01:00
by Mike Carminati

[Title taken from William "Author" Shakespeare's The Two Gentleman of Verona]

The Good of man is the active exercise of his soul’s faculties in conformity with excellence or virtue.... Moreover this activity must occupy a complete lifetime; for one swallow does not make spring, nor does one fine day; and similarly one day or a brief period of happiness does not make a man supremely blessed and happy.

—Aristotle "Diamondbacks"

When the swallows come back to Capistrano, la-di-di-di-da-da-da-da."

Bugs Bunny (Yes, the same guy who helped the Tea Totalers beat the Gas House Gorillas by playing every position)

Ah! I have penetrated to those meadows on the morning of many a first spring day, jumping from hummock to hummock, from willow root to willow root, when the wild river valley and the woods were bathed in so pure and bright a light as would have waked the dead, if they had been slumbering in their graves, as some suppose. There needs no stronger proof of immortality. All things must live in such a light. O Death, where was thy sting? O Grave, where was thy victory, then?

—"Hammerin'" Henry David Thoreau

Well, it's official. Spring is here. And the estimable Joe Morgan Chat Day is upon us. I'm kvelling more than Tony Soprano upon discovering a slew of ducks in his pool.

Of course, it's like the sweet anticipation that's keeping me wai-ai-ai-ai-aiting for the next drop to fall on my forehead in a mind-numbingly scrumptious round of Chinese water torture (can we still say that?). Speaking of water torture, that's basically what spring is for us northeasterners. Consider that the Phils' home opener in the new CB Park appears in danger of being rained out tomorrow night. Then again, with the way that the Phils are playing (1-5), that might not be the worst thing. Their offense has been anemic and this time Pat Burrell isn't to blame. Today Josh Beckett had a perfect game against them going into the sixth inning. The Phils aren't the only ones: Seattle and Toronto, two other teams expected to play well, are also 1-5 while Detriot and Cincinnati, two teams expected to battle for the cellar in two poor divisions, are instead leading them. Mike Mussina finally won his 200th game and got his ERA under 9.00. After a Tampa Bay victory today, Victor Zambrano now leads the majors in wins (3).

Welcome to the nutty world of April baseball when even Tuffy Rhodes can be king for a day. It all makes as much sense as being happy about a Joe Morgan chat day. And why is that, you ask. Well, that's because Joe, while being a tremendous and saberific player, is the living apostasy of his playing career as an analyst. He'll rely on the oldest chestnut possible while reprimanding a leadoff hitter for hitting a home run. Joe's in his element in April baseball because so little of it seems to make sense that even Joe's Gordian knot of logic makes sense.

So now it's Spring Time for Morgan and Joe Morgan Chat Day. Winter for analysis and sense. So Morgan go into your chat…

The Good

Hello everybody, welcome to the the 2004 chat season!

[Mike: Thanks Thanks, Joe.]

Craig (Tucson, AZ): My Tigers are 4-0 I can't believe it. Wish I was back in Michigan to enjoy it with everyone. Can they keep this up and maybe at least sneak in as a wild card?

They won't go 162-0 :) BUT, they will be a much better team with the addition of Rodriguez and Vina -- these guys have won before and will certainly help the Tigers improve. How improved are they? We'll just have to wait and see.

[Mike: Yeah, they couldn't help but improve. But you can't put too much stock in their early success. If they improve by 20 games, they'll still be one of the worst teams in the sport.]

Adam (Red Bank): Is a win in april really worth two in september in your opinion? Or is that just a myth?

I think it is a myth. One game in the standings count just as much as another, but you take more notice when you are running out of games in September. They seem harder to come by. But a game won in April means just as much as a win in September.

[Mike: The rain in Spain falls mainly on the plain….

Actually, wins in May are worth two wins in June. Five wins in July are worth 10 in February. A bird in the hand worth is worth two in the bush. A stitch in time saves nine. Since we're in Germany, the guy in the top bunk, he's got to make the guy in the bottom bunk, he's got to make his bed. Now, if we were in Italy…

Keep in mind the poor starts that the last two World Series champs had. But basically, this isn't hockey: a win is a win.]

Robert (W.P.B. FL): Does the Gaints have enough protection behind Barry "D ANIMAL" Bonds?

First of all, there is no such thing as protection for Barry Bonds. It wouldn't matter who is hitting there, they are not going to pitch to Barry. It doesn't matter who's behind him. The only guy that could protect Barry would be Barry.

[Mike: The rain in Spain falls mainly on the plain….

Robert (W.P.B. FL)? Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.? Miami Beach BUAC?

You go, Joe. "Now pitching, Barry Bonds. Catching, Barry Bonds…." Joe, paste that pathetic palooka with a powerful paralyzing perfect pachyderms percussion pitch.]

Tokyo, Japan: Joe, do you think the players union and the retired veterans like yourself should take it upon themselves to keep the opening day at home, rather than Japan? I know there's a lot of money over here but I've lived in Japan for over 10 years and, believe me, Japanese 'baseball fans' couldn't care less about MLB except for the Japanese players. As far as I'm concerned MLB is prostituting itself. Les Taylor

I'm glad to hear an opinion from someone who lives there. I have been one to think that opening day should always be here in the States. It's our game. I think it's great that MLB sends teams over there when the season is over, but to start the season there I think takes away from the fanbase here. The fans that support these teams all day deserve to have opening day here. That's my opinion ... but they don't ask for it.

[Mike: …By Jove, I think he's got it.

I'm all for an All-Star series during the season. I think this rolling start to the season hurts baseball more than it helps (even if it means that two Tampa home game crowds are swapped for capacity houses in Japan).]

The Bad

Dennis (Newark NJ): Mr. Morgan, Huge fan of your work... On sunday you mentioned that camden yards is a great hitters park (when discussing how javy lopez will benefit). What makes it a great hitters park? Haven't the numbers over the past several years indicated otherwise?

Well, originally, in comparision to other ballparks -- but it's dimensions are very short down both lines and straight away the wall is not very high. You can hit it out in any direction.

[Mike: (Well, maybe he don't got it.) Yeah, you can hit in anywhere…into different players' gloves. Actually, Camden Yards has been a pitcher's park consistently since 1996. It was a pretty good hitter's park its first four seasons but not since. So many other new parks have surpassed it since (which is the best argument against the supposed rampant steroid use in the last decade).]

Lars, Int'l Falls, MN: Do you think the Twins would benefit by trading a couple of their hot prospects for a shot at a top-quality starting pitcher or a power hitter? They seem to be badly in need of both. Michael Restovich isn't getting any younger.

I would say you wait before you trade your top prospects. One of those guys may turn into a superstar. GIve them that opportunity, first. Let them develop, see what you have, and if nobody comes to the forefront, then you make a move.

[Mike: Lars? Is that Lars Olfen? "The naches that I'm feeling right now... Okeinhoreh, I say, and God bless him."

Which prospects? Any specifically or just prospects in general? To quote Fred Willard in Spinal Tap, "We are such fans of your music and all your records. I'm not speaking of yours personally but the whole genre of the Rock 'N' Roll and so many of the exciting things that are happening in music today."

The Twins have (or had) a 20-year-old at catcher, four starters at or under 26, and three other starting position players at or under 26 (if you count Cuddyer). In fact they have only one key player over 30 (Brad Radke, 31).

Restovich is 25 and now is the time for him to be given a chance. The Twins have four guys in the OF (including Cuddyer) who are ahead of him. Trade him for a decent pitching prospect, maybe a guy who can be a decent tail-end starter or potential closer by the end of the year, both of which are needed. (I don't think you'll get a power hitter for him.)]

Paddy (San Diego): Hey Joe, I was glad to hear you on Sunday's broadcast. It's been too long. My question is one I pose to all my baseball friends, so consider yourself included. Who do you think is/was the best "all around athelete"? My opinion is Jackie Robinson. He was an All American in Football, Basketball, Track and Baseball. Could anyone of had the success he had under the same pressure? I don't think so. Bo is close, but Jack gets my vote. Who get's yours?

FIrst of all, we will never know how great a baseball player Jackie Robinson could have been becuase of all the pressure he had to face and all the distractions he had to deal with. You make a great point, if you're using all sports as your yardstick, I would give the nod to Jackie as well. ... But it's easy for me to say that because he was my hero.

[Mike: Look, Jackie Robinson is one of my heroes too, but do we really have to exaggerate everything the man did? He was reportedly a very good college football player (and lettered in four sports) but never made it past the minors. There are scores of athletes who were major-league stars in two sports. Bo Jackson and Deion Sanders come to mind. And then there's always Jim Thorpe and Babe Didrikson. Maybe I'm being a bit hard on him: ESPN listed Robinson third among multi-sport stars.

As far as how good Robinson could have been, I don't think the pressure affected him nearly as much as the fact that racism and the war kept him out of the majors until age 28 and his career was basically over due to injury at 36.]

Peter (Parsippany, NJ): Hi Joe. What is LaRussa thinking batting Renteria 6th in the order. With his speed and on base skills, he needs to be batting at the top of the order. What do you think, is LaRussa too reliant on conventional wisdom?

I think he is trying to get Reteria more opportunity to drive in runs. I think it's more of an experiment right now, but I agree with you, as the season moves along, I think we'll see him higher in the order.

[Mike: Peter from Parsippany? How many pickled peppers did Peter from Parsippany pick?

Giving Renteria the opportunity to drive in runs is all good and well. But when that means moving a guy (Womack) with a .307 OBP last year to the top of the order, it's a bad idea. But that's the freak show that LaRussa and the muse he follows have become.]

Atlanta, GA: What about the no offense Braves? 28 runs in two games is pretty good for no offense. Now they just need to find their pitching.

The Braves have won 12 consecutive division titles so obviously someone over there knows how to win. That's Bobby Cox. I'm not picking them to win their 13th this year, but I certainly wouldn't be surprised.

[Mike: It's April. And many batting orders will look good based solely on their stats against Met pitching. The Cubs (esp. Wood) handled them pretty well (8 runs in three games). Aside from Giles (1.096 OPS), Chipper Jones (1.045), and Franco (.971), no one else is producing.]

Chris from Philly: Good Morning Joe... so, the Phillies couldn't drive in runners last year and so far, they can't do it this year. What gives?

Well, one of the problems is you have a lot of guys who strike out a lot in PHilly. Abreau doesn't, but most of their guys strike out an awful lot. BUT, I think between Jim Tome and other guys, this will be a year when they can score some runs. The Phillies are still the popular pick to win that divisioin.

[Mike: It's April, part duex. Bubba Crosby is out-homering the Phils. However, the Phils were fifth in runs in the NL last year (behind be-hitter-parked Colorado and Houston). Their offense was pretty good in the second half of 2003. Besides the strikeouts don't explain why their offense looked so good in 2002.]

Steve(Mission Viejo): Joe, just want your thoughts on the Angels lineup. YOu hear all the talk about the Yanks and Red Sox, but putting up 25 runs at Safeco is pretty impressive. Who do you think has the best lineup in baseball?

That's a hard question. We have to waint and see who hits where. A lot of teams are still experimenting with their lineup. Much is still up in the air, but there is NO DOUBT that the Angels have a ton of offense. When you add Vlad to an already potent offense, you know you are going to score runs. And you have to talk about Boston and New York as well. Those three teams will be tough to contend with.

[Mike: No team with Darin Erstad at first base can have the best lineup in baseball. I pick Detroit: They have one fewer run than the Angels, put up one more homer and an OPS 52 points higher and that's after losing their best offensive player last year. I'm joking of course, but again it's April and the numbers are still nutty.]

mike (cincy): I know it's early in the season, but the reds are showing some promise. If they stay healthy, do you think they have a chance to contend against the powerhouse of the NL central?

The health issue is with Griffey. If he can stay healthy, that will take a lot of pressure off of Dunn and Kearns. I think it's about time Ken Griffey Jr. had some good luck.

[Mike: Mike, no they don't. Let's keep it real. Griffey shmiffey. They don't have the players. It would be mind-altering if they won the division.

Richard (New York, NY): After Corey Patterson hit an HR in his first at bat on opening day, you said that Dusty Baker was unhappy with the at bat. In retrospect do you really believe that Dusty Baker was unhappy because Corey Patterson hit an HR? Do you think Dusty Baker is happier with Corey Patterson the last two games since he hasn't hit an HR?

What I meant is, once you hit a homerun, you start swinging for them. If you are going to hit at the top of the order, they just want you to get get on base. He hits a homerun and he thinks he can do it every time. They don't want him thinking like that. They want him cutting down his big swing and making things happen by getting on base.

[Mike: Patterson has two HRs and a .360 OBP so far. The only complaint they could have with his performance is his inability to take walks. If that's what Joe means by "cutting down the big swing", then fine. But if he means that Patterson should be slapping hits over the infield instead of hitting home runs, he's nuts. Instead of trying for slap hits, the Cubs would do well by trying to teach him to lay off certain pitches. He still may be able to learn: he is just 24.

But scoring runs is the name of the game. Hitting a home run and scoring a run (at least one) is preferable to merely getting on base.]

The Ugly

Jason : Tenn: Joe, Could the Mets surprise a lot of people here in 04? Their offense is looking pretty good. Starting pitching looks pretty bad though. Thanks

Everyone needs starting pitching except maybe the Cubs. The Mets are in a position like a lot of teams, if you get off to a good start, you can go as high as winning a championship. If they improve quickly, they can certainly surprise a lot of people.

[Mike: Joe Morgan Response #12: "Everybody needs pitching." (reminds me of the old H&R Block commercials during tax season)

Yeah, if there is a young Cy Young available, just about every team will want him (or a young Dr. Young for you Gilligan buffs). But the Mets' staff is abysmal and the talent they have is getting pretty old (Leiter and Glavine).

As far as the Cubs being the only club with a set rotation, the A's, Astros, and Phils might not agree. Besides with Prior out and Cruz gone, young, untried Sergio Mitre is playing a significant role in the Cub rotation. I think that the Cubs might take a young Cy Young over Mitre.

Lastly, the Mets need a lot more than a hot start to "go as high as winning a championship." I think Joe was as high as a championship to promulgate such silliness.]

Wade (Iowa): Mr. Morgan, how would you like to see Bonds tie/break Mays' HR total? Wait until they're back in San Fran or get it over with this weekend?

Well, if you live in San Fran, you'd obviously love to see him hit it there. It's not a case of hitting a homerun of whenever you want to -- although, with Barry, you never know.

[Mike: And if you live in Chicago, you want him to break it there. And if you live in Cincinnati…And "if we were in Italy…"

Wade, I don't think that the Giants even play the Iowa Cubs this year, so you're SOL.

Do you like it with a FOX? Would you watch it on a box?]

Dave; DC: Joe, It's a pleasure to get the opportunity to talk with you. You are much admired and well respected in and around MLB from your playing days to the work you've done for the games since you retired from play... Do you see today's players ever pressing the Player's Union to fix this steroid thing before the agreement runs out? I know the Federal Govmt is trying to get involved but do you see players today jumping on the wagon to do the right thing for future generations of players, in and out of MLB?

Thank you, Dave. My feeling is, since players actually started this witch hunt with Camenetti accusations and what not. I think it is up to the players to prove to the public that they are clean -- or that most of them are clean. I'm seeing more and more players agree with that notion. I think that something will be done -- and should be done -- before the next agreement period. It is unfair to have all the players lumped into that one bag when most of them are not using illegal substances.

[Mike: Huh? The last time I checked Caminiti (and I thought Carminati got mangled) and Canseco were retired. Should the players pursue every accusation by retired players?

How can you juxtapose these two statements?: "I think it is up to the players to prove to the public that they are clean -- or that most of them are clean." AND "It is unfair to have all the players lumped into that one bag when most of them are not using illegal substances."

They are being lumped together because the media of which you are a part, Joe, have lumped them together. Why would they do that? Because they hated the glut of homers in the Nineties and decry and lament the death of the Small Ball that they remember in their youth. And they need a scapegoat. There's no use in blaming the greedy owners for expanding too quickly or for building band boxes to play in. There's no use in blaming themselves for lionizing the home run beyond all reasonable proportions. (ESPN does it online and in their broadcasts every day.)

So let's blame the greedy, lazy, loathsome players who would jeopardize their health, their careers, their team's goals, and their future by using illegal substances. It's cleaner and easier that way. It doesn't hurt that it's a nice, soft issue that the White House is floating in an election year either.

Steroid use is a minor issue in baseball. Yes, something needs to be done to prevent its rampant use, but even the weak rules that baseball has imposed seem to be producing results. Didn't we just get tons of reports about players shrinking after going off the juice in the last year (Gammons recently wrote about Phil Nevin shrinking)?]

Dan (New York): Hey Joe! Do you think Derek Jeter can be a legitimate contender for AL MVP this year? At 29 he's in the prime of his career and with the lineup around him, I see a monster season - .344, 23hr, 105rbi, 143runs, 40sb.

I think Derek Jeter is one of the best players in the game, but the problem is, guys are up putting up such big numbers that the really good all around player gets overlooked. I've argued for a long time that homeruns and RBIs are NOT the only way to pick an MVP. An MVP should be just that -- not the guy that has the most outstanding numbers. It's unfortunate.

[Mike: A great Morgan moment: he is the necromancer who can alloy gold with dross. Let's watch…

He takes a logical statement ("homeruns and RBIs are NOT the only way to pick an MVP") and then takes a misstatement ("Derek Jeter is one of the best players in the game"), and uses them to imply that Jeter should be getting more MVP support. First, Jeter missed about 45 games last year, and wasn't among the best two shortstops in the AL when he did play. And still he finished 21st in MVP voting with one second-place vote (!).

Jeter has always been a good offensive player, but the only time that you could say that he got overlooked was in 1999 when he had a very strong case for the MVP but finished sixth. Does anyone remember how many times A-Rod got screwed before winning last year?]

Tom Leach (NYC): I'm so tired of hearing about how much better A-rod is over jeter at SS. I've watched a lot of games over the past few years and i KNOW jeter is good, even if the stats don't show that. What am i missing?

Well, you're missing that A-Rod won the last two gold gloves. That doesn't mean that Jeter is not good, it just means managers and coaches think A-Rod is a little better. I agree with you, it's hard to fathom why they keep trying to compare the two. The Gold Glove is what separates the two, but then again, Jeter has World Series rings.

[Mike: Tom Leach? I thought you'd be in Pittsburgh. I KNOW that the earth is flat. If I put it in caps, it's got to be true, right?

There are a few things that go into fielding: getting to the ball, catching the ball, positioning oneself to throw the ball, and making a strong and accurate throw. Jeter has zero range. Well, that's unfair. He has below average range for a major-league shortstop. He just doesn't get to balls that other SS's do. It's evident from watching the games as well as the stats. Jeter does do everything else well so it appears to the untrained eye (by which, I mean YES broadcasters) that he is a decent shortstop, but he's not. Jeter is a superior offensive shortstop and if he can maintain that for another five years, he's probably a Hall of Famer, but he's not a good defensive shortstop. Let's all just take a breath and get over it.

More pure gold-dross from Joe: "A-Rod won the last two gold gloves" BUT "That doesn't mean that Jeter is not good". True, but the fact that he isn’t very good does mean it.

As far as, "it's hard to fathom why they keep trying to compare the two", well because they are on the same team and though A-Rod is the superior defensive player, he's playing third. That's why. I think the Yankees are probably wise to play A-Rod at third to keep the status quo in 2004, but I would expect that to change if not next year, at some point.]

Chris, waterloo, iowa: Hey Joe, My question is regarding the Astros . Why is everett batting in the second spot. Will this affect Ensberg's numbers?

I think Everett is hitting in the second spot is because it is used to advance runners. They use Everett to bunt a lot. They are trying to sent the table for Biggio, Kent and Hidalgo.

[Mike: Just a sec…I'm still laughing from "They use Everett to bunt a lot."

Aah, that's better. Good stuff. That's probably the best argument to move Everett from the number 2 spot. That or the fact that Ensberg owns a .364 career OBP while Everett's is .318. Of course, the way that both are playing this year, it makes Jimy Williams look like a genius.]

Steve (Manalapan, NJ): Joe, I've got a gut feeling that Javier Vazquez is in for a huge year. What do you think?

I think Javier is one of the best pitchers in the league and by winning his first game in New York shows that he is definitely capable of being the best pitcher on that staff.

[Mike: Steve from Manalapan? Don't I know you from Zips?

More Morgan gold-dross. He is a great pitcher who was overlooked in Montreal. True. But winning one game at Yankee Stadium is meaningless. It helps to rid his digestive system of butterflies, but Brown has pitched just as well in his two appearances, and Mike Mussina is still the #1 guy after all. That said, any pitcher as good as Vazquez on a team as strong as the Yankees has to be one of the frontrunners for the AL Cy Young.]

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