Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Analyzing > Merely Counting

Everybody talks about the declining numbers of African-Americans in the game, but J.C. Bradbury actually took the time to dig into the data in order to try and figure out why there are fewer blacks in the game. Definitely worth a long read.

Soriano Back in the Lineup Tomorrow

Alfonso Soriano will be back in the leadoff spot for the Cubs tomorrow. My first thought was "The Cubs are playing so well. Why would they put him in the leadoff spot? Why not farther down?"

Then I looked at the box scores and realized that since Soriano went on the DL, Cubs leadoff hitters -- Reed Johnson, Mike Fontenot, and Eric Patterson -- have a combined on base percentage of .209 when batting first. This is amazing in light of how good the Cubs have been in this department overall (as Neyer noted yesterday, they are second in OBP in the NL).

But does that really dictate putting Soriano back in the leadoff position? How about Mark DeRosa (.393) or Ryan Theroit (.390 -- yes, I know that won't hold up, but why not ride it while it lasts?) or, hell, even Fukudome (.434)? Actually, Fukudome leading off and Soriano in the five hole seems like the best bet.

No real point here. Just looking for something to complain about to make the afternoon go by more quickly.

Eliezer Alfonzo Suspended 50 Games

Having to compete with a Molina is the sort of thing that leads one to desperate measures such as these:
San Francisco Giants catcher Eliezer Alfonzo was suspended 50 games Wednesday for testing positive for a performance-enhancing substance, the first player penalized this year under Major League Baseball's drug program.

The 29-year-old Venezuelan was optioned to Triple-A Fresno just before Opening Day and is batting .306 with three homers and 14 RBIs in 16 games. The suspension will start Thursday.

He played 113 games with the Giants in the 2006 and 2007 seasons, batting .263 with 13 homers and 45 RBIs.

Mrs. Scully

Vin Scully's contract is up at the end of the year. He's going back and forth on whether or not he's going to return for what would be year 60 in the Dodgers' booth. What will be the deciding factor? His wife:

But his contract expires after this season, and he said he would follow the advice of his wife, Sandy, about continuing a run that began in Brooklyn in 1950 and has spanned the ownership of the O’Malley family, Rupert Murdoch and Frank McCourt.

“I want to spend a lot of time with her,” he said at the dinner at Sotheby’s that honored him and another renowned Fordham alumnus, Charles Osgood, of CBS News. “There’s a lot of hoopla in this job, but it’s lonely for the wife,” he said. “So I want to talk seriously with her about her feelings. I want to know what’s in her head. We’ll talk it out over the long summer and then we’ll talk to Frank.”

He said that he did not know what his wife would say. “She’s so selfless,” he said, “that she’ll probably say, ‘Whatever you feel you should do, we’ll do,’ and then we’ll be back at Square 1. It’s a question I get asked a lot at this age.”
My guess? He's back, and not just so that the Dodgers can celebrate 60 years of Vinsanity (note to Dodgers: you are going to make a big deal out of this aren't you? I mean, assuming Scully lets you). Rather, he'll come back because if the Scully marriage has handled it this long -- he's been married to Sandy Scully since 1973 -- it can probably handle it for another year.

The Future of the AL East

This morning I noted that last night's Orioles-Rays game was a battle for supremacy in the AL East. I'm not the only one who noticed, as ESPN's Jim Baker, Jonah Keri, and Mike Philbrick give us a glimpse into the death struggle that will one day be the Rays-Orioles rivalry:

Just off Interstate 95, not all too far from Florence, S.C., is a little place called Manning. In the giant battle zone that is the Orioles-Rays rivalry, this unassuming way station on the great coastal corridor just happens to be the very front line. Sitting equidistant to Baltimore and St. Petersburg, Fla., it represents the physical demarcation line of loyalties in this epic encounter of enmity. All those to the south of Manning are in the Rays' camp. All those to the north side with the Orioles. Any deviance from this geo-fandom would be a betrayal of the natural order of things.

In Manning, though, the lines are not so clearly drawn. Here, where the two great regions dominated by these team allegiances abut one another, it is neighbor against neighbor -- and very often brother against brother, father against son and pastor against parishioner.

"A License to Cheat"

A recent Swedish study has concluded that ten percent of Caucasian men and a full two-thirds of Asian men have a genetic anomaly which prevents their bodies from breaking down testosterone into a form which dissolves in urine. Upshot: they can take and receive the benefits of testosterone without it being detected.

Predictably, the anti-doping authorities are shocked, nervous, flummoxed, and discombobulated:
“It’s disturbing,” said Dr. Don Catlin, the chief executive of Anti-Doping Research, a nonprofit group in Los Angeles. “Basically, you have a license to cheat.”
Of course, rather than just accept that, at some point, people's bodies are always going to react differently to different stimuli, the anti-doping crowd would prefer to get more up in athletes' business:

Dr. Schulze and her colleagues suggest that athletes be tested to see if they have the testosterone-metabolizing gene. Others said the testing of athletes for this and other genes may be coming soon.

“The specter of doing this is out there,” says Dr. Alvin Matsumoto, a testosterone expert at the University of Washington in Seattle and the Veterans Affairs Puget Sound Health Care System.

Who knows where this is going to lead, but given how it usually ends up, I suppose we can soon expect to see Selig and Fehr before some Congressional committee explaining what they're gonna do to protect the children from those genetic freaks ruining the grand old game of baseball.

Son of Saberhagen

Turns out that Brett Saberhagen's son Drew is a pretty decent pitcher for Western Carolina:
A three-run homer by Western Carolina senior Blake Murphy proved to be the difference Tuesday as the Tennessee baseball team fell to the Catamounts 5-2 at Robert M. Lindsey Field at Lindsey Nelson Stadium . . .

. . . Drew Saberhagen, son of former MLB All-Star and Cy Young Award winner Bret Saberhagen, earned his fourth win of the season while giving up just two runs (one earned) on nine hits through six innings.
Drew must have gotten the even-year gene from his mama's side of the family.

The Zito Face

Courtesy of 'Duk at Big League Stew, here's a funny compilation of shell-shocked Barry Zito pics.

More Clemens Bimbo Erruptions

The Daily News is obviously going to try and track down every woman Clemens ever glanced at. As this continues on, let me be clear about something: the McCready stuff bothers me tremendously because of her age at the time the relationship -- whether it was sexual or not -- began. In contrast, to the extent Roger couldn't keep his rocket in his pants with other consenting adults, well, that's not something I care all that much about.

And That Happened

Tigers 6, Yankees 4: It is quite obvious that Phil Hughes -- who is now 0-4 and has given up 34 hits and 13 walks in 22 innings -- is not ready to help a team with playoff aspirations. Know what else? He sucks as a blogger too. Three posts since opening day, and then he turns it over to Ensberg for a guest post which basically doubles the word count since inception. Despite that, the dude has had nearly a million hits in less than four months. If I had to guess, I'd say that he could probably get $2000-$3000 a month in ad revenue off that kind of traffic. With the way he's pitching, he may want to look into it. You know, just in case.

Red Sox 1, Blue Jays 0: That's what I call a pitching duel! Halladay pitches shutout ball for eight and two thirds, but loses because Lester and Papelbon did it for nine.

Nats 6, Braves 3: It only seems like these two teams have played each other a hundred times already. Glavine, returning from the DL, gives up two runs in six innings, only to have Blaine Boyer pour kerosene all over his handiwork (.1 IP, 3 H, 1BB, 4ER).

Cardinals 7, Reds 2: The Johnny Cueto freefall continues (1.2 IP, 8 H, 6 ER). He's had more ups and downs in April than most guys have over two or three seasons.

Brewers 10, Cubs 7: Welcome back Mike Cameron (3-5, 2 RBI). Not that he didn't have help, as the Brewers rapped out 17 hits against Jason Marquis and four Cub relievers. What's with Ben Sheets walking seven guys in five innings?

Dodgers 7, Marlins 6: Los Angeles pulls up to .500 for the first time in three weeks. They're still 5.5 games back, but hey, .500.

Phillies 7, Padres 4: Maddux (6 IP, 3 ER) is denied win number 350 once again. This has to be frustrating for Maddux, as you just know that he wants to pass Roger Clemens' 354 wins so that one day, hopefully, he will be thought of as highly as Clemens is today.

Royals 9, Rangers 5: Brett Tomko drops another stink bomb (3.1 IP, 7 H, 5 ER) but this time his offense -- they do actually have on in Kansas City, who knew? -- bails him out. Jose Guillen does most of the damage (2-4, HR, 5 RBI).

Angels 2, A's 0: The Angles only get 3 hits -- scoring their runs on a wild pitch and a fielder's choice of all things -- but that's all they need as Joe Saunders pitches eight scoreless innings, allowing the punchless A's only four measly singles.

Mariners 7, Indians 2: It was tied 2-2 entering the 9th inning and then three Cleveland relievers combined to give up five runs on six hits. I'd never thought I'd say this, but Cleveland has to be happy to hear that Joe Borowski may be back in a couple of weeks.

Orioles 7, Rays 4: Not your typical battle of AL East co-leaders, but that's what it was. If you still can't get your mind around it, just imagine Kevin Millar and Jay Payton in their Red Sox uniforms.

Rockies 3, Giants 2: The results of this game are way less significant than the fact that Troy Tulowitzki had to leave the game after doing something nasty to his back while fielding a grounder. Given how much of a bonus Tulowitzki's defense is, and given how nagging and chronic back injuries can be once they begin, the Rockies have to be worried. And obviously it's too early to know if it's serious or not, but don't you think Tulowitzki slept a bit better on that back last night knowing that, no matter how bad it is, at least he has his future covered?

UPDATE: Contrary to the game story, this AP report is saying that it was Tulowitzki's quad, not his back. Makes sense, seeing as though quad injuries are all the rage this year.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

25 Years Ago Today . . .

. . . Lee Elia brought the f*ckin' noise [NSFW language, but you knew that already].

If you can't click through to YouTube at work, ESPN has a comically-edited transcript.

Basically every one of those [expletives] is an f-bomb.

Cheers!

Risks and Rewards

USA Today runs a nice feature covering the recent spate of guys with short service time signing club-friendly long term deals:

"I keep hearing people say they left money on the table," says Tampa-based agent Tom O'Connell, whose client, Rockies closer Manny Corpas, signed a four-year, $8 million contract last offseason. "What table is that? Show me that table. And when you find that table, show me the crystal ball sitting on it. Anybody can play Monday morning quarterback."
There's a lot of nice perspective here, including quotes from Boras ("These deals are strongly club-oriented. I can only speak for our clients, but almost every client has benefited substantially from not signing those deals") and takes on it from the perspectives of John Hart, Jake Peavy, the Upton brothers, Manny Corpas, and Paul Cohen (agent of Evan Longoria and others who have signed young). USA Today always seems to do these kinds of articles well, and this one is no exception.

I think Cohen is the most interesting guy in this article. He's portrayed as something of the anti-Boras, defending these deals by basically saying, hey, my client could get hit by a bus tomorrow. For what it's worth, I tend to fall on his side of things. This is partially because I'm somewhat risk averse, but it's also because I agree with his general philosophy, stated thusly:
Cohen, who has signed All-Star caliber players such as Jim Edmonds, Tim Hudson, Troy Percival, Easley, Robinson Cano and Bobby Crosby to long-term contracts, refuses to sweat the competition. His contracts may be ridiculed by his peers, but his clients are happy . . .

. . . "If I'm worrying about what my competition says," Cohen says, "then I'm working for all of the wrong reasons. Look, would it have been better headlines for me, and better commissions for me and my family if Tim Hudson had gone to free agency and gone to a Northeast city? Sure. But would I go to sleep at night knowing I did it more for Paul Cohen than Tim Hudson? No way.

McCready-Clemens Update

We can remove the "allegedly" from this thing:

Barricaded behind tightly drawn blinds at her Nashville home Monday, country singer Mindy McCready confirmed a long-term affair with embattled pitcher Roger Clemens."I cannot refute anything in the story," a tearful but resolute McCready told The Daily News, which broke the story at midnight Sunday.

The story goes on to note:
After the teenage McCready met Clemens at a Fort Myers bar called The Hired Hand, she returned with the Rocket to his hotel room, but there was no sex that night, sources told The News.

It wasn't until later, after McCready had moved to Nashville and became a country singing star, that the relationship turned intimate.

If that last part is true -- that they didn't have a sexual relationship until after McCready hit it big -- that makes this less creepy, but only a little bit. That's because (a) Clemens was no less married when the relationship turned intimate; (b) she was still only 18 when she moved to Nashville which, while legal, still doesn't represent the best judgment on Clemens' part; and (c) sexual or not, the implication from the Daily News stories -- which again, McCready does not refute -- is that the relationship was based on something other than chaste, paternal nurturing (why would Clemens take a 15 year-old girl to his hotel room after a night out at The Hired Hand?).

In other news, some people asked me about my comments yesterday that Hardin was doing a poor job of representing Clemens in light of this mess. Let me be clear: I do not think that the McCready stuff has technical legal relevance to this case (I largely agree with Munson's analysis on that score), and think that McNamee's lawyer is overplaying how important this stuff is on a strictly legal basis. If they try to introduce this stuff as evidence Hardin will argue -- as would I if I were in his shoes -- that it has nothing to do with the case and should be excluded. He'll probably win that argument too, unless McCready has anything to say about Clemens' drug use.

But lawyers are not hired simply to handle the technical legal aspects of a case. We are counselors on a broader level than that, charged with carrying out our clients' larger interests, whether they come up within the technical boundaries of litigation or not. This is important here because the supposed purpose of the defamation suit was to protect Clemens' public image, and it seems fairly clear that the McCready allegations wouldn't be out in the open right now if it were not for the lawsuit.

If you're a lawyer in Hardin's position, you have to make sure that your filing of a complaint on Clemens' behalf isn't going to make the problem your client is trying to solve -- reputational damage -- worse than if you had never filed in the first place. If Hardin knew that there was bad stuff floating around waiting to become public before he filed, he should have counseled his client against going through with the suit. If he didn't know, it means Clemens didn't tell him or he didn't ask.

If he did know, did counsel his client against filing and Roger insisted anyway, it's just the latest bit of information suggesting that Hardin had a client who would not listen to his legal advice, which is a situation no lawyer ever wants to be in.

On Second Thought . . .

I've defended Wayne Krivsky a few times in the past few years, but based on some of the things he had to say in this post-termination interview with Hal McCoy, I'm starting to think that the firing was more necessary than I realized:
One of the things he wants known is that Dusty Baker was his choice to manage the Reds and he told owner Bob Castellini at the time, “Dusty Baker is my man and he is the guy for the job.” And Krivsky added, “It was my recommendation and Bob agreed.”
I was always of the impression that Baker's hiring was a Castellini thing. Knowing that it was Krivsky who decided to hire a man who is particularly ill-suited to running a team whose success or failure depends on young prospects makes his firing particularly palatable. It also means that it will be that much easier to get rid of him should Jocketty decide to do the right thing. What else ya got, Wayne?
“When I’m told before the season that I better win, I’m going to get all the pitching I can get,” he said. “Fogg was a $100,000 gamble, what we would pay him if he didn’t make the team. He made it so it cost $1.5 million and I still think it’s a good deal. When Homer Bailey didn’t make the team and Matt Belisle was injured, who did we have for our fifth starting spot? Nobody,” he said.
Seeing as though Josh Fogg went 1-2 with a 10.80 ERA in his three starts, I'm thinking that "nobody" would have done a better job.

Not that everything was Krivsky's fault:
And then there was the $3 million paid to outfielder Corey Patterson. “I was told to get him signed, whatever it takes,” said Krivsky, who signed him for $3 million.
"Whatever it takes?" Who is that desperate for Corey Patterson? Still, while the decision to go all out for Patterson may not have been Krivsky's, the guy was practically holding a sign that said "will shag flies for food," and Krivsky gave him $3M, so he's not blameless there. Patterson for the veteran minimum may have some marginal use. Patterson for $3M is insanity.

Advice to Krivsky, courtesy of Mark Twain: Tis’ better to be quiet and thought a fool, than to speak and remove all doubt.

And That Happened

Actually, between the rain and a light schedule, not much happened at all . . .

Yankees 5, Indians 2: Last evening I had the privilege of watching my four year-old daughter's preschool class put on a show. They sang little songs about pet turtles, ABCs and teddy bears. Though not the tightest production of all time, it was a moving experience because, hey, it was my kid up there, and I would have sat through it if it took three hours. After I got home and put my kids to bed, I turned on this game. It wasn't the tightest production either, and since I have no rooting interest in either team, it was pretty unbearable. Now I sort of know how the non-parents at my kid's show felt.

Reds 4, Cardninals 3: Edwin Encarnacion (2-4, 2 2B, 2 RBI) was the hero, if anyone can be called that in a 4-3 game, hitting a couple of RBI doubles and making a nice snag at third. I find myself rooting for Encarnacion because I encountered him on the day of his major league debut. The Reds were in Cleveland playing an interleague series with the Indians. I was there for a weekend seminar at my firm's home office, and was checking into the Marriott at Public Square, which is where the Reds were staying. As I was getting my room key, Encarnacion -- who had just been called up and was getting in a day later than the team -- came up to the counter next to me and said "I'd like to check in please." The clerk behind the desk asked his name and he said it. She said "oh, Mr. Encarnacion, you don't need to check in," and handed him a big manila envelop with his name written on it in big black letters. He took it and sort of turned it over in his hands a minute, said thank you, and walked towards the elevators.

Though I figured he was a ballplayer, I didn't know who he was then or that it was his first day in the majors, so my memory of him breaking into an excited smile may be a trick of hindsight. Still, I think of that moment every time I hear about a guy being called up from the minors, and imagine him being handed an envelope full of meal money, a room key, and hope, and walking to an elevator with the dawning realization that, yes, he has finally made the big leagues.

Orioles 3, White Sox 3: Due to inclement weather, they had to stop this one before they could fini

Diamondbacks 5, Astros 3: The Diamondbacks have played 14 of their 26 games on the road so far this sesaon. Last year, they were ten games better at home than they were on the road, and that pattern has continued so far this season. Upshot: with a ten game home stand opening up, Arizona -- who already has a 6.5 game lead -- could build a practically prohibitive one in the NL West in the next week or two.

A's 14, Angels 2: The rumbling felt in southern California last night was not an earthquake. It was Frank Thomas hitting a triple.

Giants 4, Rockies 0: While it was nice that Matt Cain pitched 5.1 scoreless innings, he walked five guys and took 108 pitches to do it, turning a four run lead over to the pen. That was OK last night, but he's going to have to be more efficient beginning with his next start, because the Giants have acquired a new long man who simply can't be trusted to hold that kind of a lead.

Further posts may be a bit delayed this morning, folks. You see, it freaking SNOWED in Ohio this morning, and that has put a serious dent in my mojo.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Maury Breaks Down The Forbes' Valuations

On Friday, I mentioned Forbes' valuation of the Los Angeles Dodgers, and noted that Forbes' payroll figures varied from that stated by the teams. Curious as to how Forbes comes up with its numbers? Curious as to how those valuations have changed over the years? Just curious? Then hop on over to The Biz of Baseball for Maury Brown's exhaustive six-year analysis of the Forbes' valuations:
The obvious finding in looking at the Forbes figures is that all the clubs are in a healthy state these days. Valuations continue to climb, and fewer and fewer clubs are operating under what Forbes sees as operating loss.

What the figures also show is that often times, the clubs that have cried poverty in
the past, or said that they would be unable to compete in the free agency market without considerable assistance by way of revenue-sharing, are, in fact, pulling in healthy profits.

And while one can shrug off that issue by saying all the clubs are making more money, there are signs that the most valuable are growing at a rate faster than their mid-to-low level counterparts. In other words, there is an increasing disparity in valuation . . .

. . . Finally, as mentioned at the outset, Forbes and MLB may come to different figures each year. However, it is clear that until MLB decides to open their books to the public, the Forbes valuations paint a clear picture in terms of trends in the industry. In 2008, when it comes to MLB, business is good.
That's just the conclusion section. There is much, much more there --including some pretty kickass graphics -- so please check out the whole post.

In other news, inasmuch as Maury writes more high-level content on this stuff than anyone, why hasn't anybody (i.e. ESPN, Fox, CBS, Yahoo!, etc.) hired him to be their full-time business of sports guy?

God, I Love Baseball

As I mentioned last week, I'm collecting your observations of the little things that happen during the course of a game. The flavor. The fluff. The stuff that makes you say "God, I love baseball." Some that have trickled in thus far:

Ron Rollins watching the second game of the Indians-Royals doubleheader on Thursday night: "The announcers mentioned this about Cliff Lee: When he comes out to do his warm-ups before an inning, he does a mock pitch to 2nd base before he starts. Sets up and goes through the motion of throwing a pitch to the base. Splitorff thought it was because the mound is steeper in the back and he reminds him to stand up straighter."

RoyceTheHack, watching the Astros-Padres from last Tuesday: "It is the 'Stros five-run, eighth inning. After Tejada raps his big double, the camera pans the stands and who do I see in the left field boxes of The Juice Box but my very own brother - standing in wild jubilation and whooping it up with his buddies. They kept the camera on them for three or four seconds, so we (my daughter and I...), knew it was him. I called him a few minutes later and when he answered he said, "I can't hear you, I'm at the game!!....".

Cooker, watching the Red Sox-Angels last Tuesday night: "Gary Matthews Jr at the plate, and as the crowd quiets down you can hear a fan very clearly yell 'Gary, you are KILLING my fantasy team!' Classic."

Jeff: Yankees-Blue Jays on Opening Night in Yankee Stadium, Roy Halladay was pitching in the 6th inning with a 2-1 lead. Melky Cabrera comes up and hits a pop fly home run, maybe a foot and a half over the 314 foot short porch in right to tie the game. When the camera goes to Halladay for the reaction shot, you can clearly lip-read him say "fucking ballpark."

Jeremy Toren, watching the nightcap of Saturday's doubleheader between the Orioles and the White Sox: "Brian Anderson hit a long fly ball to center field, and Adam Jones, running hard from the first moment, managed to jump and catch it just before crashing into the fence. The quirky thing was that replays showed Jones BLOWING A BUBBLE just before jumping to make the grab. It was the very picture of nonchalance on a play that was anything but."

And while this doesn't technically count -- I'm looking for in-game wonderfulness here -- I can't let John Smoltz's comments from the Dan Patrick Show last week go unnoticed. Courtesy of an anonymous poster, Smoltzie had this to say about his good friend and former teammate Greg Maddux:
1. In spring training they drive rentals and Maddux would follow him around and rear end him at all the stop signs until his bumper fell off;

2. Maddux would get in Smoltz's rental car and spit tobacco juice all over and leave booggers all over;

3. Maddux likes to leave big loogies on the ceiling around the clubhouse in the hopes that they'd drip on pedestrians;

4. Maddux would just make crap up in the dugout. He'd say, "Any fly ball that hangs for 6 seconds has to be caught" and then everyone would start counting seconds and arguing about it.

As Tim Keown wrote of Maddux, Throws right, bats right, farts left.

Yep, that's my favorite player!

Keep the emails coming. Like I said, this won't be a regular feature, but I will collect them whenever I get critical mass in my inbox.

Davey on Roger

Davey Johnson -- in a wonderfully wide-ranging interview with the Daily News -- has this to say about Clemens and steroids:
DN: Did you watch the Clemens-McNamee congressional hearing? Who did you
believe?

DJ: You know who I believed. Roger Clemens was a great pitcher. He pitched by intimidating. Try to get an edge, look at you. He'd hit his grandmother if he thought it would help him win a game. You've got to admire what he's done. But he's in that group where you've got to believe that anything he would do to make himself better, he's going to do. I just think the deal in those hearings - that's just his personality. He's going to try to intimidate: "I'm coming through here and you're not going to get in my way."

I'm inclined to believe that a guy like Davey Johnson has a better read on a major leaguer's mindset than most folks opining on the subject, and to me this sounds pretty convincing.

Another View on Curt Flood

It may not always be obvious, but I don't actually believe that I have a monopoly on righteousness. This is especially the case with judgment calls like Hall of Fame worthiness, so I am always happy to read an opposing view. Of course, it's much easier to take when the opposing view is a well-written one (and contains a lot of praise!), such as today's piece on Curt Flood's Hall-worthiness by Russ Smith at Splice. After recapping my argument, Smith says:
But Flood's lawsuit against Major League Baseball's reserve clause, instigated by his objection to a trade from the Cardinals to the Philadelphia Phillies—which he lost in the Supreme Court in '73—led, just a few years later to the free agency which has made multimillionaires of today's elite players. This landmark case forever changed the economics of baseball, and in a positive way, I think, since why shouldn't entertainers such as Johan Santana, Alex Rodriguez, Manny Ramirez and Miguel Cabrera pull down Hollywood-like salaries? Calcaterra believes, as do I, that Marvin Miller—the legendary labor leader who pugnaciously ushered MLB into the modern age —belongs in the Hall of Fame. So why not Flood?

I'm still not buying Flood as a Hall of Famer, but Smith's case is a better one than Rhoden's was and is worth reading.

Great Moments in Laziness

I don't troll my statcounter too often, but sometimes fun stuff comes up when I do. For example, I noticed this morning that someone reached this blog by Googling "Ball Four Cliffs Notes."

I love Bouton and everything, but can someone tell me what, exactly, there is in the way of complex narrative and literary subtext in Ball Four that would necessitate Cliffs Notes? Like Freud said, sometimes a beaver shoot is just a beaver shoot.

The Morris Release

The Coonelly/Huntington regime is starting to undo the damage of the McClatchy/Littlefield regime, and I don't base that simply on their decision to release Matt Morris. Anyone would release Matt Morris at this point because the man is clearly done. More impressive is the rhetoric surrounding the release:
"The Pirates' decision to release Matt Morris was a difficult one, but not because of the financial implications of that decision," Pirate president Frank Coonelly said. "We will not avoid making the changes necessary to return the Pirates to a championship caliber club because of monetary considerations."

The Pirates acquired Morris -- and his contract -- from the San Francisco Giants July 31 for outfielder Rajai Davis and minor league pitcher Stephen MacFarland. That move, Coonelly said yesterday, "did not turn out to be a sound baseball judgment."

Sure, it may not be the pinnacle of bravery to identify a bad decision your predecessor made, but that doesn't stop most new GMs and team presidents from sugar coating this sort of move with professional courtesy. So kudos to Coonelly for (a) calling a spade a spade; and (b) appreciating the concept of sunk costs in reaching the decision to jettison Morris. Let's hope they follow through with this sort of thinking with respect to their own personnel moves.

The contract is too long and large to reasonably expect it -- and it's his own decision he'd be repudiating -- but wouldn't it be neat if Brian Sabean applied the same concepts to Barry Zito?

Monster

The Daily News is reporting -- in major detail -- that Roger Clemens had a long term affair with country singer Mindy McCready that began when she was [gulp] 15 years old:
Roger Clemens carried on a decade-long affair with country star Mindy McCready, a romance that began when McCready was a 15-year-old aspiring singer performing in a karaoke bar and Clemens was a 28-year-old Red Sox ace and married father of two, several sources have told the Daily News . . .

. . . Contacted by the Daily News Sunday through his lawyer Rusty Hardin, Clemens confirmed a long-term relationship but denied that it was of a sexual nature. "He flatly denies having had any kind of an inappropriate relationship with her," Hardin said. "He's considered her a close family friend. ... He has never had a sexual relationship with her."
There are a thousand different things that could be said about this. Pure snark is one possibility, and I expect to see a lot of that as the blogosphere wakes up. Another tack, which the Daily News focuses on, is to wonder how this could impact Clemens' lawsuit against McNamee. That's a legitimate question, and as far as that goes I'll say (a) the revelation of information which is harmful to one's reputation is pretty disastrous for someone suing over the sullying of their allegedly good name; and (b) any lawyer that was aware of this kind of thing would basically be committing malpractice by filing a defamation of character lawsuit. This means that either Clemens lied to Hardin when asked whether there was any bad stuff he had to worry about, or that Hardin neglected to ask. Based on what we've seen I'm guessing it's a combination of less-than-probing-questioning and a less-than-truthful answer.

But neither snark nor armchair litigating is of much interest to me at the moment. Why? Because for those of you who don't know, Mindy McCready is a set of profoundly damaged goods. She's a former (?) drug addict who has made multiple suicide attempts. She has been in and out of prison. She has been the victim of serious domestic abuse and is on record admitting to major self-esteem issues. She is now raising a kid -- the son of her primary domestic abuser -- with her career in shambles.

Know what? You're still growing up when you're 15. You're still a kid, and that's probably doubly true for girls who are out on stages performing rather than experiencing more traditional modes of socialization and development. Take a 15 year-old girl in that position and add in a famous 28 year-old fireballing philanderer who gets to town a couple of times a year, and you have a key ingredient in an already-simmering recipe for disaster.

I appreciate that this story is coming from a tabloid and that much more in the way of confirmation needs to happen before we can take the "allegedly" off of it. But, if the story is true, Roger Clemens is not just the jerk we have long considered him to be; he's an evil and loathsome monster who contributed to the destruction of a young girl in a major way.

UPDATE: We can remove the "allegedly." Further ShysterBall analysis on this can be found here.

And That Happened

We're about a month in, and finally some of the freak, early-season stats are starting to succumb to more significant sample sizes. The wheat is starting to separate itself from the chaff. Order is starting to be restored. The Rays and Orioles are battling for first place in the AL East. You know, the usual stuff.

Yankees 1, Indians 0: The good news? Sabathia makes a second straight dominant start (8 IP, 4H, 1ER, 8K). The bad news: he wasn't even the best starter in the game, as Wang posts 7IP, 4 H, 0 ER, 9K and wins what was, to date, the pitchers' duel of the year. Wang is off to his best start as a Major Leaguer. As Jason at IIATMS notes, however, he's doing it very differently than he has before.

Rays 3, Red Sox 0: James Shields dominates the Sawx. Two hits, one walk, and to the showers in less than 2:30. Definitely not Red Sox baseball. Then again, neither is getting swept by the Rays.

Mets 6, Braves 3: Mets fans may cheer Carlos Delgado's two dinger effort, but their joy should be tempered somewhat by the fact that he hit them off a guy who may soon be missing a lot of time due to a bum shoulder. Braves fans, on the other hand, should simply panic.

Nationals 2, Cubs 0: The Nats' John Lannan -- a guy I had never heard of before he blanked my team last Tuesday -- is sitting on a 19 inning scoreless streak.

Pirates 5, Phillies 1: What on Earth is wrong with Ryan Howard (.174/.300/.359)?

Marlins 3, Brewers 2: Really only one team ever thought highly enough of Wes Helms to make him a starter for any extended period of time, and that's Milwaukee. Helms, ever the ingrate, decides to bury his old team with two RBI, including the game winning homer in extra innings. In other news, pretty soon we're going to start getting a lot of those articles we see around this time each year. You know the ones -- about how the Marlins are winning despite zero payroll, and aren't they good and refreshing and wonderful, etc. etc. I, for one, will be happy when they get printed, because that means the inevitable swoon will start soon after.

Cardinals 5, Astros 1: Kyle Lohse goes six strong and is now 3-0 with a 2.36 ERA. When your team is struggling sometime this summer because they can't seem to get any starting pitching, remember that Lohse was (a) available until mid-March; and (b) signed a deal for just north of $4M.

Diamondbacks 2, Padres 1: Webb, by the way, is now 6-0 and is pitching for a team that is much better on offense this year than it was last year. I'm not one for wild speculation, especially this early in the year, but if you wanted to put money on someone winning 30 games, Webb would be your man.

Reds 10, Giants 1: Zito, by the way, is now 0-6 and is pitching for a team that is much worse on offense this year than it was last year. I'm not one for wild speculation, especially this early in the year, but if you wanted to put money on someone losing 30 games, Zito would be your man.

Rangers 10, Twins 0: When the worst pitching staff in the AL meets the second worst offense in the league, something's got to give! Well, it was the offense that gave, as the Rangers shut out the Twins. Josh Hamilton (.333/.385/.581) continues to make me wonder how much money he'd be making right now if he hadn't snorted, smoked, and shot-up his way out of his expected development curve.

A's 4, Mariners 2: Ichiro is a historically-bad April hitter, with his career April average (.294) standing a full thirty points below his next lowest month. His April 2008, however, is way worse than that (.257/.319/.376).

Angels 6, Tigers 2: Justin Verlander was looking sharp until around the time Mrs. Shyster commandeered the TV to watch Desperate Housewives. You can therefore imagine my surprise when I checked back later to see that he had laid another stink bomb (5.2, 7 H, 6 ER, 4 BB). Sure, it wasn't as surprising as finding out that it was Lynette's kids who burnt down Rick's restaurant (I totally thought Tom had done it) and that Bree actually kicked Orson out of the house when she discovered that it was him who ran down Mike with his car two seasons ago, but surprising all the same.

Wait. Did I say that in my out-loud voice?

Friday, April 25, 2008

Every Box Score Tells A Story

Who needs the Extra Innings package? From the play-by-play/box score of the currently in-progress Braves-Mets game:
Bottom of the 3rd
D Wright walked, M Anderson scored, R Casanova to third, L Castillo to second 1-1
C Beltran walked, R Casanova scored, L Castillo to third, D Wright to second 1-2
R Church walked, L Castillo scored, D Wright to third, C Beltran to second 1-3

Game Notes: HOME-PLATE UMPIRE TIM MCCLELLAND EJECTED ATLANTA MANAGER BOBBY COX IN THE BOTTOM OF THE THIRD INNING FOR ARGUING BALLS AND STRIKES.
I have no idea why I'm laughing so hard at that, but I know I probably wouldn't be if I were actually watching the game.

Only in New York . . .

. . . could the Los Angeles Dodgers be thought of as the "underdog":

After his less-than-amicable departure from the Yankees, Torre is settling into a new reality, attempting to restore credibility to a franchise that has won one playoff game in 20 seasons. There is no fishbowl, no calls from Boss & Sons and no suggestions from above for lineup changes.

On the other hand, there is no $200 million payroll. The Dodgers constitute the Little Engine That Could.
The Little Engine That Could? This is a franchise valued at $684M, which is the fourth highest in baseball. And while it's true that there is no $200M payroll, there is somwhere between $132M (Forbes' number) and $118M (everyone else's), which ranks the Dodgers pretty damn high as well.

"In New York, you know how it is,” said Dodgers reliever Scott Proctor, a former Yankee. “Everything is blown up 100 times over."
And, it would seem, outside of New York everything is discounted that much as well.

*Thanks to reader Jim D for pointing me to the pic

Generation A's Fans

Though I've made no secret of the fact that I'd like to make a career out of writing about baseball, ShysterBall truly is a labor of love. I don't make any money off of it and, sadly, there are surprisingly few groupies out there looking to score with a blogger (crazy, I know). I simply wake up each morning with a strong desire to get some words down on virtual paper and engage with readers about the game I love.

In light of all of this, I'm a sucker for labors of love, and frequent Athletics Nation poster Donald Marquez has forged one of his own about which I am happy to spread the word: Generation A's Fans: A Family's Long Love Affair With One of Baseball's Best Teams, a book which chronicles his very large family's forty-year love affair with the Oakland A's. From the Amazon writeup:
The Oakland A's and the Martinez family have one thing in common: they stick together through good times and bad. For Donald A. Marquez, the ballpark was as much of a home as the humble Bay Area split-level that housed eight children and their parents. Every family member had an A's story, from his beloved grandmother to his youngest cousins. Even Easter Sunday was planned around the Home Nine's schedule. The family suffered when Jose Canseco struck out an incredible 175 times in 1986, and rejoiced together at the team's breakthrough win in the 2006 playoffs.

Generation A's Fans: A Family's Long Love Affair With One of Baseball's Best Teams is the story of one of the sport's most undervalued teams, and the family who loves them.
I've not read it yet, but based on some of the stuff I've read about it, it sounds great, and I can't wait to get my copy. If you're into the A's, baseball, or families maybe you should too.

*Note: that's the young Marquez himself on the cover photo, being held by a surprisingly accessible Reggie Jackson.

Great Moments in Irony

Dusty Baker, when asked why the Reds have not yet called up Homer Bailey (3-1, 1.03 ERA); and Jay Bruce (.315, 3 HR, 12 RBI), despite having big holes in both the rotation and the outfield:
"The thing about it, though, is you don't want to stunt their progress and growth," Baker said. "It's very tempting to think only of today vs. thinking what's right for them and us in the long run, for years to come. A month can be worth years in terms of experience and confidence."
Mark Prior and Kerry Wood groan. What else, Dusty?
"Need is not the issue right now," Baker said. "The issue is we've got guys here that have done the job and are about to do the job. You're telling me Adam Dunn is not going to hit 40 home runs? You're telling me [Ken Griffey Jr.] isn't going to hit 30 home runs, no matter how they've started? Is three weeks enough to say that they're ready for here?
No, but someone should be telling him that Corey Patterson, Josh Fogg, and Matt Belisle are also going to play to expectations, and that's not such a good thing either.

Not that it matters. In light of the Krivksy firing, it's pretty safe to say that Castellini and Jocketty have made the decision to punt this season and storm next year with all of the fully ripe talent Krivsky and his predecessor Dan O'Brien assembled.

My above-snark aside, that's not necessarily a bad plan, especially if Jocketty is allowed to use the money freed up from Griffey and Dunn's departures to sign some decent supporting talent to put around all the kids.

Cruel and Unusual Punishment

I'm confused:
To get his misdemeanor probation cut short by five months, former Tampa Bay Rays outfielder Elijah Dukes spent 25 hours during the past week cleaning out cages and mopping at Lowry Park Zoo.

Attorney Grady Irvin and a team official for the Nationals, who traded for Dukes in December, said the ballplayer also passed weekly drug tests for six months.

And here I thought playing for the Nationals was punishment enough.

And That Happened

A's 11, Twins 2: It's been said that even though it's typical for pitchers to come back a year or so after having Tommy John surgery, you really don't get your touch and feel for pitching back for almost two years. Francisco Liriano had better hope that's true, because if it's not, it means that he has simply lost whatever mojo he had back in 2006. Liriano was rocked by the A's to the tune of .2 IP, 5 H, 3 BB, 6 ER, and now has an ERA north of 11. In other news, Big Hurt makes his triumphant return to the A's. Of note is the fact that Mike Sweeney got his first start at 1B last night, which may indicate that it is Jack Cust -- not Sweeney -- who will be odd man out as a result of the Thomas signing. And to think; it was less than a year ago when Cust was the one getting all of the love.

Tigers 8, Rangers 2: Here's a great example of what three games against the Rangers can do for a team: when the Tigers woke up on Tuesday morning, they were on a pace to score 664 runs for the year. As they wake up this morning, they are on a pace to score 838. Also worth noting: the Tigers have yet to play a game with Cabrera at first and Guillen at third since Leyland's grand unveiling of his new defensive alignment.

Angels 7, Red Sox 5: Emergency starter Justin Masterson -- making his Major League debut as a result of the Boston barf-o-rama -- pitched wonderfully (6 IP, 2 H, 1 ER). Javier Lopez and Manny Delcarmen (a combined 0 IP, 2 H, 2 BB, 4 ER) didn't, however, allowing the Angels to rally late.

Astros 5, Reds 2: We live in a fast moving age. Evidence: Johnny Cueto (7 IP, 8 H, 5 ER) has gone from spectacular to solid to sub-par in the space of exactly three weeks.

Phillies 3, Brewers 1: Jamie Moyer on Tom Gordon after the game: "He looks like the guy that I saw as a starter in Kansas City, eons ago," Moyer said. "He looks like the guy that I saw as a teammate in Boston." Quick show of hands: how many people remembered that Jamie Moyer pitched in Boston? Liars.

Rockies 4, Cubs 2: I've frequently wondered how often teams phone in these Thursday afternoon getaway day games. This one -- played before both teams had to get on airplanes --lasted 2:18. Hmmmm.

Nationals 10, Mets 5: It took a couple of years, but Felipe Lopez (2-4, salami, 6 RBI) finally does something to prove that Krivsky screwed up the Kearns trade. Meanwhile, Aaron Heilman (.1, 3 H, BB, 2 ER, allowed 2 inherited runs to score) may have purchased a first class ticket on the DFA express.

Indians 9, Royals 6: A Scorpion, being a very poor swimmer, asked a Turtle to carry him on his back across a river. "Are you crazy?" exclaimed the Turtle. "You'll sting me while I'm swimming and I'll drown." "My dear Turtle," laughed the Scorpion, "if I were to sting you, you would drown and I would go down with you. Now where is the logic in that?" "You're right!" cried the Turtle. "Hop on!" The Scorpion climbed aboard and halfway across the river gave the Turtle a mighty sting. As they both sank to the bottom, the Turtle resignedly said: "Do you mind if I ask you something? You said there'd be no logic in your stinging me. Then why did you do it?" "It has nothing to do with logic," the drowning Scorpion sadly replied. "It's just my character."

Indians 2, Royals 0: Brian Bannister pitched like Maddux again (6.2 IP, 4 H, 2 ER) but unfortunately for him it was late-career Maddux rather than 1995 Maddux. Cliff Lee, on the other hand, pitched like 1966 Koufax (CG shoutout, 3 H, 9K). On the season Lee is 4-0, 0.28 ERA with 29K and 2 BB in 31.2 IP. Um, Wow.

Braves 7, Marlins 4: It was Chipper Jones' birthday, and he had this to say: "I always feel like I need to do something cool on my birthday," the third baseman said. "Hit a homer or have three hits. I would have taken either one, to be honest. Today, I got 'em both. It was awesome." Chipper Jones on his birthday:

2008: 3-3, HR, RBI
2007: 1-6, 2B
2006: on the DL
2005: 1-2, 2 BB
2004: on the DL
2003: 1-4
2002: 2-3, RBI
2001: 2-5, 2 HR, 3 RBI
2000: day off
1999: 1-5
1998: 4-5, 2B, 3 R, RBI
1997: day off
1996:4-5, 2B, HR, 2 RBI
1995: season hadn't started yet due to players' strike.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

lolfans

Following up on my comment this morning about the Rays having trouble building the fan base, John Lynch at Basebology has created something that is definitely worth seeing.

"God, I Love Baseball"

Sometimes it's helpful to remember why we love baseball. For me, it's the little stuff. Yes, the playoffs are fun. Yes, the action of the game can be riveting. But better than those things are the relatively inconsequential things that happen during your typical, relatively inconsequential weeknight game. A foul ball that wakes up everyone in the visitor's dugout. A fan shouting an obscenity so loud the TV microphones pick it up. An ump taking a few extra seconds cleaning the plate because the catcher just caught a nasty foul tip. The sorts of things that never make the highlight packages or box scores, but which cause both the viewers and the participants to laugh, sigh, or simply reflect in ways that are totally foreign to, say, a football field.

I know I'm not alone in this, because you guys often tell me you feel the same way. For example, longtime ShysterBall reader Osmodious was just kicking back on Tuesday night, watching his Yankees take on the White Sox, and has this to share:

You just never know when you might see something you have never seen before. That is the single best reason to watch baseball, though there are scores of good reasons to as well. Here's the ESPN recap of last night's game. What you will not read in there are two things that happened that you only know about if you watched it.

During the 8th inning, a black cat jumped out from behind the screen behind home plate and ran into the Yankee's dugout. Really. Where did it come from? Who knows, though David Cone theorized that it was a Red Sox fan who brought it into the stadium for the expressed purpose of jinxing the Yankees.

The other occurred a couple of innings prior to that. Let me preface this by saying that neither Wang nor Contreras had their best stuff, making the first two hours of the game seem like an eternity (and that was only 3.2 innings!). Anyway, Nick Swisher, a pretty good hitter, was up and he was fouling off a bunch of pitches. Finally, two strikes and I don't know how many balls, he started to swing at a pitch . . . and his bat broke. Without touching the ball. He loaded up his hands (pulled them back) and started to swing and the bat broke at the handle . . . he was left holding 10 inches of bat handle as the rest of it flew off at a 90 degree angle toward the on-deck circle. He was called out on strikes, but not for swinging, as the box score lists it as a called third strike! I have never seen a bat break from the sheer strength of the batter's swing. It was kind of impressive.

It was also classic baseball comedy. Swisher stood there at the plate, still in his stance, looking at his hands, trying to figure out what had just transpired. Hopefully, somebody took a picture of his face, 'cause it was classic. Meanwhile, both Jorge and the ump are looking directly to the left at the remains of the bat, also trying to figure out what had happened. While not the most amazing thing I have ever seen on a baseball field, it was definitely a highlight. And I would have missed it if I had turned off the game because it was a little boring.

You just never know what you might see. God, I love baseball.
UPDATE: video of the bat breaking can be found here (special thanks to the commenter below for sending it in).

That's what I'm talking about. The little stuff. Things that aren't important enough for the beat writers to cover the next day but that are notable and add flavor all the same. I'm enamoured of this stuff, and my only regret is that I don't get to watch enough games to see them as often as I'd like. I'm sure many of you feel the same way. Which is why I want to start a new occasional feature around here which, using Osmodious' words, I will entitle "God, I love Baseball."

Here's how we're going to do this: You guys watch games (no big trick, because you're doing it already). You guys make a quick note of something enjoyable but inconsequential that you saw, and either write it up in an email to me (it's in the upper left hand corner of this page) or post it in the comments to the daily "And That Happened" post. I'll share it with everyone, giving proper attribution to the submitter, of course (let me know if you want anonymity).

No need to write it up as long as Osmodious did. No need for flowery prose. And certainly no need to be funny or to top one another because the whole point of this is to catalog those little, ephemeral moments that make baseball so damn enjoyable. Those sorts of things aren't always funny, and by definition they aren't spectacular. We're just going for flavor here, and a simple "hey, I was watching the Nats-Padres and the camera caught Cristian Guzman and Ron Belliard playing paper-scissors-rock in the dugout," or "yo, you shoulda seen the guys in the Cubs bullpen jawing at the drunk dudes in the left field bleachers" will suffice. All I ask is that you let me know what game it happened in and, if applicable, the players involved.

Like most things on the Internet, it will either work or it won't, and if you don't see any items in the next few weeks it means that no one cares about this stuff all that much. Which is fine too. We're not shooting for award nominations with this bit, and it certainly won't be a regular feature (if it gets really popular maybe I'll do a weekly compilation of them).

So keep watching, and let me know what happens.

Dodger Stadium Renovation

The Dodgers have unveiled ambitious plans for their latest stadium renovation:
The Dodgers today plan to unveil their most extensive stadium renovation yet, a project that would transform the area behind the outfield to an entrance promenade featuring restaurants, shops, club offices and a Dodgers museum and add two parking garages to help replace the 2,000 spaces lost to construction.

In a letter sent Wednesday to season-ticket holders, owner Frank McCourt and President Jamie McCourt said the improvements would "give the stadium a chance to remain viable and perhaps see its 100th birthday."
I've only been to Dodger Stadium once, but I was impressed with how nice the place remains nearly 50 years after being built. There has obviously been continuous improvement and maintenance over the years, and that more than anything stands as the best argument for privately funded stadiums. Yes, it may have cost Dodgers' ownership a lot (relatively speaking) to build the place, but it has paid for itself many times over and the place is now in a condition to where ownership reasonably believes that a $500M investment in further improvements makes economic sense. The result will be, in all likelihood, a nicer place for fans to enjoy a game, and a nice new source of revenue for the club.

As for the renovations/additions themselves, anything that incentives people to get to the ballpark early or stay late is probably a good thing, because the one thing I didn't like about the place was the traffic getting in and out of the more-or-less isolated stadium.

Of course, I'm an Ohio boy, and we don't have traffic, so maybe I'm overly sensitive to such things.

Ellsbury's Efficiency

Wicked Good Sports notices that Jacob Ellsbury is approaching a record:
Jacoby Ellsbury is quickly (and quietly) approaching a Major League Baseball record held by future Hall of Famer Tim Raines. At the start of his career (1979-1981), Raines was successful on his first 27 steal attempts, the longest such streak at the start of a player’s career, according to stats provided by Sean Forman and the geniuses at Baseball-Reference.com. Ellsbury, who swiped 9 bases without being caught last season, hasn’t been caught in 8 attempts this year (including 6 in the last week), putting him at 17 straight to start his career.
Usually when you hear of streaks and records they're about something more impressive, but stolen base efficiency like this is both pretty rare and pretty indicative of brains as well as speed, so it's a very good sign for Red Sox fans.

And That Happened

Brewers 5, Phillies 4: Cole Hammels gets through seven innings having given up three runs with 11 strikeouts, having thrown 112 pitches, and the Phillies in the lead. Charlie Manuel sends him out for the eighth, however, and its Braun-double, Fielder-homer, Hammels-showers, and Phillies-lose. Set up-guys? We don' need no stinkin' set-up guys!

Giants 3, Padres 2: Trevor Hoffman and Greg Maddux might both retire at the end of this season and end up on the same dais in Cooperstown five years later. Then, they'll probably be laughing. Now? They're probably not speaking to each other as Hoffman blows Greg Maddux's (7 IP, 0 ER, 5K, 0 BB) would-be 350th win.

Tigers 19, Rangers 6: Detroit's new first and third basemen combine for 6 RBI in one inning to fuel the rout. Of course the new first baseman was DHing and the new third baseman was playing first, but that's not important right now. It's not all good news, though, as Kenny Rogers (3.1 IP, 9 H, 6 ER) continues the rotation's struggles.

Angels 6, Red Sox 4: Usually, when a player misses a game due to "flulike symptoms," it means he has a hangover. This time it really means the flu, as for the second day in a row the Sox have to go with an emergency starter due to someone praying to the porcelain Jesus.

Astros 9, Reds 3: Bronson Arroyo and his guitar have been starring locally in humorous commercials for a pre-processed meat company. He's enjoying the gig so much that he's lately been seen serving up meatballs and turning the Reds' chances into hamburger (3.2 IP, 10 H, 8 ER, 7.56 ERA on the season).

Rays 5, Blue Jays 3: The Rays are again playing games at Disney World as part of an initiative "designed to bolster fan support in the Orlando area." Last night's attendance: 8,989. You're doing it wrong, Tampa Bay.

Yankees 6, White Sox 4: Mike Mussina (7 IP, 2 ER) is temporarily re-animated. Now if Hughes and Kennedy can give them anything, these kids might make something out of themselves.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Renteria and Cabrera

ESPN The Magazine's Jorge Arangure Jr. has written a fascinating story about the rivalry cum feud between fellow Colombians Edgar Renteria and Orlando Cabrera:

The two best baseball players in the history of their country are not on speaking terms.

The reasons are rooted in Colombia, a soccer-loving South American nation where baseball struggles to take hold along a coastal stretch of highway. On this main road, Highway 90, high-rise condos sprout one after another, poor indigenous country folk sell fried foods and local cheeses from shabby huts, and soldiers man roadblocks searching for rebels and bombs. The highway connects Cartagena, the majestic tourist city where the 33-year-old Cabrera grew up, and Barranquilla,its industrial rival 72 miles to the northeast, which produced the 32-year-old Rentería.
Definitely worth the time. After reading it, don't forget to check out the unusually-enlightening sidebar.

Krivsky Kanned

When your boss hires a guy who's better at your job than you are, you have to know your days are numbered:
The Cincinnati Reds have fired general manager Wayne Krivsky and replaced him with former St. Louis Cardinals general manager Walt Jocketty . . . Krivsky knew his job was in jeopardy when owner Bob Castellini hired Jocketty as a special consultant in January. The two were friends from Castellini's days in the Cardinals' ownership group.

Given that this was inevitable, the timing is probably for the best. Despite some pre-season optimism, the Reds aren't likely going to contend this year, and it's better to have your long-term guy (Jocketty) making the deadline deals than it is to have your lame duck doing them.

For the record, I don't think Krivsky was as bad a GM as many made him out to be, and continue to take issue with all of the flak he has received over the Kearns-Lopez trade. Short version: yes I realize it failed in its stated purpose of bolstering the bullpen for a playoff run, but if the Reds "lost" this trade, what does it say about the 6-15 Nats and their twin 77 OPS+ studs in Kearns and Lopez? At least the Reds got Daryl Thompson in the deal, and he's currently 2-0 with a 0.76 ERA and a 25-1 K/BB ratio in his first go-around in AA Chattanooga.

Anyway. So long, Mr. Krivsky.

(link via ShysterBall reader Jacob Lee)

Cabrera to First

He's been playing first base more and more over the past week or so, and now Jim Leyland has made it official:
“I’m going to make a major announcement and I’m not going to answer questions about it,” Leyland said. “I’m going to make a statement and I’m going to leave it at that. We will now be moving Miguel Cabrera to first base and Carlos Guillen to third base. The reason is, we think at this particular time, it gives us a better team. So that’s what we’re doing.
I like moving Cabrera to first base, because he's a pretty big liability everywhere else, and given the Tiger's investment, he needs a permanent home. Guillen at third? Hard to say how that will go considering (a) he was ostensibly moved to first to save his brittle body; and (b) he hasn't played third since he was in Seattle, and even then he didn't play that much of it.

My preference would be to install Brandon Inge at third -- he was a wizard there last season, and with Renteria at short, you'd like to see good glove at the hot corner -- and move Guillen to DH. Leyland can't exactly do that, of course, because he has Gary Sheffield hanging around. But then again, Sheffield may not be hanging around much longer, so it's still a possibility.

Great Moments in Tortured Metaphors

Courtesy of Baseball and Earth Day at MLB.com:
Batting third in the lineup ... Earth.

It is the most formidable planet of all. It is right where you want your best hitter. Menacing Mars and big Jupiter (susceptible only to its Great Red Spot) offer great protection behind it. A couple of quick, hot-hitting setup guys in front. Earth is the franchise player in the galaxy, the one that draws the people, the one rounding the bases at just the right time. Saturn has the ring, but Earth has the World Series trophy.

Not mentioned: that we're going with an eight man lineup ever since we cut Pluto for being too small.

Which, by the way, sends the wrong message to all of those Dwarf Planets and Small Solar System Bodies out there trying to break through to the bigs. Not that the International Astronomical Union cares. They've long known that the big gaseous planets mean bigger gate, and have turned a blind eye to the pressures faced by the smaller guys just trying to make it out there.

Where will it end? Probably when Jeff Novitzky gets transfered to NASA.

Iron Man

Mr. Marlin is not spending his retirement sipping piña coladas:
Instead, Conine, a 17-year veteran of six big-league teams, has spent long hours swimming, cycling and running in preparation for an ambitious triathlon schedule that will culminate in the Ironman world championship in Kona, Hawaii, in October . . .

. . . Most triathletes must either qualify or win a lottery spot for entry into that event. World Triathlon Corp., Ironman’s Florida-based parent company, granted Conine one of several special invitations given to athletes with compelling stories, according to the W.T.C.
They must know that Conine is the only guy to play with the Marlins in their first season, the 1997 World Series season, and the 2003 World Series season. I suppose that's compelling.

Novitzky Traded

Steroid scourge Jeff Novitzky has moved from the I.R.S. to the F.D.A. It's a good deal for the F.D.A as, due to his release, they only have to pick up the prorated minimum for the remainder of the season.

Big Hurt to Oaktown?

Buster Olney reports that the A's are interested in Frank Thomas. If so, it looks like Mike Sweeney may be done, as a Thomas-Cust platoon at DH makes an awful lot of sense.

And That Happened

Nationals 6, Braves 0: John Smoltz gets his 3000th strikeout and puts up a 7 IP, 5 H, 0 ER, 10K performance, only to get hung with a loss because the Braves' bats decide to go silent. Smoltz now has a 0.78 ERA, by the way. More earned/unearned foolishness, as Jorge Campillo comes into a 1-0 game in the ninth inning, gives up two hits, two walks, and five runs, but only one is "earned" because of an error. Worth noting that it was his error. I hope he's very proud of himself when he wakes up and reads the newspaper tomorrow and sees that shiny 1.23 ERA staring back at him.

Cubs 8, Mets 1: Jorge Sosa gives up his second big dinger in as many games -- this one a grand slam -- and the Mets get embarrassed by the Cubs yet again. The Cubs, despite a pretty easy win, somehow went through all of their position players, four pitchers, and had to have Jason Marquis pinch hit in the eighth inning.

Tigers 10, Rangers 2: Justin Verlander -- 6 IP, 1 ER -- needed that.

Indians 15, Royals 1: C.C. Sabathia -- 6 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 11K -- needed that more.

Rays 6, Blue Jays 4: Eric Hinske is the offensive hero and Troy Percival nails down the save. Yep, nothing like those young go-go Rays!

Brewers 9, Cardinals 8: Genius manager Tony La Russa carries 13 pitchers, which necessitated Albert Pujols playing second base for innings 9 through 12. Not-so-genius Ned Yost carries 14 pitchers, yet somehow got another blown save out of Eric Gagne. Luckily The Skipper -- Gabe Kapler -- played the hero again, singling in the winning run in the bottom of the 12th. Suggestion: the Brewers bring back the player-manager.

Reds 8, Dodgers 1: Cueto has gotten all the press, but another new Reds pitcher -- Edinson Volquez -- has been considerably more effective (3-0, 1.21 ERA). Slumping Andruw Jones was benched for this one, with Kemp playing center, Ethier in right, and Pierre in left. While I love a Chinese fire drill as much as anyone, why was Torre playing all three guys out of their usual position instead of Pierre in center, Kemp in right, and Ethier in left?

Red Sox 7, Angels 6: Nothin' seems to be bothering the Sox much these days. Beckett scratched before the game because of a stiff neck? No problem. Plug in some Pawtucket fodder and beat a likely playoff team.

Astros 11, Padres 7: Miguel Tejada (4-5, 2B, 2 RBI) -- who, by the way, was truthful with immigration authorities, Mr. Munson -- was not impressed with last night's episode of E:60, but not for the obvious reasons. See, he really thinks Bill Simmons should stick to print. The bullpens in this one gave up 11 runs.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Gordon Edes to Yahoo!

According to Deadspin, the Globe's Gordon Edes is apparantly jumping ship to Yahoo! Sports. In light of his obvious credentials, print journalists are struggling with how best to discredit his eReporting going forward.

UPDATE: More details from David Scott of Boston Sports Media Watch.

Putting the Squeeze on Tejada?

ESPN continues to flood the zone on Miguel Tejada, now with added legal flavor from its legal eagle, Lester Munson:

Tejada's age, what he said when he signed his first baseball contract and what he has told Major League Baseball ever since raise legal questions about his immigration status in the U.S. They also raise the possibility that any deceit might be added to a perjury investigation of Tejada -- an investigation requested by a congressional committee looking into the use of performance-enhancing drugs in baseball.
Munson then runs a Q&A, the first two Q's of which are A'd this way:

(1) while "it is technically a crime to lie to immigration authorities . . . [i]n most cases, a false birth date or a one-letter change in the spelling of a name is not enough to file charges"; and

(2) As a result of Tejada's lies about his birth date and the spelling of his name "investigators have additional leverage over Tejada and could lean on Tejada for additional information about drugs and other players. If he is not forthcoming, the agents would say, he could face perjury and immigration charges."

Forgive me if I'm being obtuse, but I don't follow Munson's logic here. If Tejada is unlikely to be prosecuted for lying about his age and name spelling, how exactly do those lies allow investigators to credibly threaten him with deportation or to otherwise put the squeeze on him? Miguel Tejada has made millions of dollars over the past few years, and my guess is that when he meets the would-be squeezing investigators from point #2, he'll have a sharp lawyer with him that will tell him that their threats are virtually empty due to point #1.

Not that Tejada isn't in trouble anyway. As Munson points out in the remainder of his article, Tejada already faced a load of pain as a result of the steroids stuff alone. Indeed, it doesn't seem to me that the age-flap ads much of anything to the mix apart from the attenuated question about his overall credibility should he decide to take the stand in his own defense in some future prosecution.

Call me crazy, but in light of the de minimus de minimis [thanks Mr. Ridges!] impact the age thing has on Tejada's legal problems -- and the fact that the rest of the article is a rehash of the trouble we already knew Tejada was in -- it strikes me that the whole purpose of Munson's piece is to repackage some in-the-can Tejada content as a means of further promoting the big E:60 show tonight.

I know. Perish the thought.

(link via Jason at IIATMS)

Blogging Sweatshops

The true story of my day-to-day life uncovered.

Wrigley's Field

I thought something looked a bit different about the grass last night as I watched the Mets and Cubs, and now Ben Shpigel confirms it:
It’s that time of year again. The Mets’ annual trip to Wrigley Field — will there be another one in October? — which means that I’m resisting the urge to wax poetic on how ridiculously great this place is.

This time, I’m going to devote space to one of Wrigley’s less appealing features, something that generations of players can agree on: the playing surface. Infielders had complained regularly about the poor surface, particularly that it wasn’t, umm, flat. But over the winter the field underwent a complete renovation. Even from up high in the press box, I can see a difference. The grass is cut shorter. The warning track is lighter and wider. And look: no divots! Maybe we won’t see as many crazy infield hops this series.

Kudos to whoever put the playing surface improvements on their to-do list over the winter. Also, at the risk of heresy, I'm going on record as saying that, at least on TV, night games just look better from Wrigley.

And That Happened

Good things come to those who wait . . .

Red Sox 8, Rangers 3: Morning baseball agrees with Papi (2-4, 2 2B, 3 RBI) who, after a slow start, is a couple of decent games away from the Mendoza line. Lucky for him he doesn't play for the Blue Jays or else he'd be looking for a job right now.

Braves 7, Nationals 3: Wasn't it last year that the Nats were supposed to lose a hundred and this year that they were supposed to be frisky? Tim Hudson allowed 13 base runners in 6.2 innings, yet the Nats only scored two runs off of him. Matt Diaz is now at 66 ABs without a walk, but he did go 3-4 and score a couple of runs for Atlanta.

Cubs 7, Mets 1: John Maine is something of a tough luck loser, as all of the real damage came off of Aaron Heilman and Jorge Sosa in the 8th. Not that their numbers will take that big a hit for it, as only one of the five runs scored that inning were technically earned. This is silly, of course. The first batter of the inning reached on the sin-cleansing error by Reyes. After that, Heilman hit a guy and allowed two singles. Sosa then came on and promptly allowed a three-run homer to Felix Pie. I know what the scoring rules are, but how, exactly, were Heilman and Sosa not the ones truly responsible for the damage that inning? If Mark DeRosa and Geovany Soto didn't come up hacking against Heilman it could have been seven or eight runs.

Tigers 5, Blue Jays 1: Lord knows how bad it would be for Detroit if Dontrelle Willis hadn't gotten hurt, because Armando Galarraga (2-0, 1.50 ERA, 12 IP, 10K) is the only bright spot in the their rotation right now. The other starters' ERAs (including Willis): 7.03, 4.37, 7.48, 6.33, 7.20.

Marlins 10, Pirates 4: Not to go all 2007-Diamondbacks on you, but it's probably worth noting that the Marlins, despite sitting atop the NL East with a 12-7 record, have been outscored 99-92 this year. In contrast, the Braves, despite sitting at 10-9, have outscored their opponents 103-68. My guess? Florida is merely keeping first place warm for Atlanta for a little while.

Dodgers 9, Reds 3: Someone forgot to tell Matt Belisle (4 IP, 12 H, 7 R) that he was called up to replace Josh Fogg, not to build on his legacy. Obviously disgusted, Baker let Fogg pitch anyway and, hey, he lowered his ERA from 13.09 to 12.46. Silver lining: as previously mentioned, the Votto walk-watch is now over. Only bad news for the Dodgers: Andruw Jones, dropped to 8th in the lineup, went 0-4. How long is it before Juan Pierre makes his triumphant return to center?

Cardinals 4, Brewers 3: Second game in a row in which the bullpen lets the Brewers down. I'm just spitballin' here, but if you had a fresh Eric Gagne, you wouldn't have to run Derrick Turnbow out there.

Astros 10, Padres 3: I didn't catch SportsCenter this morning, so someone will have to tell me whether they actually showed highlights of Miguel Tejada's monster game (4-5, HR, 2B, 3 RBI) or if they decided to go with footage from the ambush interview again.

Phillies 9, Rockies 5: Chase Utley homered for the fifth straight game, and the Rockies bullpen (3 IP, 5 ER) implodes. By the way, the .500 Phillies' run differential (94-88) is better than the Marlins' as well.

Diamondbacks 4, Giants 2: Last year the Diamondbacks' largest lead in the standings was five games. It occurred on August 18th, and lasted all of a day. As of this morning they have a five game lead, and unless someone else in the NL West feels like getting their crap together, things are going to get nice and cozy in the catbird seat for Arizona.

Technical Difficulties

Due to circumstances beyond my control -- among which include an exploding coffee pot and the dumbfounding fact that Joey Votto actually took a walk last night -- posts are going to be delayed a bit today.

Apologies. In the meantime, feel free to read the Curt Flood post below and help me determine why the anonymous commenter from 1:55 AM got so worked up about it.

Back later this morning.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Curt Flood Does Not Belong in the Hall of Fame

As happens from time to time, someone -- specifically, New York Times writer William Rhoden -- is lobbying for Curt Flood to be inducted to the Hall of Fame. As is normally the case, the basis of Flood's induction is not his playing career as much as it is his undeniably central role in ushering in the free agency era:

Flood, who died in 1997 at age 59 from throat cancer, was one of the best center fielders of his era. After the 1969 season, he refused to accept a trade from St. Louis to Philadelphia. Guided by Marvin Miller, the first head of the Players Association and ultimately backed by the union, the case was heard by the Supreme Court. Flood lost the case, but his stance emboldened other players to fight a successful battle for free agency . . .

. . . Flood had a 15-year career as a major league baseball player, but only three years on the Hall of Fame ballot. After 1979, Flood’s name was not on the ballot, and his candidacy fell to the Veterans Committee. Thirty years ago, Flood was a casualty of a conservative sports news media that often sided, or at least identified, with management. Today? Ignorance or contempt?
I love Flood as much as the next guy, but does his exclusion from the Hall -- actually, just the plaque room, as his contributions to the game have been well-documented elsewhere in the museum -- require "ignorance and contempt?"

Of course it doesn't, because for as large a figure as he looms in the annals of labor relations, Curt Flood the player was simply not a Hall of Famer.

Wait, Craig . . .you're not going to . . oh, c'mon, it's Monday, we're tired and we don't have the patience for . . .

Yep! It's time for a Keltner list!

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

No, never, and anyone who said so would be full of beans.

Was he the best player on his team?

Again, no. Bob Gibson was certainly better. Defensively he was without peer, but depending on which year you look at, guys like Lou Brock, Ken Boyer, Bill White and even Tim McCarver had better years at the plate than Flood did. I'd give him best non-Gibson player for a couple of seasons based on his defensive, but it's not a runaway.

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

The SI cover story to the upper right said he was, but given the fact that Willie Mays was still roaming the Earth at the time, I'd consider that to be some harmless hyperbole in the service of a feature story.

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

The Cardinals won the pennant three times with Flood manning center, and came in second in 1963, so I'd say yes. His numbers in the World Series -- then the only postseason games there were -- were pretty terrible, however (.286/.333/.321).

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

No, he was essentially done at age 31. Obviously his sitting out 1970 harmed him, but a lot of guys have sat out a single year and came back to be productive. Flood only had 48 ineffective plate appearances left in the tank.

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

Ron Santo, Alan Trammell, and Bert Blyleven say no. Others would argue that guys like Minnie Minoso, Gil Hodges, and Dale Murphy belonged before Flood as well. There are many others, actually.

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

No. In fact, none of his top 10 most similar batters are ever considered to be Hall of Fame candidates, and that list includes a glove guy -- Garry Maddox -- as good if not better than Flood was purported to be.

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

Nowhere close. Even with the seven gold gloves, Flood's offensive production -- 1800+ hits and 85 homers -- aren't anywhere near the standards the Hall of Fame usually requires.

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

Not really. If anything, his base running -- which, while actually chronicled in the statistics often goes ignored in these conversations -- brings him down a peg, as Flood was caught stealing on 45% of his career attempts.

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

No. I'd put Murphy and Jimmy Wynn ahead of him. If you expand it to all outfielders I'd argue that Dwight Evans, Minnie Minoso, Albert Belle, and -- shock -- Jim Rice have better cases than Flood.

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

No MVPs and no seasons that you would immediately identify as an MVP-caliber season. He broke the top ten in balloting once (1968) but actually had a better season the year he finished 13th (1967).

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

He was a three-time All-Star, though he had a handful of other seasons when he wouldn't have been out of place on an All Star team.

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

I have a hard time seeing it. Indeed, it's reasonable to figure that a guy like Flood -- high average hitter and a stellar defender -- would be most valuable in a low run-scoring environment. Well, the lowest run-scoring environment in modern times was 1968. Flood was certainly not his team's best player that year. Bob Gibson was. If you took Gibson off that team and replaced him with an average starter, well, my guess is that the World Series may very well have been Giants-Tigers.

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

Though it's hard to say how much of Flood's legacy is colored by his status as a trailblazer as opposed to his day-to-day sportsmanship and character, I have no reason to believe that he did anything but uphold high standards in this regard. He's spoken of well, and even after raising a labor ruckus, he found employment within the game, which speaks of a guy who was basically well-liked and respected.

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

Obviously Flood is off the charts here. Indeed, after Jackie Robinson,* I'm not sure I can think of anyone who gets more credit for this item. But really, that's his whole case, and we wouldn't be having this conversation if Curt Flood reported to spring training with the Phillies in 1970. Rhoden and others who make the Flood case obviously know this, and to their credit, they don't pretend for a second that Flood's on-field performance amounts to a Hall of Fame career.

But in my mind, neither do the off-the-field accomplishments. Yes, Flood was a trailblazer, but Marvin Miller -- a man who does belong in the Hall of Fame -- would have found another willing plaintiff eventually (as he did in Messersmith and McNally). This doesn't take away from what Flood did as a litigant, but it certainly doesn't elevate his accomplishment to Hall-worthy proportions.


*Not that the Jackie Robinson comparison is particularly helpful to Flood. For one thing, Robinson's on-the-field case was far more compelling than Flood's ever was. For another, the racial barrier in 1947 was far more significant than the labor barrier in 1970.

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