Friday, May 30, 2008

Help My Buddy Stick It To Selig And Maybe Win $100 Too

Well, sorta. Here's the deal:

My best friend from college runs a very cool company that provides a very cool product. It's called
Zvents, and it's in the business of telling you what you should be doing with your life. Seriously, go try it. It will change the way you approach your weekends. Actually, you may already be using Zvents without realizing it, because in addition to its own site, it powers event search for a network of hundreds of local newspaper sites including big ones like the Boston Globe, the Denver Post, and the Orange County Register.

For our purposes, it's important to note that Zvents doesn't just tell you when the next poetry slam or KT Tunstall concert is. It covers sporting events, specifically baseball, with instant info (and links, links, links) about more baseball stuff than you can possibly imagine. Even my hometown, Columbus, Ohio, which has nothing more than a pretty sorry AAA team to its credit
is rife with baseball fun I wouldn't have even known about if it weren't for Zvents. I'm guessing the same applies to your hometown too.

But I'm not posting this to simply shill for my buddy's company. For one thing he won't pay me to do it, so screw him. I'm posting this to ask you for help. Here's the problem: Zvents likes to match up visuals with its listings, but Bud's lawyers won't let it put, say, the cartoon bird or the crimson hosiery or any other official team logo next to a listing for the Orioles-Red Sox game, for example. Copyrights, you know. The result are boring listings
that look like this. To fix this, I'm running a contest on behalf of my buddy and his company with the goal of (a) gussying up its baseball listings; and (b) doing an end-around Selig's lawyers. Here's what to do:

Send me a photo that best represents your team's home ballpark and/or a photo that best represents your home team without prominently including the team’s logo. It could be a field action shot, a team photo, a uniform shot, a picture of the team name that doesn’t include the actual logo, whatever. Examples that spring to mind: the ivy -- or, I dunno, drunken Lincoln Park Trixies -- at Wrigley. Monument Park at Yankee Stadium. The McCovey cove at AT&T Park. General apathy at Rogers Centre. Adam Dunn eating a four way at Skyline. Something -- anything -- that defines your team and/or its stadium in a picture without actually showing the logo.

The only catches are (1) the photos must be 1MB or large JPG; and (2) must be taken yourself, not horked off the web. See, when my buddy's company gets sued, he always calls me for free legal advice and, frankly, I don't want to have to deal with it.

The winning photos for each team/venue will have the pride of placement as the official photo of the stadium venue, and as the official photo of the team “performer” on Zvents (the photo will also show up on the Zvents-affiliated papers too, which means your picture of the Green Monster, for example will be in the Globe whenever people search for Sox events). One grand prize for best overall photo will get $100 and a Zvents t-shirt, and one almost-grand prize will get a t-shirt.
Here's a picture of my son in a Zvents cap. It's a pretty cool logo.

So that's the deal. You're all going to a game sometime soon, and you all have digital cameras. Take a quick snapshot that screams "This is the Essence of My Team and Its Stadium," send it in, and get a chance at $100 bucks and some low-level Internet fame. As the possessor of low-level Internet fame I can tell you that it won't get you any dates, but it is an awful lot of fun.

Final bonus: I may very well use the submitted photos as a means of ripping off Andrew Sullivan's
The View From Your Window feature. Send me cool shots of your team and ballpark -- again, that you took -- and you'll be multitasking for the greater good.

Thanks in advance,


Statheads Branching Out

So it turns out that Baseball Prospectus' Nate Silver is the poll cruncher behind


The IBL Is No More

Last year when only about 11 people were reading this blog, I wrote several posts about the Israel Baseball League. And now? It is no more:
According to (league president Haim) Katz, the league's problems stemmed largely
from a number of Israeli creditors who, he said, had not been paid by the IBL.
"2008 is not happening, 2009 we're working on. Right now it's [nearly] the first
of June, and there's no preparation. But there are many parties interested in
reviving professional baseball [in Israel]."

Or we'll never see it again.

(link via Walkoff Walk)

How Selig Could Thwart Cuban

Maury Brown explains how Selig could play matchmaker in an effort to head off the Mark Cuban gambit I described yesterday:

So, while MLB may not want Cuban as part of their Lodge, what if Cuban decides he really is interested in the Cubs, and does some heavy cash-laden deal? How could Zell refuse? How could MLB stop letting the rabble rouser in?

How about a marriage?

Selig has been known to play match-maker. One need only look to 2006 to see his handy work (although, he said publicly he had nothing to do with the partnership).

The ownership of the Washington Nationals is the perfect template for what MLB will almost certainly do with the Cubs sale. While Cuban, on his own, could make a cash offer that would be challenging for each of the bidders individually to pull off, if Selig were to take front-runner (at least in MLB’s mind), John Canning, Jr. and move another bidder in as a minority owner along with Canning, you could compete with Cuban who most likely will fly solo in his efforts.
That's quite possible. But here's a question: doesn't that -- along with the rigged-bid scenario Rob Neyer described yesterday (Insider; sorry) -- assume that Mark Cuban is going to play the Huckleberry by bidding first and setting the target for the arranged marriage to shoot for (or to make the rigged bid)? Marriages between rival ownership groups have to be tricky things to put together. Could such a beast be nimble enough to withstand a scenario in which Cuban simply tells Zell to field all of the offers he can and then call him to get them topped? Or, more realistically, structure some kind of offer with escalator clauses and such that makes it quite difficult for the married group (or, in Neyer's scenario, the late-bidder) to beat? That is, assuming the other suitors -- who each presumably want to own the Cubs themselves anyway -- are willing to share the glory with the other group.

Sure, Cuban isn't going to go beyond what he's willing to pay, but that's OK because there are no guarantees in life. The point is that if Cuban is determined enough, it will be practically impossible for MLB to make Zell accept the less-than-best offer as it has done with other ownership groups in the past, and that given the mechanics of the situation -- not to mention Cuban's savvy -- it will be no easy trick for MLB to ensure that its horse is actually making the best offer.

I don't have a vested interest in seeing Cuban own the Cubs. I just want to see it be a fair, market-driven process. Based on the statements from Cuban and Zell's camp, that's probably what we're going to get here.

And Bud Selig has to be hating it.

You Got Me Feelin' (Negative) Emotions

Mariah Carey's ceremonial first pitch is pretty awful, but I think it's still better than the Mayor of Cincinnati's was a couple of years back.

By the way, I think that's Mark Kroon catching it. He's a pitcher, but he's from the Bronx, so it probably makes sense that he'd catch the smoke from a Long Island girl.

Ride Your War Horses Into Battle

I'm a facts-and-circumstances guy. I hate zero tolerance rules and, more generally, I hate any system in which people who know a thing or two are divested of their discretion to make informed, subjective judgments. Which is why, like Lou Piniella, I didn't lose any sleep over Zambrano throwing 130 pitches in Wednesday night's victory over the Dodgers:

Manager Lou Piniella had a handful of good reasons for leaving Carlos Zambrano in for 130 pitches in Wednesday night's game against the Dodgers."It was cool, he was throwing the ball well, I would have been booed out of the park if I took him out, and Carlos wouldn't have been happy if I took him out," Piniella said. "It was the right thing to do to leave him in the ballgame . . . I mean, 130 pitches, for a big, strong kid from Venezuela? Once in a while [it's OK]. I'm not talking four or five times in regularity, but once in a while the game dictates that you need to do that, and [Wednesday] night it dictated it, so we let it go.
I think that's right. Zambrano wasn't laboring. He was still working quickly. His velocity seemed good. I don't know a tenth about pitchers that Lou Piniella and Larry Rothschild do, but I would have left him in too.

The focus on pitch counts and innings pitched in recent years has been nothing short of revolutinary. Things like "the Joba Rules" would have been unthinkable even a decade ago, and basically every organization has their own variation on them, even if they're less publicized. On the whole that's probably a good thing, at least with respect to young pitchers. If I were running an organization I'm certain that I would take a cautious approach to developing young arms too. Indeed, my disdain for bright line rules aside, I would probably institute hard pitch counts until I was really really familiar with the individual tolerances and limitations of my pitching prospects.

But I'd be far less careful with experienced horses like Zambrano. As long as you're giving him normal rest between starts, are keeping him to a routine (i.e. not yanking him in to pitch four innings of relief between starts), and have experienced guys like Piniella watching him for signs of fatigue, I don't see why you should let a pitch count determine when you yank him. Guys like him (i.e. physically mature, experienced pitchers with sound mechanics) used to pitch a ton of innings back in the 60s and 70s, and I don't believe that the injury rate for starters was radically different then (please, someone tell me if I'm wrong on this).

I'm not suggesting a return to 300 IP seasons, necessarily, but by stretching the number of innings and pitches a guy like Zambrano throws, you are decreasing the number of pitches and innings thrown by guys like Jason Marquis, Ted Lilly, and Bobby Howry, and that's going to help the Cubs win.

Time Flies

Clayton Kershaw is happy to swtich to jersey number 22, which he will be wearing for his start against the Mets tonight. Why? Because it was the number his boyhood idol wore. Who was the idol? Will Clark. Nothing really weird about that until you remember that Kershaw is from Texas and was born in 1988, which means his entire experience with Clark was while he was a Ranger, not a Giant.

It's been a good week for feeling old.

And That Happened

Short one this morning. I was watching Lost like everyone else last night.

Mets 8, Dodgers 4: David Wright owns Brad Penny: 11-for-19, 4 HR, 5 BB.

Pirates 7, Reds 2: On Sunday, Dusty Baker decided to use Aaron Harang for four innings of relief in an extra-innings game. As a result of that -- and because he used Edinson Volquez the same way -- he had to reshuffle his rotation and throw Harang on three days' rest. The result: 4 IP, 10 H, 6 ER and the Reds' never having a chance.

Cardinals 3, Astros 2: Albert Pujols is at .359/.483/.630, with 13 dingers. Isn't he supposed to be missing an elbow or something?

Twins 5, Royals 1: The Kansas City bullpen pitches 3.2 innings of scoreless relief. It's a night too late, but in Kansas City, this passes for progress.

Blue Jays 12, A's 0: I noted in a BTF thread yesterday that no one should count the Yankees out yet because last year at this time they had a worse record and were 14.5 games back, only to rally and take the wild card. What I didn't think about at the time was that, unlike last year, no one in that division -- not even the Orioles -- is going to roll over and play dead this time around. Certainly not the Jays who, while no one is paying attention, are sneaking up on Boston and Tampa Bay.

White Sox 5, Rays 1: A month ago it was fashionable to say that the Sox were in first place by default and the collective futility of the competition. Now they've won 12 of 15, and someone, at some point, is going to have to give Ozzie Guillen credit for something besides his mouth.

Braves 8, Brewers 1: Chipper Jones goes 2-4, 2 BB and is now up to .420, with an OBP of an even .500. Mercy. Reclamation project Jorge Campillo pitches lights out again, only to have to leave early due to blisters for the second straight outing. Greenbrier East High School's own Seth McClung was less impressive his second time out (4.2 IP, 8 H, 6 ER, 6 BB). He'll have to do better than that if he ever wants to pass Bimbo Coles and Johnny Olson as Lewisburg's most famous native son.

Padres 5, Nationals 2: San Diego has scored 25 runs in the past four games which, for them anyway, is a major accomplishment.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Since We're Talking About Mark Cuban . . .

Following up on the Mark Cuban post from this morning, I thought some of you might like to read his thoughts on salary caps, which he posted on his blog the other day:
Can a league survive without a cap ? Yes, but I think it must be a league where it takes more than 1 or 2 players to lead a team to a championship. Otherwise, the richest teams can just buy those 2 players, with a 3rd as insurance, which means the competitive balance of the league is purely dependent on finances. That is not a good position to be in. Baseball and football are 2 leagues that I can think can survive (as baseball has) quite nicely without a cap. The NBA and NHL would struggle competitively without them.
There's a lot of analysis leading up to that conclusion, so please, click through and read it all. I'm kind of a dolt when it comes to capology because you don't need to understand it when all you really care about is baseball, but Cuban seems to make a lot of sense.

When times get tough again for baseball, as they most certainly will, ownership is going to start beating the salary cap drum again. Query: given that Cuban is on record saying salary caps are bad for baseball, is he the kind of guy they're going to want in their club?

I think the answer is no, but based on what I wrote this morning, I don't think they have a choice.

Baseball > Football

A subtle reminder of yet another way in which baseball beats the hell out of football. Say what you want about the merits of guaranteed contracts, but I would have a very hard time rooting for any organization that expects to assume zero risk with respect to its contract obligations and reserves the unilateral ability to renegotiate in midstream.

That's every organization in the NFL, by the way, and I simply can't watch a pro football game anymore without being conscious of the fact that every one of the players on the field is a single injury or incident away from losing their livelihood.

God, I Love Baseball

Nick Blakeley reports from Kansas City:

I arrived at Kauffman Stadium early yesterday to watch the Twins take batting practice before they tore the hearts out of Jose Guillen and myself. There were a lot of Twins fans around and some of them were hollering up to the press box to try to catch the attention of Bert Blyleven, who calls Twins games on TV.

These guys managed to pique Bert's interest and before long, Bert started throwing peanuts from the press box (a good 50-foot toss) in an attempt to get them in the Twins fan's cap. After a couple of misses, he started hitting the fan's cap with regularity and probably threw about a dozen before smiling, waving and returning to more announcer-ly duties.

When you're a Royals fan, you have to find joy in the little things, even if it means watching your opponent's broadcast team shoot 50-foot free throws into the caps of eager fans.

I heard that Don Sutton only made a half dozen peanut shots last time he was in Kansas City, yet he's favored to win the Frick Award before Blyleven does!

Cal Ripken Way

The Iron Man is getting a stretch of highway named after him:
Former Baltimore Oriole Cal Ripken Jr. has the record for the most consecutive games played in baseball. He has his own computer game, three books, a World Series ring, a satellite radio show and two minor league baseball teams.

Now baseball's "Iron Man" will have a section of Baltimore's Interstate 395 named after him. A stretch of I-395 between Interstate 95 and Conway Street outside Camden Yards will be renamed "Cal Ripken Way."
The official opening is tomorrow morning. Reconstruction and resurfacing is scheduled for summer 2024.

Don't Count Cuban Out

The Sun-Times' Gordon Wittenmyer reports that, contrary to the assumptions of many (myself included), Mark Cuban could very well end up owning the Chicago Cubs:

The outspoken Cuban, considered a long shot to gain approval from baseball's conservative owners, suggested in a recent radio interview that some of those owners who also have NBA teams should help his cause, not hurt it. And he suggested Tribune Co. isn't likely to accept a lesser bid over a popularity contest.

So should Cubs fans believe Cuban is a more viable bidder than early reports suggested? ''They're all viable until the league tells us they're not,'' said Cubs chairman Crane Kenney, who is heading owner Sam Zell's efforts to sell. ''[Cuban] owns a professional basketball team, right? Somebody thought he was a suitable owner of a professional team. But it's not my job to say who's viable and who isn't.''
Like I often say, I tend to over analyze things. To read between the lines and find things that may not really be there. To infer multitudes from minutiae, as it were. I'm going to do it again by throwing this out there: Mark Cuban and Sam Zell are warning Bud Selig that he had better not stand in their way unless he wants some potentially disastrous litigation on his hands.

To get to that admittedly out-there conclusion, you have to understand that the basis for baseball being able to approve or disapprove of who owns teams is a really frickin' shaky one, legally speaking. Yes, there is an antitrust exemption, but the only court to ever consider the matter held that the exemption does not apply to the purchase and sale of franchises.

That came in Piazza v. Major League Baseball, 831 F. Supp. 420 (E.D. Pa. 1993), in which some gentlemen from Pennsylvania tried to buy the Giants and move them to Florida. Then-Giants' owner Bob Lurie was going to sell, but MLB stepped in and indicated that it would not approve the sale. The buyers sued, arguing (among other things) that baseball illegally restrained free trade in the market in which baseball teams are bought and sold. Baseball argued that it was allowed to do this pursuant to the antitrust exemption. The trial court agreed with the would-be buyers during the preliminary stages of that case, ruling that the antitrust exemption didn't apply to the purchase of teams. Granted, this wasn't a final decision on the merits. Rather, the court basically ruled that if the plaintiffs could prove that MLB wrongfully thwarted the sale -- say, that baseball had no legitimate business basis for excluding a potential ownership group --they could win.

Of course it never got that far. Having seen that its antitrust exemption was in peril, baseball settled with the plaintiffs, paying them $6 million for their trouble, and the case went away. Since that time, baseball has continued to approve or deny "ownership applications" as though they were country club memberships as opposed to the restraint of the sale of goods in a free market. It has been able to get away with this because, to my knowledge, no one since the Pennsylvania people in the Piazza case have raised a fuss over a team sale, and with no dispute, there can be no court case. Why no dispute? I'd guess it's because all existing owners since the Piazza case have, out of some sense of loyalty perhaps, taken MLB's temperature as to whether they approve of the buyer before actually accepting an offer to sell (if owner x doesn't accept, there is no deal in the first place). At the same time, there has been no self-respecting businessman who would want to sue his way into a club that acts in such a provincial, petty-ante fashion.

But . . . what would happen if you had the perfect storm in the form of (a) a current owner who doesn't feel loyal enough to Selig and Co. that he feels the need to pre-screen buyers; and (b) a determined enough buyer -- a maverick if you will -- that doesn't mind fighting his way into the club? In light of Piazza -- a non-binding case but one that is oh-so-ripe for citation -- wouldn't that cause major headaches for baseball? Would they dare put the antitrust exemption in peril in order to keep out an undesirable owner?

I think Sam Zell and Mark Cuban are testing that. When Cuban cites the fact that he's already an owner of a pro team, he's reminding baseball that it's going to have to search hard to find a legitimate basis for excluding him. More significantly, however, when Zell's subordinate underscores that it's the league -- and not the Tribune Company -- who will be rejecting bidders, he's making it clear that the defacto vetting system long in place is not going to happen here. In other words, he's highlighting the fact that Major League Baseball could very well have the nightmare scenario on their hands: a qualified buyer making the high bid and a willing seller accepting it, thereby requiring baseball to quash the deal. That, I believe, wouldn't hold up in court. Especially not in an Illinois court in a case in which the Tribune Company is a party.

Will it come to that? I seriously doubt it. For one thing, we don't really know that baseball really wants to keep Cuban out. We suspect it does because Selig and Co. have long preferred pliable ownership groups who feel they owe something to the league, but we don't know it for sure. Still, there is some degree of uncertainty on this point, and in light of that uncertainty, I think that Cuban and Zell are, to use a lawyer's phrase, making their record. If Selig and his lawyers are listening carefully -- and I'll bet they are -- they're probably realizing about now that there is simply no percentage in trying to keep Cuban out of the club.

What does this all mean? Call me crazy, but I think it means that Mark Cuban is going to be the next Cubs' owner.

I'm Not Buying It

A guy named Alexander Martinez swears that the Yankees promised him the moon in exchange for giving back Hidecki Matsui's 100th home run ball:
Martinez said he turned over the milestone Matsui ball to Yankees security man Bill Shaw. In return, Martinez said, Shaw promised him an autographed Matsui ball, the bat Godzilla used to hammer the historic homer and 15 tickets to this season's All-Star Game - the last at Yankee Stadium. Martinez got an autographed ball and bat but hasn't seen any All-Star tickets or an authentication letter for the bat . . .

. . . Martinez said he asked Shaw to put their deal in ink. But he quoted Shaw as responding: "We are the New York Yankees. When we give our word, we will do it." A Yankee spokesman insisted the team never agreed to what Martinez says. "Bill Shaw absolutely, positively denies that he ever offered him any All-Star Game tickets or ever agreed to it," said Howard Rubenstein.

This sounds like a Seinfeld episode. Just replace Martinez with Kramer and throw in Jackie Chiles. "My client was promised 15 All-Star Game tickets. To not proivde said tickets is outrageous! It's preposterous! It's the biggest miscarriage of justice I've ever seen!" Things go well until Martinez caves and accepts a Jeter t-shirt to drop the whole thing.

OK, I mock Mr. Martinez, but he is a sensible guy. According to the article, he says he's not going to sue over it, which goes to show you that unlike some wackos, most people won't get the justice system involved when they know they're full of it.

(link via BTF)

Cloak and Dagger

This is over a week old, but I just saw it. From DePodesta's blog, about the lengths scouts will go to in order to keep their activities secret:
Sometimes the gamesmanship goes a little too far. A few weeks ago I was leaving a high school game and on my way to another one. I was expecting to be in the car for at least an hour, so I planned to stop at the bathroom before leaving. With no indoor bathroom in site, the port-o-potty on the way to the parking lot was the only option.

As I approached, I thought I heard a voice. It was only when I reached out my hand to grab the door handle that I heard the voice loud and clear. It was a scout, inside the port-o-potty, on his cell phone reporting what other teams were in attendance at the game. Out of respect for his effort (and sacrifice), I kept walking.

This may be a little more Austin Powers than 007, but it does illustrate the competitive nature of the draft. We all know what players we like, and none of us are telling. :-)
I dunno. Maybe it says more about the food available on the road than it does the desire for secrecy. Keith Law would be your scouting/culinary expert here, so I'll leave any further comments on that to him.

Steroids Game Theory

An economist/blogger looks at the incentives at play in the banning of steroids. I disagree with him when he says that low scoring games are boring, but he's probably right about the owners and the players coming to the steroids crackdown reluctantly. And, as Pete Toms noted when he shot me the link, the notion the the NFL has "banned" steroids in anything other than a nominal way is pretty laughable.

(thanks to Pete Toms for the link)

And That Happened

Cubs 2, Dodgers 1: You know it's an enjoyable game when you find yourself pumping your fist and shouting even when you don't have a rooting interest. That's what I was doing anyway when Carlos Zambrano punched out Matt Kemp in the top of the eighth after surviving two two-out fielding blunders by his middle infielders (only one of which was actually scored an error). Why was I rooting for Zambrano? I think it's because he didn't have his best stuff last night -- he walked a lot of guys and had a hard time finding the zone -- but he bore down and just fought through it. He works fast. He wears his heart on his sleeve, sure, but he's a tough motherf*cker -- I could totally feature him pitching in the NL in the mid-60s -- and I just enjoy watching him pitch.

Yankees 4, Orioles 2: With all of the Mets' drama, it's easy to forget that the Yankees have virtually the same record and are a game and a half farther out of the lead than the team from Queens. The talk yesterday was that Chamberlain could make his first start on Monday. He pitched 1.1 innings last night and would have four days rest if he did make that start, but why do I have this feeling that Girardi would reach for him if the Yankees find themselves up by a run in the seventh or eighth between now and then?

Reds 9, Pirates 1: Jay Bruce continues his audacious start (1-3, 2 BB, 2B, SB). Dusty has to be apoplectic about the walks. Meanwhile, down on the farm, Daryl Thompson makes his AAA debut and blows away my hometown Columbus Clippers. Who is Daryl Thompson you ask? He was the throw-in in the Austin Kearns trade with the Nats a couple of years ago. Save your comments -- I know the stated purpose of that trade was for the Reds to make a playoff run and on that basis it "failed" -- but as time goes on that trade looks better and better for Cincinnati, doesn't it?

White Sox 6, Indians 5: Carlos Quentin (.296/.402/.587, 14 HR, 52 RBI) is not on the AL All Star ballot.

Brewers 1, Braves 0: Consider this one of those days where I am happy the Braves aren't on TBS anymore. If they were I would probably be buying a new TV today after pulling an Elvis last night and blasting the thing with my flintlock. Jeff Suppan? Really?

Mariners 1, Red Sox 0: Erik Bedard makes short work of the Red Sox (7 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 8K). I really wish Manny would hit #500 already. Due to the ESPN cutaway last night, I missed Broxton strike out the Cubs in the bottom of the eighth in the very enjoyable game I had been watching. When they cut back, Chris Berman explained how dominating Broxton looked. Thank goodness I got to watch a boring nine-pitch battle between Bedard and Ramirez which ended in a groundout. The whole Sox-Mariners game lasted 2:11. I think Manny's at bat took up an hour and a half of that time.

Twins 9, Royals 8: The Royals can't win because they can't score runs, so they come out swinging last night and put eight on the board only to blow a five-run lead in the ninth. I guess their bullpen was fried from the previous night's game. I know he pitched two innings (31 pitches) the night before, but don't you risk sending out Soria to stop the bleeding in the ninth in order to end a demoralizing losing streak? Give him the weekend off or something, but you have to win that game last night, don't you?

Giants 11, Diamondbacks 3: It's getting ugly in Arizona.

Sorry for the fewer-than-normal recaps this morning. I enjoyed one too many frosty beverages while watching the Cubs-Dodgers last night and simply didn't have the will to get my usual evening jump on these things. That happens from time to time, and it's probably a good thing.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

This is Either Really Cool or Really Scary

As of today, I have put up more posts in the first five months of 2008 (654) than I did in the nine months of ShysterBall activity in 2007 (648).

Apart from sleeping, eating, and going to the bathroom, I don't think I've done anything 1300 times in my life.

Bobby Cox Keeps Humming Along

Tracy Ringolsby profiles a guy who, for all of his success, is often overlooked:

But that's Cox. All business. No showboating.

He is the same way with his players. Walt Weiss remembers his first year with the Braves. He made a base-running mistake. Word came that Cox wanted to talk to him. Weiss went into the office. "We don't do that here," was the extent of Cox's address. Weiss got the message.

When a player shows up and plays loud music in the clubhouse, Cox doesn't say a word. One of the veterans, a Chipper Jones or John Smoltz, will inform the newcomer that headphones are required so that there is no infringement on teammates' privacy. It's a professional way of getting a job done that comes from the respect Cox has earned from the players.

It's Cox's way, and when players don't fit, no matter how talented they may be, they
don't stay.
That last part is for sure. It seems like the Braves have had more than their fair share of head-scratching trades and transactions. Within a few days of almost all of them, however, you hear that the player involved somehow crossed Bobby Cox or otherwise upset the orderly apple cart he has created in the Braves' clubhouse. To John Schuerholz and Frank Wren's credit, very few of these deals have really bitten Atlanta in the butt, and the Braves have almost never had a clubhouse problem. I still think chemistry is overrated on any given team, but I think that there is value in organizational order and continuity over time that serves as a defacto code of conduct. Cox has certainly created that in Atlanta.

Posnanski noted today that, just maybe, "there is no best manager in baseball." I think that conclusion only applies if you're subjecting the candidates to an overly-narrow set of criteria. Sure, the Braves probably coulda shoulda woulda won an extra World Series or two, but I'm struggling to see how that is Bobby Cox's fault any more than it was Lonnie Smith's or Eric Gregg's or Charlie Liebrandt's. Or, more to the point, outrageous misfortune, frustrating happenstance, and simply dumb luck. And really, if you're going to give him demerits for losing four World Series', don't you have to give him credit for winning five pennants? Doesn't that more than balance him out against anybody save maybe Joe Torre?

In my estimation, Bobby Cox is the best manager in baseball and has been for a couple of decades now. I'd make Torre a moderately close second, and after that is a lot of space exists between them and the next closest set of contenders (a pack which includes La Russa, Scioscia, and maybe Piniella).

Or am I missing something here?

Try Again

Everybody wants to blame everything on gas prices. This from AAA (the auto club, not the minors) spokesman Gregg Laskowski:
“We’ve got a winning baseball team in Tampa Bay, and they have the best record in baseball, … but they’re still not filling that stadium. I can’t help but think that [the price of gas] is part of this reason,” he said.
Out of fourteen American league teams, only three -- Boston, Detroit, and one other team -- have a higher average attendance so far this year than last year.* Wanna guess which team it is? I'll give you a hint: the answer makes the guy who gave that quote look a little stupid.

There are many reasons why the Rays can't sell out that stadium, but the price of gas isn't one of them.

*I realize comparing last year's total average attendance to this year's average attendance to date is an apples/oranges thing, but it is my assumption that after school lets out, the averages for this year will only get higher all around, thus keeping the Rays ahead of schedule from last year.

Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress

Rather than take the sane route and dismiss the thing, Roger Clemens has amended his lawsuit against McNamme to add the throw-in claim of all throw-in claims, "intentional infliction of emotional distress." Here is the actual text from the revised complaint:


54. Clemens incorporates by reference the facts set forth above.

55. McNamee falsely told Pettitte, the Mitchell Commission, and that Clemens had used steroids and HGH.

56. McNamee intended to cause Clemens to suffer severe emotional distress by making the false accusations.

57. McNamee’s conduct in making the false accusations to Pettitte, the Mitchell Commission, and was extreme and outrageous.

58. McNamee’s false accusations proximately caused Clemens to suffer severe
emotional distress. Clemens seeks damages for these injuries from McNamee in an
amount to be determined by a jury.
Every lawyer learns about intentional infliction claims in law school. The concept is usually taught using Victorian era cases in which some scoundrel causes a woman in a whalebone corset to suffer the vapors by falsely telling her that her husband was run down by Phaeton carriage or something. You still see these claims brought all the time of course, but rarely if ever do people recover anything for them.

Why? Because the standard is so damn high. To be found liable for intentional infliction of emotional distress, the defendant's conduct "must be heinous and beyond the standards of civilized decency or utterly intolerable in a civilized society." It used to be called "the tort of outrage," and one old law book way of describing it was to say that the conduct "must be such that it would cause a reasonable person to exclaim 'Outrageous!' in response."

Let's see, in response to an investigation conducted by agents of a body for which he was once and hoped to be again employed, Brian McNamee said something that a lot of people had been saying for years -- that Clemens did steroids -- and repeated it to a reporter. Defamatory? I have my doubts, but let's say it was. Extreme and outrageous? Um, no. Far worse things have been said about folks without rising to that level, legally speaking.

But the real kicker here isn't the conduct, it's the damage suffered. In order to prove the claim, Clemens is going to have to actually set forth evidence that he has, in fact, suffered severe emotional distress. Generally speaking, a plaintiff has to show actual debilitating mental problems as a result of the conduct. Psychiatrist's testimony is almost always required here, and if you don't have that, you had better be a basket case so obvious that a shrink's view of it is unnecessary or redundant. Physical manifestations of the emotional distress -- things like constant barfing and hair falling out -- are usually not required, but they do help.

Clearly the man has been incapacitated with emotion.

Roger Clemens' intentional infliction claim is doomed and he probably knows it. If I'm McNamee's lawyer, however, I hope it sticks around for a while because there would be nothing more fun than to get Clemens in a deposition and ask him -- at length -- to detail the hours he has spent in tears, the mountains of antidepressants he's taking, and just how hard it has been for him to get through each and every day these past several months.

Then we take a short break and I start asking him about his social calendar.


Roger Clemens' texts Joba Chamberlain on a regular basis:
Roger Clemens is out of baseball and involved in a steroids controversy, but he still has influence with the New York Yankees, the team he pitched for last season.

Yankees pitcher Joba Chamberlain, who is making the transition from eighth-inning reliever to the rotation, says he is in touch with Clemens regularly.

"We text back and forth and I ask him a lot of questions, because that's how you get better," Chamberlain said before the Yankees' game in Baltimore Tuesday night. "You can't be afraid to ask questions. I ask him everything from workout questions to how to pitch to certain batters. I never thought I'd be texting Roger Clemens."

Why do I have the feeling that we're about to see a Very Special Episode over at The Dugout?

Great Moments in Prospect Mismanagement

After what seems like years of jerking Andy LaRoche around, the Dodgers are now turning him into a utility guy:
With rookie Blake DeWitt looking as if he has solidified his place as the Dodgers' starting third baseman, Andy LaRoche has started playing first base for triple-A Las Vegas as part of a plan to increase the ways he can help the big league club . . .

. . . "We're going to move him all over the infield with the anticipation that when he comes up to this level, that if we want to get [starting first baseman James] Loney out of there against a certain left-hander, we can do that," Manager Joe Torre said. "It's just more options for us."
If you're a savvy GM, you'd have to think you could steal LaRoche from the Dodgers at this point, no?

Church's Head

On some level it's kind of fun to point and laugh at the Mets' incompetence, but the laughing stops when it comes to things like this:
Experts in the field of concussion management strongly criticized the Mets on Tuesday for their handling of Ryan Church, saying that he has been put at significant medical risk by continuing to play through dizziness, lethargy and headaches.

Church sustained what the team called a mild concussion on May 20 against the Braves. While sliding into second base, his head slammed into the knee of an opponent and then fell hard onto the dirt. He missed the next game, but volunteered to pinch-hit four times since . . .

. . . Several experts in sports-related concussions, however, said that Church — who has told reporters that he has had a headache and has felt dizzy and tired almost every day since his injury — should not have been allowed to play at all because his symptoms had not cleared . . .

. . . “It’s his call,” Randolph said. He added: “He’s been feeling a little bit groggy, and most of what he feels is that uneasiness with his total, you know, mind. It’s kind of weird because he feels like he’s kind of foggy. He says he can hit, he can do that. But in the outfield, he’s unstable out there.”

Randolph added: “When you’re talking about head injuries, I’m pretty lame on that. I don’t even know how to respond to, you know, when we can put him out there.”

We should be cautious about throwing around accusations here because second-guessing diagnoses without, you know, actually having examined the patient is a questionable endeavor, but if the experts are right and Church is truly at risk, this is a far greater indictment of Mets' management than keeping Willie Randolph around. If you doubt that, the NYT concludes the piece with a reminder of the stakes involved:

Corey Koskie can testify to that. After sustaining a concussion in July 2006 while playing for the Brewers, Koskie attempted to come back despite symptoms including headaches, dizziness and nausea. He experienced far more severe symptoms for six months, and eventually had to retire.

“That’s pretty much the reason I’m here today — thinking I could play through it,” Koskie said in a telephone interview from his home in Minnesota.

Regarding Church, he added: “I think he’s nuts. He doesn’t want to get to the point where he’s not going to get better. Tell him to call me. It’s not worth it.”

And That Happened

Reds 9, Pirates 6: Jay Bruce goes 3-3, 2B, 2 RBI, and 2 BB in his major league debut, that is, if you count hitting against Pittsburgh's staff as a major league debut.

Mets 5, Marlins 3: Ramon Castro! Fernando Tatis! Just as the Mets drew it up in the offseason.

Indians 8, White Sox 2: The game recap notes that Mark Buehrle "has lost six of his last seven decisions." That implies a precipitous slide, but that's not really what's been happening. Yes, he was shelled last night, but before that he had two really solid starts, one of which was a win, the other a no-decision. Before those it was two more shell-jobs, than another great start and a halfway decent one. Going further back, it's shelled-good-good-shelled. In other words, Buehrle has been feast or famine this year, and Lord knows how you explain that.

Cubs 3, Dodgers 1: A win is nice, but Jim Edmonds is 3-24 with no extra-base hits and one walk since being acquired by Chicago. This means that they are throwing it down the middle to him and he can't do a damn thing with it. Jim, for the love of God and your legacy, retire now.

Rangers 12, Rays 6: Josh Hamilton's thumb supposedly hurts. After last night's performance (2-5, 2B, HR, 5 RBI) I'd like to see what happens when it feels good.

Brewers 3, Braves 2: Tim Hudson runs out of gas, allowing the Brewers to tie it in the seventh and eighth, but he was dancin' with the devil all game, giving up 11 hits overall, as the Braves road and one-run game futility continues. At some point this just ain't luck, and someone should look into whether Bobby Cox has some tangible influence on this stuff. Does he stay with pitchers a batter or two too long? Does he go for an inordinate number of one-run strategies that don't pay off? I've been watching him manage for over 20 years now, and I can't say that anything just jumps out, but it sure seems like something has to be happening here.

Twins 4, Royals 3: I usually try to write up a handful of these recaps the night before as the finals are coming in. Helps me get a jump, ya know? So, as I'm waiting for Cincy-Pittsburgh and Atlanta-Milwaukee to come final, I scroll down to this game, and see it entering the bottom of the ninth with the Twins up 3-0. Since I'm smart and knowing and all, I figure this game is all but over and I start cranking up the snark as a means to put the Royals' futility into new relief. So whadda they do? Inside the park three-run homer in the bottom of the ninth to tie it up, and on they go to extra-innings. Yes, they lost in 12, but that was probably a pretty entertaining game all told, and if you're a Kansas City fan, that has to be about as much as you can expect these days, right?

Astros 8, Cardinals 2: A four-spot in the top of the first pretty much ended this one before it got started.

Orioles 10, Yankees 9: Nine homers, nine walks, and a never-ending game due to a long rain delay and extra innings. That pretty much sounds like the most miserable game ever. Oh, and Ian Kennedy strained a lat and is heading to the DL. Nice night all around for Yankees' fans, no? Random observation that is news to non-Yankees fans like me: Giambi has actually become respectable in recent weeks. He's at .321/.479/.642 for May. Huh.

Mariners 4, Red Sox 3: So who plans on telling Mike Timilin (6.32 ERA, 15.2 IP, 21 H) that he's done?

Giants 6, Diamondbacks 3: Tim Lincecum continues his 1972 Steve Carlton act, moving to 7-1 for a crappy team. Arizona has dropped seven of ten, yet remain 3.5 up in the West. They've pretty much been up 3.5 or so in the West all month. Why do I get this feeling that the Dodgers are going to look back at May and realize that they missed a big opportunity?

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The Piazza Draft

Wanna feel old? Take a gander at this article, which runs down the names you'd know from the 1988 amateur draft.

East Coast Bias

Jeter (.282/.337/.390/immobile) and A-Rod (missed 20 of 51 games) lead the league in All-Star balloting at the moment. Others leading at their positions: Papi, Pedroia, Youkilis, Manny, and Varitek.

As we speak, furious message board posters are trying to figure out how to blame this on ESPN's notorious east coast bias.


"Dodgers fans, you have a stud pitcher on your hands for the next few years who exhibits all the performance of a Sandy Koufax without the mechanical flaws."

Well then.


Here's your introduction to Jay Bruce courtesy of the Cincinnati Enquirer. They think that Hatteberg will be designated for assignment, and I tend to agree that's what they'll do. Dusty has no use for him, obviously, and he doesn't want to be there. Patterson is the biggest sink hole on the team, but his legs and glove basically still work, so as long as everyone is cool with using him strictly as a defensive replacement for Griffey or Dunn they should probably keep him around. If he ever bats when a game is on the line, Dusty should be required to have his head examined.

For the record: I've complained an awful lot about what the Reds have done this year, but I do think keeping Bruce down on the farm until now was the right move, assuming he avoids super two status. That extra year of arbitration eligibility would have cost the Reds a lot of dough, and they need all the dough they can get. The problem, as others have noted, has not been the absence of Bruce as such. Rather, it has been the absence of a stop-gap who is better than Corey Patterson.

In any event, I think Bruce has seen the last of Louisville, and the Reds can finally start building for 2009, which is what I thought they should have been shooting for all along.

UPDATE: Yep, Hatteberg was DFA'd.

Hall of Fame Data Set

Russ Smith, in the course of an engaging and wide-ranging account of three generations of baseball fans taking in the Orioles and the Yankees over the weekend, reminds us to beware of observational selection:
It does seem inconceivable, by today’s standards, that great pitchers like Tom Seaver and Jim Palmer would end the year with a double-digit number of complete games, and that wasn’t deemed extraordinary. Seaver, in ’71, finished 21 games; Jack Morris was there from beginning to end 20 times in ’83; and Palmer went the distance a (now) astonishing 25 times in ’75. We needn’t even go back to guys like Warren Spahn. By comparison, the Blue Jays’ Roy Halladay, had nine completions in 2003, which gave him the reputation as a latter-day Ironman. In fact, as David Pinto wrote on his invaluable website on May 24, the Jays had back-to-back complete games last week, and Halladay’s five are more than the total of any other American League team.

On the other hand, when my son Booker and I riffle through a baseball card collection that dates back to the early 50s and, with a gap in the 70s, goes up to this year, it’s amazing to see how many players are lost to memory. “Who’s Greg Booker?” my son will ask, pointing to a card from ’86, and I’ll have no idea. Which got me thinking about how until recently so many players, after being groomed in high school, maybe college, and the minors, probably blew out their arms a few years into big-league careers and were tossed aside by owners and general managers. You gamble on a $5000 bonus signing and it’s no big deal: today, with upper echelon draft picks drawing an immediate million dollar check, no wonder there aren’t more complete games.
I have no idea why if Smith -- who is something of a traditionalist when it comes to baseball -- can see this, so many people who claim to be traditionalists can't. I love a complete game. I miss complete games. I totally understand, however, why we don't see that many anymore, and it has little or nothing to do with generational pansyfication. I mean, I used to grind the gears of my Chevy Cavalier until Hell wouldn't have it, but I'm a little more careful now that I have a car that cost more than four figures off the showroom floor.


Trot Nixon on why he's not on a big league club right now:
“You can ask why all day long, and you may never find the answer,” Nixon
said. “You just keep plugging away and doing what you can to help the team win
ballgames, and let that decision be made by other front offices.”

I would hope and expect that Nixon would never answer a question like "why aren't you on a major league roster" by saying "because I'm circling the drain," but the answer is pretty clear:

2003: .306/.396/.578
2004: .315/.377/.510
2005: .275/.357/.446
2006: .268/.373/.394
2007: .251/.342/.336

Yes, he's raking at AAA right now, but as declines go, they don't come more obvious. It always amazes me when reporters seek out former major leaguers on their way back down the ladder for comment on this sort of thing. He's either going to say he's still got it or else you're going to get an awkward and depressing quote, and who really wants to hear that?

Bill Hall is Angry

One of the things I missed over the weekend was Russell Branyan getting called up by the Brewers to essentially take Bill Hall's job at third base. I mean, sure, it's a platoon, but since Branyan gets the righties, it's pretty much a full time job. According to the JS Brewer's Blog, Hall isn't happy about it:
"Going on the last four years, nothing makes any sense," he said. "My understanding is we needed a left-handed bat in the lineup and I was the odd man out. Does that make any sense? We'll see what happens the next couple of days."
Hall should probably research his usurper a bit. For as much as statheads have crushed on Branyan over the years, he hasn't exactly been a job-stealer. He's been on eight teams over the course of his career, but he hasn't stuck around for 100 at bats on any of them since 2001. He'll crush the ball when he hits it, but he has a knack for wearing out his welcome quickly. I'm still not convinced that he can't be an important part of a winning team, but given the pressure on Yost, Branyan will be cut the first time he goes 0-5 and strikes out four times.

Wait, make that the second time.

And That Happened

I'm back from West Virginia. It was a nice trip. With no Internet to occupy my time I found myself doing strange things like reading books and getting a good night's sleep and stuff. Unsettling.

Baseball consumption, obviously, was at a minimum. I only watched one game -- Sunday night's White Sox-Angles tilt -- and relied on the Beckley Register-Herald for supplemental coverage. On Sunday morning, for example, after flipping past no less than three columns dedicated to hunting, I was able to find last Wednesday's late box scores. I love Beckley, but how I came out of that town with my baseball fandom intact is a mystery to me.

Brewers 5, Nationals 2: I know this is Saturday's box score, but I feel I have a greater connection to this game because the Register-Herald had a full-page story on Brewers' starter Seth McClung that day. Why? Because about nine years ago McClung graduated from a high school about 60 miles away from Beckley, and that's the sort of attenuated fame that passes for news back where I'm from. On the Beckley fame scale, it pretty much goes (1) Morgan Spurlock; (2) Chris Sarandon; (3) that astronaut who flew the Challenger on its last successful mission; and then a bunch of guys like McClung.

Marlins 7, Mets 3: The dreaded vote of confidence accompanies the latest in a string of crappy Mike Pelfrey outings and here the Mets sit 6.5 games out, having lost seven of their last ten. I tend to over think this kind of stuff, but let me throw this out there: the meeting yesterday was to provide the appearance of "getting past" Willie's stupid racial comments, and rather than provide him with any real security or confidence, the real result of the meeting is to hasten his departure by allowing the team to cite terrible performance and terrible performance alone as the reason for the axing.

Orioles 6, Yankees 1: Forget the eighth, who's gonna pitch the seventh?

Blue Jays 7, Royals 2: Eight straight losses, and in those losses the Royals have scored 16 runs. Eight of which came in a single game.

Rays 7, Rangers 3: Scott Kazmir is a fair pitcher (7 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 10K, 0 BB). The Rays have the best record in baseball, by the way.

Phillies 20, Rockies 5: You know, giving up 20 runs is pretty humiliating, but I'm not sure it's any more humiliating than having Jamie Moyer ring you up seven times.

Cubs 3, Dodgers 1: Ryan Dempster has been pretty fantastic since being turned back into a starter. Kind of makes you wonder why more teams don't try to turn relievers into starters more often.

Braves 7, Diamondbacks 3: Atlanta finishes their 11-game homestand 8-3. Overall, they're 22-7 at home, and 6-16 on the road. They've got a series at Milwaukee and another at Cincinnati before coming home to face the Marlins and Phillies. If they're going to make a run at the fish and separate from Philly, now's the time to show they can do it, entering those series even or ahead, not limping their way through the next couple only to even up against division foes.

White Sox 6, Indians 3: I watched about six innings of this one and, man, I can't recall seeing a lineup for a would-be contender look this bad in a long time.

Angels 1, Tigers 0: The Angels were beat in a walkoff blast on Sunday night, so they turn around and do the same on Monday. Well, a bases-loaded walk isn't exactly a "blast," but you get the idea. It's always something with the Tigers. One day they can't get anyone out, the next day they are shutout on five hits over 12 innings.

Red Sox 5, Mariners 3: Remember last fall when Dave Cameron over at U.S.S. Mariner called Bartolo Colon the "Hidden Gem of Free Agent Pitchers?" Like a lot of other things, he may have been right about that too. I'd say it's a 100% probability that people in the Red Sox front office read U.S.S. Mariner, and I'm guessing Cameron knows that. You have to figure, then, that given Colon's performance last night came against Seattle (7 IP, 5 H, 1 ER), Cameron was watching the game with mixed feelings, wondering if he gave anyone any ideas.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Long Weekend

I'm heading out the door now to drive down to West Virginia for the weekend to visit my mother-in-law and the rest of my wife's family. It's cool though, because they're great people and I happen to really like it there. West Virginia is a pretty place. The people are nice. Where I'm from at least, it's cooler in the summer. If they had a semblance of an economy I'd probably be living there right now.

Not that there aren't any drawbacks. The big one for our purposes is that my mother-in-law doesn't have Internet access (she's 74, so the web ain't exactly a priority for her). I can't even use my Blackberry there because her house is in an old 'holler (really) and no signals can get through. Upshot: there will be no posts until at least Monday evening, and depending on how tired I am when I get back, it may be Tuesday before you hear from me again. Being unplugged for a few days is going to be like kicking heroin, but it's probably good to get away and cleanse for a while.

Have a great weekend everybody. If Willie Randolph gets fired before I get back, someone reset the doomsday clock for Ned Yost.



The Yankees' visitor clubhouse has a sports ticker that flashes the betting lines. It's cool though, because I hear that the visiting kids only bet against the Yankees, not on them. Which would probably be a safe bet these days anyway.

We Don't Need No Stinkin' Replay. Maybe.

The announcement of a possible replay experiment has prompted quite a bit of discussion (especially in these parts; join the fray here), but the Yankees have a decidedly more low-tech approach:
Yankee Stadium workers put up netting Thursday on a staircase just beyond the right-center field wall, the spot that confused the umpires, cost Alex Rodriguez a home run and intensified baseball’s debate about instant replay.

“It’ll make it a little easier out there,” umpire crew chief Tim Welke said.

As I said in the comments on the other thread, I've not yet decided how I feel about replay. There's nothing wrong with accuracy, mind you, but I do fear that instituting it for boundary calls is the camel's nose in the tent, as they say. Maybe this is better off being addressed with a clearer delineation of ground rules and some extra training and vigilance on the part of umps?

Also, someone made a good point over at BTF re: the Arizona Fall League experiment, and that's the idea that, hey, have they ever had cameras at AFL games to begin with? Apart from my earlier reservation about it (i.e. the AFL setting is too strange and the sight lines too different from MLB stadiums for it to be a useful test) isn't it going to be costly and inefficient to lug 15 cameras -- or whatever would be needed to simulate a real baseball game -- out to the AFL?

Or -- and I'm just spitballin' here -- is it possible that yesterday's story was merely a leak of a phony plan designed to take the heat off of umps for missing calls in three games in a week?

UPDATE: Jason from IIATMS has been weighing in on the comments here, but you should go over to his site and check out his thoughts on the matter as well, because they're more cogent than my general unease/cautious acceptance.

And That Happened

Blue Jays 4, Angels 3: Yes, it's a win for Toronto. They'll probably lose tomorrow. This has nothing to do with this game in particular, I've just been meaning to say this for a long time: I find absolutely nothing interesting about the Blue Jays and I have a hard time writing about them. They are mediocre now, and they have been mediocre for 15 straight years. Even worse, they are boring. They have never been bad enough to be interesting. They have never been good enough to be exciting. They just exist in this bland limbo land of nothingness which causes me dull pain to even consider. Their team is blah, their uniforms are blah, their stadium is blah, and two championships notwithstanding, most of their history is blah. Not once since Robby Alomar was playing for them have I thought "hmm, the Blue Jays might be fun to watch tonight." Aside from about five minutes of piqued interest when they first hired Ricciardi and Law, they have existed in a sucking vortex of "meh" from which, at least in my estimation, they have been unable to escape. I can't ponder this team rationally because they simply make me sad. There. I said it. It's been a long time coming. I am but a man and I have biases, and one of those biases is a profound disinterest in almost all things Blue Jays. I just thought you should know that going forward so you can weigh my comments about them appropriately.

Braves 4, Mets 2: Last week I said that if the Mets didn't go 4-2 against the Yankees and Braves, he would be fired. Well, they went 2-4, plus Willie made an ass of himself and his best player called out the team for "going through the motions." Dead man walking, right? Do I have to go to 11:59:30?

Marlins 4, Diamondbacks 0: Wow, the Dbacks' bats are dead, aren't they? I mean, it's not like Andrew Miller and his 5.87 career ERA made them look this bad all by himself, right?

Yankees 2, Orioles 1: Not their finest game, but the Yankees will take six innings of one run ball from Ian Kennedy any day. Girardi was ejected. Description from the game story: "Girardi certainly got his money's worth for his first ejection as Yankees manager -- he twice threw down his hat and kicked it once." I'm sorry Joe, but that's just sad. If you throw your hat down, you don't pick it up and throw it again because that just makes your little rant look calculated and kinda pathetic.

Red Sox 11, Royals 8: The abbreviated length of the Banny Log says it all. Bannister: (5.1 IP, 12 H, 7 ER). So much for the day game theory.

Rangers 8, Twins 7: Josh Hamilton is having a whale of a season ( .335/.378/.614; 53 RBI in 48 games) and played the hero once again, this time with a 10th inning, game-winning homer. The Rangers, by the way, are 14-7 in May. Will they make noise this year? Nah. But they are playing much better baseball than most people think. This time last year they were 18-31.

Tigers 9, Mariners 2: My great aunt lived a long happy life, but towards the end it was pretty nuts. She'd fade, be given last rites, rebound, seem to turn a corner, suffer another setback, rebound again, etc. etc. She messed with us like that for almost two years before she ultimately went along on her merry way. Thankfully Tigers fans will only have to put up with it for about four more months.

Pirates 8, Brewers 4: Milwaukee had 20 base runners and only four runs. Ick.

White Sox 3, Indians 1: If the Cubs had won eight straight like the White Sox have, there would be features on ESPN and covers on SI and questions as to whether they were the best team ever or merely great. The Chisox? Nothin'. Just first place and no pub at all.

Padres 8, Reds 2: San Diego busts out the whuppin' sticks for once. Griffey hits 598, which means we only have another three or four months until he hits 600 and the Reds can officially cut ties with him.

Phillies 7, Astros 5: Anybody watch this game? Was it really necessary for Charlie Manuel to use 19 players, or is he just one of those guys who tinkers for the heck of it because he's a National League manager, and that's what National League managers are supposed to do?

Thursday, May 22, 2008


"I can accept losing. Not easily, but every team loses here and there. But to go out and give the effort we're giving, to go out and lose without a fight. I just don't think we have the fire I would hope we'd have."

-- David Wright, being diplomatic enough to say that he wasn't talking about Willie Randolph, but quite obviously talking about Willie Randolph.


Non-baseball, but some people may find this interesting: Here's Emily Gould's way, way too long and way, way, too narcissistic account of what it was like to blog for Gawker and then not blog for Gawker anymore, all the while screwing up her personal life and becoming the target of Jimmy Kimmel of all people:

The commenters at Emily Magazine had been like friends. Now, with Gawker’s readers, I was having a different kind of relationship. It wasn’t quite friendship. It was almost something deeper. They were co-workers, sort of, giving me ideas for posts, rewriting my punch lines. They were creeps hitting on me at a bar. They were fans, sycophantically praising even my lamer efforts. They were enemies, articulating my worst fears about my limitations. They were the voices in my head. They could be ignored sometimes. Or, if I let them, they could become my whole world . . .

. . . when talking about how immersed I became in my online life, I’m tempted to use [the language of addiction] because it provides such handy metaphors. It’s easy to compare the initial thrill of evoking an immediate response to a blog post to the rush of getting high, and the diminishing thrills to the process of becoming inured to a drug’s effects. The metaphor is so exact, in fact, that maybe it isn’t a metaphor at all.

I'll admit that the article -- all ten pages of it, so consider this a warning -- was interesting in a voyeuristic way. And of course I have some professional courtesy about what other bloggers think about the blogging game. But man, some people make things way too complicated.

Wake up. Blog. Shower. Work. Blog. Play with kids. Eat. Spend evening with wife. Blog. Sleep. Repeat five times and then enjoy yourself on the weekend.

What's so hard about this?

Replay Coming?

Jayson Stark is reporting that it is:

Major League Baseball is making tentative plans to experiment with instant replay in the Arizona Fall League, according to a baseball official with knowledge of those discussions.

If that experiment proves practical and successful, MLB then is likely to continue the experiment next March during the World Baseball Classic and spring-training games.

If no insurmountable problems arise, baseball could begin using replay -- though only to decide home run calls -- as soon as next season.

What is yet to be determined is whether calls would be reviewed by a "replay umpire" in each stadium, as the National Football League does, or in the MLB offices in New York, a system that would more resemble the National Hockey League.
I suppose that's fine, but I'm not sure how testing replay in small stadiums with no outfield seats and atypical sight lines is going to represent the best test for replay. Why not put it in as a non-binding pilot program in Major League stadiums a la Questec, thereby allowing users to get comfortable with it in a real-life setting (i.e. screaming fans, some semblance of time pressure).

As for the "replay umpire" thing, it seems to me that there are maybe a couple of these disputed calls a week, so dedicating someone at each stadium to replay would be inefficient. As long as they're limiting this to home run calls, MLB should have no problem seeing all of the video at its home base via video feed and dedicate one person to all disputed calls.

Your Million Dollar Idea of the Day: MLB can then use it to promote the Extra Innings package!
[voiceover, cutting to a video of a stressed man in a dark room switching from game to game as umps call in asking him to review video]: "Our replay official is required to keep tabs on every single game."

[cut to video of a couple of guys in a living room drinking beers switching back and forth between exciting games] "Wouldn't you like his job? With the Extra Innings Package you can."

Da da da, dee, dee, dee, and whatever the hell else you want to put in there.

Spy Video

It's a closely-guarded secret, but baseball has its own spygate problems. No one talks about it in public, but if you corner the right insiders, they'll tell you that it's a big problem and getting bigger.

For example, check out this video taken from a recent Padres' batting practice.

The Doomsday Clock Hits 11:58

Wilpon isn't returning Willie Randolph's calls.

So who is Randolph's replacement gonna be? Sure, maybe I'm a bit early, but I like to beat the rush.

Papi's Kid

Exhibit A of why beat writers should be encouraged to blog can be found in Steven Krasner's pregame post from Fenway on the Projo blog:
The Sox designated hitter is throwing batting practice on the field -- to his
son, D'Angelo, who will turn four in July.

Ortiz is tossing the plastic balls in overhand from about 20-25 feet. Unlike his dad, D'Angelo is a right-handed hitter, and he also throws right-handed. He has a fierce upper-cut swing and isn't getting cheated on his hacks.

D'Angelo has made solid contact a few times, and when he does, he drops the bat and circles imaginary bases in the infield between the pitcher's mound and home plate area.

How many cool, yet more or less unimportant things like that happen in the hours before each game? That's the kind of stuff made for blogs (which themselves are cool yet more or less unimportant). There are a handful of newspaper guys out there who do this kind of in-the-moment blogging all year, but you usually see that kind of thing disappear after teams come north from spring training and everyone gets all serious.

Good for the Projo -- which hosts a wonderful Sox blog that, amazingly, remembers that other teams exist too -- for embracing and encouraging it.

Lukas on Piazza

You know Paul Lukas as UniWatch, but based on his Piazza spleen from yesterday, someone at ESPN needs to get this guy a more regular gig, stand back and let him fly. I don't have much bad to say about Piazza, and I disagree with a couple of things Lukas is on about, but there's something to be said for a good, focused rant. And I agree wholeheartedly with this:
When the New York Post implied that Piazza was gay, he held that little
press conference where he declared his heterosexuality. OK, fine. But he missed
a huge opportunity to say, "But what if it was true? What if I was gay? So what?
What if one of my teammates is gay? What if one of YOU is gay? It's no big deal.
Listen, I'm straight, but this whole thing is really a nonissue." In a city with
a huge gay population, that was an opportunity to show some real community
leadership, and he totally spit the bit.

No, it's not Piazza's responsibility to be a spokesman or anything, but that would have been great to hear.

God, I Love Baseball

Reader Sara Kniffen -- who has two young boys and a two month old baby at home, so God knows how she's getting to watch any baseball -- caught the Young/Pujols smackaroony last night and has this to say:
As can be seen in the highlights, while the team gathers around
Young, Adrian Gonzalez leads Pujols a short way from the mound, and (I assume)
they pray together. I'm not a Christian, and I usually get the ookies when
religion and sports performance get conflated, but this act seemed a spontaneous
and genuine response to an unsettling situation. It was nice to see players from
opposing teams comforting each other unselfconsciously. Didn't help
Young's nose, but it did warm my heart a little. God, I love baseball (pun

Thanks Sara. I'm an agnostic, but I greatly respect and am heartened by genuine and spontaneous demonstrations of faith. There's a beauty and wonderfulness to that sort of thing that gives me faith in human nature, even if I don't have any faith in the supernatural.

While we're on the subject, though, I do have a theological question that is a little less reverential than the previous paragraph. Why is it that athletes are so quick to credit God for helping them to catch those touchdowns and hit home runs in tight spots, but no one is suggesting that God was attempting to smite Chris Young for some unknown perfidy?

UPDATE: Commenter Mark Runsvold has officially ended this conversation with what may be the comment of the year:

Chris Young, like a modern-day & human Tower of Babel, is being punished for
trying to reach the heavens.

Bizarro World

Check out the sweet cover art for this week's SI.

Here's a philosophical question: am I a bigger comics geek for getting off on the fact that Mark Bagley did the cover or am I bigger baseball geek for immediately noticing that the Rays and Yankees are wearing the wrong uniforms for a game in Yankee Stadium?

Tie breaker: I noticed that Jeter's name was on the back of his jersey too, and that's just wrong, man.

(link via BTF, where some hardcore comics opinions can be found in the thread for those interested)

Close Reading

In case you forgot how hard it is to play or manage in New York, here's a friendly reminder:
I tried to determine if SportsNet New York creates a negative portrait of Randolph, the Mets’ manager, through its camerawork, as he told The Record of Hackensack, N.J., on Sunday, in an article filled with fulminations, for which he apologized Wednesday.

My answers: yes and no. If the Mets lose, it’s standard procedure to show a manager reacting to what hurts his team or uttering a profanity. If they win, it’s proper to show the manager clapping, fist-bumping, cheering and shouting. Yes, Willie, SNY wants to show you when your pitchers surrender home runs or your fielders make errors.

No, that's not a random blogger at work. That's a full-fledged reporter for the biggest newspaper in the world devoting several hours of viewing and 1000 words to Willie Randolph's body language over the course of two full games.

And That Happened

Braves 11, Mets 4: On Monday, Willie Randolph went and brought up race, which complicates things when you're thinking about firing a guy. Sure, the race thing is all baloney in this context, but no one wants to wade into that stuff if they can avoid it, and holding off on 86ing Randolph is one way to avoid it. Yesterday, however, Randolph backed off of it and said "It's about winning ballgames." Now there can be no excuse for not firing him, right? As for the Braves: it's a wonder what a day off can do for a guy (Francoeur: 3-4, 3B, HR, 4 RBI).

Marlins 3, Diamondbacks 1: Brandon Webb was going to lose eventually, right? He still pitched pretty well, though (7 IP, 6 H, 3 ER, 7K, 0BB). It's just that Ricky Nolasco pitched better (7 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 7K).

Red Sox 6, Royals 3: Bartolo Colon is back. Nothing special -- 5 IP, 6 H, 2 ER -- but that's often enough with the lineup behind him and against the lineup he had in front of him. Now that I think about it, having Brett Tomko as the opposing pitcher is pretty helpful too. Let's just call it a perfect Bartolo storm.

Yankees 8, Orioles 0: Man, they needed that. Rasner impresses (7 IP, 5 H, 0 ER). Chamberlain pitches two innings of relief as a means of stretching out his arm so as to get him ready for starting. So basically, Kennedy/Hughes is Rasner/Chamberlain, and could have been Rasner/Chamberlain/Santana, but I suppose we're past that now. In other news, a crew working the Yankee game gets the second home run call wrong in four nights -- this time robbing A-Rod -- so keep your replay talking points handy.

A's 9, Rays 1: We're just over a year out from Jack Cust's coming out party, and here he is heating up again (game: 2-4, 2 HR, 4 RBI; month of May before last night's hit parade: .328/.473/.586).

Brewers 4, Pirates 1: Ben Sheets throws a 123-pitch complete game. I can't think of anything that sends a clearer message regarding how little you trust your bullpen than sending out your somewhat injury prone messiah for the ninth inning with a three run lead.

Rangers 10, Twins 1: They say that revenge is a dish best served cold. Sidney Ponson prefers his served warm with hot fudge, nuts, and caramel sauce on it, but it's still revenge to him: CG, 6 H, 1 ER against the team that released him a year ago.

Phillies 12, Nats 2: It has to be frustrating as hell to be stymied by someone old enough to be your dad (Moyer: 6 IP, 7 H, 0 ER).

Tigers 9, Mariners 4: starters Jarrod Washburn and Kenny Rogers combine for 7.2 IP, 20 H, and 13 ER. Sounds like crisp little humdinger of a game they had there.

Cardinals 11, Padres 3: Albert Pujols was a one man wrecking crew. Literally: he broke Chris Young's nose with a line drive and sprained Josh Bard's ankle two batters later when he slid into home plate. Tony La Russa on Young: "If he weren't so tall, the ball would have gone into center field." You know Tony, we were all thinking it, but you didn't have to say it.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Programming Note

Mrs. Shyster has a stomach flu or something, so I am home today chasing kids while simultaneously trying to avoid malpractice in about four cases. I'll probably get the wife healthy and keep the kids safe, but it's hard to say what will happen to my career. Alas.

Anyway, as a result of all of this there may not be any other posts today.


Catching Up With Harold Reynolds

Now that his lawsuit against ESPN is in the rear view mirror, Harold Reynolds is on SNY and he seems pretty happy about it. This part struck me:
He sued ESPN in state court in Hartford for wrongful termination, refusing to let the Bristol empire halt his career — he had just signed a six-year, $4.9 million deal — without challenging the accusations. Now he is certain that he would not have the SNY job, or one at, which hired him last year while the case was in litigation, if he had not sued.

“A lot of people said, ‘You might be putting your career at risk,’ ” he said Friday night. “I felt I didn’t have a choice. I didn’t think it would fade away. I had to stand up and fight. I calculated the costs and I did what I had to do . . . I felt like I had to do what I was doing. After a while, litigation becomes a part of your life.”
I often tell prospective clients that it's never a good move to bank everything on a lawsuit panning out. Don't plan around it. Don't count on it. Litigation is a means of redressing past wrongs, and if you view it as a means of improving the future, you're very likely to be disappointed. Lawsuits -- even the righteous ones -- are no fun, and they almost always end on an ambivalent note. That's mostly because the vast majority of them settle, and as any lawyer can tell you, the definition of a fair settlement is one in which both parties walk away unhappy.

But in this case I think Reynolds is on to something. Not on the merits of the suit -- I don't know a thing about them and have no desire to pass on them here -- but on what the suit meant for his profile and professional future.

I've always liked Reynolds, but it struck me that he received a bit more praise than he probably deserved following his termination from ESPN. Like one of those Veterans Committee Hall of Famers, I got the sense that people were saying things about him once he was gone that they never said about him when he was still on the air. In some circles he was cited as the only reason people watched Baseball Tonight, which seemed ridiculous to me given how much Gammons and Ravech brought to the table.

I believe that Reynolds was credited with insight and analytical abilities that, with all due respect to him, weren't really all that special. Don't get me wrong: Reynolds was a net positive for the show, but in my mind, most of his value came from not having a shtick and generally seeming likable, honest, and humble. Those things are great and in shorter supply than we'd all like, but they didn't make him a transcendent analyst. Chris Singleton seems to be doing that now. There are others who, if given the chance, could probably do that just as well.

I think the uber-praise for Reynolds was mostly a function of choosing his litigation targets wisely. As the recent support for Bill Simmons' sit-down-strike over at Deadspin indicates, there are folks out there who are always willing to take the the-enemy-of-my-enemy-is-my-friend position. Simmons' name was mud among Deadspin commenters for years, and now that he's seen as "taking on" ESPN the sympathy, while clothed in the commenters' typical snark, is palpable.

When Reynolds took on ESPN, people flocked to his corner and, in my mind at least, overstated his talents. If he hadn't sued tWWL, that wouldn't have occurred, and it is not unreasonable to assume that he wouldn't have a job on TV now. Not because people would have given credence to the sexual harassment rumors had he stayed quiet, but because, in all honesty, they wouldn't have thought about Reynolds much at all.