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Everybody Seems So Happy To-Joe-Morgan-Chat-Day-It's a Sunshine Joe Morgan Chat Day!
2003-06-23 00:38
by Mike Carminati

Sir, you have tasted two whole worms; you have hissed all my mystery lectures and... been caught fighting a liar in the quad... You will leave by the next town drain.

- Reverend William Archibald Spooner (1844-1930). Translation: "Sir, you have wasted two whole terms; you have missed all my history lectures and...been caught lighting a fire in the quad...You will leave by the next down train".

Sun: sunrise and sunset, or at least I've heard tell. In the Northeast this spring we've had nary a sunny day let alone a daily peek at the orb that Shakespeare said, like foolery, "shines everywhere." And now our summer is at risk of being swallowed up by the same perpetual maelstrom.

It's been so bad that attendance is down at major-league parks even from the established post-strike lows. It's become de rigueur to play in a steady drizzle and to mention that a ballgame is official at the end of the fifth inning. Playing in the rain is such a glorious trend that the Yankees were accused the other day of canceling a game with the Devil Rays not because of excessive rainfall but rather because of excessive Jeff Weaver in the impinging Met series. This baseball season has been so much like a Scandinavian winter-that is, an eternal, or at least six-month-long, night-that it has me pining away for the fjords. No, it's not good-Norwegian wood.

Usually a summer breeze makes me feel fine as long as it's blowing through the jasmine of my mind, whatever that means. However, a summer breeze today is a contradiction in terms, an oxymoron. And speaking of things oxymoronic, no one fits the bill better than good ole Joe Morgan.

Morgan, as a player, was the epitome of everything sabermetric: a power-hitting middle-infielder who got on base and stole bases at a high percentage. As an analyst, however, he's a sabermetrician's nightmare, foregoing everything but batting average, RBI, and pitching wins to evaluate a player. Worse yet, his spurious logic and inability to answer a direct question make him the Reverend Spooner of baseball analysts.

Spooner, an albino scholar, rose to Warden (basically president) of New College in Oxford but is better known for lending his name to Webster's for the term spoonerism, "the transposition of usually initial sounds in a pair of words." Even though many of the spoonerisms attributed directly to Spooner are now viewed as apocryphal, the body of quotes as a whole seems to have had an enduring effect on Joe. They too range from the sublime to the ridiculous. Witness:

"The Lord is a shoving leopard" (i.e., "loving shepherd"-sublime).
And "When the boys come back from France (after WWI), we'll have the hags flung out" (i.e., "flags hung out"-sublime).

However, "A well-boiled icicle" (i.e., "a well-oiled bicycle") and "We all know what it is to have a half-warmed fish inside us." (i.e., "half-formed wish")-funny but ridiculous.

So does Joe in this chat session experience many tips of the slung, er, slips of the tongue, along with his usual spoonerismic baseball analysis. It's a dunshine say! Enjoy!

The Thud (i.e., The Good)

Doris - Virginia: Why do you call Barry Bonds by his first name when you refer to other players by their last name?

Doris, I wasn't aware of that. I call Mike Piazza, Mike. I call Ichiro, Ichiro! I wasn't really aware of that. But I'm not exactly sure you're right. I'm sure there are others.

I don't do it intentionally though..

[Mike:"She's a nice girl. She's a Virginian." Sheez, and people say I'm too tough on the guy. Doris, you finkosaurus. Talk about minutiae! As long as we can tell to whom he's referring, who cares? "Ichiro? Is that Ichiro Smith? Oh dear!"

Bonds, by the way, has earned the right to be referred to by just "Barry". So if Joe says "Barry", any baseball fan worth his salt should know the player in question.

(By the way, nods to the Sunshine Boys and the Stones...Fred and Barney for the above references.)]

Justin (Boston, MA): Joe, what do you think about Hampton's near no-hitter after pitching brilliantly in Seattle, is he back?

Obviously he has pitched well the last two times. We always say, maybe this will kickstart the rest of his season but we'll just have to wait and see. He has shown signs of coming out of it a couple times. We'll just have to keep an eye on him and hope he stays healthy.

[Mike:I have to agree with Joe on this one. Hampton has had a roller coaster season yet far. His stats reflect this too. He has some good numbers (3.59 ERA, .218 opponent batting average, .306 opponent slugging average, and .623 opponent OPS) and some ugly ones (38 walks to 35 strikeouts, 6 wild pitches, and only 4.5 strikeouts per nine innings).

Besides right before these two very good starts, he had to leave due to a groin injury after pitching one and two-thirds innings and allowing three unearned runs. This was the last outing in a string of six in which he had not pitched more than 6 innings or allowed fewer than 3 runs. They were preceded by three strong outings (April 24 to May 6).]

Egad (i.e., The Bad)

Lars (Int'l Falls, MN): While I still like the overall makeup of the Twins, I really think they lack a bigtime run producer in the middle of their lineup; do you feel GM Terry Ryan will pull the trigger on a deal to acquire help, or will he just stand pat and play the season out and take his chances with what he has?

This is basically the same team they had last year. They didn't pull the trigger last year so I'm not sure they will do it this year. But it's not that easy to just go out and there and get a guy. But it's the same position they were in last year.

[Mike:First, they are not the same team as last year: David Ortiz, their best pure power hitter, is gone. Add Torii Hunter's off first half and you get a dropoff from sixth to eighth in the majors in slugging. However, they have gone from 16th to ninth in on-base to compensate.

They don't have the ABs for the players they have so unless they restructure the team, I don't see them acquiring a power hitter.

Besides, their biggest problem is the starting rotation. It's 21st in ERA in the majors and beyond youngsters Johan Santana (only 3 starts) and Kyle Lohse, they have been a mess. The Twins would improve greatly by sticking Santana in the rotation and cutting Kenny Rogers loose.]

Joe Vallee (Woodbury, New Jersey): Hi Joe, What was it like coming back to Philly this week? Although you were there for only a short time, I'm sure you have some good memories of the World Series year in 1983. Can the Phils get consistent, or is this team hopeless?

The Phillies problem is their offense. As you say, they have not been consistent. That goes from the top of the lineup to the bottom. No one has been consistent all season. Their pitching has kept them in games. The only way they are going to do anything is their offense can get more consistent.

[Mike:Thanks, Joe. We Phillies fans love you, too. You're as effusive as Mike Dukakis responding to the Kitty-rape question when you discuss the old days with the Wheeze Kids Phils. To quote loosely John Winger in Stripes, "It's not just the uniforms: it's the stories you tell! Joe Morgan, you are a madman!"

I disagree with your assessment by the way. They have been consistent, consistently bad. Their pitching has been pretty good, but I don't think it's been that dominant. I originally thought that the offense was being affected by the new-stadium construction. I still think that has some bearing, but the Phils have hit much better at home than on the road. Basically, the entire lineup is struggling and has gone from a highly touted offensive unit to just plain offensive. Bell has been awful. Rollins doesn't seem the same player that was a phenom a few years ago. Pat Burrell is struggling.

It seems that Phils only upgrade may be in center fielder where Marlon Byrd has yet to establish himself (and may be competing with the Yanks for center fielders-yikes!). Byrd has not been great at the bat, but I would prefer that the Phils let him develop for a year or two before Wendell Magee-ing him perhaps with Ricky Otero-eaters. I think the Phils would be wise to cut bait on the overrated Rollins and pick up some decent prospects before everyone realizes that he's a bust. Take David Bell and move him to second base where he started. Take Placido Polanco and move him to short where he started. And give third base to Tyler Houston until Chase Utley is ready (but then again has already been moved to second in Scranton because of Bell). Or just give Tomas Perez the shortstop job. Maybe both of those scenarios are a bit too fantastical to actually happen, but Jim Rollins will not be worth the arbitration numbers he gets this offseason.

The sub-moronic Phils fans who were raised on the offensive output of Larry Bowa, Ivan DeJesus, Steve Jeltz, and Kevin Stocker at short think J-Roll actually is a viable offensive player. Rollins is 15th in OPS (.701) out of the 23 major-league shortstops who currently qualify for the batting title. He's 14th in on-base (.314) and is the Phils leadoff hitter. Mercy!

Sam (Ypsilanti, MI): Joe, I'm a big fan! In your column about the AL West, you note that the A's "Big 3" have been more vunerable than in the past. But look at their ERAs - Hudson 3.08, Mulder 3.26, and Zito 2.92. Struggling? These three are what is holding this team to a good record! Zito's 7-5 record overshadows that he is 1st in the AL in BAA (.197). What gives?

I don't think I said struggle.. I said they were more vulnerable. ERA's are just a personal thing. Wins and losses are what the game is all about. BA and BAA are personal stats. Those guys don't walk out and win three games in a row anymore.

[Mike:Ypsilanti from the old Border League? Yes, ERA's a personal thing. Personally Joe dislikes ERAs. Wins are what matter to Joe. Don't explain to Joe that the A's have won one more game than last year to this point. Don't tell Joe that Mulder is having the best year of his young career and has three more wins than he did at this time last year. Don't tell Joe that Tim Hudson was 5-6 at this point last year. Don't even tell Joe that as he was writing this the A's were preparing to win their seventh-not third-straight.

Look, the Big Three and still the Big Three. Their strikeout ratios are all down but besides that there are no possible complaints.]

Jeremy (Portland, OR): Hey Joe, It seems like the Reds have been getting into more than their fair share of Brawls recently. Is it just bad luck, or are they over reacting? It looks to me like some of them are a little eager to fight, but I've never had a Major League fastball coming at my head. Of course, you don't see Larkin or Griffey charging the mound.

You are right, you have never had a MLB fastball coming at you. Great point. One of the reasons could be the Reds are hitting lots of HRs and the pitchers are tired of it! But everyone reacts differently.

[Mike:Whoa, touchy much, Joe. We groveling peons apologize for never getting the majors to know what a major-league fastball coming right for our gray matter looks like. Let us genuflect at your feet. Thank you, sir. May I and "Jeremy spoke in Joe Morgan's chat today" have another?

By the way, the Reds are fourth in the majors in home runs and tied for third in hit batsmen. They are also first in strikeouts by a huge margin (73 more than swing-happy Milwaukee). Maybe it's just frustration.

Bobby N. (Bloomington,MN): Do you think that Roger Clemens has a chance to be the first 100% player in the Hall of Fame or do you think he will be around the Nolan Ryan percentage?

No. My perception would be if Joe DiMaggaio, Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, and Willie Mays couldn't do it, he won't either. But then again, I'm not voting.

[Mike:Thank god for small favors.

A) There were a greater number of deserving players to choose from in the past (no excuse for 5% of the voting populace leaving Babe Ruth off the ballot in the first year of voting). So percentages for lay-up type players are getting higher.

B) Nolan Ryan received 99% of the vote, the highest percentage ever (I think he was fractionally ahead of Seaver), and was not nearly the pitcher Clemens is, Advil commercials notwithstanding.

C) This is at least 5 years away. Who knows what may happen in the intervening years.

D) There will be at least one Boston writer who holds a grudge.

E) Ryan receiving 99% of the vote shows you how incompetent the voters are. So your guess is as good as mine.

Jerry, Seattle, WA: Joe, I love your analysis. Is race still as big of an issue in baseball as Gary Sheffield made it seem when he said that Sammy Sosa was being unfairly ripped because of his skin color?

I think anytime someone mentions race or uses race in their evaluation, you have to evaluate their reasons for doing it and their evidence. If they just say it without any evidence, then I throw it out the window. If a guy puts forward evidence, then you have to really look at what he is saying. That's how I evaluate it.

By the same token, Gary has the right to speak his mind if that is what he feels. We have the right to discount it, if that is how we feel.

[Mike:"Gary, you know by tattling on your friends, you're really just tattling on yourself. By tattling on your friends, you're just telling them that you're a tattletale. Now is that the tale you want to tell?"

Thanks, Mike Brady. Now please answer the question.

My opinion? Yes, race is still an issue. Ask Willie Randolph and Chris Chambliss. Or better yet ask John Rocker and Todd Jones. But does race have anything to do with Sammy Sosa corking his bat and getting punished for it. My opinion? Not a thing.]

Chuck (Chicago): Good morning, Mr. Morgan! I wanted to hear your opinion in regards to who you feel should be the starting pitchers for the All-Star game. Esteban Loaiza has the best ERA by nearly an entire point in the AL, but I don't even hear him being considered. And is Kevin Brown a lock for the NL? Which two pitchers ought to face each other at U.S. Cellular Field?

No idea! First of all, we have to wait till we get closer and see who is available. There are a lot of choices in both leagues. I think it's just too early to make that judgement.

[Mike:"I offer no opinion even though I run this chat session and these are of course the questions that people ask as the All-Star game approaches. And of course I will end my admission of 'No idea!' with an unnecessary exclamation point (but more on that later).

My opinion? Loaiza and Brown if they are available. Joe, at least say Halladay and Brown/Chacon-they lead their leagues in wins, your main pitcher-evaluation criterion.

(By the way, Loaiza is not nearly a whole point ahead in ERA in the AL. Pedro (Yes, Doris, that's his first name) is just 36 points behind.)]

Rob (Augusta, GA): Hello, Mr. Morgan! I was wondering, with the Braves sudden emphasis on hitting and just enough pitching, do you think the team is ready to win a five game series, and two seven series, like in 1995, and not just do well in the regular season? Being a huge Braves fan, this question preoccupies my mind from April until October.

They won 11 division titles with pitching and only one world championship. I think this team is better prepared to win postseason play now than they were before.

When they had Glavine, Maddux, Smoltz, etc. they only won 1 championship. I think it is time to try it another way. I like their chances as long as Sheffield stays healthy.

[Mike:Well, that 'xactly so, Joe. The Braves had a very good offense for most of this run. Here ya go:

1991: 2nd in runs in the NL; 3rd in ERA.
1992: 3rd in runs; 1st in ERA.
1993: 3rd in runs; 1st in ERA.
1994: 5th in runs; 2nd in ERA (though 1st in runs against) and division "title" fell to Expos as strike cut season short.
1995: 9th in runs (14 teams); 1st in ERA; and only World Series win.
1996: 4th in runs; 2nd in ERA (though 1st in runs against).
1997: 3rd in runs; 1st in ERA.
1998: 3rd in runs; 1st in ERA.
1999: 6th in runs; 1st in ERA.
2000: 6th in runs; 1st in ERA.
2001: 13th in runs (16 teams); 1st in ERA.
2002: 8th in runs (16 teams); 1st in ERA.
2003 (so far): 3rd in runs; 9th in ERA (16 teams).

That's a pretty impressive run for a pitching staff. Their offense was also very good until around 1999 except for the one-year dive in 1995, the year they won it all.

So is it time to "try it another way"? I'd say no. Clearly having a nonpareil staff led to their 12-year run. That said, being among the bottom feeders in offense did not lead to postseason success. The answer? How about balance? Continually being among the league leaders in offense and defense seems to have created their great run. I cannot believe that being a subpar staff this year will help keep the run going.

By the way, Joe, as far as "When they had Glavine, Maddux, Smoltz, etc.", they still have Maddux and Smoltz on the team. I just figured I'd let you know.]

Rob (Toronto): How bout we get some Blue Jay questions in here! Will they be able to contend with the BoSox and the Yankees over the long haul? Also what are your thoughts on Vernon Wells and do you think he will be an All-STar?

I think they will as long as their offense stays as high powered as it is and they get good pitching. I think it will be a three team race unless the Yankees are able to go out and get that strong left handed bat. But yes, I think Toronto will contend all season.

[Mike:Hey, that's really going out on a limb, Joe. "[A]s long as [Toronto's] offense stays as high powered as it is and they get good pitching"-so I guess defense is exempt. Unless the Yankees "get that strong left handed bat"? Here's a crazy prediction: if the Brewers get a high-powered offense and unhittable pitching, they'll contend in the NL Central unless the Astros get better players.

How's this for a prediction: unless Bud Selig cedes another star player, preferably a pitcher, to the Red Sox, they will fall out of contention after the All-Star break and be replaced by the Blue Jays as the Yankees' nemeses. Unless the Red Sox are better than the Blue Jays, then it won't happen. Oh, and Leon is getting laaaarrrrger.]

CBeatty (Denver): Joe, Why doesn't MLB bring games to inner cities to help rouse more you youth interest? MLB brings games to Mexico, Puerto Rico, Japan, etc., why not D.C., New Orleans, etc?

I've argued with MLB for years to do things to heighten interest in inner cities. I don't think you can play games in those cities, but you can have clinics and do other things like basketball does to get more kids involved. That is one of the shortcomings of MLB. They just don't do enough in the inner cities to get kids to play baseball instead of basketball. They have camps in the foreign countries but not in the inner cities. That is one of the reasons we have more players coming from overseas than players coming from this country.

[Mike:OK, Joe, that's not true. There are only 27.8% of major-leaguers who were born outside the good ole US of A. Also, the number of minor-leaguers is under 50% and dropped last year (48% to 46%). Though MLB doing a Benicio Del Toro and building a few inner-city ballparks would pay dividends for years to come.

Next, CBeatty, have you ever heard of the Bronx? The Yankees play there and it's pretty inner-city. And San Juan is not exactly Beverly Hills. However, baseball is a business and unfortunately the inner-cities are not where the money is for the most part. Besides New Orleans has a minor-league team, and DC is under Peter Angelos' protective thumb.]

David (Myrtle Beach, SC): Joe, why are the Marlins so Mediocre? It isn't like they don't have any talent. To me they should be contending, not rebuilding.

I agree that they have some talent. But for some reason they have not been able to put it together. They had all those great young arms but some of them just broke down and were injured. That has been their problem. All the youngs guys have not been able to produce together at the same time.

[Mike:"Youngs guys"? Are they Ross Youngs guys?

The Marlins have been rebuilding since 1997. Baseball allowed Wayne Huzinga to sign a ridiculous contract with the stadium group that he also owned. They allowed him to build and then destroy a championship team. They then allowed him to sell the team and keep the stadium deal. Then they let the execrable Jeffrey Loria buy the team. Long story short, the team has very little cash and even less brains.

Why are they mediocre? Because that's how mediocre teams perform. They were mediocre last year and they basically downgraded their entire outfield over the last 12 months. The Marlins have had Juan Encarnacion, Juan Pierre, and Todd Hollandsworth as the outfield for most of the year. Is that the "talent" Joe speaks of? Basically, their offense is Mike Lowell, Derek Lee, and Alex Gonzalez, whose OPS is up 50% and slugging up nearly 100% and who is the leading candidate for steroid abuse this side of Carl Everett.

Their pitching has been good but could have been great if Jeff Torborg hadn't destroyed the young arms. With Josh Beckett returning, Dontrelle Willis and Mark Redman dominating, and Miguel Cabrera's ascension, they could surprise some people in the second half. Unfortunately, Mike Lowell will be traded before that. Money you know.]

The Boggly (i.e., The Ugly)

I am here and ready to go!!!

[Mike:From the Elaine Bennis School of Excessive Exclamation Points!!!!!!!!!!!]

Dave, New Jersey: Hi Joe! Regarding "Hat-gate" (Clemens in the HOF as a Yankee); Why shouldn't Rocket go in as a Yankee? Everytime he plays in Fenway he gets no respect/love from the fans (partly because he is a Yankee, but more so)...even his wife and family get verbally abused at these games. The Boston fans don't like him, why should he honor that town and club by wearing their hat? Shouldn't it come down to what town he (and his family) was happiest playing in? His best memories? Everyone needs to remember Boston didn't want him anymore. Yet, the Yankees traded a favorite (Wells, at the time a great pitcher too, still is) to get him, showing they wanted him.

He's not honoring the town. That is the misnomer here I guess. He played there. You can't wipe those years away. Whether he likes the town or not. In retrospect, what happens if the Yankee fans start booing him next week? What happens then? The Hall of Fame is a museum. It's not a honor society. It's a museum as such to chronical a career.

The real point here is there has been a rule or a criteria established. Therefore the HOF will make that decision, with input from Roger. But this is all 5-6 years away. A lot can happen between now and then. It shouldn't have been brought up at this time.

[Mike:"Misnomer"? Good point! Boston is not a "town" but an incorporated city.

However, I think the word you were searching for was "misconception" (mis-Concepcion?). (The rest I'm OK with.)]

Carolyn (Vienna, VA): How aware are players and former players of Larry Doby? Seems like everyone talks about Jackie Robinson but rarely about Mr. Doby.

Very good assumption Carolyn. I've always felt Larry never got the credit he deserved for his accomplishments, on and off the field. Robinson was my idol growing up because I just didn't know any better. But as I've grown up and read books and met both of them and spend time with them, I realized the impact they both had on the game. People forget that Doby went to the AL 11 weeks after Jackie started. Most think it was a year or two later. Larry was the only African American in that league for some time. I guess no one remembers who finished second in a golf tournament. Larry was the second African American in the major leagues.

[Mike:"Assumption"? Remember what Felix Unger said, Joe. When you assume you make an ass out of u and me.

Look, people like firsts. It did help get Doby in the Hall perhaps belatedly, what else can be done?

By the way, Doby was not "the second African American in the major leagues". He was the fourth, after the Walker brothers and Jackie Robinson.]

Jeff from Newton, MA: On the topic of GM's and Billy Beane's new found fame (Moneyball): Who will be running the ball clubs of tomorrow? Will it be the Chairman of the Board type Owner(Steinbrenner), the all-knowing, stat watching GM (Beane, Epstein), or the ex-ballplayer Manager who understands the intangables (B. Valentine, J. Torre, M. Scioscia)? Can they work together?

I can't really make that judgement. The owners will make that decision. There is a place in the game for all of the types you mention. I prefer those that really understand the game as well as the stats. They go hand in hand. Some say they can look at stats without seeing a guy play. That's a joke. You can't measure a guy's heart by looking at a piece of paper. I prefer a person who knows the game but uses stats to reinforce his evaluations.

[Mike:Jeff from Newton? Say "Hi" to the Green Line.

I'm sick of Joe's belligerency on this issue. At least someone finally told him after over a month that Beane did not actually write Moneyball.

If Joe actually had read the book, he would know that its underlying theme is that there are certain things like heart and talent that were not being measured by the scouting system. Beane himself is a walking cautionary tale. When he was a player, scouts took a look at the way he ran, his physique, his measurable talents and said that he was a can't-miss prospect. The fact that he had no plate discipline, had glaring holes in his game, and did not especially want to play minor-league baseball could all be overlooked. Meanwhile, a minor-league teammate of Beane's, Lenny Dykstra, was all drive and desire but no one expected much from him.

Beane is smart enough to learn from his own career that scouts don't have all the answers. There are different ways to evaluate players and different ways to mine good players with limited funds. He developed an approach (based on on-base percentage and signing college players, i.e., low-risk players) and stuck to it.

The first thing that Beane did when preparing for the draft with his staff was to weed out the players that would not adapt well to minor-league life for various reasons. "Heart" entered into that equation and then they looked at the remaining players based on A) the scouting report and B) the player's stats (horrors!).

"I prefer a person who knows the game but uses stats to reinforce his evaluations." What, like you, Joe? You don't even accept on-base percentage and ERA. Joe uses stats like a drunk uses a street light to prop himself up. Sabermetricians use stats to form opinions. Look, Jimmy Rollins may look like the ideal leadoff man when you watch him warm up or even in the odd game, but when you see that he gets on base only 31% of the time you realize that he is not the man to whom you want to devote the most at-bats on your team.

There is a place for all types of baseball ideologies. The places for the outmoded ones are Milwaukee, the commissioner's office, and the analyst's chair evidently. They laughed at Branch Rickey for investing all that money in a minor-league system, too. Oh, and that Noah guy was a nut building an ark (whatever that is) is the desert.]

Utek (LA): Hi Joe. You say that Albert Pujols is the best young hitter in the majors, because he "attacks the ball". I'm not sure what you mean by this. Lots of hitters---particularly young hitters--- are aggressive and swing hard without putting up Pujols' numbers. Please explain. Thanks.

He is the best young hitter in the game, no doubt. A lot of people swing hard. He goes TO the ball and attacks it. He is going to the ball and driving it. Guys that swing hard, swing on one axix in one area. Big difference between swinging the ball and attacking it.

[Mike:"Axix"? As in "Axix of Evil"? Wasn't that one of the XFL teams?

Besides how does one "swing the ball"?

Oh, and Pujols may be the best young hitter, whatever that means, but it's because of his knowledge of and ability to control the strike zone (26 K's and 30 BBs this year).

Nelson (DC): Can a legitimate argument be made that Clemens' biggest career accomplishment on Friday was not that he got 300 wins but instead that he recorded his 4,000th strikeout?

Go back to what I said earlier.. it's about wins and losses, not so much about personal accomplishment. There are fewer guys with 4,000 K's but that doesn't always translate to wins. A win is a win. That is what the game is about.

[Mike:Not about "Personal accomplishments"? That was the question: which is his "biggest career accomplishment". Are you mental?

By the way, I prefer the 4000 Ks.]

Jeff: Polson, MT: Joe - Great to read your article about the M's and finally hear somebody extolling the virtues of the team and Gil Meche. As I look at their lineup and pitching, I see only one area that really needs an upgrade, Jeff Cirillo's offensive numbers (his defense has been great). If you were Pat Gillick, would you go after someone like Mike Lowell or would you sit tight? If such a trade were possible, what do you think the M's would have to give up (young pitching, pay part of Cirillo's salary)?

First of all, there is only one Mike Lowell and about 20 teams that want him. You can always pick a spot to upgrade. But when you have the best record in the Major Leagues, you need to worry about what you need to win a WS, not just the division. They will have to wait to make that decision.

[Mike:What? So keeping Cirillo's anemic bat is somehow going to help the M's win the World Series? Wouldn't Lowell's bat help more? And why wait? Isn't getting the player you need as early as you can the model that made the Yankees great over the last half-dozen years?]

Chris Rochester NY: Hi Joe If you were the Red Sox would you rather have Urbina or Armando B.

I guess the point is, do you have a choice? They are both capable but both high risk closers. They are not just going to walk out and go 1-2-3. It's a matter of choice. Benetiz, when he is one, can overpower you. Urbina uses a lot of off speed stuff. It's just a matter of choice. They are both good closers .. just high risk.

[Mike:"Ipples and Benetiz"? You Raffi fans know what I'm talking about.

"Benetiz, when he is one..."-one what? A choice?

By the way, the Red Sox lost Urbina in the offseason because, they claim, they could not afford him.]

nassau, Bahamas: Why is it that we haven't seem a player elected into the Hall OF Fame with 100% voting, and do you think Bonds could be that first player?

I think the writers always felt that only a few guys should go in on the first ballot. Some guys intentionally left off a guy like Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio, Willie Mays. It's the mentality of the writers that there has never been a perfect player.

Bonds have five MVPs and Roger Clemens has 6 Cy Young's. If Mays, Aaron and Ruth weren't 100 percent, I don't' see how anyone else could be.

[Mike:"Bonds have" but "Clemens has"? By the way, it's "Cy Youngseses".

You don't'''''' see how Bonds could get 100%? Well, it's simple the writers vote for him. Bonds is possibly the best player since Ruth, if any writer leaves him off his Hall ballot, the moron should be barred from voting again. It's not as if the voters of today should be meant to perpetuate the mistakes of men who failed to elect Cy Young in the first go-round.]
Stevie Ridzik (D.C.): Dig your work Joe...But one bone to pick, how can you say "the Blue Jays rely mainly on home runs." when they lead the league in BA-SLG-OBP-OPS-RUNS-RBI and are only 3rd in taters?

Listen to what I say and do not put somebody else's words in my mouth. I said they have a chance of winning because they have a great offense. I'm not sure where you got that. It seems that people want to put words in my mouth.

[Mike:That's horrible! Your own words are so much more edifying. Observe:

"This is in contrast to the Toronto Blue Jays, who rely mainly on home runs" (from Joe's June 19th ESPN article).

[Mike:It was a direct quote for goodness sake.

Look people change. As years go by, their opinions change and sometimes contradict earlier beliefs. But this was one day!]

I guess once a year I have to remind people to listen to what I say and not hear what you want to hear. I never said the A's were "struggling". I never said the "Blue Jays rely on HRs." All I ask is you listen to what I say and don't put words in my mouth! ; )

I really enjoy doing these chats. To Doris in Virginia, I promise to call Sammy Sosa, Sammy this week and Roberto Alomar, Roberto - to add to Barry.

Thanks for all the great questions and we'll talk again next week!

[Mike:I guess Joe is like the actors in the play within a play in Hamlet who can hear what the see or read.

Just don't put words in his mouth, especially his own.]

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