Baseball Toaster Mike's Baseball Rants
Monthly archives: July 2002


More from Count Floyd and
2002-07-31 16:14
by Mike Carminati

More from Count Floyd and "It's Really Scary!"

Baseball Prospectus has any even more cynical and jaded analysis of this trade than I did.

It's as if Selig didn't realize what might happen if he allowed Minaya to make the deals. Since the acquisitions of Floyd and
Colon, the Expos had broken 10,000 in attendance in 11 of 13 home games, something they'd done just eight times all season
before the trades. Oh, hell, let's run a chart:

                     Average Att.      Median Att.
Expos, Not Trying        8,429            6,091
Expos, Trying           14,064           13,402

The trades seemed to prove what we've been saying all along, that fans will come see a team--in any market, in any stadium--that
has success, and more importantly, that shows a commitment to winning. On a typical July night, twice as many people came
to see the Expos as did before the team made a significant move that signaled that the team was trying to win.

It's like Selig said, "OK, you can do this so I can say that Montreal is a dead issue," and when it wasn't a dead
issue, made sure that he stopped the momentum.

. . .

The Floyd Merry-Go-Round Continues If
2002-07-31 13:49
by Mike Carminati

The Floyd Merry-Go-Round Continues

If you didn't hear, Cliff Floyd was traded for the second time in three weeks, this time to Red Sox for two minor league pitchers, right-handers from South Korea named Seung Song and Sun-Woo Kim.

My friend Mike Markowitz, who has a gift for the polemic, writes:

Let's see if I understand this: The commissioner's other team (not the Brewers, the Expos) acquires Cliff Floyd from the commissioner's lackey in Miami, Jeff Loria. Then the Expos send Floyd, for nothing, to the commissioner's hand-picked owner in Boston, his buddy John Henry . . . and there are no conflicts of interest here?
What a joke. This is the kind of thing that turns me off of baseball, not the possibility of a players' strike.

I have to agree, and here's why:

A) It is very suspicious that the Expos would trade for prospects given that they have been shedding prospects at an alarming rate all year.

B) Well, maybe they have recognized the error of their ways and are trying to stockpile young talent. My first response to that would be why, given that they may not exist next year. If they do exist, they will be run by a different ownership group who will most likely bring in their own baseball people-so what's the incentive for Minaya to amass future talent? Again very suspicious.

C) Let's assume that they have changed direction, however illogical that may be, These do not look like stellar acquisitions. "Song is 7-7, with a 4.39 ERA in 21 games for Double-A Trenton. He was obtained by the Red Sox as a free agent in 1999. Kim is 4-2, with a 3.18 ERA in eight starts for Triple-A Pawtucket." Kim looks OK. But Song is an average Double-AA pitcher. What do the Expos need them for?

D) Why didn't the Expos get at least one outfielder (Daubach or Nixon) given that the Red Sox now have five quality OF's on the roster. Ostensibly, Daubach will replace the underachieving Tony Clarkat 1st, improving the Red Sox in two positions. The Expos have Troy O'Leary who may revive his career, but why wouldn't they demand an outfielder in the deal? Floyd for Daubach and a prospect is still a good deal for the Sox.

E) Minaya's rationale for the trade is also iffy: "Expos general manager Omar Minaya said dumping Floyd's salary and taking on little in return gives him flexibility to deal later. 'Right now, we have close to 50 games left. We've got five teams in front of us,' he said. 'When we acquired Cliff Floyd, we didn't have five teams in front of us. I think we were second in the wild card. That's one difference.'" The Expos may be fighting for their franchise lives-there is no later. Besides this is the trade deadline: what "later" is there? Floyd was acquired on July 12. On July 11, the Expos were 46-42, in second place in the NL East, 10.5 games behind the Braves. They were tied with Cincinnati for third in the NL wild-card race, six games behind Arizona and four behind San Fran. They are still six games back are in are in sixth place in the wild-card race, having been passed by New York, Cincinnati, and Houston. They are slightly worse of given that more time has passed and they have not made up any ground and there are now more bodies in their way, but that's all the more reason to keep Floyd.

F) The Red Sox are competing with the Yankees for the Al East title (Boston is 5 back), and the Mariners, Angels, and A's, whichever two don't win the West, for the wild-card (Boston trails Anaheim by 1 game). The Yankees outfield is loaded and they don't need another lefty bat, but may have wanted to take a shot at Floyd to block the Sox. The Mariners have Mark McLemore and Ruben Sierra in left and Sierra and Edgar Martinez Dhing, so other than added depth (and maybe moving McLemore to center to spell the struggling Mikeameron) their need for Floyd isn't great. But the Angels even with a good outfield could use another bat, freeing up Brad Fullmer to play first base and Spiezio to back up in a number of places. The A's have John Mabry playing way over his head in left. They could definitely use Floyd but may not want to swallow his contract. There are NL teams that could use a left fielder but maybe Montreal did not want to trade with their competitors (or it would be too obvious).

G) John Henry, the Red Sox owner, likes Floyd. Floyd played for him in Florida when Henry owned the Marlins.

H) John Henry sold the Marlins this past offseason and purchased the Red Sox for reportedly less than some competing offers. Jeffrey Loria bought the Marlins from Henry and sold the Expos to MLB. Both Loria and Henry have been alleged to be members of the commissioner's coterie.

I) Oscar Minaya is an employee, directly or indirectly, of MLB. The Commissioner and the owners have some say in what direction the Expos take (e.g., if they can take on extra payroll).

I don't know if there was any wrongdoing here, but there is enough circumstantial evidence to follow up. However, like Selig's personal loan from Carl Pohlad or any other minor scandal, this will be swept conveniently under the rug. But it stinks worse than Bud Selig's AquaVelva.

Yankees owner George Steinbrenner has come under a great deal of scrutiny lately for collecting ballplayers like children collect baseball cards while the other owners are pushing austerity and for his Comcast-vs.-YES-induced spat with Larry Dolan. I wondered at the time why Selig didn't slap a $1M fine on the both of them. Maybe this is his way, and if so he's smarter than he looks, to get back at the Boss.

. . .

Upcoming Topics Still To Come
2002-07-31 00:23
by Mike Carminati

Upcoming Topics Still To Come

Do the Yankees Have an Unfair Advantage in In-Season Acquisitions?

Why I'm For the Players

1899, the Year of the Last Contraction and the Birth of the American League

Are Small-Market Teams Less Competitive Than in the Past

Dodgers, the Anti-Rockies? Are the Dodgers Unduly Helped by Playing in a Pitcher's Park?

The Far-Reaching Legacy of the League That Never Was (A Hardy Boy Mystery)

Observations on Bill James' Win Shares System

Is Greg Vaughn's 2002 season the worst ever?

Email me if you have any other questions/comments/ideas.
. . .

What's In A Hall of
2002-07-30 23:54
by Mike Carminati

What's In A Hall of Fame Name, A Rose by Any Other, Well, Maybe Not

I'm sure you noticed as I did that this year was the second in a row in which a Smith was enshrined in Cooperstown. 2001 saw the inclusion of Kansas City Monarch great, pitcher Hilton Smith, and this year Ozzie "The Wizard of Oz" Smith has been immortalized in the Hall. The odd thing is that in the 65 years of Cooperstown history prior to 2001, there was a grand total of zero Smiths inducted. That's out of 139 major-leaguers with the surname (plus one Smyth and a Smythe). And the Hall is still awaiting its first Jones inductee (even though there have been 88 major-leaguers named Jones).

According to Lycos here are the most common last names in the U.S. from the 1990 census with their frequencies. I have added the number of Hall of Famers and their first names to the list (Note that there are 254 Hall of Famers so far):

 Rk Name    Frequency #HoF
1. Smith      1.01%    2 (Ozzie & Hilton)
2. Johnson    0.81     3 (Ban, Judy, Walter)
3. Williams   0.70     3 (Billy, Smokey Joe, Ted)
4. Jones      0.62     0 (Andruw? Chipper? Fielder?)
5. Brown      0.62     1 (Three-Finger)
6. Davis      0.48     1 (George)
7. Miller     0.42     0 (Marvin?)
8. Wilson     0.34     1 (Hack)
9. Moore      0.31     0
10. Taylor    0.31     0
11. Anderson  0.31     1 (Sparky)
12. Thomas    0.31     0 (Frank??)
13. Jackson   0.31     2 (Reggie & Travis)
14. White     0.28     0
15. Harris    0.28     1 (Bucky)
16. Martin    0.27     0
17. Thompson  0.27     1 (Sam)
18. Garcia    0.25     0
19. Martinez  0.23     0 (Denny?) 
20. Robinson  0.23     4 (Brooks, Frank, Jackie, Wilbert)
21. Clark     0.23     1 (Fred Clarke)
22. Rodriguez 0.23     0 (Alex? Ivan?)
23. Lewis     0.23     0
24. Lee       0.22     0
25. Walker    0.22     0 (Larry?) 
26. Hall      0.20     0 (odd, huh?)
27. Allen     0.20     0 (Sorry Dick, er, Richie, er Dick)
28. Young     0.19     2 (Cy and Ross Youngs)
29. Hernandez 0.19     0 (Sorry, Keith)
30. King      0.19     0

Other names with multiple inductees: Kelly/Kelley 3 (Joe, George, and King), Collins 2 (Eddie & Jimmy), Fox/Foxx (Nellie and Jimmie), Gibson 2 (Bob and Josh), McCarthy 2 (Joe and Tommy), and Wright 2 (brothers George and Harry).

Other Smith fun facts:

Best nickname: Phenomenal, Klondike, or Skyrocket
Most Mysterious: Just plain Smith (1884) or Smith (1886). Could they even be one?
Most common first name: Bill/Billy/Willie 8, Bob/Bobby 6, John/Jack 6, Ed/Eddie/Edgar 5, Red 5, Al/Aleck 4, Harry 4
Previous Hall of Fame votes garnered: Earl (2), Lonnie (1), Reggie (3), and Sherry (1)

By the way, Harry and George Wright are not the only brothers in the Hall. There are also Rube and Bill Foster (half-brothers), and Paul and Lloyd Waner. Also, there are father and son, Lee and Larry McPhail.

. . .

Open Letter from the Hall
2002-07-30 22:17
by Mike Carminati

Open Letter from the Hall of Famers

Forty Hall of Famers have come together to draft an open letter to Bud Selig and Donald Fehr advising them to use a mediator to avoid a work stoppage.

Here's the text of the letter in case you missed it (for some reason ESPN pulled it but SI still had it up):

Dear Bud and Don:

Though we are bound together by sharing baseball's greatest honor -- being elected members of the Hall of Fame -- we are a diverse group. We are from different generations, have had different life experiences, and as such we each have our own -- often strongly held -- beliefs.

Each of us has our own opinions about the labor-management issues between major league baseball and the players' association through the years -- and today.

Both sides make persuasive arguments to support their positions, and thinking persons can understand the merits of those arguments. Despite how each of us feels individually, however, we all agree that another work stoppage in baseball would be a terrible mistake.

To protect the game we all love and have given so much to, we suggest you agree to a qualified mediator that will allow you to find the common ground necessary to avoid a work stoppage.

Millions of loyal fans, the thousands of people who work in and around stadiums and depend on baseball for their livelihood, and the future of the game, are depending on you and will benefit from your reasonableness and wisdom if you can achieve this.

-- Sparky Anderson, Johnny Bench, Yogi Berra, George Brett, Lou Brock, Jim Bunning, Rod Carew, Steve Carlton, Orlando Cepeda, Bobby Doerr, Bob Feller, Rollie Fingers, Whitey Ford, Bob Gibson, Monte Irvin, Reggie Jackson, Fergie Jenkins, Al Kaline, George Kell, Harmon Killebrew, Ralph Kiner, Sandy Koufax, Juan Marichal, Willie Mays, Bill Mazeroski, Stan Musial, Tony Perez, Gaylord Perry, Kirby Puckett, Robin Roberts, Brooks Robinson, Red Schoendienst, Mike Schmidt, Tom Seaver, Duke Snider, Warren Spahn, Don Sutton, Ozzie Smith, Billy Williams, Dave Winfield

Now, I'm sure that they have the best of intentions, although it makes me wonder why the letter had to be open and could not have simply been sent to the respective parties. But this is the last thing that is needed at this point. To end the talks and reach an agreement, both sides have to think that the other is united and bargain accordingly. If this letter creates the slightest bit of doubt in the owners' minds as to the solidarity of the players (I know they are retired, but they have an influence and they have connections with active players), then the owners will look for an opportunity to exploit it. They will try to call the players' bluff and get ready for a siege (remember the NBA negotiations?). Besides how do they know if the mediator will come to a fair and equitable agreement for both parties. He could do just like King Solomon proposed and divide the baby down the middle to no ones' liking.

A lot of these players should know better. They have been through periods of labor strife in their careers. This could also be seen as disingenuous given that what the players negotiate will affect the players' pension fund, from which a number of these men certainly draw a paycheck. Maybe it's not a big deal if you have a plaque in Cooperstown and can get paid accordingly when you make public appearances. But for their ex-teammates who were not so fortunate, these men should screw up their pride and their souvenir businesses and stand in line with the players, no matter how unpopular that stand may be. Being actually, and not just seemingly, heroic often is unpopular.

. . .

SI: Nolan Ryan for Commissioner?
2002-07-30 21:57
by Mike Carminati

SI: Nolan Ryan for Commissioner?

Sport Illustrated is advocating Nolan Ryan for commissioner. You know, I remember when SI was great. There was The Wide World of Sports on TV, which brought into your living room just what its name advertised, and there was its magazine counterpart, SI. That was around 1976.

SI is so marginalized now that they think that Mr. Ryan Goes to the Commissioner's Office a la Frank Capra would solve all of baseball's problems. The commissioner is no longer some moral paragon doling out virtue on high (as if he ever was). He is more the CEO of a multinational, a deal maker, a consensus achiever. He is also an employee of the owners. Why would they hire a former player who knows nothing whatsoever about the inner workings of baseball as a business?

If this is the quality of the reporting covering the labor talks, no wonder the public is so mis- (or dis-)informed.

. . .

The Physicists of Baseball The
2002-07-30 21:19
by Mike Carminati

The Physicists of Baseball

The umpires have hired a group of physicists and engineers, including The Physics of Baseball author and Sterling Professor Emeritus at Yale, Robert Kemp Adair, to investigate the Questec Umpire Information System. This should be interesting...

. . .

Respectable Street I would like
2002-07-30 20:59
by Mike Carminati

Respectable Street

I would like to announce that Mike's Baseball Rants has been accepted by John Skilton's Baseball Links to be listed under Statistics & Analysis. Now, we had better clean up our act.

. . .

Can't Tell a Player Without
2002-07-30 16:36
by Mike Carminati

Can't Tell a Player Without a Program

The White Sox have lost their starting catcher, center fielder, and second baseman in the last week. They were traded for a total of four minor league pitchers. This will pay dividends over the next few years. Unfortunately, they have to finish the schedule this year. Currently, their roster lists the following position 11 players: one catcher, five total infielders, 4 total outfielders, and Frank Thomas, who can kind of play first. This is including Willie Harris, who was promoted to replace Durham. They only list 23 pitchers meaning that they are 2 players short. Don't they think about this when they make a trade? Or is a 23-man roster a new cost-cutting approach? I hope they all stay healthy. I don't want to see Frank Thomas play catcher.

. . .

Rolen to Cardinals

So Scott Rolen is off to a pennant contender, and the Phils get two marginal players and a pitching prospect who the Cardinals have already given up on in return. I have already voiced my opinion of the whole affair (scroll down). I wish Scott Rolen the best and fully expect a huge last third of the season from him.

Meanwhile I will be looking forward to a Phillies line-up with Doug Glanville leading off, Travis Lee batting third, and Placido Polanco batting fifth. Maybe then Larry Bowa will finally explode (Hundreds of people explode every year. They just don't talk about it.) Then John Vukovich will get a chance to run the team with at least a modicum of composure.

. . .

Rangers Release a Big Burba. Excuse Me-yette.

The Rangers released Dave Burba today after he lost his spot in the rotation and then in his last appearance, in relief, gave up 7 earned runs in a third of an inning in the Rangers 12-2 loss to Oakland Monday. Burba has a 5.42 ERA, but that is slightly above the team average. He has not pitched well since 2000 and has a large contract (which they are eating anyway), but he has had a decent career and was very good for Cleveland from 1998-2000 (His park-adjusted ERA as a percentage of the league ERA was 17%, 18%, and 12% better than the league average and he won at least 15 games a year).

The Rangers are going nowhere, he's "only" 35, and he could turn it around. Meanwhile Narron's excuse that Burba has been released to give some younger guys some innings, doesn't hold water, not when you have Chan Ho Park, Aaron Myette, and Rob Bell eating a hole in your roster and Kenny Rogers on the trading block. Why not let him work out his mechanical problems and see if he can get ready for next year? Even if he is a free agent and does not figure into next year necessarily, he's got to be better the rest of the way than Myette and his 9.39 ERA. Methinks this is some Tom Hicks "Let's get tough and send a message" behavior. Austerity is now his buzz word. What a rational team.

. . .

I Come To Praise Bud,
2002-07-30 13:01
by Mike Carminati

I Come To Praise Bud, Not To Bury Him

Whenever he opens his mouth, Pete Rose is not doing himself any favors. Imagine that your embarassing uncle who is a bit crass and gets drunk at family get-togethers is also a geek in the local freak show. That must be the way organized baseball looks at the "Hit King". He has some somewhat reasonable things to say and then comes out with things like he feels sorry for Bud for the All-Star game and:

Of everybody in this country, I'm probably more aware of what goes on with the commissioner than anybody else. And one thing I know Bud could do to make those boos into cheers is give me a second chance.

Baseball has a big old albatross around its neck and its wering number 14, runs out bunts, and has Grecian Formula in its Mo Howard haircut. It's difficult to feel sorry for them because baseball did its best to create said albatross in the first place. Bill James has covered this ground (I think in his 1988 or 89 Baseball Book), but Rose did get a bum ride. Baseball cut a deal that included not saying that Rose bet on baseball. Then they turned around and broke the letter and the spirit of the deal.

Rose, love him or hate him, has always been about his numbers, i.e., his statistics, awards, and records. The only thing that Rose wanted after he left the sport was to be enshrined in Cooperstown. He thought that he had made a deal with Bart Giamatti to ensure his enshrinement. Giamatti went back on the deal and then promptly died, becoming a martyr in organized baseball's eyes and making Rose the villain. Should Rose be allowed to return from exile in Elba? Legally, yeah. Unless they having been hiding secret documents all this time, they have nothing to prove that Rose bet on baseball. Morally? It all depends on your point of view. But singling Rose out in this way has done more in the long run for his celebrity. If they had suspended him for a year, pressured the Reds not to re-hire him, and then let him quietly go off into the sunset of Cooperstown, it would have been a lot less trouble for everyone.

. . .

Blyleven for the Hall Here's
2002-07-29 14:24
by Mike Carminati

Blyleven for the Hall

Here's a good article on why Bert Blyleven is eminently qualified to be a Hall of Famer. It is very odd that Blyleven, who is widely acknowledged to have the best curveball this side of Candy Cummings, is not only not yet a Hall-of-Famer given that he's been eligible for five years, he, as the article indicates, has not even gotten much support.

The article does a good job of pleading is Hall case. I just have a few comments to add garner from the Baseball Reference site. His career ERA (adjusted for ballpark factors) is 18% better than the league average. He once bettered the league average by 58% (1973), and had one other season at 50% better and four seasons of 40% better. Here is total compared with the Hall-of-Famers listed in the article:

Pitcher         ERA+
Tom Seaver     127
Jim Palmer     125
Gaylord Perry  117
Steve Carlton  115
Fergie Jenkins 115
Phil Niekro    115
Nolan Ryan     112
Don Sutton     108
Catfish Hunter 104

I think this buttresses his case: The Wins Above Replacement statistic used in the article makes a good argument, but one could counter by saying that Blyleven hung on for a good deal longer than most to close failingly in on 300 wins, thereby padding his total. The adjusted ERA vs. league (ERA+) puts the entire career in perspective. Extending your career will not help and would probably hurt this stat. ERA+ also argues strongly for Blyleven's legitimacy as a Hall-of-Famer.

Also, look at the Hall of Fame indicators that Baseball Reference uses. He exceeds all of the averages for a Hall-of-Famer except one, black ink test. This test counts the number of times that a player leads his league in a category. These are listed in the baseball encyclopedias in bold or black ink, therefore, the name. Blyleven is here penalized for having a superior yet not always league-leading career. His gray ink test (similar to black ink, but tests for players in the top 10 in his league in a major category) far exceeds the Hall average:

Black Ink: Pitching - 16 (Average HOFer ~ 40)
Gray Ink: Pitching - 239 (Average HOFer ~ 185)
HOF Standards: Pitching - 50.0 (Average HOFer ~ 50)
HOF Monitor: Pitching - 113.5 (Likely HOFer > 100)
Looking at his "Similar Pitchers," those whose career totals most closely resembles the given player's, yields eight enshrinees out of 10 (asterisked):

Don Sutton (914) * Gaylord Perry (909) * Fergie Jenkins (890) * Tommy John (889) Robin Roberts (876) * Tom Seaver (864) * Jim Kaat (854) Early Wynn (845) * Phil Niekro (844) * Steve Carlton (840) *
The two "similar" pitchers who are not in the Hall are the next two pitchers on the most-overlooked-for-the-Hall list. Indeed Blyleven may prove an acid test for future pitcher candidates who will be less likely to win 300 games due to the use of five-man pitching rotations and the greater use (or abuse) of relief pitchers. If a pitcher does not have 300 wins or three or four Cy Young awards to his credit, he may get snubbed. I think that before the absurdity of such exclusions becomes prevalent, the Hall will be compelled to enshrine Blyleven (and perhaps Tommy John and Jim Kaat along with him. By the way their respective career ERA+ are 111 and 107).

It's odd that certain players are singled out for celebrity whereas others who are at least their equals, if not better, are largely forgotten. Compare Nolan Ryan to Blyleven. I think that the Blyleven is quantifiably the stronger of the two, Ryan is still celebrated for his seven no-hitters and record-breaking strikeout totals. Isn't having the greatest curveball in baseball and a great career enough cause for celebrity?

. . .

Alomar to Rockies? The Rockies
2002-07-29 13:32
by Mike Carminati

Alomar to Rockies?

The Rockies are apparently interested in renting the services of Sandy Alomar Jr. for the remainder of the season. I can see why the White Sox would make the trade given that Alomar will be a free agent. But why are the Rockies who are out of contention in that dire need for two months of duty from a 36-year-old catcher? Don't they have a decent catching prospect in the minors? Might they be wooing him for next year? If so, why? Do they think his veteran leadership might calm the pitching staff? I guess it's worth a try.

It is gratifying to see the Phillies 1999 back-up catchers, Estelella and Bennett, getting to work together again (at least until Estelella's injury).

. . .

Great Quote by Joe Sheehan
2002-07-29 12:33
by Mike Carminati

Great Quote by Joe Sheehan

Read today's Daily Prospectus. They do a great job of leveling the media playing field. I especially like the following quote:

I'm not necessarily pro-player as much as I'm pro-honesty, pro-not-having-my-intelligence-insulted. When Don Fehr stands in front of a microphone and tells me Alex Rodriguez made $6.45 an hour last year, then I'll equate him with the people who still insist Wayne Huizenga lost money in 1997.

. . .

Astros Resurgence The Houston Astros
2002-07-29 12:11
by Mike Carminati

Astros Resurgence

The Houston Astros who at one point looked deader than a doornail in this year's pennant race are 12-6 since the All-Star break and are now only 6 games behind the Cardinals in the NL Central and 5.5 games back in the wild-card standings. On more than one occasion during this season, it seemed that Houston was doing everything in its power to avoid partaking in any semblance of a pennant race.

Witness, on May 11, the Astros lose their second straight game to the Pirates after being swept in a 3-game series by the Phillies; they stand at 14-21 (.400 W-L percent). May 25, the Astros have lost eight of nine including 5 losses to the Cardinals-after a seven-game winning streak brought them to .500-and stand at 22-29 (.431). On June 9, The Astros are 26-35 (.426) after losing six of seven. On June 19, The Astros are at 30-40 (.429) after losing three games to the Breweres. Since then they have only lost more than one game in a row once (a three-game losing streak) and are 23-11 (.676) in total.

So which are the real 'Stros, the pre-June 19th team that was 30-40 or the post-June 19th team is 23-11? Will the real Houston Astro team please stand up? ("I am standing up!") Let's take a look at their record to find out. Using their runs scored and allowed (485 and 456 respectively), we can use the Pythagorean Winning Percentage originally devised by Bill James to see if their winning percentage meets, exceeds, or falls short of expectation. Using this formula, one would expect them to be about 55-49, two games better than their current record. That's somewhat encouraging but not entirely convincing-at least they do not fall short of expectation.

Let's now turn to their record against certain teams to determine their fate. I am using the June 19 turning point in their season as the dividing line. Here is the Astros record against playoff-caliber teams (including interleague opponents) up to June 19, after June 19, and games to be played (Note: I define a playoff team loosely, by their playoff chances AND their actions as far as divesting themselves of or acquiring players. Therefore, the Expos are included; the Marlins are not):

         Pre Jun 19   Post Jun 19    Games         
Vs.       W- L   %     W- L   %     To Play        
STL       3- 9 .250                   7        
CIN       2- 1 .667    5- 2 .714      7        
AZ        1- 2 .333    2- 1 .667         
LA                                    6        
SF        1- 2 .333                   3        
ATL       2- 1 .667                   3        
NYM       2- 1 .667                   3        
MON       1- 2 .333                   3        
Oak       0- 3 .000            
Sea                    1- 2 .333         
PO Total 12-21 .364    8- 5 .615     32      
Rest     18-19 .486   15- 6 .714     26      
Total    30-40 .429   23-11 .676     58 

It's a small sample post-June 19 vs. playoff caliber teams, but they have done well. They have done better (.714 winning percent) against non-playoff teams, but that is to be expected to a certain degree. They have over 50% of their games against playoff teams, which is a double-edged sword: If the play well, they can leap over their opponents; however, such a schedule makes playing well all the more difficult. If the Astros continue at their current clip (.615 vs. playoff teams, .714 vs. the rest of the NL), we would expect them to go 20-12 in the 32 games the have remaining against playoff-caliber teams and 19-7 in the 26 in the games remaining against the rest of the league. That would translate into a 39-19 record in their 58 remaining games (.672) and would give them a 92-70 (.568) record at the end of the year. Given that the Dodgers lead the wild-card hunt with a .562 winning percentage and the Cardinals lead the Central with a .569 winning percentage, there is a remote chance that the Astros could get into the playoffs. They would have to a) keep up their torrid pace, and b) hope no one else gets hot, or more preciously that everyone ahead of them gets cold, since they have a few bodies to leap over to get to a playoff spot.

One last thing that crossed my mind is that they play in the NL Central, which means that they play three poor teams, the Cubs, Brewers, and Pirates, fairly regularly. Could the Astros resurgence be based on beating up on the weak sisters in their division? Their record against the Three Stooges pre-June 19 was 10-12 (.455) and against the rest of the teams was 20-28 (.417). Their record since June 19 against Manny, Moe, and Jack is 11-5 (.688); against the rest of teams is 12-6 (.667). It appears that the 'Stros are not just feeding on the little fishes in the NL Central.

Let's say they do finish 92-70. That would be a 62-30 (.674) record in its last 92 games, an amazing turnaround, but it still may fall short if one of the teams in front of them does well down the stretch (of course not well enough to win their division though) or either the Reds or Cardinals get, if not hot, at least tepid the rest of the way.

. . .

Scott Rolen: From Savior to
2002-07-29 01:10
by Mike Carminati

Scott Rolen: From Savior to Cancer-How Did it Happen?

According to an article on ESPN, the Phillies Scott Rolen is actively courting the St. Louis Cardinals now in hopes of getting traded out of a very bad situation in Philly. The reported offer is Placido Polanco, Bud Smith, and a bucket of ice to be named later for Rolen if the Phillies eat his salary for this year. The trade makes sense for both teams. The Cardinals get to fill a whole on the team in time for the pennant race without giving up much in return. The Phillies get three live bodies (Smith did pitch well for the Cardinals last year and is still young, 22), and get to rid themselves of a controversy that is now in its second season.

Scott Rolen arrived in Philadelphia in late 1996. The floundering Phils were headed to a 67-95 record, but the young Rolen showed promise (while still breaking his finger in early September) and was handed the starting third base job in training camp. He soon became the heir apparent to Mike Schmidt in the minds of the Philadelphia fans and media. Everything he did was praised. He hit for power and for a decent average. He was slick fielding and had a good arm. He ran the bases well. He was described as being a student of the game, which was unusual for someone so young. He was a soft-spoken, Gary Cooper type. He was the savior of the Phillies franchise. He was the man who would lead them out of their malaise back to a championship. How did he ever become a pariah in Philadelphia and a whipping boy for sports columnist Bill Conlin and the Philadelphia media? Let's see if we can figure it out.

In 1997 the Phillies started to rebuild around him adding first baseman Rico Brogna, OF Danny Tartabull, and starters Mark Leiter and Mark Portugal, establishing Mike Lieberthal as the starting catcher, and grooming Wayne Gomes as the closer of the future. They had a core of young starters (Beech, Tyler Green, Stephenson, Grace, and Maduro) who would grow to help #1 starter Curt Schilling. They had a new young manager by the name of Terry Francona. They finished 68-94, but that was OK-they had just started rebuilding.

1998 brought outfielders Bobby Abreu and Doug Glanville. Marlon Anderson was being groomed for second base. Desi Relaford took over at short. Starter Carlton Loewer was to be a rookie sensation. Rolen was getting better each year, and the Phils ended up 75-87, third in the NL East. Things looked great for '99.

In 1999 Marlon Anderson, as expected, moved into his started role at second and Wayne Gomes became the closer after newly acquired Jeff Brantley went down. OF Ron Gant was signed to bolster the offense. Starting pitcher Chad Ogea was acquired from Cleveland. Pitcher Paul Byrd, acquired at the end of '98, blossomed. Robert Person came from nowhere and captured a spot in the rotation. And Randy Wolf was promoted from the minors to the rotation. The Phillies ended up 77-85, not a vast improvement over '98 but Rolen missed fifty games due injury, Relaford missed almost 100, Schilling missed a third of his starts, and Brantley missed almost the entire year. Besides the team just hadn't gelled yet.

Pitcher Andy Ashby was signed for 2000. But the Phillies were not doing well and a number of changes were made throughout the season. After a great deal of speculation that had been ongoing throughout the re-building process, ace Curt Schilling was traded to Arizona bringing Travis Lee, a player the Phillies had coveted for years, to play first base, starting pitchers Omar Daal and Nelson Figueroa, and then-reliever Vicente Padilla. Bruce Chen, Kent Bottenfield, and were added to the rotation mid-season. Rookie sensation Pat "The Bat" Burrell broke into the lineup in 2000 displacing aging Ron Gant. Rolen missed over 30 games and his power numbers slid (actually his HRs and RBI went down, but his slugging average went up). The Phillies ended up 65-97 and in last place.

In 2001, Francona was replaced as manager by fiery ex-Phillies shortstop Larry Bowa. Burrell took over in left field. Rookie Jimmie Rollins became the starting shortstop. Marlon Anderson was again manning second after a 2000 spent mostly in the minors. The Phils had a young staff featuring Dave Coggins, Nelson Figueroa, Brandon Duckworth, and Randy Wolf. Veteran relievers Jose Mesa, former Phil Ricky Bottalico, and Rheal Cormier were signed. To the surprise of everyone including perhaps the Phillies themselves the team gives chase to Atlanta in the NL East until the last week of the season. They were even in first place as laet as September 1 (tied with Atlanta). Rolen was dogged all your about his contract, finally stated that he and the team would not negotiate it until after the season, and then proceeded to have a solid year after an early slump. Best of all he was healthy for the entire season.

Expectations were high for the Phillies going into the 2002 season. The Phillies were young and building. The Braves were aging and dismantling. A number of polls picked the Phillies to win the division. In the off-season, Rolen rejected a $140 million, 10-year contract extension from the Phillies explaining that it was not about the money; he did not feel that they were committed to winning. How could he say such things, the locals thought. Here the Phils had almost reached the promised land, and though they had not added to their core in the off-season (starting pitcher Terry Adams was the only real addition), they didn't need to add-they had the core of a winning team in place. This is what the had been building to all of the years while Rolen had toiled. How could he now want not want to reap the benefits? Of course, the sam people who criticize players for making too much money criticized Rolen for not taking the ridiculous salary.

Then the wheels came off the Phillies' 2002 season. They finished April with a 9-18 record. May wasn't much better-they were 21-32 at the month end. At this writing they are 49-55, in the cellar of the NL East, but are slowly crawling back to respectability. Padilla, a throw-in in the Schilling trade, became one of the premier starting pitchers in the NL. They have started to shake up their lineup acquiring Jeremy Giambi from the A's on May 22 and working Ricky Ledee into the lineup instead of Glanville.

Rolen has said that he is no longer discussing a new contract with the Phillies while the season is in progress. Throughout the season speculation of his being traded has hounded Rolen and the team in general. At one point reporter Bill Conlin quoted an unnamed player who called Rolen a "cancer." Rolen's average has slipped into the .250s and his OPS (on-base plus slugging) has slipped to the lowest since his rookie year. Despite this, Rolen was named the starting third baseman on the All-Star, his first All-Star appearance (some speculated that the contract talk made his name more recognizable to the fans). Since then speculation has been building leading up to the July 31 trade deadline. Meanwhile, Conlin has taken to using Rolen's name as pejorative verb meaning grousing in the clubhouse or on the field.

Am I the only one who sees a trend here? The Phillies as a group and especially their starting pitching corps have been a revolving door since 1997. The Phillies acquire overpriced, aging, veteran talent (Gant, Adams, Parent, Ashby, Tartabull, Potugal, Brantley, etc.). These players either get injured or are unproductive. At the same time, the Phillies call on young talent especially in the pitching corps that never proves effective at the major-league level (e.g., Gomes, Loewer, Green, Relaford). The young players they recruit from other organizations never become the players the Phillies expect them to be. Witness Travis Lee, Bruce Chen, Nelson Figueroa, and Chad Ogea. There are exceptions: Abreu has been superb, Glanville was productive for a time, Giambi has been a help in 2002, Rollins has been an All-Star, Anderson is becoming steady, Wolf has been effective, and Burrell may be one of the best hitters in the league. The minor trades and throw-in players have been very effective: Robert Person, Vicente Padilla. But overall the Phillies have gone through a tremendous number of players and philosophies in five plus years.

The Philadelphia fans and media are understandably angry at having waiting so long and seemingly getting so close and then falling back so far. Someone must be blamed. So it's the guy Rolening around the clubhouse, especially when he's so arrogantly quiet about the whole thing. Rolen never continued the development and promise of his first three years. Well, he was injury-prone-that was another of his shortcomings. The elements that booed Schmidt in his day are now ruling the day, and Rolen is an outcast.

Scott Rolen will probably get traded out of Philadelphia if not by the July 31 trade deadline perhaps by the August 31 waiver deadline. That failing, Rolen will play out his string with Philly, and Collective Bargaining Agreement (and God) willing, he will sign a contract to play for another major-league team. Rolen will enter 2003 with a new team, a new contract, and the weight of the world (or of Bill Conlin whichever is more) off his shoulders. He will be 27 and probably will be entering the most productive period of his career. The Phillies will continue to be the Phillies with all that entails. Who do you think will have the last laugh?

. . .

Hold the Phone! There is
2002-07-28 01:48
by Mike Carminati

Hold the Phone!

There is a poll on ESPN's Baseball index that asks, "Which player is the greatest shortstop of all time?" Their options are Ernie Banks, Alex Rodriguez, Ozzie Smith, and Honus Wagner. Never mind that Banks was a first baseman for half of his career and played short like a slug. Never mind that more deserving players like Cal Ripken (how soon they forget), Robin Yount (I know he was a CF for half his career), Monte Ward (I know that it wasn't his sole position), George Davis, Bil Dahlen, Arky Vaughan, Bobby Wallace, and Joe Cronin, all of whom appear above Banks, Rodriguez, and Smith in the all-time Win Shares leaders, are not even included.

Mind the fact that A-Rod is winning with 36.1%, then Smith 30.4, then Wagner 19.7%, and finally Banks 13.6%. This is not witha small group of Texas fans. This is a poll with over 11,000 responses. Look in twenty years, maybe we can discuss who was better A-Rod or Wagner. A-Rod has not yet put in the time. Smith was a great defensive player and that gives people a hook to remember him by, kind of like Nolan Ryan being overvalued by all those dazzling strikeouts. Oh, and Banks wanted to play two everyday.

Let's get this clear. Wagner is not only the greatest shortstop ever, one could make an argument for him being the best player ever, or at least in the top handful. Anyone who does not know that should not be allowed to watch the sport.

. . .

Joe Morgan Chat Day By
2002-07-28 01:25
by Mike Carminati

Joe Morgan Chat Day By Joe Morgan Chat Day-My Dear Lord, These Things I Pray

Joe Morgan is the Zen koan of baseball analysts-he's totally incomprehensible. His ability to be insightful and idiotic, sometimes in the same breath, is baffling and is what truly sets him apart. Once I heard two analysts arguing about the flags on the foul poles. One said the flag was moving, the other said the wind was moving, but Joe said, "Not flag. Not pole. Mind is moving." Ah, yes.

Here are the highlights from yesterday's chat session with the master, of course, with comments:


AJ Cincinnati : Do you think the moves that bowden made to get Dempster and MOhler pay off this year in shot at making the playoffs?

Joe Morgan: Part of this is the reaction to St. Louis getting Finley. Everyone needs one more pitcher and one more bat. Since they couldn't get Rogers, they got Mohler. I think Dempster is the key but he wasn't pitching well even in Florida. I'm not sure about those moves. I'm not overjoyed with either one.

[Mike: Agreed. Dempster's career adjusted ERA is 7% above the league ERA and his ERA at the time of the trade was 4.79. Moehler is slightly better with a career adjusted ERA 6% better than the league average, but he is recovering from an injury. At best these guys are a #3 and #4 on a decent eam and a #4 and #5 on a contending team. Cy Young they aint.]

Kash (Edison, NJ): Hi Joe. What do you think about the Ray Durham trade? Does he effectively replace Damon in terms of the lineup?

Joe Morgan: The A's need a leadoff hitter and Durham can lead off. He is a very good addition to the A's I think.

[Mike: Agreed. I can't believe that it took the A's this long to get a second baseman. They start with Frank Menechino and his .661 OPS, who gets demoted during the St. Valentine's, er, Carlos Pena May 21 massacre. They try veteran Velarde (.695 OPS) and rookie Ellis (.718) and finally admit that they need a decent starting 2bman. So they get Durham and his .834 OPS and ability to lead off to fill the void. He does not replace Damon, however, since he doesn't play outfield, but the A's are still paying for relying on Terrence Long (.695 OPS) and journeyman John Mabry playing way too far over his head. The gap left by the departure of Damon is still there.]

john (trenton): hey joe. do you see any big waiver wire deals this year?

Joe Morgan: Everything depends on whether they get an agreement done or get close to one by the 31st. If GMs think they are going to get an agreement, I think we will see some big trades made. But if there isn't an agreement, we won't see that.

[Mike: Good insight.]

Jon Cincinnati: Joe, are yo going to play at the softball game at Cinergy with Rose and Bench?

Joe Morgan: I don't know yet .. probably not.

[Mike: Rose is allowed to go to the park and associate himself with the Reds and MLB is some way? I though he was banned. They had to get a special dispensation from the Pope to get him in the All-Century team celebration. Why not just drop the ban and be done with it?]


Evan, Philadelphia: Joe, what do you think will happen with the whole Scott Rolen situation, and do you think the Phillies can get anyone for him?

Joe Morgan: The only think I know for sure is he is going to leave. Whether it's now or at the end of the season, he will leave. He is a free agent after this year so folks are hesitant to trade for him. He turned down a lot of money from Philadelphia.

[Mike: Thanks, Joe. That is truly insightful. You couldn't get that unless you had been following the situation for last 2 years)

Scott (San Diego): Help out a bro from the westcoast...Is Phil Nevin staying put at third or do see the Padres shifting him back to first because of his recent birrage or errors?

Joe Morgan: Everything depends on Burroughs. If he becomes as good as they think he will, then Nevin will shift. That is just something they will have to wait and see.

[Mike: No, it depends on the Pod-People coming up with a plan and sticking to it. Burroughs hit well in April and then got hurt and played poorly before going on the DL. He's now working out at second in the minors because the Padres don't want to tick off Nevin and Klesko, who now think that they are setting team policy as far as where people play and how to handle the pitching staff (they criticized management for coddling their young staff). Read this Baseball Prospectus article about San Diego's wavering ways.]

Colin (DC): Love your broadcasts, Joe -- you're the only commentator I don't mute. Do you think Derek Lowe is going to last the entire season?

Joe Morgan: Thanks for not hitting the mute button! That is a good question .. when you haven't pitched 200 innings in the past and all of sudden you have that to do, it takes it's toll on your arm. We will just have to see.

[Mike: I'm sick of hearing this. Lowe once pitched 170 innings in the minors, pitched 150 twice in the minors, and pitched 150 in '97 when he split time between the minors, the Mariners, and the Red Sox. That's a lot of innings for the minors. He came to the majors and become a reliever. Now he has the experience of a veteran and the non-overused arm of a rookie. Why would you think that he couldn't pitch 200 innings? Is there some reason or it's just that he never has. Rookies pitch 200 innings usually for the first time of their careers, and they are on closely monitored pitch counts.]

Alan (Wisconsin Rapids): Joe, what is it with pitchers today? Five-man rotations and 100-pitch limits. I grew up watching baseball in the 60's, with 3-man or 4-man rotations and very often complete games, and I don't remember pitchers dropping like flies from overwork. Why the change?

Joe Morgan: Well, the answer was given to me by a GM a few years ago. We have spoiled them. They are taught from the minors that they only have to pitch every fifth day and just have to give a quality start, not a complete game. Roger Clemens won the Cy Young last year and never pitched a complete game all season. That wouldn't have happened before. It's a game of specialization now with set up men, closers, etc.

[Mike: Here is the ultimate Joe Morgan question. "Why, you young whippersnappers have it too good. In my day..." So pitchers are spoiled is that why so many go on DLs and have careers cut short by injury, there just spoiled babies? The game has changed, Joe. The game is constantly changing. Christy Mathewson spoke of coasting in the late innings with a lead to win a game. Do you think that "coasting" is a practical approach in today's stadiums (like, say, Coor's) against today's lineups when a 4-run lead can evaporate in an instant? Why does the game change? Because teams think that the new direction will help them win. It's evolution, Joe. Stop being a dodo bird and catch up with late 20th, if not the 21st, century.

Brad, Flatwoods KY: Joe, the other night on Baseball Tonight, Dave Campbell said he thought players are "just too damned coddled these days." Do you agree?

Joe Morgan: I don't use that word! But I do think we've made it so players don't have to be as mentally or physically tough as they used to be.
[Mike: "Please don't use coddled. I prefer spoiled."]

Not Wind. Not Flag. Mind is moving.


Joe Morgan: If there is contraction, all the players go into a pool and are drafted. But I don't forsee contraction soon, even with Montreal. With the lawsuits filed, I don't know if that team can be disbanded now. I don't think there will be contraction by next year.

[Mike: A) How does he know what will happen to the players when they haven't even determined if disbursement has to be discussed with the players union, who certainly would push for a different solution. B) Good insight on the viability of contraction.]

. . .

Kalas for the Hall? No
2002-07-27 17:03
by Mike Carminati

Kalas for the Hall? No so "Hard to Believe, Harry"

It's great to see Harry Kalas entering the Hall of Fan as a broadcaster. There he will be reunited with his broadcasting partner of 27 years, the late Richie Ashburn, who went in as a player. Growing up watching Phillies games on TV or listening to them on the radio, I learned to love the game with their two very human and very recognizable voices. It's very gratifying to know that those two will always be together and will always be associated with the great game they helped to bring to millions.

. . .

Who Are Today's Hall of
2002-07-27 16:49
by Mike Carminati

Who Are Today's Hall of Famers?

In The Politics of Glory Bill James states rather offhandedly:

History suggests that there are probably now about thirty to forty players in the major leagues who will eventually be in the Hall of Fame, but it will be at least seventy years until we have a firm total...

That quote has always fascinated me, especially since I have never been able to come up with more than a dozen or so that I would consider Hall-bound. I try to keep the quote in mind whenever anyone peremptorily spouts that so-and-so is not a Hall of Famer (Let's call them HoFers). I have my own idea of what a HoFer should and should not be. (For example, I never thought of Don Sutton as one.) But history won't care much for what we think, and in the end-whenever that is-there will be some three dozen, more or less, future HoFers who are currently active.

Well, I don't know about you, but I don't have the patience to wait the requisite seventy or so years to find out. Let me see if I can figure it out right now. Keep in mind that the one established criterion for becoming a HoFer is ten years of service. I may feel that Alex Rodriguez is a lock right now for the Hall but if he suddenly retires to play minor-league basketball (it's happened before) and never completes 10 years of service, he can't even be considered.

I would divide the potential HoFers into 5 groups. First are those players who are locks right now because they have achieved something history (500 HRs, 4 Cy Youngs, etc.). Then there are those players who have always been generally perceived as HoFers and have met the service requirement, but do not have enough awards, set enough records, or achieved enough statistical milestones to demand inclusion. The problem for them is perceptions change and without the necessary signposts for the myopic Hall voters of the future, they may be left on the outside looking in. The third group consists of those players who have achieved enough to justify inclusion but the media have never, or at least not for some time, considered a HoFer (I created this group with one player in mind). The fourth group or those iffy players that have had a good deal of success and meet the service requirement but have not be considered by most as HoF-type players. They generally have some time left in their careers to pad their records and make themselves more desirable to future voters. The fifth group are those younger players who have not met the service requirement but have shown enough potential to one day be considered for the Hall. Remember that of those 30-40 future HoFers that Bill James spoke of, some may be rookies, some may be in the fifth year but have yet to establish themselves as a HoH-type player. Therefore, this is the most subjective, the most uncertain, and also the most fun category.

I came up with a list for each group. The total number of players is 60, which is higher than or 30-40 goal, but remember that the odds go down from one group to the next. Here is my list (they're in no particular order under the columns):

Locks          Probables      Underrated       Iffy             Future
Bonds          Bagwell        Raines           Palmeiro         A.Rodriguez
Henderson      Biggio                          L. Walker        V.Guerrero
Clemens        Larkin                          J.Gonzalez       Garciaparra
Maddux         P.Martinez                      Hoffman          Jeter
Glavine        I.Rodriguez                     Thome            Glaus
R. Johnson     F.Thomas                        Kent             M.Rivera
Piazza         R.Alomar                        M.Williams       I.Suzuki
Sosa           Griffey                         B.Williams       Abreu
               M.Ramirez                       K.Brown          T.Hunter
                                               Grace            Helton
                                               E.Martinez       Giambi
                                               McGriff          Berkman
                                               Schilling        Hudson
                                               Galarraga        Zito
                                               Mussina          Mulder
                                               Sheffield        A.Jones
                                               Salmon           C.Jones
                                               Edmonds          B. Giles
                                               Smoltz           Delgado

(Note that I listed Sosa under the Locks in anticipation of his imminent 500th home run.) I am not advocating any for inclusion and freely admit that a good number of these players will not make it to the Hall. Also, the Iffy column is somewhat and the Future column is completely subjective. I probably have overlooked a few deserving candidates. Keep in mind that I am not advocating anyone as a HoFer-I'm just trying to determine the Las Vegas odds. (Well, except for Raines who I feel was arguably the best player in the NL in the mid-'80s but will be completely overlooked). I would probably include about 16 of them if I ran the Hall of Fame. I also would include Bobby Cox and Joe Torre as managers.

Finally, you may find listing 60 players laughable, but remember that each year between 1925 and '33, inclusive, there were at least 50 active players who are now in the Hall (the most was 1928 with 55). And that was when there were almost half as many clubs and the DH and relief pitcher roles were not an issue. It's not inconceivable that all of these players could make it to the Hall depending on the leanings of the Veteran's Committee in the next twenty years to eighty years.

. . .

Are the Angels for Real?
2002-07-27 00:56
by Mike Carminati

Are the Angels for Real?

As I write this, the Anaheim née California née Los Angeles Angels are a half game behind the defending AL West champion Seattle Mariners and could tie them for first with a Mariner loss tonight. If not, they are still the forerunner for the wildcard spot. A year ago today, the Angels with largely the same team as this year were one game above .500, in third place and 21 games behind the Mariners. They faltered the rest of the way to end up 75-87 (that's 24-37 from July 25 on), 41 games behind the Mariners. They started 2002 with a 6-14 record but since have been 54- 26 (.675). The vast improvement from last year is enough for people to ask if they're for real and can they contend the rest of the way. I mean, this is a franchise that has only finished first three times in 41 years. They choked in the 7th game of the AL Championship Series to the ultimate choke artists, the 1986 Red Sox. How could they be for real? Let's see...

First, let's check their Pythagorean winning percentage. This is a stat devised by Bill James to measure if a team's record reflects its runs for and against. (The formula I used is RF^1.83/(RF^1.83 + RA^1.83. James originally used the values to the 2nd power, but the 1.83 power has become standard.)

          Actual                   Pythagorean
         W-L    PCT  GB    RF-RA    W-L    PCT
Seattle 61-40  .604   -   514-407  61-40  .605
Anaheim 60-40  .600  0.5  533-426  60-40  .601
Oakland 59-43  .578  2.5  472-436  55-47  .536
Texas   42-58  .420  18.5 484-527  46-54  .461

They have basically a record that reflects their runs for and against as does Seattle. Oakland is playing 4 games better than expected and Texas 4 game worse, but they're out of it either way.

OK, so yet far their record matches what one would expect it to be. What about the players, are they playing way above their ability? Are they far exceeding what they did last year and that's why they have improved? Are they exceeding their established career levels?

Below is a table of the Angels batters and their OPS (On-Base Plus Slugging) for the last two years who have had a significant amount of playing time. Note that Fullmer's 2001 OPS is not listed because he was not with the team. Joyner and Wooten played for the Angels in 2001 but not this year (Wooten's been injured). The table compares this year's OPS with last year's and with the player's career OPS:

 NAME           OPS 2001 OPS Change Career OPS Change
G. Anderson   .860   .792   .068    .792     .068
D. Eckstein   .757   .712   .045    .729     .028
Darin Erstad  .721   .691   .030    .786    -.065
J. Fabregas   .487   .553  -.066    .605    -.118
Brad Fullmer  .821     -            .811     .010
Benji Gil     .732   .807  -.075    .650     .082
Troy Glaus    .779   .898  -.119    .855    -.076
Adam Kennedy  .756   .690   .066    .708     .048
Jose Nieves   .612   .751  -.139    .627    -.015
O. Palmeiro   .738   .641   .097    .710     .028
Tim Salmon    .882   .748   .134    .901    -.019
Scott Spiezio .793   .764   .029    .747     .046
Bengie Molina .621   .660  -.039    .681    -.060
Shawn Wooten    -    .798     -  
Wally Joyner    -    .656     -  
Angels        .764   .732   .032            -.043
Opponents     .734   .742  -.008  

Note that the Angels team OPS has gone up 32 points from last year and their opponent has gone down slightly (8 points). The greatest increase since last year is Tim Salmon (134 points), but he's still below his career OPS. So one can safely assume that last year was an aberration. The same can be said for Erstad. The 33-year-old role player, Orlando Palmeiro, is far above last year but only a slight increase over his career (28 points). Garret Anderson, however, may be due for a comeuppance-He is 68 points higher than his OPS last year and for his career and is on a pace for 28 homers and 58 doubles (his pervious high is 41). He's 30 years old and is either having a career year or is due for a very bad streak. We'll have to see. Eckstein and Kennedy are having much better years than last and are better than their career average, but that might just be the maturation process. Spiezio has improved slightly (more doubles but fewer HRs) and is far above his career totals but is still not up to snuff compared to the average first baseman. The greatest improvement was replacing a DH by committee (no more than 30 as DH games for any player) with Brad Fullmer. Last year the Angels' DHs had a .285 slugging and a .277 on-base percent, which combine for a .562 OPS. Fullmer is 259 points better than that this year. Or another way to look at is that he replaced role players like the now-retired Wally Joyner (165 point OPS difference) and recently activated Shawn Wooten (23 points). This is merely filling a hole with a good role player. Troy Glaus is playing tremendously below last year and his established career levels. He may have have a good deal of room for improvement down the stretch. Besides that the aggregate total difference for the team this year compared to their career is 43 points. There may be room for improvemet in the offense in general on the team.

Maybe their pitching improved dramatically. Let's check. Here are all of the pitchers for the past two years in Anaheim with their 2002 stats, 2001 ERA, and career ERA:

NAME           W-L   S    IP   ERA  2001 IP 2001 ERA Change  Career  Change
Troy Percival  3-1  22   29.1  2.15   57.2    2.65   -0.50    3.03   -0.88
B. Donnelly    0-0   0   17    2.65     -      -       -
Ben Weber      4-2   5   46.1  2.72   68.1    3.42   -0.70    3.67   -0.95
Scot Shields   3-1   0   22.2  2.78   11      0.00    2.78    1.87    0.91
Dennis Cook    1-1   0   22    2.86    -       -       -      3.90   -1.04
J. Washburn   12-2   0  125.2  3.22  193.1    3.77    -0.55   3.92   -0.70
Lou Pote       0-1   0   47.1  3.23   86.2    4.15    -0.92   3.50   -0.27
Matt Wise      0-0   0    8.1  3.24   49.1    4.38    -1.14   4.74   -1.50
M. Lukasiewicz 1-0   0   10.1  3.48   22.1    6.04    -2.56   5.23   -1.75
Ramon Ortiz    9-7   0  140.1  3.85  208.2    4.36    -0.51   4.58   -0.73
John Lackey    1-1   0   29.2  3.94     -      -        -     
Al Levine      3-2   4   35    4.11   75.2    2.38     1.73   3.88    0.23
Kevin Appier   8-8   0  114    4.50     -      -        -     3.67    0.83
Aaron Sele     8-7   0  125.2  4.73     -      -        -     4.36    0.37
S. Schoeneweis 7-7   0   99    5.45  205.1    5.08     0.37   5.31    0.14
Donne Wall     0-0   0   21    6.43     -      -        -     4.20    2.23
S. Hasegawa                          55.2    4.04
Ismael Valdes                       163.2    4.45
Bart Miadich                         10      4.50  
Pat Rapp                            170      4.76   
Mike Holtz                           37      4.86 
Toby Borland                          3.1   10.80 
Totals         60-40 31 893.2  3.99          4.20     -0.21  

The Angels have had far more changes in the pitching corps than in position players as you can see. Their team ERA has dropped by 21 points in a year even as the AL average ERA has increased slightly (4.47 to 4.54). Both starters Washburn and Ortiz have improved their ERAs by 50 points. Schoeneweis has seen his ERA go up a bit, and new-comers Appier and Sele are doing about as well as Rapp and Valdes whom they replaced but are well above their career ERA, so there may be room for improvement down the stretch. In general, most of the pitchers on the staff are below their 2001 and career ERAs, but given the age of the staff it is difficult to say that this is significant.

One last thing to check, how have they done against playoff teams. Here is a chart with their record against each AL playoff contender this year. Note that the games in their 6-14 start are broken out:

The Angels have had far more changes in the pitching corps than in position players as you can see.  Their team ERA has dropped by 21 points in a year even as the AL average ERA has increased slightly (4.47 to 4.54).  Both starters Washburn and Ortiz have improved their ERAs by 50 points.  Schoeneweis has seen his ERA go up a bit, and new-comers Appier and Sele are doing about as well as Rapp and Valdes whom they replaced but are well above their career ERA, so there may be room for improvement down the stretch.  In general, most of the pitchers on the staff are below their 2001 and career ERAs, but given the age of the staff it is difficult to say that this is significant.

One last thing to check, how have they done against playoff teams.  Here is a chart with their record against each AL playoff contender this year.  Note that the games in their 6-14 start are broken out:

Total During 6-14 Since Games
Team W-L W-L W-L Remaining
Seattle 4-6 0-6 4-0 9
Oakland 5-7 2-4 3-3 8
Minnesota 4-5 0-0 4-5 0
New York 0-0 0-0 0-0 7
Boston 0-0 0-0 0-0 7

Pay for Play? This MS/NBC
2002-07-26 14:44
by Mike Carminati

Pay for Play?

This MS/NBC article proposes having the players leverage their incomes and skills to become the team owners. He then proposes that the player-owners establish a pay-for-play system:

Wouldn't interest in the game be sparked if the player-owners instituted incentive compensation plans? The better the play, the more the pay.
Imagine a payroll restructured to reward performance. Players would all receive a base salary, and from there bonuses would be paid for performance and production.

The fans would be more interested in player-owners who have their livelihood on the line on each play, the article contends.

I don't know if the author is trying to be serious or droll in that Andy Rooney unfunny way or both, but I'll give him the benefit of the doubt and take him at his word. First, I have to point out that this is how professional baseball started-a number of professional teams organized the National Association of Professional Base Ball Players (NA) in 1871. They took their blueprint for the new league from the originally amateur National Association of Base Ball Players (NABBP), which was organized in 1857 by the New York Knickerbocker club, the first group to codify the baseball rules. These were professional, largely urban men who played baseball for recreation, to get outdoors and partake in the exercise craze sweeping the nation. It originated in the New York area (the baseball that today's game evolved from was original known as "The New York Game") and spread to Philadelphia. Washington D.C., Massachusetts, and finally the Midwest and South. Originally teams would host other teams including a clebratory feast after the game. Baseball as a spectator sport began to mold the game in its own vision. As competition became more fierce players were given either fake jobs or were paid under the table since professionalism was not only looked down upon, it was not allowed in the association. Finally the association recognized professionalism as a fact of baseball life. The Cincinnati Red Legs in 1869 were the first all-professional team and their undefeated season caused a sensation. Professional teams were then split into another "division" (more a concept than a reality) in the NABBP.

Those teams became so strong that in 1871 they split away and formed the NA. The amateur association re-dubbed itself the National Association of Amateur Base Ball Players and resigned itself to the scrapheap. However, the league was structured like the amateur association. Teams scheduled their own games against the opponents that the saw fit to play. If the Boston club did not want to travel to Keokuk or Rockford to play the NA team there, nothing required them to do so. If Boston would prefer to play the Lynn team that played nearby but was not an NA team so that they could attract more fans, they could do so. If Boston agreed with New York to play 10 times but with Philadelphia to play 6 times, that was OK. As long as they paid their nominal dues, they could do as they pleased. Players had more freedom, too. If a player could get more money playing for New York than for Troy, he was free to break his Troy contract and sign one with New York. This was called "revolving." As competition for the best players evolved the team ownership concept was replaced by an actual financial backer. This owners wanted more control over the product on the field and on their assets, i.e., the players and over their contracts.

In 1876, Chicago White Stockings owner William Hulbert and his cronies but a stop to all these shenanigans and established the National League of Professional Clubs-today's National League-on the moribund body of the NA in 1876. It required a larger entrance fee, only considered clubs from large population centers (all were over 75, 000 people), established the idea of territorial rights by limiting the number of teams representing a community, and centralized the league functions (schedule-making, record-keeping, umpire management, and rule enforcement). Contracts were enforced driving down salaries. The owners then established the reserve clause (only 5 players at first) to ensure that the teams could retain some of their assets from year to year.

The players lost more and more power as the reserve clause grew to encompass all players and as the NL established itself as the premiere group of baseball talent. Its monopoly drove down player salaries and while raising ticket prices. Rival leagues attempted to break up the NL's stranglehold. The American Association was formed in 1881 after the NL had jettisoned its two most populous cities, New York and Philadelphia, after they failed to perform a road trip to the Western (actually Midwestern) teams in 1877. Known as the "Beer and Whiskey" League it reintroduced Sunday baseball, $.25 admission prices, and alcohol to the games, all things frowned upon by the NL. The AA eventually merged into the NL in 1892 after its base was weakened by other rival leagues. The Union Association, probably the weakest of all major leagues, played after a fashion in 1884. It collapsed after its financially strongest club, St. Louis, was granted an NL franchise.

In 1890 perhaps the strongest rival league began play. It was called the Players' National League, known as simply the Players' League (PL). This was formed after John Montgomery "Monte" Ward, a former pitcher turned shortstop and Columbia Law School graduate, started the first baseball players union, the Brotherhood of Professional Base Ball Players in response to the expansion of the reserve clause to encompass all players. The Brotherhood told players in 1889 to play out their contracts and not sign new owns for 1890. Ward lined up financial backers and formed the PL with Brotherhood teams in a number of NL and AA cities. The PL proved more popular with the fans apparently far out-drawing the two more established leagues (it's hard to determine given the inflated attendance figures reported by the leagues). However, even though all of the teams lost money because of the intense competition, the PL backers felt it most dearly without established capital to fall back on. The NL and AA made an hardline offer to the PL's financial backers almost as a last ditch effort and to their surprise they accepted. The Brotherhood collapsed but brought down the AA in its wake. The NL was left to run as a monopoly for 10 years.

The 1892 NL roster consisted of 12 teams, 4 of which had come from the collapsed AA. During the various wars that the NL had to endure investing in rival NL clubs was begun to prop up weaker franchises. Eventually, with new-found peace the NL clubs started using these shared clubs as development squads. By 1899, the NL decided to cast off these weaker teams, buying out four clubs (Washington, Loiusville, Cleveland, and Baltimore) and regrouped as an eight-club league. This created a vacuum that Ban Johnson, president of the soon-to-be-renamed Western League filled by positioning his clubs in larger markets while still remaining under the NL's auspices. The Western League became the American League in 1900. In 1901 it declared open war on the NL pilfering players from NL rosters; an attendant overall salary increase ensued. The two leagues came to an agreement in 1903. Contracts were respected and not surprising salaries dropped. In 1912 a rival league called the United States League attempted to break into the major-league market but after two successive incomplete seasons, they collapsed. One final rival league appeared in 1914 when the Federal League declared itself a major league and started raiding major-league rosters. Salaries rose until the league collapsed after 1915. The FL sued and (even though the league had settled the BaltimoreTerps club fought on) eventually the Supreme Court and justice Oliver Wendell Holmes ruled in 1922 that the antitrust laws do not apply to baseball because it did not constitute interstate commerce. They then left the issue for Congress to rectify, which they have failed to do ever since though threatening to do so at various times. This is the supposed antitrust exception that baseball is purported to have.

The next challenge to the baseball establishment didn't occur for 30 years. The Mexican League started recruiting professional players after World War II. Commissioner Happy Chandler issued a ban of five years on all players who skipped to the new league. Danny Gardella was a minor-league player who signed with the new league, changed his mind, but was now prevented from returning. He sued and eventually settled with the majors, the ban was lifted, and the Mexican League was admitted into organized ball as a minor league. The stillborn Continental League attempted amicably to become a third major league after efforts to replace the re-located Dodgers and Giants failed in the late '50s. The majors finally co-opted the new league allowing four CL owners to buy into the leagues as they expanded to 20 clubs. In 1969 Curt Flood refused to be traded by the Cardinals to the Phillies and challenged the majors in the courts, eventually losing in 1972 in the Supreme Court. Catfish Hunter was ruled a free agent after 1974 because A's owner Charlie Finley failed to meet all the demands laid out in Hunter's contract (he neglected to pay a $50K insurance annuity). In 1975 the reserve clause fell to arbitrator Peter Seitz, who ruled that the Dave McNally and Andy Messersmith were free agents since they had played out their contracts and the assumption that the reserve clause gave the owners the right to impose their own contract on the players was too one-sided. Seitz was fired, but the ruling stood. There have been work stoppages in baseball in 1972, 73, 76, 80, 81, 85, 90, and 94-95. Owners are assessed $286 million in damages for colluding to keep free-agent salaries down in 1985-87.

So what does this rather long-winded history have to do with the article's proposal? Basically, that a) player-owners have been tried before and they failed, and b) there is a long-winded history that explains how baseball got to this point and this delicate balance would be thrown off by such a wholesale change. Besides, how would the proposal deal with the following issues:

- How would injured players be compensated?
- How would the ownership be apportioned, by salary, playing time, longevity, etc?
- How would managers be able to make decisions if they report to the players they manage?
- What would happen to the ownership of retired or demoted players?
- How would promoted players gain ownership? Would they lose it when they get demoted as they often do?
- What happens to the ownership of a traded player? Say he gets the same number of shares in th new team. What if he doesn't feel that its compensatory?
- What's to prevent player-owners from relocating to a new town or from establishing 10 teams in New York?
- Who will enforce players to make trips to cities that do not draw well when they know that they will not be compensated? Or to even finish out the season?
- How would you compensate the players based on statistics, longevity, drawing power? What statistics would you use? What about for defensive stars whose contributions are hard to quantify?
- People complain now that players are only interested in their own stats. What will happen when their corporate bonuses are tied to them.

Besides, Andrew Zimbalist in Baseball and Billions showed that there is a correlation between players' salaries and performance. Its just occurs one year after the fact: first the player performs and then he is compensated the next year. Also, players are compensated for winning awards and reaching statistical milestones throughout the course of the season. Why should baseball players be subjected to this sort of scrutiny? Why not pay Julia Roberts based on the tickets sold to her latest cheesy flick instead of paying her $20 million up front? Why doesn't the author ofthe article get paid on the quality of each article rather than a salary? Why not require corporations to pay their CEOs based on the health of their respective corporations?

This is nothing more than another hairbrained proposal, the ones that seem to manifest themsleves as people become more disenchanted by and disaffected with major-league baseball as a whole. If the owners and players sign a contract, we will no longer have to deluged with these wacky ideas.

. . .

The Owners Just Don't Like
2002-07-25 21:31
by Mike Carminati

The Owners Just Don't Like Unions

Now baseball is insisting that the umpires union representatives "leave dressing rooms 30 minutes before games begin." The owners threatened to physically remove and revoke the credntials of noncompliant reps. The umpires are understandably threatening to sue. I'm glad that the MLB's management team has time to worry about such matters.

. . .

The Reds Et Al Hall
2002-07-25 21:20
by Mike Carminati

The Reds Et Al Hall of Fame

Dave Concepcion was a good ballplayer and very good defensive shortstop, but I don't remember anyone saying that he was a Hall-of-Famer while he was playing. Joe Morgan in a sidebar to a story on the AL West race, has to bloviate on his favorite soapbox subject, Dave Concepcion for the Hall of Fame. He goes on to say, "While I'm happy for Ozzie's Hall of Fame induction, I'm disappointed at the same time because his enshrinement hurts Dave Concepcion's chances," though he never explains why this is the case. With Morgan, Bench, Perez, and Anderson already in and Rose waiting to be exonerated so that he can enter, how many Big Red Machine alumni do we need in the Hall? Are Ed Armbrister and Ron Oester next? Concepcion was a 9-time All-star and a 4-time Gold Glove winner, but he was only a top-10 MVP candidate twice (4th in '81 and 9th in '79) and never came close to leading the league in any offensive category. Here are his Hall of Fame comparisons from Baseball Reference:

Gray Ink: Batting - 25 (Average HOFer ~ 144)
HOF Standards: Batting - 29.1 (Average HOFer ~ 50)
HOF Monitor: Batting - 107.0 (Likely HOFer > 100)
His HOF Monitor total is only so high because of the awards that he won; otherwise he doesn't come close to qualifying. I submit that Dave Concepcion is no more a Hall of Famer than Onix Concepcion.

Let's compare the top defensive shortstops in history using the most accurate tool that I have found for this, Bill James' Fielding Win Shares:

 Name                FWS   Hall?
Ozzie Smith        139.8   Y
Bill Dahlen        128.0   
Rabbit Maranville  123.2   Y
Luis Aparicio      122.8   Y
Dave Concepcion    116.9
Honus Wagner       116.9   Y
Cal Ripken         115.2   Not Yet
Tommy Corcoran     114.6   
Joe Tinker         112.2   Y
Pee Wee Resse      107.3   Y
Roger Peckinpaugh  106.6   
Luke Appling       105.3   Y
Dave Bancroft      102.9   Y
Mark Belanger      102.8
Herman Long        101.9
Germany Smith      100.5
Roy McMillan       100.1
Mickey Doolan       99.2
Everett Scott       99.0
Bert Campanris      98.6

Also, Ozzie Smith won 13 Gold Gloves, and played in 15 All-Star games. He was a top-10 MVP candidate only once (2nd in 1987) and his Hall of Fame comparisons are not a whole lot better than Concepcion's, but he had been in the top 10 in batting average, on-base percentage, runs, hits, doubles, triples, walks, and stolen bases. Smith beats Concepcion in Batting Win Shares 187 to 147. Ozzie Smith is tied for number 120 in Total Win Shares all-time. Concepcion is tied with Dave Bancroft and 3 other non-Hall-of-Famers at #243.

Ozzie Smith is demonstrably the best defensive player of all-time at arguably the most important defensive position in the game. He could also hit effectively. He wasn't the greatest shortstop of all-time-that would be Honus Wagner- nor probably greatest of his era-probably Cal Ripken-, but the Hall has space for the greatest defensive shortstop. I wouldn't even call Concepcion the greatest defensive shortstop of his era (I would go with Belanger who beats Concepcion in Defensive Win Shares per 1000 Innings, 6.72 to 6.37, though I wouldn't put Belanger in the Hall either). He wasn't any better a hitter than Smith. He should not be in the Hall.

Also, Joe goes on to promulgate one of the greatest fallacies in player comparisons:

In fact, with today's emphasis on offense, you may never see another player reach Cooperstown strictly for his defense. Ozzie's chances would be hurt if he played today. Just like Ozzie's arrival moved Concepcion out of the picture, today's power-hitting shortstops would overshadow Ozzie. He would be viewed much like Omar Vizquel is. And if you were starting a team, would you take Alex Rodriguez or Vizquel? A-Rod.

Just because Ozzie Smith and shortstops in general were not known for power in the '70s and '80s doesn't mean that they wouldn't have learned to hit for power had they grown up in the game in the late '90s. Ozzie Smith's Park-adjusted OPS (On-base Plus Slugging) was 87% the league average in his day, Concepcion's was 88%, Vizquel's is 82%. Is there a current shortstop whose adjusted OPS is 87% of the league average? Yes, Edgar Renteria, who has hit 16 home runs in a season. A player cannot be taken out of context and be compared with another blindly. How did Smith compare with the players of his era? He was an historically superior shortstop who could get on base and steal a base for a team that played small ball and won.

The comparison of Vizquel to Alex Rodriguez is laughable. A-Rod is a shortstop whose offensive statistics are bordering on historic (his adj. OPS vs. league average is 142%, Wagners was 150%. Ripken 112%, Banks 122%, Yount 115%, and George Davis 121%). Also, Vizquel is not the that great a defensive shortstop. His Defensive Win Shares per 1000 Innings (5.10) is behind contemporaries Alfredo Griffin (5.19), Ozzie Guillen (5.56), Barry Larkin (6.01), Greg Gagne (6.26), Nomar Garciaparra (5.16), Neifi Perez (6.69), Jose Vizcaino (5.18), and Tony Fernandez (6.22) to name a few. Besides A-Rod is not far behind (4.77) and more than makes up the difference with the bat.

Besides I just heard a quote attributed to Vizquel on SportsCenter, something like "I'm glad Ozzie Smith is going into the Hall because it opens the door for players like me." Get over yourself, Omar. You've re-read your autobiography so much you're beginning to believe it.

One more thing: Morgan says that there was "only one Brooks Robinson at third base. [And along with Smith and Mazerowski] No one dominated their positions defensively like they did."I submit that Mike Schmidt was a better third basemen than Robinson, Clete Boyer was a better third baseman than Robinson, and Graig Nettles and Darrell Evans were about as good as Robinson. Mike Schmidt had 4.51 Fielding Win Shares per 1000 Innings, Robinson had 4.24 (although Robinson has more Fielding Win Shares in total due to over 6000 more innings at third). Boyer had 4.97, Nettles 4.40, and Evans 4.37. Perception does not always hold true.

. . .

The Odd Career of Alois
2002-07-25 15:59
by Mike Carminati

The Odd Career of Alois Terry Leiter

Al Leiter signed a huge two-year extension with the Mets yesterday and will ostensibly remain in New York for some time to come. When I read about this it occurred to just how odd a career Leiter has had. I remember him appearing on a baseball card with "Future Star" (or words to that effect) emblazoned across it when he was around 27. I thought Topps had really outdone themselves. He had been a prospect for over five years most of which he spent on the disabled list and was already on his second organization. They (Topps) must have known something that I didn't because the second half of his career has been pretty good.

He is soon to be 37 and has been in the majors going on 16 years. He also has had 10 sojourns on the DL, two of which were season-ending. Toronto waited all those years for him to be ready, and he finally left as a free agent. Here are the totals for the first half of the last half of his career along with career totals:

             G   GS  CG  SHO   IP   BB   SO    W-L   ERA
First Half  85   55   2   1   339  201  286   22-21  4.75
Last Half  229  229  12   7  1480  646  1268 104-77  3.41
Total      314  284  14   8  1819  847  1554 126-98  3.66

That's quite a difference. Also consider that he never started more than 20 games in a season in the first half of his career, but in the second half he has never started fewer than 27. In the first half he never won more than 9, but in the second he has never won fewer than 11 (excluding this year). In the first half he only had an ERA lower than his league's average twice, but in the second half he has only once had an ERA higher than the league average.

I tried to think of someone who had such a great disparity between the first half of his career and the last. I thought of Randy Johnson and Steve Stone. Johnson did not establish himself as a major-league starter until he was going on 27, but had only one year of inconsistency prior to that. Stone was basically an average pitcher except for one incredible year towards the end of his career. I then thought of Sandy Koufax, who was average for the first half of his career and then unhittable in the last half, but his career was a) very short and b) one of the most unique in baseball history. Could Leiter be almost as unique as the legendary Koufax?

So I then went to Baseball Reference to see just how unique Leiter is. I checked out the players designated as his "comps," i.e., those that are most comparable to Leiter statistically. BR lists comps for each player by his career totals and by his yearly totals through each year in his baseball life. Leiter's comps were an odd crew, mostly guys who were effective when they were younger and then either because of age or injury or both became ineffective and then unemployed. There were guys who were missing years in the middle of their careers due to injury or had droughts due to ineffectiveness. Here are some examples:

Career #1: El Sid Fernandez-Fernandez was a very good pitcher who because of back problems never pitched a full season after the age of 29 though he was still effective when he did pitch.

Career #2: Ray Culp-Another good pitcher who was washed up after 29.

Career #6: Ramon Martinez-A very good pitcher who lost chunks of his career to injury. Also, never pitched a complete, effective season after 29.

Career #7: Alex Fernandez-Another very good pitcher who was washed up due to injury by 29.

Career #8: Tony Cloninger-Won 19 and 24 games back-to-back, missed parts of a couple of years due to injury, came back and was ineffectual, and was washed up after 29.

Career #10: Jose Rijo-A very good, oft-injured pitcher who retired for five years before coming back last year pitching well in relief.

Through Age 25: Mickey Mahler-A very poor pitcher who wracked up a lot of innings early in his career. A pretty good though often injured pitcher later in his career.

Through Age 28: Rich Wortham-Won 14 games at 25. His next highest season win total is 4.

Through Age 29: Bob Walk- Average pitcher who missed most of three season in the middle of his career.

Through Age 30: Donovan Osborne-Good, often injured pitcher who was washed up by 29.

Through Age 32 and 34: Jack Sanford-Good pitcher who didn't establish himself in the majors until 28. Won 19 and 24 games and was in double figures in wins (though not always pitching effectively) until age 34. He pitched until age 38 but only won in double figures one other time.

Through Age 33: Juan Guzman-Very good pitcher who was washed up by 32.

Of the other pitchers, none won in double figures after 35, and there was no one who became effective after 28 like Leiter. I'm sure there is someone else out there, but I can't seem to find him.

I have to admit that I have always pulled for the Leiter-he reminds me of the guy who played Charlie, the teenage kid on Star Trek who made people disappear after Captain Kirk, sans shirt, beat him in a wrestling match and Uhura sang a song about him. He also reminds me of a kid the Phillies had in the late '70s named Jim Wright (#37). I saw him pitch in spring training once and he was overpowering. He was their number one prospect for about three or four years. The Phillies expected him and Carlton to form a left-right tandem, but he was constantly injured. He appeared on two Phillies prospect cards two years apart ('79 and '81) but never made it to the bigs with the Phils. He finally made it up to the majors with the Royals at age 26. He pitched well one year and then was completely ineffective the next and never pitched in the majors again. Each organization must have its own Jim Wrights, a great prospect who due to injury never fulfills his promise. Leiter is the only one went on to become a number one starter. It makes me wonder, given his age and the years of abuse that his arm never had to endure on the mound, how long he can be effective. There is no way to really know given that there is no real mold to which we can compare him.

. . .

1:41, the Shortest Game Since
2002-07-25 14:07
by Mike Carminati

1:41, the Shortest Game Since 1984

The Tigers and Jose Lima beat the Royals and Paul Byrd 3-0 in one hour and 41 minutes, the fastest nine-inning game in the majors since 1984. There was a total of nine hits, one walk, and 14 strikeouts.

I remember a game that my Dad and I attended in the late '70s in which Jim "Kitty" Kaat pitched the Phillies to a complete game shutout in around 1:39. He was a fast worker, and he always reminded me of Popeye, the way he popped off the mound with his arms slightly akimbo. But I don't remember anyone thinking that it was all that unusual at the time. But Jose Lima acted as if he had won an Oscar:

" I wanted to thank all of these people who stuck with me when I wasn't pitching. I think the home plate umpire might have had a date tonight, because he had a big zone. I don't have a date, but I might be able to get one after this. "
- Jose Lima

. . .

Padre Owner Being Investigated by
2002-07-24 15:24
by Mike Carminati

Padre Owner Being Investigated by the SEC

Padre owner and Peregrine Systems chairman John Moores is being investigated due to "alleged fraudulent accounting practices at his computer software company." Two quotes of interest that are even more interesting when juxtaposed:

[T]he company generated "false and misleading" financial statements that allowed Moores to sell his majority share in the company at inflated prices. Between Oct. 29, 1997 to Feb. 28, 2001, Moores sold 18,815,966 shares for $611.4 million in 100 documented trades, according to SEC filings.

Last week, Moores was one of a handful of Major League Baseball owners who said he would be unwilling to continually finance a team under the game's current economic system. In a May 15 article in the Wall Street Journal, Moores said the Padres lost $43 million between 1998 and 2000.

. . .

Follow-Up on Umpire Information System
2002-07-24 11:04
by Mike Carminati

Follow-Up on Umpire Information System

After looking again at the QuesTec Umpire Information System (UIS) product page, I have some additional comments that I think are even more damning regarding the use of this system as a tool for umpire evaluation.

I barely noticed the first time that I read it, the graphic on the page. It shows a left-handed pitcher pitching to a left-handed batter (I would say that they reversed the image but the catcher is right-handed). They have cross hairs around the ball like the photographer is aiming to kill it, and there is a caption that reads:

Umpire Information System
Ball Location
x = -0.68
y = 60.5
z = 3.43
Result Strike 3

Now I don't want to get too picky about the picture used. It was probably just thrown up on the site. Besides the pitch does look like a high strike on the outside corner of the plate even though the catcher is set up a little further outside and the point of view is over the pitcher's right shoulder making it difficult to be sure. But let's not quibble.

I am more interested in the coordinates that they use and how they seem to determine how the pitch is called. The y coordinate caught my eye first because it is exactly 60' 6" (if I can assume the coordinates are in feet). This must measure the distance from the pitcher's rubber and not the release point of the ball, which would be several feet shorter. The official baseball rules have this to say:

The pitcher's plate... shall be set in the ground... so that the distance between the pitcher's plate and home base (the rear point of home plate) shall be 60 feet, 6 inches.

So if y is measuring the distance from the rubber, it would then be at the back of home plate. Interesting, it makes me wonder if that is the sole point that UIS is concerned with. The reason I ask is that the official rules also has this to say in defining terms:

A STRIKE is a legal pitch when so called by the umpire, which
(b) Is not struck at, if any part of the ball passes through any part of the strike zone;

The STRIKE ZONE is that area over home plate the upper limit of which is a horizontal line at the midpoint between the top of the shoulders and the top of the uniform pants, and the lower level is a line at the hallow beneath the knee cap. The Strike Zone shall be determined from the batter's stance as the batter is prepared to swing at a pitched ball.

OK. So a ball is a strike if it passes through any part of the strike zone, and the strike zone is over home plate. Then only measuring at the back of the plate is inaccurate. As Robert K. Adair demonstrated in his great book, The Physics of Baseball, a 65-mile-per-hour curveball can drop out of the strike zone as it passes over home plate and by the same token a high, 95-mile-per-hour fastball can drop into the strike zone while traveling over home plate. Using one point to measure the location of the ball is inherently inaccurate. Its accuracy would be affected more by certain types of pitchers, and therefore cannot be used blindly as a purely empirical evaluation tool. "Wait a minute," you say. "How do you know that other measurements were not taken and this just happened to be the last one recorded as the pitch passes over the plate?"

Well, let's take a look at the other coordinates. X appears to be the distance left to right from the center of home plate. Here x is negative 0.68 feet, which would be 8.16 inches. This would be approximately on the right-hand corner of home, where the pitch in the photo appears to be. No problems there.

The third coordinate, z, is 3.43 feet, which would apparently mean that the ball was almost 3 1/2 feet high. This too would be in the strike zone apparently. Well maybe it is for the average major-leaguer but would it be for Freddie Patek? The rules use very specific measurements based on the individual batter: the distance between the tops of his shoulders and the top of his pants and the height of the hollow of his kneecap while the batter is crouching. How can the system possibly measure these things while the batter is possibly rotating to make contact with the ball? I highly doubt that it does. I would think that it is using pre-calculated measurements to determine the call. That may work for batters of normal height, but what about Patek or Randy Johnson for that matter? What about a batter who crouches down like Pete Rose or one who stands straight up like Jim Thome? So if it doesn't work for everyone, then it's inherently flawed and again a poor tool to use blindly.

The more that I examine the UIS system, the more I have to side with the umpires. It is a nice tool, but it doesn't necessarily measure anything. They could use it to help in evaluations and to help determine which umpires to promote to the bigs, but beyond that it is too highly flawed

. . .

Met-A Culpa Lest the reader
2002-07-24 10:38
by Mike Carminati

Met-A Culpa

Lest the reader be led into believing that I am just a carping critic who lacks the introspection to examine my own thoughts... The Mets are now tied for third in the NL wildcard chase, 3rd with a bullet. A little over a week ago, I called their playoff hopes almost nonexistent. I have to say that the statement that "the Mets making the playoffs would be something on the order of the 1914 Miracle Braves, 1964 Cardinals, and 1978 Yankees all rolled into one" was a bit of an overstatement.

At the time the Mets were tied for third, 12.5 games behind the Braves in the NL East race and nine games behind the leader, tied for eighth in the wild card race. As of this morning, they are still 12.5 games behind the Braves but only 4.5 games behind the Dodgers and tied for third in the wild card hunt. I thought that the Mets could never make up so many games so quickly not because they were incapable of improving their own standing (I did point out that their expected winning percentage was higher than their actual indicating they had room for improvement). I thought that the odds of enough of the teams in front of them faltering when a good number are playing each other was low.

But they are 8-2 in their last ten games. The other wild card teams have been:

Mets     8-2
Expos    2-8
Marlins  4-6
Reds     6-4
D-Backs  5-5
Dodgers  3-7 
Giants   4-6

I still believe that the Mets will not make the playoffs. The teams that they have beaten up in the past couple of weeks are the Expos (twice), Phillies, Marlins, and Reds who are all starting to lose some steam. I'll reserve judgment until they have played a few better teams. I believe though that the Mets may just be reaching their expected level. Remember that I said at the time that their expected winning percentage was .519. Today their win-lose percentage stands at .520.

Unfortunately for management if this is their run and they end up falling back into the pack, it may be at the worst possible time, right before the trade deadline. Their management cannot cut payroll or build for next year by making trades if they believe that there still are playoff hopes. But given their salaries except for pitching, they probably couldn't move anyone in the current bunker-mentality trade market anyway.

. . .

Batting Disorder Here's an interesting
2002-07-23 22:09
by Mike Carminati

Batting Disorder

Here's an interesting but, I think, flawed declination on the established and perhaps ossified conception of a batting order that I found on the Dan Lewis sports site. Far be it from me to pick on someone trying to challenge established baseball strategies. Far be it from me to pick on that world-renowned institution NJIT nor on their team nickname, the NJIT Mashing Niblets. But when someone calls homeplate "home base," I've got to let him have it.

First, I have to say that I have read studies by Rob Neyer among others (did Bill James cover this once?), suggesting that batting orders have very little effect on the outcome of a team over the course of a season. Bruce Bukiet, author of the study, found that the "difference between a team's best and worst batting order could change the outcome of as many as 10 games in a season." That raised an eyebrow.

He claims that managers traditionally place the best batter whom he terms "the slugger" fourth. Well, I take issue with his terms. "The slugger" is typically not the team's best batter. He is the man has some pop in his bat, but his on-base percentage is not necessarily great. He tends to be slower, and therefore grounds out a lot. He takes a big hack, and therefore tends to strike out a lot. He does bat fourth typically. The best batter in my opinion is the man with the highest OPS (On-Base Plus Slugging). He combines power and the ability to get on base. I contend that typically this man bats 3rd. His use of "best batter" and "slugger" interchangeably suggests that his definition of what best is does not match what I would like. That's my first problem.

My second problem in his methodology for ordering the batters themselves. He claims that the best batter should bat second in order to get more turns at bat. This is logical, but why not then lead off with him. I'll take his side of the argument and say that the possibility of having a man on-base when the best batter is up tends to increase the number of runs scored. So batting him 2nd has certain advantages over letting him lead off. Okie Dokie.

However, then he contends that the worst batter (typically the picther in NL games) should bat seventh or eighth not the accepted last bcause:

"The pitcher should be far away from the slugger in the line-up," says Bukiet. That lessens the chance that he will be the clean-up hitter responsible for getting the strongest batter back to home base.

But there are two problems here: 1) Does batting the pitcher seventh avoid his batting with the "slugger" on base? And 2) This increases the number of times that the weakest batter will bat over the course of a season which runs counter to his previous argument. As far as issue 1 is concerned, I say no. If the 2nd batter leads off in a given inning, 2 more men get on base, and 2 men make outs, that brings up the number 7 hitter, who would then be the pitcher, with the bases loaded and two outs. I know that this would probably be a rare occurence, but if the goal as stated is to minimize the number of times at bat for the weakest hitter with the "slugger" on base, then batting the pitcher last and the "slugger" 2nd ensures this. Also, who cares who is on base when the worst batter/pitcher bats? The best batter is not necessarily the best baserunner. If he means that the best batter gets on base the most, and therefore, the worst batter should not be in a position where he is expected to drive the high on-base guys in, then he's correct. But his solution does not completely resolve this. As far as issue 2 is concerned, the benefits gained from moving the pitcher up in the lineup mitigate this? I think not. I may be wrong but without further information and a definition of terms, I don't think the argument as a whole makes a whole lot of sense.

It's a nice theory but I think one as misguided as Bukiet's 2002 predictions.

. . .

Lord, Gammons Was Born a
2002-07-23 16:24
by Mike Carminati

Lord, Gammons Was Born a Ramblin' Man

And I thought that I rambled on a bit. I defy you to make sense of Peter Gammons latest "Rambles and Grumbles" column. It's a shame because I think there was an interesting article or three somewhere in there.

. . .

Happy Birthday Nomar The Red
2002-07-23 16:08
by Mike Carminati

Happy Birthday Nomar

The Red Sox just beat the Devil Rays 22-4 as starting pitcher Tanyon Sturtze's woes continued. The star of the game was Garciaparra who went 3 for 5, hit 3 home runs in total including 2 in one inning, scored 3 runs, drove in 8, and walked once. Garciaparra is celebrating his 29th birthday today. He did manage to leave two men on base however. Maybe he can make up for it in the second game of the doubleheader tonight.

. . .

Who Is The Greatest Living
2002-07-23 12:44
by Mike Carminati

Who Is The Greatest Living Hitter?

With the recent death (and subsequent cryogenic freezing) of Ted Williams, there has been a good deal of debate as to who now gets to wear the crown of Greatest Living Hitter and the all of the free McDonalds french fries that come with it. The same debate occurred after Joe DiMaggio's death in 1999 and the masses settled on Williams who had entered the cuddly phase of his baseball existence.

Names like Mays and Aaron are often cited. Rose, Musial, and Robinson fans are heard from. Baseball Prosepectus did an article in which they selected Barry Bonds, using their Equivalent Average stat. adjusted for era and ballpark.

They are fine hitters all, but-and I know that this may now be sacrilegious-I am still not entirely sure that Ted Williams was the greatest before he died, and I am pretty darn certain that DiMaggio was nowhere near the greatest before he died. I ran a list of Batting Win Shares for all living players and the two recently demised legends. I know that this is not a thorough examination but I prefer it to something like Equivalent Average because it takes career length into account. When I have some time, I will try to do something taking into account Batting Win Shares, Total Baseball's Runs Created (adjusted for era and park), and Baseball Prospectus' Equivalent Average so that all of the camps are heard from. Also, I have a few picky points with Batting Win Shares, such as singles hitters (e.g., Rose, Gwynn, Raines) seem overvalued to me and certain players don't rank how you would necessarily expect (Matthews is ahead of Schmidt and Brett for example). However, it's a pretty good tool overall.

Here are the top 28 living players who were including in the top 50 all-time plus Williams and DiMaggio:

 Rk  Player          BWS
1.  Aaron          573.3
2.  Musial         538.7
3.  Mays           538.0
4.  Williams       512.4
5.  Bonds          477.9
6.  Henderson      473.7
7.  F. Robinson    467.8
8.  Rose           461.8
9.  Yaz            426.0
10. Morgan         423.9
11. Jackson        403.8
12. Murray         398.8
13. Matthews       387.4
14. Kaline         382.9
15. McCovey        379.4
16. Schmidt        378.3
17. Winfield       373.4
18. Brett          371.5
19. Molitor        367.5
20. Gwynn          353.4
21. Stargell       339.1
22. Killebrew      337.1
23. Raines         336.1
24. Carew          332.0
25. B. Williams    329.1
26. DiMaggio       325.8
27. McGwire        323.1
28. Staub          322.8
29. Boggs          319.3
30. Yount          317.3

Other than the unexpected Rusty Staub, the rest are names that one would expect to see in such a list. The two latest Greatest Hitters do not exactly top the list. Ted Williams is a very respectable 4th, and that indicates to me that a reasonable argument could be made for him as the Greatest. But DiMaggio is buried at 26, and that tells me that Joe D was more about P.R. than performance, great player though he was.

The two names that sprang to my mind when the debate began, Mays and Aaron, appear in the top 3. I thought that the more logical choice would be Mays but Aaron is eminently qualified. It is also nice to see the often overlooked Stan Musial at number 2. Bonds does take the Greatest Active Living Hitter crown nipping out Rickey Henderson.

. . .

The Quest for QuesTec: What
2002-07-23 00:44
by Mike Carminati

The Quest for QuesTec: What Is The Umpire Information System?

Much has been said about the umpire rating system that Major League Baseball is trying to put in place. The World Umpires Association says that it filed a grievance against owners last Friday over the system although I don't think they know what the suit is about. Their lawyer said the umpires think that the system "cannot properly evaluate pitches, especially breaking balls." On Sunday, the umpires demanded that Questec, the company who developed the system, remove a reference to the umps that said that they supported the system. The umpires wrote a letter to the company that we know about because they released it to the press-isn't that convenient-in which they said:

The technology has never been adequately explained to umpires or our legal and technical consultants. Questec Inc. has not answered questions from the WUA, and the office of the commissioner of baseball has refused to provide requested information, which refusal led to the WUA's latest grievance. ...
Even if the Questec system were more accurate, there remain legitimate questions as to whether this device belongs in major league baseball. Like last year's 'pitch count' gimmick, Questec interjects an extraneous element into the game and pressures umpires to compete with the machine, rather than giving their full attention to calling the game as they see it unfold before them.

The umpires bristle when anyone questions their authority to call a game in seemingly whatever fashion they see fit. The pitch count reference is to a misguided attempt made last year by the commissioner's office taking the average pitch count when each ump is behind the plate and ranking them. The umpires claimed that the commissioner was pressuring them to call more strike and reduce pitch counts. The WUA filed a grievance, and pitch counts were no longer used as an evaluation tool. At first blush, the comparison seems unfounded-pitch counts as an evaluation tool a) are dependent on the pitchers involved and the situations encountered in the game and b) don't measure whether the call was accurate or not. But having a tool that could accurately call balls and strikes would be a handy evaluation tool. Were the umpires being too possessive-"the balls and strikes are ours"-or is this a poor evaluation tool?

I visited the QuesTec, Inc. site to find out more about the umpire rating system from the horse's mouth (or at least its mouthpiece). They have an announcement on the site dated February 2001 of last year that states that MLB signed a five-year deal with Questec for a new version of PitchTrax, a "pitch measurement technology in support of MLB's previously announced strike zone initiatives." The agreement also included the use of the then new Umpire Information System (UIS) for five years. There were no further announcements as regards MLB.

The statement goes on to trumpet the PitchTrax product, how it has been used exclusively by Fox and, that it was modified to meet MLB's needs. It still contains the quote that so offended the umps to impel them to write their missive ("In general they {the umps} support it!''), including the excessive punctuation.

UIS was beta-tested during the Arizona Fall League's 2000 season. Major League umpires and officials were given access to the system. It adhered to the accuracy requirements established by the commissioner's office (though it does not specify what they were). It was then to be tested in the 2001 spring training games in Arizona. There are no follow-ups to indicate if that testing was in actuality conducted and if so, how the system fared.

Besides the usual self-aggrandizing typical of leading-edge companies (Wow, Scientific American did an article about you? Well, who owns them? Any relation?), the article further describes the technology employed:

. The ball tracking component uses cameras mounted in the stands off the first and third base lines to follow the ball as it leaves the pitcher's hand until it crosses the plate. Along the way, multiple track points are measured to precisely locate the ball in space and time. This information is then used to measure the speed, placement, and curvature of the pitch along its entire path. The entire process is fully automatic including detection of the start of the pitch, tracking of the ball, location computations, and identification of non-baseball objects such as birds or wind swept debris moving through the field of view. No changes are made to the ball, the field of play, or any other aspect of the game, to work with QuesTec technology. The tracking technology was originally developed for the US military and the company has adapted it to sports applications.

The U.S. Military? Well, it's assuring to know that are tax dollars are being put to good use. That's all fine and well, but on the product page for UIS, the state:

The UIS uses QuesTec's proprietary measurement technology that analyzes video from cameras mounted in the rafters of each ballpark to precisely locate the ball throughout the pitch corridor. Additional cameras are mounted at the field level to measure the strike zone for each individual batter, for each individual pitch, for each at bat. This information is compiled on a CD ROM disk and given to the home plate umpire immediately following each game. (Italics mine)

It's cool that the home plate ump gets a CD at the end of each game. But this system says it uses a camera in the rafters and cameras at field level whereas the PitchTrax system uses cameras mounted on the first base and third base lines. This raises many questions: How many cameras and where exactly on the field level are they mounted? At the same point as in the PitchTrax system? If UIS was ostensibly developed from PitchTrax, why are different camera angles used (at least the one in the rafters)? Were there issues with PitchTrax? What is meant by "the rafters"? Each stadium has a different infrastructure, some are domed, some have retractable roofs, and some are open. How are these differences accounted for? Later in the article, it states that the camera angles are the same as with PitchTrax, which is it?

They claim that the system is accurate to .5 inch. This sound good but I have some questions. How did they ascertain this given that it is extremely difficult to measure the trajectory of a ball in flight? Did they use a more advanced system to check the accuracy? If so, why not use the more accurate system as the UIS system? How do you know that the verification system is accurate? If there is no verification system, then how was the accuracy checking performed? By eye? Is that .5 inch for straight pitches or curving and breaking ones? If they tested curveballs and breaking balls, how did they do so? Were they simulated or did they call up Bert Blyleven one day and ask him to throw a bunch of curveballs? What speed is that up to? Is it more accurate at the point of release, in flight, over the plate, or when the catcher catches the ball? Over the plate is the only one that we are concerned with when calling balls and strikes. If it was over the plate was it the front of the plate, the middle, the back, or the entire length of the plate? Does .5 inch meet the commissioner's requirements? If so, did it exceed them? Is it better than the given umpire? Given that .5 inch at the corners is much more important than .5 inch a foot outside, does the system remain that accurate no matter what the ball's trajectory is: low, low, left right? What about balls that bounce before crossing home plate? If they bounce into the strike zone, are they considered strikes by the system? And so on. Try it. Make up your own list.

Then they do say that UIS differs from PitchTrax. UIS "uses different cameras, modified software, and a different calibration process to increase accuracy." Why is the software modified and how was it tested? How are the camera different, in their placement, the types of cameras, what they film, etc?

According to the site, UIS is only available in 14 stadiums as of 2002. Four parks had it last year, and ten more were scheduled for this year. Why the slow rollout if the tool is ready to go? Isn't it unfair not to use the system universally if it's to evaluate the umpires? If only 14 parks are involved aren't those umpires that frequently work in those parks singled out? Doesn't it skew the evaluation if the number of umpires evaluated is lower than possible? Why were those stadiums selected to have the system installed? Were they selected for a certain reason (e.g. they were more favorable to getting accurate results using the system than the others) or was it random?

QuesTec retains ownership of the product licensing it to MLB. Where else will it be employed? Will MLB be in charge of its development? Will the current stadiums be upgraded as the system develops or will some stadiums be in different releases, possibly tainting the accuracy?
Their last FAQ is telling:

Why is this deal important to QuesTec?

Gaining acceptance from both MLB and the umpires for the accuracy, reliability and value of our technology is like getting a Seal of Approval. We are not aware of any other measurement technology that has been accepted in this way by the governing body of a major US sport, or, in fact, any sport worldwide. This is the first real advance since the stop watch [sic] and the tape measure. We are a measurement company and now an independent organization has agreed that our technology works and is willing to use it in a very important capacity. We think that is pretty important.

The two devices that they cite, the stopwatch and the tape measure, differ greatly from the stated objectives for UIS. They do the actual measuring that determines a winner in a sporting event whereas, we are told, UIS will be a tool to evaluate the men whose decisions help determine the winner in a baseball game. It sound as if QuesTec envisions replacing the umpires or at least being the tool that umps use to call balls and strikes. Is that the case? And then does MLB envision this as well?

After reading the information, or dearth thereof, on QuesTec's site, I am torn on this issue. There are a number of questions that I have: What are the short-range and long-range goals for the system? Would the money be better spent instructing the umpires? Was that even investigated? Would this be a better tool for evaluating minor-league umpires as they advance to the majors? What are the stringent requirements that MLB demanded? How were they established? How will they change? How was the accuracy checked? How do we know that the standards are good enough? Was the use of the system negotiated with the WUA? What are the issues given that fewer than half the stadiums have the system installed? How will it be used as an overall evaluation tool? Is it the sole tool or one of many? Can umpires who score low be able to contest the results? Who owns the company? Are they publicly traded? How do they plan to sell the product in the future and to whom? Will the system eventually replace the umps in calling balls and strikes? If it's more accurate, why not? If it isn't how can it be used to evaluate the umps? Are there plans to scorecard calls at first, fair/foul calls, catches against the wall, tag calls, balks, knowledge of the rules, or any of the other responsibilities of the umps?

Believe me, the umps are a self-important lot who need to remember who the fans come to see. Umpires do not own the strike zone. It is established by the rules and should be called accordingly. They should not be allowed to have their own individual definition of the strike zone. But there may be no two groups as arrogant as than baseball owners and Information Technology professionals. Getting these two groups together unsupervised to implement this system may not have been a choice worthy of Solomon. The owners have to be more open and truthful about teh accuracy of this tool and their intended use.

. . .

Strike Out, Players Union Denies
2002-07-22 14:11
by Mike Carminati

Strike Out, Players Union Denies Report

Gene Orza and Mets' plater rep. Al Leiter have both deniedthe LA Times story that the strike date is set for September 16. So what date is it set for?

. . .

Bill Buckner Sighted Playing Right
2002-07-22 11:40
by Mike Carminati

Bill Buckner Sighted Playing Right For Red Sox

A great three-game series ended on a sour note (unless your a Yankees fan) last night, as Trot Nixon, with the Sox up by one run in the bottom of the ninth, did his best Bill Buckner impersonation letting a routine single to right field go between his legs allowing pinch-runner Enrique Wilson to score from first tying the ballgame and putting the batter, Bernie Williams, on 3rd with no outs. Boston proceeded to intentionally walk Ventura and Mondesi and let reliever Ugueth Urbina go to work on Jorge Posada. Posada won the game by working a nine-pitch walk forcing in Williams.

One could not help but feel sorry for Boston who, flailingly and failingly, tried every stratagem available to no avail. First they overshifted to the right side on Giambi to open the ninth. Giambi ends up hitting the proverbial "excuse me" check-swing single down the thirdbase line. After Nixon's error they walked the bases loaded for the second straight night with the game on the line, and for the second straight night the strategy failed. On Saturday it was a slow roller betwen second and first that allowed the winning run to score on the fielder's choice. Last night, it was the bases-loaded walk that doomed the Red Sox. Even bringing in Lou Merloni as a fifth infielder could not help them (he was listed as right fielder but played like a rover in softball with center fielder Johnny Damon playing left center and left fielder Manny Ramirez played right center with the left-handed Posada at bat).

So the Red Sox leave town four games back when they could very easily have left in a virtual tie, well, with a three-percentage-point lead over the Yankees. One has to wonder if the conventional wisdom of loading the bases is the best strategy. It does leave little margin for error.

By the way, the Yankees' bullpen woes are becoming more accute. As I surmised Mariano Rivera earlier is indeed injured. The Yakees used four relievers on Saturday, including Karsay for three innings, forcing them to keep Weaver in for the seventh inning, a decision that could have cost them the game. In the last week, they have used Karsay in five of their seven games and Stanton in six. Torre seems to have grown disenchanted with the injured Hitchcock, Mendoza (either that they are concerned about his injury), Thurman, and Choate. So if Mendoza is going to be out for a while, (I'll say it again) expect the Yankees to pick up an arm or two in the bullpen. The Yankees should feel good winning two of three, but be warned, there's trouble a-brewing in their once superior bullpen.

. . .

Oh Joy! Strike Date Set...Finally!
2002-07-22 10:37
by Mike Carminati

Oh Joy! Strike Date Set...Finally!

The other shoe finally dropped, and the players who did not want to set a strike date during the All-Star break have finally done so. According to The LA Times, the date chosen is September 16, which a) avoids being on strike on the anniversary of the September 11th tragedy and all of the attendant moral and p.r. issues and b) ensures that the players have all but their last regular-season paycheck in hand.

We all knew that it was coming. Let's just hope that it now prods both sides to come to an agreement. As Donald Fehr said in his interview with Baseball America:

First of all, you don't set a strike date unless you believe that you have no other reasonable option, and that doing so will be a spur to reach an agreement. Sometimes in collective bargaining as well as other things, deadlines are helpful. Sometimes they're not; we learned that last time. But sometimes they are.

I guess we will find out in the next two months if this one was helpful.

. . .

Goodwin for Giants, Dodgers Pay
2002-07-22 10:24
by Mike Carminati

Goodwin for Giants, Dodgers Pay Double

The usually light-hitting Tom Goodwin, subbing for injured Barry Bonds, hit the game-winning home run for San Fran last night over the Dodgers. To add insult to injury, the Dodgers, who released Goodwin in spring training are still paying him $3.5 M this season.

Confusing the Dodgers with the Devil Rays, Goodwin had this to say, "The check's probably going to be a little late this week."

. . .

Joe Morgan Chat Day Is
2002-07-20 12:24
by Mike Carminati

Joe Morgan Chat Day Is the Loneliest Chat Day of the Week

Here at Mike's Baseball Rants, Inc., we-and by "we", we mean the royal we as in "I" because there's only me-love Joe Morgan chat day at ESPN. We start kvelling in giggly anticipation the night before, and it just keeps growing the entire day until we can barely keep it inside. Maybe therapy would help.

Anyway, why is Joe Morgan chat day so exciting you may ask? Infidel, how can you ask such a sacrilegious question!?! Well, now that you have, let's examine it. Joe Morgan is suffering from baseball bipolar disorder. One minute he's Dr. Jeckyl with great insight, the next he is Mr. Hyde with a preposterous, and then finally he is just Heckle with an unintentionally crack-up funny statement. I have to admit that this is an off week: Joe is lucid for almost the entire chat session, but he does drop a few pearls. So without further ado, let's go:

The Sublime:

Jake (Atlanta): What do you think of Larry Dolan's comments earlier this week about George Steinbrenner? Do you think The Boss's heavy spending is good for baseball?

Joe Morgan: I guess if you read the column I wrote about Steinbrenner, you would understand my reasons. It's not his fault; he works under the rules of baseball. And he always reinvests in his team. He's not the problem. The problem started before he became an owner by not having revenue sharing and the like. Those things were part of the makeup before George, and they are the problems baseball faces today.

[Mike: Testify, Joe]

Mike D. (Grand Forks, ND): Joe, you mentioned that Sanders would be a better fit than Kent for the 3 hole in San Fran beause [sic] he brings both speed and power. Wouldn't placing Sanders ahead of Bonds negate his speed? Why steal when they'll just walk Bonds to get to Kent, who seems to struggles without protection?

Joe Morgan: What happens when Bonds makes an out and Sanders is on base? He can score on a double or steal a base to stay out of a double play. It's a matter of using speed the right way. He can get into scoring position for Bonds or Kent.

Joe Morgan: And I think Sanders needs more help as a hitter than Kent does. And hitting in front of Bonds would help him. He's not as good a hitter as Kent is.

[Mike: Good. Of course, batting order is not as important as we have always been led to believe, but Joe isn't blinded by Sanders' speed. It's nice, but Kent is a much better hitter as Joe concludes.]

Scott (New lenox, IL): Joe: It's hard not to notice ESPN's blatant bias towards all things Barry Bonds, who's not the most charismatic and likeable athlete in the world. In light of this, when is the network going to stop shoving this guy down baseball fan's throats already?

Joe Morgan: Are we looking for nice guys or the ability of a player? The nicest guy I ever played with was Bob Lillis. Will we put him front and center or will you put a guy out there based on ability? When you watch a game, you are watching a guy play, not watching what he does at home. You only think he's a bad guy because a writer may have said he is. We only get a writer's impression of what he is. I'm not defending Barry because he has shortcomings. But what you know is what you've heard from other people. You can only judge what you see on TV when he performs. Otherwise, you are taking someone's word for it. But I think the fans would rather see Bonds play, with his shortcomings, than to see Lillis play. It's about performance, not personality.

[Mike: Joe, very good points: 1) People believe everything reporters spoonfeed to them. 2) Just because a reporter says that Bonds is a bad guy, it doesn't mean that he is. 3) Even if he is a complete jerk, he's a tremendous player and that's what the games about. Now, Joe you're ahead on poinst, all you have to do is duck and weave and you'll come out ahead... Oh No!]

The Ridiculous:

Justin, Cedar Falls IA: Hey Joe. Just saw that Alfonso Soriano just became the 5th 25-25 second baseman in baseball history, joining you in that group. How high do you think he could go, maybe eventually be a 50-50 man, or is that just too far out of reach? Thanks.

Joe Morgan: At the beginning I thought it was too far. Giambi said he could do it. I thought it was farfetched, but he's definitely within reach. I don't think there are any limits on what he can do. Read the column I wrote on him. I think he has the most ability of any second baseman I've seen, and he reminds of Juan Samuel.

[Mike: Joe, you think that you'll placate me by plagiarizing my Samuel-Soriano comparisons? To think that Soriano could be the first 50-50 man, that is really inane. Could he do it? Anything is possible. Are the chances so great as to merit discussion? I don't think so. He had never hit more than 18 in a season in American organized ball before this year, and he played almost 200 games in Japanes organizations and only hit 12 home runs in total in their bandboxes. Could he be a late bloomer like Rafael Palmeiro or Sammy Sosa? He could be, but it is much more likely that this is a career year.]

Michael, College Park, MD: Good morning, Mr. Morgan. Clemente or Vlad Guerrero?

Joe Morgan: At this point, you'd have to take Clemente. He's in the Hall of Fame, had 3,000 hits and all. Guerrero may get there, but you can't compare players from different eras. If Clemente played today, he'd hit more homers. If Guerrero played in Clemente's day, he wouldn't hit as many. But if I had a choice between the two to start a team, I would take Clemente, but only because Guerrero is so young.

[Mike: But Joe, you realize Clemente is dead and if he weren't he would be 68, a little too old to play even in old-timers games. Clemente had 377 Win Shares for his career, which places him at 62nd all-time, but he was the third best right fielder of his era (behind Aaron and Robinson). Guererro is 26, is only in his fifth full major-league year, and entered the year with 119 Win Shares. By Clemente's 26th birthday he had 72 Win Shares even though he had played 6 seasons and had just begun to be one of the stars of his team. I'm not saying that Guerrero will be remembered in 50 years as a better player than Clemente. I'm just saying that he has been a better player to this stage in his career than Clemente was. Who says that you can't compare among eras? By the way, why is comparing within an era any easier when you have some players who call Coor's Field home and others who call Turner Field mi casa?]

Will (Dallas): Joe, do you think a 1985 Cardinals type offense with all speed and not much power would succeed in baseball today?

Joe Morgan: I don't think it would work as well as it did in 1985 because the parks are smaller and the balls are livelier. I think you have to hit home runs to be a good team. Speed will keep you out of slumps, but you still need home runs. If you get far behind, speed won't make up the difference; home runs will. I think you need a combination. But yes, I think steals are very important.

[Mike: It's a Joe Morgan Special hold the pickles. Baseball was just better in the past, trust him. If the 1985 Cardinals passed through the Time Tunnel to the present, they would not be able to compete in today's game playing the brand of ball they were known for. Speed is a great asset, but the way they used it (bunts, hit-and-run, steals, etc.) used up too many outs. That's fine when you're winning 2-1 and you need to sacrifice the outs to get the one or two runs that you'll need in the game across the plate. But when you're winning 7-4, you need to optimize the number of people on base for your Earl-Weaver type three-run home runs. Of course, it's a ludicrous scenario because 1) you humans have not yet perfected time travel and 2) the 1985 Cardinals would never happen in today's baseball environment, nobody would try to build a team like that today.]

. . .

Elmer Dessens, This Is Your
2002-07-20 01:51
by Mike Carminati

Elmer Dessens, This Is Your Life!

If you saw Rob Neyer's column today on ESPN or have been reading Neyer lately, you'll notice that he isn't a big Dessens fan. Not knowing much about Dressens, I opened my handy dandy Sport News Baseball Guide and promptly looked him up. Here are the highlights:

- For such a middle-America name, Dessens was actually born and raised in Mexico. Full name: Elmer Dessens Jusaino.

- Dessens has been loaned out to the Mexican League, that hot bed of pitching talent, on 4 separate occasions (actually only three but, I say four because the Pirates let him linger there for two straight years).

- He pitched a year in Japan.

- He started life as a closer.

- He has had decent success (decent ERA and strikeout-to-walk ratio) since about 1998.

- Though 30, he never pitched 200 innings until last year.

- He's maintained over (and sometimes well over) a hit per inning over his career.

- I have to say that I disagree with Neyer-He can keep this up. He's done it often in the past. In 1995 pitching for Carolina in the Southern League, he had 15 wins and a 2.49 ERA, both of which led the league, while giving up 170 hits in 152 innings (of course 20 of his 62 runs were unearned). In 1997 pitching for the Mexico City Diablos Rojos (or Red Devils for you Yanquis), he won 16 again to led the league, had a 3.56 ERA while giving up 156 hits in 159 1/3 innings (plus 10 of 73 runs unearned), and walked a whopping 51 to 61 struck out. In 2000 with the Reds, Dessens won 11 games, had a 4.28 ERA, allowed 170 hits in 147 1/3, and had about a 2:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

I don't know what he will do, but there isn't any reason that I can see why he couldn't keep rolling maybe not at his current pace but still effectively.

. . .

Finley To Cards Chuck Finley
2002-07-20 01:30
by Mike Carminati

Finley To Cards

Chuck Finley has just been traded by the Indians to the Cardinals for basically the privilege of not having to pay his outrageous salary ($5M plus $7 from his signing bonus). Finley is not much of an addition: he hasn't been good for almost two years, hasn't been great for about 9, and odds are want be more than poor this year. But after the tragic death of Darryl Kile and the ineffectiveness of the various young pitchers named Smith and old pitchers named Benes, the Cardinals felt that they could catch lightning in a bottle with a 40-year retread. Manager Tony LaRussa and pitching coach Dave Duncan have done it before (witness Woody Williams). I wish them luck.

. . .

Apocalypse on Hold! The A's
2002-07-20 01:08
by Mike Carminati

Apocalypse on Hold!

The A's Cory Lidle lost his bid for a no-hitter with none out in the eighth.

. . .

What Were They Thinking? I
2002-07-20 00:42
by Mike Carminati

What Were They Thinking?

I turned on what I thought was tonight's Phils-Braves game and thought that I had accidentally tuned into ESPN Classic and was watching a 25-year-old game. With the Phils down 3-0 in the fifth inning, I half expected to see Warren Brusstar, replete with a mouthful of chew and a cap precariously perched on his afro, warming up in the bullpen. Unfortunately, I have to report that instead the recent fad of turn-back-the-clock (remember the so-named Topps cards?), retro nights has run its course, with these two teams deciding to hold 1976 night. They draped an American, with just 13 stars in a circle a la the Bicentennial, in the center field stands.

The Phils wore their crimson pinstripes with fat script "P" with the opening in the "P" forming a baseball with red seams. The Braves, their classic sky blue unis with white sleeves adorned with cartoon Indian (they predate "Native American") headdress feather and blue caps with the white panel in front surrounding a small letter "a". What next, will the Pirates hold an Enrique Romo night with every player wearing a different combination of black, yellow, and/or pinstripe pants and shirts and those pillbox, striped hats with the merit stars? How 'bout the all-crimson Indians vs. the all orange Orioles? There's something wrong with all-polyester, pullover uniforms being dressed up as historic.

With #27 Damian Moss for the Braves pitching to #9 Tomas Perez for the Phils, I did think that I was watching Rick Mahler (or Mickey Mahler or maybe Gustav Mahler) pitching to Manny Trillo. I saw Marlon Anderson wearing #8 go back for a ball at second and for a second thought that Joe Morgan was back in uniform-until Anderson got to the ball unfortunately. Seeing Phils coach John Vukovich and manager Larry Bowa back in the uniforms that they wore during the Phils' 1980 World Championship run did almost feel historic. Hey, we Phillies fans have to take what we can get.

. . .

MLB Sues Umpires Union, Slapping
2002-07-19 21:53
by Mike Carminati

MLB Sues Umpires Union, Slapping Ensues

MLB want to discipline John Hirschbeck for instructing another umpire on his crew not to discipline a pitcher automatically for throwing at (actually well over) a batter (Barry Bonds). Hirscbeck has headed the umpires bargaining with the owners ever since the previous rep., Richie Phillips, imploded incidentally.

The umpire's lawyer claimed that "the suit really was about management's reliance on a computerized evaluation system the union claims is inaccurate" and that the crew ump in the game in question did not warn the pitcher because he did not think that the pitch was thrown intentionally. Evidently, in a May 4 game the computerized system said that Hirschbeck called a number of balls and strikes inaccurately. And besides Bruce Froemming, a native Milwaukeean, was not chosen for the All-Star game. And what about Scarecrow's brain?!?

This one really seems like a really sorted, he-said-she-said affair. There's always trouble whenever you get two groups of people together who are as arrogant as the owners and the umps. Are they even sure what the lawsuit is about?

Two things are certain:

1) No one likes the owners very much right now. I bet at present Bud Selig's best friends are not even returning his phone calls.

2) As my friend Doug say, for my money any game without Enrico Polazzo behind the plate is just a little bit dull. Maybe Enrico could have figured out the All-Star game mess. I believe he was a Milwaukee-ite as well.

. . .

Trachsel and Williams to Charge
2002-07-19 16:41
by Mike Carminati

Trachsel and Williams to Charge Devil Rays Finance Charges for Late Payments

The Devil Rays were late with payments to two ex-players but did meet their current payroll. So was Selig right or not? Anyway since it was just a matter of days, I'm not sure why we are even aware of it. Did someone in the commissioner's office release it to save face?

. . .

The Boston Yankees? Check out
2002-07-19 16:22
by Mike Carminati

The Boston Yankees?

Check out this excerpt from "Yankees Century: 100 Years of New York Yankees Baseball" by Glenn Stout, in which the author contends that the Yankees were set to play in Fenway in 1921. The Babe could have returned. Think of it, the Yankees dynasty in Boston, three major league teams in Beantown and only 2 in New York...The mind boggles.

. . .

How Good Is Alfonso Soriano?
2002-07-18 15:43
by Mike Carminati

How Good Is Alfonso Soriano?

After the 1982 season, the Philadelphia Phillies started amassing aging stars in one last effort to win a World Series like Benedictine monks collecting scripture as the Holy Roman Empire crumpled at their feet. They still had the core of 1980 championship team including Pete Rose (42 years old), Mike Schmidt (33), and Steve Carlton (38), but after falling 3 games short of the Cardinals for NL East title, they felt that needed more veteran help. They had acquired John Denny (30), who would soon win a Cy Young Award, for the playoff run of '82, but he had been a disappointing 0-2 with a 4.03 ERA. They signed a 41-year-old Tony Perez to spell Rose Rose occasionally at 1B. Then on December 14, they traded pitchers Mike Krukow and future Cy Young winner Mark Davis (and a minor-leaguer) for closer Al Holland (30) and 39-year-old Joe Morgan. They also traded five men, all of whom played for the Indians in1983, for the man they misguidedly projected as their future franchise player, Von Hayes (only 24). The 1983 club was dubbed the "Wheeze Kids." Initially, the team failed to gel, and on July 18 GM Paul Owens removed manager Pat Corrales-even though they were in first, they were only one game over .500- and instead appointed himself as manager, telling owner Bill Giles, "I'll win it for you." The team then went on to win their division by a healthy six games, polish off the Dodgers in the playoffs, and then promptly lose the World Series in five games to the Orioles. After the season the Phils jettisoned Morgan, Perez, and Rose almost en masse, fell to mediocrity and began a rebuilding process that, other than a star-alignment-induced hiccup in 1993, has gone on ever since.

What do the '83 Phillies have to do with evaluating Alfonso Soriano? While the Phillies were struggling through a difficult May, at the end of which they would fall to .500, they would lose Joe Morgan to the disabled list for two weeks. But instead of turning to a utility player-the were in a serious pennant chase remember-they plucked a jewel from their farm system going all the way down to Double-A Reading to get him. The previous season en route to the league MVP, he had led the Carolina League in total bases and runs and led second basemen in put outs, assists, double plays, and total chances but also led second basemen in errors (35-he had 50 in '81). This bipolar excellence/deficiency would plague him his entire career. He played inconsistently if adequately for two weeks (14 runs and a .446 slugging average but 16 strikeouts in 65 ABs) while Morgan healed-Joe was supposedly helping him with his throws to first- and then was "promoted" to Triple-A Portland. But there was no mistaking that this man was the heir apparent at second and to Morgan's supremacy at second base-he could run, hit for power, hit for average, and he had great range at second. He was a young version of Morgan himself. At 23, he would be handed the starting job in '84 and would set a national-league record with 701 at bats, steal 72 bases, slug .442, and tie for the league lead in triples (19). He would also lead the league in strikeouts (168) and NL second basemen in errors (33) while walking only 28 times. Eventually, his deficiencies at second outweighed his plusses and he was moved to centerfield, then as his batting and base-running skills atrophied, he would become a journeyman bench player and finish his career after 16 seasons and 8 teams in 1998. Of course, this man was Juan Samuel.

Morgan and fellow Wheeze Kids Schmidt, Carlton, and Perez have all been enshrined in Cooperstown. Rose would have joined them if not for some well-publicized, off-field activities. Morgan has become the ideal for the modern second baseman and seems to split the vote with Rogers Hornsby for the greatest of all time.

Joe Morgan and Juan Samuel have become the two touchstones for Alfonso Soriano's career. Whenever he excels, he is the heir apparent to Joe Morgan's crown as the greatest living second baseman. Whenever he strikes out or fails to draw enough walks, he is called an inconsistent player and comparisons to Samuel crop up. The question is which is the more appropriate comparison Samuel or Morgan? Whose career will Soriano's follow or will he fall between the two?

I first compared their stats through 24 years of age, Soriano's current age. I took ESPN's projections for Soriano this year. I present them here:

                 AB    R    HR    RBI     SB    SB%    BA     OBP   SLG   OPS   RC/G 
Soriano 1325 212 62 180 88 76.5 .289 .319 .509 .828 5.8
Morgan 1602 248 25 127 64 73.6 .273 .384 .401 .785 5.5
Samuel 1429 220 36 148 128 78.1 .269 .306 .439 .745 4.7

Looking at these data, one is left thinking that Soriano is not only more in the Morgan mold, he is superior to Morgan. Soriano has a tremendous lead in home runs and RBI, a 100-point edge in slugging, a 15-point lead in batting average, and a 40-point lead in OPS (On-Base Percentage Plus Slugging Average). Morgan is far superior in on-base percentage, but we already knew that Soriano doesn't walk much. Morgan also came up earlier and therefore, has more at bats, but playing with the expansion Colt .45s as opposed to the World-Champion Yankees may have something to do with that. Poor Samuel isn't even in their league: he has a large lead in stolen bases, but that's it. He is 40 points behind Morgan and 80 points behind Soriano in OPS. Also, His Runs Created Per Game is about a run behind the other two

Well, maybe this isn't exactly fair to all of the participants. Morgan's youth was spent in an historically poor era for hitters, while Soriano cuts his teeth in an historically favorable era for hitters. Morgan played in a bad hitter's park in Houston. Soriano and Samuel played in pretty good hitters' parks. Let's compensate for era and ballpark and compare OPS and runs created as a percentage of the league average:

                OPS*     RC/G*
Soriano 112 117
Morgan 131 149
Samuel 105 114

You see that they are all above their league averages, but Morgan is 31% in OPS and almost 50% better in runs created whereas the other two are no better than 17% above league average in any category. Soriano is better than but comparable to Samuel. Soriano is only 24, and he is having a much better year this year than last but has to do a lot more to earn the comparisons to Morgan.

. . .

Hunter's Throw: Just Trying to
2002-07-18 09:15
by Mike Carminati

Hunter's Throw: Just Trying to Be Helpful?

If you didn't see it, yesterday in a move that is so elegant in its simplicity that I'm surprised it does not happen more often, Torii Hunter was hit by a pitch, picked up the ball having to push third-base coach Al Newman and catcher Einar Diaz out of the way in the process, and fired it back at Cleveland pitcher Danys Baez, hitting him on the leg. Hunter was ejected and both benches cleared. Baez came over to the Twins bench later in the game and apologized to a surprised Hunter (who should no longer have been on the bench being ejected and all). Hunter sounded regretful after the game talking to reporters and said he was surprised Newman let him get the ball. Though Baez got some leather on the ball, he termed it a "hard pitch." There were no reports of group hugs or rounds of "Cum Ba Ya" after the apology.

Manager Ron Gardenhire, had this to say:

We were just playing Minnesota Twins baseball. Torii is an emotional player. I just think he was giving the ball back, that's all.

Whether or not Gardenhire was being facetious was not reported.
. . .

Dolan vs. Steinbrenner Or Cablevision
2002-07-17 23:52
by Mike Carminati

Dolan vs. Steinbrenner Or Cablevision vs. YES?

My friend Mike Markowitz writes:

I see that you commented on Larry Dolan's anti-Yankee, anti-George remarks.
Seems to me that whenever someone talks about the inequities in baseball, it inevitably turns into Yankee-bashing. Well, if the Yankees are the big problem, the outliers who skew the whole system, maybe MLB should contract the Yankees. End of problem.
This won't happen of course because anyone with at least half a brain (this obviously excludes Bud) knows 1) that it helps all teams when there is a successful franchise in the nation's largest media market and 2) that the big, bad New Yorkers are a huge draw wherever they go.
Funny thing is, the Mets are in the same market at the Yankees. They supposedly have all the same advantages, yet no one views them as a threat. Could it be that the Yankees are not just lucky, but instead are very, very good at what they do? Do we really want the Yanks to be the Cubs, a team with more money than God and no clue how to win? Maybe it's time we stopped letting the rest of the country's knee-jerk, small-minded, anti-New York, anti-Yankee bias dictate MLB policy.
And speaking of bias, you do suppose Dolan's remarks had anything to do with the fact that his family's business, Cablevision, is locked in a bitter war with George's YES network. Nah. Couldn't be.

No, as they said when Bud Selig's undisclosed personal loan from Carl Pohlad became public, these men are of the highest moral character.

. . .

Smell-A-Vision Replaces Television In one
2002-07-17 16:26
by Mike Carminati

Smell-A-Vision Replaces Television

In one of the more ridiculous headlines that I have had the pleasure to read,-Astros owner says he'll quit if inequities aren't resolved- Astos owner Drayton McLane professes his intention to quit baseball if the competitive balance inequities are not fixed by the next Collective Bargaining Agreement.

I have clearly said that there has to be a solution when we sign the new agreement -- whether it's signed in two months or two years. There has to be a new system. Otherwise, there's no point in me staying in.

McLane seems confused as to who is in his division: "Here we are trying to beat the Arizona Diamondbacks, the Los Angeles Dodgers, the New York Mets and the Atlanta Braves, and all those teams have payrolls of $90 million or better." I guess he has to use other NL teams to make his point because if the teams in his division are used, according to ESPN their salaries are not far afield of the Astros:

Cubs $75,690,833 (ranked 12th in MLB)
Cardinals $74,098,267 (13)
Astros $63,448,417 (14)
Brewers $50,287,833 (21)
Reds $45,050,390 (23)
Pirates $42,323,598 (24)

The Astros are ranked 14th in baseball about $4 million dollars below the major-league average ($67,445,549.80). They have a larger team salary than the Reds who are ahead of them and almost as large as division-leading St. Louis. They overspent ($7.67 million) on the ever-average Shane Reynolds, are overpaying ($5.5M) for one-year wonder Richard Hidalgo, are paying $6.15 million for two journeyman catchers, and are paying a million each to Orlando Merced, Brian L. Hunter, and T.J. Mathews to sit on their bench.

Currently, the Astos trail nine teams in the NL. Of those nine teams, three (Expos, Marlins, and Reds) have lower salaries. The Astros can be angry to certain degree because they have spent more money per win ($1,442,009.48, 8th in the league) then the league average ($1,409,994.03), but not much more and it is due to the poor decisions that they have made. For comparison, the Expos, Reds, Marlins, and Pirates are all under $1 million per win. On the flip side of the coin, The Mets are paying over $2 million per win and the Cubs are close on their tail.

I guess money has gotten tighter without the choice Enron stadium-naming deal. There was one other note of interest:

McLane's message is one he's hearing from a lot of owners, baseball commissioner Bud Selig said.

I thought that the owners were not allowed to discuss these issues even amonsgt themselves. I guess speaking to uncle Bud is OK. Selig's only reaction to McLane's statements was one of sympathy instead of anger at breaking the gag rule. It makes one ponder. Maybe not.

It seems that we are going to get these daily doom-and-gloom sessions until the end of the season or there is a strike, at which point we'll get them hourly.

. . .

Lest You Think Luxury Tax
2002-07-17 10:27
by Mike Carminati

Lest You Think Luxury Tax Will Resolve Competitive Imbalance

The NBA announced today that because total team salaries did not exceed is self-imposed threshold of 61.1% of basketball related income (BRI), half of the salary deductions made during the past year totaling $153 million will be returned to the players. For example, Kevin Garnett, the highest paid player, will get back about $1.12 million, 5% of his total salary. Salaries only totaled 60.2% of BRI. Also, because the self-imposed threshold was not met, no teams will have to pay a luxury tax. On the surface everything seems rosy, right?

Well, half the teams are expected to incur the luxury tax next year (expected at about $50 million). Some owners are already clamoring to get rid of the luxury tax in exchange for an extension of the Collective Bargaining Agreement.

The thinking is that the tax wouldn't stop teams from spending and would continue to create an imbalance between teams in the East and West, which has more teams that are willing to pay the tax.

Also, the salary cap in the NBA dropped by a reported 5.24% "directly attributable to the more than $100 million drop in revenues expected from the first year of the new television deal with ABC/ESPN and Turner." This is one year after the second highest percentage jump in salary cap (19.72%) since its creation in 1984-85 (44.65% in 1995-96 is the highest). The salary cap has never before gone down. The average increase prior to this year was 13.18% and the lowest one-year increase was 4.41 in 2000-01.

I am left with a whole lot of questions. First, re. the escrow account, the players received $77 million slightly more than half of the $153 million. What happened to the interest? The money was in escrow, but there must be some sort of interest on it. I know that interest rates are low, but they must have made something. Where did it go? Apparently not in the players' pockets, but this is a niggling point.

Second, it seems highly suspicious that the BRI, and therefore, the salary cap, fell. Why would the teams be investing so heavily a year ago if such a large drop in their revenues was imminent? Also, how did the owners curb themselves so quickly to stay under the cap this year? It could just be a anomolous blip on the radar screen, but it seems odd.

More importantly, if the luxury tax is such an important tool in competitive balance, why would so many teams be willing to pay it, and why would some owners be willing to drop it in favor of an extension to the current CBA? What happens to the competitive balance?

The total salary is almost one percent under the threshold, and yet the players are still losing 5% of their salaries (approx. $76 million). That seems usurial.

Also, with regards to the current baseball situation, basketball players with a weakened union receive approximately 60% of the total revenue. Baseball players received approximately 55% (by the owners numbers), and the owners cry poverty. The baseball owners express an interest to emulate the NBA and NFL systems. But as Bob Dupuy states in his interview with Baseball America, the owners will not offer, let alone demand, a salary cap. If the luxury tax is what piques the baseball owners' interest, why is the NBA so ready to slough it off?

. . .

More on the RICO Conspiracy
2002-07-17 00:27
by Mike Carminati

More on the RICO Conspiracy Suit

The New York Times has additional details on the lawsuit filed by the 14 former minority owners against Bud Selig, Bob Dupuy, Jeffrey Loria, and David Samson, the Marlins' current and Expos' past president. Their attorney Sam Minzberg states, "We're here today to say to Major League Baseball and Jeff Loria you're not going to hijack this team from the city of Montreal."

Apparently, Loria was able to gain control of 94% of the Expos starting with only 24% by making a series of cash calls against the minority owners starting February 2001. Since they didn't have the necessary cash, their ownership stake was reduced as Loria's was increased. The suit accuses Loria and Samson of doing this "for the purpose of diluting the ownership interests" of the Expos. The suit alleges that Bud Selig was involved in a "secret plan" to swap the Marlins for the Expos. Further, Bob Dupuy demanded that the cash calls system be implemented or else they would not approve Loria as managing partner, even though Loria was the only option that the team had for that role. They also claim that Selig and Dupuy had by that point already secretly decided to abandon Montreal as a major-league city.

This past season Selig has reminded me of Tony Soprano's uncle Junior during the first season of The Sopranos. Smarter men put him in a position to take a fall. In Junior's case that was to be indicted under the RICO statutes. In Bud's, I thought it was for there to be a second strike on his watch, but his fate and Junior's may be more closely entwined.

. . .

Dissension in the Owners' Ranks?
2002-07-17 00:01
by Mike Carminati

Dissension in the Owners' Ranks?

Indians owner Larry Dolan spoke at a luncheon earlier today and criticized Yankee owner George Steinbrenner for the economic problems in baseball ("George is a large part of our problem''). He also hinted that a strike ``will be very harmful, but necessary perhaps.''

This team pays substantial salaries to Burks, Nagy, Fryman, and Guiterrez (playing out of position), all of whom are over 32 and past their prime; throw in large salaries to injured and unproductive Jaret Wright and overpaid though effective, second-year man, Danys Baez, and an already-released, over-the-hill Brady Anderson and Wil Cordero (over $4M), and you have a number of really bad decisions. Meanwhile Cleveland dumps all of its useful players (Ramirez, Alomar, Colon, etc.) and is reportedly dumping more (Thome, Vizquel), and they blame Steinbrenner for their problems. They still have the ninth highest team salary in baseball and have nothing to show for it.

I wonder if Dolan will incur the wrath of Selig and be levied one of Bud's million-dollar fines under the commissioner's yet-to-be-implemented gag rule. If no fine is levied, we can assume that Dolan's actions are condoned (maybe he even spoke on Selig's behest). If a fine is assessed, the veneer may be cracking on the owners' carefully crafted façade-the greater the reaction, the worse the dissension.

. . .

Gammons: Time for Selig to
2002-07-16 12:12
by Mike Carminati

Gammons: Time for Selig to Go?

Peter Gammons has an ESPN article with the headline "It may be time for Selig to quit." It seems an odd stance for him and may be a more controversial spin that his editor grafted onto the story (kind of like what I did). For the most part Gammons seems sympathetic to Selig ("His record is nowhere near as bad or evil as the lampoons make it appear") and hints that Fehr and the Players Union are blind, religious zealots. If they both sat down and made concessions, the crisis would be avoided.

I have to admit that from time to time I feel sympathetic to the plight of Bud Selig, especially after the All-Star game (his ruined coming out party). I mean, he isn't the devil. He may be good to his kids. He may work with charities, I don't know. Then he opens his mouth, and the sympathy evaporates. Bud Selig is an employee of the owners and a quasi- (if not real) owner. That in and of itself is a conflict of interest. Doug Pappas and others have shown that Selig will make decisions that are advantageous to the Brewers above all other teams. Selig will also put the owners interest before the interests of the sport (e.g., contraction), but that's his job--those are the people he represents.

By the same token Donald Fehr represents the players in their dealings with the owners. He is trying to get what he feels is best for the people he represents and puts that before the best interests of the sport. It's his job. Would you want someone who is representing you (an attorney, a PR person, etc.) to put your interests on the back burner to make a stand for what they feel is right? It's sounds noble, but a) it is disingenuous towards the people you represent and b) who says you are right. If Donald Fehr felt that they players were accepting a de facto salary cap but signed a deal for the owners for the best interest of the game, who knows what the repercussions could be -- maybe a return to the New York large-market hegemony in baseball (even more so than now) and depressed player salaries while the owners get rich. It is not his religion; it's his job. If the players felt that he should take a different tact, they could fire him.

Gammons is right-in an ideal world they should "lock themselves in a room, get a deal that makes everyone money, and show some respect for the game and the players who are being killed in this process." But given that Fehr remembers how the then owners, including Selig and some other active owners, colluded for two years in an attempt to abolish free agency and that the owners' focus has been on contracting teams, manipulating team sales, firing conciliatory negotiators, imposing gag rules on themselves, and spreading the story that financial ruin is around the corner to everyone including Congress when every disinterested analyst contradicts their view, this is not an ideal world.

. . .

Former Expos Minority Owners Sue
2002-07-16 11:41
by Mike Carminati

Former Expos Minority Owners Sue Selig and Loria

Fourteen former minority owners in the Expos are suing former owner Jeffrey Loria and Bud Selig with fraud under the Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act. They apparently owned three quarters of the team at one point, were "diluted" (deluded) down to 6 or 7%, and then were left out in the cold when Loria sold to MLB. They now own the same percentage of the Marlins. From what I understand, Loria sold the club for what he purchased it for, so I'm not sure if this is just a bunch of vultures preying on the moribund body of the Expos or if it has some legitimacy. Maybe they anticipate the Expos being sold to a Washington group for a tidy profit and feel that Selig and Loria orchestrated that. Whatever.

But I do think it's odd a basketball star has been arrested for terroristic acts and a baseball commissioner and owner are being sued for racketeering.

. . .

Upcoming Topics Soriano, the Next
2002-07-16 10:19
by Mike Carminati

Upcoming Topics

Soriano, the Next Joe Morgan or the Next Juan Samuel?

Scott Rolen: From Savior to Cancer, What Happened?

Do the Yankees Have an Unfair Advantage in In-Season Acquisitions?

Why I'm For the Players

1899, the Year of the Last Contraction and the Birth of the American League

Are Small-Market Teams Less Competitive Than in the Past

Are the Angels for Real?

Dodgers, the Anti-Rockies? Are the Dodgers Unduly Helped by Playing in a Pitcher's Park?

All this and more will be yours if The Price Is Right...

. . .

Leonard Koppett Introduces Bases Gained
2002-07-15 22:52
by Mike Carminati

Leonard Koppett Introduces Bases Gained

Leonard Koppett, the author of The Thinking Fan's Guide to Baseball and 24 Seconds to Shoot and a member of the writers' wing of the Baseball and Basketball Halls of Fame is introducing a new stat, Bases Gained (BG). The idea behind BG is that a batter gets credit for the bases that he earns himself AND for all of the bases gained by the baserunners when he is at bat, that is the cumulative effect on the team's bases gained for that plate appearance. To get the player's average divide the BG by plate appearances. For example:

Suppose you get four bases-empty singles in five trips, and pop up with two on. Your BG would be four. A teammate who gets one bases-loaded two-run single would total five. Your 4-for-5 in the boxscore looks a lot better than his 1- for-5, but he did more to win that game, and his 5-4 edge in the BG column would reflect that.

I like the idea. It combines some elements of On-Base Percentage and Slugging Percentage (for individual Bases Gained) and hitting in the clutch (for the baserunner Bases Gained). One could argue that the individual who has more baserunners in front of him would be unduly rewarded by this system and would be correct. It could also be argued that you are credited with extra bases gained by the baserunners ahead of you; faster runners mean more BG for the batter. But it is an interesting stat that would be upgrade on RBI (RBI are also affected by the speed of the runners on base and the ability of the batters ahead of you to get on base).

I don't think it will gain acceptance though. The first obstacle will be the traditions of the calcified baseball fandom--they grew up with batting average, home runs, and RBI and they like them. Even if they took time to understand it, their reaction would still be to prefer RBI over BG: RBI measures runs scored by the team whereas BG measures bases, which may not necessarily lead to runs. For example, there are men on 1st and 2nd with two out. Batter A singles to shallow left but the runner has to hold at 3rd. The next man pops up to end the inning. Batter A then comes up two more times with the bases empty and singles both times but is left stranded on base both times. His fourth time, the bases are loaded but he strikes out. Batter A would be credited with five total bases. He scored no runs and caused no runs to score but he gets 5 BG in 4 PA. Batter B comes to bat four times and strikes out three of those four times with no one on base. The fourth time, Batter B hits a home run with no one one on. Batter B's team beats Batter A's team 1-0 on that HR. Batter B is credited with four BG in 4 PA. Batter A has a better BG per PA average than Batter B even though Batter B directly caused a run, the winning run in fact, to score. One could argue the merits of either player's game, but if RBI totals more accurately reflect the players' effect on the runs scored in the game, there will be those who will never use BG instead. The last obstacle is the inability to compare the BG average of today's players with those of the past since there is no accurate way to derive the bases gained for the baserunners from the data available. Even if you could, the BG average would fluctuate over time depending on the on-base percentage of your team and the league in general, thereby damning historical comparisons. (Maybe BGA is the answer: Bases Gained Adjusted for park effect and era???)

But it is a pretty cool idea that would yield some interesting analysis.

. . .

Oh, To Be Player Rep
2002-07-15 16:51
by Mike Carminati

Oh, To Be Player Rep Now That Summer Is Here!

Here's an interesting quote from Tony Gwynn's chat session today on ESPN:

I was the player rep in '94. Believe me, the fans turn on you. About 70 percent of the people will agree with the owners because they feel the players are paid more than they should be. Distracting? No. Actually, it was a relief. On the field, you get to relax and do what you do. Guys are professional enough to separate the two. It's a tough job, but someone has to do it. It's better for a young player to do it. He gets to learn about the sacrifices players have made for him to get to where he is today. In '94, after we went on strike, one of the best meetings we had was in Atlanta. It was after everything had happened. We were going through our regular meetings, and Curt Flood came and talked to us. He got a standing ovation. The players realized the sacrifice he made for us. At the same time, I'm not a big union guy. Right is right and wrong is wrong, and sometimes you have to say something that may not be popular. For me, it was a good experience. For Lo Duca, I don't know. This year's negotiations may be different because the '94 strike is still fresh in everyone's minds.

. . .

The Jerry Manuel Death Watch
2002-07-15 16:06
by Mike Carminati

The Jerry Manuel Death Watch Commences Today

GM Kenny Williams gave Jerry Manuel ChiSox manager a vote of confidence today. To be on the receiving end of such confidence builders for a manager in 2002 must be akin to the feeling Fredo Corleone had when Michael walked up to him, kissed him on the mouth, and said, "I know it was you." Quite inspirational.

. . .

All-Star Game: Exhibition or War
2002-07-15 14:59
by Mike Carminati

All-Star Game: Exhibition or War for Bragging Rights

I just read Dave Campbell's ESPN article on among other things possible trades. It's nice to see that the Yankees are thinking along the lines that I mentioned earlier. i.e., trying to pick up a veteran reliever, and it's even nicer to see that my Phils may dump the salary of silly pickup Dan Plesac.

Campbell then discusses the All-Star game and how an emphasis on winning must be re-instilled in the managers and players. Much has been made about the lack of motivation to win (or in this case even complete) an All-Star game. Players are shuttled in and out of the game in an effort to please every possible fan market, lefties jokingly bat right against Randy Johnson, Barry Bonds grabs Torii Hunter in mock anger after being robbed of a home run by an outstanding catch by the latter, etc. It becomes a forum for anyone looking for a soapbox from which to bloviate: players are coddled too much, the rosters need to be expanded, the managers need to be under stricter control, a less indecisive commissioner is needed, blah blah blah.

However, the feeling among the players and managers that the game is just an exhibition for the fans is less their opinion and more a reaction to the changes in baseball over the last few decades. When I was a kid growing up in an NL town, the only time that I got to watch the American League was on Saturday afternoons if the game of the week feature two AL clubs. The games looked different in the AL: first you had the DH, the game was more of a power game whereas the NL was based on speed, the pitchers relied more on finesse than power, the strike zone was different, umpires whose names you did not recognize wore different uniforms and drew puffy shields in front of themselves as they set for the pitch. They played in exotic locales like Arlington and Bloomington. There were two times that Moses let loose the waters of the Red Sea and allowed these two worlds to meet. One was the World Series, the other the All-Star game. If you wanted to see Tom Seaver face Reggie Jackson, either you were lucky enough to have their teams win their respective leagues and compete in the World Series or you watched the All-Star game. That's what made it special.

In the intervening years baseball has removed the offices of the league presidents and subsumed their functions under the commissioner's office. Interleague play allows fans to see stars from different leagues face each other on a fairly regular basis. The Milwaukee Brewers switched leagues. Umpires are no longer segmented into different leagues with different connotations of the rules and different uniforms and equipment. The DH still exists but it is no longer a source of pride as much as a burden to bear for the AL.

The differences between the styles of play have diminished over the years as well. Expansion has genericized the style in general. "Small Ball", once the style of the NL, has been supplanted by power. The Yankees were regarded as an NL-style team a few years ago because they deigned to steal a base or play hit-and-run occasionally.

Also, the differences between the players in the two leagues have lessened. Players are no longer regarded as National Leaguers or American Leaguers-- free agency went a long way to change that perception (the perception has changed, but I'm not necessarily saying that players switch leagues more often today). At one time, the NL was seen as the league for which more Latin American and African-American players toiled. Beating the AL was then a source of pride. A comradery among all of the players was engendered by the growth of the Players' Union under Marvin Miller and Donald Fehr. The players are no longer ignorant rubes who can be worked up to a hateful lather or threatened into submission by the league president before the All-Star game.

The All-Star event itself has also changed. The day before is reserved for a good-spirited exhibition of power with the home run derby. Why wouldn't the players allow the feeling of fun over winning spill over into the All-Star game itself? The rule that every team must be represented which made sense when there were eight teams per league induces the managers to use players more quickly in an effort to make sure each team is represented in the game. This becomes problematic when the number of teams has almost doubled (16 to 30). Often due to the roster constraints, managers select representatives from the weaker teams for their pitching staffs (e.g., Mike Williams this year). The manager then feels responsible to get that sole representative in to please the team's fans.

Can the All-Star game be re-focused back on winning? Sure. (Getting rid of interleague play would be a great step in that direction.) But there are so many fundamental things that would have to change about the game and the men who play it that no one is prepared to make. So it's an exhibition. So what? Does that detract from the beauty of Torii Hunter's catch or Bonds home run later. We should enjoy the game for what it is, a game. But it would be nice to have a winner in the end.

. . .

Mets Playoff Hopes I had
2002-07-15 12:05
by Mike Carminati

Mets Playoff Hopes

I had to fight an urge to just leave this space blank and let that emptiness speak for itself. But now that I've begun, let's start with what manager Bobby Valentine thinks. On Sunday, he said, "I don't think we're in that big a hole. Plenty of season left. Just play it. All our best baseball's ahead of us." Whether or not he actually believes that is impossible to say.

As far as reality is concerned, the Mets making the playoffs would be something on the order of the 1914 Miracle Braves, 1964 Cardinals, and 1978 Yankees all rolled into one. The Mets are currently 12.5 games behind the surprising Braves in the NL East; they are 9 games behind Arizona in the wildcard. Those are rather large deficits to overcome, but that may not be the worst of it: they are currently one game under .500 and are tied for third in the East and for eighth place in the NL. So to make the playoffs they would have to leapfrog either over two (and one-half) teams in their division or over four teams in the wildcard chase.

The Mets' situation is not much different from that of another surprising team the Orioles, an example I love to use. The Orioles are surprising because they are near .500, but no one expects them to make the playoffs given that the strength of the Yankees and Red Sox in their division and the rest of the teams in the AL wildcard hunt. The Orioles are currently 3 games under .500, 13 games behind the Yankees, and 10 games behind the Red Sox in the wildcard chase, not far from the Mets' lot.

Could it be that these Mets have a miracle in them? Looking at the runs for and against (395 and 379 respectively), there is some reason to believe that they should be a little better than .500 but not a whole lot better. Using Bill James Pythagorean winning percentage formula, one would expect the Mets to have a .519 record, which would improve the Mets record by two games. This would put them 10.5 games back in the East and 7 behind the wildcard leader. That does not inspire a lot of confidence.

The Mets will either have to face the reality of their situation as the trade deadline approaches or go into next year with a bunch of aging players who did not produce what was expected of them this year. It is hard to remember that expectations were so high for the Mets at the start of the season, while teams now competing in a pennant race (Montreal and Minnesota) were targeted for contraction. What a whacky season 2002 has been so far, and it just gets whackier and whackier.

. . .

Yankees Arms Race There's an
2002-07-15 09:15
by Mike Carminati

Yankees Arms Race

There's an interesting fan poll on ESPN today as to who is the most important starting pitcher to the AL East pennant race: Clemens, Lowe, Martinez, or Mussina. Martinez is the run-away leader if you're interested.

However, a better question may be who will be the most important relief pitcher. The Yankees currently have three of the top five relief pitchers in the AL in innings pitched. Mike Stanton, Ramiro Mendoza, and Steve Karsay are all over 50 innings. Given that we are only halfway through the year, the possibility that some or all of them could pitch over 100 innings is very real (though only Mendoza projects to over 100 right now). I can't remember the last team that had three relievers pitch over 100 innings each (I'll see if I can find out). It is especially surprising given the Yankees veteran starting pitching core.

With the acquisition of Jeff Weaver and the imminent move of Sterling Hitchcock to the bullpen once he returns from the disabled list, this may alter the Yankees use (or over-use) of certain members of their bullpen. But with both Hitchcock and Clemens on the DL, this solution may not be as easy to implement as one would expect. Also, given the suddenly vincible Mariano Rivera and the possibility of an injury or a mechanical problem as the root cause of this problem, one or more of the middle relievers may be pressed into closer duty, thereby putting more of a strain on the middle relief corps.

This is something to be watched depending on how certain scenarios play out (injuries to and effectiveness of the players involved) going forward. I wouldn't be surprised if the Yankees picked up a veteran reliever for some depth down the line.

. . .

Commissioners in Glass Houses... As
2002-07-15 00:29
by Mike Carminati

Commissioners in Glass Houses...

As Andrew Zimbalist points out in the introduction to "Baseball and Billions", in 1991 baseball attendance had increased by 50% over the totals for 1977, total revenues had almost doubled what they were five years earlier ($718M to 1.4B), and operating profits had gone from in the red to the black (a $221.6M increase). But what did then-commissioner Fay Vincent have to say about the state of baseball:

"Baseball is poised for catastrophe and it might not be far off."

Sound familiar?

. . .

Sour Grapes? Former Commissioner Fay
2002-07-14 23:59
by Mike Carminati

Sour Grapes?

Former Commissioner Fay Vincent let Bud Selig and baseball have it again tonight. His criticism of Selig for letting the All-Star game end in a tie are valid, but he does not offer any other alternatives. Also, he would know that the commissioner has little control over the on-field decisions of the managers (i.e., using all of the available pitchers). In asking, "How can you not anticipate it going extra innings?" Vincent perhaps is accusing Selig of not making some rule changes prior to the game to reserve a certain number of pitchers for extra innings. This would be a valid question to ask for anyone but the former commissioner. One could just as easily ask that question of him. As I pointed out in an earlier blog, the previous record for most players used in a game (56) was set in 1981 (and tied in '99). This has been an issue for some time. Unfortunately for baseball and especially for Selig, fate choice this year to be the one in which the worst-case scenario played out.

Vincent then states that Selig's position with the owners may no longer be secure. He then offers this opinion of the current state of baseball:

"A total mess. If there were stock in baseball, it would be hitting a new low. It's as low as it can possibly go."

Vincent's opinions at first were very telling, but you have to start to wonder what his motives are. Could he possibly still be angry over his ouster in 1992? Is he just having a great time sticking it to the owners who helped get him fired? Even if his motives are noble, merely to inform the public, he does seem to be having a little too much fun stirring the pot.

. . .

Selig All Too Familiar with
2002-07-14 23:36
by Mike Carminati

Selig All Too Familiar with the Complexities of Bankruptcy

As this article on bankruptcy and the differences between Chapter 7 and Chapter 11 points out, Bud Selig has firsthand knowledge of a team going bankrupt. He bought the Pilots for $10.8 million and transformed them into the Brewers. He knows that bankruptcy is not necessarily the death knell for a team that he professes it to be.

. . .

Ouch! After allowing 6 runs,
2002-07-14 23:24
by Mike Carminati


After allowing 6 runs, all earned, on 5 hits in 2/3 of an inning and losing the ballgame tonight for the Yankees, Mariano Rivera more than doubled his ERA from 1.39 to a flat 3.00. It was the most runs that he has ever allowed in a relief appearance.

. . .

"Cleveland Rocks" Retraction I had
2002-07-14 23:13
by Mike Carminati

"Cleveland Rocks" Retraction

I had said that there were now eight current managers who had been catchers in their playing days. I should have said 9. Apologies to Jeff Torborg.

. . .

The Phickle Phinger oph Phate
2002-07-14 12:47
by Mike Carminati

The Phickle Phinger oph Phate Phocuses on Phil and Phyllis Phillie

If you went to Vets Stadium in the mid-'70s you probably saw Phil and Phyllis Phillie, the animatronic, patriot-bedecked mascots of the Phillies, do their routine. The tri-corner-hat and knickers look was all the rage what with the bicentennial celebration and all. So of course, baseball tried to exploit it.

These creatures resided, if I remember correctly, behind and above the wall in left-center field. They would remain motionless until a Phillies player homered, at which point Phyllis, who held a match in her hand, would rotate to her side and light the wick of a pretend cannon. Then as the cannon "fired" Phil would swing his bat and hit the approaching "cannonball." I also remember Phyllis jumping in surprise to avoid the frozen rope from Phil's bat.

After the Phillie Phanatic was foisted on the unknowing Philadelphia phans, Phil and Phyllis feel into disuse. I remember going to a game in the early to mid-'80s, and they were just gone with no fanfare (phanphare?). All that was left their outline like when a picture is removed from the wall. This sorts of attractions were replaced by jumbo screens and replays. I am told that there is still a large apple that pops out of a hat whenever someone hits a home run in some professional stadium somewhere, but it must be in some remote area full of a bunch of rubes. Anyway, the Phillies soon got a big Phanavision screen and these formerly beloved characters were soon forgotten.

Until now...I located Phil and Phyllis in an amusement park called Storybook Land outside of Atlantic City. I was just strolling along among the kiddy rides and displays depicting scenes from fairy tales when there they were as big as life (about two stories high) with no designation save a 1980 Phillies World Champions pennant replacing Phyllis' match. They no longer moved and any mechanisms to help them do so had been removed.

They just stood there monolithically inscrutable. They were like the huge stone monuments on Easter Island-staring down uncaring like gods on high at the bewildered travelers who stumble upon them. I prefer to think of them though as a retired couple in Florida, having discussions about the weather in New York and what was on Rosie and Regis and arguing over driving directions, oblivious to the rest of the world, basking in the sun without a care in the world.

. . .

A stroll through the 1972
2002-07-13 02:09
by Mike Carminati

A stroll through the 1972 Baseball Guide, 30 years later

First, the cover features Joe Torre, Tony Oliva, Fergie Jenkins, and Vida Blue.

P. 28 has the Chicago Cubs team picture. They were the last club to display the team photo as disembodied heads arranged around the team logo. This was popular years ago, but had been replaced with the photo of the team seated with bodies attached. The Cubs did that at least into the Herman Franks era (I remember the baseball card).

P. 136 features the last team photo of the Washington Senators with then manager Ted Williams sitting front and center with a ticked-off expression on his face.

P. 118 features a picture of the four 20-game winners on the Orioles staff: Jim Palmer, Dave McNally, Mikeuellar, and Pat Dobson. Each is gripping the ball differently. McNally got the knuckleball, Dobson a slider, Palmer a change, Cuellar is just goofing around.

Here's a quote from page 277 re. The highlights of '71: "Hank Aaron hit his 600th Home run as he continued to challenge Babe Ruth's heroic record of 714..."

The Guide goes to great lengths to castigate the Senators for moving to Texas (they devote 8 pages punctuated by headlines like "Four Clubs Not In Favor of Move"). You have to remember that historically, The Sporting News and the Guides were basically an adjunct to the majors. Then it has an article on how Richard Nixon had decided to adopt his native Angels as his home team after calling the Senators move "heart-breaking." I'm glad that the country was doing so well that he could devote his time to such matters.

My favorite article in the review of 1971, is an article on p. 311 (35 or so pages into the 40-page review section) entitled "Supreme Court Agreed to Hear Flood Case". The article contains only one paragraph o the case (half of it is devoted to the owners NLRB case with the umps). Here it is:

The Supreme Court, however, did agree to hear the Curt Flood case. The Flood suit, which has the support of the Players Association, was filed on January 16, 1970, and challenged the reserve system as an antitrust violation and contended that the players were victims "of a form of peonage and involuntary servitude." A district court dismissed the suit on August 1, 1970, and on April 7 a three-judge U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the dismissal. This made two strikes against Flood but on October 11, the Supreme Court announced it would hear the Flood case. A final decision was expected in early summer of 1972.

This after two pages on Flood's aborted return with Washington with the following headlines "Flood Drew Advance Equal to Half Salary", "Curt Began as a Regular, But Was Platooned Later", and "Flood's Varied Investments Fizzled." Don't mess with the owners. To add insult to injury the first page of the '71 review contains runs down the three grievances that players won in '71 (Alex Johnson to treat "emotional disturbance" the same as physical ailments-15 pages are devoted to the largely forgotten story, Tony Conigliari sued for pay when he took time off to treat his ever-worsening eye, and Clete Boyer for his being released by the Braves for talking to the press). They also employ the word "jump" as in "Player A jumped his contract" incessantly as if it were 1890 and they were rushing off to join the Players League.

P. 342, features a Phillies player with the number 20. But it's not who you would expect, Schmidt has not been called up yet. It's Roger Freed.

P. 348 lists the Firemen of the Year. Dave Guisti (Pirates) and Ken Sanders (Brewers) are the recipients. They are the only men in their respective leagues with 30 or more saves.

On p. 370, the editors felt compelled to list the 19 players who played in both leagues.

On p. 378, the major-league hotels are listed. If you look in the old Reach and Spalding Guides (both pre-1940) and the old Sporting News Guides, you will find the hotels used by visiting ballplayers listed. This held some cache for the designated hotels. However, publicizing that now would pose somewhat of a security problem. I can't believe things were still so simple in 1972. Wow.

The leading pitcher for the American Association is one James (soon to be J.R.) Richard. For the International League, Bobby Grich is the leading batter, Buzz Capra (huh?) the leading pitcher, and George Sisler, Jr. the president. In the PCL, Tommy Hutton (I guess he did not yet own Seaver) is the leading batter. The Teaxs League has Enos Cabell and Wayne Garland as leaders. Art Howe lead the Carolina League in batting (the lower leagues didn't designate anyone as a batting/pitching leader per se). Goose Gossage and Sid Monge were ERA leaders as starters in the Midwest League. Bob Bailer and Al Bumbry were leaders in the Northern League. And George Brett is 9th in batting in the Pioneer League.

The team attendance is listed on p. 597. Only four AL teams top one million (Baltimore, Boston, Detroit, and NewYork). While in NL all but one team (San Diego) has at least one million fans; LA and the Mets have over 2 million in attendance. Now, doesn't make sense why the AL, trying to generate offense and fan interest, instituted the DH while the NL opted not to.

. . .

Omar the Magnificent ESPN has
2002-07-13 01:27
by Mike Carminati

Omar the Magnificent

ESPN has a fan poll asking which team that currently is not in first place has the best chance to make the playoffs. The results are

D-Backs 33.5%
Red Sox 30.1%
A's 12.1%
Giants 6.6%
Expos 6.5%
Angels 5.9%
Reds 4.8%.

Now, does fan perecption match reality. Here are the teams, their games behind their respective division leader and behind the wildcard leader:

Team           GB Div             GB WC
Boston             2                    -
Anaheim          3                     .5
Oakland           5                   2.5
Arizona             .5                  -
San Fran          3                   3.5
Montreal         11.5                7
Cincinnati         2.5                7

Now what's wrong with that picture. All of these teams are within five games of their division leader or the wildcard leader except the Expos. And yet the Expos are given more of a chance by the average ESPN fan that two other teams. I kind of have to agree with the fans' assesment of the Reds' chances, but the poor Angels get no respect-- they are within striking distance for both the AL West crown and the AL wildcard (2 ahead of the A's), but nary a fan thinks that they can garner a playoff spot.

Anyway, those Expo trades have generated a positive image in the public eye even though they haven't helped the Expos fortunes on the field. Way to go Omar! Maybe he'll get a commission when the sell the team.

Friday is Joe Morgan Chat
2002-07-13 00:18
by Mike Carminati

Friday is Joe Morgan Chat day at Carvel's

I love Joe Morgan chat day. Morgan was and is one of my favorite players and sometimes has brilliant insights, but other times he says the most ludicrous things I have ever heard. He's turning into one of those old ballplayers who remember when they had to trudge uphill 10 miles in the snow to and from the ballpark-these young whippersnappers have it too easy. There's no way to predict what he will say. He's like the Schrodinger's Cat of baseball analysts. So without further ado let's open the box and see if the cat is dead or alive:

The sublime:

Jim (Cincinnati): Hello again Joe. There is all this talk of who is baseballs greatest living player right now after the passing of Mr. Williams. You wrote in a column last year that you felt Mays was the best ever. Mays was great, but Hammerin Hank was good defensively and is #1 all time in not only HR's, but RBI's as well. Who do you think is the greatest right now: Mays, Aaron, Musual, or Bonds even?

Joe Morgan: I've always felt it was Mays, even when DiMaggio and Williams were alive, but politics wouldn't allow that to happen.

[Mike: Agreed]

Cole Parker: Hey Joe. I know not many people agree on Bud Selig's ending of the All Star game in a tie. But what I dont like is how they didn't announce an MVP. My mvp would have been Curt Schilling because of his pitching in the first three innings. He did great! What do you think of not having an MVP?

Joe Morgan: I think it went along with the ridiculous stoppage of the game. There could have been an MVP up to that point. I don't disagree with that.

[Mike: Yeah, why re-dub an award and not give it out? There were a number of deserving players to choice from.]

Eugene (NYC): I know this is not a fair comparison because Soriano has to do it for about 15 more years to be mention in the same breath, but just looking at this season, other than his lack of patience, does Soriano remind you of yourself in the offensive end?

Joe Morgan: No. He's a completely different player -- bigger and stronger. He has unlimited potential. I was limited in certain ways and made up for it in certain areas. The only player who reminds me of him is Juan Samuel. I'm a big fan of Soriano's, and I think he will be a great player. He will get better.

[Mike: Nice assessment. Soriano may turn into another Samuel, and then the Yankees will trade him to the Mets.]


Joe Morgan: Don't blame A-Rod. And why should he take less money if they offered it to him? Your finger should be pointed at the people who gave him the money. I think they should ride it out too. Ivan Rodriguez is the only one who could be traded.

[Mike: Well done, Joe.]

The ridiculous:

Logan(Pensacola): Hi, I loved your coverage of the HR derby... I am a Sammy fan... I really think he is the best hr hitter of all time, what do you think?

Joe Morgan: He definitely has to be ranked with the best. I still think Hank Aaron and Willie Mays are the best I've ever seen. He ranks with them. Again, it's hard to rate today's players against past players because of the livelier balls, the pitching being not as good and the smaller ballparks. But Sosa is one of the best.

[Mike: Sammy Sosa has lead his league in HRs once in 2000. How could he be the greatest of all time? ]

Paul Bartosz (Michigan): Hi Mr. Morgan, If Bud Selig says he feels so bad about the All-Star game, why didn't he just let it continue. The game was a hell of a game but it turned out to be a hell of a disgrace. I was very disappointed by how he handled this.

Joe Morgan: I agree with your assessment, except I don't think everything should fall on Bud this time. It should fall on the managers as well for not managing the players better. They have 25 players during the regular season, and this never happens. They have 30 in the All-Star Game and they let it happen.

[Mike: What does the roster size have to do with anything? The AL had 9 pitchers the NL 10, 7 of which were short relievers. Neither team had any long relievers. Sorry, J.C. Romero. Most major-league teams carry more than 9 pitchers after April and all have long relievers or converted starters that they can go to in those sorts of situations. Besides there's no implied requirement to get a player from each team into the game in the regular seasons so that Pittsburgh can say it saw its all-star pitch.]

Victor (Harlem): Joe, isn't firing Charlie Manuel extremely unfair? You let go two of their best hitters (Alomar and Gonzalez) and you expect them to flourish?

Joe Morgan: A few firings have been unfair. I didn't think Baylor's firing was fair because he had no offense from anyone but Sammy. I agree, but it's happened more than once. I don't think the Lopes firing was legit because he didn't get much time to manage a bad team. But that's the way the game goes.

[Mike: Baylor's teams had a losing record three of the last four years. Lopes had parts of three years in Milwaukee and that team was progressively getting worse. Was it their faults that their teams failed? Not totally, but as they old adage goes they could finish last without them.]

Mac (Harrisburg): Joe, does the players' union ever ask for opinions from retired ballplayers such as yourself? The owners believe they are doing what is best for the owners and the players believe they are doing what is best for the players. But do they ever seek out feedback from outside sources? If they aren't, they should to get some perspective. Thanks.

Joe Morgan: I can't answer that. They don't talk to me. I don't know if they do with someone else. I agree with you. I do talk to Don Fehr, but they don't seek me out to answer questions about labor.

[Mike: He's toying with us, right? He really isn't serious, is he? Don Fehr is going to seek out the advice of retired ballplayers, men that have no idea what the labor situation is right now. And on top of that Fehr is going to seek out Morgan, who is now a journalist of sorts, and pour out his soul to him. Please?!?]

Baseball's death has been greatly
2002-07-12 16:56
by Mike Carminati

Baseball's death has been greatly exaggerated

Here's a good article on the financial insecurity of baseball.

Exposed? Rob Neyer is critical
2002-07-12 15:34
by Mike Carminati


Rob Neyer is critical of the Expos continued attempt to contend this season.

I agree with him in principle, but cannot blame the 'Spos for what they are trying to do. What incentive do they have to hold on to their prospects? Their future is so uncertain that it would be foolish to hold onto players who cannot help them this season.

Neyer points out that they are "long shots for even the playoffs." True. Their situation is not much better than the Cleveland Indians, a team headed in a complete different direction that traded their #1 pitcher to Montreal before the All-Star game. Montreal is 10.5 games out of first and is 6th in the NL, 6 games back in the wildcard standings. For comparison sake, Baltimore is in 6th in the AL, 13 behind the Yankees, and 11.5 behind the wildcard leader. Now, the Expos are in a better position than Baltimore. But does anyone think of Baltimore as even having the slightest chance of making the playoffs? (That was rhetorical.)

OK, so they're probably not going to make the playoffs. If you're Omar Minaya, the Expos GM, what are you going to do in his position, A) stand pat, B) trade for the future, or C) trade for the now? Well, it all depends on what he's trying to achieve.

Let's assume that the Expos have three possible fates at the end of the season: 1) Being contracted, 2) being sold, or 3) status quo.

If the Expos are being contracted, prospects won't matter (so that eliminates B)--the Players' Union would try to negotiate re. the players on the 40-man roster but has no say in what happens to the rest of the players in the system. The owners would probably hold a draft for (at least) those players. If you're a GM who covets someone in their system, why not go after them now, and shed salary this season in the process? Option A is a possibility but one would feel compelled to start trading because it could help you make the playoffs, that's part of what GMs do, and the publicity can't hurt your future employment prospects.

Say the Expos are sold. Again trading for the present is the only way to go. I would think that having name players is preferable to having a strong development system when you try to sell a ballclub. Cliff Floyd and Bartolo Colon will impress suitors more easily than a bunch of guys they never heard of (they don't even have baseball cards). Besides, all of the free publicity can't possibly hurt. The new owners will have to worry about the dearth of minor-league talent. But heck, if you're Omar Minaya, you probably won't be around to care.

If there is no change in the Expos status, then I agree this will come to haunt them possibly even next season. But since this is considered a remote possibility and it's only one of three possible outcomes, with the other two favoring trading for now, what would you do?

Well, maybe you don't think Omar Minaya is in complete control of the situation. Maybe Bud Selig and his cadre of owners who all own a stake in the club are actually pulling the strings. If so, the outcome is the same. No team should feel that intimidated by the Expos retooling since they are still so far back. The teams that trade with them, achieve their goals. If the Expos ae folded (which I doubt), the owners feel that they can get the players that they want via a draft. If the team is sold, Minaya has made it more desirable, and therefore, more remunerative for its current owners.

So if I were the Expos, I would eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we die (maybe).

Boone-Dip I didn't think he
2002-07-12 14:20
by Mike Carminati


I didn't think he had time to cook. A link from a friend

Detroit and Devil Rays Dodge
2002-07-12 12:24
by Mike Carminati

Detroit and Devil Rays Dodge Debts--Players Pay No Longer Problematic

Do I believe that the Tigers and Devil Rays, the two alleged teams, were not going to make payroll? Well, let's just say that I am highly suspicious. Is it possible? Yes. Is it probable? I don't think so. But if it were true, wouldn't we have heard or wouldn't there have been indications of their dire financial condition prior to this? Wouldn't they be selling off players and merchandise like crazy? Wouldn't they be firing the front office people?

I am doubly suspicious because this comes after a litany of highly suspicious MLB financial hand-wringing, a cross between Chicken Little and the Boy Who Cried Wolf, and because it comes right after an embarrassingly tied All-Star game, which now is conveniently pushed off the headlines of the sports pages.

The teams, however, are going to meet payroll, due to an eleventh-hour loan. According to the NY Times, Bob Dupuy, COO of MLB, claimed that it was "a matter of cash flow and ongoing expenses." Also according to the Times, the teams "secured loans using distributions from baseball's central fund as collateral. The central fund is the repository for revenue from such sources as the national television package and licensing. The commissioner's office periodically, though not on a regular schedule, distributes money from the fund to the 30 teams."

I don't think that comparing this to you or me not transferring enough cash from savings to checking to cover a check is unreasonable. By the same token, if someone were to bounce a check due to such an oversight, a) it would not mean that they were in serious financial straits nor b) would it be something they would want to, let alone think to, make public.

I don't think any club is in a such a poor financial condition that bankruptcy is looming. But what if they were? The Baltimore Orioles declared bankruptcy, were sold to Peter Angelos, and for a time were one of the flagship franchises (Until he ran them into the ground).

One item in the Times article really concerned me. It was a throw-away line at the end of the article, the type that they stick at the end because they don't know what to do with them, but they want to get them in. It was: "Teams often borrow money during the season to cover expenses or new payroll additions." So does it seem more logical that this was something that is a common occurrence that is not usually published, but Bud Selig and his coterie decided to make public to meet their interests, or were the Devil Rays and Tigers in danger of going belly up? You make the call.

Cleveland Rocks Poor Charlie Manuel.
2002-07-12 11:09
by Mike Carminati

Cleveland Rocks

Poor Charlie Manuel. To get fired right after representing your team in the All-Star game.

I just don't get why a team that has made public their intent to build for the future would release a manager who has won whenever he has had the talent to win. Manuel was in the last year of his contract, and Mike Shapiro claims to have let Manuel go after being presented by him with an ultimatum for a commitment for next season. I can't believe that's it's that simple, but then again, nothing really is.

As far as Joel Skinner is concerned, it's nice to see a team make the unconventional move to hire a former catcher as manager. How many are there now, 10? There's Boone, Torre, Brenley, Bochy, Scioscia, Pena, McClendon, and Narron. Well, 8. And Buck Martinez also managed this year.

Now can they give him
2002-07-12 09:48
by Mike Carminati

Now can they give him the Ted Williams Award?

According to the New York Times, Strat-O-Matic resolved the tied All-Star game. The NL won on an Andruw Jones single in the bottom of the 12th.

I watched the mess between
2002-07-11 23:42
by Mike Carminati

I watched the mess between the two halves of the 11th inning last night. I had popped in a tape to record the game the other night just in case I missed something spectacular--how ironic.

I have to say after watching it that it was more pathetic to watch than to read about. I don't know if you saw it but here are my thoughts:

- First I have to say that the Fox team, Buck and McCarver, did a good job throughout (the mess at least).

- Fox identified the extra innings as a potential problem in the 10th. They thought that Garcia and
Padilla would go 3 making the 12th the do-or-die inning. Why didn't Bud start doing something about it earlier on? Then again why didn't they do something months or years ago? Too busy contracting teams?

- Fox kept going to an even-more-squirmy-than-usual Bud Selig in the stands during the top of the 11th. I do have to say that the man is inscrutable--he always looks like a man having a rough bowel movement. Although, Bud was as well coifed and attired as I have even seen him, at least until the fiasco after which he was his usual disheveled mess.

- The delay between innings was ridiculous. As Fox pointed out either you play another inning or you don't. Just make a decision. Also pointed out by Fox was the fact that the decision need not be made until after the 11th--what if the NL scored then the point is moot? So the delay was unnecessary.

- After Selig apparently made a decision and sent the managers back to the dugouts (this took around 4 minutes), he called them back to relay something else (wasting another 1-2 minutes). Maybe he didn't know what he was going to do until after he sent the managers to their dugouts necessitating calling them back. Whatever was being said and done on the field, Selig came off as an indecisive boob. Somewhere Don Fehr was chuckling to himself.

- Also, Garcia threw a good couple of innings before the bottom of the 11th just trying to stay loose. You could see his thoughts ("C'mon. Let's go.") plainly on his face. He even stopped throwing and crouched on the mound as if he were disgusted with the whole thing. I thought the point was to protect the pitchers' arms?!?

- Buck and McCarver discussed the possibility of a tie game and said something like, "it's no big deal. The sun will come up tomorrow." They were honestly surprised by the fans' reaction; they thought that the fans would be more sympathetic to the pitchers. I guess $175 tickets will do that. In all honesty, the fans got an extra 2 innings and overall a very well played game (aside from Sosa's running blunder). There was no conclusion, but it wasn't bad.

- The announcement that the game would end at the end of the eleventh came after (or more accurately as) Luis Castillo flied out to start the inning. It was a poorly worded, unapologetic announcement, something like, "Ladies and gentlemen, the game will end in a tie if the NL doesn't score in this inning." There was no mention of the concern for the pitchers, no "thanks for your understanding," no mention of who made the decision, no real explanation at all. I think that it was intended to be a good thing-keep the fans informed, avoid the melee that would result if the game just ended with no warning-, but it shows how out of touch MLB is when it thinks that its decrees will assuage the fanbase. By the way, it was roundly booed.

- The fans were chanting, "Let them play." Kudos to Joe Buck for noting that this was a nod to "The Bad News Bears in Breaking Training" (starring Tony Curtis-it was one of my earliest movies without cartoon characters) and that that line was first uttered by Bob Watson when the Bears exhibition game in the Astrodome had to be stopped prematurely, the same Bob Watson who was now in the commissioner's office and at the game. However, I didn't hear any one say, "Bud must go."

- It was enough to make me, the Bud critic that I am, sympathetic to the poor slob. The used car salesman turned owners' rep, got an all-star game in his home town, then the HR derby is tainted by the steroid issue and marginalized by headlines that the players did not set a strike date (huh?). Then he gets himself all gussied up in his best suit and combs his hair with his finest possum-based hair oil and goes to the game. He does the right thing and calls the game, and the world hates him.

- Enough to make me sympathetic until he opened his mouth. The dufe blames the managers for not managing the rosters properly:

"There is a different bit of thinking today,'' Selig said. "I'm not going to be critical of the managers.
They felt they were doing the right thing and they got everybody in.

"But I think it's time (for change). We do have 30 players. We've expanded the roster. So, hopefully that should be enough.''

(He must mean that the rosters are expanded from what a team is allowed to carry during the season since there have been 30-man rosters in the All-Star game since before expansion, even though each team must be represented and there are nearly twice as many teams)

- He acts all commishy and avers bravely:
Selig called it a "horribly painful and heartbreaking lesson.''
"We will learn from this,'' he vowed. "This will never happen again.''

- Let's get this straight. There will be no players added, no tie-breaking home run derby (why not it's an exhibition and the fans like the HR derby), and no position players pitching (good. It seems like good fun when Wade Boggs throws knuckleballs, but I remember a decent backup OF for the Phils, Mike Anderson, who always wanted to pitch, finally got the chance, destroyed his arm, and ruined his career. Jose Canseco could have gotten 500 HRs if he hadn't thrown his arm out in '93 goofing around on the mound. Position players can hurt themselves pitching possibly
more easily than pitchers). But this will never happen again. How? He is going to mandate that the managers hold back one or two pitchers for extra innings (maybe he should have required Torre to take more than 9 pitchers and left Jeter at home). So that guarantees at least 13 innings (9 from the non-reserved pitchers and then two innings from the two extra-inning guys. What happens at the end of the 13th? Ok, so you hold back more. But at most the starters will go 2 innings and the relievers 1. Torre took 5 starters and 4 relievers; that's at most 14
innings. Brenley took 3 starters and 7 (?) closers; that's at most 13 innings. Didn't anyone ever do this math? Maybe Bud expects the starting pitcher to throw 9 like the old days (the all-time record is 6 innings in a game by Lefty Gomez in 1935). The only way to continue the game with real pitchers indefinitely is to expand the roster and establish how many pitchers, especially starters, must be taken. Say they require 12 pitchers, 7 of which must be starters, that would
still mean a max of 19 innings. The longest all-star game was 15 in 1967, but what if there is a 20-inning game-is he going to call that? I say set the game length to a maximum of, say, 12 innings, and then either it ends in a tie or you have a tie-breaker like a HR derby, the fans pick the winner electronically, you flip Ted Williams frozen head and pick heads or tails, etc.

- From ESPN: Although Selig called the solutions easy, he said they wouldn't be discussed until after the season. But he suggested managers return to using starters deeper into the game and discarding the pitcher-per-inning trend. "Look, we can have the debate about how you should use players in the All-Star Game, but we were past that ...'' Selig said. "I didn't have that option to sit and sort of pontificate about what they should have done. That's for another day.''

- (I thought pontificating was on Bud's daily agenda.) It's baseball's typical response: declare an issue resolved and it is. Don't they realize that these sorts of games are what created a situation where the fans were ready to boo Bud and his cohorts at the least provocation?

- By the way, using all of the players on your roster is nothing new, even though reporters like to point to Mike Mussina sitting out the '93 game in Baltimore as the impetus for getting everyone in. In '81, the game with the largest attendance by the way, the NL used 29 players to the AL's 27 (the all-time record for players used tied with '99) in winning 5-4 thanks to a Mike Schmidt HR in the 8th. (Thanks to the site)

Other notes:

- Barry Bonds tackled/hugged Torii Hunter coming off the field after stealing Bonds of a HR. He also kissed his son after his actual HR (Is that the one that he withheld child support from in the last strike?). I hear nary a mention of that side of Barry. The guys the best player in baseball, he actually says some interesting (and possibly ill-advised) things, and the media paints him as a dour prima donna.

- We saw the Sammy Sosa of old at the all-star game. Getting thrown out at 3rd on that ball to left was inexcusable. He was also swinging at everything he could reach like the Sammy of old.

- Not only did Bob Brenley take his entire roster to the all-star game, he apparently took his coaching staff, trainers, and bat boys. I have never seen that many purple pinstripes in my life. Who designed those uniforms, Prince? By the way, McCarver and Buck discussed at length the decision by Brenley to leave Paul LoDuca off the roster while taking Miller and Santiago. I didn't hear the more egregious inclusion of Luis Gonzalez being debated, however.

About Me
2002-07-11 20:09
by Mike Carminati

Favorite Team: Phillies (unfortunately--they hooked me as a kid with the greatest streak in their history)

Favorite Stadium: Fenway Park

Favorite Player (as a Kid): Greg "The Bull" Luzinski

Favorite Player (Now): Michael Jack Schmidt (By the way, I never booed Mike Schmidt. When you tell someone you're a Phillies fan, that's what they ask--"Oh, did you boo Mike Schmidt?" Then they chuckle over how Schmidt cried when he retired. Who's the cruel one now, huh?)

Baseball Heroes: Rube Foster, Jackie Robinson, and Monte Ward

Best Player That I've Ever Seen: Barry Bonds (I saw him, Bonilla, and Dale Murphy each hit 2 home runs in a game in Atlanta once)

Favorite Baseball Book (Non-Fiction): "The Glory of Their Times"

Favorite Baseball Book (Fiction): The Henry Wiggens trilogy (plus one) by Mark Harris

Favorite Book (Non-Fiction): "The Civil War" by Shelby Foote

Favorite Book (Fictional): "Moby Dick", "As I Lay Dying", "The Trial", and the Robert Graves Claudius books

Favorite Authors: Faulkner, Twain, and Kafka

Favorite Baseball Movie: Field of Dreams (sorry)

Favorite Movie: Casablanca, Citizen Kane

Favorite Baseball Actor: Michael Moriarity in "Bang the Drum Slowly"

Favorite Actor: Humphrey Bogart

Favorite Baseball Shows: This Week in Baseball (w/ Mel Allen), You Make the Call

Favorite TV Shows: Sopranos, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Mystery Science Theater 3000, Star Trek, The Day the Universe Changed, The Westerm Tradition, Pop Up Brady, Monk

Favorite Batting Stances: Joe Morgan, Rod Carew, Jim Thome, and Richie "The Hack" Hebner, Gary "Sarge" Matthews (Sr.)

Favorite Delivery: Gene Garber (I practiced it incessantly in my backyard as a kid)

Favorite Uniforms: '76 Astros (Sunrise/rainbow thingy), '77 Cleveland Indians (all crimson), '79 Philadelphia Phillies Sunday Special (All red unis that were worn once and discarded because of the players' hostility towards them), '76 White Sox with softball shorts, 1916 New York Giants (Purple plaid pinstripes)

Funniest Baseball Moment: Lonnie "Skates" Smith throwing a ball backwards in LF for the Phillies

Most Embarrassing Baseball Moment: When I was attacked by the Phillie Phanatic on the last day of another losing season. I happened to be seated behind Howard Eskine, a local sports reporter, who had a large crowd without him for a promotion called "Take My Mother-In-Law (To the Ballgame), Please" (or words to that effect). There happened to be an empty seat next to me and the Phillie Phanatic in a dress, sunbonnet, and pearls hammed it up with Eskine. At the end, he turned to me. All I could think to say was, "Hey, how's it going." He pounced on me, and god, did he smell. Debris fell from his mangy suit. All of sudden a group of kids, phanatic fanatics, swarmed, and turning to one of his security men and saying, "Get these $%^& kids out here," he was gone before I knew what hit me. It was all captured on film and shown on the Phanavision screen. Oh joy!

Smallest Attendance Witnessed at a Baseball Game: 88, at Rhode Island Tigersharks game. They were in the now-defunct, independent Noth Atlantic League in the mid-'90s. One of the players who happened to be hurt at the time sat in front of us with his girlfriend and discussed living at home and his opinions, mostly negative, of the other members of the team.

Favorite Baseball Bumper Sticker: "Steve Garvey is not my Padre" (referring to the ex-San Diego player and his nefarious extramarital couplings or rather the consequence thereof.)

Least Favorite Baseball Bumper Sticker: "Corrales a Pennant" (Actual official bumper sticker and motto of the '82 Phillies. Refers to said team's short-lived manager, Pat Corrales. By the way, they didn't corral a damn thing.)

Favorite Baseball Names: Buddy Biancalana, Wayne Krenchicki, Ducky Joe Medwick, Ugly Jones (fictional), Wahoo Sam Crawford, Three-Finger Mordecai Brown, Old Hoss Radbourn, Greg Legg, Bob "Whirlybird" Walk, Mark Lemongello, Hughie "Ee-Yah" Jennings, Bob Apodaca, Snuffy Stirnwiess, Fred Snodgrass, Cristobol Torriente, Orval Overall, Bombo Rivera, Orestes Destrade, Adam Hyzdou, Luis Bustamonte, Enrico Polazzo (ump of sorts), Shake And Bake McBride, Hiram Bocachica, Nuke Laloosh & Crash Davis, Coco Crisp

Best Fans:

Worst Fans: Mets

Owners vs. Players?: Players

Win Shares vs. Total Player Rating?: Win Shares (with reservations)

Merkle's Boner, Snodgrass's Muff, Owen's Dropped Ball, or the Ball Through Buckner's Legs(i.e. The Mookie Ball)?: Merkle's Boner

Most Overrated Stat: Batting Average, RBI, Pitching Wins

Most Underrated Stat: OPS, OPS+

Most Overrated Current Players: Garret Anderson, Sammy Sosa, Omar Vizquel (esp. by himself)

Most Underrated Current Players: Bobby Abreu, Barry Bonds, Lance Berkman, Adam Dunn, Mark Buehrle, Brian Giles, Albert Pujols, Freddie Garcia, Greg Maddux, Roy Halladay, Mike Sweeney, Mark Buehrle, Zito, Mulder, and Hudson

Most Overrated Players All-Time: "The Banned Boys" (Rose & Jackson), Mattingly, Munson, Ripken, Joe Carter, Jack Morris

Most Underrated Players All-Time: Tris Speaker, Stan Musial, Tim Raines, Bobby Grich, anyone with the last name Evans, Dave Stieb, Bobby Cox (manager division)

All-Time All-Star Team (Players that I Saw):

C: Bench, Piazza, & Fisk
1B: McGwire & Bagwell
2B: Morgan & Biggio
SS: Alex Rodriguez & Cal Ripken
3B: Mike Schmidt & George Brett
LF: Bonds & Henderson
CF: Mays & Griffey
RF: Aaron & Frank Robinson
SP: Clemens, Maddux, Seaver, Carlton, Pedro Martinez
RP: Eckersley
Mgr: Weaver
GM: Paul "The Pope" Owens
Sabermetrician: Henry Chadwick (I know he's dead) & Bill James

This is my site with my opinions, but I hope that, like Irish Spring, you like it, too.
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