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Shall I Compare Thee to
2003-08-26 00:55
by Mike Carminati

Shall I Compare Thee to A Summer's Joe Morgan Chat Day?

Summer's lease hath all too short a date.

-Willie "Author" Shakespeare

Summer turns me upside down. Oh, summer, summer, summer. You know it's kinda like a merry-go-round, in a way. Also, a summer breeze makes me feel fine just so long as it's blowing through the jasmine of my mind.

Mostly, the jasmine of my mind is telling me that summer is way too short. Or is it the jasmine of my brain-I get confused with the whole mind/brain jasmine duality. Anyway, it's almost over and with it the baseball season. This is the problem with baseball: the season builds to playoff races, then the excitement is ratcheted up a notch for the playoffs, and finally the World Series, the crown jewel (hopefully) of the season is played. And then we get four months of a whole lot of nothin'.

Speaking of which, Joe Morgan's chats will end along with summer. This week's offering is a tepid rainout of an offering, but it is still Joe. We here at Mike's Baseball Rants love the Joe Morgan: he was one of the most exciting players we ever saw. And we love the Joe Morgan Chat Days ever more. Joe has experienced more on the field than most anyone this side of Minnie Minoso, but his analysis offers belies that depth of knowledge. Our quest is the nirvanic, hairs-standing-up-on the back-of-your-neck moment when Joe plumbs that cache of baseball knowledge while saying something plumb obtuse. And babe, don't you know it's a pity that the chats can't be like the Sunday nights, In the summer, with Joe Morgan. In the summer, with Joe Morgan.

The Good

Moe (Lake Crescent, WA): What kind of team do you believe is more likely to win a World Series? A balanced team (Seattle), a pitching-dominant team (Oakland), or an offensive-juggernaut (Boston)?

Any one of those types of teams can win. Normally you would like to have balance. The more balance you have, the more chances to have to win. But it's an offensive dominated era. Until the last three days, I would have felt Atlanta with their offense would have the best chance. But then they lose 3 to the Giants. Balance is usually preferable.

[Mike: Wow, a logical, well thought-out answer.]

Utek (LA): Hi Joe. Taking nothing away from Barry Bonds (who has been the most locked-in hitter over the past 3 years that I have ever seen), whenever Barry gets those rare opportunities to hit late in the game, it is always against the team's "situational lefty", ie soft-tossing breaking ball pitcher. Since Bonds has shown that he can hit left-handers, and can lay off curveballs out of the zone, and since you can count the number of hard-throwing lefty relievers on one hand, wouldn't it make more sense to throw your reliever with the best stuff against Bonds, rather than the one who throws left-handed?

I agree with you. He has hit more HRs off left handed pitchers than any hitter this year. But the fact remains, you don't use your best guy in a tie game, that's just how the game is played now. Each time Barry hit a HR against the Braves, Smoltz was in the bullpen. The best guy comes in to protect the lead. So I agree with you, it's just not the way people manage nowadays.

[Mike: Is Joe becoming a Jamesist? (By the way, Bonds is actually third in homers off a lefty this year with 13 behind Rafael Palmeiro and Alex Rodriguez, but why quibble?)]

BP (Boston, MA): Joe, how valuable can a closer be if he is only needed when you're already winning (according to you above)?

You need to go back and read something I said 7 or 8 years ago .. the closer position is overrated. I've said this forever. You look back on history, even teams with bad records without a good closer, you still win most of the games you go into the ninth with a lead. The closer is a security blanket for the manager. Gagne has been one of the best this year, but a few times he has pitched with a tie game, he has given up runs. When he comes in in the ninth with the lead, he does fine. The closer position is just overrated.

[Mike: Dang, I think he is a Jamesian.

"7 or 8 years ago"? Wow, last week, Joe couldn't remember what he said the previous day and now he's spotting dimes from nearly a decade ago.]

ken, atlanta, ga: What happens if there is a 3-way tie for the Central division (al or nl) at the end of the season? do they play a round robin playoff?

No. They flip a coin and the team that wins the flip waits for the other two teams to play. They also flip a coin for home field advantage in that one-game playoff.

They would do the flip about one week before the end of the season if it looks like it might be a tie.

[Mike: I'm in such a good mood I'm not even going criticize him about the three-sided coin that would be used. He's basically correct though I can't find the exact rule anywhere. This was an issue one year (the Sammy year of 1998 when they had a playoff?) and what they were going to do, I believe, was to flip a coin for each combination (Hou-Stl, StL-Chi, Chi-Hou), and the team with the most wins gets homefield for the winner of the other two. The homefield between those two is determined from their coin toss. They would play two playoffs in two days in two different locations and the ensuing series would be the one that starts with an extra day (that's how they did it in 1998). I may be wrong but that's how I remember it.]

Brian Mongeau (Wellesley, MA): Why do you have such beef with the red Sox? I've heard you compliment other teams while announcing, but never my beloved BoSox. Are you still sore that we were able to take you to 7 games in '76, when we were supposed to be swept?

Did you win? Johnny Bench said the other day the Sox won that series because all you ever see if Fisk's HR. Join the team .. the Yankees fans think I hate the Yankees. St. Louis fans think I hate the Cardinals. I have pulled for Boston for a long time because they haven't won in so long. Same with the Cubs. I would love to see a Cubs-Red Sox series. Unfortunately, it probably will not happen. But if I had one thing to say about the Red Sox.. it just seems they play great until August. They fact remains, they haven't been able to win. But I'm definately not anti-Boston Red Sox.

[Mike: Ouch, you go girl!]

Chris Mullin- Cincinnati, OH: Earlier this week Mike Schmidt made some comments that he thought someting would happen (possibly reinstatement) with the Pete Rose situation soon after the end of this season. He made these comments after a meeting with Bud Selig that also included both yourself and Johnny Bench. Do you agree with Mike Schmidt's comments, and did you get the same impression from the meeting with the comissioner? Thanks!

First of all, the meeting that I attended was private. If Mike made those statements, you would have to ask him. I don't discuss private meetings with the public. If Bud wanted to let everyone know, we would have had the meeting in Grand Central Station. So I can't really talk about it.

[Mike: Don't mess with Joe. I have to say that Mike Schmidt is a childhood hero of mine and is still the yardstick I use to measure third baseman both offensively and defensively, but I have to say he's kind of a dingus. I have to respect Joe's approach. I also believe that it will serve Rose's interests more effectively.]

Mark South Orange, NJ: Joe, while everyone is talking about Pete Rose and the Hall of Fame, I think a bigger travesty is Marvin Miller's rejection by the aloof former players on the Veteran's Committee. Could you explain why Miller wasn't given overwhelming player support for induction? How could so many players ignore Miller's contribution to their huge fortunes and to the game itself? Do the players on the committee even realize he won't be eligle again until he is 90? It puzzles me that there isn't more outrage for this injustice.

I have been trying to figure that out myself since the voting took place. I was shocked and still in shock because I can't find a reason. I don't understand it at all. The problem is, everyone I talked to said they voted for him. I don't know what happend. I'm still shocked and have no answer. In fact, I was a little embarassed by the whole thing.

[Mike: I have new-found respect for Joe. He is a loyal sort.]

The Bad

Mike (St. Louis) : Joe I don't understand the argument that Albert PUjols is less valuablr because he doesnt have a "position". Isnt the ability to play all over the place (LF, 3B, 1B) a luxury to have especially in a superstar player. ANd isnt it worth more if that player is at least average on defense at all his positions(LF, 3B), if not stellar.(1B) I am just curios where the problem is with him not playing left field or first base every day is. No one knocks utility guys for being able to play all over the place, as a matter of fact, most baseball people say the versatitlty is what wins those guys jobs. So why is it different for a superstar player, especially in the NL with all the double switches etc. Thanks.

I guess the question is, who said he is less valuable? Pujols is very valuable. Obviously he doesn't mind playing all three positions. He told me that. As long as he doesn't mind and as long as it doesnt' affect his ability to hit, it's OK.

[Mike: Uh, Joe, "[W]ho said he is less valuable?" Um, you did last week: "Probably the only ching (chink?) in his armor is he doesn't have a natural, stable position. Most star players play one position and he is playing left and 1st and not much 3rd anymore." Sorry, I had to point that out.]

Bill -- Royal Oak, MI: Joe- I enjoy your analysis and insight but have an issue with your 'splitting' both AL and NL MVP honors on today. This isn't something silly like the Presidential election - this is the MVP. We need a clear winner. I want answers. 1 winner, each league, who do you pick. Thanks.

If it's my vote, I do what I want with it! ; ) The season is not over yet so we can't pick a winner. There are around 40 games left? There are all kinds of races that aren't decided yet. What if the guy we pick today goes on an 0-for-30 slump? What happens then? You never have a clear winner in August.

[Mike: So, Joe, why are you writing articles picking the MVP candidates? Doesn't that seem disingenuous? Don't you think that the media discussing candidates while the award is still a moving target leads to certain prejudices in the voters?]

Cal Buzz (Anchorage, AK): Mr. Morgan, after reading your article on the AL MVP, I have to argue that by your own standards, Bret Boone is clearly the MVP this year. Boone has bettered Giambi's numbers playing Gold Glove 2b! He shouldn't be penalized for playing on the same team as Ichiro. It looks like '96 all over again, where Arod lost the MVP because a Seattle sportswriter thought Griffey was the better player. Even if that was true, Arod's play that year was more valuable. Not only that, Boone is the leader in the clubhouse, way more than Arod or Griffey ever were. Boone is putting up Arod caliber offense and defense on a division leading team! Thanks for your time.

If you read my article, I said Boone should have won the last time Ichiro won. So I'm a fan of Boone. But he has been struggling lately and Ichiro was playing better. By the same token, the Yankees have won the most championships but no one has won an MVP. Why is that? Giambi clearly is the guy who has kept them on top this year. But like I just said, we have to wait for the season to end before we can crown a winner. One guy might have a slight lead, but it could all change. At the end of the year, I will have a clear cut winner in my mind.

[Mike: Cal Buzz? Are you related to the Salt Lake City Buzz?

The criteria to which Cal refers are from here, from Joe's AL MVP article:

"I view the MVP differently than most fans. I look at a player's contributions in the clubhouse and on the field, offensively and defensively ... the total package. Statistics and numbers tell you something, but intangibles are important too. Offensively, the most important element is run production -- the runs a player drives in and scores. Run production is more important than batting average or home runs.

As I said last week in my column and in my chat, I also believe you should factor in how the team of an MVP candidate fares. For instance, if MVP candidates are essentially equal, where their teams finish should be the tie-breaker. I would still vote for an MVP who plays on a mediocre team if there are no strong candidates on the division-winning teams. But if everything is equal, a team's standing has to be the tie-breaker."

If everything is based on runs scored and runs batted in, here are the top 10 in the AL in that combined stat (I won't even critique the stat as a means to evaluate players):

C Delgado99117216
V Wells97102199
A Rodriguez10195196
M Ramirez9990189
B Boone9198189
N Garciaparra10186187
J Giambi8394177
G Anderson67109176
R Palmeiro7891169
C Lee7792169

His next criterion is "how the team of an MVP candidate fares". Delgado, Wells, and A-Rod are on teams that are out of the playoff hunt. That leaves Ramirez and Boone tied for fourth in combined runs. Factoring in defense-Joe's "complete package"-you end up with Boone. So Cal is right there.

However, I don't think one can say that "Boone has bettered Giambi's numbers playing Gold Glove 2b!" Boone trails Giambi by 63 points in OPS, which comes from their on-base percentages (Boone has 49 walks to Giambi's 111). As far as Boone winning a Gold Glove, I think division-rival Mark Ellis will have some say there. He has played about the same number of innings at second base (actually about 50 fewer) but has accepted 83 more total chances. Boone did win the Gold Glove in 2002 (and does have fewer errors 3 to 11 than Ellis). By the way, here are all of the qualifying second basemen ranked by Zone Factor. Boone doesn't look like a strong candidate:

Orlando Hudson111107946.26162253811084.9845.76.820
Mark Ellis1251191052.16512673731173.9835.47.885
Adam Kennedy11096878484183297467.9924.92.852
Michael Young1291281129.1623252363896.9874.9.804
Alfonso Soriano1241241111.26142363621677.9744.84.807
Marlon Anderson10387799.14321502701277.9724.73.857
Todd Walker114110992.15321953241363.9764.71.791
Bret Boone1271271100.2568220345385.9954.62.825
Luis Rivas109106945.2461179273951.9804.3.777

But, I guess, to quote Nigel Tufnel, "That's nitpicking. Isn't it?"

Really, if you want a candidate from the middle infield, one who has been putting up superior numbers, then the ideal choice is A-Rod. But Joe won't go for that-no can do-because the Rangers are in the cellar. But with Boone's M's being again passed by the A's, if they don't qualify for the postseason, isn't Boone in the same boat as A-Rod? His team will just suffer a little longer before elimination.

I guess that's my problem with these criteria, they are so arbitrary. A player plays well down the stretch but his team doesn't make the playoffs. Does he still get credit for his performance in MVP voting? Just get rid of the award and go with player of the year. It'll be less controversial.

Oh, and as to who is doing better "lately", Ichiro or Boone. Boone is only batting .243 since the All-Star break, but leads Ichiro in OPS by 40 points. In August both have posted OPSs of .717 so far. If I had to pick an M's player by recent performance, I'd go with Edgar Martinez who has a .904 OPS since the break and .934 in August. Though, truth be told, the offense (along with their starting pitching) is a major reason why they are just 18-20 since the All-Star break. By the way, non-candidate Alex Rodriguez has a 1.208 OPS since the break, nearly 200 points more than the next AL batter.]

Shane (Dayton, OH): Hi Joe. I ask this question every week and never get it answered. What do you think the possibility is of the MLB getting both a salary cap and a salary floor. I hate the fact that at the beginning of each year, you can already eliminate one-third of the teams from the pennant races. I think MLB should model around the NFL. What do you think?

I think when you do a cap, you should automatically have a floor like they do in the NFL. As I've said a lot of times, if you have a cap, it will not be called a cap in baseball. That is a word that is impossible for the players to accept. Some owners are trying to cap their salaries now. In certain cases, that is there perorgative, to say they only want to spend $70M or $80M. It's a cap they put on themselves.

[Mike: Come back Shane? "At the beginning of each year, you can already eliminate one-third of the teams from the pennant races". You mean like the Royals and Marlins this year or the Twins last year? There are now 18 teams in the majors, by my count, that have a decent shot at a playoff spot, 7 in the AL and 11 in the NL. How can you say two-thirds were eliminated at the beginning of the season?

Again nitpicking, as far as salary caps, they have one now. It's a soft cap called luxury tax, and all but the Yankees fear its name. As far as a salary floor, it was proposed during the last CBA, but too many low-salaried teams wanted to pocket their luxury tax money (including Bud's old/current team, the Brewers). It may get discussed in the next CBA. However, given that the owners declared victory after the "small-market" (huh?) Angels won the World Series, so don't hold your breath.]

LAURENE BOLET, SAN FRANCISCO, CA: Why don't they create a team statistic for the Intentional Walk instead of sticking it to the poor pitcher's stats who didn't have any choice in the matter? It makes it look like his control is worse than it is.

I don't think that's a bad thought except when you are forced to walk someone, it usually is because you got yourself in that situation. I remember Sparky Anderson used to always make the pitcher who created the mess give the intentinal walk before he brought in the new pitcher. But it is a good thought. Sometimes it is a team problem. We probably should also have a team error.

[Mike: That's not always true. Say a pitcher gives up a one-out double leading 3-0. They are likely to walk the next batter to set up the double play. However, they wouldn't consider it unless the pitcher gave up the double. Sometimes a pitcher is forced to walk a batter because of damage already done by another pitcher, but given that a pitcher may give up a run after he has left the game because a reliever can't staunch the bleeding, I think it's only fair.

If you don't want to charge an IBB to a pitcher, don't give him the benefit of the double play either. What about unintentional intentional walks? Look, if you don't like using intentional walks in your analyses, just subtract them out before calculating.Too much trouble, that's why Joe basis all pitching analysis all the all-consuming Win.]

Brad NYC: Joe, Love you commentary and look forward to each and every chat. In your AL MVP article, you stated that Manny is the Sox most important player, but Nomar is the most valuable. Could you please clafify a bit. In my mind, Nomar is more valuable because he has the offensive production, runs the bases well, and plays a premium defensive position well.

I won't argue with your point. But the reason Manny is more important is he hits behind Nomar. If Nomar hit behind Manny, I don't think he would be as good as he is now.

[Mike: Joe was in charge of senior superlatives in his high school yearbook. Nixon is most perspicacious. Millar best dressed. Etc.]

Michael- Boston: How can you say Nomar wouldn't be as good? Did he not win two straight batting titles without Manny?

Yeah, but was he the most valuable player in the league? Remember, a batting title is just a personal thing. Run production is what makes you a great player, not a batting average. But Nomar is a great player ... don't misunderstand me.

[Mike: Ooh, Michael Bolton I love your music. What? Huh? Oh, never mind.

Nomar's best years were 1999-2000. They were the only times that he had an OPS in the top five in the league, or had an adjusted OPS in the top ten. This year his OPS ranks 12th in the AL and fourth on the Saux.]

The Ugly

Nomah, Bahwstuhn: How can "knows how to win" be quantified in a measureable statistic which shows how it is used and affects the game?

A guy who knows how to win has intangibles.. he will hit fly balls when he needs to, he knows what to do in every possible situations. There are guys that have a runner at third with one out and is still trying to hit a HR. A guy who knows how to win can execute in any situation. He thinks of the team first and his own stats second.

[Mike: Joe's back! Of course none of those things can possibly be quantified. This is just a way to sneak small ball into the conversation.

"[H]e will hit fly balls when he needs to...There are guys that have a runner at third with one out and is still trying to hit a HR."

What Joe is advocating is hitting a sac fly to score the runner. However, wouldn't be infinitely better for the batter to hit a home run in that situation? Maybe he shouldn't be aiming for the fences, but a homer scores two and saves an out. Joe is correct that a strikeout when a player's trying to clobber the snot out of the ball is infinitely worse than a sac fly in that situation. But aren't there a number of other issues involved? Is the team leading or behind? Is it late or early in the game? Is the pitcher laboring? Who is up next? Are you home or away? Who invented liquid soap and why?

Of course there are a myriad of factors. There are things that players do that don't show up in the box score (like moving a runner into scoring position in a late/close game). The stats we have are not perfect. But that is why we try to delve beyond batting average, home runs, and RBI.

Thanks for validating sabermetrics, Joe!]

Lance Oliver (KC): Why is the spitball, and scuffing baseballs illegal. I think it adds more flavor to the game.

There has been an argument for that. Originally it was done because of the danger to the hitter. Spitballs are very hard to control and can sail up into a guy's head. It's the same reason we don't have corked bats.

[Mike: Corked bats sail up into guys' heads!?! That darn Sammy Sosa was likely to kill somebody with that unauthorized weapon. And Graig "The Terminator" Nettles was looking to murderize some palooka with that Super Ball bat back in the day.

Seriously, the pitches were made illegal because the powers that be though that they gave the pitcher an unfair advantage. It's the same as the balk rule or allowing walks after four balls. The pitcher controls so much of the game, and the development of the sport can be viewed as an incremental dissolution of the pitcher's power.

By the way, the old saw that Carl Mays fatally hitting Ray Chapman causing the spitter to be outlawed just aint true. The Spitter had been repealed prior to the 1920 season. Chapman's death did change the number and the quality of the balls used in games. In The Glory of Their Times,Fred Snodgrass says, "We hardly ever saw a new baseball, a clean one. If the ball went into the stands and the ushers couldn't get it back from the spectators, only then would the umpire throw out a new one." That changed and helped bring about the offensive explosion of the Twenties.]

Jackie Haswell, Tifton, Ga: What do you think about the chicken making his return in San Deigo. What is one of your most memorble laughs at a team mascot?

I think The Chicken coming back is great. He was fantastic. I like The Chicken. My most memorable moment with The Chicken was when he would box with the umpire and finally the umpire would knock him out. The Phillie Phanatic was great also.

[Mike: Joe continued, "But that darned Youppi, may he burn in the fires of Hell!...." His voice trailed off, his eyes widened, and his breathing became erratic. The had to end the session.

Really, the Chicken boxed an ump? And the ump knocked him out?!? (Ha. Ha.) That's great. Only the Chicken could come up with that. That reminds me of that episode of Gilligan's island when they almost got off the island but Gilligan screwed it up. Or that episode of Bewitched when Sam used her powers and Darin got angry. Or that episode of Three's Company that was full of double entendres. Oh, good times! That was awesome!]

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