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Ode to Billy Joe Morgan
2002-10-21 20:25
by Mike Carminati

Ode to Billy Joe Morgan Chat Day

We here at Mike's Baseball Rants love Joe Morgan and especially love Joe Morgan Chat Day. Joe says the most sagely succinct statements as well as the most insipidly silly, superannuated saws sometimes sophistically simultaneously-OK, enough of the excessive sibilance.

Joe is experiencing some moral relativism during the postseason, at least where baseball morals are concerned. He Protagoreanly pronounces that, "Hey, I call them as I see them and I am the measure of all things." He is an ardent believer in the primacy of de facto values: the values of today's game in fact primarily suck. He is steeped in cultural variation: he varies his analysis from one moment to the next and he is well cultured.

Frankly, this past JMCD wasn't the greatest-a lot of touchy feely World Series remembrances. ("[My first World Series game] was almost like my first game in the Big Leagues...It is very rewarding and exciting.") What can I do with that? So I spliced the chat session with some choice citations from his ESPN article Expect Angels to pitch to Bonds, and here goes:

The Good

James (NC): Are you suprised at an all Wild Card WS?

Joe Morgan: Wild Card means nothing to me once the playoffs start. Once they start, everyone has a good chance in a short series. I'm surprised that Minnesota beat Oakland. I'm surprised the Angels beat the Yankees so easily but I'm not surprised the Giants are there.

[Mike: Right, anything can happen in a short series. Steve Lyons can even get a gig in a short series.]

Joe Mac (Tempe): Hey Joe, thanks for taking my question. After reading your column, you seem to think Dusty Baker will not manage the Giants in 2003. I know you're happy with your broadcasting job, but living in the Bay Area as you do, if the Giants offered you the job, would you ever consider leaving the booth for the dugout again?

Joe Morgan: No. Emphatically no.

[Mike: Thank you, Joe.]

Tim: Do you think that the angels play better when they are picked to not win the series?

Joe Morgan: I don't know if you benefit from being an underdog.. they may be more relaxed but trying to get to the WS, there is pressure built into that. They just played better than everyone else!

[Mike: Right, besides who do they think they are? Not picking the Angels for the World Series. Lined up at gym class and the poor Angels are standing there thinking, "Please, pick me!" Yet they are the last kids picked along with a boy they call "Lefty", who eats paste. Well, I guess they'll think twice about letting the Angels play their reindeer games in the future.]

The Bad

Brad (Seattle): Who do you think has the better pitching staff between Anaheim and S.F.? And do you think Dusty Baker will leave S.F.? Thank you Mr. Morgan.

Joe Morgan: Difficult question since they pitched in different leagues. In the NL you get pulled earlier. The Giants starting rotations has more experience and is probably a little better but the Angels bullpen is VERY good. The depth on the Giants starters is better but the depth of the Angels bullpen is better.

[Mike: For the record, the NL averaged 5.861 innings pitched per game started, and the AL 5.997. That's about an extra out per third game, big deal! Anaheim averaged 6.220 IP/GS and San Francisco 6.200, even less of a big deal (except SF did better compared to the league, but they are in a pitchers' park).

The Giant bullpen had a 2.89 ERA; while the Cherubic pen had a 2.98. Their Adjusted Runs Allowed (Baseball Prospectus) is: Angels 3.11 (2nd in majors behind the Braves) and Giants 3.61 (3rd). Their Adjusted Runs Prevented (also BP): The Angels 68 (2nd), the Giants 48.2 (5th). Both are VERY good.]

Sam (San Diego): Do you think that either the Angels or Giants will be able to repeat and play in next year's World Series?

Joe Morgan: I think the Angels may have a better chance of contending next year than the Giants. I believe Baker will leave and when he leaves that team will not be nearly as good.

[Mike: A) I do not believe that Baker will leave. He has a perfect situation: good owner, good team (if they resign Kent), and great city. If he goes to New York or Seattle, he will be shepherding an old team into an uncertain future and he may be seen as the scapegoat. Then again if the money is that good, who knows?

B) The Angels, as well as they are playing, have a better chance to return back to earth next year. They are in a perennially tough division and played poorly last year with largely the same group of players. The Giants face an overachieving Dodgers team (thanks in part to their Jim Tracy's guidance), an aging and possibly strapped Arizona team, a continually underachieving Rockies team, and a Padres team that has been rebuilding since its 1998 World Series appearance. The Giants are a better gamble, Baker or no.]

Mike (Mercer Island WA): Joe I don't get it. All i hear from the Seattle athletes, especially the baseball players, is how much they love Seattle, the fans and Safeco Field. Now Lou's leaving makes many of us wonder why do athletes leave when they have the chance? What's wrong with this once "Greatest city to live in"?

Joe Morgan: It has nothing to do with the city, they love the city. It has to do with individuals in the organization. Guys that have left and are leaving are all unhappy with the organization.

[Mike: How about moolah? It doesn't hurt that guys like Tom Hicks are handing out the bucks.]

Eric (Burlington, VT): Joe, any ideas on how to speed up the game and get them started earlier when kids can watch?

Joe Morgan: By nature, the AL games are longer with the DH. The games in Anaheim will likely be longer. But remember we are in the WS and every pitch is more important. We are going to have some long games.

Execpt the first one .. Schmidt and Washburn will throw lots of strikes and things will happen.

[Mike: Joe, how about we get rid of the excessively long commercial breaks? Three commercials to change pitchers? By the way, if Schmidt and Washburn throw a lot of strikes, can't we get a pitchers' duel (as we did) in game 1?]

Mike in Omaha: Hi Joe...I love your TV broadcast work. What do you think the Twins need to do in the offseason, other than resign current players, to take the next step? Would a power bat do the trick?

Joe Morgan: I think they learned a lot this year. They will be better next year just due to that. But they need some right handed hitting.

[Mike: They made it to the ALCS with a young club. What next level? There is no next level. They just need to execute in the playoffs. Do the Yanks and Braves need to do something to get to the next level? A right-handed bat would help improve a weakness.]

Ron (Pittsburgh): Don't hitters that wear these huge pieces of armor make them more dangerous hitters then they would be without the armor. I mean these guys that stand on top of the plate, like Bonds, it gives them protection. It takes a littl bit of the fear out of getting hit. These guys are baseball players and getting hit is part of the game. I think it's rediculous that these guys are aloud to use armor. It let's them sit on top of the plate and take away the outside corner.

Joe Morgan: First of all, he is playing within the rules and others guy wear it without hitting 73 HRs. I don't think anyone should be able to wear it but its not against the rules so he can wear it. Bonds is wearing it because it he had an operation on his elbow and he started wearing it after that. He didn't want to get hit on that elbow again.

[Mike: Well, it's true that other guys wear them and don't hit 73 home runs. But is it true that he is playing within the rules or is he bending the rules? He reminds me of the girls who would get a note from their doctor so that they would be excused from swim class in high school. His doctor wrote a note to allow Bonds to wear the armor, but it aint kosher. Sure, he does not want to get hit there again: Who does? I don't think it detracts from him as a player, but let's not make excuses for him.]

John, Charlottesvile: Joe, Barry Bonds' presence seems to throw everything out of whack, including opposing managers' gameplans. How does he do this? Does he affect the focus levels intended for pitching to the hitters around him? Thanks

Joe Morgan: It's mainly the HRs. He is the most feared hitter maybe in the history of the game. I don't know how he is more feared than Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron, etc. but he is. It's amazing. The managers are just as afraid as the pitchers and that is unusual. I have never seen anything like that. Even the pitchers are afraid to compete with him.

[Mike: Joe, even with the monster year, Bonds is only 5 home runs ahead of Sammy Sosa over the past three years. It's that he is the best hitter of his generation and arguably the greatest ever. Period.]

Joe Morgan: Major League Baseball is getting closer to a word the NFL likes to use: parity. While I don't like the word, it describes what happens when there are no dominant teams. The Yankees were an elite team, but other teams -- especially the Giants and the Angels -- worked hard to close the gap, despite the payroll disparity.

[Mike: Joe, did you notice that this year had the greatest schism between the haves and have-nots maybe in the modern era? There was no parity this year. I think hegemony is the word you're searching for.]

Joe Morgan: Starting out in the AL park is to the Giants' advantage. During the regular season, they hit better on the road (5.3 runs per game) than they did at home (4.4), and that trend continued in the playoffs.

[Mike: True, but that's half the story. They play in a pitchers' park. The outscored their opponents by 1.00 runs per game at home and 1.06 runs per game on the road.]

Joe Morgan: Bonds and the Giants will get their first look Saturday at the Rally Monkey, which has become a phenomenon in Anaheim.

[Mike: Ah, but Joe we now know from our history of the Rally Monkey graphics on Fox that Mr. Monkey was first employed in an Angels-Giants interleague game. The Giants are well aware of the menacing force of Mr. Monkey. Are the Angels' fans for real? Is this what happens when an area doesn't have a football team any longer? They seem to be having a wonderful time but look utterly ridiculous. No offense intended but I couldn't imagine such fans at a baseball game on the East Coast.]

Brian (Charlotte): Hey Joe, I was just wondering what the yankees need to do in the offseason, personally, I'd like them to have a strong bullpen that they have had in past years

Joe Morgan: The bullpen wasn't why they lost to the Angles, it was the starting pitching. They couldn't get deep enough in the game. They have to address their starting pitching.

[Mike: Oh really? Their starting pitching was 3rd in innings per start. They didn't last long in the playoffs because they got hammered (10.35 ERA for New York starters vs. Anaheim), but a) you can't base their entire season on a short series and b) their relievers did not fare much better. The Yankee rotation has to get younger, or maybe Torre keeping them in longer during the season to cover his threadbare bullpen wore out the old staff by the end of the year.]

Joe Morgan: Bonds is different from the player he was in past postseasons and from any player we've ever seen. Just look at how relaxed he is in the batter's box. In the past, Barry wasn't always the best player on the field. Sometimes, it would be Greg Maddux or Tom Glavine or John Smoltz.

[Mike: Technically speaking, pitchers are rarely the best players on the field. Bill James, among others, has shown that offense contributes at least 50% of a team's propensity to win. On the defensive side, pitching and team defense have to split the rest.]

matt: Let's take a look at both of the defenses....where is the advantages....and who is crazy steve?

Joe Morgan: That's a good question.. they are pretty similar defensively, pretty equal. I'd give a slight edge to the Giants but VERY slight.

[Mike: Joe, stop avoiding the question. Who is Crazy Steve? What is his relationship to Goofy Dan? Ve have ways to make you talk!]

The Ugly

Joe Morgan: While Bonds didn't face Anaheim in interleague play this year, he did in 2001 and went 5-for-11 with two home runs.

[Mike: A) What does that mean? It's 11 at-bats. B) These 11 ABs include Dennis Cook, Lou Pote, and Al Levine, none of which are on the Angels' active roster for the Series.]

Mike(Chicago): Joe, do you think the TV ratings for this World Series will beat last year? Isn't this what the fans wanted, different teams in the Series?

Joe Morgan: Yes, I think people will be interested. The Angels are a very exciting team to watch and the Giants are an interesting team to watch. After the third game I think this series will really build excitement. Both teams will give it their best and I think people will watch.

Joe Morgan (from article): Will baseball fans embrace an all-California World Series? They may react in a lukewarm manner, as they did when the Yankees and Mets met in the Subway Series in 2000, or when the A's and the Giants faced each other in 1989. In terms of interest, the best World Series matchups come when the two teams are from opposite coasts, developing an East-West rivalry.

[Mike: This is Classic Lil Joe. He contradicts himself constantly. It's great. Proof of his moral relativism in the playoffs.]

By the way: Sheez, there are too many damn Mikes in the world. That's the third one in this chat session.]

Dino (sacramento): Does Barry Bonds need a WS ring to make him anymore valuable than he already is?

Joe Morgan: More valuable to whom? No, he is already a great player. That would just add to his legacy.

Joe Morgan (from article): Being in the Series should not enhance Bonds' status as one of the game's greatest players. He already was.

[Mike: Exhibit B.]

Joe Morgan:

While Barry wants to win the championship and it will matter how he performs, he won't face the same criticism if the Giants lose. No one should say he has to win a championship because not every great player can. Ted Williams didn't. A lot of players get to the World Series and don't win, yet they still have a sense of accomplishment.

[Mike: So let me get this straight. It doesn't matter how he performs in the World Series because it's a short series and he led his team there, but it does matter how he plays in the short series leading up to the World Series? If he leads his team throughout the season, but has a poor division series or his team just doesn't win a division series, then that is significant. I have got to say Exhibit C here.]

James (NC): Joe, how will the Angels pitch Barry or will it depend on the situation?

Joe Morgan: I think they will try to pitch to him. If they get burned, they will do what everyone else did. He will hurt them at some point if they pitch to him, but you are better of pitching to him until he hurts you.

[Mike: This is patently ridiculous. The Angels will pitch to Bonds or any other player when they feel that it is to their advantage to do so. They will not pitch to Bonds or any other player when they feel it is to their disadvantage to do so. Bonds is just give a little bit more latitude in this area. If there are two outs and first base open with the pitcher up next, they will not pitch to Bonds. If it is a tie ballgame with the bases loaded, they will pitch to Bonds. There is that gray area in the middle to consider.]

Joe Morgan: At the same time, I don't expect the Angels to adhere to the normal strategy and walk Bonds every chance they get. The Angels will pitch to him, at least in the beginning. Why? Because they will be upholding the integrity of the American League, and that carries some weight. The Angels feel they have good players in their league -- and on their team.

[Mike: See note above. At least he is consistent here.]

The Classically Fugly

Dino (sacramento): Why hasen't Dusty Baker been getting the respect from the Giants ownership? He has been one of the most productive mangagers the Giants have had in a while. I am not sure letting Dusty go is a good thing for the Giants, do you?

Joe Morgan: It's not a good thing but everyone is not as smart as they appear to be. I just don't know. I don't think anyone can figure that out other than the owner or managing partner.

[Mike:I can't top that.]

Joe Morgan: Thanks for the questions.. I am looking forward to a very exciting WS. It should be a lot of fun with different personalities and different teams to watch.

[Mike: Well, they have the same teams throughout the World Series. They got rid of that round-robin tournament system a few years ago.]

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