Monthly archives: April 2004
So you've probably heard by now that Mike Piazza had tied Carlton Fisk's major league record of 351 home runs as a catcher Tuesday night against his former teammates, the Dodgers. Well, the only problem is that he didn't.
Here's a picture of Piazza hitting the "record-tying" home run:
I wrote about this last April. Here's what I said back then:
The answer to the all-time leader in home runs by a catcher comes from Chuck Rosciam of the Encycolpedia of Catchers, but it's not at straightforward as I expected. Chuck explains that Fisk holds the "record" according to the SABR HR Encyclopedia at 351, but...
Fisk apparently holds the Record with 351 (out of 376 hit), BUT five of those non-catcher ones were hit between/during position changes. That is, Fisk's last defensive position was catcher in a game, then he came to bat and hit a HR and then he took up a different position in the bottom of the same inning. My logic tells me that he was still a catcher and that he didn't change positions until after he hit those five. That would make his Catcher-only total 356. However, there are 3 games in which he started as a non-catcher, then changed positions during the game with a HR being hit between changes (same rule as previous) and was WRONGLY CREDITED with a homer as a catcher. Now subtract 3 from 356 to make his Catcher Total = 353. Piazza's HR's as a catcher I believe stand at 342 unless he hit one in the past two days. That means that he needs 13 more to hold the record, which he will easily do plus some this season.
It gets kind of complicated. Besides as Chuck mentions, Piazza will obliterate the old "record" anyway, barring some catastrophe. So it won't matter by the time he retires if they count the home runs he hit just as a catcher or they count them all. He will still rank number one among all catchers.
Piazza only played 68 games in 2003, so he never did have the opportunity to set the new "record".
However, what I find interesting is that so many sports news services carried the news as if the record were kept officially. The record is something derived by baseball scholars using subjective (and I believe incorrect) assumptions.
If we use Chuck's value of 353, which is more based in basic baseball scoring—not to mention the old schoolyard rule that you have to play the field before you bat—Piazza is still dingers shy of the record. Of course, Piazza should go on to obliterate the record. But keep in mind his age, recent health issues, and the Mets' desire to move him to first. Let's say that the Mets and Piazza agree on a move to commence after his next home run. Piazza would then own the record and the Mets would be happy. However, in thirty years when some scholar redresses this error, Piazza will fall one home run short. And the long-retired Piazza will have to give back his secret decoder ring or whatever they give him for breaking the record. Let's just hope that Mike hits a bunch more before the inevitable transition to first base becomes fact.
Methinks He Dost Protest Not Enough
There was a little incident last Wednesday at—I was about to say the Vet—Citizens Bank Park that I failed to comment on. It was the second game in the Marlins-Phils series last week.
The game was tied with the Phils batting in the bottom of the ninth. Armando Benitez had just entered the game and Placido Polance took his first offering down the line in left on a rope. The ball skidded four times and came to rest on at the moment of the fourth bounce at the base of the wall in left directly to the right of the 329' sign. Left fielder Jeff Conine gave chase but stopped and raised his hands to get the umps' attention. Polanco was just rounding second and continued to round the bases. Third base umpire Ed Rapuano had called a ground-rule double once Conine raised his hands.
Manager Larry "If I Only Had A Brain" Bowa protested vehemently and somehow was not ejected from the game. The ball was easily extracted by Conine after the play was dead. Apparently, the wall at the new park has a small groove at its base which is, oddly enough, the exact size, depth and height, for a baseball to get wedged. I guess it's a space to store the copious amounts of batteries thrown on the field when, say, J.D. Drew is in town. The ball was clearly visible the entire time, but Conine never made an attempt to remove it from the wall. Actually, he signaled for a GR double before he was in a position to field the ball had it caromed off the wall. It was a smart play as Polanco probably would have gotten a triple had the ball not gotten wedged.
After the discussion Bowa told the umps that he was formally protesting the game, which drew Florida manager Jack "Don't call me Trader" McKeon out of his lair, though I don’t see what he possibly could have been arguing. Bowa is well within his rights to protest any game. Besides the umps were not the ones ruling on the protest. Bowa later summed up his argument in a cogent argument that was free of bleeps (wow!), "Just because he (left fielder Jeff Conine) throws his arms up, it doesn't matter. You have to play it"
Anyway, the next batter Bobby Abreu flied out to center, the Phils were eventually retired in the ninth without scoring a run, and the Marlins won, 8-7, in twelve as is their wont against the Phillies. One could argue that Abreu's fly could have plated Polanco as the winning run, had the ball not gotten stuck.
The protest was formally rejected by Bob Dupuy, of all people, this weekend. So now its officially official. However, I wanted to take a look at the Phils' ground rules to determine if a) the ump made the right call in the first place and b) if MLB should have ruled otherwise.
Here are the ground rules from the
Philadelphia Phillies - Citizens Bank Park
- Ball has to actually enter dugout area or hit the yellow bars or yellow line to be considered out of play.
- Ball entering open area above end of dugout inside yellow line is considered out of play.
- Glass areas of fence have openings at top. If ball sticks in opening it's a ground rule double. Ball off the yellow line at the top of fence is in play.
- In left and right field the stands protrude to a point near the foul lines. If ball lands in fair territory and bounces over the points and lands in the playing area, it is considered to be in the stands and ruled a ground rule double.
- A ball landing in fair territory and hitting pipe to right of right-field foul pole is in play.
Pretty sparse, eh? There's no mention of the groove at the base of the fence. However, is there a general rule that can be invoked in this case? There is rules 6.09(e) and 6.09(f), which seem to overlap a bit:
6.09(e) A fair ball, after touching the ground, bounds into the stands, or passes through, over or under a fence, or through or under a scoreboard, or through or under shrubbery, or vines on the fence, in which case the batter and the runners shall be entitled to advance two bases; (f) Any fair ball which, either before or after touching the ground, passes through or under a fence, or through or under a scoreboard, or through any opening in the fence or scoreboard, or through or under shrubbery, or vines on the fence, or which sticks in a fence or scoreboard, in which case the batter and the runners shall be entitled to two bases;
And the Lord spake, saying, "First shalt thou take out the Holy Pin. Then shalt thou count to three, no more, no less. Three shall be the number thou shalt count, and the number of the counting shall be three. Four shalt thou not count, neither count thou two, excepting that thou then proceed to three. Five is right out." (Monty Python and the Holy "Rich" Grail)
I guess it comes down to your definition of "sticks". Given that neither umpire nor the fielder was close to the ball when it got wedged in the fence, I do not see how that determination could be made. The ball was on the ground and visible. It's not like it disappeared in a wall of ivy. Nor did it get wedged in mid air.
Of course, it's a basic tenet of the game that the ump's judgment is sacrosanct. And if you need a rule for it, here's 9.02(a):
Any umpire's decision which involves judgment, such as, but not limited to, whether a batted ball is fair or foul, whether a pitch is a strike or a ball, or whether a runner is safe or out, is final. No player, manager, coach or substitute shall object to any such judgment decisions.
So could Bowa have technically protested? Let's look at that rule:
4.19 PROTESTING GAMES. Each league shall adopt rules governing procedure for protesting a game, when a manager claims that an umpire's decision is in violation of these rules. No protest shall ever be permitted on judgment decisions by the umpire. In all protested games, the decision of the League President shall be final. Even if it is held that the protested decision violated the rules, no replay of the game will be ordered unless in the opinion of the League President the violation adversely affected the protesting team's chances of winning the game. Whenever a manager protests a game because of alleged misapplication of the rules the protest will not be recognized unless the umpires are notified at the time the play under protest occurs and before the next pitch is made or a runner is retired. A protest arising on a game ending play may be filed until 12 noon the following day with the League Office.
Keep in mind that there are no league presidents anymore, but that MLB has failed to update the rule. Bowa did notify the umps before the next pitch was thrown, so he's OK there. The ruling did adversely affect the protesting team's chances, so he's OK there. However, was any rule violated by the ump? Not really. I guess if it’s a judgment call, whether the ball was technically stuck or whether it was merely resting at the base of the wall. The protest was invalid and therefore, should have been rejected.
However, there are good judgment calls and there are bad judgment calls. Ask Jeffery Maier. The ball got out to left so quickly that neither Rapuano nor Conine was in a position to determine if the ball were truly stuck. And Rapuano made the call before Conine ever touched the ball. He, in fact, did not bother to touch the ball until the play was dead and Polanco had already circled the bases.
Basically, this comes down to a lazy, lousy call by the ump in a close and potentially important game and to a great appeal by a veteran player that staved off a Florida defeat. The play should stand, but Rapuano should be taken to task. The entire rule should be reexamined and better defined. Since it is easy to determine the results if the rule is applied (i.e., all runners and the batter advance two bases), play should continue until the ball is dead and then the umps should confer to get the right call. Force Conine to at least attempt to field the ball. If it is clear that he is making an honest attempt but cannot recover the ball, call a ground-rule double. If not, let the runners advance where they may. Judgment should be used for the gray area, but the judgment should be based on how the play unfolds not just the gestures of the nearest fielder.
There is one rule that should have guided Rapuano and didn’t. It is 9.05. Here is the section to which I refer:
[To the umpires] Carry your rule book. It is better to consult the rules and hold up the game ten minutes to decide a knotty problem than to have a game thrown out on protest and replayed.
I know that he didn’t do anything to violate the rules. But in the broader sense he didn’t do all that he could to ensure the right call was made. I know it's only April, but the Marlins and Phils look like they may have a battle on their hands for the division title. I would hate to see the it come down to a one-game difference after this one.
News of the Stupid
Mike's Baseball Rants went over 10 K hits for thr month of April earlier today. It's our (in the royal sense) first month breaking that barrier in almost two years of bloviating. Danke Sherm Lollar.
Keep Your Joe Morgan Chat Day Job
Hey, Ernie, you want a job?
—Tony Montana in Scarface to a former opponent's henchman right after obliterating the opponent's leadership, staring directly into Ernie's sweat-streaked face, and milking a pregnant pause (After which Ernie responds, "Sure, Tony," in relief. Then Montana sidekick Chi-Chi jokingly responds, "You got a job, mang," and Ernie takes a big swig of alcohol with his hand visibly shaking).
Indifference, to me, is the epitome of evil.
— Elie "Walt" Wiesel
It means nothing to me. I have no opinion about it, and I don’t care.
—Pablo "Torrealba" Picasso, who according to Jonathan Richman was never called an A-hole, on the first moon-landing.
Diane Chambers: Everyone knows that hate is not the opposite of love. Indifference is.
Sam Malone: Well, whatever you say. I really don't care.
A few years back Mystery Science Theater 3000, a show that would play old movies (or "experiments") and riff on them continuously, while recovering from a particularly nasty experiment, ran a segment that they called "They Just Didn't Care", meaning the makers of the film. Exhibit A in their declension was the title of the film, "The Attack of the The Eye Creatures"—that's right, with two "the". They didn't even bother to get the title right. They then pointed to zippers visible on monster costumes, some creatures supposedly covered head to toe in eyeballs wearing lycra body suits and sneakers, night scenes shot in bright daylight, successive scenes alternating between darkness and daylight even though they are supposed to occur at approximately the same time, a man inexplicably wearing a night-dress, and military men using their equipment to peep at teenagers necking at the local lovers' lane.
This past week, Blender magazine named its fifty worst songs of all time. At the top of the list was "We Built This City on Rock and Roll" by Jefferson Airplane cum Jefferson Starship cum Starship, a group created by a lawsuit by former member Paul Kantner over the name "Jefferson" (he and George and Weezie are still wrangling over that one. Blender calls it "the truly horrible sound of a band taking the corporate dollar while sneering at those who take the corporate dollar." However, singer Grace Slick (whom a burnout I knew in high school referred to as Grey Slick on one graffiti-riddled textbook) remembered the song fondly:
"This is not me," when the magazine reminds her of the tune. "Now you're an actor. It's the same as Meryl Streep playing Joan of Arc."
Meryl Streep played Joan of Arc?
She continued, "Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?"
Germans? Forget it. She's on a roll.
Obviously, Ms. Slick was applying heaping tons of sublimation along with her daily doses of illegal substances. Clearly she just didn't care.
And yet again you ask what the hex this has to do with Joe Morgan. Well, I have attributed many personality flaws to Morgan in trying to explain how a man who was so SABR-ific as a player (e.g., he always had a terrific OBP) could be so SABR poor as an analyst (e.g., he eschews OBP as a valid stat by which to evaluate players). I've explained this by accusing Morgan of being baseball's Andy Kaufman playing a joke on the entire world by his mere existence, of experimenting with his audience by exposing them to all sorts of gibberish, and worse things that I dare not repeat here.
However, I now at long last get Joe Morgan. He just doesn't care. And I hope to use exhibits from his last chat session to demonstrate his indifference towards us, the baseball audience. Order in the court. The first exhibit is that the chat session is cut short so that some upstart named Rob Neyer can hold his chat. Talk about not caring! Your honor, I promise to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth…
The Good—Caring Means Sharing
brendan (erskine MN): hey joe i was wondering if you have any tips on how to get rid of an uppercut in a swing if you can help me that would be great thanx
Well, I think the only way to get rid of it is to try and rotate your body (your hips and your weight) to your front side. Almost like a golf swing. This makes your swing more level. Staying on your back leg promotes and uppercut. You must shift it forward.
[Mike: Your honor, he cares if he gets a technical question.]
Randy (Houston): Hi Joe, you were always one of my favorite players, and are now my favorite broadcast guy. Wanted to ask a question regarding the Astros. Is it time to send Tim Redding down to New Orleans and get Carlos Hernandez back in Houston? Redding has great stuff but seems to lack the mentality to win.
I always liked Hernandez, personally, but I still think it's too early to give up on a guy at this point in the season. As long as they maintain contact with the Cubs -- which I think they have -- I think they'll be OK allowing him some time to see if he can become the star that they hope he can be. For now, I just think it's a little too early.
[Mike: Ah yes, if you butter him up, he cares. Of course, it's too early to write someone off, especially when he showed some promise last year (3.68 ERA in 33 games/32 starts).]
Jason (Utah): Several ESPN columnists are saying Bonds will hit .400 this season. Don't we all need to take a deep breath and evaluate where he's at in, say, July, and then make brash predicitions?
Well, I don't know if it's a lot of columnist, I heard Harold Reynolds make that prediction, but he backed it up by saying that he walked so much that he only has about 300 ABs and therefore, would need only 120 hits. I don't believe anyone will ever hit .400 again b/c of the specialization of pitchers. Now-a-days you face four good pitchers a game. I dont' think anyone could have a 56 game hitting streak or his .400 in today's baseball. But everybody is entitled to their own opinions.
[Mike: He cares if he can run down a modern player. Actually, I see the point of those opining that Bonds could hit .400. Given that he would qualify for the batting title with the lowest at-bat total probably on record, Bonds or anyone for that matter could hit .400 in the relatively small sample size. However, given that every pitching staff is keying on Bonds like no other individual, it seems unlikely that in reality he would be able to take advantage of the benefits of the smaller sample size.]
The Bad—Much like Phil Collins, Joe don't care anymore (Consider Sussudio)
Brent Seaborn (Alexandria, VA): Hi Joe! Do you have any predictions for the Yankees/Red Sox series this weekend? Thanks!
Well, I think after watching the games between NY and Boston last week, it proves the point I made earlier this morning. I think the Red Sox have the edge with their starting pitching. But, since the games are in NY, it wil even things out. But -- Boston has proven they can play well in New York. There is going to be a lot of pressure on A-Rod and Sheff from the Yankee faithful to deliver in a huge series. It should be an exciting series as always!
[Mike: Cover all those bases, Joe. I'm still not sold on the Red Sox rotation nor am I willing to throw in the towel on the Yankee rotation. The Red Sox certainly are playing much better than the Yankees right now. We'll have to see how the season plays out. It's unfortunate that these two series had to be played while New York was at seemingly their nadir for the season though.]
BoSox Fan, Beantown: I hear some talk about the Big Unit heading to the Big Apple this summer. Could "Theo and the Trio" pry him away from the desert to join schilling in breaking an 86 year old curse?
I haven't heard anything about Randy Johnson being traded, BUT, if the D'Backs aren't playing well they will cut their payroll and he does carry the biggest price tag. SO, it wouldn't surprise me if, after the first half of the seaon they aren't playing too well, they may have to move him. I'm not sure where he'll end up but he could certainly be dealt.
[Mike: Joe, ATFQ ("Answer the F'ing Question"). Could he go to Boston? Sure. Arizona is playing poorly and Johnson is 40 and has two years at $16 M due to him. Boston has been a player of late, but the Yankees, Phils, and potentially the Dodgers could be interested. They say his fastball has lost some speed but he is still averaging 11 K per nine innings.
By the way, the only 86-year-old curse in Boston is "Yankees suck!"]
Matt Baltimore,md: Joe, What do you think about the O's this year?? somemany people are focused on the Yanks and Sox, but it's the O's who are in first place in the AL East. Can they continue this trend through out the season?
I did the opening game of the season in Baltimore, I said at that time I really liked all the changes they've made with Tejada and Javy and Palmiero. I am very impressed with the Orioles, it's just a matter of how much pitching they get. IF they have the arms to keep them in the game, they will be in the race all year long. I definitely think they are a better team than Toronto.
[Mike: Just say "No", Joe. Let the guy down easy. If you cared, you would.
I still expect Toronto to pass Baltimore. Either way, they will have the worst rotation in the division and cannot expect to stick with the division elite (i.e., the Yankees and Sox) this year. ]
Doug Rhamy - Shreve, Ohio: Hi Joe, I was wondering what your take is on Ichiro these days. He is not stealing as much, or hitting at his usual rate for that matter. I know it's early, but we saw some of the same the second half last year. Do you think it's necessary for Seattle to get another bat for them to even have a chance in that division? Thanks.
I think Ichiro will be all right. I think everybody is pitching him a lot tougher now than when he first came over. They have made adjustments to his hitting style. BUT I do think Seattle needs another bat. Edgar Martinez is not as dominant as he was before.
[Mike: True, Joe, Ichiro will be "all right" but not in the way you meant it. I see him falling from superstar to marginal player in the next couple of years as he loses his speed and his skills give in to his limitations (inability to take a walk, lack of power, and extreme streakiness). He's 30. His numbers have been in decline in each successive season. He had a horrific second-half last year ) as is his wont (1st half: .352 BA, .390 OBP, .476 Slug, and .866.OPS. 2nd half: .259, .301, .383, .684). His numbers this April have been similarly poor. One point in his favor is that he had a poor April last year, too. He seems to be a May to July player, which does not bode well.
As far as Martinez not being as dominant: A) He's 41 and has a .310 BA, a .395 on-base percentage, and an .860 OPS. Yes, the home runs are down, but he's far from a drain on the lineup. Suzuki, Winn, Aurilia, and Boone have been though and John Olerud is showing his age much more than Martinez.
That said, I don't know if it's necessary for Seattle to get another bat. If they believe in the players they have. Their team ERA of 5.43 may be more of a concern. As is the fact that they have one starter with an ERA under 5.19.]
Ryan(Rochester, NY): Do you think the Marlins have enough to go wire to wire and repeat? It's starting to look that way.
Well, they proved last year, not just by winning the Wold Series but just by their performance in the second half of the season that they have what it takes. When young players with ability have confidence, the sky is the limit. That said, nothing surprises me that they are doing so well. I am surprised that the Phillies haven't challenged them more, however.
[Mike: Joe, they were the wild card last year after all. Do they have what it takes? It depends if all of the young players that are playing so well (Choi, Cabrera, and Willis in particular) can keep it up all season long. Willis was a pretty poor pitcher in the second half last year. Choi and Cabrera are playing tremendously better than last year. They could be maturing or they could be playing over their heads. Who knows? However, vets like Armando Benitez and Carl Pavano have a track record that demonstrates they are over-achieving.
The Marlins are playing over their heads right now. Can they keep it up? Maybe. They won't sustain a staff ERA of 2.81 though, And they are just 7-6 when not playing the Phils, who they have crushed. The Marlins could go wire-to-wire, but I think the odds are a bit long.]
The Ugly—Or as ex-Boston Bruin Vladimir Ruzicka said when asked about then first-time Cy Young award winner Tom Glavine practicing with his team, "No know, no care."
Jack: Did you see the toronto-boston game yesterday? There was no one in the stands! It's a disgrace! They had a huge victory and no one was left in the stadium to see it. What's wrong here Joe?!!
Well, the attendance has been suffering for the last couple of year from a time when they were chasing a world series and selling out games. Unless they are in contention and winning games, I expect this poor trend will continue -- especially during hockey season.
[Mike: That's a bit harsh, and incorrect. Toronto did draw just 16,480 fans to that game. They are 25th in the majors in average attendance this year (21,314 per game).
However, when you get swept in the opening series by a team that was historically bad last year (the Tigers), it doesn't bring out the fans, especially after 10 years of mediocrity. And to be fair, the Toronto fans supported the Jays after the dynasty years. They had the best attendance in the AL from the moment they moved into Skydome in 1989 through 1994. They were 55-60, 3rd in the AL East, in 1994. They were 3rd in attendance with a 56-88 record and 5th place finish in the AL East in 1995. From 1996 to 1999 they never finished above 3rd and never won more than 88 games, and yet drew at least two million fans (and ranked between 5th and 8th in the AL in attendance). They have finished third the last four years and won between 78 and 86 games, but have fallen to either tenth or eleventh in attendance. They seem to be suffering the most from the Yankee-Red Sox wars over the last 6-7 years.
And as far as the end of hockey season helping, the Flyers will soon end the Maple Leafs' season, so we shall soon see.
Marconi plays the mamba…]
Dave (Albany, NY): Good morning Joe--thanks for your time. I was wondering what your take on the multitude of injuries and guys (seemingly) spending more time on the DL now then as recently as 10 or 15 years ago. Why don't as many guys play hurt anymore? They're getting paid good money to sit around and nurse a hangnail?!?! Please. It didn't seem to affect the Gehrig's and Mays' of the past--and they weren't paid nearly as well. Thanks!
Yes Dave, this has been a trend. I think part of it is becuase the players make so much money that the ownerships are afraid of injuries may sideline them for a year or more so they are more cautious with them. Ownership allows the players to be more careful with their bodies to prevent this.
[Mike: One Joe Morgan #5 Special, players today are worse, weaker, etc. than in the past.
"Dave, I can feel it…I can feel it…I can feel my mind going." (HAL 2000 in "2001")
First, it's a good thing that teams are taking pitch counts seriously and are more protective of their investments. Second, has anyone noticed that there are players performing well at a very late age? E.g. Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, Jamie Moyer, and Edgar Martinez. Third, Dave made some unfortunate picks. Mays never broke 150 games and was decidedly an inferior player over his last seven years. Lou Gehrig was permanently out of the game at 35.
…listen to the radio…]
Kevin (Mesa, AZ): Joe, good morning... Do you think that's an adjustment period going on with A-rod and Sheffield, being in NY now? They only have like 3 HR's between the two. I don't know if the Boss is going to tolerate for much longer, before he goes public about his frustrattions. What do you think?
For Sheff, there is a slight adjustment in going from the NL to the AL. For A-Rod, it's even bigger tyring to deal with all the publicity and hoopla and press. Yes, it is a transitory period, but both of them are such great talents that I see them each having tremendous seasons before it's all over.
[Mike: [A]ll the publicity and hoopla and press .Right, because no one knew who A-Rod was before he came to New York. It's not like he was a lightning rod for every Joe Lunchpail to vent his spleen (which is dangerous indeed).
Besides, Sheffield and Rodriguez are not doing that badly offensively. Both have their OPS's in the .770 range. That's not setting the world ablaze but it's competent. The problems with the Yankee offense are with Jeter and his .250 OBP and .455 OPS at the top of the order, Bernie Williams' .496 OPS, and Enrique Wilson's .396 OPS(!). Jeter should rebound and is getting over an injury. Wilson is just a bad player. Replacing him should be a top priority. At 35 Williams may be nearing the end of the line. He did miss training camp and still may be recuperating from the injury. Either way, maybe giving 27-year-old rookie Bubba Crosby a little more time or looking outside the system may make sense.
By the way, I think Joe meant a "transitional" period. Though "transitory" could make sense.
…don't you remember?]
Scott, Davenport, IA: Do you think the Cubs stand a chance without Mark Prior and how important is a quality pitcher these days?
They have a chance without him, but they are going to have to get a lot more production from Greg Maddux than they are getting. If Prior was who he was last year, I think the Cubs would win by a few games. Without him, I think it will go right down to the wire.
[Mike: And if a butterfly in Skokie flutters his wings, then the Cubs will win by 10 games. Look, the Pythagorean Formula can’t predict that well. It should be a good pennant race, but who knows.
If Prior was who he was last year: Is Joe hinting at something? Have the Astros abducted the real Mark Prior but no one in baseball is allowed to talk about it? If not, I think he's the same guy.
Also, I would think they need production from Prior's replacement, Sergio Mitre, not Maddux, who already had a job before Prior's injury.
…We built this city…]
Steve, Manchster, NH: Joe, Is this finally the year where the Red Sox are just plain better than the Yanks?
I thought before the Yankees acquired A-Rod that this might be the case. I think the board is even now, but starting pitchers with Shilling added in Boston, I'd give the Sox the edge, but it's not big enough that you can purchace your World Series tickets yet.
[Mike: Better how? Better one or better two? "My team can beat up your team, na, na, na na na!"
I would agree with Joe, the board is even, that is if we were playing checkers, which we're not. Who's the better team? How do you quantify that? Oh, wait, there's that new method. It's called, hm, let me see, oh yeah, wins and losses. The team that wins the division will be the "better" team. Trust me.
Now Joe's answer is waffling of the highest degree. The Sox had an edge. But the Yankees got A-Rod. So now it's equal. Except Schilling gives the Red Sox the edge, unless they don't have it. Then it's either even or the Yankees have the edge. And the Edge is a shaving cream. So the team with less facial hair will have the Edge. And I told two friends and so on and so on and so on…
…we built this city on rock and roll…
chris cartersville ga: hey joe the braves bullpen seems horrible do you think that they have to sure that up to have a chance at another division title?
I would never question the Braves. They've won 12 consecutive division titles. I trust their staff, they know what it takes to win and they've proven that point year in and year out. I'm going to leave it up to them.
[Mike: Hey, I didn't know that they named a town after the Eagles/Vikings receiver!
Follow Joe. Bow down to the Braves. They can do no wrong. They are perfect. "And put in your earplugs, put on your eyeshades You know where to put the cork."
…We built this city, we built this city on rock and roll…]
Robert, Evansville, Indiana: Hi Joe, the Reds are off to a good start so far. Do you think their starting rotation can hold up. If not, should they go after someone to bolster them for the long run?
Well, you can forget about them going after someone. They have proven that they are not going to spend any money on anything or anyone. THey'll have to do it with what they have, but I think they have a shot if they (Griffey) can stay healthy.
[Mike: Hey, I didn't know they named a town after the movie producer. The kid certainly does stay in the picture.
How many times does Joe have to repeat this tripe? It's just not true. The Reds acquired Aaron Harang and Todd Van Poppel last season and Ryan Dempster, Bruce Chen, Brian Moehler, and Shawn Estes. Yeah that's not the cream of the crop, but that may have to do more with the Reds' scouting talent than with their limited funds. Besides people will pay you to take a pitcher of their roster nowadays.
…Built this city, we built this city on rock and roll…
Indeed, words to live by.]
Competitive Balancing Act II, Scene IV—This Is Pop: Redefining Large- and Small-Market by Population
Other entries in the series:
Competitive Balancing Act I—The King James Version: An Overview of the Literature, Scenes I, II, III, and IV
Next in my ongoing study on competitive balance in baseball, I would like to look at "quartiles", i.e., the performance of teams divided into four relatively equally sized groups based on highest to lowest revenue. Since I prefer to base the analysis on population given that revenue statistics are based largely on self-reports and are dependent to a large degree on the abilities of the team's ownership team. Population is the community's sole resource that is independent of the team itself.
Much was made of quartiles in the Blue Ribbon Panel report. The lack of playoff wins by teams in quartile three and four between the two CBAs, when the Yankee dynasty was at its strongest, was much reported by MLB shills like George Will. I thought that a thorough investigation of quartiles throughout baseball history would shed some light on their analysis.
I split up the major league teams per year into four groups whose number was determined by the total number of teams divided by four. I ordered the teams by the metropolitan area of their representative cities. Quartile 1 contains the teams from the largest metro areas and quartile 4, the smallest. If a team shared a metro area with another team or teams, they each got a share of the population. When the number of teams was not divisible by four or a multi-team city had to be split between two quartiles, I tried to arrange the groups the best that I could.
Anyway, here are the winning percentages by quartile per decade, with the ratio for each quartile relative to the smallest (quartile 4):
Well, from that it looks like Quartile 1 has been doing worse than its historical average since free agency. Also, though the Blue Ribbon Panel claimed that Quartile 1 and 2 were kicking 3 and 4's hinder, Quartile 3 has passed Quartile 1 and 2 over the past three decades. The one cause for concern is the decrease in Quartile 4 winning percentage over the same period. However, we should keep in mind that until the 2000s, it was still above the average and given that we have a relatively small sample for this decade, it might change by the decade's end.
So I see no real cause for concern. Teams from the largest cities tend to do very well recently and historically. Teams from the smallest tend to do not as well, recently and historically. However, the next group (Quartile 2) tends to do worse than the next to last group (Quartile 3), historically and recently.
But, you say, the Blue Ribbon Panel was looking mainly at the postseason. Well, here's a table by quartile similar to the one above, but based on playoff performance:
So historically and recently, Quartiles 2 through 4 have done about equally as well as each other. Actually, Quartile 4 has done better than Quartile 3 through most of the free agent era. Of course, Quartile 1 beats the rest by a good margin.
OK, winning percentage is one thing, but it is meaningless if Quartile 4 team hardly ever gets to the postseason. Here's a comparison based on the percentage of all postseason games per quartile:
Quartile 4's games have been dwindling. However, Quartile 3 has done better than any other quartile basically throughout the free agent era.
For a point of reference, Here are the 2003 teams by quartile:
- Quartile 1 (7 teams): Yankees, Mets, Dodgers, Angels, Orioles, Phillies, Red Sox.
- Quartile 2 (8 teams): Rangers, Tigers, Astros, Blue Jays, Cubs, White Sox, Braves, Marlins.
- Quartile 3 (8 teams): Mariners, Giants, A's, Diamondbacks, Expos, Twins, Indians, Padres.
- Quartile 4 (7 teams): Rockies, Cardinals, Devil Rays, Pirates, Reds, Royals, Brewers.
To be continued…
Pictures of Philly
I took a little trip to the Phillies' new ballpark today for a BPS (Business Persons' Special for those non-schedule savvy).
Here's a little photo retrospective. I had to imbed the photos in an album to share them out. Here's the link. I hope it works better than Yahoo.
The Bowa-ry Boy
Quick boys, routine number 37
—The estimable Terence Aloysius 'Slip' Mahoney, as various Bowery Boys cavort and generally devour the scenery and somehow the effete Sach escapes injury by yet another hilarious means.
My misspent youth was split between watching heaping gobs of pointless TV and watching heaping gobs of baseball. I witnessed Little Rascals led by fiery, little Spanky "Don't drink the milk, it's spoiled" McFarland, Bowery Boys led by fiery, little Thesaurus-misquoting Slip, Stooges led by fiery, little, bowl-coiffed Moe "C'mere, knucklehead" Howard, and the Fightin' Phillies led by fiery, little Larry Bowa (or at least that's how he remembers it). It was all very entertaining.
Now that I've been mellowed by age, my tastes have turned to less frenetic yet more deeply disturbing forms of entertainment like the Sopranos, Bush press conferences, and the post-Schmidt Phillies. And yet there is one constant, Larry Bowa. Bowa is still little, at least vertically, and he's still fiery. Constancy is Bowa's trademark. His moves on and off the field demonstrate that. I guess I just find it a bit less entertaining than I did when I was a kid.
So it comes as no surprise that the embattled Bowa would avenge his perceived slights in the press after the Phils had finally enjoyed some degree of success, a four-game win streak. Last night Bowa laced into the Philadelphia media before the Phils went ahead and broke the streak against their kryptonite, the Florida Marlins.
"Two or three of you [writers] are doing everything in your power but sticking a [bleeping] knife in my back. I don't give a [bleep]. How's that?"
The funny thing is that the worst indictment of Bowa's management style is Bowa himself. It's not just that he invective that he spews on players and reporters alike. It's the open admission that he has no idea what he's doing. In Slip-ese, let us expectorate post chaste.
Bowa began his tantrum by confronting the "two or three of you", reporters Dennis Deitch and Paul Hagen, who had criticized his removal of Randy Wolf Sunday after only 86 pitches and the insertion of closer Billy Wagner for the fourth consecutive day. It is described brilliantly in the article:
With sheets of statistical evidence in his hands, Bowa started off the gathering by announcing that Phillies relievers pitched fewer innings in 2003 than most major league teams and have been among the most under-worked this season. He also mentioned that he wants to keep his starters' pitch counts down early this season because the entire rotation, especially Wolf, faded during last September's failed playoff chase.
Look, limiting the number of pitches that his starters throw is a good thing. The top four starters all had over 115 innings by the All-Star break last year and then experienced a severe dropoff in the second half. At least Bowa is trying to learn from his mistakes, but he clearly does not understand how to correct the problem. Everything that I have read (and Will Carroll is really the expert here) indicates that there is no difference between pulling Wolf after 86 pitches and pulling him after 100-110. Whatever damage has been done. It's far worse to overwork a closer by pitching him consecutive days.
When Deitch backed up his position by invoking Terry Adams' 2003 season-ending injury after four consecutive appearances Bowa responded:
"You can break down every team if you want. Do you know how many times guys [warm] up [in the bullpen]? I [bleeping] do. I keep a chart of it. That's why [Tim] Worrell wasn't used the other day because he threw 30 [bleeping] pitches [on Friday]. I'm telling you, before you [bleeping] rip, ask somebody. There's a reason why we do things. Billy Wagner came up to me [Sunday] and said, 'I have an inning for you.' "
Was that Grady Little or Larry Bowa? Every pitcher will tell you he has an inning left in the tank. It's the manager's job to determine if that fits the team's plan for how pitchers should be used. But clearly Bowa has no plan. He reacts based on the perceived failures of the past but never learns. Witness his brag that he knows Worrell three 30 pitches in the pen on Friday. Well, why is that a good thing? Worrell should be languishing in the pen wasting pitches that could be used in a game because Bowa does not know when to go him. He gets a pitcher up repeatedly "just in case".
That Bowa isn't learning is clear after his comments concerning pulling Wolf "who was leading, 4-3, after six innings and hadn't allowed a run since the first inning, because the move was part of a double switch that inserted Doug Glanville into the game."
"Glanville won the game," Bowa said. "That was a great [bleeping] move by me, wasn't it?"
That he inserted Glanville was a mistake to begin with because a) Wolf should have been given another inning and b) Glanville is the 25th man on the roster and should not be the go-to guy in that situation. Rheal Cormier came in to give up the tying run. That Glanville won the game with a walk-off home run was dumb luck given that he had eleven in almost 700 at-bats over the last two years. The Phils version of Neifi Perez or Rafael Belliard, Glanville has collected 11 at-bats, more than any other bench player on the roster. And frankly, as the sixth outfielder, Glanville shouldn't even have a spot on the roster.
Finally, the man Glanville replaced was erstwhile leadoff hitter Marlon Byrd who showed signs of coming out of his slump after being moved down in the order. Then Bowa stuck him back in leadoff on Saturday. Byrd went 0-for-4, was moved back to seventh Sunday, pulled in favor of Glanville, and then did not play Monday. This is a player who is young and showed himself to be fragile last year. Bowa is yanking him up and down like a yo-yo.
Bowa is truly his own worst enemy. After some modicum success, the prudent play would have been to lay low and ride out the winning wave. But Bowa has to try a gambit the second he has the upper hand. And he gives the appearance of a manager who would myopically overlook the importance of the series with the Marlins to slake his pride. This is a man almost daring people to take potshots at him, to find fault in how he's doing his job. Unfortunately for him, the next person to do that may be his boss, Ed Wade, especially if the Phils lose another series to their new arch rivals, the Marlins.
Joe Morgan Chat Day-Ja Vu All Over Again
Repeat thy song, till the familiar lines
—Henry Wadsworth "Don't Call Me Terrence" Longfellow, translating Dante "Bichette" Alighieri's Divina Commedia
Four seasons fill the measure of the year;
—John "Tim" Keats
Q: "Pete and Repeat were in a boat. Pete fell out. Who was left?"
Q: "Pete and Repeat were in a boat. Pete fell out. Who was left?"…
—Anon. "Slaughter", probably the same person who came up with the "Wash; Rinse; Repeat" instruction on shampoo bottles
So it didn't take very long for the baseball season to reassert the expected form. Those surprise teams, which seemed so plentiful in the first week or so of the season, are now starting to dwindle. The Phils have won four straight. The Brewers, Mets, Tigers, D-Rays, and Reds are sliding down in the standings. Sure, there are still a few surprise clubs (the Dodgers and Orioles in the over-achieving category and the D-Backs, M's, and Royals in the under-performing category).
It's like that old pair of shorts that you have to dust off once winter has become summer in the hour-long spring we've experienced at least here in the northeast. At first it feels odd to not even wear a jacket given that one was wearing gloves, scarves, boots, and parkas just a week or so before. But the summer togs are trudged out and after a while life, and the shorts, assume their usual form.
So too do Joe Morgan's chat sessions quickly return to their typical substance with the usual pace and cadence that one has become accustomed to over the years, like the muscle memory that helps you return to your mid-summer softball throwing form after a session or two of "catch" (though, boy, don't it hurt the next day!). They're lobbing them in and Joe's batting them out with his typical laundry list of solutions. Or better yet, he ignores the original question and picks the response to which he wants to pigeonhole it. It's Joe's second turn in the chat rotation and he's already at midseason form. It's actually a bit suspicious: maybe it's the extra stretching and the chat exercises that he did in the offseason, but did you notice how much larger this chat session has been than the first week's? I don't want to accuse someone of being on the juice, but since there is barely a stitch of circumstantial evidence, I would be willing to tell every media source available. Now that Jose Canseco is retired (again) and allegedly writing his autobiography, which is taking longer than it took Margaret Mitchell to pen Gone With the Wind, I hear that steroid use among baseball writers has skyrocketed.
Now without further ado, here's a chat session that feels like one cobbled together from last season's oeuvre and of course, they have to be qualified given the suspicion of steroid use.
Joey, Nj: Can Barry catch the Hammer by next season?
(10:36 AM ET ) I don't think he will next season. It's going to take at least 3 seasons .. or 2 and a half .. of great performances. We'll wait and see.
[Mike: Joey from Jersey? How you doin'?
Next season seems unlikely given that it would require his hitting almost 100 within two seasons. Can Bonds do that? Sure. Will he? Probably not given his age and the fact that he had only hit 91 over the last two seasons. Given that injuries and the opponents' strategy limit him to around 400 at-bats a year, hitting one hundred in 800 at-bats makes it that much less likely. Also, consider that Bonds' career AB-to-HR ratio is around 13.25. Averaging one homer in every eight at-bats over two seasons for any soon-to-be forty-year-old is a bit much to expect. Yes, he did it for a season (2001: 6.5 AB-to-HR), but a) he was healthy, b) it is probably one of greatest, if not the greatest offensive season in baseball history, and c) they game has changed immensely in the intervening seasons.
Boy, that was quick.]
Mikek(Boston): Big Joe! Long Time fan here, no one calls a game like you (thankfully) I was wondering with Mussina and Brown both reaching the 200 win mark this week, who's got a better chance of making it to the hall of fame?
(10:35 AM ET ) I think both of them obviously have put themselves in position to make the Hall. It will depend on what they do the new few years. 200 wins is a great milestone. But it's what you do the lat 3-4 years of your career. 200 wins doesn't automatically get you in, just like 2,000 hits doesn't get you in.
[Mike: Big Joe? Oh yeah, remember when Joe and Robbie Rist were in that 70s sitcom, "Big Joe, Little Joe"? Joe would all of a sudden turn into Cousin Oliver at the most inopportune moments, like the seventh game of the World Series, or visa versa, say during a math exam. Hilarity tended to ensue. But it would come out alright in the end, and we would all learn a good lesson. Thank goodness for Sherwood Schwartz.
By the way, no one calls a game like you (thankfully)? To quote Archie Bunker, "Was that a shot? I think that was a shot."
Anyway, 200 wins doesn't automatically get you in…? 287 isn't even enough. Ask Bert Blyleven.
As for Brown and Mussina, they're both longshots at best. I think Brown's been a better pitcher all around, but Mussina is four years younger and can yeoman his way to 300. But when two pitchers have never won a Cy Young and have one twenty-win season between them, they aren't going to garner a lot of votes five years after they retire, especially given the unfairly high standard that recent retirees have been held up to in order to get into the Hall. They already have Blyeleven, Jim Kaat, Tommy John, Ron Guidry, Luis Tiant, and Jack Morris ahead of them, not to mention current guys like Clemens, Maddux, Johnson, and Glavine.]
Giovanni(San Diego,CA): The other guy asked about the "Moose" and K.Brown entering the hall that's not possbile. Will Tom Glavine make it into the Hall of Fame?
(10:39 AM ET ) I think Glavine has a best chance of them all. Glavine has Cy Young Awards and has been very consistent. But again, it will just depend on how he closes out his career.
[Mike: Don Giovaaaaaani, sheez, can't Brown and Mussina even buy tickets to the Hall? That's tough.
As for Glavine, he is, or should be, a lock. He has had a Hall-of-Fame caliber career. He is 47th all-time in pitching Win Shares ahead of Hall-of-Famers Newhouser, Marichal, Walsh, Bunning, Ford, and Wilhelm. He also qualifies as a slightly below average HoFer according to James' tests. He has two Cy Youngs, five 20-win seasons, and 8 All-Star appearances. He is not my favorite pitcher, but he fits the standards of the Hall no matter how he closes out his career.]
Ben, Coconut Grove, FL: It took three straight shutouts for someone to finally pay attention to my home team this season. Why do you think the Marlins have been so overlooked by the media and especially by the experts?
(10:37 AM ET ) Last year they sort of came out of nowhere to win it all. They weren't favored last year either. They are still a group of young guys that have to prove they can do it consistently. I've been a believer from the beginning because of Tony Perez. He told me they had a great rotation that would take them a long way. It takes time when you have young players without a long track record.
[Mike: Well, not to drop names, but I based my believe on Rene Lachemann's recommendation. What is this Gammons quoting his drinking buddies and passing it off as research? Add a couple of Susan Tedeschi lyrics and it's Gammons.
Why are the Marlins overlooked? Because they lost three starting position players and a closer over the offseason mostly due to money (and Miguel Cabrera's presence). They have a good young rotation but, historically, have abused those arms. Besides not many people, including me, are convinced that they were all that good last year. It's not that they're overlooked. It's that they are under-looked, I believe deservedly.]
Michael (Starkville, MS): Joe, is Atlanta's rotation as bad as it seems?
(10:38 AM ET ) Fans are worried because they are used to a rotation that dominates games. They don't have that anymore. Doesn't mean they will be horrible. They will have to find their niche. It just won't be the staff they are used to. They will have to adjust.
[Mike: Joe, answer the question. Yes, the probably have the worst rotation in the division even including the Mets and have very little prospects of improving much in the short term. These are, for the most part, veteran pitchers who have already found their "niche". ]
Adam, Monroe, WI: Joe, do you think that the Brewers will be the suprise team this year? How many wins do you predict they will have by seasons end?
(10:42 AM ET ) I think they are going to be a surprise, but I don't' think they will duplicate what the Marlins did. Nobody expects anything from them but they are certainly a better team with the additions and the pitching staff pitching better. But it's a long season. How will they handle the losing streak that will surely come their way at some point?
[Mike: Hey, I'm surprised that Milwaukee still has a team. Two words, Joe: Richie Sexson. But seriously folks, how many wins with they have? Oh, 65 or 66…or to quote Pete Puma, "A whole lot of lumps."
Oh, and before I forget: Adam from Monroe? "Hello, Mr. and Mrs. Rush." That is all.]
Mickey (Washington DC): Where do you think the Expos will end up, is MLB really gonna make the decision by the allstar break?
(10:43 AM ET ) I would like to think they will end up in DC but that's just my wishful thinking. The Washington area would be great.
[Mike: Will the owners make a decision by the All-Star break? To quote Geddy Lee, "If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice."
Where will they end up? They have a limited field of candidates: Washington, D.C.; Northern Virginia; Portland; Monterrey, Mexico; Norfolk; San Juan, Puerto Rico; San Antonio; and Las Vegas. Northern Jersey tried to muscle in on the action late last week and were rebuffed. DC seems the most likely choice. I think finding a viable owner in Montreal would be the best solution, but that seems the most remote.
And thanks for the gumball, Mickey.]
Mike in Mechanicsburg, PA: As a small boy, I absolutely idolized the 1975-'76 Big Red Machine. What do you think of the idea of moving the outfield fences farther back, since so many guys can hit the ball over feet easily? Maybe they could make the left field wall 350 feet from the plate, the power alleys at 375 and straight away center at 400. And make the fences 20 feet high. This would create more doubles and triples, thus making for more action on the basepathes. What do you think?
(10:44 AM ET ) It might be what we would prefer but not what baseball prefers. People love the longball .. Maddux was right .. chicks dig the long ball. People watch SC to see HRs, not doubles and triples.
[Mike: Buttering up Joe with a reference to the Big Red Machine is a sure way to get your question answered. Bonus points for using "idolize" to define one's sycophancy.
To trade clichés, Joe, "size doesn't matter" (necessarily). The dimensions of Coors are 347' in left, 350' in right, 415' to straight-away center, and 390' to 420' and 375' to 424' in the power alleys. Sure they've built some real band boxes lately too, but imposing some new standard isn't the solution. And by the way, even though triples have died, there have been more doubles per at-bat (5.29%) from 2000-2003 than in any other decade (Next is the Thirties at 5.03% and the Nineties with 4.95%). Also, if you sum doubles and triples, 2000-2003 still is third (5.85%) behind the Twenties (6.23) and Thirties (6.19).]
Mike: Hey Joe. You gotta love the Mets turn around this year. With Reyes and Floyd set to return at the end of April, how do you like our playoff chances? Thanks.
(10:46 AM ET ) The great thing about the beginning of the season is everyone has a chance to get off to a good start and set the tone for their season. The Mets are like many teams that had tough seasons last year, they have come out of the gate well this year. Again, the key is how they bounce back from their first tough stretch. The good teams can handle those stretches.
[Mike: Playoff chances? Slim and none, and Slim just left town. Way to let him down easy, Joe. You're like a guy trying to break up with his girlfriend but ends up buying a diamond ring instead.
By the way, you don't gotta love anything about the Mets unless you enjoy the rumble of aircraft and enormous decorative apples.]
Abe(NH): Joe, What do you think of Pedro's terrible outing last night? Think Theo and the boys are relieved that they haven't signed him to a long term deal yet?
(10:50 AM ET ) Part of their reason for not signing him was his durability and health of his arm. He will have to prove that over the course of this season, at least by the All-Star break. He has to show he is the Pedro they saw a couple years ago before his arm started bothering him.
[Mike: And boy, are they rejoicing over Nomah's injury. Now if only all their other players were injured or underperforming, that would be nirvana.
I loathe Martinez but have to admit that he has pitched magnificently when healthy for the last seven or so years. There is no indication that this is anything more than an early season slump.]
Jason, Fredrick, Md: Joe, who will be the first team to win the AL East that is not named the Yankees or Redsox, who will it be and how many years will we have to wait?
(10:51 AM ET ) I think Baltimore. I like the additions they made this year. They are capable of hanging with them right now in a race. They made to add a pitcher or two to win in the next couple years. Baltimore is capable of being right there in the mix with the Yanks and Red Sox.
[Mike: I say the New Jersey Generals in 2015. Baltimore has improved but will be lucky to finish third in the division and to clear .500.]
Joey, Nj: Do you think Roger Clemens has what it takes to win the NL Cy Young this season?
(10:53 AM ET ) At the beginning of the season, everyone is fresh. Clemens is no exception. We'll have to wait until about 20 starts into the season and see how strong they are then. I expect him to have a great year in Houston. They will score some runs for him. To win the Cy Young Award would be a real accomplishment at his age.
[Mike: To get out of bed in the morning at his age is an accomplishment. Does he have what it takes? He has an arm and is pitching for a major-league team. That's all you need. That and the girl that makes the foam in the mouth, according to Latke Gravis.
I didn't expect much from Clemens after the last couple of years in New York and given his age. But, then again, the Red Sox thought he was done 8 years and three Cy Youngs ago.]
Mike (rochester, mi): Joe, realistically, how do you think the tiger's will do this year?
(10:55 AM ET ) Well, I see them a much improved team because they have brought in some new players with winning attitudes. I think they are going to be fun to watch and will win their share of games, esp. at home. They are much improved from last year.
[Mike: Realistically, they will be lucky top escape the basement in the worst division in baseball. Winning 70 games would be a feat.]
Jeff (NYC): Joe, can a team's injuries ever be a reflection on the training staff? Over the past few weeks on the Mets alone, Jose Reyes, Cliff Floyd, Scott Erickson, and now Mike Cameron (who was held out of last night's game for "precautionary" reasons) have all had leg injuries. Is this just some sort of cruel coincidence, or is it a reflection on the team's training staff's methods?
(10:56 AM ET ) I'm not close enough to the Mets habits to be able to say that is the problem in NY. But training absolutely has effects on performance and therby injuries. Some teams have better offseason regimens than others. But I'm not close enough to talk about the Mets.
[Mike: How about the condition of the field? Or luck?
By the way, what happened here?: But training absolutely has effects on performance and therby injuries. Ancient Chinese secret, huh?]
Alex (Chicago): Joe, we Cub fans are already worried about Greg Maddux after two outings in which he got shelled. Should we be worried?
(10:57 AM ET ) He got off to a slow start last year as well. That's part of age creeping in. Maddux always finds a way to win and I expect him to do that this year. His start this year is similar to last year when he won his usual 16 games.
[Mike: Well, it's not hard to win 16 games on a team that scores 5.6 runs per game. Maddux was just average last year (actually slightly better than average: he had an ERA 5% better than the park-adjusted league average).
Should the Cubs be concerned? If they think that they are getting Greg Maddux circa 1993, then they should. If they think instead that they are looking to upgrade the tail-end of their rotation from Shawn Estes and Juan Cruz, then no worries, mate.]
Dominick - CT: Joe - Is it too early for Yanks-Sox? The season just started. These teams should have met with more games under their belts. Agree?
(11:00 AM ET ) So, we'll just make the schedule for the Yanks-Red Sox? A lot of teams that are going to challenge each other are playing early .. the A's-Angels play this weekend. You don't change the schedule just for two teams.
[Mike: Actually, they do. They try to match up contending teams in September, especially in the season finale. And they have to gerrymander the schedule to fit intraleague games. But who's to say they didn’t set this up on purpose. The Red Sox-Yankees kick off the season and get some spring Fox audiences, why not?]
Joe, Chicago: Hi Joe...why no questions on the white sox??? Do you think they will contend in the Central?
(11:02 AM ET ) They are a tough team to get a handle on. They have blown some leads and win the game anyway. Consistency is not something I have seen from them recently. They look great at stretches and not at others. Consistency has been the problem and until that is corrected, they will just be a good team that we wonder about.
[Mike: Billy Joe, this is a question on the White Sox.
Lil Joe, was that a yes or a no? I say yes myself. Given that it's the weakest division and the amount of talent the Sox have, why not? I picked the Royals, but I imagine it will be at least a three-team race.]
Julian(Chapel Hill,NC): Joe, if Maddux wins 300 how high would you rate him among the gratest pitchers of all time?
(11:03 AM ET ) Yeah, if you win 300! That puts you right among the greats. He has been so consistent throughout his career, it automatically makes him a great. Consistency is what I look at in pitchers. Many others who have won 300 haven't been nearly as consistent.
[Mike: Yeah, if you win 300!? A) Maddux is 11 wins shy of 300. It's almost inconceivable that barring his being hit by a bus, he won't win 300. B) 300 wins does not mean the same now as it did 20 or 50 years ago. It's a nice feat, but not a be-all-and-end-all. Maddux will probably be ranked right behind Clemens as the best pitcher of the last 20 years. If Martinez stays healthy, he'll probably edge ahead of Maddux. And there will be those Randy Johnson devotees, who'll pipe in, too. Whatever, Maddux will be ranked in the top dozen or so pitchers of all-time, I would think.]
Jason, Boise, ID: What is your biggest suprise that you have seen in the early baseball season?
(10:47 AM ET ) I'm surprised the Marlins appear to be the best team in the NL right away. I'm surprised how well the Tigers have played. I'm a little surprised at the fact that ARod is off to such a slow start in NY. But there are a lot of surprising things in baseball. Those stand out.
[Mike: I'm surprised that everyone is keying on the unexpectedly fast/slow starts for teams like the Phils, Marlins, Tigers, Reds, and M's. I'm surprised that the writers who two years ago passed off propaganda justifying baseball's contraction euthanasia/Pohlad buyout as news while telling us that two-thirds of the teams don't have a chance before the season starts, haven't printed retractions after the parity that we've seen so far this year.]
Cody, Pulaski, VA: All this talk about who the greatest baseball player ever is wrong. Each Player (Bonds, Aaron, Ruth) defined their own era. What is your opinion on this?
(10:41 AM ET ) I agree it's become more difficult in the last 15 years to compare eras. It wasn't as hard from the 40s to 60's but it's become harder and harder. Each era defines itself. Definately more of a difference now than when Mays played. And Mays played in a different era than Ruth. The game has changed so much recently, you just can't judge stats against stats from previous eras anymore.
[Mike: Just lob 'em into Joe. Joe's response #15: "Baseball is worse today, and therefore so are the ballplayers, than in my day." Every era is different. Just adjust for the era and move on.
All this talk about who the greatest baseball player ever is wrong. Each Player (Bonds, Aaron, Ruth) defined their own era. Why are these mutually exclusive? Dan Brouthers defined his era, too. It's a separate argument. When you get to the top handful of players, it comes down to what and how finely tuned your criteria are. But when an analyst doesn't even trust on-base percentage, he's not getting very far.]
Rich (Waldorf, MD): Good morning, Joe. Do you think the assertion that a team with four solid turns in their rotation is a contender?
(10:49 AM ET ) If you have four good starters, you are head and shoulders above 90 percent of the teams. 4 is all you need in today's game.
[Mike: Yeah, keep lobbing 'em in, meat.
I tested this. I found all teams with four starting pitchers who started 20 games and had an ERA no worse than the league average. Then I summed up their win and losses per decade. Here are the results:
Note that a) the number of teams that qualify has been gradually (the 2000s project to 260) and b) the winning percentage has been decreasing. We'll have to wait another 6 years to see if the rise in the 2000s is meaningful. However, there is some indication that having four quality starters has become more of an advantage in the last few years though it's far from the slam dunk that Joe makes it out to be (except in the George Tenet sense).]
Mickey (Washington DC): What is the Yankees biggest question mark right now?
(10:58 AM ET ) I think it's the starting pitching. And defens.
(10:59 AM ET ) Contreras, Brown, Vasques, Mussina .. will Brown hold up? Will the middle relief step up? Will the defense come through?
[Mike: How many biggest question marks is that?
Our chief weapon is surprise...surprise and fear...fear and surprise. Our two weapons are fear and surprise...and ruthless efficiency. Our three weapons are fear, surprise, and ruthless efficiency...and an almost fanatical devotion to the Pope. Our four...no... Amongst our weapons.... Amongst our weaponry...are such diverse elements as fear, surprise.... I'll come in again…
—Monty "Stratton" Python's Spanish Inquisition sketch
How about a sub-par second baseman? I guess it's not a question mark. It’s a certainty. However, it's their greatest weakness.]
Brian (Baltimore, MD): Good Morning Joe, I'm a young fan only 21, but with the rule changes and testing that appear imminent in the future, Do you think Barry Bonds record of 73 HR's in a season is here to stay, I do.
(11:01 AM ET ) I thought McGwire's 70 was here to stay. So I definately think Bonds' record is here to stay. So I could be wrong. I sure thought 70 was the pinnacle.
[Mike: And I thought Ned Williamson's record would stand forever. The record is largely the result of the proper stars aligning. First, you need someone with the talent and then you need an environment that allows that person to excel. Those circumstances come and go. Who's to say that a player won't hit 80? Then again the pendulum will probably swing in the opposite direction first, towards guys hitting 35 and leading the league a la Mike Schmidt.
It's great that Joe doesn't even realize that he's contradicting himself though: I thought McGwire's 70 was here to stay. So I definately think Bonds' record is here to stay.]
JK (Cambridge, MA): Mr. Morgan: I have grown weary of the Steroids debate/acle, and do not need to ask who will win the NL East (the Mets, of course). Rather I would like to revive an old topic of discussion, and ask: Why won't MLB get rid of the DH???!!!
(11:06 AM ET ) Well, the DH was brought in to stimulate interest in the AL because they were losing their older stars and attendance was down. That's no longer the case now. But it's part of the league. The Player's Association doesn't want to see it go because it would take a job away. I'm not a fan but I don't see it leaving anytime soon.
[Mike: Mets…oh that's great! Now, that's comedy.
Actually, it was introduced to stimulate offense and therefore, attendance. It was also not surprising that it happened in the AL given its decrease in interest relative to the NL in the Sixties and early Seventies. One could argue that it a large extent that was due the Yankees and Red Sox eschewing African-American ballplayers. Whatever, the reason, the AL consistently outdrew or at least drew about as many fans as the NL from 1950-55. However, the AL would attract only about two-thirds the fans as the NL by 1965. The DH increased that to about 80% and it slowly returned to around the NL average by the early Eighties.]
It seems that maybe other fans are getting tired of the steroid issue as well. It doesn't come up as much anymore. Everything that can be said has been said. Let's wait unti the FBI figures out the Balco situation. If you read my column, I'm upset they haven't concluded this case. Just say these guys are guilty and they guys aren't!
[Mike: Gabby Johnson is right! I have no idea what Joe was saying here. "These guys are guilty and these guys aren't"? "You stay 'ere and make sure 'e doesn't leave"?
As for steroids, well, now that you've broached the issue, Joe. Here are some cherce moments from your article.]
The 660 milestone probably doesn't mean as much to fans nationwide as it does to fans in San Francisco, who have always identified No. 660 with Mays.
[Mike: Mays was with the Mets when he hit #660. He had just 646 when he left the Giants.]
Certain home-run numbers in baseball stand out to me: 755 and 714, of course, but also 521 (Ted Williams) and 512 (Ernie Banks), among others. I couldn't tell you (without checking) how many home runs Reggie Jackson or Mike Schmidt or Harmon Killebrew hit, but I know they each hit 500-plus.
[Mike: Jackson, 563. Schmidt, 548. Killebrew, 573. But you did successfully name nine of the 19 men to hit 500 home runs in their careers. That's batting almost .500. Way to research that article, Joe!]
If the FBI has proof that any players involved in the BALCO investigation are guilty, it should release the information outright instead of leaking information, as it has been doing.
[Mike: Huh? I haven't been following this issue to closely, but has the FBI been leaking info? Maybe they should just keep their mouths shut altogether and do their jobs. Besides, if they have proof, maybe they should arrest the individuals involved.]
But based on the numbers released by MLB from last year's testing during spring training, we know that 5-7 percent of players tested positive for steroids (this spring's numbers have yet to be released). And I believe the actual percentage is higher.
[Mike: Why? Because Ken Caminiti and Jose Canseco said so? Yes, the tests were announced, but are you so inherently distrustful of the players? The Sox wanted to forego the tests to force the numbers to hit the threshold. Doesn't that deserve a modicum of respect?]
I would like to see a stronger testing policy, one which administers both scheduled and unscheduled tests. The current system employs only scheduled tests, but it's important to have tests where players have no advance notice -- not randomly at MLB's whim, but at a time players don't expect.
[Mike: Wrong. From Doug Pappas' CBA summary, "If more than 5% of players test positive, mandatory random testing starts in 2004 and continues until 2.5% or fewer test positive over two consecutive years."
If a player is guilty of two steroid-related offenses ... ban him from competition (not for life, but for a long time).
[Mike: Already done. Again from Pappas, "The first time a player tests positive, he is placed in a treatment program; subsequent positive tests bring suspensions of 30 days to two years." Does that qualify for a "long time"?]
I'll tell you what could solve the problem, though. If a player is guilty of two steroid-related offenses, he should be treated the same way the Olympic committee treats offenders: ban him from competition (not for life, but for a long time).
[Mike: Pete and Repeat were in a boat…]
If I Can Make It There, I'll Make It...In Lancaster Maybe
Your not-so-humble servant got a mention in the York (PA) Sunday News today. And there was much rejoicing.
For you minor-league history buffs, over many years and in various leagues, the putative age-old rival of York, home of many iterations of the "White Roses", was the team from Lancaster, the Red Roses. There were dozens of teams across the country who had a local identity, a nickname, and a nearby rival (like the Springfield Isotopes and the Shelbyville Shelbyvillians on the Simpsons) and almost all are now gone. There's always the Rochester Red Wings, which have been in operation since 1895, and the San Diego Padres and the then Los Angeles Angels got to keep their long-held identities even when they were granted major-league teams.
Competitive Balancing Act II, Scene III—This Is Pop: Redefining Large- and Small-Market by Population
Other entries in the series:
Competitive Balancing Act I—The King James Version: An Overview of the Literature, Scenes I, II, III, and IV
The previous section contained an anecdotal history of the team movements and expansions to new markets, a nice and easy review. "Y' know, every now and then I think you might like to hear something nice and easy. But there's just one thing: you see, we never ever do nothing nice and easy. We always do it nice and rough. So…we're gonna do the finish rough." (Thank you, Tina)
What would one of my studies without heaping gobs of tables? So here goes. First is a comparison of large and small market teams using various stats:
Here are the minimum and maximum populations for all cities represented (prorated by team for multiple-team locations) as well as the cutoff and the percentage of the max each of the other two represents:
To be continued…
As a dog returneth to his vomit, so a fool returneth to his Phillie, er, folly.
—"Doc" Proverbs, 26:11 (By the way, Doc Prothro "managed" the Phils to a 138-320, .301 record from 1939-41.)
As if the Ides of April weren't bad enough already with the attendant mad dash to file your taxes, Larry Bowa felt compelled to add to your burden, at least if you're a Phillies fan. Bowa is moving Jimmy Rollins back to the top of the order with erstwhile leadoff hitter Marlon Byrd moving down to the seven spot. Resumes for the Phils' managerial job are starting to pour in as we speak (type?).
I predicted that if Bowa returneth to J-Roll, then he would be canneth by May 1. The way that the Phils are playing, I see no reason to change that prediction. Bowa had been too quiet. The last change to the lineup had been to rotate the 3-4-5 spots to move Bobby Abreu back to the number three hole in the 4-1 loss to Cincinnati in the home opener Monday. Abreu did homer, but the Phils did little else against redoubtable Red pitcher Paul Wilson. Rollins had lead off against Darren Oliver on Saturday, but now takes over officially, whatever that means.
"Just trying to get something started."
"Jimmy keeps telling me he wants to hit leadoff. He's got the skills to hit up there."
"It's up to him to apply himself"
"Jimmy's got the potential to be a very good leadoff hitter," Bowa said, hoping Rollins relies on what Bowa considers is very good instinct. "It's just a matter of putting total concentration into every game."
Larry, do mean like he applied himself there last year? In 280 at-bats in the lead-off spot in 2003, Rollins batted .268 with an .314 on-base percentage. Over the last three years, his numbers are a .263 BA and a .321 OBP in the leadoff spot. Rollins is 25, has been a regular player since 2001, and has yet to show that he can be a leadoff hitter especially on an alleged playoff contender. Rollins has been ever worse batting second (.251 and .300).
This year, Rollins is batting just .176 with a .250 OBP in the seventh hole, but owns a .352 OBP there over the three previous seasons (in 62 ABs). His numbers batting sixth are even better:.345 BA, .368 OBP (84 ABs). In fact, from 2001-2004 so far, Rollins has a .275 batting average and a .339 on-base percentage batting in the last four spots in the lineup.
Well, how could Rollins be a better batter lower in the order? He's still the same guy, right? One thing you'll notice is that his slugging percentage and home runs drop even while the other ratios go up, when he is moved down in the lineup. Rollins appears to batting like a number six-seven hitter when he's leading off and batting like a leadoff hitter when he bats leadoff. What's the reason? Is he trying too hard at the top of the order? Are the numbers in the lower lineup spots just anomalies? I don't know, but they are evidence enough not to allow the man to lead off.
Besides Byrd is struggling but his numbers are better than Rollins' this year. Byrd is only batting .200 but has a .310 OBP, better than Rollins' OBP for the entire 2002 season (.306). Rollins is batting .160 with a .241 OBP.
Well, maybe the theory is to take advantage of Rollins' speed at the top of the order and Byrd's power lower in the order. OK, but Byrd's power has yet to show itself at the major-league level. He slugged just .418 last year. And as far Rollins' speed, he got caught 12 times in 32 attempts last year while Byrd was 11-for-12 in steals. Rollins' stolen base percentage has dropped in each of the last three seasons.
I actually feel bad for Bowa. It's kind of like the compassion one feels for a bull right before the matador plunges his sword into his hide. Actually, here it's even self-inflicted. However, Bowa does not have many options. So many players in the lineup are in slumping yet far in 2004. Of course, that doesn't excuse Bowa for making a bad decision, which moving Rollins to leadoff surely is.
It clearly demonstrates, at least to me, the feeling of desperation that must pervade Bowa's thought process. He is under a great deal of pressure being designated by many (including me) as the most likely manager to be fired in 2004. His team is underachieving. People tend to go back to what they know when things are not going well. He has determined in seven games that Byrd is not their leadoff solution, actually six games since Rollins lead off once.
If Byrd is the leadoff hitter, and I thought his .374 OBP in the number one spot in 2003 already decided this, then I would stick with him a bit longer. That is, unless it were clear that he is being completely overmatched or if Rollins were a tearing up the league, neither of which is true. If I were to make a change, I would move Booby Abreu and his .408 OBP to the leadoff spot and follow him with Polanco, Thome, and Burrell. That way at least you move your top three hitters into the top four spots and hopefully get them more at-bats. I know that Abreu does not want to lead off, but does he want to make the playoffs? If so, his team needs him to help them pull out of this nosedive.
Of course, the law of averages is bound to catch up with the Phils' underachieving offense any day now. That might mean that they'll be saddled with Rollins in the leadoff spot and Bowa on the bench for the forseeable future, neither of which bodes well for their playoff chances.
Pat Garret…On the Back
The Angels' Garret Anderson yesterday signed a four-year, $48 M contract extension (with an option for a fifth) that will probably keep him an Anaheimian (Anaheimer? Anaheimite?) for the rest of his career.
Evidently, however, Anderson is already catching some flak for signing below the market value:
"If I'm below market with what I'm being paid, then I'm below market," he said. "If somebody gets mad and says I'm underpaid, well, that's debatable anyway."
Twelve million dollars ($9 M base plus $3 M bonus for 2005) may seem like chicken feed to some, but consider that it would tie him for 13th in the AL in 2004 (with Curt Schilling—according to Doug Pappas' data) and would practically double his current salary. By the way, here are the top 13:
Yeah, there are a couple of bad signings in there (well, Park). But it Anderson's salary seems to be in line with reality.
I have to admit that Anderson is one of those players that still completely baffle me. I never thought much of him until the championship season. Actually, there were a couple of years (1996-97) in which I thought he played barely above replacement level for a corner outfielder (he had a park-adjusted OPS 18% worse than average in 1996 and 7% worse in 1997). He had perhaps the emptiest 35-HR season this side of Rob Deer in 2000 (actually Deer never hit more than 33 and that season was a bit better than GA's 2000). For a player with a .286 average, Anderson could only muster a .307 on-base average (24 walks), 45 point below the park-adjusted average, grounded into 21 double plays, and was caught stealing 6 times in 13 attempts. He has always been a superior defensive left fielder but that in and of itself is enigmatic to me.
He finally recorded an above average adjusted OPS and OBP for a full season in 2002 (OPS+ 30% better than average) at age 30. He continued his renaissance last year (OPS+ 37% better than average).
He will be 32 when this contract starts (and 33 by the end of its first season). I can't imagine that he will be performing at his current level certainly when the contract ends (age 36). Given his age, he may be back to the league average when the contract kicks in.
I just don't think Anderson's last two years will outweigh his previous seven as he ages. I just think that the guy has such holes in his game even now (the walks, baserunning, and GIDP) that he can't keep it up at his current level. Consider the following. I made a list of all batters who recorded at least one thousand at-bats from 1995 through 2003. I totaled their outs (AB – H + SF + SH + GIDP) and plate appearances and then ranked the players by their outs-to-plate appearance ratio. Of the 495 players, Anderson is tied for 322nd with Kevin Young (4012 outs in 5758 PA for a .6968 ratio). Just to give you an idea of who excels given this criterion, here are the top 15:
Those are come pretty good ballplayers. The five guys on either side of Anderson are: Glenallen Hill, Lee Stevens, Tony Womack, Keith Lockhart, Kevin Young, Homer Bush, Placido Polanco, Jeff Reboulet, Darren Lewis, and Geoff Blum. In whose company would you rather be?
Then I thought this evaluation of Anderson might be a bit harsh. After all we know that he creates a lot of outs but he does get plenty of hits, at least 180 a game for the last seven seasons. So I reworked the data to compare the outs-to-plate appearance ratio to batting average. The lower the ratio the better. This time the top players contained a lot more singles hitters (e.g., Gwynn and Ichiro). Here's the top 15:
Garret Anderson moved up to 116th, right behind Bip Roberts but ahead of Todd Walker. I'm still not impressed.
OK, well Anderson hits for power too. What if we do the same replacing batting average with slugging percentage? To quote Ben Vereen, "Tell 'em Ben Vereen sent you... 'Cause I did." Here is the top 15:
Mr. Anderson is 131st behind Shannon Stewart but ahead of Eric Hinske.
I just can't get around the fact that this guy wastes a tremendous number of outs. He may have produced given that constraint over the last couple of years, but I'm still not sold. He may be this millennium's answer to Mike Easler or he may be a 2-3 year flash in the pan. Given his age and his past, I wouldn't be prepared to pay $48 million to find out, whether or not it's under market value.
So you say you have an over-riding passion to emulate U.L. Washington? Well, you're in luck. Jose Cardenal's 1980 ALCS ring and his 1980 Royals jersey are being auctioned off at eBay by Cardenal for the mere price of $13 K.
Of course, don't buy the description that designates it a World Series ring. As a Phils fan, I think I remember pretty well who won the big enchilada that season. Sheez, one championship in a 121 seasons and they want to take it away. The Royals even acquired Phils castoff Cardenal midseason and he was used in right against them in the Series.
(By the way, if you want Cardenal's autograph, apparently he lives in Phoenix. And be prepared to pony up a fin for the honor. He seems to be strapped for cash.)
Tonight, Barry Bonds hit a home run to pass Willie Mays for third on the all-time list and Roger Clemens won his second game of the season to pass Tom Seaver on the all-time win list (at 18th with 312). When I was a kid Mays and Seaver were considered the best player and pitcher of their era. I think it's highly symbolic that the two men who are the best of their generation and arguably better than Mays and Seaver passed those two legends in such important categories on the same night.
Now, what it symbolizes I have know idea. But keep in mind that tonight Dusty Rhodes tied his career high in saves (4). That's highly significant.
Slate-d and Enchanted
Today Slate ran an overview of baseball blogs and mentioned yours truly. I was mentioned in the same paragraph will Bill James and Moneyball. I guess it's true: I am a geek.
Thanks to Slate's Josh Levin for the mention.
[By the way, the headline is a take-off on an old Pavement album title.]
The Uncertain Glory of an April Joe Morgan Chat day!
[Title taken from William "Author" Shakespeare's The Two Gentleman of Verona]
The Good of man is the active exercise of his soul’s faculties in conformity with excellence or virtue.... Moreover this activity must occupy a complete lifetime; for one swallow does not make spring, nor does one fine day; and similarly one day or a brief period of happiness does not make a man supremely blessed and happy.
When the swallows come back to Capistrano, la-di-di-di-da-da-da-da."
Bugs Bunny (Yes, the same guy who helped the Tea Totalers beat the Gas House Gorillas by playing every position)
Ah! I have penetrated to those meadows on the morning of many a first spring day, jumping from hummock to hummock, from willow root to willow root, when the wild river valley and the woods were bathed in so pure and bright a light as would have waked the dead, if they had been slumbering in their graves, as some suppose. There needs no stronger proof of immortality. All things must live in such a light. O Death, where was thy sting? O Grave, where was thy victory, then?
—"Hammerin'" Henry David Thoreau
Well, it's official. Spring is here. And the estimable Joe Morgan Chat Day is upon us. I'm kvelling more than Tony Soprano upon discovering a slew of ducks in his pool.
Of course, it's like the sweet anticipation that's keeping me wai-ai-ai-ai-aiting for the next drop to fall on my forehead in a mind-numbingly scrumptious round of Chinese water torture (can we still say that?). Speaking of water torture, that's basically what spring is for us northeasterners. Consider that the Phils' home opener in the new CB Park appears in danger of being rained out tomorrow night. Then again, with the way that the Phils are playing (1-5), that might not be the worst thing. Their offense has been anemic and this time Pat Burrell isn't to blame. Today Josh Beckett had a perfect game against them going into the sixth inning. The Phils aren't the only ones: Seattle and Toronto, two other teams expected to play well, are also 1-5 while Detriot and Cincinnati, two teams expected to battle for the cellar in two poor divisions, are instead leading them. Mike Mussina finally won his 200th game and got his ERA under 9.00. After a Tampa Bay victory today, Victor Zambrano now leads the majors in wins (3).
Welcome to the nutty world of April baseball when even Tuffy Rhodes can be king for a day. It all makes as much sense as being happy about a Joe Morgan chat day. And why is that, you ask. Well, that's because Joe, while being a tremendous and saberific player, is the living apostasy of his playing career as an analyst. He'll rely on the oldest chestnut possible while reprimanding a leadoff hitter for hitting a home run. Joe's in his element in April baseball because so little of it seems to make sense that even Joe's Gordian knot of logic makes sense.
So now it's Spring Time for Morgan and Joe Morgan Chat Day. Winter for analysis and sense. So Morgan go into your chat…
Hello everybody, welcome to the the 2004 chat season!
[Mike: Thanks Thanks, Joe.]
Craig (Tucson, AZ): My Tigers are 4-0 I can't believe it. Wish I was back in Michigan to enjoy it with everyone. Can they keep this up and maybe at least sneak in as a wild card?
They won't go 162-0 :) BUT, they will be a much better team with the addition of Rodriguez and Vina -- these guys have won before and will certainly help the Tigers improve. How improved are they? We'll just have to wait and see.
[Mike: Yeah, they couldn't help but improve. But you can't put too much stock in their early success. If they improve by 20 games, they'll still be one of the worst teams in the sport.]
Adam (Red Bank): Is a win in april really worth two in september in your opinion? Or is that just a myth?
I think it is a myth. One game in the standings count just as much as another, but you take more notice when you are running out of games in September. They seem harder to come by. But a game won in April means just as much as a win in September.
[Mike: The rain in Spain falls mainly on the plain….
Actually, wins in May are worth two wins in June. Five wins in July are worth 10 in February. A bird in the hand worth is worth two in the bush. A stitch in time saves nine. Since we're in Germany, the guy in the top bunk, he's got to make the guy in the bottom bunk, he's got to make his bed. Now, if we were in Italy…
Keep in mind the poor starts that the last two World Series champs had. But basically, this isn't hockey: a win is a win.]
Robert (W.P.B. FL): Does the Gaints have enough protection behind Barry "D ANIMAL" Bonds?
First of all, there is no such thing as protection for Barry Bonds. It wouldn't matter who is hitting there, they are not going to pitch to Barry. It doesn't matter who's behind him. The only guy that could protect Barry would be Barry.
[Mike: The rain in Spain falls mainly on the plain….
Robert (W.P.B. FL)? Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.? Miami Beach BUAC?
You go, Joe. "Now pitching, Barry Bonds. Catching, Barry Bonds…." Joe, paste that pathetic palooka with a powerful paralyzing perfect pachyderms percussion pitch.]
Tokyo, Japan: Joe, do you think the players union and the retired veterans like yourself should take it upon themselves to keep the opening day at home, rather than Japan? I know there's a lot of money over here but I've lived in Japan for over 10 years and, believe me, Japanese 'baseball fans' couldn't care less about MLB except for the Japanese players. As far as I'm concerned MLB is prostituting itself. Les Taylor
I'm glad to hear an opinion from someone who lives there. I have been one to think that opening day should always be here in the States. It's our game. I think it's great that MLB sends teams over there when the season is over, but to start the season there I think takes away from the fanbase here. The fans that support these teams all day deserve to have opening day here. That's my opinion ... but they don't ask for it.
[Mike: …By Jove, I think he's got it.
I'm all for an All-Star series during the season. I think this rolling start to the season hurts baseball more than it helps (even if it means that two Tampa home game crowds are swapped for capacity houses in Japan).]
Dennis (Newark NJ): Mr. Morgan, Huge fan of your work... On sunday you mentioned that camden yards is a great hitters park (when discussing how javy lopez will benefit). What makes it a great hitters park? Haven't the numbers over the past several years indicated otherwise?
Well, originally, in comparision to other ballparks -- but it's dimensions are very short down both lines and straight away the wall is not very high. You can hit it out in any direction.
[Mike: (Well, maybe he don't got it.) Yeah, you can hit in anywhere…into different players' gloves. Actually, Camden Yards has been a pitcher's park consistently since 1996. It was a pretty good hitter's park its first four seasons but not since. So many other new parks have surpassed it since (which is the best argument against the supposed rampant steroid use in the last decade).]
Lars, Int'l Falls, MN: Do you think the Twins would benefit by trading a couple of their hot prospects for a shot at a top-quality starting pitcher or a power hitter? They seem to be badly in need of both. Michael Restovich isn't getting any younger.
I would say you wait before you trade your top prospects. One of those guys may turn into a superstar. GIve them that opportunity, first. Let them develop, see what you have, and if nobody comes to the forefront, then you make a move.
[Mike: Lars? Is that Lars Olfen? "The naches that I'm feeling right now... Okeinhoreh, I say, and God bless him."
Which prospects? Any specifically or just prospects in general? To quote Fred Willard in Spinal Tap, "We are such fans of your music and all your records. I'm not speaking of yours personally but the whole genre of the Rock 'N' Roll and so many of the exciting things that are happening in music today."
The Twins have (or had) a 20-year-old at catcher, four starters at or under 26, and three other starting position players at or under 26 (if you count Cuddyer). In fact they have only one key player over 30 (Brad Radke, 31).
Restovich is 25 and now is the time for him to be given a chance. The Twins have four guys in the OF (including Cuddyer) who are ahead of him. Trade him for a decent pitching prospect, maybe a guy who can be a decent tail-end starter or potential closer by the end of the year, both of which are needed. (I don't think you'll get a power hitter for him.)]
Paddy (San Diego): Hey Joe, I was glad to hear you on Sunday's broadcast. It's been too long. My question is one I pose to all my baseball friends, so consider yourself included. Who do you think is/was the best "all around athelete"? My opinion is Jackie Robinson. He was an All American in Football, Basketball, Track and Baseball. Could anyone of had the success he had under the same pressure? I don't think so. Bo is close, but Jack gets my vote. Who get's yours?
FIrst of all, we will never know how great a baseball player Jackie Robinson could have been becuase of all the pressure he had to face and all the distractions he had to deal with. You make a great point, if you're using all sports as your yardstick, I would give the nod to Jackie as well. ... But it's easy for me to say that because he was my hero.
[Mike: Look, Jackie Robinson is one of my heroes too, but do we really have to exaggerate everything the man did? He was reportedly a very good college football player (and lettered in four sports) but never made it past the minors. There are scores of athletes who were major-league stars in two sports. Bo Jackson and Deion Sanders come to mind. And then there's always Jim Thorpe and Babe Didrikson. Maybe I'm being a bit hard on him: ESPN listed Robinson third among multi-sport stars.
As far as how good Robinson could have been, I don't think the pressure affected him nearly as much as the fact that racism and the war kept him out of the majors until age 28 and his career was basically over due to injury at 36.]
Peter (Parsippany, NJ): Hi Joe. What is LaRussa thinking batting Renteria 6th in the order. With his speed and on base skills, he needs to be batting at the top of the order. What do you think, is LaRussa too reliant on conventional wisdom?
I think he is trying to get Reteria more opportunity to drive in runs. I think it's more of an experiment right now, but I agree with you, as the season moves along, I think we'll see him higher in the order.
[Mike: Peter from Parsippany? How many pickled peppers did Peter from Parsippany pick?
Giving Renteria the opportunity to drive in runs is all good and well. But when that means moving a guy (Womack) with a .307 OBP last year to the top of the order, it's a bad idea. But that's the freak show that LaRussa and the muse he follows have become.]
Atlanta, GA: What about the no offense Braves? 28 runs in two games is pretty good for no offense. Now they just need to find their pitching.
The Braves have won 12 consecutive division titles so obviously someone over there knows how to win. That's Bobby Cox. I'm not picking them to win their 13th this year, but I certainly wouldn't be surprised.
[Mike: It's April. And many batting orders will look good based solely on their stats against Met pitching. The Cubs (esp. Wood) handled them pretty well (8 runs in three games). Aside from Giles (1.096 OPS), Chipper Jones (1.045), and Franco (.971), no one else is producing.]
Chris from Philly: Good Morning Joe... so, the Phillies couldn't drive in runners last year and so far, they can't do it this year. What gives?
Well, one of the problems is you have a lot of guys who strike out a lot in PHilly. Abreau doesn't, but most of their guys strike out an awful lot. BUT, I think between Jim Tome and other guys, this will be a year when they can score some runs. The Phillies are still the popular pick to win that divisioin.
[Mike: It's April, part duex. Bubba Crosby is out-homering the Phils. However, the Phils were fifth in runs in the NL last year (behind be-hitter-parked Colorado and Houston). Their offense was pretty good in the second half of 2003. Besides the strikeouts don't explain why their offense looked so good in 2002.]
Steve(Mission Viejo): Joe, just want your thoughts on the Angels lineup. YOu hear all the talk about the Yanks and Red Sox, but putting up 25 runs at Safeco is pretty impressive. Who do you think has the best lineup in baseball?
That's a hard question. We have to waint and see who hits where. A lot of teams are still experimenting with their lineup. Much is still up in the air, but there is NO DOUBT that the Angels have a ton of offense. When you add Vlad to an already potent offense, you know you are going to score runs. And you have to talk about Boston and New York as well. Those three teams will be tough to contend with.
[Mike: No team with Darin Erstad at first base can have the best lineup in baseball. I pick Detroit: They have one fewer run than the Angels, put up one more homer and an OPS 52 points higher and that's after losing their best offensive player last year. I'm joking of course, but again it's April and the numbers are still nutty.]
mike (cincy): I know it's early in the season, but the reds are showing some promise. If they stay healthy, do you think they have a chance to contend against the powerhouse of the NL central?
The health issue is with Griffey. If he can stay healthy, that will take a lot of pressure off of Dunn and Kearns. I think it's about time Ken Griffey Jr. had some good luck.
[Mike: Mike, no they don't. Let's keep it real. Griffey shmiffey. They don't have the players. It would be mind-altering if they won the division.
Richard (New York, NY): After Corey Patterson hit an HR in his first at bat on opening day, you said that Dusty Baker was unhappy with the at bat. In retrospect do you really believe that Dusty Baker was unhappy because Corey Patterson hit an HR? Do you think Dusty Baker is happier with Corey Patterson the last two games since he hasn't hit an HR?
What I meant is, once you hit a homerun, you start swinging for them. If you are going to hit at the top of the order, they just want you to get get on base. He hits a homerun and he thinks he can do it every time. They don't want him thinking like that. They want him cutting down his big swing and making things happen by getting on base.
[Mike: Patterson has two HRs and a .360 OBP so far. The only complaint they could have with his performance is his inability to take walks. If that's what Joe means by "cutting down the big swing", then fine. But if he means that Patterson should be slapping hits over the infield instead of hitting home runs, he's nuts. Instead of trying for slap hits, the Cubs would do well by trying to teach him to lay off certain pitches. He still may be able to learn: he is just 24.
But scoring runs is the name of the game. Hitting a home run and scoring a run (at least one) is preferable to merely getting on base.]
Jason : Tenn: Joe, Could the Mets surprise a lot of people here in 04? Their offense is looking pretty good. Starting pitching looks pretty bad though. Thanks
Everyone needs starting pitching except maybe the Cubs. The Mets are in a position like a lot of teams, if you get off to a good start, you can go as high as winning a championship. If they improve quickly, they can certainly surprise a lot of people.
[Mike: Joe Morgan Response #12: "Everybody needs pitching." (reminds me of the old H&R Block commercials during tax season)
Yeah, if there is a young Cy Young available, just about every team will want him (or a young Dr. Young for you Gilligan buffs). But the Mets' staff is abysmal and the talent they have is getting pretty old (Leiter and Glavine).
As far as the Cubs being the only club with a set rotation, the A's, Astros, and Phils might not agree. Besides with Prior out and Cruz gone, young, untried Sergio Mitre is playing a significant role in the Cub rotation. I think that the Cubs might take a young Cy Young over Mitre.
Lastly, the Mets need a lot more than a hot start to "go as high as winning a championship." I think Joe was as high as a championship to promulgate such silliness.]
Wade (Iowa): Mr. Morgan, how would you like to see Bonds tie/break Mays' HR total? Wait until they're back in San Fran or get it over with this weekend?
Well, if you live in San Fran, you'd obviously love to see him hit it there. It's not a case of hitting a homerun of whenever you want to -- although, with Barry, you never know.
[Mike: And if you live in Chicago, you want him to break it there. And if you live in Cincinnati…And "if we were in Italy…"
Wade, I don't think that the Giants even play the Iowa Cubs this year, so you're SOL.
Do you like it with a FOX? Would you watch it on a box?]
Dave; DC: Joe, It's a pleasure to get the opportunity to talk with you. You are much admired and well respected in and around MLB from your playing days to the work you've done for the games since you retired from play... Do you see today's players ever pressing the Player's Union to fix this steroid thing before the agreement runs out? I know the Federal Govmt is trying to get involved but do you see players today jumping on the wagon to do the right thing for future generations of players, in and out of MLB?
Thank you, Dave. My feeling is, since players actually started this witch hunt with Camenetti accusations and what not. I think it is up to the players to prove to the public that they are clean -- or that most of them are clean. I'm seeing more and more players agree with that notion. I think that something will be done -- and should be done -- before the next agreement period. It is unfair to have all the players lumped into that one bag when most of them are not using illegal substances.
[Mike: Huh? The last time I checked Caminiti (and I thought Carminati got mangled) and Canseco were retired. Should the players pursue every accusation by retired players?
How can you juxtapose these two statements?: "I think it is up to the players to prove to the public that they are clean -- or that most of them are clean." AND "It is unfair to have all the players lumped into that one bag when most of them are not using illegal substances."
They are being lumped together because the media of which you are a part, Joe, have lumped them together. Why would they do that? Because they hated the glut of homers in the Nineties and decry and lament the death of the Small Ball that they remember in their youth. And they need a scapegoat. There's no use in blaming the greedy owners for expanding too quickly or for building band boxes to play in. There's no use in blaming themselves for lionizing the home run beyond all reasonable proportions. (ESPN does it online and in their broadcasts every day.)
So let's blame the greedy, lazy, loathsome players who would jeopardize their health, their careers, their team's goals, and their future by using illegal substances. It's cleaner and easier that way. It doesn't hurt that it's a nice, soft issue that the White House is floating in an election year either.
Steroid use is a minor issue in baseball. Yes, something needs to be done to prevent its rampant use, but even the weak rules that baseball has imposed seem to be producing results. Didn't we just get tons of reports about players shrinking after going off the juice in the last year (Gammons recently wrote about Phil Nevin shrinking)?]
Dan (New York): Hey Joe! Do you think Derek Jeter can be a legitimate contender for AL MVP this year? At 29 he's in the prime of his career and with the lineup around him, I see a monster season - .344, 23hr, 105rbi, 143runs, 40sb.
I think Derek Jeter is one of the best players in the game, but the problem is, guys are up putting up such big numbers that the really good all around player gets overlooked. I've argued for a long time that homeruns and RBIs are NOT the only way to pick an MVP. An MVP should be just that -- not the guy that has the most outstanding numbers. It's unfortunate.
[Mike: A great Morgan moment: he is the necromancer who can alloy gold with dross. Let's watch…
He takes a logical statement ("homeruns and RBIs are NOT the only way to pick an MVP") and then takes a misstatement ("Derek Jeter is one of the best players in the game"), and uses them to imply that Jeter should be getting more MVP support. First, Jeter missed about 45 games last year, and wasn't among the best two shortstops in the AL when he did play. And still he finished 21st in MVP voting with one second-place vote (!).
Jeter has always been a good offensive player, but the only time that you could say that he got overlooked was in 1999 when he had a very strong case for the MVP but finished sixth. Does anyone remember how many times A-Rod got screwed before winning last year?]
Tom Leach (NYC): I'm so tired of hearing about how much better A-rod is over jeter at SS. I've watched a lot of games over the past few years and i KNOW jeter is good, even if the stats don't show that. What am i missing?
Well, you're missing that A-Rod won the last two gold gloves. That doesn't mean that Jeter is not good, it just means managers and coaches think A-Rod is a little better. I agree with you, it's hard to fathom why they keep trying to compare the two. The Gold Glove is what separates the two, but then again, Jeter has World Series rings.
[Mike: Tom Leach? I thought you'd be in Pittsburgh. I KNOW that the earth is flat. If I put it in caps, it's got to be true, right?
There are a few things that go into fielding: getting to the ball, catching the ball, positioning oneself to throw the ball, and making a strong and accurate throw. Jeter has zero range. Well, that's unfair. He has below average range for a major-league shortstop. He just doesn't get to balls that other SS's do. It's evident from watching the games as well as the stats. Jeter does do everything else well so it appears to the untrained eye (by which, I mean YES broadcasters) that he is a decent shortstop, but he's not. Jeter is a superior offensive shortstop and if he can maintain that for another five years, he's probably a Hall of Famer, but he's not a good defensive shortstop. Let's all just take a breath and get over it.
More pure gold-dross from Joe: "A-Rod won the last two gold gloves" BUT "That doesn't mean that Jeter is not good". True, but the fact that he isn’t very good does mean it.
As far as, "it's hard to fathom why they keep trying to compare the two", well because they are on the same team and though A-Rod is the superior defensive player, he's playing third. That's why. I think the Yankees are probably wise to play A-Rod at third to keep the status quo in 2004, but I would expect that to change if not next year, at some point.]
Chris, waterloo, iowa: Hey Joe, My question is regarding the Astros . Why is everett batting in the second spot. Will this affect Ensberg's numbers?
I think Everett is hitting in the second spot is because it is used to advance runners. They use Everett to bunt a lot. They are trying to sent the table for Biggio, Kent and Hidalgo.
[Mike: Just a sec…I'm still laughing from "They use Everett to bunt a lot."
Aah, that's better. Good stuff. That's probably the best argument to move Everett from the number 2 spot. That or the fact that Ensberg owns a .364 career OBP while Everett's is .318. Of course, the way that both are playing this year, it makes Jimy Williams look like a genius.]
Steve (Manalapan, NJ): Joe, I've got a gut feeling that Javier Vazquez is in for a huge year. What do you think?
I think Javier is one of the best pitchers in the league and by winning his first game in New York shows that he is definitely capable of being the best pitcher on that staff.
[Mike: Steve from Manalapan? Don't I know you from Zips?
More Morgan gold-dross. He is a great pitcher who was overlooked in Montreal. True. But winning one game at Yankee Stadium is meaningless. It helps to rid his digestive system of butterflies, but Brown has pitched just as well in his two appearances, and Mike Mussina is still the #1 guy after all. That said, any pitcher as good as Vazquez on a team as strong as the Yankees has to be one of the frontrunners for the AL Cy Young.]
"Baseball's Glad Lexicon"
These are the gladdest of possible words:
(And boy, have I missed him.)
Competitive Balancing Act II, Scene III—This Is Pop: Redefining Large- and Small-Market by Population
Other entries in the series:
Competitive Balancing Act I—The King James Version: An Overview of the Literature, Scenes I, II, III, and IV
The previous section contained an anecdotal history of the team movements and expansions to new markets, a nice and easy review. "Y' know, every now and then I think you might like to hear something nice and easy. But there's just one thing: you see, we never ever do nothing nice and easy. We always do it nice and rough. So…we're gonna do the finish rough." (Thank you, Tina)
What would one of my studies without heaping gobs of tables? So here goes.
To be continued…
The Cubs finally settled with the final rooftop business, Skybox on Waveland. The Cubs are getting around 17% from the rooftop businesses and the rooftop businesses get the right to steal Cubs games. Talk about a strong sense of entitlement. These people make the leeches that run the Tribune Co. look like victims.
I remember being a kid and sneaking down from the 700 level of the Vet to the field-level sections late in ballgames, after they have left the gates unattended. Let's say that I got caught and either was sent back to my original seat or was kicked out of the game. How could I get mad at the team for adhering to their admission policies.
The same goes for the old knothole gangs who would watch games through the nooks and crannies of the fence until shooed away by the police. Let's say that they threatened to sue the home team because they had always watched the game through the fence. In fact, that hole was passed down from their grandparents and who is the team to try to do anything about it?
It's just plain stealing. It would not be so bad if they also didn't try to make a profit on their dumb luck by charging other people for what they steal. That's like stealing cable and then charging the guy in the apartment nextdoor for tapping into your feed.
But they did it and now can legally keep a large chunk of the profits. But look on the bright side: we can all go back to hating the Tribune Co. again.
A Wing and Adair
The Philly Daily News looks at whether the fictional Sidd Finch could become a reality. Frankly, I don't buy the argument that the pitchers just don't know that they could throw a 140-MPH pitch. There's got to be something else at work here or someone would have already done it.
Gosh Darn Yankees!
[Please pardon the title: Michael Powell made us change it to something less racy.]
The Yankees are on trial tonight on ESPN (7 PM EST) in what must be the slowest sports night in history. Next up for the hard-hitting ESPN investigators is the debate between chaw and bubble gum chewers.
And Generalisimo Julio Franco Is Still Playing
Today, 45-year-old Julio Franco became the oldest position player to appear in a game since Carlton Fisk in 1993. And to think he was one of the five in the Von "5-for-1" Hayes trade. I wonder what George Vukovich is doing today.
Mike Imrem is a bad writer, to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that. Old Imrem is as hack as a Joe Morgan discussing Moneyball (nods to Mr. Charles Dickens aside).
Imrem is such a poor writer that he has nothing better to do than to take an innocent remark by Sammy Sosa and turn it into a yuck-fest at Sammy's expense. Sosa in his opening day exuberance said, "We have a 99 percent chance at winning every day out there." Now, of course that's a ridiculous statement, but consider all the unchallenged assertions by athletes of giving 110%, 120%, 150%, etc. We all know that you can't give more than 100%, and it sometimes brings a chuckle when the next plateau in "giving" is established (have they reached 200% yet?). However, the media always lets it slide either because they have studied their cliches a la Nuke Laloosh or they don't know the meaning of 100% either.
So with everything going on on opening day, this is what Imrem choices to write about?!? It couldn't be just to poke fun at Sosa and his Dominican accent, could it? Nah, Imrem is too rarified a writer to resort to such calumny. Witness:
Hmmmmm ... 99 percent, huh?
Thank goodness Sosa didn't establish the number at something soapy slippery like 99 and 44/100ths percent. That would have been impossible to round off in English.
Yuck! Yuck! Yuck! I didn't know that Ivory soap was imported. See the interesting tidbits in Imrem's stuff. You need a gloss to soak it all in.
OK, Imrem is a hack. Just writing an article on such tripe is proof enough. He's also a racist or at least a xenophobe.
But I'm here to tell you friends that Imrem is something even worse—can I get a "Hallelujah", brothers? What could be worse you say. And I'll tell you. Imrem's a (pregnant pause for effect) bad statistician. Yes, brothers and sisters, Imrem's a hack writer AND a poor statistician.
Imrem calculates that using Sosa's probabilities, the Cubs will win 160 games in 2004:
However, Sosa is the Samminator, and perhaps also the Sam-math-inator. Maybe his native Dominican Republic operates with a different set of numerals, so who's to say the Cubs won't win 160 games this season?
They already have 1, which leaves only 159 of the next 161, a much easier task by my humble calculations than 160 of 162, especially if they play the Reds a million more times.
Is it news that Sosa is from the Dominican Republic or something? This guy mentions the Sosa's point of original and/or his native tongue every time he mentions his name. His subtext is as subtle as a bad Amos and Andy episode.
Anyway, Imrem is misusing the Law of Large Numbers a.k.a., the Law of Averages to arrive at the expected win total. If the Cubs played "a million more times", then the winning average would approach .990 if we take Sosa's throwaway in earnest.
However, the Cubs only have 162 games this year. Given that and basic probability, 161 wins has a better chance of happening. Here are the probabilities for 150 wins and above:
Try it at home! In Excel add one column with numbers going from 162 to 0 (for wins) and then in the next column insert this formula: =COMBIN(162,A1)*(0.99)^A1*(0.01)^(162-A1) Where A1 is the location of the first number (i.e., 162). If you populate the second column using the formula, the total will be 1.
Yeah, the Cubs aren't going to win 161 let alone 160 games, but if Imrem's going to make fun of Sosa and pawn it off as an article, he should at least know his combinatorics first.
A Lesson in Not Drafting Closers Early for Your Fantasy Team
Danny Kolb and Matt Herges lead the majors with two saves each.
Twin (Staff) Killing
The Indians-Twins game remains tied 6-6 in the 15th. The Twins have used eight (!) pitchers in the game. The Indians' seventh and current pitcher, Jake Westbrook, has been in the game three innings. And, of course, they do play again tomorrow night.
Baseball Tonight Extra Extra
If you miss ESPN's Baseball Tonight, don't worry. You can now read it online. And you don't even have to look at Peter Gammons.
Competitive Balancing Act II, Scene II—This Is Pop: Redefining Large- and Small-Market by Population
Other entries in the series:
Competitive Balancing Act I—The King James Version: An Overview of the Literature, Scenes I, II, III, and IV
When last we left off in the competitive balance study, I had been setting up a study based on population in the respective cities. Setting up the data has been a bear, but I finally have some workable data.
The first thing we would like to know is whether small-market teams are less successful than their large-marketed colleagues. Here is a table of how large- and small-market teams have fared in the past (based on the definitions that we established in the previous entry). First the large-market wins, losses and percentage are listed based on the large-market data; then the small-market data are listed:
The distinction becomes clearer when one looks at the ratios of the winning percentages and number of teams between small and large markets. Here they are per decade (note the ratio is large to small markets):
You'll notice that large markets have historically done better than the small, although that was not the case in the Forties, Sixties, and Seventies. You'll also notice that large markets in the last four years have been overpowering the small at a pace higher than any decade since the first decade of the 1900s. This may be due to a smaller sample size (only four years), especially since the Nineties have a relatively low ratio. The final verdict may have to wait until the decade is over. From the partial data there does appear to be some indication that competitive balance between large and small markets has suffered in the new millennium.
The other ratio, of the number of teams, actually interests me more. Remember that I defined large-market by taking the number of teams in a given year, dividing it in two, and then using that as the cutoff in population rank for all metropolitan areas. Therefore, if there were 16 teams, as there were in the pre-expansion era, the team representing the eighth most populous area would be the final "large-market" team. All teams with larger populations are considered large-market as well; the rest are small markets.
Now, the reason that the ratio of large to small market exceeds 1.00 is that the largest markets tend to have multiple teams. Today, New York, Chicago, Los Angeles-Anaheim, and San Francisco-Oakland all have two teams. When I make the determination if a team is large market, I take into account how many teams share the market, which I call relative population. Therefore, the relative for a market with two teams is half the actual, shared between the two teams. New York has never been anything but a large market even when it was represented by four teams during the Federal League years. The current cutoff city is Phoenix, estimated at 3,555,895 people for 2003 based on projections from the 1990 and 2000 censuses. Some would be surprised that prior to Phoenix, Montreal had been the large-market threshold from 1987-2001 (except for two seasons).
Here are the metro areas for the 2003 teams, their estimated (relative) population, and an indicator for large or small market:
You'll notice that the 1870s were the only decade in which small market teams far outnumbered large ones. As I pointed out earlier, New York and Philadelphia, the two largest cities, were dropped by the only major league, the NL, in 1876. As a matter of fact, there were no large-market teams in the six-team NL in 1878. Chicago was the largest city (462 K) but was still not a large market by our definition until the next year. New York, Philadelphia, and Brooklyn (which was still a separate city) were the three biggest markets that year and they were team-less.
It wasn't until the rival American Association formed that the NL was required to consolidate in the larger cities. 1883, the season after the AA's formation, the ratio of large- to small-market teams more than doubled, there were more large-market teams for the first time, and not coincidentally, Philly and New York returned.
Then as the AA and other rival leagues folded the NL absorbed the teams thereby establishing a balance between large and small markets (the ratio was 1.00 or below for every year between 1891 and 1899). In 1900, the NL decided to pare back by four teams and not surprisingly, they were four of the six small-market teams (the other two were Pittsburgh and Cincinnati).
With the ascension of the American League to major-league status in 1901, forced the majors to embrace more small-market teams. The large-to-small-market ratio did not exceed the pre-AL level for another 37 years.
When Boston and its two teams became a large market in 1937, eleven of sixteen teams were large-market. However, the growth of the California cities forced Boston's two teams as well as Philly's into small-market status. By 1952 there were more small-market teams than large, and baseball was ready to let teams move for the first time in almost fifty years. Actually, much of what was to follow regarding team relocations and expansion can be explained via the vicissitudes of the large- and small-market cities through the years.
The three teams that moved next remained small market teams, but all relieved their over-burdened former Siamese twin, two of which became large-market teams (Phillies and Red Sox). The Braves moved to Milwaukee, which was unfortunately the second smallest market, after then-two-team St. Louis, in the majors. It did, however, make the now unfettered Red Sox a large-market team for the first time. The Browns finally left St. Louis for another small-market city, Baltimore, but again the Cardinals were freed from the yoke of two-team oppression and were no longer the smallest market in baseball. The A's ceded the second largest market in baseball to the Phils and moved into the smallest, Kansas City.
By 1955, the three newly relocated teams represented three of the four smallest markets in baseball. It's not surprising that two of them would move again before very long.
Next, the Dodgers and Giants moved to the west coast. They went from sharing New York, the largest market in baseball even when divided three ways, to two other large markets. The Dodgers gained about 800 K potential fans while the Giants lost about 2.3 M. Baseball had readjusted to the same ratio of large-market to small-market teams that it had had in the AL's first year 1901 (1.29). Baseball seemed content with the status quo until the proposed Continental Baseball League threatened their antitrust exemption.
In the first two quick rounds of expansion, baseball added teams to each of the two largest markets, New York and LA, both of which had just one team at the time. They also added two mid-level small-market teams in Houston and Minneapolis-St. Paul.
Next, the two smallest market teams, Kansas City and Milwaukee, moved but again occupied the two smallest metro areas in baseball, Atlanta and the divided San Francisco-Oakland, and in the process reduced the Giants from a large-market team to a team in the second smallest market.
Meanwhile, two Canadian large-market metro areas, Montreal and Toronto, went unrepresented. In 1969, baseball rectified this by expanding to Montreal along with three other markets that were smaller than in then in the game, Seattle, San Diego, and Kansas City (again). Seattle's franchise then moved to a market of almost the sane size, Milwaukee (again).
Finally, the last relocation occurred in 1972 as the Washington Senators moved to Dallas-Fort Worth, both of which were large markets. However, Washington has the nearby Orioles. Dallas-Fort Worth had just reached large-market status the previous year.
The next round of expansion featured the largest large market that still lacked a team, Toronto, and an average-sized small market, Seattle (again). By the mid-Eighties every large market that had lacked a team had either been granted one or had been merged into other metro areas with teams (Washington and Nassau-Suffolk County, NY). Then Miami grew to a large market and was granted a team in 1993. No other large market in the US or Canada has been without a team since but that may soon change once baseball shifts the Expos to a new location. At the same time, existing metro areas continued to grow. San Francisco-Oakland no longer was a small market when split between two teams. Atlanta, Houston, and Seattle all became large markets as well. By 1993, the ratio of large- to small-markets was the highest it had been in fifty years. In the last round of expansion, Phoenix was added just as it emerged as a large market and a mid-level small market, Tampa-St. Pete, was added.
To be continued…
I'm the Sole Survivor
(Stay Alive, the survival game)
Today the Indians divested themselves of their mercurial young star, Milton Bradley, trading him to the Dodgers for minor-leaguer Franklin Gutierrez and a player to be named.
Both GMs can hold their heads high: Mark Shapiro got a great young prospect (#22 in BA) for a player the Indians had already promised to trade, and Paul DePodesta got the live bat that everyone was expecting since he took over. The deal looks good for both teams on paper.
However, that was just a happy byproduct of not-too-nifty management on both sides of the deal. I have already stated that the Indians botched the Bradley situation by allowing it to get too out of hand too publicly. They had already sent Bradley to the minor-league camp thereby reducing his trade value.
The Dodgers can feel happy that they got Bradley to replace the anemic Dave Roberts in center. But for them to give up a highly touted prospect for a player whose value should have been reduced. Consider also that Bradley looked tremendous last year but it was over only two-thirds of the season and that in parts of three seasons prior to 2003, his stats are hovering around replacement level.
This was a deal of desperation: The Indians were desperate to get something, anything, for the disavowed player and the Dodgers were desperate for a hitter, any hitter. With all the talk of the Mets, it was logical that Bradley go to the Dodgers were his value would be highest (according to Coase).
Both teams could get burned on this deal. It is not inconceivable that Bradley could fail in LA. His 2003 could have been a fluke. His personality could overwhelm his talent. Heck, he is playing in the worst hitter's park in baseball after all. Gutierrez has barely had a cup of coffee in Double-A. If Bradley continues to hit like he did last year and Gutierrez tanks, it will be a very black eye for the Tribe. Oh well, both teams can always go back and say it looked good on paper.
All Matsuied Out?
My friend Murray asked, "So who's the best non-gaijin player left in Japan now that Suzuki and the Matsuis are here?"
I did a little research and here's what I found:
Best non-gaijin player player left in Japan? How about (probably in this order):
Of course, when you are comparing them to the likes of Tuffy Rhodes and Roberto Petagine they look amazing. The site I used for research is great, too, well worth the visit.
Following this topic, my friends Murray and Chris and myself got into a discussion on the excessive hand-wringing by the media concerning the Japanese series opening up the 2004 season. Quoth I:
I agree. I was going to post something on all the bluster about the series. They had the same thing scheduled last year but called it off because of the war (so why not cancel it this year?), but I don't remember any negative press re. it. Besides we're always complaining how baseball doesn't promote itself (at least I am). I wanted to say that there is an ever-going snowball of negativity in the media whenever anything baseball-esque is discussed. But I never did and I wrote about the game and then came off negative (or crying as you put it) about the series (though I tried to make light of it).
The positives are just too abstract for people to say anything positive. The negatives (the layoff between the series and the real season openers, games played at 5 AM, the difficulty in actually seeing the game, etc.) are what everyone sees. I'd prefer that it was an exhibition series, but then again what would compell the players to actually show up then? Mid-season is impractical. The offseason All-Star series seem to go well enough. How about played the MLB All-Star game out there one year? They would never go for it (the lost revenue), but that would truly promote the game. How about a week-long All-Star break with a round-robin tournament between the two American All-Star teams and the two Japanese All-Star teams with the revenue shared? How about we just take their best players and make them pay through the nose to watch them play here on TV?
And that's just what they did. And everyone lived happily ever after. The end.
Anyway, do you like the way that I half-A's-ed the topic by cannibalizing my own emails? Sweet, eh?
Mr. Mouth, Mr. Mouth
Mr. Mouth, Mr. Mouth...Just Can't Keep His Big Mouth Shut
--Ad for the Milton Bradley toy "Mr. Mouth"
So it seems that the Indians, a team that had fallen on hard times and was trying to rebuild through youth (or yute if you're Joe Pesci), have decided to part with their best position player, Milton "Don't F'ing Call Me Omar" Bradley. Not only that, they have decided to make their intentions known so that the return on Bradley will be as low as possible. Who's running this team, Bob Hope from the grave?
The last straw (or Straw for you Darryl fans) was when Bradley failed to run out a fly ball that fell for an apparent double in a spring training game--Bradley only got a single out of it-- and then reportedly got into an argument about it with manager, and I use the term loosely, Eric "Sand" Wedge: "Bradley responded, and while it was not a shouting match, the disrespect he showed for his manager in front of his teammates forced management's hand."
Is that all? OK, neither action is all that great, but how about fining him?
Everyone knows Bradley has an attitude. Given that maybe Wedge should have handled it differently. Bradley probably knew he screwed up and didn't take kindly to its being pointed out in front of the whole team, not an enlightened view, but whadja gonna do? I'm not saying that Wedge shouldn't point out the mistake to Bradley or that he should be treated differently than other players. All that I'm saying is that Wedge is a manager and could have managed the situation better. It's not like he hasn't had ample opportunity to learn the subtle nuance of Bradley's saturnine personality.
As far as not running out a ball, isn't that the kind of thing that they make light of in an exhibition game. "Oh well, I screwed up. Better not do that when it counts. Yuck, yuck." Obviously, that's not a direct quote from Bradley. One of those would incur the wrath of Michael Powell. However, I'm sure an expletive-laced version of those thoughts passed through the transom of Bradley's mind. Sure, it's bad, but again, what ever happened to a fine?
Finally, why the Indians have to announce to the world, "Hey, we're jettisoning this guy. Anyone want damaged goods?", is beyond me. Are they making an example of him? Wouldn't the trade itself do that?
This changes the whole dynamic of the talent-challenged AL Central. Some had predicted a string showing by the Indians and possibly a division title. That seems a bit remote now. But, hey, they did just pick up a 15-game winner in Jeriome Robertson. Too bad he had a 5.10 ERA last year as well as a WHIP over 1.5 and he allowed 180 hits and 23 homers in 160 innings. It's encouraging to see the Indians follow the strategy of their city-mates, the NBA Cavaliers, from the early Eighties. They are tanking before the season starts. The only difference is that the Indians don't get a number one pick for their non-efforts and they actually think they are "do[ing] what's best for the ballclub".
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About the Toaster
Baseball Toaster was unplugged on February 4, 2009.
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