Baseball Toaster Mike's Baseball Rants
Monthly archives: April 2003


News of the Stupid Today
2003-04-30 23:59
by Mike Carminati

News of the Stupid

Today Mike's Baseball Rants surpased 7,500 hits (or so it seems from the grainy Sitemeter reports) in a month for the first time in our illustrious history.

Thanks for stopping by.

The Mahay Kid Brooks Kieschnick
2003-04-30 23:49
by Mike Carminati

The Mahay Kid

Brooks Kieschnick was promoted tonight (sort of) to the Brewers and becomes the first player since Ron Mahay in 1997 to appear on a major-league roster (sort of) as position player and as a pitcher. He should pitch right-handed and pinch hit left-handed for the Brew Crew, though his first appearance (tonight) was as a pinch-hitter not a pitcher.

I am very excited about the prospect of a two-way player (though Todd Jones may have a problem with it). However, given Kieschnick's albeit limited minor-league stats (8.49 ERA as a pitcher and 0-for-9 as a batter), I get the impression that his presence may be for little more than some cheap publicity. I know that he impressed the Brewers in spring training, but--and I've said this before--the main advantage of having a two-way player on the roster is to save a roster spot. Why do the Brewers need to save a roster spot? Do the need another Keith Osik on the roster?

Heck, maybe it's time for Milwaukee to turn to cheap publicity. Their team sure is not going to do much in the win column and the fans are staying away on droves. Maybe it's time for Bud and/or his caretakers to turn to a little Bill Veeck-esque tactics though it seems odd for the only man on the planet who still takes the All-Star game seriously.

Re-Todd Todd Jones, hear Sir
2003-04-30 20:39
by Mike Carminati


Todd Jones, hear Sir Todd Jones
"I wouldn't want a gay guy being around me."
With a head of bedrock,
He's a scrub with an ERA of six point three.

Should gays ride with this busher in the pen?
Maybe he should worry about himself and not them.
When you're with sir Todd Jones,
You'll have a homophobic good time,
John Rocker, too, time.
You'll have an anti-gay old time.

(Fred Flintstone Rock, Kodachrome Basin State Park, Utah--now there's a rockhead, and I don't mean Joe Rockhead.)

Jays? Why? CBC Sports (eh?)
2003-04-30 01:17
by Mike Carminati

Jays? Why?

CBC Sports (eh?) via Baseball News Blog reports that the Toronto Blue Jays, as early as next season, intend to change their names to the Toronto Jays. It just sounds friendlier, I guess, sort of like the Bullets becoming the Wizards--screw nearly 50 years of history.

The last such nickname change without a relocation was the Houston Colt .45s-cum-Astros. Many teams have changed their names over the years, especially in the early days when the names were not yet official. In the Fifties, because of the Red Scare, the Cincinnati Reds briefly changed their names to the Red Legs (I heard, I believe, YES's Michael Kay say that he liked that the team used the old-time name when it appeared in the graphic. The Red Legs was no more an old-time name than the Red Storm of St. Johns).

Poor franchises changed their name often. The Phils changed theirs to the Blue Jays (fancy that) during World War II. The Braves were the Bees in the late '30s. The old Washington Senators were officially the Nationals, but no one called them that. The Dodgers, back when they sucked, were known as the Robins as late as 1931 for manager Wilbert Robinson. And the Yankees were originally the Highlanders (like the Jets were the Titans in the AFL and the Nets, the Americans in the ABA).

Of course, in the early days before the names were official, teams changed names like Sox. The Pirates were the Innocents (as well as the Pittsburg Alleghenys: the H had yet to be added to the city's name). The Cardinals were once the Brown Stockings. The Boston Braves were originally the Red Stockings (the team became known as the Doves when they went to all-white uniforms and were purchase by the Dovey brothers; the AL team stole the name before the original Red Stockings could change their uniforms back and with it, the city's hearts). The Cubs were the White Stockings (and Cap Anson's Colts while he managed and the Orphans when he left). The Phils were the Live Wires and the Quakers. The Dodgers were once the Bridegrooms because a number of players were married in one season.

The best and most varied names may belong to the Cleveland AL franchise: the Naps (for Nap Lajoie), the Bronchos (yes, with an H, maybe they gave it to Pittsburg), the Blues (huh?), and the Molly Maquires.

Splendid Splinters Chris DeRosa has
2003-04-29 22:57
by Mike Carminati

Splendid Splinters

Chris DeRosa has a piece on Yankee benches over at Bronx Banter. There is a Luis Sojo sighting, but alas no mention of Ron Blomberg.

By the way, I forgot to mention that Sojo, now 38, just announced that he is attempting a comeback via the Mexican League (a la Julio Franco). Sojo batted .165 and had an OPS that was 92% worse than the league average in his last season, two years ago. I don't there's much left in the tank.

"Ipse Dixit"-Easy for Pythagoras to
2003-04-29 15:07
by Mike Carminati

"Ipse Dixit"-Easy for Pythagoras to Say

It's three weeks into the season and I thought it would be interesting to compare the actual standings against the Pythagorean standings. Bill James first introduced the idea of calculating a team's projected performance based on their runs for and against, which he called the Pythogorean formula (Win = Games * RF^1.83 / (RF^1.83 + RA^1.83). Actually James used to the power of two, but I prefer 1.83. I'm kooky that way).

It's a small sample and the differences may be meaningless, but the Pythogorean formula may be a more accurate way of calculating actual performance and predicting first half performance. So here 'tis:

 ----Actual----  -Runs-  --Pythogoras--
AL EAST        W  L  PCT GB   For Opp  W  L  PCT GB
NY Yankees    20  5 .800  -   170  88 19  6 .760  -
Boston        16  9 .640  4   147 138 13 12 .520  6
Baltimore     12 12 .500  7.5 115 117 12 12 .500  6.5
Tampa Bay     10 15 .400 10   116 153  9 16 .360 10
Toronto       10 16 .385 11   139 159 11 15 .423  8.5
AL CENTRAL         
Kansas City   17  5 .773  -   119  83 15  7 .682  -
Chicago Sox   14 11 .560  4.5 116  99 14 11 .560  2.5
Minnesota     10 14 .417  8    88 106 10 14 .417  6
Cleveland      7 18 .280 12    88 116  9 16 .360  9
Detroit        3 20 .130 15    52 116  4 19 .174 11.5
AL WEST            
Seattle       16  9 .640  -   121  96 15 10 .600  -
Oakland       15 10 .600  1   126  93 16  9 .640  0
Anaheim       11 14 .440  5   124 124 13 12 .520  2
Texas         11 14 .440  5   120 153 10 15 .400  5
Philadelphia  16 10 .615  -   145  95 18  8 .692  -
Montreal      15 10 .600  0.5 112  86 15 10 .600  2.5
Atlanta       15 10 .600  0.5 118 130 11 14 .440  6.5
Florida       13 14 .481  3.5 127 138 12 15 .444  6.5
NY Mets       11 14 .440  4.5  90 112 10 15 .400  7.5
Chicago Cubs  14 11 .560  -   146 102 16  9 .640  -
St. Louis     11 12 .478  2   130 107 14  9 .609  1
Houston       11 13 .458  2.5 106 113 11 13 .458  4.5
Pittsburgh    10 14 .417  3.5  86  98 11 13 .458  4.5
Cincinnati    10 15 .400  4   114 166  8 17 .320  8
Milwaukee      9 16 .360  5   102 138  9 16 .360  7
NL WEST         
San Francisco 18  6 .750  -   125 105 14 10 .583  -
Colorado      14 11 .560  4.5 152 137 14 11 .560  0.5
Los Angeles   12 14 .462  7    93  83 14 12 .538  1
Arizona       11 15 .423  8    97 109 12 14 .462  3
San Diego     10 15 .400  8.5 100 124 10 15 .400  4.5

It makes me think that the Royals', Giants', and Mariners' leads may be shrinking, and that the Phils', and Yanks' may be expanding soon. The Cubs should have a better record, but so should the Cards. The two West divisions may be the most interesting (again) with three or four teams remaining competitive in each.

Stay tuned.

I Guess I Picked the
2003-04-29 01:12
by Mike Carminati

I Guess I Picked the Wrong Day to Give Up Sniffing Glue

ESPN reports that attendance is down 4.8% from the same point last season. And 2002 itself had a 6% decline.

It seems that baseball picked the wrong time to berate itself. The labor negotiations and their attendant (get it?) public disputes were extended an extra year due to the September 11th attacks at the end of the 2001 season. Baseball felt that it was best to delay their minor squabbles (how big of them!). They hadn't planned on the economy collapsing and staying collapsed, the war, SARs, and whatever problem bedevils us this week (Monica Lewinsky hosting a reality show, maybe?).

The owners talked down the sport so much that the fans are still doing it. It was too successful. And the pitbulls that they got rolling, can't seem to stop. I heard Pardon the Interruption's Tony Kornheiser say today that all outfielders should be removed and that they should go to three-ball walks and two-strike Ks after the 12th inning of an extra-inning ballgame because the game is too slow. Aside from the ridiculousness of this assertion (how many 12-inning games are they and are they really the culprits in games taking too long?), it presents an underlying animosity towards the sport.

Baseball has ridden two decades of revenue growth due to a baseball nostalgia that swept the country. They chose to kill that golden goose by pointing out every blemish in the sport just as that nostalgia was wearing thin. Now, sports fans are content to watch Tiger Woods play a "sport" that is the equivalent, in my book, of watching paint dry and they still see a nuanced and exciting game. Auto racing which feels the same to me as a commute home after a day of work (maybe that's why it's so popular: the people who watch it don't get to experience a rush hour when they drive to their job at Stuckey's) is trendy and youthful.

Baseball may have killed that golden goose or at least severely maimed it. I have said this an umpteen plus one times, but what this sport needs to do is sell its superstars. Barry Bonds is sullen. A-Rod, overpaid. Vlad Guerrero, unknown. Greg Maddux, too bookish, Clemens, a bat-wielding hot head. Baseball needs to sell these stars to the public before a whole generation of fans is lost to the poly-knits of golf.

They own all the media anyway. They should now use them to their advantage.

Of course, another factor in all this is the number of new stadiums built in the last 12 or so years. Baseball is now experiencing the effects of those stadiums losing their honeymoon appeal for the fans. Cleveland, as the article points out, was once a franchise to emulate, locking up their young stars to long-term contracts and selling out their stadium, but has had a 30% decline in the last year. (They also gutted their franchise at the same time.)

With Bud Selig announcing that he shall not seek, and will not accept, another term as your baseball commissioner, the sport is at a crossroads at a time when Bud will be starting to gut the offices for cheap supplies with which to outfit his Brewers. Baseball seems unconcerned. Their biggest announcement is that games are now available for a fee on the Web. Given that fans do not wish to pay to actually attend a game, paying to view it on a crappy monitor may have a limited market. Besides MLB.TV may be another means to choke the casual fan's interest in baseball and further distance its fans if it means that games will be unavailable on regular TV (i.e., basic cable).

So what is to be done? Selig should address the issue quickly and decisively. Run some promos featuring baseball stars. Guarantee (or thereabouts) that the All-Star game will not end in a tie. Admit that interleague play is not attracting as many fans as it repels and move on.

That he is doing none of those things speaks for itself. Baseball, meaning the owners, are concerned with reducing payroll and are still kvelling after an offseason of decimating player salaries and creatively pricing ticket packages. Until lower attendance hits their bottomline they will not be concerned about it. And then it may be too late. By that time, a new commissioner and a new CBA may be sought and then the cycle of negatively spinning may start anew. Before the players and owners came to an agreement late last season, some were saying that the sport may not survive another strike or if it did it would be as an NFL Europe-attended event. The two parties signed their CBA and peace is assured for some time, but the fans are reacting like the players are still on strike, staying away in droves. It all makes the players' capitulation to the owners in signing the agreement look like that much more of bad decision in the first place.

Bull Reloaded, III A few
2003-04-29 00:14
by Mike Carminati

Bull Reloaded, III

A few weeks ago I wrote a letter (more accurately a screed) to the Board of Directors of the Baseball Hall of Fame demanding the removal of president Dale A. Petroskey after his handling of the Bull Durham non-celebration.

Today I received the same form letter that has been posted in many places. And the letter is from Petroskey himself. I mean, I really turned up the polemic and the best they can do is to send me a form letter from the man whose dismissal I was demanding. They did not even have the forethought to send the form letter back addressed to the indivdual. It just says "Dear Friend".

Besides my letter was after his public apology. The apology was the impetus for my letter in the first place: "And now his apology dated Friday, April 18 makes it clear that he is content with doing nothing to rectify his mistakes." They could have at least sent me an updated form letter apologizing for the original (non-)apology. Pathetic!

Anyway, here is the form letter for those of you who have not seen it:

April 24, 2003

Dear Friend:

We have received thousands of letters, e-mails, and phone calls about the cancellation of the Bull Durham events scheduled for April 26-27. Thank you for sharing your feelings with us.

The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum is a very special place - a national treasure - and my responsibility is to protect it. Politics has no place in The Hall of Fame. There was a chance of politics being injected into The Hall during these sensitive times, and I made a decision to not take that chance. But I inadvertently did exactly what I was trying to avoid. With the advantage of hindsight, it is clear I should have handled the matter differently.

I am sorry I didn't pick up the phone to have a discussion with Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon rather than sending them a letter.

We are so lucky to have Baseball - a game that unites us as Americans. The events of the past week show us all that The Game burns brighter than ever and continues to stir passions in many people.

Our wish is that every American will visit Cooperstown and join us in celebrating Baseball, our national pastime and the greatest game of all.

My Best Wishes,

Dale Petroskey


"Baseball, hot dogs, apple pie, and Chevrolet."

Phantastic I had a trip
2003-04-28 00:40
by Mike Carminati


I had a trip to Veterans Stadium for today's game penciled in about three months ago. You see, over the winter my daughter received an invitation to the Phillie Phanatic's last birthday at the Vet. She's only four but is already on mailing lists. I had planned on going but delayed in buying the tickets, and then a family obligation cropped up. So of course, today ends up being the day that Kevin Millwood ends up pitching a no-hitter against the Giants, no less, winning 1-0.

I have never seen a no-hitter live and in its entirity.

Millwood seemed to pitch well but had a few lucky breaks. Jose Cruz hit a monster shot to right field that went just foul in the second. Barry Bonds also hit a ball hard that was caught by Abreu in right in the fourth. Marquis Grissom smacked a ball to center in the seventh and Ricky Ledee made a nice running catch on it.

It occurred to me that Millwood, though he pitched a gem, may have been aided by the newly home run-stingy Vet. Here are the teams with the stingiest home parks sorted by homers by at-bat. The team's own home runs and opponents homers are broken out:

Team           Home    Opp.  Total
              HR  AB HR  AB HR   AB   HR%
Pittsburgh     6 471 10 487 16  958 1.67%
NY Mets        8 415  9 445 17  860 1.98%
Kansas City    9 314  4 326 13  640 2.03%
Philadelphia  13 504  8 518 21 1022 2.05%
Detroit        2 242  9 280 11  522 2.11%
Chicago Cubs  14 413  4 419 18  832 2.16%
NY Yankees    12 290  2 300 14  590 2.37%
San Diego      4 338 12 334 16  672 2.38%
Toronto       10 375 10 414 20  789 2.53%
Seattle       10 495 16 521 26 1016 2.56%
Arizona        6 342 12 355 18  697 2.58%
Florida       14 473 11 493 25  966 2.59%
San Francisco 10 308  7 334 17  642 2.65%
Oakland       14 477 11 466 25  943 2.65%
Tampa Bay      9 559 22 557 31 1116 2.78%
Boston        12 309  6 316 18  625 2.88%
Los Angeles    6 299 12 311 18  610 2.95%
Atlanta       13 500 17 516 30 1016 2.95%
Cleveland      9 346 12 353 21  699 3.00%
Houston       12 304  7 309 19  613 3.10%
Anaheim       13 478 18 494 31  972 3.19%
Baltimore     15 437 13 438 28  875 3.20%
St. Louis      8 279 10 283 18  562 3.20%
Minnesota      6 345 19 368 25  713 3.51%
Colorado      18 397 12 396 30  793 3.78%
Cincinnati    21 463 16 511 37  974 3.80%
Texas         28 512 14 489 42 1001 4.20%
Montreal      20 490 23 534 43 1024 4.20%
Milwaukee     14 352 19 381 33  733 4.50%
Chicago Sox   22 396 17 406 39  802 4.86%
Avg           12 397 12 412 24  809 2.97%
Phil (2002)  165    153    318      2.89%
               5523    5481   11004

Note that the Phils are fourth but their HR rate is nearly a third less than 2002 (last line).

The explanation may be that the construction of a stadium right next door set to open in 2004, may have changed the air flow to the outfield. Something similar was said to have happened in Fenway after some boxes were added a few years ago. It'll be interesting to see if the low home run totals continue for the Phils, who were considered by many to have had the most potent offense in the NL coming into the season. One thing to keep in mind with the 2003 Phils is that they are still fifth in baseball, and third in the NL, in runs scored. This may have been due to the Phils being second overall in walks and fifth in on-base percentage (while just 17th in slugging and 12th in batting average).

Competitive Balancing Act II-The King
2003-04-27 02:00
by Mike Carminati

Competitive Balancing Act II-The King James Version: An Overview of the Literature

Previous entries in the series:

Competitive Balancing Act I-Intro: Chris DeRosa's Reinsdorf Award 2002

Future entries in the series:

Competitive Balancing Act III-This Is Pop: Redefining Large- and Small-Market by Population
Competitive Balancing Act IV-C'mon Freddy, Everyone into the Poo-el: Reviewing the Available Player Pool
Competitive Balancing Act V-Natural Resources: Attendance and Competitive Balance

The financial results of the past season prove that salaries must come down. We believe that players in insisting upon exorbitant prices are injuring their own interests by forcing out of existence clubs which cannot be run and pay large salaries except at large personal lose.

The season financially has been a little better than that of [the previous year], but the expenses of many of the clubs have far exceeded their receipts, attributable wholly to high salaries. In view of these facts, measures have been taken by this League to remedy the evil to some extent for [next season].

- NL President William A. Hulbert, September 29, 1879, announcing the adoption of what he called the "uniform player contract" but which became known as the "reserve clause" after a league meeting in Buffalo.

"Today baseball woke up and recognized there was an 800-pound gorilla sitting in our living room - the lack of competitive balance in the game. Let's cure some of the problems. Enough is enough. Baseball has been for too long a big, old oil transport ship that takes forever to turn. Bud should take the rudder and turn ASAP."

- Larry Lucchino, San Diego Padres, January 20, 2000

By every measure, baseball is in the midst of a great renaissance. Never has the game been more popular. We set a new attendance record in 2000, drawing nearly 73 million fans to our ballparks. More fans attended Major League Baseball games than attended the games of the other three major professional team sports combined. When you add the 35 million fans drawn by minor league baseball, the aggregate number of fans that attended professional baseball is nearly 110 million. In the so-called halcyon days of New York baseball in 1949, the three New York teams-the Yankees, the Dodgers, and the Giants-drew a combined 5,113,000. Last season, the Yankees and Mets drew 6 million.

The only set of circumstances-and I have often said this, Senator -that can impede this great renaissance is our inability to solve the problem of competitive imbalance. During the past decade, baseball has experienced a terribly disturbing trend. To put it simply, an increasing number of our clubs have become unable to successfully compete for their respective division championships, thereby making post-season appearances, let alone post-season success, an impossibility.

The enduring success of our game rests on the hope and faith- key words here, ''hope and faith''-of each fan that his or her team will be competitive. At the start of spring training, there no longer exists hope and faith for the fans of more than half of our 30 clubs, and we must restore that hope and faith.

The trend toward competitive imbalance which is caused by baseball's economic structure began in the early 1990's and has consistently gained momentum. Indeed, as I testified in 1994 before members of the U.S. House of Representatives, baseball's economic problems have become so serious that in many of our cities the competitive hope that is the very essence of our game is being eroded.

Unfortunately, baseball's economic problems have only worsened since 1994, and for millions of our fans the flicker of competitive hope continues to become more faint. The competitive imbalance problem is one that, if not remedied, could have a substantial effect on the continuing vitality of our game.

- Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig at the Senate hearings on competitive balance (i.e., Hearing Before The Subcommittee On Antitrust, Business Rights, And Competition Of The Committee On The Judiciary
United States Senate entitled "Baseball's Revenue Gap: Pennant For Sale?"), November 21, 2000.

Competitive balance has been a concern in baseball almost since the beginning of the sport as an organized concern. In two years leading up to last year's labor dispute and the resulting collective bargaining agreement, Bud Selig and the owners painted a dreary picture of baseball's immediate future. Whether this was just a negotiating tactic or an airing of the sport's laundry in public, it did seem to correspond to the year leading up to the first deadline for the old CBA. And when the deadline was extended in the wake of the September 11th tragedy, the rhetoric seemed also to be extended. Talk of competitive balance since the new CBA is of how the Angels rode the crest of positivity that the improved competitive balance engendered. (You might guess my stance on the issue from these observations.)

I am belatedly starting a series on competitive balance to examine how balanced the game has been historically and how balanced it remains today. I thank Chris DeRosa for allowing me to re-print his Reinsdorf Award 2002 article, which I felt was an excellent opening salvo on the issue. It is from the point of view of a Yankees fan, but given the attack that that franchise has been under from within baseball as well as from the media and the fans, I felt that an incendiary response to those seemingly endemic attacks was more than appropriate. Besides it's damn well-written.

The next section of the competitive balance series will review what has been written up until now regarding the topic. Of course, it will be in my own idiomatically irreverent style. I will review the findings of baseball's independent Blue Ribbon Panel of MLB insiders, paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould's explanation for the death of the .400 hitter, Bill James' 1990 analysis on competitive balance, economist Andrew Zimbalist's take on the state of the game, as well as a few papers that I have found online from non-professionals.

To be continued....

Stood Up My weekly review
2003-04-27 01:28
by Mike Carminati

Stood Up

My weekly review of Joe Morgan Chat Day will not appear this week beacuse there was no Joe Morgan chat this Friday.

However, I can comment that I thoroughly enjoyed watching Ugueth Urbina blow the ballgame against the Yankees tonight, allowing 2 runs in the tenth. After hearing Morgan's ode to Urbina last weekend in the Rangers-A's Sunday night game, I wanted to retch. Morgan said something to the effect that Urbina was a superior pitcher to the A's closer Keith Foulke and that he had many pitches with which to get a batter out whereas Foulke had but one.

Urbina showed again tonight why he and his ilk are the best argument possible against the post modern closers in the Dennis Eckersley mold. Urbina looked good in the ninth inning of a tie ballgame, striking out Williams and Matsui with Giambi at first and one out. But he walked two of the first four men he faced in the tenth and then relinquished Soriano's game-winning RBI double.

Urbina now has given up eight walks to go with his nine strikeouts in eleven innings. Those eleven innings have been amassed in ten games. Tonight was only the third time he had gone over one inning in an outing and his 1.2 innings tonight are his season high for an outing yet far. Even though opponents have batted .189 against Urbina, he has a 1.36 WHIP (walks plus hits per innings pitched).

Keithe Foulke, on the other hand, has 15 K's and 3 walks in his 12.1 innings this year. Opponents are batting .205 against him but his WHIP is under 1.00 (0.97). Foulke only has two appearances over an inning in his 10 appearances yet far, but one was for 2 innings. Besides given that he has pitched between 77.2 and 105 innings in each of the last 4 seasons, he should continue to roll up the innings (Urbina's high over the same period is 75.2). Also, even though reliever ERAs are somewhat deceptive, Foulke distances himself from Urbina by registering an ERA no higher than 2.97 since 1998. Urbina's low over that period is 3.00 (though he did have a 1.30 ERA in 1998).

Urbina is not a bad pitcher, but he is the typical one who impresses enough to be a closer but does not pitch well enough to be an effective one for his career (see Roberto Hernandez). Morgan is impressed by the variety of his pitches, but when he hangs a 1-2 slider to Soriano to lose the game, one has to wonder if variety alone is such a good thing. Though Foulke still relies on his fastball and excellent changeup combination, his stuff is not such that it would dazzle an overeager analyst like Morgan. Urbina now seems to again have good velocity on his fastball (after some injuries over the last couple of years) and his slider can impress, but he is demonstrably an inferior pitcher to the underrated Foulke, and Morgan should know that.

Call To Arms, III Apparently,
2003-04-25 16:34
by Mike Carminati

Call To Arms, III

Apparently, the cell tosser did get tossed in a cell. Thanks to Frank Gill for the link. And apols to the Barney Fifes in Chicago. Also, apols to Don Knotts for comparing him to a Chicago cops.

Frank also sent me this report that the White Sox are upping their security to ensure that upper-deck fans don't mix with the hoity-toity field-level dwellers. My reaction: 1) Who's to say that the field-levelers can't become drunken louts, too, and 2) one moron just ruined it for a bunch of decent fans who get to move up to the good seats. Many of my best baseball moments came from this bending of the rules, and no, it never caused me to run on the field and hump the leg of an umpire. I hope that the rest of the South Side faithful unleash their displeasure with this decision on the moron, and not the security or White Sox personnel.

Call To Arms, II Apparently,
2003-04-24 23:34
by Mike Carminati

Call To Arms, II

Apparently, some copycat moron threw a cell phone at Sean Burroughs tonight at Wrigley--what is it with these Chicagoans? Anyway, this idiot at least did not have the aim that Carl Everett's pelter did: the phone hit Burroughs on the foot.

No one was arrested, and the Barney Fifes in the windy hamlet erroneously indicated that no one was hit by the phone in their report. No wonder the show is not called CPD Blue. If you visit Chitown, I hope you don't lose your wallet. These buffoons can't track down the cuplrit even when his phone number is contained in a piece of evidence (i.e., the phone itself).

The Dingers of Ignorance, III
2003-04-24 23:12
by Mike Carminati

The Dingers of Ignorance, III

The answer to the all-time leader in home runs by a catcher comes from Chuck Rosciam of the Encycolpedia of Catchers, but it's not at straightforward as I expected. Chuck explains that Fisk holds the "record" according to the SABR HR Encyclopedia at 351, but...

Fisk apparently holds the Record with 351 (out of 376 hit), BUT five of those non-catcher ones were hit between/during position changes. That is, Fisk's last defensive position was catcher in a game, then he came to bat and hit a HR and then he took up a different position in the bottom of the same inning. My logic tells me that he was still a catcher and that he didn't change positions until after he hit those five. That would make his Catcher-only total 356. However, there are 3 games in which he started as a non-catcher, then changed positions during the game with a HR being hit between changes (same rule as previous) and was WRONGLY CREDITED with a homer as a catcher. Now subtract 3 from 356 to make his Catcher Total = 353. Piazza's HR's as a catcher I believe stand at 342 unless he hit one in the past two days. That means that he needs 13 more to hold the record, which he will easily do plus some this season.

It gets kind of complicated. Besides as Chuck mentions, Piazza will obliterate the old "record" anyway, barring some catastrophe. So it won't matter by the time he retires if they count the home runs he hit just as a catcher or they count them all. He will still rank number one among all catchers.

By the way, my friend Mike informs me that the venerable NY Post did notice that Piazza hit his 350th home run but mentioned it just in passing:

"Obviously we got some bad news," said Mike Piazza, who went 2-for-3 with a double and his 350th career homer. "We're gonna have to persevere, scratch and claw and work hard.

"It's a tough time for us."

Wow, poor Mike didn't even get to enjoy it. I hope Alf took him out for a beer or something.

Watching the Detectives Tony Massarotti
2003-04-24 15:51
by Mike Carminati

Watching the Detectives

Tony Massarotti of The Boston Herald writes that the Questec Umpire Information System (UIS) that has been implemented in a third of all stadiums may be causing more walks to be issued and also may not be achieving one of its proposed goals-to speed up games.

I have already shown that the system cannot work the way that it is currently envisioned (here and here). The umps hate it and would do something about it if they had a credible union (thanks, Richie Phillips). Now, Questec apparently is causing problems on the field. The umps are nervous to call something a strike if it can be proven to be otherwise. This is evidently getting under some pitchers', catchers', and managers' collective skin. Leave it to the commissioner's office to come up with something as caustic as UIS to tick everyone off.

I do have to say that the implication that Questec is causing runs, home runs, and walks to go up across the majors is a specious contention at best. Questec is only used in one-third of all stadiums. Besides statistics vary from year to year and from park to park and always seem to be higher in the spring anyway. The change may have very little to do with Questec.

Crew chief Randy Marsh's comments regarding "hittable pitches" are very telling though:

"In the past, there have been pitches that are a little off the plate that are hittable pitches that we'd call strikes. If we call them strikes now, we're wrong. You have Questec looking over your shoulder every single pitch.''

The self-importance of the umps to call their own strike zone and not the one defined in the rule book-which Marsh admits was commonly done-is what got us in this mess in the first place. Let he who is without sin, cast the first stone. Well, that sure ain't the umps.

Of course, this is all tilting at windmills. The commissioner's office wants the system because they don't trust the umps. The umps are relatively powerless to stop it. Unless the players union gets involved, in a few years the UIS will be monitoring all major-league games. Where's Neo, aka Mr. Anderson, when you need him anyway?

Appier Way The Angels' Kevin
2003-04-24 11:48
by Mike Carminati

Appier Way

The Angels' Kevin Appier is calling for a series in Toronto to be moved to Anaheim because of the high incidence of SARS in the Ontario city. I guess that's not much of a disadvantage for the Blue Jays. Why not just make them a traveling road team (there's an independent-league team called the Road Warriors that does it)? I know a stadium in San Juan that they could use if they want to re-locate...

I guess you can't blame the players for being a bit skittish since the World Health Organization has already advised travelers to avoid Toronto. But the Angels are not travelers: they are conducting business. The Asian economy has already taken a healthy hit from SARS. Is Canada next? Isn't time for the ballplayers to step up and be the heroes that they so revered after 9-11, people who were heroically going about their lives under extraordinary circumstances? Can't the ballplayers lead by example here? I know that it's easy for me to say this given that I am not traveling to Toronto on business any time soon. But I wonder what the odds are that the players would come in contact with an infected individual:

"The fact is SARS is there,'' said Dr. Elliot Pellman, MLB's medical adviser. "The other fact is there are 111/2 million people in Ontario, 21/2 million in the greater Toronto area. Take those figures and it's not an epidemic or the black plague. With proper precaution there is very little risk. Is there some risk? Yes.''

That's 140 infected out of 2.5 million people. The possibility seems extremely remote. It's time for the ballplayers to be the heroes that they are painted to be: it's their turns to do something heroic just by going about their lives in extraordinary circumstances.

Reitsma Lips I hate to
2003-04-24 00:24
by Mike Carminati

Reitsma Lips

I hate to say I told you say I told you so, in the sense that I love to say it. The Reds' Chris Reitsma in his first start of the year pitched eight-innings of shutout ball and won, 3-0.

Go ahead and smile Chris. You earned it.

I have been saying all along that the Reds made a mistake sending Reitsma down (he was the last pitcher with options left in spring training). It wasn't pretty but two nicely turned double-plays by fellow replacement Juan Castro (plus a home run) sealed the Dodgers' fate.

Cincinnati manager Bob Boone was non-commital before the game as to whether Reitsma would get more than one start. He doesn't have a choice now: Reitsma now leads all Reds starters in ERA and is tied for the lead in wins.

Castro and Reitsma's night underscores how poor Boone's spring training decisions were. He dumped Reitsma because of his poor won-loss record in 2002, ignoring his good ERA. Boone also moved son Aaron to second in the offseason. Pere Boone has since moved back to third and Castro is filling in at second.

Don't worry though. There are still many Boone errors to fix. Reggie Taylor is filling in for Ken Griffey in center field, a questionable decision at best, but Taylor and his career .274 on-base percentage batted second tonight (for the first time this season). Taylor left the game batting .167 for the season. I know he has a lefty bat and you want the lefty-right matchup against the tough righty Dreifort, but Taylor for his career has an OBP of .292 vs. righties. Where's the advantage?

The bad thing with reversing all of Boone's mistakes is that it may end up saving his job. I guess that's a risk the Reds are willing to take.

Parody of Parity Here are
2003-04-23 16:44
by Mike Carminati

Parody of Parity

Here are some notes on the streaky nature of the 2003 season so far, from our friend Christian Ruzich, the Sosa Soothsayer, the Banks Briefer, the Wrigley Regaler, the Ivy Inquirer, the-OK, that's enough of that-The Cub Reporter.

The Good

Yankees 17-3; best start ever; best 20-game performance since 1998
Red Sox 14-6; third straight year and 4th out of 6 that they've started 14-6
Royals 15-3; best start ever; best 18-game performance since 1994
Expos 12-8; for the third time in four years
Cubs 13-7; best start since 1995
Giants 15-4; best start since 1945

The Bad
Blue Jays 7-14; worst start since 1981
Indians 7-1;3 worst start since 1993
Reds 6-14; worst start since 1997
Diamondbacks 7-13; worst start since inaugural season of 1998

The Ugly
Tigers 1-17; worst start ever; worst 18-game performance since 1996

It is kind of funny that this season is being trumpeted as an endorsement for last year's Collective Bargaining Agreement given the parity it supposedly engendered. I guess by MLB's definition of parity, i.e, emulating football and basketball, it qualifies. The Tigers are baseball's answer to the Grizzlies and the Bengals.

The Dingers of Ignorance, II
2003-04-23 13:53
by Mike Carminati

The Dingers of Ignorance, II

Leave it to Lee Sinins! No sooner do I post my previous piece, in which I state that no one noticed Mike Piazza had hit his 350th home run, than do I receive my ATM Report from Lee featuring the feat. As far as I can tell, Lee scooped,, CNN/SI, the USA Today, and the New York Times. Nice going, Lee.

Later, I will use his Sabermetric Baseball Encyclopedia to determine how far Piazza is from the all-time HR mark for catchers (It's at home).

The Dingers of Ignorance Last
2003-04-23 13:35
by Mike Carminati

The Dingers of Ignorance

Last night I watched Mike Piazza became only the fourth catcher to hit 350 home runs with a ninth-inning no-question shot into the left field bleachers at Shea. The homer raised the dead of the Mets lineup (or was it the cheesy NY apple that sprang up as a result of the HR). The Mets started the ninth down 6-1 and eventually brought the tying run to the plate in the person of Tsuyoshi Shinjo. But he lined out with the bases loaded to end it (interestingly, Billy Wagner was not awarded a save in the effort; EDIT: Actually Wagner didn't qualify since his team led by more than 3 runs when he entered, and getting the tie run to the plate was largely his doing: Burnitz HBP and a Bell walk. Wagner would need to face the tying run in his first two batters, so my comment was erroneous).

The three other catchers are Johnny Bench (389), Carlton Fisk (376), and "Yo? No, Yogi" Berra (358). I confirmed this at a great new (at least to me) site called the Encyclopedia of Baseball Catchers, which I have added under my Reference Links.

But it occurred to me that Bench and Berra played other positions towards the end of their careers (third base and left field respectively), and even Fisk would DH from time to time. Could Piazza have more home runs as a catcher than any of these men?

So I checked the great but out-of-date SABR's Home Run Encyclopedia since they list career home run leaders by position. I found that Fisk had the most as a catcher with 351.

Could Piazza be within one of the all-time record? Well, the HR Encylclopedia could not help since it was published in 1996 and, therefore, was not helpful for investigating Piazza. All I could dig up online regarding position batting stats for Piazza was that since 1999 and he had 8 non-catching home runs (6 as a DH and 2 as a pinch-hitter). I will do a bit more research to find the real total, but given that the baseball world is so record-crazed, I am surprised I didn't hear any mention of the feat (i.e., 350 homers). The ESPN recap of the game doesn't even mention it. I guess it's because the Mets don't play in a big media town. Yeah, and to quote Spinal Tap, "Boston's not a big college town."

411 on 423 Some tidbits
2003-04-23 12:15
by Mike Carminati

411 on 423

Some tidbits on April 23:

- Four eventual Hall-of-Famers hit their first home run on this day: Hank Aaron (1954), Ted Williams (1939), Hoyt Wilhelm (1952 in first major-league game), and Ferguson Jenkins (1966). Aaron would go on to hit 754 more, Williams 520, Wilhelm zero in 431 more at-bats and 1069 more games, and Jenkins 12 (and 6 in 1971 when he slugs .478 and has an OPS of .761).

- Fernando Tatis became the first to hit two grand slams in one inning and, in the process, set the single-inning RBI record at 8.

- The Mets and Yankees (then Highlanders) won their first regular-season game as New York teams in 1962 and 1903 respectively. Also, in 1929 on this day, the Yankees become the first team to wear numbers on their uniforms, losing 4-2 to the Red Sox at Fenway.

- No-Nos: The Colt .45's Ken Johnson in 1964 became the first man to lose a nine-inning no-hitter, 1-0 to Cincinnati. Pete Rose scored in the ninth on a Nellie Fox error, the second by Houston in the inning. Also, in 1989 Nolan Ryan missed garnering his sixth no-hitter by two outs as Nelson Liriano tripled with one out in the ninth. He would get two more no-no's a little later on. Lastly Brooklyn's Ed Head in 1946 throws a no-hitter, 5-0, against the Braves. It is his first game since returning from military service.

News of the Stupid Mike's
2003-04-22 23:12
by Mike Carminati

News of the Stupid

Mike's Baseball Rants has recorded consecutive months with over 5,500 visitors for the first time. Thanks to a nice plug from Lee Sinins, I recorded my second highest single-day hit total (800 and counting) and passed 5,500 for the month. April is also the fourth straight month that MBBR has recorded 5,000 or more visits. Thanks for stopping by.

Also, MBBR is listed under the Adorable Little Rodents section of the Truth Laid Bear's Blogosphere Ecosystem. I was listed number 342, the highest baseball blog that I saw. I believe the listing is by links. Whatever it is, I'll take it. However, I'm not thrilled by the adorable characterization. Curmudgeonly may be more fitting, but as Stephen Wright said, "You can't have everything. Where would you put it?" Thanks to all my fellow bloggers who felt the site link-worthy.

Buster Bronx Alex Belth at
2003-04-22 23:08
by Mike Carminati

Buster Bronx

Alex Belth at Bronx Banter has an interview of Buster Olney of The New York Times. Go check him out.

It's a Holi-Joe Morgan Chat
2003-04-22 23:04
by Mike Carminati

It's a Holi-Joe Morgan Chat Day, II

Charlie Mikolajczak writes:

When moron Joe Morgan said that the Yanks bat Nick Johnson 2nd because he can hit the ball the other way makes absolutely no sense, unless he was trying to infer that Johnson is a better contact hitter than Mondesi (which he is). However, he compares Johnson to Jeter in their ability to go the other way, which is a bit of a problem considering one is lefty and the other is a righty. You WANT a righty batting 2nd to be able to go the other way because of the whole that opens up on the right side w/the first baseman holding the runner on and the ability to go first to third on a basehit. Obviously, it's a wee bit tougher to go first to third with Nick Johnson going the other way and slapping the ball into left field. This kills me that he never mentions that when you take into account that Morgan is considered one of the best baserunners/stealers in baseball. (He was, you can just ask him).

Good point, Charlie. I was too concerned with Morgan contradicting himself to notice that his comments made no sense. Thanks.

Detroit?! No, Not Detroit! A
2003-04-22 21:16
by Mike Carminati

Detroit?! No, Not Detroit!

A comment from my friend Murray that the Yankees have more home runs (39) than the Detroit Tigers have runs (34-actually Texas has more, 35, too) got me to thinking. The Detroit Tigers are 17 games into their schedule and are 13 full games behind the Royals in the AL Central with their major-league worst 1-16 record and an anemic .059 winning percentage

That means that they are a third of the way to their 39 games back from 2002, when they were tied for the worst record in baseball (with Tampa Bay at 55-106, .342). They were only 6.5 games behind Kansas City at the end of 2002 and were supposed to have a dogfight with the Royals for last place this year. The biggest change in Detroit was hiring former Tiger star Alan Trammell as manager. Even though this was his first managerial gig ever (well, discounting little league ball), the move was heralded by many analysts (aka Joe Morgan).

The Tigers divested themselves of their 2002 leader in OPS (Randall Simon) and top-two home run hitters (Simon and Robert Fick). In 2002, they had six starting pitchers who threw 10 or more starts. Four of those six are no longer in the rotation (Jose Lima, Mark Redman, Jeff Weaver who was traded mid-2002 to the Yankees, and Steve Sparks who is now in the pen). They added a 20-year-old who had never pitched above Single-A (Jeremy Bonderman), and who now sports a 10.22 ERA and a 0-3 record.

How bad is this team? It may be unfair to evaluate them given that they are barely one-tenth of the way into the season and have only faced three clubs, but given that it should be fun, I will risk it. The Tigers are batting .180 as a team. They have a .493 OPS (on-base plus slugging), which is lower than the Yankees and Rangers' slugging average. They have five home runs and have allowed 23. They have two doubles in 538 at-bats. Their on-base percentage (.247) is worse than every other team's batting average and is 56 points behind the second worst team (the Mets). Their slugging average is over one hundred points behind the second-worst team (the Pirates). They have scored half as many runs as the second-worst team in that category (Arizona). They have three stolen bases in 11 chances. Their OPS leader is Greg Kingsdale with a .725 average. Eric Munson leads them with two home runs. They have five regulars below the Mendoza line.

All of that sounds pretty bad, but is it historically bad?

Well, if they play as well as they did last year the rest of the way, they will end up with 51 wins and 111 losses. There are only 14 teams all-time that have lost that many games, the last being the 1965 Mets at 50-112. Keep in mind that it would be a seemingly Herculean task for the 2003 Tigers to catch up with last year's team. If they could be a .500 club the rest of the way, they would end up about 73-89 anyway. For them to end up with a .500 record, they would have to go 80-65 or win 55.2% of their games (comparable to an 89-73 record over 162 games). If the Royals go .500 the rest of the way, the Tigers would have to go 86-59 or win 59.3% of their remaining games to pass them (that would 96-66 based on a 162-game schedule).

Still not convinced? How does this grab you, Kyle?

The only year in which one team had more home runs than another team scored runs was 1884. The Chicago White Stockings (now Cubs) hit 142 home runs, had four men with at least 20 each, and were led in the statistic by Ned Williamson, whose 27 stood until Babe Ruth broke it in 1919. It seems that they changed the ground rules in their last year at Lake Front Park: in previous years, balls over the right field fence only 196 feet away from home counted as a double. In 1884, they became home runa and Chicago increased their homer output 10-fold. They also scored 7.38 runs per game. The NL passed a rule after that season that the minimum distance for outfield fences would need to be at least 210 feet.

Chicago's 142 dingers were more than the number of runs scored by four Union Association teams (the one-year UA is recognized as a major league though it is arguably the weakest one in history). Those four teams were the Milwaukee Brewers (53 runs in only 12 games), Mountain City club of Altoona (Pa., 90 runs in 25 games), St. Paul Apostles (24 runs in 9 games), and Wilmington Quicksteps (35 runs in 18 games). As you can tell, a number of these teams did not last the entire season.

The closest anyone has come to out-homering another teams run output in the "modern" era was in 1981 when the Oakland A's hit 104 home runs and the Blue Jays scored only 329 runs, with a difference of 225. So no one has come close over a full season to the comparative weakness of the Tigers offense using this as a measuring stick.

Here are a few more tidbits that might interest you:

As I said, the Tigers are only batting .180 as a team. There have only been seven teams in baseball history that have hit .200 or less, and none have done it since 1884:

Year	BA	Team
1873	.156	Baltimore Marylands (NA)
1875	.197	Brooklyn Atlantics (NA)
1875	.180	Keokuk Westerns (NA)
1875	.195	Washington Nationals (NA)
1884	.199	Kansas City (UA)
1884	.180	St. Paul (UA)
1884	.175	Wilmington (UA) 

The Tigers have scored exactly two runs per game (34 runs in 17 games). The only other major-league team to do that was the 1884 Wilmington UA club that scored an average of 1.94 runs per game (or 35 runs in 18 games).

The Tigers are on pace to hit just 47.6 home runs for the season based on their 5 in 17 games. No team has ever hit that few home runs over the course of a 162-game season. The 1981 Padres hit just 32 home runs in 110 games, which projects to 47.13 home runs in 162 games. If you don't want a strike-interrupted season, the 1949 White Sox hit 43 dingers in 154 games (or 45.23 in 162 games). The lowest in a 162-schedule was the 1979 Astros who hit 49 homers. The team leader in home runs was Jose Cruz (Sr.) with nine.

So there you are. If you don't believe me that the 2003 Tigers, at least in their first 17 games, are the most anemic offensive team in history, then nothing will convince you. Tiger fans should take heart given that no team has performed this badly over the course of the season. However, one hundred losses appear more certain than ever for Detroit. It's hard to believe that they were just 4 games under .500 just three years ago.

All I Am Saying Is
2003-04-21 23:52
by Mike Carminati

All I Am Saying Is Give the Batter's Box a Chance

My friend Murray dropped me a line containing the following:

I don't want to blame MLB for the idiots who misbehave at ballparks...well, no, actually, I do, just a little bit. Baseball is not a violent game, but every time you have one of these beanball incidents, you raise the blood-lust level at the park. The Royals/Sox game where Laz Diaz was attacked featured a beanball dispute in the *first inning*. It isn't the root cause, but it sets a tone for the evening for a group largely filled with young, single males whose discretionary income is wasted on watery beer.
Look, is the pitcher's right to hit batters part of the game, or not? If it is, then Tino shouldn't charge the mound, should he? He just has to wait for his pitcher to drill the other guy, and then it's over, isn't it?
Somebody has to explain to the players that all this machismo posturing is bad for the game, and bad for public safety. Think of it as you might the advisories tourists used to receive before traveling abroad about wearing baseball caps and sneakers. Before they became the global uniform, it was a sure-fire way to be branded an American tourist, which wasn't advisable in all parts of the world. If the game on the field is free of fighting, maybe the crowd won't be as edgy.
It's a theory, that's all.

I couldn't agree more. The aggression on field that started in spring training for goodness' sake and has continued ever since. I think that these moron fans are affected to a certain degree by the behavior modeled on the field.

The latest Chicago attacker said that he was just trying to stand out from the idiots who proceeded him. He didn't want to inflict any pain on the umpire he attacked. He just wanted to give the crowd that little bit extra. Aw, he did it for the little people; isn't that sweet? Maybe it's his temporarily idiocy defense, I don't know.

Here's mine: if you want to control violence in the sport, enforce the batter's box. The rules say:

The batter's legal position shall be with both feet within the batter's box. APPROVED RULING: The lines defining the box are within the batter's box...

A batter is out for illegal action when (a) He hits a ball with one or both feet on the ground entirely outside the batter's box. If a batter hits a ball fair or foul while out of the batter's box, he shall be called out. Umpires should pay particular attention to the position of the batter's feet if he attempts to hit the ball while he is being intentionally passed. A batter cannot jump or step out of the batter's box and hit the ball.

If the umpires enforce the batter's box, i.e., the back line, the inner line, the whole enchilada, then you wouldn't see batters standing on top of the plate, who would have to be brushed back on a regular basis to keep them honest. Batters now feel that they own the plate and are enraged, like Thomas in the ump-attack game, whenever a pitcher has the temerity to assert himself on the inside half of the plate.

Besides how often can you even see the box after the first inning? Prevent batters from rubbing out the batter's box lines and if they are successful anyway, have it redrawn.

Maybe enforcing the batter's box won't do a darn thing, but it's cheaper for the owners than cutting beer sales or hiring extra security and it's less intrusive than partitions around the playing field. Besides with the popular backlash against home runs, enforcing the batter's box should help reduce the number of home runs hit. And then we won't have to hear about steroids. No matter how you look at it, it's a win-win decision.

It's a Holi-Joe Morgan Chat
2003-04-21 00:52
by Mike Carminati

It's a Holi-Joe Morgan Chat Day (Mama Mama Please, No More Face Lifts-
I Just Don't Know Which One You Is!)

Why is this Joe Morgan Chat Day different from all other Joe Morgan Chat Days? Well, this weekend represents a holiday time for many in the baseball-viewing community. Many will be damming their intestinal tracts with matzoh while others will "cry havoc, and let slip the dogs of war", if you catch my meaning, with tons of Easter candy. But whether you enjoy PAAS-colored eggs and Peep chicks or heavy Malaga and charoses on your afikoman, Joe has a message for you. Joe is the world, after all.

For both Christians and Jews, Joe represents a time of redemption. For Christians Joe's rebirth as an analyst has an historical antecedent. But given Joe's subsequent fall after the death of his playing career, his forefather is not likely to be found in The Bible but rather in Milton's Paradise Lost or Dante's Inferno.

For Jews, Joe can be used as an example for future generations that there is a promised land. One must suffer through the oppressive commentary of today, through the plagues of Thom Brennaman, to get to the promised land. Joe will lead his baseball people to Canaan. He will part the Red Sea: "The Reds were the greatest, see?" Unfortunately, that promised land was the land promised by Joe himself, the land that he chooses to cover and he will brook no breach by analysis and the like.

You may have about, oh, let's say, four questions about Joe Morgan Chat Day:

1) Why is Joe Morgan different from all other analysts? Joe was one of our favorite players (again I use the royal "we" or "our"). He is arguably the greatest second baseman of all time. He also seems a rather pleasant fellow. But as an analyst he parts his Red Sea of opinions between great observations by an all-time great player and prodigious pusillanimous palaver from a punch-less palooka.

2) Why is it that with most chat sessions, there is only the chat session itself, but with Joe's chat, there is a double dip, if you will, the original chat and Mike's commentary on the chat? We here at Mike's Baseball Rants are fascinated with the baseball Rashomon that is a Joe Morgan chat session. That is why. To hear such great baseball insight paired with idiocy is a rare thing indeed.

3) Why is that even the flat, unleavened commentary from Joe must be commented upon? Because true Joe-ness is only achieved through digesting the small details. Otherwise the broad strokes would lose all context.

4) With other chat sessions, one must read in an upright position usually at your desk chair at work. But with Joe's chats, one should read in a reclining position, why? Because Joe's chat must be savored or one loses one of the great pleasures of the sport.

So without further ado...

Here comes Joseph Morgan's chat,
Stop in-your brain will go kerplat:
Flippantly, trippingly, yes, he's on his way.

So even if your head is wood,
Comments, if ugly, bad, or good,
Will bring lots of tasty pain. Oy Vey!

The Good: Eating the chocolate bunny's ears first

Jay (Detroit): hey Joe, are the Tigers mathematically eliminated yet?

Maybe not mathematically! Mentally I think they are. But, it's still early. Everyone is jumping on the Giants bandwagon and bagging on teams that have started slow. It's a 162 game season. The Giants will slump.. the Yankees will slump.. everyone will slump at some point. And even the bad teams will go on a streak.. it takes about 50 games to get a real pulse on how good a team can or can't be.

[Mike: OK, that seems reasonable although sometimes it takes longer than 50 games. The Angels were 29-21 four games behind Seattle (with Oakland 10 back) on May 20, 2000, 50 games into their season. The Red Sox were a full game up on the Yankees and the Reds were one half-game ahead of the Cardinals in 2002 after 50 games.

Jay (Minneapolis, MN) : Hey Joe, after the Twins bad start they have won six in a row, can they finally beat the Yankees now?

Again, I think it's too early to tell. I think they need to beat the White Sox first. It's too early to be thinking about the playoffs. Teams are still trying to find their niche and get their guys in the right spot. But the Twins are a fun team to watch.

[Mike: Right, Joe. See note above about early leads.

Keith (Brooklyn, NY): Hey Joe, What do you think of Roberto Alomars play in New York? I only saw espn highlights of him when he was in cleveland and other places. But he does some unexplicable things with the Mets. Head first slides into first, shying away from double play turns, bunting with runners in scoring position. Is this normal for Robby?

It would be unfair for me to comment, I haven't seen him play yet this year. But his average has climbed a bit .. he has been a good player over his career, he just has adjustments to make. When you get older, things don't always work the same way and you have to adjust. I expect him to do better than he did last year.

[Mike: Yeah, I guess he kind of has to improve. Given how bad he was in 2002, his career would dead-end if he continued on that path. Besides given how good he was in 2001, it's doubtful that his 2002 decline was just a normal one due to age.

The Bad: Someone's eaten your Peep chicks sugar eyes

Rob (Yorktown, VA): Do you think there will ever be another 30 game winner?

No. Wen pitchers pitch every fifth day, they really are only going to get 30-32 starts a year. You aren't going to win 30 out of 32. In the past guys got 35-40 starts. But that doesn't happen anymore.

[Mike: Well, that's not exactly true. Most teams do not employ a true 5-man rotation until May given the number of off days in April. The top starters still get 35 or 36 starts a season if healthy.

Denny McLain had 41 starts in 1968, the year he became the last 30-game winner. Bob Welch, the man who has come closest (27-6) since, had 35 starts in 1990. Randy Johnson had 35 last season. Pedro Martinez has never started more than 33, but that has a lot to do with injuries.

Yes, it's much harder now. And yes, there is much less margin for error. But winning 30 games is not yet as impossible as Joe paints it to be.]

Blake Mitchell (Austin, Texas): Hi, Joe--A concern I have about the Giants being more aggressive on the basepaths this season is that they will experience more injuries (i.e. Ray Durham already) ... is that something that normally happens and should be expected with teams who employ that style of play?

No... players today are in better shape than every before. That used to be a problem in the past. Being aggressive on the bases and injuries don't' go hand in hand. The Angels were very aggressive last year and it wasn't a problem for them.

[Mike: Has this ever been a problem? It seems to me that heavier, power-hitter types tend to suffer more injuries than the fleet, typically younger base stealers, but I've never seen a study of it.]

Chris, Boston: What would have happened if the Royals did not take the field this week against the White Sox? Would it have been a forfeit or would they haved made it up later? Do you feel that Chicago fans are a bit off compared to the rest of the league's, or is this just a few crazies that all happened to be in Chicago?

The umpires would have to declare the forfeit .. Sparky Anderson took us off the field once because they were throwing things at Rose. But they got the guy who was throwing things, got things under control and we went back out. The umpires could have called a forfeit if they felt it was out of control.

I can't really say anything about the Chicago fans.. I don't know them all. Maybe it's like hitting and it's contagious ..

[Mike: Actually, there is nothing explicitly in the rules that allows for a forfeit to be awarded to a team when they won't take the field under these circumstances. Here is the rule that pertains:

The home team shall provide police protection sufficient to preserve order. If a person, or persons, enter the playing field during a game and interfere in any way with the play, the visiting team may refuse to play until the field is cleared. PENALTY: If the field is not cleared in a reasonable length of time, which shall in no case be less than fifteen minutes after the visiting team's refusal to play, the umpire may forfeit the game to the visiting team.

It does not mention a team preemptively declining to take the field because they are not pleased with the home team's security measures. No one (i.e., a marauding moronic fan) is yet on the field and there is no reason that anyone would necessarily go one the field to became a threat (and no one did in the next game).

There is also this rule:

Between games of a doubleheader, or whenever a game is suspended because of the unfitness of the playing field, the umpire in chief shall have control of ground keepers and assistants for the purpose of making the playing field fit for play. PENALTY: For violation, the umpire in chief may forfeit the game to the visiting team.

I guess the ump could claim that the field is inherently unfit because security did not take sufficient measures, but that's a bit of a stretch.]

Tony (Portland): People in my area are making a big deal of the Mariners outfield and how it is one of the best in the big leauges on defense. It is the best I have seen, but I havn't seen that many. I was wondering what is the best out field you ever saw?

I agree the Mariners are really good in the outfield .. probably the best I remember was the Cardinals with Flood, Pinson and Brock .. seems you couldn't get a ball between those guys ..

[Mike: Ichiro and Cameron did win Gold Gloves together in 2001. That makes them one of only 12 outfields all-time to do that (none have won three). Winn is a center fielder playing left. They're very good, but I don't know if you can call them the best ever.

By the way, Flood did win seven Gold Gloves, but Pinson only won one and Brock none. And Flood and Pinson never won a Gold Glove in the same year.]

Lucas (Grand Rapids, MI): Hey Joe. Many people believe that A-Rod may retire as the best player ever? Any thoughts? Thanks.

He certainly is moving in that direction.. he is a great player and he plays hard everyday.. that is a main criteria. Everything he does fits that mold. It will always be tough to take one player and say he his the best.. you can't discout Mays, Aaron, Ruth.. just because I guy has better stats doesn't always mean he is better .. it is easier to hit HRs today than it was back then. Easier .. not easy.

[Mike: Does Joe even know that Barry Bonds is playing? After the last two seasons, how can anyone mention another player in the same breath as Bonds as the best player of his era?

By the way, ESPN ran a poll this weekend as to the answer to this question. The results A-Rod destroyed Bonds. Vlad was a not-too-distant third. Can he be that big a jerk that everyone can discount his two historic seasons and incredible career?

Oh, and I like the analysis from Morgan on the difficulty, or lack there of, of hitting homers today. The man is a true sabermetrician in his heart.]

David, Bloomington, IN: Hey Joe, do you still remember all the words to "Proud to be an Astro"????

Sorry .. No, I do not! But it was a part of my life for a long time.

[Mike: From Ball Four:

"We'll make the other hitters laugh,
Then calmly break their bats in half.
It makes a fellow proud to be an Astro."

If I were Larry Dierker, Joe's former teammate and the song's author, I would be a bit miffed.]

Martin (Dunsmuir, CA): Hey Joe. Why don't players bunt more to get on base? I see guys like Dave Roberts, Johnny Damon, Jimmy rollins and Rafael Furcal who can be much more effective if they'd just concentrate on getting on base for the hitters behind them. Is bunting for a hit not glamorous enough or something?

That's a very good question.. what has happened is the HR is more glamourous, like you say, although I think bunting is very exciting. Ichiro is fun to watch. It's a lost art .. people do not practice it. They bunt two balls and then swing for the fences. It's a lost art because the philosphy of the game has changed.

[Mike: "[T[he HR is more glamourous"? How 'bout more effective? It is darn hard to record an out when the ball is hit over the fence, but not so with a bunted ball. And the payoff is far greater with a homer. Isn't that what it's all about: using each at-bat to execute the play that is the best gamble and to minimize your outs?

"[B]unting is very exciting"? How exciting is a foul-tip strikeout?

"They bunt two balls and then swing for the fences." Maybe they should bunt and foul off the third ball, thereby striking out?]

Mike (Hampton, NH): Hi Joe, One of the local sports talk show hosts insisted that it was a bad move by the Red Sox to pitch Pedro Martinez last night in the cold weather (21 degrees with wind chill). I was there in the stands rooting him on. If the Red Sox are going to be successful in the post season, Pedro has to be able to pitch in cold weather. there are very few 80 degree nights in Boston in October. What do you think?

I like the last thought .. you have to be able to pitch in any condition, just like hitters. Sometimes you do have to be careful with guys like Pedro or guys who have had arm problems. It is harder to get loose in cold weather. But if he can get loose, he should pitch.

[Mike: Yes, Pedro should pitch if possible. I think that coddling a pitcher ends up getting them hurt more often than treating them like any other pitcher. That's not to say that they should take unnecessary risks, like throwing 140 pitches in a 10-0 shutout, but reasonable use should not be avoided.

As far as April starts helping in the cold of October, how can one cold-weather start now help Pedro six months from now? Do games in the Winter League heat help a player in the dog days of summer?]

Ryan, PA: Hey Joe! Now with Griffey out I think the Reds need to put Kearns in center, and the young guy Wily Mo in right do you agree with me? He's notting getting any better on the bench. thanks

I do not know enough about Wily but this is the time to experiment and find out what you have as far as players in your system. Find someone you think has a good shot and give him a chance. The Reds aren't going anyplace .. so yes, I agre with you.

[Mike: "The Reds aren't going anyplace"? When Joe wrote this Cincinnati was 5-11. They are now 6-13. Does Joe remember that the Angels started 6-14 last year and won it all? Yes, that outcome is extremely unlikely for the Reds, but it's far from time to throw in the towel.

The Reds should put in the player that they feel would make them the best team possible this season. Pena has been highly touted seemingly for years even though he is only 21. Pena has been given only 8 at-bats so far this season, which is a great indictment of Bob Boone's management style. Given that the other option (the one Boone is pursuing) is to put Reggie Taylor in center, I would rather try Pena. They already know what Taylor can do, or more importantly, what he can't do.]

Pete (Washington DC): Should beer sales be banned from stadiums, close sales after the 4th inning or some other restriction?

No .. First of all, I don't think you can limit beer sales anymore than they already do. You say a guy can only get 3 beers .. what's to stop him from getting someone else to buy him a beer? Someone who wants a drink will find a way of getting it. The fans just have to be more responsible ... that's the only way it will work.

[Mike: No, why can't the stadium or the team be held responsible for serving beer to already drunken morons? Bars are held responsible for ensuring their patrons are not out of control.

Here's what you do: Limit patrons to, say, 5 beers. Put 5 beer stein icons on each ticket. Each time a patron orders a beer, you punch his ticket. If he buys for his buddy, he still gets punched twice, and the buddy will have to make up for it with the next round. If all 5 pictures are punched, that patron gets no more beer.

The attacker admitted to entering the game drunk anyway. Maybe he should have been turned away at the gate.]

Matt(Boise): Joe, I heard you once recite a dity you said to yourself before each at bat...was too slow writing it down. Would you please share that was the best focus technique I've heard. Thanks

See the ball before you stride
Let it go if it's outside
If it's a curve and breaks down,
Jack up and hit it downtown!

[Mike: That doesn't really scan. Here's a new one for Morgan the analyst:

Make the call before you decide
If you're on one or the other side.
If it's a player of some renown,
Be sure to praise him up and down.]

Andy (Rochester NY): How come the Mariners do not hit Ichiro in the 3 spot and move Winn to the 1, Boone to the second? Ichiro with his average could get a great number of rbi's which i do not think Bret Boone could do. Your thoughts?

I don't know where you think Boone can't .. he drove in 142 two years ago and over 100 last year. There is some logic to what you are saying, you could take advantage of Winn's speed but Boone has proven to be more of an RBI man than Ichiro. I understand your logic, and if they had gotten off to a slow start, you might have seen that.

[Mike: A) Every study indicates that it really doesn't matter all that much. B) Ichiro does not have the power associated with a typical number three hitter.]

Dan (Hartford, CT): Hey Joe, What is the difference between this year's Yanks and last year'? I mean they look great, they are taking pitches, not striking out and other than almonte not making errors, were they always this good, or is this just a spell?

I think they are a better team. Matsui puts the ball in play and doesn't strike out a lot. Their starting pitcher is better. Clemens, Mussina and Pettitte, will they hold up over the season? Who knows. But I think they are a better team.

[Mike: Uh, Joe, Clemens, Mussina, Pettitte, and the rest of the starters were on the Yankees last season. ]

Brian (Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada): What do you think are the chances that Mark McGwire gets involved in the game somehow in the future? What do you think he might do if he was so inclined?

I think he is involved and is slowly opening up to being involved in the game now. When he left he just wanted to get away but after time you want to come back. I think he will get that feeling.

[Mike: McGwire was known as a surly player prior to his move to St. Louis and his 1998 apotheosis. Maybe he prefers being surly or at least being left alone.]

Joe (Old Bridge, NJ): Hey Joe, Lance Berkman has a mild sprain in his elbow. Do you think the Astros should sit him for a while, call up Jason Lane and finally find out what the 26-year-old can do? Then if he does well and Berkman comes back, Jimmy Williams finally has a reason to bench Hidalgo?

It depends on Berkman. If he feels he can play, you have to let him play. The decision is his. The player knows how much the injury is affecting his play. That's how it has to be.

[Mike: Well, no. Players always want to play, at least the good ones. Managers must make the call given advice from the coaches, trainer, player, etc. Hidalgo is still owed at least $22 M over the next two years and he's hitting (.919 OPS) , so he will play no matter what. I think the Astros know what Lane can do but will not turn to him unless there is a significant injury.]

Justin ( Oklahoma City): Joe, The AL West's collective record is not too great right now. What does that say about the balance in the West this year and how strong it will be?

I thought the West would be a close race anyway .. my reason for thinking that was I felt like Texas would be better than they were. That would make every team capable of winning. I'm not so sure Texas will be able to overcome their inablity to shut teams down. I think it will still be a close race.

[Mike: The AL West's collective record is .500 because its teams have only played each other. The three other teams are clearly better than the Rangers so they are in last even though they appear to have impoved. Let's allow the Rangers to play someone outside their division before we decide their fate.]

Jeff (Chicago, IL): Joe, Right now 4 AL Central teams are among the league leaders in staff ERA. Do you think it's a sign of great pitching in the division, or just a case of those teams' benefitting from playing the Tigers?

(Laughing) It's a combination. Not all their games have been against the Tigers! They are just pitching well.. pitchers have an advantage coming out of Spring Training and into the first couple weeks of the season because of the cold weather back East.

[Mike: Or maybe it's two weeks into the season. So far the pitchers don't appear to have an advantage with the high scores that have been rung up-ask the Reds if their pitchers have had an advantage.]

Karrum (Terre Haute): Do you thinkBig Unit will get out of his funk. Is he pressing or has his age caught up with him?

I think he definitely will pitch well.. he is too good not to. He has a knee problem which is bothering him. Onc he gets healthy, he will be dominate again. I wouldn't worry about Randy.

[Mike: Except at his age, injuries will take longer to heal and may take a greater toll. A severe dropoff due to injury is not out of the question.]

The Ugly: Can't find the $%^ Easter basket but you do find last year's afikoman

Aurora (Hawaii): Mr. Morgan, The San Francisco Giants are off to a great start this year! What do you think of the coaching style of Felipe Alou as compared to Dusty Baker and what contribution has it made towards that great start? PS: You look great on TV

They are two different managers. Alou is more of a gambler. He likes to push the button and make things happen. Dusty adjusted more to what kind of team they had at that point. They were a power team. Dusty would have loved to have the team Alou has now. They are different mostly because of the teams they had.

[Mike: But what about the question of a great start? Joe, answer the question that was offered.

Alou has always been known as a player's manager but so has Baker. Alou was highly successful at motivating his players in Montreal for his first few years. Maybe it's that. Maybe it's luck. Who knows?]

Jon Philly, PA: Hey Joe, do have any explanation as to why the Phillies can score 16 runs one day, and then struggle to get a hit the next? Will it be like this the whole year, or is it too early to tell?

When that happens, it has to do with hitting being contagious, like I said before. The pitcher from the day before, if he shuts you down, it starts to press on you. If you score on him, it relaxes you and you hit well. The one thing about baseball, everyday is differnet because it's a different pitcher each day.

[Mike: No, that does not explain the up-and-down Phillies offense. If they are pressing to score after being shut down by the previous day's pitcher, wouldn't they continue to press. If your statements were true the Phillies would not be so mutable.

Maybe they have just faced some good pitching?

The rest is an OBP montage. Joe has condemned OBP as an overrated stat and continues the quest to ignore it's value here.]

Justin (Phoenix AZ): Do the Diamondbacks have enough offense to be a serious contender?

I have questioned their offense the last couple years but they have scored runs and when Schilling and Johnson are on, you don't need as much offense. But that is a question mark for them.

[Mike: Arizona led the league in runs in 2002. They also led in on-base percentage, which we all know Morgan feels is overrated. Arizona has a .314 OBP this year and is 28th in the majors in runs scored. Tony Womack (.215 OBP and .204 leading off), Junior Spivey (.276 mostly as the number three hitter), and Steve Finley (.319, mostly as number 2 hitter), i.e., the top of the order, are killing them.

More on OBP to come...]

Jason(Austin, TX): What's up with the Cubs scoring binge? Is it due to an increase in offensive talent or just an anomaly? Can they keep it up?

When the season started I think most felt they were not a great offensive team. But they have gotten off to a great start. I don't think they are as good as they have shown though .. hitting is contagious. When one guy is hitting well, the rest of the lineup tends to hit well. When one guy goes into a slump, it can bring down the whole team. They are feeding off each other.

[Mike: Again OBP is doing it for the Cubs: their .376 OBP is third in the majors. But I agree that Grudzielanek (.380 OBP in 2003, 55 points higher than career average) and Gonzalez (.373, 67 points above his career) are playing over their heads right now. ]

Kim (Hualien, Taiwan): First I have to say I thought it was cool you mentioned your kids both on national TV and in one of your articles I read on ESPN. I believe family is the most important and so I love what you did. My question is, Nick Johnson doesn't seem to be a guy that is that fast and Doesn't really hit that great for average. Wouldn't the Yankees be better off with Mondesi hitting in the number two slot? Mondesi at least provides more speed at that position. However with the way things are going I guess I really can't complain that much with what Torre has done.

That's a pretty good question but in the scheme of things.. if Soriano is hitting first, you need a guy that can hit the ball the other way. Jeter can do that and so can Johnson. I don't think they want Mondesi there because he doesn't really hit the ball the other way. Mondesi strikes out a lot but so does Johnson.

[Mike: OBP again. Mondesi had a .308 in 2002 and has a .331 OBP for his career. Johnson had a .347 OBP in 2002 and should improve on that (and has) as he matures. Besides Yankee fans would mutiny if Mondesi were given the extra at-bats.]

Anthony, San Francisco: Hey Joe, Did u like hitting 2nd for the Reds? What was your primary goal at the plate in the 2 slot? Thanks Joe

No. 2's job is to become the leadoff hitter and the leadoff guy doesn't 'get on base. If he does get on base, then it's your job to move him into scoring position. I prefered hitting No. 2 behind Rose at one point. But after I got a taste of hitting third, I preferred third.

[Mike: Or to quote Austin Powers, "Who does Number 2 work for?" A fair assessment by Joe, but how can this statement follow the Johnson-Mondesi ones? Number 2 is about getting on base and moving runners on base, not just about hitting the other way.]

[By the way, the title is from an old Nazareth song, if you were wondering.]

The Martinez-Batista Undercard It was
2003-04-20 23:54
by Mike Carminati

The Martinez-Batista Undercard

It was a wild one in St. Loius today as Tino Martinez of the Cardinals, in this corner with the white uniform and red trim, and the D-Backs' Miguel Batista, in the grey uniforms and blak trim, squared off after Martinez was hit by Batista and Batista had the temerity to stare at him.

It seems that Batista hit Martinez on the shoulder with a 1-0 pitch in the fifth. Martinez looked back at Batista but did not charge the mound. Martinez was forced at second and doubled back on his route to the dugout to approach Batista. Batista threw a ball and Maryinez a punch, neither of which landed. Benches cleared and both were ejected. Later on pitcher Jeff Fassero and manager Tony LaRussa of the Cardinals were also ejected for Fassero's hitting Luis Gonzalez in the ribs, which Fassero admitted to doing on purpose:

"I still believe in the old ways, settling scores for teams and stuff like that, protect your guys.''

Why all the hubbub anyway? According to LaRussa, Miguel Batista stared at Martinez after hitting him and as he left the field:

"When you drill somebody and you stare at them like he stared, that is so unprofessional and so intentional-looking that we'll see how major league baseball handles it."

Staring? Big deal, get over it. Maybe he was just trying to get into Martinez's head, which he evidently did. It's very surprising to see a consummate professional like Martinez react this way.

Batista's using the ball as a weapon was also reprehensible, but given that he was chargee, not the charger, I am inclined to agree, perhaps for the first time ever, with Arizona manager Bob Brenly:

"I don't know what you're supposed to do as a pitcher,'' Brenly said. "Just stand there and let the guy drive you down through the rubber?

"He's got to defend himself anyway he knows how.''

Well, that won't fly at MLB hind-, er, headquarters. Expect some big suspensions and fines from this one. And maybe Batista will learn that it's impolite to stare.

It's a Holi-Joe Morgan Chat
2003-04-20 02:15
by Mike Carminati

It's a Holi-Joe Morgan Chat Day (Mama Mama Please, No More Face Lifts-
I Just Don't Know Which One You Is!)

Why is this Joe Morgan Chat Day different from all other Joe Morgan Chat Days? Well, this weekend represents a holiday time for many in the baseball-viewing community. Many will be damming their intestinal tracts with matzoh while others will "cry havoc, and let slip the dogs of war", if you catch my meaning, with tons of Easter candy. But whether you enjoy PAAS-colored eggs and Peep chicks or heavy Malaga and haroses on your afikoman, Joe has a message for you. Joe is the world.

For both Christians and Jews, Joe represents a time of redemption. For Christians Joe's rebirth as an analyst has an historical antecedent. But given Joe's subsequent fall after the death of his playing career, his forefather is not likely to be found in The Bible but rather in Milton's Paradise Lost or Dante's Inferno.

For Jews, Joe can be used as an example for future generations that there is a promised land. One must suffer through the oppressive commentary of today, through the plagues of Thom Brennaman, to get to the promised land. Joe will lead his baseball people to Canaan. He will part the Red Sea: "The Reds were the greatest, see?" Unfortunately, that promised land was the land promised by Joe himself, the land that he chooses to cover and he will brook no breach by analysis and the like.

To be continued...

Better Dead Than Red The
2003-04-20 01:28
by Mike Carminati

Better Dead Than Red

The Reds shook up the roster today a la the Oakland A's on May 22, 2002. Now they'll have to see if the results are just as good:

- Ostensible starting third baseman Brandon Larson was sent down, replaced by Triple-A callup Ryan Freel.

- Pitchers Anderson and Josias Manzanillo were designated for reassignment. Chris Reitsma, Jeff Austin (both recalled), and Brian Reith (purchased) were brought up from the minors.

Larson was given 48 at-bats to prove himself. And even though he didn't show much in those at-bats, he deserved more of a chance. Juan Castro is expected to start at third base until Russell Branyan returns from the DL. Reitsma, who had a good ERA but a bad record last year (and that was the reason he was in manager Bob Boone's dog house from day one of spring training) takes over Jimmy Haynes' rotation spot and should remain in the rotation even after Haynes returns. The other two are decent prospects by all accounts.

So it took all of 18 games for the Reds to panic. I hope Boone has his resume together and his references lined up.

Call To Arms The Elephants
2003-04-20 01:10
by Mike Carminati

Call To Arms

The Elephants in Oakland have a first-hand account of the cell-throwing incident in Oakland. And if you haven't heard, it was not battery cells for once it was a cell phone. Someone nailed Carl Everett in the back of the head while he was patrolling right field in between half innings in the sixth. Everett, a less than equanimical figure in far less trying times, lost control and tossed the phone over the right field wall and struck a stadium operations worker.

Now, I condemn anyone who throws things at a public event. Heck, I condemn people who do "the wave" at public events (It's OK to do in the privacy of your own living room). But how miserable and idiotic a human being do you have to be to chuck a cell phone at someone. First because a cell phone could really do some damage to someone. And second because it is so easily traceable. Why not throw your wallet? How about leaving your name and address on a murder weapon? This is true social Darwinism.

The perpetrator was quickly apprehended and should, if nothing else, have his cell phone privileges revoked for life. Everett can be excused to a certain degree for being caught unawares, but someone in the commissioner's or the Rangers' office should sit him down and tell him that his too was a boneheaded move. Why? Because someone else could, and did evidently, get hurt. And because he threw away a solid piece of evidence against the bonehead that hit him with the phone in the first place.

Whatever happens to the mad cell-phoner, it seems that this recent rash of attacks at ball games shows no signs of abating. MLB seems to be devoting the appropriate resources to the problem. It's just such a difficult problem to resolve. If people cannot get a hold on themselves, which seems unlikely, either beer sales will have to be more closely monitored or eliminated altogether, or some sort of divider like they have in Japanese baseball and in European and South American soccer will have to be considered.

Imagine if Everett, even though he is a universally reviled individual, were injured by the projectile or someone in the stands was instead hit and injured. Given the topicality of the issue, it would just be a matter of time before some ambulance-chasing lawyer got involved. Then the owners' hand would really be forced. All we can do is hope it does not come to it, oh, and holster our cell phones when we are at the game.

Bull Reloaded, II Here is
2003-04-19 00:38
by Mike Carminati

Bull Reloaded, II

Here is my email to the National Baseball Hall of Fame board of directors:

Dear Sirs and Madam:

I am writing to you to request the dismissal of the National Baseball Hall of Fame president Dale A. Petroskey.

I am appalled by this individual's actions in the events surrounding the cancellation of the planned celebration for the film "Bull Durham". He had used his position inappropriately in canceling the event. He brought universal condemnation down upon the decision. Also, the taint of politics has sullied the Hall by this man's actions, which were, according to him, intended to effect the reverse.

And now his apology dated Friday, April 18 makes it clear that he is content with doing nothing to rectify his mistakes. I believe that you have no possible option but to remove him from his position.

I cannot countenance paying admission to your fine museum while it is headed by such a morally reprehensible individual. That is the reason I am writing you in hopes that he be removed. If Mr. Petroskey remains in his current position, I have no other option but regrettably to avoid all interaction with your museum.

Good day,

Bull Reloaded Dale Petroskey, the
2003-04-19 00:05
by Mike Carminati

Bull Reloaded

Dale Petroskey, the president of the Hall of Fame Museum, sent a letter of apology to anyone who complained about the Bull Durham event cancellation. Here is a copy of the letter from a Baseball Primer link. Here's the venerable Petroskey himself:

Petroskey took responsibility for his actions in stating that "it is clear [he] should have handled the matter differently" and that he was "sorry [he] didn't pick up the phone to have a discussion with Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon rather than sending them a letter." Poor grammar aside, one gets the idea that Petroskey is apologizing for his actions. That's fine, but shouldn't Sarandon and Robbins be the ones to whom he apologies, not the fans?

Besides, what's the point of apologizing if one does not correct one's actions? He did not say that the event would be rescheduled. He did not say that he had learned any lesson and that this would not happen in the future.

He does confess that "I inadvertently did exactly what I was trying to avoid [i.e., inject politics into the Hall]." But offers no solution as to how to avoid this in the future nor does he admit culpability. He committed some actions in the past and admits that they were unfortunate, but he proffers no punishment or corrective action to ensure that the same actions do not happen again.

What does he turn to after his apology? Nostalgia: "We are so lucky to have Baseball - a game that unites us as Americans." Yeah, but we were lucky to have baseball even before some braying ass decided to politicize the Hall. What does it have to do with anything?

How did Tim Robbins take the indirect apology? Exactly, as he should:

"Because Petroskey's actions resulted in a bipartisan, nationwide affirmation of free speech and the First Amendment, he has inadvertently done us all a favor," Robbins responded in a statement.

"I appreciate Petroskey's non-apology apology and his realization of the perils of paper trails," he said.

Robbins explained his final remark by pointing out that Petroskey invited White House spokesman Ari Fleischer to speak at a Hall event last year.

In a release promoting the visit, Petroskey wrote: "We are thrilled to welcome him to Cooperstown and hear his perspective on life in the White House and the current political scene which, of course, includes the war on terrorism."

I again repeat my call for this troglodytic descendent of Ollie North to be excised from an institution that I once only condemned for its questionable choice of plaque-worthy players. In other words, s^&t-can the bum!

By the way, hereare the Hall's board of directors. Clearly we have heard what constitutes Petroskey's final word on the matter. Contacting him further is futile. Perhaps letters sent to his bosses on the board will carry more weight, especially when one of the Clark family members serves on the board. Oh, and here are ways to contact the Hall.

Red Hot Cubs-They Blow'd Up
2003-04-18 22:56
by Mike Carminati

Red Hot Cubs-They Blow'd Up Real Good!

Christian Ruzich, The Cub Reporter, has some interesting tidbits on the Cubs' historic offensive explosion in their series with the Reds.

Christian has good cause to be pleased. The Cubs are now in first in the NL Central with an 11-6 record, and the Reds are last at 5-11. The Reds have a 6.62 team ERA. Only one of their starters has an ERA under 6.00 and they have an overall 2-9 record. Their number one starter is 0-4 with a 12.74 ERA and twice as many walks as strikeouts and is now on the DL.

But they have been equally bad on offense. Their .224 team batting average is 85 points behind their collective opponent's average. They are almost 200 point behind in OPS. They've ben outscored 71 to 122 overall or 4.4 to 7.6 per game (that's being outscored by 72%). Rookie third baseman Brandon Larson is batting .093 and has a .305 OPS with 15 strikeouts in 43 at-bats. Their number two hitter has a .286 on-base percentage. And they have two future Hall-of-Famers on the DL.

Bob Boone seems a shoo-in for the first managerial dismissal of the year, and I can't think of anyone who deserves the honor more.

No Way, Jose! is
2003-04-17 16:00
by Mike Carminati

No Way, Jose! is auctioning off an afternoon with Jose with bids starting at $2,500. No mention was made of the minimum bid for a day with Ozzie Canseco. Come to think of it how would you know which brother you got anyway?

Why is every Eighties baseball star a complete loser?

Jones for Closing, II Well,
2003-04-17 14:31
by Mike Carminati

Jones for Closing, II

Well, now I've read it, and I kind of wish I hadn't. It's basically the partyline on relieving. It's the standard stuff you hear whenever anyone tries to change how relievers are used:

Boston needs to either name one guy the closer and live and die with him, or go get somebody to be the guy. Bullpen by committee might work in Montreal or Tampa, but it in ain't gonna fly in Beantown.

There are so many errors in Jones' article that it's a bit overwhelming to document them.

First, what is meant by a "closer" has been in flux on , if not a yearly, a decadal basis since free player replacement was allowed in the 1890s. The title "closer" since at least the mid-Seventies when I was a kid. Back then it meant the pitcher than closed out maybe 80-90 games pitched 130 innings and save 20-25 games. He would pitch anywhere from one to three innings at a time. Now it refers to pitcher who comes in in the ninth inning almost only in save situations. He pitches 50-60 games a year, throws about the same number of innings, and saves 30-40 games.

Sometimes closers continued to be used in save opportunities even when their statistics clearly display they are not a good choice for the closer's role. I documented many such examples in my relief pitching series. However, Jones' 1998 season is a prime example: he saved 28 games with a 4.97 ERA (5 % worse than the park-adjusted league average), a 1.48 WHIP (Walks plus Hits per Innings Pitched), and only strikeout 1.5 men per each walk he allowed. Jones was a subpar pitcher that year, but his team, the Tigers, decided in their wisdom that he should be entrusted in holding a lead late in somewhat close games. Jones should praise the current role for the closer; he has been one of the pitchers who have benefited from its use: Jones has 184 saves to go with his 3.75 career ERA and 1.42 career WHIP.

Anyway, I don't know Theo Epstein's or Grady Little's take on the bullpen system employed by the Red Sox this year. But I know Bill James'. First, he does not refer to it as a bullpen- or closer-by-committee, meaning that on any night anyone in the pen could be used in any reliever role. Indeed that does seem doomed for failure as pitcher use would be rather haphazard, and the best pitcher would not be used when most important. Not to mention the unease that it would breed in the bullpen, to quote Jones:

The bullpen works better if guys have certain roles. As the game goes on, if you have set roles and your scenario comes up, you can prepare for it much better. It's awful not knowing when you're going to pitch from night to night.

But this is not what James advocates-at least not what he advocates in his articles. James' study in the New Historical Baseball Abstract calls for the best pitcher, i.e., the closer, to be used when the game is on the line. He found that the most appropriate time for this is from the seventh inning on with the game either tied or the closer's team up by one run (also, when they are down by one run and the pitcher is well rested). He also found that using the closer for more than one inning if needs be is most effective.

For the rest of the bullpen, although James does not really go into this, a hierarchy would be used to optimize the best pitcher for the most important situation (depending on the pitcher's availability). This is not an arbitrary bullpen-by-committee, just a redefinition of the closer's role. The pitcher's all have roles, just not the "traditional" ones. The closer would be used whenever the game is on the line in close games, not just in save situations.

What this could do is redistribute some of the saves to secondary pitchers who happen to finish up a fairly close game after the "closer" pitched the inning(s) that allowed the team to win. Jones goes on to say, "The difference between the eighth and the ninth is mental. As a closer, you are where the rubber hits the road." Well, why is where the "runner hits the road" (and we all know how painful that can be) the ninth inning? The game could be on the line in the eighth and if you don't use your best pitcher, you not lose the save opportunity, you lose the game.

I'm no psychologist, but I understand the comfort that the finality of pitching in the ninth must have for a closer. That's nice for him. As to whether it requires more "mental" toughness, I can't say. All I know is that James' theories make a whole lot more sense than losing a game in the 7th or 8th inning while the best available pitcher languishes unused in he pen. It seems like a bunch of lollygaggers to me.

Now, to evaluate James' theories based on two weeks with the Red Sox personnel seems unfair to me. Epstein has said that he did not have the funds to re-sign Ugueth Urbina and that was one of the reasons that they went with this plan. Perhaps they do not have the right personnel. They are all veteran relievers, but almost to a man they are performing poorly. They have the highest reliever ERA in baseball and Baseball Prospectus ranks them as the worst pen in the game (just behind the Braves). Bobby Howry has already been sent down to the minors. Allan Embree (who's hurt), Ramiro Medoza, and Chad Fox have been awful. Then again if they all stink, does it matter who the closer is?

Maybe evaluating short relievers based on a small sample of innings per season is not the most effective means of predicting future success, or maybe they have all had a slump at the same time, or maybe they are just adjusting to a new system, or maybe Grady Little doesn't understand the system himself, or maybe James' theories don't work in practice. Time will tell. But to say a new system won't work because it has not been tried is erroneous. First, because history tells us that the use of relievers is constantly in flux. And second, because a version of James' system on steroids was in use in the Seventies and the Eighties.

The closers who first put their stamp on the role were used in the way James' prescribes just for an extra 40 or so innings per year. There were also smaller pens and fewer pitchers used per game. You never heard Bruce Sutter, Goose Gossage, Kent Tekulve, and Rollie Fingers complain about their roles back then.

Managers saw that the number of innings caused stress and cut back on the innings that the top closers pitched. James argues that the just cut the wrong innings. Managers followed Tony LaRussa's use of Dennis Eckersley in the late Eighties and tailored the closer role to the definition of a save.

According to James' definition Chad Fox was in essence the Red Sox closer to start the season. Of all the instances in which the Sox either led by 1 run or were tied in the last three innings, Fox pitched the bulk of these. One was handled and blown by Bobby Howry and one was a 2.2 inning win by Mike Timlin, who entered with the game tied. Maybe the choice of Fox was a poor one, what with him returning after a year lost to injury.

Besides this is not exactly new for this team. The Red Sox actually did implement this sort of system with Derek Lowe in his three years as a closer (kudos to Chris DeRosa for pointing this out). Lowe pitched 91.1 to 109.1 innings in 67 to 74 games each year and saved 15, 24, and 42 games. That's more in the Sutter mold than the Eckersley one.

Lastly, I would be remiss if I didn't react to this statement from Jones:

Our skipper plays games against teams with dominant closers as if they are eight innings long. If we're losing, we know who is coming in in the ninth.

Any Rockies team that approaches a game as if it were eight innings long is doomed for failure. I understand Jones' point, but given the fragility of leads in Coors, this statement is ludicrous.

Deja Vu All Over Again,
2003-04-17 11:03
by Mike Carminati

Deja Vu All Over Again, IV

The commissioner's office is saying that they "will do whatever is necessary to maximize the consequences for those individuals who intrude on the field or assault or make any attempt to interact with umpires, players or coaches or fans in the stands." It's good that they are taking it seriously, but MLB is infamous for making proclamations and not following through (Does anybody remember, the tied All-Star game?).

They are said to be reviewing security in all major-league parks, which has to be a good thing. They did send baseball security chief Kevin Hallinan to Chicago to aid with last night's ballgame security, and all did go smoothly (thank god). Although it is interesting that suspending beer sales for the game was not entertained. The attacker confessed to drinking all day at a Cubs' game before going to the White Sox-Royals affair.

If nothing else I found one topic on which Bud Selig and I see eye to eye. Quoth El Bud, "There is no place in baseball for such deplorable fan behavior." I couldn't agree more.

Thebaseball folks interviewed also agree there are limitations as to what can be done:

"You still couldn't prevent a person, one lunatic or whatever you want to call it, from trying to get his 10 seconds of fame,'' [Cubs general manager Jim] Hendry said. "I don't think you could ever say you're going to prevent it completely in any stadium: football, basketball, baseball, whatever.''

And I'm glad that my references jibe more with managers than players. It doen't make me old in the slightest:

"In the old days, you were always looking forward to Morganna running onto the field,'' [the over-excited Mets manager Art Howe] said. "It would be a shame if we had to do what they do in Japan, where everybody is screened in.''

Jones for Closing TSN's Todd
2003-04-17 01:05
by Mike Carminati

Jones for Closing

TSN's Todd Jones reports on closers. I have not read it yet and will critique it tomorrow, but perhaps the best argument for a closer by committee is Todd Jones' career.

Thank you, ladies and gentlemen. I'lll be here all week.

Phil-anthropy From the Phillies email
2003-04-17 00:47
by Mike Carminati


From the Phillies email newsletter:

April 16, 2003

Phillies to reveal tribute to Hall of Famer Richie Ashburn
in new ballpark.

The Phillies will reveal a special tribute to legendary
Hall of Famer and former Phillies broadcaster Richie
Ashburn to be included in the Phillies Ballpark. Check out for the live webcast of the press conference
Thursday, April 17, 2003 at 12:15 p.m.

List of speakers:
- David Montgomery, General Partner And President, Phillies
- Harry Kalas, Phillies Hall of Fame broadcaster
- Zenos Frudakis, world-renowned sculptor
- Greg "Bull" Luzinski, former Phillies slugger

Complete information >>

Neifi-tism, II You see, all
2003-04-16 13:44
by Mike Carminati

Neifi-tism, II

You see, all that Neifi needed was a little positive criticism to perform. Perez went 2-for-2 with a walk, a bunt, and two runs scored. And both hits were indeed balls hit out of the infield. The impressive one raised his batting average to .136. It was his first multi-hit game since September 4, 2002.

I'm glad to be of service.

Deja Vu All Over Again,
2003-04-16 12:06
by Mike Carminati

Deja Vu All Over Again, III

The Royals are now saying that they will not take the field unless security is improved at Comiskey:

The Royals must be assured "that things have been upgraded where we can feel comfortable to where we can take the field," Baird said. "Otherwise we won't take it. I'm worried about my manager, my staff and my players -- period. But I do feel for the families who came out to the game."

Kevin Hallinan, baseball's senior vice president for security and facilities, was flown in a la Tommy Lee Jones in The Fugitive to shore up security.

Deja Vu All Over Again,
2003-04-16 11:59
by Mike Carminati

Deja Vu All Over Again, II

The AP's Jim Litke writes that the onus is on us, the average fans, to not become a party to the rowdy fan element.

When I was a kid streakers were still popular and would show up at ballparks from time to time. And of course, the world famous Morgana the Kissing Bandit would frequent many a stadium. These incidents were funny or at least diverting.

Then the fans who ran on the field as a form of protest after the 1994-95 strike took the humor right out of it for me. I was at the 1996 Yankee-Brave World Series game in which Maddux shut out the Yanks 4-0. At that great game numerous fans strayed onto and were removed from the field. And this was at revered Yankees Stadium during the World Series. It also made me wonder how much they paid to miss the game and spent a night in jail. My ticket was seventy-five bucks, and I was nowhere close enough to the field to wonder onto it.

Now fans are getting violent and targeting individuals on the field. Maybe Litke is right and the next step in the progression is gangs of fans attacking individuals at the park. I do agree that the "fun" of a rowdy, drunken fan bloviating in the stands is a thing of the past. It's like watching an old Andy Griffith Show, in which the town drunk is the charmingly funny, avuncular Otis. Somehow this country sufficiently lost its innocence so that Otis is no longer charming. The only drunks on TV now are the "bad boys" on COPS. I guess this is a similar loss of innocence. Home fans would once cheer as their drunken comrades would spout off at an individual on the field, be it a home player, a visiting player, or an umpire. Now that goading fans' collective id could result in a personal attack on the targeted individual, it's not as much fun. So Litke's right that we, as fans, should understand the potential consequences of our actions and be a bit more reticent in support of the section's loudmouth.

That said, I can't accept the onus be put completely on one idiot's fellow fans. It's more a 12-step program than a solution to the problem. Invariably, these fans are intoxicated. Someone sold them the alcohol they drank or security either failed to prevent them from bringing in their own alcohol or failed to properly secure the intoxicated fan before he became a threat. Also, fans in any stadium I have ever visited can wonder down from the upper decks to the lower sections in the late innings relatively freely. Security could prevent them from doing so and thereby limit the over-eager types. In any of these cases, employees of the stadium are involved. They must be more diligent to minimize the risk and impose proper limitations. This will probably not change until after someone is attacked and chooses to sue the stadium authority for negligence.

Also, stiffer penalties against offenders may help, but these individuals don't seem to concerned about the consequences of their actions. If a penalty of, say, six months in jail were imposed and announced before every game, it could help prevent the gang mentality that Litke envisions from taking hold.

And this is all assuming that the attacker is intoxicated and exhibiting behavior that indicates he will become a threat. I don't know what can be done about a random nut who quietly wonders on the field and attacks an individual, like Steffi Graf's attacker ten years ago. There is no advance notice with this type. But I guess that is the risk for any public figure nowadays.

Whatever the next step in the nutty fan progression is, it seems to be accelerating. It's just another black eye for a sport that is struggling to get back on its PR feet. Maybe an insurmountable partition (Litke cites chicken wire) is the answer. But then the nuts would unleash their venom on their fellow fans and they're surly enough as it is. My advice? Stay home and watch it on TV. It's safer, cheaper, and is a better show. And the only things that will get attacked are your sensibilities by the local announcers.

Does He Get the Rights
2003-04-16 10:44
by Mike Carminati

Does He Get the Rights To The Crappy Danny Glover-Tony Danza Movie, Too?

Arturo Moreno and Disney have reportedly come to an agreement in principle on the sale of the Anaheim Angels for $180 M.

Disney bought the team piecemeal from the Autry family for a total of $147 M. That's a tidy $33 M profit in five years on a team that Disney has openly tried to divest itself of for some time.

I love this quote from ESPN:

The company also spent nearly $100 million to refurbish the team's stadium, renaming it Edison Field.

According to that figure is a bit high:

On April 3, 1996, the city of Anaheim and the Walt Disney Corporation agreed on a deal that will keep the Angels in Anaheim until at least the year 2018. Disney committed $88 million and the city $30 million to a three-year renovation of Edison International Field to a more compact, baseball-only facility. The team changed its name to the Anaheim Angels for the 1997 season. The city provides 12,500 parking spaces on site for baseball and Disney operates the stadium and retains all monies until agreed income thresholds are met. The agreement calls for the Angels to lease Edison International Field for 33 years (3 for renovation and 30 for operation), but the team has the option to leave after 20 years of operation. Anaheim's plans for a sports and entertainment complex will be scaled back to 40 acres but Disney has agreed to allow the city to build a football stadium next to the ballpark...Name changed to Edison International Field in 1997 under a $50 million, 20-year sponsorship deal.

So I'm sure that the $88 M (not "nearly $100 M") will be amortized over the course of the agreement. Also, according to ESPN's Edison Field page:

The new name was announced on Sept. 15, 1997, Edison International Field of Anaheim. The name represents the stadiums sponsorship agreements between Anaheim Sports inc. and Edison International. New features added to Edison International Field of Anaheim Information were terraced bullpens in the outfield, widened concourses, new restrooms and concession area, and state-of-the-art club-level and dugout-level suites. In addition, Edison International Field has three full-service restaurants. The renovation was estimated at $100 million.

So what happened to the extra $18 M, the difference between the original estimate ($118 M, 88 of which came from Disney) and the final estimate ($100 M)? I suspect that Disney found a way to lessen that $88 M debt, but that's just my suspicion. Someone got back $18 M though.

Also, note that Anaheim Sports, Inc., not Disney got the $50 M for the Edison name change. But guess what, Anaheim Sports, Inc. is a subsidiary of Disney. I doubt that those funds will go to Moreno.

And as I am sure you know, Disney owns ABC who owns ESPN. Isn't that cozy? No wonder they overestimate the costs of the staium renovation in Disney's favor and don't even mention the sponsorship deal. This is the kind of funny money that allowed the owners to cry poverty in the first place.

All said, I'm glad that Disney's getting out of the baseball biz: maybe without the conflict of interest ESPN's reportage of baseball's finances will be accurate.

Deja Vu All Over Again
2003-04-15 23:30
by Mike Carminati

Deja Vu All Over Again

Tonight the White Sox and the Royals played in Comiskey for first time since the September 19, 2002 game in which KC coach Tom Gamboa was attacked by two fans. Well, guess what, it happened again.

In the eighth inning first base umpire Laz Diaz ran down the right field line to cover a fly ball. As the ball was being caught by rookie Brandon Berger to end the inning, the ump, who was facing the right fielder, was attacked from behind by a fan. Berger and some security guards subdued the fan almost immediately. And soon both benches cleared and the subdued man was kicked and slightly jostled.

There were three other incidents of fans running on the field prior to this in the game.

This comes just a day after some fans in San Juan ran on the field with a banner spouting an anti-war slogan. The Mets were upset about the slow-reacting security at Estadio Hiram Bithorn. Those fans have now been banned from the Expos entire "homestand" in Puerto Rico.

The most interesting parallel is the hostility that the teams have exhibited agianst each other starting in spring training. There have been more bench-clearers than in most other years. In fact, in the first inning tonight Frank Thomas charged the mound after behind hit by a pitch and both benches cleared. As I said before, they cleared later as the teams united to protect the ump.

I don't know what the solution is. We live in an apparently hostile society. Security at the game can only do so much (maybe beer concessionaires can do more by limiting rowdy fans). It's unfortunate that it has happened twice in Chicago.

One last item, the All-Star game is at Comiskey this year, and if you thought a tie ballgame was an embarrassment to the sport, what if a fan (or fans) runs onto the field to attack a player from say the Royals? Let's just hope that the commissioner's office is taking this issue a little more seriously than finding a solution for tie All-Star games.

Wahoo Alfonso The Yankees beat
2003-04-15 10:40
by Mike Carminati

Wahoo Alfonso

The Yankees beat the Blue Jays yesterday 10-9 in a wild game in which both starters were gone by the end of the fifth, there were twenty walks (7 by Tanyon Sturtze of the 26 Yankees he faced), and three errors. The Yankees gave up twice as many hits as they collected and they still won.

There was one play that was long forgotten by the end of the game, but it led to the first run of the ballgame and it impressed the heck out of me. It was in the first inning that Alfonso Soriano manufactured a run all by his lonesome (almost). First, he was hit by a belt-high trailing fastball to lead off. He then stole second. Incidentally I thought he might have been out with a high tag being applied on the tailing throw from the catcher, but YES! never gave us a definitive angle.

Then came the play that impressed me. Nick Johnson hit a routine grounder to third baseman Eric Hinske. Hinske threw to first and Soriano went to third and later scored on a Texas League single by Jason Giambi.

Hinske, contrary to what the YES! announcers said, did look Soriano back to third on the grounder. He just did perfunctorily which made it clear to Soriano that he wasn't going to second and allowed Soriano to get a great jump. Soriano read it perfectly.

It reminded me of the old Wahoo Sam Crawford and Ty Cobb plays that I read about in my youth. In the movie Little Big League the kid-manager used an old Tiger play to manufacture a run: he had a batter who had just been walked run through first and attempt to get to second with a runner at third. The pitcher, I believe, got so confused that both men were safe. Those sorts of surprise plays don't typically work today because fielding defense has improved to the point that they are no longer surprises. Major-leaguers know what to check for before the play develops. Coaching, positioning, the gloves, and the quality of the average fielder have improved so greatly that trick plays have become very low percentage gambles. By the way, here is Wahoo Sam:

It's like watching an old detective show as compared to The X-Files, NYPD Blue, or Alias today. In the old days, it seemed that half the time a police officer was shot, it was by his own gun that he lost when the crook karate chopped from his hand after taking him by surprise. Or the bad guy tries to surprise Superman by hitting him with the gun after emptying its contents in his mid section (and yet Superman still has to duck to avoid the incoming gun). Now there is no surprise: these cops cover all the angles and check blind spots before they enter a room.

So Soriano found a way to use surprise and manufacture a run in today's game. It's just a nice thing to see.

One other note on the game: The YES! announcers are perhaps the biggest homers ("D'oh") in the game. Raul Monsesi booted a ball in right allowing Shannon Stewart to get to third base and later score on a sac fly. Bobby Murcer, I think, covered for Mondesi saying that he thought that Stewart, who had stopped at second, was going for third and hurried the catch. It was a routine ground ball. He booted it. Why make excuses?

Before the next batter starter Andy Pettite was pulled and Murcer then opines that Pettitte's ankle was hurting him. Pettitte had pitched all right before the fifth. He allowed two runs in the third but had a 1-2-3 fourth. Why did his injury flare up in the fifth? Players have off games; no one expects them to be perfect. The announcers don't have to sugarcoat every misstep by the team. It's embarrassing.

Murcer did point out that Jose Posada's footwork had improved behind the plate and that was apparent on his quick throws. I guess those homers do serve some purpose, if only to pass on what the coaches are working on with the players.

Neifi-tism Here's a great bit
2003-04-15 08:52
by Mike Carminati


Here's a great bit from Lee Sinin's ATM Report from yesterday:

Giants 2B Ray Durham left yesterday's game, due to a mildly strained right groin.

Durham's off to a .821 OPS/3 RCAA start in 11 games and has a .782 OPS/44 RCAA in 1211 games. He was replaced yesterday by Neifi Perez, who will also take his spot if Durham misses any time.

Perez is off to a very impressive start. While it's only a 7 game sample size, how can you not be impressed by how difficult it to have a SLG 152 points below average, an OBA 123 points below average, an OPS 274 points below average? And those aren't the league averages, those are the averages for pitchers' hitting so far!!!

The "very impressive Neifi Perez" is the player about whom manager Felipe Alou said getting enough at-bats was his number one concern at the start of the season. Alou had considered negotiating with the starting infielders in order to get Neifi some at-bats. Now, he should get those ABs.

The Giants have looked great so far, but I have a sneaking feeling that Alou will find a way to screw it up. One sure way to hurt the team is to give a great deal of at-bats to a man (Perez) who has been one of the worst offensive players in the game since leaving the comfy confines of Coors. And for now it may not be up to Alou whether not to get Perez those at-bats.

By the way, Perez was 0-for-4 yesterday and stranded two runners.

- He grounded out to second on a 1-2 pitch to lead off the third.
- He lined out to the pitcher on a 1-2 count (plus one foul) with one out and none on in the fifth.
- He grounded out to second on an 0-2 count with the bases loaded and one out in the fifth after four Giants had been walked consecutively. The runner at first was forced out and he got an RBI on the runner from third who scored (score SF 4-1).
- He grounded into a double play to the second baseman on the first pitch offered with Snow on and none out in the eighth.

That's four at-bats and not one ball out of the infield. The best hit ball was perhaps the liner to the pitcher (I didn't see the play). His RBI at-bat is deplorable. He did take the first pitch, but he was facing a pitcher that had not thrown a strike until that point in the ballgame. I'm sure that Alou is happy with that RBI.

A Hard Joe Morgan Chat
2003-04-14 12:09
by Mike Carminati

A Hard Joe Morgan Chat Day's Night

If the tax-gatherer, or any other public officer, asks me, as one has done, "But what shall I do?" my answer is, "If you really wish to do anything, resign your office." When the subject has refused allegiance, and the officer has resigned his office, then the revolution is accomplished.

- Hammerin' Henry David Thoreau

I'm sorry for the delay in lambasting Joe Morgan's latest chat session. I've been doing my taxes all day. Last week in the Northeast it snowed; today it was bright and beautiful and we not so few who put off paying the man until the last moment are stuck inside, plugging away trying to overcome the eccentricities of TaxCut (why can't it import the state taxes properly if you have more than one state to whom your owe taxes and why do they charge you the same amount for the crappy state program as the much slicker federal one?). I finally completed them and tried to e-file, only to find that TaxCut charges to $14.95 to do so. Not me, brother. One would think that the government would find a better way to incentify everyone to e-file in order to reduce their paperwork, but I still can't understand how banks can justify charging fees to use ATMs that allowed them to cut their staff to the bone in the first place.

Anyway, in the middle of my tax woes, I realized that Mighty Joe Morgan is a lot like taxes. He's the tax(ing) man and you're working for no one but him, tax man.

First of all, they're both required. You've got to pay taxes, and if you're a baseball fan missing Joe's car wreck of a chit-chat is a cardinal sin.

Second, they both started with great promise. Your taxes were once used to build the infrastructure of this great land. Joe was once the most amazing of second-sackers. Now, your taxes go to line the pocket of some Midwestern industrialist or some third-world dictator (who will have to be unseated in a few years with a bunch more of your tax dollars). Morgan, now an analyst, displays none of the savvy that galvanized the baseball world when he was a player. He speaks of the overuse of On-Base Percentage when a cursory glance at his career stats would scream out in support of the stat (the man had a .392 career OBP and once walked 132 times for goodness' sake).

Finally, they are both confusing and perhaps purposely so. The federal and state governments not only require us to pay them handsomely, they set up laws and procedures that make us figure out how much and take an accountant to do it accurately. No wonder Thoreau chucked the whole system. Joe Morgan astounds as he flashes a few sage comments followed by twaddle that would shame Thom Brennaman. And I'm almost convinced that, like the taxes, Morgan is confounding by design, perpetrating this farce on humanity as some sort of cruel science experiment. That poor Jon Miller!

But there is one difference between taxes and Joe Morgan. The taxes' ludicrousness leads only to dyspeptic anguish-this was captured perfectly in a series of commercials last year in which a man slowly goes stark raving mad as he works on his taxes finally screaming at his family who are reading downstairs to stay "Quiet!" a la "All work and no play..." Jack Nicholson in The Shining. However, Joe's absurdities are baseball's equivalent to Mad magazine (except you can't fold the end of it in such a way to show Alfred E. Neuman in a Pete Rose wig).

So without further ado...

I am here and ready to go!

One, two, three, four...
One, two, (one, two, three, four!)

Let me tell you how it will be:
There's one good quote, nineteen obscene.
'Cause I'm Joe Morgan,
Yeah, I'm Joe Morgan.

Should On-Base Percentage doth me gall,
Be thankful I don't run baseball.
'Cause I'm Joe Morgan,
Yeah, I'm Joe Morgan.

If you run the Hall (Hall),
          I'll think you're neat;
If Ken Griffey sits (sits),
          He's still a player complete;
If your thinking's old (old),
          I'm up your street;
If you take a walk (walk),
          I'll cry, "compete!"


'Cause I'm Joe Morgan,
Yeah, I'm Joe Morgan.

Don't ask me what I do it for, (ah-ah, Mr. Miller)
If you don't want to hear some more. (ah-ah, Big Red Machine)
'Cause I'm Joe Morgan,
Yeah, I'm Joe Morgan.

Now my 'nalysis must rely, (Morgan)
On Wins, Stol'n Base, and RBI (Morgan)
'Cause I'm Joe Morgan,
Yeah, I'm Joe Morgan.

And you're chatting with no one but me!


[Mike: Enough already!]

The Good: A Refund

Travon (Washington, DC): What does Bud Selig and MLB have to do to regain some of the popularity that is has lost over the years?

Good question.. I've said in the past that baseball has always been too busy putting out fires to move forward. We have labor peace now and the owners seem more unified. They need a marketing strategey that puts all the focus on the players and on the field. Until they do that, they will not regain the fan interest. In football, all the interest in on the players. Baseball needs to market their players better.

[Mike: When the man is right, he's right: the owners need to stop fighting the union and, therefore the players, openly; they need to promote the game, and therefore the players.]

Stone (Carbondale): Where do you think Vladimir Guerrero will end up, seeing that the Expos will not be able to afford him?

If I was the person buying the Expos to move them, I would insist that Vladimir stay with the team. IF they move to a different area, then whoever gets them should be able to afford them. That should be their priority. If they can't afford him, they should not buy the team.

[Mike: The name has to be a joke or some sort: Stone in Carbondale-what is this Bedrock? ("I am Rock Quarry") Again Joe has a good point. The new owners of the Expos will probably have a depleted minor-league system. Without the team's biggest star, they may as well do what the NHL did with the long-forgotten Cleveland Barons and merge them into another team (in the Barons' case, the Minnesota North Stars, now the Dallas Stars).]

Joe, Muskegon Michigan: Mr. Morgan, how would a draft work if the Montreal Expos say, were contracted. would all the players jsut become Free Agents?

The Player's Assoc. wanted them to be free agents but the owners wanted a dispersal draft. The worst team gets first choice. But the Assoc. is saying that once the team is gone, they are all free agents. But they were never going to contract. It was just a bargaining chip in the negotiations. Contraction offers too many problems. i.e. lawsuits forever.

[Mike: Muskegon? How are the Muskies this year? Again Joe's right on the money: contraction was a sham of a farce that the media helped turn into an issue. The funny thing is that the players caved on the issue and now the owners can contract in three years without the players' consent. It would only be done to free up markets so that the exorbitant ownership demands placed on their respective metropolitan areas will be taken more seriously.]

Dan (Mahwah, NJ): Is not having a closer to rely on like not having an ace to rely on. How long will the Red Sox stick with this comittee idea? Is it the committe or the commitee members that are the problems?

I personally think the idea is not bad. But you have to have the right mixture in your bullpen to make it work. It is too early to tell if they have that mixture. They blew a lot of games early last year. I like the idea I'm just not sure they have the right parts.

[Mike: Nice, Joe. Keeping an open mind, very out of character. And I think he may be right apart the parts: over-reliance on Chad Fox may be killing the Sox attempt at a communal bullpen and Allan Embree may be too streaky.

For those keeping score that is four in a row. These four were in fact in a row in the original chat, but Joe made up for the well-reasoned answered with one most non-PC that will appear in The Ugly section.]

The Bad: You Owe Big Bucks (and Whammies)

Brent (Kansas City): Joe, Can the Royals, with their young pitching keep up the momentum of this start and sustain it for the season? And what is your outlook for the Royals this year?

One of the things I said last week, there are more teams that can reach the playoffs than ever before. KC has a lot of good, young position playes. It's just a matter of how far their pitching will go. With young pitching you just have to see how far they can hold up.

[Mike: More teams can reach the playoffs than ever before? Yeah, there are 30. There have been since 1998.

Seriously, I'm a little peeved at all the parity talk of late. The owners used a period of flux after a couple of rounds of expansion to sell their "doom and gloom" perception of things in order to make ludicrous demands of the players' union. It worked, they got their demands, and now all the people in the media, who were Chicken Littling about at this time last year, are jumping on this parity world view. Actually, Joe was pretty fair on this issue at the time-he's a good union man-, but I needed to spout.

Oh, and they have some more problems besides pitching, but I would agree that is their lynchpin.]

Paul (Delaware): What's up with Greg Maddux? Are his first three games an aberration or a sign of things to come?

He has won 15 games for a lot of years so I don't think it's early season jitters or anything. He says it is his locations. He has put the ball in the middle of the plate and if he does that, he will get hit. I think you will start to see more breaking balls than you have seen from him in the past. He will still win games.

[Mike: Nothing glaring: I agree that Maddux is by no means through. He had a bad April, by his standards, last year, and maybe his age is starting to catch up with him. I just disagree about the breaking balls. Maddux will try and do his "rocking the batter to sleep" as Tim McCarver puts it: go in and out, change speeds, paint the corners, etc. (Edit: Actually that is what Maddux did yesterday in his first win.)

Danny (Chi., IL): Hi Joe, Do you think Griffey will ever be a dominating player again? It just seems that for most players, once they become injury prone, they never are the same again. It would be such a shame if we can't see Griffey at even 75% of his old self...

I would never put Griffey in the category of anyone else. He is such a special player. It's all about his attitude now. He prepared all Winter and was in great shape. To go down this early, it will be really tough mentally on him. Once he gets physically healthy he will be a good player again. But what will his attitude be like? It's hard to keep pushing yourself ...

[Mike: I would put Griffey "in the category of anyone else", whatever that means. Griffey was a tremendous player at a young age, but many elite players are great young (Mantle, Dimaggio, Kalin, Gehrig, Ted Williams, etc.). He looked like he would be one of the all-time greats, but his post-30 career has not born that out.

He was a slightly worse player after moving to Cincinnati, even before the injuries, and last year he was just average. He was already at 75% of his former self. He could definitely comeback (and he showed some signs of that before the last injury), but a return to the level he had once established is unlikely and it may not rely only on his attitude.]

Scott (New York, NY): hey Joe, Mark Prior has been hyped to be the best thing since sliced bread. He has proven in his short career that he can be a force in this league. Do you think he has the ability to continue dominating opposing hitters the way he does now? Or will is it a matter of time before they figure him out?

I don't think they are going to figure him out. It's about how consistent he can be. If he continues to have that control he had the other day, they won't figure him out. It's all up to him and how he continues to improve and get better.

[Mike: Improve and get better? The guy has a 0.60 ERA with 19 strikeouts in 15 innings. In 1968 Joe probably told Bob Gibson that if he tried a little harder he could get that 1.12 ERA down a bit.

Yeah, Prior is going to have to make adjustments throughout the year and his career, but how could he get better? Isn't this just underrating a young whippersnapper of a player? Besides, with the Cubs history (read Kerry Woods), I would be more worried about him blowing out his arm.]

Brendon (Maine): Mr. Morgan, What do you think of Adam Dunn's development as a hitter this year? I read that he took batting practice all winter with Sean Casey and Ken Griffey Jr. But he's still striking out at an alarming rate - if you remember his 0-4, 4K line from Wednesday night. Do you think he has or will develop enough to become the middle of the lineup power hitter the Reds envisioned? Thanks for your time.

One of the things about young players is finding a comfort zone. Finding the pitchers' release point, adjust to the pitcher and try not to do too much with the pitch. Every young player has to learn that. He has a lot of potential but he hasn't reached the point where he can do those things every time he's in the box.

[Mike: Who can do " do those things every time he's in the box"? Isn't this another case of being hard on a young player. Dunn has potential and has performed in his year and one half in the majors. Let's not judge him on an early season slump. (By the way, Dunn broke out of his slump this weekend with a 4-for-10, two-homer performance against the Phils. He raised most of his offensive averages by 50% over the series.)]

Dan, (Hartford, CT): Do you think the yanks will straighten out their bullpen problems and is steve karsay's injury more serious than their they are letting the fans believe?

I'm like a fan, I don't know how serious it is. They will straighten it out. They have the luxury of being able to acquire whatever they need. I think the Yanks have earned the right to do that. They have built themselves up into a monster franchise. They can get a replacement for anything they need.

[Mike: The Yanks can acquire whatever they need? Why didn't they do it last year when Mariano Rivera went down? Or this spring when both Karsay and Rievera were hurting?

Besides, Joe, you speaking of the Red Sox who can pick players off of the baseball-owned Expos' roster and get support to recall players who have already signed with Japan.

Oh, and it is a good sign that Torre is using more than a couple of guys in the pen while Karsay and Rivera are out. They should be well stocked when those guys return.]

Leif (Int'l Falls, MN): Hi Joe! Do you think the Twins need a big bat in the middle of the lineup to drive in some runs and protect Koskie and Mienkiewitzc so the can see better pitches. Terry Ryan certainly has the young players to deal in order to acquire an Ellis Burks type of player.

They have always needed one more guy in the middle with some pop but you can say that about almost every team. They have a lot of energy and they enjoy playing the game. But they could certainly use one more bat. You put a real big bat in there and you would have a really special team.

[Mike: Yeah, the Twins could use a player like, uh, David Ortiz. He is the guy with some pop that they always needed. Wait a minute, uh, never mind.

This is Joe's mantra: Teams always need an extra bat and an extra pitcher. Fine, even the '27 Yankees could have used an extra bat. But how does that help answer this question? The Twins are not hitting and are not getting on base. Torii Hunter has looked horrible at the plate and it may be time to cut bait with Luis Rivas. The jury is still out on Christian Guzman. The Twins bullpen remains tremendous but their starting pitching besides Lohse has been disappointment. There are more problems right now than just a big bat in the middle of the lineup in Minnesota.]

Charlie (Virginia Beach, Virginia): What do you think of the Braves signing Shane Reynolds? Not a bad pickup i'd say.

I would think that anyone who signs him is doing a good thing. Part of the reason the Astros released him was because he had so much money coming and they werent' sure if he would hold up. It was a good bet for anyone to take a chance on him.

[Mike: The Astros released him because they though he could no longer hack it. The money was a much smaller issue. They paid him $1 M to walk. With incentives, he could have made $5.7 M, but it is unlikely that he would have reached any incentives other than some for the empty innings he would have given the 'Stros. That is unlikely given his recent history with injuries. The Astros were worried about his performance and were willing to pay $1 M to cut bait on him.

I think anyone signing him for 2003 gets a player with experience for the league minimum, but given the competition for his services, the Braves had to sweeten the deal with a $3 M mutual option for 2004 with a $100 K buyout. That's at least $400 K for a pitcher who is potentially washed up. It may be a reasonable gamble but is by no means a purely "good thing." Besides it was an act of desperation on the Braves' part. How can that be a good thing?]

matt(philadelphia, pa.): Is Thome, Burrell and Abreu the best 3 4 5 in the league. If not then who is? Atlanta? Anaheim? Yankees?

You have Thome who has proven he is one of the great sluggers in his time. Abreu is a complete player who can run, steal and drive in runs. Burrell is a young Thome. He will get better and better. You could probably make that argument.

Bagwell, Berkman and Kent are pretty comprable I would think.

[Mike: Everyone's entitled to his or her opinion. Here are the batting stats for the number 3, 4, and 5 hitters for each team ranked by OPS (through yesterday's games):

Anaheim       11 27 35 .350 .417 .679 1.095
St. Louis      8 29 32 .344 .466 .626 1.092
Colorado       7 31 32 .310 .405 .627 1.032
Cincinnati    11 25 22 .281 .353 .578  .931
Toronto        9 24 32 .277 .379 .540  .919
Houston        8 23 18 .298 .393 .524  .917
NY Yankees     6 22 25 .302 .406 .504  .910
Texas         11 21 21 .257 .358 .536  .894
San Francisco  8 32 23 .248 .404 .488  .892
Atlanta        8 25 25 .294 .355 .529  .884
Chicago Cubs   2 25 21 .286 .445 .429  .874
Florida        7 25 30 .286 .376 .497  .873
Boston         7 33 27 .274 .337 .510  .847
Seattle        5 20 26 .271 .384 .424  .807
Los Angeles    7 15 22 .258 .356 .452  .807
Philadelphia   5 30 28 .260 .362 .440  .802
Tampa Bay      3 22 22 .289 .366 .434  .800
San Diego      5 21 21 .290 .369 .426  .795
Kansas City    4 21 15 .260 .380 .413  .793
Montreal       5 16 22 .269 .359 .425  .785
Pittsburgh     4 21 23 .257 .342 .426  .768
Arizona        5 16 16 .267 .336 .430  .765
Milwaukee      6 18 16 .261 .333 .430  .763
Chicago Sox    4 13 20 .244 .356 .366  .723
Baltimore      2 18 18 .259 .322 .370  .693
Oakland        4 24 18 .212 .305 .349  .655
Minnesota      1 12 21 .218 .271 .345  .616
NY Mets        4 15 10 .197 .299 .315  .614
Cleveland      2  8 13 .213 .294 .307  .601
Detroit        0  3  3 .106 .189 .124  .313
Total        169   657 .266 .359 .454  .813

I understand that it's early in the season, but the Phils' 3-4-5 guys are below the major-league average. Let's give them an entire season before we dub them the next Gehrig, Ruth, and Lazzeri.

The Ugly: TaxCut Eats Your Return

Charles (Akron, OH): Hey Joe! Glad you're back for a another season of chat. What would be in the Indians' best interests as they begin to rebuild? Go after a proven pitcher/hitter to build around? Or try to build a nucleus with the unit they have now?

I think the way the game is played today, if you can build around pitching you are better off. If it wasn't for the young pitchers in Oakland, they would be a middle of the road team, even with Tejada and Chavez. That is the quicker fix now, to come up with young pitching from your farm system or through trades.

[Mike: Joe, which is it? The guy asked if they should trade for players to build around or keep what they have. You said both. Be decisive.

Given that the core has been together for all of two weeks, it's a little hard to tell. Hafner, Phillips, Bard, Rodriguez, Davis, and Bradley need a bit more of an opportunity, I would say. They are not lighting up the world yet, but it's a long season.]

Drew in Houston: Joe, we miss you here in Houston. Hope you are able to visit soon. How difficult will it be for Biggio to transition to Center, and is that a tougher transition than when he went from catcher to second? Can you say all-star at 3 different postions?

A lot of people feel playing CF is not that difficult but I"m not one of them. Doing it properly is difficult. They don't expect him to be Ken Griffey Jr. but it's still difficult. The toughest thing about 2B is people running into you. I think it's easier to go to CF than 2B. But it will still be a tough transition.

[Mike: "The toughest thing about 2B is people running into you"-that's classic. So the difficulty of playing a defensive position is the number of times opponents and your own teammates run into you? Why even wear a glove? Invest in a good set of goalie pads.]

Mark--BROOKLYN, USA: What is your opinion about the Hall of Fame's decision to cancel the "Bull Durham" 15th anniversary celebration?

The war has caused a lot of friends and neighbors to be on different sides. There are a lot of baseball fans on different sides. I personally support the President but it's everyone's right to decide how they feel about the war. That is why we are fighting for .. to give those in Iraq the freedom we have here.

[Mike: Well, "Mark", that's a great question. But what does Joe talk about? The war. What does the question have to do (directly) with the war? Couldn't he say that it's a shame that a nice event did not work out.

OK, Joe, is a Vice Chairman at the Hall and he has to support the company line. But c'mon.

Besides, I can't figure out if his response is a thinly veiled criticism of the Hall's handling of the incident or is he just being diplomatic? Why are they all so jittery on the subject? Bull Durham was a comedy after all. Lighten up, Francis. Also, are they reviewing everyone's opinions prior to inviting them to the Hall for special events? Will Gary Carter's speech this summer be reviewed by the Hall for controversial and salacious content?

And I'm tired of everyone in Hall saying that everyone is entitled to his or her opinion. Thanks for the acknowledgment of the Bill of Rights. "Your entitled to your own opinion, but if you express it we will ostracize you and McCarthy-ize you so that no one gets to hear your opinion." (The only problem is that they caused such a stir that Robbins and Sarandon have even a larger forum to which to speak.)

The Hall took a nice event and politicized the heck out of it. It was a PR gaffe and another black eye for baseball. This is the mentality of the people running the sport and the institutions associated with it. No wonder NASCAR (which I had to suffer through this weekend) is so hot with the kids: they promote their stars and even though it's run by a bunch or Southern hicks (excuse the pun, er, palindrome, er, whatever), it appears young and Pepsi-generationish.]

Aaron New York: I think your one of the best announcers in baseball right now. My all time favorite was Phill Rizuto. So my question is, is there any one particular announcer you tried to imitate your style after?

You have two opposites there! Rizzuto was completey different from me. But thank you!

I liked Curt Gowdy. I liked Howard Cossell just as an analyst. Cossell made the analyst important. In TV the analyst should be the most important part. People can see the pitcher, but you need someone to explain what is happening and why.

[Mike: Classic Joe, telling us how important the analyst is, but of course forgetting that it behooves the analyst to actually analyze and to present the results of that analysis. Not to go on personal opinion and talk out of both sides of his mouth at once.

Murino (DJais): Hey Mr mom always makes us watch when you announce games because she says your a dreamboat.....Are you a ladies man?

Thanks for the compliment. I pride myself on the fact that I want the ladies to enjoy the telecast. I try to make sure I don't talk over anyone's head. I want to make sure everyone can understand what I am talking about. I don't want to use big cliche's. I want my broadcast to be for everyone and not just the experts.

I started this chat two years ago and now all you guys and gals are very sophisticated. Before it was always just rooting for your teams but you guys ask really good questions .. thanks for that.

[Mike: Wow, what a way to end it. "I speak slowly so the women can understand and use as few syllables as possible." Sexist much? Joe's telecasts are at such a rudimental level that even Joe can understand them.]

Walk the Walk The Phillies
2003-04-14 08:57
by Mike Carminati

Walk the Walk

The Phillies scored a team-record 13 runs today in the fourth inning against the Reds and won 13-1. This is 4 short of the record, but amazingly the thirteen runs came from just six hits and 11 of them came with two out (ESPN erroneously said 10).

The six hits were aided by 7 walks from different Cinicinnati pitchers and none were left on. The inning is very similar to a game the Yankees won 20-5 against Washington on September 11, 1949 in the first game of a double header. The Yanks got eleven free passes from four different Senators pitchers in the third en route to 12 runs. In both cases the inning was ended by the pitcher.

Here's the account from

Four Washington pitchers issued an inexplicable 11 walks in a single inning, though not consecutively. Such a display was not out of character for the Washington staff, which averaged 4.99 free passes per game, second-most in the league. On this Sunday afternoon, September 11, 1949, they were at their wildest. Cliff Mapes, Charlie Keller, Joe Collins, and Jerry Coleman all drew two walks apiece in the record-setting third inning, which saw the Yanks score 12 runs. After forcing in the final run of the stanza with yet another walk, Buzz Dozier finally ended the carnage by getting Allie Reynolds to pop out to first.

Now check out today's fourth-inning game log from ESPN:

-Top of the 4th inning, Score 0-0
-B Abreu walked.
-J Thome singled to right, B Abreu to second.
-P Burrell doubled to deep left, B Abreu scored, J Thome to third. (1-0)
-D Bell grounded out to second, J Thome scored, P Burrell to third. (2-0)
-M Lieberthal popped out to second.
-R Ledee intentionally walked.
-R Wolf singled to right, P Burrell scored, R Ledee to second.(3-0)
-J Rollins walked, R Ledee to third, R Wolf to second.
-P Polanco walked, R Ledee scored, R Wolf to third, J Rollins to second.(4-0)
-B Abreu walked, R Wolf scored, J Rollins to third, P Polanco to second.(5-0)
-J Thome singled to center, J Rollins and P Polanco scored, B Abreu to second.(7-0)
-S Sullivan relieved R Dempster.
-P Burrell walked, B Abreu to third, J Thome to second.
-D Bell walked, B Abreu scored, J Thome to third, P Burrell to second.(8-0)
-M Lieberthal singled to center, J Thome and P Burrell scored, D Bell to second.(10-0)
-R Ledee homered to right, D Bell and M Lieberthal scored.(13-0)
-R Wolf struck out swinging.

13 runs, 6 hits, 0 errors
Philadelphia 13, Cincinnati 0

It was the biggest Phillies offensive inning in 80 years and the biggest Cincinnati inning given up in 40 years. Oh, the humanity!

A Hard Joe Morgan Chat
2003-04-13 01:17
by Mike Carminati

A Hard Joe Morgan Chat Day's Night

If the tax-gatherer, or any other public officer, asks me, as one has done, "But what shall I do?" my answer is, "If you really wish to do anything, resign your office." When the subject has refused allegiance, and the officer has resigned his office, then the revolution is accomplished.

- Hammerin' Henry David Thoreau

I'm sorry for the delay in lambasting Joe Morgan's latest chat session. I've been doing my taxes all day. Last week in the Northeast it snowed; today it was bright and beautiful and we not so few who put off paying the man until the last moment are stuck inside, plugging away trying to overcome the eccentricities of TaxCut (why can't it import the state taxes properly if you have more than one state to whom your owe taxes and why do they charge you the same amount for the crappy state program as the much slicker federal one?). I finally completed them and tried to e-file, only to find that TaxCut charges to $14.95 to do so. Not me, brother. One would think that the government would find a better way to incentify everyone to e-file in order to reduce their paperwork, but I still can't understand how banks can justify charging fees to use ATMs that allowed them to cut their staff to the bone in the first place.

Anyway, in the middle of my tax woes, I realized that Mighty Joe Morgan is a lot like taxes. He's the tax(ing) man and you're working for no one but him, tax man.

First of all, they're both required. You've got to pay taxes, and if you're a baseball fan missing Joe's car wreck of a chit-chat is a cardinal sin.

Second, they both started with great promise. Your taxes were once used to build the infrastructure of this great land. Joe was once the most amazing of second-sackers. Now, your taxes go to line the pocket of some Midwestern industrialist or some third-world dictator (who will have to be unseated in a few years with a bunch more of your tax dollars). Morgan, now an analyst, displays none of the savvy that galvanized the baseball world when he was a player. He speaks of the overuse of On-Base Percentage when a cursory glance at his career stats would scream out in support of the stat (the man had a .392 career OBP and once walked 132 times for goodness' sake).

Finally, they are both confusing and perhaps purposely so. The federal and state governments not only require us to pay them handsomely, they set up laws and procedures that make us figure out how much and take an accountant to do it accurately. No wonder Thoreau chucked the whole system. Joe Morgan astounds as he flashes a few sage comments followed by twaddle that would shame Thom Brennaman. And I'm almost convinced that, like the taxes, Morgan is confounding by design, perpetrating this farce on humanity as some sort of cruel science experiment. That poor Jon Miller!

But there is one difference between taxes and Joe Morgan. The taxes' ludicrousness leads only to dyspeptic anguish-this was captured perfectly in a series of commercials last year in which a man slowly goes stark raving mad as he works on his taxes finally screaming at his family who are reading downstairs to stay "Quiet!" a la "All work and no play..." Jack Nicholson in The Shining. However, Joe's absurdities are baseball's equivalent to Mad magazine (except you can't fold the end of it in such a way to show Alfred E. Neuman in a Pete Rose wig).

So without further ado...

I am here and ready to go!

To be continued...

At The Crossroads, III: Royal
2003-04-13 00:12
by Mike Carminati

At The Crossroads, III: Royal Flush

The Tigers, unfortunately, won today, 4-3 against the White Sox, breaking their nine-game losing streak to start the year. Detroit will clearly be a poor team again this season, however, not an historically poor one. Oh well, at least their fans had some reason to watch their games.

They do join the worst starts of all-time though (four of whom are from Detroit):

Start	Final	Team
0-21	54-107  	1988 Baltimore Orioles
0-14	68-94	1997 Chicago Cubs
0-13*	38-113	1904 Washington Senators
0-13	61-93	1920 Detroit Tigers
0-11	28-84	1884 Detroit Wolverines(NL)
0-11	55-106	2002 Detroit Tigers
0-10	54-106	1988 Atlanta Braves
0-10	67-95	1968 Chicago White Sox
0-9	57-69	1918 Brooklyn Robins (Dodgers)
0-9	57-82	1919 Boston Braves
0-9	40-120	1962 New York Mets
0-9	85-77	1983 Houston Astros
0-9	??-??	2003 Detroit Tigers
* plus one tie

The other AL Central team that was supposed challenge Detroit for the cellar, the Royals, won again today, 5-2 vs. the Indians, to improve their record to 9-0. They are the first team since the 1990 Reds to start the season with nine straight wins. They cannot be considered historic as yet; one more victory will place them among the all-time great starts:

Start	Final	PCT	Team
20-0	94-19	.832	1884 St. Louis Maroons (UA)
13-0	89-73	.549	1982 Atlanta Braves
13-0	91-71	.562	1987 Milwaukee Brewers
12-0	62-50	.554	1884 New York Gothams
10-0	98-55	.641	1955 Brooklyn Dodgers
10-0	93-68	.578	1962 Pittsburgh Pirates
10-0	81-81	.500	1966 Cleveland Indians
	98-64	.602	Average per 162 games

Amazingly the average for these teams is not all that impressive. It gets a real boost from the Maroons. Without them, the average is 91-71, .564, not too impressive when one considers that these teams were "spotted" at least ten games at the start of the season.

Only two of them won more than 55% of their remaining games, and one was below .500 over the rest of the year. There is very little evidence that starting the season with ten wins guarantees a team will have a great season.

It does seem though that it's hard to be bad after such a great start. So those critics (like me) who were predicting 100+ losses for the Royals will probably have to eat their words.

And who knows, it is the weakest division in the AL, and the Royals already lead it by 4 games. Whatever happens, it's a great story. It's especially sweet for a number of KC fans, who have had to endure Tony Muser, Bob Boone, and their franchise's all-time record falling below .500.

At The Crossroads, II The
2003-04-12 00:42
by Mike Carminati

At The Crossroads, II

The Royals ran their record to 8-0 tonight with a 1-0 masterpiece by Runelvys Hernandez.

If the Royals win one more, they will do something that no one has done since the 1990 Reds: start the season with a nine-game win streak.

There are just seven teams to win more than nine straight at the start.

Meanwhile, the Tigers became the first team to ever start the year 0-9 for two consecutive seasons. They did it in spectacular shutout fashion, 5-0 to the Pale Hose and ever-subpar Esteban Loaiza.

There are only eight teams with longer streaks. But the Orioles' record of 21 straight losses still seems safe.

Bull Runneth Over This story
2003-04-12 00:26
by Mike Carminati

Bull Runneth Over

This story just keeps getting better.

Hall of Fame president and former Reagan lackey Dale Petroskey today used Catch-22 doublespeak to defend his decision:

"I wish that the reasoning had been better articulated so it could have been better understood. What we were trying to do was take politics out of this. We didn't want people to espouse their views in a very public place, one way or another. The Hall isn't the place for that.''

Who articulated it in the first place? The hypocrisy of the last two sentences was clearly lost on Petroskey.

Speaking of articulating, he also released a statement:

As much as The Hall of Fame honors our armed forces, this institution should never be used as a platform for public pro-war sentiments -- nor public anti-war sentiments. Given the track record of Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon, and the timing -- with our troops committed in Iraq -- a strong possibility existed that they could have used The Hall of Fame as a backdrop for their views.

Mr. Robbins and Ms. Sarandon have every right to express their opinions. But The Baseball Hall of Fame is not the proper venue for highly charged political expressions, whatever they may be.

So the assumption is that Robbins and Sarandon have some sort of anti-war Turrets syndrome: it's completely uncontrollable and pops up at the worst moments. Petroskey made this assumption without speaking to the individuals involved. What does he have ESP or something?

Both Sarandon and Robbins have said that they were planning to go to the event to celebrate the film and baseball in general. Petroskey is the one who brought the war into it. Remember, the guy who said, "this institution should never be used as a platform..."?

Meanwhile, writer Roger Kahn has now cancelled his appearance at the Hall this summer. He summed up extremely well the contradiction inherent in the Hall's position":

"By canceling the Hall of Fame anniversary celebration of 'Bull Durham' for political reasons, you are, far from supporting our troops, defying the noblest of the American spirit. You are choking freedom of dissent. How ironic. In theory, at least, we have been fighting this war to give Iraqis freedom of dissent.

"But here you, through the great institution you head, have moved to rob Tim Robbins, Susan Sarandon and Ron Shelton of that very freedom. In support of the American right to dissent, I have no choice but to cancel my August speaking appearance at the Hall.''

The popular saying holds that any publicity is good publicity, but maybe not for a beleaguered sport that was trying to get back on its feet this season. The result of all this is that the Hall of Fame no longer represents apolitical, carefree nostalgia to many people. If it wants to save face, it must relieve Petroskey of his duties at once. Given that they are mostly PR-related anyway, he can't perform them effectively now anyway even if they don't find his actions morally reprehensible. Or just have Nuke Lalush bean him with a fastball.

Aperitif Before we gorge ourselves
2003-04-11 12:58
by Mike Carminati


Before we gorge ourselves on today's main course, Joe Morgan's chat session, let's take a peek at Joe's weakly, er, weekly ESPN article on the evils and abuses of On-Base Percentage (OBP). My knee jerk reaction was to find humor-shame on me-in Joe's attempt to review baseball statistics. I got that humor, but I got more, a lot more. But hey, enough of my yakkin'. Whaddaya say, let's boogie!

First, I must say that I was surprised that Joe even bothered with OBP given that he has yet to recognize ERA as an accurate means to evaluate starting pitchers, preferring the team-dependent wins statistic. I'll hand it to him for trying something new, at least to him.

I actually agree with Joe's opener:

On-base percentage has become the statistic of choice these days. I've heard some say that OBP is the most important stat in baseball. But I disagree with that assessment.

While OBP is an important barometer, it isn't the most important. I remember when ESPN began listing OBP along with batting average in graphics on baseball telecasts, which is helpful for the viewer. No question, it's always been important.

I don't know how many people are saying that OBP is the most important stat. It seems that OPS, which totals OBP and slugging percentage, is the stat of choice among statheads. I would, however, agree with Joe's assessment of the assessment.

Most of his analysis for the next half of the article is pretty fair if a bit facile.

The Braves have had their fair share of problems in the postseason due to various reasons. Their pitching has failed them on occasion, but basically they have had a lack of depth on their bench/bullpen, and they have had some bad luck. I assessed their playoff woes prior to last year's playoffs. Also, Bobby Cox's roster (three catchers?) and in-game choices have lead to failure. Look at my assessment of the Giants-Braves deciding game 5 from their 2002 playoff.

Anyway, Joe's right pitching alone is not a great formula for postseason success. He's also correct that the Rangers' all-hit, no-pitch paradigm consigns a team to (even greater) failure.

Perhaps his most telling statement is this:

I've always said that to be a good player you need to either drive in runs or score runs -- and to be a great player you need to do both. The best players are a blend of baseball's most essential skills, with statistics serving as the numerical barometer.

Joe's a sabermetrician and he hardly even knows it. I agree with Joe, the best tool for measuring offensive greatness is OPS, which weighs hitting with power in order to drive in runs and getting on base in order to score runs, Joe's special blend. And Joe is right to call OPS a barometer, a tool to help measure offensive production.

Joe then rattles off his chit list of offensive evils in his most inane manner. It's classic Joe: he's almost at the point of accepting OPS as a concept and then he falls back on his doctrine that the Angels were predestined to win the World Series last year because of "National League style of play."

The A's are vilified by Joe for relying on walks. That's the evil trap for OBP-dependent teams: they always need their walk fix. One thing Joe does not point out is that the Angels had a slightly higher OBP last year than the A's (.341 to .339). A lot of that came from hits for the Angels (they led the majors with 1603 hits). They A's were actually not over-reliant on the walk. They were seventh, one behind the Angels, in OBP and were sixth in walks. They just moved up one spot because the Angels had so few walks, preferring the contact-hitting style.

Also, the second evil of OBP-dependent teams is that after the get their men on they need the homer to drive 'em in. Well, again the Angels had a slightly higher slugging percentage last year than the A's (.433 to .432 good for 7th and 8th in the majors). The Angels had much fewer home runs, but made up for it with doubles.

Besides, the A's hitting didn't dry up in the playoffs: they batted .288, had a .333 OBP, and slugged .500. They lost because their pitchers allowed the Twins to hit about the same and to do it more towards the end of the close series. They were outscored by one run in the series. They lost for many reasons but not because the eschewed the NL offensive style.

Next he turns to the Yankees dynasty and their NL style of play. First, Joe is incorrect in stating that no Yankee ever challenged for the home run crown: David Justice was tied for second in the AL in home runs in 2000. Well, I guess that's nit picking.

Joe likes to use the Yankees and A's as polar opposites but if you look at them from 2000 on when both have been playoff-caliber teams, you get a different picture. Two of those years (2000-01), the A's outscored the Yankees and had a better OBP. In 2002 the Yankees outscored the A's and had a better OBP. The A's have never been ones to overuse the stolen base, but the one year of the three here in which the Yankees won the World Series, was the one (2000) in which they did not excel in stolen bases.

Joe then goes on a diatribe about the long forgotten stolen base. The Angels stole their fair share last year and it probably did help their offense. But do you know which team was number one in stolen bases in the AL in 2002? The Royals, who were near the bottom in runs scored.

He points to the last three World Series winners playing "an aggressive NL style". If he uses stolen bases to gauge that he's wrong. The Yankees, again, were about in the middle of the pack in stolen bases in 2000. The D-Backs were 11th in the NL in 2001. They were, however, just 5 runs behind league-leading Colorado in home runs.

Somehow, Morgan switched gears and I'm not really sure what he's trying to say in the end. He thinks OBP is important as long as it is coupled with an NL-style of play, I think. If a team bloats its OBP with empty walks that don't score unless the team just hits a homer, that's bad in Joe's book. OK, I'll agree with that. But I think it's a veiled attack on statheads who favor OBP over batting average. Joe's saying that an "aggressive" style with contact hitters putting the ball in play is better than a team that exhibits plate discipline.

What Morgan does not get is that these two things are not mutually exclusive. When you force a pitcher to throw you a good pitch, i.e., be aggressive as opposed to passively accepting whatever pitch the pitcher wants to give you, then sometimes that results in walk.

If a man on base can steal a walk, that's great. He can disrupt the pitcher's rhythm, put pressure on the defense, etc. But if he gets picked off, that can be a tremendous lift for the opposition. Besides, who says that, say, a walk to the next batter does not put just as much if not more pressure on the opposition?

The hit-and-run is a great tool, but if the runner gets doubled off on a strike out, that can kill a rally. A double in the gap would be a better tool to get the man home.

Look, nothing Joe says is exactly wrong. It's just that his emphasis on one approach as opposed to another because he prefers it. It's your garden-variety "It was better in my day"-ism masquerading as analysis.

Of course teams that excel at many things will win often. But for those teams that have certain deficiencies, there are different approaches that they can emphasis. If you can't hit the long ball, use the hit-and-run and stolen base more often. Now if Joe had done a comparison of successful teams that have overcome certain deficiencies and then concluded that the stolen base or the hit-and-run are better fixes than the home run or that the Whitey Herzog as opposed to Earl Weaver offensive style is more effective over time, that would be fine. But to base his evaluation on three World Series champions, then a) his sample size is way too small, b) who is the champion has as much to do with luck as it has to do with which is the best team, and c) the teams he mentions don't fit his model anyway. Besides, if the past ten or so years of baseball has taught us, these stratagems are only of use if they don't cost you outs that would be better spent when the power hitters come to bat. Maybe the aggressive "approach" worked in previous baseball generations because the possibility of the long ball was not so great. And maybe that style is due for a comeback as home run totals drop off. But that doesn't mean it's the only way to win under all circumstances.

Look, if Joe prefers a certain style of play, that's fine. He's entitled. I probably agree with him. But to present his personal opinions as analysis, especially when true analysis would not bare out the same preferences, that's just shoddy journalism.

San Juan Vaughn The Expos
2003-04-11 09:30
by Mike Carminati

San Juan Vaughn

The Expos start their "home" series in Puerto Rico tonight. Meanwhile an Atlanta businessman named Charles Vaughn has announced that he plans on moving a team, the Expos or a team to be named later, to San Juan in the near future. Maybe, it'll be the San Juan Dodgers--I kind of tend to doubt it.

To accommodate a major-league team on a more permanent basis, they'll have to do a bit more than rename Estadio Hiram Bithorn to Hiram Bithorn Stadium:

Somehow Estadio was good enough for a major-league opener but not for a home series.

Even the Expos don't know what to call their new "home":

A rose by any other name yuddah yuddah. Anyway, Vaughn has been looking to move a team to San Juan since October. As my study on the Expos potential suitors from last September indicated it is by far the most populous area in the US and Canada without a major-league team. Of course, that dubious distinction will fall to Montreal once the Expos do move. Hiram Bithorn, however, does not seem to be suited to major-league baseball on a regular basis. Vaughn wants to upgrade it. We'll have to see.

Well, I just can't wait to see Vladimir Warrior, Orlando Goatherd, Wil Lamb, Tony Arms Jr., Volume Okha, and Brad Wilkerson play in Porto Rico.

Sonny Bono's Diaz.

Minor Pitching Feats, II I
2003-04-11 08:43
by Mike Carminati

Minor Pitching Feats, II

I forgot to mention that John Wasdin threw a perfect game last week. Wasdin is 29 and has thrown 258 games in the majors, so he's not really a prospect but he could back in the majors at some point this year.

(Thanks to Murray for keeping me honest.)

Minor Pitching Feats There has
2003-04-10 23:58
by Mike Carminati

Minor Pitching Feats

There has been a one-hitter on three consecutive days in the minor leagues. The third was thrown last night by Carolina (Southern League) pitchers Ryan Snare, Steve Kent, and Ryan Baker.

Couple this with Rich Harden's 13 straight perfect innings in Double-A and the the future of major-league pitching looks pretty rosy.

At The Crossroads The Royals
2003-04-10 23:40
by Mike Carminati

At The Crossroads

The Royals beat the Tigers, 4-2 today with the help of a Raul Ibanez home run and his three RBI.

The Royals are now 7-0, in first place in the AL Central with their best start ever. The Tigers are 0-8 in last place in the AL Central and are only the second team to start two consecutive seasons with eight straight losses (the 1962-63 Mets being the other). The Tigers went 0-11 to start last season.

Given it's such a topical question, here's an email that I received:

[D]o you know what team has the longest unbeaten streak to start the season?


Yes, I do.

20 by the St. Louis Maroons of the 1884 Union Association (4/20 to 5/22).

But you'll never hear about it since it was pre-1900. The "modern" record is held by two teams:

1) Joe Torre's 1982 Braves, 13 games (4-6 to 4/20, and then they lost 5 straight and ended up 89-73 good for 1st in the NL West)

2) Tom Trebelhorn's 1987 Milwaukee Brewers, 13 games (4/6 to 4/20 as well). Milwaukee lost one game and then won four more, and even at 17-1 were only 3.5 games in front of the Yankees. They finished 91-71 in third place in the AL East. That was the year that Detroit took three games from Toronto in the final weekend of the season to claim the division title.

Before them the 1884 NY Giants had 12 straight; Brooklyn (1955), Pittsburgh(1962), and Cleveland (1966) all had 10; and the 1984 Tigers won 9 en route to a World Series win.

But the Tigers' losing streak made me think about the other side of the coin. Here are the teams with the most losses to start a season:

Start	Final	Team
0-21	54-107  	1988 Baltimore Orioles
0-14	68-94	1997 Chicago Cubs
0-13*	38-113	1904 Washington Senators
0-13	61-93	1920 Detroit Tigers
0-11	28-84	1884 Detroit Wolverines(NL)
0-11	55-106	2002 Detroit Tigers
0-10	54-106	1988 Atlanta Braves
0-10	67-95	1968 Chicago White Sox
0-9	57-69	1918 Brooklyn Robins (Dodgers)
0-9	57-82	1919 Boston Braves
0-9	40-120	1962 New York Mets
0-9	85-77	1983 Houston Astros
* plus one tie

Three of those teams represent Detroit. It could soon be four.

Out and a Bouton Jim
2003-04-10 15:42
by Mike Carminati

Out and a Bouton

Jim Bouton has a brand new book coming out and is crusading for a Pittsfield ballpark from 1919.

Wahconah is a Rockwellesque relic of baseball's early years. Fewer than five stadiums from that era are still standing, said Tim Wiles, the director of research at the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y. Mr. Bouton is fond of such oddities as plastic owls dangling from the rafters to ward off pigeons. From the outside, "Wahconah doesn't look like much," he acknowledged. "But the charm is on the inside, the proximity to the field, the wooden seats, the feeling that you get from stepping into the past."

Rockers Signs Deal with Devil...Rays
2003-04-10 15:29
by Mike Carminati

Rockers Signs Deal with Devil...Rays

John Rocker has signed a minor-league deal with Tampa Bay and will report to Triple-A.

Yankee fans are anticipating his first trip to the Bronx with bated breath.

Manager Lou Piniella had this to say:

"He's a pleasant guy, he was very courteous," Piniella said. "I don't look at what's happened in the past. I look at the present and the future. I think he's learned from the past. I think it would be a good gamble.''

No reports of Piniella's drunkenness were mentioned in the report.

Atlanta Thrashees The Braves signed
2003-04-10 15:24
by Mike Carminati

Atlanta Thrashees

The Braves signed free agent Shane Reynolds today. Reynolds has not pitched a full season or had an ERA under 4.00 since 1999.

The Braves were a late entrant in the Reynolds derby. They just lost Paul Byrd for an extended amount of time and ace Greg Maddux is struggling (0-3, 11.05 ERA). The Braves were able to acquire Reynolds by sweetening the deal witha $3 M extension for 2004. Reynolds is being paid by the Astros for 2003, so the Braves just owe him $300K, the league minimum, for this season.

Bull Two Jay Jaffe has
2003-04-10 15:13
by Mike Carminati

Bull Two

Jay Jaffe has a link on his site to respond to the Hall regarding their decision. He points out that the Hall is a tax-exempt, non-profit organizations are not permitted to engage in political activity. Jay also has Robbins' well-turned response to the Hall's rejection.

No word yet of the Watereorld-induced banning of Kevin Costner from the Hall. I'll keep you posted.

Fan-O-Vision, What Is It Good
2003-04-10 14:32
by Mike Carminati

Fan-O-Vision, What Is It Good For?

The Phillies have apologized to a fan for playing the Edwin Starr oldie War "with lyrics expressing some anti-war sentiments" at their home opener and have promised not to play it again. The song was used to punctuate the video clips for "The Phillies and Pirates: A Decade of battles" on their 1970s rivalry, which played during the game with the Pirates, in which both teams wore Seventies uniforms.

"We were at the game with the other 59,000 fans and during the game when they showed video clips of players making hard plays on the Fan-O-Vision, they played the song 'War,'" [fan and apology recepient Michael] Mellace said. "When the song began to play people started to boo. I don't think they should have a played a song like that when there is a war going on. It was a bad call."

Mellace asked for an apology, not only from the Phillies, but also from Citizens Bank, the sponsor of the video clip segment called 'Not Your Typical Play' and playoff of the bank's slogan 'Not Your Typical Bank.'

The Phillies' new rotation of songs is "Too Drunk to F&*k", "Why Don't We Do It in the Road", "Kill the Poor", "Wynona's Got a Big Brown... Wait a tick, that's the banned list.

"How can they say a public apology was unwarranted," Mellace said. "I am not doing this because I need publicity or more clients, I am doing this because I am an American. The letter I got makes me feel like they think I am an odd ball. I am sure there is more people out there who have an opinion but haven't said anything."

Odd ball? You make the call.

I am still waiting for my apology from the Phils for that Madonna's Like a Virgin song that they played circa 1988. It's not because of the content of the song. I'm doing it because I'm an American...who hates Madonna's music. Does that make me an odd ball?

Tank The Giants beat the
2003-04-10 00:06
by Mike Carminati


The Giants beat the Padres 15-11 tonight in the highest scoring game in Pac Bell's short history.

San Diego starter Dennis Tankersley took the loss--really that's his name. It's not a Berman-ism or a pun or a palindrome or anything. Not to be confused with Dennis Eckersley, Tankersley retired no one and allowed 7 runs. He had a 4-0 lead before his first pitch and what did he do? He gave up a:

- four-pitch walk to Durham plus a stolen base.
- 1-2 single to Feliz
- 2-1 single to Aurilia (Durham scores)
- five-pitch walk to Bonds to load the bases
- five-pitch walk to Cruz (Feliz scores, 4-2)
- six-pitch walk to Snow (Aurilia scores, 4-3)
- 2-1 double to Torrealba (Bonds and Cruz score, 4-5)

And that was it. Hit the showers. Snow and Torrealba would later score on a single by the pitcher Jensen. So seven men faced, three hits, four walks, and seven runs.

Not bad for his first start of the season. I can't wait to see what he does the next time out.

Bull The Hall of Fame
2003-04-09 23:45
by Mike Carminati


The Hall of Fame has cancelled a fifteenth anniversary celebration for the film Bull Durham because stars Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon's anti-war opinions could help "undermine the U.S. position, which ultimately could put our troops in even more danger."

Leave it to the Hall of Fame to announce this on the day that Iraq finally collapsed (if news reports are correct). It's great that we can support this country will the fullest of hearts but detest the tenets on which the country was founded, such as freedom of speech. Besides, there's no way that the opinions of a handful of celebrities could endanger our troops. Frankly, I couldn't care less what they have to say, and these misguided "patriots" are making them a cause celebre.

It's a proud moment for the Hall. It's that kind of thinking that gave us Travis Jackson and Ross Youngs in the Hall in the first place.

Sadly, Kevin Costner's performance in Waterworld was not mentioned as a reason to cancel the celebration. That's a cause I could get behind.

Independently Rickey Jayson Stark reports
2003-04-09 23:31
by Mike Carminati

Independently Rickey

Jayson Stark reports that Rickey Henderson will sign with an independent team very soon, or at least when he finally picks one. They're all interesting in Rickey because of the obvious marketing advantages.

I'm not sure what Henderson has left to prove, he has played at the same level for the last four out of five years: i.e., low batting average and no power but a high on-base percentage and lots of walks. And when I say "lots of walks", I mean for the entire team. It seems to follow him around. His steals finally fell into the single digits last year, but that may have been more a function of the Red Sox as a team and his role on that team rather than Henderson losing a step. Rickey also has the legendary bad attitude, and I guess that's why teams, major-league ones at least, are no longer interested.

Stark also reports (obviously) that his Hall of Fame eligible is unaffected by his playing in the independent leagues. But I can't imagine that Rickey will stay in the independent leagues for long if it becomes clear that the majors are no longer in sight. There's no fear of him wearing a St. Paul Saints hat in the Hall.

Rockie Mountain High? Greg Vaughn
2003-04-09 23:21
by Mike Carminati

Rockie Mountain High?

Greg Vaughn signed a minor-league contract with the Colorado Rockies today. I guess if there is a place that where he can kickstart his flatlined career, it's Coors.

Maddux Redux The Phils beat
2003-04-09 23:18
by Mike Carminati

Maddux Redux

The Phils beat the Braves 16-2 tonight. Check out the Braves' pitching lines for the night:

                     IP   H  R ER BB SO HR  NP-ST  ERA 
G. Maddux (L, 0-3) 5-2/3 12 10  7  3  7  2 104-61 11.05 
J. Bong              1/3  1  0  0  1  1  0  13- 7  3.86 
J. Dawley          2      5  6  6  2  3  2  62-36 19.80 

Maddux gave up two home runs to Pat Burrell and Joey Dawley gave up two to Thome. The Braves have given up 10, 17, and 16 runs in the three games that Maddux has pitched. Amazingly, Maddux's poor outing only raised his ERA by .05. ESPN reports that his 0-3 start is his worst since 1989. But that year his ERA stood at 6.32 after those three starts. In 1989, he had his ERA under 4.00 by the end of the first week in May and under 3.00 by the third week in June.

If Maddux throws a complete game shutout in his next start, his ERA would still be 6.85. In the start after that: 4.96. It would take five complete game shutouts to get his ERA under 3.00. That would be about the middle of May. By the way, Maddux did not have any shutouts, let alone complete games, for the entire 2002 season.

Brave New World? The Phillies
2003-04-09 21:03
by Mike Carminati

Brave New World?

The Phillies have scored five runs through five innings against Braves' ace, Greg Maddux, and lead 6-1. Only three of the runs are earned since they scroed after two Braves errors (including a rare one by Maddux, his secnd of the year). The game has actually lowered Maddux's ERA from 11.00 to 9.00.

He has allowed 12 earned runs, 18 runs in total, 21 hits, and 5 home runs in 12 innings over three games so far this year. In 2002, Maddux did not allow his 12 run until May 10 (and that includes a 6-run affair). He did allow his fifth homer until June 5.

And now Paul Byrd is expected to miss 2-4 months due to surgery to remove bone spurs from his elbow.

The Braves staff owned a 5.33 ERA before today's game. Their starters' ERA was 4.57 and the relievers' 6.59. John Smoltz is their only reliever with an ERA under 4.00 (it's a perfect 0.00). They've only played 8 games, but there's not much to be optomistic about there.

They expect Mike Hampton to return with in the week and three of the four starters, besides Maddux, have ERAs under 3.50. One thing to keep in mind is that none of those three starters have more than 4.5 strikeouts per nine innings. So they're competent starts don't instill a lot of confidence.

Here's a stat that caught me eye: the Braves are batting .273 as a team witha .749 OPS. One would think that they would be riding high if they could get their offense to do that well throughout the year.

However, their opponents are batting .286 with an .819 OPS against them. It could be a long year in Coca Cola land.

Floridian Infielder Jay Jaffe, the
2003-04-09 16:28
by Mike Carminati

Floridian Infielder

Jay Jaffe, the Futility Infielder, just returned from a sojourn down south--I think they kept him in Florida for extended spring training--and has a picture-peppered report. Check'm out.

James and the Giant Chat
2003-04-09 13:00
by Mike Carminati

James and the Giant Chat

David Pinto over at Baseball Musings conducted an interview of Bill James. I haven't read it all yet, but James being asked intelligent questions (rather that the fantasy pap he usually gets) has to be a good read.

Neyer's Wrong, Neyer's Right, A-Rod
2003-04-09 12:01
by Mike Carminati

Neyer's Wrong, Neyer's Right, A-Rod May Be Best SS, II

Neyer followed up his A-Rod vs. Hans Wagner debate with a response to some email yesterday. Here's the argument from his reader:

My contention is that any modern-day offensive superstar would blow away any old era player...[P]layers like Honus Wagner quite possibly were not tested against the best players of their day.

This is a very popular argument today and frankly I don't buy it. Let me first say that I have read the seminal Sol White's History of Colored Base Ball (see below) cover to cover along with Robert W. Peterson's Only the Ball Was White, SABR's encyclopedia, and a number of John B. Holway's works as well as others I can't think of now (and by the way, White was a middle infielder in his youth and a first baseman in his advanced years, not a pitcher as Neyer indicates). Rube Foster and Jackie Robinson are the closest things I have to role models.

Now, Honus Wagner played major-league ball from 1897 to 1917. There is a lot that has been said about Negro League baseball that just isn't true. Cap Anson was a bad guy, but he had no more to do with banning black players than Dixie Walker had in barring Jackie Robinson. In both cases, the owners made the decisions. The players expressed their opinions and they may have been used to the owners' advantage. White pins the blame on Anson, and he may have seemed the culprit to the players on the field, but other than being a tremendous egomaniac and exhibitionist who brought the issue to the fore, Anson's actions were relatively meaningless. Here's what I wrote about the pre-history of the Negro Leagues back in August:

It's 1887 and Moses Fleetwood Walker is the catcher of the Newark, NJ, International League and has had to endure years of abuse on and off the field because of his race. Technically, he was the first African-American major-leaguer in 1884 when his Toledo Blue Stockings moved from the Northwestern League to the major-league American Association. His brother Welday played the outfield for the club for a handful of games that season but decided that his baseball career was not worth such a continual onslaught and retired to become a barber. They are to be the last black major-leaguers until Jackie Robinson.

In 1883 Walker's Toledo club had an exhibition with the Chicago National League team. When White Stocking team captain, Cap Anson, refused to play due Toledo due to Walker's presence and the Toledo club refuse to have their player decisions dictated to them. When the decision was made that if Chicago did not play, they would forfeit their claim to the gate, Anson reneged on his refusal to play.

After his one major-league season, Walker turned to the minor leagues. Bud Fowler (2B-P), another African-American ballplayer, had been finding success in the minors as well. 1886 saw five black men playing professional baseball in the minor leagues (Walker, Fowler, George Stovey, Frank Grant, and Jack Frye). Also in 1886, an all-black team named the Cuban Giants defeated the Cincinnati Red Stockings of the National League. The Cuban Giants would almost defeat the NL champ Detroit Wolverines the next year, but would loss 6-4 on an error in the ninth. 1886 also witnessed the birth of the first black league, the Southern League of Colored Base Ballists, though it was a regional league and is short-lived.

1887 becomes the apogee of this early African-American renaissance with 13 players on twelve different teams in five different minor leagues. In the International League, the highest minor league, seven African-Americans toil (Walker, Fowler, Stovey, Grant, Robert Higgins, William Renfro, and Randolph Jackson). Sol White in his Rosetta Stone of black baseball history, The History of Colored Base Ball, states that there are in total 20 black professional players throughout the country in 1887. Also, an all-black league consisting of six teams (league of Colored Base Ball Players, a.k.a., the Colored National League) is created in 1887 but only lasts 13 games. This league has been recognized by organized ball's National Agreement.

In 1887 Walker forms an all-black battery with 34-game winner (still the International League record), George Stovey, on the Newark club. The influx of blacks has not gone on unnoticed. The Sporting News says on June 11, "A new trouble has just arisen in the affairs of certain baseball associations [which] has done more damage to the International League than to any other we know of. We refer to the importation of colored players into the ranks of that body."

On July 14 the Newark club is scheduled to play an exhibition game with the Chicago White Stockings and Cap Anson. Walker, perhaps because of the 1883 incident, is not scheduled to play. George Stovey, however, is scheduled to start even though Walker is his regular catcher. This is when Cap Anson makes his famous utterance, "Get that nigger off the field!" Anson refuses to play unless Stovey is taken out of Newark's lineup. Newark refuses to allow Anson to dictate the use of their personnel. The game is declared a forfeit to Chicago.

On the same day the directors of the IL act to bar teams from signing African-Americans in the future. The confluence of these two events cannot be merely a coincidence. Sol White states that, "All the leagues, during the Winter of 1887 and 1888, drew the color line, or had a clause inserted in their constitutions limiting the number of colored players to be employed by each club."

White also claims that New York Giant captain John Montgomery Ward will try to acquire Stovey from Newark later in 1887 but is barred from doing so when Anson speaks out against integration.

Just why Adrian C. Anson, manager and captain of the Chicago National League Club, was so strongly opposed to colored players on white teams cannot be explained. His repugnant feeling, shown at every opportunity, toward colored ball players, was a source of comment through every league in the country, and his opposition, with his great popularity and power in base ball circles, hastened the exclusion of the black man from the white leagues.

White probably overstates Anson's influence. There are reports that the Newark manager refused to sell Stovey and Walker to the Giants, something that is within the rights of the minor-league clubs of the day. Anson probably becomes a lightning rod for these issues to serve the purpose of more powerful men. Whatever the reason, the Giants never sign Stovey, and major league baseball instead institutes the ironically designated "Gentleman's Agreement" not to sign African-American players. This apartheid lasts until Jackie Robinson.

Due to the new policies, the number of black players dwindles in 1888 to six in four leagues.

1889 introduces the concept of an all-black team in a white organization, a new answer to the segregation pressures. The great Cuban Giants represent Trenton (NJ) and the New York Gorhams represent Philadelphia (?) in the Middle-States League. There are seven other African-Americans in organized ball. By now, only Fleet Walker is left in the renamed International Association.

This trend of all-black clubs continues until 1898 when Celeron (NY) fields the last such team in white minor-league history, playing in the Iron and Oil (I&0) League. Only two other African-Americans play minor-league ball that year. They will the last two black players to play in white organized ball on American soil until Jackie Robinson debuts for the Dodgers nearly fifty years later.

In 1899, Bill Galloway becomes the last African-American to play in white organized ball appropriately in Canada (for Woodstock, Ont., of the Canadian League) until Jackie Robinson starts to play for the Montreal Royals of the International League in 1946.

Fleet Walker eventually will become the editor of a black paper and in the end an advocate of black migration back to Africa publishing a book called Our Home Colony in 1908. Had the owners acted to reverse the on-field decision to forfeit the 1887 game and to abolish the decision of the IL directors to bar blacks in the future, Walker's fate, as well as a good deal other black players', would have been different. The IL was in baseball's National Agreement and the major-league owners help sway in this organization. Their decisive action would have stemmed proliferation of segregationist leagues. The only negative result would have been that Jackie Robinson would have only been a hero to his family and friends instead of to the world.

For over sixty years a group of owners colluded and conspired to prevent black Americans from having an equal, or for that matter any, chance to play in the major leagues. Some found employment elsewhere on their own teams and in their own leagues to varying degrees of success. MLB chose to present an inferior product to their consumers, and individual owners chose to be less competitive than they might have otherwise been. Cap Anson is now demonized as the man who created the Color Line, and deservedly so, but the owners allowed him to do it. Teams changed hands over he course of those sixty years, but no new owners employed blacks, at least not as players.

I am convinced that a few black players around the turn of the century would have been stars: Bud Fowler, Frank Grant and definitely the incomparable Rube Foster. But I am not so fully convinced that blacks had the experience in the game to make a large impact until after Foster founded the first (successful) black league, the Negro National League. He helped build baseball interest, coaching, player development, etc. in the African-American community. The NNL, however, was not founded until 1920, three years after Wagner retired. African-Americans had been turned away from organized ball even before professional baseball became the norm in the early 1870s. So one could argue that they were prevented from participating from the start. But there isn't a lot of evidence that there were that many major-league caliber African-American players before the 1920s.

The twenties also found baseball shunning foreign-born players. I am, therefore, convinced that the majors did not necessarily represent the best players in the world in the Twenties, Thirties, and Forties, but am unconvinced that this holds true during Wagner's career.

The argument that, as Neyer puts it, "It's generally more difficult to dominate in 2003 than it was in 1903," is a good one, but I think that it has to do more with coaching, scouting, training, nutrition, a large talent pool, and a myriad of other issues.

I agree with Neyer that this is taken too far:

But we can take this line of reasoning too far. In 20 years, will we be downgrading the players of the 1990s because they didn't have to compete with the best Japanese players? Today, should we downgrade the players of the 1960s because the majors weren't yet populated with large numbers of players from the Dominican Republic?

If you went back in time and kidnapped Babe Ruth, a la Bill and Ted, while he was in his prime, he probably could not compete with today's bigger, stronger players. That's not to say that if Ruth had grown up in today's environment, he would not have been a baseball star. Surely, someone with his innate skills would have excelled in the game; he would just have enjoyed the same advantages that today's players do.

Also, as Stephen Jay Gould discusses in Full House: The Spread of Excellence from Plato to Darwin, as the average talent within the baseball world improves, the extremes start to disappear. So maybe a Ruth or a Wagner would not have dominated the way that they did in their day. But they would still be excellent players.

Besides, players must be viewed in their context. Given the bazillions (I've counted) of changes in baseball rules and strategies since the 19th century, who can evaluate throwing in a couple more like adding African-Americans and foreign-born players to the talent pool? There's no fair way to do it, and it's just a means for someone (like me) to get up on his soapbox.

That said, I disagree that:

Sure, it's pretty obvious that if Wagner had been forced to face all of the best pitchers, his amazing numbers wouldn't be quite so amazing. And I suppose that if he played today, he might not even be good enough to play in the majors.

I don't have a problem with a time-line adjustment... I still say that Honus Wagner is obviously the greatest shortstop who ever played the game.

Well, that's largely a matter of opinion, but I just want to point out again that Wagner was not a shortstop until age 29. Are his seasons from age 29 to 42, his shortstop years, are superior to A-Rod's career numbers so far? I'm not sure, but that's the real debate. As to who's the better player, Wagner wins hands down. Of course, that may change in 15-20 years after Rodriguez has finished his brilliant career. I'll get back to you then.

Win By Committee The Phils
2003-04-08 23:12
by Mike Carminati

Win By Committee

The Phils squeaked by the Braves 4-3 in ten innings tonight at the Vet on a Tomas Perez RBI seeing-eye single to plate Bat Burrell.

Some unconventional moves are what did it for the Phils tonight:

- Perez entered the game on a double-switch of Randy Wolf and Tyler Houston (3B batting sixth) for Carlos Silva and Perez. Well, that's not so weird, is it? It was in the sixth inning.

- The Phils brought closer Jose Mesa in with two outs and man on third in the top of the ninth of a tie ballgame. He stayed through a 1-2-3 tenth to pick up the win. For all the ado about the Boston bullpen, this is what Bill James has been expounding: bringing in your best reliever at the key time and using him for more than one inning in a shot.

- Finally, the Phils used pitcher Brett Myers to pinch-hit for Mesa in the tenth. There were no outs and Burrell, the winning run at first. Everyone in the house knew Myers was bunting and still he laid down a good one. Two batters later, Perez drove Burrell home for the win. That's what you get for bringing in Kevin Gryboski with the game on the line.

One other note: It was a wild night due to the low temperatures. There were 16 walks (10 by the Braves). The Braves had two errors that allowed Pat Burrell to get into scoring position in the second: one on a throwing error by Marcus Giles fielding Burrell's hit and the second on a Jason Marquis errant pickoff attempt. RandyWolf had a wild pitch that scored Vinny Castilla and allowed Marcus Giles to move to third and eventually score on an infield single in the fourth. Wolf had another wild pitch after walking Marcus Giles in the sixth. Wolf was then removed from the game but Giles scored on a two-out Julio Franco double.

Gary Varsho managed the Phils with Larry Bowa serving his one-game suspension. Maybe Varsho should took over the reigns every night. Shucks, he can't. There's that proviso in the major league rules that all new managers must be former backup catchers. Dagnabit!

Bowa Loses Appeal (He Lost
2003-04-08 20:32
by Mike Carminati

Bowa Loses Appeal (He Lost It for Me a Long Time Ago)

"It's a joke," Bowa said after the suspension was announced. "The whole thing borders on ridiculous."

No that's not what Larry Bowa had to say about his managerial career. It's what he said about his one-game suspension which was enforced tonight after he lost his appeal.

It does seem silly for Bowa to take his case to Bob Dupuy after the suspension was imposed by Bob Watson. It's not like Bowa has anyone else in his corner like the players do (i.e., the union) when they appeal. Bowa's management and must take his lumps from management.

Think of it this way, it's like you appealing a decision by your boss at work and addressing the appeal to your boss's boss. You're probably not on very firm ground there.

However, if you yelled at a fellow employee at work as Bowa did, you would probably get fired or at the very least have to attend anger management classes. Bowa got the day off to yell at people on his own time. That's not too bad.

But Remember, It's Not Interstate
2003-04-08 20:23
by Mike Carminati

But Remember, It's Not Interstate Commerce

Puerto Rico just passed legislation to force the baseball players who are participating in the Traveling Expos show this summer to pay a 20% tax.

One would think that being an Expo is taxing enough.

Neyer's Wrong, Neyer's Right, A-Rod
2003-04-08 16:29
by Mike Carminati

Neyer's Wrong, Neyer's Right, A-Rod May Be Best SS

Rob Neyer, the ESPN columnist, disagrees with Rob Neyer, the book writer, who claimed that Alex Rodriguez is teh best shortstop of all time. He's schizophrenic and so is he.

It's an interesting article and I agree with Neyer the columnist to a degree when he says:

And there's still another problem with suggesting that Rodriguez is the greatest shortstop ever. Wagner, you see, is arguably the second-greatest player ever, behind only Babe Ruth. So if you're going to argue that Rodriguez is the greatest shortstop, then you have to also argue that he's the second-greatest player.

A-Rod is not as good a player as Hans. But, and this is a big but, Wagner was not an everyday shortstop until the age of 29. So A-Rod may have been a better shortstop. I want to do a little more research on the matter, but I am leaning toward A-Rod as the best SS. Maybe it's splitting hairs, but hey, that's me.

Boxing Pandora, II A few
2003-04-08 13:43
by Mike Carminati

Boxing Pandora, II

A few follow-up issues relared to the DH issue:

My friend Murray writes:

Here's a question: are NL games still significantly shorter (in terms of time to play) than AL games? Letting pitchers bat means two things that usually speed games up: (1) pitchers are quick outs; and (2) middle inning pitching changes are rarer when the manager is trying to avoid torching an extra reliever when the pitcher's spot in the batting order is due to bat in the next half-inning. Shortening games might be the most compelling contemporary argument in favor of eliminating the DH rule, but it's not my favorite argument to make. That being said, however, there's nothing less exciting than watching Manager Joe use three pitchers to get out of the seventh inning.
A point for all the self-appointed anti-DH purists: the National League is one of only two baseball leagues on the entire planet (the Japanese Central League being the other, I think) that fails to employ the DH. Every other baseball league, everywhere--high schools, the NCAAs, the minors, international competition, the AL and the Japanese Pacific League--uses the DH rule. If the NL is playing baseball the way it's supposed to be played, it has had a difficult time convincing the rest of the baseball...

Like you, I favor leaving the rule the way it is: you get to watch both varieties of play. If you held a gun to my head, I'd say I am opposed, but that's because I generally oppose the trend toward specialization in sports. This isn't football.
Another point...Sure, there are guys like Edgar who might be affected here, but the real change you'd see if there were no DH rule would be the return of Greg Luzinski-type outfielders to a ballpark near you. No star-quality hitter has ever been released because he didn't have a defensive position.

I don't know the numbers for the league difference in average ballgame length. I have seen the numbers published but I'm not sure if they break it down by league. I just did a search and I can't find it on the net. And I'm too lazy to go through the box scores. Maybe, I'll see if one of the yearly guides covers this. If anyone knows, please let me know.

I do agree that shortening games is the most compelling argument against the DH. But I think shortening the between-inning commercial breaks would be more effective (and Murray agrees) though it won't be considered.

Greg Luzinski! Long live Jerry Martin and Lonnie "Skates" Smith. They would find a spot for the Edgars and Ellises, probably first or possibly left field. Burks used to be a rather fleet center fielder (27 steals in his rookie year), but his last year in center was 1998 and his numbers weren't very good then. He moved to right for two years and then played a handful in left but other than that has been a fulltime DH.

By the way, the Phils always discussed moving the Bull back to first (he came up as a first baseman), but they never did. I guess after Dick "Don't Call Me Richie" Allen went AWOL before the 1976 playoffs was when it was most often discussed, but then they got Richie"The Hack" Hebner followed by Pete Rose to play first. The softball-shorts-begarbed, cartoon-logoed White Sox tried it briefly. I guess Garry Maddox covered enough space that it never became an issue. Jerry Martin, for those of you who don't remember, was the caddy for Luzinski in the mid-Seventies. He was also on the cover of the first copy of the McMillan Baseball Encyclopedia that I ever owned. I think it was the third edition that came out around 1975 and pictured #25 Martin running down the line to beat a throw to first being received by Steve Garvey with first-base coach Tony Taylor in view.

Andreas Michlmayr asks:

[D]o any pro-DH folks ever argue for a change to a football-style scheme, where you may employ as many designated hitters and fielders as you like, so long as they fit on your 25-man roster?

Towit I responded:

Designated fielders have been suggested. I had believed that Bill Veeck and/or Charlie O. Finley were the culprits, but couldn't find proof. Jayson Stark wrote an article on improving the game this offseason and included the idea, and Doug Melvin suggested it as a 26th roster spot. (I duly panned the Stark piece here by the way.)

I disagree about designated fielders. First because teams now carry 12 pitchers. How can they carry a guy who can't hit (well, Bobby Cox usually has a whole bench filled with them I guess). And second fielding is inherently worth less than batting. The reason for this is that baseball consists of offense (batting and baserunning) and defense (pitching and fielding). Even if one were to admit that defense is worth more than offense, fielding has to share that arena with pitching. Lastly, some would argue that we already have a designated fielder: the AL pitcher.

But you are entitled to your opinion. That was my basic point, that it all does boil down to personal preference. If baseball feels that more people prefer the game without the DH, then they should go ahead and eliminate it. But they should not do it on the grounds that the DH is the ruination of the game, because it's not so.

David Pinto, Aaron Gleeman, and the Oakland White Elephants also post their opinions on the issue. As far as the Elephants suggestion to simply skip the pitchers spot in the order, I believe that was suggested at the time, but given the increased at-bats and the recency of the Maris be-asterisked HR record, the AL feared that someone might hit as many as 73 homers one day. It seems ridiculous now: someone would have to be superman to hit that many.

Onward Christian Soldier Christian Ruzich,
2003-04-08 11:00
by Mike Carminati

Onward Christian Soldier

Christian Ruzich, the Cub Reporter himself, is back and better than ever.

Go check him out while his Cubbies attempt to dig out after their snow day and then set their sites in the NL Central title. Just don't ask him how his fantasy team is doing.

Boxing Pandora Today marks the
2003-04-07 01:15
by Mike Carminati

Boxing Pandora

Today marks the thirtieth anniversary of the designated hitter. The occasion is celebrated with excessive tributes to Ron Bloomberg, who had the arbitrary brush with greatness of being the first DH. Here's yet another one:

After thirty years, the debate still rages as to whether or not the DH is good for baseball. In the last thirty years, there have been movements to abolish it and movements to make the rule universal throughout the majors. Today, baseball with its ever-more-nostalgic, revisionist history of the game now appears to be tended by those who are clamoring for the DH's demise. These are not just the purists-which I consider myself to be-but the media and the masses too are no against the "one-dimensional" player.

ESPN ran a poll on the issue last week and, though I did not see the final numbers, the anti-DH votes were leading 56% to 44%. So fans, or at least fans who have a propensity to vote on online polls, are against the rule.

ESPN also consulted their staff of experts (italics mine, not theirs) on the subject. It seems that the vote was two pro-DH and four anti-DH, if I read their responses correctly. Heck, four of them waffled more than Mike Dukakis on subject.

Here's my rundown from most pro-DH to most anti-DH in my estimation:

- Tony Gwynn: Gwynn is the most pro-DH of the six:

It's [the DH's] great for players who've had success in the game, but maybe can't take the grind of playing a full season at the end of their careers. It allows them to stay in the game -- and that's a good thing.

But still he admits:

Early in my career, I hated the designated hitter and thought baseball should get rid of it.

- Tom Candiotti: Candiotti, I put down as pro-ish. Here's why:

[B]ased on the way the game is played now I would like to see both leagues go to the DH. Let the hitters worry about driving in the runs, because the fans want to see scoring.

It's sort of a backhanded compliment, but I give it to the pro-DH camp.

Candiotti still displays curmudgeonly It-was-better-in-my-day-ism:

[T]he game I grew up with is gone...The emphasis in today's game is on offense rather than pitching and defense.

Oh, really? Is that why so many teams are trying to emulate the Rangers?

Pitching and defense are important, very important. They have improved greatly throughout baseball history and even in the twenty years since Candiotti made it to the majors. That baseball today can sustain 30 major-league pitching staffs, each consisting of about 12 pitchers at any given time is phenomenal. Sure, there are a lot of clunkers on almost any staff, but that a variety of pitchers with different handed-ness, styles, pitches, release points, and speeds are not only available on any given night but are used to the tune of between three or four a night (on average) is a great challenge for offenses. I cannot say with any degree of certainty that defenses are better on average than 20 years ago (at least without reams of research), but it seems logical to me given the historical trend in the sport. Pitching/defense today also has to overcome more difficult stadiums than in the bandbox days of the Seventies and Eighties.

Pitching and defense are as important as ever to winning but they are just one side to the coin with the other being occupied by batting and baserunning.

- Joe Morgan: Morgan, as always, is the least assertive. Maybe with this issue, it's to his credit. I put him down to con-ish. Joe sums up:

If it were my choice, I'd eliminate it [the DH], though it has served its purpose for the AL.

Here's another backhanded compliment, but still it's not enough for Joe.

Joe at his most negative on the topic goes a little bit like this:

I've never liked the DH because it makes a player one-dimensional.

But is a DH anymore one-dimensional than a pitcher who has no business hitting for himself-but I'm getting ahead of myself.

- Rob Neyer: Neyer unlike the rest starts out on a positive note:

I grew up with the DH.

I grew up with Hal McRae, the best DH (before Edgar Martinez, that is).

By now, every baseball fan in America is already aware of Neyer's love of everything McRae.

Then Neyer switches gears and comes out in against the DH. I put him in the con-ish camp:

So while it's been fun, and we'll always remember Hal McRae and Edgar Martinez fondly, 30 years is long enough.

Neyer's only argument against the DH is that "nobody needs help scoring runs any more" and "there are plenty of teams that don't care much whether their sluggers can actually play in the field without embarrassing themselves." Oh, and flannel unis are itchy, I think. OK, but I'm not sure that that gets to the root of the DH issue.

The last two arguments are the strongest anti-DH arguments and are also the most silly.

- Rob Dibble: Dibble blathers through a meaningless diatribe as only he could: via his own unique idiom that parallels English. Witness:

One of my former managers once was so caught up in a game that he inserted the pitcher into the leadoff spot and switched the replacement hitter/fielder into the old pitcher's slot in the batting order.

Ah, yeah, that's called a double-switch, and it's used to juggle batting orders late in the game. Maybe the 7-8-9 hitters were due up the next inning and didn't want to have to waste another pinch-hitter. If it's a close or tied ballgame, maybe your first three hitters get the run or runs you need and you win. It may be a gamble but it's a calculated one. You'd think Dibble would understand the strategy given he played most of his career in the then-DH-less NL and appeared in late innings.

Dibble then talks out of both sides of his mouth at once, and at each orifice espouses a silly notion as the basis for an argument:

If MLB officials are serious about speeding up games, they should realize that having weak-hitting pitchers bat three or four times a game would definitely move games along. It's time to dump the DH and make both leagues play with one set of rules.

The DH is about speeding up ballgames? I don't think so. The extra pressure on pitchers, the extra pitches expended, the extra relief pitchers used, etc.-don't you think that slows down a ballgame?

And why do both leagues have to play by the same rules? When I was a kid watching NL-only baseball in the suburbs of Philadelphia, I watched the AL on Saturday afternoon broadcasts with their different strike zones, different style of play, different umps (with those big chest protectors they held in front of themselves like shields), and a different rule, the DH. And I enjoyed it. The only issue about differences comes into play during interleague play time and the Series. My argument then is to eliminate the annoying and unfair interleague play and tinker with the Series rules.

- Jayson Stark: As far as I can tell Stark is the most anti-DH analyst on the list. He, as opposed to the slavering Dibble, at least formulates opinions based on fact. That they are the wrong opinions does serve to undermine his argument though. I'll take it point by point, but I won't reprint his entire point here; I'll just allude to it:

Point 1-It's absurd to play by different rules: Why? Again if this is solely about interleague play, by all means abolish the annoyance-interleague play that is. The DH was around for twenty years without interleague play. Did Stark hold a different opinion then? It seems so given his "intriguing" comment, so why is this a DH issue and not an interleague play issue?

Point 2-"The DH rule may have cost the Giants the World Series": Whoa, doggy! The Giants refused to use two decent bats as a DH in the World Series: Ramon Martinez and Damon Minor (Their leading DH during the season but not on the active World Series roster). Dusty Baker decided to use dreck like Feliz in game 7. He had used Dunston, Goodwin, and Shinjo prior to that.

The truth is that the Giants did not have much depth on their bench. They rebuilt their outfield during the year and ended up ignoring their bench. Their pinch-hitters had the second worst batting average in the NL (.196) and were last in OPS. Should the Giants lose because of a glaring weakness that they did nothing to fix? Well, yes. This is the World Series we are talking about after all. Oh and the decision to use Livan Hernandez in game 7 didn't help much either.

Point 3-A bastion for older players became a shelter for one-dimensional ones: No, it's used by different teams in different ways at different times. It can be used to ease an injured player back into the lineup, to load up extra bats in a lineup (e.g., Ray Durham on the A's last year), to give a younger player or a role player more exposure, to give a position player a rest from playing defense, and to give an older player an opportunity (e.g., Ellis Burks and Edgar Martinez). Teams vary their strategy over the course of the season as different conditions come about. To say that only one-dimensional players are used is over-generalizing and incorrect. Besides, I submit (again) that pitchers are one-dimensional players themselves.

Point 4-Fans come running for the smoky scent of runs: Stark argues that the DH generates no, or little, extra offense. But consider that AL DHs batted collectively .264 with a .788 OPS and average 23 homers per team (considering that they are used less than 162 games due to interleague play). The AL average was also .264 with an OPS 33 points lower (.755) and an average of less than 20 home runs per batting position. I don't have the numbers for the batting of NL pitchers but I would think it was considerable less effective.

Actually, I lied. I ran the numbers this morning. I included all pitchers who played no more than three non-pitching games (in order to filter out position players who pitched in lopsided ballgames and yet not overlook young pitchers used as pinch-runners, which happens occasionally). Here are the totals per league for 2002:

AL  281  14  38   5  0  0   9  1  0  12  121  0    0  25  1 .135 .170 .153 .323
NL 4864 276 709 128  7 23 287  1  2 176 1820  0   15 557 16 .146 .177 .189 .367

Stark's trying to say that those atrocious numbers did not affect the offense? C'mon. Given that AL pitchers fared ever so slightly worse than their NL counterparts with so much less exposure to batting, it makes a good argument for the universal implementation of the DH (the NL pitchers are able to hit the long ball once in a blue moon, however). Offensively, pitchers are just about at the lowest ebb possible for world-class athletes.

Point 5-Strategy and fancy ciphering: Look, I conquered double-switches playing APBA baseball at the age of ten. If I can do it, the average fan can, and maybe someday so will Bob Boone. It takes no baseball acumen to determine that when a .130 hitter is up and a man is on first with no outs in a tie ballgame, you should bunt. That's not strategy; it's rote. Bill James addressed exactly this issue in his original Historical Abstract and I will allude to James' work in my own take on the issue coming up next on the East Coast or following your local news on the West Coast.

- Mike: Let me begin by saying I am the sole person on the planet, apparently, who thinks that the system should continue just as it has, with DHs in the AL and pitchers hitting for themselves in the NL.

First, I begin my argument with James' analysis. The article to which I will refer is entitled "1973: DH Rule Increases Strategy" and comprises most of pages 257 to 261 in the 1988 paperback edition of The Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract-which I purchased used at $4.98 (the price tag's still there), probably the best baseball buy of my life (I also prefer the 1988 edition to last year's even with the addition of Win Shares).

James analyzes sacrifice hit and pinch hitter use as well as complete game totals. With each statistic, James calculates the average and standard deviation for all the teams in the league from 1968, five years before the advent of the DH, until 1986, the last year with data available at the time. He then compares the NL standard deviation to the AL. He finds in each case that the standard deviation increases in the AL in each case and is, on average, higher than the NL (it should also be pointed out that the AL had more teams than the NL from 1977-'86 which would tend to artificially reduce the standard deviation in the AL and yet they are still usually higher than the in NL).

James concludes that the DH has induced more strategy to the AL game:

What the DH rule actually to eliminate from the game a series of forced, obvious moves, which involve in fact no option on the part of either manager, and thus no strategy. You've got a .113 hitter at the plate. A runner on first, and nobody out in the fourth, and you have to bunt don't you? Where's the strategy? With a DH up there at least you can do something. You're down four runs in the seventh with the pitcher leading off, and you have to pinch hit for him, don't you? What's strategic about that? The DH rule saves the pinch hitters, and thus in effect makes the roster larger. As such it creates, not eliminates, strategic options for American League managers.

God, I love that man. AL managers tend to use bunts and pinch hitters differently across the league. This creates an environment in which different strategies might be employed. Bunts are fewer and farther between in the AL due to the DH, but they are not uniformly fewer and farther between throughout the league. The same is true for pinch hitter use. AL managers are given the opportunity to make more personalized strategic moves.

Given that I watch a game to see something new as well as to see a good game of course. It's like going to the movies. How many times can you see the same Arnold Schwarzenegger film? (Maybe, that's not a good example given his track record.) I can understand why offbeat independent films are of more interest to the cinema cognoscenti and/or snobs (of which my wife accuses me of being a member). They at least contain something new or different. So, for me, the possibility that a manager may do something a little different to spur his team on is one thing that makes the game more entertaining. I realize that this may be an idiosyncratic point, but hey, I gotta be me.

I decided to re-run James data with numbers through 2002. Here's the sac. bunt data (for some reason my standard deviation across leagues is slightly different from his even though the average is the same; I'm not sure why-I let Access calculate mine):

Year	AL Avg	AL SD	NL Avg	NL SD	Ratio
1968	71.30	12.49	79.40	12.76	9.04%
1969	64.83	9.20	74.25	15.28	-31.02%
1970	67.58	20.82	68.25	15.63	34.50%
1971	73.67	15.88	76.50	15.20	8.52%
1972	74.42	11.20	72.08	17.15	-36.73%
1973	49.33	11.68	79.83	17.59	7.45%
1974	62.58	12.25	81.92	15.32	4.69%
1975	65.92	14.99	90.17	21.10	-2.78%
1976	68.17	15.51	81.25	20.42	-9.47%
1977	65.50	23.28	70.58	11.78	112.90%
1978	72.57	22.09	80.83	24.07	2.20%
1979	67.64	24.59	79.08	19.18	49.95%
1980	65.43	21.52	80.58	10.75	146.60%
1981	40.29	7.74	57.33	11.36	-3.07%
1982	54.43	21.46	81.50	13.37	140.39%
1983	45.71	11.17	76.75	7.84	139.09%
1984	44.71	12.32	67.42	14.99	23.93%
1985	46.29	19.26	75.08	15.91	96.33%
1986	46.14	17.17	72.42	17.73	51.99%
1987	45.14	11.75	68.58	11.95	49.33%
1988	49.43	12.71	78.17	16.75	19.95%
1989	51.93	15.67	74.92	11.90	89.99%
1990	48.79	15.93	73.00	14.55	63.89%
1991	52.36	10.76	74.25	15.38	-0.79%
1992	48.71	12.63	81.92	12.93	64.23%
1993	50.07	16.92	79.29	15.82	69.35%
1994	32.07	10.83	54.14	10.06	81.75%
1995	38.64	12.68	67.64	12.99	70.77%
1996	40.71	11.55	69.57	11.95	65.14%
1997	39.21	10.30	73.93	11.60	67.36%
1998	38.43	11.96	72.94	14.30	58.70%
1999	36.21	8.54	68.63	14.58	11.02%
2000	40.43	14.11	66.38	14.21	63.03%
2001	38.07	11.30	67.13	18.03	10.49%
2002	35.64	11.28	70.88	15.74	42.52%
Avg	52.35	14.39	73.90	14.86	36.65%

The ratio represents the AL standard deviation represented as a function of the AL average divided by the NL standard deviation represented as a function of the NL average. It's a ratio of what I believe is called Coefficient of Variation in the Statistics world. [For those concrete types: Ratio=(AL SD/AL Avg) / (NL SD/NL Avg)] Basically, a positive ratio means that the AL managers are using bunts in different ways throughout the league and a negative means that they are not. (James does assume that because the DH is not, generally-remember interleague play-, used in the NL, the strategic use of the bunt has not varied greatly over the last 35 years. This may or may not be true, but it does seem logical given the similarity across time in the NL bunt averages and standard deviations.)

So the ratio tells us that as James indicated, the AL and NL used bunts similarly until 1972, and then the DH suppressed bunting in the AL almost uniformly for about five years. But since 1977, the AL has been employing the bunt in a more varied fashion than the NL.

I decided to change James' last two parameters. The number of pinch hitters used per team is interesting but a) it's hard to derive from the statistical record (or I would have to go back through my old TSN Baseball Guides and I'm too lazy) and b) I think that there is a different metric that tells a more complete story. What we are interested in are the number of changes to the set lineup either in the batting order or defensively in the field. Pinch hitters only tell part of that story. There are replacements that play the field first and therefore, are never registered as pinch hitters. This is especially true of the dreaded double-switch. So I thought looking at the way that a manager uses his players in the lineup would be better expressed as a function of the number of players used per game. I derived this from the number of total games played for all players per team divided by the number of games played by the team. Again I took the average and the standard deviation across leagues:

Number of players used per game:
Year	AL Avg	AL SD	NL Avg	NL SD	Ratio
1968	12.93	0.66	12.29	0.32	97.36%
1969	13.12	0.69	12.68	0.48	38.55%
1970	13.09	0.57	12.95	0.46	23.15%
1971	12.64	0.62	12.63	0.35	76.05%
1972	12.79	0.53	12.53	0.47	8.95%
1973	12.89	0.69	12.92	0.48	43.57%
1974	13.07	0.53	13.26	0.54	-0.89%
1975	13.12	0.69	13.08	0.38	82.36%
1976	12.99	0.44	13.01	0.50	-11.48%
1977	13.13	0.65	13.42	0.39	68.00%
1978	13.03	0.79	13.17	0.48	65.55%
1979	13.10	0.59	13.17	0.37	62.41%
1980	13.38	0.55	13.40	0.52	6.21%
1981	13.40	0.55	13.69	0.54	3.28%
1982	13.24	0.53	13.40	0.47	14.36%
1983	13.30	0.68	13.45	0.45	51.83%
1984	13.64	0.60	13.49	0.47	26.62%
1985	13.66	0.54	13.46	0.40	35.22%
1986	13.40	0.47	13.75	0.48	0.96%
1987	13.50	0.57	13.74	0.41	42.90%
1988	13.35	0.41	13.35	0.44	-6.01%
1989	13.51	0.48	13.62	0.42	13.26%
1990	13.85	0.51	13.79	0.38	31.45%
1991	14.08	0.65	13.97	0.39	65.40%
1992	13.73	0.50	14.00	0.46	10.73%
1993	13.78	0.47	13.91	0.36	32.52%
1994	13.67	0.39	13.87	0.25	57.60%
1995	14.07	0.39	14.20	0.35	11.14%
1996	14.06	0.38	14.19	0.32	21.13%
1997	12.91	0.64	14.19	0.33	114.65%
1998	12.73	0.51	13.92	0.43	30.08%
1999	12.74	0.50	14.19	0.43	30.70%
2000	11.30	0.41	14.11	0.33	55.01%
2001	11.01	0.26	14.16	0.31	11.14%
2002	11.30	0.52	14.23	0.27	137.85%
Avg	13.13	0.54	13.52	0.41	35.28%

The same pattern develops as with bunts except that the AL had more variation among their teams as far as the number of players used even before the DH. I'm not quite sure why. (Note that the NL has more pitching changes but that "noise" is eliminated by comparing variation across leagues: if all teams make similar pitching changes, it won't affect the standard deviation.)

Lastly, instead of complete games which are dwindling into oblivion as we speak, I instead used number of pitchers per game, which I feel gets to the same basic concept, but is more pertinent to today's game.

Number of pitchers used per game:
Year	AL Avg	AL SD	NL Avg	NL SD	Ratio
1968	2.57	0.27	2.38	0.25	-0.78%
1969	2.71	0.25	2.49	0.31	-24.78%
1970	2.74	0.18	2.58	0.21	-19.13%
1971	2.55	0.26	2.43	0.15	62.80%
1972	2.47	0.27	2.44	0.18	44.87%
1973	2.16	0.21	2.58	0.17	47.16%
1974	2.16	0.14	2.64	0.31	-45.08%
1975	2.19	0.20	2.60	0.22	10.72%
1976	2.22	0.20	2.60	0.29	-20.73%
1977	2.31	0.21	2.78	0.28	-10.77%
1978	2.22	0.21	2.62	0.22	9.35%
1979	2.34	0.13	2.73	0.17	-15.72%
1980	2.39	0.22	2.77	0.17	48.15%
1981	2.44	0.25	2.93	0.29	6.38%
1982	2.46	0.15	2.81	0.19	-11.07%
1983	2.44	0.19	2.80	0.20	11.28%
1984	2.53	0.24	2.80	0.19	37.71%
1985	2.65	0.25	2.83	0.19	37.64%
1986	2.66	0.18	2.95	0.20	-1.07%
1987	2.73	0.22	3.08	0.20	26.01%
1988	2.65	0.16	2.85	0.21	-15.34%
1989	2.81	0.16	2.95	0.21	-21.83%
1990	2.97	0.16	3.07	0.19	-13.69%
1991	3.11	0.23	3.16	0.12	97.30%
1992	3.06	0.23	3.25	0.20	21.01%
1993	3.19	0.21	3.35	0.26	-14.86%
1994	3.26	0.25	3.39	0.25	3.81%
1995	3.31	0.22	3.59	0.29	-17.98%
1996	3.36	0.22	3.52	0.19	24.19%
1997	3.46	0.21	3.54	0.21	2.62%
1998	3.49	0.18	3.43	0.21	-19.33%
1999	3.52	0.21	3.59	0.21	0.26%
2000	3.52	0.22	3.57	0.20	10.49%
2001	3.51	0.21	3.73	0.20	8.73%
2002	3.45	0.32	3.78	0.17	100.60%
Avg	2.79	0.21	2.99	0.22	5.30%

I'm not sure if this supports James' theories or not. It fluctuates wildly but on average the AL has slightly more variability. Well, two out of three aint bad to quote Mr. Loaf.

James concludes:

I'm not an advocate of the Designated Hitter Rule; I'm only an advocate of seeing the truth and telling the truth. What the truth comes down to here is, a question of in what does strategy reside? Does strategy exist in the act of bunting? If so, the Designated Hitter Rule has reduced strategy. But if strategy exists in the decision about when a bunt should be used, then the DH rule has increased the differences of opinion which exist about that question, and thus has increased strategy. But if strategy is an argument, then I would argue that there is more of a difference of opinion, not less, in the American League.

I am inclined to agree with him.

Look, the purist in me hates the DH, too. But is that hatred logically based or is it just a knee-jerk reaction to a change in the age-old game? It's inelegant, but so is a Roger Clemens bunt attempt. So how do I reconcile this apparent problem of cognitive dissonance of a purist-me-who accepts the DH?

Here's an analogy that may help-it helps me. In Phsyics, there are instances in which a particle is seen as a wave and a wave is seen as a particle. Things have substance or do not dependent on the situation. And it works. Maybe the DH has merit even in a purist's game.

I say keep the status quo. Why? Because the NL is never going to adopt the DH with the derisive view that the media, the fans, and the analysts have of the rule.

The AL is more problematic. If one cannot accept James' theories, then there are practical issues preventing the demise of the DH. First, the players' union will not sit idly by as fourteen starting jobs, i.e., one DH per AL team, are irradiated.

Even if the union is bought out with expanded rosters (doubtful) or salary increases across the board (still more doubtful), there's the problem of what to do with the ex-DH's. So Edgar Martinez, Ellis Burks, and their ilk are dismissed. It's highly unlikely that these players can take the field defensively.

Well, maybe we have no problem with that. They will be missed but progress, er, rather regress, is in motion. How about pitchers batting for themselves? Given one spring training they should be able to catch up with their NL counterparts. OK.

But what about AL managers getting used to the change in strategy? I guess an offseason of Strat-O-Matic will cure them. Hey, Bob Boone switched leagues, didn't he?

There are a number of practical issues. They opened Pandora's box and it's going to be tricky to get all of the baseball "ills", that the DH created back in that box. They are not insurmountable problems but they are all trade-offs. What happens the first time a star AL pitcher is injured when he is at bat? When a Lou Piniella fails to make a proper double-switch or the like? When an Edgar Martinez is forced to play the field and is injured?

If the AL fans really want to see more .130 hitters, more power to them. Just don't say that it improves play, induces strategy, or eliminates one-dimensional players.

Do it because it's a matter of preference. That's really the only excuse.

Snow Day in the Bronx
2003-04-06 22:25
by Mike Carminati

Snow Day in the Bronx

The Yankees in anticipation of a big winter (spring?) storm have postponed their home opener until.

In similar news, Tim McCarver did a cameo in the Phillies broadcasting booth, his first time in the booth all year he claims, and he discussed how difficult it is to go from the heat of Florida and Arizona to the cold of the Northeast and Midwest. He says that is why you see so many more bad swings early in the year is because the batter expects the ball to move as it did down south, oh, way down south (London town). The batters are usually way out in front. The scores early this year don't seem to bare that out, but that's just from a cursory perusal. He may be right.

Incidentally, some may remember that McCarver started out as a Phillies broadcaster. His rookie year was 1981, the year after the Phils won the Series. He lasted one year and was cut when the Phillies switched stations from Channel 17 to 29 (who I believe owned and/or owns part of the team). If I recall correctly, McCarver had a deal with the channel and the rest of the crew had one with the team. Therefore, he lost his job when they switched but could not work with the new channel because of a non-compete. He was picked up seemingly last-minute by the Mets and the rest (unfortunately) is history. It was great to hear in the booth with Hall-of-Famer Harry Kalas again though.

Just 18 to Go Freddie
2003-04-06 16:23
by Mike Carminati

Just 18 to Go

Freddie Garcia has a no-hitter through three against the Texas Rangers and the Mariners lead, 4-0 . He has given up two walks though.

Striking Out The Side Plus
2003-04-06 16:14
by Mike Carminati

Striking Out The Side Plus One for Good Measure, II

Craig Stambaugh writes:

As I was looking over the list you put up of the 4 strikeout/inning club, I couldn't help but notice that no one appears on there twice...except Chuck Finley...and he appears three times!! I wonder if there is a reason for that. I'm trying to think if he throws a lot of junk that would end up in the dirt and be hard to catch, which would maybe result in the catcher missing several called third strikes? Just got my brain going with that one...thought I'd share.


Thanks for the email. I actually hadn't noticed that.

I think it's mostly luck but Finley does have a good disposition for a 4-K inning. He lead the AL and tied for the major-league lead in wild pitches (15) and was second in the AL in strikeouts (200, over 100 behind Pedro) in 1999. So doing it twice in 1999 made sense. In 2000 he was still fourth in the AL in Ks, but his 9 WP were way behind the leaders (18 in the AL, I forget who did it, and 23 in the NL by Matt Clement). Besides he did it in 2000 on a passed ball by Einer Diaz and Diaz had only 4 on the year.

Here are the three linescores from the games:

5/12/99 (I had date wrong): Ana 1-@NYY 0, Finley: (w, 2-3) 8 IP, 3 H, 0 HR, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 11 K, 2 W

8/15/99: Ana 10-@Det 2, Finley: (W, 7-10) 6.2 IP, 6 H, 0 HR, 2 R, 2ER, 2 BB, 12 K, 2 WP

4/19/00: @Clev 2-Tex 1, Finley (W, 1-0) 9 IP, 5 H, 0 HR, 1 R, 0 ER, 4 BB, 13 K, PB-Einer Diaz.

Talking "What If", Junior and
2003-04-06 01:42
by Mike Carminati

Talking "What If", Junior and the Duke (Say Hey!)

Ken Griffey dislocated his shoulder trying to make a catch tonight at the Great American Ball Park. He is not expected to play for the Reds for quite some time.

The centerfielder returned to his hometown as the age of 31 after five seasons of 40 or more home runs. He had made numerous All-Star appearances due in part to his bat and his well-respected glove in center. His highest OPS was 72% better than the park-adjusted league average. He had just hit the last home run ever hit in his previous stadium and was looking for continued success. Alas his career would be filled with injuries from that point on. Even though he would play well when he was injury-free, he would never enjoy his previous success again. He would never top 23 home runs and his batting seasonal average would drop below .300 causing his career average to fall to .295. He would only enjoy one more All-Star game appearance. Nor would he appear in the top-10 MVP vote getters again. However, his career was sufficiently remarkable to earn him a Hall of Fame plaque in 1980.

Oh, you thought I still meant Griffey. No, that was Duke Snider I was discussing, although pretty much everything up to the Hall of Fame plaque applies to Griffey as well. At age 31, both were back in their hometowns: Griffey was traded to Cincinnati a year earlier and the Duke rode into LA with the transplanted Dodgers. Both were riding a 5-year streak of 40 or more home runs. Both had hit the last home run in his former park: Snider in Ebbets Field and Griffey in Kingdome (actually, the Mariners moved into Safeco Field in the middle of his last year). Both had a career high OPS 72% better than the park-adjusted league average. Both got injured in their 31st year and never played a full season again or at least Griffey has yet to do so. Both played in one more All-Star game after switching cities: Snider in 1963 with the Mets and Griffey in 2000, his first year with the Reds. Both had .300+ averages that fell to .295 for their careers (Griffey's was actually .299 when he left the Mariners). It's a bit eerie.

As a matter of fact the batter listed as most similar to Snider is Ken Griffey, Jr. The batter most similar to Griffey is, well, Sammy Sosa, but Snider is right behind him. Bill James ranks both as A- defensive center fielders, and they are ranked sixth (Snider) and seventh (Griffey) among center fielders in James' New Historical Abstract.

One big difference is the number of World Series appearances that Snider's teams made, while Griffey's Mariners never made it out of the AL playoffs. Snider would also make one more World Series appearance in 1959, his only in Los Angeles. Griffey has not appeared in the postseason with the Reds. Oh, and Griffey did have the one 40-homer year in Cincinnati before the spate of injuries.

Here's a comparison through the age of thirty:

           G   AB    R    H  2B 3B  HR HR/AB  RBI  SB CS SB%     BB    K K/BB HBP SH SF   BA  OBP SLUG  OPS
Griffey 1680 6352 1163 1883 342 33 438 0.069 1270 173 64 73.00% 841 1101 1.31  56  6 64 .296 .380 .568 .948
Snider  1425 5317  994 1609 288 66 316 0.059 1003  92 41 69.17% 692  874 1.26  15 43 19 .303 .383 .560 .943

That is pretty close. Griffey has more games due to starting in the majors at 19. Snider started his career at the age of 20 but was not fully established in the majors until 22.

Snider is still remembered as a Hall-of-Fame player, but the memory of his true greatness at his peak is dimmed, and he spent almost his entire career in the two biggest media markets in the country.

Griffey was once considered the game's greatest player and ambassador. Let's hope that his career does not continue to follow Snider's in terms of missed games due to injury. Let's also hope that Griffey's greatness is not lost on future generations even though he has spent his entire career thus far in two of the smaller media markets in the country.

Striking Out The Side Plus
2003-04-05 15:47
by Mike Carminati

Striking Out The Side Plus One for Good Measure

Lee Sinins' ATM Report relates that:

Mariners P Kazuhiro Sasaki tied the major league record with 4 SO in the 9th inning against the Rangers.

Sasaki struck out Todd Greene, Carl Everett (who reached on a wild pitch), Michael Young and Mike Lamb.

Here's the complete list of pitchers who have done it. Exacty half have come since the start of the 1990 season:

Name, Team, Date, Inning
Bobby Mathews, Phila. (AA), 9/30/1885, 7th
Ed Crane, New York (NL), 10/04/1888, 5th
Hooks Wiltse, New York (NL), 5/15/1906, 5th
Orval Overall, Chicago (NL), 10/14/1908, 1st
Walter Johnson, Washington, 4/15/1911, 5th
Guy Morton, Cleveland, 6/11/1916, 7th
Jim Davis, Chicago (NL), 5/27/1956, 6th
Joe Nuxhall, Cincinnati, 8/11/1959, 6th
Ryne Duren, Los Angeles (AL), 5/18/1961, 7th
Pete Richert, Los Angeles (NL), 4/12/1962, 3rd
Lee Stange, Cleveland, 9/2/1964, 7th
Don Drysdale, Los Angeles (NL), 4/17/1965, 2nd
Bob Gibson, St. Louis, 6/7/1966, 4th
Mikeuellar, Baltimore, 5/29/1970, 4th
Bill Bonham, Chicago (NL), 7/31/1974, 2nd
Phil Niekro, Atlanta, 7/29/1977, 6th
Mike Paxton, Cleveland, 7/21/1978, 5th
Mario Soto, Cincinnati, 5/17/1984, 3rd
Mike Scott, Houston, 9/3/1986, 5th
Bobby Witt, Texas, 8/2/1987, 2nd
Charlie Hough, Texas, 7/4/1988, 1st
Paul Assenmacher, Atlanta, 8/22/1989, 5th
Tim Birtsas, Cincinnati, 6/4/1990, 7th
Matt Young, Seattle, 9/9/1990, 1st
Paul Shuey, Cleveland, 5/14/1994, 9th
Mark Wohlers, Atlanta, 6/7/1995, 9th
Bruce Ruffin, Colorado, 7/25/1996, 9th
Kevin Appier, Kansas City, 9/3/1996, 4th
Derek Wallace, New York (NL), 9/13/1996, 9th
Wilson Alvarez, Chicago (AL), 7/21/1997, 7th
Blake Stein, Oakland, 7/27/1998, 4th
Kirt Ojala, Florida, 9/16/1998, 4th
Archie Corbin, Florida, 4/28/1999, 7th
Chuck Finley, Anaheim, 5/15/1999, 3rd
Jerry Spradlin, San Francisco, 7/22/1999, 7th
Tim Wakefield, Boston, 8/10/1999, 9th
Chuck Finley, Anaheim, 8/15/1999, 1st
Steve Kline, Montreal, 8/17/1999, 7th
Chuck Finley, Cleveland, 4/16/2000, 3rd
Erik Hiljus, Oakland, 6/30/2001, 7th
Frankie Rodriguez, Cincinnati, 7/22/2001, 7th
A.J. Burnett, Florida, 7/5/2002, 1st
Kerry Wood, Chicago (NL), 9/2/2002, 4th
Kazushiro Saski, Seattle, 4/4/2003, 9th

5,000 Bronx Cheers Alex Belth's
2003-04-05 15:32
by Mike Carminati

5,000 Bronx Cheers

Alex Belth's Bronx Banter has just passed 5,000 visitors.

Sammy! Sammy Sosa just became
2003-04-04 21:57
by Mike Carminati


Sammy Sosa just became the 18th man to hit 500 HRs. He lined a 1-2 pitch from Scott Sullivan into the rightfield seats with one out in the seventh and the Cubs trailing 8-6 to the Reds in the Great American Ball Park.

It is 29 years to the day of Hank Aaron's record-tying 714th home run also in Cincinnati.

There are also three men within 31 home runs of 500 for their careers: Rafael Palmeiro (9 short), Fred McGriff (22) and Ken Griffey (31). That would bring the total for the 2000s to five with Sosa and Barry Bons. There has only been one other decade in which 5 men have reached the 500-homer milestone, the light-hitting Sixties when Hank aaron, Willie Mays, Ted Williams, Mickey Mantle, and Eddie Mattews all did it. Of course, this decade is only starting its fourth year, so more 500-HR men may be on the way.

Here are the number of men with 500 home runs at the start of each decade since the Fifties:

1950	3
1960	3
1970	8
1980	12
1990	14
2000	16
2003	17
2004	18-21

In-Cone-ceivable David Cone has a
2003-04-04 20:53
by Mike Carminati


David Cone has a two-hit shutout through 5 innings for the Mets tonight. The two hits that he allowed were to Montreal pitcher Tomo Okha.

Cone has not had a complete-game shutout since his perfect game for the Yankees on July 18, 1999.

He has already thrown 85 pitches, so a complete game seems remote.

Derek and the Dominoes, III
2003-04-04 15:45
by Mike Carminati

Derek and the Dominoes, III

Apparently Derek Jeter will only miss 4-6 weeks according to the Yankees. They say that the MRI of his shoulder confirms that no surgery is needed.

"Why not, I had a
2003-04-04 12:04
by Mike Carminati

"Why not, I had a better year than him"

That's what Babe Ruth said when a reporter pointed out that he made more than the president (and incidentally, he was right).

The AP published a study of 2003 baseball salaries in which they found that the highest-paid player, Alex "A-Wad" Rodriguez, makes more money than the entire opening-day roster for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. A-Rod can always us the Ruthian defense.

Th AP also found that the average salary is $2,555,476, 7.2% more than last year. A was a little surprised given the austerity of the past offseason. Then I caught this juicy nugget:

In a sign of baseball's economic slowdown, the number of players making $1 million or more dropped to 385 from 413 last year and 425 in 2000. The median salary -- the point at which an equal amount of players is above and below -- dropped to $800,000 from $900,000 at the start of last season and $975,000 in 2000.

This is the trend that I am more interested in. As the old, long-term contracts expire, this will be the driving force in the industry. Contracts willrarely be longer than 3 years now that the insurance companies refuse to handle anything longer.

Also, no mention was made of players who are no longer with their teams but are still getting paid (e.g., Albert Belle and Greg Vaughn). They could artificially inflate the numbers.

Of course, this is just further ammo for MLB to spin their austerity program (or progrom). Expect the same as the season continues and into next offseason.

Break Up The Royals and
2003-04-04 11:16
by Mike Carminati

Break Up The Royals and the Pirates (But Keep the Braves Intact)

After the first few games of the regular season, a number of teams that were expected to contend for playoff spots are looking pretty good. The Yankees, Twins, Cardinals, and Giants continued their success from last year and stand at 3-0. Most of the other expected playoff contenders are playing well, too with a couple of exceptions. The Braves are their beleaguered pitching staff got swept by the Expos, who I think may surprise those people who consigned the Expos to failure after the Colon debacle.

Pittsburgh took three from the supposedly contending Reds at their brand spanking new ballpark, the Great American Ball Park Franks (evidently it plumps when you cook it). The Pirates outscored the Reds 24-10 and batted .304 with a .949 OPS and 8 home runs. Picking up Barry Bonds' old outfield mates look pretty good so far: Reggie Sanders is batting .636 with 3 homers and an ungodly 2.091 OPS. Lofton is batting .333 with a 1.067 OPS.

The Reds' weak staff has looked pretty poor: 7.33 ERA, 1.67 WHIP, and only one starter getting out of the fifth. What a way to open a new stadium. And for the umpteenth time I ask, where is Chris Reitsma? That Bob Boone is a super genius of the Wiley Coyote variety.

Possible the oddest series was the White Sox, who are expected to challenge the Twins for the AL Central title (Heck, I picked them to win) were unceremoniously swept by the lowly Royals. It hasn't even looked close. Game one saw Runelvys Hernandez and the Royal bullpen shutout the Sox on three hits. In game two, the Royals won a close cat-and-mouse game, 5-4, spoiling Bartolo Colon's White Sox debut. In game three, the Pale Hose bullpen blew a one-run lead in the eighth and lost 12-6, after a 7-run Royal ninth. The setup men (Tom Gordon and Damaso Marte) loaded the bases on two walks and hit batsman and there were two outs. Billy Koch, the offseason import, came in to protect the lead. Koch would face six men and get none out: he gave up a single (relinquishing the lead), 3-run home run (10-6), double, man reached on an error (11-6), single, and finally a walk to load the bases. Rick White walked the next batter and the score was 12-6.

The Royals outscored the Sox 20-10 in the series and two of those games were started by aces Marke Buehrle and Bartolo Colon while KC used their inexperienced staff. The Royals haven't been 3-0 to start a season since before George Brett discovered pine tar.

Minor Openings, II Here are
2003-04-04 00:20
by Mike Carminati

Minor Openings, II

Here are the changes to minor-league teams by league:


- Albuquerque Isotopes replace Calgary Cannons: Albuquerque first has a team in organized ball in 1915 in the Class-D Rio Grande Valley Association. The Albuquerque Dukes played in the PCL from 1972 to 2000, were long-time Dodger affiliates, and were replaced in 2001 by Portland. Calgary had been in PCL from 1985 and first appeared in organized ball in 1907 in the Class-D Western Canada League.

Texas League (AA):

- Frisco RoughRiders (what is this the CFL?) replace Shreveport Swamp Dragons: This is Frisco's first club in organized ball. Shreveport moves to the independent Central League (formerly the Texas-Louisiana League). Shreveport first entered organized ball in 1895 in the Texas-Southern League and had been a member of the Texas League since 1968.

California League (Class A Advanced)

- Inland Empire 66ers renamed from San Bernardino Stampede. Club still represents San Bernardino. San Bernardino first played in the Southern California League (Class D) in 1913 and has been in the California League since 1987.

Florida State League (Class A Advanced)

- Palm Beach Cardinals replace Charlotte Rangers. Palm Beach has never been in organized ball though West Palm Beach had been in the Florida State League as early as 1928 and was a member from 1965 to 1997.

Midwest League (Class A)

- Battle Creek Yankees renamed from Michigan Battle Cats (Thank God). Battle Creek dates back to the 1895 Michigan State League and has been in the Midwest League since 1995.

Sally (Class A)

- Lake County (East Lake, OH) Captains replace Columbus (Ga) RedStixx. (I don't know what an Ohio team is doing in the Sally League, but if it rids us of the RedStixxxxxx name so be it.): East Lake is new to organized ball. Columbus dates its heritage back to the 1885 Southern League and had been in the Sally since 1991.

- Rome (Ga) Braves replace Macon (Ga) Braves: Rome dates back to the 1910 Southeastern League (Class D) but has not had a team since 1951 (in the Class D Georgia-Alabama League). Macon's history goes back to the original Souther League from 1885. They had been in the Sally League since 1991.

- Southern Georgia (Albany, Ga) Waves replace Wilmington (NC) Waves: Albany's baseball dates back to 1906's Georgia State League and they had been in the Sally 1992-95. Wilmington can date its baseball history to 1901 in the Virginia-North Carolina League. They had lasted only two years in the South Atlantic League.

Pioneer League (Rookie)

- Helena (MT) Brewers replace Medicine Hat (Alberta) Blue Jays: Helena dates its history to 1900's Montana State League. They had been in the Pioneer League 1978-2000, after which the team was shifted to Provo, Utah. Medicine Hat started in the Western Canada League (Class D) in 1908 and had been a Pioneer League stalwart since 1977.

Independent Leagues

All-American Association

- Apparently this organization was still born. It was set to play in 2002 and is no more.

Arizona Mexico League

- New league with clubs in Brisbee-Douglas (Tx), Cananea (Sonora, Mex), Juarez (Chihuahua, Mex), Nogales (Az).

Central League

- Coastal Bend (Robstown, Tx) Aviators and Shreveport Sports are new teams. Robstown's only professional team was in the 1949-50 Rio Grande Valley League. Shreveport's history is above.

Frontier League

- New clubs: Florence (Ky) Freedom, Kenosha (Wi), Mid-Missouri (Columbus, Mo) Mavericks; Folded Clubs: Canton Coyotes, Dubois County (Huntingburg, IN) Dragons, Johnstown (PA) Johnnies: Florence and Columbus are new to baseball. Kenosha was in the Midwest League, 1985-92. Canton can date its history to the 1887 Ohio State League and had moved from the Eastern League in 1997. Huntinburg's first team was in the short-lived Heartland League in 1996; they then moved to the Frontier League in 1997. Johnstown had been in the 1884 Iron & Oil Association and had been in the Frontier League since 1995.

Northeast League

- Split from the Northern League.

- New clubs: Bangor Lumberjacks, North Shore (Lynn, Ma) Spirit; Folded: Adiriondack (Glens Falls, NY) Lumberjacks,Albany-Colonie Diamond Dogs.

Northern League

- Lost its Eastern Division.

- New: KC (KS) T-Bones; Folded: Duluth-Superior Dukes (charter team from 1993).

Southeastern League

- New league with clubs in Baton Rouge, Houma (La), Montgomery, Pensacola, and Selma (Al).

Western League

- This league that has been in existence since 1995 folded. It had teams in Chico (CA), Long Beach, Solano (Vacaville, CA), Sonoma County (Rohnert Park, CA), and Yuba-Sutter (Marysville, CA), and Yuma (Az).

Over-Zeile-ous Lee Sinins reported today
2003-04-03 22:04
by Mike Carminati


Lee Sinins reported today in his ATM Reports:

Todd Zeile set the modern day record by homering with his 10th team, breaking the mark he shared with Tommy Davis and Dave Martinez. During the 19th century, Dan Brouthers and Tom Brown also homered for 10 teams.

Zeile's coming off a -20 RCAA/.778 OPS season with the Rockies, which was his 2nd consecutive year with a negative RCAA. He has a .778 career OPS, compared to his league average of .758, and 26 RCAA in 1922 games.

Zeile is only one of 16 men to ever play for 10 or more major-league clubs. Mike Morgan, who has been old enough to be referred to as crafty for a good five years, is the last man to do it. He is also the only other active one. Here's the complete list:

#Teams	Name
12	Mike Morgan
11	George Bradley
11	Joe Gerhardt
11	Deacon McGuire
11	Pop Smith
11	Gus Weyhing
11	Orator Shaffer
10	Tommy Davis
10	Davy Force
10	Jim Donnelly
10	Jack Doyle
10	Paul Hines
10	Ken Brett
10	Dan Brouthers
10	Bob Miller
10	Todd Zeile

Rashomoning Kirby This is unexpected
2003-04-03 21:53
by Mike Carminati

Rashomoning Kirby

This is unexpected turn of events: Kirby Puckett was acquitted of assault charges.

Todd Jones, Puckett's lawyer, not the pitcher, claimed that Puckett was too large to have done it:

Defense attorney Todd Jones argued that the woman willingly accepted Puckett's offer to escort her into the men's room because there was a crowd outside the women's room.

Jones also said the alleged attack couldn't have happened within the short time described by the woman and her friends, given the tight confines of the men's room and Puckett's large size.

So his story was that he was a gentleman and her's was he was a rapist? There seems to be a piece missing here.

Playing Games: Back-Gammons, Chass, and
2003-04-03 13:59
by Mike Carminati

Playing Games: Back-Gammons, Chass, and Simple Simon, II

My friend Murray has a good point:

So, Frank Robinson says that it was a cab ride to dead center at the Polo Grounds? Do you think he minded the 279' left field line? Does he exclude the "Chinese Home Runs" (there's a term you can't use any more, but that's what they called them in the heyday of baseball under Coogan's Bluff) he hit there from his career totals? How about Fenway before they built the 600 Club? Is Frank going to give back his Boston HRs?

The same people complain that it's impossible to hit homers at the new Tiger Stadium (I've decided not to use new ballpark names I dislike--feel free to join the movement)...

Selective memory is a dangerous thing. What deserves a little more play is the idea that we abandoned the minimum distance requirements. And architectural curiosities in dimensions that have no real-estate based purposes in the new parks annoy me.

I couldn't agree more. As far as cheap home runs look no further than Ned Williamson's 1884 season with the Cubbies. His 27 homers were greatly aided by the ground rules and a short rightfield porch in Lake Front Park. Balls over the fence counted only as a double prior to 1884. In 1885, West Side Park became the home of the Cubs (then still White Stockings). Williamson's "record" stood until the age of Ruth. Actually, it was unearthed when they were investigating how unique were Ruth's home run feats. He finally was credited with the record before he relinquished it to Ruth.

Minor Openings Today is minor-league
2003-04-03 11:52
by Mike Carminati

Minor Openings

Today is minor-league opening day.

Stand up in your place of work, grab the nearest thing that resembles a bat, place it on your forward, lean over, and perform your own dizzy bat contest as a tribute to that event.

I just got my annual Baseball Almanac's Directory the other day. I love to sit down and asses the changes throughout orgaized ball and as well asin independent ball. With the popularity of minor-league ball in the last decade, possibly due to the labor strife and the attendant disaffection of the fanbase, a number of old-time baseball hotbeds which had subsequently lost their teams were experiencing a rebirth (replete with silly looking hats, gregarious mascots, and ludicrous nicknames). The Directory is the best source for independent and foreign leagues. It also correlates the changes within organized ball from the present to the previous year, which a lot of guides overlook. It's my extension of the incredible Encyclopedia of Minor League Baseball, which is a good six years out of date (even with a second edition).

Maybe if I have time tonight, I will go through the Directory and list the changes throughout the minors along with the history of the towns that have acquired a team.

Jeremy Lost in Class Today
2003-04-03 00:27
by Mike Carminati

Jeremy Lost in Class Today

The name's Bonderman, Jeremy Bonderman, and he lost 8-1 to the Twins tonight. But that's not the big story. Bonderman is just 20 and skipped directly from Single-A to the majors. It seems that the Tigers minor-league system is so depleted that Bonderman plus three Rule V draftees made the staff--for lack of a better word--, all of whom pitched in tonight's masterpiece.

Bonderman gave up 9 hits and 6 runs (all earned) in four innings of work. He did strike out 5 to only one walk, however.

By the way, here is the all-time record for 20-year-old pitchers: 2201 wins and 2463 losses for a .472 winning percentage and a 3.72 ERA. There have been 634 such pitchers in major-league history. They average 3.47 wins and 3.88 losses in 12.7 games, only 7.9 of which are starts. Silver King and Larry Corcoran both had over 40 wins in their 20th year, but let's just say that the odds are not in Bonderman's favor.

A-Rod's Sneaky Fast At the
2003-04-02 23:59
by Mike Carminati

A-Rod's Sneaky Fast

At the ripe old age of 27 years and 249 days old, Alex Rodriguez became the youngest player to reach 300 home runs tonight with a three-run short off Ramon Ortiz.

Here are the all-time leaders in home runs hit before the season in which a player was 28 for most of the year:

Name	HR
Jimmie Foxx	302
Eddie Mathews	299
Alex Rodriguez	298
Ken Griffey Jr.	294
Frank Thomas	287
Mickey Mantle	280
Mel Ott		275
Frank Robinson	262
Juan Gonzalez	256
Hank Aaron		253
Johnny Bench	240
Jose Canseco	235
Harmon Killebrew	223
Orlando Cepeda	223
Joe DiMaggio	219
Willie Mays	216
Ralph Kiner	215
Darryl Strawberry	215
Rocky Colavito	209
Vladimir Guerrero	209
Hal Trosky		205
Boog Powell	202

I have not much to say other than A-Rod is obviously in some very good company at the top of that list.

Mighty Almonte Rookie replacement Erick
2003-04-02 23:44
by Mike Carminati

Mighty Almonte

Rookie replacement Erick Almonte looked good in tonight's Yankee-Blue Jay game. He went two-for-five with a homer and three RBI. The homer was a nice line drive to center. The kid really seemed to enjoy it. Maybe he was stagnating in the minors the last year or so. The YES announcers had the gaul to mention Wally Pipp--that's a low blow at Jeter.

Speaking of shortstops, Mike Bordick committed his first error in 110 games 544 chances, both records. It was a high-hopper that short-hopped right in front of him. It was a tough play with which to break an error streak, but he should have had it.

Bordick also struck out against former Oriole teammate, Mike Mussina, for the first time in 48 at-bats. The YES announcers called this "historic", which is ludicrous. It's a coincidence, plain and simple. Very few things are historic in 48 at-bats. If you look at Bordick's stats, the only time he struck out often is when he and Mussina were teammates (all but one of his 60+ strikeout seasons were with Baltimore 1997-2000). It was great that they mentioned his purportedly league-leading stat right before he struck out.

News of the Stupid Thanks
2003-04-02 16:35
by Mike Carminati

News of the Stupid

Thanks to Erubiel Durazo, my Rotisserie, nee Fantasy, team is in first place.

I just wanted to post that since my tenure there will be short-lived as usual.

To quote, Max Bialystock, "That's it, baby, when you've got it, flaunt it, flaunt it!"

Inaction in Action Congress has
2003-04-02 16:28
by Mike Carminati

Inaction in Action

Congress has now decided to roll up its collective sleeves and start to pour over baseball-related ephedra data. The House Energy and Commerce Committee contacted Bud Selig and Donald Fehr for any and all documentation.

Now we'll see some action on the topic.

The pork-bellyists are probably just looking to put some pressure on the majors to move the Expos to the D.C. area. God bless them.

Percentage of Foreign Ballplayers on
2003-04-02 15:55
by Mike Carminati

Percentage of Foreign Ballplayers on Rise Along with Xenophobia Nationwide

MLB reports that the percentage of foreign-born major-league players continued to rise this year and now stands at nearly 28%. It should continue to increase as 46% of minor-leaguers are imports as well. In both cases the Dominican Republic, though only half an island, leads all coutries.

Here's a little table of the number of foreign-born players by year and expressed as a percentage of the entire major-league population. Note that the percentages are very high at first with the English-born cricket players and the German-born immigrants finding homes in the majors. It tapers off in the Twenties and has been on a pretty steady rise since the late Forties. Even though the Twenties are considered a Golden Age for the sport, there are no African-Americans and very few foreign-born players represented. Hmm...

Year	#Foreign	# Players	% Foreign
1871	13	115	11.30%
1872	12	156	7.69%
1873	11	125	8.80%
1874	8	123	6.50%
1875	16	218	7.34%
1876	9	124	7.26%
1877	6	97	6.19%
1878	6	80	7.50%
1879	6	127	4.72%
1880	10	135	7.41%
1881	11	132	8.33%
1882	21	251	8.37%
1883	22	282	7.80%
1884	60	782	7.67%
1885	36	353	10.20%
1886	19	351	5.41%
1887	21	333	6.31%
1888	19	351	5.41%
1889	19	342	5.56%
1890	37	574	6.45%
1891	28	409	6.85%
1892	19	310	6.13%
1893	8	286	2.80%
1894	14	294	4.76%
1895	11	305	3.61%
1896	12	295	4.07%
1897	14	280	5.00%
1898	16	323	4.95%
1899	15	348	4.31%
1900	6	195	3.08%
1901	17	412	4.13%
1902	26	455	5.71%
1903	17	400	4.25%
1904	17	406	4.19%
1905	21	407	5.16%
1906	17	437	3.89%
1907	17	446	3.81%
1908	18	470	3.83%
1909	17	543	3.13%
1910	16	538	2.97%
1911	16	567	2.82%
1912	21	630	3.33%
1913	20	616	3.25%
1914	32	795	4.03%
1915	25	796	3.14%
1916	22	565	3.89%
1917	17	516	3.29%
1918	22	505	4.36%
1919	14	534	2.62%
1920	13	514	2.53%
1921	13	520	2.50%
1922	9	513	1.75%
1923	6	530	1.13%
1924	5	547	0.91%
1925	8	557	1.44%
1926	7	526	1.33%
1927	5	541	0.92%
1928	5	530	0.94%
1929	7	530	1.32%
1930	4	531	0.75%
1931	7	509	1.38%
1932	8	527	1.52%
1933	4	491	0.81%
1934	5	521	0.96%
1935	6	513	1.17%
1936	6	510	1.18%
1937	9	526	1.71%
1938	10	530	1.89%
1939	9	579	1.55%
1940	10	541	1.85%
1941	14	582	2.41%
1942	18	539	3.34%
1943	18	557	3.23%
1944	22	569	3.87%
1945	28	579	4.84%
1946	24	682	3.52%
1947	15	582	2.58%
1948	12	573	2.09%
1949	20	573	3.49%
1950	23	577	3.99%
1951	26	616	4.22%
1952	25	632	3.96%
1953	21	586	3.58%
1954	26	576	4.51%
1955	38	655	5.80%
1956	35	621	5.64%
1957	38	615	6.18%
1958	40	638	6.27%
1959	46	632	7.28%
1960	61	637	9.58%
1961	56	698	8.02%
1962	66	760	8.68%
1963	68	752	9.04%
1964	74	754	9.81%
1965	75	751	9.99%
1966	83	774	10.72%
1967	88	786	11.20%
1968	81	715	11.33%
1969	116	932	12.45%
1970	113	919	12.30%
1971	96	883	10.87%
1972	105	888	11.82%
1973	106	892	11.88%
1974	105	914	11.49%
1975	93	907	10.25%
1976	111	886	12.53%
1977	111	984	11.28%
1978	106	960	11.04%
1979	106	961	11.03%
1980	112	950	11.79%
1981	105	944	11.12%
1982	110	992	11.09%
1983	122	1006	12.13%
1984	112	984	11.38%
1985	117	998	11.72%
1986	115	1017	11.31%
1987	129	1048	12.31%
1988	144	1035	13.91%
1989	139	1073	12.95%
1990	153	1115	13.72%
1991	167	1086	15.38%
1992	164	1066	15.38%
1993	186	1180	15.76%
1994	165	1030	16.02%
1995	218	1253	17.40%
1996	235	1253	18.75%
1997	274	1236	22.17%
1998	279	1322	21.10%
1999	298	1299	22.94%
2000	330	1382	23.88%
2001	337	1339	25.17%
2002	349	1319	26.46%

Giant Among Men Our old
2003-04-02 08:54
by Mike Carminati

Giant Among Men

Our old friend John J. Perricone over at Only Baseball Matters has conquered his blogger issues (I've been there), and is again got his great site firing on all pistons. Go check out the Giants favorite blogger. Go now!

Playing Games: Back-Gammons, Chass, and
2003-04-01 23:55
by Mike Carminati

Playing Games: Back-Gammons, Chass, and Simple Simon

It's amazing to think that Bill James helped start a revolution in the way people look at sports statistics over 25 years ago with the first publication of his Abstract on his own dime in 1977. The Society of Baseball Research (SABR), an association of which I have been a member for about 10 years (though sometimes I'm not sure why), is turning 33 this year. Even people like Joe Morgan know what OPS means.

And still there is plethora of disinformation being proffered as sports journalism by the traditional news media. I have run into three such pieces of apocrypha since the beginning of the season and will now proudly debunk them here.

The first is probably the least substantive in terms of the article's quantity and quality. However, it comes from, if not the most widely respected, probably the most popular Sports Illustrated. It's entitled Hooray for Hackers, is by Jacob Luft, and has nothing to do with the horrible movie of the same title.

The author makes it clear from the start that he has no affinity for his subject matter, i.e., baseball and sabermetrics. He uses Randall Simon and Shea Hillenbrand as the poster boys for contact hitters and the prime examples of how sabermetricians get "it" wrong.

Simon and Hillenbrand had fine seasons last year and yet one was traded and the other was often the subject of trade rumors. Luft claim that those nasty sabermetricians-you know who you are!-are the ones responsible for the debasing of these fine players:

A major factor has to be the game's ongoing paradigm shift toward sabermetrics. It is no longer enough to drive in runs or put up high hit totals. To be truly valuable, the hitter must get on base at a respectable rate. Thus, Simon's measly 13 walks in 2002 undermine much of his value in the eyes of the sabermetrics crowd.

Under this system, pioneered by current Red Sox advisor Bill James years ago, being a .300 hitter doesn't carry much weight. Having an OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage) in the .800-.900 range is what matters.

First, I have to commend the author for spelling OPS correctly.

Second, he fails to understand what sabermetrics is all about. It's not to promulgate a "paradigm shift" to OPS. The point of sabermetrics is to perform some sort of analysis on he statistical record available and not just to accept baseball lore as it relates to valuing statistics and certain types of players and strategies as prima facie correct.

There has been a great deal of investigation into what player actions lead to better scoring and, therefore, wins. The overwhelming evidence points to a high on-base percentage and slugging percentage. The OPS stat has been derived to represent that. But not all sabermetricians agree that it is the best evaluative means. Some believe that multiplying the two values is superior (and there is some evidence to support that assertion). Some have tried to incorporate stolen bases and base-running in general. Most agree that OPS is a superior means of evaluating talent than batting average though.

If one looks at the earliest statistical records available from the National Association of Base Ball Players, which was formed by the original Knickerbocker nine and was the sport's first organization, one will see a "batting averages" were based not on hits per at-bat but on runs and "hands lost" (i.e., outs) per games played (with an average expressed as an integer with an "over" or remainder). This is something that correlates more directly to on-base percentage than today's batting average. They knew more back then than this rube knows today with all the evidence staring him in the face.

[I]f there is one sharp criticism of sabermetrics, it lies in the way it marginalizes contact hitters -- i.e. players like Simon and Hillenbrand.

This is just plain wrong. Sabermetrics doesn't say anything about these players. It's like saying history looks down on Napoleon. Nothing could be farther from the truth. The opinion on Napoleon varies by historian but each is informed by a thorough and methodical research of the information available. The same is true of sabermetrics. It is used to inform an opinion on players, but provides no absolutes, nor does it purport to.

Also, the OPS's, if that's what sabermetrics boils down to, for the players mentioned were good. Simon's was 11% and Hillenbrand's was 9% better than the adjusted league average. That says that they were valuable players but perhaps had room for improvement if they were to be considered "stars". Besides if a player has a hole in his game such as an inability to draw walks, it just indicates that the player could fall very quickly from the "valuable" status to "liability".

As a whole, the Angels' potent offense could be attributed to neither patience (11th in the AL in walks; last in pitches seen per plate appearance at 3.57) nor power (tied for 10th). But they did lead the league in a statistic that sabermetrics says doesn't matter much -- batting average (.282). As far as OPS, they were a respectable fifth at .773. The leaders, of course, were the mighty Yankees at .809.

When they met in the division series, the scrappy Angels' lineup caught fire and relentlessly pounded Yankees' pitchers to the tune of a .376 batting average, forcing key New York errors by doing the simple task of putting the ball in play and running the bases fearlessly. (Baserunning, by the way, is another facet of the game often denigrated by devotees of sabermetrics.)

Again here are facts that are twisted. The Angels were fourth the AL in runs last year and fifth in OPS. Yes, there is some indication that they surpassed what is expressed in their OPS, but it wasn't by much and "scrappiness" had little to do with it. By the way, the "mighty" Yankees led the AL in runs.

As far as baserunning, it is not denigrated by sabremetricians, but the stolen base statistic is not viewed as favorably by them as it is by the media proper. By the way, the Angels were a distant third in stolen bases and were seventh in stolen base percentage.

Thirty-one AL players had a higher OPS than Ichiro Suzuki's .813 last season, including the .247-hitting Robin Ventura of the Yankees. Are there 31 American Leaguers you would rather have on your team than Ichiro, who doesn't walk much or hit for power but finished second in base hits and plays a sublime right field? Didn't think so.

Ichiro is a fine player, but his second half decline was one of the factors that submarined the Mariners last year. If you look at his 2002 OPS it was only two percentage points lower than his 2001 MVP season, when compared against the park-adjusted average. What hurt Suzuki was his dropoff in stolen bases, stolen base percentage, batting average, and doubles. Most of those stats are outside the ken of sabermetricians according to Luft. And yet, they speak more loudly about his sophomore slump. Good example. Oh, and actually Ichiro more than doubled his walks in the last two years (30 to 68). That kept his OBP and therefore OPS high, but hid his slide. Good research. Besides OPS is an offensive stat and would not address his "sublime" right fielding, nor does it try to.

Lastly, he points to the only valid example, Alfonso Soriano, to scuttle the nasty sabermetricians. Most will admit that Soriano is something of anomaly. He does not walk much and has a low on-base percentage but helped the Yankees lead the league in runs scored last year. Most sabermetricians admit that Soriano is an extreme player that bends the limitations of OPS as a tool.

That is the point Luft does not get: OPS is a tool. Stolen base percent is a tool. There are lots of tools. For the average player OPS may tell most of the story, but it's not a one-size-fits-all kind of tool. It should be used appropriately. If his silly lists (are we trying to emulate Eric Young and Fernando Vina?) say anything, they shout out that baseball statistics are tools that must be understood and applied appropriately. Unfortunately, the author can do neither of those things.

Murray Chass is on equally unsure footing in his lamentation of the death of the 50-homer Gold Standard. Chass's opening salvo tells you all you need to know about the article:

The statistics have a striking symmetry: before 1995, players hit 50 or more home runs in a season 18 times; in the last eight seasons, beginning with 1995, players have hit 50 or more home runs in a season 18 times.

Either the home runs or the players, they ain't what they used to be.

This is news? Home run totals have been coming down the last two years. Everyone knows that they reached historic heights, but why bemoan the obvious now?

What we need is a good Bob Boone quote to put it all in perspective:

"I've been re-evaluating home runs forever," said Bob Boone, a former catcher who is manager of the Cincinnati Reds. "Fifty now is what 40 used to be. Thirty now is what 20 used to be." But, he added, "I don't compare them."

Boone is probably one of the least sabermetrically inclined managers around. He just rebuilt his staff in the offseason around 15-game-winner Jimmy Haynes because he won 15 games, and Boone cares not a whit how ugilily they were won. Meanwhile, he jettisoned Chris Reitsma because he lost.

Anyway, "50 now is what 40 used to be" when? That's the rub. What's the standard given that number of homers hit has fluctuated greatly in the last hundred or so years. Players in the Seventies hit far fewer than they did in the Sixties and than they do today: The homer per at-bat percentage in 1976 was exactly half that of 2000. However, it was also about 50% lower than 1961's percentage.

Andy McPhail was a bit more circumspect:

"The game evolves," he said. "It's always changing, always evolving. This is one aspect of it...

"The culture of the game has changed. It used to be that strikeouts were humiliating and unacceptable. Today it's more acceptable. Close to 25 percent of the outs are strikeouts. You have players taking a 2-2 swing today they didn't take 20 years ago. Putting the ball in play is not in favor as it once was."

Thank you, sir. And what have you done with the real Andy McPhail?

Of course, Chass's research degenerates into old ballplayers curmudgeonly devaluing the accomplishments of these young whippersnappers today. Frank Robinson harkens back to the glory days of the Polo Grounds:

"The Polo Grounds was a cab ride to center field. There's no place for a pitcher today to get hitters out."

Look the Polo Grounds is long dead and never is coming back. It's not the players' fault that the owners are building bandboxes. Evidently, they prefer more home runs as long as they're hit by the home team. And if pitchers need a place to get batters out today, look no further than homeplate. The likelihood of a strikeout is tremendously higher today.

Here's what Cecil "Big Daddy" Fielder had to say about today's players with a dollap of steroids added in for good measure:

"I hit 50 home runs one year when no one was hitting 50 home runs. Now everybody, even the little guys, are hitting 50 home runs."

Ultrathin Luis Gonzalez has a good retort for that:

"During my 50 homers I remember, in San Francisco, half the crowd was yelling 'steroids,' at me and the other half was yelling 'stick man.' ''

Chass then uses it as an excuse for future Hall-of-Fame snubbings of today's players:

Home run inflation could also affect the way Hall of Fame voters view career totals. Voters have always accepted 500 as automatic fame certification, but by the time Palmeiro and McGriff appear on the ballot, they may look at that number differently.

Look, the Seventies players are languishing waiting to get into the Hall because homers dropped off. You can't use the same standard to now keep the best players from the homer-happy era to be overlooked. This is just typical it-was-better-in-my-day-ism.

Bob Boone then gives us a Physics lesson that almost makes sense:

Today's players use smaller and lighter bats, the better to generate bat speed, which in turn creates power. Boone recalled that Fred Lynn, in the late 70's, initiated that trend.

"E equals MC squared," Boone said. "Reduced mass, but you get more velocity."

So is Booney saying that the bats are traveling at the speed of light? As Robert K. Adair explains in The Physics of Baseball, baseballs are indeed hit farther when the bat striking the ball travels faster. It's a linear progression. However, the speed of a pitched ball also has a direct, linear effect on the distance that a batted ball will travel. So maybe all of those juicy strikeouts get pitchers thinking about blowing pitches past batters, but instead induce more home runs.

There is actually some decent commentary in the mix with Jamie Moyer adding the following:

"Twenty-five, 30 years ago," he said, "did guys drive the ball out of the ballpark the opposite way as much as they do today? Probably not. What does that tell you? To me, it says they're looking for a ball over the plate more."

Of course, and they are hanging all over the plate and are back in the box to get an edge. Umps don't enforce the batters box. And it's pandemonium.

But for the all of the decent commentary, Chass piles on the old shinola so deep you have to wade through to get to the tootsie roll center.

Next, we go from the sublimely ridiculous to a parody of parity, with the superannuated and rather prolix scribblings of Mssr. Pedro Gammons. Peter the Grate starts off with a little history lesson and then proceeds to build on that foundation of sand:

It was only two years ago when the season opened and Bud Selig said two-thirds of the teams in baseball knew they had no hope of playing in the postseason. We all know there was a labor negotiation and contraction in the back of Selig's mind, but here it is 2003 and close to two-thirds of the teams have a right to trot out on Opening Day believing that if the moon and stars are aligned and the creeks don't rise, they could squeeze through the cracks to play in October.

Wait a sec-we know that Selig's assertion, aside from being debilitating for the sport, was inaccurate. Here's a quick table of the number of teams per decade that either won its league or qualified for the playoffs per decade:

Decade	#teams
1870s	5
1880s	11
1890s	5
1900s	8
1910s	11
1920s	9
1930s	8
1940s	10
1950s	7
1960s	12
1970s	14
1980s	21
1990s	25
2000s	13

Of the 30 teams that played in the Nineties, 25 made the playoffs. Of the 5 that did not reach the postseason in the Nineties: One has since won a World Series (Anaheim), one is an expansion team that started in 1998 (Tampa Bay), two (KC and Detroit) won a World Series in the Eighties, and one (guess who) is the commissioner's current/former team. (Montreal never played in the postseason in the Nineties but "won" their division in the strike-shortened 1994 season.)

So far in the 2000s (the Aughts?), thirteen different teams have reached the playoffs, and that does not include Boston, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, the Cubs, Cincinnati, and Florida, all of whom are mentioned as playoff contenders by Gammons (not to mention Montreal and Toronto both of whom could be contenders this year).

I know that "things" changed as the decade progressed and also that the number of playoff teams grew in the Nineties. But conditions are always evolving; dynasties rise and fall. Who can say it any given moment that the current imbalance will persist? If anything, the history of the sport points to ever-greater parity.

Look at the Fifties, in which only seven different teams qualified for the postseason, imagine being a Senators or a Browns fan back then. Those seven teams were the Yankees, Dodgers-LA and Brooklyn, Phils, White Sox, Indians, Braves of Milwaukee, and the Giants, then of New York. They consisted of two teams that had not played in the postseason since the 1910s and would not again qualify for at least another 20 years (Phils and White Sox), one team that had only 2 postseason appearances to that point in the century and had to switch towns to make it back to the postseason (the Braves), one team that would have to wait forty years before its next postseason appearance (the Indians), and the three New York teams. How competitive does that sound? By the way, the Browns and Senators had their fair share of success in the Sixties but they had to move-to Baltimore and Minneapolis, respectively-in order to do it.

And yet the Fifties were considered a Golden Age. The derided Nineties had a bit of stagnation towards the end of the decade as revenues grew and the sport reeled with how to ensure that the multimillionaires could compete with the billionaires.

So Bud's assertions were a farce. They were used as a negotiating chip with the players and used well. The owners now have their welfare system in place. Bad management groups are assured of windfall profits no matter how they run their clubs, just by turning on the revenue-sharing spigot and taking a big ol' Big-Gulp-sized swig while their on-field products are dying on the vine.

So Gammons uses this to illustrate how competitive the leagues are in 2003:

So that's 11 of the 16 NL teams that at least think on Opening Day that they have a chance, seven of the 14 American League teams.

That's better than Bud Selig's "two-thirds of the teams go to spring training knowing they don't have a chance." Problem is, which statistic does the average or casual sports fan believe: the Selig 20 or the realistic 18?

Or maybe Catch-22? Gammons obviously means the Selig 10, given that "two-thirds of the teams go to spring training knowing they don't have a chance." Otherwise, 20 would be better than 18. But of course, Peter the Grate refuses to allow any other eyes to peruse his masterpieces.

Actually, there should be more teams that think they have a chance. This is one year removed from Anaheim's improbable comeback from 41 games back to World Series champ, for goodness sake. But the point is invalid given that it is built on Selig's house of cards and that it compares a relatively competitive season with a rather dynastically dominated one. They are two snapshots in time and comparing them is inappropriate to begin with.

As to which perspective the fans share, the damage done by Selig and the owners is going to take some time to undo. Once, if ever, attendance returns to the pre-strike levels, then we can say that Joe Lunchbox understands that his local Capital City Capitals are actually a competitive team.

Aside from Gammons' schizophrenic interpretation of Czar Bud's propaganda, the article is typical Gammons-ation. My favorite is his juxtaposing one good point-his only one-next to a bad one a la Joe Morgan:

[B]etween the labor talk and concentration on what takes place off, not on the field, the business has taken a hit right down to dreadful World Series television ratings directly traced to 11 months of the people who run the sport telling the audience how horrible everything had become.

Right, good. But it invalidates your Selig 20, er, I mean 10, argument. But this is followed directly by:

Just as important, the economy has dramatically impacted almost every owner and the current specter of a $1 trillion debt scares a Drayton McLane into refusing to risk $4.6 million in Shane Reynolds incentives, or shy a Red Sox ownership into declining a Jose Jimenez contract without someone, somewhere swallowing Bobby Howry.

If there were a trillion-dollar baseball debt, would the Dodgers be selling for a 100% profit in just 5 years and would the suitors for the once-lowly Expos be salivating at the chance of hosting this possibly gutted franchise in the future? Could the prospect of being on the receiving end of some juicy luxury tax dollars be driving personnel decisions? Inquiring minds want to know.

Gammons' assessment of each division's contenders is highly idiosyncratic. He disses the Expos, who finished second to the Braves last year and lionizes the hole-laden Mets and Reds. In his redundant Division Races section (didn't he just go through each division?), he surmises that it "seems very difficult for the AL West to produce the wild card for the fourth straight year because the division is so stacked." Well, wasn't the division "stacked" last year? He ignores the NL Central altogether and gives the Braves far too much credit: "Bobby Cox always figures out a way to take all those little cardboard cutouts and turn them into a finished puzzle." Well, yes but when has he had so little to work with especially on his pitching staff. Cox is a great manager, but when the Braves had very little talent in his first tour with them, he did find the going rather rough.

Gammons then proceeds to list his Individual Awards, which appear to consist of three lists, one of his favorites position players, one of his favorite pitchers, and one of his favorite rookies/minor-leaguers repeated over and over again ad nauseum. It also proves an homage to Junior Griffey, who may bounce back to near his former status but would have to be the second coming of Babe Ruth to deserve all the laurels that Gammons lays at his feet.

I don't really want to nitpick his lists. They are his opinions and they're as valid as any, but there are a few issues of note. His POISED FOR MAJOR COMEBACKS includes almost all the starting players and pitchers, who were injured last year except Darren Dreifort. Why not pick one or two instead of just giving us a laundry list of formerly injured players and guys who had large dropoffs last year? Besides, where is Jermaine Dye coming back from? He played well in his 131 games before the injury. Why not list Luis Gonzalez then?

His POISED FOR MONSTER SEASONS section ignore Barry Bonds, Brian Giles, Alex Rodriguez, Lance Berkman, and Jim Thome. Those guys were pretty good last year. It does include Edgar Martinez, who though he hit well last year, has had a precipitous dropoff in the last two years and happens to be 40. Also, A.J. Burnett is a good pitcher, but given Florida's history he may be likely to be poised for a trip to the trainer's office.

Couldn't his CHANGES TO WATCH and SIGNIFICANT IMPROVEMENTS sections been combined? How about an alterations, a modification, and a switcheroo section as well? Just a thought.

He then devotes six, count 'em six, separate sections to lists of rookies and/or minor-leaguers, that range from a few to as many as 21. Couldn't he have just rolled them all into one section entitled guys my poker-playing buddies who are baseball executives and scouts told me were good during my spring training boondoggle? Petey, leave the minor-league evaluations to John Sickels and select a handful of young players that you think will make an impact and why.

His ONE GOOD ARGUMENT section compares three young prospects Neyer style that Gammons says are in "a dead heat." However, that is the farthest thing from the truth. Reyes has a tremendous amount more minor-league experience than Ramirez and is two levels higher at the same age. Also, Reyes is two years younger than Phillips and has almost as much experience. Though their numbers are similar, Reyes has to have the edge based on his earlier ascension. I'm not saying Reyes is the best prospect, but given the criteria in his table, it looks far from "a dead heat."

Lastly, I would be remiss if I didn't point out the many grammatical errors that always attend a Gammons publication.

[C]lose to two-thirds of the teams have a right to trot out on Opening Day believing that if the moon and stars are aligned and the creeks don't rise, they could squeeze through the cracks to play in October.

Mixed metaphors much?

There are a myriad reasons why...

Ok, I'll go for "There are a myriad of reasons" or "There are myriad reasons", but this is just wrong.

Just as important, the economy has dramatically impacted almost every owner and the current specter of a $1 trillion debt scares a Drayton McLane into refusing to risk $4.6 million in Shane Reynolds incentives, or shy a Red Sox ownership into declining a Jose Jimenez contract without someone, somewhere swallowing Bobby Howry.

Run-on sentence much?

But after a season in which the Anaheim Angels slayed the mighty Yankees and scurried to the world championship, while the Minnesota Twins made it to the ALCS and the Giants were five outs away from World Series rings on a strict budget, there is a different tint to the spring's rose-colored glasses.

That sentence was an entire paragraph unto itself.

The NL East is such an unpredictable forest that probably the only team that doesn't believe it has a chance to make the postseason is Montreal, because of its schedule and the Bartolo Colon fiasco, meaning what was given up to get him and what they ultimately got in return.

Was what?! Finish your sentence or idea or whatever you call it.

Look, I make mistakes too, but I'm a one-man show. Pete's got the mighty ESPN players behind him and yet he can't use myriad correctly.

Digging Digital Cable This is
2003-04-01 22:48
by Mike Carminati

Digging Digital Cable

This is the first season opener in which I have had digital cable provide my coverage, and I cannot complain a bit. For instance, I got to watch three of the four games played so far tonight. The Yankees were available on YES and the D-Backs-Dodgers and Red Sox-D-Rays were both available for free on Fox Sports Net. I don't know if they're supposed to be free, but I went to the basbeball channels and there they were. I know that when I got digital cable towards the end of last season, I could pick up at least one and as many as four ballgames for free.

To quote Mel Brooks, "It's good to be the king."

Derek and the Dominoes, II
2003-04-01 22:43
by Mike Carminati

Derek and the Dominoes, II

There's a report out tonight that Jeter may be back as soon as four to six weeks if his shoulder does not require surgery, bit 3 to 4 months if it does.

Until that time, however long it is, recently recalled 25-year-old Erick Almonte apparently will fill in. Enrique Wilson is a talented backup but nothing more than that. Also, his versatility almost demands that he be available on the bench. Almonte has shown home run power in the minors but seemed to stagnate in the last couple of years. He was demoted to Double-A last year after almost two years at Triple-A. He batted .182 this spring and was slated for Triple-A again this year.

As the Yankees showed tonight, they can produce runs without Jeter, though of course, they prefer not to have to do so. Almonte was once a highly touted prospect and is only 25. If he can show them something in this trial, it not only would help the team on the field, he would probably be traded upon Jeter's return in som sort of prospect-for-overpaid-veteran deal.

The lineup is a concern though. Tonight they tried Nick Johnson in Jeter's number two slot, which I think is not the optimal choice. Posada with his .369 on-base percentage may be a better option though he lacks speed, strikes out often, and as a catcher may be rested a couple of times a week (at least defensively). Almonte had a decent on-base percentage in the minors, though I would think that the Yankees may want to ease him in much lower in the lineup.

Torre is aware of this:

"I don't expect the kid to come in here and be what Derek Jeter is,'' Torre said. "On the Yankees, we probably get more attention than anyone else. This kid will be under a magnifying glass.''

I remember when the Phils' Joe Morgan went down in the summer of 1983 and a kid named Juan Samuel stepped in and produced. He in turn became the future of the franchise. Unfortunately, the franchise's future was pretty bleak, but that's besides the point.

Derek and the Dominoes From
2003-04-01 12:49
by Mike Carminati

Derek and the Dominoes

From today's Lee Sinin's ATM Report:

Yankees SS Derek Jeter suffered a suffered a dislocated left shoulder in a collision at 3B with BlueJays C Ken Huckaby.

Jeter was attempting to go from 1st to 3rd on a grounder back to the mound by Jason Giambi, when he realized nobody was covering 3rd. Jeter collided when Huckaby at the base and the impact was bad.

Right after the play, I spoke with Baseball Prospectus's Will Carroll, whose initial reaction was, "Not looking good - can't find a player that came back from it in-season." Among the items in his excellent UTK [Under the Knife] reports, which is available to BP's premium subscribers, Carroll reports that one of the "frightening comparables" is Phil Nevin, who we know is out for the season.

The Yankees are expected to call up SS Erick Almonte today.

Ouch! That's going to hurt. You have to respect Jeter for going down making a heads-up play. I guess if you live by the sword, yuddah yuddah.

A Monarch in the Bronx
2003-04-01 12:41
by Mike Carminati

A Monarch in the Bronx

Alex Belth's interviews Buck O'Neil. It reads like a lost chapter from The Glory of Their Times.

Billy Ray Valentine Was Right
2003-04-01 12:17
by Mike Carminati

Billy Ray Valentine Was Right

"They're out there panicking. I can feel it." (Maybe they won't be able to buy their children the G.I. Joe with the Kung-Fu grip.)

Apparently, one loss is enough to cause the Red Sox to start rethinking the so-called "closer-by-committee" approach. My friend Mike sent me this article from The Boston Globe.

Chad Fox has yet to set foot in Fenway Park as a member of the Red Sox, but he knows what you're thinking. The Committee should be disbanded. Immediately. Don't even bother counting the votes.

Here's what I had to say about it:

It's interesting that the guy who blew the ballgame yesterday is against the "closer by committee".

It's all perception so it's a fragile thing. James claims that he does not advocate a closer by committee. He prefers using the best reliever at the best time, be it the 7th or the 9th inning. One could argue that Embree and Fox were not the best relievers. But Embree came in to face three left-handers and gave up two hits to one and a homer to a pinch-hitter for the third. Fox basically missed 2002, so bringing him in the first time in the 9th in a 4-3 ballgame is perhaps inappropriate. You know, they are condemning the closer by committee, but a 4-1 ballgame may not even be an opportunity to bring in the closer, expecially with three lefties coming up. Maybe they go to Embree even with Urbina in the pen.

I love that Embree's zero-out, three-hit, three-run performance merits a hold. Also, I love Terry Shumpert's homer pinch-hitting for Al Martin.

Also, I love Piniella's lineup with Travis Lee batting cleanup (!). Also, love the three lefties bunched in the 3-4-5-6 slots. I guess he was trying to get as much leverage as possible against Pedro, but the funny thing is that it didn't help until the lefty came in.

By the way, I'm glad that Rick "Wild Thing" Vaughn is still working in the baseball business now that the "Major League" movies jumped the shark with the help of Ted McGinley.

YES, We Have No Yankee
2003-04-01 01:00
by Mike Carminati

YES, We Have No Yankee Games..., II

YES and Cablevision struck a deal just hours before the Yankee opener.

Now if they could just do something about Suzyn Waldman...

None But the Brave Greg
2003-04-01 00:51
by Mike Carminati

None But the Brave

Greg Maddux got rocked today, 10-2. Maddux only allowed 5 of those runs (4 earned) in seven innings, but obviously it was not a typical Maddux day. The Braves once-vaunted but now-rebuilt bullpen gave up five runs on 5 hits and 4 walks in four innings. Mike Hampton and Paul Byrd are on the DL. Tom Glavine, who left the Braves this offseason but whose name is synonymous with the team, lost 15-2. Meanwhile, Kevin Millwood is plying his trade now with the Phils, and was the only one of once Braves' Big 3 to win today.

Do you know who the pitcher for the Braves' next game is?

Horacio Ramirez. Ramirez is a 23-year-old pitcher who's already had Tommy John surgery and was 9-5 in 16 starts at Double-A last year. And he's pitching the Braves' second game of the year.

That and today's game should tell you that the NL East is not going to be dominated by a runaway Braves team this year. It's going to be quite a struggle. The Braves haven't been this weak since the glory days of Dale Murphy. I'm kvelling.

Dusty Baker Officially a Genius
2003-04-01 00:33
by Mike Carminati

Dusty Baker Officially a Genius

The Cubs unmercilessly pounded the Mets at Shea today, 15-2. Besides the miserable play of the Mets, at bat, on the mound, and in the field, the Cubs' and Dusty Baker's every postseason move gelled perfectly:

- Mark Grudzielanek, the veteran who played sparingly this spring and yet unseated highly touted rookie Bobby Hill and became the leadoff hitter in the process despite a .324 on-base percentage, went 3-for-3 with a walk and a run scored.

- Alex Gonzalez, who owned a .306 in-base percentage and yet is batting second, went 2-for-5 with a walk and a run scored.

- Corey Patterson, who was NOT traded for Mike Lowell in the offseason, was the star going 4-for-6 with 2 runs scored, 2 home runs, and 7, count 'em, 7 RBI.

I criticized Dusty Baker and the Cubs for many of the moves that they made, but on this day Dusty is a genius. Now let's see what the Cubs can do against a team that plays defense.

The Mets, on the other hand, seemed to continue their woes from the first half of 2002. Roger Cedeno, who is inexplicably playing center over Shinjo and Timo Perez--OK Shinjo is a righty--, went 0-for-3 in the leadoff spot and misplayed a Mark Bellhorn fly into a triple. In fact, the top three spots for New York were 0-for-9, but they did draw three walks. The only man with more than one hit was also the only man with an extra-base hit, Jeromy Burnitz. Tom Glavine was booed off the mound in the fourth, after throwing 90 pitches and facing 21 batters. Mike Bacisk "took one for the team" with a nine-run performance in 2 innings (on 4 hits, one of which was the Bellhorn "triple"). The Mets gave up 16 hits and 12 walks for a WHIP of 3.11.

Somewhere Bobby Valentine is laughing his tuccus off. Meanwhile, the Mets appear set to sign retread Shane Reynolds. And around we go...

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