Friday, October 31, 2008

Take The Metro and Hoof It

Shuttles to Nationals Park from RFK will go bye-bye if one D.C. councilman has his way:

D.C. Councilmember Tommy Wells tells WTOP he is recommending to the Nationals that the shuttles stop running in 2009. "The buses add a layer of traffic that is not necessary. I would like to see them stop running." Wells says he has received numerous complaints from residents in Ward 6 about the danger of the buses as they pass through neighborhoods. Some buses also sit and idle in less than desirable locations.
Given that the Nats run these shuttles and not the city, this is merely one man's opinion, of course, but by highlighting the councilman's concern, I have a reason to run a this passage from the article:

Traffic troubles that were predicted around the stadium never really did materialize in the ballpark's first year.
Gee, I wonder why?

Hammer's House

Hank Aaron's boyhood home is being restored:

Baseball legend Hank Aaron remembers his father building the family’s home in the 1940s in Mobile’s Toulminville neighborhood using wood from torn down houses and whatever else he could find. The modest structure that was Aaron’s childhood home has now been moved to GasLight Park at Hank Aaron Stadium in Mobile, where a groundbreaking ceremony was held Thursday. The house will be restored to look like it did when it was built in 1942 and will be turned into the Hank Aaron Museum and Learning Center . . .

. . . Each year, (dad) added on to it. When it was first built, it was just a house,” Aaron said. “In later years, when I would come back, you knew you were coming back to something your father built, something I had a hand in helping to build. It made you feel proud.” Aaron said his father, Herbert Aaron, spent $100 to buy the almost two acres of land for the home site. He said the roof occasionally leaked and he recalled having to share space with seven siblings. “The first one that got to bed was the one that got most of the cover,” Aaron said.
Sometimes I think it's worth remembering just how amazing Hank Aaron is.

There's Only One Octubre

Tired of cold weather baseball? Ready to throw in with the folks who want to chuck tradition and shake up our tied old game? How's about checking out some Mexican AAA ball down Cancun way?

There are leggy cheerleaders in short shorts, air horns, a scoreboard in English and a striped, bawdy, motorcycle-riding tiger mascot. The recorded sound track plays snippets of Queen's We Will Rock You, Gary Glitter's Rock and Roll, Stayin' Alive, If You're Happy and You Know It and, yes, The Mexican Hat Dance (numerous times).

There are differences. Tennis courts adjoin the park, and play continues during the baseball games. No one stands for the seventh inning stretch, nor do they sing along when Take Me Out to the Ballgame plays. The refreshments sold in the stands - out of coolers and large baskets- have a handmade, homemade flavor. There are cups of corn pudding advertised with stripped cobs, plates of flan and soft tacos with green and red sauce. Chorizo sizzles on grills under the stands. Vendors sell mixed alcoholic drinks from a cart in the aisle behind home plate. Not surprisingly, at one of the games an amiably inebriated fan had to be carried from the park by ushers, to applause from the crowd.
Sounds kinda fun, actually.


Royals, Phillies, and Marlins fans who remember Jim Eisenreich fondly will be happy to hear that he's living a happy little life in Missouri, complete with a daughter who is, naturally, the star centerfielder on a state champion softball team.

Those of you of a certain age will recall that Eisenreich's career was interrupted for a few years due to Tourette's Syndrome, which was severely aggravated by psycho-social stuff stemming from the noise and larger crowds once he got to the majors. If I remember correctly, the big thing for him was that, unlike the minors, once he got to the bigs, having people in the crowd behind him as he played centerfield was particularly difficult. As with all forms of Tourette's there was a vocal tic involved and general nervousness and all kinds of awful things.

So what's he doing now? he's the PA announcer for the team's home games, which is pretty cool.

"My Little Curly-Haired Boy"

Matt Stairs has always seemed like a nice, down-to-Earth guy. That's probably because he has a nice, down-to-Earth family:

"I just can't believe it," said his mom Thursday. "My little curly-haired boy, starting to play baseball ... it's hard to take in. I'm so happy and so proud of him" . . . "I always knew that Matt had a fair amount of talent, but you're not sure something like this is ever going to happen," said Wendell Stairs. "To finally get this far, it's hard to describe how you feel."
Perhaps I'm reading too much into this, but it strikes me that, unlike so many other talented athletes, Stairs had folks that pretty much just let him go play and still maybe struggle a bit to fully understand everything that he does on a day-to-day basis. At least I hope that's true, because it's nice to imagine that someone can become an elite ballplayer even without insane little league parents and a life filled with travelling leagues and all of that jazz.

Silver (and fleece) Lining

While everyone is complaining about the cold weather this year, if you think MLB and New Era aren't happy about those Elmer Fudd hats getting so much TV time in the past week, you're crazy:
The caps have been in the Rays’ lockers since Westmoreland first issued them during the American League division series in Chicago. Westmoreland said that New Era first experimented with the hats at the end of last season, and that this was the first year they were readily available. He said he did not know if any other teams had ordered them.

This week, the Phillies began wearing them, too, and on Wednesday they became available in the merchandise stores at Citizens Bank Park. The sales assistant Angie Arpino said that the model did not seem to have an official name, but that they were selling for $40 and proving quite popular.

“They’re flying off the shelves,” she said.
I walk a few blocks from a parking garage to my office each morning and, because I'm as bald as a pool cue, I wear a hat almost every day. As a result, the odds of me getting one of those things is approaching 1:1, and I almost never buy merch like that. Those of you in northern cities: watch the bus stops and the sidewalks this winter, and I can guarantee that you'll see a ton of these.

And With That, McCain Loses Pennsylvania

I'm not a Palin fan, but I'll chalk this one up to fatigue and a crazy travel schedule as opposed to idiocy:
It was a throwaway line meant to be a crowd-pleaser. But it fell flat.

On Thursday at a rally in Erie, Pa., Sarah Palin touted the victors in the World Series to thousands of supporters. "I am thrilled to be here in the home state of the world-champion Philadelphia Phillies," Palin said.

The crowd booed.

Philadelphia is a seven-hour drive from Erie, which is in the state's far west. Erie's baseball devotions are split between the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Cleveland Indians. (Pittsburgh and Cleveland are about two hours away.)

It's like Peter Frampton accidentally asking Lansing if it was ready to rock when, in reality, he's playing Saginaw. It happens.

130 Game Schedule

Count Rick Morrissey among those who would prefer to radically change baseball -- in his case, slashing 30-some games from the schedule -- than to endure a rain delay or some blustery weather:
A wonderful solution would be for baseball to start the season April 15 rather than April 1 and end the regular season Sept. 15 instead of Sept. 30. That's correct: a 130-game schedule.

Come to think of it, cutting April and September entirely from the regular season wouldn't be such a bad idea. The season is wayyy toooooo lllllooooooonnnnnnng.
While I appreciate that many don't like baseball in cold weather, most of the columns like this seem to really be about not liking baseball at all.

That is, if you take them even remotely seriously. Reading, as it does, like a mashup of yesterday's Whitey Herzog piece, various columns grousing about the weather, and a few warmed over one-liners, it seems just as likely that such columns are about lazy writers, looming deadlines, and easy ideas.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Hey! The Offseason Has Started!

A trade!

The Kansas City Royals have acquired first baseman Mike Jacobs from the Florida Marlins in exchange for pitcher Leo Nunez.

Jacobs, who turned 28 years old on Thursday, belted a career-high 32 homers and drove in 93 runs with a .247 batting average in 2008. He is a career .262 hitter with 80 homers and 247 RBI in 421 big league games with Florida and the New York Mets.

"We're delighted to acquire a productive hitter to impact the middle of our lineup,"
said Royals general manager Dayton Moore. "Mike's a winner and has a very aggressive approach to baseball and we look forward to his presence on our club."
Wait, I thought Moore was all about teaching the Royals patience, so what's with this "aggressive approach" stuff? Sure, Jacobs is powerful, but he had an OBP of .299 this season.

That said, the Royals have no power at all, so this is probably worth the risk. If Jacobs gets a few breaks and raises his batting average a tad he could be somewhat useful power infusion.

Rany disagrees, though, and he knows a hell of a lot more about the Royals than you or I will ever hope to know, so this might not be that good an idea after all.

Be Careful Out There

The Rays offense in games 1-4 left a lot to be desired, but it's not like they didn't hit something:

On Sunday, Fante, her son, Jarrett, and several members of her family headed to Citizens Bank Park early to pick up some souvenirs and catch the end of batting practice.

As she nestled into her seat in right-center field to watch her son, brothers and nephews shag home run balls during batting practice, the Westampton resident's dream night at the ballpark turned into a nightmare.

“I was watching my brother, Jeff, chase down a ball and all of the sudden I got hit,” Fante said. “At first I thought, did I just get hit by a ball? I saw stars, felt the most intense pain and thought I was going to pass out.”

Fante had been struck directly in the face by a home run ball hit by an identified
Tampa Bay Rays player.
This isn't funny of course. She broke several bones in her face and will likely have to have surgery. This was someone sitting in the outfield, mind you. I have no idea how more people along the lines don't get taken out in ambulances.

Target Field Taking Shape

Minnesota Public Radio's Chris Dall took a media tour and has some pics of the place, set to open in 2010.

The Call

President Bush offers his congratulations to the Phillies.

The Phillies then proceeded to distance themselves from the congratulations from the unpopular president, noting that they have long disagreed with Bush on many important issues, and that they plan to use their championship to continue their mavericky crusade.

Perhaps the Worst Idea Ever

Someone tracked down Whitey Herzog and allowed him to once again voice his long-held belief that the World Series should be played in a neutral, fair weather city with the whole enterprise being promoted as "World Series Week."

I am not going to dignify such a wrongheaded idea with a response. Thankfully, however, I don't have to, because Jason at IIATMS has already done so.

Please click through to IIATMS, because I love Whitey Herzog, and I simply couldn't bear to tear him a new one over this.

Heresy at the Baseball Bible

Chris Mottram at the Sporting Blog:

I hate Philly. If there were mountains in Charlotte, I'd ascend to the top of them and yell it from their peaks. So forgive me; this is best I can muster: Congrats on finally winning a championship that doesn’t start with the word “arena.” Good for you guys. Your NFL team is still in last place. Phew ... that wasn’t easy. And it was also the last mention of the World Series you’ll find on TSB today*. Based on the TV numbers, you’d rather we write about House or Dancing With the Stars anyway, so this is probably good news to you.
Nothing personal, because I don't know Chris, but I don't understand how someone can land a job as a general sports blogger with a major media company and have such contempt for a championship in a major sport. This is true whether it is real contempt or feigned for comic irony. If you can't muster any enthusiasm, fine, just don't write about it at all.

What makes this worse is that this is not just any general sports blog. It's the Sporting News. True, it's a radically different enterprise than it used to be, but any outlet carrying the DNA of what was once known as The Baseball Bible ought to strive for something a bit better than this.

UPDATE: Chris Mottram emailed me and -- more politely than a lot of people would given what I said about his post -- noted that his wasn't the First or Official word on the Series from The Sporting News, and that Dan Shanoff has a straight-up and comprehensive take on it all here. He's right, and it's worth reading.

That doesn't necessarily change my reaction to Chris's post -- that enters into a whole larger What Are Blogs and What Are They For conversation that I don't think anyone wants to hear and I don't really feel like having myself -- but it does suggest that I was probably overreacting a bit.

UPDATE 2: And now there's a nice piece from Dave Larzelere about the glory of being a Philadelphia fan on this fair fall morn. Note to self: next time I want to slam a whole site over something, wait an hour and see if things get better first.

Rays Reax

The Tampa Bay side of the story. It's forward-looking, which is what you'd expect. And I don't think I'm alone in thinking that this isn't the last we've seen of the Rays in the World Series.

Celebration Roundup has detailed coverage of just how rowdy it got in Center City last night:

The overview!

The Injuries!

The cops!

The winding down!


Upshot: some overturned cars, some fires, some people hurt, but this wasn't Detroit-level crazy, thank goodness.

I wouldn't do it again, but . . .

Jim Caple notes what many of us watching last night felt: that the whole half game thing was actually pretty satisfying.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008


At the Brother's Two Lounge just south of Snyder Avenue on Broad Street in South Philly, hundreds of patrons erupted in celebration seconds after Brad Lidge struck out the final Ray and the Phillies became World Champs for the first time in 28 years. Then, at least half of those inside the bar headed for the coolers, started buying up as much beer as they could, and headed out to party on Broad Street.

Giovanni Gervasi and his friends jumped up from their seats and started spraying everyone in the bar with beer after the final pitch. "I can't explain my feelings right now," Gervasi said, jubilantly, beaming from ear to ear. "I'm taking a 40-ounce and going to Broad Street. I just want everyone to have fun and celebrate."

Enjoy it, Philadelphia! You've certainly waited long enough.

Beer, Sweet Beer

Seems that beer sales in Citizens Bank Park are usually cut off after the seventh inning. Tonight's game starts in the bottom of the sixth. You can run the numbers yourself, but no matter how you add it up, it equals a riot, right?

Wrong: they're changing the rules a bit:

Will beer sales be cut off after the seventh inning? No, says David Freireich, spokesman for Aramark, which operates all the park's concessions. "Today is considered a new event," he said. So the brew won't stop flowing at the 7th. Sources at the ballpark – including some beer vendors – said beer sales would be stopped at the start of the ninth inning. So should the Phillies win in 9 - thereby clinching the city's first championship in 25 years - fans are likely to have beers at hand for what's bound to be a wild celebration.
At least someone is planning ahead in this World Series.

(Thanks to Blaze, ShysterBall's Director of Black Ops, for the heads up)


Posnanski has a nice piece on Bud Selig today. Say what you want about Selig -- and believe me, I have -- but he is neither the devil nor angel his detractors and supporters make him out to be. He's a guy with a hard job who sometimes does the right thing, sometimes does the wrong thing, sometimes for the right reasons, and sometimes for the wrong reasons. In other words, he's like most of us.

But there is one disturbing takeaway from the article:

Bud Selig was born to be a friend. That's why they called him Bud in the first place. When school teacher Marie Selig brought Allan Huber home from the hospital, the first thing she said to her older son Jerry was this: "We brought you a little buddy."
That's disturbing, because my son Carlo is usually called "Buddy" in my house for much the same reason. Lately we've made it a tad more elaborate -- I call him "Buddrow," mostly because it makes his mother laugh -- but I've never considered that he might actually wind up being known as Carlo A. "Bud" Calcaterra, one day because of it.

Parents: be careful out there.

Nationals Park to Remain an Island For Some Time

Not surprising, but no less depressing for folks hoping that the Nats' new stadium would anchor a vibrant business, residential, and commercial district any time soon:

A slowing economy and the collapse of credit markets have halted the much-anticipated development of retail, restaurants and other projects in the area around the Washington Nationals' new stadium in Southeast . . .

. . . Along M Street Southeast and to the east and north of the ballpark, shovels have not hit the ground on several vacant plots. Plans for new office buildings, including 250 M St., 401 M St. and 1111 New Jersey Ave., are on hold while developers who once were able to build without a single signed tenant now must show a large stack of executed leases in order to obtain financing . . .

. . . The struggles of office developers may not directly impact baseball fans, but the lack of new workers in the area has slowed the development of the retail and restaurants that fans are eager to visit on game days.
Things are tough all over.

Don't Mess With The Weathermen

My old man is retired from the National Weather Service, and based on my interactions with his coworkers, employees, and friends over the years, I can tell you there is no geek like a weather geek. Seriously: if they scheduled SABR on the same weekend as a storm chaser convention and a college cheerleading competition, the SABR guys would get all of the action while the weather people kicked the wall and complained about having to compete with all of the cool baseball beefcake.

It's that bad.

That said, you never want to mess with a weather geek. Ever. Because while forecasting itself is an inexact science, weather geeks are a smart damn lot who, because they have absolutely no social life, will spend hours on end to show you just how wrong you are when you attack them or their methodology.

To wit, here's a link to a fantastic blog post by a baseball fan/meteorologist named Owen Doherty, who is none too happy with Bud Selig blaming the weathermen for the decision to go ahead and try to play Game Five on Monday night:

Rapidly strengthening nor’easters are not to be trifled with, so it’s not surprise that the game wasn’t completed. Except to perhaps running major league baseball, who blamed the game suspension on poor weather forecasting . . .The only problem with mlb’s position is that the forecast was actually RIGHT, as reported by national weather online.
Via deft links and radar analysis, Doherty dismantles Selig's baloney that he was misled about the weather. If Selig thought about the issue at all, he knew it was going to rain, he knew it was going to rain a lot, and he decided to go forward anyhow.

(link via Posnanski)

What Happens to Griffey?

In addition to Garrett Anderson, Ken Griffey, Jr. is available too:

According to an report on Tuesday, the Chicago White Sox will not try to re-sign the free-agent outfielder. That means the sure Hall of Famer will have played only 41 games in Chicago, which lost to the Tampa Bay Rays in the AL Division Series.

The White Sox acquired Griffey from the Cincinnati Reds in July. The team held off the Minnesota Twins for the AL Central crown but lost in four games to the Rays in the playoffs. Between the two teams last season, Griffey hit only .249 with 18 homers and 71 RBIs in 490 at-bats.
Not a surprise, obviously, but I'm sitting here wondering who on Earth needs Ken Griffey Jr.? While the Sox deployed him in center, he is at best a corner outfielder now, and a bad one at that. His bat is no longer potent, so even a DH slot would be difficult for him to justify in most places. Finally, while he has never seriously rocked the boat, he has sulked on occasion, and nothing about him suggests that he'd be willing to take a small -- and I mean a really small -- contract simply to play, which is probably all he can expect to realize in 2009.

The only possible landing pad I see for him is as a gate attraction as the DH in Seattle, because at least there he constitutes an actual upgrade in performance. If they're not interested, I think it's entirely possible that he retires.

Memo to MLBTV: Don't Do This

So I'm at the gym this morning, running on a treadmill and watching TV, when a commercial comes on for the NFL Network. Nothing notable about the content, but then comes the swelling music at the end of the spot and who do I hear? Morrissey! This, my friends, is the song that the guys at the NFL Network have co-opted:

Trudging slowly over wet sand
Back to the bench where your clothes were stolen
This is the coastal town
That they forgot to close down
Armageddon - come Armageddon!
Come, Armageddon! Come!

Everyday is like Sunday
Everyday is silent and grey
Hide on the promenade
Etch a postcard :
"How I Dearly Wish I Was Not Here"
In the seaside town...
that they forgot to bomb
Come, Come, Come - nuclear bomb

Everyday is like Sunday
Everyday is silent and grey

Trudging back over pebbles and sand
And a strange dust lands on your hands
(And on your face...)
(On your face ...)
(On your face ...)
(On your face ...)

Everyday is like Sunday
"Win Yourself A Cheap Tray"
Share some greased tea with me
Everyday is silent and grey

I suppose that one line about Sundays fits nicely when taken out of context, but aren't the primary themes of this song (1) boredom; (2) misery; and (3) nuclear apocalypse? Regardless, it isn't exactly the kind of song that gets me in the mood for football. Maybe suicide, but definitely not football.

The last time I remember words and commercial meaning so mismatched was when Polaroid juxtaposed The Cure's "Pictures of You" over a happy couple taking photos of one another, and presumably not crying for the death of their hearts. Polaroid declared bankruptcy a couple years later.

The Double Standard

FanHouse's Andrew Johnson is sick of the higher standard to which baseball is held:
When the World Series goes to a dome, it's an affront to tradition. When it's played outside and it, heaven forbid, rains, everyone clamors for retractable-roof stadiums. When juiced-up monsters break records in baseball, they're hounded by the FBI or dragged in front of Congress. When a player does the same in the NFL, he makes the flipping Pro Bowl. And when baseball sells out to corporate interest and a network's broadcasting schedule, it's an affront to America, even though no one bats an eye when the NFL and NBA do the exact same thing.
Some of this is brought on by baseball itself because, unlike the near police states run by Messers. Stern and Goodell, Bud Selig has the admirable but often annoying habit of public deliberation. Heck, there may be a football version of the Mitchell Report, but it's probably locked behind seven doors, Get Smart-style.

But Andrew is right: the public and the press expect more from baseball and pounce harder when baseball fails in some way.

This Too Shall Pass

Alan Schwarz reminds us that for all of the sturm und drang surrounding this World Series, what we're experiencing now is nothing new, and really not all that bad. There was worse rain in 1911. There was an extra day's delay in 1962 despite the sun shining high in the sky. There were accusations of baseball kowtowing to the networks in 1975.

Amazingly, in all cases, baseball survived.

The Obama Delay

Contrary to what you're hearing, Obama's infomercial tonight has not delayed the resumption of Game 5. It has just knocked the pregame show aside. At least that's what a FOX executive is saying:
"Our first pitch for the world series is usually around 8:30 anyway – so we didn’t push back the game, it was really just about suspending the pre-game -- you know, Joe Buck. That’s all we did. By no means did they push to get us to accommodate them with Game Six. We’re just missing the pregame, which isn’t a big deal for us. It was a business decision."
No big deal? You mean that they've been inflicting Jeanie Zelasko, Mark Grace, and Kevin Kennedy on us gratuitously?

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

36 year-old Leftfielder/DH (Los Angeles)

Available: 36 year-old left fielder/DH with below-average bat. Bargain! Bonus: will forever be known as only man to play for teams in California, Anaheim, and Los Angeles of Anaheim(whatever that is).

  • Location: California

  • it's NOT ok to contact this poster with services or other commercial interests

  • SB Nation Gets a Bunch of Venture Captial

    Let's hear it for Blez!

    Game 5 Postponed

    A couple of weeks ago I lamented the fact that the 2009 World Series is scheduled to last into November. Now I am wondering whether the 2008 one will run that long as well:

    Game Five of the 2008 World Series will not resume tonight due to inclement weather. Game Five is now tentatively scheduled to resume on Wednesday evening at 8:37 p.m. (ET), weather permitting.

    Commissioner Allan H. (Bud) Selig said: "While obviously we want to finish Game Five as soon as possible, the forecast for today does not allow for us to continue the game this evening. We are closely monitoring tomorrow's forecast and will continue to monitor the weather on an hourly basis. We will advise fans as soon as we are able to make any final decisions with respect to tomorrow's schedule."
    So, does this make it any more likely that Cole Hamels will be able to come back for a Game 6?

    Big Bam Boom

    For those of you who missed it, look who sang the National Anthem before last night's abortion of a ballgame:

    That's right, it was Phillies' first base coach Davey Lopes!

    Oh, sorry, that's not right. It was John Oates. In other news, Andrew Ridgeley is scheduled to sing "God Bless America" if Game Five ever gets to the goddamn seventh inning.

    (link via BTF)

    They Could Call The Place "Third Base"

    Someone wants to put a strip club next to Safeco Field in Seattle:

    Longtime Seattle adult-entertainment figure Roger Forbes wants the city's permission to open a Déjà Vu strip club in a building about 400 feet from the home of the Seattle Mariners.The Mariners are not happy.

    They have filed a formal objection with the city, saying the city should not allow nude
    dancing a home-run's distance from a place where there have been 3.9 million visits from children between 1999 and 2007.
    This being the Mariners, that is a purely theoretical home run, but the point is taken.

    According to the article, the Mariners' are basing their legal position on an ordinance that makes reference to "public parks." Allow me to play King Solomon:

    The strip club shall be prohibited from opening if and only if the Mariners choose to treat their park like any other public park, including but not limited to diverting all revenue received from the park -- which was, of course, funded by the public in the first place -- to the city's coffers.


    (link via BTF)

    The Final Word on Last Night's Game

    Neyer, as he usually does, has the definitive take on last night's game(Insider only):

    I don't know which side has the advantage when the conditions are as awful as they were last night. My suspicion is that it's the offense, though. When the mound is muddy and the ball is wet, it's hard to pitch. When the ball is wet and the wind is howling, it's hard to field. Either way, it's hard to argue that wind and rain and cold have the same impact on both sides. And once you've lost that argument, it's impossible to argue that one team or the other didn't have an advantage unless only full innings were played. And as you know, a half-inning was played, and it was in that particular half-inning that the Rays tied the game with an odds-defying two-out rally . . .

    . . . So, let's review … Commissioner Selig should have told everyone that the World Series would not be allowed to end without a ninth inning well before this new policy actually came into play. The umpires should have stopped the game before the Rays tied the game in the sixth. Essentially everything that could have been done wrong, was.
    I think it was probably an ad hoc decision by Selig, and if it was, it's probably a bit more defensible (it's hard to do things under pressure). As Neyer notes, however, Selig seems intent on having everyone believe that he had prepared for this eventuality beforehand, in which case the decision makes less sense.

    Some mistakes you never stop paying for.

    Deep Thought

    If the British and the people in all of the lands they once surveyed have survived 500 some-odd years of multiple-day cricket matches, can't we just suck it up and deal with a multiple-day Game Five without complaining too much?

    My Home Among the Hills

    Despite the fact that all of you know I lean left, I've tried hard to keep this place as apolitical as possible because, let's face it, you get enough of that elsewhere. Once in a while, though, I have to post something political because I don't have anywhere else to really do it. This is one of those times. Don't worry, it's not some partisan jag. Rather, it's a head shaking smile at my hometown.

    I'm from Beckley, West Virginia. At least that's where I say I'm from. I moved there when I was 14, graduated high school from there, met the woman who would become my wife there, and consider it to have been the best of the three towns I lived in before going off to college.

    Of course, Beckley has its issues, and Ben Smith at Politico has identified one of them:

    Meanwhile, Bill Clinton heads to Beckley for Obama Thursday, campaigning in what may be -- besides Arkansas -- his best state. The crowds for the former President in West Virginia in the primary were huge, and during my recent trip there, his popularity seemed undiminished. If there's anywhere you might see him cut a TV or radio ad for Obama, that seems like a likely place.

    One woman patiently explained to me that she's supported Hillary, despite believing that women can't really be president, because she knew Bill would really be in charge.

    Leave it to me to have found one of the few modern, liberated, headstrong women down there who won't put up with me bein' all man-of-the-house all the time.



    I've heard that the L.A. Times is in trouble, but I didn't realize that it was so bad that they had fired everyone under the age of 90:
    And in Baseball Heaven, we have certain codes of conduct, strictly enforced, though all the players pretty much abide by them. The codes of conduct include bad haircuts and weird beards. For example, have you noticed the Rays' dugout? Like a gang of car thieves. You can't go purely by appearances, sure, but how else are we supposed to judge strangers? And they don't get much stranger than the Rays . . .

    . . . In Baseball Heaven, hot dogs are a buck and peanuts (double-baggers) 50 cents. kids who show up at the gate with straight A's on their report cards get in free. They can bring their dogs . . . In Baseball Heaven, the wind is always blowing out yet there's a no-hitter going into the sixth. Drysdale is on the mound and Mays is in center. Clemente is in right, of course, hands on his knees, daring the ball to come to him. In the outfield, there's a sign that reads: "Hit this spot, win a suit."
    The thing is, I agree that most of the stuff the guy describes would be wonderful. When you put it all together in a nostalgia-dripping column like that, however, you simply come off like a crotchety old coot. It's a column that can only be written as a result of its author staring at the television for Game 3 or 4, and hating what he was seeing.

    I said earlier that I think this has been a pretty bad World Series. And it has in some ways. But it isn't so bad that people should feel the need to escape to fantasyland and revel in a baseball that probably never was.

    Forgiveness for Wild Thing

    Mitch Williams, long the goat for Game 7 6 in 1993, has essentially been forgiven in Philly:
    The notoriously passionate fans were devastated by that 1993 Series defeat, and Mr. Williams took the losses in two of the games. He received death threats after Game 4, and fans egged his home when the Series was all over. These days at Citizens Bank Park, they scream his name and throw him high-fives, as though he had saved that Series instead of blowing it.

    "Yo, buddy. Yo, partner," Mr. Williams responds, as if he is a long-lost friend, which, in a sense, he is.

    An analyst for Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia, the team's cable broadcaster, Mr. Williams does a pregame radio show and postgame television analysis that have become must-listens for devout fans. In a city with a hard-luck sports history not only in baseball but in other major sports -- with no professional championship since the 76ers won the National Basketball Association crown in 1983 -- Wild Thing enjoys an unlikely popularity.

    "I sucked that day," Mr. Williams says of his World Series performance. "I'm having a good time now."

    Glad to see that things are better for him. It probably helps that if the Phillies end up losing this time after being up 3-1, there will probably be a much bigger goat than him hanging around, be it a player, Bud Selig, or Mother Nature.

    And That, um . . .WTF?

    Phillies 2, Rays 2: SUSPENDED: Bud Selig's quote: "I can't tell you tonight when we'll resume. We'll stay here if we have to celebrate Thanksgiving here." I can only assume he said that after suggesting that the game be moved to Milwaukee, only to be shouted down. The forecast today calls for showers and wind and cold and the same kind of crap that moved through Ohio yesterday, so good luck everyone, but even if the game does happen, it will be fairly miserable.

    This is also interesting: "If Pena had not tied it, Selig said he would not have let the Phillies win with a game that was called after six innings.'It's not a way to end a World Series,' he said. 'I would not have allowed a World Series to end this way.'" I know Selig is all gung ho to not be embarrassed again, but aren't there rules about that? I mean, if an ump calls a game due to rain after five and a half innings with a team up, can Selig just jump out of his box and overrule him? I've seen Vince McMahon do that kind of thing before in WWE, but I didn't know Bud could.

    Whatever happens, this has not been a particularly good World Series, and the part of the game that was played last night was a disgrace . The ending, however, will probably end up being a memorable one.

    Monday, October 27, 2008

    Ned Yost to Seattle?

    I missed this the other day, but it appears that Jack Zduriencik has possibly telegraphed his first move as the Mariners' GM:

    Zduriencik said he wants to choose a manager soon, but did not give a timeline. He received hundred of calls and e-mails from potential candidates and others offering recommendations after he got the Seattle job on Wednesday. He said Ned Yost, a "great friend" suddenly fired as the Brewers manager last month, and former Seattle interim manager Jim Riggleman are two candidates. "I have a great relationship with Ned. Ned did a nice job for us ... basically raising these young kids," Zduriencik said. "I've known him. I've worked with him. I know who he is. I will have conversations with him, yes."
    Alrighty then. The book on Yost -- the charitable one, anyway -- was that he was a great guy when the talent was developing, but wasn't the right guy to take it over the top. I'm a little skeptical of that -- who's to say that the 2007 Brewers weren't destined to be the champs absent miscues from Yost? -- but let's let him have that characterization.

    The question is whether Seattle even falls into that Yost-ready, young talent paradigm. Based on what Zumsteg is saying, there's still a lot of demolition work before you can even get that far. In light of that, it's possible that Yost won't make a difference either way (Zumsteg says as much in the same post).

    By most accounts, Jim Riggleman did a pretty professional job after taking over the train wreck that was the Mariners last year. Given how little the manager is going to matter in Seattle for the foreseeable future, why not keep him on as caretaker/sanity infuser?

    First time long time

    If you think you've been hearing a lot from Barack Obama on sports radio, you're right.

    The End of Free Blogging?

    Andrew Keen thinks that the economic downturn will signal the death of people -- people like bloggers -- offering their labor for free:

    So how will today's brutal economic climate change the Web 2.0 "free" economy? It will result in the rise of online media businesses that reward their contributors with cash; it will mean the success of Knol over Wikipedia, Mahalo over Google (Nasdaq: GOOG), over the, iTunes over MySpace, Hulu over YouTube Inc. , over, TechCrunch over the blogosphere, CNN’s professional journalism over CNN’s iReporter citizen-journalism... The hungry and cold unemployed masses aren’t going to continue giving away their intellectual labor on the Internet in the speculative hope that they might get some "back end" revenue. "Free" doesn’t fill anyone’s belly; it doesn’t warm anyone up.
    Well, duh. I mean, why do you think I've spent so much time pitching ideas to MLBTV lately?

    In all seriousness, I get this. In fact -- and I don't plan on going into too much detail about it for now, so please don't ask -- the downturn is affecting me in a pretty directly negative way, so I can understand and appreciate the need to get paid for one's labor. That said: this blog, while a labor, is a labor of love, and I can't see anything that would make me quit doing it. It would be fabulous if I were paid to do it, but that's not why I started it and won't be determinative of how long I continue it.

    I won't sit here and say that I understand a fraction as much about the Web 2.0 "free" economy as Andrew Keen does, but I tend to believe that all of the bloggy/wiki goodness it has sprouted is not a function of people saying "well, I make enough money elsewhere, so I'll do this for free." To the contrary, I think people have said "Wow. This is neat. I think I shall do it some more."

    (link via Sullivan)

    Another Good Idea

    This one isn't mine, it's from reader Crowhop:

    I want the umpires to be miked and the telecasts to replay the conversations (after extensive editing, of course) between the batters, catchers, managers, coaches, everyone. I think that would make the 'inside' of baseball come through better for TV. This is something I have wanted for years and I think others would love the idea too. It's probably not feasible and the umpires union would crap a brick before they would want their guys exposed even more, but damn, that would be good TV, no?
    I seem to remember that the NBA did this with refs a bit in the 80s. Or at least I think they did. I have an NBA highlights video (VHS, baby!) starring Marv Albert and Frank Layden, and several of the clips have Tree Rollins and other greats jawing with refs. It was fantastic, and I think that such a thing in the world of baseball would be equally fantastic. Though, as Crowhop suspects, I believe the umpires would be dead set against it.

    The right of the Mets to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed

    Actually -- and not to get too political -- but the right is infringed quite a bit in that while David Wright and Carlos Delgado were granted permits to have guns in their houses, Delgado was denied a conceal carry permit:

    First baseman Delgado, 36, applied for a permit to carry a gun - which was denied - but was granted permission to keep one in his Upper East Side apartment, according to a source familiar with the process . . . To qualify for [New York City] carry permits, applicants must show documented threats against them or prove that they routinely transport cash or valuables in business.
    I'm a big flamin' librul and everything, but this piecemeal gun regulation is a load of crud. My old man has never had an enemy, never has any cash, and is prone to shakes and stress and nervous outbursts and all manner of things that don't go well with guns, yet he has a conceal carry permit by dint of living in the Great State of Ohio. Meanwhile, between April and June of this year, there may not have been anyone in greater danger of being assaulted on the streets of New York than Carlos Delgado, yet he can't arm himself.

    For shame.

    It's Not Easy Being Green

    Travel + Leisure Magazine has named its 10 American Green Landmarks, and included on the list is Nationals Park. There were a lot of articles a few months ago about all of its green cred, but one thing that was never mentioned -- and which I'm sure had a lot to do with it landing on the list -- is the fact that the Nats have taken a tacit vow, evidenced by their personnel decisions, to never turn the stadium lights on in October, thereby savings hundreds of kilowatt hours of precious, precious electricity.

    Saturday Night

    Lots of stuff today about no one being awake to watch the end of Game Three on Saturday night. I'll be honest with you and tell you that I didn't watch the end either. But it's not because it was so late. It was because I was disgusted after watching Ohio State blow a winnable game against Penn State. Sure, I was flipping back and forth between the two after the ballgame got going, but when Terrell Pryor tried to be a hero and fumbled the ball away when all he needed to do was dive for a first down, my evening was officially ruined. Anyway:

    I called a major league executive to ask if he’d watched the ninth inning of Game 3 Saturday night, which might’ve been the turning-point moment in this Fall Classic.
    "Did I watch?" the senior official said, repeating the question in disbelief. "Are you kidding me?" His answer needed no explanation, not when the final out was recorded at 1:47 a.m. Most of the East Coast long since had gone to bed, unaware that the Phillies had beaten the Rays in a game started by Jamie Moyer – an upset that likely has doomed the Rays’ October fantasy.
    Look, I don't feel good about abandoning baseball Saturday night, but if I were a paid employee of Major League Baseball, one of its affiliates, or a media outlet covering it, you can bet your bippy that I would have had the coffee boiling.

    Wouldn't you?

    Speaking of Awards

    Building on the Aaron Award stuff from below, it strikes me that MLB is really missing out on an opportunity. Right now, we have major awards given out almost exclusively by the BBWAA. That's great, but why does baseball allow the writers to have that all to themselves? Baseball has a TV network launching in a couple of months! Content is desperately needed! In light of that, why doesn't baseball create its own awards, put on a glitzy awards show, and steal some of that BBWAA thunder?

    The key to this, of course, would be to make the awards themselves legitimate. Take the Hank Aaron award: in theory it's a great idea to honor hitting in isolation. It dispenses with the whole should-a-pitcher-win-the-MVP dance, and keeps people from having to think about hard stuff like defense. And of course, it's a great name for an award. The problem, as I and some commenters noted below, is fan voting. I love democracy. You love democracy. Democracy is a wonderful, wonderful thing. Except when it isn't, and this is one of those times.

    But baseball can get past that, right? It can create an awards commission of some kind, populated by some noted experts, some engaged former players and managers, and some selected writers,* keep the award criteria relatively straightforward, allow these people to vote (and take away their vote if it is deemed that they are full of malarkey) and -- bam! You have yourself a slate of awards that, while obviously lacking the history and tradition of the MVP and the CY Young, have a greater argument for legitimacy and, perhaps more importantly, a greater platform in the form of said glitzy awards show on MLBTV, than anything the BBWAA could match.

    *It's possible that the BBWAA may try to take away credentials from any writer who crossed lines, as it were, and partook in an effort to delegitimize the established awards. No big deal, because thanks to their shortsighted policies, there are plenty of great writers the BBWAA chose not to invite into the fold in the first place.

    So what should these awards be? As with all things I'm open for suggestions, but here's my first pass:

    Hank Aaron Award: Outstanding offensive performer;
    Walter Johnson Award: Outstanding starting pitcher;
    Ozzie Smith Award: Outstanding defensive performer;
    Hoyt Wilhelm Award: Outstanding relief pitcher;
    Casey Stengel Award: Manager of the Year;
    Jackie Robinson Award: Rookie of the Year;
    John Hiller Award: Comeback Player of the Year.

    Initial issues:
    • I think the BBWAA owns the name "Jackie Robinson Award." If MLB can, they should buy it, because it's clearly the best name. If they can't, I'll settle for Fred Lynn or someone;

    • For hitting I stuck with Aaron because that award already exists, but if you truly want to honor the best offensive performer, be my guest and go with the Ruth Award;

    • I think Big Train was the best ever, but I can see arguments for the Seaver, Koufax, or Maddux Award if you want to make the pitching honor more modern and less derivative of the BBWAA award's honoring of a guy from the olden days;

    • Awarding defense in an award like this may be a bit of a problem in that it will essentially be an award for shortstops and centerfielders with an occasional breakthrough by a catcher, but the Gold Gloves are so messed up now that I think they need to be scrapped or diminished. Maybe keep the Gold Glove name and format -- I think that, unlike the other awards, MLB owns that -- but change the voting system to conform with what I'm proposing here;

    • I realize that Hoyt Wilhelm doesn't exactly speak to the broadest audience, but I want to be clear that this isn't an award for saves only. Setup men and other non-closers would be considered, so I'd like to avoid putting a closer's name on it. If you must have a bigger name, wait until he retires and put Mariano Rivera's name on it;

    • Comeback player of the year award is also an MLB award, I believe, but it really does need to be rejiggered. Do you realize that it is currently sponsored by Viagra? Not exactly dignity central. The key to all of these, whether they are BBWAA awards or not, is to eliminate any current cheesiness to them and to transfer any corporate sponsorship off of the awards themselves (sorry Rolaids!) and onto the television broadcast. Nothing is sacred anymore, but at least we can provide a superficial appearance that the awards are above commercialism;

    • And speaking of that broadcast, awards shows suffer from bloat already, but if you want to expand this list a bit to fill a couple of hours instead of just one, you can add on awards for single game hitting performance and single game pitching performance;

    So that's it. And before you tell me it won't work, let me respond that "it" is not putting an end to the traditional awards. They'll go on. For many years they'll almost certainly get more press and credence from the public at large. Let them. Dick Clark hasn't killed the Grammys yet and the Oscars continue to abide the Golden Globes. I'm merely advocating (a) baseball taking control of its awards for its own sake; (b) getting some awards that do a better job of honoring that which should be honored; and (c) providing MLBTV with some easy programming.

    But . . . that doesn't mean that the BBWAA awards will always reign supreme. Do the show right, and you take away a lot of the "thunder" of those annual press releases that so anticlimactically announce each year's winners now. Actively seek out smart people to vote on them and they'll be viewed with greater legitimacy than other made-for-TV fare. Encourage teams to write player contracts with awards incentives that reference these instead of the BBWAA awards and you give people a greater reason to care about them. Keep promoting online and video consumption of baseball via MLBAM and the support of bloggers and other online outlets, and the BBWAA itself may die as an institution (who needs a seat in a press box when you can enjoy the game in a virtual reality version of the dugout!).

    The upshot: just as it took awhile for the public to settle on recognizing the BBWAA awards, they may eventually look to the MLB Awards as the official arbiter of excellence.

    Art Amador

    While it's sad to see an obituary of someone who was only 60 when they passed, having that obituary lead the with departed soul's exploits in amateur baseball and softball is pretty cool. When it's your turn, here's hoping that people remember you for what you enjoyed rather than what you endured.

    Aaron Awards Announced: Albert Pujols Boned

    Kevin Youkilis and Aramis Ramirez have won the Aaron Award which allegedly goes to the top offensive performers in each league. Probably worth noting that Youkilis was 10th and Ramirez 18th in OPS among all major leaguers this year. They fall to 18th and 29th, respectively, when you go by runs created. There are other, more elaborate measures of offensive performance, of course, but I don't think any of them will do Youkilis or Ramirez any favors.

    Of course, if you're actually trying to reward something that is entirely measurable in an objective fashion, having it decided by a fan vote seems pretty ridiculous, which is how the Aaron award is decided. In the AL, that's going to naturally benefit Youkilis, who (a) plays for arguably the most popular team; and (b) is better known and/or better liked than the guys who may have better arguments than he does (i.e. A-Rod, Milton Bradley, Carlos Quentin, Grady Sizemore).

    The NL result is simply inexplicable. Albert Pujols' season actually happened in real life and not just in some sim on my computer, right? I mean, did anyone actually see him go .357/.462/.653? How about Chipper Jones, Lance Berkman, David Wright, Chase Utley, and even Manny Ramirez, if you want to cut him some slack in terms of playing time?

    Again, it's a fan vote, so I can only get so upset. I'll save my vitriol for the writers when they woof their awards in the coming weeks.

    Great Moments in Swallowing One's Pride

    Seattle Mariners' Fans: Hey! Miguel Cairo! The only way you're gettin' to the World Series is buyin' a ticket, ya bum!

    Miguel Cairo: You know, that's a splendid idea.

    And That Happened

    Phillies 10, Rays 2: The Rays offense has disappeared, but when Ryan Howard wakes up and decides to start crushing the ball -- and when even the pitcher jacks one out -- whatever Tampa Bay does when they're at bat is kind of an afterthought. The Rays simply look awful. It seems that whatever magic or juju they had before was left in Fenway Park, and now they have to beat Cole Hamels tonight or go home defeated. Coming back from being down 3-1 isn't impossible -- six teams out of 42 to find themselves in that situation in the World Series have done it -- but nothing in the Rays' current game suggests that they have it in them.

    Friday, October 24, 2008

    The Logo

    Here's the origin story for the famous MLB logo which I am shamelessly ripping off and running directly to the right. And while most of us know this by know, let's once again take the opportunity to debunk an old myth:

    Mr. Siegel recalls that he tweaked an action photograph of Jerry West, the Los Angeles Lakers' Hall of Fame guard, for the figure in the NBA logo. By contrast, Mr. Dior maintains that the player in the baseball logo is "pure design."

    His son once heard a radio broadcaster say that Minnesota Twins slugger Harmon Killebrew served as his model for the logo. Mr. Dior's response: "That's completely untrue. It's not Harmon Killebrew. It's not anyone in particular."
    Jerry Dior, the man who designed the logo while employed as a graphic designer for a marketing firm, has never been given official recognition for his work, though Major League Baseball "has had a number of discussions with Mr. Dior and his family and are researching the history of the silhouetted batter in connection with its 40th anniversary." Dior doesn't want any money or anything -- he was paid to do his job -- he just wants his grandchildren to be able to point to something that says he did it and maybe throw out a pitch at a ballgame.

    Seems to me that a nice little announcement of recognition would be free and that, given there are over 2,000 games a year, a first pitch wouldn't be that hard to come by.

    (once again, a hat tip to Pete Toms, who seems to know the kind of stories I like)

    Financial Crisis? What Financial Crisis?

    The Mets and Yankees continue to get sweetheart deals from the government, as the IRS -- while imposing tough new regulations designed to discourage the use of tax-exempt financing for private businesses -- specifically exempted the Yankees', Mets', and Nets' new digs:

    The Yankees have approval for $942 million in tax-free bonds but claim they need $366 million more to finish the stadium. If the IRS had rejected the exemption, that request would have been dead. The Mets received approval for $612 million in tax-exempt bonds, but have not asked for more. Their new stadium is nearing completion . . .

    . . . Mayor Bloomberg says he sought the exemption for projects across the city, but his economic development team did so while consulting with the Yankees' tax lawyers, e-mails show. After consulting with the Yanks, the city had Rep. Charles Rangel (D-Harlem), head of the House Ways and Means Committee, submit a letter to the IRS advocating their position.

    The exemption is lucrative and timely for the Yankees. If the city approves the new funding, the nation's richest team will realize a total of $247 million in lower borrowing costs, the Independent Budget Office said.
    Nice to have friends in high places. Meanwhile, your boss can't get a line of credit to make payroll, your kid won't be able to see any games in person next year because the seats are too expensive, and the Mets and Yankees will probably spend a couple hundred million bucks on over-the-hill free agents.

    (thanks to Pete Toms for the link)

    Nice Digs

    A video tour of Joe Maddon's office (warning: video launches automatically).

    Best part: he reveals at one time he fined ballplayers bottles of wine, but to ensure that he didn't get a bunch of Yellow Tail or Carlo Rossi, he put the names of vintages he wanted on ping pong balls and made the players pick. He said Joey Gathright almost went broke because of it. That's pretty impressive considering that Maddon only managed Gathright for 55 games before he was traded to the Royals.


    Billy Beane and a couple of Congressmen want to do for medicine what Beane did for the Oakland A's: get rid of all of the talent and then scrape together months of demoralizing, mediocre performance!

    Wait, that's not it. He wants information to drive medical decisions, not ignorance, gut feeling, and tradition:

    Remarkably, a doctor today can get more data on the starting third baseman on his fantasy baseball team than on the effectiveness of life-and-death medical procedures. Studies have shown that most health care is not based on clinical studies of what works best and what does not — be it a test, treatment, drug or technology. Instead, most care is based on informed opinion, personal observation or tradition . . .

    Data-driven baseball has produced surprising results. Michael Lewis writes in “Moneyball” that the Oakland A’s have won games and division titles at one-sixth the cost of the most profligate teams. This season, the New York Yankees, Detroit Tigers and New York Mets — the three teams with the highest payrolls, a combined $486 million — are watching the playoffs on television, while the Tampa Bay Rays, a franchise that uses a data-driven approach and has the second-lowest payroll in baseball at $44 million, are in the World Series (a sad reality for one of us) . . .

    . . . Similarly, a health care system that is driven by robust comparative clinical evidence will save lives and money. One success story is Cochrane Collaboration, a nonprofit group that evaluates medical research. Cochrane performs systematic, evidence-based reviews of medical literature. In 1992, a Cochrane review found that many women at risk of premature delivery were not getting corticosteroids, which improve the lung function of premature babies.
    OK, now that I've gotten the low hanging joke fruit out of my system, I'm going to admit to my general ignorance of the health care system and register my shock and horror that the medical decisions that affect my life and health were reached by roughly the same deliberative process that landed Pat Mears a four year contract extension immediately following a season in which he put up an OPS+ of 87.

    One thing Beane doesn't mention here, however, is that it seems there is a major amount of cognitive dissonance going on when it comes to medical information. On the one hand, everyone agrees with Beane that the documentation and dissemination of medical information is critical. On the other hand, we have an increasingly irrational desire in this country to protect every bit of information that can be even remotely deemed personal, be it medical data, social security numbers, or our mothers' maiden names. Don't get me wrong: privacy is important -- I don't want everyone to know about that course of antibiotics I had to take in college -- but at some point we have to be less paranoid about this sort of stuff.

    (thanks to reader Jeffrey Bijas for the heads up on the link)

    Sure The NFL Is Better

    Longtime readers know that, on occasion, I marvel at just how much the NFL and its management treat the players like children or worse. Guys get cut and their contracts get torn up for any reason or no reason, often because they have the audacity to get injured. Players get shamed for demanding to renegotiate their contract upwards when they're highly valuable, and then are shamed for not renegotiating their contracts downwards when they're slightly less valuable. Old players die young or wallow in a concussive haze, begging for reasonable pensions that never come. It's really an ugly scene when you look at it closely.

    No, this is not technically about baseball, but the reason I tend to highlight these kinds of things is because it makes us all appreciate that, in the grand scheme of things, baseball is a kinder, more human endeavor than big time professional football, and that's one of the many reasons I like it.

    I haven't mentioned one of these in a while, but now that we're about to be done with the baseball season and are midway through the football season, I'll probably start picking up and highlighting more examples of this phenomenon. The latest: Kellen Winslow and the Browns.

    Mr. Winslow recently spent some time in the hospital and missed a game due to a staph infection. This was no random occurrence. The Browns have had an outrageous number of staph infections in the past few years, causing multiple players to miss scores of games because of it. There's obviously a problem there, and it's costing Cleveland Browns' players their health and possibly their livelihoods. For whatever reason, the Browns have been unable to address this serious concern.

    On Sunday, Winslow spoke out, revealing that he had a staph infection, saying that the Browns were trying to keep it quiet given their previous issues with it, and saying that he felt slighted by not being visited by Browns officials while in the hospital. The Browns weren't happy about this. Notably, however, they have not disputed that (a) Winslow had staph; (b) that the Browns were keeping it quiet;* and (c) that no one from the Browns visited Winslow in the hospital. They just wished that Winslow had, you know, kept his trap shut about it.

    *The Browns cite HIPAA laws for their silence, but it's worth noting that as I'm writing this, I'm reading update #3,497 on Tom Brady's ACL as it scrolls across the screen, and no one seems to worry about that disclosure too much.

    But when you're management in the NFL, you don't have to sit and simmer. You can suspend and fine players for basically whatever you want. As a result, Winslow faces disciplinary action which, if upheld, will cost him a quarter of a million bucks in salary. All for speaking the truth about an inexcusable health problem that, after four years, the Browns have somehow still been unable to effectively address.

    How is this any different than docking the pay of a demolition worker for complaining about all that asbestos his employers are forcing him to breathe? How, after what could very well be base negligence on the part of the Cleveland Browns, is Winslow the bad guy here?

    But hey, this is the NFL, where the TV ratings are really high and the players are fungible, so why not go after the guy with the life threatening infection?

    Cheesesteak vs. Cubano

    The traditional wager between the mayors is a bit uneven this year:
    [Philadelphia Mayor Michael] Nutter offered Philly cheesesteaks, Tastykakes, soft pretzels, mac-n-cheese from Delilah's Southern Café and a Rocky statue. Cheesesteaks and soft pretzels are among the glories of American street food, but Nutter's proposed rotation looks pitifully thin beyond those treats . . .

    . . . Meanwhile, the Florida mayors countered with: stone crab claws from Frenchy's, in Clearwater; a definitive version of the Cubano from the famed Columbia Restaurant in Ybor City; Cuesta-Rey Centro Fino Cortez Cigars from J.C. Newman's (outside of Havana, Tampa is the place to go for handrolled Cubans, and Newman's is the finest in Tampa), and real key lime pie, from the Fourth Street Shrimp Store, in St. Pete.
    People in Philly are somewhat embarrassed that Nutter couldn't do better. I can't imagine it's easy to come up with good stuff for these sorts of things. Really -- and Mr. Thursday, please feel free to chime in -- what does Philadelphia have beyond cheesesteaks to offer? I don't know that town too well, so I have no idea.

    It's times like these that make me fear that the Blue Jackets will make the Stanley Cup Finals one day. Our mayor -- Michael Coleman -- is a pretty good guy, but he would be hard pressed to find anything worth wagering. Columbus is home to the world headquarters of White Castle, but I don't think anyone who wins a bet would actually want a crate of those things unless they also happened to be drunk and constipated at the time. We have strange pizza here as well, the likes of which I've never encountered elsewhere -- some people say it's like St. Louis pizza, but I'm dubious -- but quite frankly, it's nothing special.

    Mr. Coleman, do the city a favor if that ever comes to pass: wager cash.

    And That Happened

    Rays 4, Phillies 2: It wasn't a thing of beauty, but we continue to hold to script. Shields > Meyers, and the Rays do just enough on offense to get the job done. Jimmy Rollins is now 0-10 in the series, which isn't getting the job done. David Price gave up a run, so he isn't God after all. But that's cold comfort for the Phillies, who now find themselves in the same position the Red Sox found themselves in the ALCS and, really, all season: they threw a punch at the Rays, but it only grazed them. The Rays have now jabbed back to get Philly off balance, and now comes the roundhouse right.

    Thursday, October 23, 2008

    Let's Agree to Disagree

    Drew Magary (a.k.a. "Big Daddy Drew") is not a fan of the baseball.

    Warning: to say that the language, the pics, or just about anything else in that post is safe for work would be the biggest lie perpetrated on the American public since Roswell.

    Post-Lunch Diversion

    Not baseball, but funny.

    As a rock-ribbed Batman man, however, it is extremely annoying that they left out the part where (a) Superman gets blasted by the nuclear explosion; (b) Batman builds his electric-powered super suit; (c) Green Arrow shoots the Kryptonite arrow at the big boy scout; and (d) Batman opens the can of whupass on him.

    Because that happened. I read it, and it can't be denied.

    Everton vs. Stoke City

    The Phillies and Rays through the eyes of the British media:

    The Phillies have neither the history nor the wealth of the Yankees or the Red Sox but compared with their World Series opponents they are a cross between the framers of the constitution and the founders of Fort Knox. For one thing they have been around since the 1880s. The Rays did not exist until 1998. The Phillies play in the modern Citizens Bank Park. The Rays play in a dump called Tropicana Field, except when they decamp to Disney World to play a few home games in front of holidaymakers and off-duty Mouseketeers. The Phillies had a payroll this year of $98m (£60.2m), the Rays $43m (£26.4m) - a fifth of that spent assembling the Yankees squad.

    In footballing terms the Phillies against the Rays in the World Series is like Everton against Stoke City in the Champions League final. Logically it should never have happened. Commercially it is a worst-case scenario for Fox, which was praying for more "glamorous" teams and higher ratings.
    I don't know my EPL that well, but while that's not too dramatic a statement, it somehow sounds more accurate than the "they're both lovable losers" meme I've seen in some American media outlets.

    Yes, the Phillies have lost 10,000+ games, but they really are an institution, if not always a winning one. Despite all of the attention placed on big market vs. small market over the years, people often neglect to mention that the Phillies are in a huge media market that, unlike New York, Los Angels, and Chicago, is not shared with another team.

    No, they're not the Yankees or even the Mets, but they are big and established, and the rough equivalencies being drawn between the Rays and Phils ring pretty hollow to me.

    The Mariners Have a GM

    And contrary to a couple of previous reports I saw, it isn't Kim Ng. It's Brewers' scouting director Jack Zduriencik, which means they stayed with the "two consonants together in an unlikely fashion" approach. Good for them:
    Zduriencik (pronounced zur-EN-sik) oversaw drafts that allowed the Brewers in 2005 to end a streak of 12 straight losing seasons, followed this past year by their first playoff berth since 1982. The Mariners are coming off a 101-loss season, their fourth last-place finish in the past five years.

    Among the players he drafted — Pee Wee Herman not included — were Prince Fielder, Ryan Braun and Rickie Weeks (first round), Yovani Gallardo, J.J. Hardy and Tony Gwynn Jr. (second round), Bill Hall (sixth round), Corey Hart (11th round) and Manny Parra (26th round).

    He's also a bald guy with glasses, and I for one am happy to see this brilliant, sexy, and all-too-often overlooked minority represented in baseball's front offices.

    May You Live In Interesting Times

    And these are. How else can you read back to back articles, one which talks about how much baseball has to cut back, and the other talking about how baseball "is in a growth cycle" and think, very reasonably, I might add, that they're both right?

    And That Happened

    Phillies 3, Rays 2: This was supposed to happen, right? A strong performance from Hamels (7 IP, 5 H, 2 ER) and a Phillies win in one of the few games in which they'll have the starting pitching advantage. Expectations are a weird thing, of course, so if you're a Phillies fan you can't really be discouraged by winning Game one of the World Series. Still, given the pitching mismatches ahead, it would be nice to see Ryan Howard and Jimmy Rollins break out of their funks any moment now. More critical is that the Rays bust out the bats in Game Two, or else all of us experts are going to have a lot of esplainin' to do.

    BTW: I had planned to liveblog the thing, but events kept me from doing so. I will say, however, that the first comment I would have had was about how interesting it was that John McCain seemed to have been given all of the Herbert Hoover lines in that opening voiceover thing, Obama was given the FDR lines, and how he and Obama awkwardly split up the JFK lines. I'm assuming that was subject to a tough negotiation, and that the Obama folks won that negotiation.

    Wednesday, October 22, 2008

    Great Moments in Blog Data

    I realize that Cole Hamels is having a pretty good game so far, but I don't think that warrants the five (5) attempts some person in Douglassville, Pennsylvania has made to search for "Cole Hamels Naked," only to wind up on some innocuous post I made about the guy last week.

    And yes, I realize that I just compounded the problem with the verbiage of the previous paragraph.

    Make The Occasion Special

    The perfect card for the Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers, Brewers, Cubs, White Sox, etc. etc. fan in your life.

    Expect the Unexpected

    Russ Smith at Splice Today reminds us that you never know who will come up big when October comes around:

    Remember when skinny 22-year old Cuban rookie Livan Hernandez won four times to propel the ‘97 Marlins to an unlikely championship? Remember that wide-eyed nobody kid who came up from the minors to flawlessly pitch the Angels into their first World Series victory in 2002? That was Francisco Rodriguez, alias K-Rod, who just broke the all-time saves record this year. As a free agent, he’ll be one the highest paid pitchers of all time when he signs a new contract this coming year. Careers are born in the white-hot moments of October baseball.

    Just ask Bobby Jenks, the portly kid who several teams gave up on because of past substance abuse (the Angels actually) who went from freaking double-A to dominating hitters in the postseason and closing the 2005 World Series for the White Sox. Nobody to somebody, just like that. Now he’s one of the best closers in the league, year in, year out. What would have happened if Price had come in, served up a meatball to Drew and blown the game? His life might be pretty different.
    He gets demerits for mentioning Livan Hernandez without also mentioning his henchman, Eric Gregg. Other than that, it's a very enjoyable piece.

    [Insert Team Name] In Six

    Over at The Baseball Analysts, a commenter to the predictions piece I referenced below makes a pretty good observation:

    Ever notice how many people predict a World Series to go six games, and how few
    Series actually go six games?

    Good point!

    I think prognosticators do that because if they say a series will end in four or five games, they are saying something bold about one team's strength in relation to the other's. To call for a sweep is to suggest a hopeless mismatch. To say five is only a tad better. A fella can piss off readers when he does that and, even worse, someone may later say that he was really, really wrong!

    At the same time, if he says seven, he's basically saying he has no idea which team is better, and hey, anyone can do that. "But if anyone can do it, why am I being singled out for my opinion?! I can't own up to being common . . .I can't own up to being common," Johnny Expert worries.

    Saying six is a difference splitter. By saying six, Johnny Expert is basically saying "I think team X is better than team Y, but not so much that you can later rub how wrong I was in my face, OK?"

    In other news, I picked the Rays in six. Um, no reason.

    The Experts Weigh In

    Well, 31 experts, Will Leitch, and me.

    27 of the 33 pick the Rays, and I'm one of them. And I was picking them even before I saw the Diamond Mind thing.

    Multiple Improbabilities

    For the past decade I had a bet with my brother about what would happen first: the Rays playing a game in the World Series, or Guns N' Roses releasing their long-awaited album" Chinese Democracy."

    Seems it's a tie.

    Call Off The World Series

    You think Boston-Colorado was a mismatch last year? Check out what Diamond Mind is saying about Tampa Bay-Philly over at

    [O]ur simulations project the Tampa Bay Rays to continue their "Cinderella" run and defeat the Phillies. In fact, Tampa Bay won over 71 percent of our 2,000 series simulations, the largest winning margin of any postseason projection we've done for When we projected the Red Sox as heavy favorites last year, we gave them a decent chance of a sweep (Boston swept 105 of the 1,000 series simulations). In contrast, Tampa Bay swept 299 of the 2,000 simulations we ran for this year's Series, or 15 percent, and the Rays won the Series in five games or less 626 times (31.3 percent). In other words, the simulations do not bode well for the Phillies, and the odds are against them even making it to a seventh game.
    Put differently, Boston swept Colorado in 10.5% of the simulations last year, while Tampa Bay is sweeping in 15% now. That's pretty dramatic if you ask me. Other fun nuggets:

    As good as Philadelphia's pitching has been in its run to the World Series, our simulations suggest that the Rays' young guns will easily outduel the Phils' pitching, with the exception of Hamels, who projects as the only Philadelphia starter to perform well . . .

    . . . The bullpens both project to do well, though the Rays' bullpen did a bit better in the simulations. So it appears that it will come down to the starting pitching; unless the Phillies' starters can step up and outshine the Rays' rotation and perform like they did against the Dodgers, Tampa Bay will be claiming its first World Series trophy.

    . . . A short series often will produce standout performances, sometimes from unlikely sources . . . [t]he simulations show that Tampa Bay's defensive star, shortstop Jason Bartlett, just might be that guy -- he came up with a big hit in a surprisingly high number of simulations. Looking for a stand-out game? Garza threw a no-hitter in simulation No. 1,493, while Shields had three one-hitters in the 2,000 simulations.
    The two things that strike me the most from the simulations are how (a) the Rays' bullpen stacks up better than the Phillies, which is the opposite of what we've been hearing from many pundits; and (b) the degree to which the Rays' rotation outshines that of the Phillies. As for that point, I think everyone agrees that Tampa Bay has an advantage, but I didn't expect the difference to be as stark as the simulations would have it. According to Diamond Mind, the Rays' worst starter over the 2,000 sims is Andy Sonnanstine, who posted a 4.26 ERA. That's better than any other Phillies starter except for Cole Hamels.

    I realize that many of you are going to dismiss this as nothing more than the outspit of a silly computer game. And that's fine, because, hey, the games are played on a field. But don't dismiss it too casually. Diamond Mind is a pretty spiffy program, and the guys behind it know their stuff.

    If that doesn't convince you, know this: I was on a Diamond Mind sim league this year in which I drafted a strikingly mediocre team, known as the Matewan Massacre. That team finished almost exactly .500.

    I know: Heavy.

    (thanks to Keith Law, ever the company man, for shooting me the link)

    An Interesting Realignment Proposal

    One upside to days off in the middle of the playoffs is that it allows people the time to sit back and think a bit. I had missed this over the weekend, but on Saturday Mark Whicker of the OC Register got to thinking about realignment:

    There should never be a baseball game in March or November. There should never be a five-game series in postseason play. Too many undeserving teams make it to the postseason, which is why we have so many sweeps and dull best-of-5 series.

    The league formats are archaic and already have been disbanded in most ways, including umpiring and administration. If it's fine for the Angels and Dodgers to play six times a year, why not 18?

    For all these reasons, it's time to realign baseball.

    Let's leave all of those assumptions aside for a moment as they're all worthy of independent argument. I'm more interested in his realignment proposal:

    So let's start by paring down six divisions to three:

    WEST: Dodgers, Angels, San Diego, San Francisco, Oakland, Seattle, Arizona, Colorado, Texas, Houston.

    CENTRAL: Cubs, White Sox, Detroit, Kansas City, St. Louis, Minnesota, Milwaukee, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh.

    EAST: Yankees, Mets, Boston, Baltimore, Washington, Philadelphia, Toronto, Florida, Tampa Bay, Atlanta.

    The three winners get to the playoffs and the team with the best record gets the home field throughout. There is one wild card. It will be seeded fourth and will not have home advantage in any series . . . With a 10-team division, it's simple to arrange 18 meetings with every other club. It comes out to 162 games. That's nine Dodgers visits to Anaheim. That's 18 Cubs-White Sox games.

    Such a setup raises all kinds of interesting logistical questions, and Whicker addresses many of them in his column.

    Say what you want about it -- and I'm certainly not saying it's a good idea -- but that's certainly fun, no?

    Randolph and the Brewers

    Apparently Willie Randolph interviewed with the Brewers yesterday. Strikes me as a bad fit. Wasn't the knock on Randolph in New York the same as the knock on Ned Yost? That he was too placid -- even as the wheels were falling off -- and was seen as unable to motivate his players?

    I don't suggest interviewing Larry Bowa or anything, but wouldn't the Brewers do better by getting someone with a little more, I dunno, fire?

    Great Moments in Superficial Comparisons

    A, um, novel take on David Price from The Guardian's Michael Tomasky:

    As I watched Price, I thought: This guy is the Obama of baseball. He's young, gamine, in a light-skinned black man (might even be bi-racial), "inexperienced," but cool as an ice cube under pressure.

    Then lo and behold, what happened yesterday? Obama had an event in Tampa where he was introduced by...David Price! Life's always interesting.
    Alright then.

    And speaking of race . . .

    Tuesday, October 21, 2008


    A folk singer has written a song about all-but-gone Tiger Stadium called "They Used to Play Baseball Here." There's a link to the song itself at the top of the linked article. Go ahead. Listen. I'll wait.

    Doo doo doo, hmmm, hmmm, la-de-la-de-la-de-la. Done? Great.

    Know what? I love Tiger Stadium, and I have a special place in my heart for folk songs, but that there is some bad music.

    End of an Era

    Skip Caray's death hit me like a ton of bricks. Pete Van Wieren's retirement makes me ache with something like sadness:

    Over the past 33 seasons the Braves have annually changed faces and maintained the same familiar sound provided by Pete Van Wieren and Skip Caray.

    Sadly their days as the most recognizable broadcast duo in Braves history came to a close with Caray's passing in August. Saying goodbye to his close friend while continuing to perform the craft they shared together over the course of four decades was one of the toughest things Van Wieren ever experienced during his remarkable career.

    Saying goodbye to two of his greatest passions -- the Braves and the game of baseball -- will also prove difficult at times. But with good health, Van Wieren has decided its time to step away from the microphone and spend more time with his family.
    No, neither Pete nor Skip were Ernie Harwell, Red Barber, or Charlie Kalas. But they meant everything to lifelong Braves' fans and those of us who clung to them when circumstances cast us out into the vast unaffiliated expanses that only Ted Turner saw fit to serve with precious baseball.

    Welcome to Municipal Stadium!

    For better or for worse -- um, better! -- naming rights are likely to be one of the most high-profile sports casualties of these tough times.

    Memory Lane

    George Vecsey feels strange about October baseball in St. Pete, and it has nothing to do with the Rays:

    The World Series has come to funky old St. Pete.

    This is, quite frankly, an astonishing development for any baseball fan who remembers St. Pete as a haven on the flyway north, where elderly snowbirds congregated and young players ran around in rubber suits, sweating off the winter, and then they all migrated north when the weather was tolerable . . .

    . . . The first time I saw St. Pete was in March 1961, on spring break with my wife. We drove straight through the night, arriving on a Sunday morning, and, oaf that I am, I sought out Al Lang Field. From my car, I spotted a couple of guys strolling down the sidewalk, each carrying a bat in his hand — Stan Musial and Red Schoendienst, to be precise. As I recall it, they were in uniform, about to take a bus ride to Tampa or Sarasota, but my wife says, no, they were wearing collared sport shirts. Maybe they had just come from church. At any rate, just spotting Stan and Red, I was in young-sportswriter heaven.
    Know what's cool? Some kid is going to one day be saying that his first baseball memory was Cole Hamels pitching to B.J. Upton.