Monday, April 30, 2007

Steroids Affect the Floor, Not the Ceiling

Earlier today, before it was buried by the avalanche of hits from the BTF link (thanks Repoz!), I said this in reference to the Radomski steroids plea:

The names of the big stars [who are outed by Radomski as steroid abusers] will get the most press, but I predict that marginal players will make up the vast majority of the accused on the theory that the incentive is greater for modest talents to juice in order to make a roster than it is for above-average major leaguers to become stars. This is why I do not think steroids -- for all of their ills -- undermine the integrity of the game or the record book. Steroids, for the most part, affect the talent floor, not the talent ceiling.

Matt Roney is the kind of guy I'm talking about. A 1-10 major league record, riding the shuttle from Syracuse to Toronto. One run of good fortune -- a month of lights-out ball -- and Roney is back to big league meal money and having other people carry his bags. The incentive for him to do something -- anything -- to make the leap is so great that it's understandable that he'd risk a 50 game suspension, which amounts to $30K in salary, for the chance.

The same incentives don't apply to the biggest stars in the game. Yes, you and I may argue about whether Barry Zito is worth $126M, but either extreme of the debate makes Zito an obscenely wealthy man. He simply doesn't have the incentive to cheat the way someone like Roney does.

I may one day be shown to be very wrong about this, but my sense is that once we know everything knowable about steroid use over the past decade or two, we'll see that the vast majority of offenders were marginal prospects and aging veterans trying to hang on for one more year. Ego cases who were already superstars and who wanted to go from solid to inner-circle hall of famers like Bonds are going to be the exception, rather than the rule.

I don't say this in an effort to minimize the steroid problem. Indeed, minor leaguers and players who aren't superstars constitute the vast majority of professional ballplayers. If my theory holds, the problem could be far greater than that which is portrayed by sportswriters who like to caricature only the most prolific sluggers as juicers. If I'm right, our concern over records and the Hall of Fame would seem pretty petty in comparison to the scores of regular Joes who are ruining their health as they walk the line between a lifetime of comfort and a job at a warehouse. Players that the steroid moralizers in the media almost uniformly ignore.

What it would mean, however, is that the record books and much talked about integrity of the game would not be in the sort of peril in which many perceive it to be. The record books are safe because it's really only the superstars who threaten records, and under my theory, the superstars are more likely to be clean. The integrity -- defined by me as the fairness and quality of the competition -- is also safe, and may even be enhanced, because rather than feasting on the historically-hapless bottom of the roster players, the superstars have been forced, by virtue of steroids, to face historically-enhanced roster fodder. Obviously Barry Bonds blows a gigantic hole in the records argument, but we've been treating him as some sort of alien oddity for four years now, so what's a few years more?

But what say we if Alex Rodriguez hits 800 home runs? Or if Albert Pujols breaks Aaron's RBI record? Or if Jeter somehow creeps toward 4000 hits? Maybe their achievements would be greater because they had to face the amped-up Matt Roneys of the world as opposed to some rubber arm palooka from the days of yore.

The Front Ain't All That Hot Either

Braves closer Bob Wickman is on the disabled list? For a bad back?

You don't say.

Won't Somebody Think of the Clubhouse Kids?

The coverage of the recent guilty plea of former Mets' employee Kirk Radomski has focused exclusively on what this means for the steroid drama. And it is a big deal: he's facing 25 years, so he's going to name names, probably many big ones.* It's going to be huge.

But one quote -- from former Met Brian McCrae noting Radomski's suspicious comings and goings -- caught my eye:

"You didn't know exactly who was doing what, but you knew the best way to do
something like that [meaning obtaining illegal drugs] is through the clubhouse kids."

And McCrae is being accurate when he calls them kids. Though the illegalities Radomski pleaded to occurred while he was in his 20s and 30s, he started with the Mets as a 15 year-old clubhouse attendant.

This all reminds me of the Dennis Eckersely controversy that no one seems to remember anymore, in which a sexual abuse case against the former Red Sox clubhouse manager spun out an allegation that Eckersley used to give money to clubhouse attendants as young as 13 years-old to score weed for him. According to those allegations, Eck would give a kid $250, have him buy an ounce for him and tell him to keep the change.

Eckersley, you may recall, didn't exactly deny the charge. "I don't recall anything from over 20 years ago," Eckersley said at the time. "That's what I'm sticking to." When asked about his drug use in general, Eck said he didn't plan to discuss it, "especially over allegations from over 20 years ago. What good comes of it? They can say whatever they want at this point. It doesn't really matter."

Quick digression: Am I crazy, or does this sound a lot like Mark McGwire's Congressional testimony? You know, the "I'm not here to talk about the past" stuff that many sanctimonious sportswriters cited as a reason for not voting Big Mac into the Hall? I wonder how many of the people who voted Eck into Cooperstown after he refused to elaborate about his drug use wrote "Mac should just come clean" stories before blackballing him last year? End of digression.

Anyway, the Radomski/steroid story will fill column inches for months. And since it is big news it probably should. But I hope that some sportswriter following this story passes up the easy steroid angle and focuses instead on whatever the hell is going on in baseball clubhouses that allows teenagers to become drug mules.

*the names of the big stars will get the most press, but I predict that marginal players will make up the vast majority of the accused on the theory that the incentive is greater for modest talents to juice in order to make a roster than it is for above-average major leaguers to become stars. This is why I do not think steroids -- for all of their ills -- undermine the integrity of the game or the record book. Steroids, for the most part, affect the talent floor, not the talent ceiling.

Too Soon?

Josh Hancock's death sucks. Sucks for his family. Sucks for his teammates. Sucks for anyone that knew and loved him, as anyone's death does for the people who are left behind.

But we're not those people, so we're allowed to reflect for a couple of moments and then get right back to it. We're allowed to silently wonder whether Hancock -- a mop-up reliever with a relatively short tenure with the team -- is worthy of the same kind of treatment front-of-the-rotation-starter Daryl Kile received at his untimely passing five years ago. We'll do it with the appropriate amount of respect, but we'll wonder.

We're also allowed to wonder -- at least until the autopsy results come back -- whether Hancock was driving drunk at the time of his accident. Hey, I don't know and you don't know either, and the last thing we should do is engage in innuendo, but the fact remains that the man hit a parked car at a high rate of speed late on a Saturday night, so such speculation is not baseless. Let's just wait for the evidence to find out.

But what I'm wondering most about -- and again, we can wonder this because we didn't know the guy outside of the context of our television sets -- is what his death means for the Cardinals. Are they going to be so shell-shocked that they'll fall off of their already below-average pace for a while and wind up too far behind Milwaukee or whoever to catch up? Will they rally around the tragedy and win one for the, er, Hancocker? Normally we'd be left to wildly speculate, but when it comes to the Cardinals, there is relevant data to be considered.

When Daryl Kile was found dead on June 22, 2002, the Cardinals stood in first place in the NL Central with a record of 40-31, for winning percentage of .563. After a ten game stretch of .500 ball during which I previously noted the Cards looked lost, they went on a relative tear for the rest of the year, going 52-29 (.641), to finish the year at 97-65 (.598) and an appearance in the NLCS.

It's important to note that they did this despite the fact that the pitchers who replaced Kile -- some combination of Travis Smith and Chuck Finley -- performed worse than Kile did before heading off to baseball Valhalla. In the case of Smith, who got ten starts or so before they traded for Finley, far worse. I don't tend to believe in most inspirational hoodoo, and there may be several reasons apart from inspiration why the Cardinals rallied post-Kile, but they obviously didn't crumble despite having a pretty good excuse to do so.

Which brings us to Hancock. While his loss will no doubt hurt his teammates, the cold reality of the situation is that it's an emotional loss, not a baseball loss. Like I said, he was a more or less league average mopup man whose job it was to come into games the Cards are already losing to save the better arms for games that could be won. There are no shortage of guys who can fill that role, and there is no reason to expect that St. Louis will lose any more games without Hancock than they would have with him. Given their reaction to Kile's death, the Cards, if anything, might expect to play better in the wake of this tragedy.

I offer this because if the season ends with the Cards missing the playoffs, there will be many in the media who, out of sympathy over Hancock's death, will give them the benefit of the doubt. Don't let them that get away with it. If the Kile-effect holds in St. Louis -- and given the same manager and a handful of the same team leaders (Pujols, Rolen, Edmonds, Isringhausen) there's no reason it shouldn't -- the Cardinals shouldn't be expected to bottom-out simply as a result of Hancock's death. The fact is that once you get past Pujols, the few Cards who aren't over the hill aren't very good. St. Louis sits at 10-13 and are 4 1/2 games behind the Brewers, who look poised to run away with the division.

If they rally? Well, maybe I'll have to reassess my stance on inspirational hoodoo.

Bike Spokes Sold Separately

Yeah, I suppose your collection is impressive, old man, but we'll see who's really laughing when my grandkids auction off my stash of Ron Darling "Rated Rookies!"

At least 5,500 cards were sold in this auction, and the rest will be sold at other auctions during the year, officials said.

Serious bidders are waiting for this second batch. Word on the street is that there's a 1936 Gabby Hartnett in there with the words "F*ck Face" written on the knob of the bat.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Eretz, uh, Home Run Derby?

NPR ran a story about the newly-formed Israel Baseball League this evening. The brainchild of a Boston Bagel magnate, with baseball operations being run by former Red Sox GM Dan Duquette, and an advisory board containing several heavy hitters from American baseball, the six team league holds its first player draft on Sunday, with games beginning in June.

The available players can be found here. Word on the street is that the GM for the Tel Aviv Lightning has his eye on righty named Scott Cantor. Less interesting than the fact that he's 51 years old is that when asked on his player profile to list his "three favorite movies" he puts down Field of Dreams and Dances with Wolves. I presume he'll list a third one after his nap. I'm also presuming that he's a junkballer.

If Cantor isn't available, there's a young whipper-snapper-- a southpaw no less -- named Ari Alexenberg. Ari is only 46, but I hear he's a young 46. But seriously, I like Ari. He has a pretty nifty blog going in which he's already trying to foment a rivalry between two teams (Tel Aviv and Petah Tikvah) based on the fact that their stadiums are located on the banks of the same river 16 miles apart. Never mind that neither team has any players yet.

My friends at the Baseball Think Factory will be happy to hear that Ari lists sabermetrics as his favorite hobby, and his blog actually has some interesting stuff regarding potential IBL park effects, an analysis of power hitters, another of pitchers' velocity (probably important for a 46 year old), and some fun factual and statistical breakdowns of IBL players which reveal them to be every bit the (mostly) lovable boneheads we find in American baseball: Rocky, Scarface, and Dumb and Dumber are tied for the lead as the favorite movie of IBLers, and five players list "meat" as their favorite food.

The player bios seem to tell a story of a lot of American boys who can't give up the game despite not being quite good enough to play organized ball into adulthood. While, at first blush, this saddened me a bit, it didn't sadden me nearly as much as the fact that, instead of extra innings, ties in the IBL will be broken by a home run derby.

But despite players old enough to be Julio Franco's, um, uncle, and rules that will make a purist like me kvetch, I will take to heart the words of my great aunt Ruchel Dorfman, who used to tell me, "you do what you love, dahlink. That's all that matters."

Here's hoping Scott Cantor, Ari Alexenberg, and the rest of the players of the IBL have fun doing what they love.

Beisbol Cubano

The New York Times reports that MLB is salivating over the possibility of getting its hands on Cuban ballplayers once Castro dies, er, I mean, starts to "hang back."

It's admittedly hard to know how good the talent there truly is. However, I think the defectors we've had in the past several years indicates that while Cuba will always have a handful of MLB-quality guys, it isn't the Comstock Lode about which experts once speculated. Remember the hype over Rene Arocha, anyone?

Cuba, with a population of about 11 million, has about 2 million more people than the Dominican Republic, which suggests that it may produce slightly more players than does the latter. But the Dominican is wide open, more prosperous, and every team in Major League Baseball has had a training academy there for years. As such, it's safe to assume that we've squeezed way more baseball talent out of the Dominican Republic than we will get out of Cuba for some time. My guess: The teams that do the best in exploiting Cuban talent will only see a modest uptick in the quality of their rosters, and at a great price, given the considerable work it will take to get a foothold in Havana. Worth it? Sure, because it's always good for a team to expand its scouting efforts. But I don't think it will provide benefits that are on an order of magnitude greater than, say, putting more scouts in Puerto Rico, Venezuela, or hell, Texas.

Fun tidbit from the Times article, though:

One major league general manager, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he did not want to reveal his team’s intentions for Cuba, said his team had plans but would be restricted by whatever rules baseball imposed . . "What happens if Cuba becomes free is going to depend on the rules M.L.B. puts in place," the general manager said. "We are keeping our eye on the situation, but we can’t do anything until the rules are different. We would treat it like any other Latin American country and look to put training facilities there."

Oooh, explosive stuff, Mr. GM. Glad your anonymity has been maintained. If your boss knew you were dropping bombs like "we're going to follow the rules" and "keep our eye on the situation," you'd be on the dole by next Tuesday!

Rust Never Sleeps

SI's Jon Heyman is reporting that "sources say" that Steinbrenner is most displeased at the Yankees' slow start. According to these same sources, the Boss didn't show up at the Yankees' two games in Tampa this week because "he didn't want to talk publicly about his floundering club." Steinbrenner's spokesman Howard Rubenstein said that Steinbrenner said that he's not speaking out publicly out of fairness to Cashman and Torre. "I've got to hang back," Rubenstein reported Steinbrenner as telling him . . . What he's saying privately I won't discuss."

Um, yeah.

Based on the rest of Heyman's reporting, as well as other reports about him in recent months, it is plainly obvious that Steinbrenner is not a well man. Certainly physically, given at least two episodes in which he collapsed in public, though his silence during his brief public appearances and the fact that everything he purports to say anymore comes through a layer of spokesmen implies that he's unable to handle public appearances, suggesting that the problem is more than just physical. Senility? I have no idea, and neither Heyman nor others who have covered this in recent months are willing to go there. There seem to enough hints in their writing, however, to make me believe they have the information and would say so if it weren't for cautious editors.

It's simply not like Steinbrenner to let others do the talking for him, and Rubenstein's reports of the Boss' sentiments ring false. Even if Steinbrenner were to suddenly repudiate his outspoken nature and instead chose to work through surrogates, don't you think he'd have something more colorful to say than "I've got to hang back"? My guess is that he'd be loudly wondering if Jeter would have fewer errors this season if he spent more time doing knee bends and less time doing Jesica Biel. He'd probably have deliciously degrading nicknames for each of his rookie starters and would have issued a sarcastic press release about how he's installing a handicapped ramp for Pavano.

The only appropriate way for a world-class piece of work like George Steinbrenner to go is of a sudden, massive aneurysm, suffered in mid-sentence during a bombastic tirade against his manager, his star player, the Red Sox, and Major League Baseball. It therefore saddens me deeply to see the people around him covering up his condition and trying to make it seem like he's still at the controls while he slowly circles the drain.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Worlds are Colliding, Jerry!

My political and baseball interests, all tied up in a neat little story analyzing the partisan leanings of Yankee vs. Mets fans:

According to a study last July by Quinnipiac University in Connecticut, Republicans prefer the Yankees over the Mets by a greater proportion than do Democrats. When asked who they would want to win a subway World Series, 62 percent of Republican respondents chose the Yankees, while only 29 percent chose the Mets.

The numbers were more evenly divided among Democrats: 44 percent would choose the Yankees in a subway series, and 41 percent said they would want the Mets to win.

So it's official: we have politicized absolutely everything. How utterly depressing.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Bookmark this Column for October

Here, Bob Klapisch documents the monumental pitching problems the Yankees are going to have to overcome in order to contend this year.

Here, a New York sportswriter notes just how Alex Rodriguez is literally carrying the Yankees on his back thus far with his unprecedented April. There have been many other articles like it.

It's been a nice month of coverage for Rodriguez, but given that the New York media seems to go out of its way each year to slag on A-Rod despite his Hall of Fame-worthy performances, I am willing to bet my children that if the Yankees fall out of contention in the AL East, someone, somewhere, will write the "A-Rod only puts up good numbers on losing teams" column, somehow blaming him for the Yankees missing the playoffs for the first time in 13 years.

So, bookmark Klapisch and deploy as necessary this October.

If You Ain't Cheatin', you Ain't Tryin'

The Cheater's Guide to Baseball Blog is getting kudos for pointing out that the Twins' Torrii Hunter violated an anti-corruption rule when he recently sent the Royals a few bottles of Dom as a reward for knocking the Tigers out during the final series of the season last year, allowing the Twins to take the AL Central.

The rule -- 21(b) -- prohibits "[a]ny player or person connected with a Club who shall offer or give any gift or reward to a player or person connected with another Club for services rendered or supposed to be or to have been rendered in defeating or attempting to defeat a competing Club . . ."

So, Hunter can't give the Royals a gift as an incentive for beating the Tigers. OK. That's fair. I understand, and if you don't, Zumsteg explains it at the Cheater's guide.

Question: does this still apply when a Club (the Yankees) pays another Club (the Devil Rays) for services rendered (keeping its payroll low) in order to help the Yankees defeat competing clubs (the Devils Rays)? Because that's basically MLB's revenue sharing system. Maybe that's OK because it's approved by the Fox Network or something.

Thanks for Giving us More of a Reason to Talk About You Barry Bonds

I was a bit late to the whole steroids-are-fucking-evil thing. As late as 2001 I was writing about the glory and grandeur of Barry Bonds' accomplishments without considering what PEDs meant for his legacy. It wasn't until Jose Canseco and Ken Caminiti went public in 2002 that I actually began to grapple with the issue, and even then in only the most basic ways.

How do I feel about now? I dunno. Ask me on three different days and you might get three different answers. Mostly, I tend to feel the same way I feel when I think about my cousin who got popped for coke possession a few years ago. I disapprove. I feel uncomfortable having to confront the whole unpleasant subject and wished it would just go away, though I know it won't. But I also don't know enough about the situation to justify shunning the kid or adopting an unequivocal moral stance about it all.

Muddying up the waters further is the fact that Bonds has started out this year flat-out raking. Through 15 games he's hitting .348/.466/.804, and is on pace for something like 60 home runs. I suppose it's possible that Barry has found a new, undetectable steroid which is allowing him to hit like it's 2001 all over again, but given all of the scrutiny he's been under since his ill-fated trip to the grand jury and the publications of Game of Shadows, I have to assume that those aren't steroid-inflated numbers. I mean, even Barry Bonds isn't stupid or sociopathic enough to think he could get away with cheating this year, right? Anyone?

Anyway, I didn't know what to make of Bonds' legacy before this season started -- he certainly did fall off once he was busted, though who's to say how much a part PED withdrawal played in his decline and how much of it was simply a function of getting old. Now that he's hitting again I'm even more confused. I'll admit that confusion is something I'm particularly inclined to, but anyone who claims to have an absolutely unassailable moral position about Barry Bonds and steroids should be ignored, because they're either lying or delusional or both.

I suppose all we are left to do is wait for him to break Aaron's record, at which point we'll all write new things about how we don't know what to feel about Bonds and his legacy.

The Atlanta Yamikinyu

The Braves are offering 90 days same-as-cash on season ticket packages. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution story on it plays up the "ain't that neat" angle, and notes how this is supposed to really help the Braves' lagging season ticket sales.

You have to go to an out of town news source, however, to find the fine print:

Dennis Murphy, GE Money vice president of sporting goods industry, said the finance charge on balances unpaid after 90 days is between 20 percent and 25 percent and based on the prime rate.

I presume that if you fall behind on those payments, they send Chipper Jones out to your house to bust your kneecaps.

Joe Posnanski Rocks

Joe Posnanski is the best baseball writer going today. How do I know this? Not because he's been voted sports writer of the year by the AP two out of the last five years, though that is a good reason. No, he's the best one going because unlike so many of the jaded cranks who write about baseball for major dailies despite apparently loathing the game, Posnanski obviously loves what the hell he does.

How do I know that? Because in addition to writing whatever he has to write for The KC Star, and in addition to the books he occasionally puts out, Posnanski writes and regularly updates a blog called the The Soul of Baseball, where one can typically find several thousand words about a random Sunday night game or whatever odd insight or anecdote he happens to have on his mind. If you love what you do on the clock enough to want to spend your spare time doing it, odds are that you're going to do a good job.

Check him out.

Monday, April 23, 2007


David Halberstam's sudden death has my friend Ethan Stock contemplating his most notable works about greatness and tragedy, and has me thinking about baseball. I read Summer of '49 a few years back, and even though I don't usually go for Golden Age of Baseball stuff, I enjoyed it very much. While he spent plenty of time talking about the titans such as DiMaggio and Williams, he seemed to take much more pleasure in discussing the lesser known players on those Yankees and Red Sox teams like Bobby Doerr, Chuck Stobbs, and Tommy Henrich. I learned quite a bit reading the book, which is something anyone with even a passing acquaintance with baseball can't say about many of the lesser books which lionize the sepia-toned 1940s and 50s.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about Summer of '49 is the story of the game in transition. Two years after Jackie broke the barrier, two teams that would remain lily white for another six and ten years (the Yanks and Sox, respectively) were in a brutal pennant race that either would have ran away with back in August if they had simply had a Jackie, a Larry Doby, or a Don Newcombe on their roster. It's about two teams who were struggling to find a way to maintain gate revenue due to the advent of televised baseball, but who would one day become, by far, the two richest clubs in the game by virtue of owning their own television networks. It's easy to roll one's eyes when ESPN hypes an April match up between the Sox and Yanks like it was already ALCS time, but it's important not to forget how amazingly well-run these teams are nowadays and how easily they each could have fallen into the abyss if they had continued to approach things as they did in the 30s and 40s any longer than they did. The Washington Senators and St. Louis Browns could tell you disastrous that would have been if they had survived to tell the tale.

None of Halberstam's sports books are anywhere near as important as The Best and the Brightest or his other political and military works, but they are insightful and enjoyable reads. I suggest that this weekend we all set aside a moment to pour some Colt .45 on the ground and check out Summer of '49 from the library in honor of brother Halberstam.

Don't Deal With the Braves

Before my second cup of coffee this morning I came across the following three stories from today's papers, none of which are all that interesting in and of themselves, but taken together say something pretty neat:

Pirates' Adam LaRoche is fighting it badly, and is looking for hitting advice from wherever he can get it;

Cardinals' Adam Wainwright got shelled for the second start in a row, and there are questions about his durability; and

Brewers' pitcher Jose Capellan is languishing in the minors despite obvious talent because he's a disgruntled clubhouse cancer.

Common denominator: all three of these guys were promising players, if not potential superstars, at the time Braves GM John Schuerholz dealt away in the past couple of years.

Schuerholz isn't clairvoyant or anything. He trades for his fair share of bums and some of his recent signings have been busts once they came to Atlanta. But unless I'm missing someone, you have to go back eleven years to find someone Schuerholz traded away and whom the Braves probably wished they could have back.

Fool me once, shame on me . . .

The Florida Marlins' stadium situation is untenable. Dolphins' Stadium is an awful place for baseball: it's far from everything. It's lack of a roof means too many rain outs. Perhaps worst of all, because the team's old owner, Wayne Huizenga, sold the Marlins but kept the stadium and adjacent parking garage, the team receives zero dollars from concessions and parking, placing them at a financial disadvantage relative to other teams. Upshot: they need a new house or they're going to have to move.

But if they're going to get a new stadium it looks like it ain't coming from public dollars, as the Florida Legislature looks to be balking at subsidizing the thing. The main sticking point -- aside from the obvious fact that there are zillions of better uses for tax dollars in a state with a surging population and government programs which have been stretched to the limit -- is that the state is still paying Huizenga for the old stadium and will be until 2023!

The main problem for the Marlins through the years has been that the team owner who received the first $2 million annual subsidy the legislature awarded for a stadium has since sold the Marlins but kept the stadium. The subsidy that began in 1993 will continue to flow to initial Marlins owner H. Wayne Huizenga's Dolphin Stadium for 16 more years, whether the Marlins stay there, move to a new Florida stadium or even leave the state.
I presume that there are many people in Florida who would like to hop in the way-back machine and punch the 1993 Florida Legislature in the crotch for making such a monumentally stupid deal (what, they couldn't have agreed to cut it off if he unloaded or moved the team?). But since time travel is not possible, refusing to throw good money after bad and risk being burned again is the right move in this case.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

As if There Weren't Enough Reasons to be Into Alyssa Milano

OK, that's a bit disingenuous of me. Despite the fact that she hit puberty on national television about five weeks before I did, I'm no Alyssa Milano fan. Sure, she's pretty but it's not like she has ever cracked my top 5 list or anything.

But maybe I need to reassess because it turns out that she has a baseball blog. Buxom celebrity who likes baseball? Hmmm. Bears further analysis.

Since it's hosted by there is an inevitable Pravdaesque element to it all. Indeed, based on the first post's clumsy attempt to link the early season snow-outs in Cleveland to the new baseball clothing line she is shilling for the MLB store, it appears to be a thinly-veiled commercial effort as a opposed to a legitimate baseball blog, and it's quite possible that the endeavor will last only as long as sales of "New York Mets Women's Criss-Cross White Tank Tops" hold up.

But I could be wrong, because she appears to be actually writing it herself and genuinely seems to know and care a hell of a lot about baseball. Dating every number 2 starter in the league will help you acquire that knowledge, but still, let's give her just due.

Accused of being a shameless shill in the comments to her first post, she has vowed to make it her "mission" to keep going and "convert the doubters." I'm the last person who can complain about someone not updating their blog, so I suppose I'll take her at face value. She's only three posts in so far, but it doesn't seem too early to give her a good fisking. Let's take a gander:
Honestly, this is what I love about baseball. It’s just like life. The ride. The journey. Every year when the season starts, I think I have a pretty good idea of how the season is going to go. Oh, I think I’m such an expert -- I read every magazine, I read everyday (OK, maybe four or five times a day), I watch the Spring Training games. And yet despite all the preparation, I realize I simply have no idea what twists or turns the season will take. As much as I try to peer into the future, the future is unpredictable. A ball bounces under a player’s legs, and the Red Sox lose their lead and the World Series. A fan interferes with a ball, and the Cubs lose their lead, and the playoff series. A-Rod finally silences the boo’s and steps up to the plate. That’s baseball. In life, we have our own rhythms, our own ups and downs, our own teammates, and all we can do is hold on and prepare for the challenges along the journey.

Yes, much of this is cliche -- and kind of meaningless in that not knowing what's going to happen next pretty much describes everything in life -- but if you didn't know any better, I bet I could convince you that it was something Bob Costas once said after taking some cold medicine. Shameless plug for notwithstanding, it seems heartfelt.

Alyssa gets downright fiesty in her next post. Challenged by commenters as being a shill, she lays out her baseball bonafides:

  • I never leave a game early.

This is saying something for a Dodgers fan. +1 for Alyssa.

  • I love nachos with just cheese and guacamole even though it makes my ankles swell (but I will occasionally partake in a Dodger tofu dog, which if chased by a diet soda gives me the burps for days).

Alyssa: your value proposition is being the object of male fantasy. I love the fact that you eat nachos at the game, but your target fan base doesn't want to think of your swollen ankles and gas. -2, but that's more for eating tofu dogs at a ballgame than the bloaty gas.

  • I cried the first time I saw a fan wearing TOUCH [her clothing line] in the stands that wasn’t my mother.

Not the best point to bring up when you're trying to refute charges of being a shill, but I'll give it a pass for now.

  • I participate in the wave whenever possible.


  • I am often the one that starts the chant that eventually makes it to your section.


  • I have a recurring dream that I am a pitcher but have the yips.

+3 for knowing of the phenomenon, but a provisional -2 for not calling it Steve Blass Disease.

  • My favorite present day Dodger is Russell Martin

Good choice! Solid young up-and-comer that I'm guessing most Dodger fans wouldn't name and most casual baseball fans couldn't name. +5.

  • My favorite all time player is Roberto Clemente (because of his righteous humanitarian work).

On the one hand this sounds like something either her handlers or the MLB people wanted her to say for image purposes (see also her cliched and sanctimonious references to Jackie Robinson, The Toyota Prius, and her charity work). Besides, no true Dodger fan who grew up in the 70s could name a Pirate as their favorite all time player, could they? On the other hand, old Arriba died helping earthquake victims a week or two after she was born, so maybe she does feel some cosmic love for him.

  • I hate when the count is 0-2 and the pitcher throws that ball low and away (the batter knows just as well as we do that it’s coming so why not throw it in the zone for the love of God).

Um, because you want the batter to chase some slop? I think what's really going on here evidences frustration at ex-boyfriends like Barry Zito and Carl Pavano rather than an actual baseball beef. I can see Alyssa sitting in the stands, watching her man pitch, but also watching the clock and worrying that all that nibbling on the outside corner is going to make them late for their late reservation at Docle or something. Have another tofu dog, honey, and let the man paint the corners.

There's a lot more worth commenting on, but I'll stop, because I think she has established that she is an actual baseball fan and not some clueless, froofy starlet simply using baseball to make a quick buck.

For now, Ms. Milano, I am a fan. Keep up the unexpectedly adequate work.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Beyond Here Be Old Stuff

In 2001 and 2002 I wrote a baseball column entitled "Chin Music" for a webzine called Bull Magazine. Bull was an ambitious project, the brainchild of a bright fellow and excellent writer by the name of Chris Ulbrich. Maybe a bit too ambitious, in that he and I took days upon days to write, edit, and publish each basic movie review, cultural critique, and half-baked baseball wisecrack. The quality of the product was fantastic, but prolific, Chris and I were not. Blogging had already hit, of course, but it wouldn't reach critical mass for another year or so, and it simply didn't occur to us that we could create content on the fly and look like anything other than amateurs. Live and learn, I suppose.

Chris found himself a respectable job in late 2002 or early 2003, and I decided that ignoring all of my clients and responsibilities to write about utility infielders, sabermetrics, and labor strife wasn't the best use of my time. Thus, Bull died, and until very recently drifted like a ghost ship on the high seas of the web. It's gone now, either because Chris decided not to pay for the hosting or because someone somewhere decided that the zombie that was Bull needed a mercy killing. It's now in the limbo of Google cacheland, awaiting its ascension to webzine heaven.

What follows are the old Chin Music columns, reproduced in more or less their original form and marked with original dates of publication. There are some formatting issues that I'm too lazy to fix at the moment, and many of the links are dead, I presume, but I don't think any of the meaning will be lost. Enjoy them, for what they're worth. I certainly enjoyed writing them.