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Ode to Joe: The Joe
2002-11-26 00:42
by Mike Carminati

Ode to Joe: The Joe Morgan Chat Day The Universe Changed

I know, the season's over and Joe's chats are no more until next spring. But...

O friends, not these sounds!
Let us strike up something more
pleasant, full of gladness.

Joe, beautiful divine spark,
Son of the Fields of Elysium,
We enter, drunk with fire,
O heavenly one, your holy shrine.
Your magic once again bonds together
What custom strictly divided,
All Mankind become brothers
Where your gentle wings (at least the one he flapped when he was at the plate) hold sway.

Or words to that effect. I have unearthed a Joe Morgan Chat Day from April 26. Why, you ask? Well, I am reminded of a quote by Erasmus, I believe. No, wait. It was Cliff Clavin. When asked why you drink cold beer on a hot day, he responded that it balances out your inner and outer temperatures-that's not the quote, wait for it. When asked why you drink cold beer on a cold day, Cliff queried, "What else are you going to with it?"

Besides, I found an historical antecedent to Joe Morgan and I'm kvelling about it. It's Tycho Brahe, but before you say gesundheit, let me explain. Well, first here's Basil Exposition to explain what Joe Morgan Chat Day is all about. We (I'm schizophrenic and so am I) here at Mike's Baseball Rants love the Joe Morgan Chat Day. We love the Joe Morgan-he was one of our favorite players, a charter member of my beloved Wheeze kids. He was the greatest second baseman I ever had the pleasure to see play and had one of my favorite batting stances. As a baseball analyst he is the apogee of analysis in a post-modern world. His comments can be dead on are they can be supercalifragilisticexpialiwacky. He reaches his epiphanic apotheosis when he achieves dead-on wackiness. And, oh brother, does he ever in this chat session. I think I've found the perfect quote, pure Joe perfection.

Anyway, back to our show. In 1572 a nova appeared in the constellation of Cassiopeia. It was so bright that it burned for two years and was visible in daylight. Wild explanations abounded. God was angry. The crystalline spheres that underpinned the universe were being destroyed. And those were the scholars of the day.

Aristotelian cosmology held that the perfect and unchanging cosmos was divided into eight crystalline spheres that wheeled around the earth. The church adopted this view as it could be fitted to creationism. God was the creator and prime mover. The heavens were divided from the earth because of their curved movements. Everything on earth moved in straight lines, up and down or side-to-side.

There were some problems. Ptolemy qualified the system to explain why certain planets (e.g. Mars) changed direction occasionally. You see, they were on mini-spheres within their main crystalline sphere. Never mind that it took over 80 over these mini-spheres to define the known universe.

When calendar reform became an issue-why did the sun and moon not agree?-Copernicus developed a heliocentric (i.e., sun-centered) explanation. The earth was no longer the center of the universe nor was it stoically unchanging, but Copernican theory was not so earth-shattering (excuse the pun) as it seemed for it was just what the name implied, theory. It was not considered reality but a mathematical construct. At least that's what Copernicus meant it to be. He was a priest working at the pope's behest, for goodness sake.

In 1573, a twenty-seven-year-old Dane named Tycho (i.e., Tygo latinized) Brahe published his theory regarding the pesky nova in a volume audaciously entitled The New Star. You see, there couldn't be a new star because the heavens were perfect and unchanging. Things could change and often did in the earth's realm, rainbows, aurora borealis, etc. Brahe claimed that the skies were not unchanging at all and he could prove it by observation, thereby disproving Aristotle in the real, and not theoretical, world for the first time.

Brahe had studied the skies above nightly from about the age of sixteen using highly accurate tools of his own making (the telescope would not be available until Galileo made his fortune selling them to local merchants, who would use them to identify incoming ships and set the market prices accordingly in advance). The King of Denmark rewarded Brahe for his masterstroke with his own personal island fiefdom, a place called Hven.

Brahe spent the next four years studying the skies nocturnally and refining and recalibrating his instruments. Since the telescope was not yet invented, Brahe would use the naked eye and tools like giant quadrants to record reams of figures and calculations. Some reports held that Brahe's right eye became larger because of this.

Brahe was rewarded for his hard work with another cosmic phenomenon, a comet. He proved by the change in parallax that the comet was further away than the moon, on the closest crystalline sphere, and that it was moving in an elliptical trajectory (well, he recorded it in his data but it wasn't discovered until later). So what happened to all the crystalline spheres it should have been collided with? Wrote Brahe:

There are not really any spheres in the seems futile to undertake this labour of trying to find a real sphere, to which a comet may be attached...[Comets] cannot by any means be proved to be drawn round by any sphere."

Doesn't that sound just like Joe?

Brahe adopted the view that the sun still revolved around the earth but that everything but everything else besides the moon revolved around the sun. He never resolved the issue of the elliptical paths nor the reason for the planets staying in the sky without crystalline spheres. He spent the rest of his life gazing at the sky and recording his data. He also acted a bit too draconian and ticked off too many people causing him to be ousted from Hven and forcibly re-located to Prague.

Brahe, besides being the godfather of astronomy ("Say it loud. I'm Danish and I'm proud."), was perhaps the progenitor of the mad scientist stereotype. While at school, he got into a fierce argument with another student over, of all things, mathematics. They mistakenly dueled in the twilight to settle their differences, and Brahe ended up losing the tip of his nose. He wore a metal prosthetic nose for the rest of his life (as They Might Be Giants always said, "Everybody wants prosthetic foreheads on their real heads."). While taking up residence on his feudal island, he built underground observatories, employed a dwarf as a jester, and domesticated a moose, who would later die after an intoxicated fall down a flight of stairs. Brahe would eventually die from, or so was for centuries claimed, holding his bladder at a dinner party. After his body was exhumed in 1996, it was found that the cause of his death was apparently mercury poisoning, possibly from overexposure to his astronomy instruments.

The two questions he asked were very soon answered by two other men. A math professor in Padua spent the next 18 years trying to answer the second question, that of heavenly bodies being suspended in space without crystalline spheres. He timed balls in motion and found that they fell they accelerated at a constant rate, 32 feet per second squared. He also surmised that the reason that when a ball was dropped, it didn't fall to the west of the point they were dropped from was that the earth was like a ship at sea in that to the passengers the movement was not apparent. This explanation destroyed Aristotle's idea that secular and heavenly motion were different and introduced a mathematical explanation to the universe. The next thing he did drove this man from academic obscurity to a household name. He pointed a telescope at the sky and recorded in a little book called The Starry Messenger that Jupiter had moons while orbiting the sun. He proposed the logical theory that the earth itself could too be just a planet revolving around the sun. As if this weren't enough, he had the gall to insist in writing that not only was scientific investigation separate from the Bible, and therefore didn't gainsay what was contained therein, he then revealed his preference for sensory-based investigation. He traveled to Rome in 1624 to insist on total scientific freedom even as he was told that these new ideas had to introduced slowly so as not to cause Catholics to totally lose faith. Finally, he published The Dialogue of the Two Chief Systems of the World, in which he argued that opposition to the Copernican system was spurious. It became a sensation, and he became famously tried, placed under house arrest for life for heresy, and dead in 1642. He was, of course, Galileo Galilei, and he was the father of scientific thought.

The other question, that of elliptical paths, was answered by a student and assistant of Brahe's, who inherited all of his voluminous data upon his death (as well as his post as Imperial Mathematician). In a few years of studying Brahe's figures, Johan Kepler found the universal laws that governed the "clockwork" cosmos. Kepler noted that Mars, as it traveled in its elliptical path, got slower the farther it was from the sun. At his wedding in 1612, he noted that the wine merchants measured the amount of wine remaining in a barrel with a dipstick held diagonally across the barrel. What he found curious was the fact that the same dipstick was used no matter the shape of the barrel. Surely that couldn't be a precise means to measure the contents. He spent four years on and off studying the measurement of win barrels (by the way, the dipstick did work), and the means that he employed he would then use for astronomical calculations. This led him to his first three laws (Planets move in ellipses with the Sun at one focus, the radius vector describes equal areas in equal times, and the squares of the periodic times are to each other as the cubes of the mean distances). These laws informed Isaac Newton's discovery of gravity as he was looking for the underlying causes leading to Brahe and Kepler's observations.

So there you have it. Like Joe Morgan, Tycho Brahe made observations nightly for years on end. Like Joe, Brahe's avocation, or rather obsession, was related to his occupation-astronomy for the Imperial Mathematician Brahe and baseball for the baseball analyst Morgan. In both cases the points of view were based on the prevailing dogma of the day. In both, their theories were proven wrong eventually (or at least Joe's will be). Also, in both cases, they left large volume of data that was used to inform and advance the research of the day.

To that end, let us delve into this Joe Morgan Chat Day or as Joe would say, "It's time to talk baseball.":

The Good

David (New Orleans): Hello Joe, wadda you know? Read your article on the all time greats yesterday. First, do you feel your own statistics would be better/worse/same if you were playing today. Second, I got as excited as anyone when Mark McGwire stepped to the plate, but an all time great? Nothing but home runs, Joe. Speaking of your recent great players, ever heard of Tony Gwynn?? Thanks Joe.

Joe Morgan: Would you compare Gwynn to Mays?

My numbers would be better, but that doesn't mean I'd be a better player.

As for McGwire, a first baseman's job is to produce runs. If you look, he got on base a lot. Any time you hit close to 600 homers and drive in a lot of runs and are an intimidator at the player, that qualifies you.

[Mike: Good insight on the 2002 version of little Joe. Right in the money re. The Gwynn vs. McGwire debate. By the way, McGwire had a .394 on-base percentage, a ,588 slugging average, and his resulting .963 OPS was 68% better than average over his career (with league and park adjustments), good for a tie for eleventh place all-time. Gwynn's OBP was close (.388), but his slugging was 125+ points lower (.459), and his OPS (.847) was only 32% better than average, very good to be sure but not in the top 100 all-time.]

Bryon(Charlotte): What's your opinion on the Situation with Omar's book, revealing that Albert Belle's bat is corked? I know its wrong but isn't there a written rule about what happen in the clubhouse stays in the clubhouse?

Joe Morgan: I agree with you 100 percent. I'm sure there are things Omar did he wouldn't like the public to know. It should not have come out.

[Mike: Right, Vizquel continually proves that he is one of the most conceited and narcissistic players in MLB. How he ever got a book deal in the first place is remarkable. By the way, how do we know that his revelations are true? A few spicy prevarications would -and did-help sell his uninteresting bio.]

Kyle, Winneconne WI: Do you think that Greg Maddux can bounce back from his rocky outing last night and fully recover from his back injury to be the Greg Maddux we've seen in the past?

Joe Morgan: He pitched well before last night's bad game. It could have just been a bad day. The back becomes an easy excuse. But he had won a few games already. No one said anything about his back before. I'm sure his back will bother him off and on. It's something he'll have to deal with.

[Mike: Right. Even great pitchers have a bad outing once in a while. The outing they are discussing is a 10-run (6 earned), 4-2/3 inning, 5-walk outing that resulted in an 11-5 loss to Arizona. He had one other outing that was that bad all year, a 7-run (all earned), two-run effort on September 13 against Florida in a 13-3 loss.]

cj_chitown: Do you know what a knuckle-curve is, such as the one thrown by Mike Mussina? I thought knuckle balls had no spin. If a knuckle ball has no spin, how could it also be a curve ball?

Joe Morgan: For a knuckler, you get as many fingertips on it to take the spin off. For a knuckle-curve, you put two fingers on top, and the ball rotates forward. It doesn't rotate as fast, but it does a little. And the ball drops.

[Mike: I thought Charles Johnson left Chitown after the 2000 season. I'm glad that Joe was able to help him with the definition of the pitches he has to catch.]

Darius(Mpls): Joe, I was wondering why you think Mike Piazza doesn't want to leave the catcher position, Is it a comfort thing? You would think he could prolong his career playing another position

Joe Morgan: He's a catcher. To be a good one, it takes a certain mentality. Just like being second baseman takes a certain mentality. He has geared his whole career around catching. It's great he's a catcher. It separates him from everybody else. He may be the greatest hitting catcher of all time. If he played outfield or first base, he wouldn't be the best. He has dedicated himself to catching, and I think that's great.

[Mike: Is that Darius from the of the Minneapolis Mxyztplks? I heard he shortened his last name. Anyway, right you are, Joe. Well, it's hard to predict what his stats would look like without the constant wear and tear from the position of ignorance, but he's entitled to his opinion.]

Syed Omar (Malaysia): Who have the most devestating pitch you ever faced and what pitch was it?

Joe Morgan: I still think the fastball is the toughest pitch to hit, and there have been a lot of variations. Sometimes, a sinking one (like Kevin Brown) or a rising one (like Koufax threw) or a splitter (by Bruce Sutter) are extremely tough. Koufax, Ryan and Gibson had the best fastballs I faced.

[Mike: OK, but I'm a little disappointed Lefty Carlton's slider isn't in there.]

Bash Brother Marques (Mayaguez, PR): I think Jose Canseco can still be productive, inability to field aside. Why doesnt a team such as the Anaheim Angels - who are fielding lite-hitting Scott Spiezio - sign him and make him play first base, if not DH? Anyone can play first base.

Joe Morgan: He was with the Angels last spring, and they released. He was with Montreal, and they released him. I'm a big fan of his, and he did a good job with the White Sox last year. But obviously those teams don't feel the same way we do.

[Mike: Mayaguez? Probably a fan of Los Indios. As far as Canseco is concerned, I'm not sure if the guy can play first base, and not just anyone can, look at Frank Thomas. He's never played first in a major-league game. But Jose Canseco sure can hit. He had an OPS that was 18% percent above an average player (park- and league-adjusted) with Chicago in 2001. His .832 OPS as a DH was good for fourth for DHs with over 200 at-bats (behind Manny Ramirez, Edgar Martinez, Ellis Burks, and Ruben Sierra, not bad company). I never understood what the Expos were doing with him, but he could very easily have been a useful DH somewhere in 2002. I guess that his defensive liabilities, age, and rep had kind of marginalized his career. Now, whether or not he's a Hall-of-Famer...]

miguel: cres que el picheo de atlanta pueda mejorar o se debilitara hasta final de temporada

Joe Morgan: No se.

[Miguel: Quien es mas macho? Joe Morgan es. Creo que el es fresco como un pepino (I think he's as cool as a cucumber). (By the way, Miguel asked if Joe thought that the pitching in Atlanta would improve or worsen for the remainder for the season. "I don't know (No Se)" is a perfectly valid response.)]

The Bad

Matt (Dallas): Hi Joe! Judging by the start they are off to, what do you think the Rangers are going to do with Pudge Rodriguez if they continue on a downward spiral?

Joe Morgan: I would think if they keep going down and the team doesn't improve, they may try to trade him if he's willing. I still think he's a very valuable part of that club.

[Mike: Pudge is valuable but A-Rod isn't? Pudge is valuable if he's healthy and he hasn't been for over 120 games since 1999. He was a bad bet to be healthy for the whole year this year and wasn't (108 games).]

Peter(Cleveland): Liked your article on the great players playing today. I just thought Maddux was an even greater pitcher because he does so well without intimidating hitters. Isn't it easier to be "great" with great stuff?

Joe Morgan: No. It's not easy to do anything. Then what is greatness? You have to be blessed with ability to be a great player. It's not just working hard. You have to have a certain amount of ability. You are missing the point. My point was all-time greatest pitchers. I would choose Koufax, Gibson and those guys first. The guy who reminds me of them is Johnson. That's the way I view it. Others may view things differently.

[Mike: Joe, you had me until Koufax. Koufax and Gibson were great, but it's a difficult argument to say that they were the greatest of all time. Both were helped a good deal by their circumstances (Koufax by his stadium and Gibson by his era).

Patricio (Santiago, Chile): Do you think the Mariners are better than last year?? Do you think they need another power hitter??

Joe Morgan: I already said they are a better team, but they may not win 116 games. And everybody can use another power hitter. They have enough to win the championship. That doesn't mean they will.

[Mike: This is an unfortunate prediction. Hindsight being 20-20, we all know now that the Mariners had one of the worst dropoffs in history. But could they have looked like a better team a the beginning of the year? The added Ruben Sierra and replaced David Bell with Jeff Cirillo. Joel Piniero would enjoy his first full year in the majors. Sure, Aaron Sele had left but James Baldwin was tabbed to replace him. Who could have known that Ichiro, Garcia, and Olerud would have severe dropoffs in the second half? Who could know that Edgar would miss over a third of the season, that Mikeameron would implode, that Paul Abbott would go from serviceable to awful, or that Bret Boone would have a terrible first half after an MVP-claiber season last year?

Well, I submit that it was a poor prediction, yet one that many made at the beginning of the year. First, the Mariners had key players (Olerud, Martinez, Sierra, McLemore, Cirillo, Boone, Wilson, and Moyer) in important roles. The likelihood of all of them surviving the season without injury or a declining performance was low. Second, Boone was due for a re-adjustment after an anomalous career year. This year was arguably the second best of his career and it was dwarfed by last year's effort. Ichiro was still an unknown commodity: the league adjusted and so far he has not. Howeverm pitching is what killed them. Baldwin and Abbott were choices for players to built a rotation around. When Garcia faded in the second half, there wasn't enough of a staff left to get them back on the A's-Angels level. Joe admits that last year's record would be hard to attain for the 2002 club, but still contends that they improved. I don't see any evidence that that was the case even when things looked rosy in April.]

Joe (Pittsburgh): Hi Joe. I believe you and I were the only people in America to think so at the beginning of the year, but I felt and still feel the Pirates are for real. They will get healthy, Kendall will start hitting, Ramirez and Jack Wilson are poised for career years, the bullpen is very deep, and Kris Benson will boost the starters. Do you still believe in them? Thanks Joe.

Joe Morgan: If I believed in them before they won a game, I guess I still do now that they are 13-7. It's early, but they have the potential to surprise a lot of people. They got off to a good start, and that's what they needed to do.

[Mike: This is a rather unfortunate prediction given that the Pirates ended up 72-89 (59-82 from that point on). I don't know what he saw in this team after 2001. They had a staff ERA over 5. Their best starting pitcher in 2001, Todd Ritchie, had an ERA just shy of 4.50, and he was off to the White Sox. Kip Wells replaced him well, and rookie Josh Fogg was dependable (he was great in April 1.43 ERA), but that's all they had. Their bullpen was a revelation holding the staff ERA down at 4.23. On the offensive side, the still had the incredibly underrated Brian Giles and apparently a budding star in Aramis Ramirez. It was difficult to foresee Ramirez's unfortunate decline in 2002, but he did have three trials prior to 2001 with numbers more in line with this year's. John Vander Wal's bat was gone, but they would have Craig Wilson for an entire season in 2002. They also had great defense up the middle with Jack Wilson and 2002 addition Pokey Reese. But how much better could this team possibly be. They batted .247 with a .706 OPS in 2001. This year was about the same (.244 and .700).]

jake(york): If the White Sox pitching can live up to its potential,and they keep racking up runs,are they a possible World Series contender?

Joe Morgan: They will definitely hit. The question is pitching and how good it is. They are a contender, but you have to have the pitching. It's just too early to tell as far as their pitching is concerned.

[Mike: Well, they had good young pitching but it still needs some time to develop. Each pitcher almost to a man took a slight step back this year. All except Kip Wells, unfortunately he was on the Pirates. The loss of veterans David Well and James Baldwin seemed to put maybe too much pressure on the kids. The ERA remained constant between the two years (4.58 and 4.53). 2003 should be a very interesting year for their staff. Their offensive numbers were almost identical between the two years (.269 batting average and .785-.787 OPS). They were third in runs and fourth in OPS in 2002-that part of the prediction was OK.]

Chris (NYC): I'm a diehard Mets fan and have been dissapointed over their defense especialy with ordonez. Is this just a fluke or should i be getting worried?

Joe Morgan: Defense is like hitting. You go into slumps in both. Defense is more mental than anything. But like hitting, you have to go back to the fundamentals and start over. I think he will straighten himself out. Before the season is over, he will be playing very good defense.

[Mike: "Defense is more mental than anything."-What? Defense is positioning, knowing what the pitcher is throwing and where the batter tends to hit the ball, quickness, speed (using the typical analyst definition of both), good hands, good footwork, and a good arm). There is a mental aspect, but how can it be more mental than anything? "Slumps"? You go into "slumps" defensively when you get hurt or old? Ordonez made 19 errors this year. In 12 more games in 1999, he made only 4. That's quite a difference. His range still is pretty good, but a) he was never that great, b) he is 31 and will only get worse, c) can't hit worth a dime, and d) made $6 M this year and will make $6.25 M next year. That's quite a package. Oh, and as far as "playing very good defense", has he ever been very good? Maybe for the first couple years of his career. He's been pretty good since but see a) through d) above.]

Ryan (Clovis, CA): Joe, in the heyday of your rivalry with the Dodgers in the '70's, who was the player on their team that garnered the most respect from the Reds? Thanks, and keep up the good work!

Joe Morgan: We respected all the players. They had a lot of good ones; it wasn't just one. They had Garvey, Cey, Smith, Lopes, Baker. They had a lot of players who could beat you. There wasn't one player we feared more than another.

[Mike: There's the decisive Joe I love. Just offer an opinion. By the way, I would say that Reggie Smith was the class of this field. An extremely underrated player.]

JOE IS MY HERO!!!!! (Morganville): What team would you consider the nest of all time, besides the 75 reds of course.

Joe Morgan: It's hard to do that. General consensus used to be the '27 Yankees. For some reason, when the Yankees won 114 games, they wanted to compare them to us. When Seattle won 116, nobody thought they were the best. I don't think you can pick the best anymore. Times have changed.

[Mike: Yeah, that was me. Joe, times are always a-changing. Just offer an opinion. They're free. I prefer the Yankees of the late 1930s, but hey, that's me.]

Timothy(San Antonio): Why doesn't Art Howe get credit as a great manager that others receive?

Joe Morgan: Is he a great manager? And what is one? He was a teammate of mine and does a tremendous job. But he hasn't won a championship. I don't know what you consider a great manager. But I think he's done a nice job with the A's. I can't say he's a great manager, though. If you want to, you can.

[Mike: Thanks, Joe. So winning a championship is the be-all and end-all. Gene Mauch never won a championship, and he was a tremendous manager. Actually, I do agree with his assessment of Howe though.]

MIKE(Knoxville, TN): The Expos are in first place. The fans are averaging less than 6,000! IF they make the playoffs, will the fans comes in doves? It would look down-right stupid to see them in the playoffs with a half-empty stadium. What's your thoughts about the Expos's chances this year?

Joe Morgan: The Expos won't draw people. It's a hockey town. They have some good players and are off to a good start. Their confidence is rising. Will they win anything? I'd say it's too early where they would finish.

[Mike: Boston's a hockey town. New York is a hockey town. Detroit's a hockey town. So what? Montreal is a town with fans smart enough not to support a franchise that does not care about them.]

Chris (Sugar Land): Does Paul Konerko's hot start mean he is ready to join the ranks of Jeff Bagwell, Todd Helton, and Jason Giambi amongst baseball's top first baggers?

Joe Morgan: I've been a fan of Konerko's, even when he was a catcher. And he had potential with his bat. But compared to the other three, he has to wait. They have put up great numbers every year. Konerko, though, has a chance to be a very good first baseman.

[Mike: Again Joe wants his young players brimming with years of experience. A great player can and very often will establish his greatness right out of the box. That said, I don't consider Konerko a great player, but I do disagree with Joe's assessment of his chances for being very good. He already is very good. He's been very good since his first year as a starter in 1999. He has hit for power and a decent average, and he gets on base. His OPS has consistently been in the .850 range since 1999. He's not as good as the three Chris mentioned an while you're at it throw in Thome, Sweeney, Palmeiro, and Delgado. Konerko is in the second tier with Olerud, Klesko, Sexson, McGriff, Derrek Lee, and Huff (when he plays first), very fine players all.]

Jeff (Lexington,KY): Joe, I'm a huge Bonds/Giants fan, so I want to know what you think about Barry playing through this hamstring injury. If you were Dusty Baker, would you put him on the 15 day DL?

Joe Morgan: I don't think they want to put him on the DL. He was in a groove, although he's not swinging as well now. If Barry feels he can play, Dusty should let him play. It's Barry's decision. He feels he can work his way through it.

[Mike: Well, you have to weigh Bonds' desire to play with the long-term goals of the team. Barry Bonds is not the only person making this decision, there are trainers, coachers, the manager, etc. Apparently, they did the right thing with the season that Bonds and the Giants had, but I'm sure it wasn't Bonds' decision in a vacuum.]

John Ondrey (Minneapolis, MN): How can Selig say even if the Twins keep winning that it wouldn't change the contraction issue? What is your take on this issue?

Joe Morgan: They don't even have to win; they just have to compete and not be contracted. I don't think any team is in danger except the Expos. If the fans show support, I don't think they will be eliminated. Montreal won't show it wants the team. Right now they don't even care about baseball.

[Mike: Well, the point is now moot, at least until the current CBA expires, but I disagree. Selig said repeatedly that a team's on-field performance had nothing to do with contraction. It was their long-term fiscal state that concerned the powers that be. If the fans supported a team with a stadium lease that prevented them from being viable, they would go on the chopping block. That is, if you believe that contraction was seriously being considered by the owners and not just another chip in the negotiation process. Either way, fan support only entered it into the equation indirectly.]

The Ugly-Like a man with a prosthetic nose

Scottyk77 (kc): Mr. Morgan, I recently read your article, 5 tools of a leadoff man. Why wasn't On Base Percentage at the top of the list. I also noticed that speed was. You can steal first base you know.

Joe Morgan: Just read the article again. I explained it in there why speed is important. On-base percentage only gets you on base. Speed does much more. Mark McGwire on first doesn't disrupt the defense. Sluggers have the highest on-base percentage, but all they can do is stand on first. Speed puts pressure on the defense.

[Mike: I don't know what to say. Let's just first list his 5 tools:

1. Speed
Speed is No. 1 because it puts pressure on the defense. It doesn't necessarily mean the leadoff man has to steal bases. But he can get down the line and break up a double play. The infield knows it has to hurry on a ground ball to force him at second base. The outfield knows the leadoff man can go from first to third on a single. The pitcher knows he has to deliver the ball quicker to the plate. The hitter knows he will get fastballs early in the count; the pitcher doesn't want to go to a 2-1 or 3-1 count because it presents an automatic hit-and-run situation.

2. Awareness
The leadoff man must have the right mentality and realize the importance of his job the first time up. He has to be willing to take pitches and sacrifice part of his at-bat to give his team a longer look at the pitcher. Taking as many pitches as possible allows his teammates to see how sharp the pitcher's breaking ball is, how much control he has with his fastball, and how much movement is on his pitches. The more pitches a team sees, the better.

3. On-base percentage
On-base percentages are overrated for a leadoff hitter. All the sluggers have high on-base percentages. Jason Giambi led the American League in on-base percentage a year ago, but what does he do once he is on base? All he can do is stand at first base and wait for someone else to move him around. But if a player has speed and the right mental approach, on-base percentage becomes more important for a leadoff man. The more times he is on base, the more he can use his speed.

4. Stealing bases
A good leadoff hitter does not need to steal bases, but it doesn't hurt. There is a difference between a base stealer and someone who steals bases. Many players can steal bases, not many are base stealers. When a base stealer is on first base in the ninth inning and everyone in the ballpark knows he is going, the other team still can't stop him. Maury Wills and Lou Brock were two players who fit this mold. Neither player walked much, but they were unstoppable as base stealers.

5. Power
This is one of the qualities that separates Rickey, who has hit 290 homers in his career and more leadoff homers than any player in history.

"On-base percentages are overrated for a leadoff hitter"?!? By whom? On-base percentage has been shown to be the best stat to correlate with runs scored. And what do you want from your leadoff hitter but to score runs. And why are speed and stealing bases both listed? Speed is very important. If you have a leadoff hitter who can steal, go from first to third, and break up the double play, that's great. But if he can't get to first, what good is it. Like Tycho Brahe seeing the evidence in front of his eyes for years that the Aristotelian universe was wrong, Morgan has watched the game for years and still cannot see the forest for the trees.]

Nirvana-the best Joe quote ever

Adam(NYC): Joe, I respect your opinion, but you can't compare Barry Bonds to the likes of Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird, as I heard you a couple of weeks ago, for starters those three gentlemen are winners, and althought I agree with you about the Ted Williams comparison, Barry Bonds can't be put on that level at least until he carries his team out of the division series, which he's had a chance to do plenty times and came back empty

Joe Morgan: First of all, you have to understand baseball. It's tougher in baseball for one player to lead a team to a championship. Bonds hasn't won a championship; I'm talking about individual ability. Teams won't let Barry hit in a lot of situations. One of the weaknesses of baseball is you can stop the best players if you want to, just by walking them and putting them on first base. You couldn't take the ball out of the hands of Jordan, Bird and Magic in basketball, and that's why they won titles.

[Mike: That's not it yet. It's the setup. I just want to say that baseball differs from the others in that the defense holds the ball and can neutralize someone on the offense in certain ways. In the other sports offenses hold the ball and may decide to neutralize a defensive player by ignoring him, i.e., trying to score against a weaker defender. And before we approach perfection, I just want to say that I do not see it as a weakness but rather part of what separates baseball from the other sports. Sorry to interrupt.]

Vern: Joe, I disagree that baseball's weakness is that you can stop the best players by walking them. That proves that baseball is the ultimate team sport in that a single player, no matter how dominant, cannot win a championship himself. That's a good thing, no? Besides, walking Bonds is not the same thing as stopping him. Walks are bad for pitchers, good for hitters. The Giants would be better if Barry walked every at-bat - think of the RBI opportunities for Kent and Sanders.

Joe Morgan: If he walks in every at-bat, who will drive in the other guys? Kent left more guys on base than anyone last year. He should have driven in 150. Part of my reason for doing the column and to broadcast is to help educate the fans. Maybe I'm not doing a good job. You have to understand you can take the best player out of the game. If they walked him every time, he wouldn't have hit 73 homers. Kent would have to drive in 250. That is a weakness, that the stars can be taken out. If they could keep the ball away from Jordan for 48 minutes, how good would he be? The education continues. If they can't do their thing, how good would they be?

[Mike: Lordy Mama, sing the Blues. Educate us, Joe. "The education continues"-that's rich. Pearls of wisdom before us swine.

First, I have to agree that if the opposition walked Bonds every time up, it would be nearly impossible for him to hit 73 home runs.

Kent drove in 106 runs in 2001 batting mostly in the four hole. Bonds batted 3rd. Aurilia 2nd. Calvin Murray and Marvin Bernard led off to the tune of a .315 (!) on-base percentage in the leadoff spot. (But they do have speed.) A motley crew batted fifth (including Snow, Rios, Santiago, Galarraga, Rios, Vander Wal, and Eric Davis) and managed only a .714 OPS. The rest of their offense was about average (except for the #8 spot which had a .756 OPS, the best outside or Aurilia, Bonds, and Kent). The Giants had a three-man offense basically. Could Kent have driven in 250?

Of the 607 at-bats Kent had in 2001, 307 were with the bases empty (remember Bonds' 73 HRs). He did hit 13 home runs with the bases empty. He did have 132 opportunities with a man on 1st only (Bonds after a walk?) and he hit .38 with 3 HRs, 11 RBI, and a .950 Ops. The only glitch in his armor were his 65 at-bats with men on first and second (Aurlia and Bonds?). He batted .185 with 1 HR, 11 RBI, and a .561 OPS. One could offer an explanation that the opposition knew that they had to get Kent in this situation and then it was smooth sailing. Let's just say for the sake of argument that he batted .370 with a 1.122 OPS, double the actual, in this situation. Even if we double his RBI, it would only put him at 117. 250 seems a bit farfetched.

Now as to the argument that the opposition took Bonds out of the game by walking him, Bonds scored his usual 120+ runs in 2001. Since 1993 Bonds has scored in the 120 range in each of his full seasons. (Bonds dropped to 117 this year, but did miss 19 games.) So it didn't hamper his scoring. As far as his driving in runs, his career high was 137 in 2001. San Fransisco ended up 10th in the majors in runs scored with no one leading off, great hitters batting 2 through 4, and mediocrity from there on. That seems pretty good to me.]

Joe, beautiful divine spark, etc.
Brothers, above the starry firmament
A loving Father must surely dwell.
Do you fall down, O millions?
Are you aware of your Creator, world?
Seek Him above the starry firmament!
For above the stars He must dwell

[Note: the basis for the Brahe research was James Burke's wonderful The Day the Universe Changed television series and book.]

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