If the tax-gatherer, or any other public officer, asks me, as one has done, "But what shall I do?" my answer is, "If you really wish to do anything, resign your office." When the subject has refused allegiance, and the officer has resigned his office, then the revolution is accomplished.
- Hammerin' Henry David Thoreau
I'm sorry for the delay in lambasting Joe Morgan's latest chat session. I've been doing my taxes all day. Last week in the Northeast it snowed; today it was bright and beautiful and we not so few who put off paying the man until the last moment are stuck inside, plugging away trying to overcome the eccentricities of TaxCut (why can't it import the state taxes properly if you have more than one state to whom your owe taxes and why do they charge you the same amount for the crappy state program as the much slicker federal one?). I finally completed them and tried to e-file, only to find that TaxCut charges to $14.95 to do so. Not me, brother. One would think that the government would find a better way to incentify everyone to e-file in order to reduce their paperwork, but I still can't understand how banks can justify charging fees to use ATMs that allowed them to cut their staff to the bone in the first place.
Anyway, in the middle of my tax woes, I realized that Mighty Joe Morgan is a lot like taxes. He's the tax(ing) man and you're working for no one but him, tax man.
First of all, they're both required. You've got to pay taxes, and if you're a baseball fan missing Joe's car wreck of a chit-chat is a cardinal sin.
Second, they both started with great promise. Your taxes were once used to build the infrastructure of this great land. Joe was once the most amazing of second-sackers. Now, your taxes go to line the pocket of some Midwestern industrialist or some third-world dictator (who will have to be unseated in a few years with a bunch more of your tax dollars). Morgan, now an analyst, displays none of the savvy that galvanized the baseball world when he was a player. He speaks of the overuse of On-Base Percentage when a cursory glance at his career stats would scream out in support of the stat (the man had a .392 career OBP and once walked 132 times for goodness' sake).
Finally, they are both confusing and perhaps purposely so. The federal and state governments not only require us to pay them handsomely, they set up laws and procedures that make us figure out how much and take an accountant to do it accurately. No wonder Thoreau chucked the whole system. Joe Morgan astounds as he flashes a few sage comments followed by twaddle that would shame Thom Brennaman. And I'm almost convinced that, like the taxes, Morgan is confounding by design, perpetrating this farce on humanity as some sort of cruel science experiment. That poor Jon Miller!
But there is one difference between taxes and Joe Morgan. The taxes' ludicrousness leads only to dyspeptic anguish-this was captured perfectly in a series of commercials last year in which a man slowly goes stark raving mad as he works on his taxes finally screaming at his family who are reading downstairs to stay "Quiet!" a la "All work and no play..." Jack Nicholson in The Shining. However, Joe's absurdities are baseball's equivalent to Mad magazine (except you can't fold the end of it in such a way to show Alfred E. Neuman in a Pete Rose wig).
Let me tell you how it will be:
There's one good quote, nineteen obscene.
'Cause I'm Joe Morgan,
Yeah, I'm Joe Morgan.
Should On-Base Percentage doth me gall,
Be thankful I don't run baseball.
'Cause I'm Joe Morgan,
Yeah, I'm Joe Morgan.
If you run the Hall (Hall),
I'll think you're neat;
If Ken Griffey sits (sits),
He's still a player complete;
If your thinking's old (old),
I'm up your street;
If you take a walk (walk),
I'll cry, "compete!"
'Cause I'm Joe Morgan,
Yeah, I'm Joe Morgan.
Don't ask me what I do it for, (ah-ah, Mr. Miller)
If you don't want to hear some more. (ah-ah, Big Red Machine)
'Cause I'm Joe Morgan,
Yeah, I'm Joe Morgan.
Now my 'nalysis must rely, (Morgan)
On Wins, Stol'n Base, and RBI (Morgan)
'Cause I'm Joe Morgan,
Yeah, I'm Joe Morgan.
And you're chatting with no one but me!
[Mike: Enough already!]
The Good: A Refund
Travon (Washington, DC): What does Bud Selig and MLB have to do to regain some of the popularity that is has lost over the years?
Good question.. I've said in the past that baseball has always been too busy putting out fires to move forward. We have labor peace now and the owners seem more unified. They need a marketing strategey that puts all the focus on the players and on the field. Until they do that, they will not regain the fan interest. In football, all the interest in on the players. Baseball needs to market their players better.
[Mike: When the man is right, he's right: the owners need to stop fighting the union and, therefore the players, openly; they need to promote the game, and therefore the players.]
Stone (Carbondale): Where do you think Vladimir Guerrero will end up, seeing that the Expos will not be able to afford him?
If I was the person buying the Expos to move them, I would insist that Vladimir stay with the team. IF they move to a different area, then whoever gets them should be able to afford them. That should be their priority. If they can't afford him, they should not buy the team.
[Mike: The name has to be a joke or some sort: Stone in Carbondale-what is this Bedrock? ("I am Rock Quarry") Again Joe has a good point. The new owners of the Expos will probably have a depleted minor-league system. Without the team's biggest star, they may as well do what the NHL did with the long-forgotten Cleveland Barons and merge them into another team (in the Barons' case, the Minnesota North Stars, now the Dallas Stars).]
Joe, Muskegon Michigan: Mr. Morgan, how would a draft work if the Montreal Expos say, were contracted. would all the players jsut become Free Agents?
The Player's Assoc. wanted them to be free agents but the owners wanted a dispersal draft. The worst team gets first choice. But the Assoc. is saying that once the team is gone, they are all free agents. But they were never going to contract. It was just a bargaining chip in the negotiations. Contraction offers too many problems. i.e. lawsuits forever.
[Mike: Muskegon? How are the Muskies this year? Again Joe's right on the money: contraction was a sham of a farce that the media helped turn into an issue. The funny thing is that the players caved on the issue and now the owners can contract in three years without the players' consent. It would only be done to free up markets so that the exorbitant ownership demands placed on their respective metropolitan areas will be taken more seriously.]
Dan (Mahwah, NJ): Is not having a closer to rely on like not having an ace to rely on. How long will the Red Sox stick with this comittee idea? Is it the committe or the commitee members that are the problems?
I personally think the idea is not bad. But you have to have the right mixture in your bullpen to make it work. It is too early to tell if they have that mixture. They blew a lot of games early last year. I like the idea I'm just not sure they have the right parts.
[Mike: Nice, Joe. Keeping an open mind, very out of character. And I think he may be right apart the parts: over-reliance on Chad Fox may be killing the Sox attempt at a communal bullpen and Allan Embree may be too streaky.
For those keeping score that is four in a row. These four were in fact in a row in the original chat, but Joe made up for the well-reasoned answered with one most non-PC that will appear in The Ugly section.]
The Bad: You Owe Big Bucks (and Whammies)
Brent (Kansas City): Joe, Can the Royals, with their young pitching keep up the momentum of this start and sustain it for the season? And what is your outlook for the Royals this year?
One of the things I said last week, there are more teams that can reach the playoffs than ever before. KC has a lot of good, young position playes. It's just a matter of how far their pitching will go. With young pitching you just have to see how far they can hold up.
[Mike: More teams can reach the playoffs than ever before? Yeah, there are 30. There have been since 1998.
Seriously, I'm a little peeved at all the parity talk of late. The owners used a period of flux after a couple of rounds of expansion to sell their "doom and gloom" perception of things in order to make ludicrous demands of the players' union. It worked, they got their demands, and now all the people in the media, who were Chicken Littling about at this time last year, are jumping on this parity world view. Actually, Joe was pretty fair on this issue at the time-he's a good union man-, but I needed to spout.
Oh, and they have some more problems besides pitching, but I would agree that is their lynchpin.]
Paul (Delaware): What's up with Greg Maddux? Are his first three games an aberration or a sign of things to come?
He has won 15 games for a lot of years so I don't think it's early season jitters or anything. He says it is his locations. He has put the ball in the middle of the plate and if he does that, he will get hit. I think you will start to see more breaking balls than you have seen from him in the past. He will still win games.
[Mike: Nothing glaring: I agree that Maddux is by no means through. He had a bad April, by his standards, last year, and maybe his age is starting to catch up with him. I just disagree about the breaking balls. Maddux will try and do his "rocking the batter to sleep" as Tim McCarver puts it: go in and out, change speeds, paint the corners, etc. (Edit: Actually that is what Maddux did yesterday in his first win.)
Danny (Chi., IL): Hi Joe, Do you think Griffey will ever be a dominating player again? It just seems that for most players, once they become injury prone, they never are the same again. It would be such a shame if we can't see Griffey at even 75% of his old self...
I would never put Griffey in the category of anyone else. He is such a special player. It's all about his attitude now. He prepared all Winter and was in great shape. To go down this early, it will be really tough mentally on him. Once he gets physically healthy he will be a good player again. But what will his attitude be like? It's hard to keep pushing yourself ...
[Mike: I would put Griffey "in the category of anyone else", whatever that means. Griffey was a tremendous player at a young age, but many elite players are great young (Mantle, Dimaggio, Kalin, Gehrig, Ted Williams, etc.). He looked like he would be one of the all-time greats, but his post-30 career has not born that out.
He was a slightly worse player after moving to Cincinnati, even before the injuries, and last year he was just average. He was already at 75% of his former self. He could definitely comeback (and he showed some signs of that before the last injury), but a return to the level he had once established is unlikely and it may not rely only on his attitude.]
Scott (New York, NY): hey Joe, Mark Prior has been hyped to be the best thing since sliced bread. He has proven in his short career that he can be a force in this league. Do you think he has the ability to continue dominating opposing hitters the way he does now? Or will is it a matter of time before they figure him out?
I don't think they are going to figure him out. It's about how consistent he can be. If he continues to have that control he had the other day, they won't figure him out. It's all up to him and how he continues to improve and get better.
[Mike: Improve and get better? The guy has a 0.60 ERA with 19 strikeouts in 15 innings. In 1968 Joe probably told Bob Gibson that if he tried a little harder he could get that 1.12 ERA down a bit.
Yeah, Prior is going to have to make adjustments throughout the year and his career, but how could he get better? Isn't this just underrating a young whippersnapper of a player? Besides, with the Cubs history (read Kerry Woods), I would be more worried about him blowing out his arm.]
Brendon (Maine): Mr. Morgan, What do you think of Adam Dunn's development as a hitter this year? I read that he took batting practice all winter with Sean Casey and Ken Griffey Jr. But he's still striking out at an alarming rate - if you remember his 0-4, 4K line from Wednesday night. Do you think he has or will develop enough to become the middle of the lineup power hitter the Reds envisioned? Thanks for your time.
One of the things about young players is finding a comfort zone. Finding the pitchers' release point, adjust to the pitcher and try not to do too much with the pitch. Every young player has to learn that. He has a lot of potential but he hasn't reached the point where he can do those things every time he's in the box.
[Mike: Who can do " do those things every time he's in the box"? Isn't this another case of being hard on a young player. Dunn has potential and has performed in his year and one half in the majors. Let's not judge him on an early season slump. (By the way, Dunn broke out of his slump this weekend with a 4-for-10, two-homer performance against the Phils. He raised most of his offensive averages by 50% over the series.)]
Dan, (Hartford, CT): Do you think the yanks will straighten out their bullpen problems and is steve karsay's injury more serious than their they are letting the fans believe?
I'm like a fan, I don't know how serious it is. They will straighten it out. They have the luxury of being able to acquire whatever they need. I think the Yanks have earned the right to do that. They have built themselves up into a monster franchise. They can get a replacement for anything they need.
[Mike: The Yanks can acquire whatever they need? Why didn't they do it last year when Mariano Rivera went down? Or this spring when both Karsay and Rievera were hurting?
Besides, Joe, you speaking of the Red Sox who can pick players off of the baseball-owned Expos' roster and get support to recall players who have already signed with Japan.
Oh, and it is a good sign that Torre is using more than a couple of guys in the pen while Karsay and Rivera are out. They should be well stocked when those guys return.]
Leif (Int'l Falls, MN): Hi Joe! Do you think the Twins need a big bat in the middle of the lineup to drive in some runs and protect Koskie and Mienkiewitzc so the can see better pitches. Terry Ryan certainly has the young players to deal in order to acquire an Ellis Burks type of player.
They have always needed one more guy in the middle with some pop but you can say that about almost every team. They have a lot of energy and they enjoy playing the game. But they could certainly use one more bat. You put a real big bat in there and you would have a really special team.
[Mike: Yeah, the Twins could use a player like, uh, David Ortiz. He is the guy with some pop that they always needed. Wait a minute, uh, never mind.
This is Joe's mantra: Teams always need an extra bat and an extra pitcher. Fine, even the '27 Yankees could have used an extra bat. But how does that help answer this question? The Twins are not hitting and are not getting on base. Torii Hunter has looked horrible at the plate and it may be time to cut bait with Luis Rivas. The jury is still out on Christian Guzman. The Twins bullpen remains tremendous but their starting pitching besides Lohse has been disappointment. There are more problems right now than just a big bat in the middle of the lineup in Minnesota.]
Charlie (Virginia Beach, Virginia): What do you think of the Braves signing Shane Reynolds? Not a bad pickup i'd say.
I would think that anyone who signs him is doing a good thing. Part of the reason the Astros released him was because he had so much money coming and they werent' sure if he would hold up. It was a good bet for anyone to take a chance on him.
[Mike: The Astros released him because they though he could no longer hack it. The money was a much smaller issue. They paid him $1 M to walk. With incentives, he could have made $5.7 M, but it is unlikely that he would have reached any incentives other than some for the empty innings he would have given the 'Stros. That is unlikely given his recent history with injuries. The Astros were worried about his performance and were willing to pay $1 M to cut bait on him.
I think anyone signing him for 2003 gets a player with experience for the league minimum, but given the competition for his services, the Braves had to sweeten the deal with a $3 M mutual option for 2004 with a $100 K buyout. That's at least $400 K for a pitcher who is potentially washed up. It may be a reasonable gamble but is by no means a purely "good thing." Besides it was an act of desperation on the Braves' part. How can that be a good thing?]
matt(philadelphia, pa.): Is Thome, Burrell and Abreu the best 3 4 5 in the league. If not then who is? Atlanta? Anaheim? Yankees?
You have Thome who has proven he is one of the great sluggers in his time. Abreu is a complete player who can run, steal and drive in runs. Burrell is a young Thome. He will get better and better. You could probably make that argument.
Bagwell, Berkman and Kent are pretty comprable I would think.
[Mike: Everyone's entitled to his or her opinion. Here are the batting stats for the number 3, 4, and 5 hitters for each team ranked by OPS (through yesterday's games):
I understand that it's early in the season, but the Phils' 3-4-5 guys are below the major-league average. Let's give them an entire season before we dub them the next Gehrig, Ruth, and Lazzeri.
The Ugly: TaxCut Eats Your Return
Charles (Akron, OH): Hey Joe! Glad you're back for a another season of chat. What would be in the Indians' best interests as they begin to rebuild? Go after a proven pitcher/hitter to build around? Or try to build a nucleus with the unit they have now?
I think the way the game is played today, if you can build around pitching you are better off. If it wasn't for the young pitchers in Oakland, they would be a middle of the road team, even with Tejada and Chavez. That is the quicker fix now, to come up with young pitching from your farm system or through trades.
[Mike: Joe, which is it? The guy asked if they should trade for players to build around or keep what they have. You said both. Be decisive.
Given that the core has been together for all of two weeks, it's a little hard to tell. Hafner, Phillips, Bard, Rodriguez, Davis, and Bradley need a bit more of an opportunity, I would say. They are not lighting up the world yet, but it's a long season.]
Drew in Houston: Joe, we miss you here in Houston. Hope you are able to visit soon. How difficult will it be for Biggio to transition to Center, and is that a tougher transition than when he went from catcher to second? Can you say all-star at 3 different postions?
A lot of people feel playing CF is not that difficult but I"m not one of them. Doing it properly is difficult. They don't expect him to be Ken Griffey Jr. but it's still difficult. The toughest thing about 2B is people running into you. I think it's easier to go to CF than 2B. But it will still be a tough transition.
[Mike: "The toughest thing about 2B is people running into you"-that's classic. So the difficulty of playing a defensive position is the number of times opponents and your own teammates run into you? Why even wear a glove? Invest in a good set of goalie pads.]
Mark--BROOKLYN, USA: What is your opinion about the Hall of Fame's decision to cancel the "Bull Durham" 15th anniversary celebration?
The war has caused a lot of friends and neighbors to be on different sides. There are a lot of baseball fans on different sides. I personally support the President but it's everyone's right to decide how they feel about the war. That is why we are fighting for .. to give those in Iraq the freedom we have here.
[Mike: Well, "Mark", that's a great question. But what does Joe talk about? The war. What does the question have to do (directly) with the war? Couldn't he say that it's a shame that a nice event did not work out.
Besides, I can't figure out if his response is a thinly veiled criticism of the Hall's handling of the incident or is he just being diplomatic? Why are they all so jittery on the subject? Bull Durham was a comedy after all. Lighten up, Francis. Also, are they reviewing everyone's opinions prior to inviting them to the Hall for special events? Will Gary Carter's speech this summer be reviewed by the Hall for controversial and salacious content?
And I'm tired of everyone in Hall saying that everyone is entitled to his or her opinion. Thanks for the acknowledgment of the Bill of Rights. "Your entitled to your own opinion, but if you express it we will ostracize you and McCarthy-ize you so that no one gets to hear your opinion." (The only problem is that they caused such a stir that Robbins and Sarandon have even a larger forum to which to speak.)
The Hall took a nice event and politicized the heck out of it. It was a PR gaffe and another black eye for baseball. This is the mentality of the people running the sport and the institutions associated with it. No wonder NASCAR (which I had to suffer through this weekend) is so hot with the kids: they promote their stars and even though it's run by a bunch or Southern hicks (excuse the pun, er, palindrome, er, whatever), it appears young and Pepsi-generationish.]
Aaron New York: I think your one of the best announcers in baseball right now. My all time favorite was Phill Rizuto. So my question is, is there any one particular announcer you tried to imitate your style after?
You have two opposites there! Rizzuto was completey different from me. But thank you!
I liked Curt Gowdy. I liked Howard Cossell just as an analyst. Cossell made the analyst important. In TV the analyst should be the most important part. People can see the pitcher, but you need someone to explain what is happening and why.
[Mike: Classic Joe, telling us how important the analyst is, but of course forgetting that it behooves the analyst to actually analyze and to present the results of that analysis. Not to go on personal opinion and talk out of both sides of his mouth at once.
Murino (DJais): Hey Mr Morgan....my mom always makes us watch when you announce games because she says your a dreamboat.....Are you a ladies man?
Thanks for the compliment. I pride myself on the fact that I want the ladies to enjoy the telecast. I try to make sure I don't talk over anyone's head. I want to make sure everyone can understand what I am talking about. I don't want to use big cliche's. I want my broadcast to be for everyone and not just the experts.
I started this chat two years ago and now all you guys and gals are very sophisticated. Before it was always just rooting for your teams but you guys ask really good questions .. thanks for that.
[Mike: Wow, what a way to end it. "I speak slowly so the women can understand and use as few syllables as possible." Sexist much? Joe's telecasts are at such a rudimental level that even Joe can understand them.]