Thursday, July 31, 2008

Alberto Gonzales Comes to Washington!

No, the shortstop. Not the incompetent Attorney-General.

Manny Ramirez to the Dodgers

Wow. I wasn't expecting that. My instant analysis can be found here.

Fremont in Flux

Remember those neat renderings of the A's future home, Cisco Field? Well, they may never get off the drawing board:

Each move that has sent away a familiar face and brought in an untested one, A's executives have said, has been done with the future in mind.

But where that future will take place remains in as much question as ever, especially after owner Lew Wolff told Bay Area News Group he is unsure if the team's attempt to build a state-of-the-art ballpark in Fremont will succeed.

"I don't know. I honestly don't," Wolff said Wednesday when asked if Cisco Field will come to fruition. "But say it doesn't. We're still under a lot of pressure to get a park that is our own. That isn't going to go away. So my hope is that we'll find a way to make it happen. It has not been as easy as I thought it would be" . . .

. . . Wolff acknowledged that [Cisco Field] is closer to limbo than it is reality. Wolff said the team continues to wait for environmental impact reports to be finished and that the need to satisfy several constituencies has slowed the progress. The A's had planned to open their Fremont park in 2011, but that date was pushed back to 2012 in April.

"It is now in flux," Wolff said. "All I can say is we're working hard every day, because our options if we fail, we really haven't thought about those options."
Here are some options: Portland, Las Vegas, Charlotte . . .

Or maybe not. Really, we have probably reached the point where there simply aren't any easy-answer destinations for a team looking to relocate. Potential relocation cities are either too small or too poor, or too unwilling to pony up public funds (yay!) or else are too close to an existing team and the A's are thus (illegally) prevented from moving there.

Upshot: if Wolff can't figure out how to jump through the regulatory hoops that seem to be standing between the A's and Fremont, they may be in Oakland for a long, long time.

Good seats still available.

Kevin Costner on Working With Kids

This is kinda baseball. In an interview with Kevin Costner -- which, by the way, includes his memories of announcing the lineups for the 1999 All-Star Game in Fenway -- he talks about working with some new child actor in some new movie he has coming out about which I don't care because it doesn't have to do with baseball:

A big part of the film is Bud’s relationship with his daughter, played by newcomer Madeline Carroll. Costner has worked with quite a few young actors. “I don’t talk down to kids,” says Costner. “I deal with them. Whether I’m dealing with them empathetically or whether I’m having to hit one in the face in ‘3,000 Miles to Graceland.’ ”
This reminded me of one of my favorite bits of "Bull Durham" trivia, which involves one of my favorite scenes in the movie. From IMDb's trivia page:

In the scene where the batboy tells Crash Davis "Get a hit, Crash", Kevin Costner ad-libbed the response of "Shut up." Since the kid actor playing the batboy obviously didn't know this response was coming, he started crying.
But thank goodness he didn't talk down to him.

Bet You Didn't Know This

At least non-Giants' fans didn't:

When the 6-foot-4, 195-pound Eugene Macalalag Espineli made his debut with San Francisco on July 23 with 0.2 innings of perfect relief against the visiting Washington Nationals, many believe he became the first full-blooded Filipino to ever play in the Major Leagues.

Other baseball players with Filipino heritage include Bobby Balcena, Bobby Chouinard and Brandon Villafuerte.
Best part about Geno, however, has to be the old-school stirrup socks, of which there is a nifty picture in the article. I heard Paul Lukas has an 18x20" glossy of that photo hanging above his desk. Not that that's a bad thing.

Shoulda Done it Yesterday

The Twins may finally come around:

The Twins are exploring potential deals as today's 3 p.m. non-waiver trading deadline approaches, but the biggest move they might make is adding lefthander Francisco Liriano to the major league roster.

According to a person with knowledge of trade talks, Liriano could be added to the roster in the next few days. How the Twins would make room for their former phenom remains to be seen.
Remains to be seen? I think Twins fans saw plenty last night.

Griffey to the ChiSox

Why doesn't anybody say "ChiSox" anymore? I used to see that all the time. Anyway:

The Reds have traded Ken Griffey to the White Sox. No word on what is coming back [cough!] PTBNL [cough!]. As a 10-5 guy, the deal awaits Griffey's approval.

So Ozzie, where you gonna play him? Thome is at DH, and Quentin and Dye have the corners. If you say "center," I am going to have to stop the conversation immediately, because I will have two very important things to do: (a) order the Extra Innings package so I can see every White Sox game going forward because high comedy like Griffey in center doesn't come along every day; and (b) buy some stock in the company that makes those big 'ol bandages guys wrap around their injured hamstrings.

UPDATE: Griffey has approved the deal. Who's coming back to Cincinnati is still up in the air. A guy in my office told me that Colin Cowherd said on the radio that the Sox were sending back Nick Swisher. Which would be absolutely stupid of course, but then again consider the source. I think Cowherd was getting it mixed up with an earlier report that reliever Nick Massett was to be included.

The Reds and Rays Talk Dunn

Jayson Stark reports that there are some rumblings about an Adam Dunn to the Rays deal. That's great and all, but I'm more amused by the report itself than any putative trade:

The Reds and Rays talked Wednesday night about a deal that would send Adam Dunn to Tampa Bay. According to a source with knowledge of the discussions, those talks haven't yet moved beyond the conversation stage.
If "talks" move beyond the "conversation stage" they cease to be "talks," don't they?

Could Be A Big Day

The current squawk has a three-way deal happening between the Red Sox, Pirates, and Marlins, that basically has Manny going to Florida, Jason Bay going to Boston, Jeremy Hermida going to Pittsburgh, and a lot of cash and prospects moving all over the place to spackle in the cracks.

The prospects and spare parts of this deal will ultimately determine how it looks long-term for everyone involved, but I have a hard time believing that the Red Sox have a better shot to win the World Series this season with Jason Bay as opposed to Manny Ramirez. I know he's crazy and all, but he's been crazy for a long time and it had worked out just fine.

All that said, I have this feeling that, if it happens, we'll look back on this deal in a few years and remember it as the day the Pirates turned the corner more than anything else. No, I have no idea about what prospects may go their way here, but it strikes me that when the first team in a three-way deal is trying to unload a headache, and the second team in the three-way deal is trying to rent a player in order to go for broke, the third team in that deal stands a pretty good chance of benefiting from the emotional inefficiencies involved.

It's Tommy John Surgery for Hudson

When you hear that your team's ace is scheduled to visit Dr. James Andrews, you can pretty much expect the worse. If you're a Braves' fan, the worst has been confirmed, as Tim Hudson has been advised to have the old TJ surgery for a torn ulnar collateral ligament. Hudson, however, has a case of Jorge Posada Machismo syndrome:

Two doctors have advised Tim Hudson to have ligament-transplant elbow surgery, but the Braves pitcher will wait a week before making a deciding whether to have the procedure that would keep him out for the rest of this season and most of 2009 . . .

. . . "Gonna see how it feels this week and make a decision," Hudson said in a text message Wednesday night. Surgery appears inevitable, but the Braves said Hudson wants to be convinced it's necessary.
Thank you for your third opinion, Dr. Hudson. Now hold still and let the nice men with the medical degrees slice your arm open.

For the record, Hudson is under contract with the Braves through the end of next season. Given the 12-month recovery period -- and given Dr. Hudson's decision to delay it for an indefinite period of time -- it appears likely that we have seen the last pitches ever thrown by Hudson in a Braves uniform.

And That Happened

Cubs 7, Brewers 2: Bottom of the fifth, one out, Jason Kendall on first, pitcher Manny Parra at the plate. Kendell is gunned down by Henry Blanco as he's trying to steal second, and he was out by a country mile. Next pitch, Parra triples to deep left center, but with two outs it will take a hit to score him, thus tying the game up. It doesn't happen, though, as Ray Durham grounds out meekly. Why is Ned Yost stealing there? Parra had already doubled once in this game, so you know he came to the park with his hittin' pants last night. For his part, Kendall is a sub-50% base stealer over the course of his career. I'm not a true believer in the big Mo, but I have to wonder if the shape of the game doesn't change there in the fifth if Parra had knocked in Kendall with that triple instead of simply tuckering himself out for nothin', which is what he did.

But Kendall wasn't just a menace on the basepaths. Reader Chris H. -- who is quickly becoming my Cubs-Brewers correspondent -- has this to say about Jason's defense:
The outfielders don't have to worry because their sub-par play was overshadowed by the utter incompetence that is Jason Kendall. The Cubs have pretty much run with impunity on him, and while Bob Brenly keeps mentioning that Jason's caught-stealing rate was 43% coming into this game, history tells us that Jason can't throw out yesterday's newspaper.

Then there was the terrific play where Reed Johnson swings and misses a wild pitch, then doesn't realize it for a couple of moments, and then still makes it to first ahead of Kendall's throw...well, you just have to wonder when Kendall's going to retire.

Surely there must be one of the Flying Molina Brothers around somewhere that the Brew Crew can acquire or something.
Patience, Chris. MLB Genetics is working on the problem, but it's not anticipated that each team will have access to its own Molina until at least 2011.

White Sox 8, Twins 3: Because it would be a terrible thing to be in first place, the Twins brass decides to stick with Livan Hernandez when there's an ace waiting to be sprung in Francisco Liriano. The results are predictable: 4 IP, 9 H, 5 ER. Free Francisco Liriano!

Tigers 14, Indians 12
: Remember when these two teams -- and not the Twins and White Sox -- were supposed to battle for the AL Central? 'Twas not to be. Instead, two of the league's worst bullpens face off with predictably ugly results.

Yankees 13, Orioles 3: Abreu after the game: "I don't really like too much the DH. It's one of the ways to get a day off. I had a good day, but I don't like the DH." Well, it certainly likes him (3-4, 2 HR, 3 RBI).

Royals 4, A's 3: Kansas City sweeps the A's. Not to take anything away from the Royals here, but that pretty much has to be the low point of the season for Oakland, right? From the game notes: "[Frank] Thomas, out since May 29 with right quadriceps tendinitis, faced reliever Keith Foulke in a simulated game Wednesday and afterward declared himself ready." I understand how pitchers simulate a game -- you basically throw off a mound and pretend certain things happen as a result of those pitches. But how does a DH like Thomas simulate a game? You're either hitting or you're not, right? How can anything he did in that "simulation" be anything other than BP or something that, for all practical purposes, is a real game?

Angels 9, Red Sox 2: Mark Teixeira goes 0-4 with a couple of strikeouts in his first action with the Angels. Ya gotta cut the new kid some slack, though. He's still learning his class schedule and who his teachers are and everything. Luckily the older kid who's been around for a long time took up the slack (4-5, 2B, HR, 4 RBI).

Marlins 7, Mets 5 -- Phillies 8, Nationals 5: a game and a half separates the three NL East contenders. I've got a feeling this one is gonna come down to the last weekend. None of these teams are so good or so bad to separate themselves in the next two months. Even the addition of Manny Ramirez won't make the Marlins prohibitive favorites the rest of the way. The beauty of this, as Neyer pointed out the other day, is that because the Cubs and Brewers are playing so well, there's a real chance that the East will be winner take all, loser go home, with no wild card to save them.

Rockies 7, Pirates 4: Wow, Aaron Cook has 14 wins? I had no idea.

Cardinals 7, Braves 2: Chris Carpenter returns to action for the first time since April 2007, and pitches four effective innings, which can only be a good sign for the Cardinals' playoff hopes. For the Braves, Casey Kotchman is the new guy too, and he goes 0-5.

Rays 3, Blue Jays 2: The All-Star break certainly came at a good time for Tampa Bay. Entering it on a seven game skid, they have emerged 8-5 after the break.

Rangers 4, Mariners 3: I've always been a little so-so on Michael Young. I think he got more love than he probably deserved because he replaced A-Rod, and I've always had a sneaking suspicion that there was some Great White Hope dynamic going on with him. Don't get me wrong -- I like him, and think he's a really good player -- but I just couldn't get as enthused about him as some people seemed to be a couple of years ago. Maybe I should reconsider, because he's a pretty tough dude: he had his broken finger on ice in the clubhouse, sees it's a close game, puts on his uniform because he may get a chance to pinch hit, goes in, and delivers the go-ahead run. I broke my finger once. I walked with a fake limp for a week for some reason and claimed the inability to do anything except watch X-Files DVDs all day.

Reds 9, Astros 5: Dunn and Griffey combine for three homers and five RBI, giving us a glimpse of just how awesome the attack of the 2003 Reds could have been.

Diamondbacks 7, Padres 3: -- Dodgers 4, Giants 0: I guess if we ignore the records up to this point and just pay attention to the Dbacks-Dodgers horse race, the NL West can be enjoyed.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Brian Sabean Hasn't a Clue

I decided to bring one of my favorite ShysterBall hobbies -- trashing Brian Sabean -- to FanHouse.

Rockin' at Shea Stadium

We all know about the Beatles and, unfortunately, Billy Joel, but a lot of other musicians played Shea Stadium gigs over the years, and here's a nice little rundown of them.

Anybody but Repoz will be very surprised to read what concert bill sold out Shea Stadium faster than the Beatles did.

Mark Cuban Has Nice References

NBA Commissioner David Stern, when asked his opinion of Mark Cuban's bid to join the ranks of baseball ownership: "They should welcome him."

A commenter on the linked blog post is probably right when he says that Stern is only supporting Cuban here in the hopes that, should he become the owner of the Cubs, he'll pay less attention to his basketball assets . . .

Two Cubans Fly the Coop

Two Cuban ballplayers participating in a junior tournament in Canada -- pitcher Noel Arguelles and infielder Jose Iglesias -- have either (a) gotten lost in the urban jungles of Edmonton; or (b) will soon sign with agents and turn up at a minor league stadium near you:

Both players showed up at a team meal late Sunday afternoon at the University of Alberta campus, where they were staying. When the players boarded a bus for their game against Canada that evening, there were two empty seats.

No one knows where Arguelles and Iglesias went, but tournament chairman Ron Hayter said everyone around the tournament has a pretty good idea.
Well, there is some controversy about that. Cuban officials have unequivocally told tournament organizers that the players planned to park off of the east coast of the United States and fire their missiles. The Cubans have thus asked for organizers' help in destroying the ballplayers. A resourceful young baseball analyst, however, claims that they are trying to defect.

Sources indicate that the next step in this ongoing saga will be determined by whether or not the ballplayers pull any Crazy Ivans.

The Logistics of a Trade

The L.A. Times' Bill Shaikin has what is essentially the no-brainer CW on the Teixeira trade: If the Angels win the pennant, it's a success, if they don't, it's a failure. I can't say I disagree with that, nor can I disagree with the Angels making the move. We're all gonna die some day. Go for it when it makes sense, right?

But that doesn't interest me too much, nor do most post-trade breakdowns, really, because there usually isn't a lot of mystery, intrigue, or uncertainty in the aftermath of most of them. The climax, if you will, of any trade story is when the GMs actually pull the trigger. After that I'd prefer to simply watch the games to see what happens as opposed to talk about what may or may not happen.

One thing that does interest me about trades, and about which I really have no clue, are the micro-level logistics involved with getting player A to team B and vice-versa.

The Braves were at home and the Angels were visiting the Red Sox when the deal went down, so out of the gate, the teams have to fly Teixeira to Boston and Kotchman to Atlanta. That's easy. For Teixeira, he need only pack as though he were going on a road trip -- albeit a quick, short notice one -- and Kotchman, already on a road trip, need only grab his stuff from the hotel. It's like, three phone calls max.

But how do each of these guys get, say, the junk they need from their in-season homes to their new cities? I'm guessing the teams send flunkies who interface with either a wife or the player themselves by phone to determine what stays and what goes, but how does this work exactly? It would make more sense for Atlanta people to handle Teixeria's stuff, but he's the Angels' property now. What if he has ten times more junk that needs to move than Kotchman? Shouldn't the Angels pay for that? And how are living quarters arranged for in each players' new cities? Do they go to the same kind of corporate mid-term housing that consultants stay in for that two-month project in Fort Worth, or do the new teams put them up in a suite at the Ritz? Does this change at all depending on the stature of the player?

I'm sure there is some simple and obvious protocol for this, and I suppose it's all governed by the CBA on some level. I just don't know what actually happens, and I'm curious. The last time I recall ever reading anything about it was when Bouton described his trade to the Astros in Ball Four. My guess is that a lot has changed since then.

I know a lot of people affiliated with teams lurk around here. Any of you want to drop me an email or a comment about how this works? If you feel like being effusive, I'll even give you a guest post about it. I realize that this all may be fairly unimportant in the grand scheme of things, but ShysterBall readers are curious about the workings of the universe, and inquiring minds want to know.

UPDATE: For those who didn't see it in the comments, here's an article from Sunday's Washington Post in which players talk about how trades disrupt their lives and offers a few glimpses into the questions raised above. (thanks to Kevin)


John Maine's status may not be certain, but at least it's not severe.

An MRI taken Tuesday revealed that Maine has a mild strain of his right rotator cuff. He is day-to-day and will rejoin the Mets in Houston, though the team did not immediately reveal whether or not Maine will make his scheduled Sunday start against the Astros.
I think I speak for everyone when I say that the only reason I am aware of what a rotator cuff is is because I have read about problem rotator cuffs ending the seasons and/or careers of athletes on a fairly regular basis over the past twenty years. I'm no doctor so I'm not really questioning the diagnosis here, but I am struggling to recall any instance in which an issue with a rotator cuff was blown off casually like this, as though it were a deep bruise or back spasms or something.

Manny to Philly?

That's the rumor, anyway:
It isn't yet known what players Boston seeks in a potential trade with the Phillies. However, left fielder Pat Burrell is having a similar year statistically (.277/.400/.585 with 26 HRs and 61 RBIs in 103 games for Burrell; .304/.400/.538 with 20 HRs and 68 RBIs in 98 games for Ramirez) and could be a logical fit. Like Ramirez, Burrell has a no-trade clause. In the past, Burrell has indicated a willingness to waive his no-trade provision only to go to Boston or the Yankees.
I guess what makes me scratch my head here is the notion -- repeated in the article -- that Manny has trouble playing in a city that is as "baseball intense" as Boston. If that's the case what, exactly, does he think is going to greet him in Philly?

That aside, I would kinda like to see that trade, simply for the spectacle of it all. Sending Manny to Los Angeles or exiling him in Miami -- two other possible destinations mentioned in the article -- just wouldn't be as entertaining for fans absent a rooting interest in the teams involved.

And really, that's how I'm planning on coping with the Braves' implosion this year: reveling in the fact that I need not worry about the competitive implications for my team of any of the big trades going down, at least now that the Teixeira trade is done. The Mets and Phillies pick up big bats or a rent-an-ace? Who cares? Entertain me!


There's reason for joy when the governor calls just before they put the needle in your arm, but how are you supposed to feel if the plunger on the syringe is halfway down when that phone rings? That's kind of what's happening with Tiger Stadium right now. A month after bulldozers starting carving out the old ballpark's heart, a tentative deal is in place giving the preservationists more time to to try and figure out how to save at least a portion of it:
After about two hours of haggling between preservationists and the Detroit Economic Growth Corp, Council President Kenneth Cockrel Jr. sent both groups into a private room and asked them to work something out. The result was a new agreement in which preservationists must create escrow accounts of $300,000 and $69,000 by Aug. 8, when the issue will be brought back to council.

The Old Tiger Stadium Conservancy, a preservation group, also must get complete funding for a museum in place by March 1, 2009, under the agreement. The amount needed is about $15.6 million. The plan includes preserving the baseball diamond and 3,000 seats, and building a museum.

I suppose that's better than nothing, but of the fact remains that the Conservancy had all kinds of time to get that money together in the first place, but never did. Will they pull it off this time? Maybe. The images of a half-gutted Stadium may spur new donations that the mere fears of bulldozers could not for the past couple of years, but there are obviously no guarantees.

And if they don't? The longest disembowelment in recorded history will continue next spring.

And That Happened

Angels 6, Red Sox 2: Two outs away from a no-hitter and John Lackey doesn't even get the shutout, but a great performance it was all the same (CG, 2 H, 2 ER). And now, with the addition of Teixeira, the rest of the American League will witness the firepower of this fully ARMED and OPERATIONAL ballclub!

Cubs 7, Brewers 1: Ben Sheets was knocked around and Carlos Zambrano was dominant (8 IP, 5 H, 0 ER, 9K). According to reader Chris H. who watched the game, there was a serious lack of hustle on the part of the Brewers:
The box score won't show it, but the Brewers outfielders really look demoralized out there. Several of the runs scored tonight have been gifts, and in particular I think Ryan Braun is going to need an extra couple hours of sleep tonight, because by the 7th inning he seems to be loping rather than running. Oh, and Corey Hart totally handed Theriot a triple by jogging after a fly ball and basically watching it roll past him. Seriously, I think they're drugged or something.
Anyone else feel that way? If that's the case, don't you pretty much have to blame Ned Yost for letting his team come out flat and loaf in what is the most important series of the year so far?

Astros 6, Reds 2: Fifth loss in a row for the Redlegs. That probably doesn't matter because their season is lost anyway. What does matter is that a couple of guys you know they'd like to shop -- Dunn and Arroyo -- each put up stink bombs, with one going 0-4 with no walks and the other giving up six runs on eight hits in six and a third. As for Houston, the buy-now Astros creep to within 12.5 games of the Cubs, biding their time . . . biding their time.

Rays 3, Jays 0: So much drama in Boston has obscured the fact that the Rays aren't giving up the division, especially to a bunch of dysfunctional babies like the Red Sox. Matt Garza threw a five hit shutout, beating Roy Halladay who, you may have noticed, is pretty good himself.

Mets 4, Marlins 1: The Mets are understandably upset that Teixeira was traded to an AL team on the west coast because now they'll have to buy more expensive plane tickets to get the guys they have scouting him for the inevitable free agent signing. Or at least that's the kind of thing I was reading on a couple of Mets' sites last night. Really, one commenter was saying something like "the worry is that Teixeira is gonna fall in love with the California lifestyle and not wanna come to New York," like it's a fait acompli or something.

Orioles 7, Yankees 6: Attention Yankees fans: Carl Pavano made a rehab appearance down at Class A last night. He struck out four and allowed one hit in two scoreless innings. And you know what? A couple more Sidney Ponson and Darrell Rasner starts, you won't even boo him when he finally pitches a game for the Bombers.

Twins 6, White Sox 5: Another Twins win, and just like that, this race is this race is hotter than a Times Square Rolex! It's as thin as turnip soup! But there's a long way to go, and if you try to read the tea leaves before the cup is done, you're gonna get yourself burned! OK, that had nothing to do with this game. I'm just starting to get a little excited about election season, and I wanted to whip out some Ratherisms.

Rangers 11, Mariners 10: There were 22 21 runs (idiot), 33 hits, and 8 pitching changes in this one. If it weren't for the fact that no one was taking a walk, it could have gone on all night. Bonus: Ichiro notched his 3000th career hit. I think that there's a decent chance that he'll hang around long enough to get 3,000 in the U.S. alone -- doesn't he remind you of Pete Rose on some vague level? -- but if he doesn't, I'll be curious to see how your average BBWAA member views the Japanese component of these 3,000 for Hall of Fame purposes.

Phillies 3, Nats 1: Before any Phillies fans get the idea that Brett Myers is all better now, remember that the team he shut down for seven innings last night has only scored three runs in its last five games.

Pirates 6, Rockies 4: There are some folks out there -- mostly in the Rockies' front office, I think -- who believe that this team has another run in them a la 2007. Worth noting that, 108 games in last year, Colorado was only 3.5 out and was playing above-.500 ball. Also worth noting is that as late as September 16th last year, their deficit in the NL West -- 6.5 games -- was about the same that it is now. I don't think anyone's ever going to get rich gambling on white-hot streaks, but given how bad everyone in this division is capable of playing, it's too late to close the books on the possibility.

Cardinals 8, Braves 3: As evidence of just how nightmarish a season this has become for the Braves, I give you Mark Kotsay, batting third. By the way, Jeff Francoeur was the only Braves player who got into the game last night who was on the team the last time they made the playoffs.

Tigers 8, Indians 3: The Casey Blake trade has created a tremendous opportunity for Andy Marte. After years of failing to live up to the potential with which he was once credited, he basically has 2/3 of a season with no pressure and no competition for the Indians' third base job. Even moderate production over that time will ensure his future employment in Cleveland, because quite frankly, they need him. Since the trade,
Marte has gone something like 2-15 with a single extra-base hit. Marte will never be handed an opportunity like this again, yet here he is, blowing it.

Diamondbacks 3, Padres 0: Doug Davis -- who took a perfecto into the seventh -- was the story here, but Alex Romero's back-to-the-plate catch of a deep fly to right center in the bottom of the eighth was the play of the game. Fire up the video highlight mechanism of your choice to get a look at it.

Royals 5, A's 2: Remember back in the day when Kansas City used to send all of its good players to Oakland this time of year? I kinda miss that.

Dodgers 2, Giants 0: The Dodgers keep pace with the Dbacks via a surprising (at least to me) start from Jason Johnson of all people, who shut the Giants out and didn't walk anyone over six innings. I remember when Johnson came up, and have always had a vague awareness of his presence in the Major Leagues, but I don't think I could tell you when he played for who at basically any time over the course of his career. I love unexpected goodness from journeymen starters for some reason. Always have.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Did I mention I love knucklers?

There was absolutely nothing at all funny about Joe Neikro dying of a brain aneurysm at the age of 61, but there is something very amusing -- and sweet -- about the name of the fundraising gala his daughter Natalie is holding in his honor:

Natalie decided to use her father's famed pitch to battle aneurysms. Her foundation, the Scottsdale-based Joe Niekro Foundation, will hold a fundraiser, the Knuckle Ball, in Houston in September for aneurysm research. Money raised will be donated to Houston's Methodist Neurological Institute.
I'm sorry, but I just had to smile.

It would be even better if the name of the Foundation's governing body was "The Emery Board."

Teams in the Teixeira Mix

Jayson Stark is reporting the following teams to be in the running to land Mark Teixeira: Diamondbacks, Angels, Rays, Red Sox, Dodgers and Yankees. Also, according to Stark:
According to teams in this mix, the Braves aren't necessarily insisting on
getting a first baseman back, but they've made it clear that's their preference.
And if they don't get a first baseman in return, they still are prioritizing a
big league-ready bat as the centerpiece of any trade.

Given that Teixeira will be a free agent for whom no negotiating window will be provided, his value isn't terribly high for trade purposes. The floor is certainly the value of the two picks the Braves would get were they to keep him and let him walk, but are the Dodgers really gonna give up James Loney? Are the Diamondbacks really gonna give up Connor Jackson? Are the Angels really gonna give up Casey Kotchman? All of that seems way too high a price to pay for a guy with a third of a season left under contract, and the alternatives -- the Chad Tracys of the world -- aren't exactly the kinds of players the Braves need to be building around.

I'm kind of a moron when it comes to handicapping trades, so somebody tell me: what can the Braves really expect from these teams? I honestly can't see what teams would reasonably offer for Teixeira, and I really can't see is why the Braves would limit themselves to "first basemen" or "big league-ready bats" when the narrow swath of players that implies would seem to minimize, as opposed to maximize their return.

Challenge Trade!

Rosenthal writes:

Reds left fielder Adam Dunn hit his 30th home run on Monday night, tying the Phillies' Ryan Howard for the major-league lead. His .941 OPS ranks ninth in the NL. And his defense, by most measures, has improved.

Nobody wants him?
If I'm Theo, I call up Jocketty right now and offer a straight-up Manny for Dunner deal. Manny is pro-rata $20M for the rest of the year with club options the Reds can decline. Dunn is $13M pro-rata, with a $500K buyout. If the money is an issue for the Reds, I'm sure Boston would throw a little their way to get the deal done. Dunn would have to approve -- he can list ten clubs to which he would accept a trade -- but I would sincerely hope he would approve a deal to the Red Sox for the chance at a ring, even if his long term future is with the Rangers or something.

I guess the biggest question would be what's in it for the Reds -- they'd probably want to dump Dunn's salary entirely rather than replace it, even for just the rest of the year -- but let's not practicalities get in the way of what would be an amazingly cool trade.

Don't think it's cool? Picture Dunn playing the Monster. Oh, yeah, I told you it was cool.


I hate change, but sometimes you gotta branch out a bit and do something new. As of this morning, I am doing something new: Blogging at FanHouse (f/k/a AOL FanHouse).

This does not mean the end of ShysterBall. Far from it. Things, for the most part, are going to remain the same around here. Each weekday morning will start out with And That Happened and the day, as always, will proceed with the multiple ShysterBall posts you've come to expect. The only difference is that, on occasion, I'll be taking something I would normally post here and putting it on FanHouse instead. I'll link to the FanHouse posts here, so you're really only a click away from the normal ShysterBall experience. How many posts will I shift over to FanHouse? Man, I dunno. I'm playing this by ear, but I'm having a hard time featuring it as more than a couple a day, max. Yeah, they pay per-post, but it's not so much that I'd want to cannibalize this place for it.

So why the change? Exposure, mostly. I've made no secret of the fact that I want to write about baseball for a living someday, and the last I checked, FanHouse was still the most widely-read sports blog on the Internet. Sure, I will be but one tiny voice on what is, for the most part, a very talented roster of bloggers, but I've never been averse to riding to respectability on the coattails of others. From a personal perspective, it's a nice start for me as I make my way into the corrupt, sad, and cynical world of professional sports writing. Can't wait!

But exposure for its own sake isn't a good thing. I've said some critical things about how blogging is handled by large media companies in the past. It's easy to mess it up, and one of the ways it's most commonly messed up by even the traditional online outlets is by being (how should I put this?), too democratic. Hey, it's great that a site like FoxSports will give a blogging platform to anyone who wants one, but there's no avoiding the fact that the hundreds of voices of wildly varying quality at a place like that reflect poorly on the whole operation and in some ways even serve to dilute the product of Fox's true talents such as Dayn Perry, Ken Rosenthal, and others. Blogs shouldn't be ghettos, people -- they should complement and augment the meat and potatoes reporting of a sports site -- and as such, a modicum of QC is in order.

And that's what has drawn me to FanHouse. They first approached me in May, and since that time I've been watching them closely. Well, at least the MLB page, which is all I care about, and I can tell you that they get it right. There are some smart, funny, and insightful people writing about baseball over there, and I am honored -- if a bit intimidated -- to join them. Upshot: The fit is right for me, and I have been convinced that I really don't have to change a thing with respect to my writing voice or my editorial opinions in order to write for them. I do have to change my picture-stealing habits, though, which will take some getting used to. Stupid copyright laws.

So that's that. Like I said, I will link my FanHouse posts here -- true cross-posting is frowned upon -- and if I can ever figure it out, I will try to put my FanHouse author feed on here someplace. But don't just read me. Read Brinson and Watson, and Mullett, and Brennan and Lackey, and Fornelli and the Dugout guys and all of the others over at MLB FanHouse. They're doing good things over there, even if they have to deal with an amateur like me.

Dear Sidney

In case you were not aware, there are Yankees fans out there who really, really don't like Sidney Ponson.

And People Say That Cubs' Fans Aren't Passionate

Fan-on-fan violence: it's not just for the Red Sox and Yankees anymore:
McHenry County authorities say three Chicago Cubs fans face felony battery charges after allegedly beating a Chicago White Sox fan so badly he lost his right eye.

The men are accused of beating 32-year-old Robert Steele of Gurnee during a 2-year-old girl's Sesame Street-themed birthday party.
The girl got off without a beating when she said that she only cared about Da Bears.

As is usually the case with these stories, there's absolutely nothing in this article explaining how the attackers' or the victim's baseball rooting interests had any bearing on the matter. Were they wearing Leon Durham and Chet Lemon throwback jerseys? Did one of the attackers yell "Glory be to the North Side!" before delivering a decisive blow?

And That Happened

Cubs 6, Brewers 4: Thank goodness ESPN didn't inflict this game on us. I mean, it only included multiple lead changes, a gutsy, 130-pitch performance from CC Sabathia, and a ninth inning rally by the Cubs to serve as the dramatic opening salvo to a critical series with serious playoff implications. The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel called it "a riveting contest," that contained "big hits, big plays and a big finish," and apparently Brewer fans were absolutely nuts the whole game, putting an end to the notion of Miller Park being "Wrigley North." But again, thank God I didn't have to see that. If I had, I never would have gotten to see Manny Ramirez for the 126th time since breakfast nor would I have gotten to witness the latest rung on K-Rod's climb to, I dunno, 193 saves.

Twins 7, White Sox 0
: Kevin Slowey dominates the ChiSox, tossing a six hit shutout. Morneau goes 2-3 with a homer and 3 RBI. It occurred to me that if the Twins pass the Sox and win the division, there is a non-trivial chance that Morneau could win his second MVP award in three years. Would he deserve it? Probably not if current stats hold (he didn't deserve it in 2006 either), but he's the big gun who hits .300+ on a team that, no matter how many times they exceed expectations, seems to take everyone by surprise. That's a great way to win over voters.

Indians 5, Tigers 0
: The 1000-run offense gets shut out by Paul Byrd and Ed Mujica.

Blue Jays 3, Rays 1: Is A.J. Burnett going to St. Louis? Hell, I don't know, but if he is, the Jays' asking price may have just gotten higher, as he struck out ten Rays and gave up zero earned runs over seven innings.

Cardinals 12, Braves 3: So Jason Isringhausen is a closer again, eh? Lucky for him he gets to ease into it, because based on how the Braves are going these days, the Cards won't be in a save situation until they leave Atlanta.

Pirates 8, Rockies 4: The Rockies walked nine guys in this game, and that's not gonna lead to many wins. I hate to bring this up in a game they won, but seeing this matchup makes me realize that the last time the Pirates had a .500 season, the Rockies didn't even exist yet.

Angels 7, Red Sox 5: Matsuzaka was cruisin' until he hit the sixth inning where he and Justin Masterson combined to give up half a dozen runs.

Marlins 7, Mets 3: Another Mets' bullpen implosion, this time courtesy of Joe Smith and Scott Schoeneweis, who coughed up five runs. Of course it was simply not possible for Jerry Manuel to bring in his closer during this bloodletting, because it didn't occur in the ninth inning.

Astros 5, Reds 4: Roy Oswalt wasn't spectacular, but he'll take a win in his first outing since July 11th. Whether he should have been pitching in the first place is an open question, but remember, the Astros think they're in a pennant race, so that explains a lot.

Orioles 13, Yankees 4: Adam Jones goes 3-6 with 5 RBI on a triple and a homer. Think the Mariners would like a do-over on that trade? The Yankees runs allowed for the last four games: 0, 3, 9, 14. Tomorrow is gonna be interesting!

Mariners 7, Rangers 5: Michael Young left the game early with a broken finger. Word on the street was that he broke it on purpose because the x-ray room is air-conditioned, and the official game time temp of 101 degrees just ain't worth it, especially with the Mariners in town.

Royals 4, A's 2: Greinke continues to be a bright spot, as he strikes out 11 A's in just over seven innings, backed by an Alex Gordon two-run homer in the 6th. Heh, get me, writin' a straight-up game summary!

Padres 8, Diamondbacks 5: After the game Maddux, out of sheer habit, said "I've just got to keep going out there and giving the team a chance to win, and eventually good things will happen." When reminded that he actually won this one, he said, "Really? Cool."

Giants 7, Dodgers 6: A definite hang-on-for-dear-life win, as the Giants roar out to a 7-0 lead, and then get no-hit over the last five and a third innings while the Dodgers claw back to within one.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Great. The Red Sox. Again.

Can someone please tell me why, after watching the Red Sox play the Yankees on national television for what seems like five days in a row, I once again have the Red Sox in my living room this evening? I spent all day looking forward to the Cubs and Brewers. Anyone with an ounce of sense would be showing the Cubs and Brewers right now. But no, I have the Red Sox again.

Did you hear that Manny is disgruntled?

Did you know that Ortiz is back?

The only way this game becomes interesting to me is if they change the rules in the middle of it to allow the Angels to lose ten games in the standings for a loss, thereby making anything they do at the moment relevant for pennant race purposes.

Did I mention that I was in a bad mood today?

It's Over

Tim Hudson is going to have Tommy John surgery. Well, that hasn't actually been prescribed yet, but his MRI shows elbow ligament damage and he's off to see Dr. James Andrews tomorrow. We all know how that's going to end.

There has not been a Braves season like this in nearly twenty years, but at least back in the 80s there wasn't some semblance of hope like their was with this team, so it was better then somehow. The only good news to report is that the Braves have finally decided to face their fate and have announced that they're accepting offers for Teixeira.

And really, if I'm Frank Wren, I trade Ohman and Kotsay and everything else not nailed down or named McCann, Escobar, Jurrjens, and maybe Johnson and Campillo. I guess you don't/can't trade Chipper because he's basically the Braves' Al Kaline, but if he so much as shrugged uncomfortably I'd seek his approval to ship him off someplace where he could end his career as a winner. Everyone else can go as far as I'm concerned. The whole superstructure can be burnt down.

Final move: retire Bobby Cox back to a senior adviser role in the hopes that he can bring back the heady days of 1986-1990 when he was responsible for the drafting and development of Ron Gant, Tom Glavine, Steve Avery, Pete Smith, David Justice, and Chipper Jones. Likely? No, but I have too much respect for the guy as a manager to make him have to squeeze into that uniform anymore and teach a bunch of kids who were in diapers the last time the Braves had to rebuild.

It's 1984 all over again, Braves Nation. Let's ease into it as quickly yet gracefully as we possibly can and hope that this time our time in the wilderness is shorter than it was before.

MSM Love For MLB Trade Rumors

MLB Trade Rumors' Tim Dierkes -- who somehow finds the time to even stop by here once in a while -- gets a nice profile in the Sun-Times. Seems the lad is doing alright for himself:
Tim Dierkes always gets excited as the July 31 nonwaiver trade deadline approaches, but it will hold extra meaning this year. Dierkes, the founder of MLB Trade Rumors, is expecting to top a million page views Thursday, setting a single day record for his Web site MLB Trade Rumors.

For those of you who lost their MLB Trade Rumors to ShysterBall dictionary, "Thursday" translates to "multiple years" in ShysterBallese. There's more:
Dierkes, a 2004 Illinois graduate who runs the site of out of his home in Roselle, began the site in November 2005 as a hobby. In January, he quit his job in the search-engine marketing field and — with the blessing of his wife, Agnes, and the increased revenue from advertising on his site — works at it full time.
Good for you, Tim! If and when I ever find a way to make money doing this, I'm going to have Mrs. Shyster call Agnes to get tips on how to deal with a husband who doesn't have the decency to get out of her hair once in a damn while.

Not Everything Is Bigger in Texas

While tough economic times don't seem to be hitting baseball's gate too hard overall, the Rangers are experiencing a decline this season:

The team returns to Arlington tonight for the first time since the All-Star Game. Home attendance has averaged about 20 percent less than through the same number of dates in 2007. So far this season, about half of the available tickets have sold for each game on average.
It's a good article exploring just how many different things go into a team's ticket sales. Geography + gas prices and the typical delay you see in on-the-field-performance translating to tickets sold (i.e. don't look to see a Josh Hamilton bump until late in the year or next season) all seem to be sensible explanations to me.

One other thing that interests me is the line in the article about how "Major League Baseball appears immune to the sluggish economy and could set another attendance record this season." Those things don't necessarily go together. How many discount tickets are being sold? How are concessions and souvenirs doing? I ask because (a) I can totally imagine a situation in which attendance stays the same or even increases while revenue goes down a bit; and (b) I am having a hard time imagining that baseball is immune to bad economic times.

Great Moments in Misguided Protests

An environmental group is angry with the Nats for running an ad for ExxonMobil on its outfield wall:
Leaders of Strike Out Exxon, a coalition of environmental, civic and religious groups, say despite the stadium's recognition for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design by the U.S. Green Building Council, the Nationals need to jettison their advertising relationship with Exxon, which has its logo on the left-field wall.

Mike Tidwell, director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network and a leader if Strike Out Exxon, said Exxon's involvement in the park burnishes the image of the worst environmental company on the planet.
Burnishes Exxon's image? That's ridiculous. If anyone should be mad about this association it should be Exxon's shareholders for having the company's valuable product associated with something as ugly and unpopular as Nationals' Baseball.

Going for the Gold

Some people have complained about the Olympics dropping baseball after this go around, but I don't see it as a big loss. I mean really, when the composition of the team is based on who has or has not been designated for assignment recently, the concept of "Citius, Altius, Fortius" ain't exactly being honored. Here's Mets manager Jerry Manuel commenting on what went into the decision to catapult Brandon Knight onto the US Team and onto glory:
"We needed another body"


The West Ain't the Best

Echoing my comments from the Rockies-Reds recap below, the NYT's Billy Witz takes a look at just how bad the NL West is this morning. My favorite quote is less about the division, however, and more about Jeff Kent playing to form in finding something to blame for the futility out there:
“We’re a young division,” said Jeff Kent, the Dodgers’ veteran second baseman. “Most of the players on this team, the Giants, Colorado, Arizona — we’re all very inexperienced teams. There’s a lot of young talent, guys in their mid-20s who have a short time playing together. I think that’s why we’re all trying to hang on to .500.”
For those unfamiliar with his work, Jeff Kent really likes to run down young players. In doing so, he tends to ignore little facts such as the fact that the Dodgers' best offensive players are 23, 24, 25, and 26 years-old, and their best pitcher this year is 23. A couple of big reasons why they're struggling? Their 31 year-old centerfielder, their 30 year-old left fielder, one of their 30 year-old starting pitchers and, oh, their 40 year-old second baseman, all of whom are having below average years.

I'm not saying that the Dodgers' young players are carrying them -- none of them except maybe Russell Martin are playing good enough for that, and one of them has been absolutely killing them -- but to suggest that the kids are the reason why L.A. is under .500 is silly.

The A's Get No Respect

From Bob Nightengale's article about yesterday's Hall of Fame induction, which focuses heavily on Gossage's and even Dick Williams' ties to the Yankees and is framed by Brian Cashman's trip to Cooperstown:
The Yankees could be represented at the Hall of Fame next summer with Rickey Henderson, baseball's all-time stolen base leader, on the ballot.
I have a number of problems with the Hall of Fame, but not one of them would actually keep me from visiting it. One thing that would, however, is if Rickey Henderson is not wearing an A's cap on his Hall of Fame plaque.

It's probably also worth nothing that the article devotes 13 words to Williams' tenure with the A's, where he won back-to-back World Series, and two whole paragraphs to his time with the Red Sox.

And That Happened

Red Sox 9, Yankees 2: L'enfant terrible goes 3-5 with a couple of doubles and a couple of RBI. While I suppose the events of the past few days constitute some new low in Red Sox-Manny relations, it's a difference of degree, not kind. The parties have been through this before. The Sox are going to explore their options, but will soon realize that they're better off playing the rest of the season with Ramirez in left than they are trying to cobble together an outfield in the middle of a three-way pennant race. For his part, Manny will get distracted by a laser pointer or a pinwheel or something soon and forget whatever it is he's pouting about. If I had to place money on it, I'd have the Red Sox trading punches with the Yankees and Rays for the next two months in an effective enough manner to where they'll end up on top, after which they'll slog their way to the World Series once again. Sometime in hour four of Game Five of the ALCS, McCarver will remind us all about this little fracas and say something about how that was "a long, long time ago."

Diamondbacks 7, Giants 2: Randy Johnson wins his fourth in a row, which brings him up to 292 on his career. The Diamondbacks have 58 games left, which means that, assuming he stays healthy, The Big Unit could get 10-11 starts. That makes the odds of him getting to 300 this year pretty darn slim, but I am openly rooting for him to do it anyway. Not because I like him all that much or anything. I just want to read the columns from the guys who just last season said that Tom Glavine would be the last pitcher to ever win 300. Sure, even if he doesn't make it this year Johnson will hang on for one more season to get there, but if we get one more intervening winter, enough time will have elapsed for the dummy columnists to figure out what excuses to make. If it happens the very next season after Glavine, they'll have to write about how just how wrong they were, won't they?

Dodgers 2, Nats 0: My buddy Ethan went to the Nats-Giants game on Thursday. Like this one, it was also a short game in which Washington was shut out. I had said something nice about Matt Cain's performance after that game, but Ethan said "It was definitely a 'failure of hitting' more than a 'triumph of pitching' sort of game." I think recent results bear this out, as the Nats have now scored two runs in the last 36 innings, having been shut out three of four times. Yeah, Matt Cain is good, and Clayton Kershaw is gonna be pretty good, and Derek Lowe's nothin' to sneeze at either, but at some point you just look at an offense like Washington's and say, man, they really really stink.

A's 6, Rangers 5: A's reliever Brad Ziegler has started his career with 27 consecutive scoreless innings, which is a new record. Sources report that Billy Beane is now desperately trying to trade the 28 year-old rookie before he gets too expensive. Milwaukee has offered Oakland its second, fourth, fifth, and ninth ranked prospects plus an undisclosed amount of cash.

Royals 6, Rays 1: After looking at some ink blots, doing a bit of word association, and talking about their mothers, the Royals go out and beat the first place Rays. But it's not the winning that made them sleep better last night. It was the inner peace that came from knowing that they're working on a better them.

Cubs 9, Marlins 6: The Cubs won this one, but have really been struggling lately, having lost seven of their previous ten. All of that will be forgotten, however, if they can take three from Milwaukee over the next four games. And now that I think about it, actually, all of that will be forgotten if Milwaukee cleans their clock too, as the Brewers will be given credit for derailing the Cubs' season, not the Diamondbacks and Marlins.

Astros 11, Brewers 6: It's the return of the Killer Bs, as Blum (2-4, 2 HR 4RBI) and, um, Brad (4-4 2 RBI) put the hurt on Jeff Suppan and a Brewers team that may have been thinking more about the upcoming series against Chicago than this quaint Sunday afternoon affair.

Orioles 5, Angels 2: Sometimes I worry that I give Baltimore short-shrift. I probably know fewer Orioles players than guys on most teams, and I often struggle to find anything all that insightful to say about them. I'm not the only one, however, as for what seems like the umpteenth time this year, the guy responsible for doing the AP game story mentions the Orioles' record on Sundays. As if a one-day-of-the-week streak matters for anything.

Padres 3, Pirates 1: Pittsburgh is swept by the worst team in the majors immediately after completing their annual WTF Trade. Some day there will be a reunion of players who were inexplicably traded by or to the Pirates. They'll all meet in banquet room somewhere and talk about the time their careers intersected with Pittsburgh, not unlike the way alien abductees talk about their experiences. Confusion will rule the day, but there will be serious efforts made by those in attendance to make sense of it all. Guys like Matt Morris and Raul Mondesi will wonder how they every got to Pittsburgh and guys like Xavier Nady, Jason Schmidt, and Aramis Ramirez will wonder why they were shipped out.

Mariners 5, Blue Jays 1: Two of the rarest things in Seattle baseball -- A Mariners win and a decent performance from Jose Vidro -- and Dave Niehaus has to miss it. What a shame.

Tigers 6, White Sox 4: A win here is nice, but Detroit dropped two of three to the White Sox. There's still time to catch up, but people have been saying that all year, and eventually it will cease to be a true statement.

Phillies 12, Braves 10: If this one were any uglier it would've required two bags. The Braves blew a 5-0 lead, then nearly came back from a 12-5 deficit only to fall short, and got their best active player knocked out of the game with a concussion to boot. I have spent the past three or four years complaining about the decline and eventual disappearance of Braves' games from TBS, but you know what? I've actually become pretty cool with it.

Twins 4, Indians 2: Cubs-Brewers is not the only major battle in the Upper Midwest this week. The Twins -- fresh off taking two of three from the Tribe -- now face the White Sox in the dome for four.

Rockies 11, Reds 0: When most teams go on a really hot streak that brings them up to ten games under .500, we call that regression to the mean. When an NL West team does it, we call it a surge. Really, I love how the Rockies can take three from the Reds, still end the series with a record two games behind that of Cincinnati, yet they're still spoken of as a frisky contender. In a just world, any team worse than the Reds would be disqualified from experiencing hope. This is not a just world, however. If it were, the NL West would not exist.

Mets 9, Cardinals 1: Johan Santana (CG, 6 H, 1 ER, 5K) must have read Neyer's post last week about how he never goes long in games and came out yesterday hellbent on shutting him up. Having dropped two of three, the Cardinals Road Trip of Doom continues. They may get well this week, however, as they take a trip to Atlanta where everyone who is good is hurt.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Blake to Los Angeles

Casey Blake will likely be a Dodger by supper time:
The Cleveland Indians are closing in on a trade that would send third baseman/outfielder Casey Blake and cash to the Los Angeles Dodgers for two minor leaguers, according to a source with knowledge of the deal . . .

. . . With the trade of Xavier Nady to the Yankees on Friday, Blake was possibly the most highly sought-after bat on the market. Other teams pursuing him included the Rays, Mets and Phillies.

Those three teams would have played Blake in the outfield. But if the trade goes through he'll become the Dodgers' everyday third baseman, replacing slumping rookies Blake DeWitt and Andy LaRoche.

The Dodgers acquiring Blake is just the latest phase of their master plan to populate the team with nothing but third basemen and outfielders.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Pigs on the Wing

Katie bar the door! Mike Hampton is gonna start tomorrow!
Atlanta Braves pitcher Mike Hampton is scheduled to take the mound against the Phillies on Saturday for his first start in almost three years . . .

. . . Hampton, a two-time All-Star, has been injured before his scheduled start three times this season. Hampton hurt his left groin while pitching in a minor league rehab game with Double-A Mississippi last week, but impressed manager Bobby Cox in a bullpen session Tuesday.
Cox was no doubt impressed by the fact that Hampton didn't spontaneously combust.

I have no idea what's gonna happen tomorrow, but my suggestion is to take any malady from the first list, and match it up with any body part from the second, and you'll stand a pretty decent chance of being correct:

List 1


List 2

Solar Plexus

"Say It Ain't True, Roy"

Just another reminder that the novel The Natural > the movie The Natural.

Keltnerizing Garvey

So Steve Garvey is "waiting for his Hall of Fame call," eh? Well, given that he fell off the ballot recently after never having gained even 50% support -- and given that the Veterans Committee isn't as generous with this sort of thing as it used to be -- he can keep waiting.

And I'll admit that my first impression is "as he should!" Garvey wasn't as good as a lot of people (myself included) thought in the 70s, and offensively speaking, he pales compared to other Hall of Fame first baseman. That, combined with the fact that he's generally considered to be something of a vaguely creepy, over-calculated slickster who hides behind an "oh golly" facade doesn't make a lot of people want to give him the benefit of the doubt.

But Garvey was good, durable, won an MVP award and played in a lot of All-Star games. For these reasons he's a strange and even somewhat thought-provoking case when it comes to Hall of Fame arguments, so it's not a wasted effort to give him the Keltner List treatment.

Was he the best player on his team?

Almost never. Garvey became a mostly everyday player in 1973 and took over first base for the Dodgers full time in 1974. Between 1973 and his retirement following the 1987 season, he cannot fairly be called the best player on his team in any year except one, and it was not his MVP season of 1974. Jimmy Wynn patrolled center for the Dodgers that year, and he was a considerably better hitter, posting an OPS+ of 151 to Garvey's 130. 1975 was a closer call, but there are, I feel, stronger arguments for both Ron Cey and Wynn as being better than Garvey. For the next seven years -- which covers the rest of his Dodger career -- one or all of the following players had better years than Garvey, often substantially better: Cey, Reggie Smith, Dusty Baker, Pedro Guerrero, Fernando Valenzuela, Burt Hooton, and maybe another random pitcher or two.

In 1983 Garvey landed with the Padres, and that year constituted the only year when I feel he has even a close to clear-cut case of being called the best player on his team, though I may be inclined to give you Terry Kennedy on defensive grounds. Of course it was a .500 ballclub without much pitching to speak of and Tony Gwynn only got 300 at bats. Garvey was a below average hitter in the Padres' pennant-winning year, and suffered a precipitous decline in his final three years.

Was he the best player in baseball at his position? Was he the best player in the league at his position?

He may have been the most consistent year-in-year-out -- and he was certainly durable and defensively valuable -- but in any given year there were first basemen better than Garvey, even in his prime. In fact, Steve Garvey's arguably best season -- 1977 -- stands as only the 47th best season in terms of OPS+ for first basemen between 1970 and 1980. Ahead of him include multiple years from guys like Rod Carew, Cecil Cooper, John Mayberry, Tony Perez, Keith Hernandez, Dick Allen, and Andre Thornton, and that's before you get into early 70s years from guys like McCovey and Aaron. If you're defending Garvey you may be inclined to go for the career-value, consistency argument, but you'd still lose if someone remembered to mention Eddie Murray. Sure, he came and bloomed later, but even his early seasons were better than anything a late-prime Garvey was doing.

Was he a good enough player that he could continue to play regularly after passing his prime?

Well, he played regularly after his prime. This, though, is more a function of his fame and the fact that the spotlight-striving Padres signed him as a free agent in 1983 than it is a comment on how deserving he was. You certainly wouldn't be starting him on your fantasy team after, say, 1980, and that's being charitable.

Is he the very best player in baseball history who is not in the Hall of Fame?

Not by damn sight.

Are most players who have comparable career statistics in the Hall of Fame?

Garvey is a bit of an odd duck in that none of his top ten comps score above 900 on James' similarity scores, which means that no one was really all that similar to him. I never really thought of Garvey as being all that different statistically-speaking, but I suppose there aren't a ton of highish-average, moderate power guys who played first base. For what it's worth, only one guy in his top 10 -- Orlando Cepeda -- is in the Hall of Fame. Cepeda's four best seasons are all better than anything Garvey ever did.

Do the player's numbers meet Hall of Fame standards?

No, especially at first base. He would be a considerably below-average Hall of Famer.

Is there any evidence to suggest that the player was significantly better or worse than is suggested by his statistics?

Nothing I can think of points towards him being better than his stats suggest. He was certainly durable -- he holds the NL consecutive games' streak -- but I don't think that really says much. A lot of his perceived value at the time was tied up in his batting average, and as we all know, batting average ain't the stat we thought it was back in the 1970s.

Is he the best player at his position who is eligible for the Hall of Fame but not in?

I'd say Mark McGwire is, wouldn't you? Even if you gave him a 50% haircut for steroids, he'd still be better than Garvey. Lots of guys who have fallen off the ballot -- Will Clark, anyone? -- are much better than Garvey. There are several others, I'm sure, and many new folks will be coming on the ballot in the coming years (e.g. Thomas, Bagwell, Thome, Palmiero), shrinking Garvey's stature even more.

What impact did the player have on baseball history? Was he responsible for any rule changes? Did he introduce any new equipment? Did he change the game in any way?

None that I know of.

Up to this point, many are probably wondering why I'm even wasting my time with this. "Garvey obviously doesn't stack up, statistically-speaking," you're saying, "so why doesn't Craig move on to something else?"

Because Garvey was, well, famous. Indeed, along with Reggie Jackson and Pete Rose, Garvey may have been the most famous ballplayer of what many people consider to be one of the most talent-loaded eras in baseball history. He was always in the All-Star Game -- starring in the All-Star Game in fact -- and came into our living rooms playing meaningful games many an October. While I and most of this audience is stat-centric, is it possible that the stats are missing something here? Let's move on with the Keltner list to see what gives.

Was he ever regarded as the best player in baseball? Did anybody, while he was active, ever suggest that he was the best player in baseball?

If I had time, I'd really like to go back and look at the actual sporting press of the day to see how Garvey was truly spoken of by people who knew what they were talking about, but I know a lot of casual fans -- especially kids my age -- who thought that he was among the best players in baseball. Why? The next couple of questions have a lot to do with that.

How many MVP-type seasons did he have? Did he ever win an MVP award? If not, how many times was he close?

He won one MVP award (1974), was a top-10 finisher four other times, and received votes in four other years beyond that. Maybe a lot of that had to do with the fact that he almost always played on good teams. Maybe some of it had to do with the fact that he was a well-coiffed, milk-and-cookies kind of guy in an era where sportswriters were still weirded out by guys with mustaches, long hair, and, let's face it, dark skin. Whatever the reason, however, we can't escape the fact that Garvey received similar career-MVP support to guys like Sammy Sosa, Kirby Puckett, Gary Sheffield, David Ortiz, Nellie Fox, and many others for whom we regularly make serious Hall of Fame arguments.

How many All-Star-type seasons did he have? How many All-Star games did he play in? Did most of the other players who played in this many go to the Hall of Fame?

Garvey was a ten time All-Star. Was a lot of this based on fame over merit? Sure, but even in the fame game he had competition from guys like Willie Stargell, Tony Perez, and Pete Rose. He took a couple of those appearances away from Keith Hernandez as well, but fans are always a little slow on the uptake as it relates to new stars.

Did he have an impact on a number of pennant races?

Certainly. Garvey played on five pennant winning teams. Overall, he played considerably better in the playoffs than he did in the regular season, posting a career .338/.361/.550 playoff line, though he was much better in the five NLCSs in which he played than he was in the five World Series.

If this man were the best player on his team, would it be likely that the team could win the pennant?

As was demonstrated above, he was basically never the best man on his team. But what if you took the guys who were better than him away? The Dodgers won the West by four games in 1974, ten games in 1977, two-and-a-half games in 1978, and, well, 1981 was messed up, but it was close. I haven't done the figurin', but I'd guess that the Dodgers would still have won in 1974 and 1977, but may not have in 1978 and 1981 if Garvey was the top dog. The 1984 Padres certainly wouldn't have won it with Garvey leading the charge.

I guess what skews this question is the fact that those Dodgers teams had very few weaknesses. Normally speaking, if Garvey was the best player, I don't think his team could win a pennant. But these Dodgers teams certainly won pennants, and probably would have a couple of times even if he was "the best" guy around, because there were so many good guys there too.

Did the player uphold the standards of sportsmanship and character that the Hall of Fame, in its written guidelines, instructs us to consider?

During his playing career he was certainly thought of as a stand up guy possessed of impeccable character. He was harmed quite a bit, however, by the tell-all book his ex-wife wrote a couple of years following his retirement, and the revelations of the kids he had out of wedlock. My sense is that a lot of players could have weathered this pretty well all things being equal, but considering how much of a poster boy for the league Garvey was, he was understandably hit much harder than others.

So is Garvey a Hall of Famer? Not in my book, and based on his historical vote totals, not in anyone else's either. The performance was just never there, and that's most of the case as far as I'm concerned.

But it's not all of the case. Garvey's example is instructive, because he certainly had a lot of support from fans and baseball writers during his career, and may very well have come close to the Hall of Fame -- hell, he may have become the Governor of California -- if he could have kept his fly zipped. In this (the fame, not the shenanigans) Garvey may set an example for some more recent players -- Bernie Williams springs to mind; there will no doubt be others -- whose stats by no means constitute a slam dunk, but who will really test what the word "Fame" means in Hall of Fame.

The 1983 O's

The last Orioles team to win it all got together for a tribute last night. Kind of like my thing with Mike Mussina that I mentioned yesterday, that 1983 Orioles team always snags me for half a second when I'm running down past World Series winners. I never forget them, really, but they don't spring to mind as readily as just about any other post-War World Champion.

Which is kinda strange, because I watched and listened to A LOT of American League baseball in 1983. As I sit here looking back on that team, however, I am surprised to see names like Aurelio Rodriguez and Tito Landrum on the roster. Sure, they played really minor roles, but I remember similar minor players for other teams of that era (Omar Moreno and Matt Keough on the Yankees, anyone?).

Maybe my blind spots are Baltimore-specific. I dunno.

And That Happened

Giants 1, Nats 0: That's how you play a game on getaway day! The teams combined for 11 hits and no walks, and the whole deal was done in two hours on the nose. Cain pitched a four hit shutout, and the only Giants' run came on an eighth inning sequence of single/sacrifice/single that had fundamental-loving traditionalists pitching tents in their sansabelt slacks.

Mets 3, Phillies 1
: Talk about not getting a win you deserve: Oliver Perez (7.2 IP, 6 H, 1 ER, 12K) shuts the Phillies down, but gets in a jam in the eighth, makes way for Aaron Heilman who throws three pitches, and then who goes on to claim the win for himself when the Mets rally in the bottom of the inning. Of course the real culprit was the Mets' offense, who couldn't do a thing against Old Man Moyer, but a win's a win, and the Mets are now all alone in first place.

Blue Jays 7, Orioles 1: Lots of dominant pitching performances yesterday, no? Halladay gives up one run over seven, making quick work of the O's. Yesterday lots of folks were reporting that the Jays were shopping Halladay. Late in the day the Jays denied it. If I had to guess, they are shopping him, as any team in their position should be given the kinds of returns teams are getting for starters this year. Sabathia, Harden, and Bedard all brought back value, and given how well Sabathia has pitched in particular, you can bet that there are some teams out there thinking about how to get the same kind of magic on their side.

Blue Jays 5, Orioles 1: Because this was the continuation of the suspended game, A.J. Burnett picked up a win some 14 hours after the game began. Such a thing hasn't happened since Steve Trachsel was DFA'd last month.

Pirates 9, Padres 1: The Padres were blanked for six innings by a 27 year-old rookie who, before this game, had given up 13 earned runs on 19 hits in his previous six innings over the course of two games.

Brewers 4, Cardinals 3: Ryan Braun homered to left center off of Ryan Franklin, blowing the game in the top of the ninth. Right now, the Cardinals are in the midst of an 18-game stretch without a day off, and as I'm typing this, they are showering off an awful loss and preparing to take a bus to a charter flight that will take them to New York to face the Mets. In the face of all of that, it will take every bit of magic genius dust in La Russa's possession to get this team off the mat. I'm often wrong in these situations, but for now, this humble blogger is left with the distinct feeling that we have seen the last of "St. Louis Cardinals: pennant contenders" this season. Sorry, Sara.

Cubs 6, Marlins 3: It's nice to be home. After a 2-4 road trip, the Cubs right the ship at Wrigley behind Zambrano and a big fifth inning. Eight and a half games separated the Cubs and Brewers a little over a month ago. Now the lead is one. They have A LOT of games left to play against one another. Whereof what's past is prologue, what to come is in Chicago's and Milwaukee's discharge.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Maddux Isn't Sweatin' It

Seems like everyone is answering my questions for me today. First it was Kranepool with the Mets stuff, and now USA Today's Mike Lopresti has tracked down Maddux to ask -- as I assumed in this morning's recaps -- if he is sick of losing and ready to hang it up:
"I like the game. I like the grind," Maddux said. "It sucks losing, but it's still fun playing. I'd rather play and lose than not play."
That's the tone for the most part. And it's consistent with everything else I've read this year about my favorite player of all time. He likes being in a clubhouse. Likes the camaraderie. The preparation. The day to day rhythms of it all.

So, what genius GM is going to be the first to approach Maddux to be their pitching coach next year? Sure, hiring an immortal as a coach tends not to work too often inasmuch as it's quite a trick to teach someone else to do what came so naturally to you, but I think Maddux may be the exception to that rule. Partially because he loves the clubhouse so much, and partially because his approach -- to traffic in an over-used cliche -- is such an intellectual one.

I think that, as a pitching coach, he could be the second coming of Johnny Sain.

The Psyche of a Mets Fan

This morning I wrote something in the recaps about how Mets fans tend to freak out a bit too much on a game-by-game basis. About how their highs seem too high, and their lows too low. Steve over at The Eddie Kranepool Society suffers through this affliction himself -- he admits it -- and he does his best to explain it in a post this morning.

Wilpon Owns Up

Fred Wilpon takes responsibility for the inept handling of the Willie Randolph firing:
"I said (to Omar Minaya) 'When are you going to do this?' He said 'After the game (Mets-Angels, June 16).' I wasn't smart enough to say, 'And cut the New York press out of it?' I didn't even think of it," Wilpon said. "I screwed up."

Wilpon said Minaya was concerned the story would leak out if he didn't tell Randolph after the game (the firing went public at 3:18 a.m. New York time).

"I should have said 'Let's balance,'" Wilpon said. "'Either it may leak or why not just do it the next morning? Do it in the morning.' "
The first spin on this was "why did they do it so late?!" The response was "relax, it was only midnight Pacific time." The point, though, that Wilpon seems to now understand, is not that it was rude to Randolph as such -- at least the time wasn't; he was still left to dangle in some important ways -- but that it was rude to fans and the public to do it in a way avoided the press in such a calculated, or at least seemingly calculated way.

I'm not suggesting that teams have some fiduciary responsibility to the press itself, and yes I know they're a private business, but given how much support they get from the people of New York, I think they do have some kind of, I dunno, moral obligation to operate as transparently as possible or at least be straight up with the fans. Firing the field manager is a matter of great public interest to the folks who keep that ballclub afloat, and it just seems right to avoid the kind of secretive nonsense that went down in connection with the Randolph firing.

Following the Marlins' Stadium Battle

I've been pretty negligent following the litigation regarding the Florida Marlins' new stadium going on in Miami right now. Thankfully, there's a guy like Jorge Costales, a Miami CPA who knows it backwards, forwards, and sideways. His blog about it all is here, and if you want detail, he's got it.

I've not gotten through all of it, but I think the best takeaway from it -- even if you don't care about the minutiae -- is Costales' assessment of where this should end up: compromise. In this particular case it makes so much sense for everyone. More generally, however, is the fact that a compromise along the lines Costales advocates (i.e. increasing public access to the facility, some modest increase in public-private revenue sharing, and greater disclosure regarding the nuts and bolts of cost allocation) would set a great precedent for these kinds of projects going forward.

Look, I hate public financing and wish it never happened. People who think like me have largely lost that battle, however, and it's probably time to accept that stadium and arena projects are almost always going to have a large public component. But local governments don't have to bend over like they so often do, and if Norman Braman's lawsuit forces the Miami government to stand up to and demand a bit more from the Marlins in this case, maybe other governments will do so in the future.

Again, check out Costales' blog. He's a great example of what's great about blogs in that he's a smart guy with an extreme depth of knowledge about a particular subject and is willing and able to share it with the rest of us. Schmuck generalists like me and MSM columnists will never be able to match that kind of thing, and without him, no one outside of some die hards would ever know what goes on in this world.

(thanks to Pete Toms -- a guy who should totally be blogging but won't let himself because he's a fraidy cat -- for the link)