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


Cone of Silence
2003-05-31 01:43
by Mike Carminati

David Cone made it official today: He is retiring after a 17-year career with eight different clubs (well, if you include his two stints with KC, Toronto, and NY Mets) explaining, "This is the end, for sure." The 40-year-old's spot is being taken by 420year-old John Franco who returns after an almost two-year absence. So it goes for the Mets.

Cone is a very intelligent and well-spoken man. He was a money pitcher who recorded a perfect game, won a Cy Young, and was on 5 World Series champions (with a 2-0 record and 2.12 ERA). He was a 20-game winner twice, 10 years apart, and won 194 in total with a .606 winning percentage. Cone appeared in five All-Star games and led his league in strikeouts twice. He had a very solid career but not a Hall-of-Fame type one, right?

That was one of my first thoughts when he retired, "Oh, well. He'll be remembered but won't go in the Hall." That's kind of an obnoxious thing to think on the day a guy retires, but I have to report that I thought it. However, as I was reviewing his stats on, I noticed that he is very close to qualifying by the Bill James Hall tests:

Black Ink: Pitching - 19 (Average HOFer ~ 40)
Gray Ink: Pitching - 165 (Average HOFer ~ 185)
HOF Standards: Pitching - 39.0 (Average HOFer ~ 50)
HOF Monitor: Pitching - 97.0 (Likely HOFer > 100)

He is low in Black Ink (number of times leading a league in any stat), but then again so are most modern players because of the greater number of players today. He's pretty close in the other three categories. He also has two Hall-of-Famers in his similar pitchers list plus a number of near HoF types:

Similar Pitchers

Dwight Gooden (947) Tommy Bridges (914) Kevin Brown (911) Bob Welch (902) Dave Stieb (902) Orel Hershiser (897) Dazzy Vance (890) * Bob Lemon (888) * Dave McNally (887) Jack Stivetts (885) * = Hall of Famer

That got me to thinking, what if I constructed a list of similar pitchers to determine where he falls in major-league history. I selected a list of pitchers who won at least 175 games but no more than 225, had a winning percentage .600 or over, and had an ERA under 3.50. Here's the list:

David Cone made it official today: He is retiring after a 17-year career with eight different clubs (well, if you include his two stints with KC, Toronto, and NY Mets) explaining, "This is the end, for sure." The 40-year-old's spot is being taken by 420year-old John Franco who returns after an almost two-year absence. So it goes for the Mets. Cone is a very intelligent and well-spoken man. He was a money pitcher who recorded a perfect game, won a Cy Young, and was on 5 World Series champions (with a 2-0 record and 2.12 ERA). He was a 20-game winner twice, 10 years apart, and won 194 in total with a .606 winning percentage. Cone appeared in five All-Star games and led his league in strikeouts twice. He had a very solid career but not a Hall-of-Fame type one, right? That was one of my first thoughts when he retired, "Oh, well. He'll be remembered but won't go in the Hall." That's kind of an obnoxious thing to think on the day a guy retires, but I have to report that I thought it. However, as I was reviewing his stats on, I noticed that he is very close to qualifying by the Bill James Hall tests:
Black Ink: Pitching - 19 (Average HOFer ~ 40) Gray Ink: Pitching - 165 (Average HOFer ~ 185) HOF Standards: Pitching - 39.0 (Average HOFer ~ 50) HOF Monitor: Pitching - 97.0 (Likely HOFer > 100)
He is low in Black Ink (number of times leading a league in any stat), but then again so are most modern players because of the greater number of players today. He's pretty close in the other three categories. He also has two Hall-of-Famers in his similar pitchers list plus a number of near HoF types:
Similar Pitchers Dwight Gooden (947) Tommy Bridges (914) Kevin Brown (911) Bob Welch (902) Dave Stieb (902) Orel Hershiser (897) Dazzy Vance (890) * Bob Lemon (888) * Dave McNally (887) Jack Stivetts (885) * = Hall of Famer
That got me to thinking, what if I constructed a list of similar pitchers to determine where he falls in major-league history. I selected a list of pitchers who won at least 175 games but no more than 225, had a winning percentage .600 or over, and had an ERA under 3.50. Here's the list:

Allie Reynolds1821073.30.630
Art Nehf1841203.20.605
Bob Caruthers218992.83.688
Bob Lemon2071283.23.618
Carl Mays2071262.92.622
Chief Bender2121272.46.625
Dave McNally1841193.24.607
Deacon Phillippe1891092.59.634
Ed Reulbach1821062.28.632
Jack Chesbro1981322.68.600
Jesse Tannehill1971162.79.629
Larry Corcoran177892.36.665
Lefty Gomez1891023.34.649
Lon Warneke1921213.18.613
Randy Johnson2241063.06.679
Sam Leever1941002.47.660
Stan Coveleski2151422.89.602
Urban Shocker1871173.17.615
Allie Reynolds1821073.30.630
Art Nehf1841203.20.605
Bob Caruthers218992.83.688
Bob Lemon2071283.23.618
Carl Mays2071262.92.622
Chief Bender2121272.46.625
Dave McNally1841193.24.607
Deacon Phillippe1891092.59.634
Ed Reulbach1821062.28.632
Jack Chesbro1981322.68.600
Jesse Tannehill1971162.79.629
Larry Corcoran177892.36.665
Lefty Gomez1891023.34.649
Lon Warneke1921213.18.613
Randy Johnson2241063.06.679
Sam Leever1941002.47.660
Stan Coveleski2151422.89.602
Urban Shocker1871173.17.615

That's not a bad list. Of 19 pitchers, There are three Hall of Famers plus Johnson who seems a lock right now. The rest of the list consists of guys who were just a step below the men who made it in the Hall. His 205 career Win Shares bear that out as well. It's only good for 519th place tied with the likes of Hippo Vaughn, Jim Perry, Pat Zachary, and Bobby Thomson.

I think that's an appropriate place for Cone. I wonder what will be his fate when he becomes eligible. He's seems too good a pick to be dropped upfront by the voters. However, his numbers will never be enough to build a consensus. He's the type of player who will float in limbo perhaps for the full 15 years, if they don't change the system first. After that, who knows, some former teammates may put in him via the Veterans' Committee. I doubt it but it could happen. There are worse pitchers in the Hall after all.

Not All Ks Are Alike
2003-05-30 20:01
by Mike Carminati

The estimable Leonard Koppett has an interesting article on the inherent inaccuracy of pitch counts. He rightly argues that lumping pitches that are called strikes, pitches that are fouled off, and pitches that are struck for either an out or a hit under one umbrella called strike misrepresents the calliber of the pitcher's performance.

On my scorecard I record each pitch. I have a separate section under the batter's diamond for all the pitches thrown against that batter. I have symbols for a ball (B), a strike swinging (K), a called strike (backwards K), a foul fly (F), a pitched fouled back (backwards F), a foul tip (T), a check swing (check), a ball bunted foul (f), a pitch out (O), a hit batsman (H), an intentional ball (I), a wild pitch (W), and a ball put in play (P). I record all of these events on the sheet and then when I taly them for the inning, I just record balls and strikes. I think I'll take Koppett's advice and break strikes down into balls in play and ones not struck.

Everybody try it: it's what the cool sabermatricians are doing.

Bruin June Swoon
2003-05-30 19:41
by Mike Carminati

Our old friend Christian Ruzich investigates the history of the Cubs' woes in June. I thought it ended with the demise of day games at Wrigley but Christian proves otherwise.

Let's hope for Christian's sake the Cubbies can shake their blues in 2003.

2003-05-30 01:41
by Mike Carminati

I used to enjoy ESPN's The Sports Reporters. It was a Meet the Press for the sports world. They discussed the issues of the day in a humorous, but still journalistic vein. Host Dick Schaap was a dignified, well-spoken, diplomatic consensus builder resolving any issue among his guests with a droll aside. I looked forward to it every Sunday.

Little did I know that it would lead to sports journalism being ruled by sound-bite heads shouting each other down.

Schaap passed away, and with him the spirit of the show died. But that didn't stop ESPN from proliferating the show with The Sports Reporters II, Pardon the Interruption, and now the Jim Rome Is Burning (we don't need no water yudda yudda) show. Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon were frequent guests on the old Sports Reporters and had their fair share of gibes and well-played points, but they were always within the Schaap-inspired context of the show. As the hosts of PTI, Kornheiser and Wilbon "play" two angry sports fans shouting at each other with ill-conceived, ill-researched, and ill-mannered opinions, or more to the point rants (not that there's anything wrong with it). Bob Ryan, another frequent Sports Reporter guest was suspended recently by the Boston Globe for obnoxious comments he made about Jason Kidd's wife that must have sounded like a great sound-bite to his id at the time.

That is the root of the problem, this type of "reporting" is so contextually based that unbelievable comments may be uttered by somewhat intelligent people but they sound reasonable at the time. It's some ultra-cool sports journalism Fight Club that is understood on a visceral level but nobody talks about (since that's the first rule of Fight Club after all).

Along the same lines, a guilty pleasure appeared on Comedy Central a few years ago that poked fun at the politically correct world with two hosts who played dumb boors but were obviously smart, sophisticated individuals. Yes, they were offensive but they made fun of themselves and the medium they exploited. I'm talking about Frasier of course? No, sad to say, I mean The Man Show. I never watched it regularly but if I passed it by channel surfing, it was always good for a chuckle or two. When one of the hosts, Jimmy Kimmel, was given his own late-night show, I thought that he could shake up the genre the way Letterman did in the Eighties. Unfortunately, his show has been a crashing bore and will probably soon go the way of the deer-in-the-headlights-ness that was the Chevy Chase Show.

What do these two things have to do with each other you ask?

Enter one Bill Simmons, who is a columnist of sorts for ESPN2 (the Deuce, you say?). He is a sound-biter of the highest, or lowest, order as well as a writer on the ill-fated Kimmel Dead show.

Simmons recently wrote about Roger Clemens' failed attempt to secure his 300th win against his former teammates and Mr. (and I use the word loosely) Simmons' favorite team, the Red Sox. You see, Simmons still carries a grudge against Clemens for having the audacity to have left his beloved Sox in the first place. He wrote an article a few years ago explaining why Clemens is the antichrist. It's kind of a funny idea if done with the proper tone, but Simmons' ham-fisted screed against Clemens that totally ignored the facts regarding Clemens' career as well as his departure from Beantown was far from funny. It was a good sound bite though. He presented the rest of the sports world as some sort of idealized Rockwellian romp that was despoiled by the roué (Clemens), who deflowered the girl, er, franchise while continually twirling his evil moustache.

In the non-300-win article, Simmons calls Clemens a "traitor" who "sold out an entire city. He didn't care about us." Simmons relayed that when Clemens was hit on the hand during win 299, also against the Red Sox, he "was muttering under my breath, 'I hope it's broken in eight places.'" Look, I'm a Philadelphia fan, and I know mean-spirited fandom.

I have witnessed, but never participated in, my fellow fans cheering a severe injury to the Cowboy's Michael Irving, throwing batteries at J.D. Drew, and throwing snowballs at Santa Claus. And even I cannot understand wishing serious injury to an opposing player, especially one who for so long plied his trade for your team. When Robert Person entered the Clemens game as a Red Sox reliever, I gave him a hand, not that he could hear it (or heaven forefend, the Yankees fans in my section could), but he had played for my Phils and I just wanted to tip my cap to him.

So back to the mouth that roared: why did Simmons so hate Clemens that he would enjoy a serious injury to the Rocket? He gives us three reasons in his diatribe-"there are three smoking guns against Clemens which are indisputable". I will list them and review the basis in reality, if any, in each:

"1. After signing with Toronto -- and let there be no doubt, Clemens grabbed the highest offer -- he didn't spend more than five seconds thanking the Boston fans in the 'I'm fleeing for Canada even though I always said I would only play for Boston or Texas' press conference."

So? Ballplayers say a lot of things. "I'll never play for them" or "I only want to play for them" or "it's not about the money". Playing baseball is a job. It's always been a job and it will always be a job. If your heroes don't live up to your expectations by taking less money to stay with an organization that sees him as being in "the twilight of his career" when he still have at least three Cy Youngs in his arm, then maybe you should stick to fiction instead of reality.

Clemens was a free agent. Toronto offered him a lot of money. Dan Duquette was busy running the Red Sox into the ground. He didn't believe in Clemens. He wrote at the time:

"For a number of reasons -- such as his health and conditioning, poor run support and minimal support from the bullpen -- his record and performance had slipped in his last few years with the Red Sox."

Tom Verducci has a great response to this:

The numbers clearly do not suggest that Clemens let himself go physically. In fact, he averaged a whopping 125 pitches per start in '96, a career high. And if somehow you did think Clemens wasn't in proper condition while posting the second-best strikeout rate of his career and throwing his career high in pitches per start, wouldn't you keep him to find out what he could do by "getting into shape?"

Clemens did have a few injuries toward the end of his career with Boston, but isn't that part of the game? Doesn't it happen to a number of athletes without the claim that they are "dogging it"?

For Clemens' part he explains the departure as so:

"It's no different than one corporation asking you to work for them, saying we want you, and the other corporation lets you go," Clemens said. "It's pretty easy. If [the Red Sox] had gotten anywhere close in the ballpark it would have been an easy decision [to stay]."

Bill, if CNN/SI offered you twice what you were making at ESPN, are you seriously going to tell us that you would stay with ESPN? If so, you are as dumb as you sound.

Look, sports are big business. He worked his tail off; he left. Now move on.

As shall I, to this "throwing the fans a bone issue." What bone? And to whom should he throw it? Simmons talks about Drew Bledsoe taking out full-page ads thanking the fans. Well, that's nice, but he still left and what does your "thank you" get you? Besides why thank a city and a team that had made it clear you were no longer wanted.

"2. The following spring, Mr. Ungrateful arrived in Toronto in the best shape of his career. Why? As he kept telling reporters, he wanted to prove to Boston management that they were wrong about him."

Maybe Clemens wanted to prove that he was not in the twilight of his career. He had a personal challenge and he did his best to overcome it.

David Eckstein is revered for considering his height, or lack thereof, as a personal challenge that he had to overcome. Sports figures especially the ones getting longer in the tooth are fighting the detritus that befalls their bodies on a daily basis. So Clemens had a place to focus that challenge, the Red Sox management. He got himself in great shape and owes the latter half of his career to that training regimen. Good for him.

J-Lo uses a past relationship that ended badly to impel her forward and she's Driven. Clemens does it and he's a wicked a-hole? He was no longer on your team. When he was, he pitched well. Move on.

"3. Frustrated by the losing in Toronto, Clemens orchestrates a shady trade to our archrivals -- the Yankees, a little like switching over from the Bloods to the Crips -- with help from an illegal 'You can ask for a trade if you're not happy after two years' clause in his contract."

First, "illegal"? If the contract were illegal, why didn't the Jays take it to court?

Second, he was 35 and coming of his best back-to-back years of his career. His team was treading water, and he wanted a championship. He had an opportunity to go to a sports dynasty. Why not explore that opportunity?

No one forced the Blue Jays to offer Clemens an out in his contract. They're big boys with big lawyers, who all knew what the implications were. They got three major-league players in the trade so don't bleed for the Blue Jays.

Besides, aren't you a Red Sox fan? What do you care if Clemens screws over Toronto? What does it have to do with you?

And don't talk about shady trades when Boston has been able to exploit its close ties to Bud Selig to pick a star player off of the baseball-owned Expos roster and retrieve a player who had signed a contract with a Japanese team. Let's discuss illegalities for a second...

To sum up, "he just doesn't give a crap. And that's the root of the problem here. That's why Roger Clemens is the only modern-day superstar who doesn't belong to a single city."

First, that's not true. Bonds played for Pittsburgh and the Giants. Maddux, the Cubs and Braves. Glavine, the Braves and Mets. Randy Johnson, four clubs. And your beloved Pedro Martinez started life as a Dodger, blossomed as an Expo, and then was wrested away from Montreal by a richer organization, your Sox. And by the way, Larry Bird coached the Pacers, not the Celtics. And you beloved Bobby Orr finished his career with the Blackhawks, you moron--sorry, it just slipped out.

And second, of course Clemens doesn't care about you. Is he supposed to be altruistic or is he supposed to play baseball? As Durocher said, "Nice guys finish last." You had a great pitcher for many years. That does not mean that he has to send you flowers the morning after or call you the next week. The fans are big boys. They can handle it.

By the way, Simmons says that:

There are many ways to figure out true Sox fans -- like when someone calls Bill Mueller "Mule-er" (it's pronounced like "Miller")

Are you really that mental? Mueller played seven seasons in San Fran and Chicago before you, who are afflicted with a Boston-strain of baseball myopia, discovered him.

This is really what it's all about, isn't it? I have defended my choice of Boston fans as the best on my "About Me" to Yankees fans on numerous occasions. I harken back to my days at Fenway when I lived in Boston in the late Eighties and Early Nineties. It was a time when older fans seemed to collect around the infield portion of the stands keeping score and discussing the pros and cons of certain strategies employed in the game. In the outfield bleachers, younger fans enjoyed a college-like atmosphere, tossing beach balls and acting obstreperously charming.

I finally realize that those days are gone. Maybe it was the strike. Maybe it was Dan Duquette. Maybe it was the end of the Yawkey regime. Maybe it was the deification of this "Curse of the Bambino" tripe.

Whatever the cause, I can no longer characterize the Red Sox fans as the most intelligent any longer. When the spirit of the fans is typified by troglodytic, self-involved, self-important horses asses like Simmons, I have to reassess my opinion. For the time being, I'll leave the space fallow while I mull it over. It's not as if it matters to anyone else, but it matters to me.

Reconciliation in a Nationally-Televised Commercial...Priceless
2003-05-29 23:42
by Mike Carminati

Apparently, George Steinbrenner and Derek Jeter are not only willing to bury the hatchet, they are happy to be paid to do so according to this NY Post article from my friend Mike. The Boss and the playboy will poke fun at this past ofseason's imbroglio with, what else, a VISA commercial. To paraphrase Gil Scott-Heron, the reconciliation will be televised.

It's too bad that the lightheartedness of this commercial belies what has been an acrimonious 6 months for the Bombers. Maybe this is Steinbrenner's first of many attempts at fence-mending, but it seems that as this ad ends one contoversy another mushrooms in its place. I get the feeling that if things don't go their way this season, the Boss is going to make some sweeping changes for 2004, and Joe Torre and his staff seem to head that list.

Good Thing He Doesn't Get Rattled at Yankee Stadium
2003-05-29 17:03
by Mike Carminati

ESPN reports that the Red Sox and Diamondbacks have agreed in principle to swap Shea "Scotty Cooper II" Hillenbrand for Byung-Hyun "Derek Lowe II" Kim. Apparently, the D'Backs are ready to give up on underproducing Matt Williams. The Red Sox have a starting third baseman in Bill Mueller and can replace Hillenbrand easily at first with either Jeremy Giambi or Kevin Millar. They get a tail-end starter or possible closer.

Grading Grady
2003-05-29 00:51
by Mike Carminati

The Yankees won the rubber match in their series with the Red Sox at Yankee Stadium in a rather odd fashion. After being led by Mike Musina for eight strong innings, the righty allowed two baserunners in the ninth and was replace by closer Mariano Rivera. Rivera proceeded to give up five hits and allow the Red Sox to tie the game in his one-inning performance but he earned the win because of an unusual couple of plays.

The score was tied, 5-5, there were two out, and there were men at first and second. The lead runner, Hillenbrand, was the go-ahead run. On the next play, Trot Nixon hit a ground ball that went through Todd Zeile at first and went toward the right-field line but was retrieved in time by Alfonso Soriano to get the sluggish Hillenbrand at home.

In the bottom of the ninth with one out, Hideki Matsui hit a long fly ball to left that was a sure double. Designated left fielder Manny Ramirez threw the ball toward teh third-base, visitors' dugout, which allowed Mastui to go to third. The Red Sox were lucky that the Yankees had installed a fence in front of both dugouts. If the ball had gone into the dugout, Matsui woukld have been awarded two bases, and the Yankees would have won right there.

As it was, the next two batters were walked intentionally to load the bases. Jorge Posada then drew a full count walk to force in the winning run. Baseball Tonight argued as to whether the third ball was a bad call or not, and I have to agree with Harold Reynolds that it was too far inside.

So there were a couple of key decsions made by Red Sox manager Grady Little that affected the outcome of the game that I's like to critique. First, I agree with the decision to keep Hillenbrand representing the go-ahead run at second base in the ballgame and not bring in a pinch-runner. One could argue that a speedier runner would have scored on the loose ball, but the Red Sox didn't have any speedy runners left. Damian Jackson had already been used in that inning and that left a collection of first base/corner outfield types plus the backup catcher. You're better off with Hillenbrand.

And as far as sending Hillenbrand home on that play, sometimes you have to say what the... heck. Soriano had to make a very good play, first to retrieve the ball and second to make a good throw. Even with Rivera on the ropes, there's no reason to play conservatively. If it takes a very good play to stop the runner from scoring then I would send him. It seems a high-percentage call to me.

Second, I disagree with the walk that loaded the bases full in the bottom of the ninth. This is an easy one to disagree with as it led to the bases-loaded walk and the winning run. However, with one out, I do not see much of an advantage in walking the bases loaded as opposed to walking the first batter and playing for the double play. In either case, a single, a deep fly ball, a wild pitch/passed ball, or a balk will score the run. However, the advantages in just walking one man are that the pitcher cannot walk in the winning run on the next batter. The disadvantage is that you lose the out at every base. Big deal! Also, the runner at third can hold up on a shallow ground ball hit to the drawn-in infield. You still have the same doubleplay possibility, however. I know that the load-the-bases strategy is set in stone, but I believe the obvious disadvantages outweigh the plusses. The advantage of a force out at home does not outweigh the possibility of walking in the winning run.

Maroth to the Flame
2003-05-29 00:15
by Mike Carminati

Mike Maroth lost his tenth decision of the year tonight for the moribund Tigers, 8-2 to Cleveland. That puts Maroth half way to becoming the first man in 23 seasons to reach the magical tally of 20 losses.

Maroth has a 5.56 ERA but if you consider that his 1.18 WHIP is the best in the Tigers' starting rotation, he should stay in their Detroit rotation for some time.

ESPN projects Maroth's season total at a 3-32 record. If he actually lost thirty ballgames, he would be the first pitcher since 1899 to do so.

Homers the Braves
2003-05-29 00:08
by Mike Carminati

The Braves first three hitters today, Rafael Furcal, Mark DeRosa and Gary Sheffield, led off the game with consecutive home runs. The pitcher, Jeff Austin, was grooved each pitch like a BP tosser. This is the second time in baseball history.that the first three batters for a team have all hit home runs The other time was by Marvell Wynne, Tony Gwynn, and John Kruk April 13, 1987 for the Padres.

The odd thing is that Mark DeRosa only has two home runs on the season and this is his first as the number 2 hitter this season. You say that he had only had 15 at-bats in the #2 spot oming into the season. That's true. However, consider in 84 at-bats in the two hole over the last four years, DeRosa only had one home run.

Wynne only hit two home runs for the entire season in 1987. So maybe it's not so odd after all.

Gammon's Normalcy
2003-05-28 23:45
by Mike Carminati

Main Entry: 1gam·mon
Pronunciation: 'ga-m&n
Function: noun
Etymology: Middle English, from Old North French gambon ham, from gambe leg -- more at GAM
Date: 15th century
1 chiefly British : HAM 2
2 chiefly British a : a side of bacon b : the lower end of a side of bacon

- Webster's online

Peter Gammons invented a word tonight on Baseball Tonight: exuberation. Look it up. It's a figment of his imagination, but then again a lot of things are.

Harold Reynolds seemed ready to laugh in Peter's gibbering face when he claimed that the Orioles should be content not to contend because they have a four-year plan. Gammons further blathered on about the amount of money that the O's had lost over the last three years and how they needed to cut salary. Reynolds rightly pointed out that everyone is in the same boat except the Yankees.

Reynolds and Bobby Valentine continued to spit out giddy asides of "But they have a four-year plan" for the rest of the program. Gammons seemed slightly annoyed and confused whenever it happened, but that seems to be his usual demeanor so it's difficult to say if the gibes registered.

One thing's for sure, he did not display any exuberation irregardless.

"The Worst Baserunning in the History of Baseball"
2003-05-28 23:31
by Mike Carminati

That was Jon Miller's hilarious call on the Ruben Rivera baserunning brain freeze from yesterday's Giants-D'Backs game, which I finally saw on Baseball Tonight tonight.

If you are not familiar with the play, I'll set the mood: Ruben Rivera pinch-ran for Andres Galarraga at first with one out in the ninth inning of a 2-2 ballgame. Galarraga himself had reached on an error by Arizona's shortstop, Tony Womack. Marquis Grissom was the next batter and he sent a high fly ball to right that David Dellucci misjudged for another error. Thinking the ball would be caught, Rivera was returning from beyond second base to first when the ball bounced. He headed back toward second, but took a Grete Waitz-like shortcut across the infield grass toward third instead. About three yards past second base, he realized his mistake (reportedly fans were gesticulating for him to return to second) and doubled back to second. And then he mysteriously tried to proceed to third. Cut-off man Junior Spivey at this point had relayed the ball to third. Even though he had plenty of time to get the chicken-with-his-head-cut-off baserunner, Spivey's throw went through Alex Cintron for the third error of the inning. Seeing the ball loose, the ever-creative Rivera headed home. Unfortunately, the ball caromed back onto the field and Womack threw him out by a good 10 feet.

Then Jose and Miguel Agilar ran into each other on a ground ball up the middle on the next play (That's a Bad News Bears reference, by the way). The Giants ended up winning the game, but Rivera had not looked that bad since he stole Derek Jeter's glove.

If you are curious as to why Rivera was not automatically out for running outside the baselines and cutting across the infield, the reason is that the rule says that he's only out if he's avoiding a tag. The only thing Rivera was avoiding was baserunning logic. Here's the rule:

Any runner is out when (a) (1) He runs more than three feet away from a direct line between bases to avoid being tagged unless his action is to avoid interference with a fielder fielding a batted ball

No tag, no out.

So why isn't he out for passing second and then doubling back? You are allowed to touch 'em all as long as you retrace your steps on the way back:

In advancing, a runner shall touch first, second, third and home base in order. If forced to return, he shall retouch all bases in reverse order, unless the ball is dead under any provision of Rule 5.09. In such cases, the runner may go directly to his original base.

If Rivera had not touched second on returning to first, the D'Backs could have appealed at second and he would have been out. The only way that Rivera's baserunning makes any sense is that he thought he had not re-touched first and, therefore, could bypass second altogether. It didn't look that way in the replay and besides it does not mean that he can cut accross the infield to get to third anyway.

This one, in my opinion, is a close rival to the botched infield fly play by the Expos also at Pac Bell earlier this year. That one gets the slight age as three Expos misunderstood the infield fly rule on the play as opposed to one bench player getting turned around on the bases. However, the number of mistakes and duration of the play, a good 20 seconds, do weigh in Rivera's favor (or disfavor).

A Bronx Tale
2003-05-28 01:16
by Mike Carminati

Though my trip to the Bronx yesterday did not yield being witness to Roger Clemens' 300th win, it was nonetheless a fun visit to the ballpark.

The day began ominously with my drive on the New Jersey Turnpike in a driving rain. I met my friend Mike and we took off for the Stadium hoping that the game would not be canceled before we got there. On exiting the subway train we saw Yankee fans leaving in droves, or at least drovelets, and feared the worst. After a call to Mike's brother Murray confirmed that the game was still on, we decided to look around a grab a bite since the game was still delayed indefinitely.

This afforded us the opportunity to walk about the neighborhood that George Steinbrenner so often denigrates. I had never left the unfriendly confines of the area adjacent to the Stadium before. Given that my impression of the area was formed by the dense travel, elevated train tracks, and dilapidated, urban detritus surrounding the stadium, I was pleasantly surprised to find a thriving, attractive neighborhood in the two or three block trek we attempted in and around Lou Gehrig Plaza. So the next time George spouts off about the area, don't buy it.

The trip yielded a Babe Ruth T-shirt, but the restaurants were packed so we decided to ballpark and grab a dog or two there. We headed towards our seats in deep right field and stopped at a concession stand. Mike explained to me how Yankees Stadium has a graduated pricing scheme, that regular hot dogs behind homeplate cost as much as jumbo hot dogs in the outfield. Baseball's version of bread and circus, I guess.

Anyway, we munched our lunch down in our designated seats that were luckily high enough to protect us from the weather. It afforded us a nice view of the municipal park adjacent to the stadium, the George Washington Bridge between Jersey and Manhattan, the cluster of buildings where Hilltop Park used to sit, and the housing projects that stand were the Polo Grounds had been.

The rain started to let up as well, but the crowd was pretty thin. Another call to Mike's brother, informed us that they had secured better seating in the loge section that also happened to be better protected from the elements. We were lucky enough to remain in those seats for the rest of the game.

My friend Armando, I found out later, had made the trek down from Boston and was stuck up in the nosebleed section for the entire ballgame. I told him that was the difference between New Yorkers and Bostonites, much to his chagrin.

Anyway, we met up with Murray and Chris (who wrote the article on the 2002 Reinsdorf Award that I posted). Soon it was announced that the game would start at 2:45, an hour and forty minutes later than scheduled, but a happy announcement nonetheless. We spent the remaining time watching old Yankee footage and discussing baseball in general. Chris had a great story about his one-time encounter with then-Yankee Ed Whitson. And we speculated as to whether Joe Morgan's crew would be covering the game for ESPN, and if so, whether or not he would beat the bejesus out of my for continual roasting of him.

Finally, the game started and before the first pitch, there was a meeting at the mound. We saw Roger Clemens throw his club towards the dugout and receive a different one. Somehow we figured out that second-base ump Joe West had asked Clemens to remove the glove due to a 300-win logo. Clemens looked very strong in the first, expending 11 pitchers, eight of which were strikes. Unfortunately for Clemens, his opponent, Tim Wakefield, was having a great night with his knuckleball-I guess it is added by the damp weather.

The Yankees anemic offense was hitless through three and one-third, though they had collected three walks. Clemens struck out the side in the second but allowed the first of many runs on the day. Even though Manny Ramirez had the big hit in the inning, the strike out to Doug Mirabelli to end the inning, I thought, was the most telling at-bat. The weak-hitting Mirabelli, made Clemens throw 10 pitches (35 for the inning). After Clemens got ahead 1-2, Mirabelli fouled back four pitches and worked the count full before the final whiff. I said at the time that when Mirabelli is timing your fastball, it's not a good sign, and it wasn't.

Clemens gave up two more runs in the third and threw another 29 pitches. We all questioned the wisdom of intentionally walking Ramirez to load the bases (after a wild pitch put runners at second and third) with Clemens looking wild. That decision looked worse after Nixon walked and Walker scored the fourth Boston run, but given that only one other run scored, it almost felt like a lucky break.

The fourth was more of the same with Clemens relinquishing two more runs, one on a wild pitch (his second) and another couple of balls that looked like batting practice shots.

Meanwhile, Wakefield looked like he was playing catch with his kid. His easy motion-just a flick of the wrist that started seemingly behind the ear-made it appear that he could pitch all day.

This seemed to change as Ventura broke up the no-hitter and a couple of hits from the bottom of the order drove in three runs (after Mondesi struck out looking on three pitches). The score was now, 5-3, and Clemens seemed to have newfound resolve, striking out the side n the fifth.

The Yankees walked the bases full with one out in the fifth, but Mondesi grounded into a 6-4-3 doubleplay to end the inning, and in essence, the Yankees' night. Clemens came out and got two quick outs, including his ninth strikeout on the night and his fourth in five batters, but Doug Mirabelli stroked a single on a 1-2 pitch over Ventura's head and Clemens night was done two batters and two singles later.

The Yankees managed one more night on the night, a seeing-eye fly between three fielders by Soriano that led to the only other New York run. Both defenses looked poor, each committing two errors. The Yankees looked especially bad on almost every play, except for a nice catch by Matsui in center. We were joking that the Columbus express would be waiting for Rivera after the game (Mike invoked the name of classic flunky Bobby Meacham).

PA announcer Bob Sheppard had a particularly tough night. My friend Mike proved prescient when he joked that the Sox have two players named "Miller" and neither can spell it right during the announcement of the lineups. Bill Mueller (pronounced "Miller") and Kevin Millar (pronounced "Mill-R") gave Sheppard fits all night. First, he called Millar "Miller" in announcing the lineups and prior to his first AB. The second time he corrected himself, however. One time when Mueller came up, Sheppard called him "Mill-R", which was heartily enjoyed by all.

The crowd was particularly excited but for the most part in a good way, and we saw no fights break out (which is still somewhat disappointing at a Yankees-Red Sox game). There was only one incident in which a fan (apparently a Boston one according to the guy sitting next to me with binoculars) threw a foul ball back and it dribbled toward the mound while Clemens was stationed there. The Red Sox fans seemed to outnumber the Yankees faithful, perhaps because the New Yorkers expected the game to be canceled. The Boston fans had already made the trip-they were going nowhere.

In the men's room line after the ballgame, we heard cheers of "A-hole" and "1918" whenever a Boston fan appeared. But given that their Saux had just shellacked the Yanks, they didn't seem to care. The Yankees fans themselves seemed too jovial about in the first place. It's like some sort of dance that both parties have resolved themselves to be a part of. The Yankees don't mind because they have the confidence of champions and the Red Sox don't get too upset because they have the neuroses of an also-ran. As someone who has lived in both cities for a substantial period of time, I just sit back and enjoy it.

I didn't get Roger's 300th win, but I got a free clear plastic bag with a Yankees logo to hold my stuff (clear so that they can see what you are carrying) and at the beginning of the day, it didn't even look like I would get a ballgame, so why complain?

Go Joe
2003-05-28 00:04
by Mike Carminati

Last week's Joe Morgan chat review is finally done. Scroll down to see.

The New Phone Books Are Here!
2003-05-27 13:31
by Mike Carminati

From MLB:


Blogged Down
2003-05-27 00:17
by Mike Carminati

I'm still working on the Joe Morgan chat session for this week.

I was delayed today by a trip to Yankee stadium to see Roger Clemens (unsuccessfully) attempt to garner his 300th win with friends Mike, Murray, and Chris.

I should finish it tomorrow.

One Joe Morgan Chat Day at a Day (So Walk on Your Feet)
2003-05-26 01:50
by Mike Carminati

Did you ever notice that a Joe Morgan chat session is like a trip back in time to the baseball age of jive, when commentators could promulgate stands like wins are all that matter in evaluating pitchers, that ballplayers today are inferior to those in the commentator's day, that RBI is the true measuring stick for a batter, etc. In other words their homespun hokum was the commerce of the day and since no one ever checked any of it out, their word was sacrosanct. Joe's more retro than a J.R. Richard jersey.

Not only did the sabermetric revolution that took root in the Seventies with the founding of SABR and the first publication of Bill James' Baseball Abstracts (on his own dime yet) pass Joe completely by; Joe believes that the baseball world is centered around his mid-Seventies Big Red Machine Cincinnati club. He will be trying in the coming years to induct everyone from that club starting with Dave Concepcion down to Ed Armbrister into the Hall of Fame via his Vets' Committee. Yeah, they were a great team, but Morgan, Johnny Bench, Sparky Anderson, Tony Perez, and eventually Pete Rose should be enough to represent that team in the Hall.

But I digress-To repeat, Joe is stuck in the Seventies when pitchers were expected to finish the games they started, stadiums were all alike cookie cutters, and hitting 50 homers was as rare as a doubleheader is today. Listening to his broadcasts is like watching an episode of Welcome Back, Kotter on Nick at Nite: it's got that reassuring nostalgic feel of a simpler and gentler time but just does not stack up to the way you remember them to be. Aside from the nostalgic value, he leaves me as flat as an umpteenth listening to Play That Funky Music, White Boy.

Joe is so Seventies that his chat sessions make about as much sense as an episode of Happy Days with Ted McGinley. His responses are as trite and nonsensical as the catchphrases from the Seventies sitcoms. For example:

Ooo Ooo Ooo! (Arnold Horshack, Welcome Back, Kotter)

Heyyyyy! (The Fonz, Happy Days)

Hey HEY Hey! (Dewayne, What's Happening!!)

Dynomite! (J.J., Good Times

Nanoo Nanoo (Mork, Mork and Mindy)

Who?... What?... Where? (Vinny Barberino, Welcome Back, Kotter)

Sit on it! (Various, Happy Days)

Hello (Lenny & Squiggy, Laverne and Shirley

Kiss My Grits! (Flo, Alice)

Up your nose with a rubber hose! (Sweathogs et al, Welcome Back, Kotter)

De Plane (Tattoo, Fanstasy Island)

Zoinks! (Shaggy, Scoobey Doo, Where Are You?)

Handle It! Handle It! (Governor, Benson)

You get the point.

Actually, the Seventies nostalgia that has gripped the country the past five years or so could only appeal to someone who did not actually have to live through the Seventies. It is remembered for its awful disco music, but anyone who lived through the decade knows that its two greatest crimes were garish baseball uniforms and Sid and Marty Krofft. The Seventies featured some of the ugliest uniforms ever conceived. Here are my top-10 most garish in no particular order:

1. The Indians' all-crimson pullovers (introduced 1975).

2. The Astros' rainbow orange (1975)

3. Phils' all-burgundy (1979-they were so ugly the players revised to wear them more than once)

4. Pirates' all-yellow with pillbox hat (1977)

5. Orioles' all-orange (1971)

6. Braves' powder blue with fake cartoon feather on sleeves (1973)

7. Reds form-fitting home pullovers (1972-Pete Rose in lycra, eek!)

8. White Sox shorts and old-timer uniforms (1978 and '76 respectively)

9. Excrement-colored Padres home uniforms (1973)

10. A's all-yellow sleeveless with green undershirt (1970-the one that started it all)

As far as Sid and Marty Krofft, they were purveyors of hallucinogenic children's television programs throughout the Seventies. My top-10 "What the..?" Krofft TV show list:

10. Lidsville-a show about a kid lost in a world of hats. Too derivative: H.R. Pufnstuf with hats and Charles Nelson Reilly.

9. Dr. Shrinker-A mad scientist shrinks a bunch of kids.

8. Far Out Space Nuts-Gilligan's Island in outer space with Bob Denver and some fat guy riffing the Skipper.

7. Sigmund and the Sea Monsters-Bily Barty crammed into a green garbage bag with Jody from "Family Affair" as his companion and local would-be songster.

6. The Bugaloos-The Monkees with a PC bend. Oh, and they are bugs for some reason, and Martha Raye plays someone named Benita Bizarre, who wants to do something nefarious and/or kooky to the band.

5. Big Foot and Wild Boy-A feral child and his avuncular Sasquatch, which made his cameo on "The Six Million Dollar Man" seem heavy-handed.

4. The Brady Bunch Variety Hour-Exactly as monumentally great and earth-shatteringly horrific as the title indicates.

3. The Bay City Rollers Show-Billy Barty was some evil German guy with a monocle chasing a no-hit wonder band.

3A. The Lost Saucer-Jim Nabors and Ruth Buzzi play space robots that abduct two earth children in a good way. Wackiness ensues.

3B. The Krofft Supershow-extra doses of pain.

2. The Land of the Lost-"Marshall, Will, and Holly on a routine expedition, met the greatest earthquake ever known. High on a rapids they lost that tiny raft and plunged them down a thousand feet below. To the land of the lost (lost lost lost)." Cha-Ka. Sleestacks. Uncle Jack replaces Marshall in another earthquake (huh?).

1. H.R. Pufnstuf-The granddaddy of all mind f's. The Citizen Kane of hallucinations. Drugs had to be used constantly and in great abundance on the set. From the trippy song that somehow explains the plot to the English kid with the magic, talking flute (that looks like Ken Burns-the kid, not the flute) to Witchy-poo to the froggish dude who gave the show its name to the midget identical-except one was green and one was red-cops, one of which was again Billy Barty, to a talking mushroom (ahem!). Witchypoo wants Freddy the Flute for some reason and tricks the young Ken Burns to come to her talking island. He is aided by the rest of the characters to get back home or at least score some good T. This was the basis for Star Wars in the sense that it wasn't.

With this heinousness afoot, who cared about silly disco music? Especially, when it was commonly known that the great songwriters of the day, before they turned to punk music, plied their trade via television theme songs. Theme songs in the Seventies were in most cases better than the shows they introduced. Today, shows come and go so quickly, no one even remembers their songs, but in the Seventies they could become big hits and stay with you, literally, for the rest of your life:

"Welcome Back" (from Welcome Back, Kotter)

The Ballad of "The Partridge Family" ("To make you happy")

Sanford and Son (penned by Quincy Jones)

Good Times ("Aint we lucky we got 'em?")

Movin' on Up to the East Side ("The Jeffersons")

All in the Family ("Boy, the way Glen Miller played...")

Bob Newhart Show ("Hello")

Brady Bunch (you know)

Odd Couple (Loved the into(s))

Quincy (More students faint than in a class with Mr. Vargas from Fast Times)

Love Boat (love the Tom Jones)

(And then there's) Maude

Barney Miller (I think it's Weather Report)

One Day at a Time (Two words: Valerie Bertonelli)

Taxi (How long is that darn bridge?)

(I'm at) WKRP in Cincinnati

MASH (what happened to the lyrics though?)

What's Happenin!!! (Does Rerun ever make it on that truck?)

Mary Tyler Moore (The hat)

Rhoda (La la la. La La...)

Hello Larry (They killed Henry Blake for this?)

NBC Mystery Movie (Columbo, McCloud, McMillan and Wife, etc.-great whistling theme)

Even the kids shows had great songs:


Land of the Lost

H.R. Pufnstuf

Josie and the Pussycats


Fat Albert (Hey Hey Hey)

Hong Kong Phooey

Super Chicken

George of the Jungle

Electro Woman and Dyna Girl

Wonder Woman

Groovie Ghoulies

Friends ("Sigmund and the Sea Monsters", sung by Jody)

Stop the Pigeon ("Dick Dastardly and Muttley in their Flying Machines")

The New Zoo Review

Not to mention Sesame Street, Electric Company, or School House Rock

So what does all this have to do with Joe Morgan? Not a whole heck of a lot, but this week's session was a bid dry so I had to pad it out.

With that great into, here 'tis:

The Good

Nick (San Diego): Hey Joe, is there anything better than broadcasting a Red Sox-Yankees game with Curt Goudy? That was terrific! Where does it rank on your list of most memorable achievements?

It ranks high on my list of accomplishments, esp. as a broadcaster. It was very enjoyable for me. When I played, he was the voice of the game during that era. I just loved his style of broadcasting. He was always fair to everyone. It was a treat to be in the booth with him.

[Mike: Yeah, that was pretty good (even with Joe in the booth).]

Nick (Greensboro, NC): HEY Joe. Enjoy your work. In your opinion do you see batters in the future still trying to hug the plate? Or do you see them backing off a little? Thanks.

There is no reason for them to back off. Pitchers don't pitch inside much anymore. With the protection they get from the umps, with all the warnings, I don't see any of that changing.

[Mike: Right, enforce the batter's box and things will change. Otherwise, there is no reason for batters to change.]

Travis Cammilleri (Candia, NH): Joe, how long do you think it will be before the Mets begin their fire sale? Boston sure could use Stanton, Weathers or Benitez!!!

Well, they are in a very difficult situation. There are not a lot of players they can get rid of. They all have high salaries. They are also not playing very well. The fire sale for them will be difficult.

[Mike: Besides this Ghordian Knot of a team will not be solved until a new GM is in place. Phillips having a fire sale is tantamount to accepting defeat and probably dismissal.]

The Bad

Matt (Bradenton, FL): For some reason, Lou Piniella started batting Rocco Baldelli fourth behind Aubrey Huff this week. This is a reversal of their usual positions. Why would you ever want to bat your best hitter for average behind your best home run hitter? I don't understand why he made this swap -- and it doesn't seem to be working, as the Rays lost all three games against Texas.

He's trying to get more production out of his HR hitter. He wants to have a good hitter behind him so Huff will get some more pitches to see. He's saying that Baldelli doesn't need as much help to get the job done.

[Mike: No, he's saying Huff is really a better hitter and he needs more at-bats. His average is lower but he can take a walk which Baldelli has not yet learned to do. So their on-base percentage is about the same, but Huff hits for much more power. If the Devil Rays had a decent lineup, Huff would bat third no question.

Adam (Ottawa, Canada): Hi Joe, What is going on with the A's in 1 run ball games? Last year they seemed to win the majority of them, and this year can't seem to win any. Is their bullpen just not that good? Or is it lack of offensive production from their star players when it counts? Who's your pick to win it all this season?

I remember last year Tejada was the MVP and he had a great percentage with runners in scoring position. He is off to a slow start and that probably contributes to losing the 1 run games. I think it's more the offense.

[Mike: How about good old fashioned luck? The A's were 26-13 in one-run games in 2002, but only 6-9 this year. Their Pythagorean record for 2002 projected to 96-66, 7 games worse than actual. Their 2003 Pythagorean record so far is 31-18, two ahead of actual. So they got a lot of lucky wins last year and aren't getting them this year (so far). Before you blame the bullpen, consider that their pen's ERA is 44 points better than it was in 2002. I doubt Tejada is responsible for each of the nine one-run losses.]

Jeff (Los Altos): Joe, what is the most over rated statistic in baseball?

Batting average. If you hit .300 they say you are a great hitter. That means you are making 7 outs out of 10 and if you make those outs with runners in scoring position, you are not a good hitter.

[Mike: What, not on-base percentage? Joe, you disappoint me.

I prefer RBI since they are to a large degree a function of what the rest of the lineup is doing and where you fall in the batting order, but batting average is a good'un. But it's not necessarily because of how someone bats with men in scoring position. It's just that all hits and all outs are not created equal, and that's basically what batting average records.

Besides Joe is being disingenuous here: he is one of the main culprits of overvaluing batting average in the first place.]

wayne (new yawk): Joe, I understand that players sometimes pick which team they want to go into the HoF for greedy reasons, but I think players should really be able to at least speak to a committee or something about the reasons they want the team they want to be picked. On that note, I think Roger has earned the right to choose whichever team he wants to go into the HoF. It doesn't hurt for me that he wants to go in as a New York Yankee! What are your thoughts?

The HOF is a museum which chronologically follows a players career. Wade Boggs reportedly signed a contract with the Devil Rays to go in as a Devil Ray and he should be allowed to do that. There has to be some rhyme or reason and at this point, the HOF, which is a museum, does it without any emotion. If you get mad at an organization and decide to not honor them, then what? The point is, it is being done properly.

I didn't have a choice myself. I accomplished more with the Reds and that is how they put me in. They did not ask me if I wanted to go in as an Astro but they were my first team. I played 8 years with each team.

[Mike: "Chronologically"? How about alphabetically? Or multi-dimensionally? Whatever.

Look, the Hall doesn't want players selling their cap rights. It's their museum; they're entitled. It started with the well traveled Gaylord Perry, blossomed with the Red Sox fawning all over Carlton Fisk, and became out-and-out venal with the Padres and Yankees bidding over Dave Winfield's chapeau. Gary Carter may consider himself a Met and Clemens a Yankee, but their predecessors ruined it for them.

By the way, Clemens seems to have forgotten that he ever played for the Blue Jays let alone had two of his best years there.]

Don (Mtn. View, CA): Joe, Now that Bernie Williams is out 4-6 weeks, Nick Johnson is out, Karsay will not return this year, do the Yankees need to make some moves?

Injuries are part of the game, that is why when someone asked me earlier if they would win 120 games, I said it was too early to say. Sometimes you have to ride with the injuries for awhile. If it looks like it will be longer, then you make moves. I think it is still a little too early.

[Mike: Sure, they'll make moves: They'll place Williams on the DL and recall Juan Rivera.

The Boss will get involved if the losing continues unabated. They needed relief help before Karsay was lost for the year.

By the way, here is what Joe said two weeks ago in his last chat session about the Yankees: "It's too early to give them the championship but they are not a bad pick!! Being the best team in the game doesn't always translate to winning it all." ]

Jim (Bayfield, WI): Joe - Is there anything good to say about the Brewers? Tell me there's something! Thanks.

Yeah, they have a beautiful stadium!!!

[Mike: That leaks.]

Jack, Moncton, Canada: Joe. Do you think Tim Raines has a shot at the hall of fame?

I think he does have a shot. But the writers vote on Raines. I only get a vote on the Veteran's Committee. But he does have a shot.

[Mike: To quote Bill Ray Valentine in Trading Places, "Thanks. You've been halpful."

So Raines has a shot. Is that what your saying. Well, he has played over 10 major-league seasons, so you're right.

How about an opinion on the matter though? I think Raines is a clear-cut Hall-of-Famer but I doubt he will get a lot of support because what he did well does not necessarily translate well into today's analysis. I see him as an ideal Veteran' Committee candidate. See, Joe-it didn't hurt a bit.]

Joey, Nj: Do you think Jesse Orosco is going to be playing until he is 50 years old?

If you are a lefthanded pitcher and you have a funky motion like he does and you can get left handers out, you can pitch forever!

[Mike: Yuck, yuck. There have been 341 major-league pitching seasons past the age of forty (not including this year): 259 by right-handers, 80 by lefthanders, and 2 by pitchers of unknown handedness.

Here is the breakdown by age and handedness:

ThrowsAge# Seasons

By the way, the 58-year-old was a one-time appearance by Stachel Paige in a KC A's game (three shutout innings of one-hit ball with one strikeout an no walks).

Clearly there is no reason besides a few outliers to think lefties "can pitch forever!" ]

Tony (Arlington Heights, IL): Hey Joe, do you think Cory Patterson is for real this year or is going to tail off like he did last year. He seems to have gotten much better at hitting pitches up in the strike zone which has to be a good sign. Right?

You get experience from playing in the majors. Each year you should get better. It appears he is a better player now. Dusty Baker is always so positive and always keeps his players positive. Dusty will help him through the tough times. This could be the year he becomes the star everyone predicted he would be.

[Mike: Patterson is batting .318 with a .896 OPS, pretty impressive. He was batting .303 with a .767 OPS at this time last year. The big difference is in home runs, 10 so far this year and only two by May 27, 2002. Patterson had that many on opening day alone.

It could be luck. It could be Patterson maturing due to the added experience in the majors. But none of it means that Dusty Baker is the genius Joe makes him to be.

Besides Patterson struck out 142 times last year with only 19 walks. He is on a pace to duplicate those numbers (146 Ks and 19 BBs) in 2003. So I would say that no, it is not necessarily a good sign that he is swinging at, let alone hitting, pitches high in the strike zone. But maybe he'll be the next Alfonso Soriano. It's too early to tell, but I doubt it.]

The Ugly

Scott (Toledo): Bud Selig did lees than well with Bob Costes this week on HBO. How important is it for the next Commissioner to do well in the media and Public appearances? What are the chances of anyone outside baseball ever serving in this position?

One of the things that makes the NBA and NFL great is that they are media friendly. Their commissioners lead the way. The difference is Bud is straight honest, and not necessarily a politician or media darling.

[Mike: Is he joking? Sure, Selig is no media darling. His pugnacious mug would frighten small children, but if there is one thing that Selig is it's a politician. He is a master-I have to hand it to him-at garnering support within a group of disparate ownership groups ranging from multinational, multimedia conglomerates to individual hands-on autocrats.

By the way, Joe didn't answer the two questions presented. My answers: it's important for the next commissioner to please the owners. They are the only ones who can say whether PR makes a difference. It didn't with Bud, and it will only matter with the next commissioner if it affects the owners bottom line.

There have been commissioners from outside of baseball. Kennesaw Mountain Landis was a federal judge. William D. "Spike" Eckert was a retired air force general. Peter Ueberroth was a travel agent and Olympics organizer. Bart Giamatti was Yale's president. Fay Vincent was an attorney and ran Columbia Pictures.

Really, only Ford Frick (journalist) and Bowie Kuhn (league lawyer) came from a baseball background. I guess you could include Giamatti and Vincent who served as league president and deputy commissioner before taking on the reins of commissioner. ]
Josh (US Army in Korea): Hey Joe, Given the Japanese position players that are starting to jump to the Majors, what kind of numbers do you think a Japanese player will need to put up to be considered for the Hall of Fame, given the length of their contracts with the Japanese teams? And do you think that the voters will consider their combined accomplishments in both the majors and Japan (ie, what they might have accomplish if all of the time was in MLB) when voting?

They will only consider their accomplishments in MLB. It will be tough to get in because they spend half their careers there and half here. That said, the Veteran's Committee could put someone in.

[Mike: Two things: Japan has it's own Hall of Fame. They don't need a handout from the Vets' Committee, who, by the way, can't decide on American players, let alone Japanese ones. Number 2: Joe should have pointed out that the rules preclude players with less than 10 years of major-league experience:

Rule 3. Eligible Candidates - Candidates to be eligible must meet the following requirements:

A. A baseball player must have been active as a player in the Major Leagues at some time during a period beginning twenty (20) years before and ending five (5) years prior to election.

B. Player must have played in each of ten (10) Major League championship seasons, some part of which must have been within the period described in 3 (A).

And the Vets' Committee is similarly constrained:

6. Eligible Candidates - Eligible candidates must be selected from:

(A) Major League players who competed in any portion of at least ten (10) championship seasons and who have been retired as players for at least twenty-one (21) years. In addition, players whose service in the Negro Baseball Leagues prior to 1946 and the Major Leagues thereafter total at least ten years or portions thereof are defined as eligible candidates...

C) Those whose careers entailed involvement as both players and managers/executives/umpires will be considered for their overall contribution to the game of Baseball; however, the specific category in which such individuals shall be considered will be determined by the role in which they were most prominent. In those instances when a candidate is prominent as both a player and as a manager, executive or umpire, the BBWAA Screening Committee shall determine that individual's candidacy as either a player (Players Ballot), or as a manager, executive or umpire (Composite Ballot). Candidates may only appear on one ballot per election. Those designated as players must fulfill the requirements of 6 (A).

Japanese players are ineligible. If Ichiro records 10 seasons that are Hal-of-Fame worthy, they will include his Japanese ball accomplishments to help make the decision. Sadaharu Oh won't get a plaque unless they change the rules.

Shouldn't Joe know this since he is on the Veterans' Committee and serves on the Hall's board?]

CBeatty (Denver): Joe, when your commentating a game, are you watching the field or the t.v, or both? Did the pitch calls look as "off" to you Wed. night (Sox-Yanks) as they did from my livingroom? Thanks, chief.

I watch the field most of the time, but I do sometimes watch both.

I don't get into pitch calls. One of my pet peeves is announcers saying curveball away. He is supposed to say ball or strike. It's the analysts job to say those things.

[Mike: "Howard Johnson is right! I want to party with you cowboy!"

I say, "curveball away." How do you like them apples? Go away or I shall taunt you a second time.

(Yes, the pitch calls looked bad. Umps have replaced that foggy spot on the outside of the strike zone with one up in the zone. That's my opinion.)]

Maria (Wimberley, TX): Joe, enjoy your work. Have you read the new book "Moneyball" about Billy Beane? What do "insiders" such as yourself think about what the book says?

I read an excerpt in the NY Times. It's typical if you write a book, you want to be the hero. That is apparently what Beane has done. According to what I read in the Times, Beane is smarter than anyone else. I don't think it will make him popular with the other GMs or the other people in baseball.

[Mike: Ah, Joe-(aside) this is embarrassing-ah, Beane didn't write it. He's no Jim Bouton. Michael Lewis happened to write a book about him.

I guess that shows you what "insiders" know, eh?]

Utek (LA): Hey Joe, given the success of Annika Sorenson, and the number of women playing softball in America, do you think there's the possibility that a woman would ever play in pro baseball? As an aside, did you ever take any swings against a topflight female softball pitcher? I know that Alex Rodriguez has stood in the batter's box against one, but he was too chicken to take any hacks.

Golf, the equipment allows women to compete equally. In baseball, men are bigger, stronger, faster in general. There could be a lady one day as fast or as strong and would have a chance. But I don't see it in my lifetime. The reason Annika can play with the men is the equipment has changed to allow her to hit the ball as hard and as long. What she has done is great.

I can't remember if I ever hit off a softball pitcher.. I think I did. It's so hard to adjust, going from a mound to someone being about 40 feet away. It's a big difference.

Women are great softball players, but playing baseball is a different story.

[Mike: Barefoot and pregnant, eh, Joe? That would be fine if woman had not already been employed to play professional baseball.

The All-American Girls Baseball League lasted from 1946 to 1954 (started as the All-American Girls Softball League in 1943. Changed to the American Girls' Baseball League 1951-54). Another league that was unheralded since it did not have a movie featuring Madonna about it was the National Girls Baseball League (1944-54). There were also professional women's league in the mid-Nineties: Women's Baseball League (1994-95), Women's Baseball Association (1995-96), United States Women's Professional Baseball League (1995), and Ladies League Baseball (1997).

If you think that women competing against each other is not a valid test for their legitimacy as true professionals, consider that Toni Stone, Connie Morgan, and Mamie "Peanut" Johnson all played for the Negro League Indianapolis Clowns. This was part of a gimmick after a number of Negro League stars (including the Clown's own Hank "Pork Chop" Aaron) had signed with the majors. Stone was at least good enough to play second base for the Kansas City Monarchs in 1954. (A woman named "Carrie Nation" also played for J.L. Wilkinson's All Nation club, which eventually became the foundation for the mighty Kansas City Monarchs.) And of course, there was Alta Weiss, "The Girl Wonder", who was a star pitcher at the turn of the century with her own traveling "all-star" team.]
Ryan (Fargo): Which is more important in baseball today....good starting pitching or good relief pitching?

The way the game is played now, the bullpen is just as important as starting pitching. Starting pitching is probably the most important, but the bullpen is very very close.

[Mike: O, yah. That made no sense, Joe. They're as important, but they're not.

Starting pitching is the most important because it still eats the most innings. When and if pitchers begin to average three innings a start, that may change. However, so far in 2003 starters have thrown 8839 innings; relievers, 4537. Detroit has the eighth best bullpen by ERA. Which do you think is more important?

That said, it is important to strike the proper balance on your staff. The Yankees loaded up their rotation and ignored their bullpen in the offseason and are paying for it now. But if Lowe, Graves, and Kim, to varying degrees, tell us anything, it's that a good reliever is not as useful as a good starter.]

Watch Out! II
2003-05-26 00:45
by Mike Carminati

The Seattle pitcher was Arthur Rhodes, who was told to remove fetching diamond stud earrings mutiple times in 2001.

I have also found that there were jewelry rules put into effect in 1982. They state that a pitcher's jewelry muts be removed if a batter complains. However, I cannot find a reference to them in the official rules.

Watch Out!
2003-05-26 00:28
by Mike Carminati

The Mets' Jae Seo was throwing a no-hitter through four innings today when he was asked by home plate umpire Jeff Kellogg to remove his watch. The next batter he faced was Andruw Jones, who of course went yard.

So what's the big deal about the watch? Well, batters find them distracting. However, I do not believe there is anything technically in the rules to forbid a pitcher from wearing a watch. There's this rule:

(a) (1) All players on a team shall wear uniforms identical in color, trim and style, and all players uniforms shall include minimal six inch numbers on their backs. (2) Any part of an undershirt exposed to view shall be of a uniform solid color for all players on a team. Any player other than the pitcher may have numbers, letters, insignia attached to the sleeve of the undershirt. (3) No player whose uniform does not conform to that of his teammates shall be permitted to participate in a game. (b) A league may provide that (1) each team shall wear a distinctive uniform at all times, or (2) that each team shall have two sets of uniforms, white for home games and a different color for road games. (c) (1) Sleeve lengths may vary for individual players, but the sleeves of each individual player shall be approximately the same length. (2) No player shall wear ragged, frayed or slit sleeves. (d) No player shall attach to his uniform tape or other material of a different color from his uniform. (e) No part of the uniform shall include a pattern that imitates or suggests the shape of a baseball. (f) Glass buttons and polished metal shall not be used on a uniform. (g) No player shall attach anything to the heel or toe of his shoe other than the ordinary shoe plate or toe plate. Shoes with pointed spikes similar to golf or track shoes shall not be worn. (h) No part of the uniform shall include patches or designs relating to commercial advertisements. (i) A league may provide that the uniforms of its member teams include the names of its players on their backs. Any name other than the last name of the player must be approved by the League President. If adopted, all uniforms for a team must have the names of its players.

Johnny Allen Of the Indians was hit by the Frayed sleeve rule. He was asked in 1938 to cut the frayed portion of a shirt sleeve, refused, and was fined $250. But this rule pertains to a pitcher's uniform, not what he chooses to adorn himself with. If I recall correctly Melido Perez was asked to remove jewelry on the mound (and someone on the Mariners was cited for this earlier this season). Let's be clear here, the ump did not feel that Seo was using the watch to tamper with the ball. He felt that it distacted the batter, but Seo would have been well within his rights to continue to wear the watch.

Later in the inning, right fielder Roger Cedeno caught a fly ball for teh second out and, thinking it was the third out, allowed Vinny Castilla to move up to third on the play. Turner field has a scoreboard directly behind the right fielder that displays, among other things, the number of outs. Castilla did not subsequently score however.

Hitting the Roof, II: Phils Robbed
2003-05-25 23:58
by Mike Carminati

I just watched SportsCenter and they too reported that the Jason Michaels' ball hit a speaker, not the roof of Olympic Stadium. They then blithely reported that Michaels was out after the ball was caught.

That ball, ladies and gentleman, was a home run. From MLB's ground rules site:

Montreal Expos - Olympic Park

If batted ball hits an overhanging speaker in fair territory, it is a home run.
If batted ball hits an overhanging speaker in foul territory, it is a dead ball.

If the ball hit a speaker, it is either a home run or a dead ball. It cannot be caught as a flyball out.

The game was tied, 2-2, at the time. Apparently, there was no protest on the Phils' part, so I wonder if ESPN has the play wrong and the ball actually hit the roof. I'd love to hear the ump's justification of this one.

Shrill Schill?
2003-05-25 22:31
by Mike Carminati

Evidently, Curt Schilling is not a big fan of gadgets. He smashed one of the QuesTec cameras during a loss yesterday at the BOB.

"I said something to one of the umpires about it,'' Schilling said, "and he said 'Do us a favor and break the other one'... The QuesTec system in this ballpark is a joke. The umpires have admitted it. They hate it. In the last three starts I've made here, multiple times umpires have said to the catcher, 'It's a pitch I want to call a strike but the machine won't let me'...As someone who relies on command and preparation and doing the things that I do to get ready for a ballgame, consistency is the most important thing in the world for me from an umpire."

Well, umpires have admitted to wanted to call balls outside the strike zone a strike. It's not much of a defense. I saw a number of the pitches that irked Schilling, and I have to say with that they were darn close. Besides the ump seemed to consistently call those borderline-outside pitches a ball, so I don't see where Schilling can point to inconsistency.

His manager, Bob Brenly, feels that using the QuesTec system in some parks and not in others causes a discrepancy in the calls being made:

"They call balls and strikes differently in the ballparks where it's set up,'' Brenly said Sunday. "If the system is so good and the ball tracks so well, why do you need a ball-strike umpire? You could have a green light go on out on the scoreboard if it's a ball and a red light if it's a strike.

"The strike zone has always been very subjective, and the players know that going in. You put it up in a ballpark, and the umpires are calling what they think they're supposed to call. If you want a consistent strike zone, you've got to put QuesTec in all 30 ballparks.''

Well, Brenly won't have to waut very long for that as MLB is pushing to do just that.

On Baseball Tonight their analysts had an interesting discussion on QuesTec. Harold Reynolds claims that the system loses the ball "3 feet from the plate", meaning at the dirt in front of home. I find this very hard to believe, but if it is true, then th QuesTec system is worse than useless. In The Physics of Baseball Robert K. Adair showed that a pitched ball will move horizontally as much as 11 inches on their path home. For a curve and especially a knuckleball, the ball breaks late and three feet may be the differenec between a ball and a strike. Similarly, different pitches cause the ball to drop more or less slowly. A reading on the ball three feet before home would be unable to determine if a high pitch will drop into the zone, in the case of, say, a curveball or if it will remain high, in the case of a 95 MPH fastball.

Bobby Valentine, whom I enjoy immensely more as an analyst than a manger, pointed out that umps have been calling that outside pitch a strike for years and they are finally being reigned in. He asserts that veteran pitchers like Schilling and Greg Maddux have been given that outside pitch, and that it's about time that umps called balls and strikes the same for everybody. He's right. The idea that an ump has his own strike zone is ludicrous enough, but that each ump modifies the zone further to accommodate the given pitcher is reprehensible. The huge egos of the umps to have the sense of entitlement to allow for such subjectivity in the rules is what brought about QuesTec in the first place.

Don't get me wrong. I oppose QuesTec as an evaluation tool. It's inherently inaccurate, not just because it may make its calculation a yard in front of home. QuesTec would make a great training tool for umps. That's basically the problem: either umps are not trained well enough or they refuse to do their jobs accordng to the rules they have been given. If it's the former, QuesTec is the perfect tool to help them re-train their eye. If it's the latter, the ump should be fired. However, MLB, in its infinite wisdom, has decided to forego the training angle and is concentrating on the penative angle. The umps are angry and scared. It gets passed on to the players, and therefore, the managers.

I'm not sure how this is going to play out, but what happens next time if the pitcher takes both cameras out. Or if Schilling gets a big suspension and/or fine. Then the players' union may get involved. The power struggle would really be under way then. Of course, if the umps would just start calling the strike zone the way that its intended, then it would take all the air out of the QuesTec system without a fight.

Hitting the Roof
2003-05-25 21:42
by Mike Carminati

The Phils' Jason Michaels hit a ball off the roof today at Olympic Stadium that was caught for an out by Ron Calloway. I believe ESPN's Baseball Tonight reported that it was hit off of a speaker. According to Monteal's ground rules that would have been a home run.

Anyway, here's a handy link to all of the major-league ground rules, which I will also add to my "Reference" links to the left.

The Miller Huggin's Crossing
2003-05-24 00:12
by Mike Carminati

Alex Belth interviews Mickey Rivers fan Ethan Coen (oh, and I think he does something in Hollywood, too). Figures he's a Twins fan.

Maroth Loses His Donut-D'oh
2003-05-24 00:04
by Mike Carminati

No more "Maroth-ul", Mike Maroth won for the first time this season as his Tigers beat the White Sox, 3-2. He was only four behind the Mets' Anthony Young and the Twins' Terry Felton for the longest losing streak to start a season. Don't worry though, he is still on course to lose 30 (actually 4-32). He would be the first since Jim Hughey in 1899 to do so.

Maroth went seven and allowed two runs, both earned, three hits, and two walks. It is easily his best outing of the year. Though he has already lost 3-1 twice (once was opening day; 2 earned runs in seven innings), 4-2 (April 10; again two runs in seven innings), and 4-3 (one unearned run).

The Tigers did what they could to lose this game for him as well. They did not score until the fifth and committed two errors. However, Chicago's Joe Crede threw the ball away and allowed the eventual winning to get to second.

The win broke a seven-game losing streak for the Tabbies and was their eleventh win on the season. Their .239 winning percentage projects to just under 39 wins for the season, one less than the expansion Mets' "modern" record low in wins.

Mark June 3 on your calendar. That's when the two worst teams in baseball the Tigers and the Padres square off. Hopefully Maroth willl get another win out of the interleague tripe.

Ground Chuck
2003-05-23 01:24
by Mike Carminati

You might have missed it but Chuck Knoblauch retired the other day. I only know because I caught a blurb in Lee Sinins' ATM Reports about it. I don't think the major news outlets even noticed it.

I'm not surprised by the news: Koblauch was lucky to catch on with the Royals last year and played poorly in Kansas City. He was trying to work his way back to the majors this year through the independent leagues. When that did not bear fruit, I guess, he decided it was time to hang 'em up. There is another former Yankees left fielder who is trying a similar comeback via the independent Newark Bears. But no matter what happens to him, Rickey Henderson is assured immortality in the form of a plaque in Cooperstown five years after he finally retires.

The funny thing is that when Knoblauch came to New York, I was sure that he would someday receiving his plaque in the Hall. He played well at times and won championships with the Yankees, but Knoblauch was never the same type of player as he was in Minnesota. And now I would be surprised if he survives the first year of eligibility on the Hall of Fame ballot.

So what happened? Was Knoblauch on a Hall of Fame trajectory but just got diverted along the way or was I out of my mind (or both)?

Looking at Koblauch's career, it seems that 1996 was the turning point. Knoblauch had been a Rookie of the Year in 1991 with the World Series champions, the Twins, and still seemed to improve almost every year after that. In 1996, he had 45 stolen bases, batted .341, had a .448 on-base percentage, and slugged .517. His OPS was 42% better than the park-adjusted league average. He scored 140 runs, drive in 72 runs, hit 13 home runs, and led the AL in triples with 14 (the only major statistic he ever led the league in).

He had one more year in Minnesota, but the team was falling apart. Knoblauch had an off year by his standard (.281 batting average and an Ops only 9% better than average but 62 stolen bases and his only Gold Glove). Knoblauch ended up demanding a trade at the end of 1997 and the major contenders of the day (the Yankees, Braves, and Indians) were all interested. The Yankees acquired Koblauch for two men who became major pieces in the Twins rebuilding process (Eric Milton and Christian Guzman).

With the Yankees Knoblauch enjoyed a few championships, but started to pull the ball more for power (17 home runs in '98 and 18 in '99) and never again batted over .300 nor got on base over 40% of the time. His famous "Blauch Head" play that allowed the go-ahead run score in a playoff series with the Indians in 1997 (though the Yanks still won the Series). Eventually, he was moved to left field because he no longer could make the simple throws to first, which was again highly scrutinized by the press.

It seemed that when he joined the Yankees at age of 29, every facet of his game started to deteriorate. What was left was not pretty. Knoblauch's had a .210 average in 300 at-bats in 2002 and had an OPS (.584) that was 54% below average.

OK, it's clear that Knoblauch's career took a bad turn after being traded to the Yankees, but was he truly on a Hall-of-Fame pace before that?

Well, he's a comparison of all of the Hall-of-Fame second baseman and Knoblauch through the age of 27. I added in Sandberg and Alomar since it appears likely that they both will be enshrined. Also, Jackie Robinson does not appear because his major-league career did not begin until he was 28:

Bid McPhee665265956570618340135 .266.320.361.680
Bill Mazeroski128246445011228935151412.264.303.384.688
Billy Herman890369159711762439440 .319.371.428.799
Bobby Doerr1034389357211341036233646.291.358.449.807
Charlie Gehringer7322845560906403888850.318.385.475.860
Eddie Collins1145389074312871549037431.331.412.430.842
Frankie Frisch1000405370113035452422474.321.367.444.811
Joe Morgan89132685318606127819558.263.375.396.771
Johnny Evers95933464729015301230 .269.333.334.666
Nap Lajoie7102987647108653648134 .364.396.548.944
Nellie Fox99038635611136153234845.294.350.375.725
Red Schoendienst85335205219721828256 .276.319.358.677
Roberto Alomar1151446069713297749929676.298.365.423.788
Rod Carew87633164651048293389956.316.367.416.783
Rogers Hornsby11194231730148611672110449.351.413.545.958
Ryne Sandberg922366957510569040421054.288.342.432.774
Tony Lazzeri8493163510967816088449.306.381.483.864
Chuck Knoblauch857332859610193433321467.306.391.417.808

Note that Knoblauch is on par or ahead of average in most of the stats. He trails in home runs, slugging, and sacrifice bunts (average of 77, Knoblauch had 7; not shown).

Now let's look at the same players after the age of 28 on (i.e., starting with the season that they were 28 for the majority of the year). Note that Jackie Robinson now appears:

Bid McPhee147056321113154435727433 .274.370.378.748
Bill Mazeroski8813111268788453381311.253.294.342.635
Billy Herman1032401656611692344527 .291.364.387.751
Bobby Doerr83132005229081206241818.284.366.476.841
Charlie Gehringer159160151214193314410399339.321.412.483.895
Eddie Collins181363331119209432826374143.331.427.423.849
Frankie Frisch13115059831157751720195 .312.370.423.792
Jackie Robinson13824877947151813773419730.311.409.474.883
Joe Morgan1846619611341693209865494104.273.397.439.836
Johnny Evers82527914477587237948.272.382.335.717
Nap Lajoie1770660285721562995124621.327.373.429.803
Nellie Fox137753697181527204672835.284.346.354.699
Red Schoendienst136349597021477664913327.298.349.408.758
Roberto Alomar10323926717121712457216634.310.385.480.865
Rod Carew15935999959200563677254131.334.407.437.843
Rogers Hornsby1140394284914441858633115.366.455.6111.065
Ryne Sandberg12424716743133019265713453.282.345.467.812
Tony Lazzeri8913134476873975836430.279.379.450.829
Chuck Knoblauch77530385368206428219350.270.363.394.757

There's no comparison. Whereas the Hall-of-Fame second basemen improved after 27, Knoblauch deteriorated.

I think that Knoblauch's career now more closely mirrors nice but not great career second basemen like Larry Doyle, Woody English, and Heine Groh (of the great "present arms" batting stance, as Leo Durocher put it), all of whose careers quickly faded after their late twenties. But at least I don't think I was crazy for thinking that he would be a Hall of Famer back in the late Nineties.

Mike's Football Rant
2003-05-23 00:32
by Mike Carminati

The NFL is looking into awarding the 1925 championship to the Pottsville Maroons. The Chicago (now Arizona) Cardinals were awarded the title after the Maroons played an exhibition at Philly's Shibe Park against the Four Horsemen of Notre Dame (which they won 9-6). The game violated the territorial rights of the Frankford Yellow Jackets, who were losing to the Cleveland Bulldogs, 3-0, that day (and who coincidentally won the 1926 championship). Frankford coach Guy Chamberlain protested.

Joe Carr, the NFL president, suspended the Pottsville franchise and canceled its final game against the Providence Steam Roller. Their record stood at 10-2, which was the best in the league. They had just beaten the Cardinals 21-7 the week before to seemingly earn the title. The Maroons entered the game at 9-2, just behind Chicago at 9-1-1.

Second-place Chicago was allowed to play two unscheduled games within a week against the Milwaukee Badgers and Hammond Pros, who had both folded earlier in the year. The scores of the two games were 59-0 and 13-0. The Cardinals ended up 11-2-1 (ties didn't count) and won the sham of a league championship.

Pottsville claimed that they did get verbal approval for the game from the league office, but their protests went for naught. The championship has been the Cardinals ever since.

Of course, the fair thing would be to award the championship to the no-longer-existent Maroons. The Cardinals on the other hand are the oldest franchise in the NFL starting before the turn of the last century as an amateur team (aren't they still?) for the Morgan Athletic Club. They became the Racine Normals because they played at Normal Field on Racine Avenue in Chicago. In 1901 they were dubbed the Cardinals because they got the hand-me-down uniforms of the University of Chicago team, which had faded to maroon. Even though they are the oldest team, they have just two NFL championships to their name, 1925 and 1947. If they take the '25 crown away, their only championship will come in a year when the best team in football (the Cleveland Browns) was not even in the NFL. The Browns played in the fledgling All-American Football Conference that later merged into the NFL.

Bern Baby Bern
2003-05-22 20:54
by Mike Carminati

From my friend Mike:

Yankees' Williams Jazzed About Debut Album

By Steven Graybow

NEW YORK (Billboard) - New York Yankees centerfielder Bernie Williams has inked a deal with jazz label GRP for the release of "The Journey Within," his recording debut.

The CD is expected in stores on July 15. Williams, who plays guitar, composed seven of the album's tracks, which are said to be in a contemporary and Latin jazz vein. Along with his own compositions are Williams' interpretations of Billy Joel's "And So It Goes" and Kansas' "Dust in the Wind."

Pianist David Benoit is featured on the first single "Just Because." Other guests include Bela Fleck and Ruben Blades. A limited edition of the CD will feature original cover art of Williams depicted by famed artist LeRoy Neiman.

Williams will perform at Chicago's House of Blues on July 13, coinciding with Major League Baseball's All-Star Weekend.


It's too bad that his knee injury may keep him out of the All-Star lineup.

Red Bull
2003-05-22 09:54
by Mike Carminati

It's a naive domestic Burgundy without any breeding, but I think you'll be amused by its presumption.

-James Thurber (1894-1961), U.S. humorist, illustrator. Cartoon caption, in New Yorker (March 27, 1937).

The even mead, that erst brought sweetly forth
The freckled cowslip, burnet, and green clover,
Wanting the scythe, all uncorrected, rank.
Conceives by idleness, and nothing teems
But hateful docks, rough thistles, kecksies, burrs,
Losing both beauty and utility.

-Said by Duke of Burgundy re. Greg Luzinski in all-crimson togs in William "Author" Shakespeare's Henry V, act 5, sc. 2, l. 48-53. has a funny review of the ill-fated Phillies uniform changes since moving to the Vet. Of special interest are the all-burgundy uniforms that were wore once and were so loathed that they were jettisoned.

And the sight of ballplayers who, from their caps to their spikes, resembled eggplants was rather amusing.
"Not to Greg Luzinski," recalled Larry Christenson, the Phils' starting pitcher that night. "We told him he looked like a giant grape, and he was pretty ticked off."

"[After the game] Luzinski peeled his off, threw it in the middle of the locker room, and said, 'We stunk. And these stink.' He told someone, I think it might have been [owner] Ruly Carpenter, that he'd rather be traded than have to wear those things again," Christenson said.

Cowboy Curtis, II
by Mike Carminati

Isn't great when something lives up to expectations?

We got an old-fashioned pitcher's duel. It was classic power pitcher versus the junk baller. The ballgame was knotted up 2-2 for three and one-half innings.

Clemens returned to Fenway for win 299.

Two Hall-of-Famers were in the broadcast booth, though it was clear throughout which one earned his plaque for actually broadcasting.

And Bucky Dent in those Green Monster seats! (My reaction to those seats is similar to Gowdy's: it just seems wrong not to have the net above Lansdowne Street. When I lived in Boston, if I was around BU on a game night, I would walk over from Mass Ave and just take a peek through the net into the stadium. It was a bit like Rudy, in the movie of the same title, not being able to get tickets to a Notre Dame football game. Though it did give one a feeling of being a kid in a Norman Rockwell painting looking through a knothole in an outfield fence and there was always tons of activity outside the park. If I went to a game in Boston, I would probably try to get those seats, but I just don't want them to exist otherwise. Cognitive dissonance is a wonderful hobby.)

Watching Clemens give up nine hits in six innings, I still felt that he would find a way to win. Wakefield got 13 Yankees in a row and looked like he was in complete control, but in the end it was Clemens. So he got number 299 in his long-time home and will go for 300 on Monday (with myself in attendance) in his new home, Yankee Stadium (barring injury). Of course, he will be facing the Sox in both games. It's good to be the king.

But Clemens got this win by the skin of his teeth. He had been hit on his pitching hand by a Bill Mueller line drive with two out in the sixth. He had enough left to strike out Doug Mirabelli (not that that requires all that much), but left with the ballgame tied and his Yankees hitless for three and two-thirds. With two outs in the seventh the Yankees rallied on a Mondesi single that plated Posada to give the Yankees the lead that would eventually lead to the Clemens win.

The rest of the game was full of all sorts of interesting plays. First, Alfonso Soriano made a heads-up baserunning play, going from first to third on a Jeter chopper to the right side that Todd Walker nonchalanted to first. He was stranded there however.

Rivera relieved with two outs in the eighth and without a throw home picked pinch-runner Damian Jackson off of first.

Then, Posada scored an insurance run in the ninth on a nice slap double the other way by Ventura. Posada scored standing up and apparently did so to block the throw to the catcher. He then plopped himself down prone on the ground.

The bottom of the ninth had a bit of excitement, too. Completely out of character, Bernie Williams flat out dropped a deep but soft fly ball by Shea Hillenbrand to lead the inning off. Bill Mueller his a slicing liner that just landed foul down the left field line (and easy double if fair). Mueller, batting left-handed, then grounded out to short, which prevented the runner from advancing. Pinch-hitter Jeremy Giambi was then robbed by Hideki Matsui with a diving catch in left. Finally Johnny Damon grounded out to end the game.

Curt Gowdy, like many of the broadcasters who started in radio, knows how to bring the game alive. He describes and informs without inserting himself into the game. He's like having a good friend at the game talking baseball with you. It's the sort of broadcast that I grew up to with Hall-of-Famers Harry Kalas and Whitey Ashburn. It seems to be becoming a lost art form.

Gowdy mentioned Dick Radatz (whom he dubbed the "Monster"), Hoyt Wilhelm, Wilbur Wood, Gus Triandos. There was even mention of the Phils' Tommy Hutton (who wore #14 for the Phils before Pete Rose did) and how he owned Tom Seaver.

A thoroughly enjoyable evening all around.

Cowboy Curtis
2003-05-21 15:16
by Mike Carminati

As if the Red Sox-Yankees game tonight wasn't big enough, ESPN will have a guest in the broadcast booth, none other than Hall-of-Fame broadcaster Curt Gowdy. For those of you who are not old enough to remember Gowdy, check out Mark Simon's great overview of his career and make sure to watch the game on ESPN. YES and NESN be damned.

You'll not find a classier or warmer play-by-play man no matter how hard you try:

"I never really thought about the influence I had," Gowdy said. "I don't know whether I had any influence. I just tried to do the games to the best of my ability."

You're So Money, Baby!
2003-05-21 00:44
by Mike Carminati

Rob Neyer has some interesting comments stemming from an argument in Moneyball over the importance of on-base percentage and of slugging percentage and on the validated of OPS (on-base plus slugging).

Here's an abridged version of the Moneyball text:

OPS was the simple addition of on-base and slugging percentages. Crude as it was, it was a much better indicator than any other offensive statistic of the number of runs a team would score. Simply adding the two statistics together, however, implied that they were of equal importance...An extra point of on-base percentage was clearly more valuable than an extra point of slugging percentage -- but by how much? ... In [the resulting] model an extra point of on-base percentage was worth three times an extra point of slugging percentage.

But three-to-one at what point? Clearly as Neyer opines they are not saying that a player with a .200 on-base percentage was equal to a .600 slugging hitter. Neyer states that he "came to the conclusion that while OPS ain't bad, a better measure would be the sum of slugging percentage and OBP*1.4 (or thereabouts)... So yes, OPS is a crude tool, a blunt object that shouldn't be used when precision is critical"

However, we have to use something as a yardstick or Mario Mendoza would look like Babe Ruth-well, maybe not. It got me to thinking how well the various batting averages correlated to runs historically. I compared batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, OPS, and Neyer's modified OPS' (OBP*1.4 + Slug) against runs for all major-league teams to determine which best correlated.

Here's what I got. The higher the correlation coefficient the better:

BA CorrOBP CorrSLUG CorrOPS CorrOPS' Corr

So Neyer's OPS' is best historically, and regular OPS nudges on-base percentage. That all seems to make intuitive sense.

I next did the same thing broken down by decades:

DecadeBA CorrOBP CorrSLUG CorrOPS CorrOPS' Corr

Note that initially batting average was the best predictor of runs being scored. Then on-base percentage ruled in the 1880s. Ever since then OPS (or OPS') has shown the best correlation to runs scored.

But it's odd how wildly the correlation coefficients fluctuate. One would think that a stat would predict well from decade to decade, or at least that the process would evolve more rather than swing wildly back on forth.

I think there is some way to use linear regression to get the different averages weighed properly based on era, but figuring out what constitutes an era may be the difficult part. It could be split up by decade, but that's sort of an artificial rule being imposed on the system. Perhaps runs-per-game could be used as a means to stratify the major-league seasons, thereby chunking them into like groups.

I'll have to think about this a bit more but I think it's do-able. Maybe I'll wait until after Amazon gets around to sending me my copy of Moneyball.

Strange But Possible Baseball Stories, II
2003-05-20 23:40
by Mike Carminati

Bob Bogart has a clarification on my fuzzy Tim McCarver grand slam-cum-3 RBI single recollection:

The Tim McCarver "Grand Slam Single" happened on July 4, 1976, in the first game of a doubleheader at Pittsburgh. In the top of the second inning, with the Phillies' Dick Allen on 3rd base, Jay Johnstone on 2nd, and Garry Maddox on 1st, McCarver hit a fly ball to right, tight to the line. Maddox, thinking Dave Parker might catch the ball, prepared himself to tag up and advance from 1st to 2nd if Parker caught the fly. The ball just made it over the fence for a grand slam, but McCarver wasn't paying attention to Maddox's tagging and passed him at first base. All three base runners scored, and McCarver got 3 RBI's for his efforts on the play. But he only received credit for a single as that was as far as he got before passing a teammate on the bases.
And no, this wasn't in McCarver's last year as he played until 1980.

Heading for Trouble?
2003-05-20 00:39
by Mike Carminati

When sins are dear to us we are too prone to slide into them again. The act of repentance itself is often sweetened with the thought that it clears our account for a repetition of the same sin.

-Thomas "Don't Call Me Reggie" Jefferson (1743-1826), U.S. president. Letter, November 19, 1786, to Maria Cosway. The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, vol. 10, p. 542, ed. Julian P. "Don't Call Me Oil Can" Boyd, et al. (1950).

Exit according to rule, first leg and then head. Remove high heels and synthetic stockings before evacuation: Open the door, take out the recovery line and throw it away.

-Rumanian National Airlines Emergency instructions quoted in letter to London Times 27 Sep 84

Everyone knows that the head-first slide is a dumb move, right?

Why, all you have to do is listen to a TV broadcast or a sports radio show, and the analysts will bitterly spit that tautology whenever they see some boneheaded player have the temerity to exercise the play. It's so ingrained in the collective baseball consciousness that the announcers seem annoyed to have to repeat it and vent their spleen indirectly on the appropriate, unenlightened rube on the field.

Time once was that a player who had the daring to use the head-first slide was a brash, daring maverick like Pete "Charlie Hustle" Rose (see above). He was a throw-back to a woebegone era that only exists in grainy photos and Kevin Costner movies. However, now the cognoscenti turn thumbs down on the strategy Caesar-like and expect the head-first to expire for all time.

The cries to do away with the outmoded strategy reached a fevered pitch when Derek Jeter was injured on opening day by sliding head-first into Toronto catcher Ken Huckaby at third base. Jeter missed about six weeks with a dislocated shoulder. Now the same analysts whose eyes popped when Jeter had the presence of mind to make an unbelievable relay on an offline throw to nab Jeremy Giambi at home in the 2001 playoffs, speak haughtily about his embarrassing tactical error in employing the head-first slide.

Case in point from Dave Del Grande of the Oakland Tribune:

The head-first slide must be banned. What's it going to take -- a shin guard to the forehead that knocks a guy unconscious? A dislocated shoulder isn't enough?

I know the argument (actually, it's the same one Jack Clark uses for riding a motorcycle without a helmet in Arizona): A player understands he's risking his health when he does it, but it should be his decision.

That argument stinks. If given a choice, I'm betting at least one-third of all hitters would come to the plate without a batting helmet. That doesn't make it right.

Don't blame Ken Huckaby for what happened Monday. Blame Jeter.

Ethan J. Skolnick of the Sun-Sentinel is a bit more circumspect:

Sliding headfirst, for many major leaguers, is still second nature...[Re. The Jeter injury] His [Huckaby's] shin guard met Jeter's shoulder, which became the latest casualty of a headfirst slide, which even on a good effort puts shoulders, wrists and fingers -- primary tools of hitting -- in peril.

Now Jeter is back. But don't expect him to slide on his backside much when his instincts take over.

Skolnick acknowledges that a head-first slide is faster, or at least perceived by most major leaguers as faster, and therefore enticing to baserunners:

[Maury] Wills says he would have gone headfirst more often, because he felt it got him to the base quicker, if the opposition would have allowed it...And if a guy can go headfirst and get away with it, then there's nothing wrong with it."

[Juan Pierre] goes headfirst unless breaking up a double play or sliding into home, feeling just a bit faster and more in control.

[Ex-Marlin manager Jeff] Torborg argued while sliding headfirst may be a little faster, players generally do it because it takes less skill, particularly in terms of staying on the base after the slide.

For many, it comes down to this:

"At that given moment, do you want to be out or safe?" Gerald Williams asks.

However, Skolnick also promulgates the perception that a head-first slide is a less safe option: "Risk: You can't protect yourself as well. Reward: You might avoid a tag, then better hang onto a slick bag."

As far as the many Maury Wills' and Jeff Torborg's statements to the effect that players today have it easier than in the past and that they don't know how to slide, I attribute to old-fogy-ism:

He knew it "was definitely a no-no" at home, with rough catchers Tim McCarver, John Roseboro and Randy Hundley "licking their chops" and primed to crack his collarbone.

"It's the thing to do today," Wills says of headfirst sliding, "and everybody honors it by not racking the runner up. When I played, these guys wouldn't have lasted a series. They would have killed them. In our day, we didn't like each other. Today they are buddies."

"I was used to watching Maury Wills perfecting the hook slide, which you don't see as much as you used to," Torborg said. "They do whatever is easiest. The hook slide is an art. ... And they don't work on sliding as much as they used to."

"Players today, they have a flair for the highlight film, or for something that is exciting," Wills says. "Outfielders today are always sliding to catch the ball. Pepper Martin came up with the headfirst slide and popularized it. It went away, and Pete Rose brought it back. It went back to feet first, and then headfirst came back. It looks good."

It won't go away because of what happened to Jeter. Not unless more infielders and catchers do what Huckaby did.

"That was old school stuff," Wills says. "See that catcher throw his shinguards in there, to block him, not to hurt him? That was the norm in the old days."

Maybe players today don't practice the slide as often in the past, maybe they are not as good at it and rely on the easier head-first slide, and maybe they aren't as tough on baserunners as in the past. Maybe, but I doubt it. It's mostly my opinion since I have no real way to quantify and evaluate their statements. However, Jeter's injury doesn't help the old fogy argument.

So by now everyone should know that the head-first slide is just a dangerous, ill-advised play, right?

So why do they keep doing it? Could it be because, as Gerald Williams said, it's a higher percentage play in a good number of situations?

Of course, it is a poor choice when sliding into home because of the catcher's "tools of ignorance". Jeter found this out in his encounter with Huckaby's shin guard. But could it be possible that the injury risk is not as great as many would have us believe?

Does the head-first cause more injuries and is it a lower-percentage play that the feet-first? Should the head-first slide be chucked in favor of the feet-first variety?

Well, I guess that, like the number of licks it takes to get to the Tootsie Roll center of a Tootsie Pop, the world may never know (Damn you, Mr. Owl!). Or not.

My friend Murray sent me an article from the American Journal of Sports Medicine from May 2000 that says otherwise. In this article the number of injuries from various sliding techniques were recorded for a spate of collegiate games:

All sliding attempts that occurred during game situations were prospectively recorded by a member of the athletic training staff from three Division I collegiate baseball teams and seven Division I collegiate softball teams during the 1998 season.

The study's findings?:

The total number of injuries was similar among head-first slides and feet-first slides, but injury rates per 1000 slides were slightly higher for head-first slides overall. Despite this, feet-first slide injuries appeared to be more severe, accruing more time lost from participation...

When sliding injuries do occur, the slide type appears to dictate the area of the body that will be affected. Injuries to the upper extremities and head were predominantly the result of head-first slides and divebacks [i.e., to first on a pickoff attempt], while injuries to the lower extremities were much more likely to result from a feet-first slide. Intuitively, this makes sense: In head-first slides, the hands and knees absorb the majority of the impact with the ground after the airborne phase. Conversely, in feet-first slides initial impact with the ground is made by the leading foot, followed by the tucked foot and knee. The leading body part is also more likely to absorb most of the force of a collision with either a stationary base or an opposing player.

OK, so sliding with different parts of one's body absorbing the impact causes different types of injuries typically. That seems logical.

The study also found that the head-first slide causes more injuries, just as our salivating commentators have been telling us for years. However, in turns of playing time lost, the feet-first slide caused more severe injuries. This may be somewhat counterintuitive given what we, as fans, are told.

The study does allow that the sample was affected by a few extreme injuries in the feet-first group. Also, this is college baseball, which could possibly favor different styles of play from the majors. So maybe further study is needed before we can bless one strategy over the other, but this opens up the discussion a bit at least.

Let's say that further studies back up this one from May 2000. If a head-first slide is faster, easier, and end up causing less time lost on average, why not use it for all situations in which a catcher is not involved? Hold your horses. If the old saw that head-first slides are more injurious is wrong, then how can we be sure that the head-first slide actually gets a player to a base faster?

Well, the study concludes that "further studies are needed to determine which type of slide gets the runner to the base more quickly so that we can determine for which type of slide the risk of lost participation time is acceptable."

So, where does this leave us? You could say that we really don't "know" anything at this stage about the preferable method of sliding into a base. But then again, that means that it's time for the rhetoric to end and the real studies to begin. Also, the players apparently are not the complete lummoxes that the analysts make them out to be for sliding head-first. The play is worthy of consideration at least.

So where do we go from here? Given the potential financial losses with the time lost due to injuries, isn't it in MLB's best interest to conduct a study themselves. They could have their minions as Elias Sports Bureau review the existing data on slides to determine which slide is most appropriate in which situations. Then they could train players accordingly.

Or they could just keep listening to the old ballplayers-cum-analysts, who will insist that the players today have it easier, are not as well trained in the basics of the game, and are not as dedicated to the game as their predecessors. Which alternative do you think Bud and the boys will take? I, personally, am not holding my breath.

Pine Tarred and Feathered?
2003-05-19 00:51
by Mike Carminati

"Prior to 1983, I was always ridiculed at ballparks about an ailment (hemorrhoids) I had during the 1980 World Series. Now, since 1983, I'm always known as the Pine Tar Guy. Now what would you rather be known as?"

- George Brett (as quoted by

Twenty years ago George Brett was robbed of a home run because of the famous Pine Tar Incident. My friend Barry brought up that game the other day and claimed that in college 15 years ago, I backed the reversal of the call and the game's being replayed. I had no recollection of the event-then again, my college career is sort of a blur-and chalked it up to a successful, apparently, attempt to annoy him.

Anyway, I told him that I would research the incident and let him know what I found. To refresh yourself with the particulars of the Pine Tar incident, here's an account of the game(s) from Baseball Almanac:

On July 24, 1983 George Brett took center stage in one of baseball's most controversial incidents which has been dubbed the Pine Tar Game. This highly unusual incident involved George Brett of the Kansas City Royals, Billy Martin of the New York Yankees, a home run in Yankee Stadium, a bat with pine tar on the handle, and the umpires' interpretation of the rules.

Rule 1.10(b) reads: the bat handle, for not more than 18 inches from the end, may be covered or treated with any material or substance to improve the grip. Any such material or substance, which extends past the 18-inch limitation, shall cause the bat to be removed from the game. Umpire Tim McClelland ruled that Brett's bat had "heavy pine tar" 19 to 20 inches from the tip of the handle and lighter pine tar for another three or four inches.

The circumstances which led to the ruling occurred after Brett hit a two-out two-run homer during the ninth inning off closer Goose Gossage which gave the Royals a 5-4 lead. After crossing home plate, Brett went into his dugout, sat on the bench, and watched as Yankees' manager Billy Martin approached home plate umpire Tim McClelland. The umpiring crew conferred at home plate and measured Brett's bat up against the front side of home plate. McClelland eventually signaled that Brett was out and the infuriated thirdbaseman rushed from the bench in an attempt to attack both McClelland and Martin.

Brett was quickly ejected and Royals' manager Dick Howser argued the call, but McClelland's ruling stood and the home run was nullified resulting in a 4-3 Yankees win. The Royals protested the game and American League president Lee McPhail overruled the umpires decision and said that Brett 's home run stood and that the game was to be resumed.

Three weeks, four days, four hours, and fourteen minutes later the Pine Tar Game was resumed and the Royals won after closer Dan Quisenberry shut the door on the Yankees (part two took 12 minutes total time) to preserve a 5-4 Armstrong victory.

Here is the rule in its current configuration:
(c) The bat handle, for not more than 18 inches from its end, may be covered or treated with any material or substance to improve the grip. Any such material or substance, which extends past the 18 inch limitation, shall cause the bat to be removed from the game. NOTE: If the umpire discovers that the bat does not conform to (c) above until a time during or after which the bat has been used in play, it shall not be grounds for declaring the batter out, or ejected from the game.

And here is my initial assessment:

The "NOTE" was added because of Brett. But clearly the ump overstepped the limitations of the rule in calling Brett out. The rule says that the bat must be removed. It does not indicate what to do if it has been used in an at-bat.
That puts it squarely in a gray area. There is a rule that says that an umpire's judgment call is sacrosanct:
(a) Any umpire's decision which involves judgment, such as, but not limited to, whether a batted ball is fair or foul, whether a pitch is a strike or a ball, or whether a runner is safe or out, is final. No player, manager, coach or substitute shall object to any such judgment decisions.

Therefore, unless Lee McPhail felt that McClelland had disobeyed the intent of the rule--it is just meant for a bat that IS to be used, not one that has already been used--, I can't see how he could overrule the ump. I think that the ump made a bad call. How does a little pine tar plus a nebulous rule overturn a game-winning home run? But it was his decision and it apparently was a valid interpretation of the rule.
So, I agree that with what I said before: it was a bad call. But I can't see how it can be overturned. Also, the clarification takes care of future pine tar-type incidents. But what is the point of having the rule at all? As far as I know, it has never been used in a game [actually, it has]. It would have to be used before or during the at-bat, and it carries no penalty besides the loss of a bat so what's the deterrent? I will research further to find the original intent of the rule and determine if that was why the ruling was overturned.

One more thing about Brett: he was tossed after his fit of pique in the original game. When they replayed he remained in the lineup (though of course he did not bat again) and at third base. How can that be justified? He was not thrown out, from what I can tell, for using a pine tar bat but for behaving like a nut. I guess if the thinking is that they are replaying from the "bad" call, Brett is still in the game.

Well, I did a bit more research and found that the rule had been invoked on occasion for various offenses and that it was actually used in another Yankee game eight years earlier. However, this time it was against a Yankee and the decision was not reversed:

Here's basically what I would see as the final word on the matter from The Rules and Lore of Baseball. Thurman Munson was called out 8 years earlier for exactly the same reason. The decision was never overturned nor was the rule re-worded. So how could it be applied differently for Brett?
They got it wrong or someone owes Munson a posthumous RBI:

Yankee catcher Thurman Munson was the culprit in this episode. The Yankees and Twins met on the night of July 19, 1975 at Minnesota when umpire Art Frantz enforced this rule against Munson in the top of the first inning.

After Munson knocked in Sandy Alomar with a single, Minnesota manager Frank Quilici complained that the pine tar on Munson's bat exceeded 18 inches, which is in violation of the rule. The bat was checked by Frantz, and Munson was ruled out with the run being nullified. Minnesota catcher Glenn Borgmann was credited with a putout on the play.

Nick Bremigan recalls the incident vividly. "I was the ump at first that night. Munson always had a very wry sense of humor. When he returned after rounding first base, he kiddingly said to me, 'Better check the ball for blood.' He was referring to the fact that his single had been a bleeder, which indeed, it was. Munson was unaware of the situation at home plate where Quilici and Borgmann had prevailed upon Frantz, the plate umpire, to measure the pine tar on the bat. When Frantz found the bat to be illegal, he ruled Munson out.

I was aware of what was going on and casually said to Munson, 'Checking the ball would probably be irrelevant, because I think you've just been called out.'

Still unaware of the situation, Thurman retorted, 'Why? Did I hit the ball too softly?' He quickly became aware of the situation, and became very volatile. One of his major objectives each season was to get 100 RBI's.

Never being able to accept adversity calmly, Munson proceeded to vent his wrath for being deprived of an RBI-not so much at Frantz, but at Quilici and Borgmann for catching him."

The Yankees ended up losing that game 2-1 on a four-hitter by Jim Hughes. According to Retrosheet, Munson's at-bat was recorded as a play by the catcher (Glenn Borgmann) unassisted. Munson finished with 102 RBI anyway. The Yankees finished 12 games behind the Red Sox, so I guess there's no point in replaying at this point.

However, it did set a precedent that was ignored when Brett's more famous Pine Tar Incident occurred. Maybe AL president was unaware of the Munson incident. Maybe he was, but did not think the ruling was consistent with the intent of the rule. He did shore up the rule so that another incident would not occur. That's fine. However, he did create an inconsistency in the use of the rule by overturning the established interpretation basically on a whim.

Brett should have been out. The rule should have been changed to eradicate the inappropriate interpretation in the future. Thi may seem a logical inconsistency on my part, but I think that as with balls and strikes calls, the most important thing for an ump is consistency. If he calls one pitch a ball in the first inning, he should call the same pitch in the ninth a ball as well. The same goes for interpretations of rules. If Munson was out so should Brett be out. If the AL president feels that the rule as it was being applied at the time is incorrect, ammend it. But he should not re-invent a rule and retroactively apply the reinvention, unless he is prepared to do so for all like circumstances throughout baseball history (or at least since the rule's wording was established).

A Million And One Uses, II
2003-05-19 00:04
by Mike Carminati

My friend Murray makes a good point about pitcher's wearing rings (and about liquid bandages):

I don't think you're allowed to wear a bandage on your pitching hand, just like I don't think you're allowed to wear a ring. I can't support this with anything from the rules, but I'm reminded of it by the section in Ball Four where we learn about Whitey Ford's ring ball and his buckle ball.

As for liquid bandages, I've used them and they work the same way that Krazy Glue does, except that Krazy Glue dries much faster.

Here is the section of the peerless Ball Four to which Murray refers. It's the June 11 chapter (pp. 213-14 in my twentieth anniversary edition):

Probably because we're going to be in New York soon, the conversation was about Whitey Ford and what great stuff he had when he was pitching for the Yankees. Fred Talbot, who came to the Yankees when Whitey was about through and looking for all the little edges he could find, said Ford could take advantage of every little nick on a ball and make it do something, dive or sail or hop or jump. "If Cronin's name wasn't stamped on the ball straight, he could make it drop."

For a long time Whitey got away with throwing a mud ball that was positively evil. Sometimes Ellie Howard would load it up for him by pretending to lose his balance and steadying himself with his hand-while the ball was in it. Ford could make a mud ball drop, sail, break in, break out and sing "When Irish Eyes Are Smiling." Eventually the opposition, particularly Bill Rigney, the manager of the Angels, got wise to him and he had to quit using the mudder.

Then he went to his wedding ring. He gouged such sharp edges into it that we used to kid him about having lost the diamond out of it. He'd scuff up the ball with the ring and make it do all the things the mud ball did, except maybe now the song was different. He got by with the ring for a couple of months until umpire John Stevens, I think it was, or John Rice (for some reason, every time Rice came onto the field, somebody would holler, "What comes out of a Chinaman's ass?") got wise. The ump could have caused real trouble, but he went out to the mound and said, "Whitey, go into the clubhouse. Your jock strap needs fixing. And when you come back, it better be without that ring."

After that, Ellie Howard sharpened up one of the buckles on his shin guard and every time he threw the ball back to Whitey he'd rub it against the buckle. The buckle ball sang two arias from Aida.

It's a good point, but my take was:

Yeah, but according to the story, Ford wore the ring for some time until the umps got wise to his cutting the ball with it. It seemed to be something Ford became known for, so they singled him out. I don't know if that constitutes a general rule.
Then again according to rule 9.01 (c), it's up to the umps discretion how to handle anything not explicitly stated in the rules. I think that barring Ford, who was known for scuffing the ball, from wearing a ring and not others is consistent spirit of rule 8.02 (a) (6).
I still don't think Zach Day's ejection was.
I heard that the liquid bandaids are pretty good, but they're something like $10 for a small bottle. I'd rather use Krazy Glue: it's cheaper.

Strange But Possible Baseball Stories
2003-05-18 01:35
by Mike Carminati

While I'm on the subject strange applications of baseball rules of late, there's a doozy that's been circulating in the SABR mailing list of late. It's sort of a baseball urban legend (an Urban Shocker?). Some have claimed that so-and-so told them that it actually happened in a minor-league game. Others attribute it to rule geeks with an overdeveloped imagination. It's already the stuff of legends-like some people don't believe that Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and Al Gore are real.

It goes something like this: it is possible for a team to turn a triple play without having a single defensive player touch the ball.

Huh, how can that possibly be? Well, I guess the botched infield fly play by the Expos the other day got a lot of people's creative juices a-flowing. How the play would enfold would be as follows:

- First, there would have to be runners at first and second and no outs.

- The batter hits a fair fly ball that can be fielded by one of the infielders. He would then be out by the infield fly rule, even if no one touches the ball. One Out.

- The runner at first passes the runner at second. The runner at first is automatically out:

Any runner is out when... (h) He passes a preceding runner before such runner is out;

I remember a ball that Tim McCarver hit in his final year that invoked this rule (it may have been spring training). The bases were loaded and McCarver hit a ball over, I believe, the right field wall. As McCarver ran, he watched the flight of the ball and didn't notice that he had passed the runner at first. He was credited with a single and was declared out. All three runners scored, however. McCarver laughed his way to the bench as I remember.

Two Outs.

- The runner at second is struck by the batted ball as it lands:

Any runner is out when...(f) He is touched by a fair ball in fair territory before the ball has touched or passed an infielder. The ball is dead and no runner may score, nor runners advance, except runners forced to advance. EXCEPTION: If a runner is touching his base when touched by an Infield Fly, he is not out, although the batter is out; If two runners are touched by the same fair ball, only the first one is out because the ball is instantly dead. If runner is touched by an Infield Fly when he is not touching his base, both runner and batter are out.

Three Outs and no fielder touched the ball

It is important that those steps occur in the above order in the way described.

If the runner at first passes the runner at second after he has been struck by the ball, then the runner at second would already be out and could not affect the runner at first. Besides the ball would be dead, and he could not advance anyway.

If the runner at second keeps his foot on the bag when he is hit by the ball, he is not out. If the ball hits both runners, only the first is out and the ball is dead. If the ball is past, say, a drawn-in infielder, then the runner at second is not out.

Of course, this is an extremely unlikely set of events, which may explain why it (most probably) has never occurred. I mean, why would the runner at first run past the bag at second, in order to pass the lead runner, on a ball that is clearly not leaving the infield? Perhaps, he could have lost sight of the ball or believed that it was traveling further that it in actuality did or thought there were two outs already. In that case, it is imperative for the trailing runner to check out the third base coach and the lead runner to determine what to do, who would help prevent such miscues.

The lead runner would probably stay on the bag, eliminating rule 7.08 (f). Besides, where are the fielders? If a middle infielder-given that the lead runner is hit by the ball-cannot make a play, he would probably be in front of the ball and not behind it.

Let's assume that the play did occur. How would it be scored? I believe it would be listed as an unassisted triple play attributed to the player closest to the ball when it landed. In Tuesday's botched infield fly play, Fernando Tatis dove too late to catch the ball. It was scored a fly out to third, even though the ball was closer to home than third.

Also, I would think there are any number of nutty immaculate triple plays that you could come up with if you wanted to be creative. Why there's rule 7.09(g):

It is interference by a batter or a runner when...(g) If, in the judgment of the umpire, a base runner willfully and deliberately interferes with a batted ball or a fielder in the act of fielding a batted ball with the obvious intent to break up a double play, the ball is dead. The umpire shall call the runner out for interference and also call out the batter runner because of the action of his teammate. In no event may bases be run or runs scored because of such action by a runner.

Say the bases are loaded and none are out in a tie ballgame in the top of the ninth. The infield is drawn in. The coaches flash that the suicide squeeze is on, but the batter does not see the sign and is swinging away. The runner at second is overzealous and passes the runner at third, who realizes that the batter is swinging away. The batter hits a sharp one hopper to the second baseman, which further freezes the runner at third allowing the runner at second to pass him and be declared out. The runner at first realizes that it is a double play ball and interferes with the drawn-in second baseman before he fields the ball to avoid the double play. Both the runner at first and the batter are out for interference and the ball is dead before the defense touches it. Three outs and no one has touched the ball.

These scenarios are possible but highly improbable since they involve a number of dubious choices by a number of players. They are fun to think about though. And after seeing the Montreal play the other day, I'm starting to believe anything is possible.

A Million And One Uses
2003-05-18 00:36
by Mike Carminati

Too much glue won't stick, and too many words won't either.

-Chinese Proverb

Montreal pitcher Zach Day was ejected in the third inning today for violating rule 8.02(b):

The pitcher shall not... (b) Have on his person, or in his possession, any foreign substance. For such infraction of this section (b) the penalty shall be immediate ejection from the game

Day had applied glue to a blister on the middle finger of his pitching hand between innings after the blister had bothered him in the first two innings. But the umps didn't call him after they saw the effects of the "substance" on his pitches. Day is a junkball/groundball pitcher to begin with.

Day had walked Rafael Belliard, the leadoff batter in the third, at which point he attempted to remove the glue from his hand.

It was too slick, I couldn't feel the ball,'' Day said. "I was trying to get it off. I was just trying to prevent the blister from getting worse. I wasn't trying to do anything.''

When he was unsuccessful, the Expo trainer came out to the mound to help.

Home plate ump Bill Miller also approached the mound to investigate the delay. When Miller discovered what the Expos were up to, he told manager Frank Robinson that Day would have to be reported "to the league", which I don't think is part of the rules and I suppose means the commissioner since there is no "league" to which to report anything, and that the pitcher was ejected.

Robinson argued that a different rule applied, 8.01(a)(6):

The pitcher shall not...(a) (6) deliver what is called the "shine" ball, "spit" ball, "mud" ball or "emery" ball. The pitcher, of course, is allowed to rub the ball between his bare hands. PENALTY: For violation of any part of this rule 8.02 (a) (2 to 6) the umpire shall: (a) Call the pitch a ball, warn the pitcher and have announced on the public address system the reason for the action. (b) In the case of a second offense by the same pitcher in the same game, the pitcher shall be disqualified from the game...(e) The umpire shall be sole judge on whether any portion of this rule has been violated.

Robinson reasoned that applying this rule would result in only a warning for his pitcher, which would be superfluous once the glue was removed. There are a couple of problems with this reasoning: 1) The rule in its entirety deals not with the pitcher having something on his person that is illegal like Krazy Glue but rather with something actually having been done to the ball or attempted to be done to the ball: rubbing the ball, expectorating on the ball, defacing the ball, or applying a foreign substance to the ball. The claim was that the foreign substance was on Day's hand it could not have been applied to the ball since it was dry and it could not very easily have been used to deface the ball. 2) It was clear that Day did not deliver a trick pitch that would alter the ball's delivery or trajectory but rather that the reverse occurred, he had trouble even gripping the ball. 3) Besides the ump is the "sole judge" and he adjudicated already.

If any rule applies, I believe it's 8.02 (b). The umps felt embarrassed to even employ that rule:

"We didn't have a choice,'' Miller said. "They forced our hand. As soon as we heard that it was Super Glue and not just a blister, then we had to throw him out.''

But did rule 8.02 (b) truly apply?

I guess in the strictest reading of the rule, there was a foreign substance on Day's hand. However, what if Day had instead applied a bandage to the blister? It is unlikely he would do so given the attendant loss of control on the ball in the effected area, so maybe that's a bad example.

How about if Day applied what's called a liquid bandage?:

If a bandage of any sort is considered legal legal, so should a liquid bandage. For Day's intents and purposes what he applied to his finger was a low-cost version of a liquid bandage.

Can a bandage, liquid or no, be applied to a pitcher's hand? I could find no reference to its legality or illegality. However, given that pitchers may go to their mouth in cold weather to warm their fingers (see rule below), isn't wearing a bandage the same sort of extenuating circunmstance?

The pitcher shall not (a) (1) Bring his pitching hand in contact with his mouth or lips while in the 18 foot circle surrounding the pitching rubber. EXCEPTION: Provided it is agreed to by both managers, the umpire prior to the start of a game played in cold weather, may permit the pitcher to blow on his hand.

Clearly, Day had not intended to use the glue to alter the ball itself or the trajectory it took once it left his hand. If he had, he would not have been so cavalier with his "illegal substance".

I cannot believe that justice is served by ejecting Day. He was not trying to gain an unfair advantage, nor clearly did he gain one. I can't believe that this rule was intended to deny any sort of substance besides skin from residing on a pitcher's hand. What about a ring or a medical alert bracelet?

I just checked online and NCAA baseball prohibits bandages on the pitcher's pitching hand:

Rule 9.2 e . Apply any foreign substance or moisture to the ball or to the pitching hand or fingers, or do anything to deface the ball. The pitcher may use bare hands to rub up the ball.
A . R . (Additional Ruling)-The pitcher shall not use a bandage or any other distracting item on the pitching hand or fingers. A cast or bandage may be used on the non-pitching hand if it is not white in color or distracting to the batter or umpire.

However, their penalty is a warning for illegal substances for the first infraction and then an ejection. Therefore, the pitcher would be given an opportunity to remove the nefarious bandage.

I think that in this case the umps should have employed another rule:

9.01 (c) Each umpire has authority to rule on any point not specifically covered in these rules.

Clearly this situation is not properly covered in the rules. The ump should have warned Day, allowed the trainer to remove the glue, and then play resume. That was fair and expeditious route, and it was within his purview to do so. Instead the ump delayed and disrupted the flow of the game. Maybe they not only need a computer to help them call balls and strikes: maybe it can help their impaired judgment.

GM's Dilemma: Hmm...Should I Keep the Racist or the Wife Beater? (Alleged)
2003-05-17 00:34
by Mike Carminati

The Tampa Bay Devil Rays officially welcomed shortstop Julio Lugo into the fold. Lugo, you'll recall, was released Tuesday by the Astros after being arrested for allegedly attacking his wife in the parking lot at Minute Maid Park before an April 30 game.

As far as his game on the field, there's nothing alleged about it out and out stinks. Since posting a decent on-base percentage and 22 stolen bases his rookie year (2000), Lugo's numbers in both statistical areas have deteriorated greatly. His slugging and batting average have always been far below average. Also, Lugo's range at short and ability to turn a double play have diminished.

The bottom line is he is a great fit for the D-Rays.

To make room for Lugo, reliever John Rocker was sent double to Double-A Orlando. Rocker lasted only two outings, one inning, and eight batters in his trial with Tampa. Of the eight batters he faced six reached base (3 walks, 2 hits, and a hit batsman). Rocker threw a total of 34 pitches but only 14 for strikes.

However, he may have achieved Lou Piniella's goals for him. That is, he may just have been recalled (after only 4 minor-league innings) to light a fire under young closer Lance Carter. Carter has recorded 3 saves in the four games he has pitched since Rocker's debut.

I guess I shouldn't criticize Tampa Bay for signing players of ill-repute. They are the Devil Rays after all, not the Angels.

Double Dip into the old Email Bag
2003-05-16 21:00
by Mike Carminati

Did the 1897 St. Louis Browns really become the Cardinals? And did they then start up a new version of the St. Louis Brown, who eventually moved to Baltimore and became the Baltimore Orioles?


Paul Gottieb

Hi Paul,
Yes and yes. Here's how it happened:
The Browns Stockings started in the American Association (the old "Beer and Whiskey League") in 1882. Chris von der Ahe, a German immigrant who owned a "beer garden", formed the team basically to sell intoxicants. He was sort of an early Charlie Finley/George Steinbrenner type. He hired future "Black Sox" owner and ballpark name-lender Charlie Commiskey to manage the club.
They were highly successful and won the AA crown from 1885-89 inclusive. They won baseball's original World Series, the Temple Cup, in 1886. The AA was folded into the NL in 1892 and St. Louis was one of the teams that survived. Commiskey jumped to the Reds and the Brown Stockings became a second-division team. They fell to 39-111 in 1898.
During the league wars, the NL started to swap shares of teams to improve overall league strength, until many owners owned shares of a few teams. The owner of the Brown Stockings, Frank Robison, also owned the Cleveland Spiders. He shifted all of the talented players including Cy Young to St. Louis in 1899. The Cardinals were dubbed the Perfectos for a short time. The Spiders became the worst team of all time and were forfeited to the league when four teams were lopped off after the season.
Other teams had similar practices: Pittsburgh pilfered from the Louisville club, that had an owner in common. That's how they got the great Honus Wagner.
The St. Louis club became known as the Cardinals around the turn of the century, although names were rarely official and were sometimes given to teams by the local media (That's why the "Stockings" was shortened to "Sox", in order to fit in headlines).
Meanwhile, Ban Johnson in 1894 took a rundown minor league, called the Western League. Charlie Commiskey, just fired by the Reds, took over the Sioux City club. By 1900, the league was the premier minor league in the country and Johnson renamed it the American League. In 1901 with the NL contracting by four clubs, they declared themselves a major-league and Commiskey shifted his franchise to Chicago's south side.
The Milwaukee Brewers club, one of the original Western-Leaguers, was shifted to St. Louis and the management selected the old-time name that had fallen into disuse, the Browns.
This was very popular in the AL: The early Baltimore Orioles took their name from the successful NL franchise from the 1890s. The Chicago franchise used White Sox in reference to the Cubs original nickname from 1871 to 1889 (then they became "Pop" Cap Anson's Colts when he managed them, then the Orphans when he retired). For a short time the Cubs actually barred the Sox from using Chicago in their name and they were officially just the White Sox for about two years.
The Red Sox stole their name from the Boston NL club in 1908. They had been known as the Americans, the Somersets, and the Pilgrims until 1907. In 1908 the Dovey brothers purchased the Boston NL franchise and decked them out in all white. The media dubbed the team the "Doves" in honor of the new owners. The Boston AL club quickly switched to red socks and dubbed themselves the Red Sox. In 1909 the NL club tried to switch back by changing their uniforms, but it was too late. The became known as the Rustlers and then the Braves (and briefly the Bees in the late '30s). The Red Sox became a passion to their fans; the Braves floundered for decades until they moved to Milwaukee and then Atlanta.
Fans knew the teams by a familiar name back then and if you could grap it, it was better than free bobbleheads for putting fannies in seats.
I hope that helps.
Take care,

Oh, Henry!
2003-05-16 20:55
by Mike Carminati

I thought this was kind of interesting:

Hi Mike,
Why do they use the K for scoring a strike out?

Barbara Farrell

Hi Barbara,
The following is an excerpt from Paul Dickson's The Joy of Keeping Score:

Once again, he winds up and goes for the K.

-Traditional line of sportscaster describing a pitcher racking up strikeouts

K. It is the most abiding of abbreviations, taken, by all accounts, from the back rather than the front of the word "strike."

It was the invention of Henry Chadwick, notwithstanding an article in The Sporting News of June 12, 1965, asserting that the first person to use the K was M. J. Kelly, a baseball writer for the New York Herald and editor of the DeWitt Guide for 1868. True, Kelly used it, but he had learned it from Chadwick, who, among other things, became the Herald's first baseball editor in 1864, and who used the K symbol in 1868 in Beadle's Guide, of which he was the editor. From time to time, it has been further asserted that the K was Kelly's appropriation of his own initial, but this is unsubstantiated speculation-similar to the occasionally mentioned notion that K is the letter that most resembles a batter standing at the plate.

On a number of occasions Chadwick told how the scoring system was created in the early 1860s. One of the most complete renditions appeared in 1883 in Peck and Snyder's Scorebook, which was created by Chadwick. "Over twenty years ago we prepared a system of short-hand for the movements of contestants in a baseball match, which system is now familiar to every scorer in the country. The abbreviations of this system were prepared on the mnemonics plan of connecting the abbreviated words in some way or another with the movement to be described..."

So it was that Chadwick was able to explain: "K stands for 'struck out' as it was the prominent letter of the word strike, as far as remembering the word was concerned." At another point in the discussion of his system, Chadwick notes that "the letter K in struck is easier to re member in connection with the word, than S."

Most of Chadwick's ideas have long ago been dropped, including the use of L for fouL, which is totally consistent with the use of K. Incidentally, Chadwick's system was unlike any that have come into use in the twentieth century. For one thing, it used letters, not numbers, for defensive plays: for instance, C for a putout at third and RO for a putout between bases. There were six error symbols, including • (bullet) for a muffed ball and 0 for a dropped fly ball.

Take care,

For those of you who don't know, Henry Chadwick was Bill James, just a hundred years earlier. However, whereas James at least had baseball guides and encyclopedias on which to base and test his theories, Chadwick had nothing to start with. Batting averages were expressed in runs per game with a remainder and "hands lost" (i.e., outs) per game (also with a remainder). It may have been the germ of an idea for Runs Created, but it was like using Roman numerals to do long division (and we all know how painful that can be). Chadwick was the man who started it all, from scoring games to keeping real stats to disseminating them in a baseball annual (the great Beadle's Dime Base Ball Player).

Lloyd in Space
2003-05-16 00:49
by Mike Carminati

Lloyd McClendon had the typical meltdown that presages a manager being fired. His target? Kris Benson, who had the temerity to lose a game:

"You don't get those tags off potential," McClendon said. "You earn that distinction. This game isn't based on potential, it's based on results. There comes a time when you've got to go out and get it done."

"When you get a couple of runs, you've got to go back out and go 1-2-3 in the next inning," McClendon said. "You've just gotten two runs off one of the best pitchers in the league (Roy Oswalt), you can't give those runs back.

"You've got your No. 1 starter against their No. 1 starter. Sometimes you've got to step up, execute, make your pitches. Sometimes you've got to win a game 2-0."

When informed of his manager's comments, Benson seemed miffed but somewhat non-plussed: "Giving up two runs there is definitely not what I wanted to do." Well, of course not, but did Benson really want to get the job done?

Why should McClendon plumb the depths of his pitching ace's soul? Why isn't he made at Matt Stairs, who killed the only scoring rally the Bucs had all day by getting thrown out at the plate? Benson gave up three runs in six innings, not a stellar performance but it would qualify as a quality start if that stat still existed.

The problem with Pirates is not the starting rotation. Benson now has a 3.81 ERA and he is fourth in that stat among the starters. The Pittsburgh starters have a 2.48 ERA overall. That's fifth in the majors.

Their relievers have a 5.42 ERA, which second to last inthe majors. The Pirates are third to last in the majors in runs scored, second to last in OPS, and second to last in batting average.

McClendon has cause to be upset, but the last place he should be venting his spleen is at the starters. This leads me to believe that McClendon, who is in the last year of his contract, sees the writing on the wall and is now lashing out indiscriminately on whomsoever does anything to annoy him.

His pitcher gave up a lead. Big deal! Hall-of-Famers give up leads. It happens. The last thing you want to do is put more pressure on your players to be perfect. If Benson is on the mound with a 2-0 lead worrying only about keeping that lead, then he is doomed for failure, most likely.

In the coming days/weeks it appears McClendon will be fired. It's just a fait accompli at this point. Given the fallout from the Marlins mid-season hire of Jack McKeon without interviewing minority candidates and given that McClendon is African-American, it appears that baseball will withstand another blackeye when McClendon's replacement, a dubious distinction at best, is announced.

No Longer Blogged Down
2003-05-16 00:14
by Mike Carminati

I have added a new entry in my archives for the missing archives that a bug in Blogger prevents me from recreating. I had been holding onto the extra posts on the main page and it was slowing down its download. Everything should be smooth sailing, er rather, crawling where Blogger is concerned.

Apu-plectic-McLain Goes from 30 Wins to 7-11
2003-05-15 14:46
by Mike Carminati

If you want to get a thousand-year-old hot dog from a two-time Cy Young winner, look no further than your local 7-Eleven. That is if you live in Sterling Heights, Michigan. That's where Denny McLain is now employed as he finishes up his federal prison sentence for embezzlement.

Apparently, celebrities are nothing new to the Detroit-area convenience store. Bandleader Glenn Miller is the owner and Michael Smith formerly of Wham and Joe Dimaggio's sister Carmello are patrons.

Said said Smith:

"It's an honor to meet him," said Michael Smith, 30, of Shelby Township as McLain mingled with customers Wednesday. "I'm still shaking. It's not every day you meet a two-time Cy Young winner. He's one of the greatest pitchers ever. I can't wait to tell my dad."

Still shaking? He must've taken too deep a swig of his Slurpee. McLain had won two Cy Youngs and 114 games (including 30 in a season for the only time in the last 69 years) by his 26th birthday. By his 29th, he had won only 17 more games, had been suspended for three months for trafficking with gamblers, had been in four different organizations in three years, and would never pitch another major-league game. And you thought Joe Charboneau had unfulfilled promise?

So if you have a hankering for a blueberry squishy head on out to Michigan, but make sure to hurry. Quicker than you can say, "Some people call it a Kaiser blade, but I call it a sling blade," McLain could be hanging up his apron. He's up for parole in October.

I can't help but think that Dante Hicks of Clerks fame is laughing his bee-hind off somewhere.

Mike and Yikes! III
2003-05-15 10:03
by Mike Carminati

Brian Kingman

For more on 20-game losers including the Omar "Voodoo" Daal go to

Mike and Yikes! II
2003-05-15 01:18
by Mike Carminati

Part I

So when and how did losing 20 become such an embarrassment?

There were a number of factors that helped do away with the high-loss pitcher. First, the most immediate was the 1981 strike the year after Kingman lost 20. That year there were a number of pitchers who were on a pace to lose 20 but did not come close due to the strike that wiped out one-third of the season.

Here are the major-league leaders in losses in 1981 with the number of games their teams played and their losses projected over a 162-game schedule. (Note that pitchers on multiple teams had their teams' number of games averaged: Koosman, Minnesota (110) and ChiSox (106) and Berenguer, KC(103) and Toronto (106).)

NameLTeam GProj L
Pat Zachry1410521.60
Larry Mura1411020.62
Tommy Boggs1310719.68
Juan Berenguer13104.520.15
Jerry Koosman1310819.50
Luis Leal1310619.87
Jim Clancy1210618.34

So we'll never know if all or any of the possible six pitchers projected to reach 20 losses would have done so if the season had not been interrupted. However, it is a good indication that Kingman's 1980 season in itself did not mark a drastic change in the use of pitchers.

There were also some pitching trends that came to a head coincidentally soon after Kingman's 20-loss season. In the early Seventies, teams started switching to 5-man rotations. While this may seem to limit the number of starts for pitchers and therefore the number of potential losses, what it really did, at least initially, was given the top starters more starts (sometimes in the 40s, like we saw with Niekro) and set expectations for more innings out of individual pitchers. Both of those things helped retard the seemingly natural progression in baseball to greater specialization on pitching staffs and therefore fewer complete games and more sharing of innings, wins, and losses. This helped keep the number of twenty-game losers artificially high into the seventies.

In 1979, Bruce Sutter put on the finishes touches on the definition of a modern reliever. I believe that the closer helped ensure that starting pitchers won a greater number of games or at least decreased the number of blown leads by starters who were tiring. Therefore, it got more difficult to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

Lastly, the expansion of the Sixties and Seventies helped keep the number of 20-game losers high as extremely poor clubs and extremely poor pitchers were admitted into the majors. This began to be mitigated in the early Eighties.

So it seems that there were a number of trends that converged on the Eighties and have made it more difficult to lose 20 ever since. But could it have suppressed their number to such a degree that there have not been any 20-loss men in over twenty years?

I think that a stigma got associated with losing 20 in the mid-Eighties that had not existed before. I believe that managers proceeded to remove potential 20-game losers from the rotation to spare the players the embarrassment of such a dubious distinction. This lasted, I believe, until Omar Daal came within one loss of 20 in 2000 with the D'Backs and Phils. Let's check if this is true with some pitchers who came close to losing 20 (By the way, the research for this was conducted with data from the incomparable Retrosheet site):

In 1982, Bruce Berenyi went 9-18 for the Reds with a 3.36 ERA. He stayed in the rotation the entire year and even though he already had 18 losses he made his last two scheduled starts (winning a complete game 2-0 shutout and getting a no-decision in the second, a 3-2 loss).

Frank Tanana went 7-18 in 1982. He lost 5 straight decisions between August 29 and September 15. He won his last game September 20. He didn't pitch in the last twelve games the Rangers played but it appears that they gave his turn to youngster John Butcher to see what he could do. Possibly removed to avoid 20 losses.

Matt Keough was 11-18 in 1982 and he made all his starts even though he was at 18 losses with two starts to go.

In 1983, Larry Gura finished at 11-18. He was removed from the rotation after an outing that lasted 3.2 innings in which he gave up 8 hits, 6 runs, and 5 earned runs (his ERA stood at 5.08). His record was 10-17, but it appears that he was switched to the bullpen to work out exorcise his pitching demons (he had a 6.04 ERA in his last ten starts). He was switched back to the rotation after pitching 7.2 scoreless innings in three appearances (and winning one game), He lost his last game September 27.

In 1984, Jeff Russell, later a closer, was 6-18 but did so by losing six of the last eight games he started (plus a win and a no-decision) and he pitched until the end of September.

Also in 1984, "Headly" LaMarr Hoyt went 13-18, after winning 24 ballgames the previous year. He pitched the entire year in the rotation.

In 1985, Danny Darwin stood at 7-16 with a 3.58 ERA on September 3 with more than a month of ball remaining. He was pulled from the rotation after one more no-decision and pitched in the bullpen for the rest of the year, even though he has 11 complete games in 29 starts. He finishes eight of the ten games that he appears in as a reliever and save two. He finishes at 8-18 with a 3.80 ERA.

Also in 1985, Jose DeLeon was 2-18 on September 16 for the Pirates. He was then removed from the rotation and finished at 2-19. He is converted to the team's closer and finishes the game in each relief appearance he makes (5), along the way saving three.

Finally, Matt Young finishes at 12-19 in 1985 and stays in the rotation all year, but omly reaches 19 by losing the last four games that he pitches.

In 1986 Rick Mahler starts 39 ballgames and finishes 14-18

In 1987 Danny Jackson was 8-18 with two starts left. He made both starts and won one and got a no-decision in the other. Mark Gubicza finished 13-18 but started the entire year and was never in any danger if losing 20. On September 20, Mike Moore stood at 7-19 with two starts to go. He made each start and won both games. Tom Candiotti went 7-18 but made all of his starts

In 1989 Doyle Alexander went 6-18 in his final year, made all his starts, and was never in danger of losing 20. Walt Terrell went 11-18 with two clubs but made all his starts and won his last two games.

In 1990 Allan Anderson went 7-18. On September 7, he shut out the Indians to run his record to 7-17. He then did not pitch for two weeks. He pitched two more ballgames and was 0-1. Anderson may have been hurt (there's no DL in September) but there is a good chance he was held out to miss losing 20. He had been their staff ace in 1989, and for him to lose 20 may have been an embarrassment.

Jack Morris stood at 11-18 on September 12, 1990, but pitched and won his last four starts of the season to finish 15-18. Also in 1990, Jose DeLeon lost 19 games again but had to loss his last 7 starts to do so. Matt Young finishes 8-18 but has to lose his last 4 starts to do so.

On September 19, 1990, Tim Leary falls to 9-19 with a 4.11 ERA and does not pitch the rest of the year.

On September 4, 1991, Kirk McCaskill falls to 10-18 with a 4.19 ERA. He does not pitch for over three weeks and then loses his last start to record 19 losses.

By the 1993 All-Star break, the Mets' Anthony Young has fallen to 0-12. He then is used as a reliever. He finally wins a game to go to 1-13 and finishes the year as a reliever with a 1-16 record.

Also in '93, Doug Drabek logs a 9-18 record, but has to lose his last two decisions to do it. Scotty Erickson falls to 8-19 on September 18, but makes his last two starts and gets no more decisions for the year.

In 1996, Jim Abbott was 2-18 but never came close to losing 20. He did lose two games in Vancouver when he was sent down for a short time.

In 1999, Steve Traschel fell to 8-18 on the last day of the season.

In 2000, Omar Daal went 4-19 for Arizona and Philadelphia. On September 16 he was 3-19. Daal made two more starts and did not record a loss (the last game of the season was technically his turn and he did not pitch).

In 2001 Albie Lopez finished 9-19 with Tampa Bay and Arizona. He did not miss a turn in the rotation. Bobby J. Jones finished 8-19 without missing a turn as well.

In 2002, Tanyon Sturtze finished 4-18 for the D-Rays but stayed in the rotation all year.

So what does this all tell us? Well, that it is very hard to verify that anyone has been kept out of games to avoid losing 20 games. Perhaps a couple of players were at the start of the Nineties. But the Phils acted as if keeping Daal in the rotation was breaking new ground.

A pitcher who can lose 20 games is usually pretty good and can therefore turn around his season. There have probably been many other pitchers than the ones I listed above who were on track to lose 20 at some point into the season, but they were quickly replaced in the rotation, not because they would lose 20 games but because they were not pitching well and the team found someone they though could do better.

I think Maroth is good enough and the Tigers are bad enough to allow him to lose 20. However, a man with a 1.13 WHIP should be able to win some games along the way. I think Maroth comes close but no cigar. Better luck next year.

Fly by Night, II
2003-05-14 23:02
by Mike Carminati

Well, I finally saw the play on Sports Center and it was even more of a mess than I was lead to believe in the press. Here's what I saw:

- The fly ball was maybe a third of the way between homeplate and the mound, and it was maybe 2-3 feet towards the third base line.

- It was clearly Michael Barrett's ball. He came out from behind the plate, stopped, and appeared to look at Fernando Tatis, the third baseman. It seemed like he expected Tatis to make the play.

- It is my understanding that on balls hit in this area, it is the pitcher's job to call who will get the ball. I did not see any signal by anyone let alone the pitcher (though I may have missed it).

- Tatis hesitated, probably thinking that it was Barrett's ball, and then lunged for the ball and missed.

- Barrett picked up the ball and stepped on home, and then the three Expos huddled a few feet from home in fair territory. Apparently they thought there was now two outs with the bases loaded and were discussing what to do next. Or perhaps they were still trying to figure out the play.

- In any case no one bothered with Neifi Perez who sheepishly walked towards home from third and touched home. I'm not sure if Perez knew what was going on and was waiting until Barrett was far enough from home for him to score or if he just realized that the most prudent choice would be to touch home given the confusion and then let the umps sort it out later.

- Perez's scoring seemed an annoyance more than anything else to the Expos. Tatis then touched home as if to force Perez who had already crossed the plate or to enforce the fact that they had already tagged or maybe he thought that he could retire the next baserunner on a force at home.

- When they were informed that Perez and really and truly scored, they were quite upset until Robinson came out and barked in apparent disgust for them to cease and desist.

So Perez did not tag up as the AP had said. He was clearly off the third base bag when the ball dropped in, and he did not bother to retreat to third to tag. He just slowly "excuse me"'d his way across the plate.

Here are some illumintaing anecdotes from Rich Marazzi's The Rules and Lore of Baseball:

It should be understood that if a runner advances at his own risk, the fielders are required to tag the runner. Gene Freese, Ron Santo, and Ken Boyer each had to learn this rule the hard way.

Confusion over this aspect of the infield fly caused a problem in the Cub-Cardinal game played on July 25, 1961.

Ron Santo was on second and Jerry Kindall on first for the Cubs, in the second inning, when Ed Bouchee popped to second baseman Julian Javier. As there were less than two out, the infield fly rule was in effect, and Bouchee was out according to the rule.

Javier dropped the ball, and, as the rule states, Santo was free to advance at his own peril. Javier recovered the ball and threw to Ken Bayer, who stepped on third base. The force play was not in order, but Santo, believing he had been retired, started toward the dugout; Cardinal pitcher Ray Sadecki yelled to Boyer, who tagged Santo when the Cub runner attempted to return to the bag.

This next situation was created in the first game of a double-header between the Braves and Pirates at Milwaukee on June 3, 1956.

With none out in the Milwaukee half of the ninth inning and Braves on first and second, Frank Torre hit a fly to short center field. Either shortstop Dick Groat or center fielder Bill Virdon could have caught the ball. But when Groat got under it, umpire Augie Donatelli signaled that Torre was automatically out under the infield fly rule. Groat, however, dropped the ball, and the confusion began. Former Dodger slayer Bobby Thomson, who was on second base, forgot that Torre was automatically out and headed for third, thinking a force play was in effect. The throw beat Thomson to third, but Gene Freese, the Pirate third sacker, also committed a mental error, stepping on the bag instead of tagging Thomson, who was then safe at third. Bill Bruton, the runner on first, advanced to second in the confusion. During the Pirates' argument that ensued, catcher Hank Foiles was banished.

Among other things, the odd play created an official scoring problem. The error originally was charged to Freese because of his failure to tag Thomson. It was transferred to Groat, however, since his failure (deliberate or otherwise) to catch the ball had induced the base runners to try to advance, and since Freese's mistake had been one of omission rather than commission. The Braves failed to capitalize on the play, and the Bucs won, 3-1.

In defense of Santo, Freese, and Boyer, the rule book should specifically state that a tag is necessary in situations of that type...

Frankie Frisch, while managing the Cardinals in 1934, won a protest concerning the infield fly rule in a game against the Cubs.

The Cubs had the bases loaded with one out when Chuck Klein hit a towering fly in foul ground behind the catcher. The ball was buffeted about in the wind and then proceeded to land in fair territory, about twenty feet from home plate on the first base side. Umpire Bill Klein refused to enforce the infield fly rule, since no Cardinal infielder would have been able to catch the ball with ordinary effort. Klein ran to first base and pitcher Lon Warneke scored on an errant throw to first baseman Rip Collins.

The Cardinals' protest was upheld by League president John A. Heydler, who said, "Klein's fly should automatically have been called an infield fly as soon as the umpire was able to determine it was fair." I think most umpires would disagree with Heydler's decision, although his thinking does protect the runners very well...

I once umpired an American Legion game when a knotty problem developed concerning the infield fly rule. The team at bat had the bases loaded with one out when the batter hit a high fly ball between home plate and first base. I yelled, "Infield fly if fair!" The ball came down in foul territory without any infielder touching the ball. Jt landed on a pebble about three feet from the first base bag and rolled into fair territory. The pitcher picked up the ball and the batter was out, since the ball had trickled into fair territory.

So I guess my scenario of an infielder falling down would most likely be ruled an infield fly.

Fly by Night
2003-05-14 14:32
by Mike Carminati

My friend Murray alerted me to a sniggling detail in last nights Expos-Giants game. It didn't end up figuring in the decision but the Expos flubbed an infield fly play to allow the Giants to tie the game in the fifth.

Here's the play-by-play from the AP article:

The crazy play highlighted the Giants' four-run fifth inning as they tied the game.

With Montreal ahead 4-3, the bases loaded and one out, Barry Bonds popped up the ball between the mound and home plate.

Plate umpire Jim Joyce signaled an infield fly, meaning Bonds was out and runners could advance at their own risk after the ball either was caught, or was dropped and touched.

The ball fell on the infield grass in front of home plate, between catcher Michael Barrett, pitcher Dan Smith and third baseman Fernando Tatis.

Neifi Perez tagged up at third and ran home after Tatis picked up the ball and touched home plate, thinking it was a force play. Tatis then flipped the ball to Barrett, who also stepped on the plate.

The teammates were chatting, with their backs to the plate, as Perez came across with the tying run. The play was ruled a fielder's choice, without an RBI.

``I just wanted to make sure, I was a little confused,'' Barrett said. ``I stepped on the plate. It was just a wacky play. I have had times in my career when I was embarrassed and that was the most embarrassing. I've just got to learn from it. ...

``When I tagged the plate, I thought everything was all right and all of the sudden I saw someone running behind me, and I saw Jim Joyce give the safe sign.''

The three Expos began arguing with Joyce, prompting Robinson _ who formerly worked as vice president in charge of discipline in the commissioner's office _ to scold them and set them straight. They then dispersed.

That's great stuff. Robinson seemed annoyed with his players, but isn't he responsible for drilling the infield fly in their heads (well, not literally)?

Here's the rule just for fun:

[Under Definitions 2.0]

An INFIELD FLY is a fair fly ball (not including a line drive nor an attempted bunt) which can be caught by an infielder with ordinary effort, when first and second, or first, second and third bases are occupied, before two are out. The pitcher, catcher and any outfielder who stations himself in the infield on the play shall be considered infielders for the purpose of this rule. When it seems apparent that a batted ball will be an Infield Fly, the umpire shall immediately declare "Infield Fly" for the benefit of the runners. If the ball is near the baselines, the umpire shall declare "Infield Fly, if Fair." The ball is alive and runners may advance at the risk of the ball being caught, or retouch and advance after the ball is touched, the same as on any fly ball. If the hit becomes a foul ball, it is treated the same as any foul. If a declared Infield Fly is allowed to fall untouched to the ground, and bounces foul before passing first or third base, it is a foul ball. If a declared Infield Fly falls untouched to the ground outside the baseline, and bounces fair before passing first or third base, it is an Infield Fly. On the infield fly rule the umpire is to rule whether the ball could ordinarily have been handled by an infielder not by some arbitrary limitation such as the grass, or the base lines. The umpire must rule also that a ball is an infield fly, even if handled by an outfielder, if, in the umpire's judgment, the ball could have been as easily handled by an infielder. The infield fly is in no sense to be considered an appeal play. The umpire's judgment must govern, and the decision should be made immediately. When an infield fly rule is called, runners may advance at their own risk. If on an infield fly rule, the infielder intentionally drops a fair ball, the ball remains in play despite the provisions of Rule 6.05 (L). The infield fly rule takes precedence.

Rule 6.05
A batter is out when...(l) An infielder intentionally drops a fair fly ball or line drive, with first, first and second, first and third, or first, second and third base occupied before two are out. The ball is dead and runner or runners shall return to their original base or bases; APPROVED RULING: In this situation, the batter is not out if the infielder permits the ball to drop untouched to the ground, except when the Infield Fly rule applies.

OK, so by the definition, it sounds like the ump definitely made the right call. The players should have known this even before the ump called for an infield fly. The bases were loaded and there was one out. The ball landed clearly in the infield.

The batter (Bonds) is then out when the ump calls for the infield fly. Given that he is out, there is no force at home and both Expo players should have been aware of this. It is especially puzzling that Barrett, a catcher, is not aware of his duties when an infield fly occurs. He had better "learn from it," as he said.

It was a great heads-up play by Neifi Perez. Felipe Alou had better get him more at-bats (I'm joking of course). But I believe that there was no need to tag up. The ball was not caught. The definition of an infield fly clearly states, "The ball is alive and runners may advance at the risk of the ball being caught, or retouch and advance after the ball is touched, the same as on any fly ball." If it is like any other fly, then Perez can go straight home.

I believe that the AP got it wrong as well: "Bonds was out and runners could advance at their own risk after the ball either was caught, or was dropped and touched." Perez was free to cross home at any point. He could have touched the plate before the ball came down as long as it was not caught. It is prudent to stay near the bag, just as it is on any fly ball. But if it was clear that no one would get to the ball, then Perez is free to hedge his bets and cross home while the ball is still in the air. Then again, if it was so clear that the ball could not be caught, then it would not be called an infield fly.

I wonder what happens if the only infielder who has a play falls flat on his face when the ball is hit. Say an infield fly is hit to the third baseman when a left-handed rotation is on, meaning that the rest of the infielders are on the right side of the infield. If the third baseman trips on a seam as he first starts to pursue the ball and no one else is in a position to get to it, does the ump call it an infield fly? That would seem to go against the original intention of the rule, which was to prevent infielders from turning double plays on trick plays when they drop a simple fly. But then again, couldn't an infielder intentionally fall down in order to set up a double play?

I will invetsigate further in the indispensible Rules and Lore of Baseball. I'll keep you posted.

Mike and Yikes!
2003-05-14 14:05
by Mike Carminati

The Tabbies Mike Maroth pitched six solid innings yesterday against Ted Lilly and the A's. He entered the sixth having given up just four hits and one walk against two strikeouts. His one walk scored on a triple by Eric Byrnes in the third, but Shane Halter got that run back with a home run in the bottom of the inning. Aside from that Maroth did not have more than one baserunner an inning through the first six.

Then came the seventh. He left with one out in a 1-1 tie ballgame. Unfortunately, he also left the bases loaded and when Miguel Tejada doubled off of reliever Steve Sparks, he lost his eighth straight game against not even one victory. Meanwhile his Tigers fell to 8-28 for a .222 won-loss percentage. They are 14.5 games out of first in the AL Central.

The Tigers have been historically bad yet far. Their .222 winning percentage is the worst since the infamous 1899 Cleveland Spiders, who had been gutting by an oligarchy National League, ended the season as a traveling team, and were one of the teams excised when the NL "contracted" from twelve to the sacrosanct eight clubs.

Here are the all-time major-league teams with a winning percentage worse than the 2003 Tigers, worst to "best":

1872Washington NationalsNA011.000
1873Baltimore MarylandsNA06.000
1875Brooklyn AtlanticsNA242.045
1875Keokuk WesternsNA112.077
1873Elizabeth ResolutesNA221.087
1872Brooklyn EckfordsNA326.103
1884Wilmington QuickstepsUA216.111
1899Cleveland SpidersNL20134.130
1876Cincinnati RedsNL956.138
1875Philadelphia CentennialsNA212.143
1875New Haven Elm CitysNA740.149
1871Rockford Forest CitysNA421.160
1890Pittsburgh AlleghenysNL23113.169
1883Philadelphia Quakers NL1781.173
1875Washington NationalsNA523.179
1884Washington StatesmenAA1251.190
1874Baltimore CanariesNA938.191
1889Louisville ColonelsAA27111.196
1884Kansas City CowboysUA1663.203
1873Washington Blue LegsNA831.205
1872Middletown MansfieldsNA519.208
1875St. Louis Red StockingsNA415.211
1882Worcester Ruby LegsNL1866.214
1897St. Louis Brown StockingsNL29102.221
1872Washington OlympicsNA27.222

You'll notice that only three of those teams still exist: the 1897 St. Louis Browns are now the Cardinals, The 1890 Pittsburgh Alleghenys are now the Pirates (in their first year), the 1883 Philadelphia Quakers are now the Phillies (in their first year). Note also that the 1882 Worcester franchise was rescinded and given to the Phils in an attempt to shore up NL power after the formation of the rival American Association. Also, the 1876 Cincinnati Reds have no relation to today's version (though the media claims they are the oldest franchise); the Reds came from the selfsame AA, jumping to the NL in 1890, two years before the leagues merged.

In the "modern" era, i.e., since 1900, the worst record in the majors is held by the 1916 Philadelphia A's, two years removed from the World Series, 36-117, .235. Since expansion, the 1962 inaugural-year Mets hold the distinction of worst record 40-120, .250.

So, yeah, the Tigers are bad and odds are they will end up being considered one of the worst teams of all time, though they will undoubtedly improve their record as the season unfolds. But Mike Maroth has a chance at all-time badness. His 0-8 record projects to 0-36. Though I doubt he can keep it up for a whole season, he would be the first to lose that many against no victories.

No one has lost thirty games since The Spiders' Jim Hughey in 1899. The last to lose 36 in a season were Wild Bill Hutchison and George Cobb in 1892. Hutchison was actually 36-36 in 75 games and 70 starts.

Here is the all-time list of 30-game losers:

1873Jim Britt1736.321
1874George Zettlein2730.474
1874Tommy Bond2232.407
1875Bobby Mathews2938.433
1876Bobby Mathews2134.382
1876Jim Devlin3035.462
1878Sam Weaver1231.279
1879George Bradley1340.245
1879Harry McCormick1833.353
1879Jim McCormick2040.333
1879Will White4331.581
1880Lee Richmond3232.500
1880Mickey Welch3430.531
1880Pud Galvin2035.364
1880Will White1842.300
1881Jim McCormick2630.464
1881Jim Whitney3133.484
1882Jim McCormick3630.545
1882Lee Richmond1433.298
1883Frank Mountain2633.441
1883Hardie Henderson1033.233
1883John Coleman1248.200
1884Adonis Terry1935.352
1884Bob Barr1234.261
1884Dupee Shaw3033.476
1884Fleury Sullivan1635.314
1884Jersey Bakely1630.348
1884John Harkins1232.273
1884Larry McKeon1841.305
1885Hardie Henderson2535.417
1885Jim Whitney1832.360
1886Charley Radbourn2731.466
1886Dupee Shaw1331.295
1886Jack Lynch2030.400
1886Jim Whitney1232.273
1886Matt Kilroy2934.460
1886Stump Wiedman1236.250
1887Al Mays1734.333
1887Billy Crowell1431.311
1887Phenomenal Smith2530.455
1888Henry Porter1837.327
1888Jersey Bakely2533.431
1888Toad Ramsey830.211
1889John Ewing630.167
1889Mark Baldwin2734.443
1890Amos Rusie2934.460
1890Ed Beatin2230.423
1891Kid Carsey1437.275
1892Amos Rusie3131.500
1892Bill Hutchison3636.500
1892George Cobb1037.213
1895Ted Breitenstein1930.388
1897Red Donahue1035.222
1899Jim Hughey430.118

Note that none of the thirty-game losers had zero in the victory column. The worst percentage is Hughey's at .118. Here are the worst all-time losers with no wins:

Terry Felton19820134.99
Russ Miller19280125.42
Steve Gerkin19450123.62
Bill Stearns18720116.91
Charlie Stecher189001010.32
Earl Hamilton1917093.14
Heathcliff Slocumb1997095.16
Rod Beck1996093.34
Stump Wiedman1880093.40
Tom Tuckey1909094.27
Bill Grahame1910083.56
Ed O'Neil1890089.26
John Franco1998083.62
John Malarkey1895085.99
Milt Wilcox1986085.50
Neil Allen1987085.93
Todd Burns1993085.08

Maroth is not pitching that badly-his 5.27 ERA belies a 1.13 WHIP (walks plus hits per inning pitched). It seems unlikely that he will go the entire season without a win. However, he could definitely break the twenty-game mark in the loss column.

The last man to lose twenty was Brian Kingman then of the Billy Ball A's, who now wears the title as a mark of distinction. It seemed for years that team's would go out of their way to ensure that none of their pitchers collected a score of losses.

What's odd about that is that Hall-of-Famer Phil Niekro fell just two losses short of 20 for 1980 (15-19 with a 3.63 ERA). Niekro had lost 20 games and won 21 in 1979 and finished sixth in the Cy Young vote. He had lost 20 in 1977 (16-20) and 18 in '78 (19-18, also 6th in the Cy Young). Over that span Niekro started between 38 and 44 games a year, a bit more than today.

In the Seventies, pitchers collected 20 losses a total of 14 times and most of those pitchers were stars if not successful starters:

1971Denny McLain3310224.28
1972Steve Arlin3810213.60
1973Stan Bahnsen4218213.57
1973Steve Carlton4013203.90
1973Wilbur Wood4924203.46
1974Bill Bonham4411223.86
1974Clyde Wright389204.42
1974Mickey Lolich4116214.15
1974Randy Jones408224.45
1974Steve Rogers3815224.47
1975Wilbur Wood4316204.11
1977Jerry Koosman328203.49
1977Phil Niekro4416204.03
1979Phil Niekro4421203.39

As a matter of fact 20-game losers seemed to evaporate overnight. As rotations grew very quickly to four men in the early 1900s, the number shrank quickly. But between the Twenties and Seventies their number held relatively steady:

DecadeNumAvg Team WAvg Team LAvg Team PCT

Twenty-game losers were usually on poor clubs, but note that in the Seventies their teams' average record was better than it had been since the 1890s when 20-game losers were plentiful.

So when and how did losing 20 become such an embarrassment?

To be continued...

Rickey Bears Soul
2003-05-14 00:27
by Mike Carminati

The NY Times has a great but short interview of the 44-year-old Newark Bear, i.e., Rickey Henderson.

Rickey on why he's playing in the minors this year: "Because I love the game, man. I have a lot of fun playing, being around the guys. And I know I can still help a major-league team. That's why I'm here -- to prove that I can still play."

"Wow. I don't feel that old."--Rickey upon learning that he played with teammates of Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, and Warren Spahn.

That baseball couldn't use his talent and his personality shows you how mired in its own lore baseball truly is, on and off the field. Henderson is not the player he once was but can still be a useful role player. However, his effectiveness is not based on his batting average but rather his on-base percentage. Too few teams still value on-base to battine average. Off the field his fiery personality became regarded as abrasive instead of competitive. How competitive does a man have to be to be a major-leaguer into his mid-forties? Or to take a job with a minor-league club outside of organized ball in hopes to get back to the majors?

That his personality couldn't be more productively channeled is an indictment of the sport. The NBA knew how to market players like Charles Barkley and Dennis Rodman and their teams knew how to win with their unique personalities. Baseball is not so forgiving nor so creative. Henderson was always respected but was never given his due as a marketable personality in his prime. The same could be said of Barry Bonds today. If baseball wants to know why it can't get enough fannies in the seats, the reason is that the keepers of the sport have been too busy over the last ten or so years trying to bust the union to actually sell the game.

One last quote from Rickey:

Q: If you get another chance in the majors and don't play well, will it hurt your legacy? People still talk about Willie Mays falling down in the outfield.

A: I don't know how long Willie Mays kept at it when it was frustrating to him. I'll quit before that. I haven't reached that point yet.

First, Willie Mays had a very quick demise. He has a poor half-season in 1972 with the Giants but more than made up for it with a great second half with the Mets. His final year, 1973, was pretty pathetic (OPS 19% below the adjusted league average), but it lasted only 66 games.

Those stories circulated about Mays, but how bad or slow could he have been if he stole 23 bases in 1971, his last full season. His range in the outfield remained well above average throughout his career. It was better than the Mets' 24-year-old, starting center fielder Don Hahn in Mays' final year. Injuries and age finally caught up with him, but it's not like he stuck it out for years when it was apparent that he no longer could compete. His second to last year his OPS was 31% better than the park-adjusted league average after all.

Also, Henderson is upholding an age-old tradition in baseball of players, even all-time greats, returning to the minors to finish out their careers. It seems odd today given the money that players are paid, but I think it's commendable. And contrary to what you might hear on Mike and the Mad Dog, it shows that Henderson is doing it out of a love for the game. It's a shame that it probably would lead him back to the majors.

Bud Is Getting Upset
2003-05-13 15:21
by Mike Carminati

Apparently, Bud Selig is upset that the Marlins did not interview any minority candidates before hiring Jack McKeon. I guess the elderly do not qualify as a minority.

Bud issues a fiat in April, 1999 that all teams must provide a list of minority candidates, which is reviewed by the commissioner's office before anyone is hired.

A stiff penalty is expected for Florida:

Selig has the power to fine teams up to $2 million. The Detroit Tigers drew the ire of Selig in 2000 after their hiring of manager Phil Garner without interviewing anyone else. They sidestepped a fine after establishing a community advisory board committed "to Equal Employment Opportunities, their Diverse Business Partners Program and their community relations activities," according to a Major League Baseball press release.

At the time, the NAACP was critical of Major League Baseball for letting the Tigers slide.

So Selig is not upset that a minority was not hired but rather that the Marlins did not pay lip service to hiring a minority by following his pointless guidelines. Look, it's clear that teams are going to hire who they want to hire, regardless of whether that person represents a minority or not. The Cubs wanted Dusty Baker, who is an African-American, and they hired him. The Giants wanted Felipe Alou, who is Latin, and they hired him. Tony Pena, who is Latin, was hired midseason last year by the Royals and seemed to retain his job by the skin of his teeth. He now has KC improbably leading their division.

Unfortunately, just about every team out there wants to hire old, white men. And McKeon was the oldest and whitest available when the Marlins were looking to hire. A minority hire today is signing a manager who was not a backup catcher.

But Florida will get their wrists slapped because they made MLB look bad. If MLB does not penalize the Marlins, it's as good as admitting that the minority hire system is a joke and it opens them up to accusations of unfair employment practices and the lawsuits that would attend them. So Florida will pay the fine, Bud will cover his white, wrinkled tuccus, and the system will proceed as always hiring white former backup catchers 90% of the time.

I guess what they have is better than nothing since a team may stumple across a diamond in the rough, who happens to be a minority. Then again, any decent minority candidate (read Willie Randolph and Chris Chambliss) has been picked over so many times that he can't help by let it affect his attitude. At least Florida did those candidates a favor by not getting their hopes up while having no intention whatsoever to hire them.

Surreality TV
2003-05-13 08:58
by Mike Carminati

According to Bill Conlin, the Phils will announce a plan for a reality television show based on "surviving" baseball camp.

My reaction is the same as Conlin's:

I hate to tell Tony [DeRosa-Grund, the founder of the proposed show's production company] that this has been done since Babe Ruth was knee high to a free lunch counter. It's called the minor leagues. As for dog-eat-dog competition, ask anybody who played in a Division I program to give a definition of the word "cutthroat.'' They just didn't have a camera to catch guys spitting and scratching 24/7.

Why not follow a number of actual prospects around to see what becomes of them over the course of a season, sort of a Hoop Dreams for baseball? It's probably because the only people who would put up with the anal probe that is reality TV are those who have no prospects of ever being a major-league player.

Besides real minor-leaguers get cut, get sent down, get injured, etc. What a bummer that would be on TV. And it takes years for their dreams to play out. It's preferable to watch a group of handpicked individuals compete to reach some short-term, trumped-up pinnacle, like a farce of an actual major-league tryout.

These are players that have been through the system already. It's unlikely that they will find a diamond in the rough. It's more likely that they'll find a has-been Single-A player.

And who'll watch this show? Actual baseball fans would rather watch actual players. I guess there's always the reality TV crowd. Who knows what they'll watch, apparently anything at this point.

In the end, whoever wins will be quickly forgotten:

Will he or won't he get that $1,000 a month minor league contract and the right to join fellow dead-enders in Batavia?

Maybe they should call it "Muckdog for a Day"? I would have no problem with this silly concept, had a major-league team not been affiliated with it to lend it some (laugh) credibility.

Again this fully displays that MLB will go to any lengths for short-term money. They never promote their players or playing styles for long-term success like the NBA does. It's all quick money in the form of Sunday alternate batting practice jerseys and the like. I guess I shouldn't complain as long as they don't turn their players into walking billboards like the "athletes" in auto racing.

Happy Mother's Joe Morgan Chat Day!
2003-05-12 12:02
by Mike Carminati

Julia, seashell eyes, windy smile, calls me
So I sing a song of love, Julia

-Julia by the Beatles-John Lennon's homage to his long-dead mother

I'm a boy, I'm a boy
But my mother won't admit it
I'm a boy, I'm a boy
But if I say I am, I get it

-I'm a Boy by The Who

Telephone is ringing,
Is that my mother on the phone?
The telephone is screaming,
Won't she leave me alone?...

Well every girl that I go out with
Becomes my mother in the end...

Oh mother, dear please listen
Don't devour me.
Oh women please have mercy
Let this poor boy be.

-Mother by The Police, a great example of why Andy Summers was never their lead singer.

Hush, my baby. Baby, don't you cry.
Momma's gonna make all of your nightmares come true.
Momma's gonna put all of her fears into you.
Momma's gonna keep you right here under her wing.
She won't let you fly, but she might let you sing.
Momma's gonna keep Baby cozy and warm.
Oooo Babe.
Oooo Babe.
Ooo Babe, of course Momma's gonna help build a wall.

-Mother from Pink Floyd's The Wall

Assume a virtue if you have it not. (Act 3, Scene 4)

Frailty, thy name is woman! (Act 1, Scene 2)

-Hamlet by William "Author" Shakespeare, as told by Mel Gibson: the title character referring to his mother.

For vile I stand, descended from the vile.
Ye threefold roads and thickets half concealed,
The hedge, the narrow pass where three ways meet,
Which at my hands did drink my father's blood,
Remember ye what deeds I did in you;
What, hither come, I did?-the marriage rites
That gave me birth, and then, commingling all,
In horrible confusion, showed in one
A father, brother, son, all kindreds mixed,
Mother, and wife, and daughter, hateful names,
All foulest deeds that men have ever done...
But hearken; fear ye not; no soul but I
Can bear the burden of my countless ills.

-Oedipus Rex by Sophocles (lines 1443-1460)

I know it was you, Ma!

-The Sopranos, said by Tony Soprano after learning that his mother approved a failed hit on him.

Apparently, people in the entertainment industry have issues with their mothers. Go figure?! But not Joe Morgan. Joe seems to be the All-American, good-to-his-mother type. In honor of the day and since some have said that my attempts at humor at Joe's expense have been a bit acerbic of late, I'm going to take it easy on Joe today.

That Vlad Lenin guy who filled in for me last week has a gift for acrimony, and boy, did he stink. Today it's a kinder and gentler Joe Morgan Chat Session. You here to witness the birth of Joe Morgan Chat Session mach II as a free-form Jazz ensemble, or at least a baseball equivalent.

The Very Good

I am here and ready to go!!!
[Mike: Hey, that energy is just infectious! Let's play, er, chat two!!!]

Peter (Alpharetta, GA): What should be the punishment if the Mets did give haircuts in the locker room during a game? Is this story true or just blown out of proportion? When will the Mets start unloading there high priced players as they are on there way to last place?

I think it was blown out of proportion. I think everyone should be on the bench but not all teams have that rule. You would have to look at what each team's rules are. What you are doing is not as important as where you are during the game. You should be on the bench.
[Mike: Blow. Ha ha, I get it, Joe. That's a reference to ex-New York star Joe Pepitone being the first player to bring a hair dryer into the lockerroom. And you Dennis-Miller-like alluded to it from the Rey Sanchez haircut point. Good one!]

Kelso, NYC: Hi, Joe. Everyone talks about Soriano's hitting, but his DEFENSE at 2B has dramatically improved. Do you think it's Willie Randolph's influence, natural talent, or a combination?

I think it's probably both. Randolph has continued to get him to focus in the field. I saw him drop a popup for his second error which was a lack of focus, but overall his focus has improved due to the influence of Randolph and his experience.
[Mike: Kelso? Say hi to Eric and the rest of the Formans. Good assessment, Joe. Soriano's range has stayed the same this year but he has dropped the errors (from 23 in 2002 to just two so far this year). It is still surprising that his range is limited as compared to the rest of the league given his speed. He is still not a good defensive second baseman, but at least he is not a liability.]

Brett, Kansas : Hi joe! Vlad hasn't seemed to take advantage of the short porch in San Juan, is going to get 40-40 this year, everyone was talking 50-50 before the year.

He never needed a short porch to hit before! His numbers will reflect that at the end of the year. He will get his HRs and hits. He probably hasn't taken advantage of it like he should but he's just a good hitter. It doesn't matter where he plays.
[Mike: Hear! Hear! You're talking about thirty-odd at-bats in ten games. He had a three-game minislump in there, but he also had a 3-for-3, five-RBI day. Guerrero only batted .242 in San Juan, but he had two home runs, 7 RBI, and 9 runs scored and had a .404 on-base percentage (using the short form). Give the guy a break.]

Brent (ND): Hey Joe! I think its pretty awesome that you do this every week. The Twins are on a hot streak right now. What has been the key to their success? Also, did you see Lohse last night? I know they're playing the Devil Rays, but he pitched great.

Good question. I've been a big fan of Minnesota's team for awhile. Gardenhire is a very good manager. He handles the players well and handles the media well. He has been able to keep them together when things started slowly. Now with Torii Hunter hitting better and the pitching coming around, they should be a factor in the pennant race. I like to watch them play. I'll be there Sunday.

[Mike: You were there last night, and you rightly pointed out that it's rather odd that the White Sox have yet to be an element as yet. They seem to be under-performing as a team. A number of hitters have had their issues (Konerko, Lee, Rowand, Crede, and Rios. Their pitching has yet to gel as yet. Billy Koch has made them miss Keith Foulke (2 out of five saves blown). But he isn't all to blame. They have been outscored 153 to 170, which by the Pythagorean formula translates into 17-20, exactly their record. The Sox have been a team with young, promising players. As yet, those young players have not fulfilled that promise. However, I would avoid a move like John Garland-for-Carl Everett as Phil Rogers suggests. Lord, no!]

Chris (The Ville): Whats up Joe? Please answer me this. Alfonso Soriano hits homeruns with no problem. The guys is 160 pounds. Come on. I know your going to talk bat speed, but I'm convinced his bat is cork.Albert Belle was a big guy and they questioned his homeruns. Why not check? Remember Wilton Guerrero incidence?

Why check his bat!! He's bigger than that and very strong. A lot of guys can generate power with their bat speed and he does that. You are the first person to question his bat and managers and players watch him everyday and haven't questioned it. I think you are way off base.

[Mike: Joe give this rube a copy of The Physics of Baseball and move on. (By the way, Soriano is listed at 180.)]

MJB: Joe- Please answer this. How do you feel about the competitive balance of MLB?

That's a word that has come up a lot but over the history of the game, the Yankees have won 26 titles. Now all of a sudden everyone acts like the teams are supposed to alternate championships. It always boils down to management of the team. It's actually more balanced now than it was 3-4 years ago. But it will never be perfect. Football is the only sport that seems to alternate every year as to who wins. Every sport will have dominate teams.

[Mike: Good, Joe. Most commentators overlook the historic approach. The Golden Age of baseball, i.e. the Fifties, consisted of one New York team beating up on another with an odd Braves or Indians team thrown in once in a while. Fifteen of the twenty World Series teams of the Fifties came from New York. Did anyone bemoan the lack of competent balance then?

Right about team management. The Indians made good personnel decisions in the early Nineties and were a power house. They made bad decisions in the late Nineties (letting go of Giles, Sexson, Casey, etc.), and are now an also-ran. Look at the Yankees and the Mets if you don't think team management is the most important factor.

Joe, I think you're keen. Nothing can ruin this. You're in the zone, Joe.]

The Less Good

Joe (Trenton, NJ): What do you think about Matsui's performance so far? His defensive seems to be above average, which is a surprise. Do you expect him to start hitting more home runs?

I read that he wasn't good defensively but I have watched him and he plays well on defense. I haven't seen him throw but he has good speed. His offense has not been as good though. He only has 2 HRs and he is supposed to be a home run hitter.

[Mike: Ah, Mr. Morgan, I beg to differ. I believe that: A) The season is still young. B) Matsui is making a huge adjustment. Many analysts believed that he would have a rougher adjustment period than Ichiro. C) He has been picking it up as late (.930 OPS over the last week). Besides he does have 10 doubles, so he is showing some pop. He is only slugging .405 but so is Giambi. I think we have to give him a half-season at least before we pass judgment on his hitting prowess.

That's just my opinion, if it's OK with you, Joe.]

Jamie Arasi (Long Island): What do you think the reason for Jason Giambi's slow start? Even with a big game last night, he is still around the .200 mark. When will he turn it on?

He got off to a slow start his first year in NY and picked it up. I can't explain it. But they don't really need him to pick it up. They are the best team in the major leagues. They have so many weapons. He will hit before the year is over.

[Mike: If the New York media are to be believed, Giambi has been fighting off injuries all year. He is currently recovering from blurred vision caused by a staff infection in his eyes.]

Utek (LA): Hi Joe. There have been some articles this week on about good hitting pitchers. Two questions: 1) Rick Ankiel was one of the pitchers mentioned as having a great swing. Since he never has recovered from his meltdown in the playoffs a few years ago, should the Cardinals try to make him into a position player? 2)Who was the best hitting pitcher you ever saw?

I don't think you can make him into a hitter because he has pitched for so long. When you talk about good hitting pitchers, that's just the point, they are good hitters for pitchers. But they wouldn't be good compared to regular hitters.

I saw a lot of good hitting pitchers. Tony Cloninger hit a lot of grand slams.. he's the pitching coach for Boston now.

[Mike: Well, um, Joe, there were guys like Babe Ruth, Smokey Joe Wood, and Rube Bressler. They all converted from major-league pitchers to outfielders with pretty good success. But you are correct that no one has done it of late, but could that have to do with a DH being employed in the minors that causes pitchers' hitting skills to atrophy? Just a thought. (Kudos to Murray on the minor-league DH issue.)

By the way, Tony Cloninger hit only 11 home runs in 12 seasons. He batted .192 for his career and had a .482 OPS. That's kind of an unfortunate choice. Anyway...]

Gregg Massachusetts: They say pitching is watered down these days. Power numbers would certainly support this but why not batting average? If the pithing is worse now than ever before shouldn't it be easier for someone to hit .400?

The pitching has been watered down for some time. It's not new. The power guys are swinging for the fences more than for average. It's just the way hitters are approaching the game. No one will hit .400 because of the specialization of pitching. You face 3-4 pitchers in a game. That is why no one will hit .400 again. But yes, pitching is watered down. It's just been that way for 10 years.

[Mike: Well, Joe, Stephen Jay Gould demonstrated that baseball talent has become more compressed over time. I mean, you say it yourself: "You face 3-4 pitchers in a game. That is why no one will hit .400 again." But if you faced 3-4 pitchers and 2-3 of them were stiffs, then hitting .400 would be easier. Wouldn't it. Pitching isn't watered down now so much as it is trying hard to keep up with the demands of two rounds of expansion, more pitchers per staff, more pressure on the bullpen, more band box stadiums, etc.]

Emile (Marlboro, NY): Joe, what do you think of the way Mike Mussina is pitching this year, and do you think the CY Young race will come down to him and Mark Mulder?

Yeah, this year his control is much better. Last year when I watched him, he was high in the strike zone a lot. He gave up a lot of hits. This year, he is getting ahead of the hitters and not many are better than him at putting hitters away. That is the difference.

[Mike: Well, that's a good assessment of Mussina. His strikeout numbers are the big difference. His 10.70 strikeouts per nine innings is about two full strikeouts higher than his previous season high. He also has the walks way down. His 7.88 strikeout-to-walk ratio is more than double his career average.

That's nice about Mussina, but Emile asked a two part question. As far as who else will compete for the Cy Young, it's a bit early, but that young Mr. Clemens looks pretty good. Dang, you could pick anyone from the A's or Yankees staffs at this point. A few weeks ago, it appeared that Esteben Loaiza was a lock. Why don't we wait until the All-Star break to start the conjecture.

What do you think, Joe? Joe?...Joe?...]

Steve, Watford, England: Joe - I know this may be an issue that has been raised in the States and could well be pretty sensitive but....... being British, and living in Britain, I am wondering why we hardly ever see any African-American pitchers? Has there ever been any really prominent African-American pitchers? It can't be put down to physical attributes etc etc as we see plenty of African descendents pitching from Cuba & Dominican Republic.

First of all, nothing in baseball should be sensitive. You have made a very good observation. I think growing up, most athletes would prefer to play everyday. I think what has happened is growing up in a black community, you want to play everyday and not pitch once a week. It's a lot to do with the attitude of black athletes, very few guys want to give up their ability to be a pitcher. I think it will change in the future.

[Mike: Right! Nothing is too sensitive or issues don't get talked about, very good point, Joe.

Joe, perhaps to your credit, I think that you are being a bit naive here. I had always heard that African-American players were pushed into being position players because the major-league coaching and scouting staffs felt that they didn't have, in Al Campanis's words, "the necessities" to be major-league pitchers. This is the kind of trash that you heard about black quarterbacks in the NFL before Doug Williams.

I know that it's only anecdotal evidence, but if you look at the pitchers in the Negro Leagues before MLB started to dabble with African-American players, you will see plenty of Hall-of-Famers: Rube and Bill Foster, Satchel Paige, Hilton Smith, Smokey Joe Williams, Bullet Joe Rogan, Martin Dihigo, "Double Duty" Radcliffe, etc. I would think that the same scouting systems that initially overlooked Willie Mays would tab black pitchers as shortstops and outfielders in the minors.

Even today for the odd James Baldwin or Corey Thurman, there are a dozen white pitchers and a handful of Latin pitchers.]

Ryan (PA): Hey Joe! Kearns, Dunn, Guillen. Best outfield in the league "now"?

No. It's very good but you have to wait to the end of the season to declare them the best. Kearns is the leader of the pack but they strike out a lot. They are young and still need to grow. Eventually they could be the best.

[Mike: Jose Guillen is young? Ah, Joe, he's 31 and hasn't been a prospect for years. Besides he's just a placeholder for when Griffey returns, which could be very soon. He's done extremely well, but clearly he has not long-term future as a starter in Cincinnati nor should he given his past performance.

Besides, the Yankees, M's, Cubs, Rockies, Twins, Cardinals, and especially the Braves can claim better outfields. If Griffey returns quickly to full strength, then we can talk about the Reds being one of the best outfields. I mean, maybe compared to the Padres minus Phil Nevin, they are the best outfield with one starter injured.

But that is such a ridiculous question, how can you not hand this guy his lunch? You just hide behind that "they've got a good deal of growing left to do" BS that you have been spewing about Kearns and Dunn all along. Kearns is 14th in the majors in OPS, and Dunn is 37th. They are both among the major-league leaders in home runs. Yes, they both strike out a lot, but Kearns has a .419 OPS and Dunn a .347 one and are both slugging over .570 (both are in major-league top 20). Who cares how they make their outs? Look at what they do when they don't strike out!

It's just Things-were-better-in-my-day-ism plain and simple! That's it, "All work and no play makes jack a dull boy"! I'm over the edge!]

Coyote Ugly-Absolute, Transcendental, Insensate Evil

Nick (Albany, NY): Do you think anyone can stop the NY Yankees this year? If so, who?

It's too early to give them the championship but they are not a bad pick!! Being the best team in the game doesn't always translate to winning it all.

[Mike: Joe, that wasn't even the question. He knows the Yankees are good. He asked who can stop them.

It's the sort of question stupid question when you're less than a quarter of a way through the year-how about the Red Sox, A's, M's, Twins, Angels, etc. or even the Yankees themselves if they don't play well; at this point last year the World Champs were just struggling to get over .500-, but it is a question after all. You could point out that the A's have taken four of the last six from the Yanks.

Just pick someone, anyone!]

Steve: Virginia Beach, Virginia: I'm a big Mets fan and like Mike Piazza but isn't it time for him to move to first base. He's the worst throwing catcher I've ever seen.

Only Piazza can make that decision. He has been a catcher and that's a difficult position to play. Only he should decide when enough is enough. Not someone else.

[Mike: It's Mike Piazza's decision. Not Art Howe's or Steve Phillips'? Is Piazza the manager? Of course, Howe and Phillips should have discussed the situation with Piazza and gotten him on board before announcing it to the New York media. But ultimately Mike Piazza is an employee of the New York Mets and it's their duly-appointed caretakers who will make the decision.

If we left it up to the players, why even have a majors? Why not have an organized sandlot league? Whoever wants to play whichever positions is A-OK. Everyone wants to pitch and no one wants to catch or play right field. Fine.

What if Mike Piazza decides tomorrow that he has a Mackey Sasser-like aversion to throwing the ball back to the pitcher and needs a personal assistant to hand deliver it? What if Mo Vaughn is out for the season (or forever) and the Mets realize that they have to start thinking about their future and decide to try Piazza at first?

It's not like he's Pudge Rodriguez back there, and it's not like it has not been discussed in the media for years. C'mon! He's a big boy: he can take a reassignment.]

Beatty (Denver): Joe, why are so many hitters taking exception to getting plunked? Why the macho, "I'll show you" mentality, instead of just taking one for the team?

To answer it in reverse, taking one for the team is only for leadoff hitters. If you are down in the order, you don't take one for the team. All the hitters dive into the plate now, if the pitcher pitches inside, they can't get away from the pitch fast enough.

[Mike: OK, so getting on base only matters for the leadoff hitter. Does this make sense? The leadoff hitter may not lead off any other inning but the first, but no one else needs to get on?

All hitters dive into the plate because umpires for years were giving pitchers the outside corner (witness Randy Marsh's comments of a week or so ago). The umps gave pitchers the outside corner because batters erased the box and started to stand almost on the plate. I've said it an umpteen plus one times, but if the umps enforce the box, everything else flows.

Besides the question was why hitters take exception. There are a myriad of answers: A) It hurts. B) Their adrenaline is flowing. C) It intimidates the pitcher and keeps them off the inside corner. In the long run controlling the plate may be more run-inducing than "taking one for the team."]

Al (Little Rock, AR): What do you make of the Giants opening success this season? Barry's average is down so far. Do you think that he will be able to challenge for the batting title again? Will the departure of Jeff Kent come back later to bite the Giants?

The Giants play great ball because they win the low scoring games and the high scoring games. I don't think Barry will win the batting title. Last year was just kind of a unique situation for him.

The Giants are a different team without Kent. They scored more runs by hitting the ball out of the ballpark when Kent was there. I think they have enough to make up for his loss, although it's hard to replace a guy like Kent.

[Mike: So they have to watch out for those average-scoring games, right? Bonds will probably not win a batting title again, but given that he never finished higher than fourth and was only in the top ten three times in 16 seasons prior to last year, that is not a major surprise. The surprise is that Bonds' OPS dropped about 250 (100 in OBP and 150 in slugging) and he is still second in that statistic in the majors. His current stats may be more in line with his career overall (1.023 OPS) and his age (38). Though a return to a 1.350 OPS is definitely not out of the question.

Actually, the Giants' home-run hitting went down slightly from 3.60% of their at-bats in 2002 to 3.32% in 2003. Jose Cruz Jr. has taken up the slack very nicely since Kent's departure. And Durham, though he is a much different player than Kent, has contributed to their success. Two other offseason acquisitions (Edgardo Alfonzo and Marquis Grissom) have not produced. Grissom was signed after a career year, so his return to earth is to be expected. However, Alfonzo should start to produce.

The Giants may have a six game lead, but according to the Pythagorean formula they are playing five games better than expected. That may signal a losing streak in the offing. However, I don't think the loss of Kent is their biggest issue.

I think the loss of Nen is going to be more far-reaching. Tim Worrell is filling in admirably, but it causes a ripple effect throughout their bullpen. Their pen ERA is up over a run (2.89 to 4.01). Witasick and Aybar, who performed well last year, are gone. Joe Nathan has done well, but Scott Eyre has been inconsistent and Jim Brower and Chad Zerbe have been a waste. The pen overall has given up a great deal of home runs. Last year they gave up .48 per nine innings pitched and this year they have given up .93, almost double. They are also pitching almost two-thirds of an inning more in 2003 (2.67 innings per Giant game last year; 3.24 innings per game this year).]

David (Winthrop, MA): Hi Joe: Great to chat with you. I was wondering do you think that many times the fame that a player gets for being great offensively help him in the gold glove race. I mean, I think both Mike Bordick and Omar Vizquel did a better job defensively than A-Rod, and Barry Bonds is not a 5-7 time gold glove kind of outfielder. what do you think? Thank you

No doubt. But it shouldn't be that way. If you look, you see very few times where a guy has a bad year offensively and wins the Gold Glove. I've seen guys make lots of errors and hit lots of HRs and still win the Gold Glove.

[Mike: A-Rod earned his Gold Glove. He had a batter range factor (4.73) than Vizquel (4.67) and more double plays (108 to 98). Bordick's tange factor was better (5.07) but he played only 117 games at short (115 as a starter). He did have 92 double plays in about two-thirds as many games and a fielding percentage of .998, but given that those numbers were far better than his career average, it is unlikely that he would have kept it up for a full year. If he had, he would have deservedly won the Gold Glove.

A-Rod had a great year offensively and defensively. His had a couple of MVPs taken away from him. No one should take a Gold Glove that he earned just because he can out-hit the other shortstops.]

Brent Seaborn (Milwaukee, Wisconsin): Joe: What are your thoughts on the recent A.J. Burnett injury and the controversy about pitch counts? Do you think was "abused" by the coaching staff in Florida? Love the chats!

I'm not privy to anything other than what I have read. I'm not a big proponent of pitch counts. I believe you watch a pitcher and see when he starts to struggle. If his mechanics are off and he is losing velocity, that is how you judge when a pitcher has had enough. I've read accusations against the Marlins but I've only read AJ's side of it. I can't comment on it other than that. It's definitely a shame to see a young pitcher like that in this situation.

[Mike: Right, pitch counts, Schmidt's counts. If you are ahead 4-0 in the eighth and your 25-year-old starter has already thrown about 100 pitches but is going strong, let him finish the game, right? That's what Mark Fidrych would do. That's what Stan Bahnsen would do and Bill Stafford and Gus Krock and Bill Sowders and Joe Corbett and Randy Tomlin. All of them were washed up as tenable starters by their mid-twenties.

And that's what the Marlins did on August 1, 2002. A.J. Burnett threw a 128-pitch shutout that day. That followed a 132-pitch, 8-inning start and was followed by 93 pitches (and 5 runs) in 6 innings, 117 pitches in nine innings (in a 1-0 win), and a 117-pitch shutout (3-0). Finally, this was followed by a month on the DL. The Marlins were 20.5 games behind the Braves at the start of the last game in the series above. Burnett also had a stretch of six games that had 116, 116, 128, 103 (wuss!), 127, and 128 earlier in the season.

I'm sure that most young pitchers want to stay in a game no matter what. I'm sure that many look fine on the mound. But why take chances? Besides, as with Piazza, it's the manager's job to assign work accordingly. There have been enough young arms that have never developed due to overwork to warrant limiting a young starter's workload.

Are pitch counts a panacea for all of the ills of pitching? Definitely not, but it is one of the things to consider along with whether the pitcher is laboring, if his mechanics are off, etc. However, a pitch count cap should be established and fervently adhered to for each young pitcher. The reason for this is that while a change to mechanics or velocity is readily apparent, accumulated wear and tear on a pitching arm due to high pitch counts are not. There is a large enough body of research that indicates that throwing over around 100 pitches often is bad for young arm, how bad and how young and exactly how many pitches no one really knows. And it's doubtful that a formula of some sort could ever be developed. But each club should establish a guideline based on the research and should periodically re-assess that guideline.]

Neyer Ground
2003-05-12 10:10
by Mike Carminati

I failed to mention that Alex Belth had completed posting (scoll down) his excellent interview of Rob Neyer at the end of last week.

I have to say that the interview changed my opinion of Neyer. I have been kind of hard on the guy probably because he's a notch down from Bill James, but who isn't after all? Henry Chadwick? But he died a hundred years ago.

Neyer comes across as a genuinely likable and thoughtful person throughout. Besides his life's story is almost epiphanically inspirational for baseball geeks such as yours truly.

I'm not saying that I am going to give the guy a free pass from now on, but I do have newfound respect for Neyer.

C'mon, group hug!

Pardon Our Appearance, II
2003-05-12 08:50
by Mike Carminati

My thanks to the folks at The Elephants in Oakland for helping me correct my table problems. It turns out that it was my formatting not Blogger that caused the problem. I refuse to give them the benefit of the doubt until they fix my archiving problem or at least acknowledge my problem report emails.

Pardon Our Appearance
2003-05-12 00:34
by Mike Carminati

I'm having a bit of difficulty getting Blogger to understand tables. Please overlook the gap in the text below until I can figure out how to massage this erratic system.

Trading Jack, II
2003-05-12 00:10
by Mike Carminati

Tom Singer at has a goo article on The graying of baseball. Singer points out that Jack McKeon at age 72 is the oldest major-league managerial hire ever, beating out Casey Stengel, hired by the Mets at age 71, by one year for the dubious distinction.

Indeed, this season has seen baseball match the all-time high for managers that are 60 years of age or over, six: McKeon (72), Alou (67), Robinson (67), Cox (62), Torre (62), and Torborg (61). By the end of the season, Lou Piniella (Aug. 28) and Jimy Williams (October 4), should join them in the 60-or-over crowd and a new "record" should be set.

Six senior-citizen managers also managed in 1960: Casey Stengel (Yankees), Charlie Grimm (Cubs), Chuck Dressen (Braves), Del Baker (Red Sox), Jimmy Dykes (Indians and Tigers), and Tom Sheehan (Giants).

It makes sense that with people living longer and being active longer in our society and with expansion adding to the ranks of active managers, that there would be more near-retirement-age team skippers. It's somewhat odd that the previous high came before expansion, actually.

However, given the dearth of successful managers past the age of 60, it may still be too grueling a job for an older gentleman and a number of these elder statesmen of the game, though successful as they now may be, may be forced into retirement in the coming years. We're sort of in uncharted territory here, so it's hard to know what will happen. Though someone breaking McKeon's new "record" may be hard to find for a few years.

500 The Hard Way
2003-05-11 23:33
by Mike Carminati

Rafael Palmeiro finally passed the 500-home run milestone today in fromt of his hometown fans in Arlington. He is the second man, after Sammy Sosa, to pass the milestone this year. They soon may be joined by Fred McGriff (483). Ken Griffey Jr. (469) is also a longshot to reach 500 given that he is still recovering from an injury.

Some will say that the glut of home runs has caused the 500-homer explosion this season. Some will say that Palmeiro's presence on the selective list cheapens it somehow. Some will say that Palmeiro should be the first 500-dinger man kept out of the Hall once he retires. I've already debunked the watered-down 500-HR theory.

As for Palmeiro's enshrinement, keeping him out would be unprecedented. He will be a litmus test for future home-run hitters, just like Don Sutton was for pitchers. Sutton won 300 games but many felt that he was not a Hall-of-Fame type pitcher. Therefore, many criticized his induction feeling that the Hall was watered down enough with various Ross Youngses and Travis Jacksons. However, as Bill James argued, keeping a player out of the Hall who is clearly qualified is as bad as if not worse than letting underqualified players, such as Youngs and Jackson. If the Hall capriciously readjusts its de facto to prevent more modern players out, then it becomes a dying institution. Given that Palmeiro surpasses most of the established standards, according to James' criteria, keeping him out of the Hall is a dangerous proposition. (For the record, Palmeiro qualifies for three of the four James' tests: he falls short in the Black Ink test, but given that there are a great deal more players since expansion, very few modern players exceed the established crietrion.)

Palmeiro is probably the least likely 500-homer hitter that you can find. Though his current record streak of eight straight seasons with at least 38 home runs is often cited, Palmeiro did not collect more than 26 in a season until 1993 at the age of 28. He had only collected 95 homers in his 6+ previous seasons. That's the least by that age for any who hit 500. It should be pointed out that Palmeiro was always a very good hitter even in these early years: his OPS was between 21% and 55% better than the adjusted league average in every full season but one before his 28th birthday.

Here is a breakdown of the number of home runs hit by the members of the 500 HR club (plus Fred McGriff) at various stages of their careers (i.e., the season in which they were the given age for the bulk of the season):

By 20
NameTot HRHRs
Mel Ott51119
Mickey Mantle53613
Harmon Killebrew5734
Jimmie Foxx5343
Babe Ruth7140
By 25
NameTot HRHRs
Eddie Mathews512190
Mel Ott511176
Jimmie Foxx534174
Mickey Mantle536173
Frank Robinson586165
Hank Aaron755140
Ted Williams521127
Willie Mays660116
Eddie Murray504111
Reggie Jackson563100
Barry Bonds62384
Harmon Killebrew57384
Mark McGwire58384
Sammy Sosa50570
Ernie Banks51265
Willie McCovey52164
Mike Schmidt54855
Fred McGriff48354
Babe Ruth71449
Rafael Palmeiro50033
By 28
NameTot HRHRs
Jimmie Foxx534302
Eddie Mathews512299
Mickey Mantle536280
Mel Ott511275
Frank Robinson586262
Hank Aaron755253
Harmon Killebrew573223
Willie Mays660216
Eddie Murray504198
Babe Ruth714197
Reggie Jackson563189
Ernie Banks512183
Mark McGwire583178
Barry Bonds623176
Sammy Sosa505171
Mike Schmidt548169
Willie McCovey521165
Ted Williams521165
Fred McGriff483156
Rafael Palmeiro50095
By 30
NameTot HRHRs
Jimmie Foxx534379
Mickey Mantle536374
Eddie Mathews512370
Hank Aaron755342
Mel Ott511342
Frank Robinson586324
Harmon Killebrew573297
Babe Ruth714284
Willie Mays660279
Sammy Sosa505273
Ernie Banks512269
Barry Bonds523259
Eddie Murray504258
Reggie Jackson563254
Mike Schmidt548235
Willie McCovey521232
Mark McGwire583229
Fred McGriff483228
Ted Williams521222
Rafael Palmeiro500155
From 30 on
NameTot HRHRs
Babe Ruth714430
Hank Aaron755413
Willie Mays660381
Barry Bonds623364
Mark McGwire583354
Rafael Palmeiro500345
Mike Schmidt548313
Reggie Jackson563309
Ted Williams521299
Willie McCovey521289
Harmon Killebrew573276
Frank Robinson586262
Fred McGriff483255
Eddie Murray504246
Ernie Banks512243
Sammy Sosa505232
Mel Ott511169
Mickey Mantle536162
Jimmie Foxx534155
Eddie Mathews512142

Note that Palmeiro made up for his lack of home runs in his youth with a devotion to the stat in his old age. He ranks sixth all-time in home runs after turning 30.

If he matches his post-30 average of around 42 in 2003, he would rank 12th all-time (barring what Sosa does). That would put him firmly in Jimmie Foxx and Mickey Mantle territory. I don't know if he can keep it up at his age, but two such seasons (42 HRs) would put him seventh all-time right behind another first baseman by the name of McGwire. 600 home runs are not out of the question for Palmeiro.

Could he hit 600 and still be barred from the Coopertown. It seems too incredible to think.

Trading Jack
2003-05-11 02:37
by Mike Carminati

The Marlins are said to have fired Jeff Torborg and replaced him with Jack McKeon.

McKeon has made a career of replacing managers fired mid-season. In 1978, he replaced Bobby Winkles as the A's manager; Winkles had replaced him the previous year. He was the GM in San Diego and then in 1988 replaced Larry Bowa as manager. In 1997 he replace Ray Knight as the Reds' manager. Overall he has a 770-733 record (.512 winning percentage) in parts of 12 seasons as a major-league manager.

He was also a minor-league manager for 15 years before his first major-league job with the Royals (and two more in between major keague jobs). He started his major-league managerial career 30 years ago and is 72 years old. He is already only one of three managers to pilot a team after the age of 70, Connie Mack and Casey Stengel being the others. He is also the only one of those three with a winning record past 70.

Torborg was crated up and brought to Miami when the Lorria regime swapped the Expos for the Marlins. Apparently, his losing ways--the Marlins are 16-22 this season--and his overuse of young arms--three starters are already out this year with major injuries--were too much for even the Marlins brass to handle. Torborg was 95-105 overall with the Marlins in one-plus seaons. He is 634-718 overall in 11 major-league seasons with five different clubs.

Piazza de Resistance
2003-05-10 13:18
by Mike Carminati

Steve Serby of the venerable New York Post opines that the Mets and Mike Piazza would both do best if they were to have a parting of the ways:

Mike Piazza shouldn't have been the last person in New York to learn that he might have to pick up a first baseman's mitt sometime soon, but he was, because the new manager couldn't wait to break the news on television.
The move now isn't Mike Piazza to first base. The move is Mike Piazza out of town.

Serby points out that Piazza will become a 5-and-10 man on May 23--wasn't that quick?--and can then veto any trade that is made.

Serby sees Piazza going to Boston to DH in the near future. It's not as if their DH slots aren't full enough already.

Piazza would benefit by ending his now tempestuous relationship with the Mets. The Mets would benefit by getting young talent on which to build (as if the Red Sox had any). That sounds great all around.

The only thing wrong with the theory is that Steve Phillips would be basically signing his own death warrant. Phillips tenuous situation will last as long as the Mets can continue to pretend that they are playing for this season. If the Mets have a possibilty of contending, they need to keep Piazza. Once the Mets start a fire sale, it will be time for reflection and assessment and Phillips will very likely be the first to go. Phillips must know this and therefore, will be Dan Duquette-ing his way through at least the first half of the season. That is he will be forging ahead as if the Mets were in the playoff hunt. That means that Piazza will stay put at least for the time being.

It's important for the Mets to keep up appearances in the media center that is New York. Piazza is now the cynosure of all, the eye of the hurricane. Trading him, their best player, no matter who they got in return, would but be equal to throwing in the towel for the 2003. It may be time to do that, but such strategy would hurt attendance now. Everyone remembers how that destroyed the White Sox image with fans a few years back.

So the team will back Phillips' plan for as long as possible. With the fans and the media already circling above this moribund franchise, it may not take long. So it's a good theory to trade Piazza, but I don't see it happening before he becomes a 5-and-10 player.

A Game of Inches
2003-05-10 12:49
by Mike Carminati

Rafael Palmeiro hit a ball just to the right of the foulpole down the right field line last night in his final at-bat for an apparent 500th homer for his career. It was not to be, but he did double on the next pitch.

I can't wait for the hoopla over at the Viagara site when he finally hits his 500th.

The Original Todd Jones, II
2003-05-10 12:44
by Mike Carminati

John Rocker came into the Devil Rays game last night amid cheers of "Rocker, Rocker"--he is in his element after all in Tampa. Tampa Bay was leading 1-0 with two outs in the eighth. Piniella was using Rocker in a setup situation.

Rocker quickly walked to batters, Bobby Higginson and Dimitri Young, on 3-2 counts (plus one extra fouled-off strike). He then left amid boos, either for his performance or his being replaced.

Lance Carter replaced Rocker and proceded to get teh next four men in order including two strikeouts for his sixth save. Piniella had said earlier in the week that Carter would only be used to start off an inning and that he would not be asked to pitch more than an inning. That approach lasted only one relief appearance.

We are evidently witnessinga more circumspect Rocker:

"Maybe I'm a little wiser than I was four, five years ago," Rocker said. "I have four, five years more of experience under my belt. I just see things in a little different light than I used to."

Well, it's good to see, at least, that he has been humbled by his experience.

I score the first round to Lance Carter. But Rocker did not have his usual heat yet--maybe that's a good argument for him to have gotten a bit more seasoning in the minors than 4 innings. Once (or perhaps if) he gets his fastball back up into the mid-ninties, things may change.

There's always the possibility that Piniella wanted to have Rocker's presence in bullpen to incentivize Carter. At least that's how it played out last night.

The Original Todd Jones
2003-05-09 18:38
by Mike Carminati

John Rocker has been called up by the Devil Rays. Rocker has never been the same pitcher since leaving the Braves in the the middle of 2001. Rocker had pitched well in Double-A but has only four apperances and four innings under his belt. It seems like a quick and/or panicky move.

This probably signifies that the D-Rays are officially fed up with Lance Carter being the closer. Carter has pitched well at times, but he has also blown 3 saves in 8 chances, including two in his last three appearances. Piniella had said earlier in the week that Carter will now only be used to start an inning and will not pitch more than an inning in any appearance (he pitched 3 and 1.2 innings in those two blown saves).

Sweet Lou may get an itchy trigger finger if Carter continues to struggle and Rocker can look like a reasonable fascimile of his former self.

And Minnie Minoso Set To Return As First Six-Decade, Tri-Millennium Player
2003-05-09 16:12
by Mike Carminati

Steve Avery is set to return to the majors--well, at least the Tigers--tonight.

Avery is only 33 but has not pitched in the majors since 1999. Avery was one of the best young left-handers in the NL at the beginning of the Nineties but has not had an ERA under 4.00 nor pitched 200 innings since 1993.

By the way, former teammates Greg Maddux and Avery were both born on April 14. Maddux is 4 years older. And Maddux has a 182 more career wins. Both made it to the majors at age 20. Through age 23 Avery led Maddux, 50 to 45 in wins.

And I thought I Had Too Much Time on My Hands
2003-05-09 15:34
by Mike Carminati

Do not lament the hours you've lost watching Gilligan's Island re-runs.

Researchers in merry old England thought that the old saying that an infinite number of monkeys yuddah, yuddah would eventually produce Shakespeare should be put to the test. Now before you start drawing comparisons to's on-going tests involving Peter Gammons, Tim Kurkjian, and Jayson Stark, I would remind you that this test was with actual lower primates.

Long story short, the tests were a failure: "They pressed a lot of S's." However, they did manage a better rotisserie team than the Mets currently field.

The notes to the study, which I am still not sure is a joke or not--maybe I am dense--, are here.

Retools of Ignorance, II
2003-05-09 10:44
by Mike Carminati

The Eddie Kranepool Society has a good declension of the Piazza situation. It seems like it could have been an ill-advised sop to the reporters so that they would stop talking about Rey Sanchez's coiff. What a mess that team is.

Retools of Ignorance
2003-05-09 09:54
by Mike Carminati

There are reports that Mike Piazza is making the long-awaited move to first base and that Phil Nevin, when he returns next year, will be the Padres' starting catcher.

Piazza is close to the record for home runs by a catcher but may not get a chance to break it. It's probably the best thing for his career in the long run. And given Mo Vaughn's situation, first is a position the Mets will need to fill at least by next season (they will probably eat the last year of his contract--he is owed $15 M for 2004 plus a$2 M buyout). Vance Wilson should hit well enough to start behind the plate, though they might find a replacement for Piazza.

Nevin was never a spectacular defensive catcher. He only had two season (1998-99) in which he played more than a handful of games there and was mainly a catcher only in 1999. He seems to have been competent there or at least as competent a catcher as a third baseman defensively. Maybe that's why they should keep him in the outfield. I, frankly, don't see the logic of moving an oft-injured, thirty-three-year-old player behind the plate, but that's me.

Swing and Sway with Dr. K, II
2003-05-09 09:18
by Mike Carminati

It occurred to after I posted this that the reason for the dip overall pitcher batting in the late nineties is due to the introduction of interleague baseball. Starting in 1997 AL pitchers batted in NL parks. You will notice that all of the battings stats for pitchers take a big hit in 1997.

I contend that the improvement that Kurkjian points to is based more on a combination of luck and of AL batters starting to catch up with their NL counterparts than any real improvement in hitting for pitchers overall. Here is a comparison of the stats from the previous post broken down by league for 1997 and 2002:

AL	.105	.133	.146	.279	0.40%
NL	.140	.177	.177	.354	0.36%
MLB	.138	.175	.175	.350	0.36%
AL	.135	.170	.153	.323	0.00%
NL	.148	.179	.194	.373	0.54%
MLB	.148	.179	.191	.370	0.51%
AL	39.46%	39.59%	34.78%	36.92%	13.57%
NL	52.39%	52.60%	42.14%	46.80%	11.91%
MLB	51.72%	51.93%	41.76%	46.29%	12.00%
AL	51.75%	51.35%	36.73%	43.20%	0.00%
NL	56.74%	54.17%	46.46%	49.88%	17.80%
MLB	56.47%	54.02%	45.94%	49.52%	16.85%

The NL figures have remained close to the pre-interleague numbers. The AL is starting to catch up in everything but home runs.

The one-year dip in pitcher home run percent in 1994 (6.90%, fifty percentage lower than the year before and sixty percent less than the year after) is still confusing to me. There was no interleague play as yet. The only thing that could have skewed the data is the strike that cut short the season. But one would, or at least I would, expect more home runs to be hit in the spring.

Frankly, I'm at a loss, other than to say the sample must have been too small give the games lost to the strike. If anyone has a better rationale, let me know.

Swing and Sway with Dr. K
2003-05-09 01:29
by Mike Carminati

ESPN's lead story on their baseball site is about how well pitchers are hitting this season. A total of ten home runs has been hit by pitchers so far this season. It probably would go unnoticed but for the fact that it exceeds the Tigers' total for April by one dinger. Tim Kurkjian writes that "pitchers are getting better as hitters." He supports his point with the top hitting pitchers based on 12 at-bats. Twelve at-bats? That's three games. I find that a bit of a small sample myself.

Part I: Overall Pitcher-Batters

Kirkjian continues:

Pitcher's hit because today's baseball culture is all about hitting. It has been that way for 10 years. All over the country, kids are going to batting cages and relentlessly pumping tokens into pitching machines.

I'm sorry, but wasn't just a year or two ago that the popular cry was that pitchers couldn't even bunt anymore, and the designated hitter should become universal? Is this simply the media poucing on an aberration to rid the majors of the DH menace? Couldn't this just be an meaningless, early-season aberration?

I thought I would find out if there was something to the theory. Here is a table of pitcher battings stats per decade (for all players who pitched exclusively or at least appeared in more than 2 games to filter out position players throwing mop-up innings):

1870s	.247	.261	.300	.561	0.14%
1880s	.227	.267	.300	.567	0.52%
1890s	.227	.285	.298	.583	0.50%
1900s	.187	.230	.236	.466	0.25%
1910s	.183	.232	.234	.466	0.30%
1920s	.205	.246	.262	.507	0.47%
1930s	.194	.235	.244	.478	0.47%
1940s	.180	.223	.221	.444	0.37%
1950s	.169	.216	.219	.434	0.69%
1960s	.144	.185	.186	.371	0.63%
1970s	.150	.190	.190	.380	0.51%
1980s	.146	.182	.186	.368	0.45%
1990s	.145	.181	.182	.364	0.38%
2000s	.146	.179	.189	.368	0.54%

Apparently due to specialization, pitchers went from acceptable hitters early on very quickly to poor ones by the turn of the century, and finally by the Sixties to the horrendous ones that they are today. I find little to support the contention that pitchers have started to hit better in the last ten years. Their stats in the Nineties and the current decade (whatever we call it) are almost identical. Home run numbers are up, but one must wonder if that is just due to the increase in homers being today.

Let's check out the number above represented as percentages of the overall stats for all players, something akin to Baseball-Reference's adjusted stats (except we don't have the time to adjust all of the stats by park before summing):

1870s	91.94%	92.50%	90.01%	91.15%	63.08%
1880s	90.19%	89.63%	88.80%	89.19%	84.63%
1890s	82.54%	82.64%	80.76%	81.67%	70.34%
1900s	73.67%	73.96%	71.95%	72.93%	61.87%
1910s	71.71%	72.21%	69.24%	70.69%	58.55%
1920s	71.88%	70.91%	65.96%	68.27%	40.40%
1930s	69.55%	68.53%	61.07%	64.51%	29.88%
1940s	69.06%	67.24%	60.19%	63.54%	24.49%
1950s	65.28%	65.12%	55.85%	60.10%	27.71%
1960s	57.77%	58.83%	49.77%	53.91%	26.17%
1970s	58.61%	58.80%	50.32%	54.24%	23.21%
1980s	56.54%	56.36%	47.93%	51.76%	19.05%
1990s	54.93%	54.37%	44.48%	48.92%	13.56%
2000s	55.09%	53.28%	44.23%	48.22%	16.71%

Actually, the home run numbers in the Aughts have gone up slightly relative to the overall home run frequency, but it is still the second-lowest decade. It just happens to follow the Nineties, the lowest decade.

However, it may be something that is being masking by viewing the data per decade. Maybe if we looked at the last thirty years, we would find more to support pitchers' improvement at the plate:

1970	.146	.188	.192	.380	0.72%
1971	.149	.189	.188	.377	0.63%
1972	.146	.185	.184	.368	0.51%
1973	.150	.191	.189	.380	0.57%
1974	.165	.208	.204	.412	0.38%
1975	.150	.196	.181	.377	0.21%
1976	.149	.191	.181	.371	0.27%
1977	.159	.197	.205	.402	0.69%
1978	.148	.183	.188	.370	0.35%
1979	.151	.183	.191	.374	0.40%
1980	.162	.201	.204	.405	0.38%
1981	.150	.190	.187	.377	0.32%
1982	.151	.184	.190	.375	0.45%
1983	.146	.180	.180	.360	0.38%
1984	.147	.180	.182	.362	0.41%
1985	.139	.178	.176	.354	0.47%
1986	.144	.181	.191	.372	0.62%
1987	.151	.188	.199	.387	0.68%
1988	.134	.164	.169	.334	0.34%
1989	.139	.177	.178	.355	0.42%
1990	.138	.173	.171	.344	0.36%
1991	.145	.188	.176	.364	0.31%
1992	.138	.166	.171	.337	0.29%
1993	.151	.182	.185	.367	0.36%
1994	.154	.185	.189	.374	0.21%
1995	.148	.186	.192	.378	0.48%
1996	.148	.184	.189	.373	0.47%
1997	.138	.175	.175	.350	0.36%
1998	.146	.186	.183	.369	0.36%
1999	.147	.187	.189	.376	0.52%
2000	.147	.184	.192	.375	0.60%
2001	.143	.175	.183	.358	0.51%
2002	.148	.179	.191	.370	0.51%

Well, everything has stayed about the same since 1994. However, home runs have increased.

Now, let's look at the numbers by percentage of all of the batters' stats to see if that is just an aberration:

1970	57.49%	57.83%	49.81%	53.48%	27.81%
1971	59.65%	59.64%	51.48%	55.27%	28.93%
1972	59.99%	59.42%	51.89%	55.41%	25.08%
1973	58.29%	58.74%	49.92%	53.99%	24.17%
1974	64.28%	64.17%	55.37%	59.49%	19.07%
1975	58.12%	59.89%	48.41%	53.77%	10.47%
1976	58.52%	59.55%	50.05%	54.51%	15.71%
1977	60.10%	59.72%	51.10%	54.99%	27.20%
1978	57.55%	56.48%	49.58%	52.76%	16.92%
1979	56.70%	55.47%	48.08%	51.43%	16.50%
1980	61.04%	61.61%	52.70%	56.77%	17.56%
1981	58.58%	59.39%	50.64%	54.71%	17.07%
1982	57.73%	56.85%	48.98%	52.56%	19.09%
1983	56.15%	55.46%	46.27%	50.45%	16.58%
1984	56.70%	55.71%	47.32%	51.15%	17.91%
1985	54.26%	55.13%	45.01%	49.59%	18.59%
1986	56.00%	55.53%	48.43%	51.64%	23.17%
1987	57.37%	56.84%	47.87%	51.85%	21.86%
1988	52.53%	51.74%	44.80%	47.97%	15.38%
1989	54.70%	55.53%	47.31%	51.09%	19.58%
1990	53.69%	53.16%	44.47%	48.44%	15.63%
1991	56.72%	58.15%	45.79%	51.44%	12.94%
1992	53.94%	51.58%	45.21%	48.14%	13.73%
1993	57.12%	54.83%	45.92%	49.95%	13.71%
1994	57.19%	54.54%	44.64%	49.04%	6.90%
1995	55.58%	55.04%	46.05%	50.07%	16.46%
1996	54.74%	54.03%	44.27%	48.60%	14.82%
1997	51.72%	51.93%	41.76%	46.29%	12.00%
1998	54.81%	55.61%	43.56%	48.91%	12.01%
1999	54.27%	54.31%	43.60%	48.34%	15.65%
2000	54.49%	53.25%	43.81%	47.97%	17.69%
2001	54.34%	52.54%	42.99%	47.17%	15.52%
2002	56.47%	54.02%	45.94%	49.52%	16.85%

Well, pitchers are apparently hitting more home runs today than they were in 1994. However, we are talking about a historic low for pitchers' batting. Pitchers actually hit fewer home runs today relative to all batters than they did 30 years ago. Besides, OPS is down for the last ten years as compared to thirty years ago.

My conclusion is that pitchers are apparently hitting more home runs of late (since 1999) relative to all batters, but it is still historically low.

Part II: Individual Pitcher-Batters

Rob Neyer then lists his all-time great hitting pitchers. He concludes that there are some good-hitting pitchers today, but no Babe Ruths or Wes Ferrells in the bunch.

His list is good, but I thought of two others who should have made it: Rube Bressler and Smokey Joe Wood, both of whom converted from pitcher to the outfield. I thought it might be interesting to see the all-time leaders for pitchers to shed a bit more light on things. (Note that I considered only batters with 100 ABs or more and 50 pitching appearance or more over their careers-i.e., no Jimmie Foxx.).

OK, here are the all-time leaders first by batting average:

Name                BA
Babe Ruth          .342
George Van Haltren .316
Al Spalding        .313
Walter Thornton    .312
Elmer Smith        .310
Otis Stocksdale    .310
Erv Brame          .306
Cy Seymour         .303
Rube Bressler      .301
Tom Parrott        .301
Art Reinhart       .301
Bert Inks          .300

Now, the leaders by home runs:

 Name               HR
Babe Ruth         714
Johnny Lindell     72
George Van Haltren 69
Cy Seymour         52
Wes Ferrell        38
Elmer Smith        37
Bob Lemon          37
Red Ruffing        36
Jack Stivetts      35
Earl Wilson        35
Warren Spahn       35
Bobby Wallace      34
Rube Bressler      32
Dave Foutz         31

Now by HR per AB:

 Name           HR/AB
Babe Ruth      8.50%
Jack Harshman  4.95%
Roric Harrison 4.84%
Earl Wilson    4.73%
Mikeorkins   4.20%
Lou Sleater    3.88%
Clint Hartung  3.70%
Tim Lollar     3.46%
Jerry Casale   3.45%
Wes Ferrell    3.23%
Bob Lemon      3.13%
Danny Murphy   3.08%
Wayland Dean   3.06%

Lollar probably should have made Neyer's list. Casale was a modern player, but only had 116 at-bats.

Finally, here are the all-time leaders by OPS:

Name                OPS
Babe Ruth         1.164
Elmer Smith        .832
George Van Haltren .802
Wes Ferrell        .797
Rube Bressler      .791
Bob Caruthers      .791
Jack Stivetts      .783
Johnny Lindell     .773
Walter Thornton    .771
Doc Crandall       .770
Chad Kimsey        .768
Joe Wood           .768
Tom Parrott        .768
Erv Brame          .755
Cy Seymour         .752
Reb Russell        .745
Jimmy Zinn         .745
Ralph Winegarner   .735
Charlie Ferguson   .735
Ad Gumbert         .731
Walt Kinney        .727
Fred Klobedanz     .726
Otis Stocksdale    .724
Snake Wiltse       .724
George Uhle        .722
Jack Bentley       .722
Schoolboy Rowe     .710
Al Spalding        .705
Don Newcombe       .705
Dave Foutz         .701

Here are a lot of 19th-century pitchers in there. Here are the "modern" pitcher-batters:

Johnny Lindell came up during World War II with the Yankees as a pitcher, quickly converted to an outfielder, and then finished his career as a pitcher.

Doc Crandall, who is on a short list of the "first" relief pitchers, was a contemporary of Ruth's. He played middle infield occasionally throughout his career, probably more for his bat (OPS 20% than league average) than his markedly subpar glove.

Chad Kimsey was a good-hitting pitcher for the Browns in the Thirties.

Erv Brame was a decent-hitting pitcher for the Pirates in the late Twenties and early Thirties.

Reb Russell was a pitcher in the 1910s who converted to outfielder in the Twenties for the White Sox. He had an OPS 76% better than the league average in his first season as an outfielder.

Jimmy Zinn was a decent-hitting journeyman pitcher in the Twneties.

Ralph Winegarner was a poor-man's Bob Lemon: he came up in 1930 as third baseman, went back down for a couple of years, and returned to the majors as a pitcher.

Walt Kinney was a good hitter for the A's in the early Twenties. He also made a handful of appearances in the outfield.

George Uhle was a decent hitter who won 200 games in the Twenties and Thirties. He made Neyer's list.

Jack Bentley was a backup pitcher for McGraw's Giants in 1910s. He played one year for the Phillies almost exclusively as a first baseman. And then finished his career as a pitcher for the Giants again.

Schoolboy Rowe and Don Newcombe were honorable mentions on Neyer's list.

Prime-Time Thunder, II
2003-05-08 23:42
by Mike Carminati

Jeter looked pretty good. He went 1-for-3 with a seeing-eye single. However, one of his outs was a ball hit aganst the wall in left. He also played some good D and his arm looked fine.

Prime-Time Thunder
2003-05-08 20:40
by Mike Carminati

YES is airing Derek Jeter's second game on rehab with the Double-A Trenton Thunder.

The other day, I passed by it and Paul O'Neill was playing drums as his kids watched. It was like that scene in Wayne's World, in which Garth just spontaneously starts drumming in a music store. By the way, he played like every high school kid who ever stuffed a bass drum with a pillow or lined his basement/garage with supposedly sound-proofing egg cartons. In other words, O'Neill Peart he was not.

Giant Feat?
2003-05-08 20:33
by Mike Carminati

Kyle Ainsworth has a no-hitter through four in Florida.

Almost as I typed this Todd Hollandsworth broke up the no-hitter with a lead-off double on the first pitch offered in the fifth.

Never Mind.

Just Like Aaron, Almost
2003-05-08 15:34
by Mike Carminati

The Reds were leading 8-6 with one out and Felipe Lopez at first in the bottom of the eighth. Austin Kearns was the batter and Aaron Boone was on deck. Boone seemed assured a shot at four homers in a game as long as Kearns didn't get doubled up.

The good news: Kearns struck out

The bad news: Lopez got caught stealing to end the inning (maybe they were trying to avoid a ground-ball double play to ensure boone's final at-bat).

The Cardinals failed to score in the top of the ninth and the game was over. Sometimes playing for a crappy team doesn't have its benefits.

Just Like Aaron
2003-05-08 15:24
by Mike Carminati

Don't look now but Aaron Boone has three home runs today, all solo shots, at the Great American Ball Park. The Reds lead 8-6 and Boone is due up to lead of the ninth. He only gets a chance at a 4-HR game if the Cardinals score two or more runs in the top half of the inning. Sometimes playing for a crappy team has its benefits.

Henry Chadwick Would Be Proud
2003-05-08 12:51
by Mike Carminati

The New York Times reports that the Mets are league leaders at least in digital video technology. The Mets have a team recording every event in every major-league game and cataloging them by customizable characteristics. And you thought TiVo was cool?

Piazza, the Mets' slugging catcher, says technology has been at least partly responsible for baseball's offensive explosion over the last decade. "The fact that you can easily see how you've performed against a certain pitcher in a certain situation is a big help now," he said. "I've had pitchers like David Cone tell me that the hitters today are just better. They cover the plate better. They're smarter. It's not the whole story, but video is a big part of that."

It's an interesting theory, but couldn't the tool be used to help pitchers set up opposing batters just as easily? Well, Mr. Piazza has an answer for that, too:

Piazza and other players say the ability to study video is a particular boon to hitters. Pitchers have always been better prepared than batters, some baseball experts say, because starters have several days' rest between starts, giving them the opportunity to study batters they are scheduled to face.

I'm not entirely sold, but it's an interesting argument.

Anyway, the breadth of data sounds very cool as well:

"I have access to whatever happened the previous day in the minor leagues, the major leagues, with all of the amateur scouting that's happening prior to the draft," [Mets asssitant GM Gary] LaRocque said.

What I want to know is when they are going to make it available to the public or at least the blogging community.

Loco en la Canseco
2003-05-08 11:26
by Mike Carminati

Apparently, as Fox Mulder asserted on The X Files, the truth is out there.

But speaking of "out there", Jose Canseco now claims that he was blackballed by the sport that gave Steve Howe, George Steinbrenner, and Darryl Strawberry more chances than a church raffle. Canseco reported the news in an interview that he and Harvey, his invisible six-foot rabbit buddy, gave with ESPN. Let's listen in; shall we?:

"Three years ago, I had a few players come up to me and say that I was being blackballed," Canseco said. "One of the players to tell me that I was being blackballed, to me, is the greatest player in the world, Alex Rodriguez. All the athletes know why I am out of the game, it's an internal thing, it's kept in the family."

Deep Throat, X, The Cigarette Smoking Man, The Lone Gunman, and A-Rod. So what does Mr. Rod have to say about this:

"I don't remember that. I really don't. I don't recall that. I just wish him the best," Rodriguez said before the Rangers' game against Toronto.

When asked if Canseco was blackballed by baseball, Rodriguez responded, "I have no idea. I haven't really thought about it."

Of course! No one is thinking about it, except Canseco who apparently has nothing else to do but sell off his worldly possessions (as well as his personal time) and dream up conspiracy theories.

It must be eating away at Canseco. He hit 34 home runs as a D-Ray All-Star in 1999 (one of two with Roberto Hernandez). On July 4, 1999, he had just turned 35 (on the 2nd), he hit his 30th dinger of the season, and he stood 73 away from 500 for his career. He had hit 76 home runs in the previous year and one-half.

But after that, Canseco collected only four more homers in the (again) injury-plagued year. He continued to get injured and witnessed his power numbers slide in 2000. So Tampa traded him in August to, inexplicably, the Yankees (Canseco's .450 slugging average with the Rays in 2000 was the lowest to that point in his career). The Yankees used him sparingly and he underperformed.

In 2001, he was released in training camp by the Angels and spent a half-season with the independent Newark Bears along with brother and fellow felon Ozzie. He was eventually signed by the White Sox, and he put up decent power number with them (16 HRs in 256 ABs, .773 OPS which was 18% better than the park-adjusted league average).

But in 2002 the Sox were getting younger not older. Besides Frank Thomas was returning from injury. So Jose was in the unemployment line again. Montreal brought him to spring training, which is odd since he had not played more than a handful of games in the field in three seasons. Canseco was bidding to become the 'Spos' everyday left fielder (another great Omar Minaya move). Montreal went the safer route and kept Troy O'Leary instead. Canseco hit .200 but slugged .514 with 3 home runs in 35 spring at-bats. They offered him a job in Triple-A, but Canseco refused the assignment and was released. He signed with Charlotte, the White Sox Triple-A affiliate on April 18, but hit only .179, and retired May 13.

Canseco is now 38 home runs away from 500 for his career.

How had he been blackballed? Since 2000 he had been in five major league organizations (Tampa Bay, the Yankees, the White Sox twice, the Angels, and the Expos). He lost a number of jobs but was (almost) always offered another. And he was the one who terminated the relationship finally.

Besides, he cannot play the field, which he demonstrated in trying out with the Expos, so he would be limited to the 14 AL clubs. He is often injured. He is particular about playing in the majors so that he can get his 500 HRs. He is ungrateful-he called his time in Newark a "nightmare". His age and his low numbers in spring and in the minors in 2002 were enough reason to ignore him.

Could he have still performed reasonably well as a DH for some club? Probably, but, as Rickey Henderson is finding out this season, if you burn all your bridges, you had better give someone a compelling reason to give you a chance. He didn't.

So Jose's trouble are not in the stars but in himself. He was not blackballed. He marginalized himself. If Canseco had hit .350 with a bunch of homers in the Expos 2002 camp, he probably would have been their left fielder and may have hit 500 home runs. But he got injured and didn't perform, plain and simple.

Canseco seems unable to deal with that and has had a personal life that has been a nightmare ever since he retired. I can't wait for his book to come out though-I love fiction.

Cap Anson Had His Rationale
2003-05-08 00:39
by Mike Carminati

Cap Anson Had His Rationale Too

Todd Jones is nothing if not consistent. This year's version of John Rocker come out about his anti-gay stance in his regular TSN article.

It seems that the issue boils down to the separate showers in the clubhouse:

You might ask why, why, why are guys so hung up on this issue? Because of the closeness of the clubhouse. Nothing is sacred. Guys shower together; there are no dividers. Guys go in, do their thing, get clean and get out. They don't want to think about another guy.

Couldn't they just install stalls? Then Jones wouldn't have to be embarassed about his shortcomings.

Todd declares his own Bill of Rights:

I'm tired of being politically correct. I have no social agenda. This is not a big deal until they make it a big deal, and by "they" I mean anyone who got their feathers ruffled. This is America. Are you saying that if you have a voice that is in the majority that you should not use it because you're worried what someone else will say? Isn't that the kind of prejudice everyone wants to stay away from?

Todd, this is America, and you can speak your mind. But be prepared for the consequences if you are in the entertainment industry. Just ask the Dixie Chicks. Besides MLB is a company, not a democracy. They don't need to be overexposed legally or PR-wise because you needed to vent your spleen. If the average American publically expressed similar opinions, he would be fired. Whether that's right or wrong is a separate issue. The issue here is why Todd Jones feels that he is above it because he is a washed-up pitcher.

Here's a great little moment:

A guy asked me if I had it to do over again would I say what I said. Yes, I would. But I'd want the people to know the context: one man's comments on the reaction to a gay player in the clubhouse -- that's it.

I'm sure that the Rockies are loving all of this. They force a token apology out of him, and he basically recants in TSN. Of course it is only one man's opinion--what else could it be? Are you schizophrenic? Besides that's not "it". If his very public opinion can be shown to cause undue stress to a homosexual co-worker and that MLB and/or the Rockies are negligent, we could have a very big lawsuit on the issue.

After all a man came in and asked him questions. He must have said that phrase ten times in the half-page article. I can't wait until some man asks him questions about blacks, women, Jews, or insert your favorite minority here.

A Mother of a Day
2003-05-07 23:35
by Mike Carminati

A Mother of a Day

I know that I said I wasn't going to support the Hall after the Bull Durham affair, but a) Tim Robbins has openly encouraged people to visit the Hall and b) this is too good to pass up. From the SABR daily email newsletter thingy from yesterday:

Date: Tue, 6 May 2003 09:39:37 -0400
From: "Markusen, Bruce"
Subject: Mother's Day Weekend Programs At The Hall of Fame

For those who are interested in the history of women in baseball, and specifically the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, the topic will be covered in-depth at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum this weekend.

This Mother's Day Weekend, May 10-11, the Museum will welcome several alumnae members from the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL), who will take part in a special Legends Series event on Mother's Day (Sunday, May 11) at 2 p.m. in the Bullpen Theater. The Legends Series will feature former players Shirley Burkovich, Gloria Cordes Elliott, Jane Moffet, and Dolly White, and former league chaperone Helen Hannah Campbell. Admission to the Legends Series event is free, but tickets must be reserved at the Hall of Fame's Ticket Office, beginning on Friday, May 9, or by calling 607-547-0261.

Also during Mother's Day Weekend, the Museum will feature guest speaker Kelley Franco, who will give an introductory course on baseball for fans of all interest levels (a program entitled Baseball 101), held on May 10 at 1:30 p.m. and on May 11 at 11 a.m. The documentary, All for One, detailing the careers of AAGPBL members, will also be shown both days at 4:00 p.m. in the Bullpen Theater.

In addition, on Saturday, May 10, author Deborah Hopkinson will discuss her children's book, Girl Wonder, about women's baseball pioneer Alta Weiss. After the 3:00 p.m. presentation, Ms. Hopkinson will be available to sign copies of the book in the Library Atrium.

For more information on any of these programs, call 607-547-0261 or send an e-mail to

Bruce Markusen
Manager of Program Presentations
National Baseball Hall of Fame & Museum
25 Main Street, Cooperstown, NY, 13326
Phone: 607-547-0261
Fax: 607-547-2044

The AAGPBL got plenty of coverage from that Madonna movie with one good line from Tom Hanks. Alta Weiss, "The Girl Wonder", is largely fogotten, but she was a star pitcher at the turn of the century and she had her own traveling "all-star" team.

Here are some pictures of her in action:

Watching the Detectives, II I
2003-05-07 15:30
by Mike Carminati

Watching the Detectives, II

I have been railing against MLB's use of the Questec Umpire Information System (UIS) as an a tool to evaluate umpires since the issue flared up late last summer. I have to admit that author of The Diamond Appraised,Craig Wright, via Rob Neyer's column, makes some excellent points as to why the tool could be very useful as a training device using Randy Massarotti's column as a jumping-off point.

Craig points out the inanity behind the statement, "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." The self-importance of that statement fully displays the need for umps to be reined in.

Wright also has the stats and the smarts to show that Massarotti's contention that "pressuring the umpires to call a smaller strike zone than what the umpires want to call, which results in fewer called strikes, more walks, and longer games" is as, I called it, specious at best:

First of all, the walk increase of 5.1 percent over last year, as reported by Massarotti through games of April 23, has taken a nosedive as the sample size has increased. It is already down to +1.8 percent through games of May 4 (for both seasons). And if the comparison is made via the more logical "walks per inning" rather than "walks per game," the increase falls further, to 1.1 percent.

And in the realm of statistical significance, that's absolutely nothing. It is so meaningless that the umpires could actually be calling more strikes and still produce by chance a result like that in this sample size.

And you know what? That is exactly what is happening.

With the supposed pressure of their calls being tracked by Questec, the umpires are calling a slightly higher -- not lower -- percentage of strikes in 2003 than they did in 2002...

In case you are curious, the emphasis on calling higher strikes has resulted in a higher percentage of strike calls. The percentage of strikes called used to routinely be between 29 and 30 percent. As you can see for 2001-03 it has been consistently around 31 percent. The last two seasons and this one have the three highest marks of all the seasons since 1991...

[I]t is a fact that since MLB changed the strike zone (shrinking it in the rule book but raising the former de facto standard of the umpires) the percentage of pitches taken has gone down, not up, even though the percentage of called strikes has gone up.

I think that the UIS system can be a valuable tool in training umpires. It can show them blind spots in their balls-and-strikes calling.

However, using it as a a tool to evaluate umpires, that is a measuring stick to be used in all intsances, is at best misguided. An umpire calling a game pitched by two junk ballers will invariably recieve lower grades than one behind the plate with two fastball pitchers. The UIS system is far from perfect especially with breaking pitches.

I think that the UIS is being used inappropriately to force a strike zone that the umpires don't like down their throats. Perhaps with the recalcitrance of today's umpires, one could argue it is necessary.

I guess it comes down to whether using a system that is inherently inaccurate and biased against certain types of pitchers is preferable to withstanding the umpires calling a strike zone that is approximately 36" wide and 18" high instead of the reverse as the rule book indicates. At least that's the corner that MLB has painted itself into.

Maybe I'm a hypocrite since I do prefer the new, actual strike zone and dislike the misuse of the UIS system.

I do have one piece advice though: If the umps and MLB had been enforcing the batter's box all along, the umpires would not have conceded the outside corner to the pitcher, and we would have had the real strike zone all along. But neither side of the argument wants to hear this advice right now.

LVMVP! LVMVP! LVMVP! Tonight Miguel
2003-05-07 01:12
by Mike Carminati


Tonight Miguel Tejada failed in an attempt to extend his hitting streak to six games. In his previous five games the reigning AL MVP was batting .313. That sounds great, right?

Well after an 0-for-3 tonight, Tejada's batting average dipped to .176. It has been as low as .155 on April 25 and has not been over the Mendoza line of .200 since April 14.

What's more, even with five home runs, his slugging average sits at .308. It had been below .300 on April 25 and has not been over .400 since April 10.

His on-base percentage is .245, was as low as .218 on April 24, and has not been over .300 since April 10 (the only day this season it's been over .300).

His OPS (on-base plus slugging) is a miserable .554 and has not been over .600 since April 14.

For comparison's sake, Tejada did not have a day in 2002 on which his batting average was under .232, his OBP was under .250, his slugging average was under .350, or his OPS was under .600. His batting average is almost 90 points below his career average, his OBP is about 80 below, his slugging average is almost 150 points below, and his OPS, 225 points below his career average. Add to this the fact that he has made 8 errors in 31 games, which translates into slightly less than 42 over a full season, 16 more than he committed in his worst defensive season, his rookie one.

He's having a bad year, it would seem.

It got me to thinking if Tejada continues like this, however unlikely, would he be the LVMVP ever. LVMVP is something I just made up to stand for Least Valuable MVP, the player who plays the poorest while serving as the reigning MVP.

Let's take a look, shall we?

Here are the lowest batting averages for reigning MVPs:

BA	Player, Year
.207	Roy  Campanella, 1954
.213	Kirk  Gibson, 1989
.219	Roy  Campanella, 1956
.226	Jeff  Burroughs, 1975
.238	Roger  Peckinpaugh, 1926
.238	Johnny  Bench, 1971
.247	Robin  Yount, 1990
.248	Orlando  Cepeda, 1968
.249	Joe  Gordon, 1943
.249	Zoilo  Versalles, 1966
.250	Don  Baylor, 1980

It seems like a lot of middle infielders, catchers, and older players. Burroughs and Versalles are probably the two guys thought of as the worst (or best) LVMVPs. By the way, no one ever batted under .200.

Now, here are the men with OPS's under .700 as reigning MVPs:

OPS	Name, Year
.653	Zoilo  Versalles, 1966
.657	Don  Baylor, 1980
.659	Roger  Peckinpaugh, 1926
.670	Johnny  Evers, 1915
.676	Willie  McGee, 1986
.679	Kirk  Gibson,  1989
.680	Bob  O'Farrell, 1927
.685	Orlando  Cepeda, 1968
.686	Roy  Campanella, 1954
.687	Dick  Groat, 1961
.689	Cal  Ripken Jr., 1992
.696	Phil  Rizzuto, 1951
.699	Frankie  Frisch, 1932

There are a lot of the same suspects in that list. The new ones are of the same type: middle INFs, Cs, and aging stars.

Well, Tejada certainly is a middle infielder but the only such players who are a good match for him are Ripken, Versalles, and maybe Gordon (Yount was already a center fielder when he won his second MVP in 1989).

I hope that Tejada's career does not follow that group's: Versalles was washed up at 26 and Gordon and Ripken, though both have pretty good credentials for the Hall of Fame, had more down years than good ones after winning the MVP (i.e., Ripken's second MVP).

Versalles in 1965 led his team to a division championship. In two years he had been traded to the Dodgers, in four he had been drafted by the expansion Expos, and in five was playing in the Mexican League.

Tejada is only 26 (he'll turn 27 on the 25th), and should have plenty of great baseball left in him. But that's what everyone though about Zoilo Versalles in 1966.

[By the way, here are the LVMVP pitchers by ERA (note that Chandler only pitched one game that year):

ERA	Name, Year
4.50	Spud  Chandler, 1944
4.16	Dennis  Eckersley, 1993
4.09	Bobby  Shantz, 1953
4.05	Jim  Konstanty, 1951
3.53	Dazzy  Vance, 1925
3.49	Don  Newcombe, 1957

And wins:

W	Name, Year
0	Spud  Chandler, 1944
2	Dennis  Eckersley, 1993
4	Jim  Konstanty, 1951
5	Bobby  Shantz, 1953
5	Rollie  Fingers, 1982
6	Vida  Blue, 1972
8	Willie  Hernandez, 1985
11	Don  Newcombe, 1957]

Around the Horn Our friend
2003-05-06 20:16
by Mike Carminati

Around the Horn

Our friend Christian Ruzich, the Cub Reporter, takes aim at Mike Kiley's inept attempt to assess Cubs general manager Jim Hendry's trade possibilities. Christian is dead on throughout.

Over at Bronx Banter, Alex Belth continues his interview of Rob Neyer. (I hope he didn't mention how I ripped Neyer in my Joe Morgan chat review.)

May Joe Morgan Chat Day
2003-05-05 00:10
by Mike Carminati

May Joe Morgan Chat Day

Ted Striker (on radio): May Day! May Day!
Capt. Rex Kramer (other end): May Day, what is it?
Johnny: Why, it's the Russian new year. We'll have a parade...

-Airplane!, Act 2, Scene 3

Hello, comrades. It is I, Vladimir Ilich Ulyanov, better know to you as good ol' Vlady Lenin. At one time I was the father of a worldwide revolution. Even after my death I command such respect that I ruled ceremoniously from my glass tomb.

Now I am just a step on the way to the Moscow Mickey D's in Let's Go Moscow. And as far as my movement, it's devolved to a beard-wearing, cigar-smoking, failed ballplayer on a tiny Caribbean island. Even the name Lenin is best remembered as that of one of the Beatles-at least he was the smart one, but he spelled "Lenin" wrong anyway.

I know that I once said, "All our lives we fought against exalting the individual, against the elevation of the single person, and long ago we were over and done with the business of a hero, and here it comes up again: the glorification of one personality. This is not good at all. I am just like everybody else." But that was before I hit rock bottom and became a shill for Mike's Baseball Rants. I ask you, "What Is to Be Done?" Eh, I asked that before, and look what it got me.

I'm here to tell you that we, the proletariat at Mike's Baseball Rants-and believe me, we are proletariat-, love the Joe Morgan. He was one of our fave ballplayers growing up and the best second-sacker that we have ever seen. We love the Joe Morgan Chat Day even more. As an analyst, Morgan is a true Bolshevik. Comrade, he is full to the gills with Bolshevik, trust me.

This Morgan fellow is a true Marxist-Leninist. He follows my paradigm of using colonies as breeding grounds for the revolution. He understands that disciples of the revolution must be highly disciplined. He knows that any theoretical revisionism or gradualism is bad for the revolution. He wants the people to overthrow the dictators, the analysts-worse yet the Menshevik statheads.

Unfortunately for baseball fans, Morgan's revolution would have us turn back the clocks 25 years to a time when rallies were rare and every stratagem in the book was needed to scratch out a run. He would abolish any newfangled statistics from the record book. Everything from on-base-percentage to pitcher's ERA would be expunged from history. The analyst dictators refuse to accept wins as the true way to evaluate pitchers and batting average and RBI as the measure sticks for batters. They deign to tempt men with promises of Win Shares, park-adjusted OPS's, and ERAs above the park-adjusted league average? But his devotion is unparalleled. His cause is just, just stupid. He is using his chat to reach new fans with his outmoded ideas, and it is working.

Now, let us review his excellent propaganda (accompanied by really annoying animated gifs).

The Good: According to Karl, "Abolition of all classes and ...a classless society.

Utek (LA): Hi Joe. Nothing good ever happens when Adrian Beltre swings at a curveball---so why does he do it? I've seen him flailing away at breaking balls in the dirt, a foot outside, time and time again. Can't somebody tell him "Don't swing at curveballs unless you've got 2 strikes"?

I'm sure they are telling him not to swing at curveballs in the dirt! But individuals have to adjust to those things. It usually comes with experience as to which pitches you can handle and you adjust to that. He just hasn't made the adjustement.. in your eyes anyway.

[Mike: Right, how is he going to hit a curve without actually trying to hit it? He needs to develop his eye so that he can tell a good curve from a bad. He may never be a good curveball hitter, but he has to be able to handle the pitch or that will be all that he sees. The only way to adjust is to keep plugging away. If he never learns to close up that hole in his game, he will go the way of the dodo and Kevin Maas.]

Alan Davis (Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin): The Dodgers are hitting poorly again. How much effect does a hitting coach have on a team's hitting ability? When (if ever) do the Dodgers' hitting woes become Jack Clark's responsibility?

First, you have to have the talent. You can only assist players as hitters, you can't make them great hitters. I don't know when the responsiblity falls on the hitting instructor. Is the Tigers instructor bad? I guess you question all teams that are bad, but Jack Clark did a good job when them before. Maybe they will get better with him being there everyday, he has been injured in the past.

[Mike: I have to agree with Joe here.

The Dodgers have some sore spots in their lineup that they seem not to be doing much about: Cesar Izturis is the new Rey Ordonez (.562 OPS in 2002; .580 this year). Adrian Beltre has some definite holes in his game (see above) and is struggling this year (.651 OPS). Alex Cora played way over his head in limited duty in 2002 (.805 OPS in 258 Abs) and they rewarded him with the second base job (at least they got rid of Mark Grudzielanek, but that was largely a fiscal issue). Now he has returned to his career level (.669 OPS; career: .654). The also have a few veterans under-performing, Shawn Green and Fred McGriff, but they should pick it up soon. Besides the hitting instructor probably does not have much to teach them anyway.

It should be mentioned that the Dodgers still are outperforming the opposition, .685 OPS to .624. This is better than their .729 to .698 margin from last year. So maybe they have just been in more pitcher's duels yet far.]

mike (New Brunswick, NJ): Do you think the Yankees are ruining baseball what with their 175 mil payroll and all??

No. They are just raising the bar for others to perform. It's not about the money, it's how they win. Steinbrenner wants to win. He puts his money back into the team where others owners take it out. They just want to win and he is giving them that chance.

[Mike: I think the Mets and their $125 M payroll are the ruination of baseball. Kudos to Joe for not joining in on the media Yankee-bashing, which is so popular of late.]

Joey, Nj: What is it with the pitchers hitting a lot of home runs this year?

I think it's just you .. for every HR there are 8 Ks. But one thing that has changed, a guy like Mark Prior who came from college, they are better hitters. There are more better hitting pitchers out there.

[Mike: And the judges are going to give it to Joe.

Pitchers have hit 10 home runs in 1000 at-bats this year. In 2002, they hit 27 in 5219. That's an increase from a home run in 0.517% of all ABs to one in 1.000% of ABs. Yes, that's nearly a 100% increase, but: A) we are still talking about a small increase in a rather small sample of data over the population, B) the seemingly poorer-batting AL pitchers have yet to hack, and C) the batting average and slugging percentage for pitchers have not changed much (.148 BA in 2002 to .151 in 2003; .192 to .204 in slugging).

By the way, Joe's 8-to-1 strikeout-to-HR ratio is a bit low. In 2002, the ratio was 72.44 to 1. In 2003, 38.1 to 1. Again, it's still a bit early to get excited. ]

The Bad: "The class struggle necessarily leads to the dictatorship of the proletariat" best represented in the Tigers

James, Waterbury, CT: I'm a decent Yankee fan, but this infatuation Joe Torre has for Jeff Weaver I feel is much too flattering. In my opinion, I say send him down to Columbus with Contreras and let them be buddies down there. Neither one of them is ready for the majors. What do you think?

Jeff Weaver is one of their starters of the future. Clemens can't be there forever. They have to develop some guys and the Majors is where he can learn the most.

[Mike: Weaver is in his fourth major-league season. He will be 27 by the end of the season. In each of his prior season except for his rookie year, he had an ERA at least 5% and as much as 21% better than the park-adjusted league average.

This is not a scrub we are talking about. He is a little less experienced than the rest of the Yankees staff, but so are 90% of the pitchers in baseball.

He's struggled a bit in the last year and one-half in New York, but he's also pitched well at times. He's not the staff ace yet that he has the potential to be, but he is an established major-leaguer.

James, your myopia is a disservice to learned Yankee fans. You make Joe look good.]

Rick, Louisville KY: Joe, Why are the Mets so terrible?? They seem to have very good talent, but have been rotten since their trip to the Series.

They have talent that was good at one time. But it's not performing right now. I'm surprised some of the guys haven't bounced back and had a better year. But you are talking about guys that were talented at one time. They just don't have it right now.

[Mike: Rick, the answer to your question is age. The Mets had an average age of 30.0 (32.6 on the pitching staff) when they went to the Series in 1999. That went up to 30.5 in 2002, and I would bet it's gotten higher with the core of players that they retained and the additions of David Cone, Jay Bell, Tom Glavine, Rey Sanchez, Mike Stanton, and Graeme Lloyd, and the return of John Franco. The only player getting significant playing time who is under 30 is Ty Wigginton.

Joe, talent is an illusory thing in baseball. It starts to evaporate in a player's early thirties. With so many players closer to 35 than 25, the odds that all will perform at their peak is low (though Alomar's decline was rather precipitous).]

Juan (Wichita Falls, TX): Hi Joe! I have a question that's been on my head for a while. I'm aware that Rickey Henderson is 44 years old and that he hasn't been able to hit .250 in quite a while. However I believe he's still capable of helping teams by getting on base and stealing bases. Maybe I'm biased and just want him to hit homerun 300 and retire happy. What's your take? Is he still able to help teams? Is there a possibility for him returning to the majors or is his MLB career effectively over? Thanks!!!

There comes a time in every players career that he has to decide it is time to hang it up. It's not an easy decision and tougher for some. I think he should have already retired a couple years ago. He is a friend of mine and I told him the same thing. But it's his perogative to keep playing. I can only make a suggestion. There is an itch that still needs to be scratched.

[Mike: He's still a decent major-league player. He is not much more than a role player now, but he can still produce. He also seems to make the players around him more patient at the plate and high walks rates seem to follow him wherever he goes.

The reason that he's not on a team right now is that he is a pain in the derriere. That's also a reason why he probably won't be a coach or a scout when he's done. When Rickey hangs 'em up, that'll probably be his last appearance on the field, except at old-timers games and ceremonies. Why not play until no one let's you play anymore if you're Rickey?

When Cal Ripken was still playing awhile in decline, it was one of the things that people admired him for (and voted him onto far too many All-Star games for). Why isn't Rickey admired for trying to keep playing by any means possible, including playing independent league ball?]

Jim (Pittsburgh): I saw a report that said that only 11% of major league players are African-American. That's apparently the lowest percentage in years. What do you think are the reasons for this decline?

I'm no longer worried because there is nothing I can do about it. I brought it to MLB's attention years ago and told them they were not doing enough in the inner cities to promote baseball. They were busy finding talent in Latin America, they just weren't doing it at home. I pointed it out but they don't seem to care.

[Mike: Far be it for me to tell MLB not to promote the game in the inner cities, or anywhere else for that matter. However, given that foreign born players now comprise about 25% of all major-leaguers, wouldn't all Americans, not just African-Americans, witness a reduction in their numbers?

One could argue that this is basically a chicken-or-egg problem: Did the reduction in African-Americans cause an increase in foreign-born players or visa versa? I would argue that it is the latter given that talent has improved (given greater talent compression) and not declined, which one would expect if segments of the population were leaving the sport.

I would say that some athletes have been attracted away by the popularity of the NBA over the last 15-20 years and by its relaxing rules that require college players to complete their senior year, but it has not hurt the sport appreciably. I would think that almost a decade of labor struggles and negative campaigning have done more damage. How many inner city kids want to be Barry Bonds and how many want to be Michael Jordan?]

Marcus (Honolulu): Joe, Pat Burrell is really not living up to all the hype. People expect a huge season out of him, and thus far, he has not produced. Does the addition of Thome somehow hurt him (which would make little sense to me), or is he just in a slump? Do you think he'll come around and put up All-Star numbers? Thanks Joe, and have a good one.

I don't see how adding a bat can hurt him. It should help him, not hurt. He is off to a slow start and when you are young, you start to wonder about your ability. If you haven't done it year after year, you doubt yourself. I think he's just adjusting but will be a good hitter.

[Mike: Burrell's young? I know he's only 26 but he is in his fourth year as a starter. He's lived up to the "hype" before. Besides he's less than a year younger than A-Rod, and his youth is always seen as a plus.

He's just in a slump. Maybe the stadium construction next to the Vet is affecting his game more than the rest of the team. Maybe he's having an off-year-it happens even to veterans.]

Matt: Fairfield, California: Joe, are you still playing tennis?

I love tennis but my right knee isn't healthy enough .. if I can't play it tournaments, it's not worth it to me.

I'm trying to get on the Senior Golf Tour!

[Mike: Great! How are the wife and kids? Who cares-get back to friggin' baseball.]

Joe staten island ny: Why don't the mets leave Alamor in the two hole and let Cedeno leadoff, Cedeno needs to bunt more and try stealing when he gets on base, you have to make things happen.

I think you should write that to Art Howe! They tried Cedeno in the leadoff last year and they weren't happy. He strikes out alot. His OBP was low also.

[Mike: His OBP was low?!? It's .270 on the year. I'd said that was a bit of an understatement, Joe.

He struck out 19 times in 84 at-bats. Their average out of the number-one slot, as a result, is .189, 21 points below the lowly Tigers. Their leadoff OPS is .560, slightly ahead of Tampa Bay but nearly 50% what the Yankees are getting out of their leadoff hitter.]

mike (New Brunswick, NJ): Joe, what kind of numbers do you think you would put up if your playing career was in the 90's -2000's? Better or worse ?

It's interesting.. we had that conversation two days ago with Dusty Baker. You can't predict anything, but I just know it's easier to accumulate numbers now .. easier .. not easy. Mays and those guys would have Barry Bonds numbers these days. It's a different era and you just have to leave it at that.

[Mike: Mays did have Bonds numbers (Mays is among Barry Bonds comps, i.e. similar batters) That's not really the problem. The problem is that Steve Finley now has Ted Kluszewski numbers.

Joe probably would have better numbers if he played today. But his numbers are still darn impressive in a pitcher's era. He has nothing to prove. This is basic stat envy, "These young whippersnappers have it easier today"-ism. Get over it. Things are always in flux in baseball.]

Alex (Pasco, WA): Hello Mr. Morgan! I was wondering if you have ever charged the mound before? (If so who was it and did you win?)

No. Too small, too smart. I never charged the mound. There was one time I wanted to, I yelled at the pitcher, but he didn't talk back. I don't recommend it for a guy my size.

[Mike: This from the man who said that the Mets' plunking of Roger Clemens was a moral imperative?! (Even after the Yankees' Tino Martinez had already been beaned in the Piazza game).

It's like Jack Nicholson in A Few Good Men saying that he commanded his troops not to touch a soldier who ended up dead while Nicholson worked on a spurious transfer order. When Nicholson said that his commands are never disobeyed since they were sacrosanct, it proved that his effort to transfer the soldier was not needed. This Ghordian knot of logic was broken by Nicholson's admission that he lied about the transfer order and that he ordered the men who inadvertently murdered the soldier to teach him a lesson.

Morgan's cognitive dissonance cannot be so easily explained. How can charging the mound and a retributive plunking of an opposition player both be OK? How about charging the mound for being stared at by the pitcher? How 'bout lobbing a grenade at the pitcher if you don't like his pitch selection. You see where I'm going here.]

Josh (Washington, DC): Joe, how different are the 3 outfield positions? Is switching from left to right (or visa versa) relatively easy? How is it different? Thanks!

It is a difference, but not a big deal. Just takes some time to adjust. In right, a right hander's ball slices towards the line but a left handed hitters ball doesn't do that in left. Center field is actually the easiest if you have speed because it's all straight lines.

[Mike: And pitching is easy if you have a 100-MPH fastball. Speed is important, very important, for a center fielder, but aren't positioning and getting a good jump on the ball important. Look at Rickey Henderson; he is extremely fast but his speed didn't help him become a great centerfielder. He has been relegated to left most of his career, playing 5 times as many games there than in center. Bernie Williams may not be the fastest player on the Yankees but he is a very good defensive center fielder because he never seems to be out of position.

Slicing balls are tough, but many outfielders say that a ball hit directly at you-like it would be to a center fielder-is the hardest to track down.

Joe, you also could have mentioned the fact that right fielders usually possess the best arm since they have the long throw to third on singles with men at first. ]

Worcester,Massachusetts: Wich one is the best young manager in baseball?

If they are young, that means they haven't been there young. I don't know. A lot of guys I thought should be managers haven't been given the chance. That's a long story for another day.

When I look at the game and Willie Randolph has never been give a chance, then the system doesn't work.

[Mike: Wustah? Bo wicked cool! Remember when we saw Aerosmith at the Centrum?

Huh? Joe, did you hear the question? I agree about Randolph, but get off your soapbox and answer the question that was presented to you.

How about Jim Tracy? The guy seems to get the most out of his team. He's my choice. How about Mike Scioscia? He won a World Series in his third year. Bob Brenly won one his first year. Ron Gardenhire won his division in his first year. Clint Hurdle seems to be doing well with the Rockies. Then there's Boston's Grady Little. KC's Tony Pena? Toronto' Carlos Tosca? Rookies Bob Melvin of Seattle or Ken Macha of Oakland? Just pick somebody already!

Rich, Hazlet: Would it be a pointless move to fire Mets GM Steve Philips in the middle the season? What would this accomplished?

I don't know.. I haven't heard that suggestion yet. I don't know what it would accomplish. The Mets foundation was set a couple years ago, not this year. When the brought in the Mo Vaughns and Roberto Alomar's, it just hasn't worked to this point.

[Mike: Rich from Hazlet? Remember that time we saw the Boss in Jersey Freeze? Good times.

Firing Phillips sends a message to all the players that he brought in. Phillips built this team and he barely made the cut when Bobby Valentine was let go.

It would also point the Mets potentially in a new direction, which would be a nice sop for the fans. Maybe it won't be about who the Mets would then get on the team, but rather who they would get rid off. A new GM would be instrumental in building for next season before the trade deadlines.

Ironically, it would be well received by the fans, but it would mean that the Mets are ready to admit that they are not contenders for 2003.]

Chris (Brooklyn N.Y): I think Alfonso Soriano is quickly becoming the best player in baseball (offensively at least)!! What is your opinion on him?

I agree 100 percent. But it will be hard to be better than ARod. But he can get to that level. He is getting better each year. It's just hard to imagine someone else doing what ARod does. But he seems to be on that path.

[Mike: Soriano is having a fantastic year, but Joe, have you heard of Barry Bonds? Besides Soriano is still 12th in OPS. Jim Edmonds currently leads the majors at 1.293. A-Rod and Soriano have strikingly similar numbers (both with 10 HRs and 26 RBI), but A-Rod is still outperforming him.

This is not a knock on Soriano. Just give credit where credit is due.]

Mike (Michigan City, IN): After the first month of the season. Do you think the winner of the AL Central can do it with 85 wins this year. It should be a very competitive division,but it seems to be the weakest division in baseball.

Yeah, but someone will always seperate themselves. Someone will get on a hot streak and move ahead. I don't know about the number of wins, but someone will seperate themselves from the pack. That is just how the game is. At this point, I still think the White Sox will be that team.

[Mike: "Separate"? The Royals went 11-1 to start the season-how's that for a "hot streak"? When he wrote this, the Royals were 17-8. Thy are now 19-9 and have a 5 game lead, the second largest in the majors.

"Pack"? The Indians are already 11 games out, and the lowly Tigers 15.5. What pack?

The AL Central is pretty weak. The Royals are leading it after all. Could someone win with 85 wins? Sure. But the Royals could also run away with it, though unlikely. The division, however, is by no means a pack.]

...And The Ugly: Screw class struggles and the fall of the Soviet Empire, Bud Selig's confused expression at last year's All-Star Game is the ugliest thing I can think of.

jim Pittsburg, P.A.: Joe, How do you feel about the upcoming interleage matchups i think its becoming a joke. It takes away from the world Series. Keep up the good work

I've never been a fan of it, the way it is. There are too many games. I think they should play fewer games with only certain matchups each year.

[Mike: Joe perfection: one good statement juxtaposed next to one lulu. The good: "I've never been a fan of it [interleague play]". The lulu: "I think they should play fewer games with only certain matchups each year." Screw any semblance of a balanced schedule. Let's just make sure that the Yanks-Mets games count in the standings.

What really ticks me off about inteleague play is that the only decent germ of an idea was to foster crosstown rivalries. But those rivalries had been sated for years by exhibitions by crosstown teams. Those exhibitions were abolished along with double headers so that the owners could squeeze every dime out of the fans. You want to see the Yanks play the Mets? Fine, but we won't give you an extra game. We'll fit it in the schedule. Teams once played all sorts of exhibition games on off-days. I know that the MLBPA would like to limit those as much as possible, but couldn't the New York teams play a couple of games against each other on off-days throughout the season? They did it when teams rode busses.]

Matt (Bradenton, FL): Joe, why haven't I seen anyone use the suicide squeeze in ages? It's one of the game's most exciting plays, but I never see it used. Has it just fallen out of favor?

Everything that is not a HR has fallen out of favor. The SB, hit and run, suicide squeeze.. they have all gone by the way of the smaller parks and not as good pitching. Everyone wants to score lots of runs, not just one.

[Mike: More pure Joe perfection. "Everyone wants to score lots of runs, not just one"-ah, remember those woebegone days when teams strived to score runs one at a time? When they would refuse to cross home plate after another player scored in that inning?

Look, I prefer to have more "small ball", but the fact of the matter is that enormous, gihugic ball is here. Why is it here? Because fans have been told by the media that home runs and RBI are the only important things for batters and wins are the only things important for pitchers. Now, who was it who espoused those ideas? Hmmm. Perhaps...Satan?!? No, it was you, Joe.

Anyway, preferring "small ball" is no reason to cast aspersions on the pitchers of today. I feel that there are as many talented pitchers as ever but the sport is just starting to recover from two rounds of expansion and the mass construction of a bunch of bandboxes. Not to mention the addition of 1-3 pitchers to each staff so that each team has a backup, backup lefty short reliever. The talent is there. There were just too many changes at once.]

Joey, Nj: What did you think of the Kevin Millwood no hitter the other day?

Any no hitter is impressive .. doesn't even matter who you do it against.

[Mike: "I know that. Don't you think I know that? It's my business to know that."

Joe reminds me of that nervous Martin Short character on Saturday Night Live being exposed on 60 Minutes. Joe, just tell the guy what you thought of the no-hitter. He didn't ask about the Giants. Are you mental?]

Victor (yonkers, ny): hey joe. although i sometimes disagree with your opinion, i respect it, cause you are more in touch with players than an avrage fan is. that said, what do u think about the Yankees? is there a weakness with them? i think it's the bullpen. what's your take?

There aren't any perfect teams but they are the closest to perfection. They don't have any weaknesses that show up everyday. Any given day they may not be as good on defense but they are the most consistent team out there. They are just better than everyone else.

I don't want you to agree with me all the time ... but I do know what I'm talking about!

[Mike: OK, Joe, you know what you are talking about. Just put down the gun.

Sheez, you're going off the rails on this crazy train. Fine, you know what you are talking about. Just calm down.]

josh (Newark, NJ): Hello Mr. Morgan, and good morning to you. My question relatively deals with the logic behind having the All Star game used as a mechanism for teams to gain home field advantage in the World Series. Who will this benefit and how? Is this MLB's attempt to add more attraction to the All Star Game or World Series? Thanks

I don't like it. I don't think anyone benefits from it. It's just a tool to try and tell the fans the game is important. They needed to just tell the players that but they are trying this round about way. Whoever represents Tampa and these other teams, they don't care who has home field. It's just a tool that muddies the water.

[Mike: Who are you and what have you done to Joe? You are far too lucid. C'mon, 'fess up.

Why, it's really Rob Neyer! So who's doing the Neyer chat? Let's see....]

Bob Hope, Maryland: Can you explain the prospective value of Pythagoran record. I can understand how it may explain whether a team has been lucky or unlucky in the games it has played, but is there really any evidence that it can predict future performance?

There's not only "any" evidence, there's plenty of evidence. A team's Pythagorean record predicts future performance than does its actual record. So Braves fans, don't get too excited just yet.

Charles (North Carolina): Don't you think that the Braves Pythagorean record is a little misleading? In their last 16 games they've outscored opponents 89-53. And the main reason for the run differential in the first 12 games was Maddux's disastrous (and most likely anomalous) first three starts, which accounted for 43 of the 86 runs scored against them in those first twelve games!! So Rob, what I would say is it's definitely time for Braves fans to get excited (and to hopefully start showing up at the ballpark.)

Good point, Chuck. Pythagorean records can definitely be deceptive this early in the season, and if Maddux is past his problems, those three crummy starts don't really tell us anything about the post-April Braves. So I take back everything I said about them.

[Mike: Hmm...complete waffling on a question. Willy-nilly use of statistics...

Joe, I've found you!

Only you would think that four decent starts would outweigh four bad ones. I mean, it is Greg Maddux after all, but he has a 4.86 ERA one fifth of the way through the season. And he is getting a bit older.

Besides the Braves have a rotation ERA of 4.32 and have no starter with an ERA under 3.50. Their relievers have an ERA over 4.00, but they are starting to gel.

Offensively, Rafeal Furcal (.851 OPS), Julio Franco (.877), Marcus Giles (.957), and Robert Fick (.915) have to come back to reality. Even decent players like Andruw Jones and Gary Sheffield are played a full 100 points above their career OPS. Neyer-Morgan should have stuck by his guns, but his original statement should have included the disclaimer that the numbers are based on a small sample.]

Maybe They Should Have Kept
2003-05-04 00:54
by Mike Carminati

Maybe They Should Have Kept Scott Wiggins

Raul Mondesi misplayed a slicing fly ball to right into a double for struggling Scott Hatteberg and Juan Acevedo allowed a home run on the next pitch to Eric Chavez, as the Yankees lost 5-3 in ten innings to the A's. The Yankees won by the same score last night, and they finish up the tightly contested series tomorrow.

Modesi's misplay was in sharp contrast to Eric Byrnes' spectacular catch in center followed by a go-ahead home run in the next half inning yesterday, though in a losing effort. Also, in last night's game Hideki Matsui made some nice catches in left to ensure a Yankee victory. I know Mondesi has a great arm, which he loves to show off, but his overall defense is not great (last year he had a range factor of 1.86, .26 below the league average for right fielders). Maybe newly promoted Charles Gipson should have been out there instead.

Besides the man does not know his limitations. There was no way without a great play, he was going to come up with the Hatteberg ball. The smart play was to play it on the hop and limit the batter to a single. I know that the next man hit a homer, so it didn't matter where the runner was, but he does determine the pitcher's approach to the next batter as well as the pitcher's confidence.

I have been told by enough learned Yankee fans that Derek Jeter is a better player than his superlative statistical record indicates that I am almost ready to believe it. However, if that is the case, then the opposite side of the coin is personified in Mondesi. He is a good ballplayer and a one-time All-Star, but I think that as a player he is still less than the sum of his parts, talent-wise and statistics-wise. It makes me think of Bill James' delineation of Dick Allen as a player on paper (probably a Hall-of-Famer) and on the field (more negatives than positives).

If the Yankees never had traded for Mondesi, perhaps Scott Wiggins would have been the lefty facing the left-handed batting Chavez in the tenth today. And maybe the results would have been different. Just maybe.

Even Nolan Never Did That
2003-05-04 00:24
by Mike Carminati

Even Nolan Never Did That

I mentioned the other day that on Thursday night for the Tigers Mike Maroth lost a no-hitter in the 8th and then the ballgame, 6-4, to Baltimore. It was another ignominious defeat for the Tigers. But I failed to mention how they lost the first game. B.J. Ryan beat the Debased Tigers without throwing a pitch.

I can't figure out which is more embarrassing: losing after a 7-inning no-hitter or losing to a non-pitcher.

You see, Ryan entered the game in the seventh with two outs, a man (Omar Infante) on first, and the Orioles trailing, 2-1. Ryan's first throw was to first and he caught Infante committing too early towards second. First baseman Jeff Conine threw to the shortstop, Deivi Cruz, who applied the tag at second, and the inning was over. The Orioles scored three runs in the next half inning and never relinquished the lead. Even though Ryan was replaced by Buddy Groom in the eighth, he earned his third win of the season.

How could Ryan earn the win given that he did not make a pitch to a batter, you ask. Well, here's the expurgated rule:

(c) When the starting pitcher cannot be credited with the victory... and more than one relief pitcher is used, the victory shall be awarded on the following basis: (2) Whenever the score is tied the game becomes a new contest insofar as the winning and losing pitcher is concerned; (4) The winning relief pitcher shall be the one who is the pitcher of record when his team assumes the lead and maintains it to the finish of the game.

The only other time that a pitcher won a game without retiring a batter, that I could find, was the 1954 All-Star game. Washington's Dean Stone relieved Chicago's Bob Keegan with two out in the eighth and men at first and third (Alvin Dark and Red Schoendienst, respectively) and the AL trailing 9-8. Duke Snider was at-bat and after the count was 1-1, the runner from third tried to steal home. Yogi Berra tagged out Schoendienst to end the inning. In the bottom of the eighth, the AL scored three runs to go ahead, 11-8, to stay. Stone did not pitch the ninth.

Additionally, Pittsburgh's Preacher Roe garnered a win with one pitch on May 5, 1946. Roe entered the game in the top of the sixth with two outs and a runner on third in a tied ballgame. The runner broke for home on the first pitch and was tagged out to end the inning. Pittsburgh scored in the bottom of the sixth and then the game was called after six on account of rain.

Finally, Dodger reliever Hugh Casey also won on one pitch in the 1947 World Series, though he did retire a batter. Casey entered trailing 2-1 to the Yankees with one out and the bases loaded in the top of the ninth. The next batter hit a grounder to the mound, which Casey threw to the catcher to start a routine 1-2-3 double play. The Dodgers scored two runs in the bottom of the ninth on Cookie Lavagetto's base hit, that also happened to break up Bill Bevens 9-walk 8.2-inning no-hitter.

As far as I can tell, this is the first time at the major-league level that a pitcher has recorded a win not only without retiring a batter but additionally without throwing a pitch. If anyone knows of another, let me know.

[Research based on the scetion on wins in The Rules and Lore of Baseball.]

OK, Let's Get Two! I
by Mike Carminati

OK, Let's Get Two!

I just watched Bull Durham's Tim Robbins, Susan Sarandon, Robert Wuhl, and director Ron Shelton be interviewed on On the Record with Bob Costas and have to say it was a pretty interesting segment. They discussed the Hall of Fame incident, the film, the famous mound meeting scene, and minor-league life in general (Shelton was in the Orioles' organization for 5 years). Some of the jewels that I jotted down were:

"Don't let this guy get between you and Cooperstown," spoken by Tim Robbins regarding Hall president Dale Petroskey.

"...And we almost made the Hall of Fame," Shelton explaining why Sarandon had to give an all-day reading and jump through various other hoops to get the part.

Wuhl explaining why he, unlike costar Sarandon, was not selected by People magazine as one of the most beautiful people in America this year: "The publichser told me I was going to be in, but that he was afraid that I might put people in harm's way."

I have to say that Robbins' comments made me rethink me whole anti-Hall stance. It is baseball after all.

It's May, Pal! The Cy
2003-05-03 18:30
by Mike Carminati

It's May, Pal!

The Cy Young leaders in each league for the month of April, Shawn Chacon and Esteban Loaiza, both got rocked yesterday.

Chacon gave up six runs on eight hits and four walks in five innings in Chicago yesterday en route to his first loss of the season. He also uncorked two wild pitches. Chacon now owns a 1.30 ERA for the season at Coors and a 4.50 ERA on the road.

Loaiza lasted only 3-2/3 innings and allowed nine hits, three walks, and five runs. Everyone knew that the bottom would fall out eventually. Loiaza entered the game at 5-0 with a 1.25 ERA. His career ERA is 4.80 and his low for a season 4.13. Of course, it had to happen after I activated him on rotisserie team.

Anyway, given Loiaza's 4.80 ERA in 241 career games and Chacon's inability to get his ERA below 5.00 in two seasons, one would suspect the suspect that they were 'roiding up if they were batters. Of course, the thing with pitchers is that they can have one hot month and look like Walter Johnson and still be marginal players. Of course, we are also seeing that the reverse is true as well: Greg Maddux pitched like he had channeled new teammate Mike Hampton's Colorado demons for the first half of April and now is pitching like his normal self, though his ERA is still over 5.00. Of course, I always seem to get the worst parts of the season from pitchers on my rotisserie staff.

Kelvim and Vigor According to
2003-05-03 15:59
by Mike Carminati

Kelvim and Vigor

According to Lee Sinins' ATM Reports from yesterday:

The BlueJays will move Kelvim Escobar into the rotation. They currently plan on having him serve as a long reliever when Doug Davis is removed from his start from tomorrow and then when Escobar builds up enough arm strength to go into the rotation.

The Toronto Star speculates that Escobar in the rotation "should be a two-month audition before the Jays try to ship him out of Toronto for good."

After 3.50 ERA/19 RSAA and 4.27 ERA/1 RSAA seasons, Escobar is off to a 13.06 ERA/-9 RSAA start in his first 12 games. He has a 4.78 career ERA, compared to his league average of 4.72, and 2 RSAA in 272 games (75 starts).

Is "Escobar" Spanish for yo-yo? The man has been shuttled between the bullpen and the rotation more than anyone in recent memory.

Escobar had always been a starter in the minors (1992-97), but when the Blue Jays called him up in the middle of 1997, he became their closer, saving 14 games in 27 appearances. In 1998, he came out of camp as the Blue Jays' number two starting pitcher behind Roger Clemens, but by mid-April he was on the DL. He would only start 10 games that year, wound up in Triple-A, then back in the bullpen (for 12 games but did not record a save), and ended the year back in the rotation. In 1999, he renmained in teh bullpen and won 14 games but had a 5.69 ERA in doing so. His strikeouts dropped and his walks rose (129 K's and 81 BB's in 174 innings). In 2000, hisERA remained above 5.00, his strikeouts and walks remained about the same, and he was moved back to the bullpen (24 starts in 43 appearances). In 2001, he worked almost exclusively in long relief (59 games with only 11 starts and 126 innings) and recorded his lowest ERA (3.50) since his rookie year. In 2002, with Billy Koch traded to the A's, Escobar took over the closer duties and recorded 38 saves. However, his ERA rose to 4.27, which was 5% better than the league average, but unnacceptable for a closer.

The Blue Jays continued to use in as a closer this year, and his ERA has blowh up to 13.07. He has three saves, but has given up more than a run in 4 of his 12 appearances. His worst appearance was April 12 against Minnesota. He entered the game in the top of the ninth with the game tied and allowed 5 runs without recording an out. Of the three men he faced, three hit singles to center, one reached on a fielder's choice (on which the runner also beat the throw), and man was walked. He also threw a wild pitch. Escobar took the loss in that game. He had a two-week stretch after that in which he allowed just one earned run in 6 appearances (5.1 IP) and collected two saves and a win. He also lowered his ERA from 27.00 to 10.00. But in his last two games Escobar has given up 5 earned runs and 9 hits in two innings both in mop-up appearances.

So now Escobar moves back to the rotation. He still could turn his season around. He has the talent: a mid-90s fastball,a 90 MPH cutter, a high-80s splitter, and a nice curve. For that reason, someone will pick him up. He still has lapses in concentration even in short outings and walks a good number of batters when this flairs up.

There are a couple of managers/pitching coaches who could really help him. Tony LaRussa has made a career on resurrecting once-promising arms. Coaches Leo Mazzone of Atlanta and Joe Kerrigan of the Phils have had their fair share as well.

However, it seems Escobar's fate to end up with some team that is still contending at around the All-Star break even though they really don't deserve to be. Look at the Reds last year for example. They collected a fistful of arms and went down in flames. Maybe the Rockies fill that role this year. God help Escobar if he ends up in Coors.

Re-Koppett-ulate Leonard Koppett, the author
2003-05-03 02:16
by Mike Carminati


Leonard Koppett, the author of the incomparable (New) Thinking Fan's Guide to Baseball and 24 Seconds to Shoot (about some other sport), has an interesting, if short column in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer today. Koppett unearths a quote about the DH being the ruination of NL starters from the November 1, 1974 edition of the NY Daily News:

"The National League's persistent refusal to endorse the designated hitter gimmick is causing a statistical imbalance that will generate future repercussions as far away as the Cooperstown Hall of Fame."

Koppett goes on to demonstrate that the AL's alleged hegemony in starting pitching did not last long. Complete games, the number of 20-game winners, and the number of 300-inning pitchers evened out over time. Besides as Koppett points out "complete games and 300 innings aren't good [indicators of excellence] under the conditions of the last 20 years" and "you shouldn't try to draw long-range conclusions from two-year samples, or assume voters are too dumb to make sensible evaluations."

The Daily News writer in 1974 had no one of knowing that five-man rotations and the growth and (over)use of bullpens/closers would obviate the use of complete games and 300-inning pitchers as indicators of pitching excellence. ERA became more important, and now thanks to, ERA above the park-adjusted average becomes an excellent tool for evaluating starters.

Of course, when I was growing up in the mid-Seventies, the NL was known for its great power pitching (Seaver, Carlton, etc.). The assumption, whether true or not, was that the AL had more junk-ballers. This runs at odds with the 1974 article.

Today, there are great starters throughout the majors. Of course, the short-lived disparity from 1974 would even out over time as competition drove all teams to improve and as the game evolved so that the metrics concerned no longer have the same connotation.

Consider that one of the greatest pitchers of the last 15 years, Greg Maddux, has only won 20 games twice, never broke 270 innings in a season, and never had more than 10 complete games in a season. However, Maddux is all but enshrined in Cooperstown already. It seems that the Hall voters and the public in general has gotten over their infatuation with these once-sacrosanct statistics.

Sap Sighted, Sank Same In
2003-05-03 01:54
by Mike Carminati

Sap Sighted, Sank Same

In Toronto tonight a fan ran onto the filed and was shoved to the ground by second baseman Orlando Hudson. The fan pointed obliquely towards the second base bag and Hudson though he was pointing at his double-play mate Chris Woodward. Hudson tackled the fan presumably to protect his teammate. The man was arrested and will be charged with trespassing which carries a hefty forty-nine dollar fine--and that's Canadian dollars. 49 Canadian dollars come to about 83 cents in American currency.

These sorts of incidents used to happen all the time: a fan would run on the field and slide headfirst into second. It was an annoyance but no one seemed to notice after the dypso was removed from the field. However, now any fan on the field is automatically assumed to be an attacker, and perhaps rightfully so. There has to be stronger deterrents than a night in jail or a $50 fine.

I'm not sure what can be done about this nor how long it would take, but it seems that baseball is headed down a path where someone, a player, coach, umpire, or fan, is going to get hurt. It's apparent that the on-field, between-inning security is not enough. With SARs scares and falling attendance, baseball doesn't need anymore negative publicity. It's time for MLB to stop selling beer to fans until they are so inebriated that they lose all inhibitions. Either that or just erect a barrier like in hockey. But baseball has to do something since their measures just are not working.

A Better Souse Trap The
2003-05-01 23:12
by Mike Carminati

A Better Souse Trap

The players' union agreed tonight to enact Bud Selig's master stroke of determining home field in the World Series based on the All-Star game winner.

The reactions to the plan run the full gamut of human emotions: excitement to revilement, insouciance to dyspepsia, incontinence to grogginess.

I basically feel that it's an inappropriate move. The managers are still not going to risk overusing a pitcher's arm if the game goes deep into extra innings. It's a band aid on a dislocated shoulder. It won't avoid tie games. And it's a sop to Fox who airs the beleaguered erstwhile crown jewel event.

I do have to admit that I like what Kevin Brown said about it (even though he thoroughly kicked my Phils' bee-hind yesterday):

"I disagree with it, completely and totally," said Los Angeles pitcher Kevin Brown a five-time All-Star. "I think it just takes away from the whole idea of what the All-Star game is about, which is letting the fans vote and letting it be an exhibition game. Now they're trying to make it into something that it never has been.

Exhibition? That there is an ugly word to commissioner Bud. He has asserted that the All-Star game is anything but, even though an exhibition is something that does not count in the standings. The All-Star game does not count in the standings; ergo, it is an exhibition. It's simple cogito ergo sum, quod erat demonstrandum, that's all she wrote, always trust your car to the man who wears a star.

Not anymore, however. Now it will count for homefield. It's like when Frank Burns discovered that the M in MASH stood for Mobile when he was temporarily in command and moved the entire camp across the road. Bud discovered that the game was an exhibition and did what he could to change that.

What's next, HR derbies determining the draft order? Futures games used to assign revenue sharing funds?

The home field advantage in the World Series is an abstract idea in the middle of July. The All-Star combatants, even those on division winners, have no way of knowing which team will represent their league in the playoffs, let alone the Series. To tie the two events together is silly at best, but if it distracts Selig from monkeying with other on-field decisions, maybe it's not that bad.

But Bud is not so easily sated. Give him a wild card and he wants interleague play. Give him a CBA and he wants luxury taxes. Give him an inch and he takes Camden Yard. I wish they would have just said no to Bud. In the long run it probably won't matter, but he has had his way all too easily of late. Who knows, when he's done he may talk the players into accepting the reserve clause again.

Lugo Let Go (Follow-up to
2003-05-01 21:54
by Mike Carminati

Lugo Let Go (Follow-up to Andropov Drops Off)

The Houston Astros have reassigned starting shortstop Julio Lugo. Lugo was arrested last night for "hitting his wife in the face and slamming her head on a car hood" before the 'Stros 11-1 loss to the Braves (in which he went 0-for-2).

Prisoner #A168734

At best Lugo could be demoted to the minors if he clears waivers. But GM Gerry Hunsicker's comments seem to point towards his release:

"We felt it was in Julio's best interest and in the best interest of the organization to put this situation behind us as quickly as possible and let Julio get on with his career elsewhere.''

Lugo is batting .246 with only 2 RBI in 65 at-bats. That projects to about 12 for a full season. He also is slugging below .300 and has a .630 OPS.

He has never been close to the league average batter, with OPS's 77 to 90% of the park-adjusted league average. He at least stole 22 bases his rookie year. This year he has 2. Add to that an, at best, average defense (a range factor of 4.13 vs. the league average of 4.50), and you have a poor major-league player.

Lugo made it easy for the Astros to do what they did. But it's not like they have a hot prospect ready to take Lugo's place. Journeyman Jose Vizcaino along with his .125 inherits the job. I wouldn't worry about him though: He took over last year when Lugo got injured and outplayed him anyway. And Vizcaino didn't get arrested in doing it.

Tomorrow's Fish and Chips Paper
2003-05-01 21:28
by Mike Carminati

Tomorrow's Fish and Chips Paper

The Miami Herald claims that the sky has already fallen in on baseball and that even the cash-cow Yankees are bleeding money (and apparently mixed metaphors).

[T]he New York Yankees, baseball's most valuable franchise, is projecting losses of between $30 million and $35 million this season, the steepest loss in the team's storied history.

Can this truly be believed? The Yankees losing money?

The Herald article goes on to say that the Yankees claim "baseball's newly mandated luxury tax and revenue-sharing requirements, which are expected to cost the team about $60 million, double what they paid last season when there was no luxury tax."

So if this is the cause and it doubled this year, then that would mean that the Yankees broke even in 2002. Does anyone believe that?

I'm sure that if the Yankees are losing anywhere near $30 M, then it is a paper loss and nothing more. The club reorganized under the YankeeNets umbrella and they started the YES network.

How can this be anything more than creative accounting?

Free MLB.TV, You and Me
2003-05-01 20:43
by Mike Carminati

Free MLB.TV, You and Me

I received the following ad from MLB and surprisingly it was not attached to any apology from Hall-of-Fame president Dale Petroskey :


Neyer Banter Alex Belth interviews
2003-05-01 19:43
by Mike Carminati

Neyer Banter

Alex Belth interviews Rob Neyer over at Bronx Banter.

Oh No-No! Mike Maroth of
2003-05-01 19:40
by Mike Carminati

Oh No-No!

Mike Maroth of the Tigers had a no-hitter through 7 innings against the Orioles in the second game of their soubleheader today. In the eighth the O's knocked Maroth out en route to a 6-run inning. Jay Gibbions broke up the no-hitter as the lead-off man in the eighth. All that Maroth gets for the effort is a loss, his seventh against zero wins.

His line is as follows: 7.2 innings, 4 hits, 4 runs (earned), no walks, and 5 strikeouts. The hits were all singles. After allowing a single to the first two batters in the eighth, Maroth got the next two to ground out. Both ground outs were to Maroth, but then he uncorked a wild pitch to allow the first run to score (3-1). Two more singles and Maroth's night was done. He left with a 3-2 lead and men on first and second, but they both scored on an infield single by Gary Matthews Jr.

God is a cruel diety to dangle a no-hitter before the lowly Tigers eyes and then saddle them with a 6-4 loss, their second L of the day.

On Rockie Ground I just
2003-05-01 13:17
by Mike Carminati

On Rockie Ground

I just read Rob Neyer's piece on the Todd Jones comments. He feels that Jones should not be punished for his anti-gay comments. Neyer's stance is admirably open-minded (in contrast to Jones') but, I think, ultimately misplaced. Neyer quotes Oliver Wendell Holmes to assert that a free society is more free if it allows its citizenry to express unpopular or even offensive ideas. Hey, I'm all for that.

But we are not talking about Jones, the American citizen. That Jones shouldn't be jailed or ostracized for holding what society would consider offensive opinions.

We are not talking about Jones, the individual, whose comments offend like an old buddy getting drunk and showing you his ugly, close-minded side.

This is Jones, the (so-called) pitcher and employee of the Colorado Rockies baseball club. That Todd Jones has to work with other individuals and if his comments are such that it may cause undue stress to those other individuals at work, then the Colorado team can be held responsible. More to the point, if Jones' comments represent the Rockies' environment as a whole, then a gay ballplayer or office worker could sue if he/she does not advance or is underpaid.

That's the issue here. It's not morality; it's liability. Jones represented the team when he spoke to the reporter and said those "unfortunate" comments. Perhaps it is unfortunate, as well, that Jones' comments are headlines from coast to coast whereas an average Joe Lunchpail's unsavory opinions aren't aired to the masses. But that goes with the job. If Jones were a PR person for the club or any other company (or a Hall of Fame president), his publicly expressed opinions would reflect badly upon the club or company as a whole.

Why should Jones be held to a lower standard? That is why the Rockies quickly issued a press release stating that his opinions do not reflect theirs.

The club was well within their rights to demand a public apology from Jones. Given that Jones is still of the mindset of "I think my only mistake was that I made my views public," it is now time for the team to punish him.

If the Rockies do not fine or suspend him (or both), then his non-apology and his defiance could be used to prove the club's true anti-gay environment. Why else would they accept a token apology?

Let's say that in ten years a Rockies player comes out and sues his former employers for having to work in an anti-gay environment and for causing the ensuing stress upon him as a worker. Whether he would win or not, I do not know. But the current state of affairs does not aid the Rockies in fending off such a lawsuit.

The Rockies are well within their rights to dismiss, fine, suspend without pay, etc. Jones (as long as they follow whatever employee guidelines they have established and the laws of the state of Colorado). Would it be fair? I don't know. Would it be legal? Bet your sweet bippy it would.

Homer the Brave I've been
2003-05-01 01:25
by Mike Carminati

Homer the Brave

I've been noticing lately in Lee Sinins' ATM Reports that nearly every day some current player leapfrogs over an old-time player in the all-time career home run standings.

Add to that the fact that there were four men poised to break 500 homers at the beginning of the season. Sammy Sosa has already done it and Rafael Palmero is only three away. There are also a slew of players approaching 400 home runs, and 5 could hit that milestone by the end of the year. Never mind that Barry Bonds could get to number three on the all-time list by the end of the year.

I heard a lengthy dissertation by one of the YES network brain trust the other day during the Rangers-Yankees game about how Rafael Palmeiro had declined since Ahab-like setting his sights on 500 home runs. The YES man (Michael Kay? Bobby Murcer?) claimed that Palmeiro's value had decreased since he used to be a .300 batter with the O's and he bats in the .270-.290 range with the Rangers. Let's be clear about this: Palmeiro has not been as good a player with the Rangers as he was with the Orioles-he's been better. In his first year with Texas he posted an ungodly 1.050 OPS that was 60% than the park-adjusted league average, his highest total ever in arguably his best year ever. Last year he posted a .571 slugging average, his third highest total. His on-base percentage with the Rangers has been over .380 each year and as high as .420 (!).

The announcer further explained that Palmeiro just isn't what people look for in Hall-of-Famers and neither is Fred McGriff. When they pass 500 career home runs, he continued, the milestone will lose its cachet and the Hall-of-Fame voters will have to readjust their standards.

This is an even more inaccurate statement than his empirically unsubstantiated claptrap in his "Palemiero is declining" assertion, though it is harder to disprove. This is the sort of stuff that was said about now-immortals like Hank Greenberg and Johnny Mize. Yes, there are more players hitting 500 home runs now. And, yes, they are not all Babe Ruth, but they are all still Hall-of-Fame caliber players.

YES pointed to Dave Kingman who fell 58 home runs short of 500 home runs (I believe they said fewer) and Jose Canseco. Well, both of those men had their good points and their bad points. Would they be Hall-of-Famers if they had reached 500 home runs? I'm not sure. A case could be made for Canseco even without the 500 dingers. He reaches most of Bill James' indicators. Kingman is a harder sell, but for him to hit the extra 58 HRs, he would have to have had a somewhat different career. So maybe he would get the call-it's hard to determine with such a hypothetical. I don't think he would embarrass Ross Youngs and Travis Jackson in any case.

What really irks me is that these are the guys who will bemoan the omission of players like Jim Rice from the Hall ranks, when Rice is a demonstrably inferior player to Palmeiro and McGriff. It's your garden variety "It was better in my day"-ism. These young whippersnappers hit more homers so their records just don't count (P-tooey!).

I thought I would tackle that argument with a quick table. Here are the numbers of 300-, 400-, and 500-HR hitters for their careers prior to a number of seasons along with the total number of ballplayers who had played 'til that point. The milestone home run hitters are then represented as a percentage of all ballplayers:

Homer the Brave

I've been noticing lately in Lee Sinins' ATM Reports that nearly every day some current player leapfrogs over an old-time player in the all-time career home run standings.  

Add to that the fact that there were four men poised to break 500 homers at the beginning of the season.  Sammy Sosa has already done it and Rafael Palmero is only three away. There are also a slew of players approaching 400 home runs, and 5 could hit that milestone by the end of the year. Never mind that Barry Bonds could get to number three on the all-time list by the end of the year.

I heard a lengthy dissertation by one of the YES network brain trust the other day during the Rangers-Yankees game about how Rafael Palmeiro had declined since Ahab-like setting his sights on 500 home runs.  The YES man (Michael Kay? Bobby Murcer?) claimed that Palmeiro's value had decreased since he used to be a .300 batter with the O's and he bats in the .270-.290 range with the Rangers.  Let's be clear about this: Palmeiro has not been as good a player with the Rangers as he was with the Orioles-he's been better.  In his first year with Texas he posted an ungodly 1.050 OPS that was 60% than the park-adjusted league average, his highest total ever in arguably his best year ever.  Last year he posted a .571 slugging average, his third highest total. His on-base percentage with the Rangers has been over .380 each year and as high as .420 (!).  

The announcer further explained that Palmeiro just isn't what people look for in Hall-of-Famers and neither is Fred McGriff.  When they pass 500 career home runs, he continued, the milestone will lose its cachet and the Hall-of-Fame voters will have to readjust their standards.

This is an even more inaccurate statement than his empirically unsubstantiated claptrap in his "Palemiero is declining" assertion, though it is harder to disprove.  This is the sort of stuff that was said about now-immortals like Hank Greenberg and Johnny Mize.  Yes, there are more players hitting 500 home runs now.  And, yes, they are not all Babe Ruth, but they are all still Hall-of-Fame caliber players.  

YES pointed to Dave Kingman who fell 58 home runs short of 500 home runs (I believe they said fewer) and Jose Canseco.  Well, both of those men had their good points and their bad points.  Would they be Hall-of-Famers if they had reached 500 home runs?  I'm not sure.  A case could be made for Canseco even without the 500 dingers.  He reaches most of Bill James' indicators.  Kingman is a harder sell, but for him to hit the extra 58 HRs, he would have to have had a somewhat different career.  So maybe he would get the call-it's hard to determine with such a hypothetical.  I don't think he would embarrass Ross Youngs and Travis Jackson in any case.

What really irks me is that these are the guys who will bemoan the omission of players like Jim Rice from the Hall ranks, when Rice is a demonstrably inferior player to Palmeiro and McGriff.  It's your garden variety "It was better in my day"-ism.  These young whippersnappers hit more homers so their records just don't count (P-tooey!).  

I thought I would tackle that argument with a quick table.  Here are the numbers of 300-, 400-, and 500-HR hitters for their careers prior to a number of seasons along with the total number of ballplayers who had played 'til that point.  The milestone home run hitters are then represented as a percentage of all ballplayers:

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