Tuesday, July 31, 2007

No More 300 Game Winners? Phooey. Only MSM Sportswriters Are Going the Way of the Dodo

Tony Massarotti, as many an ignoramus before him, declares that after Glavine wins his 300th, "We are not likely to see his kind again." How does this old canard get past the editors anymore?

Massarotti, in an effort to prove his faulty hypothesis, describes the conditions he believes will work against any pitcher who would dare challenge 300 wins after Glavine supposedly closes the door on the milestone:

In this day and age, with five-man rotations and specialized bullpens, most major league starters make 32-33 starts a season;

Hey Tony!
Glavine pitched his entire career in a five man rotation. Not counting this season, he has averaged 31.75 starts a year. How are today's usage patterns any different than that Glavine was subjected to?

The best pitchers win roughly 45 percent of their starts and an inordinate number of games are decided by the bullpens in the late innings;

Hey Tony! Glavine has won 45.5 percent of his starts and only completed 8.5% of them. If anything, Glavine's career began at almost exactly with the same time La Russa-inspired bullpen specialization did. How does that make him any different than today's pitchers?

Starters get more money to do less, and the sizable salaries inspire shorter careers;

Hey Tony! On salary alone, Glavine has made over $123 million in his career, and is a mortal lock to pitch enough innings to cause his player option to vest which will bring him at least $11.5 million more in 2008. Clemens and Maddux have made more than that, yet continue to pitch well into their third decade. If anything, doesn't there seem to be a positive relationship between high salary and a long career?

In short, Massarotti points to no institutional factor that makes it any less likely for any current or future pitcher to reach 300 than it was for Glavine, Maddux, or Clemens. All he has on his side is the fact that, after Glavine retires, there doesn't appear to be too many pitchers who are both close enough to 300 and young enough to make a serious run any time soon.

The problem with Massarotti using this as the basis for his proclamation is that such a thing could often be said throughout baseball history about any number of milestones. For example, in 1948 the active wins leader was 40 year-old Bobo Newsom who was 95 short. In 1968 the active wins leader was Don Drysdale -- 96 short of 300 at the time -- and he would retire the next year. In 1936, 1942, and 1957-59 there wasn't anyone within a thousand strikeouts of 3000.

Moving to hitters, Massarotti -- who writes for a Boston paper -- surely remembers that an aging Dewey Evans was the active home run king in 1990 with 379. In 1952 there was only one player within a thousand of 3000 hits. Don't even get me started on the active stolen base leaders.

I'll admit that I don't see any shoe-ins to win 300 game on any major league rosters right now, but that's just because the game's strongest young pitchers -- Santana, Zambrano, Sabathia, etc. -- are so far away. All it will take for any of them or any other pitcher who has yet make the big leagues to win 300 will be to (a) pitch well; (b) pitch for strong teams; and (c) remain healthy.

These three things will coincide again, even if it takes a decade or two for it to come to pass.

It's the Context, Stupid

You don't have to like Barry Bonds, but J.C. Bradbury explains why you should base your hatred of him on something other than his home runs:

There is no doubt that some players have used steroids and increased their power because of them, but the fact that the home runs haven't gone away with testing seems to indicate that other factors are probably more responsible for the league-wide home-run surge.

What could have caused the increase in home runs? A likely culprit is expansion. Major League Baseball expanded by two teams in 1993 (Colorado Rockies and Florida Marlins) and two more teams in 1998 (Arizona Diamondbacks and Tampa Bay Devil Rays). Expansion flooded the league with pitchers who were previously not major league quality players, thus providing more opportunities for sluggers such as Bonds to exploit weak pitching. Since the initial expansion, the league has averaged 2.12 home runs per game, compared to 1.58 home runs per game averaged over the preceding 15 years—an increase of 34 percent.

Bradbury, as others before him, also cites smaller parks and changes in equipment. In light of all of this, why steroids dominates the home run conversation while the multi-faceted change in context continues to be ignored is beyond me.

Ryan Langerhans: Accomplice to Murder

This story describes a man from Queens who allegedly killed his mother in a fit of rage following a New York Mets loss:

A New York man has been charged with beating his mother to death with a barbell after losing his temper while watching a baseball game on television. Michael Anthony, 25, was watching the New York Mets lose a game on Saturday from his home in the borough of Queens when he began furiously banging on the walls, Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said in a statement on Monday.

The D.A. is obviously referring to game two of the doubleheader the Mets dropped to the Nats on a late Ryan Langerhans RBI single.

I'm no F. Lee Bailey, but I have to think that if his lawyers were to establish just how pathetic Ryan Langerhans normally is, Anthony may very well be able to convince the jury that he was temporarily insane at the time of the killing.

If nothing else, Langerhans' early-season performance for Atlanta should have had him arrested for something, so perhaps the defense lawyers can make him an accomplice here.

Los Charros vs. Los Cerveceros

A day in the life of Liga Hispana, a Hispanic adult baseball league in the Twin Cities:

Who hit the home run? "Francisco Ramirez," the scorekeeper said. Another home run followed. Who hit that one? "Tomas Ramirez," he said. How many Ramirezes are there? "The manager, Ruperto, and his two brothers, and then three more, but those three are not related," the scorekeeper said.

If the Charros had the market cornered on Ramirezes, the Cerveceros had an answer with their Ortegas. There was Juan, and there was a pitcher Luis Ortega, and there was Gerardo Ortega, wearing No. 100.

I'm a bit curious why there is no comparison anywhere in the article between these burgeoning Hispanic Leagues to Minnesota's fabled Town Ball. Can anyone from Lake Wobegon or someplace like that tell me what the difference is?

Monday, July 30, 2007

Hancock Lawsuit Dropped

The attorney representing Josh Hancock's family has dropped the lawsuit that was filed against the restaurant where Hancock had his final drams and the drivers of the tow truck and the disabled vehicle into which Hancock smashed. It could be refiled, but that doesn't appear likely.

A fact that folks in St. Louis may have known but that those of us in the rest of the country did not was that the restaurant which was sued was Mike Shannon’s Steaks and Seafood, which is owned by Cardinals' broadcaster Mike Shannon. Restaurant manager Pat Shannon Van Matre -- who I presume is a relative of Mike's -- was also sued and is now dismissed.

Mike Shannon's wife died of brain cancer on Saturday. Given what the Shannon family must have been going through prior to her death I am guessing that the lawsuit seemed like nothing more than a petty annoyance. Still, I'm sure they're happy to have it go away.

Something else that has likely gone away is the shock and anger that prompted Josh Hancock's Dad to file a lawsuit so quickly after the accident back in May. I know nothing about the man or the attorney who filed the case, but I can easily imagine a situation in which emotions got the better of everyone involved, which led to a ready-fire-aim approach to this whole mess. One thing I try to tell my clients is that while statutes of limitation are designed to protect defendants, they serve a purpose for plaintiffs as well, and that is the establishment of an informal cooling-off period. People need to think before they fire, especially in emotionally-charged matters such as these. While reason came along a bit late in the game in this instance, it's good to see it come along all the same.

And now, finally, may Josh Hancock rest in peace.

Aaron Harang is Breaking Down

I don't profess to be an expert in pitchcountology, and I tend to think that a big old hoss of a fella like Aaron Harang can handle some heavy work, but my eyebrows are certainly raised upon reading that he left Saturday night's start after only one inning and has been scratched from his next start with soreness in his back.

They're raised because his last full start was a ten-inning performance in which he threw 121 high-pressure pitches while preserving a 1-1 tie against the Brewers. Indeed, before his aborted outing on Saturday, Harang hasn't had a start in which he has thrown fewer than 100 pitches since April 13th. Not counting Saturday, he has averaged 110 pitches a game, and leads the National League in number of pitches thrown.

Obviously someone has to lead the league in that category, and obviously the guy in second place in that category is doing just fine, but one wonders if the Reds haven't been riding the only pitcher they have that is worth a damn a bit too hard this year.

Bill Robinson

Former Pirate Bill Robinson died yesterday. If you read the AP wire story and headline about his passing as reproduced over at northjersey.com, you would know about his brief affiliation with the Yankees, his stint as a Mets coach, his managerial career in the Venezuelan League, and the cup of coffee he had as a host on Baseball Tonight about seventeen years ago.

You wouldn't know, however, that he spent twelve of his sixteen major league seasons playing in the state of Pennsylvania, where he was a starter for a World Series champ:

A Well-Kept Secret

I'm starting to understand why my Mrs. Shyster clams up every time Sal Fasano's name is mentioned!

For years, Clayton Klein had no idea why uttering the name of Tigers great Hank Greenberg was a no-no around his wife.

"She didn't want to talk about him with me," Klein said. "That was a touchy subject anytime Hank Greenberg's name was mentioned.

But just two years after her death, Klein, 88, unearthed a trove of letters and a diary chronicling Marjorie Nash Klein's relationship with the Baseball Hall of Famer before the Kleins got married in 1941.

The Bard of Maumee

Toledo's own Jim Leyland compared to Stratford's own Billy Shakespeare:

Leyland admitted that "the Yankees might intimidate one of his rookie pitchers." But in a different era, Achilles from "Troilus and Cressida" expressed the same emotion: "My mind is troubled, like a fountain stirred. And I myself see not the bottom of it."

When his players grow weary, Leyland encourages them to "pick it up." This is close to King Henry V's version, "Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more . . ."

. . . Finally, as the Tigers' season rolls along, Jim and Shakespeare are thinking alike. Leyland has said, "Last year is in the book. This year is not in the book." The 16th Century bard's Ophelia put it this way: "Lord, we know what we are, but know not what we may be."

Leyland -- and the owners of Comerica Park -- had better be careful, however. Rumor has it that it was Shakespeare's habit of puffing on Marlboro Reds at the Globe Theater which ultimately caused it to burn down in 1613 during a staging of Henry VIII.

There's Nothing Like a Game Eleven

Statisticians at the Los Alamos National Laboratory (seriously) establish that the chances of anyone other than the best team winning the championship can be minimized by moving to a 265-game regular season and an eleven game World Series:

The researchers, who specialize in studying random behavior in complex materials, plugged the odds of low-seeded teams beating high-seeded ones, 44% in baseball over the past century, into a mathematical model of a typical season. The more games played, the better the chances are that the higher-seeded teams will become champions, the study shows.

There is absolutely no truth to the rumor that this study was funded by A's and Braves fans.

Some Fun Numbers

Approval ratings:

George W. Bush: 33%

Barry Bonds: 25%, though it's 31% among baseball fans.

Not sure which of them should be more insulted, really.

I came across another fun set of numbers as well:

Saturday was the most well-attended day in Major League Baseball history, drawing 717,478 fans for 17 games, an average of 42,205 . . .In fact, the last two Saturdays have represented two of the three most attended days in history. The previous Saturday, July 21, drew 639,628 fans for 16 games, the second-highest total before this weekend. No. 2 on the all-time list is July 3, 1999, when 640,412 fans attended 17 Major League games.

While I suppose this is impressive on some level, these numbers are based on totals, not averages, so it's not surprising that the record and next two on the list postdate the latest round of expansion and come on a days with a doubleheader or two. Of course the story -- from MLB, natch -- reads like it was written by a publicist.

Which it may very well have been.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Barry's Genes

Bonds reminds everyone of his bloodlines. Spin? Sure. But unlike a lot of what comes out of Barry's mouth, it isn't b.s. He's a thoroughbred, and as many have noted, would have been a Hall of Fame ballplayer even if he had limited himself to extra strength Tylenol and cod liver oil.

Which, I often think, contributes to the furor more than the idea that he's cheating, more than his awful personality, and more than his race. There is a limit, I think, to how much outrage one can feel about a Rafael Palmiero or even Mark McGwire. While we don't know the specifics or extent of their use of performance enhancing drugs, we can more easily construct for ourselves a plausible motivation behind their use. Palmiero was a good-average, low-power first baseman that may have felt the need to ratchet his game up in order to become a true star. McGwire had the tools to become a star but a body that had come to betray him, and maybe he took steroids to remedy that. There are similar stories that can be constructed for almost every other steroid suspect out there. We have no idea if these scenarios are even true, but they are plausible, and the mind tends to be satisfied to rest on plausibility. We let them have it and then write them off.

Even after the home run race and his career is over, we will still be talking about Barry Bonds because he is much harder to comprehend. He was always healthy. He had already won three MVP awards and was likely jobbed out of a couple others. There was no dispute that he was among the best if not the best in the game, and there was no serious dispute that he was heading for the Hall of Fame. While history has shown that, yes, there was a higher level to which he could raise his performance -- a Ruthian one -- it wasn't a level anyone at the time really considered reachable in the modern game. Simply put, no one in the mid 90s was making an argument that Barry was somehow a second tier star.

A decade later and we find ourselves unable to talk about baseball for more than a few moments without talking about Barry Bonds. Yes, his pursuit of the home run record is the primary catalyst for this extended conversation, but I also believe that the record aside, we'd still be chewing the Barry Bonds fat. While we've read that Bonds felt he was being overshadowed by McGwire and Sosa, that motivation just isn't comprehensible to most people and thus a dissonance remains. Even in sports, where we laud one's motivation to excel more than we do in any other arena of human endeavor, there comes a point where even that motive ceases to be plausible or at least understandable. We can accept intellectually the idea that Bonds was so competitive or egocentric that he had to be even better than he was before, but we can't get comfortable with it emotionally.

So we subconsciously ascribe more malevolent motivations. He's evil. He's a cheater. He wants to destroy the game. He wants to defile its records and history. He wants to show up whitey. You name it, and someone has written it. Bonds -- who doesn't strike me as a mental giant -- has even seemed to buy into many of these tropes himself on occasion, and no doubt his famously off-putting personality has enabled this line of reasoning to run rampant.

While no one has ever accused Barry Bonds of being deep, he is complicated, and that complication, more than the steroids themselves, more than the records he's breaking, and more than the polarizing nature of who he is and what he represents, is why we simply can't stop talking about him.

Will Dusty Baker Rename His Son?

Former Giant Darren Lewis was arrested for public intoxication after causing a ruckus and then refusing to go with police when asked. Apparently he mistook the black and white police car for black and yellow and stood by his position of never reporting to the Pittsburgh Pirates.

There is no truth to the rumor that Lewis took a swing at police only to miss, but given his lifetime OPS+ of 73, you can totally understand why someone could believe that.

Willie Horton Don't Know Nothin' About No Goddamned Krugerrands

Willie Horton speaks about baseball and the City of Detroit in general.

Willie is one of my all-time favorites, and I'm with him on everything he says until he calls former Detroit mayor Coleman Young "one of the great mayors we had in the city." If he's limiting the time period to 1974-1994, yeah, I suppose by default he was, but otherwise Coleman Young was pretty much a disaster.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

The Worst Promotion in the History of Minor League Baseball

Remind me to not be anywhere near Brooklyn this Saturday night:

The Cyclones will celebrate Sylvester Stallone Night at KeySpan Park on Saturday night in several different ways:

1. The team will show a variety of Stallone-themed entertainment throughout the night.

2. Fans are invited to dress up as their favorite Stallone character, with the winning costume receiving a prize pack.

3. Anyone named “Sylvester” will be admitted to the ballpark at
no charge.

4. In commemoration of the 20th Anniversary of the 1987 movie “Over The Top” . . . the New York Arm Wrestling Association (NYAWA) will host over 100 men and women competing that day for the 25th Annual White Castle ‘Kingsboro’ Golden Arm Wrestling titles, featuring a championship match taking place on the dugout during that night’s game!
The Cyclones are aware that Sly just got busted for smuggling steroids, aren't they? Of course, that bit of bad judgment pales in comparison to this:

In addition to all the Sly festivities, the first 1,250 kids that night
will receive Thunderstix.

O Death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?

Holy Crap, Part Deux

A day after Coolbaugh, another freak death on the diamond:

A 12-year-old softball player was knocked unconscious when a ball hit her
in the head during practice, and she died a day later, police and family said.

Margaret Ruth "Maggie" Hilbrands was hit by a ground ball during a routine
infield drill on Monday . . . The Grand Rapids girl died Tuesday at DeVos
Children's Hospital. "She missed the ball. It appears it hit her in the wrong
spot. She never regained consciousness," her mother, Jan Hilbrands, told The
Grand Rapids Press.

And we take a step closer to everyone wearing helmets, always.

Razing Tiger Stadium

Tiger Stadium's neighbors hope for a mercy killing, and it looks as though city leaders are finally ready to oblige them, with a vote set on its demolition possibly going forward tomorrow.

Tiger Stadium was the first place I ever took in a big league game (1978), and remains the best place I ever took in a big league game. I have so many great memories from the corner of Michigan and Trumbull, and to this day I haven't taken in a game at Comerica Park despite a clear realization that my stubbornness in this regard is reactionary and irrational.

That said, the sad state into which the City of Detroit has allowed Tiger Stadium to fall is an atrocity akin to leaving grandpa's corpse to rot upon the dining room table. While I am all for saving a corner of the stadium facade for historical purposes, the rest of the place should have been demolished years ago rather than be allowed to quietly rust and decay.

Debunking the Myth of Ripken

As most seek to canonize St. Cal this weekend,
Tim Marchman reminds us not to buy into the Ripken-as-Johnny-Lunchpail claptrap:

It was during [the early 80s days of cocaine and labor strife] that Ripken became a secular saint. Here was a man who stood for old-fashioned American values. Born and raised in Maryland, the son of a humble baseball journeyman, he played for his hometown team and made his name not with the obscene physical talent of a Henderson, but because of his hard work and dedication, best symbolized, of course, by his signature trait Â-- his overwhelming need to just show up for work. No pampered, spoiled athlete he; this was someone with whom any factory worker or policeman or smalltown mortgage broker could identify, someone who just punched the clock every day and tried his hardest, quietly and with pride.

This was, of course, the most ridiculous nonsense it's possible to imagine. Cal Ripken was 6 feet 4 inches, 225 pounds., built like a god, and blessed with enough athleticism that he probably would have been a truly great basketball player. He wasn't the best possible version of David Eckstein or Joe McEwing, but the most physically gifted player in the sport. What made him unique was the overwhelming effect of his personal dedication and discipline on his unparalleled natural gifts; by all accounts, no one worked harder. But the myth of Ripken located his greatness in his will, as if will were sufficient to command the greatest heights of achievement. It isn't.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Whatever Happened to "Super Joe"?

If you're interested in finding out whatever happened to Joe Charboneau and 44 other Cleveland Indians from the bad old days of 1955-1994, there's a book for you.

Whatever Happened to "Super Joe"? was written by northeast Ohio author Russell Schneider, and a lengthy excerpt from the Joe Charboneau chapter can be found here. The excerpt contains a meta-moment in which Charboneau talks about a quickie biography that was written about him during his rookie of the year season:

"I was never a big fan of that Super Joe stuff," said the one-time Super Joe. "In fact, I was kind of surprised the first time I heard it."

A book, titled Super Joe: The Life and Legend of Joe Charboneau, followed. It was co-written by sportswriters Burt Graeff and Terry Pluto, who covered the Indians for The Cleveland Press (now defunct) and The Plain Dealer, respectively.

Charboneau said the book is an "easy read with plenty of fun stuff in it, though a lot of the stories are only minimally true, some are greatly exaggerated, and others were never true to begin with."

Charboneau attributes their source to "buddies of mine who came in from California, got to drinking beer with some of the writers, and made up a lot of stuff."

Among the anecdotes: Charboneau opened beer bottles with his eye socket, ate cigarettes, drank beer with a straw through his nose, and once pulled an aching tooth and fixed his broken nose with a pair of pliers - and a shot of whiskey.

"It was all crazy stuff, but the truth is, I did get a lot of play from them. Every city I went to, the stories got bigger and bigger, and even different," he said.

A real life Bill Brasky.

Ari Fleischer: Voice of Reason

Falling prey to the old adage that two things are a coincidence and three are a trend, the media has now conflated the steroids, dog fighting, and crooked referee scandals into one giant clusterfuck of a crisis:

Sports have survived doubts about game-fixing (Chicago White Sox, 1919),
steroids (Ben Johnson, 1988) and fallen stars (O.J. Simpson, 1994). What makes
this moment so confounding is the confluence of events.

"For the life of me, I can't think of a time where there were three such burning issues going on at the same time in sports," says James Kahler, executive director of Ohio University's Center for Sports Administration.

Talking about the issues currently facing the NFL, the NBA and Major League Baseball as though they are one is ridiculous. As I've argued ad nauseum, baseball's steroids issue ceased to be a crisis that threatened the ongoing integrity of the game (if indeed it ever did) once steroids testing came online in 2004. To the extent steroids in baseball remains a crisis, it is one which relates to the marginal players who are still trying to make the leap, not the game as played on the major league stage. The Barry Bonds "issue" is the stuff of extensive media bloviation, but it is of little consequence otherwise.

The Michael Vick story is undeniably sensational, but what makes it sensational is not what it means to the NFL or the product it's selling. Players get arrested for stuff all of the time and the NFL somehow manages to soldier on. No, this is getting the headlines it is getting because (a) the notoriety of the player involved; and (b) because it involves dogs, and everyone loves dogs. There have been countless incidents of lesser football players doing worse things to people rather than animals, and they have never caused commentators to question the integrity or viability of the league. While the press has been awful, this incident says a lot about Michael Vick as a person and almost nothing about the NFL as a league.

Basketball's problem, it seems, is a different matter in that the very validity of game outcomes was likely affected. If it was limited to Donaghy -- as I suspect we will find it was -- the problem, while still a major one, is manageable. If it involved other refs, Katie bar the door, but I'll leave that analysis up to more capable basketball minds.

Based on the three years he spent telling us that chickenshit was chicken salad during his time with the Bush Administration, I am loathe to praise Ari Fleischer, who is now serving as a spinmeister for Bud Selig. That said, he pretty much hits the nail on the head here:

"Sports is not grappling with a credibility problem," he says. "Baseball, basketball and football are beloved."

The media are misreading the mood of fans, he says. Fans may be revolted by the legal charges against an individual player such as Vick, but Fleischer thinks they are more likely to assign blame to an individual than an entire sport or league.

"The reputation of some individuals has taken a beating, and properly so," Fleischer
says. "If Micheal Vick did what he's accused of, he shouldn't be anybody's role model. But that doesn't mean people are going to stop loving Peyton Manning. Fans are sophisticated. They view these stories as somebody did something horrible — not there's something horribly wrong with sports."

Setting aside just how pathetic it is that Selig felt that he needed to hire high-powered professional PR help to navigate the Barry Bonds stuff, I think he's absolutely right. Fleischer's position with MLB probably prevented him from using Bonds as an example of a player who has "rightfully taken a beating," but he is probably the most applicable example. He and Vick and Donaghy are jerks and are allegedly criminals. At least as it relates to Major League Baseball and the NFL, the numbers clearly establish, however, that their misbehavior has not affected gate receipts or overall popularity of the sport. We'll see with basketball, but I suspect the same will be true there as well.

In the meantime, we are left with writers straining to see trends and relationships where they do not exist.

Trouble in Fremont

If A's owner Lew Wolff thought he'd waltz into Fremont like he already owned the place he is sorely mistaken:

The Oakland A's previewed their vision for a new ballpark village development in Fremont to decidedly mixed reviews Tuesday night, prompting team owner Lew Wolff to promise changes will be made before he submits a development application.

"We hear you loud and clear," Wolff said. "It's not done yet."

He was responding to the comments of Councilwoman Anu Natarajan, who declared her disappointment with the densities, walkability and lack of concern for environmental principles in the residential portion of the proposed 174-acre village . . .

"What I see is not something I'm happy with," said Natarajan, who along with her four colleagues on the council ultimately will decide whether the A's move to Fremont.

The Fremont City council is citing environmental and density concerns, but based on the list of deed restrictions sought by Wolff and his development partners -- they're seeking to ban from the development Goodwill stores, laundromats, card clubs, veterinary hospitals, funeral homes, porn shops, gas stations, massage and tattoo parlors, churches and beauty schools -- he's probably going to face opposition from devoutly religious tattooed porn connoisseurs with sick pets as well.

More Fun In The IBL

I hope someone is pitching a screenplay about the introduction of baseball in Israel, because fun stuff seems to happen in the IBL every day. Like this:

It took only three weeks, but the upstart Israel Baseball League is already facing its first controversy. In a July 1 game between the Netanya Tigers and the Bet Shemesh Blue Sox, the Sox broke the rules when they brought back in the bottom of the seventh inning a third baseman who had been removed in the top of the inning for a pinch hitter.

League Commissioner Daniel C. Kurtzer — yes, the former U.S. ambassador to Israel — ordered the teams to replay the bottom of the seventh.

It's interesting that the Blue Sox could do such a silly thing given that their manager -- Ron Blomberg -- is a former major leaguer. Of course, Blomberg was baseball's first designated hitter, so maybe he got all verklempt trying to make a double switch or something.

By the way, scroll past the recap of the substitution dustup for some funny speculation about how this scandal could play out given the fact that, hey, we're in Israel:

JULY 23 — The Tigers’ pitchers and catchers announce they are forming a breakaway group, the Enraged Resistance Army. A masked spokesman for the ERA explains that Baran does not speak for the entire team . . . Baran appeals for unity among the remaining players, who have organized themselves into a faction of their own, the Organization for Baseball Propriety, or OBP. Leaders of the factions gather for marathon negotiation sessions at the Tel Aviv Hilton, with ERA on the seventh floor and the OBP on the sixth. When the pitchers and catchers hear the ERA is higher than the OBP, they immediately bolt the talks.

The only people the Bet Shemesh Blue Sox hate more than the Netanya Tigers are the fucking Judean People's Front. Splitters.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

It's Just a Popularity Contest

Well, in this case it is at least:

The Washington Nationals are the country's least favorite baseball team, a Harris Poll has found. Only the Toronto Blue Jays fell behind the Nationals in a online survey of 2,372 U.S. residents between June 5 and June 11 . . .The Orioles snatched the 13th spot in the survey. The New York Yankees topped the list with the most number of fans for the fifth year in a row. The Atlanta Braves were the second favorite team, followed by the Boston Red Sox at No. 3.

Hard to say exactly what this is measuring without the questions being made available, but it appears as though they just asked folks what their favorite team was. Color me surprised that the Braves placed ahead the BoSox, especially since the TBS exposure has been reduced to almost nothing in recent years.

Here's something that I generally knew but still found amazing to see in print:

That ranking is in line with the D.C. baseball team's attendance. So far this year, 1.24 million fans have come to Nationals games, which works out to 23,397 per game, less than half of the 52,049 fans per game the New York Yankees attracted.
That 1.24 million figure is used to illustrate the haplessness of the Nats, but it's good to remember that it wasn't that damn long ago when teams with lower attendance wouldn't sniff 1.24 million in a whole season.

The Players Rank the Owners

Sports Illustrated ranks the owners, based on a player survey. While the author, Jon Heyman, notes the general pros and cons of each owner's tenure, many of them strike me as things that today's players may not necessarily care about and thus did not drastically impact the ranking (e.g. Wilpon's integrity in sending off Vince Coleman fourteen years ago; the construction of new stadiums a decade ago). Indeed, perusing the list, I'm noting a very strong correlation between a high ranking and how willing that owner tends to be to sign veteran free agents.

Not that it's all about the money. If it were, Angelos would be near the top, not down towards the bottom as he is in the survey. Rather, the common denominator among those ranked near the top seems to be a combination of free spending and a credible and demonstrated desire to put a winning team on the field. Being an asshole doesn't impact you negatively if you're winning (Steinbrenner is number 4), but it certainly does keep you in the cellar if you're not helping to build a winner.

For example, Arte Moreno comes in at number one, and I can see how players would hold him in high esteem for reasons other than how free he is with the pocketbook. He really has raised the profile of the Angels in Southern California -- I remember a time when you couldn't find 30 Angels fans if someone spotted you the players' wives -- and there is a sense that people really want to play for the Angels, which in turn has turned them into a perennial contender. If A-Rod opts out and signs in Anaheim this winter, Moreno will own this spot until he's dead and gone.

John Henry of Boston is number two. On the surface it makes sense -- he helped bring a championship to Beantown and the Red Sox brand is so ubiquitous now that people are becoming nauseated -- but the politics of Red Sox Nation are so complicated that I wouldn't be surprised if there are those that think he's the Antichrist. Certainly the players don't, however, and for now, this seems like an OK ranking.

Illitch, Steinbrenner, Wilpon, Magowan, Reinsdorf, and Attanasio round out the top eight. Again, all of these guys have shown a willingness to spend money, but not simply for its own sake. Rather, they have all put -- or are in well on the way to putting -- playoff teams on the field.

Workplace happiness seems to be a pretty simple formula for the players: pay me and help me win. It's amazing that some owners simply can't understand that.


The Houston Independent School District backs off of it's ridiculous stance and agrees to release high school baseball players' statistics.

Interesting postscript to all of this, however, in that unlike the administrators who were quoted in the original piece as interested in protecting student privacy, the team's coach viewed the matter as one of competitive advantage:

He said he also thought Bellaire could lose its competitive advantage if other coaches had easy access to the statistics without having to attend games.

Manuel said he usually withholds statistics from the Houston Chronicle, which publishes information about the top players weekly, until mid-season.

"Halfway through the season, we feel like everybody has already seen us play," he said. "So there's no secrets."

One wonders if the original gatekeepers consulted the coach beforehand and simply concocted the student privacy argument as a sham. Seems silly, I suppose, but then again, high school baseball is serious stuff in Houston.

I'm not sayin' I condone greenies; I'm just sayin' I understand

A day in the life of a day-night doubleheader.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Stay Classy, Sarah Schorno

Sarah Schorno and some of her friends spent the day Googling themselves, found my stuff, and responded to my response to her HuffPo piece. There are a couple of comments devoted to the content of her original piece and my criticism of it but they appear to get far more enjoyment out of calling me a pedophile and then congratulating each other on how clever they are.


Unfortunately there a lot of funny bloggers out there. What we have is a shortage of ones who can make a cogent argument. Since one good fisking deserves another, let's see what Sarah has to say.

Regarding my comment that she stole her NBA ref riff from Simmons:

Actually, my column pre-dates Simmons’ column so I suggest you “mailbag” him. Had I wanted to mimic Simmons, I would have live-blogged about listening to Pearl Jam in Vegas with Kimmel while mentioning no less than 5 “celebrity” friends.

Only Schorno and HuffPo's web publisher know for sure, but the time listed on her article is Sunday at 9:49 pm. While the currently-listed update time on Simmons' is from today, the post was live midday Sunday.

Regarding my comment that she was wrong to say that MLB failed to acknowledge the steroids problem until BALCO, she says:

Acknowledging a problem and solving a problem are two different things. Which was kind of the point of my column. No, actually it was the point. Or was it the counter-point? Have we gotten a ruling yet?
Note the moving target? In her column yesterday, Schorno said "Major League Baseball didn't start taking notice of their own steroids problem until federal investigators got involved." Now "kind of the point" of her column was that the problem wasn't solved. The problem with "kind of points," Sarah, is that you need to actually, you know, express them, or at least be somewhat consistent with them, before being outraged at people for missing them.

Regarding me calling her a hack for believing that Bonds was the alpha and omega of the steroids story:

And I never said or implied that Bonds was the only steroids issue in baseball. I said his was the case that made people outside of the league pay attention. I also said he was a douchbag. What? I didn’t? Well, I meant to.

She has written exactly three articles containing the word steroids since the advent of her blog. One was about horse racing (which contains a Bonds joke), and the other two were yesterday's piece and today's counterpoint piece to my criticism. Sarah, if you think the steroid issue is more than an excuse for you to vent your hatred for Barry Bonds, write something substantive about it. If you don't, how about not moralizing about the league's failings on the subject? And if you can't spell douchebag, it's probably not a good idea to call someone one.

Regarding my assumption that she has no problem with the way the NFL has handled steroids:

You know what happens when we assume, Shyster? You start the night out talking to what you “assume” is a pretty, single blonde and you wake up 4 Zimas later next to a tranny hooker. What does that mean? I don’t really know. I just wanted to use a tranny hooker reference.

Again, funny, but she fails to say that I was wrong to make the assumption that she believes the NFL has handled steroids better than Major League Baseball. After all, if she didn't believe that, she couldn't possibly have said that the NFL has its house in order and baseball does not, could she?

Sarah, you're funny, and if you don't believe me, just ask your friends who comment on your blog to tell you that you are. But here's a suggestion: leave the pedophile, Scientology, and tranny hooker jokes to the people who do them well. And while I would never suggest that someone stop writing stuff about the social issues facing sports -- even those who do it poorly -- I would suggest that you grow a thicker skin and respond with substance rather than resort to schoolyard smears whenever your positions are challenged.

This Man is not a Metaphor

Mac Thomason at Braves Journal tears into Tommy Craggs' Hank Aaron piece over at Slate today. Mac doesn't seem to take issue with the overall premise -- that Aaron is being used as a cloak of sanctimony for commentators who wish to rail against Bonds from higher ground upon which they are currently standing. Nor do I. He was a ballplayer and a man, not a god, and by treating him as such is to look past all of the great stuff about him.

Mac takes issue, however, with Craggs' statements that Aaron was "bland in performance" and "lacked the dizzying peaks that give a career the flavor of personality."

He is right to do so. As Mac points out, Hank was more than the empty symbolism currently ascribed to him, and he was more than the number 755. The man is among the all time leaders in black ink, winning batting titles and MVP votes and leading the league in total bases, doubles, hits, and slugging on multiple occasions. Had he played in a different era, Aaron may very well have beaten Pete Rose to Ty Cobb. As for his alleged lack of Willie Mays' "élan," well, playing in New York tends to do more for one's élan than playing in Milwaukee.

It's my view that the problem with the Slate piece isn't Craggs' fault. The paragraph about Aaron's alleged blandness and lack of flavor and personality smell to me like a Slate editorial addition. Contrarianism is Slate's thing, and while this more often than not leads to interesting analysis, it is often overdone. One need not diminish Aaron's statistical record in order to make the point that writers are unfairly using it as a "rhetorical bludgeon" with which to attack Bonds. It is enough to say that Aaron was truly great and that he is still being used.

HuffPo Hackery

The Huffington Post's designated sports blogger Sarah Schorno describes herself as "marginally qualified to write about sports and the social issues it encompasses." Based on this piece about "misbehavior within the major sports leagues," that's being a bit generous.

Her first observation -- that rather than register surprise at the NBA ref scandal, people were more likely to wonder which ref it actually was -- appears to have been lifted from Bill Simmons earlier column on the subject. You can't say it's plagiarism, however, because Schorno doesn't even bother to develop the thought beyond its mere utterance, rendering it impossible to determine whether she has an original thought on the subject.

Maybe that's for the best, however, because the results are much worse when she actually does attempt to go beyond a glib, derivative observation:

Major League Baseball didn't start taking notice of their own steroids problem until federal investigators got involved. Barry Bonds continued to get unnaturally bigger and hit more and more homeruns, [sic] yet MLB commissioner Bud Selig turned his head. It wasn't until outside sources revealed the BALCO scandal and a federal grand jury got involved that Stern [sic] decided to start making statements.

Really? No one noticed when Ken Caminiti admitted to using steroids and called out half the league in May 2002? No one noticed when Jose Canseco announced his book deal two weeks later? Does Schorno not know that the players and owners agreed in late 2002 for survey testing to begin, which, while flawed, did serve as a precursor to the current testing regime? Does she also not know that in November 2003 -- over a year before BALCO broke -- the survey tests that came back triggered actual random testing beginning in 2004?

I don't offer this to suggest that baseball has acted proactively with respect to steroids. Far from it. However, to suggest, like Schorno does, that steroids were ignored by baseball prior to the FBI knocking down the front doors of BALCO is simply not accurate. Though it would take BALCO and an embarrassing day in front of a congressional committee for baseball to get serious about the penalties for steroid use, there was certainly an acknowledgment of the problem at least year before BALCO broke, and even earlier in some quarters.

And even still [Selig] hasn't made any disciplinary decisions. He's taking the easy way out by waiting for the grand jury to make an indictment before taking a stance while Bonds inches closer to breaking baseball's biggest record. Had Selig been paying attention long before, he could have handled the investigation within the league and made a disciplinary decision himself. What happened instead was an embarrassment to baseball.

This is utter bullshit. Selig -- or those acting on his behalf -- have suspended dozens of players under the league's anti-steroid policy. Even though all reasonable people assume Barry Bonds took steroids, he has never failed a drug test for them. The hypothetical indictment of which she speaks would be for perjury, not steroids, and she fails to articulate what, exactly, Selig is supposed to do about players who commit perjury. Even if she had bothered to make a case for Selig policing perjury cases involving his players, I'm at a loss as to why his failure to do so at this point is "an embarrassment" when the U.S. Attorney, a grand jury, and the FBI have yet to find enough evidence to do anything about it themselves.

Schorno is like every other hack journalist out there who believes that the issue of steroids in baseball begins and ends with Barry Bonds, with its impact being felt only as far as the record book. If you see it that way, yes, you are going to be inclined to call Selig a failure, because you are judging his performance by a metric -- how he deals with pre-2004 steroid use in unknowable amounts by an unknowable amount of players -- against which failure is certain. It's a hack's game because it's easy and shallow and eschews discussion of the relevant issues related to performance enhancing drugs in baseball, such as their adverse health effects and the incentives that still remain in place for players -- typically the marginal ones -- to continue to risk such effects, not to mention suspension.

But perhaps the best evidence of Schorno's hackery comes when she, quite predictably, praises the NFL for keeping its house in better order than MLB:

The NFL's commissioner Roger Goodell, while not popular for his strict discipline, is at least taking steps to keep the players and coaches under control. As a second year commissioner he has some inconsistencies to iron out, but the other league heads could take a lesson from his courage to take a stand.

It doesn't require much in the way of courage nor does it constitute "taking a stand" to suspend a player who has been arrested for multiple violent offenses in a span of less than two years, or another for a spectacular violation of probation involving multiple assault weapons and gangland acquaintances who wind up dead two days later. Indeed, the very need to have to take such stands may lead some people to conclude, contrary to Schorno, that the NFL does not, in fact, have its house in such goddamn good order. At the very least, I'd invite Schorno to compare apples to apples and explain why she thinks -- as I assume she does -- the NFL's record on steroids, both past and present, is so much better than Major League Baseball's.

And if and when you do, Sarah, don't forget to include the corpses.

Pleasant Surprise

The Cincinnati Enquirer heaps a bunch of love on Jeff Brantley for his performance as color man on Reds radio broadcasts this year:

When the Reds revamped their radio lineup for this season, the addition of Brennaman - a pro's pro reunited with his father, Marty - dominated headlines. He certainly hasn't disappointed. But it's Brantley, 43, a former Reds reliever and "Baseball Tonight" analyst, who has been a revelation . . .

. . . Brantley's deep voice, Alabama-born and Mississippi-cured, goes down as sweet and smooth as barbecue and beer on a summer night. Great plays earn an "Oh, mah goodness!" Fastballs travel "raght down Broahdway." A pitcher works "as slow as Christmahs."

Road trips and clear night have enabled me to catch a handful of random Reds broadcasts this year, and I have to admit he isn't half bad in his new gig. Yes, Brantley was closer to execrable than exquisite while he was at ESPN, but his down-homey stuff seems to play much better on a relaxed radio broadcast than it does on a fast-paced show like Baseball Tonight. Less forced, even if it still seems a bit phony. Plus, now that he's no longer required to squeeze that fine mullet into a suit and isn't flanked by two other guys doing the same job he is, he no longer seems to be straining to make observations.

Excellent? Far from it, but he is passable and improving as the season wears on, and that's far more than anyone could have expected from Jeff Brantley when they heard about his new gig.

Holy Crap

Former major leaguer Mike Coolbaugh was killed last night after getting hit with a line drive while coaching first base for the Tulsa Drillers of the Texas League in a game in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Coolbaugh played in 44 games for the Brewers and Cardinals in 2001 and 2002.

Where Have You Gone, Donnie Elliott?

You've read this story before. Former prospect has been out of pro baseball for years as the result of an injury that ended his career before it even had a chance to get going. He's coaching high school now, and watching as the guys he came up with put the finishing touches on their Hall of Fame, or at least very highly paid, major league careers. It really goes one of two ways, right?

A) Guy gives it one last shot and becomes an against-all-odds inspirational story; or

B) Guy reflects on what could have been, but not with much remorse. Offers a few words about how, despite the tough break, God put him where he was supposed to be and that the years he has spent and the lives he has impacted helping turn young kids into young men on that high school diamond are worth far more than the major league career that wasn't.

OK, that's a lie. Option A only really happened once. It's always Option B, for the simple reason that reporters tend not to write whatever-happened-to stories that aren't at least slightly uplifting. Flameout phenoms who don't end up happily imparting life lessons to awestruck kids in some picturesque farming community tend not to get their stories told.

Unless, of course, you're Donnie Elliott:

Baseball hasn’t always been an easy topic for Elliott. Three shoulder surgeries stunted what was once a promising career when he was just 26.

He stopped communicating with many of his friends in the game, including Javy Lopez and Ryan Klesko. The thought of what his baseball career could have been was just too much. He was in the Braves organization, a couple of years older and ahead of Jason Schmidt. There were a lot of comparisons between the two. . .

. . . Elliott had a tough time accepting that his own career never had much of a chance because of his shoulder. . . . . . “That was my whole identity, baseball, baseball player,” he says. “It was tough, because I had to quit. There’s that lingering question in the back of my mind, how good could I have been if I hadn’t been hurt? It would have been easier if I got to a level where I just wasn’t good enough. . . .As much as I enjoy coaching, there’s nothing like it,” he says. “I tell my kids all the time, ‘I’d rather be playing, no offense.’ I love my kids, I love coaching, but I make no bones about it, I’d rather be playing.”

Elliott's story is certainly no tragedy. He is coaching kids (even if they are using him to get autographs from his famous ex-teammates), and he says he enjoys it (even if he freely says that he'd rather still be hurling a baseball in the bigs). But the absence of that familiar lemonade-out-of-lemons vibe certainly makes this particular whatever-happened-to story ring a bit more, I dunno, true than the others, doesn't it?

I'm guessing that in reality, most of those "Option B" stories aren't all that different than Donnie Elliot's, but that the quotes and reporter-supplied context are massaged in such a way so as to give them that feel-good spin.

Friday, July 20, 2007

The Residue of Good Planning

Every time I see a foul ball or homer, I wonder who caught it. This interest no doubt stems from the fact that I grew up listening to Ernie Harwell on WJR who, whenever a ball went into the stands, would provide a mini biographical sketch of the fan that caught it. "The 2-2 pitch is due to Chet Lemon. Flanagan sets and deals, and it's fouled back and out of play. That one was caught by a young man from Chesaning, Michigan." For years I thought Harwell had a detailed seating chart.

Someone at the Salt Lake Tribune must have listened to Harwell too, because they recently devoted an unusual amount of journalistic resources to the matter at a Bees vs. Sky Sox game:

On Saturday, July 7, the Salt Lake Bees played their 90th game of the season. Just another game, by the looks of the box score - a 9-8 Bees victory over the Colorado Springs Sky Sox before a crowd of 7,111 at Franklin Covey Field . . . There were 28 balls hit out of play that night, 19 that landed in the stands - four on home runs. The Salt Lake Tribune tracked each ball and spent time with the fortunate few who brought home a free souvenir. For most, it was a right-place, right-time moment they won't soon forget. The following is a comprehensive look at where those balls landed and at some of the people who caught them.

And they really do mean comprehensive. While "only" nine of the nineteen souvenir catchers are profiled in the article, each of them gets a longer writeup than most dailies give to major league game stories. I can't say that any of the individual stories are all that interesting, but the piece has a Rashomon vibe to it, resulting in an almost artistic retelling of what was really just an ordinary AAA game.

Have a nice weekend, everyone.


The handsome gentleman to the right is Son of Shyster. He turned two yesterday, and as a two year-old, it is both socially and fashionably acceptable for him to be wearing silly things like camouflage pants and electric blue Crocs. Crocs, however, look patently ridiculous on grown women and men. That's why God created Birkenstocks.

The fine people at Crocs just signed a licensing agreement with Major League Baseball that will put team names and colors on Croc shoes. Please be advised that adding a little orange strap and the word "Mets" to the shoes on the right do not make them look any less ridiculous on grown men and women. Indeed, it is possible that the opposite is true.
Consider this a warning.

The Myth of Parity

Diesel over at Two Guys Who, Like, Never Agree, debunks (A) the myth that revenue and payroll are the most important factors in building a winning team; (B) the myth of parity in the NFL; and (C) the idea that skits were ever a good idea on hip hop albums.

The Dominicans Walk Off the Island and Kick Some Butt

I have no idea what the "Salute to Baseball Festival" down at Disney World was all about, but it apparently had a youth baseball competition component, and the Dominican Republic apparently dominated it:

The Dominican Republic won two world titles (gold medal), 2 second place, (silver medal) and a bronze in the Disney’s Salute to Baseball Festival, held in this Florida city, with the participation of over 60 teams from different countries. The Dominicans took the honors with a gold in the categories 16 and 10 year olds, silver in the 12 and 8 year olds, and Bronze in the 14 year old category.

It has been suggested that the introduction of organized baseball in the form of more youth leagues and the major league academies could one day pose a threat to the talent pool in the Dominican Republic, with the logic being that it's better to play ball all day on the streets than it is to join a league and limit your play to practices and games. I suppose that's possible, but from the looks of it, the little leaguers in the D.R. are doing just fine, thank you.

Pitchers Too

Someone else wonders why pitchers haven't been trashed over steroid use in the same manner as have hitters.

(link via BTF)

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Bodley Assumes A-Rod Tampering Will Occur

USA Today's Hal Bodley plays passive aggressive games regarding the Alex Rodriguez opt-out situation, saying that if he were A-Rod he'd opt out, if he were the Yankees he wouldn't negotiate with Rodriguez and that, despite all of that, Rodriguez is a greedy bum for considering it in the first place. OK, fine. Hal's old, so we'll cut him some slack.

What has me scratching my head, though, is this comment:

Plus, if A-Rod does decide to opt out, he undoubtedly will already have a deal in place with another team. No player, regardless how good, would walk away from $81 million without another guarantee.

How could Rodriguez have "another guarantee" prior to opting out absent a violation of the anti-tampering rules? No, I'm not so naive to assume that never occurs, but I can't really imagine it occurring with Rodriguez who, assuming he opts out, will be the highest profile free agent signing in the history of the game. You don't think the Yankees won't complain if it comes to light that Arte Moreno or Mike Illitch or, hell, Mark Cuban reaches a wink-wink agreement with Rodriguez during the World Series? You don't think that such agreements, if they occurred, wouldn't come to light?

The Daily News has entire battalions of reporters covering this guy. There will be three days of headlines if he so much as looks at Southern California MLS listings between now and November 10th. If he opts out, it won't be because he has something in the bag already. It will be because (a) he's sick of the baloney that comes with playing in New York; and (b) because even if his agent repulses a lot of people, he knows what the hell he's doing. That's all.

Try Some Superballs, Jeff

Apparently Jeff Nettles -- son of Graig -- has been bopping around the minor and independent leagues for about a decade now.

Word on the street is that he's the best player in the history of the Atlantic League whose name starts with the letter N.

Deadspin Soon to be Accepting Resumes

Because, in light of this news, Will Leitch is probably going to pull the Dutch Act.

Good for Tony

There are several potential "breakfast of champions" jokes that could be made at Tony Gwynn's expense in light of the news that he has made the cover of the Wheaties box, but reading the whole story, I was happy to come across this passage:

Gwynn, who has battled his weight since late in his playing career, recently participated in the Wheaties Fit to Win Challenge to get in shape for his Hall of Fame induction on July 29. He lost about 17 pounds and 9.8 percent body fat.

Gwynn has always been one of my favorites, and it has pained me to see recent pictures showing him to be in such terrible shape. Short guys like him carrying such weight tend to die, like, yesterday, and as far as I am concerned, one Kirby Puckett incident is enough. I hope he continues to drop the weight, because he is an asset to the game and treasure for the city of San Diego.

Order Restored in Chicago

Much is being written about the Cubs turning it around. I'll leave it to people who know more about the Cubs than I do to hash out all of the specific reasons why the Brewers now have reason to be nervous, but I will note that cosmic harmony has to be part of it. The cosmic harmony I speak of is the return to the natural state of things in which Carlo Zambrano is one of the best pitchers in baseball and Jason Marquis is not.

A couple of months ago, I (and others) noted that Marquis was doing it with smoke and mirrors. Despite a hot streak and a sub-2.00 ERA, his strikeout rate was terrible, and against the laws of God and nature, he wasn't giving up any home runs. I predicted then that Marquis would soon come crashing down to Earth, and that he has. Since I wrote those words on May 10th, Marquis has gone 1-4, and has seen his ERA rise from 1.70 to 4.03. He's sporting a 6.12 ERA for June and July (allowing eight unearned runs in that time as well), and has began to give up home runs at a Marquisesque pace once again.

Meanwhile, Carlos Zambrano has gotten his mojo back, lowering his ERA by more than two runs since the beginning of May during which time he has gone 9-5. Despite early worries that he was hurt, Zambrano is going longer and longer into games as the summer wears on, and his strikeout rate has improved as well. Basically, he's Carlos Zambrano again.

What does that tell us? Mostly that the mean is a powerful master which demands fealty in the form of regression to its mighty side. It also means that the Cubs may very well have cost themselves a lot of damn money by not signing Zambrano to a $72 million extension when they had the chance back in April.

Stats 101 with Dayn Perry

Based on both the quality and the insane amount of content he produced on ESPN.com starting in the mid 90s, Rob Neyer was easily the person most responsible for exposing me, and I suspect many others who were too young to appreciate Bill James' work in the 1980s, to more enlightened ways of thinking about baseball. He's still doing great work obviously, but I often wonder if his influence on the uninitiated has waned somewhat due to ESPN's decision to place him behind the wall of Insider.

For this reason, I'm really liking Dayn Perry's Stats 101 features over at Fox Sports. Sure, I and many of my readers were talking about VORP and the defensive spectrum years ago and have more or less internalized the information those things convey, but the fact remains that despite the steady spreading of the gospel over the past several years, the pool of SABRliterates out there is still relatively insular and relatively small compared to baseball fandom at large. While the research being done on the vanguard is really cool, it's important that we don't so caught up in the advanced stuff that we forget to explain the basics to folks who are where we were, sabermetrically speaking, in 1999.

If you outlaw VORP, only outlaws will have VORP

Great moments in impotent bureaucracy, brought to you by the Houston Independent School District:

The Houston Independent School District has denied a parent's request for the statistics of high school baseball players, citing a federal privacy law.

In April, Scott Rothenberg made a formal request for the statistics, such as hits and home runs, of players on the Bellaire High School baseball team. He received a letter Tuesday from the district's lawyer telling him the information is private under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act . . .

"We agree it looks weird, and frankly, it would probably be a whole lot less heartache to the district if this information were not protected," said Chris Gilbert, an attorney for the district. "But the law is the law and we're required to follow it."

I'm no rebel, but tell me, has anything worth a damn in this world ever been done by someone who says "But the law is the law and we're required to follow it"?

UPDATE: Sanity restored.

This is Information Retrieval

Story in today's LA Times about baseball's popularity -- or relative lack thereof -- in Brazil. Here are a couple of things I didn't know:

Decades after the sport was imported by Japanese immigrants, Brazil has baseball. It's just that very few people know about it because the sport remains very much a foreign one in South America's largest, most populous country. Of the 20 players on Brazil's national team . . .16 are Japanese. And so is the manager, Mitsuyoshi Sato, who most players refer to as sensei.

As a result, Brazil's hitters swing like Ichiro, pitch like Daisuke Matsuzaka and use a style of play that is fundamentally different than any other team in the Americas.

"When we prepare to play in a tournament, we tell our guys that when they play Brazil they're going to think they're playing Japan," said Paul Seibel, the executive director and chief executive of USA Baseball. "They play very much like an Asian team."

Kind of cool. Not that the Japanese influence is everything:

And that talent is beginning to ripen. Despite a population that is sharply divided between ignorant and apathetic when it comes to baseball — the official Pan Am Games baseball logo shows a batter, hands spread wide apart, hitting cross-handed — Brazil's national team has made great strides in recent years . . .

While the article suggests the thing with the logo is based on ignorance of baseball, I prefer to think that they're simply paying tribute to Hank Aaron's days in the Negro Leagues.

Best Wishes, Roger

Hiroki Homma of the Fuji Evening News gets his ticket pulled for asking Roger Clemens for an autograph.

For those scoring at home, if you're a reporter and you respectfully request an autograph, you lose your credentials. Threaten to punch out a sexagenarian broadcaster while in the press box or constantly bait players into confrontations, however, hey, no biggie.

Yes, rules are rules, and reporters asking ballplayers for autographs is pretty bush league, but this whole situation seems like it should have resulted in a warning rather than the beat reporter's version of the death penalty.

A Brief History of Cap Anson

Lots of stuff I never knew here.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Zuzu's Petals!! Zuzu's Petals!!

I didn't really laugh at this video until the very end, but the horiffic prospect of Jeff Kent being the biggest star in the game makes the video poigniant viewing all the same.

God I hate Distractions

As the name Shyster indicates, I do, on occasion, have to practice law. Today was one of those days, and I simply couldn't find a moment to be outraged at something in baseball. I couldn't even find time to be outraged about someone else's outrage. It happens.

Maybe some updates tonight, but I will certainly be back on track tomorrow.

If you don't like these interruptions -- and you happen to work for the web publishing arm of a sports league or a large media conglomerate -- I have it on very good authority that my law firm will entertain offers for the buyout of my contract.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Controlling the Media

Interesting story about the ways in which sports leagues are trying to control and monopolize media coverage via the limitation of reporter and photographer access and threats of revoking credentials of those who cross the line. The NFL, as usual, seems to be taking the most heavy-handed approach, but the NCAA, NASCAR, golf, and MLB have all had their moments recently.

The justification for these rules was summed up thusly:

The owners can do that for a simple reason: They’re owners. “It’s our facility,” says Karl Swanson, spokesman for the Washington Redskins, a team viewed by the press as particularly hard-line on this issue.

Karl Swanson may have a point as it relates to his employer's FedEx Field, which was (mostly) privately funded, but the vast majority of arenas, ballparks, and stadiums are not. As such, it strikes me that teams should be cautious before going Big Brother on the local media, lest some local politician decide to take the position that the tax dollars being used to subsidize these facilities entitle them to a bit more oversight than was originally anticipated.

It's the Motion in the Ocean

Findings from the latest study of pitchers and arm injuries indicate that a lot of throwing -- in and of itself -- may not be bad in that it helps external rotation (i.e. the cocking back of the arm). But . . .

However, the young players also lost range of motion in what's called "internal rotation" (moving the arm in the opposite direction, as in letting a pitch go) . . .

Malachy McHugh, director of research at the Nicholas Institute of Sports Medicine and Athletic Trauma at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, said the movements involved in throwing a ball appear to have different effects on flexibility. "The loss of internal rotation is probably related to deceleration after you release the ball.

I'm no orthopedist, but it seems like a dandy solution for this is to simply have young pitchers extend their follow-throughs to decrease the jolt of deceleration. How? I dunno. How about running forward after each pitch? Yeah, we may lose a few to batted balls, but I bet it cuts down on arm injuries!

Great Moments in Grandstanding

A Chicago memorabilia dealer is trying to get attention by soliciting Bonds stuff for a big bonfire:

Fuel for a Barry Bonds bonfire -- as well as some threats -- have been rolling in since Winnetka sports memorabilia dealer Keith McDonough announced that his Bleachers Sports store would cease selling Bonds merchandise and will hold a bonfire to burn up Bonds memorabilia on the day he breaks Hank Aaron's career home-run record.

''So far, our customers and other sports fans have brought in -- or sent in -- more than 100 Bonds baseball cards, a mini bat and a baseball signed by Bonds,'' McDonough said. ''More stuff is being promised by e-mail. I just feel that Bonds is unworthy to break Aaron's records because Bonds [allegedly] used performance-enhancing drugs.

Setting aside the fact that this guy sounds like a jackass, I wonder if he realizes that the person who stands to benefit the most from him limiting the amount of Barry Bonds merchandise like this is, in fact, Barry Bonds.

The IBL Grows Up Fast

Less than a month into play, the Israel Baseball League has attained a stage of maturity the Major Leagues took a hundred years to reach:

A threatened players' strike over non-payment of salary almost cancelled last night's games, but a promise by league commissioner Dan Kurtzer to resolve the problem let the 23-day-old league continue on schedule. Players were upset that they had received checks for half of the amount they were owed - players are being paid $2,000 for the season, paid out in four payments of $250 over the course of the season.

The threatened strike was led by the Dominican players, which eventually included about half of the league. The players formed a makeshift union led by one of the players who is a lawyer, and met with league commissioner Dan Kurtzer at noon yesterday on the basketball court in Kfar Hayarok, where the players are dorming. Some of the players took video recordings of the meeting.

"Kurtzer didn't give anyone any straight answers, and said if the players were going to strike he would cancel the league," said one player. "The IBL was close to striking, it was surreal."

There are probably a dozen different jokes one could make out of this, but if the IBL is near folding because it can't come up with a couple of hundred bucks per player, it is the league itself that is a joke. This is especially true in light of the fact that the league's executive staff and advisory committee consists of heavy hitters like Dan Duquette, the Selig family, Andrew Zimbalist, and Randy Levine.