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Just Another Manic Mon-Joe-Morgan-Chat-Day
2003-06-03 00:17
by Mike Carminati

Pronunciation: "mor-g&-'na-tik
Function: adjective
Etymology: New Latin matrimonium ad morganaticam, literally, marriage with morning gift
Date: circa 1741
: of, relating to, or being a marriage between a member of a royal or noble family and a person of inferior rank in which the rank of the inferior partner remains unchanged and the children of the marriage do not succeed to the titles, fiefs, or entailed property of the parent of higher rank

-Merriam-Webster's OnlineDictionary

D'ya see? By definition Joe Morgan is the melding of the sublime-a superlative, Hall-of-Fame career as a ballplayer- and the ridiculous-a career as an ossified analyst after his playing days are done. We here at Mike's Baseball Rants love the Joe Morgan. No, really, we do, but we love the Joe Morgan Chat Day even more.

I know that last week I said that Joe was as personifies the Seventies because he is as retro as an J.R. Richard Astros jersey, but I have found a better analogy for Joe's baseball analysis sublimation in the next decade: Eighties music.

The Eighties will always be remembered for big hair, synthesized music, and "Frank Say" T-shirts. But before you run so far away, consider that the birth of Alternative music too place in the Eighties. Just as new wave was killing punk music, the Clash was becoming Big Audio Dynamite (that is Mick Jones was- a truly a BAD transformation), and video was killing the radio star, groups like R.E.M., Husker Du, the Minutemen, the Replacements, Pixies, the Feelies, U2, Camper van Beethoven, and Sonic Youth were getting back to the roots of the music: energy, noise and pissing (sorry, there's no other way t convey it) one's parents off. R.E.M.'s music spoke volumes before one could understand what Michael Stipe was actually saying ("Happy, Shiny People" indeed).

Actually, that was an era in which alternative actually implied that there was music that offered the freedom of choice (as Devo would say) as opposed to post-Grunge era, in which Alternative ironically became the term of choice for popular music. Back in the day they called it College Rock, Jangle Rock, Indie Rock, etc. Now, the term alternative has fallen into disuse since we have no alternatives: we have to listen to Britney Spears/American Idol-inspired pap or sexagenarians playing 30-year-old rock songs and hoping that they die before the get old at 150 bucks a concert seat (Thank heaven for the White Stripes).

But as so often happens, I have lost the nub of my gist. Ah, Joe Morgan. Yes. So what has this to do with Joe Morgan? Just as Eighties music represented the morganatic merging of great Alternative music with hair bands, Joe is the personification of the morganatic melding of Joe Morgan the greatest living second baseman with Joe Morgan the analyst who espousing ludicrous believes and when he does have a good comment morgantically fuses it with a seemingly contradictory perspective.

Maybe an example would help. There was a rock band that started life as "The Bangs" (but had to change their name since it was already in use by another band) playing Sixties retro roots pop and covering Love, Big Star, and the Soft Boys. They drew comparisons to the Beatles. The fact that they were women and for the most part attractive women didn't hurt their marketing. Their first album stands out as a pure pop gem (in the best sense) that was a critical if not commercial success. Subsequent releases found them foregoing their raw sound for synthesized dance tunes and ballads, releasing some of the more popular songs of the Eighties, stuff that is remembered as the typical tripe of the period. They gained short-term commercial success but lost the critics, their original following, and apparently all or most of their talent. A good cover of Simon & Garfunkel's "Hazy Shade of Winter" was not enough to save the group and they soon broke up citing atypically "artistic differences". Apparently, one member of the group believed she was the star, appeared in an Eighties teen comedy (something that has since almost been PG-13'ed out of existence), and Yokoed the band. This long-winded history is that of the Bangles, which many remember solely for "Manic Monday" and "Walk Like an Egyptian".

Equate their first album to Joe Morgan's playing career, his opening act. The dismal follow-ups are Morgan's analyst career, in which he embraces the most retro (again the J.R. Richard jersey applies) opinions even though they belie the approaches he pursued innately as a player. How could the man who led his league in on-base percentage four times including a career high .466 (!), say that OBP is merely the statheads' cause celebre du jour (nes pas)?

So without further ado (or further A-Ha of "Take on Me (Take Me on)" fame), here is a little number that has a great beat and you can does to, Joe Morgan Chat Day:

The Good

Saul (New York, NY): What is up with the Marlins getting fined? it's not like they went out and interviewed 7 or 8 guys and none of them were minorities. they had ONE guy they wanted and they got him. should have marched in a few minority "candidates" when they already knew who was getting the job? i'd find that insulting if i were those "candidates."

Well, if that's the case, then you probably don't find it insulting that minorities have not been given equal opportunity for those jobs. The purpose of the rule is to make sure that minorities are considered. Jerry Manuel got his job because of that. They did not have him at the top of their list, but he got the interview and he ended up getting the job. Minorities deserve the chance to prove they deserve the job.

You can't leave things as they have been the first 100 years of the game.

[Mike: When the man's right, he's right. It's easy to become cynical about the rule when all it asks is that lip service be paid to the hiring of minority candidates, but a number of useful social programs started as half-hearted sops for one group or another. It could be stronger but if it gets one worthy minority a job, then it's a good thing. (Thank you, Martha Stewart, just for being you.)]

Mike (Anderson, California): Good morning Mr Morgan. I have noticed that some ML ballparks have this new electronic device motoring balls and strikes. The umpires are very uneasy about it. Do you think this should be continued? Case in point the Boston game last night. Second to the last pitch would have been called a strike anywhere. I just don't think machines or computers belong in the game. You might as well replace the umps and while you are at it the players too!!

It depends on how it is being used. The umpires are upset because it's being used as a grading device. I think it is good for showing trends. If the umpire is consistently calling strikes off the outside corner, you can make him aware. But when you grade them, they can lose focus on balls and strikes and worrying more about how the machine will call it. I don't like it the way it's being used in that respect.

[Mike: Mike Anderson?!? You were one of my favorite scrub Phillies when I was a kid. Too bad you threw your arm out trying to pitch (a la Jose Canseco) and pretty much destroyed your career.

Anyway, this is a really scary one because I find myself agreeing with Joe where bleeding edge technology and baseball meet. Uh oh! Well, at least it's the last "good" he scores on the day. (Besides he was praising ESPN's "K Zone", which is a QuesTec rip-off, in the Sunday night game and defended the umps based on K Zone's perception when the Braves were getting upset with calls).]

The Bad

Jeff Moody (Annapolis, Maryland): Joe, do the Dodgers have enough offense in their lineup to play in October. They are winning a lot of games with outstanding defense and pitching, but are at the bottom of the league in scoring. How far do you think they can make it playing this old school style ball?

That has always been a concern of mine about the Dodgers. They just do not have enough offense to get to the World Series. They will have to make some trades. Their pitching can get them in the race but they need some consistent offense through trades.

[Mike: I may be too rough on Joe here scoring this a "Bad". The Dodgers did have a pretty dreadful offense in 1988 (tied for third from last in the NL in OBP, 5th from last in slugging, and 4h from last in OPS), they lost their best offensive player for most of the Series, and still were MLB's champ that year.

Then again these Dodgers are dead last in on-base, slugging, and (therefore) OPS in the league. It isn't all Dodgers Stadium either. They are 2nd from last in OBP and OPS and third from last in slugging on the road. They are out-hitting the opposition by a lot (31 points in batting average, 25 in OBP, 33 in slugging, and almost 60 in OPS), but there offense does create very little margin for error for their pitching staff.

Then again the No Hit Wonder 1906 White Sox won the Series despite finishing last in batting average, slugging, and OPS in the AL (they were fifth in the league in on-base).]

Jeffrey; Richmond,VA: Joe: It is an honor to chat with you. I grew up imitating your batting style and saw the Reds EVERY game they came to Houston. I am bothered by this Red Sox trade w/ the D Backs. Isn't someone who has been spotty as a starter and a proven problem closing against the Yankees exactly not the way for the Sox to go? It seems over the winter they had far better offers for Hillenbrand. Is this the best they could do?

I don't know what all the offers were, but I do know that I saw Kim pitch Tuesday against the Giants and he was great. He had just come off the disable list then. I'm sure that is why they made the trade, they were watching him also. They know they need one more pitcher. He was very young when he was pitching against the Yankees. He is more of a veteran player now.

I don't know why they were set on trading Hillenbrand. It's been common knowledge that he was available but I'm not sure why.

[Mike: The reason why is that the Red Sox think that he does not have a good command of the strike zone. He swings at too many bad pitches and does not walk often. They feel this does not bode well for his future. (I call him Scotty Cooper mach II.) He also does not field third base well and had already been dislodged to first base by Bill Mueller.

The Sox have plenty of guys who can play first. They needed a starter. Kim could also be converted back to a closer, another commodity they could use. He is 24 and the Sox need young pitching desperately since all their young arms have been traded or are named Casey Fossum.

The Red Sox were afraid to give up Hillenbrand in the winter but Mueller has made that easy. He was no longer needed and a starter was. Kim must have been the best they could get. I think they will be the winners in the deal in the end.]

Paul (Washington, DC): Hey Joe, now that the Red Sox have sacrificed a solid player in Hillenbrand for pitching help, where would they be better off putting Kim, in the bullpen, or in the rotation?

I can't really answer that. They have committed to the bullpen by committe. What would they do with all those guys out there if they put Kim there? It would change somebody else's job description. I was impressed the other day when I saw him as a starter. I think he would be great as a starter.

[Mike: (see Hillenbrand-Kim review above) Actually, they never called it a bullpen by committee and besides Grady Little chucked their unconventional use of relievers plan early in the season. Brandon Lyon is now basically the closer. Kim is most valuable as a starter, which the Red Sox need and is where they will use Kim for the time being. It doesn't hurt that he was a closer on a World Series champion.]

Chris Rochester NY: I think walking the bases full to force a out at any base in the ninth or extra innings fails about 95% of the time and is the stupidest move made by managers what is your opinion

Not really. Because it makes a force out at the plate, is why they usually do it. It's easier to get the out at home without a tag. You are making it easier to get that out at the plate. A force is easier than a tag. That's the purpose of doing it.

[Mike: I spoke about this play in the Yankees-Red Sox series ad nauseum. Basically, it depends on the situation, the hitters, the number of outs, the men on base, the pitcher, etc., but for the most part the advantage of an out at every base is outweighed by the potential of a walk forcing in a run.

This opinion is not based on research but common sense and anecdotal experience, two things I try not to rely on, but eh? What else can you use here. Run expectations do dictate that you are better off with just a man on third with one out rather than the bases full and one out in a tie ballgame. However, those numbers are for the non-walkoff situation, but they don't support the "walk the bases full mentality".

Ricky C in Sacramento: Hi Joe As a Bay Area fan, I love your work with John Miller on Sunday Nights. My question pertains to the "home field advantage" of Coors Field. The Rockies recently dismantled the Giants, and just yesterday finished sweeping the hottest team in baseball--Dodgers. So, is the Coors' field advantage (pitcher's breaking balls don't break as much that effective still, or are the Rockies for real? Also how do you rate the Giants new pitchers Kurt Ainsworth and rookie Jesse Foppert? Thanks, Joe!

I think they are playing well. They don't have any bigger home field advantage than teams that play in domes or the Cubs at Wrigley. You always see the ball better in your home park. I think the Yankees have the best home field in baseball because of the fans and the history. You have to give the Rockies the credit and not the ballpark.

[Mike: The Rockies are 21-8 at home and 6-22 on the road. The Cubs are 14-13 at home; 16-12 away. The Yankees, 13-15 at home and 20-8 away.

I would criticize Joe for ignoring the second part of the guy's question. It was tacked on and derivative.]

Utek (LA): Hey Joe, Frank Robinson has done an amazing job with the 'Spos this year (reminds me of the job Gil Hodges did with the Amazin' Mets in 1969). What can he do to keep his team focused on its grueling road trip, with its San Juan to Seattle plane flights?

Very good point. First of all, Billy Beane gets a lot of credit for having a low payroll and keeping the A's in the race but he had great pitchers to work with. Minaya has done the same thing without the superstar pitching and they have a better record. Omar Minaya has to be given some credit here. This trip could break down everything they have worked towards this year. I'm not sure there is much a manager can do in this situation. It will be tough. If they come out of it OK, they will be ready for the stretch run.

[Mike: I think Utek is a code name for Joe. He shows up each chat session and lobs in these soft pitches that Joe hammers...straight back every time.

Look, the 1969 Mets had finished ninth or tenth in a 10-team league for seven straight years. The closest they had been to .500 was 15 games.

The Expos were in second place last year, albeit 19 games behind Atlanta. They were 4 games above .500 however. In other words, they were no 1968 Mets.

Next, stop the Billy Beane bashing (there's plenty to follow). Omar Minaya has gone through talent like Barry Bonds' bat through a hanging curveball. He acquired and traded Bartolo Colon, Chris Truby, Bruce Chen, and Cliff Floyd in the last year and change. Colon and Floyd came at great cost. Minaya is the lucky recipient of a great farm system.

By the way, everyone has been predicting that the San Juan excursions would destroy this team. I think that they are glad to get away from the dreariness that Montreal baseball has been allowed to become. I have a sneaking feeling that when the Braves start to falter, the Expos and not my Phils will be there to take over first.]

Matt, Santa Rosa,CA: Hey Joe,Why is Bonds strikeout total up so high this early in the season?

Part of it is they are concentrating on not giving him pitches to hit. He could keep his focus in the past but now he is getting a little more frustrated and swinging at bad pitches. That's expected though.

[Mike: Well, cause it's not. It's up from last year but well below his career average:


Yeah, his strike outs are up about 50% from last year but that's only because he was out of his mind last year. Now, he's merely superhuman.

Carl (Chicago): Good morning. I was just wondering whether or not you thought Greg Maddux could go into the HOF as a Cub? He had many great years here before going to Alanta. Thanks

I would say Brave but I don't know. He has become famous as a Brave but, I don't know what the breakdown is.

[Mike: I'll help you out, Joe. Maddux had one Cy Young in 7 seasons as a Cub. He has three (and counting) in 11 seasons as a Brave. He became Greg Maddux as a Brave. You do the math.

Richard, Birmingham, AL: Hi Joe. I read a column of yours earlier this week. In it you said that batting average is the most overrated stat in baseball. Do you think Chipper Jones is an overrated player. His batting average has been consistently good. But, his power numbers have dropped over the last few years.

I made my statements, it's up to you to determine which players are overrated or underrated. My point was run production is more important than BA. BA is a personal stat, like ERA. If Chipper had 30HR and drove in 100 runs, you wouldn't care what his BA was. The question was most overrated, so I think BA is the most overrated. BA alone doesn't win games.

[Mike: Let's leave Larry alone for a tick. Compare Gorman Thomas' 1980 season to Joe's own 1976 season:


Do you still think all 30 HR, 100 RBI seasons are alike. Joe didn't even have 30 dingers that year. Forget about the defense (people forget Gorman was a pretty good center fielder), who would you rather have in your lineup?

Their batting averages are miles apart, but where's the greatest difference? On-base, of course, the other stat that Joe feels is overrated.]

Rockville, MD: With Melvin Mora, Jorge Julio, and Jay Gibbons leading the way for the future, how close do you think the Orioles are to contending?

Well, what it tells you is they have some good young players. If they continue to improve, the team will improve along with them. I've been a big Mora fan for a long time and Gibbons has great potential. They are getting better for sure.

[Mike: I have to point out that Mora is 31, not exactly young, though he is having a nice Mike Easler-ian late blooming.]

greg louisville, ky: Hey Joe, I'm a big red's fan, I'm hoping for big things this season, but starting pitching is killing us. Do you see any hope in the near future wheather it be in a trade or something in the farm system?

One thing they can't do is go out and spend money. They have already tried to cut back. I just don't see it happening. They might find some low priced guys, but you are right. Pitching will be a problem all year. It's a tough ballpark to pitch in.

[Mike: Are you kidding? The Reds made acquiring soon-to-be-free-agent veteran pitchers a cottage industry in 2002. The Reds acquired Joey Hamilton, Ryan Dempster, Brian Moehler, Shawn Estes, and Bruce Chen during the season last year. They all pretty much stiffed on the Reds.

The problem is that Boone and the boys cannot evaluate talent. They made Jimmy Haynes the number-one pitcher on the strength of his 15 wins in 2002. What they didn't realize was that his 4.12 ERA was only slightly (7%) better than average, and that it was the lowest ERA in 7 years as a starter. Besides his 126 strikeouts to 81 walks in 196.2 innings were nothing special,

Chris Reitsma was 6-12 in 2002 but owned a 3.64 ERA (21% better than average) and struck out 84 with 45 walks in 138.1 innings. Elmer Dessens was a so-so 7-8 but had a 3.03 ERA (45% better than average) and had 93 K to 49 BB in 178 IP.

Reitsma started the season in Triple-A and Dessens was traded to Arizona. They're not world beaters but if Boone could get beyond won-loss, he may find a decent pitcher or two.]

Edward (Metairie, La): Good Morning Mr Morgan. I was just wondering can Ken Griffey Jr. revive his career like Mark McGwire did after a long stretch of injuries.

Yes. I think he can. He is still young. The biggest problem is staying focused after everything that has happened. He can't feel sorry for himeself. I think he can do it.

Thanks for all the great questions. I'm going to see Kenny Burrell and Bob James when they come to town next month. Otherwise, I'm a big jazz fan.

[Mike: Uh, Joe, those guys are jazz musicians. Anyway, there are some major differences between Griffey and McGwire. Griffey started declining after 1997 when he was 27 years old and still healthy. The decline was most evident in his batting average and slugging percentage. His adjusted OPS's for the 1997-2000 were 164, 148, 138, 128. By 2001 when the injury problems started, he was a different if still very good player. In 2002, he was just average in half a season.

McGwire was still an excellent player for the most part while suffered injuries (1993-95). He never had to come back, he just had to stay healthy. Griffey will need to come back if he is to be respected as the Junior of old.]

The Ugly

mike, Kansas City, Mo: Should the Royals try and pick up another hitter in an attempt to catch the Twins? Or is it time to trade Beltran and focus on next season?

My understanding is they need to take payroll away, not add payroll. I personally am a big Beltran fan. If I was a team that could get him, I would.

[Mike: Huh? No, they already have Beltran. The guy wants to know if they should trade him or not.

Look, it's a simple question. They throw the questions. You field the questions. You answer the questions. But you. You lollygag the chat around the internet. You lollygag your way down to first question. You lollygag down to the denouement. You know what that makes you? Larry!
Larry: A lollygagger!
Mike: A lollygagger.]

raig, Alpharetta, GA: Why do you think so few baseball fans score the baseball games they attend? When you look at photographs from the '30s, you have whole rows of people scoring. Once, while scoring a Braves game, I was asked if I was running a betting pool! Its a shame, you learn so much about the game when you score it.

The game has changed in the stands as well as on the field. I just don't think people want to be that meticulous about the game anymore.

[Mike: And he's talking about the analysts when he says that.

Look, he says this but hates that statheads rely on things like on-base percentage. What should people do, just keep score and do absolutely nothing with the data?]

David, CT: A lot of people have criticized Michael Lewis' book moneyball. As a former superstar player (who drew more than his fair share of walks), how do you feel about the points brought up by Lewis about Billy Beane's A's, and about the statistical side of baseball in general?

I haven't read the book, just excerpts in the NY Times. My feeling is Billy Beane did not come off very well in the excerpt I read. But as far as stats go, you can use them to try and grade players. But players still have to perform on the field. Just using numbers alone doesn't work. You have to have some kind of feel for what he does on the field and how he plays the game. They can help you evaluate a player but you also have to evaluate on heart and dedication. Sometimes stats can be deceiving.

[Mike: Why does he insist that Beane wrote Moneyball? Didn't anyone tell him otherwise after the last chat? This guy even tells him it was written my Michael Lewis. He is truly mental! Way!

As far as evaluating "on heart and dedication", that's the first thing that Beane and his scouts do in the book. He wades through a pile of names and those who seem ill-suited to the odd life that minor-leaguers endure are eliminated first. Beane himself was a highly-touted head case that never made it in the majors. Then he rates players not on "how they look in jeans" as Beane puts it, but what they have done and sepcifically he looks for a high on-base percentage because his studies show they have the best chance of making it to the majors. Scouts look for the best looking and ignore "bad body" players who draw walks and get on base. Beane realizes that he has a team that needs to conserve the cash and therefore must have an organization with minor-leaguers at the ready. He's just making sure he can provide those players as quickly and in as large a supply as is necessary.]

JB (Danville, CA): Joe - Did you enjoy Diana Krall last night? I thought she sounded great! The A's offense is scuffling, Dye comes back this weekend and Tejada is starting to hit a little. If you're Billy Beane where do you look to add some pop? I'd love to see them go after a corner outfielder or even a move for Roberto Alomar (the Mets have to be looking to dump salary). Thoughts?

I wouldn't be Billy Beane first of all!! I wouldn't write the book Moneyball!

I have said from the beginning their offense will struggle. They can get away with it in the regular season, but not the playoffs. They will be facing better pitching and their offense will really struggle. They have a lot of .260 hitters that get on base, but you have to have someone drive them in. That's why Tejada was MVP last year. Chavez is hitting under .100 against lefties.

Diana Krall does have a magnificent voice.

[Mike: Again with the finger! Joe, why must you bash Beane? Does he challenge your staid existence? Let it go. You're good enough, smart enough, and gosh darn it, people like you.

Again, anything can happen in a short series. However, I have to point out that the are a bunch of .260 hitters (.255 for the team) but they're not getting on base either (.324 OBP). But their pitching is limiting the opposition to a .226 batting average, .295 on-base percentage, a .356 slugging average, and a Rey Ordonez-like .651 OPS. What this and the Dodgers' stats tell me is that it's still early. They have been in a number of low-scoring affairs. It's a long season. Talk to me again in October.

By the way, who is this Diana Krall and why did she play skiffle music at the ballgame? Oh, I know, she's the soon to be Mrs. Declan McManus/Elvis Costello. Oh, ya! Well, god bless her.]

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