One Joe Morgan Chat Day at a Day (So Walk on Your Feet)
by Mike Carminati
Did you ever notice that a Joe Morgan chat session is like a trip back in time to the baseball age of jive, when commentators could promulgate stands like wins are all that matter in evaluating pitchers, that ballplayers today are inferior to those in the commentator's day, that RBI is the true measuring stick for a batter, etc. In other words their homespun hokum was the commerce of the day and since no one ever checked any of it out, their word was sacrosanct. Joe's more retro than a J.R. Richard jersey.
Not only did the sabermetric revolution that took root in the Seventies with the founding of SABR and the first publication of Bill James' Baseball Abstracts (on his own dime yet) pass Joe completely by; Joe believes that the baseball world is centered around his mid-Seventies Big Red Machine Cincinnati club. He will be trying in the coming years to induct everyone from that club starting with Dave Concepcion down to Ed Armbrister into the Hall of Fame via his Vets' Committee. Yeah, they were a great team, but Morgan, Johnny Bench, Sparky Anderson, Tony Perez, and eventually Pete Rose should be enough to represent that team in the Hall.
But I digress-To repeat, Joe is stuck in the Seventies when pitchers were expected to finish the games they started, stadiums were all alike cookie cutters, and hitting 50 homers was as rare as a doubleheader is today. Listening to his broadcasts is like watching an episode of Welcome Back, Kotter on Nick at Nite: it's got that reassuring nostalgic feel of a simpler and gentler time but just does not stack up to the way you remember them to be. Aside from the nostalgic value, he leaves me as flat as an umpteenth listening to Play That Funky Music, White Boy.
Joe is so Seventies that his chat sessions make about as much sense as an episode of Happy Days with Ted McGinley. His responses are as trite and nonsensical as the catchphrases from the Seventies sitcoms. For example:
Up your nose with a rubber hose! (Sweathogs et al, Welcome Back, Kotter)
De Plane (Tattoo, Fanstasy Island)
Zoinks! (Shaggy, Scoobey Doo, Where Are You?)
Handle It! Handle It! (Governor, Benson)
You get the point.
Actually, the Seventies nostalgia that has gripped the country the past five years or so could only appeal to someone who did not actually have to live through the Seventies. It is remembered for its awful disco music, but anyone who lived through the decade knows that its two greatest crimes were garish baseball uniforms and Sid and Marty Krofft. The Seventies featured some of the ugliest uniforms ever conceived. Here are my top-10 most garish in no particular order:
1. The Indians' all-crimson pullovers (introduced 1975).
2. The Astros' rainbow orange (1975)
3. Phils' all-burgundy (1979-they were so ugly the players revised to wear them more than once)
4. Pirates' all-yellow with pillbox hat (1977)
5. Orioles' all-orange (1971)
6. Braves' powder blue with fake cartoon feather on sleeves (1973)
7. Reds form-fitting home pullovers (1972-Pete Rose in lycra, eek!)
8. White Sox shorts and old-timer uniforms (1978 and '76 respectively)
9. Excrement-colored Padres home uniforms (1973)
10. A's all-yellow sleeveless with green undershirt (1970-the one that started it all)
As far as Sid and Marty Krofft, they were purveyors of hallucinogenic children's television programs throughout the Seventies. My top-10 "What the..?" Krofft TV show list:
10. Lidsville-a show about a kid lost in a world of hats. Too derivative: H.R. Pufnstuf with hats and Charles Nelson Reilly.
9. Dr. Shrinker-A mad scientist shrinks a bunch of kids.
8. Far Out Space Nuts-Gilligan's Island in outer space with Bob Denver and some fat guy riffing the Skipper.
7. Sigmund and the Sea Monsters-Bily Barty crammed into a green garbage bag with Jody from "Family Affair" as his companion and local would-be songster.
6. The Bugaloos-The Monkees with a PC bend. Oh, and they are bugs for some reason, and Martha Raye plays someone named Benita Bizarre, who wants to do something nefarious and/or kooky to the band.
5. Big Foot and Wild Boy-A feral child and his avuncular Sasquatch, which made his cameo on "The Six Million Dollar Man" seem heavy-handed.
4. The Brady Bunch Variety Hour-Exactly as monumentally great and earth-shatteringly horrific as the title indicates.
3. The Bay City Rollers Show-Billy Barty was some evil German guy with a monocle chasing a no-hit wonder band.
3A. The Lost Saucer-Jim Nabors and Ruth Buzzi play space robots that abduct two earth children in a good way. Wackiness ensues.
3B. The Krofft Supershow-extra doses of pain.
2. The Land of the Lost-"Marshall, Will, and Holly on a routine expedition, met the greatest earthquake ever known. High on a rapids they lost that tiny raft and plunged them down a thousand feet below. To the land of the lost (lost lost lost)." Cha-Ka. Sleestacks. Uncle Jack replaces Marshall in another earthquake (huh?).
1. H.R. Pufnstuf-The granddaddy of all mind f's. The Citizen Kane of hallucinations. Drugs had to be used constantly and in great abundance on the set. From the trippy song that somehow explains the plot to the English kid with the magic, talking flute (that looks like Ken Burns-the kid, not the flute) to Witchy-poo to the froggish dude who gave the show its name to the midget identical-except one was green and one was red-cops, one of which was again Billy Barty, to a talking mushroom (ahem!). Witchypoo wants Freddy the Flute for some reason and tricks the young Ken Burns to come to her talking island. He is aided by the rest of the characters to get back home or at least score some good T. This was the basis for Star Wars in the sense that it wasn't.
With this heinousness afoot, who cared about silly disco music? Especially, when it was commonly known that the great songwriters of the day, before they turned to punk music, plied their trade via television theme songs. Theme songs in the Seventies were in most cases better than the shows they introduced. Today, shows come and go so quickly, no one even remembers their songs, but in the Seventies they could become big hits and stay with you, literally, for the rest of your life:
"Welcome Back" (from Welcome Back, Kotter)
The Ballad of "The Partridge Family" ("To make you happy")
Sanford and Son (penned by Quincy Jones)
Good Times ("Aint we lucky we got 'em?")
Movin' on Up to the East Side ("The Jeffersons")
All in the Family ("Boy, the way Glen Miller played...")
Bob Newhart Show ("Hello")
Brady Bunch (you know)
Odd Couple (Loved the into(s))
Quincy (More students faint than in a class with Mr. Vargas from Fast Times)
Love Boat (love the Tom Jones)
(And then there's) Maude
Barney Miller (I think it's Weather Report)
One Day at a Time (Two words: Valerie Bertonelli)
Taxi (How long is that darn bridge?)
(I'm at) WKRP in Cincinnati
MASH (what happened to the lyrics though?)
What's Happenin!!! (Does Rerun ever make it on that truck?)
Mary Tyler Moore (The hat)
Rhoda (La la la. La La...)
Hello Larry (They killed Henry Blake for this?)
NBC Mystery Movie (Columbo, McCloud, McMillan and Wife, etc.-great whistling theme)
Even the kids shows had great songs:
Land of the Lost
Josie and the Pussycats
Fat Albert (Hey Hey Hey)
Hong Kong Phooey
George of the Jungle
Electro Woman and Dyna Girl
Friends ("Sigmund and the Sea Monsters", sung by Jody)
Stop the Pigeon ("Dick Dastardly and Muttley in their Flying Machines")
The New Zoo Review
Not to mention Sesame Street, Electric Company, or School House Rock
So what does all this have to do with Joe Morgan? Not a whole heck of a lot, but this week's session was a bid dry so I had to pad it out.
With that great into, here 'tis:
Nick (San Diego): Hey Joe, is there anything better than broadcasting a Red Sox-Yankees game with Curt Goudy? That was terrific! Where does it rank on your list of most memorable achievements?
It ranks high on my list of accomplishments, esp. as a broadcaster. It was very enjoyable for me. When I played, he was the voice of the game during that era. I just loved his style of broadcasting. He was always fair to everyone. It was a treat to be in the booth with him.
[Mike: Yeah, that was pretty good (even with Joe in the booth).]
Nick (Greensboro, NC): HEY Joe. Enjoy your work. In your opinion do you see batters in the future still trying to hug the plate? Or do you see them backing off a little? Thanks.
There is no reason for them to back off. Pitchers don't pitch inside much anymore. With the protection they get from the umps, with all the warnings, I don't see any of that changing.
[Mike: Right, enforce the batter's box and things will change. Otherwise, there is no reason for batters to change.]
Travis Cammilleri (Candia, NH): Joe, how long do you think it will be before the Mets begin their fire sale? Boston sure could use Stanton, Weathers or Benitez!!!
Well, they are in a very difficult situation. There are not a lot of players they can get rid of. They all have high salaries. They are also not playing very well. The fire sale for them will be difficult.
[Mike: Besides this Ghordian Knot of a team will not be solved until a new GM is in place. Phillips having a fire sale is tantamount to accepting defeat and probably dismissal.]
Matt (Bradenton, FL): For some reason, Lou Piniella started batting Rocco Baldelli fourth behind Aubrey Huff this week. This is a reversal of their usual positions. Why would you ever want to bat your best hitter for average behind your best home run hitter? I don't understand why he made this swap -- and it doesn't seem to be working, as the Rays lost all three games against Texas.
He's trying to get more production out of his HR hitter. He wants to have a good hitter behind him so Huff will get some more pitches to see. He's saying that Baldelli doesn't need as much help to get the job done.
[Mike: No, he's saying Huff is really a better hitter and he needs more at-bats. His average is lower but he can take a walk which Baldelli has not yet learned to do. So their on-base percentage is about the same, but Huff hits for much more power. If the Devil Rays had a decent lineup, Huff would bat third no question.
Adam (Ottawa, Canada): Hi Joe, What is going on with the A's in 1 run ball games? Last year they seemed to win the majority of them, and this year can't seem to win any. Is their bullpen just not that good? Or is it lack of offensive production from their star players when it counts? Who's your pick to win it all this season?
I remember last year Tejada was the MVP and he had a great percentage with runners in scoring position. He is off to a slow start and that probably contributes to losing the 1 run games. I think it's more the offense.
[Mike: How about good old fashioned luck? The A's were 26-13 in one-run games in 2002, but only 6-9 this year. Their Pythagorean record for 2002 projected to 96-66, 7 games worse than actual. Their 2003 Pythagorean record so far is 31-18, two ahead of actual. So they got a lot of lucky wins last year and aren't getting them this year (so far). Before you blame the bullpen, consider that their pen's ERA is 44 points better than it was in 2002. I doubt Tejada is responsible for each of the nine one-run losses.]
Jeff (Los Altos): Joe, what is the most over rated statistic in baseball?
Batting average. If you hit .300 they say you are a great hitter. That means you are making 7 outs out of 10 and if you make those outs with runners in scoring position, you are not a good hitter.
[Mike: What, not on-base percentage? Joe, you disappoint me.
I prefer RBI since they are to a large degree a function of what the rest of the lineup is doing and where you fall in the batting order, but batting average is a good'un. But it's not necessarily because of how someone bats with men in scoring position. It's just that all hits and all outs are not created equal, and that's basically what batting average records.
Besides Joe is being disingenuous here: he is one of the main culprits of overvaluing batting average in the first place.]
wayne (new yawk): Joe, I understand that players sometimes pick which team they want to go into the HoF for greedy reasons, but I think players should really be able to at least speak to a committee or something about the reasons they want the team they want to be picked. On that note, I think Roger has earned the right to choose whichever team he wants to go into the HoF. It doesn't hurt for me that he wants to go in as a New York Yankee! What are your thoughts?
The HOF is a museum which chronologically follows a players career. Wade Boggs reportedly signed a contract with the Devil Rays to go in as a Devil Ray and he should be allowed to do that. There has to be some rhyme or reason and at this point, the HOF, which is a museum, does it without any emotion. If you get mad at an organization and decide to not honor them, then what? The point is, it is being done properly.
I didn't have a choice myself. I accomplished more with the Reds and that is how they put me in. They did not ask me if I wanted to go in as an Astro but they were my first team. I played 8 years with each team.
[Mike: "Chronologically"? How about alphabetically? Or multi-dimensionally? Whatever.
Look, the Hall doesn't want players selling their cap rights. It's their museum; they're entitled. It started with the well traveled Gaylord Perry, blossomed with the Red Sox fawning all over Carlton Fisk, and became out-and-out venal with the Padres and Yankees bidding over Dave Winfield's chapeau. Gary Carter may consider himself a Met and Clemens a Yankee, but their predecessors ruined it for them.
By the way, Clemens seems to have forgotten that he ever played for the Blue Jays let alone had two of his best years there.]
Don (Mtn. View, CA): Joe, Now that Bernie Williams is out 4-6 weeks, Nick Johnson is out, Karsay will not return this year, do the Yankees need to make some moves?
Injuries are part of the game, that is why when someone asked me earlier if they would win 120 games, I said it was too early to say. Sometimes you have to ride with the injuries for awhile. If it looks like it will be longer, then you make moves. I think it is still a little too early.
[Mike: Sure, they'll make moves: They'll place Williams on the DL and recall Juan Rivera.
The Boss will get involved if the losing continues unabated. They needed relief help before Karsay was lost for the year.
By the way, here is what Joe said two weeks ago in his last chat session about the Yankees: "It's too early to give them the championship but they are not a bad pick!! Being the best team in the game doesn't always translate to winning it all." ]
Jim (Bayfield, WI): Joe - Is there anything good to say about the Brewers? Tell me there's something! Thanks.
Yeah, they have a beautiful stadium!!!
[Mike: That leaks.]
Jack, Moncton, Canada: Joe. Do you think Tim Raines has a shot at the hall of fame?
I think he does have a shot. But the writers vote on Raines. I only get a vote on the Veteran's Committee. But he does have a shot.
[Mike: To quote Bill Ray Valentine in Trading Places, "Thanks. You've been halpful."
So Raines has a shot. Is that what your saying. Well, he has played over 10 major-league seasons, so you're right.
How about an opinion on the matter though? I think Raines is a clear-cut Hall-of-Famer but I doubt he will get a lot of support because what he did well does not necessarily translate well into today's analysis. I see him as an ideal Veteran' Committee candidate. See, Joe-it didn't hurt a bit.]
Joey, Nj: Do you think Jesse Orosco is going to be playing until he is 50 years old?
If you are a lefthanded pitcher and you have a funky motion like he does and you can get left handers out, you can pitch forever!
[Mike: Yuck, yuck. There have been 341 major-league pitching seasons past the age of forty (not including this year): 259 by right-handers, 80 by lefthanders, and 2 by pitchers of unknown handedness.
Here is the breakdown by age and handedness:
By the way, the 58-year-old was a one-time appearance by Stachel Paige in a KC A's game (three shutout innings of one-hit ball with one strikeout an no walks).
Clearly there is no reason besides a few outliers to think lefties "can pitch forever!" ]
Tony (Arlington Heights, IL): Hey Joe, do you think Cory Patterson is for real this year or is going to tail off like he did last year. He seems to have gotten much better at hitting pitches up in the strike zone which has to be a good sign. Right?
You get experience from playing in the majors. Each year you should get better. It appears he is a better player now. Dusty Baker is always so positive and always keeps his players positive. Dusty will help him through the tough times. This could be the year he becomes the star everyone predicted he would be.
[Mike: Patterson is batting .318 with a .896 OPS, pretty impressive. He was batting .303 with a .767 OPS at this time last year. The big difference is in home runs, 10 so far this year and only two by May 27, 2002. Patterson had that many on opening day alone.
It could be luck. It could be Patterson maturing due to the added experience in the majors. But none of it means that Dusty Baker is the genius Joe makes him to be.
Besides Patterson struck out 142 times last year with only 19 walks. He is on a pace to duplicate those numbers (146 Ks and 19 BBs) in 2003. So I would say that no, it is not necessarily a good sign that he is swinging at, let alone hitting, pitches high in the strike zone. But maybe he'll be the next Alfonso Soriano. It's too early to tell, but I doubt it.]
Scott (Toledo): Bud Selig did lees than well with Bob Costes this week on HBO. How important is it for the next Commissioner to do well in the media and Public appearances? What are the chances of anyone outside baseball ever serving in this position?
One of the things that makes the NBA and NFL great is that they are media friendly. Their commissioners lead the way. The difference is Bud is straight honest, and not necessarily a politician or media darling.
[Mike: Is he joking? Sure, Selig is no media darling. His pugnacious mug would frighten small children, but if there is one thing that Selig is it's a politician. He is a master-I have to hand it to him-at garnering support within a group of disparate ownership groups ranging from multinational, multimedia conglomerates to individual hands-on autocrats.
By the way, Joe didn't answer the two questions presented. My answers: it's important for the next commissioner to please the owners. They are the only ones who can say whether PR makes a difference. It didn't with Bud, and it will only matter with the next commissioner if it affects the owners bottom line.
There have been commissioners from outside of baseball. Kennesaw Mountain Landis was a federal judge. William D. "Spike" Eckert was a retired air force general. Peter Ueberroth was a travel agent and Olympics organizer. Bart Giamatti was Yale's president. Fay Vincent was an attorney and ran Columbia Pictures.
Really, only Ford Frick (journalist) and Bowie Kuhn (league lawyer) came from a baseball background. I guess you could include Giamatti and Vincent who served as league president and deputy commissioner before taking on the reins of commissioner. ] Josh (US Army in Korea): Hey Joe, Given the Japanese position players that are starting to jump to the Majors, what kind of numbers do you think a Japanese player will need to put up to be considered for the Hall of Fame, given the length of their contracts with the Japanese teams? And do you think that the voters will consider their combined accomplishments in both the majors and Japan (ie, what they might have accomplish if all of the time was in MLB) when voting?
They will only consider their accomplishments in MLB. It will be tough to get in because they spend half their careers there and half here. That said, the Veteran's Committee could put someone in.
[Mike: Two things: Japan has it's own Hall of Fame. They don't need a handout from the Vets' Committee, who, by the way, can't decide on American players, let alone Japanese ones. Number 2: Joe should have pointed out that the rules preclude players with less than 10 years of major-league experience:
Rule 3. Eligible Candidates - Candidates to be eligible must meet the following requirements:
A. A baseball player must have been active as a player in the Major Leagues at some time during a period beginning twenty (20) years before and ending five (5) years prior to election.
B. Player must have played in each of ten (10) Major League championship seasons, some part of which must have been within the period described in 3 (A).
And the Vets' Committee is similarly constrained:
6. Eligible Candidates - Eligible candidates must be selected from:
(A) Major League players who competed in any portion of at least ten (10) championship seasons and who have been retired as players for at least twenty-one (21) years. In addition, players whose service in the Negro Baseball Leagues prior to 1946 and the Major Leagues thereafter total at least ten years or portions thereof are defined as eligible candidates...
C) Those whose careers entailed involvement as both players and managers/executives/umpires will be considered for their overall contribution to the game of Baseball; however, the specific category in which such individuals shall be considered will be determined by the role in which they were most prominent. In those instances when a candidate is prominent as both a player and as a manager, executive or umpire, the BBWAA Screening Committee shall determine that individual's candidacy as either a player (Players Ballot), or as a manager, executive or umpire (Composite Ballot). Candidates may only appear on one ballot per election. Those designated as players must fulfill the requirements of 6 (A).
Japanese players are ineligible. If Ichiro records 10 seasons that are Hal-of-Fame worthy, they will include his Japanese ball accomplishments to help make the decision. Sadaharu Oh won't get a plaque unless they change the rules.
Shouldn't Joe know this since he is on the Veterans' Committee and serves on the Hall's board?]
CBeatty (Denver): Joe, when your commentating a game, are you watching the field or the t.v, or both? Did the pitch calls look as "off" to you Wed. night (Sox-Yanks) as they did from my livingroom? Thanks, chief.
I watch the field most of the time, but I do sometimes watch both.
I don't get into pitch calls. One of my pet peeves is announcers saying curveball away. He is supposed to say ball or strike. It's the analysts job to say those things.
[Mike: "Howard Johnson is right! I want to party with you cowboy!"
I say, "curveball away." How do you like them apples? Go away or I shall taunt you a second time.
(Yes, the pitch calls looked bad. Umps have replaced that foggy spot on the outside of the strike zone with one up in the zone. That's my opinion.)]
Maria (Wimberley, TX): Joe, enjoy your work. Have you read the new book "Moneyball" about Billy Beane? What do "insiders" such as yourself think about what the book says?
I read an excerpt in the NY Times. It's typical if you write a book, you want to be the hero. That is apparently what Beane has done. According to what I read in the Times, Beane is smarter than anyone else. I don't think it will make him popular with the other GMs or the other people in baseball.
[Mike: Ah, Joe-(aside) this is embarrassing-ah, Beane didn't write it. He's no Jim Bouton. Michael Lewis happened to write a book about him.
I guess that shows you what "insiders" know, eh?]
Utek (LA): Hey Joe, given the success of Annika Sorenson, and the number of women playing softball in America, do you think there's the possibility that a woman would ever play in pro baseball? As an aside, did you ever take any swings against a topflight female softball pitcher? I know that Alex Rodriguez has stood in the batter's box against one, but he was too chicken to take any hacks.
Golf, the equipment allows women to compete equally. In baseball, men are bigger, stronger, faster in general. There could be a lady one day as fast or as strong and would have a chance. But I don't see it in my lifetime. The reason Annika can play with the men is the equipment has changed to allow her to hit the ball as hard and as long. What she has done is great.
I can't remember if I ever hit off a softball pitcher.. I think I did. It's so hard to adjust, going from a mound to someone being about 40 feet away. It's a big difference.
Women are great softball players, but playing baseball is a different story.
[Mike: Barefoot and pregnant, eh, Joe? That would be fine if woman had not already been employed to play professional baseball.
The All-American Girls Baseball League lasted from 1946 to 1954 (started as the All-American Girls Softball League in 1943. Changed to the American Girls' Baseball League 1951-54). Another league that was unheralded since it did not have a movie featuring Madonna about it was the National Girls Baseball League (1944-54). There were also professional women's league in the mid-Nineties: Women's Baseball League (1994-95), Women's Baseball Association (1995-96), United States Women's Professional Baseball League (1995), and Ladies League Baseball (1997).
If you think that women competing against each other is not a valid test for their legitimacy as true professionals, consider that Toni Stone, Connie Morgan, and Mamie "Peanut" Johnson all played for the Negro League Indianapolis Clowns. This was part of a gimmick after a number of Negro League stars (including the Clown's own Hank "Pork Chop" Aaron) had signed with the majors. Stone was at least good enough to play second base for the Kansas City Monarchs in 1954. (A woman named "Carrie Nation" also played for J.L. Wilkinson's All Nation club, which eventually became the foundation for the mighty Kansas City Monarchs.) And of course, there was Alta Weiss, "The Girl Wonder", who was a star pitcher at the turn of the century with her own traveling "all-star" team.] Ryan (Fargo): Which is more important in baseball today....good starting pitching or good relief pitching?
The way the game is played now, the bullpen is just as important as starting pitching. Starting pitching is probably the most important, but the bullpen is very very close.
[Mike: O, yah. That made no sense, Joe. They're as important, but they're not.
Starting pitching is the most important because it still eats the most innings. When and if pitchers begin to average three innings a start, that may change. However, so far in 2003 starters have thrown 8839 innings; relievers, 4537. Detroit has the eighth best bullpen by ERA. Which do you think is more important?
That said, it is important to strike the proper balance on your staff. The Yankees loaded up their rotation and ignored their bullpen in the offseason and are paying for it now. But if Lowe, Graves, and Kim, to varying degrees, tell us anything, it's that a good reliever is not as useful as a good starter.]