Ted Striker (on radio): May Day! May Day!
Capt. Rex Kramer (other end): May Day, what is it?
Johnny: Why, it's the Russian new year. We'll have a parade...
-Airplane!, Act 2, Scene 3
Hello, comrades. It is I, Vladimir Ilich Ulyanov, better know to you as good ol' Vlady Lenin. At one time I was the father of a worldwide revolution. Even after my death I command such respect that I ruled ceremoniously from my glass tomb.
Now I am just a step on the way to the Moscow Mickey D's in Let's Go Moscow. And as far as my movement, it's devolved to a beard-wearing, cigar-smoking, failed ballplayer on a tiny Caribbean island. Even the name Lenin is best remembered as that of one of the Beatles-at least he was the smart one, but he spelled "Lenin" wrong anyway.
I know that I once said, "All our lives we fought against exalting the individual, against the elevation of the single person, and long ago we were over and done with the business of a hero, and here it comes up again: the glorification of one personality. This is not good at all. I am just like everybody else." But that was before I hit rock bottom and became a shill for Mike's Baseball Rants. I ask you, "What Is to Be Done?" Eh, I asked that before, and look what it got me.
I'm here to tell you that we, the proletariat at Mike's Baseball Rants-and believe me, we are proletariat-, love the Joe Morgan. He was one of our fave ballplayers growing up and the best second-sacker that we have ever seen. We love the Joe Morgan Chat Day even more. As an analyst, Morgan is a true Bolshevik. Comrade, he is full to the gills with Bolshevik, trust me.
This Morgan fellow is a true Marxist-Leninist. He follows my paradigm of using colonies as breeding grounds for the revolution. He understands that disciples of the revolution must be highly disciplined. He knows that any theoretical revisionism or gradualism is bad for the revolution. He wants the people to overthrow the dictators, the analysts-worse yet the Menshevik statheads.
Unfortunately for baseball fans, Morgan's revolution would have us turn back the clocks 25 years to a time when rallies were rare and every stratagem in the book was needed to scratch out a run. He would abolish any newfangled statistics from the record book. Everything from on-base-percentage to pitcher's ERA would be expunged from history. The analyst dictators refuse to accept wins as the true way to evaluate pitchers and batting average and RBI as the measure sticks for batters. They deign to tempt men with promises of Win Shares, park-adjusted OPS's, and ERAs above the park-adjusted league average? But his devotion is unparalleled. His cause is just, just stupid. He is using his chat to reach new fans with his outmoded ideas, and it is working.
Now, let us review his excellent propaganda (accompanied by really annoying animated gifs).
The Good: According to Karl, "Abolition of all classes and ...a classless society.
Utek (LA): Hi Joe. Nothing good ever happens when Adrian Beltre swings at a curveball---so why does he do it? I've seen him flailing away at breaking balls in the dirt, a foot outside, time and time again. Can't somebody tell him "Don't swing at curveballs unless you've got 2 strikes"?
I'm sure they are telling him not to swing at curveballs in the dirt! But individuals have to adjust to those things. It usually comes with experience as to which pitches you can handle and you adjust to that. He just hasn't made the adjustement.. in your eyes anyway.
[Mike: Right, how is he going to hit a curve without actually trying to hit it? He needs to develop his eye so that he can tell a good curve from a bad. He may never be a good curveball hitter, but he has to be able to handle the pitch or that will be all that he sees. The only way to adjust is to keep plugging away. If he never learns to close up that hole in his game, he will go the way of the dodo and Kevin Maas.]
Alan Davis (Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin): The Dodgers are hitting poorly again. How much effect does a hitting coach have on a team's hitting ability? When (if ever) do the Dodgers' hitting woes become Jack Clark's responsibility?
First, you have to have the talent. You can only assist players as hitters, you can't make them great hitters. I don't know when the responsiblity falls on the hitting instructor. Is the Tigers instructor bad? I guess you question all teams that are bad, but Jack Clark did a good job when them before. Maybe they will get better with him being there everyday, he has been injured in the past.
[Mike: I have to agree with Joe here.
The Dodgers have some sore spots in their lineup that they seem not to be doing much about: Cesar Izturis is the new Rey Ordonez (.562 OPS in 2002; .580 this year). Adrian Beltre has some definite holes in his game (see above) and is struggling this year (.651 OPS). Alex Cora played way over his head in limited duty in 2002 (.805 OPS in 258 Abs) and they rewarded him with the second base job (at least they got rid of Mark Grudzielanek, but that was largely a fiscal issue). Now he has returned to his career level (.669 OPS; career: .654). The also have a few veterans under-performing, Shawn Green and Fred McGriff, but they should pick it up soon. Besides the hitting instructor probably does not have much to teach them anyway.
It should be mentioned that the Dodgers still are outperforming the opposition, .685 OPS to .624. This is better than their .729 to .698 margin from last year. So maybe they have just been in more pitcher's duels yet far.]
mike (New Brunswick, NJ): Do you think the Yankees are ruining baseball what with their 175 mil payroll and all??
No. They are just raising the bar for others to perform. It's not about the money, it's how they win. Steinbrenner wants to win. He puts his money back into the team where others owners take it out. They just want to win and he is giving them that chance.
[Mike: I think the Mets and their $125 M payroll are the ruination of baseball. Kudos to Joe for not joining in on the media Yankee-bashing, which is so popular of late.]
Joey, Nj: What is it with the pitchers hitting a lot of home runs this year?
I think it's just you .. for every HR there are 8 Ks. But one thing that has changed, a guy like Mark Prior who came from college, they are better hitters. There are more better hitting pitchers out there.
[Mike: And the judges are going to give it to Joe.
Pitchers have hit 10 home runs in 1000 at-bats this year. In 2002, they hit 27 in 5219. That's an increase from a home run in 0.517% of all ABs to one in 1.000% of ABs. Yes, that's nearly a 100% increase, but: A) we are still talking about a small increase in a rather small sample of data over the population, B) the seemingly poorer-batting AL pitchers have yet to hack, and C) the batting average and slugging percentage for pitchers have not changed much (.148 BA in 2002 to .151 in 2003; .192 to .204 in slugging).
By the way, Joe's 8-to-1 strikeout-to-HR ratio is a bit low. In 2002, the ratio was 72.44 to 1. In 2003, 38.1 to 1. Again, it's still a bit early to get excited. ]
The Bad: "The class struggle necessarily leads to the dictatorship of the proletariat" best represented in the Tigers
James, Waterbury, CT: I'm a decent Yankee fan, but this infatuation Joe Torre has for Jeff Weaver I feel is much too flattering. In my opinion, I say send him down to Columbus with Contreras and let them be buddies down there. Neither one of them is ready for the majors. What do you think?
Jeff Weaver is one of their starters of the future. Clemens can't be there forever. They have to develop some guys and the Majors is where he can learn the most.
[Mike: Weaver is in his fourth major-league season. He will be 27 by the end of the season. In each of his prior season except for his rookie year, he had an ERA at least 5% and as much as 21% better than the park-adjusted league average.
This is not a scrub we are talking about. He is a little less experienced than the rest of the Yankees staff, but so are 90% of the pitchers in baseball.
He's struggled a bit in the last year and one-half in New York, but he's also pitched well at times. He's not the staff ace yet that he has the potential to be, but he is an established major-leaguer.
James, your myopia is a disservice to learned Yankee fans. You make Joe look good.]
Rick, Louisville KY: Joe, Why are the Mets so terrible?? They seem to have very good talent, but have been rotten since their trip to the Series.
They have talent that was good at one time. But it's not performing right now. I'm surprised some of the guys haven't bounced back and had a better year. But you are talking about guys that were talented at one time. They just don't have it right now.
[Mike: Rick, the answer to your question is age. The Mets had an average age of 30.0 (32.6 on the pitching staff) when they went to the Series in 1999. That went up to 30.5 in 2002, and I would bet it's gotten higher with the core of players that they retained and the additions of David Cone, Jay Bell, Tom Glavine, Rey Sanchez, Mike Stanton, and Graeme Lloyd, and the return of John Franco. The only player getting significant playing time who is under 30 is Ty Wigginton.
Joe, talent is an illusory thing in baseball. It starts to evaporate in a player's early thirties. With so many players closer to 35 than 25, the odds that all will perform at their peak is low (though Alomar's decline was rather precipitous).]
Juan (Wichita Falls, TX): Hi Joe! I have a question that's been on my head for a while. I'm aware that Rickey Henderson is 44 years old and that he hasn't been able to hit .250 in quite a while. However I believe he's still capable of helping teams by getting on base and stealing bases. Maybe I'm biased and just want him to hit homerun 300 and retire happy. What's your take? Is he still able to help teams? Is there a possibility for him returning to the majors or is his MLB career effectively over? Thanks!!!
There comes a time in every players career that he has to decide it is time to hang it up. It's not an easy decision and tougher for some. I think he should have already retired a couple years ago. He is a friend of mine and I told him the same thing. But it's his perogative to keep playing. I can only make a suggestion. There is an itch that still needs to be scratched.
[Mike: He's still a decent major-league player. He is not much more than a role player now, but he can still produce. He also seems to make the players around him more patient at the plate and high walks rates seem to follow him wherever he goes.
The reason that he's not on a team right now is that he is a pain in the derriere. That's also a reason why he probably won't be a coach or a scout when he's done. When Rickey hangs 'em up, that'll probably be his last appearance on the field, except at old-timers games and ceremonies. Why not play until no one let's you play anymore if you're Rickey?
When Cal Ripken was still playing awhile in decline, it was one of the things that people admired him for (and voted him onto far too many All-Star games for). Why isn't Rickey admired for trying to keep playing by any means possible, including playing independent league ball?]
Jim (Pittsburgh): I saw a report that said that only 11% of major league players are African-American. That's apparently the lowest percentage in years. What do you think are the reasons for this decline?
I'm no longer worried because there is nothing I can do about it. I brought it to MLB's attention years ago and told them they were not doing enough in the inner cities to promote baseball. They were busy finding talent in Latin America, they just weren't doing it at home. I pointed it out but they don't seem to care.
[Mike: Far be it for me to tell MLB not to promote the game in the inner cities, or anywhere else for that matter. However, given that foreign born players now comprise about 25% of all major-leaguers, wouldn't all Americans, not just African-Americans, witness a reduction in their numbers?
One could argue that this is basically a chicken-or-egg problem: Did the reduction in African-Americans cause an increase in foreign-born players or visa versa? I would argue that it is the latter given that talent has improved (given greater talent compression) and not declined, which one would expect if segments of the population were leaving the sport.
I would say that some athletes have been attracted away by the popularity of the NBA over the last 15-20 years and by its relaxing rules that require college players to complete their senior year, but it has not hurt the sport appreciably. I would think that almost a decade of labor struggles and negative campaigning have done more damage. How many inner city kids want to be Barry Bonds and how many want to be Michael Jordan?]
Marcus (Honolulu): Joe, Pat Burrell is really not living up to all the hype. People expect a huge season out of him, and thus far, he has not produced. Does the addition of Thome somehow hurt him (which would make little sense to me), or is he just in a slump? Do you think he'll come around and put up All-Star numbers? Thanks Joe, and have a good one.
I don't see how adding a bat can hurt him. It should help him, not hurt. He is off to a slow start and when you are young, you start to wonder about your ability. If you haven't done it year after year, you doubt yourself. I think he's just adjusting but will be a good hitter.
[Mike: Burrell's young? I know he's only 26 but he is in his fourth year as a starter. He's lived up to the "hype" before. Besides he's less than a year younger than A-Rod, and his youth is always seen as a plus.
He's just in a slump. Maybe the stadium construction next to the Vet is affecting his game more than the rest of the team. Maybe he's having an off-year-it happens even to veterans.]
Matt: Fairfield, California: Joe, are you still playing tennis?
I love tennis but my right knee isn't healthy enough .. if I can't play it tournaments, it's not worth it to me.
I'm trying to get on the Senior Golf Tour!
[Mike: Great! How are the wife and kids? Who cares-get back to friggin' baseball.]
Joe staten island ny: Why don't the mets leave Alamor in the two hole and let Cedeno leadoff, Cedeno needs to bunt more and try stealing when he gets on base, you have to make things happen.
I think you should write that to Art Howe! They tried Cedeno in the leadoff last year and they weren't happy. He strikes out alot. His OBP was low also.
[Mike: His OBP was low?!? It's .270 on the year. I'd said that was a bit of an understatement, Joe.
He struck out 19 times in 84 at-bats. Their average out of the number-one slot, as a result, is .189, 21 points below the lowly Tigers. Their leadoff OPS is .560, slightly ahead of Tampa Bay but nearly 50% what the Yankees are getting out of their leadoff hitter.]
mike (New Brunswick, NJ): Joe, what kind of numbers do you think you would put up if your playing career was in the 90's -2000's? Better or worse ?
It's interesting.. we had that conversation two days ago with Dusty Baker. You can't predict anything, but I just know it's easier to accumulate numbers now .. easier .. not easy. Mays and those guys would have Barry Bonds numbers these days. It's a different era and you just have to leave it at that.
[Mike: Mays did have Bonds numbers (Mays is among Barry Bonds comps, i.e. similar batters) That's not really the problem. The problem is that Steve Finley now has Ted Kluszewski numbers.
Joe probably would have better numbers if he played today. But his numbers are still darn impressive in a pitcher's era. He has nothing to prove. This is basic stat envy, "These young whippersnappers have it easier today"-ism. Get over it. Things are always in flux in baseball.]
Alex (Pasco, WA): Hello Mr. Morgan! I was wondering if you have ever charged the mound before? (If so who was it and did you win?)
No. Too small, too smart. I never charged the mound. There was one time I wanted to, I yelled at the pitcher, but he didn't talk back. I don't recommend it for a guy my size.
[Mike: This from the man who said that the Mets' plunking of Roger Clemens was a moral imperative?! (Even after the Yankees' Tino Martinez had already been beaned in the Piazza game).
It's like Jack Nicholson in A Few Good Men saying that he commanded his troops not to touch a soldier who ended up dead while Nicholson worked on a spurious transfer order. When Nicholson said that his commands are never disobeyed since they were sacrosanct, it proved that his effort to transfer the soldier was not needed. This Ghordian knot of logic was broken by Nicholson's admission that he lied about the transfer order and that he ordered the men who inadvertently murdered the soldier to teach him a lesson.
Morgan's cognitive dissonance cannot be so easily explained. How can charging the mound and a retributive plunking of an opposition player both be OK? How about charging the mound for being stared at by the pitcher? How 'bout lobbing a grenade at the pitcher if you don't like his pitch selection. You see where I'm going here.]
Josh (Washington, DC): Joe, how different are the 3 outfield positions? Is switching from left to right (or visa versa) relatively easy? How is it different? Thanks!
It is a difference, but not a big deal. Just takes some time to adjust. In right, a right hander's ball slices towards the line but a left handed hitters ball doesn't do that in left. Center field is actually the easiest if you have speed because it's all straight lines.
[Mike: And pitching is easy if you have a 100-MPH fastball. Speed is important, very important, for a center fielder, but aren't positioning and getting a good jump on the ball important. Look at Rickey Henderson; he is extremely fast but his speed didn't help him become a great centerfielder. He has been relegated to left most of his career, playing 5 times as many games there than in center. Bernie Williams may not be the fastest player on the Yankees but he is a very good defensive center fielder because he never seems to be out of position.
Slicing balls are tough, but many outfielders say that a ball hit directly at you-like it would be to a center fielder-is the hardest to track down.
Joe, you also could have mentioned the fact that right fielders usually possess the best arm since they have the long throw to third on singles with men at first. ]
Worcester,Massachusetts: Wich one is the best young manager in baseball?
If they are young, that means they haven't been there young. I don't know. A lot of guys I thought should be managers haven't been given the chance. That's a long story for another day.
When I look at the game and Willie Randolph has never been give a chance, then the system doesn't work.
[Mike: Wustah? Bo wicked cool! Remember when we saw Aerosmith at the Centrum?
Huh? Joe, did you hear the question? I agree about Randolph, but get off your soapbox and answer the question that was presented to you.
How about Jim Tracy? The guy seems to get the most out of his team. He's my choice. How about Mike Scioscia? He won a World Series in his third year. Bob Brenly won one his first year. Ron Gardenhire won his division in his first year. Clint Hurdle seems to be doing well with the Rockies. Then there's Boston's Grady Little. KC's Tony Pena? Toronto' Carlos Tosca? Rookies Bob Melvin of Seattle or Ken Macha of Oakland? Just pick somebody already!
Rich, Hazlet: Would it be a pointless move to fire Mets GM Steve Philips in the middle the season? What would this accomplished?
I don't know.. I haven't heard that suggestion yet. I don't know what it would accomplish. The Mets foundation was set a couple years ago, not this year. When the brought in the Mo Vaughns and Roberto Alomar's, it just hasn't worked to this point.
[Mike: Rich from Hazlet? Remember that time we saw the Boss in Jersey Freeze? Good times.
Firing Phillips sends a message to all the players that he brought in. Phillips built this team and he barely made the cut when Bobby Valentine was let go.
It would also point the Mets potentially in a new direction, which would be a nice sop for the fans. Maybe it won't be about who the Mets would then get on the team, but rather who they would get rid off. A new GM would be instrumental in building for next season before the trade deadlines.
Ironically, it would be well received by the fans, but it would mean that the Mets are ready to admit that they are not contenders for 2003.]
Chris (Brooklyn N.Y): I think Alfonso Soriano is quickly becoming the best player in baseball (offensively at least)!! What is your opinion on him?
I agree 100 percent. But it will be hard to be better than ARod. But he can get to that level. He is getting better each year. It's just hard to imagine someone else doing what ARod does. But he seems to be on that path.
[Mike: Soriano is having a fantastic year, but Joe, have you heard of Barry Bonds? Besides Soriano is still 12th in OPS. Jim Edmonds currently leads the majors at 1.293. A-Rod and Soriano have strikingly similar numbers (both with 10 HRs and 26 RBI), but A-Rod is still outperforming him.
This is not a knock on Soriano. Just give credit where credit is due.]
Mike (Michigan City, IN): After the first month of the season. Do you think the winner of the AL Central can do it with 85 wins this year. It should be a very competitive division,but it seems to be the weakest division in baseball.
Yeah, but someone will always seperate themselves. Someone will get on a hot streak and move ahead. I don't know about the number of wins, but someone will seperate themselves from the pack. That is just how the game is. At this point, I still think the White Sox will be that team.
[Mike: "Separate"? The Royals went 11-1 to start the season-how's that for a "hot streak"? When he wrote this, the Royals were 17-8. Thy are now 19-9 and have a 5 game lead, the second largest in the majors.
"Pack"? The Indians are already 11 games out, and the lowly Tigers 15.5. What pack?
The AL Central is pretty weak. The Royals are leading it after all. Could someone win with 85 wins? Sure. But the Royals could also run away with it, though unlikely. The division, however, is by no means a pack.]
...And The Ugly: Screw class struggles and the fall of the Soviet Empire, Bud Selig's confused expression at last year's All-Star Game is the ugliest thing I can think of.
jim Pittsburg, P.A.: Joe, How do you feel about the upcoming interleage matchups i think its becoming a joke. It takes away from the world Series. Keep up the good work
I've never been a fan of it, the way it is. There are too many games. I think they should play fewer games with only certain matchups each year.
[Mike: Joe perfection: one good statement juxtaposed next to one lulu. The good: "I've never been a fan of it [interleague play]". The lulu: "I think they should play fewer games with only certain matchups each year." Screw any semblance of a balanced schedule. Let's just make sure that the Yanks-Mets games count in the standings.
What really ticks me off about inteleague play is that the only decent germ of an idea was to foster crosstown rivalries. But those rivalries had been sated for years by exhibitions by crosstown teams. Those exhibitions were abolished along with double headers so that the owners could squeeze every dime out of the fans. You want to see the Yanks play the Mets? Fine, but we won't give you an extra game. We'll fit it in the schedule. Teams once played all sorts of exhibition games on off-days. I know that the MLBPA would like to limit those as much as possible, but couldn't the New York teams play a couple of games against each other on off-days throughout the season? They did it when teams rode busses.]
Matt (Bradenton, FL): Joe, why haven't I seen anyone use the suicide squeeze in ages? It's one of the game's most exciting plays, but I never see it used. Has it just fallen out of favor?
Everything that is not a HR has fallen out of favor. The SB, hit and run, suicide squeeze.. they have all gone by the way of the smaller parks and not as good pitching. Everyone wants to score lots of runs, not just one.
[Mike: More pure Joe perfection. "Everyone wants to score lots of runs, not just one"-ah, remember those woebegone days when teams strived to score runs one at a time? When they would refuse to cross home plate after another player scored in that inning?
Look, I prefer to have more "small ball", but the fact of the matter is that enormous, gihugic ball is here. Why is it here? Because fans have been told by the media that home runs and RBI are the only important things for batters and wins are the only things important for pitchers. Now, who was it who espoused those ideas? Hmmm. Perhaps...Satan?!? No, it was you, Joe.
Anyway, preferring "small ball" is no reason to cast aspersions on the pitchers of today. I feel that there are as many talented pitchers as ever but the sport is just starting to recover from two rounds of expansion and the mass construction of a bunch of bandboxes. Not to mention the addition of 1-3 pitchers to each staff so that each team has a backup, backup lefty short reliever. The talent is there. There were just too many changes at once.]
Joey, Nj: What did you think of the Kevin Millwood no hitter the other day?
Any no hitter is impressive .. doesn't even matter who you do it against.
[Mike: "I know that. Don't you think I know that? It's my business to know that."
Joe reminds me of that nervous Martin Short character on Saturday Night Live being exposed on 60 Minutes. Joe, just tell the guy what you thought of the no-hitter. He didn't ask about the Giants. Are you mental?]
Victor (yonkers, ny): hey joe. although i sometimes disagree with your opinion, i respect it, cause you are more in touch with players than an avrage fan is. that said, what do u think about the Yankees? is there a weakness with them? i think it's the bullpen. what's your take?
There aren't any perfect teams but they are the closest to perfection. They don't have any weaknesses that show up everyday. Any given day they may not be as good on defense but they are the most consistent team out there. They are just better than everyone else.
I don't want you to agree with me all the time ... but I do know what I'm talking about!
[Mike: OK, Joe, you know what you are talking about. Just put down the gun.
Sheez, you're going off the rails on this crazy train. Fine, you know what you are talking about. Just calm down.]
josh (Newark, NJ): Hello Mr. Morgan, and good morning to you. My question relatively deals with the logic behind having the All Star game used as a mechanism for teams to gain home field advantage in the World Series. Who will this benefit and how? Is this MLB's attempt to add more attraction to the All Star Game or World Series? Thanks
I don't like it. I don't think anyone benefits from it. It's just a tool to try and tell the fans the game is important. They needed to just tell the players that but they are trying this round about way. Whoever represents Tampa and these other teams, they don't care who has home field. It's just a tool that muddies the water.
[Mike: Who are you and what have you done to Joe? You are far too lucid. C'mon, 'fess up.
Why, it's really Rob Neyer! So who's doing the Neyer chat? Let's see....]
Bob Hope, Maryland: Can you explain the prospective value of Pythagoran record. I can understand how it may explain whether a team has been lucky or unlucky in the games it has played, but is there really any evidence that it can predict future performance?
There's not only "any" evidence, there's plenty of evidence. A team's Pythagorean record predicts future performance than does its actual record. So Braves fans, don't get too excited just yet.
Charles (North Carolina): Don't you think that the Braves Pythagorean record is a little misleading? In their last 16 games they've outscored opponents 89-53. And the main reason for the run differential in the first 12 games was Maddux's disastrous (and most likely anomalous) first three starts, which accounted for 43 of the 86 runs scored against them in those first twelve games!! So Rob, what I would say is it's definitely time for Braves fans to get excited (and to hopefully start showing up at the ballpark.)
Good point, Chuck. Pythagorean records can definitely be deceptive this early in the season, and if Maddux is past his problems, those three crummy starts don't really tell us anything about the post-April Braves. So I take back everything I said about them.
[Mike: Hmm...complete waffling on a question. Willy-nilly use of statistics...
Joe, I've found you!
Only you would think that four decent starts would outweigh four bad ones. I mean, it is Greg Maddux after all, but he has a 4.86 ERA one fifth of the way through the season. And he is getting a bit older.
Besides the Braves have a rotation ERA of 4.32 and have no starter with an ERA under 3.50. Their relievers have an ERA over 4.00, but they are starting to gel.
Offensively, Rafeal Furcal (.851 OPS), Julio Franco (.877), Marcus Giles (.957), and Robert Fick (.915) have to come back to reality. Even decent players like Andruw Jones and Gary Sheffield are played a full 100 points above their career OPS. Neyer-Morgan should have stuck by his guns, but his original statement should have included the disclaimer that the numbers are based on a small sample.]