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D-Joe Morgan Chat Day
2004-06-08 01:22
by Mike Carminati

This nation asks for action, and action now.
—Franklin Delano Roosevelt "Brown"

"My job is to, like, think beyond the immediate."
—George W. "Homer" Bush, Washington, D.C., April 21, 2004 from Bushisms (as are all the Bush quotes below)

[P]ermanent defenses are a non-recurring charge against governmental budgets while large armies continually rearmed with improved offensive weapons constitute a recurring charge. This, more than any other factor ... is responsible for governmental deficits and threatened bankruptcy. The way to disarm is to disarm.... [Congress and the President strive] for the improvement of social conditions, for the preservation of individual human rights, and for the furtherance of social justice.... It is in order to assure these great human values that we seek peace by ridding the world of the weapons of aggression and attack.
—Franklin Delano Roosevelt

"There is no such thing necessarily in a dictatorial regime of iron-clad absolutely solid evidence. The evidence I had was the best possible evidence that he had a weapon." —George W. Bush, Meet the Press, Feb. 8, 2004

Governments can err, Presidents do make mistakes, but the immortal Dante tells us that divine justice weighs the sins of the cold-blooded and the sins of the warm-hearted in different scales. Better the occasional faults of a Government that lives in a spirit of charity than the constant omission of a Government frozen in the ice of its own indifference. .
—Franklin Delano Roosevelt

"I was a prisoner too, but for bad reasons." —George W. Bush, to Argentine President Nestor Kirchner, on being told that all but one of the Argentine delegates to a summit meeting were imprisoned during the military dictatorship, Monterrey, Mexico, Jan. 13, 2004

Once I prophesied that this generation of Americans had a rendezvous with destiny. That prophecy now comes true. To us much is given; more is expected. This generation will nobly save or mainly lose the last best hope of earth. The way is plain, peaceful, generous just. A way, which if followed, the world will forever applaud, and God must forever bless. .
—Franklin Delano Roosevelt

"There's an old saying in Tennessee — I know it's in Texas, probably in Tennessee — that says, fool me once, shame on — shame on you. Fool me — you can't get fooled again." — George W. Bush, Nashville, Tenn., Sept. 17, 2002

What worries me, especially, is that public opinion over here is patting itself on the back every morning and thanking God for the Atlantic Ocean (and the Pacific Ocean). We greatly underestimate the serious implications to our own future.... Things move with such terrific speed these days, that it is really essential to us to think in broader terms and, in effect, to warn the American people that they, too, should think of possible ultimate results in Europe and the Far East. .
—Franklin Delano Roosevelt

"They misunderestimated me." — George W. Bush, Bentonville, Ark., Nov. 6, 2000

No group and no government can properly prescribe precisely what should constitute the body of knowledge with which true education is concerned. .
—Franklin Delano Roosevelt

"Rarely is the questioned asked: Is our children learning?" — George W. Bush, Florence, S.C., Jan. 11, 2000

Any Government, like any family, can for a year spend a little more than it earns. But you and I know that a continuation of that habit means the poorhouse. .
—Franklin Delano Roosevelt

"I know how hard it is for you to put food on your family." — George W. Bush, Greater Nashua, N.H., Jan. 27, 2000

"I wish you would have given me this written question ahead of time, so I could plan for it. (Laughter.) John, I'm sure historians will look back and say, gosh, he could have done it better this way, or that way. You know, I just -- I'm sure something will pop into my head here in the midst of this press conference, with all the pressure of trying to come up with an answer, but it hadn't yet…I hope I -- I don't want to sound like I've made no mistakes. I'm confident I have. I just haven't -- you just put me under the spot here, and maybe I'm not as quick on my feet as I should be in coming up with one. "
—George W. Bush, Press Conference on Iraq, April 13, 2004 (and no, it wasn't a Friday).

—General Anthony "Dick" McAuliffe, 101st Airborne Division commander at Bastogne, Belgium, during the Battle of the Bulge in answer to the Germans' request that he surrender.

At dawn on June 6, 1944, the Allied Forces led by Dwight D. Eisenhower began an assault on the entrenched German forces in Normandy. In total some 200,000 men and 6,000 vessels took part in the initial invasion of the five heavily fortified and well mined and booby-trapped beaches. Miraculously, within a week 260,000 men, 50,000 vehicles, and 100,000 tons of supplies had been landed. By the end of the summer, the Allied troops were in Paris. After eleven months and one day, the Germans had surrendered.

At dawn on June 6, 2004, current president George Bush was quietly napping in his swanky European hotel—he so does like to sleep in—in anticipation of the sixtieth anniversary of D-Day. Sixty years later Bush, a man who is accused of avoiding service in Vietnam by using his connections to be transferred to the Texas national guard and then apparently did not even serve out his time in the guard, is representing the United States in ceremonies commemorating the anniversary of D-Day. During his European vacation, not only will President Bush be missing valuable time at his number one occupation, frolicking at his ranch in Texas, his putative opponent in November, John Kerry, will get a reprieve from the barrage of bizarro-world attacks on his unassailable war record by the non-combatant president. Fortunately for Bush, his record re-election coffers are bursting to such a degree that his commercials are better mouthpieces for him than Ari Fletcher without his Motrin.

I try not to get political here given that it is a baseball site, but this juxtaposing is just too damn inviting. Bush's actions demand comparisons to the leaders of the day from sixty years ago:

Then-president Franklin Delano Roosevelt was in the process of being elected by the people for a record forth consecutive time. Bush was elected once by Katherine Harris and the Supreme Court though investigations into the last election show that not only did Bush lose the popular vote but also the electoral vote.

FDR overcame poliomyelitis to become president. Bush overcame a propensity to drink and drive as late as the age of 30 and, according to Al Franken, cocaine use to become president.

Both FDR and Bush were born into well-to-do families and attended Ivy-League universities. FDR and his "New Deal" championed the cause of the common man and set up many programs to provide employment and improve the nation's infrastructure while estranging the business community. Bush, while portraying himself as an everyman from good ole Texas, has championed the cause of big business, has lost a record number of jobs, something an advisor has said is a positive for the economy.

Both FDR and Bush were president when the country was unexpectedly and immorally attacked. FDR used his office to exact revenge on the nations that were responsible. Bush diverted troops, supplies, and funds that could have been used to bring those responsible to justice to start an unjustified war against an unrelated foe and his top aids exposed an undercover CIA agent to silence a critic, her husband.

Both were accused of warmongering, FDR for his overwhelmingly justified fears concerning the growth of totalitarian fascism in Europe prior to the US's entry into World War II. Bush's fear of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq have yet to be justified except by perhaps old receipts that vice-president Dick Cheney's old company Halliburton had.

FDR's first lady, Eleanor Roosevelt, was integral to FDR's policy-making regarding minorities and was a published writer, assistant director of the Office of Civilian Defense, delegate to the United Nations, and chair of the Commission on Human Rights. Bush's wife Laura has finely lacquered hair.

FDR met with the powers of the day, Churchill and Stalin at Yalta, to slice up the post-war world. Bush meets with the powers of the day to slice up the post-war world, no not Condi Rice and Donald Rumsfeld. Bush meets personally with Jesus Christ himself in the White House, perhaps by video-conference—the details are unimportant.

OK, so what does this have to do with Joe Morgan? Well, Joe is always telling us that things were better in the past, and sometimes it's actually true as demonstrated by our presidential comparison. Baseball analysts, I have to believe, were better in the past when they stuck to the drama as it unfolded, not the colorful anecdotes. Witness last Sunday's broadcast of the White Sox-M's game by none other than Joe Morgan and his partner Jon Miller. First, they jokingly replay the audio when shortstop Jose Valentin asked manager Ozzie Guillen why he made a pitching change in a conference on the mound, and he said it was "just because" so that his kids can see him in Florida. They said it reflective the team's fun-loving, individualistic spirit. It wasn't so funny when Takatsu wasn't available when Koch struggled. Next, they don't question the wisdom leaving Koch in to give up three runs in one-third of an inning nor walking the bases full before giving up the inevitable walk-off walk. It harkens back to a saying from our yesteryears: "Where's the beef?"

So without further ado, here are the recent (last two week's) Morganisms, and to quote Chico Marx by way of Gen. McAuliffe, "Peanuuuuuts!…to you":

The Good

Peter (Philly): How is it possible that Nomar is the leading vote getter at SS for the AL. I hate to say it but maybe voting should be taken away from the fans, If he wins do you think he plays?

I don't think we should take it away from the fans but yes, fans have to put more thought into it. He just doesn't deserve to start, it's as simple as that. Guys like Tejada have done a great job and deserve the honor. It's just one of the weaknesses of the fan voting.

[Mike: Actually, Carlos Guillen is having the best year among AL shortstops (8 HR, 35 RBI, 41 R, .325/.402/.560/.961). Michael Young (8 HR, 35 RBI, 37 R, .328/.363/.504/.867) is also ahead of Tejada (8/43/29/.310/.371/.471/.842). But if you want a big-name shortstop who has a good shot of sustaining their numbers, Tejada's probably the best bet.]

Aaron Schaffer: Hey Joe! I've been a Reds fan all my life. Just can't get enough of them. But are they for real? Should I expect to see them go far this October? And what do you think of Dave Miley? Thanks for the chat!

As long as the pitching holds up as it has, they have a chance. History will tell you if a pitcher has a 5.00 ERA it will catch up with him eventually. I'm not optimistic about the staff continuing as they have. But I would love to see them prove me wrong.

[Mike: Quite circumspect. The Reds' pitching success merits skepticism.]

tyler, albany: joe, everyone talksassumes its a fore gone conclusion that the yankees will make a move during the year to improve their pitching, but to get a quality pitcher, you need quality talent to exchange with. the yankees farms are bone dry. who would they have of any value other than high priced stars?

They have value, whether it comes from the majors or minors. I agree that it is a foregone conclusion. If Steinbrenner needs something, he will go get it. That's an admirable thing. Remember, when these trades are made, it's usually teams getting rid of guys to get rid of the salary and many times they take less in return.

[Mike: Yep, trades are rarely made for talent alone when it involves veteran contracts.]

The Bad

Joe (Yardley, PA): Joe, would you compare the revitalization of Ken Griffey to that of Frank Thomas last season?

No, not really. Griffey's problems were all injury related and Frank had problems with management and some off the field problems.

But he has bounced back to become one of the top players in the league again.

[Mike: Actually, Thomas' one poor year (2001—5% worse than the park-adjusted league average) was due to injury as was Griffey's (2002—OPS at park-adjusted league average). Thomas was consistently great (OPS+ between 70% and 112% better than average) and though he's been well above average (an OPS no worse than 17% better than average aside from 2001) and had flashes of greatness (2000: OPS 60% better than average and 2003 49% better). Griffey started aging at 27 (OPS declined every year from age 27 to 31) and he's been injured since. His current OPS will not be in the range of his past successes.]

Kyle (Cincinnati, OH): How about them Braves? Even with all of their injuries they are 2 1/2 games back of Flordia. What do you think about Chipper moving to first to help with his hamstring? He has never played it before at any level but was a shortstop and third baseman...I think he can be successful. Your thoughts thanks (Go Reds)

First of all, Chipper has already moved around quite a bit. Left field is an easier place to play than first base and will be easier for him to hit. I don't think playing first would be a great idea.

[Mike: Left Field is easier to play than first base? Ancient Chinese secret, huh?!? How many fly balls do they need to track down at first, and I don't mean soft foul flies near the dugout—I mean screaming liners against the wall. Sure, first baseman are involved in more plays, but most of the time they just have to stand there and make sure they have a foot on the bag and that they catch the ball. Mo Vaughn played first for heaven's sake.

By Morgan's logic, pitching involves more fielding than shortstop since they are involved on every play.

By the way, the Braves are a .500 team, and are overachieving at that. They're just lucky that the Marlins and Phils are playing a game of losing chicken. They are both losing as many games as possible. The first team that blinks and actually wins loses a bet.]

Kyle (Dayton, OH): First off, I loved your article of Ken Griffey Jr. It is good to see him playing and his presence in the lineup is definitely making this team better. Secondly, I would like you opinion on what the Cincinnati Reds will need to acquire to remain in the race the entire year. The first thing on my list would be a helathy Austin Kearns to give the Reds a power, right-handed hitter.

I think they need pitching consistency. With Griffey healthy, Dunns, Kearns and Casey all doing well, the pitching is still key. They have been great so far, especially Graves. But they have to be consistent all year.

[Mike: Kyle's in Dayton now? Boy, he moves around a lot.

First, they already have Austin Kearns: there's no need to acquire him.

Joe, Consistency? They need good pitchers. You got it right last time. A staff of bad pitchers is unlikely to overachieve to this degree all year.]

Greg (Virginia Beach, VA): Are the Mets doing the right thing by having Piazza play 10-15 games at first then one at catcher?

Well, I think anytime you are a catcher and you get a chance to play another position, it's almost like a day off. Catching is a very physically taxing position. It takes a lot out of you. I think it's a good idea in his case, as long as Piazza embraces it. I don't believe in players changing positions unless they really feel like they can do it. If they do, that's great for them. But sometimes guys do it because they don't want to be classified as not being a team player.

[Mike: Joe, ATFQ! The question is if it makes sense to have him catch basically once every two weeks. First, I have to point out that Piazza has 100 ABs at first and another 100 as a catcher. I can't imagine that he is only catching once every 10-15 games and amassing that many at-bats there.

Does Joe have a form letter that he uses for these types of questions? He just fills in the player's name and goes. We already know that Piazza doesn't really want to play first. But who cares? He's a 35-year-old catcher who missed almost 100 games last year. He's never been a good defensive catcher. Even great defensive catchers like Johnny Bench and Yogi Berra had to move later in their careers.

What the Mets should determine what's best for the team, whether that means Piazza should catch, play first, or pitch. Then they should sit down with Piazza and explain the plan and why it's good for the team and for his own career in the long run. Piazza is a great player, arguably the best offensive catcher of all time, but he is still part of a team. The problem is the Mets seemed to have made the decision but won't stick to it. They seem to be juggling Piazza and Phillips between first and behind the plate. Just assign the players to a position and go. Enough of this pussyfooting around.

By the way, Piazza's numbers as a catcher (.340/.412/.610/1.022) destroy his numbers at first (.280/.379/.520/.899). Some would say this proves that he should continue catching. I say that it only proves that picking Piazza's position on any given day by way of a dartboard has not been effective.]

Tony (NYC): Joe, you mentioned that the HOF is the ultimate achievement. Does it bother you that some HOFs got by through the Veterans Selection who would normally not be elected because they weren't extraordinary?

That's an age-old argument. The Veteran's Committee was set up for those guys who slip through the cracks, maybe the writers didn't like them, etc. It wasn't established to just add another tier of HOFers. At one point, they got away from the true spirit of it but they changed the rules. It's more difficult to get in now than 5 years ago. I think Maury Wills was a guy who slipped through the cracks. That's just my personal opinion. I voted for him. But I don't think there are as many people that slip through the cracks as the fans may think.

[Mike: This is patently and ridiculously wrong. Joe is one of the leading members of the Veterans Committee and a member of the board of directors of the Hall, and he has no idea about the history of the organization. It explains why the Hall is so willing to marginalize itself.

The Veterans Committee started in 1939, the year the Hall's doors were finally opened (and just three years after Hall voting began), as the Old Timers Committee (which was an outgrowth of the Permanent Committee that oversaw the Hall in those days). It was created after the head of the Baseball Writers Association approached commissioner Landis to cede the BBWAA's sovereignty over 19th century players. In exchange the writers were promised permanent authority over all twentieth-century players, a promise that lasted only seven years.

Soon the writer' selections turned from a trickle (one in 1938 and 4 in 1939) to nil—the writers decided to vote only once every three years in 1939. Meanwhile the Old Timers picked three players in 1939 and then receded into the background. The BBWAA selected one player in 1942 (no-brainer Rogers Hornsby) and none in 1945. The Hall directors, incensed that the writers had picked one player in six years, demanded that they vote annually (1945), limited their focus to just players from the last 25 seasons (1946), and recommissioned the Old Timers Committee (1945), which ushered in boatloads of old-timers (20 in two years) while the BBWAA could not pick one player in two years. It wasn't for lack of trying: The writers ever had a nominating phase to narrow down the field. It was just that the field was way too large—Jimmie Foxx didn't even make the final ballot in 1946.

In 1953 the Old Timers became the Veterans Committee, and they have been a permanent fixture ever since. But they were there not to get qualified candidates who slipped through the writers' fingers. That could have been done by taking the BBWAA final ballot and having the committee select the top few candidates on the list, thereby removing the BBWAA's logjam and fixing the mess. Instead the Vets selected boatloads of players that overall weren't highly regarded by the writers and rightfully so when the likes of Foxx are available and the Vets are selecting Tommy McCarthy, arguably the worst player in the Hall.

The Vets were created to get plaques, any plaques, in the Hall to get hinders in the Hall and money in the Hall's coffers. That's it. The directors unwisely ceded control to the "baseball people" and not surprisingly cronyism and favoritism ensued. Joe is continuing in this tradition by telling everyone that Dave Concepcion, Ed Ambrister, Bob Bailey, and every other player even tangentially related to the already over-represented Big Red Machine should be in the Hall. Now, he is championing Maury Wills' case for Hall inclusion, which is borderline at best (Wills' case rests almost entirely on his ability to steal a base, which was impressive, but his success rate—73% for his career and 88% for an all-time high—frankly wasn't). Of course, there is an overwhelmingly qualified candidate who hasn't gotten much support. That is Marvin Miller, who is one of a handful of off-field personalities who helped shape the game. He didn't play for the Reds though, so the odds of his being enshrined are slim.]

Ben, Coconut Grove, FL: Hi Joe, I've never really understood the Montreal Expos' situation. Although a great baseball mind, Frank Robinson strikes me as an indifferent substitute teacher with an obligation to those who appointed him. If he wants players does he have a GM he can plead with? Will he be the manager if and when the Expose move? That whole situation just seems like a depressing corner of MLB.

First, I don't think anyone really knows what is going on. It has been a travesty. I have played for Frank and he is a great manager. He would never let us get comfortable losing. He is not a sub, he is the professor. He probably knows more about the game than any manager. The GM, Omar Minaya, has done a great job with such limited resources. Everyone talks about what Beane has done but he had so many great players from the beginning. Minaya and Robinson have done a fantastic job building a team in a bad situation.

[Mike: What’s going on is that MLB engineered a volleyball-like rotation in team management. They shifted John Henry from Florida to Boston despite better offers on the table. They let Jeffrey Loria screw his partners in Montreal and take over the Marlins. That left the Expos without an owner meaning that all 29 owners own a chunk of the team, and MLB seems to content with that ridiculous situation. They can experiment with the team by playing games in San Juan, affect pennant races by moving players to and from the Montreal roster, and they can alienate fans inside and outside of Montreal in the process. And then they can cry poverty in order to pry concessions from the locals including sweet deals on new stadiums and tax breaks. It serves their purposes to have a team whose fate they completely control. Watch how much the city that wins the Expos lottery will commit to get the team. In the owners' minds, that far outweighs the damage to the game that they have done.

By the way, Joe played for Frank Robinson when he was the Giants manager (1982-82). That team went 56-55 (5th in the first half, 3rd in the 2nd) in 1981 and 87-75 (3rd) in 1982. Robinson's record all-time is 864-946 or a winning percentage of .477. That's 60th all-time in managerial wins, but only 203rd for winning percentage (out of a field of 331, for managers with at least 200 games). Robinson has not had a team finish higher than second in 13 seasons and will be lucky if the Expos escape the basement this year. He has had two teams finish last and the Expos will probably be the third. Suffice it to say that Robinson was a truly great player but, I feel, cannot be said to have achieved greatness as a manager.

Minaya is arguably the worst GM in baseball. He let Vlad Guerrero go without getting anything in return. He scoops up guys like Wil Cordero. He laundered Cliff Floyd in Montreal so that Bud Selig could have him sent to his cronies in Boston. He has gone through more talent than American Idol and depleted the once-proud Montreal farm system in the process. Yes, it has been a difficult situation in Montreal, but that does not mean that Minaya should get a free pass. That the Expos were able to be competent the last couple of years is a testament to their farm system and to the team in spite of Minaya, not because of him.]

Ben, Coconut Grove, FL: Joe, what do you think about Clemens throwing to Piazza in the all star game?

It looks like a probability right now! Clemens has probably earned the start and I'm sure Piazza will be voted in. Guess what? They are both pros and I expect them both to be thrilled about starting.

[Mike: I'm not sure it will happen! (From the Joe Morgan-Elaine Bennis school of punctuation) You never know who'll start given when someone's spot is up in their respective teams' rotation. If Clemens is due to pitch two days before the game, the 'Stros may need him to go given the tigh four-team race in the NL Central. Given that he's a pro, his team should come first.

If it does happen I wouldn't expect much. But if I were Clemens, I would make sure not to turn around on the mound until I receive the throw from the catcher.]

Charlie(Franklin,MA): Will interleague play decide who wins the American League East between the Sox and Yanks?

I think the interleague schedule will have a lot to do with who wins every division. Some teams will play much better teams than their in-league counterparts. Yes, it will have a big bearing on who wins the division. That's part of why I'm not very thrilled with interleague play. There are too many games that have too big an impact.

[Mike: Normally I'm all for a good harangue on the evils of interleague play. However, this one doesn't hold water. The Yankees play Colorado (3 games), Sab Diego (3), the Mets (3) at home and travel to LA(3), Arizona (3), and the Mets (3). Boston hosts San Diego (3), LA (3), and the Phils (3), and travel to Colorado (3), San Fran (3), and Atlanta (invariable to play in ye olde tyme uniforms—3 games). Aside from the venue diffenec in the Colorado and LA series, the only differences are NY-Az vs. Bos-SF and NYY-NYM (6 games) vs. Bos-Phil and Bos-Atl. Right now, there isn't a tremendous difference between the teams in the NL East though the Phils should have been better than the other two. San Fran has a seven games ahead of Arizona and has been playing well lately gut are still just one game over .500.

That doesn't seem to be a big difference. The Yanks seem to have a slight edge. Maybe it's 1-2 games. However, even if they played matching schedules over the entire year, invariably one team would play a common opponent when that opponent is hot and the other team would play them when they are cold. You can't make all things equal.

But, if it helps get rid of interleague play, I'll jump on Joe's bandwagon.]

Jeff (Cincinnati): What do you think is the key to Casey's success so far this season? He's on pace to hit 30 HR's and leads MLB in BA. He's always been consistently good, but do you think Dave Miley deserves some credit for his success?

When Casey was traded to the Reds everyone said he would be a great hitter and win batting titles. Sometimes it just takes time to develop into a great hitter. He has been around for awhile and we are just seeing his maturity and exprience coming through. Miley obviously hasn't gotten in the way .. a manager's job many times is to just stay out of the way of great players and let them do their thing. You have to give most of the credit to Casey because he has worked really hard to get to this point.

I'll ask Casey for you next Wednesday .. I'm doing the game .. it's an interesting question ..

[Mike: Time out. Has Joe even seen Casey play for the last four years? The guy was declining after age 24 (1999) and finally hit bottom in 2002 (his OPS hit a low of 22% below the park-adjusted league average in 2002). He bounced back to be about an average hitter in 2003 (his OPS was 2% worse than average), which isn't good for a 28-year-old first baseman.

What's the key to his success this year? Hmm, maybe small sample size. Maybe luck. Maybe the fact that he's 29 and having a career year? Or maybe he was storing up all that maturity for five years to spend all at once this year. I expect him to mature his way out of the game in a few years. When's his contract up anyway?]

Pete from DC: Do you think that if Junior stays HOT, he will end up with Boston or the Yankees for a run this fall?

I certainly hope he remains a Red. That is what he wanted when he left Seattle. If he stays healthy and the Reds perform well, it would be a travesty to trade him.

I'm not sure the Reds have done as well as they should in terms of supprting Griffey since he arrived.

[Mike: Ya think? The Reds were all but ready to ride Griffey out of town on a rail this spring. The plan had to go on hold when they started to win and started to not injure himself.]

Drew (New Jersey): Joe: It seems as if all 6 divisions are still relatively tight; especially in the N.L. East. Which division(s) do you think will go right down to the wire, come October? Thank you.

I think they all will be very close .. I truly believe they could all go down to the wire.

[Mike: Way to commit, Joe! As the Red Sox pitching folds, I expect them to playing, as usual, for the wild card come All-Star break time. The Cubs should pull away from the field once their pitching gets healthy and the real Reds and Cardinals show up. It seems that Sox should have an edge on the Twins.

That leaves one division with two pretty good teams (Oakland and Anaheim) and two with weaker contenders (NL East and West). I may be wrong, but at least I offered an opinion.]

Alex (England): How close is Griffey to being the player he was say five years ago?

I think if he stays healthy, you will see a great second half. Remember, he has missed a lot of time the last few years. He is just now gaining his confidence back. I guess he is walking on eggshells right now because he doesn't know if he will stay healthy. But I think we will see the Griffey of old in the second half.

[Mike: In my Philosophy 101 class the professor asked that given humans replace all of their cells every seven years or so, how can we say that we are the same person we were 210 years ago? That would be a great murder defense when someone's caught a decade or so later. "Your honor, I didn't do it. It was this pile of excrement and dead skin cells."

Anyway, Griffey is not nearly the player he was in his prime, which is not to see he is NOT a very good player. He is. But Griffey 2004 cannot hold a candle to Griffey 1993-94 and 1995-96. And it's not the injuries. He was declining in his last two years in Seattle. Keep in mind that he is an unqualified Hall-of-Famer already.]

Chris Detroit: Hey Joe- Love SNB, watch it every week at work. What do you think about the Indians this year-obviously their bullpen is horrible, but do you see promise in their young hitters? Are they doing kind of a Minnesota Twins-type thing?

I said earlier, some teams that have positives like young hitters, they can really do well because that positive can outweight something like bullpen problems. The Dodgers started OK because they had some positives but then they go on the road and the weaknesses showed up and outweighed the positives. You are going to see this up and down with many teams.

[Mike: ATFQ, Joe! I am not overwhelmed by any one of the Indians hitters but overall, they look like a good unit. Travis Hafner looks like the best of the lot but is 27 and has just established himself as an everyday player. Victor Martinez looks good. Casey Blake looks good but is 30. Jody Gerut seems to be having a slight sophomore slump. Alex Escobar has not yet impressed. Overall, they seem a solid but aside from Martinez, I'm not sure that any are yet an unqualified success.]

Muzzy (Leicester): Joe-like a certain ESPN writer, Carlos Beltran is an exceptional percentage basestealer. Is this the result of great natural ability or more a matter of intelligence?

I have not seen him play very much, I just haven't done enough Royals games. From what I know, he is a very smart player and obviously has the ability. I just can't really say with any certainty because I haven't seen him that much. Most of the time, with great base stealers, it's a pretty even combo of the two.

[Mike: I'm sorry that you couldn't be bothered to watch the Royals even though they were in a pennant race for most of last year and your job is baseball analysis. Look, it's a stupid question, but you should know something about Beltran.

For the record Beltran is not only exceptional. He is the best percentage base stealer since caught stealing was recorded consistently for both leagues (1951) with at least 150 steals. Here is the list of everyone over 80% successful (through last year):

Carlos Beltran1502088.24%
Tim Raines80814684.70%
Eric Davis3496684.10%
Willie Wilson66813483.29%
Tony Womack3096383.06%
Barry Larkin3777783.04%
Davey Lopes55711483.01%
Stan Javier2465182.83%
Doug Glanville1603681.63%
Julio Cruz3437881.47%
Brian Hunter2606181.00%
Joe Morgan68916280.96%
Vince Coleman75217780.95%
Roberto Alomar47411280.89%
Rickey Henderson140633580.76%
Andy Van Slyke2455980.59%
Mickey Mantle1533880.10%

His SB% this year is under 80% though (79%) for the first time since his rookie season.]

Tom...S.Dakota: Joe,Baltimore has added some great players this year,will that get them to post season or will their pitching keep them in the basement?

I was very impressed with what the Orioles added. They added some quality to the team. I'm disappointed in their pitching. I thought Ponson would be a better pitcher. But they can still turn things around. Ponson has what it takes to be the leader of the staff. But without the pitching, they will struggle.

[Mike: ATFQ: Postseason or basement, Joe? My answer is neither. The O's will fight the J's for third. The Yankees and Red Sox are in their own subdivision (in the high school halls, in the backs of cars) and so are the D-Rays.

Montgomery, AL: Joe do you think the Red's will make a move to get a pitcher? And do you think they would try to make a move to get a young gun like Dontrell Willis?

Well, whether they will or not I don't know. But they should. You don't get an opportunity very often to steal a division and they can do it this year. They have a lot going for them. They have the mix of young players and vets, defense, and some good pitching.

[Mike: The whole city of Montgomery, Alabama got together and that's the best they could do for a question? Sure, the Reds are going to try to get pitching. It’s likely that they'll need it and their recent history shows that they are willing to do what it takes to acquire it midseason. However, there's no chance that they'll get Willis. He's a young (read cheap) ballplayer on a contender. Why would Florida trade the guy?

The Reds don't really have much going for them. Griffey and Dunn have played well. Casey is out of his mind and if the Reds were a fantasy team, their owner would be calling everyone in the league to dump the guy before his bubble bursts. And, to paraphrase George Bailey, that goes for the staff, too. Well, they do have luck, but how long can you depend on that?]

Chase (Dallas, TX): After seeing Milton Bradley go berserk the other day, did it reming you of an incident you witnessed in your playing days? What was the most outrageous outburst you saw in your day?

That's a tough one .. I just remember laughing at players when they go beserk or has similar tantrums.. I've seen them from just about everyone .. maybe Frank Robinson was the funniest because he would always combine his personality and Earl Weaver's when he was out there .. what Bradley did wasn't very good for the game. I'm not a big fan of suspending players unless they do something that not only hurts the game but endangers other players (hitting guys in the head, etc.) .. otherwise, I'm not a big advocate of suspensions. I do believe in fines.

[Mike: First, Chase, I hope your hand's OK after getting it chopped off in the last episode of "24" this year. That's got to leave a mark.

Joe, it was funny in your day when a player or manager went berserk, but today it's bad for the game. Give me a break. This is just good old fashioned it-was-better-inmy-day-ism.]

Dan (State College, PA): Hi, Joe. Do you think it will be lights out for the Red Sox when Nomar and Trot get back or will they not be a huge advantage over their replacements?

First of all, I don't think the Red Sox offense is nearly as consistent as it was last year. No, I don't think they will be lights out when they get back. But it will put them closer to where they were last year. They won't run away from the Yankees. The Yanks offense is just going to get better. The only thing the Yankees have to worry about is their pitching. I wouldn't get too overjoyed when Nomar and Trot come back.

[Mike: State College, PA? Natasha: "Boris, you went to Penn State?" Boris: "No, state pen."

Joe, did you ever stop to think that the Sox offense is not as consistent because it was missing two of its stars? While Nomah and Nixon have been out the subs have not been doing the job. The Sox batting numbers at short (.240/.272/.332/.603) and right (.292/.343/.431/.774) rank 13th and 8th in the AL by OPS.

However, with the pitching woes the Red Sox have faced, it will hardly be lights out (and no references to that awful Peter Wolf 80s song of the same name).]

Dave, Columbus, OH: Joe, why are teams interested in Mondesi? He seems to be an overpaid, over-hyped whiner who has burned bridges with every teams he's played for. His numbers aren't worth his baggage. The way he handled his Pirates contract is an outrage.

Well, I can only attest to the test he has not accomplished the numbers I thought he should. I can't get into what happened with the Pirates because I was there. We can't always believe what is reported. But he never drove in 100 runs and just hasn't' been the star many have predicted. +

[Mike: 100 RBI? He played the bulk of his career in LA, and he did hit 99 RBI in 1999.

Mondesi is a 5-tool player, a two-time 30-30 man. That's why teams keep signing him. Of course on average he has stolen 26 bases a year and has been caught 10 times—that's barely above the break-even point. One big problem was that he couldn't take a walk when he could hit and now that he does talk a base on balls once in a while, he can't hit for average. His .333 OBP is two points below the park-adjusted average.

He's actually a six-tool guy since he himself is a tool.]

Wayne,New Brunswick,Canada: Joe, enjoyed your story about your Dad,Joe what do you think will be the next big change in the game if any ?

That's a good question. Honestly, I don't know. I would have liked to seen the mound raised halfway between where it is now and where it used to be. We wouldn't see as many intentional walks and it would make the game more fair with the smaller parks we have today.

[Mike: Raise the mund? You mean outside of Dodger Stadium? Is that a change to the game itself as the person asked or a rule imposed on it (or more accurately an ax that Joe is grinding)?

How about the return of four-man rotations? Or using a closer in a non-save situation? Just a thought.]

Rich, Louisville, Ky: Joe, could the Big Red Machine have kept the World Series streak going in '77 and '78 if it kept players like Tony Perez, Gullet, and Zackary? You guys nearly beat the hated Dodgers in those years.

I believe so, if Pereze had stayed. He was the most important of those who left. I thougth we would continue to win if we had stayed together.

[Mike: Pereze??? Matt Perisho?

These young whippersnappers, we could still whip them. We'd show them a thing or four.

Zachary did pitch for the Reds in 1977. He was 3-7 with a 5.04 ERA in 12 starts, and then was packaged for Tom Seaver. Tom frigging Seaver! He's the best pitcher that the franchise ever had. But Joe wants to keep Pat Zachary instead?

Perez was already in decline. His 1977 numbers: 19 HRs, 91 RBI, .283/.352 /.463, and a OPS of .816, 20% better than the park-adjusted average. Dan Driessen, his replacement, had basically the same numbers if not slightly better: 17 HRs, 91 RBI, .300/.375/.468, and a .843 OPS, 24% better than average.

Gullet had a pretty good season in 1977 (14-4 with a 3.58 ERA, which was just 10% better than the park-adjusted average) but was out of the game within a year. He was basically a free-agent bust. Besides, did I mention that the Reds picked up Tom Seaver?

OK, they did lose a bit more talent here than they gained (2 mediocre pitchers for one great one). However, if the Reds were a team without holes, unlike today's teams, as Joe is constantly telling us, then couldn't they sustain the loss of one decent pitcher?]

Alex, Bethesda, MD: Mr. Morgan, do you think hitters have broken through Dontrelle Willis' windup or do you think he will at some point regain his form?

I remember when Nomo came over from Japan. He was great the first year and each year after his ERA rose. What I'm seeing is that people do adjust to motions. I think Dontrelle will rebound. I think he needs a softer pitch. All his pitches are very hard and he throws a lot of fastballs in fastball counts. He will have to adjust because people are adjusting to him.

[Mike: Or maybe he's just not that good a pitcher. His first year was not "great". He was 9-1 with a 2.08 ERA in the first half and 5-5, 4.60 in the second. His problem is the long ball (3 in the first half and 10 in the second) and walks (14 BB/79 K in the 1st half; 34/63 in the 2nd). His walk-to-strikeout (as opposed to strikeout-to-walk) ratio went up in May and so did his ERA (5.04).]

Doug (Tampa): How would you rank the following Braves chances at the Hall of Fame: Chipper Jones, John Smoltz, and Andruw Jones.

At this point, I'd probably go Andruw, John, Chipper. Andruw will accumulate a lot of numbers. Smoltz is one of the best postseason starters I have ever seen but now he's a reliever. How many relievers are in the HOF? If Eck can get in, Smoltz has a chance.

[Mike: I wouldn't put Smoltz in at this point. The Braves staff will be represented by Maddux and Glavine so it’ll be hard to sell Smoltz. Also, he does not compare to Eckersley. Maybe if he pitches another ten years in the pen.

Andruw Jones has a) only played 9 seasons including this one and b) has never been a truly outstanding batter (best OPS was 29% better than the park-adjusted league average). If he ends up being the best defensive center fielder of all time, as he arguably has been to this point (though he seems to be aging poorly on D). Andruw is only 27 and has 233 HRs, so he has a decent shot at 500.

Chipper Jones has been a better player offensively than Andruw though injuries may cut his career short (he's having an off year this year). His career average OPS is 43% better than the park-adjusted league average (with a high of 75% better in 1999). He has 286 HRs, so if he can stay healthy and productive, he has a shot at 500.

I would rank them Chipper, Smoltz, then Andruw at this stage, surprisingly the complete opposite of Joe. Talk to me again in 5 years and that may change.]

redrum (new york, ny): Hi you think Joe Carter will be elected to the Hall of Fame. It seems to me that he is one of the most overrated players ever. Thanks

I don't think he is overrated. Whether he makes the HOF is another question. I think I would have to see how the voting goes the next couple years. It seems there has been a shift of late where guys I thought were better players that are getting fewer votes. I won't name names but some guys I think should already be in and guys I thought would have trouble that are getting a lot of support. So it's hard to say right now.

[Mike: Tony, redrum!

Hold the phone. Joe Carter is no longer eligible for the Hall via the baseball writers' ballot. He did not get 5% of the vote in the 2004 ballot. He was listed on only 19 of 380 ballots (or 3.75%). Five percent of the vote is required to stay on the ballot. It's a stupid rule that would have barred 99 current Hall of Famers, and I've argued against it in the past.

However, Joe is a member of the board at the Hall (ha ha ha, he said member). Shouldn't he know what's going on there at least a bit? That's the second Hall question and he got them both wrong.

By the way, I wouldn't put Joe Carter in the Hall on a bet, but there were plenty who seemed to support his candidacy back in the day. I was surprised that a few more (he was 7 votes short of 5%) didn't come to his aid.]

The Ugly

Jeremy (Sioux Falls, SD): Hey Mr. Morgan!! There is something that has been bothering me for a few weeks now. What is with the shortage of left handed starting pitching in the bigs?? How can this be??

I don't know why we have a shortage. As I have said before, if you are left handed and can throw strikes, you can win in the bigs. It's a problem that needs to be cured. Every team should try to improve in this area.

[Mike: Jeremy spoke in Joe Morgan's chat session today. First, are there fewer lefty pitchers in the bigs today than in the past? Here's a table by decade of the number of pitcher-years by handedness (say that three times fast):

Grand Total27.57%71.18%1.25%

The number of lefties has been dropping since the Seventies and the dropoff is gaining momentum, but it is still about the all-time average. Perhaps, the change is due to the need to set up Lefty-lefty matchups falling into disfavor. Or maybe Occam's Razor can provide a better answer. The number of lefties is growing, just not as quickly as the number of righties:

DecadeLRN/AGrand Total
Grand Total90842344941132944

Let's take a look at the starting pitchers alone (i.e., at least 10 starts or started at least half his games):

DecadeLRN/AGrand TotalL%R%N/A%
Grand Total4618123403291728726.7%71.4%1.9%

So the starters numbers are dropping (or rather growing less quickly) than all pitchers overall. Apparently, lefties are getting progressively harder to find and the ones that are found are siphoned off to the bullpen.

OK, that's the real world look at the situation. Now, back to Joe's bizzaro world. If a "left handed [pitcher who] can throw strikes…can win in the bigs", then how can this be the case. And then why is there "a problem that needs to be cured"? If Joe's statement re. lefties is correct, then shouldn't they be dropping out of trees? Maybe it's just that lefties were better in Joe's day.]

Chris (Bethlem, PA): Do you believ that the Phillies are still the favorite to win the NL East even though they have had problems scoring some runs?

I never thought they were the favorites but I know many felt that way. The Marlins are a very good team with young players. I would not say the Phillies are the favorites. The Marlins are the World Champions.

[Mike: What a differenec a week makes…Joe said this the week earlier, "I would agree that the Phillies are the team to beat in that division." I guess the "team to beat" doesn't make them the favorites. Semantics. Maybe if the Phils have a hot week, Joe will jump back on the badwagon.]

David (Ohio): Maybe I'm just too young, but I don't understand why everyone hates the DH so much. When you see Andy Pettitte (or any other pitcher) go on the DL after getting injured swinging a bat, you have to wonder: what's the point? It's especially maddening for AL teams whose pitchers get hurt batting in spring training or interleague games. Pitchers already have too many ways to get hurt. Why add one more?

Well, why don't we just put a screen in front of them when they are pitching? If you are a baseball player, you are a baseball player. They hit when they were in Little League. We have created a society where we have let people become one-dimensional. I don't like the DH for that reason. But the point remains, if one pitcher is a better bunter or hitter than another, shouldn't he be able to use that advantage?

[Mike: Ask Tevye, and he'll tell you it's TRADITION, tradition!

Put a screen in front of batters? These young whippersnappers! We used to walk to and from he stadium ten miles in the snow, uphill both ways, and we liked it!

The arguments are basically a) the DH negatively impacts the game's basic strategy (double-switches, bunts, walking/pitching around the number-eight batter, etc.) and that it's unaesthetic because it promoted one-dimensional players (pitcher who can't hit and batters that can't field).

Bill James refuted the first point. If by strategy you mean actually having to think at strategic times, James showed that the DH provided more strategy. If you mean by strategy, the word in broader sense, meaning the old staid ways of doing things by rote, then the DH is not for you.

As far as aesthetics it's a matter of taste. As a purist, I don't care for the DH in theory, but how aesthetically pleasing is a pitcher striking out? Or how about them trying to bunt when everyone in the stadium knows that's what they are going to do?

Pitchers "hit when they were in Little League". That's true, but is that what the bigs are trying to emulate? Pitchers don't hit in college or the minors. Why make them hit at the major-league level?
But the point remains, if one pitcher is a better bunter or hitter than another, shouldn't he be able to use that advantage? This is the argument. We want the pitcher to bat so that we can see him bunt in an obvious bunt situation? Sounds great, Greg! How about a team having more depth on offense than their opponent and using that to their advantage? Wade Boggs had a good knuckler. Why not force teams to have a position player throw to every ninth batter to let Boggs' teams use his knuckler to their advantage?]

Aaron (cleveland): Last night, an intentional walk to Bonds totally backfired. Do you think all this talk about these intentional walks is overblown and that more often than not it's a losing thing to do?

In most cases, it seems to have an effect but in Bonds' case I don't think it's overblown. I don't like to see it but its very difficult to pitch to a guy like Bonds when the guys behind him are not hitting HRs. I read an article where somebody said they are helping the Giants by walking Bonds but I don't buy it. We used to say, if you are afraid, bring a Doberman with you.

They have been walking Bonds all year and the Giants are still below .500 so it must have worked.

[Mike: So walking Bonds is the reason that Giants were below .500? When Bonds was injured and hitting just .250 for the month of May but was still drawing tons of walks (he was walked 29 times and hat just 12 hits), the Giants went 16-10. They also had a team ERA for May of 3.45, over 3 runs lower than April (5.55), when the team was 10-14. They also had a .728 OPS in May, which was lower than their .739 OPS in April. Obviously, the pitching was the difference.

If it's so difficult to pitch to Bonds, when not just walk him every time he's up no matter the situation? Because Bonds will not reach base every time that he's up and by putting him on first even if he has Mario Mendoza hitting behind him, he will score some percentage of the time. Studies having shown that in most situations automatically putting Bonds on hurts you more than it helps. For every case where the strategy has worked against Bonds there's one where it hasn't.

It all goes back to manager's saying "I won't let this guy beat me". However, is it better to let A.J. Pierzynski beat you?]

Rico (Minneapolis, MN): Hi, Joe, Do you think the Brewers can keep up their current success and finish the season above .500?

The one thing I have said the last few years is that there aren't any great teams. There are no teams without weakness. So if you get off on the right foot you can build up your confidence and play well. It doesn't surprise me if they continue to play well. When you watch Sheets pitch, he is as good as any other ace in that division.

[Mike: Rico? Suave!

Joe has to inject his distaste for today's players into random questions. There are no great teams today. Didn't we just have two teams win over 114 games a few years back? But there's no Big Red Machine today, no teams on which Gary Nolan is the best pitcher.]

Burl: Menard, Texas: Mr. Morgan, as of right now, how is your preseason predictions going? I know it's early but how do you

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