Monthly archives: August 2005
Padres Cadre II
My friend Mike and I were chatting yesterday (IM-ing actually), and the topic of a sub-.500 team winning the NL West came up. Mike said that with all of the games against division rivals down the stretch there was no way the division champ could under up with a losing record. Well, I though it was worth a further look.
I took the standings as of this morning and the number of games remaining for each team. I then projected how each team would finish the season given the games remaining against each division and their record to date against each division.
Here are the results:
Wow, that is cutting it pretty close even with all the divisional games left (118 of their remaining 150 games are within the division). A couple of losses extra by the Padres and we have our sub-.500 champ. Even if they do clear the .500 mark as the projection suggests, it would be the worst record for a division/league champ in a non-strike year.
The NL West also has chance to register the worst overall winning percentage for a division in a non-strike year since baseball went to divisional play in 1969. Currently, the NL West's overall percentage is .448 and it projects to .454.The remaining interdivisional games, which have to raise the overall percentage closer to .500, may buoy them above the 2002 AL Central's record (.453). Here are the all-time worst overall division records since 1969:
And, oddly, the NL East this year has a .534 winning percentage, which is among the best ever though it'll probably approach .500 as the interdivisional games get played down the stretch:
As my friend Chris pointed out, most of the top divisions featured at least one runaway team. But the 1983 AL East was actually a collection of decent to very good teams. It was a division that stood as truly great. It's hard to believe that this collection of mediocrities in the NL East is at their level.
Actually, the East as a region (i.e., across both leagues) this year has he ninth best record overall per region since the advent of divisional play:
You might notice that the vast majority of the entries in this list are from the East. The 2005 West divisions are the sixth worst. And you'll notice the East in any year does not make the ten-worst list:
The Bellhorn Curve?
Mark Bellhorn was plucked up by the Yankees today after being waived by the Red Sox before the weekend. Of course, Bellhorn helped the Sox defeat the Yankees in last year's ALCS. Now he becomes the 195th man in baseball history to play for both of the two archrivals. He started tonight at third for the Yanks.
He is trying to complete a much rarer feat though. Should the Yankees reach the postseason and defeat the Sox, Bellhorn could become the second man in baseball history to switch teams going from the team (i.e., Red Sox) that had defeated his current team (the Yankees) in the previous season but that will lose to the current team in the subsequent season. That is, if the Yankees and Sox meet in the postseason and the Yankees prevail. Certainly, this is all predicated on a slew of if's, but that's why the accomplishment is so rare.
I'll hold off disclosing who previously accomplished this feat until the end (at the risk of being anticlimactic). I will mention that Chad Curtis came close to it. He went from the Indians to the Yankees in mid-1997. The Indians defeated the Yanks in the 1997 Division Series and then lost to them in the 1998 ALCS, but Curtis had already switched clubs by the time of the first series.
Keep in mind that if the Yankees lose to the Sox in the playoffs, Bellhorn will be the third man to switch teams and go to the team that had lost to his former team in the postseason, only to see the new team lose again to the former team.
The two men who did this previously were both former Yankees, Jeff Nelson and Jumbo Brown:
And to complete the cycle, the only men to go from a loser in year one to a winner in year two (given that both teams played each other in the playoffs both season) were both recent Yankees:
And the only players to go from a loser one year to a loser the next (with both team teams meeting in the playoffs both years) were on the '97 Yanks/'98 Indians:
Finally, how about the "Major League" scenario, where a player switches teams midseason and then faces that team in the postseason? You know, how David Keith or Pete Vuckovich or whoever it was hitting a home run "that wouldn't have been out of a lot of parks" to defeat the Indians. To which, the response was, "Name one." "Yosemite." Ha Ha. That was the punch line in the original movie's ad but it got cut from the actual film. Then it got reused in the second film. Odd. It's like that "SwitchJimmy Smits!" ad a few years back, where they rushed to add the then-red hot actor's name to the end of the movie title that they barely allowed the announcer to get the actual title out.
Anyway, the list of men to switch teams midseason only to help his new team defeat his former team in the playoffs is exceptionally unremarkable:
Eddie Murray and a remarkable bunch of stiffs. The list of players who switched teams only to see his new team lose to his old one in the postseason is equally unexceptional:
OK, now that I've milked this topic as much as I can. The answer to the first scenario, who would be the only previous player to meet the Bellhorn scenario I described above, I'm sorry to say it's Mike Difelice.
Defelice played for the Diamondbacks who beat the Cardinals in the Division Series in 2001 (3-2). Then he played for the Cards who went on to sweep Arizona in the 2002 Division Series.
I Eat Crow
The A's won on a pair of homers and scored five runs in the twelfth to complete a sweep of the O's that a) put them a full game up in the AL West and b) helped complete the debasement (or to quote Mushmouth, "De biggest bass in de basement") of Rafael Palmeiro from surefire Hall-of-Fame superstar to steroid-abusing, bench-occupying has-been.
And, oh yeah, it had one other consecutive. It forced me to set a precedent and admit I was wrong.
Before the season, I said that the A's would be closer to the Mariners (i.e., last place) this season than to first. I said Billy Beane had jumped the shark when he traded two of "The Big Three" and peopled his starting rotation with Barry Zito and a bunch of youngsters. I said that he got rooked with a few midseason trades.
As my wife would say, mark your calendarsI was wrong. I underestimated Beane's ability to break with tradition, to see more in players, especially young players, than anyone else could, and to add by subtraction like no one else in the business.
The A's have been able to build a division leader based on a bunch of role playing position players and a pitching staff with the fourth-best ERA in the game. Perhaps the biggest surprise is the way that the rotation has been able to rebound with the likes of Kirk Saarloos in the mix.
As a matter of fact the 2004-05 A's project to be one of 33 teams in baseball history to have five starting pitchers with at least ten wins in back-to-back seasons (including the 2004-05 Cards). How's that for a rotation not missing a beat?
Actually, they are one of three teams on the back-to-back list to retain just two pitchers in the process and yet produce five ten-win starters both years. Here's the complete list of those teams:
The one thing that tempers admitting I was wrong is that at least I can enjoy the A's success in the process. And I'll make another daring prediction: if the A's do end up winning the AL West, they'll win it all what with the rampant mediocrity and overachieving frontrunners from the central divisions this year. Given my success rate of late though, Beane may be better off if I stay off the bandwagon.
Not So Great Scott
While on vacation, I got the following email:
Here's my response, but there's even more to it:
Here are the only players to steal 30 bases without a triple over an entire season:
As for the 2-to-1 stolen base-to-extra-base hit ratio, it's not as rare as I expected. Here are the highest ratios (min. 9 SB and 400 AB):
Here are the guys in the last 15 years to have 2-to-1 or greater ratio:
As for the most stolen bases without a triple or a home run. Here are the "leaders":
Las Totas Estrellas Team
Baseball today launched a new pet project entitled "Chevrolet presents the Major League Baseball Latino Legends Team." At least they didn't go with Viagra or La Viagra. Remember "Baseball, hot dogs, apple pie, and Chevrolet"?
This is a baseball's reaction to the outrage from the Latin community over no Latin players making the "All-Century Team". It just was, what, five years in the making. (Besides, Latino Legends? Isn't that passé? ) Maybe Bud was watching a DVD of "The Original Latin Kings of Comedy" and loved the idea.
Anyway, the ballot is here. Like a Chicago mayoral election, baseball recommends you to vote early and often.
I though it might be edifying to look at the all-time Win Shares leaders for all players not born in the United States by the primary position the player manned during his career. I include all foreign-born players but make sure to list at least five Latinos. So here goes (through the 2004 season):
Hoary Julio (Batman)
Tuesday was Julio Franco's 47th birthday and he celebrated it, appropriately, by playing baseball. Unfortunately, at least for Franco, he struck out in his only at bat, pinch-hitting for Chris Reitsma, in a 10-1 loss to the Cubs.
Franco is having arguably his best season since returning to the majors after a brief sojourn in the Mexican League in the earlier part of this decade. His OPS is the highest since 1996 (.840). He has recorded his highest home run total since 1996. His slugging average (.490) is his highest since 1994.
Given that Braves manager Bobby Cox loves his pet role playersRafael Belliard anyone?and Franco's incredible physical condition, it seems highly likely that he'll fulfill his prediction to be playing at age 50.
That makes me wonder who are the best players from the age of 45 on. Could it be Franco already?
There are only 27 men to record a plate appearance after turning 45 (actually, in a year in which he was 45 for the majority of the season), and most were pitchers. Only five had at least 100 plate appearances after turning 45.
Batters age 45 or older have recorded 20 home runs and 15 were hit by Franco. He has recorded the most plate appearances post-45, and is the only player on the list (with more than a handful of plate appearances) to hit over .300, slug over .400, or record an OPS over .800. Here are the 45+ leaders ordered by plate appearances:
For the age 40-to-44 group, Franco's just 38th in plate appearances. And he's just 16th in OPS for the age group (min. 500 plate appearances).
OPS Leaders, 40-44:
Plate Appearance Leaders, Age 40-44:
By the way, that's the second-best argument to keep Pete Rose out of the Hall of Fame. Only manager Pete Rose could have penciled 40-plus-year-old first baseman Pete Rose in the lineup on a regular basis.
By the way, the fifty-plus group looks like this:
Franco might rewrite that list in a few years and the damn Braves will still be winning the division.
If It Wasn't For Bad Taste, Baseball Wouldn't Have No Taste At All
This one tops the "Spider-Man II" bases.
When MLB decided to go for corporate sponsorship of its comeback player of the year award, of course they took the high road and sold the naming rights to AARP ("It's never to late to comeback"), to the NYSE (with a financial comeback tie-in), or even to J-Lo, right?
No, baseball sold the rights to, you guessed it, Viagra! The official erection enhancer of Major League Baseball.
So a nice little award turns into the punchline to a joke. Tres classy!
After perusing the list of eligibles, ofF the top of my head, I would give it to Jason Giambi and Todd Jones.
I wonder what'll happen if Rafael Palmeiro, now that his relationship with the company appears to be caput, ever appears on the comeback roles. Maybe an anabolic steroid company will be sponsoring the award by then anyway.
Managing To Stay Put
Joe Torre's all but fired. The Boss will just not accept his team not making the playoffs, no matter how many Torre has led them to nor what dreckJaret Wright and Carl Pavano in one year? And let's not go into Kevin Brownteam management handed him in the guise of a starting rotation.
Jim Tracy's gone too, given the Dodgers' swoon. And Dusty Baker given the Cubs' underachieving ways. Lou Piniella will somehow shuffle off his D-Ray coil before next season. Oh, and Jack McKeon has worn out his welcome in Miami.
Did I forget anybody?
Lloyd McClendon (perennial losers in Pittsburgh)?
Buddy Bell (Can't fire the team)?
Frank Robinson? (New management in DC?)
Then there are established managers whose team's inability to advance in the postseason may not bode well (Bobby Cox? Terry Francona? Mike Scioscia? Bruce Bochy? Guillen? Showalter?)
Anybody left? (Actually, the one thing I am sure of is that Charlie Manuel will have a job in Philly next year so long as his codependent, GM Ed Wade, remains in power, and wild card slot would all but assure that.)
Speculation is wont to swirl especially when it's a slow news day. However, can we do more than speculate on the number of late or offseason firings that we can expect?
Well, can the past shed any light on this. Let's see
I took a look at the year-to-year retention rates throughout baseball history, and of course generated a table from it. I summarized per decade taking the total number of managers who were the same for that franchise in the next season, the ones who were different, and the percent retained (year indicates the first year in the equation. For example, 2004 pertains to the managers from 2004 retained to start this year):
The average retention rate is about two-thirds (66.21%). However, baseball's held pretty close to retaining three-quarters of its managers over the last decade and a half. Here's a breakdown for that period:
So far this season, three of the original managers (Tony Pena, Dave Miley, and Lee Mazzilli) have already lost their jobs. That means that even if all of the managers remaining somehow keep their jobs, the 2005-06 retention rate could be no higher than 90%.
The all-time high retention rate was 93.75%, which occurred numerous times during the pre-expansion era (i.e., 15 of 16 managers retained).The all-time low, 25%, happened once (in 1878). However, the lowest percent of managers retained since baseball settled on the "original" 16 teams was 50% (which last happened in 1991).
So if we use the 75% thumb rule, one would expect 4.5 more managers to get canned before 2006 season starts. We'll need Solomon to take care of that final .5 manager, but can hope that Lloyd McClendon is one of the other four.
If we use the historical range (50% to 93.75%) as a guide, it's conceivable that no other manager will lose his (or her, in the case of an offseason sex change) job. But it's also conceivable that another 12 men will get the axe, if not the venerable Sir Charlie.
So there you have it. It is all as speculative as the headlines make it seem. But at least I hope it was a bit more fun than a blanket ESPN poll on the next guy to walk the gangplank.
I took a look at the Dodgers at the start of the season when they broke from the pack with a 12-2 record. I found that the average final year winning percentage for all teams that start at 12-2 or better was .585 or 95-67 for a 162-game record.
Well, since then the Dodgers have gone 44-66 and now own a 56-68/.452 record, which is good for third place in the NL West, 5 games back in the retrograde division. They are in tenth in the wild card hunt, 10.5 games behind the Astros. Their only bet for a postseason berth is the division title, but they can't expect the division leader to remain under .500 as they switch to intra-divisional games down the stretch.
Basically, they had better win some games, which has been hard for them to do for quite some time. They have not had a winning record since they finished getting swept by the lowly Royals and fell to 33-32 on June 16. Up to that point, they had spent one day (opening day) under .500 all year. Since then they have had one daythe next day when they fell to the ChiSox, 6-0, to start another sweepat .500 or better. Since the start of that Royal series, Dem Bums haz gone 23-39 (.371).
But how bad is that? Is that the worst that a once 12-2 team finished. Well, no, but it's close. The 1914 Pirates started 12-2 and finished with a slightly lower winning percentage (by 4 points), but the Dodgers can still topple (bottom-le) them.
The 1914 Bucs were actually 21-8 at one May 25. At that point the eventual league champs, the "Miracle" Braves, were 8-19, 12 games back. The Pirates then lost ten games and 15 of 17, at which point they fell to a .500 (23-23) record. From that point forward, they had three days with a winning record. It didn't help that they went 5-17 against the "Miracles"'s and 6-16 against the fifth-place Robins (soon to be Dodgers).
The Pirates are the only one of the 12-2 or better teams to finish more than one standard deviation away from the mean winning percentage (STDDEV is .062). The Dodgers are currently over two standard deviations away from the average.
It can be said that the degree to which the Dodgers reeked after their fast start is quite rare. Here are the final results for all 12-2 or better teams arranged by winning percentage in ascending order:
Not A Triple Threat
Also in Sunday's Braves game, John Smoltz hit his first triple since 1989 and just the second of his career. As far as I can tell, that's the longest break between triples in major-league history.
Here are the gaps of at least ten years between triples:
Esprit de Francoeur
Jeff Francoeur has people talking Rookie of the Year honors after just thirty-odd games. He's slugging over .700, batting over .360, and has an OPS over 1.000. But there's one area in which he has not excelled.
Through Sunday's Braves game, Francoeur had gone 127 at-bats without ever drawing a major-league walk. Then in eighth inning of the Sunday game, Akinori Otsuka gave him a free pass to load the bases in a tie game, right before the Braves broke the game wide open.
There's never been a player with an OPS over 1.000 in at least 100 at-bats whose never drawn a walk other than an intentional one. Here are the players with the least walks who meet the criteria:
Saving the Best for Last?
The Red Sox are taking a gamble on Curt Schilling's health and are re-inserting him in the rotation after nearly four months on the DL and in the pen. His last start was April 23 at Tampa Bay.
He relinquished six runs in seven innings against the mighty D-Ray offense that list and promptly succumbed to two-plus months on the Disabled List. Schilling has looked nowhere near his former blood-stained-sock self all season, with a 1.50 WHIP and 6.43 ERA. But even after being reassigned the "cushy" closer role, he owns a 5.18 ERA, has saved 9 but blown two save opportunities, gave up five gopher balls in a scant 24.1 innings, but does have a more respectable though atypical 1.27 WHIP. Of course, he continues to strikeout more than a man per innings throughout.
He is the "World Series Hero" and I'm sure that the Red ox know what they are doing. Besides it seems the almightyby which I mean FOX Sportshas deemed it necessary that every ounce of excitement be drained from the Sox and Yankees' pennant race down the stretch. Eh? Why not throw the Yankees a bone?
Perhaps the oddest part of the plan is that Mike Timlin is now the putative closer. Timlin hasn't closer stuff since his Blue Jay days (not to be confused with "Blue Jay Way", a Beatles oddity) and hasn't had a closer's role since the Clinton administration (and I mean George, not Bill, when he presided over the P-Funk All-Stars). Timlin, he of the 1.74 ERA but 1.28 WHIP and 5 blown saves, is the simply the best available option.
Given the reclamation projects that have been tried in the closer role over the last couple of years, should we be surprised by Timlin?
Well, Timlin is a rather special case. He has the second fewest saves among all pitchers with 800 relief appearances. Even less than seemingly lifetime role players Mike Jackson and Jesse Orosco garnered in their long careers:
Also, among pitchers who spent some extended amount of time as a closer (min. 100 saves), Timlin trails only Sir Jesse for the lowest percentage of games saved per relief appearance:
Now, there's a great list of mostly middling middle relievers. And I think three-quarters of them pitched for the Phils at some point in time. Now that's an organization to emulate.
A Royal Mess
The Kansas City Royals, losers of 18 straight, start a series tonight with the once-red hot A's in Oakland, a team that swept them by a collective score of 32-5 in three games in midst of their current streak. Should the Royals again be swept by the A's, they would tie the AL record for consecutive losses (21 games) by the 1988 Orioles. The O's did it at the start of the season, jettisoning one manager (Cal Ripken Sr.) six games into the streak.
After the A's, the Royals play hosts to the Red Sox for three games, at the end of which, should all things go right (or rather wrong), KC could tie the all-time consecutive game losing streak, 24 games by the legendarily bad Cleveland Spiders. Now, that would be a hard record to break, but I think the Royals have it in them.
The Royals did seem to turn their season around right before the All-Star game. After their first manager, Tony Pena, quit with an 8-25 record, and their second, interim Bob Schaefer (5-12), had no more luck than Pena, the team sat at the horrific record of 13-37 on May 29. Buddy Bell was named manager, and then the Royals won four straight and eleven of fifteen, sweeping both the Dodgers and Yankees, a truly singular feat, in that span.
However, their success was fleeting. Since then, the Royals are 14-40 (a .259 winning percentage). Even without their current streak that's 14-22 (.389). Bell is 25-44 as their manager after starting 11-4.
The Royals over the last two years are 96-185 (.342), the 60th worst two-year record in baseball history and the seventh worst since World War II:
Add in a 62-100 (.383) record in 2002, and it gets even worse. The oddest thing about the Royals in the 2000s is their brief success in 2003. They finished 83-79 that year and were in the pennant race for a substantial part of the season. Here's a look at their record over the last four years (with a projection for 2005):
The Royals are potentially one of four teams in baseball history to have one winning year sandwiched among three years with am abysmal winning percentage under .400, and they would be the first to do it without a little help. It's sort of the Brady Anderson's 50-homer year for baseball teams. They come out of nowhere and quickly disappear:
The 1884 O's went 63-43 (.594) in a rare year with three major leagues (NL, AA, and Union Association. That year came after two under .30019-54 (.260) in the first year, 1882, and 26-68 (.292) in 1883but before two sub-.400 years41-68 (.376) and 48-83 (.366). they qualify for the list twice.
The Louisville Colonels were 88-44 (.667) and in first place in the American Association in another year in which there were three major leagues (1890). Their previous years were 48-87 (.356) and 27-111 (.196meaning that they had almost a 500-point one-year turnaround) and then they followed up with 55-84 (.667)
The Cardinals went 82-70 (.539) in the midst of World War I after going 60-93 (.392). Then they followed the one winning season up with a 51-78 (.395) and a 54-83 (.394) year.
The Royals would be the first team to complete these dubious feat without dilusion induced by a third major league or a war in their one winning season. That's wacky.
And for final bit of wackiness, the Royals are now one of eleven teams in the last 106 years to have two managers with substantial stints (at least ten games) with a winning percentage under .350. Here are the Royals managerial records this season:
Now, here are teams with two sub-.350 managers in one season since 1899:
You might notice that Bell projects to an under .350 record given the current Royal projections. That would mean that the Royals would be only the eighth team all-time with three sub-.350 managers. Here they are:
If you consider that the Cubs employed a rotating head coach system in 1961, that would mean that the Royals would be the first team in 107 seasons to reach such a mark of managerial futility. The Cubs had nine different managerial stints that year, so none of those guys had a record under .350 if you combine their disparate stints. Witness:
OK, so did I mention that the Royals kind of suck?
The Bi-Complete Game
Bob Timmermann mentioned the other day that "Sunday's Dodgers-Mets game was a dual complete game for Brad Penny and Ramon Martinez" when I took a look at the D-Rays' inability to complete a single game the entire season. That started me thinking about pitchers duels in general and double complete games (or as I prefer to call them, Bi-Complete Games or Bi-CG, for short) specifically.
Given that the number of complete games per season have been dropping steadily for decades, has the Bi-CG disappeared?
Well, investigating that question is complicated. Baseball does not record when both pitchers have thrown a complete game. All right, it does, but as a complete game for each pitcher. There's no way to tell that both accomplished the feat, not unless one looks up every box score and verifies it.
I thought it might be possible to predict the number of Bi-CGs from the statistics we have. I took the total number of complete game divided it by total games and squared the whole lot in an attempt to capture the probability that any given season for the given league would end in both pitches tossing a complete game. Then I took the probability and multiplied it by the number of actual games in the league.
Here are the figures for the last ten years (2005 data through last night):
That's quite a change, from about nine or ten in 1996 to about two last year. Also, this year in the NL, one would expect just one bi-CG but from Bob we already know that there was at least one.
Here are the averages per decade.
That's quite a constant evolution over decades. So, the next time you hear Joe Morgan complaining about how you never see a pitchers duel today, keep in mind that the same could have been said by old timers in the days of the Big Red Machine.
In one of the oddest moves to garner some cheap press since the Phils employed "Rocket Man", the Fort Worth Cats of the independent Central League allowed former major-league manager Bobby Bragan guest managewhat was Joan Rivers busy?in order to wrest the title of oldest professional manager away from the still-dead hands of Hall of Famer Connie Mack. He bested Mack by eight days. And you thought Minnie Minoso and Aerosmith had a unlikely comebacks.
The 87-year-old Bragan didn't even last the whole game. He got himself kicked out of the game for arguing balls and strikes in the third and wound up in the stands signing autographs.
I like how the article stomps all over Mack's legacy:
He had no trouble holding his job even though the A's were a poor team in his later years in the dugout. Mack also owned the team.
It's like that NY Lottery commercial that's been running this season in which a manager is forced to answer questions about his bumbling third baseman who it turns out bought the team after, of course, winning the lottery. Mack, as some sort of antediluvian Pete Rose, inserted himself in the dugout as the manager long after he had passed his usefulness as one, right?
Well, Mack spent his last 19 years without winning a World Series or so much as a pennant, but he did have winners in three of the last four seasons. I don't think anyone could have better managed some of those post-1931 A's teams. Then again, Mack had no one but himself to blame for continually dismantling the team.
The comment about Mack did make me wonder if managers lose their effectiveness as they age, and I thought a quickie but extremely large table was in order. I looked up the total record by age for all managers. Here's what I found:
Now, here are the top ten ages by winning percentage (the 85 is Connie Mack's third to last season):
It seems that sexagenarian managers are the best. Would that we all could peak at that age.
PO'ed at TO?
The Phillies won tonight, 4-3, over the Nationals even though they didn't score after the third inning. They are now tied for the wild card lead with the Astros, and the city of Philadelphia couldn't give a damn.
I opened the rag Philly commuter paper, The Metro, today and their only Phillies story in what one might call the sports sectionor more appropriately would be described as the last three and one-half pages of this tabloid version of the USA Today and a Modell's adwas about the team's reaction to Terrell Owens return to Eagles camp.
"Hello, you may not know us but were in a pennant race" or words to that affect were the mock-u-mercial in the film Major League, but they quite aptly describe the state of the Phils.
The Eagles, and especially the TO dramedy, have dominated local sports headlines and fans' imaginations since the beginning of baseball season. Cheers of "E-A-G-L-E-S, Eagles!" have broken out during dull and exciting moments alike at games at Citizens Bank Park all year. It's as if the fans are completely indifferent to the plight of the ballclub as they enjoy their schmitter and Schmitz.
Truthfully, there really isn't all that much compelling about the team with the exception of perhaps their backing into a wild card race that they seemingly have no business to be a part of.
This is a team whose most popular star, Jim Thome, has either been completely ineffective or injured all season.
Their best player, Bobby Abreu, made headlines by winning the home run derby, but at the same time had started a month-long home run drought that he just got out of the other day.
Their leadoff hitter, Jimmy Rollins, who had a mini-renaissance lasts season, has fallen back into his bad ways and now owns a .313 on-base percentage and .704 OPS.
Their third baseman, David Bell, has been one of the worst regulars in the majors (.661 OPS), is 32, and is signed through next year.
They have a catching tandem (Mike Lieberthal and Todd Pratt) that can only be considered somewhat acceptable given that the 38-year-old, career backup (Pratt) is on pace to set career highs in homers and RBI. For his part, the putative starter, Lieberthal, has been a sinkhole offensively.
They have two closers since Ed Wade couldn't pull the trigger on any semblance of a deal at the trade deadline. They have a rotation that scares no one. The one starter who had been doing well, Brett Myers, seems to have lost it since the All-Star break.
Meanwhile, there are positives. Pat Burrell has but been written off by the locals for not being the next coming of Ted Williams but has been solid all year. Chase Utley may already be the best second baseman in the league even though his manager had no confidence in him coming out of training camp and this is just the first season in which the Phils graciously and begrudgingly allowed him to start. Ryan Howard may not be a revelation as Thome's understudy but has been at least a step up from Thome's performance. Kenny Lofton has been his usual self in center though he is 38, after all, and plays about three-quarters of the time. Robinson Tejeda has filled in nicely for Randy Wolf. Vicente Padilla has actually resembled a major-league pitcher lately.
Those are all plusses that can goand are goingunnoticed while the locals obsess over the utterances of Owens.
This team could actually back into the playoffs, sort of by default in the mediocrity cum parity that prevails in throughout the majors, and the locals may not even notice.
Especially if Donovan and TO kiss and makeup or the Eagles start playing games that matter.
The Padres' Cadre
The NL West has become a vast wasteland. With the best player in the game, Barry Bonds, ostensibly sitting out the year due to injury, a number of other stars (Randy Johnson, Curt Schilling, Steve Finley, etc.) recently departing, and still others underachieving (where have you gone Todd Helton?), the division is the polar opposite of the NL East.
While the East has all five highly mediocre teams all over .500some ever so slightly above, the NL West features a pennant race in which a team, the Giants, may still be in the huntthey are 7 games outwhile being a staggering 15 games under .500. The Padres have led for much of the season, but they were just swept by the Phils at home over the weekend, their second sweep at the hands of the Phightins' in less than a month, and they have been over .500 for just five days in the last three weeks.
That said, it seems nearly impossible that any of the other sub-par teams in the division will topple the Pod People. Arizona, who is rebuilding and would be nowhere near a pennant race in other year, are just three games back. The Dodgers, or as they should be known for the enigmatic ways, the Cubs West, haven't been over .500 in two months, but linger 5 games back.
It appears that whichever execrable franchise survives the regular season, they will quite possibly have the worst record for any playoff team or division winner in a non-strike-shortened season. They could be the first non-strike team to make the playoffs with a losing record. (Oh, and let's not even think about the wild card: the D-Backs are in eighth, 8.5 games back in the wild card hunt, and the Dodgers are behind the lowly Reds.)
The only other teams to "win" anything with a losing record were the 1994 Texas Rangers and the 1981 Kansas City Royals. The 1994 Rangers "won" the AL West despite losing ten more games than they won when the season abruptly ended on August 12 with a strike.
The '81 Royals were the second-half champs in the AL West after baseball went to a split-season following another work stoppage. They were in fifth place in the first half with a 20-30 record. They won the second half by one game with a 30-23 record. Given that the first-half champs, the A's, were in second place in the second half and given the arcane rules that were imposed that year, the Royals could have finished second and still made the playoffs. Thankfully, that codicil of the rules was never invoked since no first-half champs won their division in the second half. Looking at the season overall, the Royals were 50-53, in fourth place, eleven games behind the A's.
Here are the worst teams to ever make the postseason:
I Can't Stand Up For Falling Down
The Yankees lost a heartbreaker tonight to the lowly Rays in the ultimate anticlimactic fashion, a walkoff, er, walk in the bottom of the eleventh. With men at the corners and two outs, the Yankees tried the all-time "high percentage" bad call of intentionally walking the bases full to get a) the possibility of an out at every base and b) a more favorable matchup at the plate (Jonny Gomes, who had struck out thrice in his previous at-bats in the game, instead of Aubrey Huff). Of course, Scott Proctor came nowhere near the plate with his next four pitches, thereby losing the game.
Proctor was brought into the game after Alan Embree gave up a one-out double to Carl Crawford. He promptly balked Crawford to third in about the most obvious fashion that I have ever seen. The only way he could have made it more obvious would have been if he held up a copy of the rule book and pointed to rule 8.01 (a)(3) [i.e., "From [the windup position] position [the pitcher] may: (3) disengage the rubber (if he does he must drop his hand to his sides). In disengaging the rubber the pitcher must step off with his pivot foot and not his free foot first. He may not go into a set or stretch position if he does it is a balk.]
Actually, the game seemed lost after Mariano Rivera came in to save a 3-2 lead in the ninth and gave up a one-out bullet to left to Eduardo Perez that tied the game. Actually, the YES crew were trying to homer a Jeffrey Maier call out of the play. The replay seemed inconclusive to me.
That Perez homer cost the D-Rays their first complete game of the year as Doug Waechter went nine strong innings for the apparent loss. Though they are a dying breed, there has never been a major-league team that went an entire season without at least one CG. The only teams with 1 CG for an entire year are:
2004 New York Yankees
Also, the Reds and Rockies this year have just one so far. (Mussina had the one CG last year for the Yankees.)
Kirk Rueter was designated for reassignment today by the Giants effectively ending a ten-year career with the team. Rueter is one of just 240 who have pitched for one team for at least ten years. Jamie Moyer and Rueter joined the list this year. John Smoltz, Brad Radke, Tim Wakefield, Kenny Rogers, Mariano Rivera, and Trevor Hoffman are the other current pitchers who have pitched at least ten seasons for their current teams.
Rueter has been awful this year and has not had an ERA below average (i.e., the park-adjusted league average) since 2002, his career year (14-8, 3.23 ERA) during which Tim McCarver barraged the baseball world with evocations of Rueter's colorful nickname, "Woody". It occurred to me that with exception of two or three years, his career in San Fran has been rather lackluster.
Could Rueter be the worst pitcher to ply his trade for one team for at least ten seasons? His record in ten Giant seasons is 105-80 with a 4.32 ERA.
As RBJ pointed out, the Yankees have used 14 starting pitchers this year. Should they make the playoffs, they would be one of a handful of teams to reach the postseason or claim a title outright who had that many starters in season. The most was 15 for the 1989 Giants (though that pales to the all-time high of 24 by the 1915 A's). Unfortunately for the Yanks, they might be a better bet to reach 15 starters than the playoffs this year.
The Giants that year actually had what appears to be a decent rotationfour men with ERAs under 3.50 and at least 10 winsbut tried out plenty of men in the last two rotation spots. Here are all their starters that year:
Here are the playoff/title teams with the most starting pitchers:
Of course, at the opposite end of the spectrum there are a number of nineteenth century teams and the 1966 Dodgers, who used just 5 starters, three of which are in the Hall of Fame (Koufax, Drysdale, Sutton, Claude Osteen, and Joe Moeller):
Come On Baby, Google Me
I just noticed that Baseball Toaster has added a link in the right-hand column to search the sites, either individually or collectively, for specific stuff. For example, a search for "Lil Joe" yields this. I didn't try "Cotton-eyed Lil Joe".
Womack And Flaherty And Await the Hilarity
The Yankees won in dramatic fashion tonight. After blowing a two-run lead in the ninth behind Mariano Rivera, they beat the Rangers 7-5 in the eleventh on a two-run homer by Bernie Williams.
But let's assume that Williams had struck out. Who would the Yankees have depended on with one out and Tino Martinez at first? The dubious pair of John Flaherty and Tony Womack, the seventh and eighth hitters. In eight at-bats the duo hadn't gotten the ball out of the infield going 1-for-8 collectively with four strikeouts. I went to the game last Wednesday that the Yanks lost 2-1 to the White Sox and again they had the backup Flaherty starting behind the plate and Womack, the itinerant second baseman, starting in right field yet.
I can't imagine why the Yankees are wasting valuable ABs on a pair of useless players both past 35. Flaherty's a 37-year-old backup to the rapidly aging 33-year-old starter, Jorge Posada. Meanwhile Womack went from a barely passable second baseman to an offensively atrocious corner outfielder this season. At least he was dropped from number two to number nine in the order when Robinson Cano took both his defensive spot in the field and then his spot in the batting order.
Flaherty projects to over 100 at-bats with a .165 batting average and mind-numbing .434 OPS. Meanwhile Womack's sub-par .241 batting average hides an abysmal .271 OBP and .542 OPS.
If Flaherty continues at his current pace, he will become just the tenth man in the last ten seasons to own a sub-.275 batting average and sub-.450 OPS in at least 100 at-bats:
As for Womack, if he sticks at his current 15 RBI, he'd be just the eleventh man to register 400 at-bats and 15 or fewer RBI since the started counting the stat and the first since 1968. If he amasses the 21 he projects to, he still would be one of 78 to drive in so few in so many at-bats. Here are the previous men to collect 15 or fewer RBI in 400 or more at-bats:
OK, so on their own they are pathetic enough, but how many offenses have dared to pair such ineptitude in one lineup? I looked it up. There have been just 26 in baseball history (with duplicates) and 9 since the end of World War I:
Meeting the Deadline—The Biggest Trade Deadline Deals, Pt V
In 1986 Major League Baseball pushed the non-waiver trade deadline back a month and a half to July 31. The result was that the deals had far less impactthe players were on their new teams for a month and a half less after all, but my belief is that they were much more well-directed. With the extra month and a half teams know a bit better what their final fate will likely be. They also know a bit more about what their needs are.
My theory is that deadline trades evolved at this point, and we will no longer see so many lopsided deals favoring the non-contending team. Let's test the theory by looking at the most lopsided deals since the trade deadline was moved. Remember this is based on what the players did during the season in which the trade took place:
#1) July 29, 1999: The A's get Omar Olivares and Randy Velarde from the Angels for Jeff Davanon, Elvin Nina, and Nathan Haynes
Career Win Shares prior to trade: 151
Yeah, I wouldn't have thought of it either. The A's were 51-50 at the time of the trade, in second place, nine games behind the Rangers. The were also four games behind the Red Sox, in third place for the wild card. They ended up 87-75 still in second place, 8 games out in the West, and 7 games out in the wild card. They were 36-25 after the trade improving by 85 percentage points though the Rangers and Red Sox kept them at arm's length.
The Angels were 43-57 in last in the AL West, 16.5 games back at the time of the trade. They obviously were trading for the future getting three prospects. They ended up 70-92, in last, 25 games out. They were 27-35 after the trade. Their record remained largely unchanged (improved by 5 percentage points) after the trade.
The A's gave up three guys that would play a total of seven games in the majors that year, all by Davanon. The other two never made it to the majors, and it took until 2003 for Davanon to stick (he played 63 games in total from 1999-2002).
Meanwhile, Olivares was 7-2 with a good ERA (111 ERA+) and Velarde had the half-year of his career (125 OPS+) as the A's starting second baseman. They got two pretty good players for 60-odd games for nothing.
#2) July 31, 1998: The Astros get Randy Johnson from the Mariners for Freddy Garcia, Carlos Guillen, and a player to be named later (John Halama, sent October 1, 1998)
Career Win Shares prior to trade: 132
Now, that's more like it. The big Big Unit trade.
The 'Stros were 65-44 at the time of the trade. They led the NL Central by 3.5 games over the Cubs, but had the worst record of the three NL division leaders. They ended up 102-60, 12.5 games in front of the Cubs with the NL Central crown. Houston was 37-16, with Johnson winning ten of those games, after the trade. That's a 102-percentage point improvement.
The M's were 48-60, tied for last, ten games out of first at the time of the trade. They ended up 76-85, 11.5 games out. They were 28-25 after the trade, an 84-point improvement.
Johnson went 10-1 in Houston with a 1.28 ERA or a phenomenal 318 ERA+. He also had a 1.93 ERA in two postseason starts, unfortunately both for losses. Garcia remained in the minors for the entire season and Guillen played his first ten major-league games in Seattle after the trade. Both became good players so it was a trade that worked for both teams in that they both met their intended goals, the M's rebuilding and the Astros getting to the postseason.
#3) July 31, 1997: The Giants get Wilson Alvarez, Danny Darwin, and Roberto Hernandez from the White Sox for Lorenzo Barcelo, Mike Caruso, Keith Foulke, Bobby Howry, Ken Vining, and Brian Manning.
Career Win Shares prior to trade: 308
The dreaded "White Flag Trade"! This was a shocking move at the time: the Sox were three games out of first when they just gave up seemingly. This has since been revisited and with the success of Foulke, Howry, and Caruso, the Sox now seem to get a pass, but what did it mean for the 1997 season?
At the time of the trade, the Giants were tied the Dodgers for first in the NL West with a 59-49 record. There were also two wild card teams with better records. The Sox were three games behind the Indians, but were a .500 team (53-53) and were in third in the AL Central, a half-game behind the Brewers in their final AL season. They were in a worse position for the wild card: fourth place and 8 games behind the leader (Yankees).
At the end of the season, the Giants were the NL West leaders with a 90-72 record, two games ahead of the Dodgers (even though they were outscored by 9 runs). They were swept in the first round of the playoffs by the wild card Marlins on their way to their first World Series crown. The White Sox ended up in second place, one game under .500 (80-81), six games behind the Indians.
So after the trade the Giants went 31-23, just 28 percentage points higher than their pre-trade record. However, the difference meant a two-game lead over the Dodgers down the stretch. The Sox were 27-28 after the trade, nine points worse than before the trade.
Alvarez was 4-3 for the Giants but carried a 4.48 record, 8 percent worse than the park-adjusted league average. Darwin was 1-3 with a 4.91 ERA, 16 percent worse than average. Hernandez was 5-2 with a 2.48 ERA and 4 saves as mostly a setup man in San Fran. So the starters disappointed but the converted closer helped.
However, Foulke had similar numbers to Hernandez in Chicago (3-0, 3.45, 3 saves, and 127 ERA+). Then again, he was the only player that the White Sox received in the trade who played for them that year. Howry and Caruso would play significant roles on the team in 1998, but Barcelo tool another two years, Vining took three, and Manning never made it to the show.
So overall both teams basically got what they needed but neither got as much out of the players as they hoped.
#4) July 31, 2000: The Blue Jays get Mark Guthrie and Steve Trachsel from the D Rays for Brent Abernathy.
Career Win Shares prior to trade: 108
In 2000, the surprising Blue Jays were challenging the two perennially dominant teams in the AL East, the Yankees and Red Sox. They trailed the Yankees by 4.5 games in the East and Oakland by 4 games in the wild card at the time of the trade (55-52). The Blue Jays finished 4.5 games back in the East and 8 games out of the wild card (83-79). They were 28-27 after the trade, just slightly (5 percentage points) worse than their pre-trade record.
On July 31, the D Rays were in their usual last place, 13.5 games out with a 44-59 record. They finished 69-92, 18 games out. Their record was 25-33 after the trade, just slightly better than their pre-trade record (4 percentage points).
Abernathy wouldn't make it to the majors for another year and started for just one year (2002). Trachsel was just 2-5 in 11 Toronto starts with a 5.29 ERA, 6% worse than the park-adjusted league average. Guthrie was 0-2 in 20.2 innings as a left0handed specialist in Toronto and had a 4.79 ERA, 4% better than average.
To be continued
Meeting the Deadline—The Biggest Trade Deadline Deals, Pt IV
OK, I left this hanging for a while. So here goes
Old Deadline Deals (June 15):
#8t) June 2, 1948: The White Sox get Bob Kennedy from the Indians for Pat Seerey and Al Gettel.
Career Win Shares prior to trade: 34
Again, here is an old school trade deadline deal that hurts, or at least doesn't help, the team it's intended to help. The Indians were either in first or second depending on how you look at it, at the time of the trade. They were percentage points ahead of the A's but were a half-game behind the A's, technically, with a 23-12 record (five fewer games than Philly). The ended up winning the pennant by one game with a 97-58 record. That's a 74-46 record after the trade or a 40-point dip in winning percentage.
The Sox were 10-26, in last place, and 14 games behind the A's at the time of the trade. They ended up last (51-101), 44.5 games behind the Indians. They were 41-75 after the trade or saw their winning percentage increase by 75 points.
Kennedy played well for the Indians but was deeply buried in their bench for the rest of the season (73 ABs in 66 games). Seerey was a low-average, high-on-base, high-slug left fielder, who Billy Beane would probably have drooled over. Gettel has a 123 ERA+ and won 8 games which was one behind the team leader on the south side.
#8t) June 15, 1953: The Tigers get Dick Weik, Al Aber, Ray Boone, and Steve Gromek from the Indians for Art Houtteman, Owen Friend, Bill Wight, and Joe Ginsberg.
Career Win Shares prior to trade: 12
And the trend continues. The Indians were in second trailing the Yanks by 10.5 games at the time of the trade. They ended up 92-62, 8.5 games behind New York. The Indians improved slightly (.588 to .602 winning percentage) after the trade.
The Tigers were in last at the time of the trade (13-41), 29 games out of first. They ended up in sixth (60-94), 40.5 games out. That's 47-53 after the trade, a 229-point winning percentage improvement.
#10) June 13, 1930: The Senators get Heinie Manush and Alvin Crowder from the Browns for Goose Goslin.
Career Win Shares prior to trade: -7
Here's a rare old-school trade deadline deal that actually worked out, in a sense. The Senators were a half-game behind the league leaders, Cleveland and Philly, at the time of the trade (31-19). They ended up in second (94-60), eight games behind the A's. Even this one saw the Senators winning percentage dip slightly (14 percentage points) after the trade. The Browns went from seventh (21-30) at the trade to sixth by the end of the year (64-90). That's a six-point increase. Here Crowder made the difference winning 15 as the two future Hall-of-Fames canceled each other out with great seasons after the trade.
It's apparent from looking at the most lopsided trades when the old deadline was in effect that it was common for these sorts of desperation trades to backfire on the teams they were supposed to benefit. Clearly, the old date was too early. But what about the current one
To be continued
Feeling Mauch-ish II
As my friend Murray pointed out in eulogizing (or eugogglizing if you are Derek Zoolander) skipper Gene Mauch, it was always said that he "knew the rulebook." I thought it would be interesting to look at Mauch's attempts to use the rules and the loopholes they engender to his advantage. Of course, I consulted my favorite book on the rules, Rich Marazzi's The Rules and Lore of Baseball.
Here's what I found:
Re: Rule 4.01(a) and (b):
a) First, the home manager shall give his batting order to the umpire in chief, in duplicate. (b) Next, the visiting manager shall give his batting order to the umpire in chief, in duplicate.
[July 29, 1961] Philadelphia Phillies manager Gene Mauch engineered this one in the first game of a twi-night double-header between the Phillies and Giants at Connie Mack Stadium.
Mauch and Giant manager Al Dark each had a right-hander and a left-hander warming up before the game.
Since the home team manager must turn in his lineup card first, Mauch listed pitcher Don Ferrarese as the leadoff man playing center field. Next were Tony Taylor, 2b; pitcher Jim Owens, rf; Pancho Herrera, 1b; Don Demeter, lf; Charles Smith, 3b; pitcher Chris Short, c; Ruben Amaro, ss; and Ken Lehman, p. When Mauch saw that the Giants had [Billy] O'Dell scheduled to start, he immediately replaced three of the pitchers with right-handed hitting regularsBobby DelGreco for Ferrarese, Bobby Gene Smith for Owens, and Jim Coker for Short.
Although they were included in the box score, the three pitchers never entered the game.
Not to be outdone, Giant skipper Al Dark allowed O'Dell to pitch to DelGreco [the leadoff hitter], since O'Dell had to pitch to at least one batter as provided by rule 3..05(a). Right-hander Sam Jones then replaced O'Dell.
The Giants won the game 8-7 with a tenth inning home run by a regular named Willie Mays.
Re. Rule 7.09 (f)
It is interference by a batter or a runner when (f) Any batter or runner who has just been put out hinders or impedes any following play being made on a runner. Such runner shall be declared out for the interference of his teammate; If the batter or a runner continues to advance after he has been put out, he shall not by that act alone be considered as confusing, hindering or impeding the fielders.
Gene Mauch was nailed for breaking rule 7.09(f) when he played for the Red Sox in a game against the Orioles on April 22, 1957.
Mauch was batting with Dick Gernert on third base in the seventh inning with one out. Gene grounded to first baseman George Kell, who stepped on the bag and then threw to the plate in an effort to retire Gernert. Mauch, however, deflected Kell's throw to the plate as he threw up his hands. Umpire Ed Rommel also declared Gernert out for Mauch's interference. Kell and catcher Joe Ginsberg were credited with the freak double play.
The first umpire to eject a pitcher from a game for throwing a spitter was Cal Hubbard. The ejection came in 1944 when Nelson Potter of the St. Louis Browns was given the thumb fir throwing the wet pitch. This did not happen again until 1968 when N.L. umpire Ed Vargo tossed out Phillies' pitcher John Boozer.
The situation took place on May 1, 1968, at Shea Stadium, where the Mets were hosting the Phillies. Boozer relieved Woodie Fryman in the seventh inning. As Boozer was about to take his eight warm-up pitches, plate umpire Vargo yelled "ball", claiming that Boozer went to his mouth. Manager Gene Mauch argued that the rule did not apply when a pitcher is warming up.
Mauch instructed Boozer to go to his mouth again and the umpire quickly called "abll two." Once again Mauch ordered Boozer to go to his mouth, and the umpire called "ball three." Vargo then ejected both Mauch and Boozer.
Mauch was automatically ejected when he protested the first called ball since it is an automatic ejection when a manager protests a called ball or strike.
Dick Hall then relieved Boozer and faced Bud Harrelson with a count of three balls and no strikes.
N.L. president Warren Giles did not uphold Mauch's protest, but instructed his umpires not to call a ball when the ball was dead, as when a pitcher is taking his preparatory pitches. I guess you could say that Mauch lost the battle but won the war.
You could also say that Harrelson was perhaps the first batter in baseball history who went to the plate with a three ball count to his advantage before a pitch was even thrown to him. After Hall got two strikes on Harrelson. The Mets shortstop grounded out.
Re. Rule 9.05(a)
(a) The umpire shall report to the league president within twelve hours after the end of a game all violations of rules and other incidents worthy of comment, including the disqualification of any trainer, manager, coach or player, and the reasons therefor.
It's not often that a player or manager who gets ejected from a game is unaware that he has been given the thumb, but it happened to Twins' pilot Gene Mauch on April 17, 1977, in a game against Oakland. Mauch was run out of the game by the colorful Ron Luciano after he complained that A's pitcher Jim Umbarger had balked when he picked off Jerry Terrell in the first inning.
In the second frame, when Oakland was making a pitching change, Bill Haller said to Mauch, "Who's managing your team?" "I am," responded Mauch. Haller then informed Mauch that Luciano had ejected him from the game. Oakland manager Jack McKeon proceeded to protest the game. The protest was not necessary since the A's won, 10-2.
Gene Mauch passed away tonight at the age of 79. Unfortunately, no one saw fit to put him in the Hall of Fame before he died, though I think someday it will happen.
As a manager he has the most wins of any manager who was eligible for but not in the Hall. I wrote about this and found that Mauch fit the de facto standards for Hall admission for managers (1596 wins and exceeding his team's expected winning percentage). Though if anyone thought the standards for Hall of Fame players was screwed up, they should take a look at the arbitrary fashion by which managers were picked.
I think there are three reasons why he is not already enshrined in Cooperstown. First, there are the collapses. He had only three teams that were serious contenders for a championship, and each time it ended in disaster. His Phils career built to the debacle of the 1964 season. As you are probably aware, the Phils were leading the NL by 6.5 games with 12 left to play. They lost ten straight games in arguably the worst collapse down the stretch ever. Then after leading two floundering franchises (Expos and Twins) he reached the playoffs twice with the Angels, 1982 and 1986. In 1982, they lost three straight and the ALCS after winning the first two games. In 1986, they were infamously one strike away from the Series. Then Donnie Moore helped blow a three-run lead in game five and they lost to the Red Sox, who would have their own share of problems in the Series, in seven games.
Second, he had a losing record and we hate losers. He is actually third among managers in losses and one of three with 2000 losses:
Of course, he is "just" eleventh in wins:
(By the way, ESPN.com has him at 1901, but my numbers jibe with Baseball-Reference.com, so what the hey?)
And Mauch was sixth in games for a manager:
Finally, I think Mauch gets the shaft because his career was spread among so many franchises diluting his image and impact. However, he is the only manager to win as many as 300 games with four different franchises:
By the way, he still is the Phillies' franchise leader in managerial wins. Here are all Phils managers with at least 300 wins:
And now the three-hundred-win managers for his other three franchises:
The San Pedro Angels:
Maybe his passing will spur some interest in his career, and maybe the Veterans Committee will straighten its voting procedures out, and then Mauch will actually get the plaque he so richly deserves. It would have been nicer if he didn't have to die to get it though.
Shaun P brings up a good point:
Mike, I'm curious . . . Given that Garland has just 72Ks in 153 IP (or as many as Scot Shields has in 67 1/3IP, or 1 less than B.J. Ryan has in 48 1/3 IP, but I digress), what's the lowest number of Ks for anyone who's ever won 26+ games? Are the lists as short as some of the tables above?
Jon Garland projects to 105 Ks and 223 innings. He has averaged 4.24 strikeouts per nine innings. How many pitchers have averaged fewer than that and won at least 26? Well, in the nineteenth century, tons of pitchers did it. Candy Cummings strike out eight, walked six, and won 35 games. So let's just look at pitchers from 1900 on:
There were 35 pitchers lower than Garland's current strikeout ratio. However, the last one lower was Robin Roberts in 1952.
The Race Where That Immortal Garland Is To Be Run For
Jon Garland won his 16th game yesterday beating the M's, 3-1, and allowing just one run, five hits, and two walks in 7.1 innings. He is just 4-4 in his last eight starts, dating back to June 26, but has lowered his ERA from 3.40 to 3.29 with (with a 3.04 ERA over the period).
Barring any rests the Sox give him down what appears to be a meaningless stretch run, Garland should get ten more starts, which means he could potentially win 26 for the year. Garland appears to be the front runner for the AL Cy Young award, which might help spur the Sox to get all his starts in, especially if he can top 25 wins, however, unlikely.
No pitcher has won 25 since Bob Welch fifteen years ago. He's actually the only pitcher do win that many games in the last 25 years (Steve Stone won 25 in 1980). Given that Garland has gotten a decision in all but one of his starts this year, it is not inconceivable (to quote Vizzini in "The Princess Bride") that he would be able to get a decision in his last ten, and what they hey, why can't they all be wins?
Should he reach 26 wins, he would be just the third pitcher since 1969 to do so. Only 21 have done it in the last 75 years, most of which were played before five-man rotations became de rigueur:
Of course, Garland's 3.29 ERA, though much lower than his career ERA to start the season 4.68), is a bit hefty for a Cy Young candidate. Should he keep that ERA and still win 26, he would have one of the highest ERAs for anyone who won as many games since the "Modern" era began. Here are the only men since 1900 to win 26 with an ERA of 3.00 or above (by the way, it was common in the nineteenth century with its one- or two-man rotations):
As for Cy Young winners, here are the only award winners with ERAs of 3.00 or above:
As I said earlier, Garland has had a decision in all but one of his 22 starts this year (95.45%). Should he win his final ten to give him 26 wins, he would also have a decision in 96.88% of starts, a remarkably high amount (and also a good indication of why he probably won't be able to win 26) That would be the highest ratio of decision per game pitched for a 20 game winner since Gaylord Perry's 1972 campaign. Here are all the men over 95% in the last 95 years:
Finally, Garland entered the season with just 46 wins against 51 defeats in his five seasons in Chicago. If Garland wins at least 25 games this year, he would have one of the lowest career win totals prior to winning 25 ever:
Algonquin 'Roid Table
Just before the news broke that Raphael Palmeiro was being suspended for using a banned substance, an email chain starting circulating among a few of my friends and a few of their friends (and so on and so on) about Palmeiro's Hall-worthiness.
I thought that the email chain was of interest given that while it started as a response to his entering the 3000/500 club and evolved as the steroid story evolved. It starts the day before the story broke and goes for another three more days after. Also, I don't think anyone changed anyone else's mind despite the attempts.
I am MBBR since there's another Mike in the exchange. The rest of the names have been changed to protect the innocent. There's also a guest contributor who I'll reveal at the end. Enjoy:
PD: So could some of you enlighten me about whether or not Rafael Palmeiro belongs in the HOF? Thanks.
MBBR: Yes, end of discussion.
PD: But just why does he belong? Who are the most comparable HOF players to Palmeiro?
Murray: Probably because there's no player with career stats like his that isn't in the HOF. On my visceral "In/Out" test, which is a mental exercise to build my own Hall without doing any analysis, I'd say "out." He strikes me as a bloated Tony Perez/Gil Hodges, a first baseman who was never the best player at his position and who has padded his stats in friendly ballparks. (And maybe bloated in that other sense.) In the actual institution that exists, I think he's probably in.
Alex: Palmeiro is in because only the BBWAA votes.
The problem is that the BBWAA likes stupid arguments.. such as the 3000/500 thing that's been burning up the bylines.
By the time Palmeiro is eligible, the 3000/500 club will not look nearly so exclusive. The fact is that Aaron and Mays are noticeably worse hitters than Williams and Ruth. They didn't have the hits only because they walked much, much more - because they had better control of the strike zone and/or pitchers were more afraid of their ability. Then again, Aaron and Mays are greats. Palmeiro isn't at all in their class, and Bill James has done plenty about the arbitrary grouping and cutting off of statistics in his Politics of Glory. He's a great player, but more Harold Baines than Gary Sheffield.
Black Ink: Batting - 8 (263) (Average HOFer ~ 27)
Gray Ink: Batting - 183 (50) (Average HOFer ~ 144)
HOF Standards: Batting - 57.0 (34) (Average HOFer ~ 50)
HOF Monitor: Batting - 156.0 (63) (Likely HOFer > 100)
Frank Thomas (.308/.429/.567)
Black Ink: Batting - 21 (96) (Average HOFer ~ 27)
Gray Ink: Batting - 189 (46) (Average HOFer ~ 144)
HOF Standards: Batting - 56.5 (37) (Average HOFer ~ 50)
HOF Monitor: Batting - 179.0 (49) (Likely HOFer > 100)
Jeff Bagwell (.297/.408/.542)
Black Ink: Batting - 24 (78) (Average HOFer ~ 27)
Gray Ink: Batting - 157 (73) (Average HOFer ~ 144)
HOF Standards: Batting - 59.0 (28) (Average HOFer ~ 50)
HOF Monitor: Batting - 149.5 (75) (Likely HOFer > 100)
Murray: I think people recognize that Bagwell and Thomas are the B+ students and that Palmeiro is the solid B.
It's really about the issue of whether you think the HOF should give greater weight to peak value than it does. It's what's keeping Jim Rice out.
PD: While I haven't worked out a strongly-held personal opinion about Raffy's qualifications, it seems like this is the first time some people are speaking up about the classic career milestones and saying, "Okay, not so fast." And I can't help but notice that Palmeiro's statistics really started to kick in at their highest level precisely in 1993.
On a potentially related note, I saw Bret Boone bat once last night for the Twins against the Sox. It was hilarious! He's about 2/3 as big as he was in the Seattle glory days. Remember how he would pump balls out to center, then do the bat flip? Here he kind of dunked one toward center that the SS caught.
Incredible shrinking hitters ... help me out here:
I-Pud (Ivan Rodriguez)
Murray: Ryan Klesko?
PD: Has he shrunken?
Speaking of Klesko, I just watched an inning of a Braves telecast for the first time this year. It's nice to see some things never change. The very first thing I heard was Skip or Pete saying how the Braves' pitcher was actually pitching a gem apart from that three-run homer he had given up. As they are playing the Pirates I half-expected Andy Van Slyke to be in the lineup. Then some Braves rookie callup homered, the ball being caught by an urchin wearing a Red Sox 38 Schilling t-shirt, naturally. Skip or Pete says this rookie is a five-tool player. And as you would expect, the telecast is being sponsored in part by the new "Dukes of Hazard" movie. I wouldn't feel superior to Southerners if it weren't so easy.
Murray: I think so, but maybe he has over time, too. There are guys whose stats seem down, but I don't recall seeing them this season. For example, Scott Rolen? Nomar?
The rookie must have been Jeff Francoeur. He's outstanding.
Alex: That's Hazzard.
Did Skip and Pete make disparaging comments about crime in New York? That's their version of Phil Rizzutto's "Happy Birthday to Maggie Franconi..."
PD: Not in the brief time I was watching. Meanwhile, everyone up here has been pretending that the Sox might trade Manny. Please. What a non-story.
I forgot to mention, the Red Sox officially flipped the switch last week in that game where Matt Clement got hurt. It turned into one of those wild-ass games they inevitably win no matter what. They were down 8-6 in the 9th, tied it, went to extra innings after a Devil Ray flied out to the deepest part of the park with runners on the end the 9th. Then the Sox went up 10-8 in the 10th, held on even though Schilling gave up a run and had a runner on second before getting the final out. They haven't lost since then and are in that mode where it seems like they're incredibly hard to beat in any given game. Too bad.
Murray: Worst Braves development: these red shirts they wear on Sundays. Ugh.
MBBR: Wait, hold the phone--"By the time Palmeiro is eligible, the 3000/500 club will not look nearly so exclusive." I really don't that argument holds water.
Let's say Palmeiro plays another two seasons after this one--the man will be 41 at the end of the season. That would mean that he would be eligible in 9 years, 2013. So that means that a number of players would have reached those milestones in the next 9 seasons (including this one).
Let's assume that they average 200 H and 40 HR in those seasons. That means that the players would have to have at least 1200 H and 140 HR to reach 3000/500 on time. Also, let's assume that we are dealing with players who are not older than 31 entering this season, so that they have the opportunity to play another 9 productive seasons.
What does that give us (stats thru 2004):
Of these, A-Rod looks like best bet to reach 3000/500. He's the only one besides Helton and Guerrero who's even exceeded 200 H and 40 HR in a season. Jeter has also reached 200 H.
A-Rod and Jones seem good bets to reach 40 HR this year, but none of the others do. Jeter and A-Rod are the only ones that project to anyway near 200 H this year.
I think maybe A-Rod and Vlad have a decent shot of making it. I wouldn't bet on anyone else.
As for players over 30, I added 200H/40HR per season to the minimum thresholds above, and here are the players that made the cut:
I'm not convinced any of them are decent bets. Sheffield, who doesn't make the cut, seems the best bet over 30 to me. Bonds, of course, may never play again.
As for comparing Bagwell, Thomas, and Palmeiro, what I think you're overlooking is that given the de facto standards, they all belong. And I've done a bit of research on the topic. I would pick Bagwell and Thomas in their prime over Palmeiro, but for his career Palmeiro will probably look superior. I think a player gets in the Hall because of peak and career value. I see no reason why all three cannot and should not go in.
By the way, Baines's James numbers are:
Black Ink: Batting - 3 (490) (Average HOFer ~ 27)
Gray Ink: Batting - 40 (585) (Average HOFer ~ 144)
HOF Standards: Batting - 43.5 (112) (Average HOFer ~ 50)
HOF Monitor: Batting - 66.5 (256) (Likely HOFer > 100)
Career OPS+: Baines 120, Palmeiro 132.Baines was basically a DH by age 28; Palmeiro's won three Gold Gloves, though admittedly not at the toughest of defensive positions.
I think you're giving Baines way too much credit and Palmeiro way too little. I think there are way too many expansion-era players getting short shrift when it comes to the Hall. I think that the problem is not that Santo's not in, but that Santo, Darrell Evans, and a couple other third baseman are not in. I say there's room for all three guys (Palmeiro, Thomas, and Bagwell).
Some may disagree but then you have to remove a good chunk of the players already in. I have no problem with doing that, but I do have a problem with imposing a new standard for the players with whom I most familiar.
Either we judge players by the de facto standards, which all three first basemen meet, or we revamp the Hall from day one.
MBBR: Re. it seems like this is the first time some people are speaking up about the classic career milestones and saying, "Okay, not so fast."--What about Don Sutton and 300 wins? His trip to the Hall was hardly a cake walk.
What it's really about is the hardliners and things-were-better-in-my-day-ists like Joe Morgan having more of an affect on the voting. The BBWAA always had a higher standard than the Vets Committee, but the vets always made sure to get enough of their old pals in. That hasn't been the case since Ted Williams' heyday on the committee.
It's just the confluence of a) the BBWAA standard's getting a bit higher, b) thereby sending more qualified candidates to the Vets, and c) the Vets getting less free and easy with plaques, and d) finally, revamping their klugy voting rules.
PD: On a related note:
Grin and Barrett
The Phils won in surprising fashion yesterday, with Jimmy Rollins stealing home with two outs in the ninth, beating the Cubs 4-3. Of course, that's what the box score said, but the actual winning play was quite different.
The score was tied with Mike Remlinger on the mound. Rollins had doubled and then moved to third when Kenny Lofton grounded hard to Derek Lee's right and Lee had to struggle to get to the bag before Lofton as Remlinger failed to cover first.
Remlinger then Chase Utley and Bobby Abreu to load the bases. Michael Wuertz relieved Remlinger with the hope that Wuertz could get Pat Burrell, the next batter, to strikeout. Burrell is wont to strikeout, and Wuertz had 50 Ks in 46.1 innings pitched.
He got his K but it wasn't what the Cubs expected.
After starting 1-0, Wuertz got Burrell to go after two very low and away sliders and then threw a third way too far outside. He missed his location by a good foot and a half, but a great play by Michael Barrett prevented the ball from getting away and Rollins scoring (until two pitches later when Barrett became the goat). The 2-2 pitch was a borderline low pitch that the homer Cub announcers really wanted. Then Burrell offered an "excuse me" swing, completely missing an outside, medium-high fastball, and then Barrett flat-out missed the ball (well, he deflected it).
Burrell was then out on the spot though he ran to first. This is covered by rule 6.05c:
There was one out and Abreu was at first at the time, so Burrell was already out, the second out of the inning.
However, when the ball eluded Barrett, Rollins broke for the plate. Barrett picked up the ball to the right and behind, though not far from, home plate. Barrett was running in a straight line toward Rollins, but then Jimmy played the ball perfectly. He feigned a retreat to third and then Barrett made a fatal mistake. Before he had reached home with Rollins about halfway to home, he threw the ball to third base. Rollins saw this and quickly switched gears for home, scoring the run before the relay to Barret could arrive.
What Barrett, of course, should have done is run Rollins back to third. Only if he was absolutely sure he could get the third out, should he have thrown to third. If he had run Rollins all the way back to third, the worst the Cubs could have had was a tie ballgame with the bases loaded two and two outs. It would have been the same result if the Cubs had gotten a vanilla Burrell K, which was their intention anyway.
So this was truly stealing defeat from the jaws of victory or at least the mandibles of tied-ballgame-ness. But Wuertz did improve his strikeouts per nine innings ratio.
Felix Hernandez made his major-league debut today for the Mariners at the ripe young age of 19. He got hit with the loss but pitched well going five innings and giving up three hits, two runs (just one earned), and two walks whiled striking out four. He was pulled after 81 pitchesthe Indians had said he wanted go more than 85.
As a tribute, I thought it would be interesting to look at other teenage pitchers and how they fared.
Here are all the pitchers from the last 25 years who made it to the majors before turning twenty with their teenage totals:
There are a lot of famous flameouts on that list.
Now, here are the pitchers with the most games pitched in their teen years:
Meeting the Deadline—The Biggest Trade Deadline Deals, Pt III
Alrighty now, no teams can pull the trigger for a decent player at the trade deadline today. Kyle Farnsworth? Buddy Groom? Ron Villone? Geoff Blum? Matt Lawton for Jody Gerut? That's what we get.
In Philly, Ed Wade's usual hibernation through trade deadline went largely unnoticed by the locals, who were busy following T.O.'s itinerary at the Eagles training camp. With the Phils conceivably within striking distance of a playoff spot but far from an actual playoff-caliber team, Wade was caught like a deer in the headlights not knowing to buy or sell. He's left with two closers, two first basemen, and at least two center fielders. Last year they were left with just two second baseman. I guess that's an improvement. Wade had two excuses beyond his incompetence this year: First, he can claim that the Phils were still in contention though the experienced fan knew better, and second, nobody else was doing any trading either. Hopefully, that won't be enough to save his job at year's end.
What better time than now to discuss the trade deadline deals of the past? Now, where was I?
#3) June 13, 1953: The Browns traded Virgil Trucks and Bob Elliott to the White Sox for Darrell Johnson, Lou Kretlow, and $75K.
Career Win Shares prior to trade: 393
The Sox were tied for fourth place with the Senators with a 28-26 record, 13 games behind the first-place Yankees at the time of the trade. They ended up 11.5 games back in third (89-65, .578). Their record after the trade was 61-39 with a .610 winning percentage. They improved greatly but were too far back to really contend.
The Browns were in seventh, 19-36, 22-1/2 games behind New York. They ended up last, 46-1/2 games out (54-100, .351). They were consistently awful with a 35-64, .354 record after the trade.
I already discussed this trade in the previous section but, quickly: Trucks was a twenty-game winner, going 15-6 with a 2.86 ERA, 41% better than the park-adjusted league average with the Sox. Elliott went .260/.358/.380 with an adjusted OPS 3% worse than average. Johnson was in the minors all season. Kretlow remained a former "bonus baby" bust.
#4) June 1, 1976: The Twins get Bill Singer, Roy Smalley, Mike Cubbage, Jim Gideon, and $250K from the Rangers for Bert Blyleven and Danny Thompson.
Career Win Shares prior to trade: -40
This is one that backfired. The Rangers were in second place, one game behind first-place KC at the time of the trade (25-18). They finished the season tied for fourth with a 76-86 record, fourteen games behind the Royals. They had a 51-68 record (.429) after the trade. Their winning percentage before the trade dropped over 150 points after the trade.
The Twins were in fourth, five games out with a 21-22 record when they traded Blyleven. They ended up in third with a 85-77 record, still five games out. That's a 64-55 record (.538) after the trade, a 50-point winning percentage improvement.
The Rangers gave up youngsters Smalley and Cubbage, who were stuck behind Harrah and Hargrove respectively, along with the veteran Singer for Blyleven and the abysmal Thompson. Blyleven pitched well but the youngsters made in impact in Minnesota and Singer pitched competently.
#5) June 1, 1943: The Phils get Buster Adams, Dain Clay, and Coaker Triplett from the Cards for Danny Litwhiler and Earl Naylor.
Career Win Shares prior to trade: -27
Here's another that backfired but the Cardinals won the division anyway.
On June 1, the Phils were 17-19 in sixth place, 6.5 games behind the Dodgers. The Phils finished second to last with a 64-90 record. They were 47-71 after the trade and saw their percentage drop by almost 75 points.
At the time of the trade the Cardinals were a half-game out of first (23-13). They won the division by 18 games with a 105-49 record. They were 82-36 after the trade.
Buster Adams was a 28-year-old, rookie center fielder who blossomed (130 OPS+ in 1944, 118 in 1945) and wilted (72 OPS+ in 1946) in the course of about four seasons. Tripplet was given the chance to start, in left field, for the first time in his career and had a great year for the Phils (128 OPS+). Clay was traded five days later (for Charlie Brewster) and never played for the Phils.
Litwhiler was an All-Star as a rookie in 1942 and played reasonably well for both teams in 1943 but only appeared in 116 games (80 for the Cards). Naylor was the Brooks Kieschnick of his day pitching in 20 games and playing mostly center in 34 others in 1942. It's too bad he could do neither well (6.12 ERA/54 ERA+ and 43 OPS+). He never played for the Cardinals.
#6t) June 14, 1956: The Giants get Dick Littlefield, Jackie Brandt, Red Schoendienst, Bill Sarni, and a player to be named later (Gordon Jones, October 1) from the Cards for Don Liddle, Alvin Dark, Ray Katt, and Whitey Lockman
Career Win Shares prior to trade: 604
Here's another one that backfired on the Cardinals, but this time they were unable to overcome it.
At the time of the trade St. Louis was a half-game out of first behind co-leaders Cincinnati and Pittsburgh with a 27-21 record. They ended up 76-78 in fourth place, 17 games out. They were 49-57 after the trade and their winning percentage dipped by 100 points.
The Giants were 19-30, in seventh, nine games out on June 14. They finished in sixth at 67-87, 26 games behind the Dodgers. Their post-trade record was 48-57 (.457), almost 70-percentage points higher.
The Cards received a package of three weak-hitting regulars (ss Dark, LF Lockman, and C Katt) plus a washed-up pitcher (Liddle). Schoendienst was coming of a poor season but would rebound. Littlefield's claim to fame was that he was traded for Jackie Robinson later that year. Sarni was a relatively young catcher whose career ended in spring training of the following year when he suffered a heart attack. Brandt was a left fielding prospect who got to start in New York and who had some pretty good years. Jones was a young journeyman-to-be.
#6t) June 2, 1966: The Red Sox get Don McMahon and Lee Stange from the Indians for Dick Radatz
Career Win Shares prior to trade: 20
And a trend's developing. The Indians were one game ahead in first place with a 28-16 record at the time of the trade. The Red Sox were last, 11 games back (18-28). The Indians ended up fifth with a 81-81 record, 17 games behind the O's. The Sox finished in ninth (1/2 game ahead of the Yanks), 26 games back with a 72-90 record. Cleveland was 53-65 record after the trade with their winning percentage dropping by almost 200 points, and Boston had 54-62 record, an 75-point swing.
Radatz tanked in Cleveland (75 ERA+). McMahon pitched well as usual (144 ERA+) as did Strange (114 ERA+).
To be continued
Respek: Raffy, Ryno, an' 'Roids, Aiii?
[I]f there was there was a single reason I am here today, it is because of one word, respect Respect for the game of baseball. When we all played it, it was mandatory. It's something I hope we will one day see again.
Ryne Sandberg seemed to have inside information when he strode to the podium to accept his Hall plaque and to commiserate with Cub fans. His theme was "respect". He said the word in one form or another 21 times in his speech as well as eight references to playing the game "the right way."
Maybe it wasn't just a coincidence that the news that Rafael Palmeiro had been suspended for "violating [MLB's] Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program" broke the next day. Certainly, the timing, the day after the Hall inductions and the trade deadline, does remind one of the slight of hand used in Three-Card Monty.
But I think that Sandberg's apparent prescience was merely his tapping into a spirit that permeates and transcends the game today. We live in a fundamentalist world. We have religious fundamentalists everywhere, in the White House, in the Middle East, and yet somehow they can't get along. Now, there is a new kind of fundamentalism: baseball fundamentalism. I'm not talking about baseball purists, in whose company I count myself.
I mean this spirit of "things were better in my day" that seems to have gained a great deal of traction in the sports media and with the fans today. It seems that Sandberg was praying at that altar in order to say something like, "Forget the Joe Morgan allegations. I'm one of the good ones. Accept me." Either that or he's preparing for a run at congress.
There is a stigma, as Palmeiro alluded to in his highly ironic speech to congress, that is associated not only with the individuals found to have used steroids (or "banned substances") but with the game as a whole. Steroids is the bane of baseball's existence, but it's been yoked with player excesses like A-Rod's contracts, and Bonds' record-breaking home run totals.
Witness Sandberg's valedictorian speech:
I didn't play the game right because I saw a reward at the end of the tunnel. I played it right because that's what you're supposed to do, play it right and with respect. If this validates anything, it's that learning how to bunt and hit and run and turning two is more important than knowing where to find the little red light at the dug out camera.
As my friend Murray put it, when did Ryne Sandberg become Jim Bunning anyway? For the record, Sandberg bunted successfully 31 times in 16 seasons and was never in the top ten in any season for sacrifice bunts. Wee Willie Keeler, he aint. But let's not let the facts get in his way, he's running down players today. Continue Sir Ryno.
He does touch on steroids rather obliquely:
When did it become okay for someone to hit home runs and forget how to play the rest of the game? In my day, if a guy came to spring training 20 pounds heavier than what he left, he was considered out of shape and was probably in trouble. He'd be under a microscope and the first time he couldn't beat out a base hit or missed a fly ball, he was probably shipped out. These guys sitting up here did not pave the way for the rest of us so that players could swing for the fences every time up and forget how to move a runner over to third, it's disrespectful to them, to you, and to the game of baseball that we all played growing up. Respect.
Thank you, Ryno G.
So what's different about today, now that "respect for the game" is no longer "mandatory", whatever that means. His bloviations do seem to point to the real boogeyman, the one that turns on that "little red light" on the dugout camera, TV. Or maybe more to the point SportsCenter, which covers the game around the clock, tallies every homer nightly, and daily ranks every great defensive play.
It's the selling of the game in terms of highlight clips and sound bites that's apparently been its undoing. It's led to larger salaries, poorer fundamentals, and more notoriety. It's inadvertently greased the slipper slope towards cutting corners and circumventing the rules. That's what led to steroid use and lower SAT scores, eh?
For analysts like Joe Morgan, it's this slipshod sort of analysis, one not rooting in one's own personal experience of the game but rather in objective analysis, that's led to steroids and, of course, Enron. They all go hand in hand.
Baseball, whether one's playing it or simply conversing about it, is only done one way, the real way or "the right way, the natural way," as Sandberg puts it. Any other way is not only undermining the stature of the game in its natural position as the national pastime, but it calls into question that of the players of the past. That's why they are trying to squelch it with Sandberg and Morgan as mouthpieces.
I never really got it before, but now I do. Steroids equate to gay marriage in the eyes of the baseball establishment. They pervert and twist an institution that they hold dear and in turn taint anyone associated with that institution.
So now we have the poster boy for this perversion, Rafael Palmeiro, the soon-to-be former spokesperson for another performance enhancing substance (Viagra) that's legal so long as Palmeiro doesn't use it in a game. Palmeiro comes tailor-fit for the role: he just entered the ultra exclusive 500 home run/3000 hit club even though until he passed 500 homers, not many supported his Hall of Fame candidacy. He didn't surpass thirty home runs in a season until his seventh as a starter (and had two with just eight each) and didn't break 40 until he was 33 years old. At the age of thirty, he had just 155 career homers. Ten years later, he had nearly four hundred more (551).
Palmeiro's ascendance as a hitter paralleled the era in which he played. His first thirty-homer year was 1993, the start of the greatest home run era in baseball history, the one we are still living in. Of course steroids caused the change in him just as it changed the nature of the sport as a whole.
Never mind that baseball went through two quickie rounds of expansion during that period, including one that brought us the illustrious Devil Ray franchise. Never mind that teams rushed to build new state-of-the-art stadiums that hearkened back to the olden days but had the dimensions of band boxes (and let's not forget Coors Field). Let's not forget that the umpires let the batters destroy the batter's box in the mid-Eighties and crowd the plate and then let the pitchers get away with an ever-evolving, ever-widening, and ever-flattening strike zone ever since. Never mind that the 1998 home run race between Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa "saved" baseball.
Palmeiro will be demonized by writers now and whenever he becomes a Hall of Fame candidate. After winning that battle and being perceived as a first-ballot HoFer, Palmeiro will be stigmatized now and forever. A sort of "Diga que no es verdad, Raffy!"
Given that the possibility of a false positive is close to nil (an expectation of .0081 incidence throughout the entire major league for the entire season based on the numbers that I've seen), it is highly likely that Palmeiro, whether intentionally or not, did use a banned substance. He will have to live with that, but this idea that he should bear a scarlet letter for it is the sort of sanctimonious drivel that really gets under my skin.
I prefer my hypocrisy unalloyed. It reminds me of how the sportswriters turned on Pete Rose after prodding him on to swollen-headed hot-doggery for years. Yes, these players are to blame for their actions, but isn't there enough blame to go round?
I prefer to hear comments from ex-players like Mike Schmidt's above. Schmidt played during an era in which amphetamine use was rampant. They were the performance-enhancing drug of the previous generation, the one that "played the game right" according to Sandberg.
But what can be done? Bill Buckner isn't remembered as fine hitter but rather as the punchline to a joke on the Curse of the Bambino-era Red Sox. Mickey Owen dropped a third strike that led to a World Series loss. Fred Merkle had his baserunning "boner". Fred Snodgrass committed the "$30,000 Muff". Pete Rose gambled on baseball. Sammy Sosa corked his bat. Players cannot choice their legacy.
And now Rafael Palmeiro, no matter what he achieves in the remainder of his career, will ever be remembered as the first big-name player caught for steroid use. It may not be fair, but there it is.
What remains to be seen is how it will affect his Hall candidacy. I have a feeling that he will ultimately overcome the stigmalook at our fondness today for Shoeless Joe Jackson, a man that admitted in court to throwing World Series games. Palmeiro's career stats are what ultimately will be left, and they are overwhelming proof. It's just a matter of how long that will take.
That may depend on how many more players get caught and how long it takes baseball to get over this long-lasting PR nightmare. Until then we are just going to have to last through speeches on respect and playing the game the right way.
Hypocrisy is the essence of snobbery, but all snobbery is about the problem of belonging.
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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