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They Say It's Your Birth-Joe-Morgan-Chat-Day! Happy Birth-Joe-Morgan-Chat-Day To You!
2003-07-14 01:03
by Mike Carminati

The return of my birthday, if I remember it, fills me with thoughts which it seems to be the general care of humanity to escape.

- Doctor "K" Samuel Johnson

We here at Mike's Baseball Rants just celebrated our one-year "birthday" on Friday, coincidentally the day of Joe Morgan's last chat session. Well, maybe not so coincidentally.

Joe Morgan's baseball career has been like a birthday: When you are younger, there is so much to look forward to. Life is so full of promise. You start to fulfill that promise-Joe was the greatest second baseman of the last half-century after all-and then around your mid-30s, you anticipate those birthdays less and less, but they seem to come quicker and quicker. Joe was an every-day player for two decades, but he now seems to be ubiquitous with a telecast or two a week and an odd (very odd) article or chat each week.

By forty (I hear), you dread your next birthday, your youth-and baseball career-are done, and you become an embittered, calcified, persnickety person who not only knows things were better when he was young; he must tell the world that it's so.

In other words...

I am here and ready to go!

The Good

Mark (Kansas City): Is Dusty right? Do black players play better in the hot summer months than white players?

I'm not a scientist. I haven't kept any stats. I have no idea.

[Mike: Joe, that's the most intelligent thing you've said all year. You are a baseball analyst and at least know enough to contain your comments to baseball-related issues. You are not a geneticist.

Dusty Baker thinks he is one when he does not know enough to keep his three-year-old son away from home plate when he is about to get pummeled.

By the way Scott Gray points out:

That's a superb typo (missing word, whatever)! My new favorite insult: You are a baseball!
"You are a baseball and at least know enough to contain your comments to baseball-related issues."

My bad. That should have been "baseball analyst".]

Gerard (NYC): Joe, Don't you think Randall Simon has suffered enough? I mean, he plays for the Pirates. If I were him, I would have switched the uniform for the costume and run off.

(Laughing) It just wasn't a smart thing to do! There wasn't any violent intent or anything. But it wasn't a smart thing to do.

[Mike: I have to defer to Joe here: he's an expert in this area.]

The Bad

Geoff (Copper Canyon, TX): Why has Randall Simon tapping a sausage gotten more attention than a fan throwing an M-80 out of the upper deck in Oakland?

It's because Randall is a celebrity and the guy that threw the firecracker isn't. The media pays more attention to what a player does. We love negative things though. Anytime a player is involved, it just makes it more exciting to the media.

[Mike: No, because it was high-larious, especially the appalling Brewers management being appalled by the incident.]

Tommy (NY): Hey Joe, Do you think Pujols has a realistic shot at .400 or the Triple Crown?

He doesn't have a shot at .400. That would be almost impossible for a right-hander. I don't think we will ever see that again. Also I don't think we will see a 56-game hit streak. Everyone wants to hit HRs now. It's hard to hit .400 while hitting HRs. Also with so many pitching changes, hitting in 56 in a row would be almost impossible. Especially for a right hander, there are too many dominant right handed pitchers.

As for the Triple Crown, will Barry Bonds quit in the middle of the season? If he keeps playing, it will be tough for Pujols. It's so difficult, that's why you only see it every 50 years or so.

[Mike: First, you don't see a triple crown every fifty years. There had been 7 in the NL by 1937 and none since. There have been 9 in the AL, none since 1967 (Yaz), but one the year before (Frank Robinson). It's not a "one per" type of situation. It just stopped. One could blame expanded player pools with more men in the chase for various statistical titles, but that doesn't explain why the last was thirty years earlier in the NL.

Stephen Jay Gould discusses the death of the .400 hitter in Full House: The Spread of Excellence from Plato to Darwin. As the average talent within the baseball world improves, the extremes (e.g., .400 hitters, triple crowns) start to disappear. This seems the best theory.

However, back to Pujols. He is batting .368 and his batting average has improved an average of 26 points in the second half throughout his career. That would put him, in theory, at .394 for the second half and around .381 for the year. To hit .400, he would have to hit around .432 for the second half. That seems highly improbable, left-hander or right-hander.

As far as the Triple Crown, not only will Barry Bonds refuse to "quit in the middle of the season", Pujols trails Bonds, Edmonds, and Lowell in home runs and Preston Wilson in RBI (by 5). He leads Todd Helton by almost 20 in batting, but Helton does have the Coors home-field advantage.

As far as 56-game hitting streaks, I have no idea where Joe got that issue. It was not in the original question, and for a man who never answers the questions posed to him, it's odd that Joe feels compelled to add to his burden. Well, I guess it's so that he can plant acorns like "Everyone wants to hit HRs now" in his chats.]

eddie, atlanta: How can Dusty Baker get away with such racial comments without getting much media scrutiny, while if a white person or any other race would not be allowed to get away with making such statements in this "politically correct" society.

I thought he did get some scrutiny. He did take some heat for it. Otherwise you wouldn't know about it.

[Mike: He got far less scrutiny than Randall Simon did for being a goofball. Why? Because the mostly white media is afraid of calling an African-American a racist. I know I am, and if you notice I didn't say it just now.]

Koby (Boca, FL.): Mr. Morgan, who do you think the NL MVP is for the first half of the season?

Very difficult choice. Albert Pujols would be the logical choice but the Cardinals are struggling around .500. Sheffield and the Braves have the best record I believe. I think it's between those two. It's up to your philosophy as to who you would give it to.

[Mike: Brilliant! Without Pujols the Cardinals would be sharing fourth place with the Pirates. Without Sheffiled, the Braves would be only 5 games up on the Phils. Why not just rename it the PPTWBS (Player on a Playoff Team with the Best Stats) and be done with it?]

Scott (KC): What do you see as the most likely scenario for the Royals and Beltran as the trade deadline approaches?

I have no idea about K.C. I hear they want to add players and then I also hear they don't. We really just have to wait and see.

[Mike: Well of course-you're not the Great Kreskin. You can't tell the future. You're an analyst. So analyze already.

If the Royals trade Beltran before the trade deadline, the Royals fans should desert them en masse. Even if the Royals fade, they should still be in the race by the waiver deadline. So unless the Royals are moving to a new home or wish to emulate the mid-Nineties Expos, they have to keep Beltran. And Bud Selig should not allow them to trade Beltran or any other key member of that team a la Bowie Kuhn barring the A's from gutting their team in 1976.]

tim(chicago, il): i take my hat off to pedro for pitching both jeter and soriano inside the other day. Soriano's left elbow is over the plate!!!!!!no one talks about this. why dont mroe pitchers throw inside against him?

Both Jeter and Soriano stand close to the plate. Jeter dives into the plate. The reason more pitchers don't do it, it may appear they are throwing at guys and they don't want to get kicked out of the game. The game has changed that way. A lot of guys pitched inside years ago. Only a few do it now. The hitting styles have changed as well. A lot of hitters are diving into the plate .. going outside to get the ball.

[Mike: Actually, I've shown in the past that this is pure malarkey: pitchers hit more batters today than ever. The problem was that the strike zone flattened and moved to the outside corner. If you a pitcher and could get a call six inches off the outside corner, would you ever come inside? Batters seized upon this and destroyed the batter's box in order to stand on top of home to get the outside pitches. Mistakes on inside pitches, when they are thrown, tended to find players bodies, or at least body armor, more often.

Baseball is trying to re-establish the rulebook strike zone. It must now establish the rulebook batter's box. They go hand in hand. With batters still standing on home and a new strike zone being called, it's no wonder that there have been so many brawls after a hit batsman this year.

As far as why other pitchers don't throw inside to Soriano, it's probably a) the now-ingrained "pitch outside not inside" approach, b) pitchers are human and don't want to plunk anyone when they can avoid it, and c) if you hit him, it's as good as a single or maybe even a double if he steals second.

By the way, how effective was Pedro-Soriano swung at the ball that hit him. It sounds that it was more a matter of Soriano swinging at anything he can or cannot reach. And throwing pitches where Soriano can't hurt you but where he can't lay off is not a new notion. The man is a tremendous bad ball hitter. I guess no one can do much with a ball that hits you on the hands, however.]

Joe (Pittsburgh): What are your thoughts on the Pirates' chances of making a run in the NL Central? They seem to be heating up, and have managed to stay within striking distance in the standings. They have also played some descent ball against the 'Stros and Cardianals. Thanks Joe!

Their manager Lloyd McLendon said a while back they are a good team that just needs to play together. They have done that at times but they need to be more consistent. To pass other NL Central teams, they need 3 consistent weeks in a row.

[Mike: "Three consistent weeks"? They are nine games under .500. Three consistent weeks gets them to .500, maybe. They need three great weeks and for the rest of the league to go belly up.]

Brice (Ducktown, TN): What can the Expos do to stay in the wild card race?

They tried to get another bat with Guerrero out for so long but they can't get anyone to come to Montreal. They are in a tough situation. It will be hard to add a good hitter without adding payroll. I'm just not sure where they will find the hitter they need.

[Mike: What can they do? How about win?

I'm sick and tired of Joe bemoaning the Expos' loss of Gonzalez. He was the exception, not the rule. Last year, they got Cliff Floyd and Bartolo Colon mid-year.

Besides for the past year teams have been eating most if not all of the contract of players they are trading just to rid themselves of the players' presence. So I'm not sure payroll will be that large an issue.

Their problem is not the loss of Guerrero so much as the presence of Endy Chavez. Calloway and Macias are playing acceptably for fill-ins, but with Chavez' offense (plus that of Fernando Tatis for much of the year) the Expos have too many holes.]

Greg, NYC: Where is Pujols long term position? If he were in the AL would he just be a DH?

I think he has too much to offer to be a DH. He has made great plays at all his positions but I think 1B is his best position and would allow his maturation as a hitter.

[Mike: I don't think it's a matter of blocking his maturation as a hitter, the fact is that the Cardinals have Scott Rolen at third and Tino Martinez at first. That means he plays left field. He has a better than average range at third, but he's no Rolen. The same goes with Martinez at first. Unless the Cardinals are prepared to start Orlando Palmeiro in left, that's where Pujols should and will play.]

e chicago,il: where have the fundementials gone?

I agree 100 percent. A lot of it has to do with players coming in too early. They don't learn to run the bases properly, where to throw the ball, etc. If you don't have the fundamentals, it shows. We have seen some horrible baserunning this year, guys otherthrowing cut off men, etc. We are force feeding guys into MLB before they are ready.

[Mike: The "fundementials"? They died along with your spelling skills.

By the way, the notion that players are younger and more inexperienced today is pure hogwash. There have been numerous studies on this topic. Here's a quicky table with the average debut age per decade:

DecadeDebut Age

Players debut later today than any decade since the Forties and that may be skewed due to the war-time player shortages. By the way, the Sixties, when Joe debuted, was the quickest to promote since the 1880s.

He could argue that training is worse than decades ago, but I would think he wouldn't be able to back it up. Why do the "fundementials" appear worse today? Maybe because every gaffe is viewed ad nauseum on SportsCenter, not to mention jumbo-tron at the game in between innings.]

Abhay (Ephrata, PA): Hey Joe, I noticed that teams are pitching more and more to Barry rather than walking him. What's your take on this? Thanks

A lot of times what you are seeing is Barry getting pitches when the Giants are way behind. I agree he is getting more pitches to hit, but it's usually when the pitchers HAVE to pitch to him.

[Mike: The Giants have a better record 57-37 (by three games) than they did through 94 games last year. How often have they been way behind?

The problem is that Barry Bonds has been predominantly batting fourth with Rich Aurilia (.276 OBP as #3 hitter) or Marquis Grissom (.312) in front of him. Pitchers don't have to be as careful with Bonds when there is no one on base in front of him. They walked him a lot in the same situation last year, but not in 2003. It's not that they HAVE to pitch to him: it's that they don't have to pitch around him.

By the way, even with the fewer walks, Bonds on pace for 146 on the year. That would tie him with Mantle for the 17th most in a season all-time. So it's not like he's Alfonso Soriano all of a sudden.]

Andrew (NYC): Have you heard anymore about Piazza moving to first base and what do you think about this move if it does happen?

I think that is still in the gameplan. How soon I don't know. He is close to a record for HRs by a catcher. I'm sure he wants to break that record. In my opinion, he might be the best hitting catcher every. He may do a little of both before he moves there full time.

[Mike: And I thought I was a stat-head! Who cares if Piazza is set to break the all-time catcher home run record? If his team needs him at first, that's where he should play when he comes back.]

John (Philly): Why don't you ever appear on Baseball Tonight?

They do Baseball Tonight from Bristol, CT and I live in Calfornia. To be blunt, I have a lot of other obligations with, broadcasting games, writing columns. Traveling to Bristol would be a little too much.

[Mike: John, don't we get enough of Joe already?]

Martin (Dunsmuir, CA): Hi Joe. Thanks for taking my question. I don't know how much of Barry Zito you've seen this year, but he seems to get burned a lot on two-strike pitches. He got outs last year, batters get hits this year in those situations. Is he too predictable, or does this just show how fine a line it is between being a good pitcher and a great pitcher?

Somebody critcized me when I said they were not as strong this year as last year. That is what I was referring to. They are not as dominate. It's all of them, not just Zito. They are having trouble finishing off hitters. I'm not sure exactly what the problem is with Barry, but they have time to fix it and let's hope they do.

[Mike: Uh, that was me, Joe. They don't strike out as many men but they are more dominant. As of the All-Star game in 2002, they were collectively 26-15. This year they are 27-15. They averaged 7 strikeouts per nine innings in 2002 and 5.4 in 2003. However, their pitches per game started have been cut almost in half (196 to 104) and their WHIP (1.277 to 1.149) and ERA (3.61 to 3.00) are both down considerably.]

The Ugly

[Mike: "The Ugly" section will be devoted entirely to Joe's All-Star game comments and his likeminded and oft-referenced article on the All-Star game. That's why I am using Mike Williams mug for ugly, an ugly All-Star selection, Matsui for a bad one, and Pujols, who almost did not start for the NL, for a good one.]

Will (Arizona): "Apparently, long and meritorious service is overlooked" Joe- We have the Hall of Fame to honor that, the All-Star game is about this season, thus far. Not the World Series teams from the previous season or the record holders or players in the last year. Nostalgia is nice, but let the guys who might have their only good year play in front of the best.

That tells me you don't understand what an All-Star is. An All-Star is not a guy that has 3 good months. An All-Star is a person that is best at his position or best in his league. It's not just about 3 months.

[Mike: I have to agree with Joe here though I have issues with his All-Star article.

Really balance is the best solution. You don't want to see a superannuated Cal Ripken undeservedly starting at the All-Star game, but established Hall-of-Famers who are having years in line with their careers should be no-brainers. Players like Clemens, Sosa, and Thomas come to mind. When there was a league president to oversee the All-Star roster, leaving such players off the roster would never have occurred. However, Bud doesn't want to get involved unless Fox demands it.

Speaking of which, you probably read that Clemens was added to the roster today to replace Barry Zito since Zito pitched eight innings on Sunday. Zito was prepared to pitch and the deal was apparently brokered by the Oakland management and the commissioner. Zito found out while interviewing for the game; he claims that he met with league officials but that it was not explained to him. Apparently, it's not too popular a decision:

Look, I agree that I would rather see Roger Clemens than Lance Carter, but to remove the reigning Cy Young winner to accede to the network's wishes, that's pretty low.

I got an email from Frank Gill, who posits the following theory:

I thought it was interesting that Billy Beane was involved in the decision. I figure he held out until Bud granted him some of the Expos draft picks for next season.

Whether a deal was brokered or not, it's just another black mark next on baseball's already besmirched reputation. (My bet is that in George Bush I's words "There was no quid pro quo." However, Beane is smart enough to have Don Corleoned a future favor away from the commish.

Besides, what is all this about 2003 being Clemens last year? Did I miss something? I know he is mulling over retirement, but did he announce it and did I just miss it. To quote David St. Hubbins (loosely), "Somebody check me on this: Am I losing my mind." With the year Clemens is having, why would he quit?

Oh, back to the question, this year Glaus, Rolen, and Ichiro got there more on reputation than on their superior performance.

Here's the excerpt from Joe's original article:]

If long and meritorious service doesn't count for something, then I have a problem with the process. Roger Clemens is a classic example. How can a future Hall of Famer like Clemens not be on the All-Star team in the very season he won his 300th game? Besides, Clemens is having a solid season (3.75 ERA, 8-6 record). Apparently, long and meritorious service is overlooked.

With the Boston Red Sox, Roger Clemens was MVP of the 1986 All-Star Game.
Overall contributions to the game also should be considered when making All-Star roster decisions.

Sammy Sosa is a perfect example of this. Sosa has made tremendous contributions to the game of baseball. He and Mark McGwire helped save baseball, which was still reeling from the 1994 strike, with their home-run race for the ages in '98.

By Sosa's standards, his numbers are down this year, but they're still good (.292-15 HR-45 RBI). Plus, he was beaned by a pitch and he spent time on the disabled list.

Those missed games should factor less than his contributions to the game. Sosa's All-Star track record should count for something, too. If he gets hot in the second half, he could end up with 50 home runs.

[Mike: Wait a sec. I've got to get my wading boots for this one.

"Long and meritorious service" is not "overlooked". It's just that the All-Star rosters are now less about stars and more about a numbers game, combinatorics with catchers and permutations with pitchers. There are some players (Ichiro for one) who make it on reputation. The Baseball Tonight gang theorized that there will be a spot created for "long and meritorious service" men. I think that's a mistake. Just get rid of the one-rep-per-team rule. If a player is deserving of a spot then take him. You'll end up with a team of stars and the fans can feel proud knowing the players taken actually deserved it. Pittsburgh is a great example: if the one-rep rule did not exist, Mike Williams would not be going, but Brian Giles probably would be. Who would the Pirates fans rather see in the game?

Now then, "[i]f [Sosa] gets hot in the second half, he could end up with 50 home runs"? Sure, anything could happen and he is certainly capable, but you can't base All-Star roster decisions on would've/could've. Sosa is among the best outfielders in the league even with his sub-par (for him) season, but baseball is not going to extend itself to him like it has for Clemens because of the corked-bat incident. Sammy has to forego the All-Star game as punishment. That's that.

As far as Sammy and McGwire saving baseball, I have to admit it was actually me. I saw baseball on a bridge overlooking an icy river obviously contemplating his demise. Just as he jumped in the river, I jumped in as well knowing he would save me. I finally got the simpering fool to admit that he wanted to live again (and Zuzu's petals), after showing him what the world be like with only NFL Europe and the WNBA to watch in the summer time. That's how I got my wings.]

Jon (NYC): Joe, I don't see the point in not letting hitters vote for pitchers. First, I'm sure that Yankee pitchers are just as unwilling to vote for Pedro as the hitters are. Also, who knows a pitcher better than someone who faced them. While I'm sure that pitchers pay attention to other pitchers, hitters are the only one's with first hand knowledge of how filthy their stuff actually is.

Not true. Pitchers observe other pitchers better than hitters do in most cases. They want to know what makes them succcesful. If you don't believe there is antimosity when the voting comes .. the battle between pitchers and hitters becomes very adversarial at times. I'm sure there is someone in your workplace that you wouldn't vote for in a popularity contest. That is the point.

[Mike: "Antimosity"? "Auntie Mosity"? Whatever.

No, Joe, the point is it's not a popularity contest. The players should vote for the best players regardless (or irregardless) of their personal feelings towards those individuals. If they can't, they don't deserve the vote. That goes for batter and pitchers.

A batter facing a given pitcher will form an informed opinion regarding that pitcher. It's debatable as to whether that opinion is more valid than a pitcher's after watching another pitcher face live batters. Whatever, these are the best players in the world and they should be able to determine who is the best of their membership is.

For you completists, here's the excerpt from Joe's original article:]

Position Players Shouldn't Vote For Pitchers
In a new twist introduced this year, players voted for the All-Star team reserves (in years past, managers chose the reserves). Fans still picked the starters, as usual.

But I see a problem with player voting -- especially when position players vote for pitchers. Clemens is not popular with many of the batters he faces. A batter who has been plunked or brushed back by Clemens isn't likely to vote for him. Bob Gibson wasn't popular in his day, either. You can be sure hitters wouldn't have voted for him!

In fact, I don't think you could ever get batters to vote for Clemens. He has been an intimidator throughout his career, and that's part of what makes him a great pitcher. Pedro Martinez is similar. After he hit Derek Jeter and Alfonso Soriano recently, do you think any Yankee would vote for him?

I do think that players should have a vote, but only pitchers can vote fairly for other pitchers. Otherwise, leave the selection of pitchers in the hands of the managers. Too much animosity can build up over time in the competition between hitters and pitchers. I could tell you about lots of pitchers I didn't like (but I won't). It's only human nature that this would influence one's judgment in an All-Star voting process.

[Mike: Whatever the reason, the players did a bad job. Junk the whole system and let Fox pick their own players. That's what it comes down to in the end anyway.

And Jon's right that if there is animosity on a team, it will permeate the pitching staff as well.

Oh, by the way, Joe spelled "animosity" correctly here.

Also, Pedro hit those two players after the All-Star game voting.]

David (Myrtle Beach, SC): Joe, do you think baseball would be wise to eliminate the "Every team must have one representative" rule? Football and Basketball don't have it.

Basketball there isn't as many players. Baseball has expanded from 25 players to 32. Every team should be represented. Fans support the Tampa Bay Devil Rays just like they do the Yankees. You are fans of a team, not always just players. The team you support all year should be represented so you will have someone to root for. It shouldn't be compared to other sports.

[Mike: Yeah, Joe, but football carries 50-odd players and they are not required to have an Arizona Cardinal among their midst.

The problem is not that the best D-Ray is not All-Star worthy. The problem is that the manager, especially with the extra player voting, is required to fill out a roster under these constraints. That's how you get Lance Carter not Aubrey Huff and Mike Williams not Brian Giles.]

Justin (York, PA): In your most recent column, you mentioned that the best way to determine home-field advantage for the World Series was the alternating advantage each year. Is this REALLY any more fair than any other method, especially best record? As we've seen in the past, home-field advantage can be truly an advantage in the Series. Is it something worth just randomizing? I think best record is the best way to determine home-field, because, even with unbalanced schedules, it's the fairest way to decide the advantage.

It's the tradition of the game. We are always trying to change the traditions for some reason. How can best record be fair when they are not playing the same schedules?

[Mike: Joe, that's the best argument that I have heard against interleague play in some time. Alternate home field or give it to the team with the better record (even with unbalanced schedules). It doesn't really matter. I prefer the dibs method. The team that calls "dibs" first, gets home-field.

However, to take an exhibition game in which the likes of Williams and Carter are required participants is a much sillier system. But who really cares?

Is it fair? "What's fair? Is it fair that you were born this way?" (John Winger to Dewey Oxburger in Stripes).

By the way, Justin, alternating home field is by no means random. Oh, from the article:]

As far as the winning league getting home-field advantage in the World Series, it's a gimmick that I hope doesn't last beyond the planned two-year experiment. Nor should home-field advantage in the Series be determined by best overall record -- unbalanced schedules make this an unfair solution. The best approach, it seems to me, is to go back to alternating years. For more details, see my recent column on this topic.

[Mike: Rock-paper-scissors comes to mind.]

Thad Cox (Somerville, MA): Hi Joe, I was thinking it might be a fun idea for MLB to take a page from the NHL or NBA and not only have the home-run derby, but also a skills competition. Events could include: 1) A race around the bases (Ichiro, Soriano, Furcal, Renteria, Pierre, Dave Roberts) 2) Throwing a ball from the outfield into a bucket at home plate, ala Tom Emanski's Defensive Drills video (Ichiro, Sheffield, Guerrero, Mondesi, Gonzalez) 3) Pitchers competing to knock the most cans off a wall with 10 baseballs (Maddux, Moyer, Martinez, Mulder, Zito) 4) Pitchers seeing who could throw a ball the hardest, ala the NHL's Hardest Shot Competition (MacDougal, Gagne, Prior, Wood, Schmidt, Smoltz, Wagner) I'm sure they could come up with some more fun events, and I think it would really entertain the fans.

They did that before. They had skills competitions and a couple guys got hurt. But that's when it started to become more of an exhibition than a competition. It was taking away from the game. But they have done those kinds of things in the past.

[Mike: Huh, when was this? I don't remember that.

However, we can't get franchises to let their pitchers throw a couple of innings in an exhibition. Who's going to let Barry Zito knock down cans and let Kerry Wood throw his arm out? Besides don't they have to pitch in the All-Star game the next day?

Thad, they have something called batting practice. You should check it out. You've just been watching too much of "The Whammer" versus "The Natural". It Malamuddies the water.]

John (Stillwater, MN): What's your take on Bond's childish remarks about being a "grown man and not having to be in the Home Run Derby"?

Barry has a right to decide what is right for him. At this point, he has competed in several HR derby's. He doesn't have to compete in all of them. Barry decided that Michael Jordan and Julius Erving didn't compete in the slam dunk competition all the time. He has done it enough in his opinion.

[Mike: "Childish remarks"? John, let me guess your opinion.

Joe's right: Bonds is by no means required to go to the HR derby. It would make the competition more interesting, but do real fans even watch that thing? Bonds could have expressed himself more diplomatically, but that's Barry, love him or hate him.

By the way Dr. J, retired when the slam-dunk contest was three years old and he competed in the first two.]

John W. (Aurora, IL): Hey Joe. I was wondering what your opinion is regarding Frank Thomas's absence from the All-Star team. He has the highest OPS of anybody not on the team, and if you ask me, OPS is the best indication of a hitter's productivity. Plus, the game is in Chicago, and he (and Ordonez) truly represent our Sox.

I agree with you 100 percent. I thought he should have been on the team. I don't understand Mike Sweeney being selected. Thomas has played almost every day, he has great numbers, and the game is in Chicago. I'm at a loss also.

[Mike: Sweeney's not the issue. He's got the credentials. It's Matsui, Ichiro, and Glaus that did Thomas in. Them and the fact that he doesn't play a defensive position.

Oh, and Joe agrees 100% that "OPS is the best indication of a hitter's productivity"? Great!]

Joseph (San Jose, CA): hey joe, whats your take on the dontrelle willis situation? Although he was largely unproven until this year(some might say he still needs a full season to prove himself) he's been arguably the best pitcher in the first half of the season. do you think he deserves to be an all star?

Normally with players I think they need a year to prove themselves. But sometimes young players, like Willis or Kerry Wood, prove themselves quicker. Pitchers are a little different than everyday players in that regard. I was hoping he would be on the team. I was also hoping Roger Clemens would be on the team.

[Mike: "Largely unproven"? He's a first-year rookie.

Joe, maybe young players are not proving themselves quicker. Maybe they are just having their career year first. Ask Kevin Maas and Joe Charboneau.

From the Joe-Files:]

To me, if you choose your roster based only on the first half of the season, that isn't a true All-Star team. Half of a season gets you media attention, but it doesn't make you an All-Star. An All-Star is a player who performs well for full seasons over the course of a career, not just one-half of a particular season. The main exception I would make is for rookies and other younger players who haven't had the opportunity to establish themselves as proven performers. For them, the first half should count more.

Pitcher Dontrelle Willis fits into this category -- and he should be an NL All-Star. The Florida Marlins rookie sensation is 8-1 with a 1.98 ERA! He's an exciting young star, and Major League Baseball needs to showcase up-and-coming players. I don't understand why he's been overlooked.

[Mike: So a solid veteran having a career year, bad, but an unproven rookie, good? You astound me, Joe.]

Aaron(Scottsdale, AZ): I've been seeing a lot of attention around Dontrelle Willis, yet not a single word about D-Back Brandon Webb. While Webb doesn't have the cooky itching style the media loves, he has more innigns, less walks per nine innings and a lower BAA. I'm not saying he's necessarily better the Willis, since I'vre never seen him pitch, but I do think Webb is comparably good young pitcher. Why is Webb universally ignored everywhere outside of Arizona?

That's usually what happens during a season. Someone becomes a media darling and the blue collar guys kind of get overlooked. It will always be that way.

[Mike: What's a "cooky itching" style? Does it have to do with the Sesame Street character?

I don't know why Webb is a "blue collar guy". He has pitched well. Maybe the fact that there are a few deserving rookie pitchers is a good argument against taking unproven rookies in the first place.]

Marcus (Dallas): Mr. Morgan, how do you feel about "us", the fans, getting to pick the MVP of the All Star Game?

I don't know. (Laughing). The one problem I have with all the changes is you only make changes when you feel something is wrong with the game. TV can't make this game exciting. Only the players can. The fact that the ads for the game is "Now it really counts." To me, that is a slap in the face to Ted Williams, Willie Mays, all the great players. They already played the game like it counted.

[Mike: Huh? I have no idea what Joe is prattling on about. However, why not just do as Marcus suggests but just change the name to Most Valuable Red Sox.

By the way, I just received the following email from MLB:

2003 All-Star Game MVP Vote presented by Pepsi


Beginning in the 3rd inning

Exclusively on

Heaven help us--the third inning?]

For those of you who read my column about the All-Star game, there has never been a perfect system. Mine is not perfect either. I do believe a guy like Roger Clemens who is in his final year of playing should be there. A guy like Sammy Sosa who has contributed so much to the game should be on the team. Those are strong feelings I have about what the game should be about. The fans would be excited to see those two players. I still believe we will look back and guys that had a good first half will not all be All-Stars at the end of the year. In fact, in my last column I will take a look at the All-Stars and see how they ended the season.

[Mike: And the article...]

The criteria for the All-Star selection process must be reevaluated, because I don't understand some of the roster decisions made for this year's game...

The All-Star selection process never has been perfect, and with these added features it's still an imperfect system. I can't devise a perfect system, but this one definitely can be improved.

Give Priority To Players From World Series Teams
Having every major-league team represented on the All-Star rosters is a matter of much debate, but I like it. Since rosters have been expanded over time -- from 25 originally to the current 32-man team -- this shouldn't be an issue. Fans in San Diego and Milwaukee and Detroit and Tampa have supported the game of baseball, and they deserve to see one of their own in the Midsummer Classic.

While every team should be represented, I believe that deserving players from the World Series teams should be given priority. The All-Star Game now is all about honoring individual accomplishment, but team accomplishment should also be factored in. And the players from the best teams -- the reigning world champions and the runners-up -- should be given more weight in All-Star selections.

In other words, in a close roster contest between two players, the one from the World Series champion ought to get the nod.

Furthermore, when it comes to selecting All-Star pitchers, starters should be given priority over relievers. The starter logs the big innings, while the closer gets in the game only if his team is ahead. This year's AL roster has six starters and six relievers, and you can make a case that Yankees starters David Wells (11-3, 3.76 ERA) or Mike Mussina (10-5, 3.14 ERA) deserve a spot. The NL roster has a better distribution, with eight starters and five relievers...

Ultimately, regardless of all the bells and whistles MLB adds to the All-Star Game -- World Series home-field, players voting, fan Internet voting for the final two spots, etc. -- we need to always remember one thing: The game is about the players. And what the players do on the field is what will make the game memorable.

[Mike: First, "The criteria for the All-Star selection process must be reevaluated, because I don't understand some of the roster decisions made for this year's game". If we changed the game so that Joe understood, we would have a lot of changes to make indeed.

"Priority to World Series teams": This is ludicrous. They have a big enough advantage with their managers apparently single-handedly picking the rosters. "[I]n a close roster contest between two players, the one from the World Series champion ought to get the nod." Doesn't he think they do get the nod already?

Besides, good teams should have good players, who should be selected on their own merits.

Starting vs. relief pitching: Joe is right to a degree. The problem is that the AL latched onto this middle relief All-Star concept and the NL has yet to do so. Therefore they have as many relievers as starters this year. Besides, in an extra inning game, starters will eat more innings, thereby avoiding another tie. But that won't happen again because now it's for real. Besides with Carter and Williams coming out of the pen in the 11th, scoring should abound.]

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