Monthly archives: May 2003
Cone of Silence
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 Baseball-Reference.com, I noticed that he is very close to qualifying by the Bill James Hall tests:
Black Ink: Pitching - 19 (Average HOFer ~ 40)
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:
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:
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.]
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. ]
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:
And the Vets' Committee is similarly constrained:
6. Eligible Candidates - Eligible candidates must be selected from:
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.]
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
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.
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:
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
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 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.
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.
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
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
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
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.
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:
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:
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
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
From my friend Mike:
It's too bad that his knee injury may keep him out of the All-Star lineup.
It's a naive domestic Burgundy without any breeding, but I think you'll be amused by its presumption.
Phily.com 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.
Cowboy Curtis, II
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.
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!
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:
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:
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
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.
Heading for Trouble?
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.
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?
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.
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."
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.
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...
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?
"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?"
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.
Here is the rule in its current configuration:
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.
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?
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
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.
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."
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.
Strange But Possible Baseball Stories
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.
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):
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
Too much glue won't stick, and too many words won't either.
Montreal pitcher Zach Day was ejected in the third inning today for violating rule 8.02(b):
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):
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?
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.
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)
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
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?
I thought this was kind of interesting:
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
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 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
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
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
For more on 20-game losers including the Omar "Voodoo" Daal go to 20GameLosers.com.
Mike and Yikes! II
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).)
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
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.
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.
So I guess my scenario of an infielder falling down would most likely be ruled an infield fly.
Fly by Night
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.
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]
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!
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":
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:
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:
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:
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:
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
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."
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.
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
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.
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.
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!
Julia, seashell eyes, windy smile, calls me
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!!!
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.
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.
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.
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 ESPN.com 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.]
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
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
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
Tom Singer at MLB.com 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
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):
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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 ESPN.com'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
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
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
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:
1997 Lg BA OBP SLUG OPS HR/AB AL .105 .133 .146 .279 0.40% NL .140 .177 .177 .354 0.36% MLB .138 .175 .175 .350 0.36% 2002 Lg BA OBP SLUG OPS HR/AB AL .135 .170 .153 .323 0.00% NL .148 .179 .194 .373 0.54% MLB .148 .179 .191 .370 0.51% 1997 Lg BA% OBP% SLUG% OPS% HR/AB% 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% 2002 Lg BA% OBP% SLUG% OPS% HR/AB% 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
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
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):
Decade BA OBP SLUG OPS HR/AB 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):
Decade BA% OBP% SLUG% OPS% HR/AB% 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:
Year BA OBP SLUG OPS HR/AB 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:
Year BA% OBP% SLUG% OPS% HR/AB% 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
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.
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.
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.
Just Like Aaron, Almost
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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
LVMVP! LVMVP! LVMVP!
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
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
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
May Joe Morgan Chat Day
Ted Striker (on radio): May Day! May Day!
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).
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. ]
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.]
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
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
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:
WINNING AND LOSING PITCHER
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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 Baseball-Reference.com, 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
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
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
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).
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
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
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 :
-- MLB.TV FREE TRIAL
Neyer Banter Alex Belth interviews
Alex Belth interviews Rob Neyer over at Bronx Banter.
Oh No-No! Mike Maroth of
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
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
Homer the Brave
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:
This is my site with my opinions, but I hope that, like Irish Spring, you like it, too.
About the Toaster
Baseball Toaster was unplugged on February 4, 2009.
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