Julia, seashell eyes, windy smile, calls me
So I sing a song of love, Julia
-Julia by the Beatles-John Lennon's homage to his long-dead mother
I'm a boy, I'm a boy
But my mother won't admit it
I'm a boy, I'm a boy
But if I say I am, I get it
-I'm a Boy by The Who
Telephone is ringing,
Is that my mother on the phone?
The telephone is screaming,
Won't she leave me alone?...
Well every girl that I go out with
Becomes my mother in the end...
Oh mother, dear please listen
Don't devour me.
Oh women please have mercy
Let this poor boy be.
-Mother by The Police, a great example of why Andy Summers was never their lead singer.
Hush, my baby. Baby, don't you cry.
Momma's gonna make all of your nightmares come true.
Momma's gonna put all of her fears into you.
Momma's gonna keep you right here under her wing.
She won't let you fly, but she might let you sing.
Momma's gonna keep Baby cozy and warm.
Ooo Babe, of course Momma's gonna help build a wall.
-Mother from Pink Floyd's The Wall
Assume a virtue if you have it not. (Act 3, Scene 4)
Frailty, thy name is woman! (Act 1, Scene 2)
-Hamlet by William "Author" Shakespeare, as told by Mel Gibson: the title character referring to his mother.
For vile I stand, descended from the vile.
Ye threefold roads and thickets half concealed,
The hedge, the narrow pass where three ways meet,
Which at my hands did drink my father's blood,
Remember ye what deeds I did in you;
What, hither come, I did?-the marriage rites
That gave me birth, and then, commingling all,
In horrible confusion, showed in one
A father, brother, son, all kindreds mixed,
Mother, and wife, and daughter, hateful names,
All foulest deeds that men have ever done...
But hearken; fear ye not; no soul but I
Can bear the burden of my countless ills.
-Oedipus Rex by Sophocles (lines 1443-1460)
I know it was you, Ma!
-The Sopranos, said by Tony Soprano after learning that his mother approved a failed hit on him.
Apparently, people in the entertainment industry have issues with their mothers. Go figure?! But not Joe Morgan. Joe seems to be the All-American, good-to-his-mother type. In honor of the day and since some have said that my attempts at humor at Joe's expense have been a bit acerbic of late, I'm going to take it easy on Joe today.
That Vlad Lenin guy who filled in for me last week has a gift for acrimony, and boy, did he stink. Today it's a kinder and gentler Joe Morgan Chat Session. You here to witness the birth of Joe Morgan Chat Session mach II as a free-form Jazz ensemble, or at least a baseball equivalent.
The Very Good
I am here and ready to go!!! [Mike: Hey, that energy is just infectious! Let's play, er, chat two!!!]
Peter (Alpharetta, GA): What should be the punishment if the Mets did give haircuts in the locker room during a game? Is this story true or just blown out of proportion? When will the Mets start unloading there high priced players as they are on there way to last place?
I think it was blown out of proportion. I think everyone should be on the bench but not all teams have that rule. You would have to look at what each team's rules are. What you are doing is not as important as where you are during the game. You should be on the bench. [Mike: Blow. Ha ha, I get it, Joe. That's a reference to ex-New York star Joe Pepitone being the first player to bring a hair dryer into the lockerroom. And you Dennis-Miller-like alluded to it from the Rey Sanchez haircut point. Good one!]
Kelso, NYC: Hi, Joe. Everyone talks about Soriano's hitting, but his DEFENSE at 2B has dramatically improved. Do you think it's Willie Randolph's influence, natural talent, or a combination?
I think it's probably both. Randolph has continued to get him to focus in the field. I saw him drop a popup for his second error which was a lack of focus, but overall his focus has improved due to the influence of Randolph and his experience. [Mike: Kelso? Say hi to Eric and the rest of the Formans. Good assessment, Joe. Soriano's range has stayed the same this year but he has dropped the errors (from 23 in 2002 to just two so far this year). It is still surprising that his range is limited as compared to the rest of the league given his speed. He is still not a good defensive second baseman, but at least he is not a liability.]
Brett, Kansas : Hi joe! Vlad hasn't seemed to take advantage of the short porch in San Juan, is going to get 40-40 this year, everyone was talking 50-50 before the year.
He never needed a short porch to hit before! His numbers will reflect that at the end of the year. He will get his HRs and hits. He probably hasn't taken advantage of it like he should but he's just a good hitter. It doesn't matter where he plays. [Mike: Hear! Hear! You're talking about thirty-odd at-bats in ten games. He had a three-game minislump in there, but he also had a 3-for-3, five-RBI day. Guerrero only batted .242 in San Juan, but he had two home runs, 7 RBI, and 9 runs scored and had a .404 on-base percentage (using the short form). Give the guy a break.]
Brent (ND): Hey Joe! I think its pretty awesome that you do this every week. The Twins are on a hot streak right now. What has been the key to their success? Also, did you see Lohse last night? I know they're playing the Devil Rays, but he pitched great.
Good question. I've been a big fan of Minnesota's team for awhile. Gardenhire is a very good manager. He handles the players well and handles the media well. He has been able to keep them together when things started slowly. Now with Torii Hunter hitting better and the pitching coming around, they should be a factor in the pennant race. I like to watch them play. I'll be there Sunday.
[Mike: You were there last night, and you rightly pointed out that it's rather odd that the White Sox have yet to be an element as yet. They seem to be under-performing as a team. A number of hitters have had their issues (Konerko, Lee, Rowand, Crede, and Rios. Their pitching has yet to gel as yet. Billy Koch has made them miss Keith Foulke (2 out of five saves blown). But he isn't all to blame. They have been outscored 153 to 170, which by the Pythagorean formula translates into 17-20, exactly their record. The Sox have been a team with young, promising players. As yet, those young players have not fulfilled that promise. However, I would avoid a move like John Garland-for-Carl Everett as Phil Rogers suggests. Lord, no!]
Chris (The Ville): Whats up Joe? Please answer me this. Alfonso Soriano hits homeruns with no problem. The guys is 160 pounds. Come on. I know your going to talk bat speed, but I'm convinced his bat is cork.Albert Belle was a big guy and they questioned his homeruns. Why not check? Remember Wilton Guerrero incidence?
Why check his bat!! He's bigger than that and very strong. A lot of guys can generate power with their bat speed and he does that. You are the first person to question his bat and managers and players watch him everyday and haven't questioned it. I think you are way off base.
[Mike: Joe give this rube a copy of The Physics of Baseball and move on. (By the way, Soriano is listed at 180.)]
MJB: Joe- Please answer this. How do you feel about the competitive balance of MLB?
That's a word that has come up a lot but over the history of the game, the Yankees have won 26 titles. Now all of a sudden everyone acts like the teams are supposed to alternate championships. It always boils down to management of the team. It's actually more balanced now than it was 3-4 years ago. But it will never be perfect. Football is the only sport that seems to alternate every year as to who wins. Every sport will have dominate teams.
[Mike: Good, Joe. Most commentators overlook the historic approach. The Golden Age of baseball, i.e. the Fifties, consisted of one New York team beating up on another with an odd Braves or Indians team thrown in once in a while. Fifteen of the twenty World Series teams of the Fifties came from New York. Did anyone bemoan the lack of competent balance then?
Right about team management. The Indians made good personnel decisions in the early Nineties and were a power house. They made bad decisions in the late Nineties (letting go of Giles, Sexson, Casey, etc.), and are now an also-ran. Look at the Yankees and the Mets if you don't think team management is the most important factor.
Joe, I think you're keen. Nothing can ruin this. You're in the zone, Joe.]
The Less Good
Joe (Trenton, NJ): What do you think about Matsui's performance so far? His defensive seems to be above average, which is a surprise. Do you expect him to start hitting more home runs?
I read that he wasn't good defensively but I have watched him and he plays well on defense. I haven't seen him throw but he has good speed. His offense has not been as good though. He only has 2 HRs and he is supposed to be a home run hitter.
[Mike: Ah, Mr. Morgan, I beg to differ. I believe that: A) The season is still young. B) Matsui is making a huge adjustment. Many analysts believed that he would have a rougher adjustment period than Ichiro. C) He has been picking it up as late (.930 OPS over the last week). Besides he does have 10 doubles, so he is showing some pop. He is only slugging .405 but so is Giambi. I think we have to give him a half-season at least before we pass judgment on his hitting prowess.
That's just my opinion, if it's OK with you, Joe.]
Jamie Arasi (Long Island): What do you think the reason for Jason Giambi's slow start? Even with a big game last night, he is still around the .200 mark. When will he turn it on?
He got off to a slow start his first year in NY and picked it up. I can't explain it. But they don't really need him to pick it up. They are the best team in the major leagues. They have so many weapons. He will hit before the year is over.
[Mike: If the New York media are to be believed, Giambi has been fighting off injuries all year. He is currently recovering from blurred vision caused by a staff infection in his eyes.]
Utek (LA): Hi Joe. There have been some articles this week on ESPN.com about good hitting pitchers. Two questions: 1) Rick Ankiel was one of the pitchers mentioned as having a great swing. Since he never has recovered from his meltdown in the playoffs a few years ago, should the Cardinals try to make him into a position player? 2)Who was the best hitting pitcher you ever saw?
I don't think you can make him into a hitter because he has pitched for so long. When you talk about good hitting pitchers, that's just the point, they are good hitters for pitchers. But they wouldn't be good compared to regular hitters.
I saw a lot of good hitting pitchers. Tony Cloninger hit a lot of grand slams.. he's the pitching coach for Boston now.
[Mike: Well, um, Joe, there were guys like Babe Ruth, Smokey Joe Wood, and Rube Bressler. They all converted from major-league pitchers to outfielders with pretty good success. But you are correct that no one has done it of late, but could that have to do with a DH being employed in the minors that causes pitchers' hitting skills to atrophy? Just a thought. (Kudos to Murray on the minor-league DH issue.)
By the way, Tony Cloninger hit only 11 home runs in 12 seasons. He batted .192 for his career and had a .482 OPS. That's kind of an unfortunate choice. Anyway...]
Gregg Massachusetts: They say pitching is watered down these days. Power numbers would certainly support this but why not batting average? If the pithing is worse now than ever before shouldn't it be easier for someone to hit .400?
The pitching has been watered down for some time. It's not new. The power guys are swinging for the fences more than for average. It's just the way hitters are approaching the game. No one will hit .400 because of the specialization of pitching. You face 3-4 pitchers in a game. That is why no one will hit .400 again. But yes, pitching is watered down. It's just been that way for 10 years.
[Mike: Well, Joe, Stephen Jay Gould demonstrated that baseball talent has become more compressed over time. I mean, you say it yourself: "You face 3-4 pitchers in a game. That is why no one will hit .400 again." But if you faced 3-4 pitchers and 2-3 of them were stiffs, then hitting .400 would be easier. Wouldn't it. Pitching isn't watered down now so much as it is trying hard to keep up with the demands of two rounds of expansion, more pitchers per staff, more pressure on the bullpen, more band box stadiums, etc.]
Emile (Marlboro, NY): Joe, what do you think of the way Mike Mussina is pitching this year, and do you think the CY Young race will come down to him and Mark Mulder?
Yeah, this year his control is much better. Last year when I watched him, he was high in the strike zone a lot. He gave up a lot of hits. This year, he is getting ahead of the hitters and not many are better than him at putting hitters away. That is the difference.
[Mike: Well, that's a good assessment of Mussina. His strikeout numbers are the big difference. His 10.70 strikeouts per nine innings is about two full strikeouts higher than his previous season high. He also has the walks way down. His 7.88 strikeout-to-walk ratio is more than double his career average.
That's nice about Mussina, but Emile asked a two part question. As far as who else will compete for the Cy Young, it's a bit early, but that young Mr. Clemens looks pretty good. Dang, you could pick anyone from the A's or Yankees staffs at this point. A few weeks ago, it appeared that Esteben Loaiza was a lock. Why don't we wait until the All-Star break to start the conjecture.
What do you think, Joe? Joe?...Joe?...]
Steve, Watford, England: Joe - I know this may be an issue that has been raised in the States and could well be pretty sensitive but....... being British, and living in Britain, I am wondering why we hardly ever see any African-American pitchers? Has there ever been any really prominent African-American pitchers? It can't be put down to physical attributes etc etc as we see plenty of African descendents pitching from Cuba & Dominican Republic.
First of all, nothing in baseball should be sensitive. You have made a very good observation. I think growing up, most athletes would prefer to play everyday. I think what has happened is growing up in a black community, you want to play everyday and not pitch once a week. It's a lot to do with the attitude of black athletes, very few guys want to give up their ability to be a pitcher. I think it will change in the future.
[Mike: Right! Nothing is too sensitive or issues don't get talked about, very good point, Joe.
Joe, perhaps to your credit, I think that you are being a bit naive here. I had always heard that African-American players were pushed into being position players because the major-league coaching and scouting staffs felt that they didn't have, in Al Campanis's words, "the necessities" to be major-league pitchers. This is the kind of trash that you heard about black quarterbacks in the NFL before Doug Williams.
I know that it's only anecdotal evidence, but if you look at the pitchers in the Negro Leagues before MLB started to dabble with African-American players, you will see plenty of Hall-of-Famers: Rube and Bill Foster, Satchel Paige, Hilton Smith, Smokey Joe Williams, Bullet Joe Rogan, Martin Dihigo, "Double Duty" Radcliffe, etc. I would think that the same scouting systems that initially overlooked Willie Mays would tab black pitchers as shortstops and outfielders in the minors.
Even today for the odd James Baldwin or Corey Thurman, there are a dozen white pitchers and a handful of Latin pitchers.]
Ryan (PA): Hey Joe! Kearns, Dunn, Guillen. Best outfield in the league "now"?
No. It's very good but you have to wait to the end of the season to declare them the best. Kearns is the leader of the pack but they strike out a lot. They are young and still need to grow. Eventually they could be the best.
[Mike: Jose Guillen is young? Ah, Joe, he's 31 and hasn't been a prospect for years. Besides he's just a placeholder for when Griffey returns, which could be very soon. He's done extremely well, but clearly he has not long-term future as a starter in Cincinnati nor should he given his past performance.
Besides, the Yankees, M's, Cubs, Rockies, Twins, Cardinals, and especially the Braves can claim better outfields. If Griffey returns quickly to full strength, then we can talk about the Reds being one of the best outfields. I mean, maybe compared to the Padres minus Phil Nevin, they are the best outfield with one starter injured.
But that is such a ridiculous question, how can you not hand this guy his lunch? You just hide behind that "they've got a good deal of growing left to do" BS that you have been spewing about Kearns and Dunn all along. Kearns is 14th in the majors in OPS, and Dunn is 37th. They are both among the major-league leaders in home runs. Yes, they both strike out a lot, but Kearns has a .419 OPS and Dunn a .347 one and are both slugging over .570 (both are in major-league top 20). Who cares how they make their outs? Look at what they do when they don't strike out!
It's just Things-were-better-in-my-day-ism plain and simple! That's it, "All work and no play makes jack a dull boy"! I'm over the edge!]
Nick (Albany, NY): Do you think anyone can stop the NY Yankees this year? If so, who?
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.
[Mike: Joe, that wasn't even the question. He knows the Yankees are good. He asked who can stop them.
It's the sort of question stupid question when you're less than a quarter of a way through the year-how about the Red Sox, A's, M's, Twins, Angels, etc. or even the Yankees themselves if they don't play well; at this point last year the World Champs were just struggling to get over .500-, but it is a question after all. You could point out that the A's have taken four of the last six from the Yanks.
Just pick someone, anyone!]
Steve: Virginia Beach, Virginia: I'm a big Mets fan and like Mike Piazza but isn't it time for him to move to first base. He's the worst throwing catcher I've ever seen.
Only Piazza can make that decision. He has been a catcher and that's a difficult position to play. Only he should decide when enough is enough. Not someone else.
[Mike: It's Mike Piazza's decision. Not Art Howe's or Steve Phillips'? Is Piazza the manager? Of course, Howe and Phillips should have discussed the situation with Piazza and gotten him on board before announcing it to the New York media. But ultimately Mike Piazza is an employee of the New York Mets and it's their duly-appointed caretakers who will make the decision.
If we left it up to the players, why even have a majors? Why not have an organized sandlot league? Whoever wants to play whichever positions is A-OK. Everyone wants to pitch and no one wants to catch or play right field. Fine.
What if Mike Piazza decides tomorrow that he has a Mackey Sasser-like aversion to throwing the ball back to the pitcher and needs a personal assistant to hand deliver it? What if Mo Vaughn is out for the season (or forever) and the Mets realize that they have to start thinking about their future and decide to try Piazza at first?
It's not like he's Pudge Rodriguez back there, and it's not like it has not been discussed in the media for years. C'mon! He's a big boy: he can take a reassignment.]
Beatty (Denver): Joe, why are so many hitters taking exception to getting plunked? Why the macho, "I'll show you" mentality, instead of just taking one for the team?
To answer it in reverse, taking one for the team is only for leadoff hitters. If you are down in the order, you don't take one for the team. All the hitters dive into the plate now, if the pitcher pitches inside, they can't get away from the pitch fast enough.
[Mike: OK, so getting on base only matters for the leadoff hitter. Does this make sense? The leadoff hitter may not lead off any other inning but the first, but no one else needs to get on?
All hitters dive into the plate because umpires for years were giving pitchers the outside corner (witness Randy Marsh's comments of a week or so ago). The umps gave pitchers the outside corner because batters erased the box and started to stand almost on the plate. I've said it an umpteen plus one times, but if the umps enforce the box, everything else flows.
Besides the question was why hitters take exception. There are a myriad of answers: A) It hurts. B) Their adrenaline is flowing. C) It intimidates the pitcher and keeps them off the inside corner. In the long run controlling the plate may be more run-inducing than "taking one for the team."]
Al (Little Rock, AR): What do you make of the Giants opening success this season? Barry's average is down so far. Do you think that he will be able to challenge for the batting title again? Will the departure of Jeff Kent come back later to bite the Giants?
The Giants play great ball because they win the low scoring games and the high scoring games. I don't think Barry will win the batting title. Last year was just kind of a unique situation for him.
The Giants are a different team without Kent. They scored more runs by hitting the ball out of the ballpark when Kent was there. I think they have enough to make up for his loss, although it's hard to replace a guy like Kent.
[Mike: So they have to watch out for those average-scoring games, right? Bonds will probably not win a batting title again, but given that he never finished higher than fourth and was only in the top ten three times in 16 seasons prior to last year, that is not a major surprise. The surprise is that Bonds' OPS dropped about 250 (100 in OBP and 150 in slugging) and he is still second in that statistic in the majors. His current stats may be more in line with his career overall (1.023 OPS) and his age (38). Though a return to a 1.350 OPS is definitely not out of the question.
Actually, the Giants' home-run hitting went down slightly from 3.60% of their at-bats in 2002 to 3.32% in 2003. Jose Cruz Jr. has taken up the slack very nicely since Kent's departure. And Durham, though he is a much different player than Kent, has contributed to their success. Two other offseason acquisitions (Edgardo Alfonzo and Marquis Grissom) have not produced. Grissom was signed after a career year, so his return to earth is to be expected. However, Alfonzo should start to produce.
The Giants may have a six game lead, but according to the Pythagorean formula they are playing five games better than expected. That may signal a losing streak in the offing. However, I don't think the loss of Kent is their biggest issue.
I think the loss of Nen is going to be more far-reaching. Tim Worrell is filling in admirably, but it causes a ripple effect throughout their bullpen. Their pen ERA is up over a run (2.89 to 4.01). Witasick and Aybar, who performed well last year, are gone. Joe Nathan has done well, but Scott Eyre has been inconsistent and Jim Brower and Chad Zerbe have been a waste. The pen overall has given up a great deal of home runs. Last year they gave up .48 per nine innings pitched and this year they have given up .93, almost double. They are also pitching almost two-thirds of an inning more in 2003 (2.67 innings per Giant game last year; 3.24 innings per game this year).]
David (Winthrop, MA): Hi Joe: Great to chat with you. I was wondering do you think that many times the fame that a player gets for being great offensively help him in the gold glove race. I mean, I think both Mike Bordick and Omar Vizquel did a better job defensively than A-Rod, and Barry Bonds is not a 5-7 time gold glove kind of outfielder. what do you think? Thank you
No doubt. But it shouldn't be that way. If you look, you see very few times where a guy has a bad year offensively and wins the Gold Glove. I've seen guys make lots of errors and hit lots of HRs and still win the Gold Glove.
[Mike: A-Rod earned his Gold Glove. He had a batter range factor (4.73) than Vizquel (4.67) and more double plays (108 to 98). Bordick's tange factor was better (5.07) but he played only 117 games at short (115 as a starter). He did have 92 double plays in about two-thirds as many games and a fielding percentage of .998, but given that those numbers were far better than his career average, it is unlikely that he would have kept it up for a full year. If he had, he would have deservedly won the Gold Glove.
A-Rod had a great year offensively and defensively. His had a couple of MVPs taken away from him. No one should take a Gold Glove that he earned just because he can out-hit the other shortstops.]
Brent Seaborn (Milwaukee, Wisconsin): Joe: What are your thoughts on the recent A.J. Burnett injury and the controversy about pitch counts? Do you think was "abused" by the coaching staff in Florida? Love the chats!
I'm not privy to anything other than what I have read. I'm not a big proponent of pitch counts. I believe you watch a pitcher and see when he starts to struggle. If his mechanics are off and he is losing velocity, that is how you judge when a pitcher has had enough. I've read accusations against the Marlins but I've only read AJ's side of it. I can't comment on it other than that. It's definitely a shame to see a young pitcher like that in this situation.
[Mike: Right, pitch counts, Schmidt's counts. If you are ahead 4-0 in the eighth and your 25-year-old starter has already thrown about 100 pitches but is going strong, let him finish the game, right? That's what Mark Fidrych would do. That's what Stan Bahnsen would do and Bill Stafford and Gus Krock and Bill Sowders and Joe Corbett and Randy Tomlin. All of them were washed up as tenable starters by their mid-twenties.
And that's what the Marlins did on August 1, 2002. A.J. Burnett threw a 128-pitch shutout that day. That followed a 132-pitch, 8-inning start and was followed by 93 pitches (and 5 runs) in 6 innings, 117 pitches in nine innings (in a 1-0 win), and a 117-pitch shutout (3-0). Finally, this was followed by a month on the DL. The Marlins were 20.5 games behind the Braves at the start of the last game in the series above. Burnett also had a stretch of six games that had 116, 116, 128, 103 (wuss!), 127, and 128 earlier in the season.
I'm sure that most young pitchers want to stay in a game no matter what. I'm sure that many look fine on the mound. But why take chances? Besides, as with Piazza, it's the manager's job to assign work accordingly. There have been enough young arms that have never developed due to overwork to warrant limiting a young starter's workload.
Are pitch counts a panacea for all of the ills of pitching? Definitely not, but it is one of the things to consider along with whether the pitcher is laboring, if his mechanics are off, etc. However, a pitch count cap should be established and fervently adhered to for each young pitcher. The reason for this is that while a change to mechanics or velocity is readily apparent, accumulated wear and tear on a pitching arm due to high pitch counts are not. There is a large enough body of research that indicates that throwing over around 100 pitches often is bad for young arm, how bad and how young and exactly how many pitches no one really knows. And it's doubtful that a formula of some sort could ever be developed. But each club should establish a guideline based on the research and should periodically re-assess that guideline.]