Monthly archives: July 2004
I'm Not Going To Take It Anymore
We owe you one. We owe you…ONE [holding up finger]
—Dr. J., Julius Erving, presenting the 76ers promise to the Philly fans in a TV commercial after Sixers loss to the Trailblazers in the 1976-77 NBA Finals
Yes We Can
—Team rallying cry coined by second baseman Dave Cash in 1974, before leaving for Montreal as a free agent
Corrales a pennant
—1982 Phils slogan referring to manager Pat Corrales who was fired before they went to the Series the next season thereby never "corralling" a single thing for the team
You Gotta Believe
—Slogan Phils copped from Mets for the 1980 World Series by Tug McGraw, who then turned around and told New York that they could "take this championship and shove it."
Now is the Time
—2004 Phillies slogan, a team whose only in-season roster change so far during the season has been to sign 36-year-old journeyman and Devil Ray-rejectee Paul Abbott (currently 1-5 with a 6.23 ERA in 9 starts)
Well, I'll tell you what happened: I just ran out of BS…
All I know is, you've got to get mad…I want you to get mad. I don't want you to protest, I don't want you to riot, I don't want you to write to your congressman…All I know is that first... You've got to get mad.
I want you to go to the window, open it, stick your head out and yell: "I'm as mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore."
—Peter Finch in "Network"
What the f' happened to the Delta I used to know? Where's the spirit? Where's the guts, huh? "Ooh, we're afraid to go with you Bluto, we might get in trouble." Well just kiss my ass from now on! Not me! I'm not gonna take this. Wormer, he's a dead man! Marmalard, dead! Niedermeyer...
—Senator John "Bluto" Blutarsky, "Animal House"
F' Casper Gomez and F' the F'ing Diaz brothers. F'em all. I bury those cock-a-roaches.
Skip: You guys. You lollygag the ball around the infield. You lollygag your way down to first. You lollygag in and out of the dugout. You know what that makes you? Larry!
Skip: Lollygaggers. (shaking head in shame)
Today [actually yesterday] is a day that will live in infamy
—Franklin D. Roosevelt named for the FDR Drive
That's it man. Game over, man! Game over!… In case you haven't been paying attention to current events, we just got our asses kicked, pal!
—Bill Paxton as Hudson in "Aliens"
We should be embarrassed. I’m the manager. I’m not even playing and I’m embarrassed.
—Phils manager Larry Bowa after their 12th straight loss in Miami
I know it was you Fredo. You broke my heart. You broke my heart!
Looks like I've picked the wrong week to quit sniffing glue.
—Lloyd "Quien es mas macho?" Bridges in Airplane
On June 17, 1992 the Philadelphia 76ers traded their best player and seven-year veteran Charles Barkley to the Phoenix Suns for Jeff Hornacek, Tim Perry, and Andrew Lang. Barkley would earn MVP honors as he led the Suns to the finals.
The Sixers saying that Barkley would not fit in then-new coach Doug Moe's offensive scheme, proceeded to draft Clarence Weatherspoon from Southern Mississippi in the first round of the NBA draft. Weatherspoon was nicknamed the "Baby Barkley" for the way his game resembled that of Sir Charles.
Doug Moe lasted less than a season and was fired with a 19-37 record. The team finished no higher than sixth in their division every season until 19976-98. 1995-96 was the sixth straight season in which their losses increased (they were 18-64). The Sixers wouldn't make the playoffs again until 1998-99, led by Allen Iverson.
I officially dropped my allegiance to the team when they duplicitously drafted Weatherspoon after dropping Barkley. I vowed never to follow the team until owner Harold Katz sold the team. In 1996 he did: he sold the Sixers to Comcast and Pat Croce, the team's former physical therapist, was named president. When I dropped my 76er alliance, I decided to follow Sir Charles, my favorite player at the time, to the Suns. I became a Suns fan but was mostly a Barkley fan. However, when he went from Phoenix to Houston, a team I never much cared for, and the Sixers changed ownership, I returned to the fold, reluctantly but triumphantly.
I got to experience a team being rebuilt into the best team in the East, and it was quite enjoyable. The Sixers were again a one-star team (Iverson), as they had been (at most) since their 1982-83 championship team, which was led by two, Dr. J and Moses Malone. That star, Iverson, again was a bad boy type who spoke his mind and had unpopular opinions (like Barkley). Given that the team faded after their sole appearance in the finals and especially after former coach Larry Brown led the Pistons to an NBA championship, it became imperative, according to the majority of fans and members of the media, that Iverson go since he reportedly did not fit into future…Everything old is new again.
Philadelphia is a second-tier sports city. Its mediocrity bespeaks its inferiority complex due to its close proximity to New York. No Philadelphia team has won a championship since the Jim Mora-led Philadelphia Stars of the USFL won the league championship in 1984. They moved to Baltimore in 1985 and won the last USFL championship that year.
The Sixers last won a championship in the 1982-83 season. The Phillies won the only championship in their 121-year history in 1980. The Flyers last won the Stanley Cup in the 1974-75 season and have lost in the finals five times since. The Eagles have not won an NFL championship since the advent of the Super Bowl, their last championship coming in 1960. They have lost the last three National Football Conference Championships, the last step before the Super Bowl, in a row. They made one appearance in a Super Bowl losing 27-10 to Oakland, a team they beaten handily earlier in the season, in Super Bowl XV (1980). As far as Philly dynasties, the Flyers won two Stanley Cups in 1973-74 and 1974-75 and the Eagles won two NFL championships in a row 1948-49. Then there are the A's who won in 1910-11 and 1929-30, but in between they were historically bad and they have since left for greener pastures. That's it. No other Philadelphia franchise has ever won two championships in a row. How pathetic is that?
Baseball teams in Boston and Chicago claim to be cursed. The New England Patriots just won their second Super Bowl in three years. The Celtics were a basketball dynasty for decades. Chicago saw Michael Jordan lead their Bulls to six NBA championships. Their Bears are one of the more storied teams in the NFL. Chicago and Boston fans are a bunch of mewling pansies.
Do you want to know what a curse is? I'll tell you. It's living in a city whose sports champions in recent memory can be counted on one hand. That's what. In the last 25 years, Philadelphia has one World Series champion, one NBA champion, and one USFL champion. That's it. In the last twenty, they have none. The Phillies best known team, the Whiz Kids, lost the World Series in four straight. That team would not finish above fourth place again until 1964, the year they were 6-1/2 games ahead with twelve games to play but lost ten games in a row to fall out of first into a tie for second, one game back, one of the greatest collapses in baseball history. "Ooh, a fan interfered with a ball and then we lost the seventh game of the league championship series." "Oh, my star pitcher stayed in the ballgame too long and we lost the seventh game of the ALCS". "Oh, boo hoo." They couldn't take one season steeped in the Steve Jeltz-laden abyss that is the Philly sports world.
So what am I yammering on about? Yesterday, the Phils lost their 14th straight road game in a row against their NL East rivals and current World Series champs, the Marlins. They now stand two games over .500, 3-1/2 games behind division-leading Atlanta.
The way that they lost the last game speaks volumes about this team: 10-1 with their sole mid-season acquisition Paul Abbott giving up eight runs in three innings and taking the loss. The only run in the game came when on hits by two utility players (Tomas Perez and Todd Pratt). They were outscored 32-9 in the four-game series. Abbott's 10-1 game four loss and flailing erstwhile number one starter, Millwood's 11-3 loss in game one book-ended the series nicely. This series opened a 13-game road trip for the Phils. They don’t play another divisional rival until the Braves come to town on August 31.
After the series, the media were circling the clubhouse awaiting manager Larry Bowa's dismissal. Bowa has been on the hot seat all season. Rumors of the Phils acquiring center fielder Steve Finley and pitcher Kris Benson have cooled as the trade "deadline" approaches this weekend. [Benson has since been traded to the Mets.]
Repeat After Me…
The Phils have arguably the worst manager in baseball, they haven't had a credible center fielder since Bowa gaslighted Marlon Byrd out of Philadelphia, and their starting rotation, which was a collection of number two and three starters with potential, has become the sum of its liabilities and is devolving into chaos. And yet none of those is the Phils' biggest problem.
The Phils entered the season as the popular favorites to win the division. Phils management, which had historically, to quote Johnny Sack on The Sopranos, treated nickels like manhole covers, had finally opened the coffers as they prepared to move into the new stadium. They acquired Jim Thome, David Bell, Kevin Millwood, Billy Wagner, and Eric Milton and re-signed Bobby Abreu and Pat Burrell to big contracts.
That was great.
Then they opened the stadium, the fans came, and management went back in their holes. They've made their money and obviously don't care whether the Phils remain competitive or not, as long as it doesn't affect their bottom line.
So what can we do as average fans?
We can affect their bottom line.
Boycott the team. Don't buy tickets to future games at the new ballpark. If you already have tickets, don’t use them, don't show up at the park. Don't eat at their concession stands or park in their parking lots. I love Harry Kalas, but I'm saying that we should not even watch them on TV.
Just ignore them.
Until they comply with our demands. What demands?
First, enough is enough: Bowa should go. That's basically a given.
However, that's no the be-all end-all. I thought Joe Kerrigan would be a great addition when he was hired as pitching coach, but his tenure has been as total and complete failure and the situation in each of the last two seasons has rapidly deteriorated. His welcome is well worn out. Bye bye.
Management has to get the players they need. They need a starting pitcher and a center fielder minimum. They have some completely superfluous players that are still valuable. Ryan Howard is languishing in the minors. It is highly unlikely that he will even be a useful player to this team. Trade him. They have two competent second basemen, Placido Polanco and Chase Utley. Utley is younger and has more power and potential. I like Polanco, but he's completely unnecessary. Get rid of him.
Until and unless they make all of these moves, this team won't compete. That's fine, but we don't have go along for the ride.
This team has too much talent not to win this division. The Braves on paper should not win this division. But they don't play the games on paper. The Braves still have the infrastructure that helped them win eleven division crowns. If you gave John Schuerholz, Bobby Cox, and Leo Mazzone this team, they would be ten games up right now.
Gross American Product
By Gregor Gross
Since Mike showed us which team stats really count when it comes to winning, I thought it was about time to see who really belongs at the top of the Power Rankings. We learned, I thought, how different statistics correlate to winning percentages, so why not rank the teams after the stats they have accumulated in 2004 so far and see who'll come out on top?
So I took four popular stats for pitching and batting and ranked all teams. Then I multiplied their ranking in that statistic with its correlation, did that for all stats and added those figures together. In the end, the lowest figure should show the best team.
I took these stats and their correlations for pitching and batting:
Since I am a young German, and the new generation over here is famous for its laziness, I said let's do this only for the American League today. For the National League, I said, tomorrow would be fine. But before we go for the pitching rankings, I just want to say to you that this will make no more sense than anything Buster Olney over there at ESPN has to say:
So what do we learn from this? We see why the Twins outperform their Exp. W%. They pitch so well. We see that the Red Sox can hit while the Royals can't. We also see that when BP told us that Johan Santana in 2004 might win a Cy Young because he faces the Tigers and Indians so often, they quite underestimated how tough it is to pitch against those offenses. We also see, by the way, how good it is to be a Tribe fan after all. But I'm straying a bit here.
So on to the overall rankings, which basically is pitching and batting together:
Isn't this a terrifying scientific work? Before you hit the streets telling everyone the Indians are the eighth best team in the American League because some German fellow told you so on a Phillies fan's website that you read daily, please note, however, that all these rankings are for today only. It could look a bit different tomorrow. As with Buster Olneys b(aseballb)urps, it comes with a big grain of salt. Who tells me what it is gets lots of smooches!
Joe Morgan Chat Da(y) Ali G Show, Part II
Ali G: Booyakasha! Checkit, I iz back with my main geeza, Joe Morgan, to take more questions from yous geezas.
Some of yous asked, right, for a way to translate like wot I iz bangin' on about. I guess yous Americans don't recognize like da main bitch's English. Anyway, in da house's a glossary, like dem had in dat book "A Chocolate Orange", as well as a translata or two from english to ali g bang. Just fa wicked, in da house's a website translata into me lingo. Aiii.
Da Wicked (Bad) (continued like)
Darren Chicago: What seems to be the deal with Sammy Sosa? Could he still be trying to find his rhythm after the time on the DL? Or is it possible that his skills and career are beginning to decline? The Sosa I see now is the Sosa of 96-97 who struck out ALOT... Is this a phase?
I've noticed him striking out too. But I have to give him the benefit of the doubt because he was on the DL so long. I talked to him a few weeks ago and he said then he thought it would take awhile. But he still makes that team better. Without him they would struggle even more.
Ali G: Darren Chicago? Iz u da geeza dey named da city after?
Anyway, the geeza isn't strikin' out more. 'E's strikin out less dan last year and walkin more. In da house's a table of 'is strikeouts, walks (excludin' intentional), and westside runs pa plate appearance fa each season and fa 'is carea. Checkit:
'Is 2004 season isn't far accordin' to dose ratios from is 2000 season. 'Is average is just fifty points lowa' and 'e's missed more time. But da geeza is 35 now, wot do yous expect, every playa to be Barry Bonds?
Dieter - sf: Joe - what's your take on the Zambrano situation earlier this week? He complains that Edmonds got cocky, yet, Zambrano is constantly jumping around on the mound after K's, pointing fingers, etc. Should Dusty do somehting here?
I agree with you. Zambrano is more demonstrative than Edmonds from what I've seen. Dusty just says he's a hyper guy. But if he's going to jump around, the hitter can do what he wants to do. I don't like any of it. Nobody should be putting on a show to upstage the other guy. But it's not just Zambrano doing it. It will get even uglier as the pennant races heat up.
Ali G: It is wicked to comment on somethin whun it is obviously yous know nothin about da events concerned. Edmonds was 'it by a pitch in da first innin probably unintentionally coz it was first and third wiv two outs at da time. Thun he was plunked by da pitch right afta Scot Rolen's go-ahead 'oma in da eighf. It was about as overtly intentional as yous can get.
As far as wot Edmond did to provoke da plunkin, afta he was 'it da first time, he trotted down to first wiv no incident, no stares, no apparent comments. Afta 'is 'oma in da fourf, he simply ran da bases: he didn't celebrate or gloat at all. Checkit.
Scott (New Lenox, IL): Joe: Have you and Ryne Sandberg finally put aside your differences?
I've never had any differences with Ryne. People have said I'm trying to keep him out of the HOF but that's absurd. I think Bill Mazeroski is the best defensive 2B I ever saw. People seem to have a problem with that but it's how I feel. I've never had a difference with anybody. If you look in my history, I wrote a column that said I was surprised Sandberg didn't get more votes. I don't have a problem with anybody, but I guess they have a problem with me!
Ali G: 'Ey, innit jus' like askin a geeza if he still beats 'is wife. Innit wicked.
I think Bill Mazeroski is the best defensive 2B I ever saw.—Natta about your non-sequitor.
Obviously, Sandberg was known more fa is offense than is defense. innit da discussion, and obviously, Maz's and Sandberg's offense wuzn't comparable.
Me would dig da little "Mingin 'Arry" turn at da end. Is yous a bit paranoid or wot, Joe?
Katie (DC): Page2 has a you on their poll of best batting stances, who do you think has teh best stance?
I can't pick just one person. My idea of a good stance is a guy that is square to the pitcher and holds his hands high and keeps them high during his stride.
Ali G: Lightun up, Francis. Live a little, pick a stance. It will not kill yous to 'ave an opinion..
Jason (Madison): Craig counsell...no contest
His was very pronounced. All the hitters we have talked about today, their hands always stay high, they don't drop their hands. Vlad, Ramirez, Bonds, they all keep their hands right where they start.
Ali G: "Wuz"? Dat geeza iz still playin'.
One problem wiv Counsell's bein da wickedest stance, all da udders bein discussed actually could 'it.
Hank (NYC): Mr. Morgan -- Always a pleasure to hear you announce. Especially when you sit down with Barry as you did during the All-Star game. Thanks. Now -- for probably the umpteenth time today -- with Prior going down last night, do you think the Cubs should forgo the middle man (Boston and Nomar) and deal directly with the D-Backs in order to get Randy as a replacement and send their young pitching prospects to Arizona?
The Cubs need help. I can't decide what they need to add to complete their rotation, but let's just say they need help. Who fits best right there for them, I don't know. I have an opinion but I can't tell the Cubs what to do. I can't tell them what they need. All I can say here is the Cubs need help.
Ali G: Dis geeza Mike is tellin me to say ATFQ though me don't 'ave a clue wot it means.
Deebo (Fairview, NJ): Hey Joe! My question involves the current marketing situation in baseball. I was in Montreal for the first time two weeks ago and one of my priorities was to see the Expos before they are possibly relocated. I knew that they were playing the Blue Jays, and the schedule said they were playing in Montreal. To my major disappointment it turned out the teams were playing in Puerto Rico! I understand that both Montreal and Toronto are lousy, and fan interest is at an all-time low, but certianly they could have produced at least 2-3 times the gate of a normal Expos game, considering the rivalry. My question is, whose bright idea was it from MLB was it to have the two Canadian teams playing somewhere other than Canada??? This to me was a bad job by Major League Baseball.
Yes, I would agree Deebo. I've questioned MLB's marketing efforts in a lot of cases. Over the years, I don't think they have done nearly as good a job as football or basketball. That's why those sports are now competing for the spot as our "national pastime". We -- meaning Major League Baseball -- needs to step up and do a better job marketing our product and the change needs to come quickly.
Ali G: "Deebo"? Were not yous da man dat sang dat song about whippits?
Maybe yous should ave looked at da expos sex life [trans. "schedule"] before yous went to check them. Of course, it is silly to 'ave da two canadian crews play in Puerto Rico, but dat is a mina issue compared to da opun sore dat da expos story 'as bin fa years.
Chicago Guy: Hi Joe! Have you seen the White Sox ad campaign Us vs. Them? What do you think about it? Some are saying it is a low blow by the South Side marketing team.
I did see it, I don't remember having that same opinion -- but then again I don't live in Chicago so I didn't think it was a low blow. I don't remember having any reaction to it good or bad.
Ali G: Gee, dat is a surprise givun da strong opinions yous 'ave on such diverse issues.
My one question is who's "dem." If it's da twins and da chill of da AL Central, wicked. If it's da cubs, thun da sox ave missed da point.
Donnie (St Louis, MO: Hey Joe, what do you think about our red hot Cardinals? Are they going to try to enter the Randy Johnson sweepstakes or be happy with what they have? Are there any other moves you think they'll make?
Well, I think the Cardinals have enough to win the National League and then it's just a matter of how well you play in the playoffs. I don't see how they will get in the Randy JOhnson runnings. They are supposed to be cutting salary not adding. They definitely have enough to win without him. If you get Randy Johnson and you are already a good team. YOu are pretty much poised to win a championship if you are sitting in first place. But I don't think they need him to do it.
Ali G: So da Yankees who 'ave Kevin Brown, Mike Mussina, and Javia Vazquez need Johnson, but da Cardinals don't? Da Cardinals is led by Jason Marquis, Cris Carpenta, and Jeff Suppan. dey feel confident wiv dat rotation in da playoffs?
Eric, Chicago: Joe, from a former player....why do you think baseball is the absolute greatest sport there is?
Well, I think that every person -- boy, girl -- has played some form of baseball in their life. Everybody can understand the runs and the hits -- the basic scheme of the game. YOu have to have a different kind of knowledge for something like football or basketball -- for example zone defenses and first downs and field goals and the like. Plus, there is a pleasant pace in baseball -- in football and basketball there is a clock that disrupts and dictates how you play and what you do. We don't have that in baseball.
Ali G: Innit wot makes da game wicked? Dat everyone can understand it? Ask da average fan to explain da balk rule. Yous don't evun understand it and yous played it fa twenty years, Joe.
Katie (Cheyenne, Wyoming): Hi Joe! What ballpark gimmick do you think is the worst: (a) the pool in Arizona, (b) the hill in the outfield in Houston, (c) Johnny Damon's hair, or (d) none of the above.
I'd probably say the hill in Houston. Guys can really get injured out there. Nobody can get injured in the pool ... and you can't get hurt looking and Johnny's hair.
Ali G: Yous might laugh, but innit not pacifically true. Say, yous is checkin' out dat geezer's 'air and sayin', "checkit, dat geezer's 'air is long", and thun a ball 'its yous in da 'ead? Wot thun?
David (Chicago): Is the hill in Houston really that much worse than the flagpole on the warning track at old Tiger Stadium?
None of them should have been there.
Ali G: Actually, it's "neitha." "None" is gastronomically incorrect.
John:Omaha: What do you think is the best ballpark in the league?
From a broadcast standpoint, I still like Los Angeles. Houston -- now i'm just speaking of the booths. I don't really have a favorite b/c I don't play on the surfaces. I will say that all the new ballparks are beautiful -- San Francisco, Cincinatti, Seattle. I haven't seen Pittsburgh or Philadelphia, but I am very impressed with how they are building parks these days.
Ali G: Who cares about da booths? Way to stay in touch wiv like da average fan, Joe. Dis geeza mike is remindin me to sayATFQ again.
Jason (New Orleans via Maryland): A best stadium question and no nod to Camden Yards? I know you don't get there that often, but it has to top Safeco on name alone.
Well, that's why baseball is such a great sport. We've all got our opinions. I like Baltimore, I was just giving some examples -- I didn't name 30 stadiums.
Ali G: Nah, but almos'.
Peter (boston): should they tear down fenway?
They need a new ball park in boston. The fans deserve a new park, you spend so much money to go see the game and you have to go to an antiquated venue. When you are paying that kind of money, you deserve the same amenities. I feel the same way about Wrigley. These places are beautiful and historic but they are not fan friendly anymore. I'm not saying tear them down, I love the tradition, but they are not nearly as nice as SafeCo or the Houston park or these other new stadiums for the fans.
Ali G: That's one way to stop the Red Sox fans from whining.
Maybe it's a fluke that Fenway and Wrigley survived when so many other old stadiums were replaced. But now they are the only two left. Couldn't that be part of those two franchise's appeal and mightn't help to draw fans? Look at how well the Canadiens did after they got rid of the forum.
Innit one way to stop da red sox fans from whining all da time?
Maybe it's a fluke dat Fenway and Wrigley survived whun so many udda batty [old] stadiums went da way of da Dido. But now dey is da only two left. Couldn't dat be part of those two franchise's appeal and mightn't it 'elp to attract fans? Check at 'ow well da Canadiens did afta dey got rid of da Forum.
Da Mingin (Ugly)
Scott (Sacramento, CA): Joe, I thought that Griffey had finally shaken those injuries bugs away and was having a great season. Why is he so unlucky these days? Will we ever see Junior of old? Should he move back to the AL and become a DH?
He is too good and has too much to offer to be just a DH. Some people are lucky. I'm lucky I got to play in the big leagues. Luck and destiny is all part of a persons life. He has had to deal with a lot of adversity. I subscribe to the theory that those things just make a person stroger. He has just had a lot of bad luck. In the beginning, he played so hard and ran into so many walls that it eventually caught up with him. Cesar Cedeno told me once the guys who get hurt are the guys who get hurt. Makes sense. Griffey only knows one way to play the game.
Ali G: [T]he guys who get hurt are the guys who get hurt. Makes sense.—Yo, for real. Dis geeza be makin' sense to me. Coz like dems wot don't get hurt, don't gets hurt. Dat's why we can ignore like pitch counts fa pitchers and da dig. Respek!
Will we ever see Junior of old? No, 'im ain't been the Junior of batty since about 1997. 'Im iz a well wicked playa, but an .862 OPS in a 'itter's park? 'E did 'aven't 'ad a maximum season wiv an OPS dat low since 1990, and thun it was whole diff'rent ballgame.
Concerned Baseball Fan: Joe: Has the baseball world forgotten about the ugly steriod cloud hanging over its head. Especially with players like Giambi losing 20 pounds and all of his power. What happens if and when these allegations are proven, or is baseball going to sweep this under the rug like it tries to do with everything controversial?
I don't think they can sweep it under the rug this time. We underestimate the baseball fan, including people like you who are still looking at this. What I'm waiting for is proof. Once we can identify guys who are proven to be steroid users, then we can come down on those guys harshly. Until we know who is guilty, we can't just assume because a player has lost 20 lbs. that he is a steroid user. It won't be swept under the rug if we prove certain guys are using.
Ali G: Yo, dis geeza Giambi iz a wicked 'xample of steroid use. Neva mind dat da man 'as a intestinal parasite dat might be life-threatenin'. It iz just to cova da weight loss from stoppin' dem steroids.
I guess barry bonds no longa be da posta child fa steroid use since he is still as wicked as eva at age 40.
Cole (Dallas): Everyone is talking about how the midseason MVP is Vlad or Pudge but shouldn't Michael Young, Hank Blalock, or Fransisco Cordero be considered too?
Going back to the steroid thing for a second ... the reason MLB will not be able to sweep this under the rug is because of fans like you guys and gals. You won't stand for it and you shouldn't.
I think Michael Young should be considered. Blalock is also having a great year. But Pudge is first and Vlad is second. I don't usually vote at the halfway point but if I did vote, it would be Pudge.
Ali G: You won't stand for it and you shouldn't….Yo, dem fans iz wot keep bringin' up da issue even when dey ain't being asked about it.
As fa da MVP, why is pudge bein' mentioned whun da tigers is not contenders? I thought dat was a maja criterion like fa Joe. And if Rodriguez be mentioned, why not Guillun? And why not Manny Ramirez or Sheffield?
Besides, maybe Young as a decent shot at MVP, but Blalock and for real Cordero ain't got all dat much to recommend dem. If a crew as three MVP candidates, maybe innit a wicked indication dat dey don't evun 'ave one.
Brent (Simsbury, CT): Mr. Morgan, Going back to your comments above on the steroids issue -- didn't you and everyone else notice how smaller the waistlines were of the participants in the HR derby? It was clearly evident for anyone who watches baseball year in & year out.
I'm a guy, I'm not looking at waistlines ; )
Yes, I did notice guys seemed smaller overall, bulk-wise. I would like for all of you to read my column this week, at the end I talk about steroids for a bit and how I feel. I've noticed a lot of things but I try not to make up my mind on things until I have proof on things. It's a devastating situation. If you accuse a guy for something he didn't do, he may never get over it.
Ali G: Respek. Check at David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez and tell me dat their waistlines is not smalla.
Let us check out dat article:
I turned 40 on Sept. 19, 1983 when I was with Philadelphia Phillies. On that team, I was reunited with Pete Rose and Tony Perez. We had been teammates on Cincinnati's Big Red Machine team that won back-to-back World Series in 1975 and '76.
Dis is da first public acknowledgement by Joe dat 'e played fa da Phils. And 'e 'as to like qualify it: it was OK coz he played wiv two teammates from da Massiv Red Machine.
If Bonds really wants to, I believe he can break Hank Aaron's all-time record of 755 home runs. Bonds has 682 home runs now. If he hits 18 more homers this season, he'd have an even 700. The math is simple from there. If he plays three more seasons and averages just 20 home runs per season, Bonds would finish with 760.
So da gezza gonna 'it 18 westside runs in less dun 'alf a season, but all 'e's gonna 'it next year is 20. 'E projects to just 14 more on da year by da way. Maybe if 'e 'its 39-40 dis season, 'e will 'it about 30 next season and 25 da year afta to tie da record. Innit more of a natural decline dat way. Maybe he as a betta shot to it more westside runs if 'e starts to decline soon since 'e will get fewa walks and more at-bats.
And fanks, Joe, fa 'elpin us wiv da maf. I failed dat in scool and did 'ave no idea dat three times twenty be sixty.
There's been talk about Bonds being the best defensive left fielder ever. That's tough to gauge for me, because I didn't see players from previous eras. But I'd say he's among the top three left fielders of all time.
So 'e does not know about dem old gezzars, but 'e would say Bonds is in da top five. Yous know there is dat fin' called baseball analysis dat can be used to gauge dese fings propaly. Otherwise, comparin' playas across eras iz like a intellectually stiff end. Maybe as a baseball analyst, yous might dig to try it sometime, Joe.
"When someone's reputation and livelihood are at stake, it seems that they're at least entitled to some of the same protections we give an accused criminal."
I agree with that 100 percent. Those are great quotes and great thoughts for all of us to live by -- because, whether the topic is baseball or the Olympics, we're Americans first and steroid hunters second.
'Ow patriotic. Fanks fa acknowledgin' the like Bill of Riots.
Einstein: If everyone was tested for steroids before and during the season, and those who tested positive were banned for life wouldn't steroids be a non issue (practically) with the next generation ?
That would be a good cure, in theory. We execute murders but people still kill people. I think they need a steroid policy that checks before and during the season.
Ali G: So we shouldn't take away a players livelihood wiv unfounded accusations, but executin them is OK?
To quote Carl Speckla, "Correct me if me is wrong, but if I kill all da golfers they'll lock me up and throw away da key." But we can continue to spread rumors of steroid use throughout da season, "We don't evun need a reason."
By da way, I think da geeza askin da question is puttin yous on, Joe. 'Is name might be a tipoff.
Nick (Quakertown, PA): Why does Vlad get all the triple crown hype, and there's none for manny when manny is leading him in all three categories?
I agree, Manny probably has a better chance to do it. But I don't see we will see anyone do it again. Just because of the HR hitters and so many runs being scored. It will just be hard for a guy to win in both catergories. Bonds may have had a chance if they pitched to him but he just won't be able to drive in enough runs.
Ali G: But Manny wuz not an MVP candidate?
By da way, "both catergories", dere's three of dem categories in da Triple Clown.
Nathan (san antonio, tx): When was the last time you spoke to Pete Rose. Do you think that charade he pulled with the book has cost him his last chance to be in the Hall?
I talked to Pete two weeks ago. Just before the All-Star Game. I think the book hurt him a lot, but I woudln't say it cost him his chance. It's up to him to gain back that momentum he used to have. The timing was bad on the book and I think he realizes that now.
Ali G: Timin'? 'E shot 'imself in da foots fa a few dollars. 'E will neva get in now.
Ben (TN): Why won't the Reds spend any money to go out and get players, it seems as if the front office is no longer interested in winning?
Well, it's been that way for a few years. A lot of people criticized Schott but she did play the players. That has all changed. I can't answer the question because I see what you see. They just aren't spending money and I'm not sure why. It's always easier for us to spend other peoples money isn't it?
Ali G: Huh? [P]lay da playas Does u mean "Play da payas" or "Pay da payas" or "Pay da playas"?
Nate (KS): Hey Joe! The other day I was watching ESPN Classic (best invention ever!) and there was a Yankees/Tigers game on, I think. The year was 1976, and during the broadcast they showed the all-star balloting from that year. It was pretty much yourself and your Reds teammates vs the American League. Were people crying foul in 76 because of the Reds dominance and all-star presence like folks seem to do in present day with the Yankees pretty much representing the AL in the all-star game? Or does everyone outside of NY just hate the yankees?
I can't remember how many players we had on the team -- Me, Bench, Rose, Perez and Conception, I suppose. There wasnt' any cry of foul, b/c I mean, we were the best players at our postions. One of the years I remember I got more votes than anybody, I'm not sure what year that was. But we all legitimately deserved to be on there. No foul.
Ali G: Youse forgot Griffey and Fosta. As far as bein da wickedest, Perez batted .260 wiv a .779 OPS. Bench did 'ave a wicked season fa 'im: .234 and .741. Rose ad a lowa OPS dan Schmidt and Madlock.
Jeff (NYC): Joe, Randy Johnson is basically dictating that he be traded to the Yankees, in what would basically amount to a salary dump, since the Yanks have no prospects the D-Backs want. Is there any chance that Bud Selig, realizing that this is an absolute travesty, would veto the trade? Please, please, please say yes!!!
He definitely can veto the trade, I don't know if he has enough grounds in his mind to do so, but he definitely can. If he feels the trade is one-sided or unfair. He can do it ... I don't know if he would.
Ali G: Da trade ain't evun appened and yet we is theorizin about it bein vetoed. Dere's nothin forcin da diamondbucks to trade Johnson.
Tim (Springfield, MA): Joe, You've said that you don't care for home-field advantage to be determined by the results of an exhibition, and that it should go back to alternating between the leagues. Isn't that just as arbitrary? You said that the farther we stray from tradition, the more the game suffers, but wouldn't you agree that the game is much better than it was 70 years ago?
I don't think tradition was part of the game 70 years ago. The point is, if it's arbitrary, it is fair to everyone. I don't think this way is fair to the losing league. I'm entitled to my opinion as you are yours. I've played the game for a long time. I know how I would feel and how other players would feel if I lost home field advantage in the World Series b/c some pitcher served up a home run in the 9th inning of the All-Star game. Some teams have not stake in the World Series race and they don't care who wins the All-Star game. How can they. The results don't effect them. It's not a fair way to determine the advantage in my opinion.
Ali G: [I]f it's arbitrary, it is fair to everyone.—Dig just da court system.
By da way, alternatin' 'omefield is not arbitrary. In da house's da definition of arbitrary, "Based on or determined by main man preference or convenience ratha than by necessity or da intrinsic nature of somethin'."
I don't think tradition was part of the game 70 years ago.—Youse navy, Joe. Dem batty geezas bem bangin' on about da yufes despoilin' da sport since before da first maja league. Wot, youse thought u wuz da first?
Nathan; Dallas: Joe-- Heard a rumor that you were on a comeback tour to save the Astros? Any truth, or is ESPN taking good care of you!
I have the second best job in the world ... the only job better than mine is playing, and since I can't do that anymore, I'm staying right here.
Ali G: [T]he only job better than mine is playing—dat's what da geeza's iz askin' youse about. Wot iz u bangin' on about?
John (Durham, NC): Why wouldn't you just give home field advantage to the team with the best record instead of alternating leagues?
Nope, you can't do that b/c each league is playing a different schedule. Sometimes the teams in the NL are weaker than the teams in the AL and vice-versa. You can't compare records on different schedules and different opponents. For instance, take last year's Detroit team as an example. If they are in your league, that makes a difference in your record.
Ali G: Each division within a league plays a different sex life and yet dey seed da crews in da league playoffs by record.
And wot iz youse bangin' on about Detroit? Wuz dey in da like playoffs last year?
Sean (Pompano, Florida): Hey Joe! Could you handicap the NL East for us? Have you ever seen such a close race, 4 teams within 1 game?
Well, as I've said, that's what parity will do for you. We dont' have a lot of great teams in baseball anymore, everybody is staying close. YOu have a lot of weaknesses as well as strengths. When the strengths show up, you go on a winning streak. When the weaknesses come out, you go on a skid. That's what will determine a race as close as this. I cannot predict at this point, but it will come down to streaks and losing skids.
Ali G: No great crews anymore? Youse mean like in 1973 when da Mets won da NL Least by a game and a 'alf and dere were three otha teams within five games of dem (St. Louis 1.5 back, Pittsburgh 2.5, Montreal 3.5, Chicago 5).
Sorry I mentioned dem since dey beat youse wicked Massiv Red Machine in da playoffs.
Dere is a lot of parity dis year, but a) innit wot a salary tommy (cap) will do and b) wuzn't it just a year or two ago whun we wuz bein told by maja league baseball dat mostest crews could not evun compete anymore? Maybe it be just cyclical like.
Matt (Ranger, Texas): Joe, I am a huge Houston Astros fan and I was wondering how you think the Astros will in the 2nd half under Phil Garner.
I don't think they'll do any better than they did before. The makeup of the team will not allow them to do much better. They depend on power. They don't have any speed. Their defense is not all that good. They are a .500 team right now, they'll probably finish a few games over .500 but you won't see a dramatic difference.
Ali G: They depend on power. They don't have any speed.—Iz dat dem Astros or Joe's A's dat he bangin' on about? Dis be Joe's typical answer for the A's. I guess he
Brian (Longview,TX): Joe, how about an insight on the AL West race.... where do you see it playing out?... A's need a legitimate closer and a bat, the Angels need a starting pitcher to replace the Colon fiasco, and the Rangers need a little more starting pitching as well?... who do you give the edge to?
That's why there is a lot of mediocre teams right now. See, all those teams are at or near the top but yet they all still have some real deficiencies. At the beginning of the year, I thought Anaheim was head and shoulders above the rest. I still think the Angels will win, but it will be interesting. So much parity.
Ali G: Yo, da sky be fallin' coz dere ain't no greta teams no mo'. Dat's da answer to efry question.
Maybe youse should mention dat da A's picked up a closa (Dotel) and dat da Rangas are to a geeza playin ova deir heads.
James, Arlington, VA: Joe, thanks for talking to us die hard baseball fans; in my opinion baseball fans are the greatest out there...it takes real fans to follow 162 games plus the playoffs. Question, will the Phillies make any deals before the 30th and if so, what do you think they can get? Right now they are an average team at best...Thanks
I agree 100% -- they have true fans. It's easier to follow football -- they play one game a week. And hoops only has 82 games in a season. It takes somebody special to be a baseball fan. I haven't seen too much of the Phillies but I think one of their biggest problems is that their stadium is so easy to hit homeruns in that they get accustomed to that and their game leans on that strategy. Will Millwood be able to turn it around? I don't know, but historically he hasn't. Colon has historically pitched better in the second half of the season, but not Kevin Millwood. They need him going forward.
Ali G: Da dirtief? Da trade deadline iz da dirtyfirst.
As fa as homey field advantage in Philly, da Phils score as many runs on da road. Dey just 'it fewa westside runs.
I 'ave no clue wot youse iz sayin' about Millwood and Colon.
Josh NY: Speaking of parity, it appears that all major sports are going through this parity situation, what do you feel it is attributed too? I mean look at the NFL so many teams at 9-7 and 8-8 then there was the Pats, in my opinion they won the Mediocre bowl
I definitely think dilution is a problem in Major League Baseball. It's so much harder to field a star baseball player. The skill level it takes to raise a star Major League Baseball player is much harder to find than a star NFL player. Sure, I'm bias, but I mean that. It's different. The difference in skill and talent in baseball from college to the minors to MLB is enormous. A football player or basketball player can more easily make the jump from college to the pro league. Baseball is different. That is why the talent is diluted and that is why we see this parity in the game today.
Ali G: Checkit, delusion? We 'ave arguably da mostest playa eva (Bonds), one of da mostest pitchas (Clemens), arguably da mostest catcher (Piazza), and arguably da mostest shortstop (A-Rod). In fact, da talent pool is betta dan eva. Do he evun watch da games?
Keep it real and much respek.
As Greg Maddux flies under the radar in his quest for 300 wins, hopefully it will revive the discussions from five to ten years ago as to who is the greatest pitcher of the current era, Maddux or Clemens. I personally prefer Clemens but am open to the debate. The Rocket's foray into New York and ensuing media circuses (circi?) from his pursuit of 300 as well as the FOX-favorite beaning of/bat-tossing at Mike Piazza, have helped to cement Clemens as the favorite. It seems that Maddux has lagged behind Randy Johnson and Pedro Martinez in the court of public opinion over the last few years.
Maddux was once the thinking fan's favorite pitcher and the darling of all the TV analysts and baseball cognoscenti. Even though he has had slow starts over the last few years his only sub-par season, for him, was last year: 3.96 ERA, only 5% better than the park-adjusted league average, and a 16-11 record. With the Yankees Clemens registered one season with an ERA worse than average (1999-3% worse) and one about average (1% better in 2002). Maddux actually leads Clemens in career adjusted ERA: 143 to 140. I guess it's easy to overlook a pitcher who hasn't won twenty games in eleven seasons.
One thing that intrigues me about Maddux's career are the consistently low walk totals and the resulting low WHIPs. I was surprised when I looked it up that Maddux is just 35th in career WHIP (1.13), just ahead of some dude named Cy Young. Here are the top 20 in career WHIP (to three decimal places, min. 1000 IP):
Or in other words, Pedro Martinez, Sandy Koufax, and a bunch of old guys. If you want a complete list, B-R.com has it here (based on walks plus hits per nine inning).
I didn't feel that this list was in actuality representative of the quality of the pitchers involved, but rather was a result of the era in which a pitcher pitched. Therefore, I set about to study a version of WHIP that was adjusted per league and era. I calculated the pitcher's actual walks and hits totals and then the expected walks/hits total based on the league's average WHIP for that season multiplied by the pitcher's innings. If one sums that across a pitcher's career, a more complete picture of how much better than average of the course of his career the pitcher actually was (at least at allowing walks and hits).
Maddux improves to ninth. Here are the top 25 (ranked by career walks and hits below expected, "BB+H B Exp"; Note: data through 2003, min. 1000 IP):
That's a much better group of pitchers. However, the ceding is affected by how many innings a pitcher threw, since the totals are cumulative. Of course, ye olde-tyme pitchers threw many more innings per year. So I broke down the data based walks and hits below expectation per inning. Here are the results:
Maddux is in a virtual tie for eighth all-time (with the legendary Tiny Bonham). He is, however, ahead of Clemens, but it is dang close. Of course, there are a number of modern players near the top, but they may drop as they age. Pedro Martinez is ridiculously ahead of the pack. It will be interesting to see how he ages and what it will do to his stats (and also if he decides to ever toss Don Zimmer again).
By the way, for those of you who don't remember Tiny Bonham except as maybe a name Bart Simpson used to prank Moe's Tavern, Bonham was a Yankee pitcher who was highly successful during World War II. He was one of the first to use a forkball successfully, wasn't tiny at all (6'2" 215), had chronic back problems that hurt his career more than the troops returning to the baseball field, and died from complications from an appendectomy only two weeks after his last game while with the Pirates (Thanks to Baseball-Library.com for the details). He was also a two-time All-Star who finished with an ERA 20 points better than the park-adjusted league average.
By the way, here are the worst pitchers of all time based on total walks plus hits above expected:
The following is from the comments section of the original post. I thought it was too good to get lost in the comments:
Any pitchers with a career ERA of infinity (i.e. pitched once or so, gave up a run and no outs) ?
It was done 13 times by the following men:
Davalillo is the last person to do it and he's the only one to pitch in two games. He faced four batters, two of which walked and two got hits. The most runs allowed without registering an out was 6 by Bill Childers (2 H, 6 BB, 3 WP) in 1895 and Doc Hamann (3 H, 3 BB, 1 HBP, 1 WP) in 1922.
There are also 15 pitchers with unresolved ERAs, meaning that they allowed no runs and did not retire a batter. Among them is Stan Musial, who faced one batter in 1952. Musial started his minor-league career as a pitcher but was forced to switch to a position player after an injury. Here's the account of the game from Baseball-Library.com:
September 29, 1952: Stan Musial makes his only ML pitching appearance. With his 6th batting title wrapped up, he takes the mound against the Cubs Frank Baumholtz, the runner-up in the batting race. Baumholtz, batting righthanded, reaches base on an error, and Harvey Haddix relieves Musial. The Cubs win 3-0 behind Paul Minner.
By the way, Musial and Larry Yount (Robin's brother) are the only two men to appear in a game as a pitcher without registering an out or giving up a hit, walk, or hit batsman. Yount actually never faced a batter. From Baseball Library:
September 15, 1971: At Houston, the Braves win, 4–2, as Aaron belts his 44th homer of the year. The RBI is his 1,954th, tying him with Ty Cobb for 3rd place on the all-time list. In the 9th inning, Larry Yount is announced as the new pitcher for Houston. While taking his warmup pitches, Yount injures his arm and must be replaced in what proves to be his only ML appearance. Larry's brother Robin Yount will begin a more successful ML career in 1974.
Joe "Fire" Cleary holds the highest career ERA for a pitcher who registered an out: 189.00 from 1/3 inning of work with the 1945 Senators in which he allowed 7 earned runs on five hits, 3 BBs, and one wild pitch. The league park-adjusted average ERA was 2.70 that year. His adjusted ERA is a 1.
Todd Zeile pitched for the second time in his career yesterday, mopping up for the Mets in their 19-10 loss to the Expos. He gave up five earned runs on four hits and two walks in one inning to up his career ERA from 0.00 to 22.50. Given that Zeile is 38 and his two appearances were flukes to begin with, we may have seen the last of Todd Zeile the pitcher.
However, Zeile's is not the worst performance ever for a cup-of-coffee pitcher. There eighteen worse (min. 2 appearances and 2 innings pitched), and some of them were actual pitchers. Here they are:
It's good to see that Craig Reynolds and Keith Osik could lend their hand to sucking at multiple positions, one of which was pitcher. By the way, the worst on the list David Moraga was a pitcher by trade for the Expos and Rockies. His Expos ERA was 37.80, and his Rockie ERA was 45.00. The odd thing about Zeile is that his Rockie ERA was 0.00 and he recorded his only strikeout as a Rockie.
Jeriome Choked In the Jake Today
The Indians have designated Jeriome Robertson for reassignment today after his ERA rose to 12.21 for the season. As if that weren't enough opponents are batting .349 against him with five homers, and he has a 2.21 WHIP, a 3.86 strikeouts per nine innings, and a 0.67 strikeouts-to-walk ratio in his scant 14 innings of work. He has given up thirteen runs in his last three appearances comprising 4.1 total innings.
Last year, Robertson, then on the Astros, led all rookies with 15 wins despite a 5.10 ERA, which was 13% worse than the park-adjusted league average. After signing both Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte, Robertson became expendable. The 'Stros then shipped him to the Indians for minor-leaguers Luke Scott and Willy Taveras.
Robertson was supposed to become a staple of the Indians rotation. He started the season in the minors and didn't make a start in his eight appearances. He also stunk up the minors with a 4-5 record and a 7.27 ERA in 14 appearances at Buffalo. He also gave up 91 hits, 10 home runs, and 22 walks in 64-1/3 innings. Ouch!
Unless someone expresses interest in Robertson, he may get released and at best he will no longer be on the Indians' 40-man roster even if they keep him in the organization. Given his recent problems and the fact that the only real item in his resume that could recommend him to another team is winning 15 last year, which may be enough. However, it seems likely that this is the end of the line for Robertson.
That made me wonder how often a player had won 15 games and then never won more than one game (his total in 2004) over the rest of his career. It was actually done quite often in the nineteenth century when teams often had only one or two starters and they could quickly fall into disfavor and out of the league. Some of those were even quite well known: A.G. Spalding, George Van Haltren, Adonis Terry, and Hall-of-Famer Amos Rusie. There were 23 such nineteenth-century pitchers. However, it's just been done three times since 1934. Here are all of the pitchers from 1900 until today that fit the Robertson model:
Oftentimes, to win us to our harm,
—"Dave" Banquo in William "Author" Shakespeare's Macbeth
To win by strategy is no less the role of a general than to win by arms.
—Julius "Matos" Caesar
The high sentiments always win in the end, the leaders who offer blood, toil, tears and sweat always get more out of their followers than those who offer safety and a good time. When it comes to the pinch, human beings are heroic.
—George "Bamberger" Orwell, who obviously never read the ending to his book 1984.
Wesley: Excuse me? Is this something we should all be talking about?
Angel: No... it was mostly... theoretical.
Spike: Look, if cavemen and astronauts got into a fight, who would win?
Wesley: You've been arguing for forty minutes about this. (thinks) Do the astronauts have weapons?
Spike, Angel: No. (in unison)
Winning, that's the point of the game. Even a Phils fan like myself knows that.
So which are the teams that win? Well, obviously teams with more talent win more often. However, how do you measure that? Is it more due to their offensive prowess or pitching skills and how to quantify that?
A team's winning percentage in one-run ballgames is often cited by analysts (right after telling you a certain batter is 2-for-6 with a homer off a certain pitcher, as if that has any meaning). Are there certain traits, like winning close ballgames, that winning teams display? Can one predict a team's success from how they perform under certain conditions like close ballgames?
OK, enough with the question. After being directed to Baseball Reference's situations splits page by my friend Gregor Gross, and after kvelling an appropriate amount of time, I attempted to address these issues.
For offensive stats, I used the yearly team batting ratios: average, on-base, slugging, and OPS. For pitching, the following stats were recorded each year for each team: ERA, WHIP (walks plus hits per innings pitched), Strikeout-to-walk ratio (K:BB), Strikeouts-per-nine-innings (K/9IP). Then all stats were adjusted for by dividing by the league average. Finally, they were each compared against the team winning percentage and then the correlation coefficient, or how well each set of data corresponds to winning percentage, was determined for each decade and for all-time. I also adjusted the batting and pitching stats by the team's home ballpark factor and re-ran the correlation.
Then, I took the situational winning percentage for a set of criteria and tried to see how well each correlated to overall winning percentage. Those situations, which I kind of picked out of a hat, were the team's yearly record in home games, road games, one-run games, games won by no more than three runs ("Save" games), low-scoring games (five or less total runs), high-scoring games (10 or more total runs), and games with a large margin of victory (five or more runs). I also took the runs scored for and against in the above situations and calculated the expected winning percentage to determine if that correlated to overall winning percentage better (using the 1.83-exponent Pythagorean formula).
So without further ado, here are the results such as they are:
Of course, as baseball matured batting average became less important to winning, but don’t tell Joe Morgan. Overall OPS correlates best to winning percentage, but in the 2000s OBP is beating OPS, which was a bit of a surprise.
When you adjust for ballpark OPS does beat OBP. However, you'll notice that none of these correlations is very strong.
[Note: negative correlation just means that as one goes down the other rises, but still expresses a correlation. E.g., as ERAs go down winning percentages tend to go up. Makes sense.]
ERA correlates best here overall, though WHIP has surpassed ERA in the 2000s. The strikeout ratios are gaining strength but still don't correlate very well.
ERA does surpass WHIP after the park adjustment, like OPS and OBP in batting.
Home and road records correlate equally well to winning percentage though for the last 25 years, road records have ruled. Also the expected home record beats out the road one. However, both of these are pretty strong correlations, which makes sense since they comprise about a half a season each.
One-run record don't correlate well and are doing worse as time goes by. "Save" records, close games, do correlate fairly well, which is why, I guess, they came up with the concept of a save in the first place.
This one's odd: Low-scoring record don't correlate very well at all, but high-scoring correlates extremely well, better in fact than based on the expected winning percentage. Maybe the Rockies should take note.
Again, it looks like higher scoring affairs are better predictors of a team's success or at least correlate better to their winning percentage. Perhaps this is due to a low-scoring game being more based on the pitchers' performance than the teams as a whole.
Joe Morgan Chat Da(y) Ali G Show
Truth is one, but error proliferates. Man tracks it down and cuts it up into little pieces hoping to turn it into grains of truth. But the ultimate atom will always essentially be an error, a miscalculation.
—René "Johnny" Daumal
Truth is the silliest thing under the sun. Try to get a living by the Truth—and go to the Soup Societies. Heavens! Let any clergyman try to preach the Truth from its very stronghold, the pulpit, and they would ride him out of his church on his own pulpit bannister.
—Herman "Bob" Melville
You can't handle the truth.
—Jack "Don't Call Me Bill" Nicholson in A Few Good Men
Trufe! Yo, Check it out. Dis word be, aiii, somethin 'ardly 'eard today. Innit?
Me crew told me dat me main man Joe Morgan be da for real brainiest and most bestest mos' trufeful baseball bloke on da telly. But the geezers on the 'pooter be wonderin' wot he be bangin' on about all da time. Me man were part of da Big Red Machine, aiii, which were like da wicked robots wot been playin' wiv da Fresh Prince in da movies. Yo, obviously, dem robots be for real too smart fa us 'umans
Respek. West Side.
Da Wicked (Good)
Ali G: 'Ear me now, dis is. Mista Morgan. Big up to you.let's start wiv some questions from me boys.
Jake Fields (Los Angeles, CA): Do you think it is a waste of the Padres time and money to take a player like Finley who has at the most 2 years left in him?
If you are trying to win right now, it's not a waste. Right now is what everybody is looking at. If he can help them win a pennant, it's obviously not a waste.
Ali G: Yo, if da geezer going go bo in two years, he best be wiv dem padres. Aiii, they be tight wiv da old geezer. Ya know, da Jackie Chan, da main man's main man. Dem or da angel bruvers in dat Disney movie.
Nate (DC): Joe: I'm not familiar with baseball contracts from when you played, but what do think of the no trade clause that so many "average" players are including in contracts? Is this good/bad for baseball as a whole?
Well, it's something that they negotiate. In theory they are giving up something to get something. I don't understand why so many teams allow those clauses for ''average'' players. But once a guy has it, he has the right to exercise it.
Ali G: For real, way to support da bruvers. Dem wot's fought for diz right. Dey got it in da bit of paper and it be a bit thick to fink dey not gonna use it.
Matt (NY,NY): Joe, Mike Piazza said earlier in the week that he and Clemens had spoken in the trainer's room before the All-Star game about "personal stuff." Does anyone know what was said in that conversation? Any other All-Star game moments for us?
Idon't know exactly what was said, I'd like to hope that they did it privately so that there was NO one else there. They are both professionals. They will all do and say the right things at this time. But, make no mistake, Piazza will never like Clemens. If someone hits you in the head -- something that could end your career -- you're never going to like the guy. Anyone who thinks he should forgive Roger has never been hit in the head with a 90 mph fastball -- and I don't think Clemens expects him to. Roger has been in this game a long time. He knows what those types of situations do. I bet Willie Mays can remember who almost hit him in the head and I bet he doesn't talk to that person anymore. It's a serious situation. YOu can't expect them to be friends.
Ali G: For real. Once diz rank geezer acted all racialist, dissed me mam, and started a ruk down the boozer when we wuz yufes. Den me boys wuz in da house and he acted all respek. Now, he see me auto and me new westside turf and he wuz all spunkt wiv respek. But me don't dig it and I wuz all chill. But if he needed a bit of da 'erbal remedy and gimme a shout…But I digest.
The All-Star game for me was the Home Run Derby. When you have all the greatest living home run hitters in one park -- I mean, I had goose pimples watching them introduce these guys. I see them at the Hall of Fame, but I was still just in awe b/c this was just a different venue and the experience was just incredible with the all-time greats and active players. Wow. .... as far as the game itself -- it was a little anti-climactic to me. But the introductions and the derby, those were special to me.
Ali G: For real, when da most bestest batty boys, er not dem batty boys, in da house, itz like a speed garage selecta.
Rich (Columbus, OH): Hey Joe, can you give me a batter's standpoint on the difference between seeing a splitfinger fastball and a sinker? To me, they always seemed very similar pitches, and I wanted to know what they looked like from the eyes of a batter.
That's a good question. They are very similar. A sinker tumbles down. It starts to sink maybe 15 feet in front of the plate.. The split finger looks like a fast ball, it tumbles down and looks like it will stay straight but tumbles later in it's path -- maybe 10 feet from the plate.
Ali G: Word. Back in de UK, we wuz playing cricket which you call soccer here. Den dere's football which you call American football, not dat's ruggy or somebin. Anywayz, we call dem pitches all wicked googlies coz they be wicked and nobody be hittin' dem but da game lasts all day so who cares? We just go down da boozer and watch da highlights on da telly.
Da Wicked (Bad)
Carol (Dayton, OH): Joe: With that unique, strong delivery, did you find it difficult to hit Eckersley whenever you faced him?
I didn't face him that much. I was a leftie and he's a rightie. But the thing that made him so great was his control. That is always a great asset for a pitcher.
Ali G: Well nevramind dat him wuz a right. Dat Eck bloke, he nevra pitched, checkit, in da same league as u, Joe. Him wuz in da American League until 1984 and u wuz in the National League, wot aint American, must be like Canadian, until da same year. Den u blokes switched leagues. And dis wuz before the intraleague games, wot Bush, da main geezer, been trying to eliminate in the Constipation. Dat's a problem for blokes dat getting older and been too much down the boozer. But dat's what Bush wants to give da country like Lincoln did give America da town car.
Alec (Washington): What do you think about naming the new team the Grays?
I have no idea. They have to get them there first! Last I saw they are still trying to decide. It's amazing that it's taken this long to find a permanent home for this team.
Ali G: For real, dat name iz a shout out to me crew, da Homestead Grays wot played in Pittsburgh and DC back in da day. Dat wuz when baseball be all racialist so dat dey can sell does cool old hats to the bruvers. Like me got a Brooklyn Royal Giants jersey wiv black down one side and red down the ovver. Dem geezers wuzn't allowed to play in da majors but dey looked wicked.
Len, Liverpool PA: Joe...I think the balls were juiced for the HR derby at the all star game. The baseballs were going much to far. Do you agree?
I wouldn't be surprised if they were juiced. But the regular ball is already juiced. In the Derby, they may juice them. But I have no evidence.
Ali G: well, i know there's a 'erbal remedy problem in baseball, dat iz stairoids, but I didn't know it was wiv viagara. I iz not orange juicing me mr. biggy for a game, innit fa sure. Like dat Sammy Sosa, den I 'eard it broke. Innit mingin!
Bob (Tinley Park, IL): Joe, thanks for taking my question. It was mentioned during a recent ESPN telecast that Ron Santo may someday join the Hall of Fame, and I thought you were conspicously quiet after the statement. I suspect you don't necesarily agree. Should Santo be a HOF'er in your opinion or was he just a very good player? Thanks.
That's not true and I'm not sure what you mean. I think he belongs in. I'm on record for that. I even voted for him. Maury Wills should also be in.
Ali G: For real, Santo should be in. Innit me main man Bill James proof dat 'bundantly?
Maury Will, tho'. I don't know what dese old geezers be bangin' on about 'im. After 'e stole 100 bases in 1962, da stolen base per game average went down da next year. 'Is decade wuz da Sixties wiv the wicked Jimi guitar and da Bob Gibson 1.12 ERA.
Booyakasha, here be da decade, what I'm sayin', averages and percent change since da Fifties:
Note dat Wills did help bring back da stolen base by leading da NL in steals from 1960-65. Howebber, it increased more in da Seventies when he innit led da league in steals for five years already. B-sides, 'is career OPS wuz 12% worse den da park-adjusted league average, aiii. 'Is most similar batter, checkit, be Larry Bowa, mingin! And another on da list be Kid Gleason, a converted tosser, not dat he go down da boozer too oftun, but ratha he wuz da geeza who threw da ball.
The Deege (Champaign): Joe, what is your takeon Carlos Delgado and his protests of "God Bless America"?
People have a right to protest a war. I may not like the way they choose to do so but they have that right. I didn't like the way people spit on the troops coming back from Vietnam. But people have a right to protest, if it is peaceful. The National Anthem is the symbol of our country. I would have a problem if he doesn't stand for that.
Ali G: Respek. if da geeza digs to sin' "Jackie Chan bless America", why not? Back in da UK, we changed it to "Jackie Chan save da main bitch", but da meanin' is da same. For real. wot makes america special from de rainforests of Arizona to de deserts of Alaska is da right to protest wot da government does, dig like we can back in da uk and, oh yeah, france and mostest of europe. wait, Yous say he iz not singing da song. Maybe he iz tone def. No crime in dat. I don't dig dat song much eitha. Don't know why dey made two versions unless a selectra, y'know a DJ, mixed da lyrics of one song wiv da tunes from da udda. fa real
But wot does dis geezer, Delgado, 'ave to protest givun dat da island he was born on was bombed back to creation, da radioactive material is still dere. But dem's wuz Americans, so I guess dat is ok.
Sal (Westport): Mr. Morgan, do you think the Ortiz suspension of five games was fair or do you think it should have been a harsher punishment being that he threw two bats aiming right at the umpires?
I don't think he was aiming at the umpire. He was throwing them in that direction, but not trying to hit them. His andrenaline was flowing and he went too far. Five games is a lot of games, may not seem that way to fans though. When you are the hottest player on the team, that's a big penalty. The fans, his teammates, everyone is hurt by them. I'm in favor of less suspension time and bigger fines so it hurts the individual more than the fans.
Ali G: Wha'? He stuck 'is batty out on da field and it like hit dese two umpires, righ'? Checkit, if 'is batty be that large 'e mostest definitely need to git on da steroid master and like reduce a bit. Dey should not like suspend da geeza in mid-air. 'E'll just get fatta. For real.
Garth (NY): Barry Bonds swings one of the lightest bats in the league, as I understand. Why don't more players choose lighter bats for quicker bat speed, especially when some players are thought to have lost bat speed (like what I've heard about John Olerud)?
All the players use light bats now. Very few bats over 32 ounces now. Barry's bat is not that light, around 32, which is average. Sosa swings a little heavier. McGwire swung a light bat. Griffey is around 31. Soriano used the heaviest bat on the Yanks last season at 33.
Ali G: Check a smalla batty is betta.
Now, if da average bat is 32 ounces, 'ow can it be dat there is well few ova 32? It doesn't like make sense, Joe. And why u iz going around measuring batty iz beyond me compression.
Peter O'Neill (Albany): Joe, I'm only an hour away, so if you want to meet for lunch...but seriously, do you think closers after eck will have any luck geting into the Hall? Who do YOU think is worthy?
I think this sets the stage in a way. Eck was more than a closer though, he was also a good starter. I do see more closers getting in, although I'm not sure I like that. The way the save rule is now, there are a lot of soft saves. Three outs with a 3 run lead is a soft save. That doesn't display HOF credentials.
Ali G: Dat respek. The bruva gonna drive a hour to 'ave grub wiv Joe. Dat iz.
More closers getting in…Joe forgot dat the all-time mostest save-wickedest, checkit, pitcher, Lee Smif is on like the writers' ballot and he ain't got in yet. There be just three closers in da 'All, aiii, and I doesn’t check many today wiv a wicked chance of goin in except fa Mariano Rivera.
Chuck A. Hanover, Pa.: Minor rule change: With two out and TWO OUT only. Shouldn't a runner on first base be allowed to score on a ground rule double. He is running at the crack of the bat because he can't be doubled up. I remember espn's opening game about 7 years ago [the one with new Angel Mo Vaughn falling in the dugout and out for the year] and Joe Morgan on a drive over Buhner's head mentioning what I have heard a 100 times. "Well the Mariners got a break on that one as the Angel player would have scored easily". Thanks, Mr. Morgan!
You get the base you are going to plus one. He's not at second base yet, so I don't see that changing. No matter whether he is running or not, he's still at first.
Ali G: Chuck A? Is yous related to Chuck D? Tell im alo, big up.
No, Joe, da point is if it is a correct dig assumption dat he would 'ave scored. Like, wot if da ball would 'ave bounced right off da wall to a fielda wiv a strong arm who would ave 'eld da runna at third? Or maybe da runna would 'ave 'eld thinkin' dat da ball might get caught and only end up at second. Wot thun?
Utek (LA): Hi Joe. Adrian Beltre is having a monster season, despite playing on a bad ankle. I've heard an opposing coach say that he believes that the ankle injury has helped Beltre, in that it keeps him from lunging at pitches. What's your take? Have you ever heard of an injury that actually improved a player's performance?
I've heard people say things like that, keeping a guy from lunging. It can help in the short term, but you just don't want to play injured. It's tough enough to play this game at 100 percent, any kind of nagging injury to you feet or hands will hurt you. He is having a monster year and he should have been on the All-Star Team. That was a huge injustice.
Ali G: Right, dey shoul 'obble da players slightly to 'elp them play betta and to keep them from leavin' dig as a free asian.
As far as Beltre not bein on da All-Atar crew, Rolun did 'ave to start and it's a toss up betweun Beltre and Lowell fa da backup (19 win shares each)
jon (atlanta): I was thrilled to see the 500 club at this year's Home Run Derby! I was especially glad to see Hank front and center, where he belongs? Why do so many sportswriters (not you of course) overlook what a transcendant player Hank Aaron was? Does the 755 block out everything else?
I think you are correct. The 755 clouds over everything else. He didn't do things with a flair like Mays or Clemente. Hank just got the job done as well as everyone. Even his HRs weren't 500 ft. bombs. He just hit a HR and trotted around the bases. Nothing fancy. He did everything a player could possibly do, just without that special flair. He was just Hank doing his thing. I was as guilty as anyone when I talked about the great players. I wasn't as fair to him as I should have been early in my broadcast career.
Ali G: Right, Aaron iz so underrated, 'e's overrated. If yous don't think Aaron is overlooked, just ask 'im.
Eric (New York): With the addition of prospect David Wright, is this enough for the Mets to get to the top of the NL East?
At this point, the NL East is ready for someone to take it. I think all the teams need to add something before the deadlien to seperate from the pack. Florida has the makings of a good team if they can get another bat. I think whoever improves the most between now and August 1 will win the division. The Mets still need another player.
Ali G: 'Ope springs eternal, aiii. Didn't David Wright come up last year wiv da name Jose Reyes? Besides da mets need a starta, not a replacement fa Ty Wigginton. If dey move Wigginton to first, do dey for real dig Pizza to move back behind da plate afta naggin' 'im to like move to first fa ova a season?
I think whoever improves the most between now and August 1 will win the division… Me crew told me dat dey extended da season, right, and will play until octoba dis year.
Lee, Dallas TX: is there anything in particular you can point out as to why this season has backfired on the astros plans to contend this season? thanks.
I think in the past Jeff Bagwell was more important to the lineup than they thought. He was a rock in the middle of the lineup. He is not the same Bagwell anymore. Another reason is they had no other way to win other than hitting it out of the park.
They have a dysfunctional offense. I've never used that term before until now. They have a lot of double plays waiting to happen.
Ali G: Double plays? Dey is sixf in da NL wiv 79. Dey is as close to elevenf as dey is to third, which is to say dey is about average.
Bagwell is on da wrong side of thirty and 'is OPS 'as dropped every year since 1999. Probably a little more dis year, but consida he did 'ave just 17 westside runs and a .832 OPS in da first 'alf last year, and dey were bemoanin' 'is like demise evun as he ended up wiv 39 'omers and a .897 OPS.
Of course, Adam Everett's .311 OBP mostly in da numba two batty ain't 'elped da Astros offense dis season. And da batty, dat iz bottum, of da orda as bin a aminal (Morgan Ensberg .697 OPS and Brad Ausmus .606). It iz not dysfunctional to be not all dat wicked.
Tim (San Jose): What has happened to Barry Zito? I don't buy the theories about him missing Rick Peterson, he should be able to stand on his own two feet. Can he bounce back?
I'm always surprised with Zito doesn't pitch well and win games. I've said a million times if you are left-handed and can throw strikes you should win games. He has great stuff also so he should be a star. Some said he was tipping his pitches. Who knows. Some guys are more dependant on pitching coaches or hitting coaches than others. Coaches can have a big effect on a player.
Ali G: Maybe all da innings 'ave caught up wiv 'im. Maybe da severe drop off in strikeouts pa nine innings last year (from 8.61 in 2001 to 7.14 in 2002 to 5.67 in 2003) should 'ave bin a warnin' sign. He sure be givin' up da long ball dig neva before: 'is 19 dingers allowed so far in 2004 match 'is total last year.
Dusty Baker (Chicago): I can't help but think that I've lost control of this team. Should I start demanding they take responsibility for their actions on the field and stop blaming the other side? ( See the actions and my response to Zambrano and Hawkins during the two-game series with the Cards)
Major League players should always take responsibility for their actions on the field. Sometimes they dont' like it when I say they made a bad play, etc., but most players do take that responsibility.
Ali G: A wicked play is one fin'. Plunkin' batters and goin' buzzark on umpires is anotha. I don't if it's dis geezer Baker's fault but dis crew self-destructed against da Cardinals.
Scott (Sacramento, CA): Joe, assuming that the Yankees don't land the Unit, can they still win the WS with their current, ailing, staff? If they don't get Johnson will we see them go after someone like Millwood, Ortiz, or maybe Livan Hernandez to add some depth to the rotation?
They wouldn't be favored to win with this staff as is. If you get into a short series, the team with two stud pitchers (Pedro, Schilling) you will win. Who would be those two guys for the Yankees? I don't think they would have the guys who can just walk out and shut the other team down. I think they feel like they really need Randy to win this year.
Ali G: Checkit, it iz not as if dey could win da world series in 2000 wiv no starters wiv an era unda 3.70 and only one unda 4.35. Except it is.
To be continued…
Anaheim's Kevin Gregg threw four wild pitches—count 'em—in the eighth inning today, tying the "modern" record set by Walter Johnson (1914) and previously tied by Phil Niekro (1979). That is the last time you will hear Gregg's name mentioned with two Hall-of-Famers.
Gregg already had 6 wild pitches in 54-2/3 innings in 2004. Ten wild pitches ties him for first in the AL with Jose Contreras though they are second in the majors (with Matt Clement) to Brandon Webb. Of course, The rest are starting pitchers while Gregg projects to 93 innings on the year.
In those 93 innings, he would have between 16 and 17 wild pitches. The most wild pitches by someone throwing less than 100 innings was 22 by Ed Crane (Not Kranepool) in just 70 innings for the Washington Nationals in 1886. 1886 was the National's inaugural year, and they went 28-92. The franchise would only last four years and were 46-76 at their best.
In 2000 Jason Grimsley threw 16 wild pitches in 96-1/3 innings. Hector Carrasco had 15 in 1995 in 87-1/3 innings. Those are the only two with 15 wild pitches in fewer than 100 innings since 1936. Here is the complete list:
Come On Down and Make the Stance
ESPN has a photo gallery of their favorite batting stances. They're pretty good, but they did forget three Phils who are among my favorites: Jim Thome, Richie "The Hack" Hebner, and Gary "Sarge" Matthews (Sr.).
Oh, and instead of Sadaharu Oh, they should have mentioned his antecedent Mel Ott:
Talk about your foot-in-the-bucket swings!
Jayson Stark reports that the Expos' players have been told that they are definitely moving and probably to Washington in 2005.
Besides saying that it's about time, I just want to plug for the umpteenth time my study from a couple of years back on the Expos problem. I think that the final analysis was that they should move to D.C., except that it wasn't.
The good news for Montreal is that once the Expos leave the countdown starts for when the city is a viable threat to extort concessions from other teams' fanbases. To quote Sonny Bono, "And the beat goes on."
CB Park Distance Markers Actually Retired Numbers of Vet Fences
If you think the home run distances you see at your local park is accurate, the following will come as a shock. It turns out that the Phils mislabeled or mismeasured or just plain missed up the distances in their new ballpark, and it's taken the better part of a season to correct or even notice it.
At least they had a good reason:
The Phillies said they put the 369 panel in its former spot for aesthetic reasons because it would have been too close to an advertisement.
We don't want to block an advertisement: that would not be aesthetically pleasing. Well, actually it would be to everyone but the advertiser.
At least Pat Burrell has an excuse for all the balls he has misjudged in the new park.
The signs have now been corrected and accountants everywhere are rejoicing.
Unexceptional Excrescence—Phirst, Warts and All, Gently Rocking
I'm so happy 'cause today I found my friends—Their in my head. I'm so ugly; That's OK 'cause so are you, we've broken mirrors. Sunday morning is everyday for all I care, and I'm not scared. Bowed my candles in a daze 'cause I found god. Yeah. I like it: I'm not gonna cry.
—Nirvana "Lingle Mungo" in Lithium
Most journalists are restless voyeurs who see the warts on the world, the imperfections in people and places…. gloom is their game, the spectacle their passion, normality their nemesis.
—Gay "Amaury" Talese
Falstaff: Is thy name Wart?
Thomas Wart. Yea, sir.
Falstaff: Thou art a very ragged wart.
Shalow: Shall I prick him, Sir John?
Falstaff: It were superfluous; for his apparel is built upon his back, and the whole frame stands upon pins: prick him no more.
—William "Author" Shakespeare, The Second Part of King Henry "Aaron" the Fourth
We are 93 games into the season and I'm tired already. The Phils are in first…again, tied with Braves after an exciting ten-inning, 4-3 win over Atlanta on the road yesterday. The Marlins are now two games back, and the Mets three. At least for today. I can’t take this Russian novel of season, and I've witnessed too many that ended like Raskolnikov turning himself into the police (as if that's not stretching an analogy to the breaking point).
The Phils are 9-8 in July. They are 22-22 since June 1 and 27-27 since May 21. That day the Phils extended a winning streak to four games, tied for the longest of the season and the third four-game win streak they had had on the season (they have had none since).
The Phils are a truly a remarkably mediocre team. Well, maybe that's a bit facile. They started the season 1-6. Then went 22-11. Since then they are merely mediocre. They achieved a tie for first on May 15 and are still there. That's what going 30-29, the Phils record since May 15, will do for a team.
Still, the Phils somehow exceed true mediocrity. I think a better way to look at the Phils is that they are a wildly uneven team, a team that is measured, almost on a daily basis, by their plusses and their minuses. After the wild mood swings of the first month and a half of the season, they have reached a sort of stasis. It depends on any given day which Phils team will show up.
It was no more true than in the Phils split with the Braves, except maybe the plusses and minuses alternated by inning as opposed as by day. Last night, the minuses showed up early.
To lead off the Braves half of the first Rafael Furcal lined a 2-2 pitch to straightaway center field. It looked like center fielder du jour, Jason Michaels, wouldn't have to move to retire Furcal. But Michaels broke in and the ball ended up just eluding his last second leap. The liberal official awarded Furcal a triple, instead of the three-base error it should have been. As the Phils commentators said, a ball hit directly at a center fielder is the hardest to field, but a little-leaguer could have had this one, a humpback liner right at him.
Next, it was apparently the starting pitcher's turn to stink up the field, just as Paul Abbott did the previous night allowing four runs over 4.2 innings and sealing the Phils' fate on a night in which their offense forgot to show up. Eric Milton, not that I blame him, looked openly shaken/ticked off over the play and he let it affect his pitching. He very quickly hung a 1-1 pitch to Marcus Giles, that he deposited in the center-field stands to give the Braves a 2-0 lead. After a first-pitch automatic double to almost the same spot by J.D. Drew, it looked like batting practice. Milton ran to cover first with his head hanging. It looked like the Phils would be making the acquaintance of the Marlins in second place very soon.
Luckily for Milton, the Braves helped him get out of the inning. Chipper Jones flied out on the first pitch and Estrada grounded out on the first offering to him. At this point Milton settled in, allowing just a walk after the Drew double over the next five innings. He ended up allowing five hits and three runs over seven innings. He did, however, give up two home runs for 23 on the season, good for second worst in the NL.
Luckily for the Phils, the positives outweighed the negatives after the first. They took advantage of a nasty Rafael Furcal error on a doubleplay ball in the eighth to tie the game, after a lead off single by Jimmy Rollins. The middle of the lineup excuse-me'd a couple of runs across with David Bell's two-out single being the big hit. However, Pat Burrell stupidly got caught ranging too far from second for no apparent reason to end the inning. (By the way, fans chastise the superior Abreu for supposedly making bonehead plays, but stone-faced and stone-gloved Burrell seems to make one every other game.)
Rheal Cormier and Tim Worrell held the Braves scoreless for the next two innings. Then in the tenth the Phils started another rally with leadoff hitter Jimmy Rollins leading off with a single. After Rollins stole second, Utley laid down the first bunt of his career almost perfectly (if a bit hard) in front of the catcher, which replacement Eddie Perez hurriedly swatted for a sacrifice and an error. Then Bobby Abreu, as he has done all year, put the Phils ahead with a single.
Going into the bottom of the tenth with a one-run lead would have worried the Phils last season with the tweedle dee-tweedle dumb twins, Jose Mesa and Mike Williams, as the closer last year. But with Billy Wagner coming in that lead was as safe as houses, right? Not with the 2004 version of Wagner , however—actually, Mesa has looked more Wagnerian and Wagner more Mesadic for large chunks of this season. After getting ahead of the first two hitters, Wagner allowed two singles. After a bunt and intentional walk loaded the bases with one out, Wagner got Giles to ground to third to force the second out at home. Next, J.D. Drew hit a hard liner right to Thome almost shockingly to end it.
So what are the negatives of which I speak? There are three in particular on the Phils that have been their Achilles heel all season: center field, starting pitcher, and a leadoff hitter, probably in that order. Wagner has also been a concern mostly due to injury, but he appears to be settling in now with a 0.00 ERA, two wins, and four saves in July after an 11.25 ERA in June (including two four-run appearances). Besides this isn't Arthur Rhodes. It's one of the best relievers in the game.
Anyway, the Phils have not had a starting center fielder since the disappointing, demoralized Marlon Byrd was sent down a month ago. They have rotated Doug Glanville, Jason Michaels, and Ricky Ledee in center since. Ledee and Michaels are competent even dependable bench players, Del Unser and Greg Gross for a new generation. However, neither is a starting center fielder—at least neither should be on a playoff-contending team.
Then there's Glanville, whom the Phils discarded a year and a half ago. Glanville derriere should not even be gracing a major-league bench, except as a coach, at this stage of his sub-par career. At best, he is a late-inning defensive replacement. He should NEVER be allowed to bat, without exception. Think Herb Washington but as a pinch fielder, not runner. His .510 OPS is 73 points worse than the worst major-leaguer who qualifies for a batting title (Neifi Perez) and is the third worst in the majors among players with at least 100 plate appearances.
Bowa's biggest mistake so far this season was the way that he handled Byrd and Glanville after being fooled by a game-winning, walk-off homer by Glanville on April 18 (it tops giving the ball to Roberto Horrendous the ball whenever the game is on the line by a hair). That was the beginning of the end for Byrd and of the Phils center field troubles. Byrd was yo-yoed in and out, up and down the lineup, lost all confidence and is now trying unsuccessfully to rediscover himself in Scanton.
Then there's the starting pitching that was supposed to be a strength entering the season. Pitchers are a mercurial lot in general, but the Phils have been ridiculous. The second half slumps of Millwood, Myers, and the rest consigned the Phils to also-rans after their slow starting offense finally got going last year. This year, the slumps started early. After registering a 3.33 ERA in April and 3.86 ERA in May, the Phils staff went belly up in June registering a 5.86 ERA. Only the injured Randy Wolf (2.31 ERA in two starts) had an ERA under 4.50 for the month. And only Rheal Cormier (4.50) of the healthy pitchers had an ERA under 5.00 in June. It didn't help that two-fifths of their rotaton (Wolf and Padilla) and their closer (Wagner) missed most of June.
For the season, failed staff ace Kevin Millwood has a 4.89 ERA and 1.46 WHIP. Self-proclaimed staff ace of the future Brett Myer has a 5.74 ERA and 1.57 WHIP (and just a 5.93 K/9IP). Padilla, apparently the rock of the staff, is nowhere to be found. And Wolf has pitched poorly (5.24 ERA) since returning from injury.
Instead of trying to solve these problems by acquiring a legitimate starting pitcher, the Phils filled in with dreck like Red Sox castoff Josh Hancock (11.57 ERA and 2.17 WHIP in two games) and the superannuated, Devil Ray castoff Paul Abbott (0-4 with a 4.89 ERA, 1.57 WHIP, and 4.37 strikeouts per nine innings).
Then there's the leadoff hitter. That was supposed to be Byrd. However, it has now fallen to Rollins. The Phils are third worst in the majors in leadoff OPS (.668) and 6th worst in leadoff OBP (.319). I can't really blame Rollins, who's performing as he has over the last few seasons. He is actually the perfect epitome of the Phils as a team: He sometimes starts an important rally, which ends up tying or winning a game. Witness the references above. However, he is mostly sub-par. This Jeckyll and Hyde quality is a perfect simile for the Phils season.
So why have the Phils not made any moves this season besides signing Abbott and acquiring minor-leaguer Ed Yarnall?
Well, I am a captious critic of manager Larry Bowa. And don't get me wrong—he's by no means off the hook. But I do have to agree with his assessment of the situation (though I don't think he realized the Cox reference was a perfect indictment of himself as a manager):
"Unless you're Bobby Cox, or someone who's been a manager somewhere 15 years, general managers, farm directors, assistant GMs -- they're the ones who make those decisions."
Bowa is probably the worst manager in baseball but he is no longer the culprit in the Phils disappointing season. Ed Wade, after an inexcusable month and a half of inactivity, is criminal number one. While the Phils have been stumbling toward mediocrity with their faults in the open for all to see, Wade has down nothing.
It's not like the Phils have no prospects or available players to trade like the Yankees. They have two competent starting second baseman in Placido Polanco and Chase Utley. Utley is younger and has a higher ceiling but is also largely untried. However, the Phils are doing him no favors by keeping him on the bench or in the minors at age 25. Then there's Bill Conlin's version of Babe Ruth, Ryan Howard. He's killing the ball in Double-A but has no future with the Phils as long as Jim Thome patrols first and is 25 as well.
If the Phils traded a superfluous second baseman to, say, the Yankees, who are in need of a competent second sacker, they could pry loose the unneeded Kenny Lofton. Lofton is still better than any center fielder or leadoff hitter on the Phils right now.
Then package Howard and another prospect for a pitcher in the last year of his contract. Those two deals would benefit the team greatly and would not detract one iota from them either in the present or future.
Those are just suggestions. There are rumors that the Phils are pursuing Steve Finley. OK, great. Just do it now! They have wasted almost two months mulling things over and awaiting the trade deadline. I understand that teams may not have been willing to part with some players a couple of months ago, but now certain teams are realizing that they have to play for next year. Look at the NL Central where the Cardinals have ruined the pennant hopes for the rest of the division.
One thing is good about the deadline. It creates a sense of finality for the calcified Wade. Maybe it will be enough to nudge him into an actual deal. Without it the Phils may have a share of first, but it'll be fleeting. Like the ground Napoleon conquered in Russia before having to retreat inevitably.
146th Anniversary of the First Road Trip
Whither goest thou, America, in thy shiny car in the night?
—Jack "Krol" Kerouac in On the Road
This is ridiculous. What are we going to do?…Road Trip.
1858 was an important year for baseball. The game's first organization, the National Association of Base Ball Players, took its name and adopted its first set of bylaws. The first non-New York area team, the Liberty club of New Brunswick, NJ, was formed to play the "New York" game.
Then on July 20, 1858 there was something very special, the first road trip and first all-star game. Here's the account of how it happened from the peerless book The National Association of Base Ball Players, 1857-1870 by Marshall D. Wright:
In late June, the New York Clipper reported plans for a series of matches. These were to be no ordinary games. Instead, they would pit an "All New York Nine" against an "All Brooklyn Nine." In other words, the best nine players from the New York clubs would square off against their Brooklyn counterparts. The New York group consisted of players from the Gotham, Knickerbocker, Eagle, Empire, and Union clubs, while the Brooklyn contingent was made up of members of the Atlantic, Excelsior, Putnam, and Eckford nines.
On July 20, 1858, at the Fashion Race Course in Brooklyn, the first match came off. The Clipper's issue of July 24 described the scene:
The stands at the Fashion on Tuesday [7/20] were crowded, the ladies seeming to preponderate; on different parts of the course were gathered immense numbers of spectators, while hundreds of vehicles were arranged at various places around the track. There could not have been less than 10,000 persons present.
The game itself proved to be close and exciting. In the end, New York bested their Brooklyn brethren 22-18. Very complete statistics were kept on the game—even to the level of measuring the pitch count which saw an astounding 547 pitches tossed by all hurlers.
In the return match played on August 17 at the same location, the Brooklyn contingent soundly thrashed New York by the count of 29-8. The Clipper described the inability of the Gothamites to score as follows: "Of the nine innings played on each side, New York included 5 round 0's their highest score being 4; while the Brooklynites had but a round 0, and the good score of 6 in their first and fourth innings."
With the series knotted at one each, the tie-breaking match was eagerly anticipated. On September 10, once again at the Fashion Race Course, the "All New York Nine" took on the "All Brooklyn Nine." With New York at bat first, the Clipper described the action: Gelston began by making a homerun, Benson was out at first by being caught on the fly by Pidgeon; Tooker by Boerum on a foul ball, and Gelston on the 1st base by Price. Gelston, Wadsworth, Pinckney, Thorne, DeBost, Burns and McCosker each made a run." Trailing by seven after the first one-half inning, the demoralized Brooklyn squad never recovered and lost decisively, 29-18.
These three matches were the pinnacle of baseball interest up to this point. Never before had so much interest been placed in the game—both in the sheer volume of spectators and in the press coverage that followed. Each contributed to the expansion of the sport.
None But the Braves
The brave man is the elder son of creation who has stepped buoyantly into his inheritance, while the coward, who is the younger, waiteth patiently for his decease.
—Henry David "Clyde" Thoreau
O, that’s a brave man! he writes brave verses, speaks
—William "Author" Shakespeare
It had to be the Braves, didn't it? I wouldn't have minded the Mets or even the Marlins that much. But the Phils have been knocked from the top spot in the NL East by the f'ing Braves. The Atlanta Braves of the obnoxious, foam-axe be-chopping fans, who don't even show up for the playoffs. Those Braves.
And what really chafes this year is that the Braves are, by a wide margin, the worst team on paper of the four "contenders" in the East, baseball's version of the AFC Central—the Expos are I guess the Bengals (Exposed instead of Bungles?).
The Braves were once one of the best franchises in baseball but in the last couple of years they have dismantled their dynasty while continuing to win with lesser talent. It started in 2003 when they allowed two-fifths of their rotation, Tom Glavine and Kevin Millwood, to leave town and all that got in return was a soon-to-be 27-year-old, non-prospect catcher who had done absolutely nothing in 300+ major-league at-bats. They picked up Mike Hampton, whose contract the Rockies were willing to eat (except $5.5M) as long as he didn't pitch for them any longer, and the just-better-than-average Russ Ortiz. They picked up 17-game-winning ex-Brave Paul Byrd for half of Glavine's contract, yet still a bit of amigo money. They signed marginal talents like Robert Fick, Roberto Hernandez, and Shane Reynolds. They handed the second base job to two weak-hitting bench players, Mark DeRosa and Marcus Giles, and basically let them thumb-wrestle for the job, not really caring who won. They retained the likes of Methuselahan Vinny Castilla and Julio Franco at the corners.
And everyone (including me) predicted that the Braves reign was over. So what did they end up doing? Of course, they won the division by ten games and had the best record (101-61) in the league.
Javy Lopez was healthy and had a career year. Giles blossomed into one of the best second basemen in baseball. Shortstop Rafael Furcal lost his "weak-hitting" tag and both hit for power and got on base, two things he hadn't done in his three previous major-league seasons. Castilla and Franco turned back the clock. Mike Hampton cut over two runs from his ERA. Ortiz won 21 games. Even though Byrd missed the entire season, rookie Horacio Ramirez and vet Shane Reynolds combined to go 23-13, inexplicably. However, they again lost in the first round of the playoffs.
That seemed to be the straw to break the camel's back at the time. The franchise was sure to lose perennial staff ace Greg Maddux and their best two hitters in 2003 Gary Sheffield and Javier Lopez as well as starting third baseman Vinny Castilla to free agency.
They handed the third base job to the loser of the second base sweepstakes, DeRosa—why not? The marginal talent that they received in the Millwood trade, Estrada, was installed behind the plate. They traded their number one pitching prospect (Adam Wainright) and perennial prospect Jason Marquis to the Cardinals to get two players that Tony LaRussa didn't even want: the continually injured and underachieving J.D. Drew and former LaRussa plaything Eli Marrero (Jose Oquendo for a new generation). Drew was handed the right-field job and Marrero was supposed to fill in wherever necessary. Rookie Adam LaRoche was handed the first-base job to share with the 300-year-old Franco.
They again over-hauled the rotation, re-signing perennially hurt and under-achieving Jaret Wright and perennially poor John Thomson. This was apparently in an effort to acquire as many pitchers as possible from the 2002 Rockies, who had a staff ERA of 5.20. The rest of the staff was populated with castoffs from the Cubs (Antonio Alfonseca and Juan Cruz) and the Reds (Chris Reitsma).
On top of that the Braves have lost Chipper Jones, Marcus Giles, Adam LaRoche, Horacio Ramirez , and Byrd (again) to injuries for a significant amount of time. Chipper Jones is having his worst season in his eleven-year career.
However, Estrada was probably the best catcher in the NL in the first half. Drew may have been the second best right-fielder in the NL in the first half. Marrero is channeling John Mabry's 2002 season. No-name fill-ins have contributed especuially Charles Thomas who was a fill-in for a fill-in (Dewayne Wise). Jwret Wright looks like the prospect that he once was with the Indians. Byrd has returned to pitch well. The vets in the bullpen have contributed. And now Mike Hampton has won three straight after going 2-8 to start the season.
Should this team win the division? No way. Can they? Apparently so. If the Braves come close to a postseason berth, Bobby Cox should be manager of the year. If they win the division, he should be canonized. What he has been able to do with this team the last two years while sustaining such a high attrition rate is beyond reason.
It should remind the rest of the division (read the Phils) what can be done by a great manager. The Phils are prepared to sustain the damage done be a poor one. I have to wonder how many games the Phils would be up on the Braves and the rest of the division if Cox and Bowa had switched jobs. But that's just fantasy, like the belief that the Phils front office knows what it takes to build a winner.
34 With a Bullet
At 34 she is an extremely beautiful woman, lavishly endowed by nature with a few flaws in the masterpiece: She has an insipid double chin, her legs are too short and she has a slight potbelly. She has a wonderful bosom, though.
"J.R." Richard Burton, lovingly on his then-current wife Elizabeth "Resolutes" Taylor
Listen, Ange…I’m 34 years old, I’m just tired that’s all.
—Ernie "Let's Play Two" Borgnine in the great Marty (Bystrom).
Over the weekend Jim Thome hit his major-league-leading30th home run of the season, a three-run shot in the ninth in the Phil's 8-2 win Saturday over the Mets. In second place are Manny Ramirez and Adam Dunn at 26.
Thome hit 15 of those homers in June while batting .306 with a .430 OBP and .816 slugging percenatge (1.246 OPS) for the month. He's slowed a bit in July with just three homers and a .224 (and .796 OPS) in 58 July at-bats. However, Thome overall projects to what would be a career-high 53 home runs on the season.
Some will say that those numbers are padded by his new home park Citizens Bank Park, which has been a launching pad in its first half-year of existence. He does have 16 home runs at home, but his 14 road home runs are second to only Alex Rodriguez's and Albert Pujols' 15. He also has better all-around numbers on the road:
With his next home run Thome (33) will pass Barry Bonds for homers by age 34 (i.e., the season in which the player was 34 after July). If he hits continues hitting home runs at his current pace, he'll be twelfth all time in pre-34 HRs:
Could Thome break 600, 700, or whatever the record is by the time he retires? Assuming he finishes the year at the projected 434. He would need 66 to reach the 500 milestone. Through 2003, 101 major-leaguers had hit at least 66 homers from age 34 on. How about the 166 needed to reach 600 career homers? That's been done 16 times.
Here are the most home runs from the age of 34 on all-time:
[Note: an asterisk indicates an active player in 2004, and his totals reflect his 2004 HRs]
It looks like Thome has a decent shot if he can stay healthy for a number of years. For all the talk of his being prone to injury, he has never played fewer than 123 games after he became a starter at the major-league level.
You're So Moneyball, Baby
Moneyball: The Movie may be appearing in a theater near you sometime soon according to this article that my friend Mike sent me.
Joe Morgan already has a review ready: "I don't know much about art, but I know what I like. And this stinks. Billy Beane is the worst director in Hollywood."
Apparently, the Title Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon Does Actually Make Sense in Some Contexts
The Tigers beat the Yankees yesterday, 4-2, to better their 2003 win total in a little over half a season. The Tigers are now 44-47 with a .484 winning percentage. Last year, Detroit was a historically poor 43-119 with a .265 winning percentage. That's a .218 improvement.
Nate Robertson (9-4) also equaled the 2003 Tiger high in wins. Mike Maroth won nine while losing 21—the first man in 23 years to lose 20 games in a season.
If the Tigers can keep up their mediocre ways, they will have the best turnaround in the majors since the 1902-03 Giants and the 17th best all-time (displacing the second-year Diamondbacks).
Here are the top 20 turnarounds all-time:
Why did we ever let the Marlins win the World Series not just once, but twice? The Marlins are now under .500 for the first time this year after being swept by the dynastic Pirates. Florida also fell to fourth in NL East, baseball's version of Surviver—not the "Eye of the Tiger" band. They could become the 14th World Series champs to finish the next year under .500 (there are also two Temple Cup champs who did so). Here they are:
Everett Acrid Sox
Something had happened. A thing which, years ago, had been the eagerest hope of many, many good citizens of the town, and now it had come at last; George Amberson Mainafer had got his comeuppance. He got it three times filled, and running over. But those who had so longed for it were not there to see it, and they never knew it. Those who were still living had forgotten all about it and all about him.
—Narrator in Orson "Don't Call Me Boomer" Wells' The Magnificent Ambersons
Repeating last year's pre-trade deadline deal, the White Sox have reacquired Carl Everett. Everett replaces Frank Thomas at DH. Last season Everett filled in for the struggling 25-year-old Aaron Rowand in center. The Sox and Twins are currently tied for the lead in the AL Central.
Like the position he'll play, the circumstances are much different this season than last surrounding Everett's move to the Chicago. Last year Everett had 16 home runs and 62 RBI by the July 1 trade. He also was slugging ..544 and had an OPS (.900) that was 35% better than the park-adjusted league average. He went on to play well for the Sox (adjusted OPS 24% better than average) and represented them in the All-Star game.
This year, Everett joins the White Sox after hitting just .252 with 2 and 14 RBI (and a .697 OPS) for the lowly Expos. He has missed a significant amount of time to injury as well (30 games).
Everett was coming off two sub-par seasons when he had his late-career renaissance last year. Given that, his age (33), and his bad/injury plagued first half, I would like to think that he will stink up the joint at whatever they call Comiskey nowadays. It couldn’t happen to a nicer guy.
One thing's is for sure, the Sox have given up a boatload of prospects to get parts of two seasons from Everett. Last year they shipped right-handers Josh Rupe and Franklin Francisco and outfielder Anthony Webster to the Rangers. Now, theysent pitchers Jon Rauch and Gary Majewski to the 'Spos. That'll look pretty bad if they miss the playoffs again.
For the Want of 7 Dingers
2001 was an historic year for home runs. First and foremost, Barry Bonds became the first, and so far, the only man to hit 73 home runs in a season. Bonds also surpassed 500 home runs earlier on in the season, joining Mark McGwire as the only active major-leaguers with 500 homers. When McGwire retired after the season, Bonds was the only one.
However, a lesser home run story was going on at the same time. There were a number of players approaching 500. Five were within 53 homers of the feat as a matter of fact: Jose Canseco 462, Ken Griffey 460, Sammy Sosa 450, Fred McGriff 448, and Rafael Palmeiro 447. Of those five Canseco was released less than a week before McGwire, his former teammate and fellow "Bash Brother", and appeared to be a longshot for 500, at best. Sosa and Griffey, both 31, were assumed to be young enough and talented enough to join the exclusive club.
That left two veteran first basemen with left-handed bats, Palmeiro and McGriff. And if that parallels weren't enough, they were within one home run of each other at the time. So, of course, a great debate started to brew, one that seemed to last until Palmeiro passed 500 last year.
Since then the only debate involving the two was either to help invalidate Palmeiro's eventual Hall of Fame plaque or to prove that McGriff deserves one as well. But the basic assumption is that Palmeiro will go in the Hall and McGriff, likely, will not.
Fred McGriff just got released by the Devil Rays, and even though he stands at 493 career home runs, it seems unlikely that he'll get another trial to help him reach 500. He recorded a .181 batting average, a.578 OPS, and two home runs (but none since June 17) in 72 at-bats with Tampa Bay. He missed most of the first two months of the season trying to latch onto a team and as he approaches 41, his career may be at an end.
I thought it would be interesting to look at McGriff and the other players who came close but never garnered that 500-HR cigar. There are six other players who registered between 450 and 499 home runs in their career. They are:
I thought it would be interesting to see why they never reached 500 even though they were so close and to figure out if they could have reached that milestone if some conditions (injuries, strikes, etc.) hadn’t interfered. For each I projected any shortened season to their typical games-per-season average so long as they were still productive players (i.e., had a better than average adjusted OPS).
Were there any who simply retired early, foregoing the chance at 500 home runs? Not really. Stan Musial played until age 42 and then instantly became a Cardinal VP even though he was still a slightly better than average player. Stargell played until 42 but lost substantial time to arthritic knees. Winfield and Yaz played until age 43.
After his release following the 2001 season, Canseco couldn't latch onto another team. It wasn't for lack of trying. Canseco has an OPS 18% better than the adjusted park average in 2001.
Gehrig has the bad luck of contracting a disease that was named after him. Considered by many to be the greatest first baseman of all time, Gehrig has hit 29 home runs and had an OPS 32% better than average. He was just 36 when he retired.
Of all the players on the list, Gehrig was the closest to 500 and the best chance to reach the yet-undiscovered milestone, had he never contracted the illness. Without his injuries Jose Canseco projects to 564 home runs. Stargell would have had 521. Yaz projects to 462, Winfield 469, and Musial 500 on the nose (if you give him credit for the 1945 season he lost to military service--I averaged his total for the two adjacent seasons and arrived at 14 home runs). Fred McGriff projects to 507, after one adds back the games he lost to the 1994 strike and the time lost to injury last year.
My prediction is that McGriff's career is over and that he joins Bert Blyleven, Andre Dawson, and Dale Murphy in baseball's version of purgatory, the players who are perennially on the writers' Hall of Fame ballot but never make it in. It's a shame since he, like a good number of them, deserves enshrinement.
Logic is not a body of doctrine, but a mirror-image of the world. Logic is transcendental.
—Ludwig "That one’s for you" Wittgenstein
Logic is a little tweeting bird chirping in a meadow. Logic is a wreath of pretty flowers which smell BAD. Are you sure your circuits are functioning correctly? Your ears are green.
—Star "Tom" Trek's Mr. Spock "Shea", trying, successfully, to incapacitate am android with contradictory statements.
Spock: Congratulations on a dazzling display of logic.
Capt. Kirk "Rueter": Didn't think I had it in me, did you?
I was looking at an old book on logic problems and ran across one on baseball. It turned out to be a bit tricky so I thought I would present it here. The first person to get the correct answer wins the job of Phillies manager once the Phils' brass gets around to canning the bum (by the way, I did get the correct answer, but I don't want the job—Bowa's an impossible act to follow):
The Umpire Strikes Back
Ralph, an umpire for the minor league system, is very upset with today's players "Such prima donnas," he moaned. "They think they can undermine my authority and question every call I make." With that in mind, Ralph was determined that today he would eject from the game any player who argued his decisions. Thus, in the nine-inning game, Hank and four other players were thrown out of the game, each in a different inning, for a different reason (one was arguing the ball he hit was a home run, not a foul ball as Ralph had ruled). From the following clues, can you determine each player's full name (one was Mr. Player), the reason he was thrown out of the game, and the inning in which each ejection occurred?
1. Mr. Fielder was thrown out two innings before Lance and two innings after the man who argued he had been hit by a pitch.
2. Rusty was ejected two innings after the man who argued the catcher interfered with his swing and two innings before Mr. Singleton.
3. The man thought he was safe at home was told to hit the showers two innings before Mr. Walker and two innings after Mick.
4. At least one man was ejected more than two innings after Bubba.
5. Mr. Dinger, who did not argue a called third strike, was ejected in the third inning.
[Turn your computer upside-down for answer.]
Second Verse Same As The Phirst
The Phils got off to a great start to the second half of their season yesterday at Shea. They lost 3-2 in eleven innings and the loss epitomized the Phils so far in 2004. They are now in a tie for first with the talent-poor Braves with the Marlins and Mets one game back.
The Phillies were held hitless until there were two outs in the fifth. After finally tying the game 2-2 and knocking out starter Steve Trachsel in the sixth, their bats fell asleep. Against four relievers over 5.1 innings the best they could muster was two hits, one walk and no runs.
But the coup de gras was the ending. Comparing the Phils in the ninth and the Mets in the eleventh speaks volumes about this race. After being held hitless since the sixth, the Phils were able to get a two-out rally going in the ninth. Mike Lieberthal hit a gapper for a double. Chase Utley, pinch-hitting for the pitcher, slapped a single to left, but Lieberthal had to hold at third since the ball got to left fielder Cliff Floyd. Jimmy Rollins followed with a weak comebacker to the mound that still required an acrobatic play by Braden Looper, the pitcher, to get Rollins.
And that was basically the Phils entire offense after the sixth inning. The had no hits in the two extra frames, even though Mike Piazza's error basically gave them seven tries to do so. The alos wasted Pat Burrell's leadoff walk in the eleventh.
Compare the Phils' ninth and eleventh with the Mets in the bottom of the eleventh. The Phils had just brought in horrendous Robert Hernandez, a man who should no longer grace a major league roster, and does so just because of the sheer fact that he was once a decent closer. He is now the poster child for why Larry Bowa should never again be allowed to direct a major league team on the field. Bowa consistently goes to Hernandez in key situations and he continually allows the key hit. The problem has been exacerbated by the starters inability to get out of the sixth inning, thereby creating more opportunities for Bowa to call on his favorit screw-up Roberto Horrendous.
Anyway, Hernandez, as is his wont, walked the leadoff hitter Piazza—ever notice how often a player makes a bad defensive play and then comes to bat the next half-inning? Wilson, pinch-ran for Piazza—how often do you see a catcher pinch-run?
After Hidalgo flied out and Floyd singled on the first pitch, Horrendous walked the bases full on five pitches to Shane "Boy, I look funny with a goatee" Spencer. Then Ty Wigginton hit the first offering right back to Horrendous. The ball was hit hard enough that even though Horrendous butchered the catch at first, he had time to still get a throw home. It's too bad it wasn't a good one. The Mets scored, winning the game.
The play was ruled a single somehow (how about an error and reaching on an attempted force?). At least it meant that Horrendous was tagged for the earned run, something he has ducked way too often this season even though his ERA stands at 5.03. Meanwhile, Jose Parra won his first game since 1996 when he was on the Twins.
The Phils play 19 of their first 24 games of the second half on the road, where they are 20-20. They are also 17-23 against the NL East and play 12 of those 24 against divisional opponents. Lastly, they play only teams competing for the postseason until August 9 when the welcome the Rockies to the new park. Their next non-playoff-contending opponent is Montreal whom they host on September 17-19.
My prediction is that the Phillies will be thoroughly ensconced in fourth by the time Marlins visit on July 21-22. Perhaps the brass will finally relief Larry Bowa of his duties and we will get to see if they can put it together for the last couple of months of the season under a new manager. One thing is for sure, they had better get a center fielder and at least one starting pitcher or there will be an open revolt in South Philly.
G.I. Joe Morgan, A Real American Hero, Chat Day, Part II
[By the way, this is a compendium from the last two Joe Morgan chats, June 18 and July 2.]
[Mike: That's all there is, 'cause there ain't no more.
Onward and upward Mike Power…
Aaron (cleveland): After seeing Pedro hit Sheffield last night, I have to ask--do you think an umpire should be allowed to eject a pitcher who he thinks hits someone on purpose even without a warning?
(10:39 AM ET ) The rule says he can. The rule says that if he thinks it was intentional, he can eject him. He doesn't have to warn him before he kicks him out. I think we put a lot of pressure on the umpire to decide sometimes whether it was intentional.
[Mike: Aaron Cleveland? Grover's son? No, not the "Hello everybody!" one.
Joe, actually that's not exactly true. From Rule 9.01(d):
Each umpire has authority to disqualify any player, coach, manager or substitute for objecting to decisions or for unsportsmanlike conduct or language, and to eject such disqualified person from the playing field.
So if the ump sees the beaning as unsportsmanlike, he can eject the pitcher, not intentional. Even the major-league umps don't have the hubris to think they can read pitcher's minds. They would rather apply the "warn both benches" band-aid after the fact.]
Tim (Lincoln, NE): What is it that the reds need to do in order to stay alive with the likes of Houston and Chicago down the stretch. Our offense is fairly solid, but do we need to shop for a starter or a couple of relievers?
(10:40 AM ET ) The Reds' pitching needs to be more consistent. They have good arms, but they have to be more consistent. The Reds have done a great job staying in the race and giving themselves a chance -- and anything can happen if you give yourself a chance.
[Mike: Lincoln? Do you know Ana Ng (My 2nd They Might Be Giants reference today, a new record).
No, Joe, they need to be less consistent. Their pitchers need to stop sucking so consistently.
Are they "good arms" as Joe says? Paul Wilson came into the year with a 28-47 career record and 4.81 ERA, which is 10% worse than the adjusted league average. Lidle was 45-39 with a 4.32 ERA, 3% better than average, but he was coming off the worst season of his career: 5-9 with a 5.75 ERA (18% worse than average). Jose Acevedo had pitched just 146.2 innings in parts of three seasons, but was 11-9 with a 5.22 ERA, 17% worse than average. Aaron Harang had only pitched 154.2 innings but was 10-10 with a 5.06 ERA, 12% worse than average. Fifth starter Jesus Sanchez came into 2004 at 23-32 with a 5.26 ERA, 18% worse than average.
They aint the '71 Orioles. That's for sure.
Realistically, the Reds are probably two decent starters away from seriously contending. Acevedo's decent if short trial in 2003 looks more and more like a fluke. Harang and Wilson look like the only decent starters.]
Matt (Hartford, CT): The Red Sox didn't have the extra $ to complete the A-Rod trade. Will they have the money if Randy Johnson were to become available?
(10:44 AM ET ) First, I disagree that they didn't have the money to complete the trade. They made a business decision not to make the commitment -- and I respect that decision. Following that logic, they would have the money for Randy Johnson if they wanted to make that commitment.
[Mike: They didn't make the A-Rod trade because of the salary "cap". I'm not sure if Johnson would put them over. If not, I'm sure that they could get a special dispensation from Pope Bud so that the Yankees don't get him.]
Scott (Battle Creek, MI): Are the Brewers for real? Can they contend for the NL Central or the wildcard?
(10:47 AM ET ) They are playing great. And I repeat this -- there aren't many great teams out there anymore. Everybody has weaknesses. So it's easier for teams to move from last place to the postseason. So, yes, every team has a chance. There is a lot of parity right now instead of a lot of great teams.
[Mike: Parity? Is that what you call it when a team decides to cut its payroll by 25%, throws its front office into chaos, trades its best player, and somehow becomes a .500 team.
Realistically, can the Brewers contend for the NL Central crown? There are at least two better teams ahead of them, the Astros right behind them, and they are nine games out. No, I can't imagine they’ll be much of a factor.
How about the wild card? Well, they are just 2.5 games out. But there are at least three better teams ahead of them. I gets it's possible, but I can't imagine that this team will continue to improve enough to win it.
Finally, Joe, every team has some weakness, even your Big Red Machine. It doesn't mean there are no great teams (not that the Brewers are one). It just means that it's virtually impossible to achieve the kind of perfection that Joe has infused in his idealized view of the old Reds.]
Tony (chicago): Joe, Latly in chicago there has been alot of press on Sosa and him striking out. It seems to me that he's being less patient then in the previous couple years. Ron Santo says its because he's opneing his soldier to early and thats why hes missing or fouling alot of balls. What do you think?
(10:49 AM ET ) I haven't seen him play enough to give an opinion on what's wrong with his swing. But I will say that anytime you're injured, it's difficult to get your focus back after an injury. You come back and you're excited and sometimes too aggressive. It could be the shoulder, it could be something else. It takes time to figure out.
[Mike: I hate when I opne my soldier. It really hurts.
Is Sosa striking out more often in 2004? Well, he has struck out in 24.38% of his plate appearance. That's up .1% from last year and up 1% from his career average. But it's only up .36% from his 1999 totals. That's one of his 60-homer seasons.
Could it just be that he's 35 and he has fallen off slightly from his glory days? He still is a great player. He has a .939 OPS and all of his ratios are higher than in 2003.]
jeff, nyc: joe did you watch last nights yankee-red sox game. have you ever seen a better regular season game than that? it was a october atmosphere game in july. your thoughts?
(10:52 AM ET ) It's always hard to say that one regular season game is the best because there are so many great games. That's what makes baseball such a great sport.
[Mike: Way to go out on a limb there Joe. You could just have said, "Ah, a good rerun of Smallville was on that night, and I meant to TiVo the game, but I ended up recording I, Ro-Butt on Spice. I really didn't mean to record that movie. But since it was there already. I mean, not that I would have otherwise, but…what was the question again?"]
Curt (Haverford, PA): Joe, with half the season complete, the Phils still do not look like a dominant first-place team? I think they're setting themselves up for a September swan dive? Any comments as to what to look from them in the 2nd half to open this lead up a bit?
(10:55 AM ET ) I agree that they do not look like a dominant team, except at home, when they hit HRs in that small ballpark. But they can still win in that division.
[Mike: The Phils are 26-22 at home this year. They have hit 73 homers at home to 44 on the road. However, they have allowed 71 at Citizens Bank Park, too.
That's the problem with a hitter's park. The opponents get to hit, too.
They can still win in that division: Wow, you think? Just because they are in first right now? You keep creeping farther out on that limb, Joe.]
Kris (Boston): What is the deal with Terry Francona? Why does he continue to play Kevin Millar? Sure, he's a great "clubhouse commedian", but that's not what he gets paid to do. He hasn't been able to hit anything lately, and he makes routine "little league" plays look difficult. Isn't it time to look to another option, even if it just means improving defensively?
(10:58 AM ET ) I think they definitely need to improve the team defensively. It's mind-boggling to see how many errors they can make sometimes. I can't single out any one player, but I do know that Francona needs to shore up the defense to get them to the wild card.
[Mike: Kris, you just wanted to do your Jerry Seinfeld impersonation, right? What's the deal with Terry Francona? The "commedian" (sic) reference was tip-off, right?
How do they improve the defense? Just by concentrating a bit more? Or how about they take extra grounders like Corbin Berson in "Major League". Millar has never been a good defensive outfielder. He's better suited to first. But there's David Ortiz and David McCarty there. Ramirez's defense has deteriorated since his days in right for the Indians. Bellhorn has always been a below-average second baseman. The only real standout on defense is Pokey Reese and he has no set position with Garciaparra back.
By the way, why should the Sox settle for the wild card right now? They have plenty of time and if they can shore up a couple of holes, they still have a team that can catch the Yankees.]
Senator Baseball(washington DC): Joe, Where do you see the expos next year? Doesn't DC seem to make more sense than the Northern Virginia?
(10:59 AM ET ) Without researching the matter, I would say that D.C. makes a lot of sense because they have a stadium they could play in. Washington makes more sense to me, except for the problem with being close to Baltimore and taking fans away from the Orioles, which has to be addressed.
[Mike: Research? This is your research, Joe.
But you think a stadium could come in handy? Hmm, interesting.
As far as taking fans away from the O's, Joe, did you know that there was a team in Baltimore and in D.C. for 18 years. And did you further know that there was a D.C. team first and all the O's had to do was pay $100 K for the rights when the set up shop?]
Mike (Jersey City, NJ): Who is on pace to win the AL MVP? IROD, Vlad, or AROD?
(11:00 AM ET ) Right now you'd have to choose Vladimir Guerrero, with David Ortiz maybe 2nd at this point. In the NL, Scott Rolen, and Barry Bonds, as usual.
[Mike: David Ortiz? David Ortiz of the immaculate glove? You bemoan the Red Sox defensive woes and laud Ortiz? Ortiz is the myopic media's poster child for RBI today. He got plenty of indefensible votes last season. At least this year he's in the top couple of offensive players on his own team.
In the NL, Rolen is having a great year, but he is nothing more than this year's excuse for not voting for Bonds. He also has the RBI angle covered.
For the record, BP ranks the NL players by VORP as follows: Bonds, Helton, Abreu, Drew, Rolen.
VORP in the AL: Ramirez, Guerrero, Pudge, Guillen, Young, and Mora
Oritiz is nowhere near the top players in either category. He's a non-candidate who'll probably end up winning it. Can you say Mo Vaughn?]
Jason (Provo): Joe, if the season ended today, would Scott Rolen be the NL MVP?
He would get MY vote. We'll have to see what happens the rest of the way. Somebody may have a remarkable second half. You never know. But today, yes, it's Rolen.
[Mike: Thank goodness you get a vote, Joe.]
steve (fairfield, ct): everyone is saying beltran will eventually become a yankee, even gammons, but if he does make it to the bronx, say next year, where is bernie going ? DH ? and lofton ? hes got to be traded ?
Well, obviously, if Beltran goes someone will be eliminated. I think Lofton goes. BUT, I think Beltran may end up somewhere else. It is not blueprinted that he is headed to the Bronx.
[Mike: Lofton goes no matter what. He's a one-year rental at best. Given his recent history, who would expect it to be more?
Of course, it's not "blueprinted"--Selig only allows that for his buddy John Henry's team--, but who's going to sign with who needs a center fielder and can afford him? The Yankees and maybe the Phils if they are willing to continued their spending spree if after moving into the new stadium.]
Otto, (San Juan): Hi Joe, were do you rank Robbie Alomar on the all time great second baseman?If he retires today, is he an HOF?
I think Robbie is a HoFer, yes. I don't know how to rank him, I didn't see all the great second basemen, so it's hard to rank them relative to each other. Of all the ones I HAVE seen, he is definitely in the top 3 or 4.
[Mike: Recent Hall of Fame voting history has not been overly kind to second baseman. Sandberg was expected to be a first-ballot type but has been passed over twice. And Whitaker and Grich didn't get enough votes.
According to Win Shares the best second basemen since Morgan started playing are Joe, Carew, Biggio, Alomar, Whitaker, Sandberg, Grich, and Randolph.]
Jason (San Francisco, CA): Can you explain for me how the Yankees spend cash wisely? The Yankees payroll bills $180+ million while the Red Sox hovers above $125 million while you rate them about the same... Am I missing something?
Yeah, you're missing which team you would pick to win right now. the Yankees or the Red Sox? The Yankees have not always had the highest payroll, you know. The Braves had it, the Red Sox have had it, the Dodgers have had it -- but they haven't won. The Yankees win. They are efficient. They win with it.
[Mike: Well, I looked that up. I used Doug Pappas' data and aggregated per team. Here are the top major-league teams in descending chronological order: Yankees 1999- today, Orioles 1998, Yankees 1997, Orioles 1996, Jays 1995, Braves 1994, Jays 1992-93, A's 1991, Royals 1990, Dodgers 1989, Yankees 1986-88, Braves 1985. That's as far back as his data go.
Everyone forgets what a bust the mid- to late-Ninety O's were. Angelos gets a free ride and he gets to dictate where the Expos move.
Oh, but you'll notice that Red Sox never had the highest. That's what letting your star players leave as free agents will do for you.
Also, the Yankees were always so efficient. In 1988 they led the majors in payroll and yet finished fifth out of seven teams.]
Ryan (Miami): Joe, being one of the best young players when you broke in, what do you think of one of the best young players today Miguel Cabrera? Is there any limit to what he will accomplish in his career?
There are always limits on a guy's ability to mature and improve -- there have been a lot of players who have come into baseball and their first two years are their best years b/c the opposition gets to know him and how to play him and they don't make adjustments so they plateau. You just never know how their potential will pan out. Injuries of course come into play. Look at Ken Griffey. He'd be chasing 600 HRs right now. Before we annoint a young player with HoF credentials, you have to wait and see how he improves and adjusts and maintains his health. Stil, I do think that Cabrera has so much to offer and certainly has a great deal of potential.
[Mike: No, Joe, not really. If you project Griffey's last three, partial seasons to 150 games, you get an extra 30-31 home runs. But it sure sounded good.
By the way, Cabrera looks good but he's still the third best right fielder in his own division.]
Fly oh mighty Mike Power! Fly!…
Kevin (Schaumburg, Illinois): The Tribune Company and the Chicago Cubs need to start telling fans the truth! When do you think Wood will be back?
I don't know if they are not telling the truth. What is the truth? Only Wood knows. Maybe the doctors. I don't understand the question, b/c I mean, who knows that they are not telling the truth. Who knows. Elbows and arm injuries can linger longer than originally anticipated.
[Mike: Schaumburg, home of the Flyers?
Joe, that's a great Bush impersonation. But it goes, "You know, I just -- I'm sure something will pop into my head here in the midst of this press conference, with all the pressure of trying to come up with an answer, but it hadn't yet…I hope I -- I don't want to sound like I've made no mistakes. I'm confident I have. I just haven't -- you just put me under the spot here, and maybe I'm not as quick on my feet as I should be in coming up with one." Nice try. You don't win but we have these nice parting gifts and a year's supply of Rice-A-Roni. Thanks for playing our game.]
Chris, Chicago, Illinois: Joe, the Cubs just swept the Astros in 4 games and have won 6 in a row while the Cards swept the A's, now that Sosa, Grudz, Wood, and Dempster are all expected back soon, do you see a team (esp. the Cubs) pulling away in the N.L. Central or do you think the division will be bunched up all season? thanks.
Well, like last year, I think it will go down to the end. The most important addition for the Cubs is to have Sammy Sosa back. His effect is huge. He plays everyday. He is by far the most important return. That said, I still don't see them pulling away. With their pitching, they may be the best team in the East, but I don't think they will significantly pull away in that division.
[Mike: No, but the Cardinals could.
And Joe—ooh, this is embarrassing—they realigned in 1994. The Cubs are now in the Central Division…in the National League. Ah, they won the division last year. Ring a bell?
To quote Senator John Blutarsky, "Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?"]
Josh (Miami): Joe, I have two questions for you. The first one is What do you think of the Koch trade to the Marlins? And does AJ Burnett have the best stuff in baseball! Thanks!
I don't know how you can say that Koch has the best stuff. He's one guy with good stuff. There are a lot of guys out there with great stuff. Matt Clement for one. Pedro when he's healthy. There are several. Maybe I haven't seen him enough, but I don't think he's played enough. ... As far as Koch, obviously, he wasn't working in Chicago. I think a change of scenery could be fery good for Billy.
[Mike: A change of scene be fery fery good for Billy Koch.
By the way, the question was if A.J. Burnett had the best stuff. But they are both pitchers. And it was the questioner's fault for confusing you with two names. And two questions at once is just unfair.]
Chris (Cincinnati, OH): Joe, you are the man. Is Juan Castro the Reds shortstop of the future? He is a Gold Glove quality shortstop, but a .220 career avg isn't too strong. With Concepcion and Larkin at short for the last 30 years somebody is going to have some big shoes to fill.
Well, I haven't seen enough of him, but he is very good defensively. It takes players a while to learn to hit. Look at Cesar and Cora in LA. You can learn to hit with experience and swing adjustments. Once he plays every single day, I think his offensive production will come around. I think we have to hold off judement for now. Wait and see. But defensively, from what I've seen, he looks very strong.
[Mike: Looks like Joe picked the wrong day to stop sniffing glue... Juan Castro?!? He is 32 years old! He isn't the Reds shortstop of the future. He isn't even the Reds shortstop of the past.
How many 32-year-old middle infielders with .226/.271/.327/.598 career ratios, ever turn their careers around? Most of them don't get to be 33-year-old middle infielders.
Besides, he's playing mostly third—how are the Reds coming close to contending?—He was supposed to wrest the job away from Larkin four years ago and has yet to do it.
As far as Izturis is concerned, he's just 24, has just two and one-half previous seasons under his belt, and isn't exactly lighting up the league. He is batting .294 but his OPS (.701) is barely passable even in LA. Cora is 28, which is a great age for a career year, and is basically matching the numbers from his injury-plagued 2002 season.]
Jerry (Queens): Is there anything like the combination of smells of glove leather and real grass? Can we bottle this smell, send it to everyone who has become so uptight with the game (Interleague/All-Star issues) and tell them to relax?
Well, that's a good suggestion, but with all the modern points of view about everything and people wanting to change everything, I don't think that's possible. The grass and the leather are great, but the sound of the bat -- wood meeting the ball -- was also great. Some kids will never get a chance to feel that with aluminum bats in high school and college and minor leagues. What can you do?
[Mike: Ah, Jerry, I guess not.
It's amazing: Joe gets this feel-good fluff of a question and he still has to go on about "people wanting to change everything". And then takes a break from reality to rant on about aluminum bats!?!]
Dan (Brooklyn, NY): Joe, You have always been a proponent of watching the game and not analyzing numbers. Can numbers and stats reliably predict season outcomes (runs scored vs runs allowed) or is there a "luck factor", say in one run games, that is really the difference between a pennant and a World Series?
Statistics are always important, but I use them to emphasize certain points, not to MAKE a point. I've never said stats are not important, I just dont' use them to gauge if a guy is a good player. I use it to emphasize that. Look at Barry, he didn't have the CHANCE to drive in 100 runs this year, but he's still the best hitter. Runs scored are always important. There are things that are important. Your philosophy on how to win a close ballgame is more important then your stats there. Your approach is the telltale sign of success.
[Mike: ……………….Sorry, I had an aneurysm. I'm speechless. This is true Joe perfection. When is his reality show coming out?]
Tom, San Jose: Do you think Frank Robinson has mellowed any as he has aged? His blood pressure certainly went up when the umpiring crew blew that home run call the Expos the other night.
Frank has definitely mellowed since the end of his playing days and the beginning of his managerial days. I don't know any manager who wouldn't have gotten so upset the other night. The Expos aren't a good enough team to give games away on account of a bad call. I'm a big Frank Robinson fan. As a player, I think he is the most underrated player of all time. He won an MVP in both leagues, he was 12 hits shy of 3,000, he hit 586 HRs, he won a Triple Crown -- and he wasn't on the All-Century Team!
[Mike: But, Joe, according to you the All-Century team is the be-all and end-all of player evaluations. Let's read what Joe said a few weeks ago to justify his selection of Ken Griffey, Jr. as the player of the Nineties instead of the superior Barry Bonds:
Griffey was the player of the decade in the 90s. Bonds is definitely the player of the millenium. I agree with you. Bonds is definitely one of the best players of all time ... but so is Griffey. Griffey was the only EVERYDAY player voted onto the All-Century team.
And later on:
Remember, he is the only active player, other than Clemens, on the all-Century team. So I"m not the only one that feels that way!
So going back a question, Joe uses statistics, data, information to support an opinion not form it. So a piece of info can be used to support a position one moment and then be ignored if it contradicts a position the next. He uses stats like a drunk uses a lightpole, to prop himself up.
Oh, and Barry Bonds was the better player in the Nineties and Frank Robinson, not Joe's old teammate Pete Rose, should have been in the All-Century outfield. But no one but Joe takes it seriously anyway, so who cares?]
Jeff, CT: Do you see Oakland making any more moves to add to thier bullpen?
(10:51 AM ET ) I see a lot of teams making a lot of moves to help their bullpens. I don't know exactly what Billy Beane thinks his team needs. Billy Beane and I disagree on a lot of things about the game, so I don't know what he's thinking. Anytime someone tells you defense isn't important, I don't know what he's thinking. Anybody who watched the Red Sox-Yankees series knows that defense is important. But he may think he needs another hitter or something. I just don't know what he's thinking.
[Mike: Nice way to hide your derision, Joe.
When did Beane say defense wasn't important? Oh, maybe in the book he wrote, Moneyball.
I don’t think there's a higher compliment to someone involved in baseball than Joe saying, "Billy Beane and I disagree on a lot of things about the game, so I don't know what he's thinking."
Have another drink, Joe.]
Jay, Raleigh: Ripken was the Iron Man and Ozzie was Ozzie, but do you think anyone is better overall than Jeter at SS?
(10:56 AM ET ) Ozzie Smith was a better defensive player, and Ripken had more power. But as far as winning games and being a winning player, I don't think anyone surpasses Jeter at that position.
[Mike: I disagree completely, Ozzie Osbourne was the Iron Man. He even wrote a song about it in which, "he said in freakadelic surround, "I am Iron Man". The song launched the careers of thousands of air guitarists whose "Nah..Nah..Nah Nah Nah...Nana Nana Nanana Nah Nah Nah" are still floating in the troposphere somewhere.
Oh, and Joe is absolutely right, Jeter has won more championships. Therefore, he is a better player than either of those players. Luis Sojo is better than them, too. And that bum Hans Wagner won only one World Series.]
bryan, sandiego: if a player gets caught with or taken steroids, what do you feel a proper punishment is?
That's a very good question. My first thought is I want everyone to get caught if they are using. My second thought is the punnishment. The first time, it would be suspension -- maybe 30 days or 60 days. the second time, I would suspend them for at least a year. If there is a third time, I would suspend them for 5 years which would effectively end their carreer pretty much. They say the punnishment has to fit the crime, well I think the only way to stop this is to enforce a stern punishment. They've already been warned. They've had one free year of testing without any punishment. Now it's time to do something.
[Mike: Wait for it…]
Eddie (Jersey City, NJ): If a player is found guilty of steroids, should he not be considered HOF eligible regardless of his career?
These are great great questions that I really don't konw the answer to. I have an opinion. I think now that we have given everyone a warning, a grace period, and we're trying to catch them now -- if you get caught, you pay your penalty and then you are judged. Part of the HoF mantra is CHARACTER and personal contributions to the game. I would think that steroids use is a NEGATIVE contribution that I'm sure will factor in to the voting process. It is something that I am anxious to ask a lot of people and hear their opinions on.
[Mike: Oh boy, there goes Gestapo Joe. Unfortunately, he's also the
No one's ever been found using steroids. We have no idea how bad the problem is. But Joe is already getting the ball rolling to ban some players from the Hall. Well, not "ban", I guess he'll just blacklist them. Does it remind you of another Joe who liked blacklisting people?]
Ok everybody, I have to run. Great questions this morning. I am going to ask the Board of Directors about what they think about steroid use and Hall of Fame eligibility. I will follow up on that for you. We'll do this again next Friday. Same time, same place. Till then, take care.
[Mike: Sounds great, Greg.
Great, Joe has a new pet project. His old hobby was spreading misinformation about the importance of the Big Red Machine. Hey, he may bar Bonds and McGwire someday from the Hall but at least he'll give up his ludicrous attempt to enshrine Dave Concepcion.
Eddie (Jersey City, NJ): Hi Joe, referring back to my question from 2 weeks ago: If players are convicted of steroid use, should they NOT be allowed in the HOF...did you happen to get any feedback on that?
(10:42 AM ET ) I haven't heard back yet, but I'll be at the Hall of Fame on July 25 and I'll discuss it with the other players. I think that players who are already in the Hall of Fame will think that players should be banned in the Hall if they use steroids. But players don't set the policy. I'm vice chairman of the Hall of Fame board, and the board sets policy.
[Mike: So why talk to the players then? I wonder what open minded individuals like Bob Feller and Mike Schmidt will think. Hmmm….
And why hasn’t the Hall gotten back to him? It looks like maybe Joe is just meaningless figurehead. Given his past responses regarding the Hall, that's at least reassuring. Hey, he did at least know who sets procedure. The man is a font of information.]
Pedro Martinez: Will I make the Hall Of Fame...? Let's say I pitch 2 more good years of 17 wins and a 3.00 e.r.a.... C'mon... Let me have it...
I don't know if you'll get in or not. I don't vote. What would 34 more wins do for you? I don't think there is anyone right now who is still pitching that will indefinitely get in. The only cinch situation is Roger Clemens and Randy Johnson at this point. Nobody else is a given right now. Greg Maddux, yes. But no one else.
[Mike: Pedro, that depends. Are you now or have you ever been a member of the steroid-using party?
Welll, 34 more wins would get him to 200 for his career (166 to start season). There aren't too many 200-game winners in the Hall though his winning percentage is excellent. His peak may have been as good as anyone's but I think the low win total will hurt him. I'd say he has to pitch another 5 decent seasons for the voters to go after him.
That is, unless Clemens, Johnson, Maddux, and Glavine admit to steroid use.]
Oh no, it's one of the Intruders! I bet he uses steroids.
Bullet (Headed) Man to the rescue
And away we go, Mike Power…
Hey Bud Selig Chat Day, Let's Party!
Hast thou found any likeness for thy vision?
—Algernon Charles "Greg" Swinburne
So it's another year of All-Star mania. However, this year, Commissioner Derrel McKinley "Bud" Selig has more on his mind then just getting himself gussied up with his best possum-based hair grease a la Paul Wolfowitz in Farenheit 9/11. Two years ago, I almost felt sorry for Err Bud when he wore his best suit and almost had a straight part in his hair to host the All-Star game at the then-new but already much-maligned Miller Park in Milwaukee. Then the Home Run Derby was steeped in the steroid issue and marginalized by labor headlines, and of all things that the players did not set a strike date. The game ends in a tie after both sides run out of pitchers. Selig unduly gets blamed and his pathetically overmatching, shrugging visage is on the front page of every sports section in America the next day.
Of course, my sympathy for him lasted only so long, maybe the remainder of the 2002 All-Star break. Anyway, given that this is an election year, Selig is now getting downright presidential on our asses, which only adds to his loathsomeness.
Aside from handing out awards, Selig was nowhere to be found during the game. Instead the viewer got a shot of George H. and Barbara Bush, looking all desiccated and presidential. Far be it for Fox to give current President Bush a free boost by airing his folks attending the Nation's pastime. But the image of that certain presidentiality (thank god for Florence Henderson) was conveyed to the audience, lending an air of credibility to his Budness when he was in sight.
Also, Selig's campaigning for non-issues like extending the "This Time It Counts" All-Star Game format. Yeah, that was definitely the point when all the good will evaporated, when this irrelevant Band-Aid was proposed as a solution for the tied All-Star Game issue.
And Finally, Czar Bud deigned to sit down with the local yokels to have a
No, Bud wasn't there to discuss a new stop sign at the corner of Main and Vine. He was there to answer carefully selected questions from a cross section of Selig's America, which is to say those people in Houston who have decided to attend FanFest at 3 PM on a Tuesday and have waited on line to post a question addressed to him. He actually wasn't even there: he answered questions online. Proving that he is truly a man of the people, tres presidential.
Given that a Bud chat session is such an auspicious event, I felt that it deserved a royal Joe Morgan chat treatment. So here goes:
Why is the U.S. Olympic baseball team not chock full of the same players we are about to see in the Midsummer Classic? Why is it that the country with the best baseball talent in the world being represented by a group of minor leaguers?
Well, let me tell you first of all, that group of minor leaguers won the Olympic Gold Medal in the year 2000, so they did pretty well.
No. 2, the problem that we have, we're in season. We can't stop our season for three weeks. Imagine stopping Aug. 15 of this year to Labor Day while all of the players, our best players, were at the Olympic games. You can't do that. The season ends Oct. 3. It's got to end on Oct. 3, and we're going to have to find another way.
We want to stay in the Olympics, we want to be in the Olympics, but we cannot stop our season. That is just not practical.
[Mike: I can't really argue with him here. It sounds nice, but major-leaguers in the Olympics is impractical unless they move the Olympic schedule. Besides, I though everyone enjoyed amateurs at the Olympics (by the way their college players, not minor-leaguers).
I don't really care about the Olympic baseball games myself.
(Oops, I'm informed that they changed to minor-leaguers in the last Olympics. Oh well.]
Are you going to do anything to prevent pitchers from giving intentional walks to Barry Bonds? The fans want to see him hit.
Well, the answer is no, because if you start tampering with the rules of the game, they have been the same rules for 120 years, and while we've made a lot of changes in the sport, and I'm proud of all the changes we've made, that's one that you can't take strategy away from a manager or the pitcher and catcher. They believe that they want to walk him and you know that Giants fans feel much differently and I don't blame them. Frankly if Barry Bonds played for me I would feel differently, too.
But you can't change rules every time something like this comes up, because you are then really changing the essence of what I believe is the greatest sport in the world.
[Mike: 120 years? Ah, no. In 1889 the rule was changed to four balls constituting a base on balls. 120 years ago they were just switching from 7 to 6 balls equal to a walk. It's good that they person who has the biggest influence over the rules knows his history so well.
That said, his answer is correct but his rationale is off base. Besides he has tampered with tons of rules bigger than the intentional walk, which isn't even in the rulebook but falls between the cracks of the rules.
Even with Barry Bonds, intentional walk usage has been falling steadily for years. So why change the rules for one person?
Next, who's to say that it's done anything more than tick Bonds off. The Giants have had their share of success even as opponents have walked Bonds in record-setting numbers.
So why change the rule? Just to please the aesthetic mindset of a few fans?]
What has been decided as far as where the Expos will be next year and beyond?
The only thing that's been decided is we have five or six very good cities bidding for the Expos. We are going to make a decision this summer. The Expos will have a new home and a new owner from the 2005 baseball season.
[Mike: That's a decision? "We have decided to decide." Bud must come from the Rush school of decision-making: "If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice" (from "Free Will").
Selig had once said that relocation was coming "in the near future." But that was over two years ago, on January 17, 2002. To quote Mike LaFontaine in A Mighty Wind, "Hey, wha' happened?".]
I love Interleague Play. There is just one thing I would love to see. You should have the DH in the National League park and the National League rules in the American League park. So the fans of each league could see how the other league plays.
That's a great question. Of course, I love Interleague Play. It's one of the innovations that I've put in the sport and it's worked out so well, but Matt makes a very interesting point that we are going to think about this year.
I think, for instance, when an American League team goes into a National League town, the National League fans ought to see their rules and when the National League teams go in the American League rule, the American League fans ought to remember how the National League rules are played. We're thinking about that. That's a very good question.
[Mike: "I love Interleague play"…Why don't you marry it? (Pee Wee Herman, I miss you, you masturbatory, falsetto freak.)
[W]hen an American League team goes into a National League town, the National League fans ought to see their rules: Pronoun trouble. I think he meant the AL's rules, which isn’t what he said. It's a little much like Ox in Stripes though: "The guy on the top bunk has gotta make the guy on bottom bunk's he's gotta make his bunk all the time. See it's in the regulations. See if we were in Gremany I would have to make your's, but we're in Italy and you gotta make mine. It's regulations."
Of course, the visiting team rules should apply, if the idea is to share cultures. "Ooh, look Margery, this Designated Hitter is so exotic!"
If the idea is to make a buck exploiting cross-town rivalries, which it is, then screw the rules, which the did.]
I've been a long time fan of MLB and over recent years having seen the MLB road show play exhibition and regular season games in various countries outside of the US and Canada. Are there any plans to bring either an exhibition or regular season game to England?
There are not right now but it's one of my dreams, frankly. We opened the season in Japan. I hope we can play in Europe. We're talking about it, I don't know if as early as next year, but certainly in the next year or two, we want to play some games in Europe and hopefully in England, and so that's something that is very much under consideration.
The internationalization of our sport is critical. We have a sport that's so popular around the world, that we need to take baseball, which you know we all think is the greatest game in the world, and take it all over and show people all over the world how really good it is.
[Mike: A.G. Spalding tried that on a s couple of occasions. First, he traveled to jolly ol' England in 1874 and then he followed up during his famous trip around the world 115 years ago. There was even an English league in one of the Reach/Spalding guides late in the nineteenth century.
Bud, these Brits have their own game called cricket that has something to do with Buddy Holly and sticky wickets and we Americans just don't get it either. To quote G.B. Shaw we are "two nations separated by a common language."
Stop trying to be David Stern and start trying to sell the stars, the product you have.]
I just want to know how is the venue for the All-Star Game selected?
Well, the Commissioner makes that decision. There are a lot of cities bidding for All Star games. I've seen the owner of the Houston Astros, there Drayton McLane over there.
I'll tell you how Houston got the game. Houston got the game on sheer persistence. Mr. McLane called me two and three times a day demanding to know when Houston was going to get the game, so you can thank him for that.
[Mike: So Bud makes all of his decisions based on sheer annoyance. Actually, I was going to guess stupidity so that's a step up.]
Would you agree that despite the huge salary cap the Yanks have brought baseball to great heights globally?
Well, the Yankees have been good for baseball in a lot of ways, there's no question about it. They represent a great history, they represent a great tradition, they represent a lot of really wonderful things, and on the other hand it's my job as a commissioner to make sure that we have an economically level playing field so that the fans here in Houston also have a fighting chance to win.
We've made a lot of progress, and the Yankees continue to do very well, and I think that's good. But there's more parity in the sport today than ever before, and that's why you see the sport having the kind of record year that it's having.
[Mike: What, the Yankees have their own salary cap?
Bud, first ATFQ. What does this have to do with the Yankees image globally? Second, don't worry about Houston. Worry about the Cincinnati and Kansas Citys. I don't see what the Yankees paying luxury taxes to these teams has done to help them. If there is parity today, it probably has less to do with revenue sharing/luxury taxes and more to do with some cyclical evolution in the game. Look at the Brewers, they are on the dole but cut their payroll by 25% and are having their best season in years.
Selig loves selling parity after the last CBA and was saying the sky was falling before it. One last thing, what record year? (More on this later.)]
The two-year "experiment" of the All-Star Game winner determining home-field advantage for their league's World Series representative concludes with this year's game. Who (and when) will decide if it has been a "success" and how to proceed from here?
-- Shane from Los Angeles
It's been a great success. You'll see a game played tonight with great intensity; there is no question about that. We need to continue our negotiations with the Players Association. But quite frankly, I want to extend this. I think this has been a tremendous rule change. Our TV people love it, FOX loves it, our sponsors love it, the game is sold out, the fans overwhelmingly have loved it and you'll see a game played with great intensity tonight. Hopefully we can get that extended with the Players Association.
[Mike: Come back Shane?
Yeah, there was great intensity, but it lasted less than half an inning. Some of the defensive plays were embarrassing especially on doubleplays. But that didn't stop Selig from declaring victory the next day and starting to campaign for its extension.
Besides, is the game sold out because the winner has homefield in the Series or because the best players in the world are there? But you see where the fans fall in Bud's estimation.]
I am a Royals fan and it is very difficult for Royals fans when they have to trade away their star players because they will not be able to afford them the next year. Are there plans to beef up the revenue sharing idea or plans to better equalize the teams of the MLB?
Well, there's a good question, because revenue sharing has grown, from when I took over, $20 million to over $300 million. So I'm going to say to you, Tim, that the Kansas City Royals, the Cincinnati Reds, the Houston Astros, the Detroit Tigers, the Pittsburgh Pirates, the Milwaukee Brewers, on and on and on, revenue sharing is growing. The economic landscape of this sport has changed dramatically and your team will have a chance. I know you're having a difficult and tough year this year but believe me when I tell you, the Royals will have a great opportunity in the future.
[Mike: "There are some who call me... Tim."
Star players in general or Carlos Beltran specifically? They traded Beltran because they were out of the playoff race not vice versa. The Orioles did this last year with Sidney Ponson and then re-signed him in the offseason.
Do I think that the Royals will sign Beltran after the season? No. Do I think they could? Sure. He will make $12-15 a year, but they already were paying him $9 M this year. If you cut the $4M they pay Juan Gonzalez, the $3.25 M for Brian Anderson, the $1.25 to Curt Leksanic, etc., you could very easily cover the difference. The Royals chose to forego attempts to re-sign Beltran to cut payroll. The Royals started the season with a $47.6 M payroll. They will end it about $10 M lower. Why do you think they made the decision?
As far as the Royals outlook, does anyone remember that they were in a pennant race just last year? They were also the favorites to win the division this year? They have been rebuilding, but their young players (Angel Berroa and the pitchers) just went bad this year. They invested in Juan Gonzalez and Benito Santiago in the offseason. They made bad decisions in retrospect. But they had the freedom to make those decisions because of the young players and that's the point. Bad management will out.]
Since the inception of the Wild Card more and more teams have been in the race longer. My idea is to move the trading deadline back to Aug. 15. However make it a strict date. No more trades through the waiver wire, etc. Your thoughts?
I like it the way it is now. You have it through July 31, you do have waiver deals, you've always had the option to do waiver dealings. I think if a club can work a waiver deal, there's nothing wrong with that. Not too many deals take place that way. But I don't really see any reason now. I think the trading rules right now are very helpful -- very, very helpful to getting major trades done.
[Mike: The waiver viability of everyone who could possibly get traded is tested before August. There really is no trade deadline anymore. The only true deadline in August 31, when the playoff rosters are set. Then again, Francisco Rodriguez was culled from the Angels' minor-league system in 2002 by the 60-Day-DL loophole for playoff rosters, but he at least didn't come from another organization.]
Mr. Commissioner, would you say that your silence on the Pete Rose issue since the beginning of the season in effect says that the door is closed on this situation?
The only answer I can give you since I'm the judge in this case and the sole judge, so I'm very sensitive about talking about this case in any way shape, form or manner, I said back in January there was no timetable. I think any other comment from me because I am the judge would be inappropriate and unfair to all parties.
[Mike: Ah, that's a "Yes".]
I'm Jeff, I'm from Houston. Mr. Commissioner, I was just wondering on a personal note, how do you handle all of the criticisms and the stress of being the Commissioner in baseball?
Well, it's a very fair question. The last six months or nine months, I'm almost afraid to say they have been great. People have been kind, they write very nice things. You know, you go through different periods. You learn to handle it. I've been in baseball all of my adult life, so I think I understand the sport and everything that goes on around it.
I knew in the '90s with all of the changes there was going to be a lot of criticism. Criticism in a sport where they don't change much has been difficult. But if you know in your heart you're doing the right thing, you just continue to do that, and fortunately for me, and I'm very, very grateful, the changes have worked out very well, and that's why it's pretty quiet right now and people have been nice. But I don't mind telling you, there have been some very painful periods of my life.
[Mike: Oh, boo hoo. I guess it’s hard to defile the national pastime while trying to rape the players that play it and not get a bit down sometimes.
C'mon, Bud, repeat after me, "I'm good enough. I'm smart enough. And doggone it, people like m…well, let's skip that last one."]
Pat from Monterrey, Mexico. You said earlier that internationalization was critical for the sport, and our city wants to be the next home of the Expos. The city has a stadium, has the people, we have AAA level baseball, we have the Caribbean series, summer baseball. What's taking you so long to make a decision for the new home of the Expos?
I know Monterrey has made a very impassioned plea for a new ballpark and it's a very good city. We have five or six cities making great presentations, but they have all needed additional time, they all have work to do, including Monterrey. But we will make a decision this summer and hopefully it will be the right one and I'm sure it will be.
[Mike: ATFQ. What about internationalization?
…and hopefully it will be the right one and I'm sure it will be: that's a great Bush impersonation.
By the way Pat, the Mexican League is far from a Triple-A organization. It's probably higher to high Single-A. The only reason the Mexican League has Triple-A status is because when it was formed in the Forties as a rival to the major leagues (ask Danny Gardella), and Triple-A status went with the compromise.
How many decent players went through the Mexican League? More often, it's where Latin players go after their prime.]
Have you taken into account the internationalization issue?
[Mike: That's a "No". Baseball loves expanding to Japan and Europe but begrudgingly exploits its Latin fan base.]
Michael from Peoria. Since you have become Commissioner, what are you most proud of?
Well, I guess all of the changes. The thing I guess I'm most proud of is the new economic system, revenue sharing and tax debt service rule. But I love Interleague Play and I love the three division, the Wild Card, so I guess it's sort of all of the changes I've made, I'm very proud of the way they have worked out.
[Mike: "I like me! I really like me!"]
Charles Conolly. I'm an ex-Yankees batboy. As far as good for baseball, do you think the payroll being so high and acquiring so many free agents, and possibly Randy Johnson, is good for baseball?
I think the Yankees are good for baseball. It's my job to create interest in 30 franchises. Are the Yankees playing by the rules? You bet they are, and I have a great amount of admiration for George Steinbrenner and what they have tried to do. But you have to understand that I have to, in a great sense, level the economic playing field. What they are doing is fine. It's up to us to change the rules to counter any problem we have.
But have the Yankees been good for baseball over the last 50 or 60 years and now? Yes.
[Mike: I disagree completely with Selig.
First, a high Yankee payroll is great for baseball. They love sucking on the Yankee teat. They remain competitive but they can't win every division. And they haven't won a Series since 2000. They keep the ratings high in the playoffs, but since other teams win the Series, Selig can gush about parity.
Second, have the Yankees been good for baseball over the last 50 or 60 years and now? No, absolutely not. Was the subjugation of the Kansas City A's a good thing? Was it good that the Yankees ignored African-American players for so long? Was it good that the Yankees rented their stadium to the New York Black Yankees while agreeing not to allow any blacks in the majors? No.]
I'm Mike from here in Houston. Mr. Selig, I'm sure you've heard this before, and I know that it kind of slows the game down if used the wrong way, but just the other evening we saw a game where all three of the umpires missed a call, the home run was foul by we don't know how many feet, and they continued showing the replay. But what do you think the chances of bringing instant replay into the game, maybe in a crucial part, where the game could be overturned because of the instant replay?
You know, those situations do happen. Listen, I've watched games for 60 years, but for the most part, the umpires do a brilliant job. They miss very, very few calls. And I must tell you, I don't get any pressure for instant replay from anybody, any side. I would say there's little hope of that happening, and that's good.
[Mike: Baseball has a replay situation. It's called a protest. It worked for George Brett.
The umpires also are encouraged to confer in order to get the call right. From Rule 9.05:
Each umpire team should work out a simple set of signals, so the proper umpire can always right a manifestly wrong decision when convinced he has made an error. If sure you got the play correctly, do not be stampeded by players' appeals to "ask the other man." If not sure, ask one of your associates. Do not carry this to extremes, be alert and get your own plays. But remember! The first requisite is to get decisions correctly. If in doubt don't hesitate to consult your associate. Umpire dignity is important but never as important as "being right."
That said, there have been at least two eminently foul balls called home runs this seasonn (the one referred to here, against the Phils and one against the Expos). The umpires are under Selig and he should do what is necessary to ensure it does not happen again. Maybe the time is ripe for installing umps on the left- and right-field line in all games.]
I'm Dan from California. One question I have is do you see the Expos out of Montreal within the next year or two?
Well, now, I've covered that already, but I'll say it one more time. The Expos will have a new home this summer, new site, new ownership.
[Mike: Yeah, in San Juan.]
My name is Brian and I live in Victoria. My question is, I subscribe to the Major League Baseball Extra Innings Package, and while Victoria is only two hours from Houston, so I understand why the Astros are blacked out, but the Rangers are blacked out, also. Just curious who determines where that is the case because I live like 300 miles from Arlington.
We'll have to look into that. That's a fair question, check with our broadcasting and we'll look into that.
[Mike: Wewease Bwian!
Brian has the man who probably has the most influence over the game of baseball today, and this is the question he asks? What, is Bud his cable guy or something? I don't even expect Bud to know something like this. Don't they screen these people?]
Welcome to my hometown of Houston, glad to have you here.
Thank you. Pleasure to be here.
When is the national pastime going to return to the national capital of Washington, D.C.?
Well, you've got a fan over here who applauded, so that's all right. I was there the night they left the nation's capital. I want to tell you that the clubs didn't want to leave, but unfortunately, there was no owner to take over, and that's a very long story. We really wanted to stop Bob Short from leaving but we had no local buyer. Therefore, we had to let him leave.
Washington and northern Virginia and other sites are potential sites for a team and we'll decide this summer.
[Mike: Yeah, that's the way to do it. Sucker punch the guy: Welcome him that hit him with the hard questions. Was that Geraldo posing that question?
But, c'mon, Bud, are you so naïve? They didn’t want to leave? So why didn’t they just stay? Washington is a big city? The both wanted to go to new wide-open markets: Minneaplos and Dallas-Ft. Worth. Baseball has engineered moves to keep teams in certain cities. Why didn't the Giants, White Sox, and probably a half-dozen teams move to St. Pete? The Giants even had a deal worked out. MLB nixed it. Why did they allow the Senators to move?
Well, Minneapolis was one of the proposed Continental Baseball League cities. They were formed as a rival league set to play in 1960. They were willing to respect organized balls existing markets and contracts, but MLB went on the offensive. But finally fearing the loss of their antitrust exemption, they caved and allowed expansion for the first time. So that's why the first team moved. The second was to exploit a new, growing market.]
Hello, Commissioner. Commissioner Landis, he was basically given carte blanche to do whatever he saw fit for the betterment of the game and the owners gave him that power. Do you have that ability and the power to do whatever you see fit at any time?
Actually, in January of 2000, the owners gave me in terms of all the economic changes and things, unlimited authority to solve the problems, much more than Kenesaw Mountain Landis ever had. They will expire whenever I'm done, so my successor is going to have to figure that out, but yes, I certainly have the authority to do things that I have to do.
[Mike: Two things: First, ha ha ha ha ha ha ha. O, that's rich! You're a crack-up Buddy boy. Oh, my sides.
Landis was a monster the owners created. He was installed to clean up the game after the Black Sox scandal. Then he became too big to reign back in. No other commissioner has had or could have the power that he had, Bud's self-aggrandizing aside. The owners may allow Bud to lead them, but that's not the same thing. If he does some things that enough of the owners don't like, they'll tell him to go pound sand in a second.
Second, was it good that Landis was given that much power? He supported baseball's segregation. He opposed developing farm systems, instead making many players free agents, who he thought we hidden in the minors. He buried the Tris Speaker and Ty Cobb scandals. He allowed for no dissenting voice and ignored new ideas and markets.
Here's the bottom line: average attendance in his first year was 7,391.31 per game. When he died in 1944, it was 7,063.40. And if you say the war affected it, in 1940 the average per game was 7,947.80, a slight improvement. The highest average during his reign was 8,210.91 but the low was 4,966.58. Within ten years of his death baseball had doubled the highest average recorded during his term.]
One last question, yesterday you talked about this being a renaissance with the 500 Home Run Club. I think the audience would like to know what you have to say about that.
Well, it's a great way to close. We are going to set an all time attendance record this year. We are going to draw 73 to 75 million people. Television ratings are at an all time high, local television ratings are an all time high, radio ratings, any criteria you use, the game, this sport is having an unbelievable year. It's never been this popular before. I'm just grateful the renaissance is really in full bloom, and you'll see attendance numbers the rest of the way too many night or Thursday night we'll go over 39 million. Friday or Saturday, we'll go over 40 million for the year, which is stunning in the middle of July, and so I'm very, very grateful for the kind of year we're having.
You are today living in the golden era of baseball, and it's just been a tremendous, tremendous season.
[Mike: Yeah, despite what Selig has done to the game, its greatness shines through.
First, ATFQ. What "renaissance with the 500 Home Run Club"? A number of people (including Mike Schmidt just the other day) deride the growth of the 500-HR club as something that cheapens it.
Anyway, Bud chose to give his State of the Union Address, and got it wrong. Baseball is set to break the all-time attendance record. That's true. If you project out the totals so far to an 81-game home schedule for each team, you get a total of 72,813,872, not quite "73 to 75 million people", but close. It would be slightly ahead of 2001's total of 72,581,101.
But any criteria you use…, ignoring the grammatical error, is just not defensible. There are 30 teams now. Of course, there would be higher attendance. If you compare the per-game attendance today to the past, you get a different answer. The average in 2004 is a very respectable 30,061.20. However, that would still be lower than the pre-strike figures. The all-time high was in 1994: 31,256.26. 1993 is next at 30,964.27. This year's total would be third, ahead of 2001 (29,881.06). But baseball has not yet fully recovered from the 1994 strike.
How does that criterion grab you, Bud?]
Why not add an additional Wild Card spot? I think there would be more excitement and the ability to create a Wild Card round between the two Wild Card winners in each league.
That's a good question, because in 1992 when we went to three divisions in the Wild Card, I really knew what I wanted to do. I just told the writers that. Last year at this time, I convinced myself that we needed two more Wild Card teams, but then we had this wonderful post season, so dramatic with Boston and the Cubbies, and it just worked out so well that we studied it for next three or four months.
We hired mathematicians, we hired people to look at schedules, we did everything. And the more we looked at it, quite frankly, the more we weren't sure that the addition of two teams would help us as much as we thought. So, at the moment, we are going to stick to it. We have a great format right now and we are going to stick to the format that we have.
[Mike: Yeah, that was a great World Series with the Cubbies and the Saux. Incredible! Actually, so incredible that it never happened.
What do they have to do with the wild card? OK, Boston got in with the wild card, but the Cubs won their division. Besides, the one wild card he did not mention, the Marlins, won the World Series. Remember them? They knocked out the Cubs with the help of Steve "Do the" Bartman. The Red Sox lost to the Yankees. Did you even watch the playoffs last year, Bud, or just read the propaganda on it?
And what of these "studies" conducted by so-called "mathematicians" and schedule-looking-at-er people? It reminds of the interchange at the end of the first Indiana Jones movie, when Indy brings back the Ark of the Covenant but is prevented from studying it. He is told, "We have top men working on it now." Towit he responds derisively, "Who?" and is simply told, "Top... men." Did Bud subcontract to Stephen Hawking to solve this Gordian Knot of a mystery? (My friend Mike said it was his nephew Ely.)
The real answer is that Bud would love to expand the playoffs but because of the inherent limitations in a summer outdoor sport he cannot. He could shorten the schedule or add the now anachronistic doubleheader back to the schedule, but they would affect the bottom line.]
Why not make the first round of the playoffs seven games? This is a win/win situation for fans, owners and players and sponsors.
Well, Larry, we have talked about that. That's fair. The problem that we have is that as it is now, the World Series ends almost in November and I have a thing about going into November. It gets too cold in a lot of places and we're really gambling. So we start the playoffs on Oct. 5. Some people like the seven game. I frankly like the five game. I think there's more intensity, there's more emotion, and you have only five games. Somebody better win three quickly.
So I'm not sure that isn't more dramatic in a certain sense. But we are thinking about the seventh game in round one.
[Mike: Bull, pure and simple. He does at least pay lip service to the scheduling issue. However, the playoffs have so much time, so many off-days built into them, that they could very easily add two extra games in the first round. But then they wouldn't be able to feature the games the way that the network likes, and remember who Bud considers his most important constituency?
Oh, and "Somebody better win three quickly" sums up the problem with a 5-game series quite succinctly. It's too bad that Err Bud using it to argue the other side.]
Would it be possible to put a 20- or 25-second clock on pitchers in order to speed up the game? Some of them take entirely too long.
-- Hershman from Pennsylvania
A agree, they do take too long. When it comes to the time of the game, I feel very strongly about it. The games take too long, there's no question about it, but we've cut it down, we've made a lot of progress. You'll notice when Greg Maddux pitches or Tom Glavine, those guys will pitch sometimes a game takes 2:10, 2:15. On the other hand, the umpires can enforce the rules around the books right now and they do for the most part.
We are making progress. I don't want to do any more and change the rules of the game, but I think you'll continue to see the time of the game decrease and that will be a good thing.
[Mike: Ah, Bud—ooh this is uncomfortable—they already have that. Rule 8.04:
When the bases are unoccupied, the pitcher shall deliver the ball to the batter within 20 seconds after he receives the ball. Each time the pitcher delays the game by violating this rule, the umpire shall call "Ball." The intent of this rule is to avoid unnecessary delays. The umpire shall insist that the catcher return the ball promptly to the pitcher, and that the pitcher take his position on the rubber promptly. Obvious delay by the pitcher should instantly be penalized by the umpire.
It's more than a rule "around the books". It's an honest-to-goodness rule.
It's rarely called, but if umpires upheld it more and denied batters "time" after each pitch, that would do the trick. And who do they report to again, Bud?]
Should players who have been found to have used performance enhancing drugs have their statistics expunged from official Major League Baseball records?
I feel very strongly on it. No. 1, we have worked on a much tougher steroid policy. We have agreed and I've spent a lot of time talking to team doctors, physicians, a lot of other people. There's no question that the same very stringent and tough policy we have in the Minor Leagues we ought to have at the Major League level. I think you will be pleased when you see what we have finally come up with.
Having said that, I don't want to engage in hypotheticals. There have been a lot of players named who have not been charged with anything, certainly have not been convicted and I think it's been unfair to them. We need to deal with this by really doing and having a very tough drug policy that will finally clean up the steroid issue.
[Mike: Oh, boy. Here we go again. Bud have the cajones to nip this in the, well, bud.
No, they are not going to expunge the records no more than they go back in time and replay the games. Whatever a batter does effects the statistical record: his team's offense and the other team's defense, as well as the individual stats for the opposing pitcher and fielders. What are supposed to do, remove all traces that the player ever existed or just leave an unbalanced statistical record?
Besides, where do we draw the line? A player is found using steroids on July 15, 2004. How do we know he used them on April 15, 2004, or even June 15, 2004, let alone July 15, 2003 or before? To quote Graham Chapman, "Ok, Stop it. It's much too silly."]
What are your feelings on contracting the Minnesota Twins after they have been so successful, and are there any teams in danger of being contracted?
There are not. There are no -- well, let me suggest, I just talked to the media about the same thing.
The idea of contraction came from the owners, all 30 of them. I know as the Commissioner, I took a pretty good flogging, particularly up in Minnesota, but the fact of the matter is, that the thing that set off contraction was revenue sharing, the very subject a lot of people have talked about, because if you're a big market club sending money to a team, you have the right to ask what are their revenues, how much are we sending them in revenue sharing, and what are they doing about it?
Minneapolis is a wonderful market, Major League market in every way. They need a new ballpark. The Twins say they need a new ballpark, the Vikings say they need a new ballpark; they have just got to address that problem. It's a marvelous market and the Twins have done a great job. But the Twins themselves are the leading advocate for a new ballpark there, and I hope they are going to be successful.
[Mike: Of course, they can't be contracted now, but you can't take credit for that, Bud, can you, you loathsome creature?
In the last Collective Bargaining Agreement, the players won that concession. The CBA says that no teams can be contracted from now through the end of the 2006 season. However, the owners may contract by two teams prior to 2007 if they decide to do so by July 1, 2006.
Besides, there weren't 30 owners then. There were just 29, because of the abandonment of the Expos. Actually that was the impetus for contraction. Free up the Montreal market for re-conquering in a few years (they do have $3.5 M people up there after all). Bud had just engineered the sale of the Boston and Florida franchises to his cronies, the previous owners of Florida and Montreal respectively. The Boston sale was actually not to the highest bid, and the Florida transfer allowed Jeffrey Loria and MLB to jettison his minority owners. So the orphaned Expos were ready to euthanize.
The only problem was who would have to go with them so that MLB would maintain an even number of teams to facilitate scheduling. The answer came when Carl Pohlad, the richest owner in baseball, decided that he had tired of his plaything, the Twins, and there having to play in a second-rate stadium. It probably didn't hurt that Bud and Pohlad had disobeyed their own rules when the banker Pohlad floated a short-term loan to Selig. So as easy as you could say "quid pro quo" , Bud was all set to contract two teams.
However, he decided not to announce the teams but rather to leak the short list to scare those cities into granted lucrative stadium deals to the teams concerned. This was nixed in the courts very quickly since the dopey Twins forgot that they had a stadium lease that they needed to fulfil.
But note how Bud only discusses the need for a new stadium here. The Metrodome is barely twenty years old. There's no need for a new stadium. The Twins would like a new state-of-the-art, baseball-only stadium because they generate more revenue and the ultra-rich Pohlad is too cheap to pay for it.
Regarding the new "luxury tax," do you think it has been effective toward warding off those high salary rosters some teams have? If not, what else can the MLB do to even up the teams in today's baseball?
I said before the economic landscape of the game is changing, it's changed dramatically, we have only one team over the luxury tax threshold, maybe two, but I think it's either two at the most, but probably only one, and we have work to do yet.
But I think we've made a lot of progress. Revenue sharing continues to grow, the tax continues to grow, so I think you're going to find, Andy, that in the next few years of that labor agreement, things will continue to work towards the goals that you've suggested.
[Mike: More great propaganda.
Is there any proof that the tax does anything but act as a salary cap (except for the laudable Yankees)? The Sox did not get A-Rod because they couldn't fit him under the "cap". They tried to rework his contract to fit him in, but the union rightly nixed that.
Look at teams like Milwaukee who cut payroll while receiving welfare and tell me that revenue sharing/luxury taxes are working.
The truth is that it all but legalized near collusion. Teams are wary to add even needed talent if it means that it will affect their welfare payments. The marginal returns are lessened. It also doesn’t hurt that players are being non-tendered at a ridiculous pace, thereby creating a glut of free agents, which in turn creates a buyer's market.
This is what Bill Veeck suggested when free agency was first introduced by the courts: make every player a free agent. But the established owners got scared and the players benefited. Well, the owners are not scared any longer.]
I wanted to ask, Commissioner Selig, hopefully we won't have a recurrence of what happened to the game where we had the extra innings, but what would happen tonight if after nine innings the game were to be tied, if you could just elaborate as to what might happen?
There again was a great misunderstanding. Both managers came to me in the 11th inning and said they were out of pitchers. Joe Torre said he had no other pitchers, the Philadelphia pitcher, Padilla was actually hurting and was unable to continue, the home plate umpire said he was unable to continue.
We've added to the rosters, everybody understands that this game does count, and we have been headed for that for about 10 years. Since '93 when Cito Gaston didn't put Mike Mussina in and he got booed a lot, the managers wanted to get everybody in the game. The objective is to win, not get everybody in the game.
It's an honor to be on the team. Everybody won't be in the game. I'm not concerned about that. I think we've solved that problem.
[Mike: Wait a second, extra innings are free baseball. What's better than free baseball? Does anyone remember that tied All-Star game, the game itself, not the outcome? It was a great game, well played on both sides. Remember Torii Hunter robbing Barry Bonds? It was definitely preferable to the lopsided 9-4 mess the other night. This year's game held the average fan's interest for less than an inning.
Ok, now to Bud's explanation of the 2002 game: Padilla wasn't hurting. He pitched four days after the game and lasted 7.1 innings. As a matter of fact he pitched two scoreless innings allowing just one walk and no hits. It was just that the managers were reluctant to have a pitcher go more than two innings. Witness what NL manager Bob Brenly said at the time, "I saved a starting pitcher, and we extended him as far as we were going to." No mention of injury.
And this story that the umpire declared Padilla unfit to continue is a) pure confabulation and b) just a plain ludicrous statement. An ump said this, not a trainer? First, what does an ump know about pitching injuries? Second, why would he care? This isn't boxing where the ref can stop the fight if one participant is unable to continue. It's not the ump's job, and Bud should know that since they work for him.
As far as expanding the playoff roster, again he is taking credit for something the players won from the owners and their rep Bud Selig. Bud's big solution to the tied ballgame problem, instead of having the cajones to say that it was great game and it didn't matter who won, was to make it "count" by determining the World Series homefield advantage. The players conceded this but only if the rosters could be expanded to 32 men. Bud taking credit for it is like U.S. Steel taking credit for the five-day work week.
Finally, his comments on the Gaston-Mussina situation are completely irrelevant. No one was angry that Gaston had not used all of his pitchers including Mussina. The issue was that Gaston had singled out the only Oriole to be a non-participant even though the game was in Baltimore. The home fans had no one to cheer for. They didn't care that he didn't use his all of his pitchers. They wanted to see the hometown guy. The implication was that Gaston had allowed the divisional rivalry weight into his decision not to use the only Oriole player. But nice try, throw enough B.S. and some of it will stick.]
I'm Dave from Boston. My question is, Mr. Commissioner, what do you think are the two or three biggest changes we'll see in the game of baseball over the next five or 10 years?
Well, we've had so many changes, and that's fair. The continued internationalization of the game. This game is so popular worldwide, that it's incumbent upon us, quite frankly, to continue to make sure that we're doing that and very aggressive in how we are doing that.
The rest of it is just to continue to tweak all of the economics, the things that we've done, to make sure that teams have a great shape and the question from Kansas City is a poignant one, we have to make sure that people everywhere, whether it's here in Houston or Detroit or anywhere else believe that they have a fair chance to win.
[Mike: Is that "the game". All Bud is concerned with is making a buck. Isn't he a fan of the game as well? Couldn’t he have answered the return of four-man rotations or the evolution of the closer breaking from the Dennis Eckersley model or that Red Sox fans will stop whining? No, because his concern is the do-re-mi money. Remember where the fans come in the list of his constituency?]
I'm John from Lincoln, Nebraska. Do you think there might be a possibility at any particular time in the future that the American League might actually go back to having pitchers actually batting again?
Well, I was there, I've been around long enough. It was the only Charlie Finley idea I ever liked. I voted for it in December of 1972.
American League clubs like the designated hitter. I guess the only thing I would say to you is that if we ever get to overall geographical realignment, that would be the one thing because the National League teams will never vote for the designated hitter. That's the one thing that I would get the American League to consider.
[Mike: Lincoln? I'm going down to Cowtown. The cow's a friend to me
John, you may want to actually bring that sentence in actually to a tailor to trim a bit of the "actually"'s.
It was the only Charlie Finley idea I ever liked. Yuck Yuck Yuck. Still bitter about Finley's failure to pay Catfish Hunter's insurance annuity thereby opening the door to free agency, huh, Bud?
Geographic realignment? Who brought that up? Oh, it's just another stupid Bud project that he's going to try to push down our throats. Forget about all the traditions and rivalries that have developed over the years. He's just concerned with reducing traveling costs. Bud would squeeze a penny to get all its worth.
Besides fans turn out in big numbers to see the Yanks play the Met and the White Sox play the Cubbies. Why have that just for a few games a year? Stick them in the same division, and milk that cow a good 20 times a season. Disgraceful.
As far as the DH is concerned, Bill James showed that it increases strategic possibilities although it eliminates the pat strategies like bunting the pitching with a man on first and less than two outs. You know, those plays that everyone in the stadium knows is coming. Not to mention that pitchers don't hit in the minors and don't care to hit. I find the non-DH game more aesthetically pleasing in the ideal as well, but in the real world, it just doesn't make sense.
Oh, and the AL may not be the ones you have to placate to get rid of the DH. It’s the players, who would be foregoing a good 14 starting jobs. How d you plan to compensate them, by expanding the All-Star rosters and than taking credit for it?]
Aaron from Colorado. First off I've been a National League fan all my life and I always will be. My question -- when are the American League pitchers going to put a bat in their hand and become, you know, earn their money like the National League pitchers do?
When the American League decides to change the designated hitter rule, and as I said earlier, the American League right now likes the designated hitter rule, and only I think some massive geographical realignment will change that.
[Mike: Aaron from Colorado? Aaron Ledesma? Never mind.
Oh boy, he's really pushing this realignment crapola. I guess it's never too early to start campaigning for the next CBA. God bless, Bud.]
Moderator: Mr. Commissioner you answered over 40, 45 questions here. We thank you very much for that. I'm sure the fans appreciate it, too. We'll see you next year in Detroit.
[Mike: Actually there were 35, but who's counting.
Detroit? No, not Detroit! Actually, "next year in Detroit" is the fitting end to our seder with Selig.
Bye bye and buy bonds.]
It's Log, Log, Better Than Bad It's Good
To celebrate the second anniversary of Mike's Baseball Rants, I am going to keep a running log of the All-Star Game. (That's right, my first entry was on Bud Selig's most embarrassing moment. I'm proud of that.):
8:14: I, All-Star? Was that an ad for "I, Robot" or part of the pre-game? Or does it even matter?
8:18: AL All-Stars: First boos for Yankees all but Rivera and Matsui. Carl Crawford and the Rangers get a good hand.
8:20: Jimy Williams gets a mixture of boos and cheers. Randy Johnson big cheers. Alou, lots of boos--c'mon he had two great years there. So he left as a free agent? Big deal. Not much noise until Beltran announced. LoDuca boos, Gagne cheers. Glavine some cheers. Thome—lots of cheers, Abreu, gets some too.
8:22 starting lineups: Ichiro comes from top of dugout, huh? Pudge is warming up pitcher—must be serious. Jeter—big hand. Soriano (Ranger) almost as big as Jeter. Bonds—nice hand. Sosa—bigger one. Lance Berkman—biggest hand so far. Kent—even bigger. Clemens—biggest of the night (Mulder was completely ignored).
8:31: National Anthem—By American Idol winner Fantasia. What, is she so famous all of a sudden that she can drop her last name?
8:33; I know I'm supposed to think otherwise, but Muhammed Ali looks horrible. This guy was the most charismatic figure in sports when I was a kid. It's sad. They should outlaw boxing. Ali doesn't even throw the ball. Some kids do. Sad. Ali boxing with Jeter. Both teams are there. After Ted Williams, they feel the need to produce these photo ops.
Commercials—is every show on Fox now a reality show?
8:39: Joe Buck—here we go. Oh boy, he has to mention Ted Williams appearance.
McCarver—what the hell is he wearing, a monochrome chess board?
Footage of Clemens in 1986. They've been showing it a lot but it's always nice to see.
"Blues Brothers" commercial—very cute. The end it with the players driving to the stadium. I liked it.
Ugh, more commercials? Hey, that's the fat guy from Mr. Show. Trading spouses?—it all reminds me of that game show in Time Bandits where the people ostensibly die if they lose while the crowd/laugh track yucks it up.
8:45—Oh, there's a game. Why lead off the AL team with the worst hitter in the lineup. I'd bat him ninth and pinch-hit for the pitcher if he came up.
Here we go Piazza and Clemens. "The history going back to 2000"? That was the history. Happy ending??? Boy, they are getting chummy!
Ichiro doubles. I guess I was wrong.
McCarver—Ichiro only player in lineup not to bat cleanup. Who cares?
Diamond-Cam—is it stupider than Leterman's Monkey-cam?
Pudge—To same spot. Triple. Pudge batting second?
Vlad—right back to Clemens.
Ramirez—I guess McCarver feels the need to introduce every player, like we've never heard of them. Homer on a flat 0-2 possible curve right over plate. 3-0.
A-Rod—strikes out on rising heater on 3-2. Thank god for Diamond cam, what did we do without it?
Giambi—still looks bad at the plate. Works it full. Foul. Again. Tip. If this guy is ever healthy for a full season again, he's going to have a monster season. Hard ball to Kent's right. He nonchalants it. They gave him an error and he deserved it.
Dolts—"First time a double, triple, and HR in one inning. Would have had the cycle if not ruled an error."
Jeter—singles over Pujols. Buck has to mention cycle.
Soriano—First-pitch monster homer to left on flat slider. Jeter pats him on the head, nice. Drove in two ex-mates. Don't they have to get him soon.
Mulder up. Kolb in pen. Mulder doesn't even bother. K. I guess that didn't really go according to plan.
Mulder up. Kolb in pen. Mulder doesn't even bother. K. I guess that didn't really go according to plan. Six-zip.
9:03—Renteria—grounds out on first pitch.
Pujols—nice automatic double to right.
Bonds—popup. The Minute Maid faithful think it's a homer.
Sosa—broken-bat one-hopper to Vlad. 6-1.
Piazza—Bush Sr. and Barbara are behind the plate. 3-0 to Piazza. Mulder, throw strikes stupid. Piazza goes after pitch in dirt inside. K on slider.
9:13—Top of 2nd: Kolb in, really? Did Bud make that call to get a Brewer in?
Ichiro—unassisted by Pujols.
Buck—Pepsi ad posing as game commentary.
Pudge—single to shallow right. Ugh, Buck and the Yanni comments again.
Vlad—Gets a ball way up and in while the schmucks at Fox are playing Yanni. McCarver likens Pudge's hit to Yanni. Buck—Pat Morita reference. Uncle already. Deep fly to left. Two out.
Ramirez—I guess he's not coming out after one BA like McCarver said. Johnson and Loiaza up in pens. To Renteria. Force. More f'ing Yanni.
More I, Robot. Oh, forgot to mention that Halle Berry looks good in Catwoman. Who cares how bad it sucks?
"Red Sox World Series tickets"—Mastercard commercial. The Red Sox fans are the Shemp of the baseball world.
9:23: Bottom of 2nd—Buck starts with a Mastercard commercial.
Berkman—one hopper to Giambi.
Kent—lines out right to Soriano. Hard but out.
Larkin—PH for Kolb.
McCarver—feels need to introduce world to Mulder. Brother!
Larkin—grounder. Nice play by A-Rod going to his left.
9:28—Top of 3rd—Johnson in. A-Rod up. Buck—foregoes calling balls and strikes and speculates on Johnson being traded.
A-Rod—eviscerates bat. Grounder to second.
Scooter—what the frig was that? Was that a joke. McCarver thanks Scooter for describing Scooter. I guess he beats Steve Lyons or Jeanie Zelasko.
Dolts—still talking Johnson trade ignore single to right by Giambi. Oh, Buck remembers there's a game. Worse that Phil Rizzuto.
Jeter—single over second. Third straight to almost the same spot.
Soriano—Piazza to mound. For some reason McCarver is talking about the Braves and how Johnson and Sheets shut them out. Now, the Mets, and the cameraman searches for one in the dugout. Get back to the game. They're already bored. Just past Renteria. Giambi stops at third. Fox loses feed. Two seconds of a blank screen, nice.
Ken Harvey—PH for Mulder. 2-0. Foul. Called strike, may have been low. K on slider.
Torre—on mike, asking Mulder if he wants to hit off "The Unit".
Ichiro—Fox lists him as just "Ichiro". Mention Fred Lynn and his grand slam in ASG. Lynn is a nice comparison to Ichiro, if he could hit with power. Does McCarver think Ichiro a lefty will hit one out on Johnson?!? Grounder to Pujols, nice cover by Johnson. 3 LOB.
9:44—Bottom of 3rd—Loaiza in. Renteria in.
McKeon—interview during Renteria AB. Nice throw on short-hop to A-Rod.
Pujols—back to pitcher. Buck—mentions taking McKeon's focus away from game jokingly.
Bonds—3-1. Bonds shift. Ball four a foot outside. Even at the ASG!
Rolen—misses great late breaker. Dolts—busy taking about Barry's career IBB record. They've only recorded them since 1955, for crissake.
Rolen—2-2, a couple of fouls. Works it full. Another foul. Another Pepsi ad. Rolen singles to left. Nice AB.
Sosa—again with the Diamond cam. Weak one-hopper to left of Soriano who plays it perfectly.
9:52: Top of 4th—Carlos Zambrano in to pitch to Pudge.
Bushes looking very Republican.
Rolen—nice play on grounder.
Giambi and Bonds—pronounce love for each other in replay with open mike.
Ortiz—to pinch-hit for Ramirez.
Tony Pena? Why is he a coach? Because of the job he's done with the Royals this year.
Ortiz walks. Buck is showing off his scant knowledge of Spanish to mimic coversation at first. I bet he loved Jose Jimenez (not the pitcher).
Jeter—hits a slicing lining just foul in right.
A-Rod—triple to deep right-center. 7-1. Oops I said Jeter initially.
Carl Crawford—in for Giambi. From Houston, that explains big hand. K on high heat to end inning.
10:05: Bottom of 4th—Ortiz at first, Crawford in left. Sabathia pitching. I always want to straighten his cap. Buck—why have to know that he's out of the booth for a ceremony coming up.
Berkman—nice play by Crawford on a liner to left-center.
Kent—singles past Renteria.
Beltran—PH for pitcher. Why is Williams there, too? Single to left.
Renteria—why not put Wilson in? Pavano up in pen. Pudge nice block. Bounces one just fair past A-Rod. Double. I missed the end but was that a Ground-rule double? It was off A-Rod's glove.
Pujols pounds a double off the wall in left, 7-4.
Bonds—pops out to Jeter to end it.
Video Tribute to Clemens—Opens with Journey. Buck on field with Clemens, his family, and Selig. Let's see how Bud embarrasses himself. Calls him a HoFer. Isn't that premature? Gets Commissioner's Historic Achievement Award. It's the 8th award ever given out. I have no idea who has the other seven. It's very special. Buck—has too rub it in re. Clemens bad performance tonight and then brings up his retirement. Not quite Jim Gray harassing Pete Rose but completely unnecessary.
10:20—Top of 5th—lots of changes. Pavano, Estrada, Alou, Cabrera, and Beltran in field. Jeter up. Grounder to second. Pujols goes to far to his right. Safe as Pujols is too deep to get the ball quickly to Pavano. Replay shows Jeter was out by half a step but Dolts make no mention.
Soriano—K's and we get a shot up Pavano's nostrils from Diamon cam imbedded in mound.
Young—Ugly exchange on DP ball to second.
Burger King question—What manager has won the most All-Star games? Wasn't Connie Mack the designated manager for a while? Also, they used to play two games a year. Maybe Stengel?
Ichiro—grounds out to Rolen.
Mastercard—"Cubs World Series tickets…priceless" commercial. I wish these fans would try following the Phils for a while and still talk about curses.
10:30—Bottom of 5th—Vazquez in. Glavine up in pen. Lowell PH for Rolen. K, looks ugly.
Scooter on sweeping curveball.
Young—nice play deep to left on Cabrera.
Estrada—Lilly up in pen. Why? Johnny and Erik comparison--oh my. K's.
Dontrelle Willis—commercial teaching kids bad pitching mechanics.
Another Pepsi commecial.
10:37—Wilson, Thome, and Lowell in. Pudge flies out.
Kevin Kennedy sighting, annoys Jeter in dugout.
Otiz—Sheets up in pen. Walter Alston is the answer to the trivia question, Monster blast to deep right-center. Thank god we got a diamond cam replay of it.
Crawford—weak grounder to Kent ends inning. 9-4.
10:47—Bottom of 7th--Lilly, Martinez, Belliard, Blalock in. By the way, Buck said that Torre was doing a double-switch when he pulled Sabathia, but Young PH and then played field. That's not a double-switch.
Alou bloop single down right-field line.
Mo Rivera—looks silly using some rubber band thing to warm up arm.
Wilson—flies out to straightaway left. Buck and fans get overly excited.
Thome—Nathan up in pen. Belliard is playing 10 ft deep in right. K.
10:56—Top of 7th—Glavine and Loretta in. McCarver feels need to introduce 38-year-old Glavine.
Sheffield—PH, DP—Wilson-Loretta to Thome.
Ruben Studdard from American Idol to sing "God Bless America". Jeez, Fox has no soul, do they?
11:06—Bottom of 7th—Tejada and Nathan in. Buck—"Nathan came out of nowhere". No he pitched for the Giants.
Abreu—PH, but they are busy with an Eric Gagne interview in the pen. F' the game.
Dolts—comparison of "Famous Streaks",interrupts interview to watch Abreu K on high heat. Gagne seems like a down to earth guy, complimentary of Rivera.
Buck—surprised that the M's faded this season. Does he even pay attention to what's going on in the sport.
Lowell—fly out almost squirts out of Sheffield's glove.
11:16—Top of 8th—Sheets in. Belliard up. McCarver's back and Leon's getting laaaarger.
Gordon and F-Rod up in pen. Buck calls Rodriguez a setup man even though he was closing all last month. Pathetic.
11:23—Bottom of 8th—Gordon in.
Gordon—out, Rodriguez in—I guess Fox needed to get a few more commercials in.
Gagne up in pen.
Loretta pops up to deep short.
Bourne Supremacy commercial—Am I the only person in America looking forward to this sequel? I love Joan Allen.
11:31—Top of 9th—Gagne is in, Fox plays "Welcome to the Jungle" Rivera is up in pen.
Ortiz—he's still in. Is Torre trying to wear him out? Walks.
Blalock—ironic in the Alanis Morrisette sense. Pops up on first pitch.
Matsui—for Crawford. He shall be Livan in the pen. Misses fast ball. K.
Lawton—Ks on a change.
The Next Champ—when reality shows feature boxing haven't they run their course?
11:40—Rivera in—Bottom of the 9th.
Helton—last position player on NL, PH for Beltran. Pops out in foul territory to Ortiz.
Finally the winning Pepsi # is EZH9Y, why because we like you?
Thome—Flyout to Tejada. The fat lady has sung.
The AL gets homefield in the World Series. And Smell-a-Vision replaces television…And there was much rejoicing.
Billy Squire—Rock Me Tonight
Taco Bell Postgame. Jeanie "Don't Look at my thighs" Zelasko—who dresses her? Introduces Bud Selig. MVP to Soriano.
Piazza and Clemens—United in Their Revilement of "The Story"
As the media keep promulgating the only All-Star Game story they can wrap their twisted, little minds around, that Roger Clemens and Mike Piazza, erstwhile antagonists, are now battery-mates, they are creating a common enemy (the media) that is driving the two together in a way that hasn't been seen between such once-foes since FDR, Stalin, and Churchill did shots of Stoli at Yalta while dividing up the world.
Tim McCarver, who eagerly pounced on Roger Clemens during the seventh game of the ALCS last year, is seen—accurately—by Clemens as the main culprit:
"I get tired of it, I'm sure Mike's tired of it," Clemens said. "And again, the guys at Fox, some of the guys, I don't know who's behind it all, and McCarver talks about it all the time and beats it with a dead horse and he's kinda reckless, a little reckless with the words, which bothers me, too."
In that game Pedro Martinez beaned Karim Garcia in a walk situation in that game and then threatened Jorge Posada in the fourth. In the bottom half of the inning, a high middle-of-the-plate fastball from Clemens almost drew ultra-sensitive Manny Ramirez to the mound, emptied both benches and bullpens, and preceded an impromptu event, the first annual Don Zimmer toss, by the innovative Martinez. As far as I was concerned the Red Sox came off as cowardly bullies and Clemens at worst, an innocent bystander.
And yet Fox had the archival footage of Clemens hitting Piazza in the head all cued and ready to go. McCarver eagerly narrated the irrelevant piece. This drew protests from the guest player-analysts (I think it was Bret Boone), and that sort of squelched it much to McCarver's chagrin.
I don't know if reckless is the right word, but he's headed in the right direction.
Now, McCarver is leading the charge to make this non-story into "the story" of the game:
"unprecedented, fascinating ... the most compelling story line in the game. I don't think anything will happen, but I make no apologies for thinking these are unusual circumstances and that this is a big story."
It's not exactly unprecedented. Remember the famous Bud Harrelson-Pete Rose brawl in the 1973 NLCS? Here's a reminder:
Well, Harrelson moved on to the Phils as a role player in 1978. He retired after that season but was lured out of retirement when the Phils needed a utility man and they caught him playing softball. While Harrelson had been gone, the Phils made a big change. They had signed free agent Pete Rose for the then-unprecedented salary of "Three point two milly-on dollars" (thank you, Chico Escuela). So guess who was wearing Harrleson's number 14? Yep. Harrelson returned, selected number 15, and made no more mention of his past encounter with his new teammate (he also had the only 100+ adjusted OPS of his career).
So what do they expect to happen? Piazza will fire the pitch back at Clemens' head when his back is turned? Piazza will approach the mound to discuss pitch selections and the two will start to brawl? What?
I heard that this is the first time a 300-game winner is pitching to a 300-home run catcher, which would make it interesting if true, but is unrelated to "the story".
At a time when there are interesting stories in every division and four of the six divisions have leads no greater than two games, the press can only talk about a four-year-old story. Anyway, wasn't this resolved when they faced each other in the World Series that year?
According to Fox Sports president Ed Goren, their ultimate wish is for a wistful reconciliation:
"I hope Mike wears our mike and goes out to the mound before the game, pats Roger on the butt and says, 'Go get 'em, bulldog,' What can I say? I'm a romantic."
If by "romantic" you mean a loathsome individual, then you're right. So enough already! Drop the story. Find something new and interesting. Timmy Mac, do your job and cover the story. Don't create the story.
Besides, according to the immensely entertaining Debbie Clemens site (thanks to Murray for the link), Roger has trouble a-brewing closer to home. According to her bio, "Debbie is a busy mom, an avid golfer, and of course, a Yankee fan!" So is Debbie Clemens just a lazy web master or is she trying to tell the world that she didn't favor the Rocket moving on to the local Astros this year? Is she sick of having him leaving the toilet seat up and of his always eating her Hagen Das?
It sounds like a story right up Tim McCarver's alley. There you go, Tim, let the feeding frenzy commence.
G.I. Joe Morgan, A Real American Hero, Chat Day
A true military officer is in one particular like a true monk. Not with more self-abnegation will the latter keep his vows of monastic obedience than the former his vows of allegiance to martial duty.
—Herman "Franks" Melville, Billy Budd (Selig), Sailor
My name's Dewy Oxberger. My friends call me Ox. You might have noticed I have a slight weight problem. Yeah I do. Yeah, yeah, I do. So I went to this doctor and he told me I swallow a lot of aggression along with a lot of pizzas. Ha ha, ha ha, pizzas! …I thought to myself, "Join the army." It's free. So I figured while I'm here I'll lose a few pounds. You got, what, a six- to eight-week training program around here, a really tough one, which is perfect for me. I'm going to walk out of here a lean, mean fightin' machine!
—Dewey "Evans" Oxberger played by the great John Candy in Stripes
Although military, economic and political strength certainly favors the more powerful side, the matter of simple justice is a counterbalancing factor.
—Jimmy "Don't Call Me Lance" Carter
I've always been kind of a pacifist. When I was a kid, my father told me, "Never hit anyone in anger…unless you're absolutely sure you can get away with it." I don't know what kind of soldier I'm gonna make, but I want you guys to know that if we ever get into real heavy combat... I'll be right behind you guys… every step of the way.
—Russell "Don't Call Me Richie" Ziskey, also in Stripes
According to true military art, one should never push one’s enemy to the point of despair, because such a state multiplies his strength and increases his courage which had already been crushed and failing, and because there is no better remedy for the health of beaten and overwhelmed men than the absence of all hope.
—François "Beltran" Rabelais
And he smote his enemies in the hinder parts: he put them to a perpetual reproach.
—Bible: Psalms 78:66.
It’s a beautiful world we live in
They're panicking out there. It's Christmas and they're afraid they can't get their kids the G.I. Joe with the Kung-Fu grip and that their wives won't make love to 'em anymore. They're panicking. I can smell it!
—"Honest"Eddie Murphy as Bill Ray "Don't Call Me Ellis" Valentine in Trading Places
Blessed be Providence which has given to each his toy: the doll to the child, the child to the woman, the woman to the man, the man to the devil!
—Victor "Zambrano" Hugo
I wouldn't marry you if you had the body of G.I. Joe.
In the days of my youth, G.I. Joe was the eight-year-old equivalent of James Bond. He was the coolest thing going. And why not? We mulleted Seventies kids were reared at the cusp of a toy revolution. The G.I. Joes of my older brothers were no more than Ken in fatigues. No Kung-Fu grip. No lifelike hair. No eagle eyes. Not even a whiff of Bullet Man! I know it's hard to believe now. However, the only real action that my brothers saw with their G.I. Joe action figures was when they stuck its head in a vise and invented Massive Headwound Harry G.I. Joe (headwound not included).
I remember the dawning of Kung-Fu grip, an event as auspicious as the when proto-humans first learned to use tools with the help of a giant shingle from outerspace, if 2001 is to be believed. I was barely a sentient seven-year-old life-form, but I knew when I witnessed greatness, and here it was. No longer were we to subsist on Joes who appeared to be holding a cup with one hand and pinching Barbie's toches with the other. No, Joe could, and did, repel down a rope from the seven-foot-high basketball rim in my driveway to the safety of terra firma. I remember when I first received the bounty that was G.I. Joe with the Kung-Fu grip, and my friend Jeff and I spent a summer afternoon doing just that, rescuing Joe from the danger of enemy headquarters on that basketball rim to the safety and freedom of a mound of dirt ten feet away, in the good ol' US of A.
And the toys Joe had would put even James Bond's Q to shame. I had the Jeep with a missile launcher mounted in the trailer, the submarine that actually submerged and had a pinched mounted on the front to snare the conveniently included rubber octopus, the mobile headquarters that allowed Joe to search for lost radioactive satellites, and the collapsible carry-anywhere super headquarters. All the accoutrement were included back them. There was none of this "X sold separately". If you bought the Search for the Abominable Snowman, you got the snow survival suit, the skis, the ski poles, the snowshoes, the sled, the rope, the net, the binoculars, the supply chest, and the comic book (!), everything you needed to trap the abominable snowman, who was also included. When you got the ,a href="http://www.nyaj.com/athq/dock/boiling_lagoon.jpg">deep sea diver suit, that actually sunk to the bottom of your pool, it came with the air tubes that led to a pontoon boat, also included, where the other Joe would monitor deep-sea Joe's air levels. You got it all, baby!
Soon Joe was trying out the Evil Knievel stunt cycle, that, if one cranked for a sufficiently long, would leap Snake River more successfully than the real thing. Of course, the action figure always flew off, but so did the real thing.
Joe hung out with Steve Austin, the Six Million Dollar Man, of "Better…Stronger…Faster" fame, who came with bionic version that could actually use by looking through the gaping hole in the back of his skull (it was actually a mini telescope). Steve Austin also had bionic implants that you could remove a la the game Operation, but only after removing or rather rolling up his skin—a bit creepy, now that I think of it—, and a one-ton weight that only his bionic right-hand could lift. (Of course, ho one ever wondered how his human body could support the tonnage that his arm could lift. Compressed spine, anyone?)
Joe and O.J. Simpson were also buds, back in the day. No joke, I had an O.J. action figure that came out before he was famous for being accused of killing people. It was even before he left the Bills for the then-woeful 49ers. He was decked out in the old AFL Bills helmets with the standing buffalo in front of a white background. Like so:
And, no, it didn't come with a white Ford Bronco action vehicle.
I remember when they came out with the ultimate G.I. Joe, called Mike Power the Atomic Man. I was nine years old and it was the coolest thing I had ever seen. Even the packaging was cool: it wasn't just a cardboard box with a little cutout to see inside. Mike Power came incased in clear plastic, the new space-age polymer.
He was Joe's answer to Steve Austin, a probably a pretty pathetic one at that, but I didn't care. His hand rotated when you turned a little built-in dial with your thumb, and when he held the two included propeller blades, he was a one-man helicopter.
This thing had to come with me to school, though it had to be kept secret from my teacher. I unveiled the ultimate Joe creation at recess amid the oohs and ahs of my fellow fourth graders, making me the coolest kid at kickball that day. It was such an auspicious event it even suspended play at the outset as we put the new Joe through his paces sitting around the metal grate behind "homeplate", that acted as a communal dugout for both sides, as we drank in his coolness. I don't know how I did that day at kickball, a difficult sport in the '70s given that we all played in bellbottoms. I may have popped up or kicked the ball all the way to the basketball pole that acted as a marker for the farthest anyone could then kick the ball—I did reach it a couple of times. But whatever I did, Atomic Man did it with me, riding in my backpack. And all was well.
That was sort of the apogee of my G.I. Joe days. I soon started to outgrow him and needed my own space. I hadn't really given the toy much though in the intervening years until there was a baseball-related story that involved said Mr. Joe.
It seems that the Twins last week butted heads with a few peace groups because of their promotion, the second annual Armed Services Appreciation Day. And Joe was the culprit. You see, the Twins were going to be distributing G.I. Joes to the kids who attended last Monday's game with the Royals. The Royals?!? I think parents received Purple Hearts for having to witness the carnage.
What seemed like an innocent way to pay tribute to "our soldiers", was seen by the offended groups as a way to "promote war…at our national pastime."
Now, before I weigh in on the issue. I have to comment on an article in that wonderful publication The Washington Times. My opinion of the Times is unprintable, unless I want to draw the ire of Michael Powell. Suffice to say that my respect for the Times amounts to the way Shrek used the pages of the fairy tale at the beginning of the first Shrek movie.
Times columnist Tom "Don't Call Me Don" Knott takes exception with a statement by Friends for a Non-Violent World, "It's not a credible way to honor those who've suffered the inhumanity of war.":
You always love the titles of these groups: Friends for a Non-Violent World.
Who can argue against Friends for a Non-Violent World?
Well, Osama bin Laden and his thousands of nutty followers are against a nonviolent world...
There is a stunning disconnect with all these groups. They might issue objections to G.I. Joe or American soldiers stacking nude scumbags on top of one another, but they are unusually quiet around a head that is placed on a body, as if it were an ornament.
Which part of the recent beheadings is so hard to comprehend?
You say the beheadings have no connection to G.I. Joe?
It is all connected, the series of beheadings merely the latest acts of twisted minds who declared war on us long ago.
We just chose to ignore it before September 11.
Right. An eye for an eye, and the world goes blind.
We also know now that guns don't kill people; G.I. Joe dolls kill people.
Wow, way to prove that those peace groups are out of touch with reality, Don, er, I mean Tom. To quote Sgt. Hulka (again of Stripes), "Lighten up, Francis." Oh, and I really love the one-sentence paragraphs. I guess you have to keep it brief and punchy to reach the addle-minded dolts who deign to read your publication.
Now, a couple of things must be said about the evolution of G.I. Joe. When I was a kid, Joe was an adventurer first and a soldier second. Sure, he carried a rifle, but he also carried everything else imaginable including shark repellant. This was probably done to be sensitive of the antiwar sentiments surrounding the Vietnam War at the time. Joe evolved beyond his army soldier rubric. After Mike Power the Atomic man came a sort of cyborg/superhero type thing called Bullet Man. About that time everyone seemed to outgrow the toy at once (including me).
The Eighties brought a miniature version that was far more militaristic and tremendously smaller. You couldn't recreate the adventures that I and my contemporaries but Joe through when we were kids. It was just a little hunk of plastic. It didn't do anything and nothing was included. But there was a TV show this time and the new Joe became a beloved toy and symbol of American ideals.
So I would protest handing out G.I. Joes because they are junk. I'm sort of on the fence as to whether they promote war. I played "Cowboys And Indians" when I was a kid, had a cap gun, and shot rockets into space. And I think I turned out pretty normal all in all. I also watched Tom and Jerry put never dropped an anvil on anyone's head to see if his head would take on an anvil-like shape.
Now that I have kids myself, I shy away from the military toys though. I'm not sure why. Maybe it's the aftershocks of Columbine and the attendant loss of innocence. Maybe it's that I don’t played into a culture in which almost every video game seems to desensitize kids to killing even as they make it more and more realistic. Those toys probably wouldn't damage my kids anymore than they damaged me. Their innocence would shield them from the potential evils, just as mine served me well. It may be that they just make me as the parent feel uncomfortable.
One thing is certain, handing out dolls is an odd tribute to American soldiers. I'm sure it was intended as a nice gesture, but we do live in a culture in which apparently nothing is innocent any longer, no matter how much that irks Tom Knott. But how can anything associated with the current war be innocent given the Senate panel's report that was just released?
I mean, it's apparent to everyone but President Bush that we should never have gone into Iraq given what we now know. Whether that's an indictment of the war itself given what our government knew or thought it knew at the onset remains to be seen. Many (including me) think it is, but it is definitely more complicated. And now that the presidential election is becoming more and more a referendum on the war, it gets even more complicated.
Maybe the Twins should have been a bit more sensitive. Maybe the peace groups should keep it in perspective—it is after all just a toy. Maybe the Twins should have reconsidered the event. All I know is that I miss the innocence that once allowed these toys to be acceptable and I wish I could go back to it.
Which brings me, of course, to another Joe, Joe Morgan. He never lost that innocence. He is more stuck in the '70s than a Styx/Journey double bill. Joe missed the revolution in baseball analysis that Bill James helped usher. Joe is at essence Bullet (Headed) Man, the ultimate extension of the baseball analysis of the previous generation. He is one of the last stalwarts of baseball analysis who accepted wholecloth any claims by Sparky Anderson that this season's phenom would be the new Mickey Mantle.
And I say god bless him. So without further ado, I welcome you to the innocence that is Joe Morgan Chat Day:
To be continued…
In 2002, Mike Williams had a career year saving 46 games, almost doubling his previous high (24) and finishing third in the NL behind Cy Young contenders John Smoltz and Eric Gagne (number three and four in the CY vote). He also recorded a 2.95 ERA and 1.22 WHIP. At the All-Star break, he had 25 saves and a 1. 84 ERA, but he was left off the All-Star team.
In 2003 Williams went into the All-Star break with 25 saves again, but he had blown five save opportunities, had a 6.44 ERA, had given up 41 hits and 22 walks in just 36.1 innings pitched for a 1.73 WHIP, and had struck out three fewer men than he'd walked (22 to 19).
And yet he represented the lowly Pirates in the 2003 All-Star game.
ESPN picked him as the worst All-Star of all time. That piqued my interest: Who are the worst All-Stars ever selected? Can it be quantified?
My solution was to use Bill James' Win Shares. I took a look at the All-Stars who had the lowest Win Share totals and cobbled together a team based on that criterion.
The worst of all time will come as a surprise, but it's Lou Gehrig in 1939, his final year. He was named to the team even though he had already played his last game (one of eight for the year) due to illness. And he, of course, was unable to play in the game. He is the only All-Star without a Win Share (his 0.1 total rounded to zero).
There are actually a good number of great players on the team. They just happened to go to an All-Star game long after the had passed their prime. Among them are Mike Schmidt, Ozzie Smith, Johnny Mize, Reggie Jackson, and Willie Mays.
Also, there is a great deal of catchers who were ostensibly named for their defensive skills or just to fill out a roster. Nine of the 21 position players on the list are catchers.
Also, many of the players ended up as starters for less than a full season due to injury or to losing their job.
Anyway, here's the team:
Now the pitchers (by the way, Williams is second):
By the way, if you think that position players who just happened to be injured are being singled out (e.g., Irvin), here's the list of the worst who played at least 100 games:
On the other side of the equation are those players who had great years but missed being selected for the All-Star game. Here are all position players over 30 Win Shares in a year in which they were not selected for the All-Star game:
Currently in the NL, Adam Dunn projects to 34 Win Shares (5th in the NL), J. D. Drew to 32 (9th), Adrian Beltre 15 (13th), Lyle Overbay 32 (21), Phil Nevin 30 (22), and Brian Giles 30 (31). And in the AL, Michael Young projects to 32 (3rd) (All according to baseballgraphs.com.). And yet none of these players was selected for the All-Star Game (Oh, and the rankings reflect BG's system. I know that some have the same WS total and are ranked differently. It may be a rounding thing, I'm not sure).
Here are the pitchers with at least 25 Win Shares who were not selected for the All-Star team:
At least they didn't miss any pitchers this year that would fall in this group.
Now let's have a look at the worst All-Stars based on career Win Shares (Note that young, current players sort of get the shaft in this one). First position players with 35 or fewer Win Shares lifetime:
Now the pitchers, who outnumber the position players:
Finally, here are the best players (by career Win Shares—150 or more) never to make an All-Star Team (i.e., since the All-Star era: 1933 to the present):
Now the pitchers (min. 125 career WS):
You'll notice that there aren't a great deal of Hall of Famers on that list. I'm glad that Abreu finally got the nod after seven years—he's better than anyone on the list.
By the way, if you were wondering why Scotty "Two Time" Cooper and the superannuated hot-corner Cal Ripken didn't make the list, there's good reason for that. Cooper had 12.3 WS in 1993 and 10.1 in 1994. His career total was 40. He was pretty bad: there were just others who were worse. Ripken just missed the list for his 2000 season. Here are his Win Shares totals as third baseman, 1997-2001: 1997 18 WS, 1998 13.4 WS, 1999 11.8 WS, 2000 8.3 WS, and 2001 9.1 WS. Of course, his career totals were more than All-Star-worthy.
For pitchers, some will recall Neal Heaton of all people made the team with the Pirates in 1990. As was pointed out on Baseball Primer, Heaton had one of those first halves that demanded inclusion on the team (10-3). He did finish 13-9 with a 3.45, 4% better than the park-adjusted league average, and 7.8 WS. Yeah, that's more like a decent number two/three starter than an All-Star, but again there were just so many that were worse that he didn't make the list.
My favorite Odd-Star is Atlee Hammaker. He seemed completely overmatched at the 1983 All-Star game giving up seven runs, including a grand slam to Fred Lynn, and then saw his career quickly deteriorate due to injuries and ineffectiveness. I expected him to show up on the career list. He finished with 50 career Win Shares. 1983 was his career year though (10-9, 2.25 ERA to lead the league, and 13.4 WS).
The one person on the shafted list that surprised me was Kirk Gibson, who was a very good, fairly popular player on successful big-city teams (Detroit and LA in the Eighties). He didn't even make it the year that he won the MVP (1988).
It made me wonder how many award winners were left All-Star teams (Cy Young, MVP, ROY). I would expect some rookies to get overlooked but I didn't expect many veteran award-winners to be overlooked. Let's see who else was.
Actually, Gibson is not the only league MVP not to be named to an All-Star team. There were nine in total. There were also 17 Cy Young award winners, 15 Rolaids Relief Pitcher award winners, 74 Rookies of the Year, 28 LCS MVPs, 21 World Series MVPs, and 330 Gold Glove winners who were kept off the All-Star team.
Here's are the award-winning non-All-Stars (excluding the Gold Glove winners who are too voluminous to list here):
An All-Star Is Borne
Here is an updated list of All-Star appearances broken down by birthplace. It includes Javier Vazquez, Paul LoDuca, and Jake Westbrook, who were added to the All-Star game, and Tippy Martinez and Dave Chalk, whose point of origin has been found (the good ol' US of A in both cases). Note that Vazquez gives Puerto Rico sole possession of second place, which it had shared with the Dominican Republic after the original All-Star rosters were announced:
It's good thing that Joe Torre doesn't suffer from xenophobia. He doesn't care where his All-Stars come from as long as they play--or have played--for the Yankees, they're A-OK.
Conlin Discovers Howard...Again
Here's Bill Conlin's biweekly article praising Ryan Howard.
Howard looks great but there are three things Jabba the Columnist does not get: a) Howard is in Double-A, not Triple-A. Who's to say that his Double-A production will translate at the major-league level? BP is not so sanguine given his past.
B) The Phils have a first baseman by the name of Jim Thome, who will be either by at first for the foreseeable future. By the way, in comparing Howard to Thome at Double-A, a problematic venture all things being equal. It is doubly scattershot given that Thome was a third baseman in the minors and at the age of 24, Howard's current age, Thome was the starting third baseman for the Indians, and he already had 30 major-league home runs under his belt before the season started. I'm not so sure how high a ceiling there is for a 24-year-old in Double-A whose only defensive postion is first base. BP says Lee Stevens or Jeff Liefer, which seems about right.
Finally, C) the Phils need a starting pitcher and a center fielder NOW. I'm not advocating trading Howard, but teams--or at leats the Phils--don't get alot of opportunities to make the postseason. The Phils haven't done it for eleven years and have done it just three time since the 1980 World Series championship team.
The Phils do have to make a deal though, if they want to contend. The Mets and Braves have far less talent, but I would bet on one of those teams before the listless Phils. And the Philly media are doing nobody any favors by letting the Phils brass skirt the gaping holes on the team that they refuse to fill as long as phannies are filling seats at the new stadium.
Bill, get off your endomorphic hinder and demand that the Phils get a center fielder and a starting pitcher and while your at it, demand the head of Larry Bowa, who is content to devote ABs to the horrific Doug Glanville and innings to the tragedy that is Roberto Hernandez while the Phils skirt .500.
Tap the Dugout Phone This Time!
Pete Rose Jr. will be the interim manager of the independent Florence (KY) Gamblers, er, Freedom of the once-proud Frontier League (it looks like the Chillicothe Paints are the last original team standing).
Oddly, he replaces Tom Browning who, if memory serves, spray-painted a big #14 on Riverfront Stadium grass during the park's final game ceremonies, which Rose Sr. was not allowed to partake in.
And Pete Rose Sr. will also be throwing out the first pitch in a July 21 game. This part kind of scares me though:
His visit is not only for the fans of the Freedom, but he is taking time out of his busy schedule to visit and mentor the Freedom team.I wonder if he has any tips for the Reds-Cubs game that day. 'Nuff sed?
Big Unit of Measure
On May 25, 1989, the Montreal Expos did something that would seem very odd today. The Expos were in the process of creeping back to .500. Denny Martinez shut out the Giants in a day game at Candlestick for his fourth win against just one loss (and a 2.69 ERA). They would finish the day only three behind the division-leading Cubs but were in fourth place. None of those things is all that odd.
What was odd was that the Expos decided that they needed to add a veteran in order to gird themselves for a playoff run. That would be odd today. Other than laundering an odd Cliff Floyd on Les Expos, midseason help in Montreal has amounted to Bruce Chen rentals.
But in 1989 the 'Spos had high expectations. In '87, they had contended until the final days of the season. In '88, Montreal was 4.5 out on August 13 after a 32-17 run. They faltered down the stretch falling 20 games out and finishing at 81-81. As of May 25, the Expos had scored the most runs in the league. Unfortunately, they had also allowed the most and were outscored by a large margin though (187-205).
Along with Martinez, there was Kevin Gross who was 5-3 with a 3.91 ERA but had just shut the Giants out the night before, 1-0 on 11 strikeouts. Also, Bryn Smith was 4-1 with a 2.18 ERA. But the Expos couldn't seem to fill out a rotation. Pascual Perez was 0-7 with a 5.04 ERA, but he was getting paid nearly a million dollars in the last year of a two-year deal. 24-year-old Brian Holman had been moved into the rotation but had lost his last two starts (1-2 with a 4.83 ERA). There was one other starter, but I'll get to him in a minute.
The Expos coveted veteran lefty Mark Langston who would be a free agent at the end of the season and, therefore, was the subject of trade rumors ever since his Mariners opened for spring training. Langston was 4-5 with a 3.56 ERA (14% better than the adjusted league average) in ten starts in May 25. In 1988, he was 15-11 with 3.34 ERA (25% better than the adjusted league average).
These were very fine numbers to be sure, but what made Langston special was the overwhelming way he employed his blazing fastball along with a good slider. He led the league in strikeouts per nine innings, usually just under nine, and total strikeouts in 1984, 86, and 87, and were second in 1988. He also ate innings: 272 in 1987 and 261.1 in 1988. His Achilles heel was his frequent wildness. Langston led the league in walks in 1984 and was in the top four from 1986 to '88.
The three pitchers that Montreal sent to Seattle to get Langston were Gene Harris, Brian Holman, and, of course, Randy Johnson. In some ways Johnson's early career paralleled Langston's so well that one has to wonder why the Expos even bothered to make the trade: Johnson was a lefty who threw a great fastball-slider combo, struck out about a man an inning, and was often wild. Eerie, isn’t it?
Johnson led the Southern Association in strikeouts with 163 un 1987, the Florida State League in walks (94) in 1986, and the American Association in balks (20) in 1988. That pretty much epitomizes his minor-league career. However, Johnson had finished 1988 with an 8-7 record, a 3.26 ERA, and 111 strikeouts against "just" 72 walks in 113.1 innings. And in September he had found himself in the Expos rotation, finishing 3-0 with a 2.42 ERA in four starts, one a complete game. He also struck out 25 men in 26 innings. He did, however, display his signature wildness. He recorded three wild pitches, seven walks and three homers allowed in those 26 innings. Still his adjusted ERA was 49% better than the park-adjusted league average.
Twenty-five-year-old Randy Johnson started the 1989 season in the Expos rotation. On April 5, he gave up one earned run en route to shutout of the 'Spos by 26-year-old Doug Drabek of the Pirates. He struck out 9 and allowed just three hits but walked eight and picked up his first career loss. His next start lasted just three innings, with four runs, zero strikeouts, 5 hits, one homer run, and two walks in a 7-6 loss to the Phils. His next outing lasted just 1.2 innings: 5 ER, 6 H, 1 HR, 2 BB, 0 K. Johnson was then 0-2 with a 7.11 ERA. His next outing lasted at least 5 innings but had similar results: 4 ER, 6 H, 5 BB, 5 K. Johnson and his 0-3, 7.13 record was then sent to the bullpen. After one relief appearance, He got reinserted in the rotation but allows eight earned runs, ten walks (and eleven strikeouts) in the next two starts totaling eleven innings. On May 7, Johnson's record stood at 0-4 with a 6.67 ERA and his September success seemed like ancient history.
Johnson was sent back down to the minors for three starts before the trade. He went 1-1 with a 2.00 ERA and struck out 17 while walking nine in 18 innings. He finished the year in Seattle with a 7-9 record, 4.40 ERA, 104 strikeouts and 70 walks in 118 innings.
A little over a week ago Randy Johnson became the fourth pitcher to reach 4000 strikeouts, something that seemed very unlikely early in his career. Johnson was recording his share of strikeouts but with the 100+ walks that accompanied them and ERAs that were slightly better than average, He was viewed more as an oddity than a great pitcher. His gawky 6'10" stature didn’t help. Then Johnson had a breakout season in 1993, winning 19, striking out 308 while walking just 99 in 255.1 innings, recorded a 3.24 ERA (35% better than average), and finished a distant second-place finish in the AL Cy Young vote. Johnson was 29 and he had finally found his muse. He would remain at or above that level as a pitcher until basically today.
Here's a breakdown of the four 4000-strikeout pitchers at various stages of their career that puts Johnson's late blooming on full display:
It becomes even clearer if you look at the interstitial values:
Not only does Johnson come into his own in his early thirties, he maintained his level of excellence through his thirties, especially his strikeout totals, which were still coming at an unprecedented rate for a man his age. Witness the top 10 in strikeouts for various ages and Johnson's late but continual ascendency:
One last thing, here are the top ten pitchers in strikeouts above expected all-time (through 2003):
Abreu Passes Final
Tonight Bobby Abreu was elected to the NL All-Star team via the "Final Vote" online by the fans, barely edging Aramis Ramirez of the Cubs. It will be his first All-Star appearance. Hideki Matsui won in the AL.
During tonight's Phils game, a quote by Abreu probably translated from Spanish was displayed expressing his pleasure at being elected and his pride at being one of six Venezuelans at the game.
Those six would be Francisco Rodriguez, Victor Martinez, Carlos Guillen, Carlos Zambrano, Miguel Cabrera, and Abreu. If you're interested, here is the breakdown of the All-Stars by country:
That got me to wondering what the breakdown is all time. So here are the All-Star appearances broken down by birthplace:
For gits and shiggles, here are the players from the countries that have under ten All-Star appearances. Australia's sole rep was Dave Nilsson. South Vietnam's was and is Danny Graves. Charlie Lea is the only French All-Star, Bert Blyleven was the only Dutch, Bobby Thomson, the only Scot, and Glenn Hubbard, the only German (West German actually). Chan Ho Park & Byung-Hyun Kim represented South Korea. Edgar Renteria is again representing Colombia and is the only man to have ever done so. The pride of Curacao is of course Andruw Jones. Tippy Martinez and Dave Chalk represented no country, at least their point of origin has never been reported. Nicaragua 's had Dennis Martinez and Vicente Padilla as All-Stars. Jamaica, mon, has been represented by Chili Davis and Devon White. Finally, Japan has had five All-Stars: Hideki Matsui, Hideo Nomo, Ichiro Suzuki, Kazuhiro Sasaki, and Shigetoshi Hasegawa.
Yeah, I have a great deal of free time.
Ken What-the-'Ell Rationalization: Can the Mets win a Dog of a Division?
The good generally displeases us when it is beyond our ken.
—Friedrich "Fat Freddie" Nietzsche
Jealousy is the tribute mediocrity pays to genius.
—Bishop "Brad" Fulton Sheen as quoted by Daniel "Miss It" Noonan
When we consider…that what lies within our ken is but a small part of the universe, we shall then discover an huge abyss of ignorance.
—John "Don't Call Me Don" Locke
Implores the passing tribute of a sigh.
—Thomas "Don't Call Me Pete" Gray
I saw my friend Ken at the wedding of our mutual friend Barry last week just as the Yankees and Mets were getting ready to start a day-night doubleheader. Ken convinced me to dedicate something to him and his Mets if they beat the Yankees in one of the two games that day. I did it begrudgingly, given that the Mets are chasing my mediocre Phils, but unfortunately (or fortunately, depending in hiw you look at it) the Mets dropped two that day.
Let me first say that Ken is the quintessential Mets fan, and I mean that in the best sense. The New York media, perhaps encouraged by the Yankees perennial success, seem to overestimate the Mets' chances every spring. And every spring Ken gets overly excited for their chances. Mets fans are perhaps the most optimistic in baseball, the antithesis of Red Sox fans. Maybe that's why they think that every high fly to center is a homer. The Mets are so optimistic that they brought back Roger Cedeno and Jeromy Burnitz after failed trials. Can you imagine the Yankees having brought back Eddie Whitson or someday brining back Jeff Weaver?
And it doesn't hurt that the Mets do succeed from time to time. I remember rooting the Mets on in 1986 mostly for Ken's sake. Besides, they played in two great playoff series that year. About that time Ken had a poster that had a stamp-size picture of every Met all time (about 25 seasons). Posters were big in college. I thought it was remarkable that they could fit them all on a poster. What the Phils lacked in success, they made up for with longevity. There's no way, even if anyone wanted to do so, they could fit all the Phils pictures let alone names on a poster-size piece of paper.
At this point, I had no problem with the Mets. The Mets and Phils had never been successful at the same time, at least that I could remember. And I could pull for the Mets out of divisional pride. I didn't actually come to dislike the Mets until I moved to Queens in the early '90s when the Mets were the brunt of David Letterman jokes and I could get free tickets aplenty. No one wanted to see the Mets, and everyone had tickets at their office. And I am never one to turn away free tickets.
(Actually, I think many other who were, incredibly, less desirable as fans than even me gained access to Shea by the same means creating a rather unpleasant environment as if the stadium's droning jet engines weren't enough. I remember a run-in with one "fan" when I asked him to put out a cigarette right after they announced that smoking was not allowed. He asked me if I owned the stadium. Instead of the "Yeah, I'm Mr. Shea, that's how I got these prime seats next to you" response, I went with "I asked you nicely" and the guy relented though it made for an uncomfortable ending to the game. That was my image of a typical Met fan in the mid-'90s. In all fairness, with the success of the late '90s, the quality of fan improved as well.)
Anyway, back to the 2004 version of the Mets. They swept the Yankees last weekend and have now moved into second place just two games behind the Phils after a 4-1 win tonight. This is a team that had fallen to 9-15 on May 1 and 28-33 on June 12 after five straight losses. Since June 12, they are 14-7 and have won five of their last six games. (That includes the Yankees sweep. By the way, the last team to sweep the Yanks was the Art Howe-managed A's, a fact that would be interesting if Howe were a truly great manager.)
So my question is are the Mets, a team that finished 66-95 and 34.5 games out of first just last year, for real? Can they really compete while still paying off Mo Vaughan's ridiculous contract (I think they owe him $15 M this season)?
I didn't think so at the start of the season. I picked the Mets to finish last in fact. But the Marlins and Phils have been underachieving their way to mediocrity, opening the door to the Braves and the Mets. Of the four, the Mets seem the most well directed. The Mets cobbled together this team after the excesses (Vaughan, Cedeno, Alomar) of the last few seasons. They seemed to be importing the Yankee role players of the last few seasons (Garcia, Spencer, Stanton, Zeile). They even had to get their own, inferior Matsui.
When the Mets picked up Richard Hidalgo on June 17 for superfluous middle reliever David Weathers, I thought that it was a decent gamble. Hidalgo had a hefty price tag but was still young enough (29) to fulfill some of his potential. And I thought that Weathers would be worth more to a playoff team, which I didn't think described the Mets. So far the gamble has paid off. Hidalgo has hit 8 homers, 16 RBI, and 14 R in his 16 games with the Mets, and he is batting .344 with a .403 on-base percentage, .787 slugging average, and 1.190 OPS. And they are winning while Mike Piazza has a minor slump (.762 OPS and no homers on the month).
The arrival of Hidalgo pretty much coincides with the Mets ascending to mediocrity. He seems to have ignited the Met offense as well. Hidalgo's numbers in July are through the roof: .500 batting average, .593 on-base percentage, 1.364 slugging, and 1.956 OPS with 5 HR, 9 RBI, and 8 runs scored in the Mets' six games so far this month. As a team the Mets are batting .297 in July (with a .963 OPS), have outscored the opposition 43-29, and have out-homered them 15 to 4. Kaz Matsui's numbers in July are .423/.483/.769/1.252 with 2 HR, 5 RBI, and 12 runs. Ty Wigginton: .348/.400/.826/1.226 with 3 homers and 6 RBI.
The Met starters are 3-1 in July and own a 2.97 ERA and 1.24 WHIP. If you ignore Tom Glavine's 0-1, 9.00 and Matt Ginter's 0-0, 7.36 numbers in July, the rest of the rotation has a 1.01 ERA, 0.94 WHIP, and is 3-0.
Those are the highlights. The Mets bullpen in July has a 6.02 ERA and 1.97 WHIP but is somehow 2-0. They do have an overall ERA of 3.72, but losing Weathers may be a strain on the pen. Looper has been masterful as the closer (1.91 ERA, 17 saves in 47 IP) and his control (6 BB and 40 K) has been great. However, he started to give up some hits (In July: 6 H in 3.2 IP for a .353 opponents' average) and if his control issues return (29 BB in 80.2 innings in 2003), the strain will be greater.
The Mets have really only had three starting pitchers all year: Glavine, Trachsel, and Leiter. Jae Weong Seo is a serviceable 4-5 with a 4.79 ERA but has gotten out of the sixth inning just twice in 13 starts. Glavine started the season well and still has very good numbers (2.49, 7-6). He jumpstarted the team on June 13 with a 5-2 win over the Royals. Since then he has allowed at least 2 runs per start and has completed seven innings just once. He got rocked the other day by the Phils with 6 runs in 6 IP. It could be a blip on the radar screen or he could be returning to last year's form (9-14, 4.52). Additionally, Glavine and Leiter are both 38 and Trachsel is no spring chicken at 33. Leiter already lost a chuck of time to injury this season.
Also, Hidalgo has never hit nearly as well over a full season as he has in his first month with the Mets. Compare his numbers in Houston (.256/.309/.412/.721) and for his career (.280/.357/.507/.864) to his Mets numbers (.348/.403/.788/1.191). Actually, his overall 2004 numbers (.279/.332/.506/.838) are pretty close to his career averages, so maybe this past month was just a natural readjustment.
Kaz Matsui had pretty poor numbers (251/.321/.373/.694) prior to July. So are these numbers to be believed? Is he starting to learn the league or is it an aberration? There's no way to know.
Besides, The Mets still have offensive problems. They are ranked 11th in the NL in OPS for third basemen, 12th for center fielders, 10th for right fielders, 11th at first base (even with Piazza sharing time there), and dead last at second.
So what is the Mets' fate? I'm still not convinced that they are a playoff-caliber team. However, if they get a reliable fourth starter (either Seo or someone else), Matsui's offense is for real, and Hidalgo has one of his good years, they could snatch the division away from the plodding Phils. And aside from the ugly multivariegated uniforms and deplorable stadium, it's hard not to pull for them. At least they seem to care, which may be enough in this division.
Pass Your Finals?
Well, I don't really think that the end can be assessed as of itself as being the end because what does the end feel like? It's like saying when you try to extrapolate the end of the universe, you say, if the universe is indeed infinite, then how - what does that mean? How far is all the way, and then if it stops, what's stopping it, and what's behind what's stopping it? So, what's the end, you know, is my question to you.
—David St. Hubbins named for the patron saint of quality footwear
The All-Star "Final Vote", the major-league equivalent of a "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" lifeline, is now available at the MLB site. Fans get to pick their 32nd favorite player in each league. As always, the selections vary from the sublime to the ridiculous (though are a bit better in the AL).
I just cast my vote for the two players who are clearly the best candidates this season and throughout their careers, Frank Thomas and Bobby Abreu. Both lead their league's field in OPS. Additionally, Thomas has had either a Hall of Fame or near HOF career, depending on who you talk to and Abreu is probably the most underrated player in the game right now. Both should have been picked before Final Jeopardy. They deserved better, but with the numbers game that is the All-Star game holding sway the likes of Barry Larkin and Ted Lilly book their flights to Houston.
So, I'll make my plug now:
Vote for Frank Thomas and Bobby Abreu! Do it today!
By the way, why do they jettison the DH when the game is in an NL park? Just let the fans vote for a DH in the AL, and then let the manager select the DH in the NL (I would have said NL prez, but thanks to Err Bud we don't have one anymore). Why do we need pitchers to bat in an exhibition?
If you vote, you'll get an odd page back upon a successfully completed vote (no dangling Chad Kreuters). It has one button on it, "Vote Again". So I tested it and sure enough, I was able to vote again. What's the point of taking all of the voter's data (email, zip, dob) and then requiring them to re-entire the verification number that the system spits out, if he can easily vote again? They could at least make it a little inconvenient for someone to stuff the ballot.
By the way, Carlos Beltran was named to the All-Star game by the AL Players before he was traded to the NL, and therefore can attend the game but can't play. So, what, is he the baseball equivalent of Philip Nolan, or what? At least he won't have to fly in order not to play: His new team happens to play in Houston.
Kill the (State Your Name)!
The unruly mob that is the Boston media and fanbase is again whittling torches in anticipation of the yearly public lynching following the Yankees' sweep of the Crimson Hosed ones. They now sit a full eight games behind the Yankees and are closer to third-place Tampa Bay. Is it the Curse of David Ortiz's Glove, the Curse of Nomar Garciaparra's Splinter-Laden Keister, or the Curse of the Sabermetrician (i.e. Bill James)?
While the Fenway faithless are getting so riled up, did they notice that the wild card is within their grasp? Sure, it's disappointing that the Yankees swept the series and are pulling away in the division, but weren't the Yankees about to implode in April when the Sox took 5 of 6 from them and they were a sub-.500 team? It's July. There's a lot of season left. Why panic? Texas is a good bet to fade (though Anaheim could replace them) and the wild card is unlikely to come out of the Central. The Red Sox are a good bet to win the wild card, and that almost got them to the Series last year. Does anyone in Boston know how the '02 Angels and '03 Marlins got to the Series? Could it be...Satan? Well, possibly, but it was certainly the wild card.
No, they waste time on whether David Ortiz's mitt broke in the second game. The replays show that it didn't and besides, who cares? It's water under the bridge. By the way, the Sox mouthpiece in print, the New York Times didn't let the facts get in the way but instead erroneously promulgated the misinformation that the glove broke. I guess that plays better in Poughkeepsie. Besides, how can newly anointed savior David Ortiz have misplayed a ball? Never mind that his best defensive position is DH.
Potential free agent Nomar Garciaparra is also drawing fire for being the only Red Sox position player not to appear in game three as if by the stroke of his hand he could have assured victory. I guess juxtaposing Jeter's great diving catch with Nomah's no-show is what gets their curse-laden juices flowing. But does anyone remember how Jeter's horrific offense from the leadoff spot in the first two months was encumbering the Yankee offense? And oh yeah, Garciaparra helped the Yankees score the winning runs in game 2 with a costly error. It happens. Does it outweigh nine great seasons in a Red Sox uniform? I rephrase the question: Should it?
Next on the hot seat is Bill James who is being blamed for burdening Boston with inferior defensive players who can't run a lick on the bases. Instant antithesis was awaiting James when his alleged plan to bring a bullpen by committee to Boston failed. Never mind that James never recommended a bullpen by committee and that his real recommendations were shelved quickly by Grady Little once the bullpen faltered. James did recommend that the closer be used in non-save situations and Keith Foulke has been brilliant in those situations this year. James in reprioritizing defense in no way said to put DHs in the field when the Sox have a lead. Did anyone notice that the Yankees were caught stealing twice in game 2? One was in the first trailing 1-0: Kenny Lofton tried to steal third with two outs. Third with two outs? There might be a slight advantage of being at third with two outs with a knuckleballer on the mound but he had better steal that base if he goes.
Manager Terry Francona is getting some heat as well. Yeah, he should have taken Ortiz out. And he is being blamed for not using Garciaparra in the final game of the series even though Nomar felt some pain in his previously injured heal. Should the manager possibly sacrifice his All-Star shortstop for one game against the Yankees?
But forget logic. The mob is forming. The need someone to blame. So here's their list for this year's Grady Little Red Sox Nation Bile Reception award?:
A) Terry Francona
But surely, you say, that's just a guide, not meant to be taken literally, you statheaded freak. To which I reply, A) "Your mama" and B) that's true but 78 points is a bit excessive, don’t you think?
That would be 25th all time and the largest differential since the '93 Mets if the Yankees can keep it up all season. Here are the top 24:
Keep in mind that the Reds also exceed their expected winning percentage by 86 points. They own a 44-38 (.537) record but by their run differential one would expect them to have won only 45.1% of their games. So surely the difference is caused by the smaller sample of games. Over a full season things will even out, but will the run differential change to fit the record or will the record change to more closely fit the run differential? How many licks does it take to get to the tootsie roll center of a tootsie pop? The world may never know.
That said, teams like the Yankees, Reds, Twins, Giants, etc. who have been outdistancing run-differential expectations may get their comeuppance in the second half. The Red Sox may not be available to take advantage of it, however, since they will be embroiled in the next scandal that suits the fan's fancy. Maybe the only curse on the Sox is in the adage that those who don’t live from history and destined to repeat it.
Your 2004 Some-Stars
I was watching Baseball Tonight last night—it happens—and they were doing a rundown of the All-Star selections. The estimable Peter Gammons assessed the AL vote as a victory for fantasy baseballism over ballot-stuffing homerism since there were 4 players selected who were on new teams.
So fans are no longer stuffing the ballot boxes in favorite of the local yokels but are stuffing it in favor of the players on their own imaginary teams. That's progress?
Maybe he should have mentioned the fact that the ridiculously homerish Japanese voters catapulted the eminently undeserving Ichiro Suzuki over former ex-pat Japanese player and at least defensible candidate, Hideki Matsui.
Let's take a look at the leaders per position per league in OPS to determine if the selected players were the right ones. By the way, I know that some rail against voting based on a half-season of stats while overlooking perennial All-Stars and quality veterans. However, I am of the opinion that if a veteran were worthy his stats would tell us that. I know that the All-Star game on occasion is a lovefest for doddering future Hall-of-Famers like Cal Ripken and Tony Gwynn even well after they have passed their primes. I guess that sort of maudlin pap placates the masses; I'd rather see the best players face each other and I’ll risk an odd poor Atlee Hammaker-esque selection or two to achieve that.
That said, in the AL, Pudge Rodriguez, Manny Ramirez, and Vlad Guerrero lead in OPS at their respective positions. However, Giambi is a great player but would rank about middle of the pack among AL first baseman (Mark Teixeira leads). The same holds for Alfonso Soriano at second (Ron Belliard is the leader) and Derek Jeter at short (Carlos Guillen). A-Rod is third among third baseman in OPS (behind Melvin Mora and Hank Blalock). Suzuki's second to least among right fielders in OPS. It's well that no center fielder was chosen, since the league leader there. Carlos Beltran, is no longer in the league.
That's three for eight, and Ichiro is a downright awful pick especially when his inevitable second half flop kicks in.
In the NL, Piazza would lead all catchers if he qualified as a catcher. Pujols is third among first baseman (behind Thome and Helton) though he is having a better year than anyone in the AL at first. Jeff Kent is second behind Todd Walker at second in OPS. Rolen is well ahead of all other third baseman in the NL. Edgar Renteria is seventh among qualifying shortstops (Jack Wilson is the leader). Bonds again leads all left fielders. Griffey is third among center fielders (behind Edmonds and Finley). Sosa would be middle of the pack in right if he qualified (Drew leads).
The NL is also 3 for 8, but aside Renteria has no indefensible Ichiro-type choices. I guess listing Piazza as a catcher even though he's played more games (37 to 34) at first is unfortunate. But his catching Roger Clemens apparently has been designated the story of the game so I guess the likes of Gammons would actually have to talk baseball if it didn't happen.
Patriotic July 3rd
I just returned from a Somerset Patriots game followed by fireworks with my daughter, and boy, are my arms tired. The game started at 7:05 and we were lucky enough to get an extra inning gratis once the Patriots and their rival, the Long Island (Islip, NY) Ducks, played to a 4-4 tie in the expected number of frames. If you were worried, the Patriots won 5-4 on a two-out rally in the tenth while my five-year-old chanted, "We want fireworks!" repeatedly.
Then we had to wait through an eight-minute delay before the fireworks could finally commence while we awaited a NJ Transit train to pass. You see, the train passes right outside the right field walls of Commerce Bank Ballpark in beautiful downtown—it is on Main Street—Bridgewater, NJ. There's a break in the signage in right that's just large enough to view about half a railway car at a time as the train passes. So about three or four times per game, a train whistle blows and those fans, like my daughter, who are more interested in diversions from the game than the game itself get to witness this minor event. But hey, it beats a game at the runways of Shea by a long shot.
I was actually very much impressed by my first Atlantic League game, and since the crowd of 8,048 was a league record, I got to see it at its best (the fans do come a-running for the hickory-smoked taste of fireworks).
Overall, the play was more impressive or at least more polished than the Double-A games that I've seen. And given the number of former major-leaguers on both rosters as well as perpetual Newark Bear Rickey Henderson, the independent Atlantic League is sort of the CBA (Continental Baseball Association, not Collective Bargaining Agreement) of baseball.
The Patriots have former Mariner Ryan Radmanovich, former Tiger Chris Wakeland, former Rockie and Angel Edgard Clemente, 36-year-old major-league journeyman Scott Aldred, and former Indian Dave Elder on the roster (as well as former Angel Jason Dickson,15-year vet Pete Harnisch, former Indian Luis Lopez, and former Brave Joe Winkelsas listed in their four-dollar 2004 Official Autograph Program. They also have Sparky Lyle, as their manager, and who also lends his name to homonymic mascot and non-descript furry mammal, Sparkee, who pals around with the sartorially patriotic General Admission (really). Also, Graig Nettles son, Jeff, patrols third for Somerset.
The Ducks employ former major-leaguers Kimera Bartee (on the DL), Doug Jennings (age 40), Patrick Lennon, Wendell Magee, Bill Pulsipher, Bryan Rekar, John DeSilva, Lance David, Mike Caruso, Kevin Baez, and Bill Simas.
All of which means that you get a watered-down, major-league experience and low-rent prices in a family-friendly environment. They play a theme for each player and play songs, games, sound bits, and movie clips between innings. And even though I am a baseball purist at heart, if I'm going to miss the game at the concession stand or at the face painters, I may as well not be inconvenienced to do so. I'd rather miss a game that I don't really care much about. The Atlantic League and other independent minor leagues like them have taken advantage of niche or rather a void that the majors created themselves, entertainment for people with families. If the majors keep ignoring this core audience while catering to big business, eventually 8,048 may be a remarkable crowd in, say, Montreal. Oh, too late.
Helluva Good Game
The Yankees and the Red Sox are playing another classic. It's currently tied 3-3 in the bottom of the 12th.
A-Rod appeared to tun a triple play with the bases loaded in the 11th, but actually got two outs on the same man. But still it was a tremendous play by Rodriguez to a) tag the bag before throwing (who needs the force at home on a bang-bang play anyway) and b) make the throw home without hitting the runner.
Jeter ran headlong into the stands chasing a fly ball in to end the Red Sox half of the 12th. He landed in the first row of seats behind an open pen full of NYPD denisens apparently. He came up with a bloody chin and cheek, and had to be pinch-hit for by Giambi in the 12th.
The Sox went with five infielders with Giambi and Sheffield. And Curt Leskanic, of all people, just got the Yankees out after loading the bases with one out in the 12th.
Sheffield moved to third and A-Rod to short to replace Jeter. To replace Sheffield, I believe that Williams, who was DHing moved to the outfield, which means that the pitcher must now bat, I believe, in Jeter-Giambi's spot in the order. Ramirez led off the 13th with a homer. Then Sheffield made a nice backhand at third but lollipopped a throw to first that pulled Clark off first.
In the bottom of the 13th, Flaherty, the last man on the bench, is on deck to hit for Sturtze. The Yanks have just one reliever (Bret "Don't Called Freddie" Prinz) left.
The Yanks just tied it on a Sierra bloop into right-center and then a gapper into right-center by Miguel Cairo in the bottom of the 13th. The winning run, Cairo, is on second with two outs and Flaherty up.
Flaherty hits a ball down the line in the same direction as Aaron Boone's homer. It'll score Cairo. Oh my lord--Krishna! Krishna! What a game! Hokey smoke, Bullwinkle!
Pythagoras: Pusillanimous or Puissant (Say That Three Times Fast)
Pythagoras, Locke, Socrates—but pages
--Lord "Baltimore" Byron in Don Juan "Berenguer"
Statheads of the world unite! You have nothing to lose but your 1982 Bill James Baseball Abstract...the first one that he didn't self-publish...before Elias started ripping him off. You get the point.
Anyway, the Yankees face Pedro Martinez and the Red Sox in the final game of their series tomorrow. The Zimmer Slayer is all that separates the Yankees from a sweep of the intradivision foe.
The Yankees would go up 8.5 games should they win. But more importantly, they would finally pass the Sox in the Pythagorean standings. Yeah! Then all will be right with the world.
This is my site with my opinions, but I hope that, like Irish Spring, you like it, too.
About the Toaster
Baseball Toaster was unplugged on February 4, 2009.
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