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It's a Holi-Joe Morgan Chat
2003-04-21 00:52
by Mike Carminati

It's a Holi-Joe Morgan Chat Day (Mama Mama Please, No More Face Lifts-
I Just Don't Know Which One You Is!)

Why is this Joe Morgan Chat Day different from all other Joe Morgan Chat Days? Well, this weekend represents a holiday time for many in the baseball-viewing community. Many will be damming their intestinal tracts with matzoh while others will "cry havoc, and let slip the dogs of war", if you catch my meaning, with tons of Easter candy. But whether you enjoy PAAS-colored eggs and Peep chicks or heavy Malaga and charoses on your afikoman, Joe has a message for you. Joe is the world, after all.

For both Christians and Jews, Joe represents a time of redemption. For Christians Joe's rebirth as an analyst has an historical antecedent. But given Joe's subsequent fall after the death of his playing career, his forefather is not likely to be found in The Bible but rather in Milton's Paradise Lost or Dante's Inferno.

For Jews, Joe can be used as an example for future generations that there is a promised land. One must suffer through the oppressive commentary of today, through the plagues of Thom Brennaman, to get to the promised land. Joe will lead his baseball people to Canaan. He will part the Red Sea: "The Reds were the greatest, see?" Unfortunately, that promised land was the land promised by Joe himself, the land that he chooses to cover and he will brook no breach by analysis and the like.

You may have about, oh, let's say, four questions about Joe Morgan Chat Day:

1) Why is Joe Morgan different from all other analysts? Joe was one of our favorite players (again I use the royal "we" or "our"). He is arguably the greatest second baseman of all time. He also seems a rather pleasant fellow. But as an analyst he parts his Red Sea of opinions between great observations by an all-time great player and prodigious pusillanimous palaver from a punch-less palooka.

2) Why is it that with most chat sessions, there is only the chat session itself, but with Joe's chat, there is a double dip, if you will, the original chat and Mike's commentary on the chat? We here at Mike's Baseball Rants are fascinated with the baseball Rashomon that is a Joe Morgan chat session. That is why. To hear such great baseball insight paired with idiocy is a rare thing indeed.

3) Why is that even the flat, unleavened commentary from Joe must be commented upon? Because true Joe-ness is only achieved through digesting the small details. Otherwise the broad strokes would lose all context.

4) With other chat sessions, one must read in an upright position usually at your desk chair at work. But with Joe's chats, one should read in a reclining position, why? Because Joe's chat must be savored or one loses one of the great pleasures of the sport.

So without further ado...

Here comes Joseph Morgan's chat,
Stop in-your brain will go kerplat:
Flippantly, trippingly, yes, he's on his way.

So even if your head is wood,
Comments, if ugly, bad, or good,
Will bring lots of tasty pain. Oy Vey!

The Good: Eating the chocolate bunny's ears first

Jay (Detroit): hey Joe, are the Tigers mathematically eliminated yet?

Maybe not mathematically! Mentally I think they are. But, it's still early. Everyone is jumping on the Giants bandwagon and bagging on teams that have started slow. It's a 162 game season. The Giants will slump.. the Yankees will slump.. everyone will slump at some point. And even the bad teams will go on a streak.. it takes about 50 games to get a real pulse on how good a team can or can't be.

[Mike: OK, that seems reasonable although sometimes it takes longer than 50 games. The Angels were 29-21 four games behind Seattle (with Oakland 10 back) on May 20, 2000, 50 games into their season. The Red Sox were a full game up on the Yankees and the Reds were one half-game ahead of the Cardinals in 2002 after 50 games.

Jay (Minneapolis, MN) : Hey Joe, after the Twins bad start they have won six in a row, can they finally beat the Yankees now?

Again, I think it's too early to tell. I think they need to beat the White Sox first. It's too early to be thinking about the playoffs. Teams are still trying to find their niche and get their guys in the right spot. But the Twins are a fun team to watch.

[Mike: Right, Joe. See note above about early leads.

Keith (Brooklyn, NY): Hey Joe, What do you think of Roberto Alomars play in New York? I only saw espn highlights of him when he was in cleveland and other places. But he does some unexplicable things with the Mets. Head first slides into first, shying away from double play turns, bunting with runners in scoring position. Is this normal for Robby?

It would be unfair for me to comment, I haven't seen him play yet this year. But his average has climbed a bit .. he has been a good player over his career, he just has adjustments to make. When you get older, things don't always work the same way and you have to adjust. I expect him to do better than he did last year.

[Mike: Yeah, I guess he kind of has to improve. Given how bad he was in 2002, his career would dead-end if he continued on that path. Besides given how good he was in 2001, it's doubtful that his 2002 decline was just a normal one due to age.

The Bad: Someone's eaten your Peep chicks sugar eyes

Rob (Yorktown, VA): Do you think there will ever be another 30 game winner?

No. Wen pitchers pitch every fifth day, they really are only going to get 30-32 starts a year. You aren't going to win 30 out of 32. In the past guys got 35-40 starts. But that doesn't happen anymore.

[Mike: Well, that's not exactly true. Most teams do not employ a true 5-man rotation until May given the number of off days in April. The top starters still get 35 or 36 starts a season if healthy.

Denny McLain had 41 starts in 1968, the year he became the last 30-game winner. Bob Welch, the man who has come closest (27-6) since, had 35 starts in 1990. Randy Johnson had 35 last season. Pedro Martinez has never started more than 33, but that has a lot to do with injuries.

Yes, it's much harder now. And yes, there is much less margin for error. But winning 30 games is not yet as impossible as Joe paints it to be.]

Blake Mitchell (Austin, Texas): Hi, Joe--A concern I have about the Giants being more aggressive on the basepaths this season is that they will experience more injuries (i.e. Ray Durham already) ... is that something that normally happens and should be expected with teams who employ that style of play?

No... players today are in better shape than every before. That used to be a problem in the past. Being aggressive on the bases and injuries don't' go hand in hand. The Angels were very aggressive last year and it wasn't a problem for them.

[Mike: Has this ever been a problem? It seems to me that heavier, power-hitter types tend to suffer more injuries than the fleet, typically younger base stealers, but I've never seen a study of it.]

Chris, Boston: What would have happened if the Royals did not take the field this week against the White Sox? Would it have been a forfeit or would they haved made it up later? Do you feel that Chicago fans are a bit off compared to the rest of the league's, or is this just a few crazies that all happened to be in Chicago?

The umpires would have to declare the forfeit .. Sparky Anderson took us off the field once because they were throwing things at Rose. But they got the guy who was throwing things, got things under control and we went back out. The umpires could have called a forfeit if they felt it was out of control.

I can't really say anything about the Chicago fans.. I don't know them all. Maybe it's like hitting and it's contagious ..

[Mike: Actually, there is nothing explicitly in the rules that allows for a forfeit to be awarded to a team when they won't take the field under these circumstances. Here is the rule that pertains:

The home team shall provide police protection sufficient to preserve order. If a person, or persons, enter the playing field during a game and interfere in any way with the play, the visiting team may refuse to play until the field is cleared. PENALTY: If the field is not cleared in a reasonable length of time, which shall in no case be less than fifteen minutes after the visiting team's refusal to play, the umpire may forfeit the game to the visiting team.

It does not mention a team preemptively declining to take the field because they are not pleased with the home team's security measures. No one (i.e., a marauding moronic fan) is yet on the field and there is no reason that anyone would necessarily go one the field to became a threat (and no one did in the next game).

There is also this rule:

Between games of a doubleheader, or whenever a game is suspended because of the unfitness of the playing field, the umpire in chief shall have control of ground keepers and assistants for the purpose of making the playing field fit for play. PENALTY: For violation, the umpire in chief may forfeit the game to the visiting team.

I guess the ump could claim that the field is inherently unfit because security did not take sufficient measures, but that's a bit of a stretch.]

Tony (Portland): People in my area are making a big deal of the Mariners outfield and how it is one of the best in the big leauges on defense. It is the best I have seen, but I havn't seen that many. I was wondering what is the best out field you ever saw?

I agree the Mariners are really good in the outfield .. probably the best I remember was the Cardinals with Flood, Pinson and Brock .. seems you couldn't get a ball between those guys ..

[Mike: Ichiro and Cameron did win Gold Gloves together in 2001. That makes them one of only 12 outfields all-time to do that (none have won three). Winn is a center fielder playing left. They're very good, but I don't know if you can call them the best ever.

By the way, Flood did win seven Gold Gloves, but Pinson only won one and Brock none. And Flood and Pinson never won a Gold Glove in the same year.]

Lucas (Grand Rapids, MI): Hey Joe. Many people believe that A-Rod may retire as the best player ever? Any thoughts? Thanks.

He certainly is moving in that direction.. he is a great player and he plays hard everyday.. that is a main criteria. Everything he does fits that mold. It will always be tough to take one player and say he his the best.. you can't discout Mays, Aaron, Ruth.. just because I guy has better stats doesn't always mean he is better .. it is easier to hit HRs today than it was back then. Easier .. not easy.

[Mike: Does Joe even know that Barry Bonds is playing? After the last two seasons, how can anyone mention another player in the same breath as Bonds as the best player of his era?

By the way, ESPN ran a poll this weekend as to the answer to this question. The results A-Rod destroyed Bonds. Vlad was a not-too-distant third. Can he be that big a jerk that everyone can discount his two historic seasons and incredible career?

Oh, and I like the analysis from Morgan on the difficulty, or lack there of, of hitting homers today. The man is a true sabermetrician in his heart.]

David, Bloomington, IN: Hey Joe, do you still remember all the words to "Proud to be an Astro"????

Sorry .. No, I do not! But it was a part of my life for a long time.

[Mike: From Ball Four:

"We'll make the other hitters laugh,
Then calmly break their bats in half.
It makes a fellow proud to be an Astro."

If I were Larry Dierker, Joe's former teammate and the song's author, I would be a bit miffed.]

Martin (Dunsmuir, CA): Hey Joe. Why don't players bunt more to get on base? I see guys like Dave Roberts, Johnny Damon, Jimmy rollins and Rafael Furcal who can be much more effective if they'd just concentrate on getting on base for the hitters behind them. Is bunting for a hit not glamorous enough or something?

That's a very good question.. what has happened is the HR is more glamourous, like you say, although I think bunting is very exciting. Ichiro is fun to watch. It's a lost art .. people do not practice it. They bunt two balls and then swing for the fences. It's a lost art because the philosphy of the game has changed.

[Mike: "[T[he HR is more glamourous"? How 'bout more effective? It is darn hard to record an out when the ball is hit over the fence, but not so with a bunted ball. And the payoff is far greater with a homer. Isn't that what it's all about: using each at-bat to execute the play that is the best gamble and to minimize your outs?

"[B]unting is very exciting"? How exciting is a foul-tip strikeout?

"They bunt two balls and then swing for the fences." Maybe they should bunt and foul off the third ball, thereby striking out?]

Mike (Hampton, NH): Hi Joe, One of the local sports talk show hosts insisted that it was a bad move by the Red Sox to pitch Pedro Martinez last night in the cold weather (21 degrees with wind chill). I was there in the stands rooting him on. If the Red Sox are going to be successful in the post season, Pedro has to be able to pitch in cold weather. there are very few 80 degree nights in Boston in October. What do you think?

I like the last thought .. you have to be able to pitch in any condition, just like hitters. Sometimes you do have to be careful with guys like Pedro or guys who have had arm problems. It is harder to get loose in cold weather. But if he can get loose, he should pitch.

[Mike: Yes, Pedro should pitch if possible. I think that coddling a pitcher ends up getting them hurt more often than treating them like any other pitcher. That's not to say that they should take unnecessary risks, like throwing 140 pitches in a 10-0 shutout, but reasonable use should not be avoided.

As far as April starts helping in the cold of October, how can one cold-weather start now help Pedro six months from now? Do games in the Winter League heat help a player in the dog days of summer?]

Ryan, PA: Hey Joe! Now with Griffey out I think the Reds need to put Kearns in center, and the young guy Wily Mo in right do you agree with me? He's notting getting any better on the bench. thanks

I do not know enough about Wily but this is the time to experiment and find out what you have as far as players in your system. Find someone you think has a good shot and give him a chance. The Reds aren't going anyplace .. so yes, I agre with you.

[Mike: "The Reds aren't going anyplace"? When Joe wrote this Cincinnati was 5-11. They are now 6-13. Does Joe remember that the Angels started 6-14 last year and won it all? Yes, that outcome is extremely unlikely for the Reds, but it's far from time to throw in the towel.

The Reds should put in the player that they feel would make them the best team possible this season. Pena has been highly touted seemingly for years even though he is only 21. Pena has been given only 8 at-bats so far this season, which is a great indictment of Bob Boone's management style. Given that the other option (the one Boone is pursuing) is to put Reggie Taylor in center, I would rather try Pena. They already know what Taylor can do, or more importantly, what he can't do.]

Pete (Washington DC): Should beer sales be banned from stadiums, close sales after the 4th inning or some other restriction?

No .. First of all, I don't think you can limit beer sales anymore than they already do. You say a guy can only get 3 beers .. what's to stop him from getting someone else to buy him a beer? Someone who wants a drink will find a way of getting it. The fans just have to be more responsible ... that's the only way it will work.

[Mike: No, why can't the stadium or the team be held responsible for serving beer to already drunken morons? Bars are held responsible for ensuring their patrons are not out of control.

Here's what you do: Limit patrons to, say, 5 beers. Put 5 beer stein icons on each ticket. Each time a patron orders a beer, you punch his ticket. If he buys for his buddy, he still gets punched twice, and the buddy will have to make up for it with the next round. If all 5 pictures are punched, that patron gets no more beer.

The attacker admitted to entering the game drunk anyway. Maybe he should have been turned away at the gate.]

Matt(Boise): Joe, I heard you once recite a dity you said to yourself before each at bat...was too slow writing it down. Would you please share that was the best focus technique I've heard. Thanks

See the ball before you stride
Let it go if it's outside
If it's a curve and breaks down,
Jack up and hit it downtown!

[Mike: That doesn't really scan. Here's a new one for Morgan the analyst:

Make the call before you decide
If you're on one or the other side.
If it's a player of some renown,
Be sure to praise him up and down.]

Andy (Rochester NY): How come the Mariners do not hit Ichiro in the 3 spot and move Winn to the 1, Boone to the second? Ichiro with his average could get a great number of rbi's which i do not think Bret Boone could do. Your thoughts?

I don't know where you think Boone can't .. he drove in 142 two years ago and over 100 last year. There is some logic to what you are saying, you could take advantage of Winn's speed but Boone has proven to be more of an RBI man than Ichiro. I understand your logic, and if they had gotten off to a slow start, you might have seen that.

[Mike: A) Every study indicates that it really doesn't matter all that much. B) Ichiro does not have the power associated with a typical number three hitter.]

Dan (Hartford, CT): Hey Joe, What is the difference between this year's Yanks and last year'? I mean they look great, they are taking pitches, not striking out and other than almonte not making errors, were they always this good, or is this just a spell?

I think they are a better team. Matsui puts the ball in play and doesn't strike out a lot. Their starting pitcher is better. Clemens, Mussina and Pettitte, will they hold up over the season? Who knows. But I think they are a better team.

[Mike: Uh, Joe, Clemens, Mussina, Pettitte, and the rest of the starters were on the Yankees last season. ]

Brian (Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada): What do you think are the chances that Mark McGwire gets involved in the game somehow in the future? What do you think he might do if he was so inclined?

I think he is involved and is slowly opening up to being involved in the game now. When he left he just wanted to get away but after time you want to come back. I think he will get that feeling.

[Mike: McGwire was known as a surly player prior to his move to St. Louis and his 1998 apotheosis. Maybe he prefers being surly or at least being left alone.]

Joe (Old Bridge, NJ): Hey Joe, Lance Berkman has a mild sprain in his elbow. Do you think the Astros should sit him for a while, call up Jason Lane and finally find out what the 26-year-old can do? Then if he does well and Berkman comes back, Jimmy Williams finally has a reason to bench Hidalgo?

It depends on Berkman. If he feels he can play, you have to let him play. The decision is his. The player knows how much the injury is affecting his play. That's how it has to be.

[Mike: Well, no. Players always want to play, at least the good ones. Managers must make the call given advice from the coaches, trainer, player, etc. Hidalgo is still owed at least $22 M over the next two years and he's hitting (.919 OPS) , so he will play no matter what. I think the Astros know what Lane can do but will not turn to him unless there is a significant injury.]

Justin ( Oklahoma City): Joe, The AL West's collective record is not too great right now. What does that say about the balance in the West this year and how strong it will be?

I thought the West would be a close race anyway .. my reason for thinking that was I felt like Texas would be better than they were. That would make every team capable of winning. I'm not so sure Texas will be able to overcome their inablity to shut teams down. I think it will still be a close race.

[Mike: The AL West's collective record is .500 because its teams have only played each other. The three other teams are clearly better than the Rangers so they are in last even though they appear to have impoved. Let's allow the Rangers to play someone outside their division before we decide their fate.]

Jeff (Chicago, IL): Joe, Right now 4 AL Central teams are among the league leaders in staff ERA. Do you think it's a sign of great pitching in the division, or just a case of those teams' benefitting from playing the Tigers?

(Laughing) It's a combination. Not all their games have been against the Tigers! They are just pitching well.. pitchers have an advantage coming out of Spring Training and into the first couple weeks of the season because of the cold weather back East.

[Mike: Or maybe it's two weeks into the season. So far the pitchers don't appear to have an advantage with the high scores that have been rung up-ask the Reds if their pitchers have had an advantage.]

Karrum (Terre Haute): Do you thinkBig Unit will get out of his funk. Is he pressing or has his age caught up with him?

I think he definitely will pitch well.. he is too good not to. He has a knee problem which is bothering him. Onc he gets healthy, he will be dominate again. I wouldn't worry about Randy.

[Mike: Except at his age, injuries will take longer to heal and may take a greater toll. A severe dropoff due to injury is not out of the question.]

The Ugly: Can't find the $%^ Easter basket but you do find last year's afikoman

Aurora (Hawaii): Mr. Morgan, The San Francisco Giants are off to a great start this year! What do you think of the coaching style of Felipe Alou as compared to Dusty Baker and what contribution has it made towards that great start? PS: You look great on TV

They are two different managers. Alou is more of a gambler. He likes to push the button and make things happen. Dusty adjusted more to what kind of team they had at that point. They were a power team. Dusty would have loved to have the team Alou has now. They are different mostly because of the teams they had.

[Mike: But what about the question of a great start? Joe, answer the question that was offered.

Alou has always been known as a player's manager but so has Baker. Alou was highly successful at motivating his players in Montreal for his first few years. Maybe it's that. Maybe it's luck. Who knows?]

Jon Philly, PA: Hey Joe, do have any explanation as to why the Phillies can score 16 runs one day, and then struggle to get a hit the next? Will it be like this the whole year, or is it too early to tell?

When that happens, it has to do with hitting being contagious, like I said before. The pitcher from the day before, if he shuts you down, it starts to press on you. If you score on him, it relaxes you and you hit well. The one thing about baseball, everyday is differnet because it's a different pitcher each day.

[Mike: No, that does not explain the up-and-down Phillies offense. If they are pressing to score after being shut down by the previous day's pitcher, wouldn't they continue to press. If your statements were true the Phillies would not be so mutable.

Maybe they have just faced some good pitching?

The rest is an OBP montage. Joe has condemned OBP as an overrated stat and continues the quest to ignore it's value here.]

Justin (Phoenix AZ): Do the Diamondbacks have enough offense to be a serious contender?

I have questioned their offense the last couple years but they have scored runs and when Schilling and Johnson are on, you don't need as much offense. But that is a question mark for them.

[Mike: Arizona led the league in runs in 2002. They also led in on-base percentage, which we all know Morgan feels is overrated. Arizona has a .314 OBP this year and is 28th in the majors in runs scored. Tony Womack (.215 OBP and .204 leading off), Junior Spivey (.276 mostly as the number three hitter), and Steve Finley (.319, mostly as number 2 hitter), i.e., the top of the order, are killing them.

More on OBP to come...]

Jason(Austin, TX): What's up with the Cubs scoring binge? Is it due to an increase in offensive talent or just an anomaly? Can they keep it up?

When the season started I think most felt they were not a great offensive team. But they have gotten off to a great start. I don't think they are as good as they have shown though .. hitting is contagious. When one guy is hitting well, the rest of the lineup tends to hit well. When one guy goes into a slump, it can bring down the whole team. They are feeding off each other.

[Mike: Again OBP is doing it for the Cubs: their .376 OBP is third in the majors. But I agree that Grudzielanek (.380 OBP in 2003, 55 points higher than career average) and Gonzalez (.373, 67 points above his career) are playing over their heads right now. ]

Kim (Hualien, Taiwan): First I have to say I thought it was cool you mentioned your kids both on national TV and in one of your articles I read on ESPN. I believe family is the most important and so I love what you did. My question is, Nick Johnson doesn't seem to be a guy that is that fast and Doesn't really hit that great for average. Wouldn't the Yankees be better off with Mondesi hitting in the number two slot? Mondesi at least provides more speed at that position. However with the way things are going I guess I really can't complain that much with what Torre has done.

That's a pretty good question but in the scheme of things.. if Soriano is hitting first, you need a guy that can hit the ball the other way. Jeter can do that and so can Johnson. I don't think they want Mondesi there because he doesn't really hit the ball the other way. Mondesi strikes out a lot but so does Johnson.

[Mike: OBP again. Mondesi had a .308 in 2002 and has a .331 OBP for his career. Johnson had a .347 OBP in 2002 and should improve on that (and has) as he matures. Besides Yankee fans would mutiny if Mondesi were given the extra at-bats.]

Anthony, San Francisco: Hey Joe, Did u like hitting 2nd for the Reds? What was your primary goal at the plate in the 2 slot? Thanks Joe

No. 2's job is to become the leadoff hitter and the leadoff guy doesn't 'get on base. If he does get on base, then it's your job to move him into scoring position. I prefered hitting No. 2 behind Rose at one point. But after I got a taste of hitting third, I preferred third.

[Mike: Or to quote Austin Powers, "Who does Number 2 work for?" A fair assessment by Joe, but how can this statement follow the Johnson-Mondesi ones? Number 2 is about getting on base and moving runners on base, not just about hitting the other way.]

[By the way, the title is from an old Nazareth song, if you were wondering.]

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