Thursday, January 31, 2008

Keith Law's Top 100 Prospects

Keith Law has released his Top 100 Prospects list. Yes, I know it's on Insider, but this is really worth it. Unlike most of these sorts of things which typically only list names, Keith shows his work and provides a summary of the plusses and minuses of all 100 players.

Highly recommended.

UPDATE: While I still think his prospects list is great, the fact that he hates, hates, hates Watchmen is something you may want to take into account as you weigh his judgment and credibility.


Get Off My Lawn

I've got a couple of kids. I'm bald. I go to bed earlier than I used to. In less than six months I will no longer be a member of an allegedly sexy demographic. In other words, I'm getting old.

I don't offer any of this for your pity. I offer it as an explanation for what I'm about to say:


Sorry about that. I'll go ask that young doctor to change my medication now.

UPDATE: Here's the first comment below, posted within about 15 minutes of this article going up:

"I was actually in charge of the photoshoot where that Jay Bruce photo came from. The way that works is we had all of our minor leaguers stand in line, grab a name tag, and take six different hats, one for each affiliation. Not every hat fit the same so some people look like goobers. I can't speak for Longoria and Joba, and I agree."

I've said it before, but it's worth repeating: ShysterBall readers are the bestest on the internets.

At least it wasn't Prince Fielder . . .

From the "thank God the article didn't include pictures" department:
Ryan Howard was dressed in red on Wednesday, only it wasn't his Philadelphia Phillies uniform.

Howard, the 2006 NL MVP, donned a skintight, high-tech red suit dotted with 55 sensors to have his motions captured for MLB '08 The Show. The slugger will be on the cover of the video game, which will be released March 4 for PlayStation2, PlayStation3 and PlayStation Portable.

In all honesty, I could go the rest of my life without seeing the words "Ryan Howard" and "skintight" in the same article again.

Much Ado About Nothing

The umpires' complaints about the Tim Donaghy-inspired background checks conducted by Major League Baseball ring pretty hollow. While the allegation -- that investigators are "asking neighbors a series of questions that include whether the ump belongs to the Ku Klux Klan" -- is somewhat troubling on the surface, the reality appears to be much more benign:
Alison Rohan, who lives across the street from Kulpa in Maryland Heights, Mo., said Christopher knocked on her door two or three weeks ago and gave her his card.

"He explained they were going to be talking to neighbors and friends because of the problems with the basketball league and that Ron knew about it," she said. "He listed about 10 different questions, the first one being did Ron live out of his means? For example, does he drive a Rolls-Royce?"

Rohan said she told Christopher that Kulpa lived in a manner similar to that of his neighbors.

"He asked if Ron belonged to any groups or organizations," she said.

"Groups?" she remembered replying.

"You know, like the KKK," she said Christopher told her.

"We both laughed and I said no," Rohan said. "He belongs to a neighborhood Harley-riding group of dads."

Asking about group affiliations is a typical background check question. At worst this investigator used an ill-advised but essentially harmless "f'rinstance," which the interviewee rightfully took as a humorous exaggeration. There is no issue here, and the umps -- still upset that they're being checked in the first place -- are simply casting for some PR and sympathy. This criticism from the head of the umps union, however, is rich:

"Once again, baseball's favorite way of doing things: Ready, fire, aim," Hirschbeck said. "It's not a good way to start the season."
Yeah. And ready, fire, aim is something the umpires union has never done.

UPDATE: If there was any doubt that this is a tempest in a teapot, that doubt has been put to rest by the always frivolous presence of Jesse Jackson.

Poor Pirates Fans

Remember back when the Pirates were relevant and the Mets were a joke? Yeah, that was a long time ago:
The Pirates lost out on Johnny Estrada yesterday, but another free-agent catcher should be added soon. The team is negotiating with Paul Bako, who spent all of last season with Baltimore, on a minor-league contract that would include an invitation to spring training. Bako, 35, batted .205 with a home run and eight RBIs in 60 games for the Orioles and has a .233 average over 10 seasons in the majors.
You don't "negotiate" with someone like Paul Bako. You tell him "Paul, if you'd prefer to play baseball instead of working at warehouse or something this summer, you'll take the bus ticket we just mailed you and show up at spring training. No, meals will not be included."

I suppose of course that Bako could reject their offer -- some warehouses are quite tolerable and this is the Pirates we're talking about here -- which would mean that Pittsburgh would be unable to land two washed-up, castoff Braves catchers in the space of a couple of days.

Ozzie Virgil and Bruce Benedict: keep your cell phone with you this week.

Up to Lexington, 1-2-5 . . .

Well, Park Avenue anyway:
Major League Baseball plans to build a home on 125th Street, Harlem’s premier boulevard, for its cable network, which is scheduled to make its debut early next year with some 50 million subscribers, real estate and baseball executives said on Wednesday.
I'm pretty sure that if a bass-ackwards organization like the Big Ten can make its network more or less work, Major League Baseball should have no problem. Still, you'd think that they'd at least wait to make sure of that before building a place. I mean, there's nothing wrong with renting for a little while, right?

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Neyer on Santana

Rob Neyer makes a pretty bold prediction for Johan Santana (Insider) in a Mets uniform:

My guess is that Santana will dominate the National League like Greg Maddux did in the mid-1990s and Randy Johnson did five years later. But maybe we shouldn't assume any limits.


Query: while the NL isn't nearly the hitters' league the AL is, how does the NL East stack up itself? Sure, Santana is going to pitch half of his games in a pitcher-friendly park, but there are going to be an awful lot of at-bats against Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Mark Teixeira and Chipper Jones. Heck, even the lesser-lights on the Phillies look scarier because of that bandbox they call a ballpark. Though Florida and Washington aren't exactly scary, losing RFK is going to change the game in the NL East in favor of hitters as well.

This is not to say that Rob is wrong -- I agree that Santana is going to experience a considerable boost moving to the NL -- but circa 1995 Maddux and circa 2002 Big Unit approach the upper limits of what any pitcher is capable of, even one as talented as Santana.

A League of Their Own

A dose of profound stupidity from a producer for Dennis Miller's TV show.

Perspective Watch

For the record, the Pettitte testimony described in this article (i.e. "Pettitte will provide the first account of contemporaneous conversations with McNamee about Clemens’s use of performance-enhancing drugs in earlier years") may be interesting in Congress, but for purposes of Clemens' defamation suit, it's hearsay and won't be admissible at trial.

Not that what happens in public and before Congress isn't still important to Clemens -- remember, this is just as much a PR strategy as litigation -- but it won't prevent Clemens from winning the lawsuit, and my feeling is that whatever happens before Congress, the results of that lawsuit are what will determine Clemens' ultimate legacy with respect to this issue.

Did You Hear That Santana Was Traded?

The early returns on the Santana trade are in and they are overwhelmingly in favor of the Mets.

There are notable exceptions, but my sense is that this may be an example of the bargaining phase of grief as opposed to acceptance.

Whitey Ford's Warehouse Sale

The Chairman of the Board is unloading his schwag:
Whitey Ford decided it was time to clean out his attic - and his stash of pinstripe goodies could be worth a mound of cash. The legendary Yankee pitcher showed off an array of belongings that will go on the auction block, including a baseball President John F. Kennedy signed for Ford and his Hall of Fame induction plaque.

"When your house starts getting full and your kids don't have a place to sleep, it's time to get rid of stuff," said Ford, 79. The treasure trove also includes a signed photo of Mickey Mantle, Ford's rookie jersey and an authentic, used game glove.

The old Mantle-Ford-Martin bar tabs will be available for review prior to the auction as well. To inquire, please provide seventeen data CDs and allow several hours for downloading.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Santana Finally Dealt

To the Mets for prospects that I can't imagine are all that fabulous. In other news, 16 Minneapolis area baseball writers and an untold number of bloggers are now out of work.

Update: the prospects are Deolis Guerra (P); Carlos Gomez (OF); Kevin Mulvey (P); and Phil Humber (P). They are ranked by Baseball America as the Mets' 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 7th best prospects, though I'm sure other prospects raters' mileage will vary.

Hall of Fame Game Going Bye-Bye

This will be the last year for the annual Hall of Fame game. I never went to it and I really have no idea if people who went up for the ceremonies and everything thought of it as a major part of the weekend, but I'm still bummed for that same reason that odd traditional stuff seems to bug baseball fans. Kind of like how my Dad will complain when they close a restaurant he hasn't been to since 1977.

Historically speaking, the game was always an interleague game, though that changed once interleague play ceased to be so special. Attendance and interest on the part of fans doesn't seem to be the problem here, however. This is a matter of scheduling and flights and stuff for current players. Though I sort of wish they'd keep it up -- maybe I'd go some year! -- I can understand why they don't want to.
A history of the game can be found here.

Ryan to Become Rangers' President?

Maybe, according to this article. Ryan currently serves as Special Assistant to the General Manager of the Astros, but his contract expires next year so a move to Arlington is a possibility. That sound you hear is Jon Daniels self-confidence dropping through the floor.

More complicated: Ryan is the head of the ownership group of the Astros' AAA team in Round Rock (named the "Express" after him) and the AA team in Corpus Christi. What's more, his kids Reese and Reid are executives with the Express.

Query: if he becomes president of the Rangers, can he keep his ownership stake with the minor league clubs? I would assume so given that, unlike the conflict that would be created if he owned a stake in a major league team, a minor league owner doesn't stock the roster or do anything (that I can think of at least) that would present a conflict of interest with the Rangers. I'm quite sure I could be wrong about this, however, and equally sure someone will tell me if I am.

The team name and the presence of his boys in management are fun issues too, but given that this is Nolan Ryan we're talking about -- the only man with the possible exception of Willie Nelson who can get away with damn near anything he wants to in Texas -- I'm guessing this won't be a problem.

Petty note: I'm sure I'll look way worse at 61 than Ryan does above, but given that I haven't seen a picture of Ryan since those Advil commercials several years ago, his aged appearance was certainly jarring.

Not that he couldn't still kick Robin Ventura's ass . . .

Wither Barry?

Cliff Corcoran breaks down the potential landing sports for Barry Bonds, assuming of course, he lands anywhere. Surprisingly, his top two destinations are NL teams.

Thank God for Peter Angelos

I still don't have a strong sense of who would win the Bedard-Jones trade if it ever, you know, happens, but I tend to trust Dave Cameron's instincts on these things, so I'll go out on a limb and say that the Orioles are coming out on the better end of things.

But better than merely relying on an expert's opinion is the fact that Peter Angelos seems hesitant to do the deal. Let's review the bidding on Angelos' other key decisions during his tenure, courtesy of Will Leitch's helpful rundown in God Save the Fan:

  • Running legendary broadcaster Jon Miller out of town;
  • Running Davey Johnson out of town;
  • Letting Mike Mussina leave;
  • Alienating Brooks Robinson so badly that he refused to show up for the celebration of the 50th anniversary of his debut;
  • Raising ticket prices 22 percent in the face of declining attendance, but not until after slashing the team budget; and
  • Inspiring an annual fan revolt, to which he responded "whoever joins that protest has no comprehension of what it costs to run a baseball team." Meanwhile -- as the Orioles have sucked for a decade -- the value of the franchise has risen 425%.
In other words, if Angelos is against something, it's probably means it's something that would help the Orioles.

So cheer up, Seattle! This may be a blessing in disguise!

Which of These Things Doesn't Belong?

Peter Abraham of the LoHud Yankees Blog recaps the New York BBWAA dinner from the other night:

The head table included Denny McLain, Ryan Braun, Bob Melvin, Jake Peavy, Jimmy Rollins, Johnny Damon, Joe Girardi, Joba Chamberlain, Omar Minaya, Brian Cashman, Bobby Murcer, Alex Rodriguez, Yogi Berra, Craig Biggio, Goose Gossage, Billy Wagner, Jeff Wilpon, Dick Williams, Willie Randolph, Dustin Pedroia, C.C. Sabathia and Luis Tiant.

Hope the people at the Hilton counted the place settings at the end of the evening.

Update: if anyone is unaware of Denny McLain's wonderful reputation, here's a great place to start.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Flyspecking the Clemens Manifesto

I was going to attempt to do some sort of word-for-word analysis of An Analysis of the Career of Roger Clemens (actual title), but Rocket's agents must be blogger-phobic because the document they released does not allow copying of text. Speaking as a person whose entire career is based on Ctrl-C/Ctrl-V, I find this offensive. Oh well, we'll do the best we can, with paraphrasing instead of quoting:

Page 1: Clemens was one of 28 players over 40 in 2007.

How many of you would have guessed the number was that high? I sure wouldn't have. Remember that old argument about how many of the old records won't be broken because, what with the high salaries and all, no one has an incentive to stick around for 20+ years to break them? Guess those assumptions are no longer operative.

Page 1: While Clemens pitched at a high level of quality over his career, he declined in his late 30s and early 40s.

I wish Clemens had had an arbitration case in the past few years, because then we'd be able to see the kind of hokum that usually goes into those things. I can assure you that if he had, his agents would have painted his late career performance as otherworldly.

Page 1: Clemens had shoulder surgery in 1985, and because he had it so young, it inspired him to start a workout regime "designed to prevent arm and shoulder injuries."

Boy, you'd think if one of those actually existed a lot more pitchers would be using it. Maybe he was a bit lucky, arm-injury wise?

Page 3: The report defines "significant pitching award" as the Cy Young, being selected for the All-Star team, and the MVP, and notes that Clemens had only three seasons, other than his rookie year, in which he pitched a full season (defined as no DL time or partial seasons due to funny contracts and/or work stoppages) and did not win such an award.

There's a touch of disingenuousness here in that Clemens would not have gotten such awards in 1994 or 1995 if there were no work stoppage, but it's impressive all the same. I assume perspective will one day return, but for now it's important to remind ourselves that, yeah, Roger Clemens was a pretty decent hurler. And I mean "was," because the whole report is written in the past tense, which is the closest we've come to an official announcement that Clemens is done pitching. Not that anyone thought he wasn't, but still.

Page 3: In modern statistical analysis, ERA is considered more important than wins and losses because wins and losses depend on factors which are largely out of a pitchers' control.

Like the bit about his later-years decline, this is true. It's also something Clemens' people never would have admitted in 2001 when he won the Cy Young Award based almost exclusively on his won-loss record as opposed to his relatively pedestrian 3.51 ERA. But they get points all the same for acknowledging run support, just as they get points for talking about park effects on page 4.

Page 5: a nifty little chart which shows "ERA Margin" which is the number of raw runs Clemens' ERA was above league average for each season he played.

I don't want to get anyone in trouble, but Clemens could have saved a lot in legal fees if he had simply copied-and-pasted the ERA+ numbers from his page. Oh yeah I forgot, his folks have issued a fatwah on Ctrl-V.

Pages 6-7:

Some charts and stuff that basically establish that Clemens had a pretty erratic-career, relatively speaking, peaking something like three times (in Boston, then Toronto, then again in Houston). This is something that anyone who has paid attention to Clemens' career knows. I like his agents' characterizations, though, crediting his blazing fastball for his early peak, his adoption of the split finger pitch in the early 90s for his second peak (though they implicitly claim he took five years to really master it, which is baloney), and then switching to the NL and getting some home-cooking for his Houston peak.

Which is fine as far as it goes. But even if you assume that Clemens never touched a PED in his life, this explanation of Clemens' peak is ignoring the elephant in the room that is his waistline. Yes, I know Clemens is supposedly this paradigm of physical fitness and everything, but the fact of the matter is that his weight, and I would argue his motivation, yo-yo'd throughout his career. He was a svelte young buck in the mid to late 80s, then he got chubby and, many would argue lazy. This, more than anything, was what Duquette was calling him out for after the 1996 season, though he didn't put that fine a point on it. Clemens obviously got motivated and started to take better care of himself through the late 90s. Towards the end of the Houston era and last season in New York, it was obvious that he was pudging up again. Why no one ever points this out is beyond me.

All that said, his agents do nail the one factor of his late career resurgence that all of the steroid hysterics seem to ignore, and that's that the short season vanity contracts he had in Houston meant that he threw hundreds of fewer pitches over the course of the spring and early summer, which no doubt contributed to his sharpness. Didn't work last year in New York, but (1) he was going to break down eventually; and (2) he was looking fat again in 2007.

Pages 7-11: Comparing Clemens to Randy Johnson, Curt Schilling, and Nolan Ryan to show that, hey, such erraticism in ERA and late-career resurgences aren't all that uncommon.

Well, sure, but if you're trying to say that Clemens is normal, you could do better than to compare him to three guys who themselves have strikingly unique career paths. How about simply saying that Hall of Fame talents are different than you and me and be done with it?

Pages 13: In the course of arguing that run support has an awful lot to do with won-loss records, the agents note that, during Rodrigo Lopez' 2006 arbitration case, the Orioles used run support in order to rebut the notion that his 51-43 record was all that special.

Cot's doesn't list Lopez' agent. Is it Hendricks? If so, don't arbitration hearings have some sort of confidentiality requirement, and has Hendricks violated it by disclosing the arguments used to trash Lopez? These are the sorts of questions that get drilled into your brain after being a lawyer for ten years.

Page 14: Clemens' 2007 performance is characterized as "sub-par, but quite respectable."


Roger Clemens 2007 compensation:

Per Pitch: $10,748
Per Inning: $175,152
Per Start: $982,801
Per Win: $2,948,402

Somehow I don't think that Yankees' fans would agree with that assessment.

Page 15-30: An extended analysis of Clemens' "peaks and valleys."

I'll turn it over to David Pinto at Baseball Musings, who has the most astute take of all of this:

The most interesting graphs to me, however, were the ones showing the yearly fluctuations in Rogers ERA margin compared to Johnson and Schilling. Roger's bounces up and down throughout his career. Both Johnson and Schilling start off below their career averages, have a long steady period above their averages, then fall and don't recover. The fact that Clemens bounces around a lot means he suffers years of unexpected poor performance that Schilling and Johnson don't. Those might be the times Clemens is tempted to use steroids.

To use another hackneyed legal expression: have Roger Clemens' agents proved too much?

Pages 30-35: analysis of Clemens' declining innings pitched over the course of his career.

Certainly nothing controversial. At least not until his agents say, on the bottom of 35, "As shown in the chart above, [Randy] Johnson maintained his innings-per-game started at high levels for longer than Clemens, posting several of his best seasons after age 35." Surely Clemens' agents realize that such an assertion -- however true -- more or less surpasses the standards of proof needed in this day and age to make a steroids rap stick to someone. Randy Johnson: sue Clemens, or else the world will assume you're a juicer!

Page 42: Conclusion:

The agents once again note that Clemens' career numbers are the result of adjustments -- mostly his adoption of the split finger fastball -- and not steroids.

Wait, they don't actually say "not steroids," because a reading of this magnum opus reveals not a single mention or allusion to performance enhancing drugs or the accusations that clearly fomented this report. Which, by the way, leads me to the biggest question I have about this thing. Why?

Clearly this report wouldn't have been generated if not for the lawsuit against McNamee. But if this is supposed to be evidence in the lawsuit, why put it out there now instead of using it more effectively, albeit more quietly, in their case-in-chief? Now that it's in the public realm, McNamee's lawyers are going to be able to chew on it, analyze it, and give it to their own experts to deconstruct. Heck, they may not even have to do that inasmuch as there will no doubt be dozens of amateur sabermetricians dissecting the thing over the next few days free-of-charge. Assuming that one of Clemens' primary litigation strategies is to beat McNamee into insolvency -- which would be a good strategy, by the way -- why give him the chance to get free expert analysis with months and months of lead time?

I think the answer to that question lies with the idea I had the day the lawsuit was filed, and that's that this whole exercise is about Hall of Fame PR, not litigation. Indeed, I don't think Clemens had any plans at all to sue McNamee until McNamee's lawyers said that they would sue if Clemens went on 60 Minutes. Fearing a suit, Clemens' folks had to file first out of sheer defense, ensuring that, if a battle was to be fought, it would be fought in Texas. But then a funny thing happened: McNamme's lawyers seemed to back down on the eve of the 60 Minutes broadcast. Only Clemens didn't get the message until his folks filed that Sunday night, and now Rocket is left in the awkward position of having filed a lawsuit that he didn't want in the first place.

But though the reality of the situation has changed from PR to litigation, the strategy has not, and this report can only be seen as an exercise in the former, not the latter. Prudent litigation counsel does not choose to fight their cases in the media, however, they fight them through their pleadings and with their legal arguments. This is something Clemens' people aren't doing right now, and for Clemens' sake, they'd be well-advised to cut it out.

Editor Wanted

Roger Clemens' agent has released an 18,000-word report that purports to establish, statistically, that Clemens' late-career uptick wasn't the result of steroids. I've not seen the report yet, but using Times New Roman 12-point font, 18,000 words translates to roughly 36 single-spaced pages, allowing for some paragraph breaks of course.

By comparison, this year's Baseball Prospectus comes in at over 600-pages. Of course, the BP folks are breaking down thousands of players, so my guess is that it will provide far more bang for your analysis buck.

Update: the report is here. It's 42 pages. Their font is a bit bigger than I expected.
Update 2: watch this BTF thread, for it will probably contain some of the best refutation and/or support of the report you'll find today. It's quiet now, but if you listen, you can almost hear the tapping of calculator keys.
Update 3: I have a go at it here.

Cashman Trashes Bernie

It's getting ugly in the Bronx. For what it's worth, Cashman is right that Bernie was "terrible" in 2005 and that Torre shouldn't have played him as much as he did in 2006, when he was awesome against lefties but should never have faced a RHP.

But just because something is true doesn't mean someone in Cashman's position should be saying it. Just odd, really, because Cashman has never been a guy to call players out like that, let alone one two years removed from the team.

A friend of mine, who is a Yankees fan, was saying that he doesn't care that Hank Steinbrenner has been running his mouth as much as he has this offseason because, in the end, the cool heads are making the right decisions. Loose lips in any organization have a funny effect on the behavior of others, though, and Cashman's comments make it look as though Hank's verbal diarrhea is contagious.

That may be fine if it ends here, but what happens -- other than unrestrained glee in non-Yankee quarters -- if Cashman starts trashing Jeter or someone?

UPDATE: Jason at IIATMS holds forth more generally about Hank's issues with discretion.

Why I Love Tom Glavine

Maddux was always my favorite, but Glavine was a pretty close second during the Braves' 1990s heyday. There are a lot of reasons for this, but reading his comments about his game-162 meltdown last season -- the ones that raised the ire of Mets' fans because he wouldn't admit he was "devastated" -- gets at the heart of it:

My parents always taught me to have perspective, to recognize where parts of your life really fit in the overall picture," Glavine said. "When you become a parent, you see things differently. The health and welfare of your family comes first. Maybe I wasn't prepared to hear that word -- devastated. As disappointed as I was, I didn't think about devastation, not because of a baseball game.

My son is 11, he has a friend who's going to lose his leg to cancer. That is devastation. That was an awful game, a terrible outcome for us. But it wasn't life and death. What I said -- how I answered that question after the game -- was a reflection of how I was raised, that the game is fun and important and sometimes disappointing. But there is a point where your disappointment ends.

It's one thing to hear that coming from some player who coasts on his raw skill, plays lazy, and mails it in. Glavine isn't one of those guys, and anyone who questions his toughness or desire (as many Mets fans did last year) is crazy.

More personally, that quote from Glavine pretty much captures how I, and I hope most folks, feel about sports.

More ShysterBall

Meta-take on the Bedard Trade

I don't have stunning insight on the Bedard trade that may or may not have already happened (go to U.S.S. Mariner for that which, as usual, is THE place to go for all things Mariner), but I did see something fun about it at the news aggregator Ballbug:

Below the little summary, in blue, are the names of various blogs which have already linked to the story. Check out how many of them are Mets and Yankees-specific blogs. I haven't read them all yet so it's possible that this is mostly a case of bloggers willing to go outside of their bailiwick during a slow news time. My first thought upon seeing this, though, was that Mets and Yankees fans have to be quite shocked that teams other than their own had the wherewithal to go out and get a big pitcher.

I'm actually going to go read them now.

Update: OK, my preconceptions about Yankee/Met takes on this were wrong. Only two of those blogs view the trade from the New York perspective, one noting that the AL East will be an easier place for the Yankees without Bedard around, and the other noting that Minaya wanted Bedard but never had the prospects.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Ron Darling: Running Man

Ron Darling isn't pitching anymore, but he's trying to get back in pitching shape:

Prompted by an on-air moment last summer, Darling decided his grasp of at least one aspect of today's game would benefit from winter workouts. He already knew his physique would, too. So he began six-per-week sessions that included lifting, running, stretching, pulling, pushing, throwing, sweating, groaning ... and learning . . .

. . . The work is quite different from what he recalled. "I came from a time when pitchers didn't use weights and you didn't drink water while you were working out," Darling said. He recalled a emphasis on extended running. "The mentality was to finish," Darling said. "To be successful [as a starting pitcher], you had to win and finish, pitch a complete game. Mel [Stottlemyre, Darling's pitching coach with the Mets] had us run the trail in Port St. Lucie -- three miles. And he stressed finishing."

Darling recognized less emphasis on cardiovascular conditioning in the workouts suggested to him: "More stretching, weight training and doing things in quick spurts," he said. The game is played spurts.

I'm a bit out of my depth here -- Will Carroll, you out there? -- but I wonder if the sort of cardio-training Darling went through in the 80s might benefit pitchers today (that is, if they don't do it as much today, as Darling seems to assume). We know so little about arm injuries, but it makes sense to me that endurance training would help in that, if your body is tired, might a pitcher not put more strain on his arm than usual, thus increasing the chance of injury?

Jim Bouton got a lot of laughs in Ball Four complaining about running in the outfield, but maybe if his legs were stronger he wouldn't have had to become a knuckleballer.

"Rickey Would Like You to Rephrase the Question"

Rickey Henderson is being sued by the promoter of sports collectibles shows who says the stolen base king didn't hold up his end of the bargain:

MAB Celebrity Services has filed a $5,000 lawsuit against the former Yankees and Oakland Athletics great, accusing him of not showing up to events
that he had agreed to attend to sign autographs.
I don't know who represents the plaintiff, but I feel sorry for the poor bastard who has to take Rickey's deposition. I mean, you're supposed to ask open-ended questions in depositions, but if you do that to Henderson you're going to be there for a month.

Where the Positives Are Coming From

Jason at It IS About the Money, Stupid analyzes positive steroid tests by country of origin. Despite his findings, you will note the lack of any Venezuelans being called before Congress.

UPDATE: Jason's blog was already cool, but now it's even better because freakin' Shaq is linking to him!

(yes, that's in all likelihood a phony Shaq blog, but it's fun anyway).

"Big Black Holes"

Pete Toms of Baseball Digest Daily rounds up the evidence against baseball stadiums effectiveness as anchors in mixed-use development projects (third item down), and it's considerable:

Many are skeptical of the ability of sports venues to anchor these urban redevelopment initiatives. From the same piece, “Stadiums attract large crowds on an infrequent basis who stay for short periods of time and cause traffic congestion. That kind of activity cannot support neighboring businesses, and it can make living near a stadium a hassle." "'Sports venues alone are just big black holes that have the ability to depress the neighborhoods in which they're in,' Stanford University economics professor Roger Noll told the trade magazine Retail Traffic."


. . . the Chair of Economics at Clemson University Raymond Sauer asks, “ . . . as the myth of stadiums as economic development gets exposed, will that lead to more or less government spending? In the Atlanta case, and other cities where these integrated development plans are emerging, the answer seems to be 'more.'"

On the one hand, this is absolutely stupid. On the other hand, the same kinds of people making these dumb decisions that are the ones sending me a check for $600 this spring, so we may want to keep them around regardless.

This I want to see

Moderately strongmen Hugo Chavez and Daniel Ortega are proposing a pan-Latin American professional baseball league. Kind of a neat idea, actually. The best part: they want to include Bolivia:

Bolivia's western mountains would be quite a setting for baseball. The capital La Paz, at 11,800 feet above sea level, is one of several Bolivian cities that would make Denver's famous elevation laughable. The Colorado Rockies hosted World Series games last year at Coors Field - at a mere 5,280 feet.

Baseball fans have long argued over how much the game is distorted by Denver's altitude, where balls fly farther and pitches lose their curves.

Bolivia's high plains would provide an extreme laboratory. The thin Andean air raises the specter of vast home runs, no breaking balls, and visiting lowland players bent over wheezing after a sprint to first base.

Let's see, home runs, no curve balls, lots of wheezing and shortness of breath . . . wasn't this already tried with the 1993 Phillies?

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Stallone on HGH

Rambo should expect his Congressional subpoena and visit from Mike Wallace soon:

"HGH is nothing. Anyone who calls it a steroid is grossly misinformed," Stallone says in the [Time magazine] issue out tomorrow. "Testosterone to me is so important for a sense of well-being when you get older. Everyone over 40 years old would be wise to investigate it because it increases the quality of your life. Mark my words. In 10 years, it will be over the counter."

So that's where the hurtin' bombs came from . . .

Life Interrupts

Due to the demands of the day job, it's going to be a slower than usual posting schedule today. Sorry about that.

In the meantime, I ask you all to consider what the Fukudome flag flap mentioned in the post below is going to do to MLB's China initiative I mentioned yesterday. I mean, I'll concede I may be overreacting a bit to the rising sun, but the Chinese of all people are entitled to have their blood angried up a bit, no? At the very least, methinks a testy conference call between the Cubs and the MLB marketing folks is going on as we speak.

Anyway, I hope to post something late this afternoon, but if not, well, go outside and take a walk or something. It's good for you.

Thank God He Isn't German

Despite the fact that it was (accurately) called out as offensive yesterday by Deadspin, as of 6AM today, the Cubs' site on is still running an approving story about the their Fukudome/rising sun promotion:

Kosuke Fukudome is among the players featured in a new ad campaign unveiled on Tuesday designed to showcase the international breadth and depth of the Cubs. A graphic red, white and blue image of the Japanese outfielder that includes a rising sun includes the statement, "I don't need an interpreter. My bat does the talking."

My first thought was that the folks responsible for the Cubs' website simply didn't read the biggest sports website around, because if they did, they certainly would have realized the coming backlash and taken the story down. When I read further, however, I realized that this probably wasn't this case. Rather, they are simply sociopaths with no conception of what's offensive and what is not. Proof:

There also is an ad with pitcher Kerry Wood that will feature the Texas flag.

Texas?! Those insensitive monsters!

OK, that was a dumb joke. I love Texas. Here's a good joke, written by Deadspin commenter Ronzookonredbull:

What do the Japanese Imperial Navy and the 2008 Cubs season have in common?

They're both finished by Midway.


Jose Canseco: Class Act

Jose Canseco is alleged to be in the blackmail business:

José Canseco, the former major league slugger and admitted steroid user who exposed other players in his 2005 best-selling book “Juiced,” offered to keep a Detroit Tigers outfielder “clear” in his next book if the player invested money in a film project Canseco was promoting, according to a person in baseball with knowledge of the situation.

The outfielder's name is Magglio Ordóñez, and if the allegations are true, Canseco's name is mud.

In other legal news, Chuck Knoblauch appears to be on the lam, and Barry Bonds has moved to have his indictment to be dismissed (my expert opinion on his chances of success: ain't happenin').

We are quickly approaching the point where I would drown puppies if it meant this freakshow would end and some actual baseball would start happening.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Where's Jonah?

On December 29th Jonah Keri wrote a column on

On January 3rd he debuted his College Basketball Closer on Deadspin.

Today it's announced that he's no longer doing the Deadspin thing.

If anyone finds Jonah Keri, please return him to the front desk so that his rightful owner can be notified.

Phil Hughes Blog

Add Phil Hughes to the list of ballplayer bloggers. He started it a week ago and has had about 67,000 hits so far. Yankee fans will be happy to know, though, that working on the blog is obviously not consuming his life:

About me

This is an example of a WordPress page, you could edit this to put
information about yourself or your site so readers know where you are coming
from. You can create as many pages like this one or sub-pages as you like and
manage all of your content inside of WordPress.

We Interrupt Baseball For this Important Geek Update

Agent Scully (seen here in still shots from the set of the new X-Files movie) is still hot:

Here's something for those of you who are more into Mulder.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled baseball programming.

Cubs Ownership Situation Causes Heartburn

I get the sense that if I start putting pennies in a jar now I may be able to buy the Cubs myself, because they certainly aren't going to be sold anytime soon:

Cubs sources said one hangup is that the MLB owners must approve the new owner by a three-fourths majority, and the quarterly owners meetings are scheduled in May and August. If a deal is unlikely to be approved before August, as expected, the Cubs would wait until the end of the season to complete it.

These extended limbo periods are never good for a team. Ask Expos fans. Closer to reality, ask Braves fans, who saw lame duck ownership nickel and dime the team for quite a while before a deal was finally done (not that the new owners aren't nickel and diming too . . .) As for the naming rights thing:

As the Cubs contemplate selling naming rights to Wrigley, one fan complained about annual ballpark alterations and said he didn't like the idea of going to "Pepto-Bismol Park." McGuire elicited laughs by responding, "I do think there's a natural tie between Pepto-Bismol and the Cubs franchise."

Heh. But the seriously, what's with renaming the stadium?

[Cubs Chairman Crane Kenney] said he spent his childhood at Fenway Park and pointed to all the changes in that ballpark that led to new revenue streams and helped Boston win the World Series titles in 2004 and '07. "We're not going to ruin Wrigley Field in any way," Kenny said. But he said modern baseball economics demand new ways of thinking.

I assume he's referring to things like putting seats on the Green Monster and isn't under the delusion that the Sox renamed Fenway because, like, they didn't. More importantly for Cubs fans, I sincerely hope that Crane appreciates that whatever the Red Sox did with the stadium to "tap into new revenue streams" had way less to do with their ascension than did being acquired by a committed owner and assembling a smart front office that had a clue about how to build a ball club.

I mean, sure, Pepto Park would be awesome, but Mark Cuban would be better.

Rays to Lock Up Shields

The Rays are about to lock up starter James Shields with a long term deal.

The deal has numerous incentive clauses, particularly in the option years, that will help protect the Rays if Shields doesn't live up to expectations or reward the pitcher if he continues on an upward trajectory. If all the options are picked up, Shields would give up his first two years of free-agent eligibility to remain in Tampa Bay.

Smart move, as was the Carlos Pena deal from last week.

Now: I don't follow the Rays all that closely, but what's going on with Scott Kazmir? I know he got a one year deal to avoid arbitration, but given that he is younger, better, and closer to free agency than Shields is, why aren't the Rays trying to lock him up too?

MLB Looks to China

MLB is looking to tap into the 1.3 billion-strong Chinese market. They'll kick off things by actually, you know, showing the Chinese some actual baseball:

[MLB's Paul Archey] is expected to announce in Beijing that MLB will play its first preseason games there in mid-March, likely between the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres.

If you think veterans enjoy begging off road games in the spring to get out of the bus rides now, just wait for the excuses when it comes time to get on that plane to Asia. I expect many "family emergencies."

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Now That's What I Call a Blogroll!

Here's the coolest blogroll you're going to see today.

I got a gentleman's C in 11th grade chemistry -- I probably would have failed if I hadn't played the Todd Rundgren requests my chem teacher called into the radio station I worked for -- but as best as I can tell, the link to ShysterBall corresponds to Technetium. According to this, Technetium is "the lightest chemical element with no stable isotope."

Which sounds about right.

Happy Birthday, Ernie!

Ernie Harwell, the voice of the Tigers, turns 90 on Friday.

Harwell is responsible for me being a baseball fan and it's not even a close race. My family was not into sports at all, and if I hadn't randomly twisted a radio dial in 1977 or 78, landed on WJR and been transfixed by his easy Georgia drawl, I probably wouldn't have found baseball for many many years, and then it would have been at a far less impressionable age.

Happy Birthday Ernie!

God Save the Fan

As you probably know, Will Leitch's new book "God Save the Fan: How Preening Sportscasters, Athletes Who Speak in the Third Person, and the Occasional Convicted Quarterback Have Taken the Fun Out of Sports (And How We Can Get It Back)" comes out today. I've read it and it's great, and I highly recommend that you check it out.

No full review yet because my advance copy came courtesy of the New York Post which, for some reason, asked me to review it for them, and since they're paying me and you're not, they get it first (the review should run on Sunday and I'll be sure to link it here).

In the meantime, I'll share one of my favorite passages in the book:

. . .as far as I'm concerned, there's not a stadium in all of sports that's a less enjoyable place to watch a sporting event than Yankee Stadium. It's not just that the park, because of an ill-fated mid-70s remodeling, has the nostalgic architecture of an International House of Pancakes (Though that doesn't help). It's that the mythos of Yankee Stadium, hand in hand with that unique blend of entitlement and narcissism that makes New York what it is, have combined to make attending a game there feel like you've been invited to your rich uncle's house, the one who never talks to you, works for some evil law firm somewhere, and makes you take your shoes off the minute you get out of the car. Oh, and he charges you forty bucks once you make it through the front door. It's the biggest rip-off in all of sports.

He may be based in Brooklyn, but Leitch is all-Midwest, and I mean that as a compliment.

Like I said, it's a good book, and a very different beast than Deadspin in many important ways (there is very little re-hashed content and is far less snarky and flip than you might expect). I highly recommend it.

Great Moments in Pandering

The New York City Council has passed a resolution will debate a resolution today (Update: it has passed) asking baseball to retire Roberto Clemente's number 21 for all teams just like Jackie Robinson's 42 was retired several years ago. Their basis: Clemente was the first Hispanic ballplayer.

Wait, er, that's not right because he wasn't. Their basis: Clemente was the first Puerto Rican ballplayer.

Um, nope, he wasn't that either. How about this: their basis: Clemente was the first Hispanic star.

Damn, this is getting hard. I guess we're left with this: their reason for wanting to honor Clemente is to pander to an important New York City voting demographic.

Yes, that seems to fit nicely.

Look, I love Roberto Clemente. Fabulous ballplayer. An even better human being. But that can be said about a lot of players, and we don't go retiring their numbers all willy nilly. The best way to honor Clemente is to (a) not forget his accomplishments and, ultimately, his sacrifice; and (b) allow players who wish to honor his legacy to actually wear number 21 -- as many have done since he died -- rather than hang it up in ballparks to collect dust.

If they do go ahead and retire number 21 anyway? Look out, because the floodgates will open. Sure, no one would argue with honoring Hank Greenberg or whoever the first Jewish ballplayer was (Update: the judges will accept Lip Pike), but things are going to start looking silly when the Dutch lobby gets Bert Blyleven's number retired or the Canucks pull strings for Bill Phillips.

Update: Deaner from Blue Collar Baseball disagrees with me, as I imagine a lot of people do. Can't help it. I'm just not a big fan of gestures and symbolism and stuff, even when it's well-intentioned.

Update: I may not have Deaner, but I do have the New York Post:

Few players would merit such an honor more than Clemente - a Hall of Famer and a tireless humanitarian. Indeed, he was killed in a 1972 plane crash while delivering disaster-relief aid in earthquake-ravaged Nicaragua.

But only one number has ever been retired league-wide: Jackie Robinson's 42.

That decision was announced on the 50th anniversary of Robinson's breaking the sport's color barrier - suggesting that baseball knows how best to honor its groundbreaking players.

And it does: The league presents the Roberto Clemente Award every year to the player who best embodies Clemente's humanitarian spirit.

But the council, forever in search of ways to justify itself, now figures it knows better.

It's simply beyond comprehension.

Get a life, councilpersons.

Two Wrongs

Ray Ratto believes that as punishment for their turning a blind eye to steroids, the Giants should be forced to forfeit their territorial rights to Santa Clara County. Added bonus: it would give the A's more leverage as they negotiate with Fremont over their ballpark deal by adding San Jose into the mix.

I don't read Ratto enough to know how he feels about PEDs in baseball, but I am hard pressed to imagine that any sane person can believe that's a good idea. Yes, the Giants' willful blindness was embarrassing, but in terms of harm caused, it pales compared to baseball's ridiculous, anti-competitive territorial scheme (which would only be further legitimized if employed to punish the Giants) or the way teams play one municipality off another in order to extract more tax dollars for their cash-cow ballparks, both of which would be encouraged by Ratto's proposed solution.

Monday, January 21, 2008

More Self-Promotion

In response to negligible demand, my thoughts on going after pro athletes, as opposed to drug dealers, in steroids prosecutions can be read over at Newsday.

Recessions and Baseball

I've recently thrown out a comment or two about how recessions don't really hurt baseball all that much. When I did so, I was just speculatin' based on some anecdotal evidence. Tim Marchman actually thinks about it a bit:

Moreover, in historical terms, recession has been, if anything, good for baseball. Since the end of World War II, five recessions have started during the off-season and lasted into the season. None of them harmed attendance at all: Baseball fans are a hardy and dedicated lot.

To support this conclusion, Tim cites some attendance figures for years in which recessions stretched into the baseball season. In all cases, Tim notes, attendance either held more or less steady or increased a tad.

But looking at attendance figures for the seasons which take place during recessions may be a bit misleading. I say this because it's often the case that the general public does not really feel the effects of a recession until after it has already occurred. The best recent evidence of this can be found in the example of the 1992 Presidential election, which was decided by an economic downturn that had ended over a year before people went to the polls. Even though I was a Clinton guy back then, hindsight gives me no small amount of sympathy for then-President Bush who correctly, albeit vainly, tried to argue that the economy was on the upswing and had been for many months before people went to the polls. Didn't matter of course, because Joe public was still feeling the pinch no matter what the leading economic indicators had to say.

For this reason it may be more profitable to look at the year or two after a recession is over in order to gauge its effect on baseball attendance. Eyeballing Marchman's examples -- the recessions of 1949, 1970, 1980, and 2001 -- shows that, at the very least, it's a mixed bag. The 1970 recession truly appears to not have had any material impact on attendance either at the time or in the following year or two. We can't truly assess post-1980 recession attendance because the 1981 strike gums up the data, but I will grant that 1982 and 1983 were strong. The other two examples, however, show a sharp decline in the seasons immediately following the recession:

1948-49 Recession
pre-recession attendance (1948): 20,938,388
recession year attendance (1949): 20,215,365
post-recession year one attendance: (1950): 17,462,977*
post-recession year two attendance: (1951): 16,126,676*

2001 Recession
pre-recession attendance (2000): 72,702,420
recession year attendance (2001): 72,567,108
post recession year one attendance (2002): 67,944,389
post recession year two attendance (2003): 67,630,052

I'm not suggesting the attendance decline in these two examples was caused by post-recession ennui. Indeed, in each example there were factors -- the Korean War and September 11th/Afghanistan/Iraq War -- which may have contributed to people turning their attention to things other than baseball in the ensuing years. That said, none of these events had such a great impact that they themselves led to recessions, so we shouldn't overstate their impact on baseball attendance.

What does this all mean as we head into what appears to be The Great 2008 Recession? Hard to say. It's quite possible that this time around attendance hits will occur contemporaneously with the recession because, unlike in previous years, reports of economic doom and gloom have been circulating for some time prior to the technical downturn. Indeed, given the speed at which information is obtained and processed these days, it's not out of the question that, by the time the recession is ending, baseball fans will have already dealt with their vanishing home equity and devalued currency, regrouped, and renewed their season ticket packages for 2009.

But baseball certainly can't bank on that for a couple of reasons. For starters, this recession may be a very different and scarier beast than those in the past. If so, ticket sales will no doubt suffer more than they usually do when things get bleak.

But what may give baseball a larger headache is the same thing which has given it so much joy in recent years: the game's economic expansion and diversification. Even if assume ticket sales will be resilient because hardcore, ticket-buying fans will be willing to scrimp in order to continue to go to games, so much more of the game's income these days is driven by more passive, and therefore more easily jettisoned, fan behavior. Fantasy games. packages. Video game and merch sales. These are products which, while lucrative, don't require the same investment of time and mental energy as does spending years on season ticket waiting lists or making the sorts of sacrifices occasioned by actually leaving one's home and going to a ballgame. In other words, those more recently-realized income streams were easy come, but in an economic downturn, they may also be more easy-go.

All that said, I still tend to share Marchman's cautious optimism because he's right in noting that (a) season tickets are purchased by richer, more recession-resistant folks; and (b) during recessions, sports and entertainment are often the only things keeping folks away from the ledge. In the end, baseball may weather the coming economic storm just fine.

But I certainly wouldn't bet my home equity on it.

*The link only shows 17,153,172 in attendance for 1950 and 15,661,207 for 1951. For some reason, however, the figure seems to exclude attendance for the Philiadelphia A's, which I've added to the total. It also lists the St. Louis Browns totals under Baltimore which, while understandable for purposes of later numbers in the decade, is inaccurate as the move east had not yet been made. Somebody please let me know if these totals are still off.

Game Sevens

THT's Chris Jaffe runs down the greatest Game Sevens in World Series history. You're likely to be quite surprised at which game tops the list. And no, the picture to the right is not a hint.

If you like that and want more, no worries, because over the past two months, Chris ran down the top top games one through six as well.

A Tale of Two Deals

A couple of signings yesterday: (1) The Colorado Rockies locked up Troy Tulowitzki to a six year deal with a team option for a seventh; and (2) journeyman swingman Brett Tomko was picked up by the Royals for 1 year and $3.5M.

On the one hand, you could say that the Rockies buying out all of the arbitration years and up to two free agent years for one of the game's up-and-coming young players was the more significant of the two deals. That would ignore the fact, however, that Brett Tomko brings more than just a 4.62 career ERA to the table.

What does he bring? Mrs. Tomko.

(link IS safe for work, but if you're creative and interested you can find many, many for yourself that are not).


Hey, Boston vs. New York! I wonder if, over the next couple of weeks, anyone is going to come up with some sort of angle about teams from those respective cities having something of a rivalry.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Quote of the Day

"Sign #35,728 that God thinks you're spending too much time on the internet: your research skills are called into question by an individual named 'pancakehead'"
--BTF poster Guapo at post #25 in Jim Rice thread 3,276.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Money _ _ _ _

Michael Lewis likes to share.

John McHale

John McHale, the man responsible for bringing baseball to Montreal and the Expos' first President has died:

McHale was an aide to former commissioner William Eckert in the 1960s when the National League was looking to expand by two teams - San Diego and either Montreal or Buffalo.

He was deeply involved as National League president Warren Giles helped sort out Montreal's fractured ownership group, settling on majority ownership by Charles Bronfman, which saved the Montreal bid, Fanning said. McHale then turned down an offer to replace Eckert as commissioner to join the new franchise as its first president.

If McHale had had this level of involvement with any other Major League team, there would no doubt be a memorial patch or initials sewn onto the home jerseys -- or something -- to honor his memory and contributions. The undead Expos, however, now forced to walk the Earth as the Washington Nationals, will no doubt fail to make such a gesture, just as they have failed to honor or even recognize Tim Raines, Andre Dawson, Gary Carter, or anything else that occurred before 2005.

UPDATE: Greetings Neyer fans! Click here for more ShysterBally goodness!

More on Progressive Field

Some fun musings on the implications of Cleveland renaming the Jake "Progressive Field." My favorite:

A progressive field sounds like something the Starship Enterprise would pass through, causing the crew to temporarily sprout goatees or beaks.

Bottom of the Barrel

Geoff Young at THT details the ten worst pitching seasons of all time for those pitchers who qualified for the ERA title. I am happy to report that I got to see Eric Milton pitch in person during the 2005 season -- twice -- which comes in at number five on the list. At the time, I felt that I was entitled to my money back. Now I'm certain of it.

World Series MVP Perks

Mike Lowell is living the good life:

There are perks to being World Series MVP, as Mike Lowell happily recounted yesterday.

"I got to shoot an ad today with Rene Russo," the Red Sox third baseman said before the Boston Baseball Writers dinner at the Westin Waterfront Hotel. "I don't think that if I went 1 for 17 in the Series I would have gotten the same chance."

Methinks that meeting Rene Russo would have been a much better perk for being the 1987 World Series MVP as opposed to 2007, but I suppose you take what you can get.

Ray King's Weight Loss Plan

I read stuff like this and wonder who -- the magazine or the writer -- approached whom first.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

"The Most Exciting Baseball Player I've Ever Seen"

Voros starts to rip into Shaugnessy, but then has a lot more fun remembering Eric Davis:

If you only caught the tail end of his injury and illness played career, you wouldn’t know it, but Eric Davis was far and away the most exciting baseball player I’ve ever seen. There have been guys who can do it all: run, hit for power, hit for average, make spectacular fielding plays. But Davis was something different. Davis was a high wire act that you knew had a chance in ending in
disaster. Davis lacerated his kidney diving for a ball in the World Series, but with Davis that was the norm.

Voros and I are close to the same age, so it is understandable that I agree wholeheartedly with his assessment of Davis. Davis was the gold standard of ballplayers as far as my friends and I were concerned. No one looked like him. No one played like him. He was just a beast. I've always taken the Willie Mays/Andruw Jones thing with a grain of salt -- though he may have been Mays' defensive equal, Andruw has never looked the way I've heard people describe Mays -- but pre-injury Eric Davis felt like the real deal. If I had the power to alter anything in baseball over the past 20 years, seeing what a healthy Davis could have done is near the top of the list.

Not that he was the best player around. Even pre-steroids Bonds was a far more productive hitter. Ken Griffey had many seasons better than Eric the Red's best. Heck, year-in-year out guys like Dale Murphy, Darryl Strawberry, and Tim Raines brought more to the table than Davis. But he was more exciting to watch, partially for the speed/power mix, but mostly for the reckless abandon.

Which has me thinking about the other players I've enjoyed for aesthetic reasons as opposed to merely appreciated due to superior performance. Not thinking too deeply about it, below is my list. Obviously all of these guys aren't going to be the best at what they did -- as is the case with Andruw Jones, hyper-competence can actually be somewhat boring -- but the players whose play I've simply enjoyed. No pitchers -- I thought about them for a minute and realize that, while I tend to like good pitching more than good hitting, it's really more of a formal appreciation as opposed to a pure enjoyment. Maybe I'll deal with pitchers later. In the meantime:

C: Tony Pena. I loved the odd squat behind the plate and the way he'd fling the ball around.

1B: Will Clark. This is mostly for offense -- great swing -- but I loved the way he carried himself on the field. Just seemed like what a ballplayer was supposed to be like. As much as I admire Bonds' accomplishments on an intellectual level, the Giants ceased to be interesting to me when Clark stopped playing for them after 1993.

2B: Craig Biggio. He wasn't necessarily exciting in the way some of these other players were, but since I always thought of him as a catcher -- probably far longer than anyone else did -- I always gave him extra credit when I watched him snag something at second base and probably enjoyed his play more than I should have.

3B: George Brett. Another primarily offensive choice. I may have seen him play in person in Tiger Stadium three times between 1978 and 1984, but my memories of baseball in those years are of George Brett single-handedly beating the Tigers dozens -- no, hundreds of times. I don't know why, but he just looms so much larger in my consciousness than even a player of his considerable stature should. Maybe it was the pine tar game, maybe it was the chase for .400, but as he played, he seemed to be building an almost contemporaneous legend.

SS: Ozzie Smith. The exception to the notion of competence being boring. Of course, calling Smith merely "competent" is an insult on par with calling a normal player putrid. As many have noted, when shortstops dive for balls, it's often because they got a late break. When Smith dove for balls it was because Tommy Herr or Terry Pendelton did.

LF: Rickey Henderson, though I'll admit I never really thought of him as a Hall of Fame type player during his prime. Not because he wasn't -- he obviously was -- but because I didn't yet appreciate OBP or the uniqueness of his power from the leadoff position (Lou Whitaker hit homers for my Tigers, so I assumed all leadoff hitters did). So no, it wasn't quite appreciation for him as it was enjoyment of his speed and his showboating, and his interview skills. I'd watch a whole team of Rickeys even if he was a hacker.

CF: Davis, for reasons stated.

RF: A tie between Ichiro and Dave Parker. Radically different players, obviously, but both had great arms. What I liked about them the most, though, is not the arm strength itself, but the deception. You never expect a guy Ichiro's size to have a cannon like he does. Parker, on the other hand always seemed to lope around in a rather haphazard fashion, but once he got to the ball and let loose, the results were most impressive (almost as if he were striking; like some kind of snake; maybe someone ought to have given him a nickname in that vein . . )

OK, I suppose this list may have been a little best-ever heavy, but there you go.

Excited yet?

UPDATE: Neyer asks how I could put this list together and not include Bo Jackson. Good question, but I have a (sorta) defensible answer. Jackson saw his first real playing time in 1987, but didn't really become HOLY CRAP THIS IS BO JACKSON until 88 or 89. One thing you'll note about this list is that it's basically devoid of post-1985 AL players (I got hooked on Henderson in the early 80s). There's a reason for this, and that reason is that I lived in West Virginia from 1985 through 1991 and saw damn little American League ball during those years. Yes, I saw the Jackson highlights on SportsCenter, and yes, I saw his legendary All Star Game performance, but I really didn't see much of the guy and thus don't have the same level of appreciation for him as many do.

But even if I did -- I have to wonder whether I'd still not rather watch Rickey in left.

Three More Years of Selig

Bud Selig has agreed to stay on as Commissioner for three more years:

Riding the crest of unprecedented financial success and an impressive performance before Congress Tuesday, Bud Selig agreed to stay on as Major League Baseball's commissioner for three more years.

Selig, 73, agreed to continue his reign just two days after he appeared at a Congressional hearing on the Mitchell Report on steroids, a report authored by former Sen. George Mitchell at Selig's behest.

Selig left Washington Tuesday night for the MLB owners' meetings in Phoenix, where the owners asked him to stay on until 2012.

This is the sort of thing that will make many purists and hardcore fans angry. After all, it was Selig who presided over a season without a World Series, introduced the wild card and interleague play, and had his head in the sand as PEDs seeped into the game. Nevertheless, keeping Bud on is a totally understandable and even defensible thing.

Yes, we can talk about the opportunity costs of some of his decisions. Yes, we can discuss the bad faith with which he has appeared to approach many of his duties. Yes, we can speculate about the ideal outcomes that were not realized. But when we're done talking about all of those things we have to concede that Bud Selig has delivered on his primary duty, and that is to make money for the owners and grow the game. That's it. That's his job, and he has done it startlingly well.

Should that be the Commissioner's primary duty? Well, that's something we can talk about too, but for now it is.

At Least No One Argued That How Green Was My Valley Was "Feared"

Keith Law is back from vacation and is (somewhat belatedly) jumping into the Jim Rice fray, taking up Buster Olney's comparison of Oscar voting and MVP voting. Here's Keith:

I think that’s a fabulous idea. Let’s compare the mindblowing stupidity of MVP voting to the mindblowing stupidity of Oscar voting. For example, guess how many combined non-honorary Oscars Alfred Hitchcock, Orson Welles, and Federico Fellini won?

Keith goes on to cite most of the boneheaded choices the Academy has made over the years (and on almost all of which I agree with Keith).

For my part, I think that bad MVP decisions are far worse than some of the Oscars' greatest misses because, with movies, there isn’t some quantitative baseline that the voters need to consider in order to competently make their case (Titanic aside, good box office isn't typically the reason for Oscar clunkers ). With movies it's typically matter of taste, and no matter how hard you can try, you can't effectively refute someone who simply insists that Titanic was better than L.A. Confidential. It's opinion, and you know what they say about opinions.

To make a bad MVP choice in baseball, however, it's not enough to refer to some subjective aesthetic judgment. I mean, Adam LaRoche has a beautiful swing, but that's never going to make him an MVP candidate. No, to make those bad choices, objective data must be actively ignored, and that's far worse than whatever happens with the movies.

Silva vs. Robertson

One of my Tiger fan readers wrote me yesterday to complain about Detroit signing Nate Robertson to a three-year, $21M+ deal. I agree that that kind of money for a fourth/fifth starter is somewhat mind-boggling, but the market is the market and that's what folks are paying for pitchers these days.

Besides, as Don Evans at Smart Ball in Seattle points out, Robertson is practically a bargain compared to what his team threw out to a fairly comparable pitcher in Carlos Silva:

The last three years [Silva and Robertson] have been fairly durable but inconsistent. Some of the best projections we have available for next year have them as pretty close as well. The Mariners simply paid too much for what I think Silva is going to give them. I think the Silva deal stinks. I know it is not particularly instructive to compare anything to the least common denominator, but you would have a very tough time arguing Silva is worth an average of 5 million more a year than Robertson.

Canseco Doesn't Sweat the Small Stuff. Or the Big Stuff.

First Jose Canseco switches ghost writers -- he's now working with the OJ: If I did it guy -- and now he switches publishers, yet somehow still thinks he has a book coming out in April.

I realize that whatever he eventually writes isn't intended to be fine literature, but honestly, there are college kids who don't play things this fast and loose with term papers.


Mets Refugees makes a good point about the new ballpark in Queens:

In a country with sports venues with names like Arena and Monster Park, and with telecommunication and financial company mergers causing venues to change names seemingly every year, New Yorkers lucked out when it was announced that Citigroup was paying $20 million a year over 20 years for naming rights to the Mets new ballpark. Not only is Citi Field an inoffensive name for a ballpark in New York City, but the Citi name has been in use since the mid-1970’s.

But with yesterday’s news that Citigroup lost almost $10 billion in the fourth quarter of 2007, it is looking more likely that unless Citigroup turns things around in the near future, the Mets’ new ballpark might eventually fall victim to the name-changing plague that has been seen around the country.

I suppose if the Astros could survive "Enron Field" the Mets can survive this, but I think ballclubs have underestimated the hassle and possible embarrassment that can come with hitching your nominal fortunes to a corporate star.