Baseball Toaster was unplugged on February 4, 2009.
Auto-da-fe? What's an auto-da-fe? What you oughtn't to do but you do anyway…The Inquisition, what a show. The Inquisition, here we go!
—History of the World, Part I
"Cardinal Fang! Fetch...THE COMFY CHAIR!… Now -- you will stay in the Comfy Chair until lunch time, with only a cup of coffee at eleven."
—Cardinal Ximinez torturing an old lady in Monty Python's Spanish Inquisition sketch
Last week, I theorized that Joe Morgan was "an absurdist of the highest degree", one that we mere mortals just do not "get".
Well, the Baseball Crank trumped me with this email on Joe:
Apropos of your latest comments on Joe Morgan . . . I thought you'd appreciate this item I posted, as it so happens, a year ago today:
BASEBALL: Why Joe Morgan Says Dumb Things
Baseballjunkie.net piles on another idiotic column by Joe Morgan. I'm convinced that Morgan says the things he says just to tick people off. Also, as I've written before, every time I hear Morgan and Tony Perez attacking statistics, I keep wondering if it's really a veiled attack on their stat-obsessed former teammate, Pete Rose.
What a wonderfully awful idea! All the Joes down in Joeville liked chatting a lot, but the Mike's Baseball Rants that lives just north of Joeville (in Sanityville) did not. ("Oh, yah. That's wicked far. Just beer right at the Dunkin Donuts on the cornah in Somerville. Not the one on Highland or Broadway, but the one on Somerville Ave. Actually, you wannah pass those Dunkin Donuts, too. And the coffee is wicked good at the one on Highland. But you don’t beer there. You go straight. If you end up at Hahvahd Yahd, ya went the wrong way. Don't pahk. Turn around and beer towards Davis Square and beer right at the Dominos. Or yah could take 93 but then you'll end up in New Hampshah. But ya could get some wicked cheap bear there. But ya cahn't take the T thare.")
Why don't we like Joe's chatalogy? Because it puts dents in your head. No, what I mean is it's detrimental to your mental health (My first—and probably last—My Three Sons reference!).
Perhaps this torture is by design as the Baseball Crank suggests. Maybe Joe is not a satirist but a sadist. After all, "Morgan" is from the Middle English Morgan le Fey, the name of King Arthur's sister, a self-professed sorceress. The bewitching Joe is trying to lull us to sleep with his poison apple of sophistry and solipsism. And why not? Nobody expects the Joe Morgan Inquisition.
But we can take it. We are made of harder stuff. So in the spirit of Ash in Army of Darkness, we say, "Come get some…"
Josh Miggler (Las Vegas): Hey Joe! How on earth did the Twins win the Central again? They have no true "ace" in the rotation (unlike the sox, who have at least 2) and no bigtime power (unlike the sox and the big hurt) How did they manage to pull this off?
Well they play very well together as a team. Every guy in that lineup compliments the next. I was wrong -- I picked the white sox to beat kansas city and I forgot about the Twins. But, here they are!
[Mike: You and me both, brother. The Twins were the best team in the AL, record-wise, in the second half, going 46-22. But the White Sox were no slouches either at 40-27. The Royals faded as expected in the second half, 32-37. The Twins took over the division in September going 19-6 while Chicago went 12-12 and KC 13-14.
How did the Twins do it? Pitching. The Twins went from one of the worst staffs in the AL in the first half (4.74 ERA, ninth in the league , over a run higher than league-leading Seattle) to the second best in the second (3.88, slightly higher than Oakland's 3.55). "No ace"? I beg to differ. Johan Santana has been an ace when the Twins have allowed him to pitch in the rotation (11-2, 2.85 ERA in 18 starts). The Twins also got Eric Milton back after missing almost the entire season. And Brad Radke is pitching like the staff ace of old (9-1, 3.24 ERA in second half). And Joe is right: they may not have a Big Hurt in the lineup, but they are strong throughout the lineup.]
Josh Meyer (Palmer) IA: Any chance of the Twins knocking out the Yankees?
There is always a chance. Anytime you get into the playoffs in a short series, anybody can win. Starting on the road at Yankee Stadium is certainly different than starting your playoff journey anywhere else, but the Twins are as well prepared as ever. In the past, Minnesota was just happy to be there, this year they are looking to win the whole thing.
[Mike: Well, the Twins can knock them out if they keep jabbing with their left and then use that powerful paralyzing perfect pachydermous percussion punch to paste this pathetic palooka (before you email me, I know the line is "pitch"; it just doesn't go with boxing).
Every series has an interesting story behind it. The Twins were 0-7 against the Yankees this season, but were so strong down the stretch. I predicted the Yankees in 4. I think game one is the key for the Twins. If Santana can shut the Yankees down, they could surprise the Yankees. Look at the Angels last year. If Santana losses the first game, the Twins could cave pretty quickly. (By the way, I wrote this before the first game of the series, really.)]
Jeff (Cleveland): There seems to be something missing from the Phillies, a chemistry or some intangible, and I think that is why they lost out on the playoffs. Do you agree? How do you create that in a locker room?
Well, if you look at the Phillies, they scored more runs than their opposition and they still couldn't make the cut, so there was certainly something amiss. I hate to say it was "chemisitry" because I think that word gets thrown around so much ... and I'm not ever sure what it means anymore. But, I do believe that they did lack a comradery or some sense that the ONLY thing that is important to each and every one of those guys is winning ballgames -- not statistics or individual hits, not ERA. Everybody just has to be in it to win baseball games and I don't think the Phillies had that mindset.
[Mike: Well, Larry Bowa is missing a brain, but aside from that they are OK. Though it's unlikely he could be another Lincoln if he only had a brain.
Good teams have good chemistry. I have said that I think Bowa should be fired because he adds nothing to the team besides his supposed fiery character. If anything, that fire has been a negative especially as the Phils folded. He has alienated certain players (Rolen, Burrell, etc.) during his tenure. That in and of itself is not entirely damning but when a man is brought in to act as basically a cheerleader on acid, it's sufficiently damning.
By the way, the Phils had more problems getting their offense and pitching to work together during the year than anything else. The first half the pitching was tremendous and the offense was logy. In the second half the offense came around, but the pitching collapsed. The bullpen has been blamed for this and rightfully so, but the starters (Wolf, Duckworth, and Myers especially) were extremely poor as well.
If I ran the team, my first move would be to divest myself of the overrated Jimmy Rollins. The Phils have some offseason evaluating to do with two players who receive a hefty paycheck, Burrell and Bell, and some of the young pitchers (Myers and Wolf). Millwood, Duckworth, and most of the pen should be gone, but unless another starter falls from the skies like Millwood did last year, they will actually have to make a creative trade, something that Ed Wade has yet to demonstrate that he can do. With money expected from the new ballpark, expect the Phils to rustle up a couple of free agents again this offseason (Bartolo Colon?). But the core of the team, especially the position players, is there. Now, we just have to see if they are better than an average team.
(By the way, the image to the left is that of the real Tomas de Torquemada that Mel Brooks parodied in History of the World, Part I).]
Chris, California: With the A's pitching and their offense finally clicking, and the Red Sox hitters still killing the baseball, who do you think has the upper hand going into this great matchup
Well, the As are going to have to hit to win, their pitchers certainly will be able to dominate the Red Sox. I'm not sure the Athletics rotation is as strong as it was last year, they certainly will not be able to shut that lineup down. I really think Boston has the edge there.
[Mike: Upper hand? What is this George Costanza on a date ("I got hand")? They start the series tied 0-0. The A's have the homefield if you see that as the upper hand.
However, I'll have to agree with Joe here. The Red Sox clobbered the A's pitching in the regular season to the tune of 36 runs, 6 more than the A's, a 40-point batting average advantage, a 70-point on-base advantage, a 17-point slugging advantage, an 87-point OPS advantage, and a 4.86 ERA in seven games. The only problem is the A's won four of those seven games. I'm sure the A's would be willing to make the same trade in this series.]
tony concord, CA: Joe, what is up with the Mariners....they just cannot seem to EVER get it done...Are the A's REALLY a better team??
That's a very good question Tony, when I saw the Ms in June and July, they looked like the best team in baseball, everything was working well for them. When I saw them in late August things were starting to go downhill for them, and now, they only have one guy (Ichiro) hitting over .300. I'm shocked, they just cannot finish, I don't know what it is, they certainly have the talent. I wish I had the answers. Nobody knows.
[Mike: Are the A's a better team? Well, it depends on your definition of better. If it means which team is ahead in the standings at the end of the year? Then, clearly yes. If it means which team gets better press, the media do love their Ichiro and Boonie show.
I believe that the A's are better because their GM, Billy Beane, has an approach for the season, to field the best team possible given the team's tight budget and then scratch it all if it's not working by the trade deadline. The M's field a good team and then Stand Pat Gillick—who has mercifully recused himself for the 2004 season—does not know what to do with it to keep it ahead of the pack come playoff time.
They remind me of the mid-Eighties Miami Dolphins. It seemed that the Dolphins were continually 6-2 or 7-1 by the middle of the season, but come playoff time they were 9-7 or 8-8 and would just miss the cut. The Redskins had a period like this a few years back, too. And yet, no one in NFL bemoans the lot of those Dolphins teams.]
Nemo (swimming to SF): What are your thoughts on how far my collegues (Marlins) have come this season? How do we match up vs. SF and any chance to make some noise in the playoffs?
I picked the Marlins to pick the Wild Card way back in June. They have speed, a lot of differnt ways to win, they just looked like the better team in that race. They have done very very well. They definitely have a chance against anybody -- that's just the way it is in the playoffs. We'll see what happens. They could certainly make some noise.
[Mike: Oh, "Just keep swimming!" Isn't that adorable? Oh, Marjorie, let’s see what that nice Suzanne Sommers is selling on QVC.
Will the Marlins make any noise? How about a thud? The Marlins did just eke out a wild card victory over the Phightin' Phils. OK, so they were 18-8 in September but so were the Giants, who had very little to fight for at that point.
By the way, the Marlins were 42-42 on June 30, 5.5 game behind the Phils and 4 behind the 'Spos. They also had five teams from the Central and West either tied with them or ahead of them in the Wild Card standings. Not even Joe was crazy enough to pick them back then. And as far as I can tell, he didn't. Here's the only reference to the Marlins in all of Joe's June chats and articles:
David (Myrtle Beach, SC): Joe, why are the Marlins so Mediocre? It isn't like they don't have any talent. To me they should be contending, not rebuilding.
I agree that they have some talent. But for some reason they have not been able to put it together. They had all those great young arms but some of them just broke down and were injured. That has been their problem. All the youngs guys have not been able to produce together at the same time.
Not exactly a glowing endorsement and far from a playoff prediction. Nice selective memory you have there, Joe.]
Ken (Washington D.C): Despite the yankees having a better record, do you feel that the redsox are a superior team? Thier lineup is dangerous 1-9, the starting pitching has been strong, and they have one of the best home records in baseball.
No, I don't feel that the Sox are a superior team only because you never know what you will get when you have to go to the bullpen -- that will be a key factor against Oakland and the Yankees. That pen certainly doesn't exhude confidence. WHo knows what will happen when you bring one of those guys into a game. Also, the Sox have certainly not dominated the Yankees in head to head competition. Until you beat them consistently, you can't say you're the superior team. It will certainly be a solid matchup.
[Mike: Matchup? Uh, Joe, the Yankees and Red Sox are not playing each and if the Twins and A's have their say, they never will. Besides the season series was won 10-9 by the Yankees with a 5.53 Yankee ERA. It's not like the Yankees dominated the Sox. Just move on. Nothing to see here.]
Paulsen, Cincinnati: With 3 games to go who's going to win the NL Central? Should the Cubs win..do you think they have enough offence to beat the Braves?
If I had a crystal ball, I'd tell you Paulsen. I think Pittsburgh is a little tougher team than Milwaukee and that's who Houston is playing, so we'll see. IF you have the arms that the Cubs have, you will do well in a short series. They could beat anybody -- BUT it is never easy to beat a very good, very experienced Braves teams. If anybody were to knock off Atlanta, I'd say it would be the Cubs.
[Mike: It's not easy to beat the Braves?!? It’s like a national pastime unto itself. The Braves have lost in the first round 5 of the last six years. How's that for experience?]
Tony (Philly): Joe, Obviously nothing would be greater to a true baseball fan than a Cubs - Red Sox World Series. How realistic is this great matchup and if so, what do you think is the more intriguing pitching matchup, Wood v. Pedro, or Prior v. Pedro?
Tony, only people in Boston and Chicago want it to be a Sox-Cubs World Series ... but you're right, it certainly wood be an intriguing matchup between two storied ball clubs, each with a lot of history. Either of those pitching duels would be very exciting. It's early to be talking about that, though. I still think this is a wait and see situation, sure these two teams having it out probably would be good for baseball, but they have a long way to go.
[Mike: Who wouldn't want to experience a Wrigley-Fenway Series outside of the Chicago's South Side and the Bronx? Besides it ensure that one of this silly "curses"—the Bambino's or the Billy Goat's—would end. Then what would Jeannie Zalasko have to talk about during the pregames? Aw.]
Mike, Asheville, NC: Joe, Always enjoyed you as a player and now as an announcer! Seems to me Larry Bowa's personality is disruptive to the chemistry of the Phillies. Do you think he will be fired now that they did not make the playoffs? Also will Millwood re-sign? Thanks!
I have gone to PHilly two or three times in the last month, each time I was their I tried to figure out whether Bowa put too much pressure on his players. He doesn't think so, most of his players don't either. Volatile managers work well with certain teams, but you who knows, I can't get a good pulse read on how he effects these guys without talking to everybody. I've know Larry a long time, he's always been a very volatile individual. I'm not close enough to the situation to really know if he is good or bad for that organization, but I can say that before he was a part of that club, the Phillies were not as competative as they are now.
[Mike: I never took Chemistry. How 'bout the Phils' Social Studies, does it hurt them?
So the Phils were not as competitive without Bowa? You mean that the Gregg Jefferies- and Paul Qauntrill-led Phils should have done better but Jim Fregosi held them back? (In 1995 Jefferies led the Phils in OPS and Quantrill in ERA).
Look, the Tyler Houston incident shows that Bowa's inability to control a clubhouse. Houston was released at the end of August because he was a bad element—basically Bowa disliked him. The Phils then acquired non-factor Kelly Stinnet while the Marlins grabbed Philly-killer Jeff Conine. From that point the Marlins were five games better than the Phils. I'm not saying Houston alone would have made up the difference, but a lot of the "they just don’t look like a team out there" talk has happened after the incident. By the way, the Phils did miss Houston's lefty bat, especially so in the Florida series that ended the Phils' season. The Phils went to the Tomas Perez well one too many times especially in the second game, when a lefty pinch-hitter against Urbina in the ninth would have been useful. Oh well.]
Brian (Toronto): Carlos Delgado has had a great year for a mediocre team. How do you sum up his chances for AL MVP? How about those 4 homers?!
Well, he won't win the MVP, but those four homers are fantastic, I've played with a couple guys who hit three homeruns in a game -- but FOUR -- that just doesn't happen. That is such an incredible feat.
[Mike: Joe may be right about Delgado's chances, but why so quick to dismiss? Delgado is a great candidate. No one is truly more valuable to his team in the AL. But while many praised Ichiro through much of the season, Delgado was ignored after the Blue Jays dropped out of contention.]
Will (New York NY ): Hi Joe the only Cardinals fan in NYC . Real quick -- what happend to the the red birds?
Well, a lot of it was injuries, a lot of guys missed a lot of games. JD Drew, Jim Edmonds and their pitching staff all suffered -- they were never able to get it all straightedned out ... pull it together. That led to their downfall. They have a lot of work for next season.
[Mike: They had their fair share of injuries, but this team was far from the 1927 Yankees. The pitching staff was poor all season (the second- and first-half team ERAs are almost an exact match at around 4.60). However, their fall was hastened by a highly-touted offense that was outperformed by their opponents in the second half by 15 home runs and 17 OPS points. The offense of Bo Hart (second half OPS of .599), Fernando Vina (.582), Miek Matheny (.606), and Tino Martinez (.742) hurt. So did LaRussa's over-reliance on bit players who did not perform: Miguel Cairo (.639), Orlando Palmeiro (.672), Chris Widger (.672), and Kerry Robinson (.712) all had prominent roles in the Cardinals' collapse.]
Michael, Miami, FL: You mentioned in your column that NL Manager of the Year Race was between Alou, Baker, and Cox - you failed to mention Jack McKeon - taking over a team no one thought would finish .500 and guiding them to a possible wild-card berth, how could he not win it?
Give McKeon credit but he hasn't done what these other three guys have, Michael. He took over a team with out any pressure, nobody expected him to win -- these other three guys are expected to produce, the stakes were high. Jack McKeon has done a very good job in Florida, make no mistake about that , but watch how the writers vote, there will be no contest, he is just not in their league.
[Mike: Well, they are all in the National League, Joe.
Expectations? They are now the main criterion for evaluating managers? Then Joe Torre would win every year. Oh, except he truly is in a different league, the American League.
McKeon gets my vote. I pity the voters who share Joe's views.]
Matt (St Paul, MN via Athens, OH): What is the state of baseball in Cincinnati? With a below-sub par major league team and a lack of difference makers in the farm system, how long do you think it will take to be competitive again, let alone successful? Thank Joe!
I have no idea how long it will take -- it depends on who they hire as their GM. If they hire Omar Minaya who is with the Expos, I don't think it will take too long, he could do a lot of good over in Cincinnati.
[Mike: jhgk,gk,vha.vuqoe'v;ijhv—Oops sorry. That was from the laughing fit I just had. Omar the Magnificent in Cincy? That's a match made in heaven. Not only would the major-league Reds be execrable, the minor leagues would be bled dry. Just wait until a team that has actual fans gets a load of Minaya's "now you see him, now you don't" act. The man goes through talent like Pete Rose goes through Grecian Formula.]
Jerry (Portland): Joe, having played at Fenway park in the world series, do you believe that is is one of the tougher places to play a road game?
No, Yankee Stadium is certainly the toughest place to play a road game in the playoffs. When you are in the Bronx -- it gets rowdy. We've all seen it before. In Boston, the fans are great basball fans. Yankee fans are a different breed during the playoffs, nobody wants to go in there in away jerseys.
[Mike: Boston has great baseball fans but the Yankees are a different, rowdier breed? Joe, I hope you enjoy your next visit to the Bronx.]
OK, everybody, I'm looking forward to a very exciting playoff season ... and my Hawaii trip which is 62 days away!! Good talking to everybody, thanks for your questions! See you next time!
[Mike: Joe, even though it's 62 days away, you are already in Hawaii in your mind.]
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