Friday, February 29, 2008

No Country for Old Men

Jon Heyman believes that it it's in Miguel Cabrera's best interests to sign a long term deal in Detroit. It may very well be, but Heyman's reasoning seems a bit loopy:

Miguel Cabrera couldn't have picked a more perfect team to be traded to than the Tigers. Here, he is part of a Murderers' Row of locker stalls. Edgar Renteria is to Cabrera's right, and Gary Sheffield, countryman Carlos Guillen and boyhood idol Magglio Ordonez are to his left. If Cabrera ever felt unprotected in the Marlins' lineup, that won't happen here, where he is like everyone's little brother . . .

. . . The best thing Cabrera could do is sign a deal to stay a decade in Detroit, where he'd benefit from the wisdom of stable, mature stars such as Ordonez and Guillen, the positive influence of legendary manager Jim Leyland and the love and admiration of their baseball officials, including GM Dave Dombrowski and top assistant Al Avila . . .

Edgar Renteria is 32. Gary Sheffield is 39. Carlos Guillen is 32. Magglio is 34. Jim Leyland is 62 (and a smoker to boot!). Dombrowski could be in Detroit for most of the next ten years, but the rest of those guys won't.

If I'm Miguel Cabrera it might be nice to have those guys around for a little while but their presence should be the last thing that enters into my decision to sign a long term deal with the Tigers.

Rather, I ask myself if Curtis Granderson, Justin Verlander and Jeremy Bonderman are going to be around for the next ten years and, more importantly, whether Dombrowski has a plan to replace all of the aging parts and keep the Tigers in contention.

No Discipline for the Mitchell 89?

Selig is apparently still mulling it over, but the 89 players mentioned in the Mitchell Report will probably not be punished by Major League Baseball for their alleged sins. I love how the article puts it:
According to a person familiar with Selig's thinking, there's only a 50% chance
now that any players at all will face bans.

A person "familiar with Selig's thinking?" What an odd way to put that. If the person is so close to his Budship that they are "familiar with his thinking," it implies that they were party to Bud's deliberations on the subject. That could only be a couple of folks. Identifying them in such a way, therefore, means that they are likely to be easily identifiable and thus subject to a sound thrashing for leaking such sensitive information to the press!

Or it means that the source is Bud himself and he's floating a trial balloon to see what the public would think of those damned by Mitchell getting off Scot free. Personally I like this theory a lot, but it would imply that Bud has a modicum of public relations sense, and that may be the most implausible thing of all.

Either way, it's the smart play to let these players go. If you go down the punishment road, the grievances and appeals process fomented by such ex post facto "justice" would drag this saga out through Obama's second term. Of course, as is the case with the PR savvy, if Bud had any handle on the concept of closure, he wouldn't have asked Mitchell to name names in the first place.

I'm Sure He'll Find a Way to Soldier On . . . Somehow

Bob Klapisch, while trying to warn Joe Torre that he's made an awful mistake leaving New York, unwittingly confirms just how right Torre was to leave New York:

Torre says all the right things -- it is, after all, still February -- but his friends in the business say it's only a matter of time before the non-Yankee reality greets him head-on. One person close to Torre said, "I just hope Joe doesn't end up regretting this" . . .

. . . In his heart, Torre probably knew it was time to leave New York. He's said as much recently, that he no longer felt appreciated. But why did he take another job so fast? Torre is in a new league, trying to familiarize himself with a roster of strangers, surrounded by a baseball culture that could care less about the Yankees. Someday, Torre may look in the mirror, see that Dodger blue and ask: Was it really worth it
I'm willing to bet good money that Klapisch once wrote something very similar about a girl who dumped him and only had to change a few nouns to make a baseball column out of it.

In any event, someone needs to alert him that Joe Torre spent eighteen seasons as a player and fifteen seasons as a manager for teams other than the Yankees. I think he'll be just fine.

Bowa Plays By His Own Rules, Man

Call the doctor, dear, I find myself agreeing with Larry Bowa!
Many base coaches are unhappy with the new rule mandating helmets in reaction to the death last year of Minor League coach Mike Coolbaugh, who was struck by a line drive while coaching first base. Count Dodgers third-base coach Larry Bowa among the objectors. Bowa did not wear a helmet during the Dodgers' Grapefruit League opener Thursday against the Braves, the first time he was required by rule to do so.
Of course since he's Larry Bowa his objections skew a bit weird ("They talk about delay of game, and when the helmet falls off, you'll have to stop the game") but his overall point -- that there are many more people on the field in greater danger from hit balls than the base coaches -- is a good one.

As I said when they announced the rule back in November, one of the reasons Mike Coolbaugh's death was so shocking was because nothing like that had ever happened before, and that it hadn't happened before is a testament to how little actual danger the base coaches are actually in. And remember, the ball that killed Coolbaugh hit him in the back of his neck below his ear. A helmet would have been unlikely to save him.

I think if a coach were to lodge a quiet, under-the-radar protest by simply not wearing the helmet and hoping no one notices, MLB might have let it slide or offered only nominal fines. Since this is Larry Bowa spouting off about it in front of a bunch of reporters, however, they're likely to crack down now.


Former Mets, Rockies, and Expos pitcher Matsato Yoshii is now a coach for Nippon Ham. The New York Times notes that he is the first Japanese player with United States playing experience to coach there.
Humor is necessary for the job because in a country where Yoshii was once instructed to throw 2,000 pitches in spring training, ideas from the outside can often be scorned.
Given how long they've put up with Bobby Valentine's schtick (did you know he claims to have invented the wrap sandwich?), I'm guessing those old stereotypes about the closed-minded Japanese baseball establishment are becoming outdated.

New Rules

They've fiddled with the rule book a bit, but are going to test the new rules in the minors first. Both new rules involve speeding up the game. The first one:
New language inserted into Rule 8.04, which regulates the time that a pitcher has to pitch, has been amended to increase the time within which a pitcher must pitch from 12 to 15 seconds, but the timing will begin when the pitcher receives the ball without regard for whether the batter is ready for the pitch.

If the batter has had a reasonable opportunity to get ready and is not ready, he would be at risk for having the pitcher pitch, or, if the batter is out of the batter's box, for having an automatic strike called, as set forth in Rules 6.02(c) and (d).

I was always under the impression that the timing was always irrespective of whether the batter was ready, and that the pitcher could just pitch unless that batter had called and received time. Guess not. Either way, actually enforcing this rule would make a big difference in the pace of games, which is badly needed in my view. The second rule:

Another rule change will limit the number of visits to the mound by managers, coaches and infielders. Any combination of three or more manager/coach visits to the mound in a game without removing the pitcher will result in the automatic removal of the pitcher from the game on a fourth visit, regardless of whether prior visits were to the same or different pitcher(s). Additionally, no more than one infielder at a time is permitted to visit the mound, including during any visit by a manager or coach.

Maybe I'm wrong, but I've never thought that coach/manager visits were huge contributors to longer games. Well, non-La Russa games anyway. It's probably a good rule, though, because I'd venture a guess that in-game visits from pitching coaches are pretty much pointless and their elimination would go a long way towards making pitchers happier men. Ask yourself: have you ever seen a pitcher look to the dugout and ask for a pitching coach visit? Ever seen a pitcher look particularly pleased when the pitching coach comes out? Me neither.

If they're reduced, pitchers will simply have to figure out how to "bear down," "settle down," and/or "go after this guy" on their own initiative.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

A Milestone of Sorts

Remember back in 1992 when Whitney Houston's "I Will Always Love You" was on the top of the charts for like 15 weeks, and you thought it would never go away, and then one day, out of the blue, Peabo Bryson and Regina Belle knocked her out of the top spot with "A Whole New World" and you were simultaneously happy that Whitney was gone, but rather shocked at the song that finally did it?

Um, OK, maybe that was just me. Cut me some slack, I was DJing at a top 40 radio station at the time and such things held my interest then.

Anyway, the reason I bring this up is because today -- for the first time in a couple of weeks -- the number one search term bringing random surfers onto ShysterBall did not have anything to do with Debbie Clemens' breasts. The new champ -- at least until this post goes up and brings in a bunch more pervs -- is "Andruw Jones Fat."

Who woulda thunk that a pudgy centerfielder's ass would bring more hits than a buff SI swimsuit model?

Andruw Jones Is Twice the Player He Used To Be

ShysterBall reader Alan Maguire focuses my attention on a large, mayonnaise-covered tidbit buried in today's article about Andruw Jones adjusting to life away from the Braves:

He raised some eyebrows reporting to camp at 240 pounds. But he assured new manager Joe Torre he'll lose it as the season progresses.
240?! Jones is officially listed at 210. We know those are always based on long-ago weights, but 240 is still a buttload of pounds more than Andruw was sporting in Atlanta.

The only way this can be good news for the Dodgers is if he gained that weight by eating Juan Pierre.

Zumaya Watch

Joel Zumaya is making progress, even throwing a baseball for the first time in months.

I was going to wait a few weeks for this, but I'll put up the Zumaya pool now. Pick only one please:

What injury will end Joel Zumaya's 2008 Season?

Elbow strain
Oblique strain
Eye strain
Pregnancy (wife)
Pregnancy (own)
Guitar Hero
Halo 3
Burger Time
Alien hand syndrome
Restless leg syndrome
Tommy John surgery
Joel Zumaya surgery (to be named upon discovery of new malady)
Blackwater Fever
Rotator cuff
Cuff links (in eye)
Familial hyperlipoproteinemia type III
Spontaneous polydactylism
The Yips
Riley-Day syndrome
Stockholm syndrome
Capgras syndrome
Dislocated shoulder
Located shoulder
The Willies
Munchausen syndrome

Entry fee is $5. Checks can be made payable to the Estate of Joel Zumaya.

Smooth Jazz

Remember a few years ago when it was revealed that Mariners' pitcher Miguel Batista was a novelist and everyone thought "wow, it's rare to see a ballplayer with that kind of depth."

We're now learning that he's not so deep after all.

The Commishes Before Congress

Bud Selig, David Stern, Gary Bettman, Roger Goodell and their union counterparts were all dragged in front of Congress yesterday. A Congress which is now considering imposing standardized drug testing and punishment on the sports leagues. Here's a fun exchange:
Congressman Barton: Let's get it right this time . . . Let's go ahead and get something into law that is acceptable . . . It's no fun having this hearing every two to three years.

David Stern: The sports leagues have gotten it right in the intervening three years . . . This is an area where federal legislation is not necessary.

Barton: Mr. Stern, I would suggest that we have not gotten it right enough. If we had gotten it right -- if you all had gotten it right -- we would not be here again today.

Stern: No, Congressmen. We wouldn't be here if the stupid and naive gentleman to my left [points at Selig] hadn't decided to create a misguided investigation that would dredge up years-old allegations and present them as current, thereby stoking the flames of negative public opinion.
OK, that last one may have occurred in thought bubbles only, but it was probably the most accurate thing said all day.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Clemens' Referral

I'm not entirely sure how serious a "referral" like this is ("referrals" were what they gave us in high school when we got caught smoking in the parking lot), but it's something, I suppose.

Quick take: lots of pomp, little circumstance. Extended take: I gave it to Jason at It IS About the Money. Check his stuff out. He's far more on top of it than I am this evening.

And hang around a bit over there too. Jason is good people.


Back in September, Scott Spiezio exited rehab, re-joined the Cardinals and said "I was out of control for a while . . . I learned a lot and I'm ready to start contributing in a good way now."

We're now learning that two months later he pulled the a double-trifecta (sexecta?) of out-of-control bad contributing: (1) driving under the influence; (2) driving under the influence with a blood alcohol content of .08 percent or more; (3) hit and run; (4) aggravated assault; (5) assault; and (6)battery.

Um, yeah. The Cardinals said they weren't aware of the warrant. Wonder if they were aware of the incident?

Update: And just like that, he's gone.

Naming Rights for Wrigley

In other news we've covered before, Sam Zell says that he won't hesitate to sell Wrigley's naming rights:

Tribune Co. CEO Sam Zell said Tuesday he won't hesitate to sell the naming rights to Wrigley Field -- even if baseball purists don't like the idea.

"Wrigley is an obvious world-wide icon and Wrigley Field is world-wide known. But, in the world of economics, when I bought the Tribune, I didn't get a discount because I wasn't going to use the naming rights that field represents," Zell said in an interview on the CNBC program "Squawk Box."

"Perhaps the Wrigley Co. will decide that, after getting it for free for so long, that it's time to pay for it."
Actually, going after the Wrigley Co. for the rights is probably the only smart play here. Any other company would have to know that changing the name of the building at 1060 W. Addison would bring nothing but bad publicity, wouldn't they? I predict boycotts of whatever product's or company's name is slapped on the building. Sure, the boycotts wouldn't amount to much in and of themselves -- they never do -- but the press would eat it up. Knowing all of this, even if Zell could get someone to bite, won't there have to be a tremendous discount in the value of those naming rights?

If you're the Wrigley Co., you might very well feel that you're the target of a shakedown right now. And maybe you are. Still, there are ways to deal with it. BTF poster Adam G has a clever, albeit cynical, idea to lessen the blow:

[I]f I was the Wrigley Co., I would be all over using this for a marketing campaign. For example, they come out with a Special Line of Chewing Gum where 5 cents out of every sale goes towards the "naming rights fund" or the "save Wrigley field fund". The company will match every sale dollar for dollar. They would gain enormous good will with the community, sell many many additional packs of gum, and essentially end up buying the naming rights for half price because the public would be paying half
I like the cut of that man's jib. Cut his hair, fit him for a pinstripe suit and have him at a desk in the boiler room after lunch!

Giambi at First

It was a week ago that the New York Post and this blog discussed Jason Giambi playing a lot of first base this year. Apparently nothing has happened, however, if it's not reported in the New York Times:

“It would give us a lot more flexibility,” General Manager Brian Cashman said. “With the emergence of Melky in center and with Johnny and Matsui in left, we have too many quality at-bats. Our preference would be to make sure we can get them all in the lineup, and Jason is the key to allowing that to happen if he can play first. It’s just an ‘if’ we don’t know.”

If Giambi could play first base — and Kevin Long, the hitting coach, said he could see him doing so in half the games — then the Yankees could use all of their best hitters in the same lineup.

I was all for it a week ago and, the wise comments of ShysterBall readers counseling against it notwithstanding, I still think I'd give it a shot.

I Love Knuckleballers

The R.A. Dickey story is an odd one:
A hard-throwing all-American pitcher at the University of Tennessee in 1996, Dickey became a first-round draft pick of the Texas Rangers and a starter for the United States Olympic team, along with Kris Benson, Billy Koch, Seth Greisinger and Braden Looper. Baseball America pictured the five of them standing side by side on the cover of its Olympic preview issue.

Dickey was ready to accept the Rangers’ $810,000 bonus offer when a team physician picked up the magazine and noticed Dickey’s right arm hanging somewhat awkwardly at his side. The doctor recommended that the team examine him further, leading to the bizarre discovery that Dickey not only had an elbow issue, he had no ulnar collateral ligament, the primary tissue that stabilizes the joint. The Rangers pulled their offer and wound up offering him $75,000, more out of guilt than confidence in his future.

Baseball America: proving once again to be history's greatest monster. But you're never going to be able to keep a guy with perspective down, and this my friends, is the sort of perspective I like to see in a ballplayer:

“The majority of knuckleballers have most of their success from ages 32 to 40, and win most of their games,” said Dickey, who studied the history of pitchers like Hoyt Wilhelm, Wilbur Wood and Phil Niekro while making his transition. “I think there’s something to that. There’s the maturity that comes with throwing that pitch. To surrender to being a new person and a new pitcher is tough. You kind of feel like the leper of the colony, a circus act.”
For all of the beauty of Ball Four, you never get the sense that Jim Bouton ever really embraced the knuckleball like that. For all of Bouton's insight and depth, he seemed to be fighting more than anything rather than understanding, like Dickey seems to, that you have to give something up of yourself and your ego to really strike out as a flutterballer.

Dickey is a Rule 5 pick, so the Mariners have to keep him on the big club roster this year or lose him. For that reason, there's a good chance he sticks. I sure hope so. The world needs more knuckleballers.

Quote of the Day

"If he got that bunt down, I would have drilled the next guy. Play to win against Villanova."

-- Billy Wagner, after a University of Michigan player tried to lay a bunt down in an exhibition game.

Personally, I think Wagner should have beaned the next guy anyway. This is Michigan we're talking about. They must be dealt with harshly.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008


Reno is getting the Diamondbacks' AAA franchise in 2009. I have nothing intelligent or insightful to say about that, but I'm kind of bored this evening, so I figure this is as good a time as any to tell my Reno story.

In 2003 I took a month-long-find-myself road trip. Just me, my car, and about 8000 miles of two lane highway. I played it mostly by ear, but I did have my copy of Road Trip USA by Jamie Jensen. I used the book for sights, but found my own food and accommodations for the most part.

The night I made it into Reno followed a wondrous day. I woke up that morning in Moab, Utah, and went hiking in Arches National Park before dawn, watching the sunrise from Delicate Arch. Later, I went back to town, had a great breakfast, and then hit the road across Utah.

I was going to stop in Ely, Nevada for the night, but I got there much sooner than I thought I would, mostly because I kept the cruise control at about 100 mph for a good part of my day (U.S. 50 past Great Basin isn't heavily patrolled). After a bite to eat and a look around Ely, I decided to bust across Nevada and make Reno before bed. So I did, again breaking all kinds of speed records while contemplating the scenery and my place in the cosmos. I rolled into Reno sometime after 9pm, if I remember correctly.

Euphoric from a wonderful day on the road, I was in the mood to try something different, so I let Jamie Jensen and Road Trip USA guide me to some local color in the form of a motel they called "quaint" and "retro" and "charming" named "The Heart O' Town." From the street it looked, well, OK. It had a neat neon sign and didn't look too seedy, so I figured what the hell. I went inside to ask for a room.

The office -- attached to the manager's apartment -- smelled like cabbage. An old lady came out and took my name, money (cash only, please) and gave me a room key. I was starting to regret handing over my money and giving my real name, but I decided that I could handle anything that day.

I walked up to my room and opened the door to see: a bare light bulb hanging from the ceiling. A TV from the Ford administration. A red velvet bedspread with multiple questionable stains. The stench of bug spray and (maybe) death. Before I let my bag hit the floor, I turned on my heel and walked out.

Back in the office, not wanting to insult the proprietor, I mumbled something about making a mistake or mixed up plans or something and meekly expressed my desire to get my money back and leave. The old lady wasn't having it, though. No refunds. No way. Not possible. Because I was on a hiatus from practicing law -- and thinking about maybe never going back to it -- I had no stomach to argue my rights. It wasn't a lot of money, and I was willing to leave it on the table. As I walked out, the old lady yelled encouragingly "you can keep the key until morning if you want! The room is yours all night!"

My exhaustion catching up with me, I decided to go Velveeta that night, so I got on the freeway, got off at Sparks, and checked into a suburban Cross Country Inn situated next to an Outback Steakhouse. Ah, home! When I checked in I soon realized that some Cal-Nevada girls high school volleyball tournament was in town, because the lobby was filled with scores of tall and athletic sixteen year-old girls, most of them blond and most of them wearing bikinis as they made their way to the indoor pool. I was a five days unshaven and dusty dude wearing ratty clothes with full legal rights to a no-tell motel downtown all night, so I quickly separated myself from the surrounding nubility -- I wasn't really tempted, but given my appearance, one sideways glance could have gotten me arrested -- got into my room and immediately went to sleep.

The next morning I planned to hang around Reno, but my friend from LA called me to tell me he had scored Angels-Mariners tickets for that night, so I decided to drive down a day earlier than planned. I have my priorities.

So that's my Reno story.

La Russa Says He Doesn't Believe McGwire Took PEDs

From Bryan Burwell's Pythonesque interview with the Cardinals' skipper:
"Well, that's what you believe and you're probably right according to testimony, but that's not what I believe," La Russa said. "I watched Mark McGwire work."

I interrupted him.

"Wait a minute, Tony. You still don't believe McGwire used performance-enhancing drugs?"

"Absolutely not."

"Come on."

"Absolutely not," he said. "If you see Mark today, he still looks like he did then."

"No, he doesn't," I said.

"Yes, he does," La Russa said.

"No, he doesn't," I repeated.

La Russa tossed his hands in the air and looked at me in frustration. "Are you asking for my opinion or yours?" he said.
Despite the clear statement from La Russa that he thinks McGwire was clean, I can't help but think he's jerking Burwell around a bit here. La Russa isn't your average dummy. He's a lawyer -- a different kind of dummy altogether, but one with some reasoning ability -- and part of me thinks that he's playing some lawyerly games.

Not your typical language parsing, really -- he is pretty clear in what he says -- but more in terms of suckering his interviewer a bit. Maybe it didn't work out the way he wanted to, but I get the sense that he was trying to goad Burwell into making a claim about McGwire that isn't supported by the record (like a positive test or something) at which point La Russa could pounce and accuse him of falling prey to a witch hunt mentality or something.

Maybe I'm just projecting here. I mean, I'd certainly mess with reporters if they ever let me in the managers' chair, and this would be one way to do it. But, really, who knows? Maybe La Russa is simply that loyal to McGwire. Or that blind. Or both.

It Tastes Expensive Because It Is

Next time your baseball bunch comes over, pour yourself a Maker's Mark on the rocks, straight from a bottle featuring Hall of Fame catcher Johnny Bench:

National Baseball Hall of Fame catcher Johnny Bench is featured on the annual limited edition Maker's Mark bottle commemorating the Lane's End Stakes at Turfway Park, according to a press release.

The label features Bench standing with a catcher's mask in one hand and mitt in the other. Only 3,000 numbered bottles will be produced. They will go on sale Friday, March 14, at area liquor retailers in Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky. Proceeds from the sale of this year's bottle and related events will benefit the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame and Museum and the Johnny Bench Scholarship Fund of the Greater Cincinnati Foundation.

While I like me some Maker's Mark, I'm holding out for the Mickey Mantle bottle. If that's too expensive, I'll go with Brett Boone.

(link via BTF)

DQing Hardin

McNamee's lawyer apparently plans to try and knock Rusty Hardin off the case:

When McNamee's lawyers file a motion to dismiss Roger Clemens' defamation lawsuit against his former personal trainer on March 4 in Houston, they will also file a motion to disqualify Hardin from defending Clemens in that suit, the Daily News has learned.

According to McNamee's defamation expert, Richard Emery, the motion will center on Hardin's representation of both Clemens and Yankee pitcher Andy Pettitte in the time before and just after the release of the Mitchell Report on performance-enhancing drugs in baseball in December.

Whether McNamee is the right person to raise this as opposed to Pettitte -- who stands to be deposed by the lawyer with whom he presumably shared confidences -- is doubtful, but my gut tells me the issue has some legs.

My gut also tells me that Hardin would love nothing more than to find a way out of this mess at this point too, so maybe he doesn't fight it that hard . . .

Larry Walker: Realist

Fresh off of Jack Morris loudly (and erroneously) proclaiming his Hall of Fame worthiness and so many others loudly (and erroneously) proclaiming Jim Rice's, it's nice to see someone being realistic about things. Larry Walker on Larry Walker:

"I would love to have a vote or two," said Walker, who played in just 1,988 games in 17 years and retired partially because of a neck injury. "That's all I would ask for. I don't think my career is worthy of Cooperstown. I'd love to go back and change the injuries. If I could get rid of the injuries in my career — I wish I could change that. But it's the way it went."

He will (and should) get more than a vote or two, but his take isn't all that far off. In my mind Walker has a much stronger case than Jim Rice, Dave Parker and a whole host of others already enshrined or soon to be.

I don't like races to the bottom, however, and just because there are some undeserving guys in Cooperstown doesn't mean that we should enshrine more undeserving guys out of some sense of fairness. As he points out himself, Walker gets demerits for his durability and, even though he's not some Bichetteian Coors creation, he should probably get some demerits for his primary home park.

I like Larry Walker an awful lot, so it's hard to relegate him to the Hall of Very Good, but the fact that he's already done it himself makes it a bit easier.

Ken Rosenthal Prefers Rapists to 'Roiders UPDATED

Ken Rosenthal is worried that, in all of this Clemens news, you may have forgotten the real enemy:
Bonds represents a cancer in the industry. He is not the only player alleged to have used performance-enhancing drugs during baseball's steroid epidemic. But he is not just another name in the Mitchell report, either . . . Any owner who would prostitute himself by signing Bonds would face a storm of negative publicity boiling down to three words: Shame on you.

Hey, while I prefer Ken Rosenthal the reporter to Rosenthal the editorial writer, he's entitled to his opinion. But Ken, are you really serious with this one?:
Then again, this is not a sabermetric exercise in which you calculate how many runs Bonds would add to a given lineup and proclaim his addition to be a masterstroke. Nor is this a situation analogous to the Kobe Bryant sexual-assault case, in which Bryant continued playing for the Lakers during pre-trail hearings in 2003-04.

Bryant, like Bonds, was legally entitled to play, and the case against him eventually was dismissed. But Bryant's alleged offense was an act of personal indiscretion, not a reflection of his entire sport.

Just so we're clear: to Ken Rosenthal, rape is a matter of "personal indiscretion," that in no event is as serious as taking steroids. And one of the biggest stars in the NBA being (a) arrested for rape; and (b) selling out a teammate when interrogated isn't a reflection on the sport.

Wow. Better yet, NOW. As in, I wonder what women's groups think about rape being equated with rudeness, littering, and other "personal indiscretions."

UPDATE: The article has been edited. The paragraph with which I took umbrage now reads as follows:

Bryant, like Bonds, was legally entitled to play, and the case against him eventually was dismissed. But Bryant's alleged offense was an isolated incident, not a reflection of a league-wide problem.

[emphasis supplied].

I applaud Rosenthal and/or his editor for making the change. It was my hope that he didn't truly mean what he said, and I take the change as evidence that this was more a matter of poor wording than poor judgment.

The Best Pitch in the Game

John Walsh at the Hardball Times has a load of fun with the pitch-f/x system in an effort to identify who has the best single pitch in the game. Articles like this, my friends, is why being a baseball fan today is so much better than being a baseball fan at any other time in history.

Of course I disagree with the results, in that no pitch can paste a pathetic palooka like a certain hurler's powerful, paralyzing, perfect pachydermous percussion pitch. I'll cut Walsh some slack, though, because I'm pretty sure the 1946 Polo Grounds didn't have the pitch-f/x system installed yet.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Azazel Clemens

When I read the news that Roger Clemens may be prosecuted for perjury, my first thought was "The circus never ends." When my friend Ethan Stock read it, his thoughts skewed a bit more profound.

After educating me about the origin of the word "scapegoat," Ethan, via email, notes that to the extent Roger Clemens is one, he is not simply taking the fall for baseball's misdeeds:
I’m starting to get the feeling that Roger Clemens has unwittingly stepped onto the altar of a pagan ritual of purification, and the zeitgeist of the congregation assembled is not just anticipating the cleansing of baseball, but the cleansing of the American body politic itself – that in this one misguided, overkill investigation of a sad little man who happened to be a great athlete, Congress is somehow hoping to redeem itself of its investigative failures of the past decade that have brought us Enron, a stock market crash, the housing bubble, a failed 2000 presidential election, the war in Iraq, the U.S. attorney scandal, and more.

Somehow, they seem to feel that baseball has such totemic power that by this single act, that litany of failures will be washed away, the sun will shine again, the dollar will be strong, drugs will no more course up from Mexico, SAT scores will rise, Osama bin Laden will turn out to be nothing more than the bad-dream ratings-grabbing cliffhanger episode from the end of last season, and Babe Ruth will once again walk this earth.

Clemens is becoming almost Christlike in his ability to heal the world of its sins and help us transition to some new era. Boy will there be depression when they wake up from this and find . . . nothing has changed.
I couldn't agree more. It's been a long time since the steroids controversy was simply about baseball. Ironically, it's now those who claim to abhor PEDs who use them to make themselves feel bigger.

Et Tu, Tony?

Tony Kornheiser is the latest sports media figure to rail against bloggers:

It's a real, it's a real mistake, and it happens. And I don't want to single anybody out in this area, but, you know, some people sit at home and they watch TV and they watch radio and they "blog" about certain "things," and they think they know what they're talking about, and they think they have sources. They have no sources. They make stuff up. They're toads. They're little toads. Actually, they're pimples on the behind of the greater body politic in this country and in this city. And because, because they have access to airwaves and three or four people read them, they think, 'Oh, I'm very important.'

In fact, in fact, if a huge dumpster landed on their mother's house, and got all the way into the basement and crushed them, nobody would care. Nobody would miss them. They provide nothing good, no service that's any good at all. They, they are, they are, they are sucking mole rats, and that's the nicest I can be to them. But because, because they have a name, or, you know, because they get feedback from others, you know, they think they're very important.

At least I think he's railing here. I hesitate only because Kornheiser normally strikes me as a little more thoughtful than your average MSM anti-blogger, and that rant is anything but thoughtful. Kornheiser is often funny as well, and given that this excerpt is taken from Dan Steinberg's D.C. Sports Bog -- which is a blog hosted by Kornheiser's own paper -- it's possible that this is all some stab at meta-humor.

For his sake, I hope so. It's one thing when blithering idiots say silly things about blogs, but it's quite another when a guy a lot of people think fairly highly of does it.

(link via Deadspin)

UPDATE: Kornheiser clarifies. He was talking about a specific blogger, not bloggers in general. Like everything else, we should probably take that at face value, even if there is a reason to remain somewhat dubious.

Bonds in Japan?

Neyer opines on the possibility of Barry Bonds playing in Japan -- or anywhere else -- this year, based on a report he found speculatin' on just such a hypothesis.

I agree with Rob that the use of the term "blackballed" in the linked article is a bit much. If Bonds truly wanted to play somewhere this year he could. All he'd have to do is to make it known that he'd take the drastic discount all of his baggage calls for, and there's no evidence that his people are doing that. It's also my personal opinion that Bonds is the kind of guy who would get quite a lot of self-satisfaction believing he was blackballed, but that's another post.

Where I disagree with Rob is in his choice of legal experts he asks about Bonds' ability to leave the country while under indictment. That Keith Scherer guy sounds like he knows what he's talking about, but the other guy he quotes sounds like a real shyster.

When in Doubt, the Answer is "C"

Royals coach Rusty Kuntz likes to give his players tests:
When sliding feet-first into a base, is your front foot straight up or sideways? Before a game starts, what are the first two things a player should check? Stumped? Don't fret. When first-base coach Rusty Kuntz asked the Kansas City Royals to take his quiz on outfield play and baserunning fundamentals, there were quite a few "who didn't have a clue."

But that was better than the first player Kuntz quizzed a couple of years ago in Pittsburgh. "Out of 50 questions, the guy got five correct," Kuntz said. "And this was a starting player in the major leagues, a very well-known guy. I thought, `Oh, my gosh. Oh, my goodness.'"

So Kuntz came up with a detailed list of written questions and tried them out on a number of players. The results were encouraging.

Fun story and all, but I'm sort of with Crash Davis on this one: don't think, it can only hurt the ballclub. If I'm a Royals fan, it's my hope that the team has scouted for guys who exhibit proper fundamentals out of instinct whether or not they can recall them on a written test. I mean, I'm pretty sure I could do pretty well on that kind of test, and I topped out baseball-wise in the 10th grade.

And no matter how good the test, it certainly didn't help that Pirates team a couple of years ago . . .

Since you put it that way . . .

There are certain things that everyone who follows baseball knows. One of them is that the Yankees have basically stayed pat this offseason and are relying on the young arms to develop.

But when you put that another way -- simply recharacterize it a bit -- it becomes a jarring statement: "[LaTroy] Hawkins, 35, was the most prominent player the Yankees imported this winter."

Granted, I don't spend hours a day thinking about the Yankees, but not until I actually read those words did it truly hit me that the Yankees are in a new world these days.

Bonds Coulda Been a Cardinal

Tony La Russa tried to convince his bosses in St. Louis to sign Barry Bonds this offseason but they put the kibosh on it. There are two good reasons for that (1) Bonds probably needs to DH these days; and (2) a Bonds signing may be very unpopular with the wholesome, middle American Cardinals fan base. Not that those were the reasons given, however:
This time around, a philosophical stance by the organization stopped the idea before it got very far. The Cardinals have a slew of talented young outfielders, and general manager John Mozeliak wants them to play. "The whole idea of what we tried to do this offseason was to give some of these younger players a chance to play," he said.
The reporter must have arched a dubious eyebrow at that point, because Mozeliak immediately felt the need to explain away the presence of Juan Gonzalez in camp:
Obviously, when we brought in [Juan] Gonzalez, [he was] highly recommended, but there was no risk on our part. I think that's the one guy we'll give it a shot with, and other than that we want to give these younger players a chance to play.
Tell me: if you're only taking a shot with one old outfielder because of a youth movement, is Juan Gonzalez your first choice? He's not mine, no matter how "highly recommended" he came. Why can't Mozeliak just say that he doesn't like that bad old Barry?

Get me, I'm Progressive!

David Chase at has compiled a list of the "101 Best Progressive Baseball Blogs and Rescources." Would I link to it if it didn't include ShysterBall?

Sure. That's what being progressive is all about!

Now if you'll excuse me, I have some globalization to protest or somesuch.

Baseball and Politics

Last summer I took a look at how the presidential candidates go out of their way to show just how much they love baseball. Today ESPN's Jeff Pearlman notes that it's not a two-way street:

Yet while ballplayers are bound both by their disparate backgrounds and an uncompromised love of the game, they are also united by one not-so-great characteristic: political indifference.

Yes, in this remarkable year of presidential politics -- when John McCain has risen from the dead, and Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are engaged in a historic struggle for delegates; when dynamic figures like Rudy Giuliani and Ron Paul and John Edwards fell short but fought passionately -- baseball players kick back and, ahem, read their Maxims.

Given the most recent example of politics and baseball intersecting, I'm actually kind of grateful most ballplayers are staying out of it.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Bartolo Is Worth a Flyer

While the Mets pat themselves on the back for picking up the guy who came in third for the 2005 AL Cy Young Award, the Red Sox swooped in and signed the guy who beat him out!

The purpose of the previous sentence is to remind you in this election year that it's possible for a person to be full of crap even when they say something that is 100% true.

Anyway, I think Colon is definitely worth signing to the kind of deal the Sox are apparently giving him. As U.S.S. Mariner's Dave Cameron noted back in October, there are many good reasons to suspect that Colon could bounce back this year, not the least of which are (a) improving health; (b) a rebounding velocity and strikeout rate towards the end of last season; and (c) a very high BABIP (.361) last year which, as many of you know, is influenced by many factors outside of a pitcher's control. In short, he wasn't as bad as he looked last year, and could be better than expected this year.

Of course, since Cameron wrote that, Colon made several appearances in winter ball, and every time he pitched scouts came away underwhelmed. Wait. Strike that. They ran away screaming. Was it his conditioning? His motivation? With Colon those have always been issues, so I'm sure that's part of it. Fact is, he might simply be done. The good thing about this deal, of course, is that if he's not done, Curt Schilling's shoulder isn't nearly as big a problem as it looked a couple of weeks ago, and if he is done, it hasn't cost them anything.

Final note: a look at Colon's page reveals that he is yet another modern day star without a nickname. How is this possible? The guy is an orca-fat Dominican fireballer who, by all accounts, has a pretty good sense of humor. If he was around in the 50s he would have been given a nickname so early in his career that we all would have forgotten that his name was Bartolo by now.

Friday, February 22, 2008

They Do Things Big in Texas

ShysterMom and ShysterDad are what they call fulltimers. That is, they live in an RV year-round, and roam the land like migrant workers or fugitives or something. They like it.

Right now they're in Texas. That's ShysterDad in the pic to the right, beneath your typical example of Texas understatement.

And yes, ShysterDad is a full-sized human being.

In other news, all apologies for the lack of posts today, but whatever it is that hit me on Wednesday was pummeling me all day today too. It wasn't until about 6pm this evening that I began to feel even remotely myself, and even now I'm feeling a bit woozy. Thankfully, though, the worst seems to be behind me and I should back to a normal posting routine come Monday.

Thanks for all the kind emails and home remedy suggestions. You guys are the best.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Potato Chips Are Vegetarian Too . . .

Prince Fielder: vegetarian:
What else can one share about the 23-year-old first baseman for the Milwaukee Brewers that hasn't been said or written? Try this: Prince Fielder is a vegetarian.

That 6-foot, 260-pound build is powered by wheatgrass, soy and tofu nowadays. No meat. Not even fish.

Well, good for him. He's apparently doing it for philosophical reasons and because his wife wants him to, natch. But his wife -- Chanel -- isn't just in the pestering-Prince-about-food business. She's helping him on the field too:

Besides his food intake choices, Fielder would like to make another change in his life, like not being the National League's error leader at his position. He committed 14 last year and ranked in the cellar for fielding percentage at first base. Fielder did not know he was that bad until Chanel pointed it out.

I wonder if Chanel can break down how many times Prince was charged with an error on 5-3 plays because the official scorer couldn't bear to write down Ryan Braun's name again.

Manny Scratches Butt: Film at 11!

You hear about the allegedly insatiable appetite for baseball news in New York and Boston, but is it really so insatiable that this breathless report from Gordon Edes qualifies as news?
Manny just pulled in moments ago. He was wearing flip-flops, cargo pants (the fashionistas may dispute that description; I'm not exactly cutting edge on such things), a T-shirt that said Rock Unsteady brand LRG, and was carrying his own equipment bag.

Edes acknowledges the ridiculousness of filing such a report (" Aren't you thrilled to be getting play-by-play on such riveting business?"), but the fact is that he wrote it and some editor in Boston ran it.

This One's For the Ladies

Being sick sucks, but there are few advantages. For one thing you get to sit and watch a lot of morning television like Regis & Kelly, Rachel Ray, and all manner of fluff programming.

What? You don't think that's a benefit? Well, if I wasn't watching that pablum this morning, I never would have learned this:

The new star of the Corpus Christi Hooks minor league baseball team wants some playing tips. Justin Timberlake will portray fictional Hooks player Carlton Garrett in the upcoming movie "The Open Road." The 27-year-old pop star tried to meet with players of the Houston Astros' Double-A team in Austin recently, but schedules didn't align.

"Justin wants to portray what it's like playing for the Hooks, playing for an Astros minor league team and playing at Whataburger Field," Hooks President J.J. Gottsch said.

"The Open Road" is the story of a young man trying to reconnect with his father — a legendary athlete played by Jeff Bridges — as he struggles to get home to his ailing mother. Mary Steenburgen and Kate Mara are also in the film.

And nothin' brings sexy back like playing at Whataburger Field.

Great Moments in Statistical Analysis

Derek Jeter, asked about the University of Pennsylvania study that labeled him the worst shortstop in baseball:
"Maybe it was a computer glitch," the three-time Gold Glove winner said of the report. But Jeter just didn't laugh this one off. He defended himself, saying, "Every [shortstop] doesn't stay in the same spot, everyone doesn't have the same pitching. Everyone doesn't have the same hitters running, it's impossible to do that."

Jeter, 33, pointed out you can get the exact same ground ball off the exact same pitcher and there could be an average runner or there could be Ichiro running. "How can you compute that?" he asked.

In the space of five of six words, Jeter (a) acknowledges the existence of averages, which implies that he's aware of the concept of multiple data points; and (b) dismisses the results of a study based on a single data point. Neat!

Still Feeling Like Crap

I got about two decent hours of sleep last night followed by about six hours of coughing, aching and praying for the sweet release of death. Still feeling pretty bad this morning, so it will be another slow day around these parts. Sorry about that.

In the meantime, somebody explain to me why The Monkey Wrench Gang never got made into a movie.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

El Jefe Maximo

Here's a fun photo-retrospective of Fidel Castro enjoying baseball.

But make no mistake: just because Castro shared a pastime with us does not make him a good man, and in no way ameliorates his manifest human rights abuses he and his cult-of-personality- infused regime unleashed on the long-suffering Cuban people. No matter how much the baseball-related pictures make us smile, Castro will always remain high on the list of history's greatest monsters.

I'm not an expert in this area, but based on everything I've read in recent years, the list currently looks like this:

Pol Pot

We must never forget -- nor forgive -- the horrors these men have unleashed on humanity.

I'd risk it

The prospect of Giambi spending most of his time at first base may make Yankees' fans cringe, but if I'm Joe Girardi, I have to try it before going with Ensberg, Duncan, or Betemit. Sure, there are some out there who will argue that Giambi's inevitable errors may shake the snowflake-like confidence of petrified youngsters Joba, Ian, and Phil, but I'm guessing the utter lack of offense from a power position may shake them more.

And yes, I realize that this article is heavy on the "best shape of my life" stuff, but that may be trumped by the fact that, for all practical purposes, Giambi is in a contract year. He's motivated to play some first base to maximize the potential offers next year, so I am inclined to believe him when he talks about his workouts and commitment.

Worst case: he is an utter failure at first and he goes back to being a full time DH. Best case: did I mention the lack of Duncan/Ensberg/Betemit at-bats?

On Arbitration

Everybody talks about arbitration but not too many people know what really goes on. Here's a nice article giving you a flavor of it, keyed to the upcoming Ryan Howard hearing.

Movin' A Bit Slower Today

ShysterDaughter has brought home with her from preschool some radioactive, thermonuclear hell-bug, and it has hit me like a freight train. A fever, the shakes, a cough, and all manner of unwanted excretions have overtaken me, and I'm pretty sure I'm dying.

If anyone knows some shady personal trainer who has something that will help me recover faster, please let me know. Otherwise, I'm taking it a bit easy today. There will probably be some posts, but don't expect anything Earth shattering.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Occam's Window

Rule of thumb for offseason player accidents. The sillier and more convoluted the explanation, the more likely it was the player was doing something prohibited by his contract at the time it occurred:

Hunter Pence will miss about a week of Spring Training workouts after enduring several cuts and lacerations on his hands and knees that resulted from falling through a glass door at his residence in Kissimmee, Fla.

Pence called it a "silly" accident, one that occurred around 9:30 p.m. ET on Monday
when he hit a sliding glass door that he did not realize was closed. Pence and a friend were about to take a dip in a hot tub outside of the house, and unbeknownst to Pence, his friend had closed the door behind them. Pence got out of tub to use the restroom and walked into the door, which shattered around him.

"It's pretty silly to have this kind of freak accident happen," Pence said. "I didn't think I would go through a glass door. Normally, it wouldn't shatter like that. Somehow, it shattered and I was stuck in the middle of a bunch of broken glass."

Ironically, he had just finished washing his truck and eating a nice venison dinner prior to the accident.

"We expect to be in the playoffs, and deep into the playoffs"

So sayeth Fred Wilpon.

Well, at least we know there won't be any question as to the state of Willie Randolph and Omar Minaya's jobs at the end of this season!

Do you have any opinions on the CEO's prediction, Pedro Martinez?

"To me, as a player, it's just words,"

God, I love Pedro.

Do Not Speak Ill of The League

Hank Steinbrenner states the bleedin' obvious:

"Everybody that knows sports knows football is tailor-made for performance-enhancing drugs. I don't know how they managed to skate by. It irritates me. Don't tell me it's not more prevalent. The number in football is at least twice as many. Look at the speed and size of those players . . . Why aren't they looking at the NFL?"

Stay tuned for Mr. Steinbrenner's punishment from the league and evisceration at the hands of the media.

Well, That Settles It

Given how much credence everyone seems to want to give a drug dealing liar and alleged rapist, it makes perfect sense that a man who was suspended from baseball for consorting with gamblers, was convicted of racketeering, extortion, cocaine trafficking, and stealing millions of dollars from pensioners is quoted for his belief in Roger Clemens' guilt, untruthfulness, and unsuitability for the Hall of Fame as well.

Will someone please alert me when anyone with an ounce of credibility of their own has anything to say on the matter?

In other integrity news, Andy Pettitte is lauded as a role model. Apparently role models come cheap these days, because this is the same Andy Pettitte who took HGH (a mortal sin according to just about everyone anymore), who lied about it when first confronted about it, and who lied about the extent of his use after the Mitchell Report came out. Only once he was put under oath did he tell the truth. Which means that, according to the author of this story, role model = person who knows to stop lying once the crime of perjury comes into play.

Screw Obama. I'm voting Pettitte!

Selig Still Doing Homework

According to the Boston Herald, Bud Selig is still reviewing the Mitchell Report and trying to figure out what to do about it. He originally hoped to be done by spring training. Now he's not sure when he'll be done.

Bud: It's not that complicated a document. Here are the Cliff's Notes.

Once your review is done, your statement should start out with something like "man, WHAT was I THINKING?!

Monday, February 18, 2008

I Am Whatever The Focus Groups Want Me To Be

Michael Jordan writes* the most ridiculous paragraph I've read in a long time:

I can wear a suit today and jeans with holes tomorrow, and yet people know they are seeing the real me in either outfit. I had cornrows when I was a kid, but it was before anyone knew who I was; would the public or corporate America accept me if I had them today? If I was willing to say, "This is who I am, I'm not trying to be so-and-so," maybe, but even then I'm not sure. When you see Michael Jordan today, you see Michael Jordan as a totally honest person, and when I say honest I mean real, genuine. I am who I am, and that's comprehensible to the masses and in many languages.

Thank God the "real, genuine" Michael Jordan just so happens to (a) be really different than the person he was as a kid (and the obvious imposter in that picture above!); and (b) 100% palatable to focus groups and corporate interests. I mean, can you imagine how much less money he would have made over the years if his persona deviated any from that which was acceptable to mainstream America in the 1980s and 90s?

*He dictated it anyway. Ric Bucher wrote the prose.

Roger Clemens and the Death of Hero Worship

Newsday ran a nice thinkpiece by John Jeansonne on Saturday about the changing status of the privileged athlete in modern soceity:

Furthermore, "we're able," Starn said, "to distinguish between admiring and wondering at athletes' capacity to amaze us without assuming that that necessarily makes them wonderful people. There's nothing intrinsically save-the-worldish about what they do. When they hit a ball a long way, it doesn't make them into Gandhi or Martin Luther King or Nelson Mandela."

. . . It is the sort of clear-eyed judgment that F. Scott Fitzgerald expressed in "The Great Gatsby" when he wrote that Daisy Buchanan's phenomenally wealthy husband, Tom, "among various physical accomplishments, had been one of the most powerful ends that ever played football at New Haven ... one of those men who reach such an acute limited excellence at twenty-one that everything afterward savors of anti-climax."

And yes, I would think it's a nice piece even if I wasn't quoted in it. Come to think of it, it probably would have been a better piece.

More "Best Shape of My Life" Stuff

Jim Edmonds and Nick Johnson are the latest to get the "I'm in the best shape of my life" treatment.

You know, since Congress is so interested in baseball these days, they should do us all a service and mandate warning labels for any story published this time of year in which an oft-injured vet speaks of being in the best shape of his life. Something like this should do the trick:

Warning: the following article is the product of a writer desperate for a story encountering a player desperate for a comeback. The publishers of this newspaper in no way warrant the veracity of the claims set forth herein because they have no way to confirm them given the absence of any real baseball games being played. Further, given the fear that their clubhouse credentials will be revoked for depicting negative information regarding the potentially valuable trade chit described herein, the writer would be unwilling to present such negative information even if it did exist. All descriptions and accounts of a players' health should be viewed with supreme skepticism unless and and until the trading deadline has passed, free agent season approaches, and the team regains an interest in depicting its players as unhealthy.

(links via BTF)

Great Moments in Ego Surfing

I just noticed that finally, after ten months, this blog's ranking in a Google search for "shyster" has surpassed that of those poseurs at Shyster Creek Vineyards, and now stands as the second highest-ranked, proper-noun use of the term (non-reference category).

If they'd like to sue for peace before my eleven readers and I knock them down a few more places, I'll accept a case of their 2001 Russian River Valley Syrah.

As for you, Australian National University (and your fancy-pants case-based legal expert system): consider yourself on notice.

A Braves Fan Roots for the Mets and Phillies

The Mets and Phillies trade barbs over who is truly the "team to beat" in the NL East this year.

I used to wonder why the Mets and Phillies didn't have a Sox-Yankees kind of rivalry. Sure, those guys had a sixty-two year head start, but the Ruth business aside, the Sox-Yankees heat didn't really get going until the 70s. The Mets and Phillies have "competed" for the same flag for forty six years now. That's enough time.

Of course time isn't everything. The real issue are those quotes I slapped on the word "competed." They're there because the Mets and Phillies have almost never been involved in a pennant race at the same time.

Since coming into the league in 1962, the Mets have finished in first or second place a total of fifteen times and the Phillies seventeen times. In only four of those years, however -- 1986, 1995, 2006, and 2007 -- did they finish 1-2, and three of those years -- 1986, 1995, and 2006 -- provide no basis for a rivalry.

In 1986, the second place Phillies finished 21.5 games behind the eventual world champion Mets. In 1995 the teams were tied for second place, but in 1995 second place meant you were 21 games behind the Braves, and a full eight games out of the wild card race. In 2006 the Phillies stumbled out of the gate as the Mets roared and Philadelphia ended up finishing 12 back. Only in 2007 did the teams finish close at 1-2. Unfortunately, the story there was the Mets' collapse rather than a hard-fought photo finish.

Which is why, even though I'm a Braves fan, I am happy to see both the Mets and Phillies barking like this heading into spring training. Baseball needs another big rivalry. Partially to draw attention away from Yankees-Sox, but mostly to build on it. Sure, lots of people would get sick of it quick, but the fact is that another monster east coast rivalry would be great for baseball, and would be especially good for the National League. Close races between the Mets and Phillies would spur more spending -- or at the very least more thinking -- which would in turn make the rest of the NL spend and/or think more.

If that were to happen, we'd eventually be able to dispense with the bothersomely accurate talk about the NL being AAAA. But before that can happen, both teams have to win early and often and keep winning until October.

Oh, and it would help if they quit saying this kind of stuff:

"I'm not going to count out the Braves," Victorino said. "What, did this become a two-team race now? Don't overlook Atlanta. With their pitching staff that they've got - Glavine, Maddux, Smoltz, Hudson, Hampton - you've got five starters there that can be on my team. It's so funny. It's been Mets-Phillies, but don't sleep on the Braves. They're probably laughing inside, not saying anything - like, 'Okay, just let us go to work.'"

While I agree 100% with the sentiment, acknowledging the existence of a third team is no way to stoke a rivalry. It may not be just your world, New York and Philly, but you're not going to get the kind of pub you want -- and I'm not going to get the kind of NL I want -- unless you act like it is.


Yovani Gallardo's knee surgery isn't going to hurt him nearly as much as it will hurt the Brewers. Between his emergence last year and the continued development of Carlos Villanueva, Milwaukee looked to be able to bump one of the 88 ERA+ club -- Chris Capuano or Claudio Vargas -- out of the rotation and drastically reduce the damage the other could do. Now they'll be counted on.

The only possible silver lining is that Gallardo's young arm -- which, along with the rest of him will turn 22 in a week or so -- won't log as many innings this season as may have been expected. That won't provide much solace if the Brewers are sitting at home in October having finished two games behind the Cubs, but it could mean he'll be around for more innings in 2009 and beyond.

A Fatwah On Moneyball?

I couldn't do much more than make the blindingly obvious jeans joke when I heard that Jeremy Brown retired the other day. BP's Kevin Goldstein uses the news to reveal something curious:
More than a year ago, an A’s official sent me an email asking me, half jokingly, to stop mentioning Moneyball. It was an understandable request. Baseball changes quickly, and the lessons from Moneyball, or maybe more accurately, the lessons that the readers often perceive from Moneyball, no longer really apply.
I hope it was more than half joking, because if the request was even partially serious it would mean people in the A's front office have some seriously thin skin. Can we mention the Reggie Jackson trade yet? How about the 1988 World Series? Too soon?

Close Call

Mike Hampton was invited to go to Daytona yesterday:

Hampton has been in friend Jimmie Johnson's pit area at previous Daytona 500 races, and was offered a helicopter ride to the race Sunday. But the 35-year-old left-hander said he declined because he had to be in meetings with lawyers and financial planners.

Can you imagine what would happen to Mike Hampton in a helicopter? I bet Mac Thomason can.

Update: Yep, he can!

URL Available

Until recently, if you typed in the url "" you got a mid-1990s-esque website on which Debbie Clemens and/or a personal assistant of hers dispensed health and fitness advice. Today? Not so much.

Most will assume that her people took the site down because the HGH revelations pretty much render her health tips laughable. Based on the horndog traffic ShysterBall has received since posting a single pic of Clemens from the SI swimsuit shoot a week or two ago, however, I'm inclined to believe that they killed it simply to stop the perverts.

I'd share the best search terms that have steered traffic to Ms. Clemens' swimsuitly visage, but there are still obscenity laws in the country, and frankly some of them are too close to the line for comfort.

(heads up on the url switcheroo courtesy of the Boston Herald)

UPDATE: It's back up! Yay! Tacky knicknacks on me!

I can only assume that someone with a brain realized that doing panicky things like taking down websites in the face of bad publicity looks, well, panicky. Kind of like filing quickie lawsuits and going on 60 Minutes.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Marlins Get Their Ballpark

Apparently Miami-Dade County has nothin' better to do with $400 million than to give it to Jeff Loria:

The Marlins, Miami-Dade County, the city of Miami and Major League Baseball reached agreement late Friday to finance a $515 million ballpark at the site of the Orange Bowl, according to a source . . .

. . .The deal calls for the county and city to contribute $360 million mainly in tourist taxes and a $50 million general obligation bond Miami-Dade voters approved in 2004 to renovate the Orange Bowl, but which will instead be moved to the ballpark project.The Marlins are to contribute $155 million.

Last I heard, the Orange Bowl site is difficult to get to and isn't serviced by mass transportation. Opponents of the stadium deal have suggested that while such a situation was tolerable for six or seven Hurricanes games a year, it will be a nightmare for eighty-one baseball games.

That's just silly, of course. This is the Marlins we're talking about. Everyone interested in going to their games can just meet in a Winn-Dixie parking lot and carpool there in a couple of vans.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Jeremy Brown Retires

Jeremy Brown, one of the central figures in Moneyball, is retiring from baseball.

Wouldn't it be great if he became a jeans salesman?


I wasn't aware that there was some expectation that a good-but-not-great player like Paul O'Neill's number would be retired, but apparently there was:

Paul O’Neill did not sound perturbed about the Yankees taking his No. 21 out of storage and giving it to Morgan Ensberg this spring, but he did sound perplexed. The Yankees had not issued No. 21 to a player since ’Neill retired in 2001 . . . With Joe Torre’s No. 6 and Bernie Williams’s No. 51 likely to be retired and Derek Jeter’s 2 and Mariano Rivera’s 42 (which is already retired to honor Jackie Robinson) never to be worn again, the Yankees decided to bring 21 back.

I've always thought retiring numbers was kind of a neat thing -- I was at the game in 1980 when Al Kaline's number 6 was retired and thought it was cool -- but the Yankees obviously have to put a stop to it lest they run out of numbers.

Then again, why do players even wear numbers anymore? The original point of uniform numbers was to identify players. This was fairly useful back when there were no jumbotron close-ups, lineups on the scoreboard, television, baseball cards, and Fathead posters. These days, whether we are at home or in the stadium, we have no excuse not to know exactly who is up to bat and who is playing each position. We know every nook and cranny of our favorite players' faces (and, unfortunately, other parts). In short, the need to identify these guys by a number is more or less nonexistent.

Today, player numbers are nothing more than talismans. I'm not invested in their obliteration or anything, but I think it would be kind of cool if some team tried to get rid of them altogether, replacing them with a logo or some sort of team or city commemorative graphic or something.

The only hesitation I would have is that all of that un-utilized real estate would probably hasten the introduction of on-jersey advertising.

Don't Get Me Wrong

I've been piling on McNamee this morning, but that's mostly because no one else seems to be doing it, and I'm just one of those guys who likes balance and proportionality whenever I can get it. But in case it was unclear, I want to point out that I carry no water for Roger Clemens. In fact, I agree 100% with these comments from Bill Simmons' latest mailbag:

When you're an athlete in trouble and you have to throw the most important people in your life (wife, best friend, agents and players' union) under the bus to defend yourself, it's definitely time to re-evaluate things. I'm just saying.


Along those same lines, imagine the validity of this scenario if I had pitched it to you two years ago: There's a famous baseball player whose career will have a curious resurgence well after his prime, and eventually there's going to be evidence pointing to his possible usage of steroids and HGH ... but as it turned out, only his best friend and his wife used HGH! And he wasn't involved at all! You would not have believed me.

McNamee is a bigger liar on the mirco level, and for that reason, no one will ever be able to use him to make a credible case against anyone. Clemens, however, has macro covered, and what he has done and why since all of this broke seems pretty damn inexcusable to me.

More McNamee Deception

Since we're reading tea leaves to figure out if Roger Clemens is honest, it's probably worth noting that Brian McNamee has a few tells of his own. For example, check out the picture on the right, taken during Wednesday's hearing.

ShysterBall reader Bryan Patrick, M.D. writes in with the observation that there doesn't appear to be any refraction in the lenses of McNamee's glasses, indicating that his lawyers have pulled the old put-the-scumbag-in-glasses-to-make-him-look-respectable trick. No judgments here, though. It's a good trick! I've used it myself!

In more substantive news, we've learned of yet another McNamee lie, this one possibly under oath:

In the conversation with [Clemens agent Jim Murray], McNamee does most of the talking, explaining how he had provided illegal drugs to both players. McNamee tells Murray that he ultimately had to cooperate with baseball's steroids probe because of pressure from the government, which was working with Mitchell. McNamee claims that Parrella -- whom he misidentified as "Adam Peralta" -- "looked me in the eye and he said, 'If you don't speak to Senator Mitchell, you're going to get locked up.'"

However, in testimony Wednesday before Congress, McNamee said he never had a deal with the government nor was he coerced to cooperate.

That passage, taken from Mark Fainaru-Wada's story on today, is sort of ignored in the rush to make the point that Clemens' people knew that he would be named in the Mitchell Report beforehand. Why the point that it stands as some of the clearest evidence of perjury coming out of Wednesday's hearing is ignored is beyond me.

UPDATE: David Nieporent at BTF points out to me that the pressure-from-the-government thing was mentioned in Clemens' defamation complaint, and that McNamee's lawyers have said that McNamee was lying when he said that to make Clemens feel better.

So, probably not perjury. Just a garden variety McNamee lie.

Now he tells us . . .

Henry Waxman is not just a grandstander, he's a spineless one:
A day after a dramatic, nationally televised hearing that pitted Roger Clemens against his former personal trainer and Democrats against Republicans, the chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform said Thursday that he regretted holding the hearing in the first place . . .“I’m sorry we had the hearing. I regret that we had the hearing. And the only reason we had the hearing was because Roger Clemens and his lawyers insisted on it.”
Roger Clemens and his lawyers insisted on it? Mr. Waxman, you're the chairman of a congressional committee. If you don't want that hearing to happen, it doesn't happen.

And let's be accurate here. Henry Waxman doesn't regret that the hearing happened. He regrets that, a day later, lots of people are decrying the spectacle and waste of government resources he created in the interests of demigogging the steroids issue.

And Speaking of Lies . . .

That report yesterday that Barry Bonds (remember him?) failed a drug test after breaking the home run record in 2001? Not so much:
Federal prosecutors mistakenly filed court papers Thursday that incorrectly stated that Barry Bonds failed a steroids test in November of 2001 -- one month after breaking the single-season home run mark.

U.S. attorney spokesman Josh Eaton now says that the reference in Thursday's government court filing regarding Bonds testing positive was actually referring to a November 2000 test that was previously disclosed in the indictment of Bonds and had already been reported.

It probably goes nowhere, but if I'm Bonds' lawyer I yell and scream at the top of my lungs that the feds are trying to taint the jury pool by releasing false information.

And if you're keeping score at home, yesterday's final score is Roger and Barry 2, McNamee and feds, 0.

Another McNamee Lie

While the crucifixion of Roger Clemens continues, we are informed of yet another Brian McNamee lie:
The day before the Mitchell Report was released, Brian McNamee lied to investigators for Roger Clemens when he told them that federal authorities had additional evidence about Clemens’s use of performance-enhancing drugs. McNamee’s lawyer said Thursday that McNamee made up the story in order to explain his own discussions with the authorities.

“They said they had video cameras from clubhouses,” McNamee told the Clemens investigators, who secretly recorded the conversation.

“They said they had — they already talked to players. They said they had testimony from other clubhouse people, some other stuff, whatever. So this is what the government’s telling me.”

Earl Ward, McNamee’s lawyer, said Thursday that McNamee lied to the investigators as a way of justifying why he had turned on Clemens and Andy Pettitte.

The fact that such a sharp bluff was ignored by Clemens means that he is either absolutely crazy or that he's actually telling the truth. The fact that McNamee is admitting to yet another lie means that we're even less likely to ever know which one of those things is the case.

Update: Yet another McNamee lie, this one possibly under oath.