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The Joe Morgan Chat Day The Music Died
2003-07-21 10:13
by Mike Carminati

Marty DiBergi: Do you feel that playing rock 'n' roll music keeps you a child? That is, keeps you in a state of arrested development?

Derek Smalls: No. No. No. I feel it's like, it's more like going, going to a, a national park or something. And there's, you know, they preserve the moose. And that's, that's my childhood up there on stage. That moose, you know.

Marty DiBergi: So when you're playing you feel like a preserved moose on stage?

Derek Smalls: Yeah.

- From This Is Spinal Tap

We here at Mike's Baseball Rants love the Joe Morgan but we love the Joe Morgan Chat Days even more. But then again, who couldn't after last week's sublimely ridiculous offering? Joe's handlers must have adjusted his medication this week though-for the first time in recent memory I have nothing to put in "The Ugly" category, But don't fret gentle reader, there is always plenty to enjoy in a Joe chat (as opposed to a Joe Pa).

This week I have come to the conclusion that, just like Album-Oriented Rock (or AOR) cum Classic Rock, Joe is Derek Smalls' "preserved moose". Open the music section of your local paper and you will see that bands that you thought had broken up years ago are still touring like mad. My musical youth is still paraded up on stage by performers who are reluctant to pass the dutchy to the under-40 whippersnappers.

There were always those Spinal Tap-inspired "Black Sabbath featuring Tony Iommi"-type bands, that is with only one surviving member going for the cash. Somewhere the Temptations are still performing. This reminds me of a story that juggler/comic Michael Davis used to tell before juggling an axe. "This axe once belonged to George Washington," he began. "I replaced the head and the handle. But it occupies the same space."

But now reunion tours abound as well. "Welcome back to the Age of Jive". The Eagles have had more farewells than Barbra Steisand. You can hear "Mr. Roboto" performed by some semblance of Styx. Styx lead singer and pianist Dennis DeYoung actually wrote a song for the All-Star game that either did not make the broadcast or I blinked and missed it (or more likely I winced after the fiasco that was the "League of Extraordinary Gentleman" opening and the woodenly mannequin Jeannie So-at-last-go, or whatever her name is).

The Who continue to play as some sort of tontine with the last surviving member inheriting their empire. So much for "I hope I die before I get old." Oddly and in sharp contrast to the Who, the Stones, remain intact though Keith Richards' desiccated mug would give Freddy Krueger nightmares. I recently caught a performance by them on HBO and couldn't help thinking of the skeleton band in that Grateful Dead video. And boy is it depressing to think that I can remember when Stevie Nicks was a sultry belladonna.

So too is Joe resting on his MOR laurels as a broadcaster. Joe was once the greatest second baseman of the latter half of the twentieth century. Well, he is still is, but it's hard to tell by the tripe he dishes out on a regular basis during his game broadcasts and in his propagandistic pontifications on ESPN online. Joe has even taking to denying his misstatements of late proving that no one could accept such pap when presented impersonally. Now, watch me paste this pathetic palooka with a powerful pachydermous pitch.

The Good

Utek (LA): Hi Joe. I've got a question about second basemen for you. Traditionally, the only position on the infield that left-handed throwers are allowed to play (besides pitcher) is first base. But I contend that a left-handed throwing second baseman would be an asset, because arguably a second baseman's most important throw---and the one he has to get off the quickest---is to second base, on double plays and force outs. A lefty wouldn't have to pivot to make these throws. So Joe, as a left-handed hitting Hall of Fame second baseman yourself, do you think we'll ever see a left-handed throwing second baseman in the major leagues?

No, because you throw more throws to first base than second base. No, you will not see a left-handed second baseman in major league baseball.

[Mike: Joe knows second basemen. Playing a lefty at second became untenable by the late 1870s. The last left-hander to play more than one or two games at second was Prince Hal Chase in 1916, regularly a first baseman. Chase played 35 at second in his career (he also played three at short and one at third!). The last left-hander to play even a game at second was first sacker Don Mattingly in 1983, his rookie year, though nothing was hit his way (Mattingly also played three games at third). The last left-handed starting second baseman was Bill Greenwood for the American Association Rochester Broncos in 1890 (123 games at second in their 126-game season).

Here is a chart of the years in which a left-hander played second and the resulting stats compared to the overall stats for second basemen in the year:


You'll notice that the most enticing thing was that relay to second for a force out or to start a double play. The A PCT% indicates this. It is based on the ratio of assists to total chances for lefties as a percentage of all second basemen. They remain very high, mostly higher than the average second baseman (i.e., over 100%-it is hard to tell though as the sample size shrinks). Double Play percentages are likewise pretty good: given that a lefty second baseman's relay to first would be slowed greatly, the fact that the DP% numbers are as high as they are represents a big advantage with second basemen starting a double play.

So managers still tinkered with lefty second basemen to get the advantage of the throw to the shortstop/third baseman to get a lead runner or to start a double play. However Hal Chase seemed to spell the death knell. Even though he handled many more chances per game than an average second baseman-he was known as very good fielder at first-and his fielding percentage was respectable, he started fewer double plays and doled out fewer assists. Maybe the thinking was if a good fielder like Chase could no longer give you the advantage of a throw to the left side of the diamond, then there's really no point in trying a left-hander at second.

I would think this is just part of the evolution of the position. Right-handed second basemen improved the technique to the point that being able to throw more easily to the left side of the infield as a lefty was no longer a real advantage. But whatever the case, I agree with Joe that the left-handed second baseman as a viable option is deader than a doornail (though like Charles Dickens I agree that a coffin nail would be a more apropos metaphor).]

The Bad

Lyle Goleta, Ca: Pete Rose was great, but he never was extremely great. Do you think he is even good enough to really be thought of as one of the elite baseball players of all time and one of the neccesitites to be in the hall of fame?

Yes, I think that Pete Rose's numbers and everything else he did on the field puts him in an elite class of baseball players and his numbers are good enough for the Hall of Fame.

[Mike: A) The Hall aint that elite-thanks, Frankie Frisch! B) Give the man his due. I wouldn't rank him up with Ruth, Mays, and Bonds, but Rose is the all-time Hit King after all. The man has the apparel to prove-like the ubiquitous script-L's on Laverne Difozio's blouses, the man embroiders Hit King into every piece of clothing he owns. Besides what does "extremely great" even mean? ]

John Currie, Minnesota: Exactly how good will the Twins be for the rest of the season and do they have enough to make it to the playoffs.

Well they basically have the same team they had last year and they made the playoffs. I think other teams improved. They have a chance, but it's going to be very difficult for them to make the playoffs.

[Mike: Make the playoffs? How about breaking .500. They looked good this past week in sweeping the A's, but this team did go from 31-20 to 44-49.

But, Joe, this is not basically the same team as last year. Gone are David Ortiz, perhaps their best power hitter, and Bobby Kielty, who looked like one of their best young players last year, to be replaced by Shannon Stewart, who brings speed to a lineup that already features Luis Rivas, Torii Hunter, and Cristian Guzman. Also, I don't anyone would agree that Kenny Rogers replacing Eric Milton has been a smooth transition.

Besides, last year's team played well over its head if their expected record from the Pythagorean formula is any indication. One would have expected the Twins to be eight games worse in 2002 based on the runs that they scored and they allowed. This was a team with a five-year plan when Gardenhire took over. They got a bit lucky in year one with a weak division and a team that gelled quickly. A slight return to earth is not unexpected. The one concern may be that in their rush to duplicate 2002, they may give up on the five-year plan and start to Shannon Stewart their future away.]

Josh Calgary Alberta: We all saw Wells Delgado and Halladay represent Toronto in the allstar game. I feel its a team with a lot of young talent and want to know who else you see as becoming allstars from that system.

Well it's hard to predict what young players will do. If players continue to improve they obviously have a chance at being an All-Star, but players have to continue to improve to reach their full potential before they become All-Stars.

[Mike: To quote Billy Ray Valentine, "Thanks, you've been halpful."

The Blue Jays have a bunch of young position players that showed promise in 2002 and appeared to be knocking on the doorstep of the All-Star game, to mix metaphors. That includes Orlando Hudson, Chris Woodward, Eric Hinske, and Josh Phelps, all of whom have taken a step back so far in 2003. They picked up a similarly underachieving youngster in Bobby Kielty. They all looked capable of being future All-Stars last year. We'll have to see if they bounce back.

It is remarkable that the Jays are in a pennant race, at least as wild card, and a number of their young players are underperforming and their staff is a wasteland behind Roy Halladay. Carlos Delgado may deserve the MVP on that statement alone.]

John (Branford, CT): Joe three ?'s about the Yanks for you, first how will Benitez handle the setup role for MO, Will Soriano reach 40/40 this year and lastly will Clemens get any votes for AL Cy Young

I think that Benitez will handle the set-up role perfectly because it will take a lot of pressure off of him in New York from being a closer. Soriano has an excellent chance of reaching the 40/40 club, last year he came up one short and he seems to be on track this year. And you can't predict the amount of votes a person gets until you see how many wins he ends up with.

[Mike: People forget that Benitez was a setup man in Baltimore for years. He allowed only 49 hits and struck out 106 in 73.1 innings in 1997. He was also the setup up man in his first half-year with the Metsgoes until John Franco went down. He is a highly-talented head case who walks too many and gives up the gopher ball. That's why he is a much more effective setup man than closer. I don't think it has anything to do with pressure. He just doesn't have the specific talents (few walks and fewer home runs allowed) to be a closer. He's much more effective pitching more innings, in which his minor peccadilloes are mitigated and his strikeouts pile up with the innings.

Soriano is projected to be a 40-40-40 man, exactly 40 HRs, 42 stolen bases, and 43 walks. However, his numbers did drop off considerably in 2002 so it's by no means a lock.

Last year, the top four starters in each league received Cy Young votes. Clemens is fourteenth in the AL in wins, fifteenth in ERA, and first in strikeouts. He may be third in line on his own team. If he continues this way for the year, the only votes he will get will be sympathy ones.]

Steve, Watford, UK: Joe - A few months ago I asked you about the lack of African-American pitchers then on cue Dontrelle Willis and Jerome Williams emerged (we only get Sunday & Wednesday baseball so I've only seen Williams). Do you see these guys having long careers as they are pretty young for ML pitchers and if so could they possibly become role models?

Well I think they are already role models because other African-American kids see them. Automatically when they see them in the big leagues, they become role models to everyone, not just African-Americans when you see them pitching in the major leagues. As far as injuries, they are like all the other pitchers, they have to stay healthy. If they are healthy they will be good pitchers for a long period of time.

[Mike: I don't know, Steve. Are they good Christian boys? I personally agree with Sir Charles Barkley who said that he is not a role model; parents are role models.

That said, Both have great minor league numbers. Actually I like Williams' a little better. But you never know what will happen with young pitchers even without a major injury. From Steve Stone to Esteben Loaiza, you can't predict a pitcher's performance. Let's allow them to pitch to a few teams a couple of times and they'll we'll know if the hitters adjust to them. Willis did get rocked his second time in two weeks against the Cubbies.]

Matt (Cheshire, CT): Hello Mr. Morgan. As a Dodger fan, I am happy that the team aquired Jeromy Burnitz, and somewhat happy that they went after Henderson. However, I am afraid that those additions will not be nearly enough to push the Dodgers into the playoffs. Do you agree that the only way for the Dodgers to catch the Giants and Diamondbacks is if Shawn Green starts hitting like Shawn Green?

I agree that the Dodgers needed to do something to improve their offense. I think Rickey and Burnitz were good additions. But for them to catch the Giants, players that are already there will have to perform better and that included Shawn Green.

[Mike: The main problem with acquiring both Burnitz and Henderson is that they will play the same position, left field. Neither plays center well enough, Bobby V's opinions notwithstanding, to warrant playing them there on a low-scoring team, and Shawn Green is a fixture in right.

Besides Green is having a down year, but he has not been awful and has always been a streaky hitter. The Dodgers' problem is that they don't have the talent. Dave Roberts, Adrian Beltre, Alex Cora, and especially Cesar Izturis don't hit nearly enough to merit being major-league starters and they have not hit well in recent memory (Beltre was pretty good in 2000 and Cora did well in limited service last year). Cora and Izturis are third and fourth last in the majors in OPS among batters who qualify for the batting title. Ouch!]

Matt (Woodside, DE): Joe..What do you think of Marlon Byrd?

I think he's a good player, but like all young players, needs to continue to improve.

[Mike: Yeah, Joe's standard answer for young ballplayers. He would even answer that way for Albert Pujols.

What do I think? First, he's a good role model. Second, he's performed much better of late especially as the leadoff man. In the minors he has a good understanding of the strike zone, decent power, and decent speed. He hasn't walked much this year but still has a .370 OBP. He has only three dingers and a slugging average slightly over .400 this year. So you could say that he has room for improvement. He should be a pretty good center fielder. We'll have to see.]

Chris (Raleigh): What pitchers do you think will really start to catch fire in the second half?

Schilling and Johnson have thrown fewer innings, so they should be fresher. But I think pitchers who have had a good frist half should have a good second half.

[Mike: Great answer, Joe! But no fair cheating.

OK, if course you have Schilling and Johnson. I like Rich Harden in Oakland. Pitchers are impossible to predict, so let's see who is having a big July and has been overlooked of late.

San Diego's Adam Eaton is 3-0 with a 0.90 ERA in July. Jose Lima and Darrell May both won four with sub 2.00 ERAs for the Royals. Others: Kevin Jarvis in San Diego, Pirate Jeff Suppan, Expo Livan Hernandez, O's Sidney Ponson, the Giants Jim Brower, Buehrle, Pineiero, Myers, Jerome Williams, Simontacchi, and Brandon Webb.

For relievers, Rod Beck in San Diego, Jason Isringhausen in St. Louis, and Kim in Boston have been strong of late.]

Doug ( Detroit): Do u think the Tigers have the beginning of a good young staff?

I think they have the beginning of a good young staff because they show a lot of mental toughness to be able to battle through a lot of losses and continue to pitch well.

[Mike: I guess it all depends on your definition of "beginnings". The Tigers starters are not terrible at least. They rank 22nd in the majors in ERA in the majors, 19th in WHIP, 19th in opposition's OPS, thirteenth in home runs allowed per nine innings, last in strikeouts per nine innings (4.34), and 26th in strikeouts-to-walks ratio. They could be in the chrysalis phase like the Braves around 1990, but then again they might not have a decent pitcher in the lot.]

jared (st. louis): Hey Joe, I recently heard Tim McCarver on FOX say he thought Scott Rolen was the best defensive 3rd baseman he had ever seen. Who would you say deserves that recognition? Schmidt?

Maybe when McCarver saw Rolen, he may have been the best he ever saw, but the best I have ever seen are Mike Schmidt or Brooks Robinson.

[Mike: Hey Jared, how's that Subway gig going?

Bill James in Win Shares gives Rolen a B+ defensive rating as a third baseman. This only covers up until 2000, and looking at Rolen's range factor since, I looks like he may have gotten even better. In 2002 he had a 3.10 range factor, his highest total yet far. He was also involved in 41 double plays, again a career high. Two of his four Gold Gloves came after 2000. So let's assume he has improved to, say, A-.

James lists the following third basemen with an A+ rating by era:

Early 3B: Jimmy Collins, Lave Cross, Art Devlin, Tommy Leach, and Lee Tannehill
Depression Era 3B: None (Billl Werber is the highest-rated with an A-)
Post-War 3B: Clete Boyer

In post-war period, there are just two other men who register an A rating, Schmidt and Tim Wallach. Robinson scores an A- (one of 10, the others: Buddy Bell, Scott Brosius, Billy Cox, Darrell Evans, Gary Gaetti, Wayne Garrett, Graig Nettles, Terry Pendleton, and Robin Ventura-not a bad group)

I saw both Schmidt and Rolen play and even though it's hard to compare players who were ten years apart, I still think Schmidt was better. I also thought Schmidt was better than Brooks Robinson, though Robinson gets all the press. I never saw Clete Boyer play though and am willing to accept that he was better than Schmidt (he had a 3.26 range factor, Schmidt 3.00, Rolen 2.83, and Robinson 3.10-of course those are different eras).]

Andrew (NYC): WIth Randy Johnson coming back and Curt Shilling back and pitching like he did last night, can they overtake the Giants for the N.L west lead?

With Randy and Curt, they do have a chance of overtaking the Giants. We haven't seen Randy pitch yet, he got knocked around in the minor leagues the other day.

[Mike: Good Joe, so they are not yet mathematically eliminated.

With Schilling and Johnson heading a staff that includes Brandon Webb (2.45 ERA) and Miguel Batista (2.77) and Jose Valverde heading a good bullpen, the D-Backs look like a solid pick to capsize the Giants in the second half.

However, when you look at the way that they have overachieved on offense, it makes you wonder. Veterans (Moeller, Counsell, Baerga, Hillenbrand-1.048 OPS since joining the D-Backs-, etc.) and youngsters (Alex Cintron, Matt Kata, and Robby Hammock) alike have exceeded expectations. Throw in the fact that the D-Backs have overhauled three fourths of their infield this year (all but Junior Spivey at second), and an offensive comeuppance may be due.

Then again the Giants are playing five games better than expected and the D-Backs, one game worse. So instead of being seven games back, one would expect from their run differentials that Arizona would only be one game back. This is a lot closer than people realize.]

John ,Toledo,Oh: Hi Joe,if Rose gets in the HOF,should Shoeless Joe get in also?

I think you have to take each case one at a time.

[Mike: The answer is an emphatic no. A) Joe Jackson was accused of throwing ballgames. No one accuses Rose of ever throwing a game nor betting against the Reds. B) Those ballgames were in the World Series. C) Joe Jackson signed an admission to having thrown games. Rose claims never to have bet on a baseball game, let alone a game he was a part of. D) Jackson violated rule 21(a), not 21(f) like Rose.

Rule 21 (a) MISCONDUCT IN PLAYING BASEBALL. Any player or person connected with a club who shall promise or agree to lose, or to attempt to lose, or to fail to give his best efforts towards the winning of any baseball game with which he is or may be in any way concerned; or who shall intentionally fail to give his best efforts towards the winning of any such baseball game, or who shall solicit or attempt to induce any player or person connected with a club to lose, or attempt to lose, or to fail to give his best efforts towards the winning of any baseball game with which such other player or person is or may be in any way connected; or who, being solicited by any person, shall fail to inform his Major League President and the Commissioner.

Rule 21 (f) OTHER MISCONDUCT. Nothing herein contained shall be construed as exclusively defining or otherwise limiting acts, transactions, practices or conduct not to be in the best interests of Baseball; and any and all other acts, transactions, practices or conduct not to be in the best interests of Baseball are prohibited and shall be subject to such penalties, including permanent ineligibility, as the facts in the particular case may warrant.

It's odd that everyone uses Rule 21 (d) for all of the banned players but it does not apply to either man here:

Rule 21 (d) BETTING ON BALL GAMES. Any player, umpire, or club official or employee, who shall bet any sum whatsoever upon any baseball game in connection with which the bettor has no duty to perform shall be declared ineligible for one year.

Any player, umpire, or club or league official or employee, who shall bet any sum whatsoever upon any baseball game in connection with which the bettor has a duty to perform shall be declared permanently ineligible.


Brad (Seattle): What does Seattle need to put themselves over the top in the A.L.?

I think Seattle just needs to continue to play well, they have a good offense, a great pitching staff, and a great defense, so they just have to continue to perform.

[Mike: Brad, check the standings. The Mariners are four games up on the A's.

However, the M's could only improve if they could divest themselves of Jeff Cirillo, his salary, and his .570 OPS. Transitioning time from Dan Wilson to Ben Davis should help as well.]

matt (d.c.): Hi Joe! I dont know if you get to see the Cardinals all that much or not, but we really need a starting pitcher! Do you know of anyone out there that would be a good fit? Thanks!

The problem is that a lot of teams need starting pitching, but knowing who is available is key and I'm not sure who is available.

[Mike: How about Chuck Finley? I hear he's free? Just kidding of course. Though he pitched pretty well for them in the second half last year. Besides him you have Sidney Ponson (if the O's can't get him signed), the Pirates' Jeff Suppan, the Expos' Livan Hernandez (when and if they fall out of contention), and the Padres' Kevin Jarvis, to name a few.

Nolan Bas, New Jersey: Do you really think the Cubs are a contender in the National League Central? What are their chances of trading for Lofton and Ramirez from Pittsburgh?

The Cubs are contenders because they have a good pitching staff, but they need offense. Ramirez and Loften would both help them, but I don't know what their chances of getting them are.

[Mike: No, the Cubs are contenders because they are in a weak division. The Cubs are only 3.5 games out and could win the division, though a wild card run seems unlikely.

They just lost Prior and have Patterson out. Jose Hernandez has been a bust so far at third. The same goes for the catcher Miller and Tom Goodwin, filling in in center. Also Choi has been atrocious since his unfortunate injury. Lofton would probably be a decent fill-in for Patterson and Ramirez is probably a better long-term solution at third if that's what they are looking for. But this team is springing more holes than the Titanic. If Prior is out for an extended period, I doubt Wood and Zmbrano can carry the staff alone.]

Gerard (North Brunswick): Joe, Does ANYONE outside of Queens and Boston think the Benitez deal was a good one? Just wait until the first time Torre brings in Mariano with no out in the 8th because Benitez walked the bases loaded. I take Jason Anderson pitching LEFT-handed over Clubhouse Poison.

The Yankees usually make the decisions and I think they made a good one this time as well.

[Mike: Lots of teams "make the decisions", but this, as I showed before, was a good one. Gerard, stop listening to Mike and the Mad Dog and take at the man's stats. There are weaknesses (the walks and home runs), but Benitez is a talented pitcher who should be able to help someone. Besides if Benitez falters in the eighth, don't you think that the Yankees will go to Hammond, Osuna, or Micelli rather than disrupt their closer's routine?

Oh, and Jason Anderson had a 4.79 ERA when the Yankees traded him. Benitez has a 3.04 ERA for his career and hasn't had an ERA as high as Anderson's since his rookie year. As a Mets fan, you certainly would take Anderson over Benitez. That's why your Mets are where they are. Anderson was shuttled through th Yankees organization that it's hard to tell how good he is. He started the year in 2002 at Single-A and his 4.07 ERA was ignored because of his high strikeout total, so onward and upward. Then again, if you owned the Mets, why not take a shot at Anderson who has the velocity and had good strikeout-to-walks and strikeouts-per-nine-innings ratios in the minors. According to their old co-owner, the Mets are no better than a Double-A team anyway. However, if the Mets were in a pennant race, there's no way they would consider the deal.]

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