Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Sox Win!

Random thoughts as I make a long enough stopover at home to watch the Sox-Twins game before my next stupid business trip:
  • Danks and Jenks sound like a cartoon cat and mouse team, and Jim Thome is kind of like the big silly dog that would live next door to them, but they were enough to shut down the Twins and win the A.L. Central.

  • My thought as the ball came off of Casilla's bat and headed towards center with two out in the ninth: "man, good thing Griffey isn't out there right now."

  • My wife was watching with me and asked why everyone was wearing black. I told her about the blackout thing. She said [pointing at the screen] "I guess that's cool, but man, how big a douche is that guy wearing the white hoodie?" Good point. Anyway, despite my snark from this morning, the blackout thing looked pretty darn cool on TV.

  • Based on what I've seen from Darrell Hammond on SNL and Frank Caliendo on this year's batch of Frank TV ads, sketch comedy is going to be in big trouble if McCain wins the election, because no one can do him very well.

  • Note to TBS: please do not have Dick Stockton read the crew credits before the completion of a close game again. Nothing bad happened in this instance, but you know that at some point the team that is behind will rally, and some new kind of distracting jinx will have been born. Even if that doesn't happen, it's bad form, no?

Congrats to the White Sox!

The Eternal Optimist

Russ Smith beats himself up over just how bad his preseason predictions were, yet isn't so cowed by the experience that he doesn't make a bunch of award and postseason predictions too.

Happiness Is . . .

Happiness is getting done with your meetings early;

Happiness is finding an earlier, more convenient flight than the late one on which you were previously scheduled;

Happiness is just how user-friendly the Kansas City airport seems to be. The counter is right next to the security checkpoint, there's a serviceable Mexican place right next to my gate, and the beer, she is cold. Moreover, the in-airport wi-fi is simple -- one click baby -- without any of the nonsense you usually have to deal with.

Happiness is being able to be home in time to catch the Sox-Twins game.

Business travel stinks, but the happiness bar is set so low that it's not hard to feel really good about it if just a couple of things break right.

Still On The Road

As was the case yesterday, I'm going to be in meetings and then in airports for the remainder of the day, so this is probably the last you'll hear of me until tomorrow. If there's any luck in the world, I'll be able to grab an earlier flight than currently planned and thus catch the majority of the Twins-White Sox game. Of course, luck isn't generally my strong suit, so we'll see.

Be careful out there.


Nate Silver continues to blast MSM political thinking with the same CQ-upsetting rationality that he and his Baseball Prospectus colleagues have directed at the baseball press for the last decade.

It's interesting to note however that, unlike the baseball writers who continue to ignore that which is right in front of their nose and take offense at the BP gang for even discussing (i.e. the value of RBIs, clutch hitting, etc.), mainstream political writers have lapped Nate's stuff up and are more than happy to adopt and spread his insights.


If you have the HBO, you'll want to be watching tonight as Bob Costas has a long -- and according to Allen Barra -- compelling interview with Hank Aaron and Willie Mays. No mere nostalgia fest, the interview both reveals the controversial . . .:

Nor was the era as pure as misty-eyed nostalgics would have us believe. In one of the more eye-opening segments, Mr. Mays admitted, "I might have taken somethin' that in a vitamin mixture that, by today's standards was questionable. I had a gift of a body for 20 years -- 34-inch waist and 189 pounds -- but I got to where I was draggin' toward the end of the game." He went to a doctor and asked for a boost. He didn't know what was in it, and he didn't ask.
. . . and diffuses false controversy:

Nor was the nearly 20-year rivalry between Messrs. Aaron and Mays, confirmed by
numerous veteran sportswriters such as Leonard Koppett and Roger Kahn, really
addressed. Was Mr. Aaron, as many reported, truly resentful of Mays's popularity with the New York press? Was Mr. Mays jealous that Mr. Aaron was the one who finally surpassed Babe Ruth's home run record?

The two old legends would have none of it. "That's so far from the truth," Aaron offered. "It was competition, not jealousy." "I lived in New York and then in San
Francisco," Mr. Mays added. "Hank lives in Milwaukee and Atlanta. We saw each other when we played, and we were friends. I would borrow his bats. If I wasn't hitting, I'd say, 'Give me one of your bats. Maybe you've got something here.'"
I've done my fair share of Costas-slagging over the years, but he is one of the best at what he does, and it sounds like he hit it out of the park with these guys.

Where Did I Put That Tiny Violin?

The New York papers are trying to make sense of this crazy world:

Keith Hernandez said he was "speechless," but his body language spoke volumes. As SNY's Gary Cohen and Ron Darling talked Sunday about the end of the Mets, Hernandez shook his head, wiped his brow and appeared both bummed and burned."This one is a real sock in the gut," he said. "I just feel like I've been blindsided, like someone hit me right in the stomach."At least Hernandez soon would be heading home to Florida and Darling would be en route to Chicago for the playoffs on TBS. What about the rest of us?

New York baseball fans and the media outlets that serve them face an unfamiliar reality. The last time there was no October baseball here was during the 1994 strike, in the primordial days of Internet-based sports debate, and at a time when the Knicks and Rangers were talk radio staples.
Welcome to the reality of, well, every other baseball city there is, New York!


The White Sox want everyone to wear black to today's game with the Twins:

A blackout coming in a city the size of Chicago usually leads to more than a fair share of worry and maybe a few dire circumstances. That blackout takes on a completely different meaning, though, when it represents Sox Pride as part of Tuesday's one-game tiebreaker between the White Sox and Twins to decide the American League Central champion at 6:30 p.m. CT on TBS and MLB.TV. The team is urging fans attending Tuesday's game to wear all black in support of the team.
Yeah, because that worked so well the last time someone tried it.

Sawx 101

I went to the wrong school:

Landing a seat in Margaret Creighton's "Red Sox Nation" course at Bates College is nearly as difficult as scoring a playoff ticket at Fenway Park . . . Students are asked to explore baseball's ties to politics, religion, race, gender and class. They examine what fans eat at games, why umpires dress like they do and how rivalries — does the Yankees-Red Sox bad blood sound familiar? — have helped shape regional identities . . .

. . . Students debated whether football and NASCAR have supplanted baseball as America's favorite pastime. They recounted their personal recollections of games attended and teams cheered on while growing up. They discussed the class differences between fans with expensive seats behind the dugouts and those who sit in the cheaper bleacher seats. They questioned whether Manny Ramirez represents the American dream, with his reputation as a slacker who at times seems to put himself above his team.
So basically, the curriculum is the equivalent of hanging around BTF for a couple of days.

Monday, September 29, 2008

One Of Those Days

I woke up at 5:15 this morning. I took two cramped flights, after which I drove 35 miles to a six hour slog of a meeting that none of the participants wanted to be a part of. Then, for reasons that are only clear to my firm's travel office, I had to drive nearly an hour to stay in a hotel that is nowhere near the meeting location, which I will be returning to in the morning. On the way, I hear the news that the stock market has crashed and that people will soon be selling apples and pencils on street corners while trying to dodge the bodies of suicidal investors hurtling towards the pavement below their office windows.

At the end of a day like that you only want two things. The first one is a beer, which I have in front of me. The second one is the broadcast of the WNBA semifinals, featuring the Detroit Shock's Cheryl Ford. But noooooooo. I have to watch the rain-delayed Tigers-White Sox game, which is preempting that riveting WNBA action. Man.

OK, there is a touch of disingenuousness in the preceding paragraphs. I didn't really want to watch the Shock game because of Cheryl Ford. I wanted to watch it because of Katie Smith, who lived in the dorm room next to mine during my sophomore year at Ohio State. I borrowed a corkscrew from her once, so I always watch her games.

UPDATE: In all seriousness, I got into my hotel room figuring the Tigers-White Sox game had ended, and then clicked on the TV just in time to see Alexei Ramirez hit the grand slam. I'm no White Sox fan, but having that kind of baseball magic greet me at the end of a day like this is nothing short of life saving.

God, I love baseball.

UPDATE: I love 163-game seasons even better. I'm almost certain to miss tomorrow's game due to air travel, but you gotta love this.

Programming Note

The law is taking me on a trip to middle-of-nowhere Missouri today and tomorrow and on to Detroit Wednesday and Thursday. While I'll almost certainly be checking in from my various hotel rooms in the evenings and early mornings along the way, posting is going to be rather light this week. This is going to be something close to miserable for me -- call me a geekwad, but I am never happier than when I'm blogging -- but such is the way of the world.

In the meantime, please make a point to peruse the blogroll to the left and click through to as many of those sites as possible. I am stingier than many when it comes to those things, but that means that you can be assured that I read and value all of those joints and believe that you will enjoy them every bit as much as I do. Well, maybe not Gleeman. I just read him in the hopes that he'll post pics of that chick from The Office.

Be talkin' to you randomly,


And That Happened

Brewers 3, Cubs 1: What else can you say about Sabathia? No one will remember that his ERA was north of five in late May. Depending on what happens in the playoffs, no one may ever remember that he played for the Indians. His post-trade performance was simply astounding, and based on all he has done this year, I'm sure there are many otherwise unaligned folks who, like me, are rooting for the Brewers in the NL. Perversely, one of them may not be their former owner Bud Selig, who probably wakes up in cold sweats at the prospect of a Milwaukee-Tampa Bay World Series and the powerfully bad television ratings such a matchup would bring.

Marlins 4, Mets 2: There's been a lot of loose talk about this being the second "collapse" in as many years for New York -- I've trafficked in such verbiage myself -- but let's be honest here: The Mets were never more than 3.5 games up in the East, and even that was three weeks ago. The fact that they were even in the Wild Card discussion was due to Milwaukee's near-collapse, so not backing in with that can't be considered some catastrophic choke job by any stretch of the imagination. This was a Mets team that dug itself quite a hole by mid-June, and they deserve an enormous amount of credit for folding when a lot of people thought they would. Jerry Manuel should get some credit for that (and it appears that he is). Carlos Delgado should obviously get some too. Johan Santana should get so much credit that he should be second or third in the Cy Young voting. The Mets simply didn't have a bullpen and were just beaten by a couple of talented teams in Milwaukee and Philly. Those things are just unfortunate facts of life, not character flaws.

White Sox 5, Indians 1: Mark Buehrle (7 IP, 9 H, 1 ER, 6K) ensures that Chicago will live to play another day. Two other days they hope. From the Department of the Unnecessary: by going 0 for 4 in a meaningless start in the final game of this already lost season, Travis Hafner sinks below the Mendoza Line.

Twins 6, Royals 0: Ron Gardenhire, on the notion of having to wait around and watch the White Sox-Tigers game later today: "It's up to them. It's all on their shoulders now. I don't have to make a pitching move. I don't have to pinch hit anybody tomorrow. It's all on Ozzie's butt, so go get 'em Ozzie and let's see what happens." I'm no expert, but I think that qualifies as "Minnesota Nice."

Yankees 6, Red Sox 2: Red Sox 4, Yankees 3: A lot of folks have mentioned that it may be important in the minds of Hall of Fame voters for Mussina to win 20 this year simply so that no one can say "well, he never won 20." Well, now he's won 20. And, it seems, he's telling friends that he may retire. It may be a good time to do it, because whereas never having won 20 could have been an irrational liability, winning 20 in his last season may be an irrational asset. Now the writers will credit Mussina with "going out on top" or "going out on his terms" or "saving the best for last" or some such nonsense. All because of one decision.

Giants 3, Dodgers 1: For as much as I've been criticizing the Giants for so openly pimping Lincecum for the Cy Young award, they may very well have done it with this final performance (7 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 13K). Indeed, if I had a vote I'd probably make Timmy my number one choice (though I could be talked into Santana if you gave me enough wine, and believe that Webb may very well get it anyway). That still doesn't mean they should have been pimping him, mind you.

Diamondbacks 2, Rockies 1: Randy Johnson ends 2008 looking like the Unit of old (CG, 0 ER, 9K). He's six shy of 300, so look for the last hurrah in 2009, at which point he will become the last 300 game winner we'll likely ever see, at least until the next one.

Mariners 4, A's 3: The final failure of Seattle's failed 2008 season was winning this game, thereby ensuring that Washington will get the first pick in next summer's draft. Still, 101 losses is quite an accomplishment, and the Mariners should be quite proud of themselves. As for the A's, breaking their season up as they did -- decent first half, disastrous second half -- made their record (75-86) look far better than it felt.

Angels 7, Rangers 0: 100 wins and a 21-game margin over the Rangers. Those are impressive numbers, but they don't mean squat in a short series, and the Red Sox aren't chopped liver.

Pirates 6, Padres 1: The teams combine to use 13 pitchers via the famous "Let's Make Sure No One Is Injured In This Utterly Meaningless Game" gambit. Amazingly, the Brian Giles-Faces-His-Old-Team storyline didn't pump this game up enough to warrant a national broadcast.

Cardinals 11, Reds 4: St. Louis ends a somewhat disappointing season by watching the playoffs from home despite winning three more games than they did in 2006. This just goes to show you that George Burns was right: Major League Baseball is a hideous bitch-goddess.

Astros 3, Braves 1: In my mind this ranks as the worst year in the 24-season history of my Braves' fandom. Sure, in five of those seasons they lost more than the 90 they lost this year, but losses aren't everything. Between those 90 losses, the terrible luck in close games, the breakdowns of Glavine, Smoltz, and Hudson, and the death of Skip Caray, there weren't any moments of levity to redeem things like there used to be back in the 80s. No lazy weekday evening broadcasts on TBS saved by terrible movie at 10:20. No Andres Thomases for whom to cheer ironically when a hit falls between the second baseman and right fielder. No vague, deluded feeling that we could simply fire the manager or sign a free agent and everything would be bright and new. Save Chipper's brief, somewhat diversionary flirtation with .400, the 2008 Atlanta Braves were simply bleak and depressing from April through September, and I am happy to see the exercise run its course.

Blue Jays 10, Orioles 1: I'm always skeptical when writers talk about guys who play for stats, but then I see Vernon Wells go 4-5 with two homers and five RBI on the season's final day to push his average to exactly .300 and his homers to exactly 20 and his RBI total past 75, and I wonder.

Phillies 8, Nationals 3: Philadelphia and Washington each trotted out American Legion lineups. If they weren't all still hung over from celebrating clinching the division, the 45,000 people in Citizens Bank Park might have thought to ask for their money back.

Rays 8, Tigers 7: So the Tigers limp into the last day of the season as baseball's biggest disappointments and then, when the only thing they have to look forward to is hopping flights back to their respective home towns to fish, hunt, party, swim, or spend time with their wives and kids, they find out that they have to travel to Chicago for a makeup game that will, at best, gain them a tie for last place with the Royals. In light of all of that, do you have any faith whatsoever that Detroit is going to be up for today's game?

And thus endeth And That Happened for 2008. Yes, I'll obviously be posting all through the playoffs, but this early morning dose of analysis (hey -- snark is a kind of analysis) is a decidedly regular season thing. The whole point of it was to (a) touch on games folks probably haven't seen; and (b) force myself to pay attention to box scores and the season's day-to-day rhythms so as not to lose sight of what the baseball season is all about as I look for my next quip, or legal post, or what have you. Upshot: blogging itself is easy, but really knowing and thinking clearly about baseball is hard, and I have come to think of these recaps as training or a daily dose of medicine, even if it tasted pretty good.

That said, no one needs me to make them pay attention to playoff baseball, so the recaps end here. I'll probably liveblog a handful of playoff and World Series games, but by no means all of them. Of course, I hadn't planned on recapping all of the regular season games on any given night either. From my first And That Happened:
I'm not making any promises that it will (a) ever be close to comprehensive; or (b) be up everyday -- weekends are likely to still be mostly dark around here -- but I'm going to give it a whirl for a while.
Aside from missing a very small handful of days due to work or whatever, I quickly found myself recapping every Sunday-Thursday game. Obsessions are like that. And while there were some evenings and mornings when I simply didn't want to look at another box score, I couldn't not do it either. From what I've gathered, you folks like these things, and no matter how much sleep I've lost doing them, I think I'm a better writer and blogger for having done them.

They'll be back next season, without question. I hope you will be too.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

NL Wild Card

And the Brewers have it.

Fear Strikes Out

You can always count on baseball metaphors during political season. The elections and the playoffs both happen in the fall, and you gotta do something to try and find common ground with people, so why not baseball? I haven't been keeping track, but I'm sure McCain and Obama have both trotted out a ton of comparisons to various teams and events on the diamond depending on where they happen to be speaking on a given day.

This year, however, the comparisons (a) aren't limited to the campaign trail; and (b) aren't limited to the current playoff race. Get Massachusetts Congressman Barney Frank during a press conference about the bailout negotiations on Friday:

"Before McCain came in, we thought we were working," Frank says. "McCain comes in, it gets screwed up, now McCain leaves -- I dunno, it's like Jimmy Piersall."

A reporter in the back starts to interrupt with an unrelated question, but another one, perhaps more familiar with the rhetorical stylings of the Massachusetts congressman, shushes him with a flapping hand. Everyone wants to hear about Jimmy Piersall, including those who have no idea who he is. Frank's metaphors can be quite snarky and delightful. This one is about Piersall's years as an outfielder with the Boston Red Sox in the '50s and how he would cure his own boredom by waiting until the very last second to snag fly balls -- which is kind of like McCain, Frank says, swooping in with drama at the very end.
Maybe that's a reach, but if McCain walks up to the podium backwards while wearing a little league batting helmet for the next debate, I'll start to believe that Frank is on to something.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Heckuva Job There, Kenny

First Omar, now Kenny:

The White Sox are in contract negotiations with general manager Ken Williams, SI.com reports. Terms of the proposed multiple-year deal are unknown, mostly because Williams has asked for privacy with regard to his business dealings.
So, the key to job security in a Major League front office is to preside over a late season collapse? Gotcha.

The Yankees in the Hamptons

All satire must be rooted in reality, and this is no exception.

(note: it's safe for work, but the link does go to launching video, so watch your volume, cube dwellers).


That's a word I just made up -- inspired by this -- which means "taking joy in the misfortunes of others while simultaneously acknowledging that their misfortune actually makes your own rooting interest look even worse by comparison."

Frankly, I'm cool with that.

Sometimes It Rains

There will be no shortage of huffing and puffing if rainpocalypse comes to pass this weekend:
Sunday is an especially sensitive subject for the Mets, who are planning their Shea Stadium farewell ceremony to begin after the game. That still is on schedule.

Any doubleheader would have huge implications for the Mets' bullpen, which already has been stretched perhaps beyond its limits.
If you encounter any Mets fan out there who complains about this, please explain to them that rain and doubleheaders and stuff are simply part of baseball, and then refuse to listen to them whine any more. If they persist, have some "God killed us" t-shirts printed up for them and then go on your merry way.

Called Out

Richard Dansky is calling me out over at Sportsthodoxy:
Earlier this week, Shysterball's Craig Calcaterra made a fateful pronouncement. Looking at the Phillies' 14-2 season record against the Braves, he described the Bravos as, and I quote, "Wookies." Since then, the Phillies have seen their two best starters lose, and the Mets and Brewers rediscover this wacky game called "baseball" . . .

. . . The message is clear. Oppose the wrath of the wookies and pay a terrible price. It happened to the Empire, and now it's happening to the Phillies. Shyster, I blame you.
Look Dansky, you can blame me all you want, but in the end, you had better let the Wookiees win, because Phillies don’t pull people’s arms out of their sockets when they lose.

And That Happened

Three games with monster playoff implications, three walkoff wins. Holy smokes!

Mets 7, Cubs 6
, Brewers 5, Pirates 1: In my book, a walkoff grand slam by Ryan Braun in the bottom of the 10th beats a walkoff single by Carlos Beltran in the bottom of the ninth. The Mets can talk about stopping the bleeding all they want, but they're in the same place this morning as they were yesterday morning. Now Milwaukee gets three at home against a Cubs team likely looking to rest its starters as much as possible while New York has to play three against a scrappy Marlins team and a Nor'Easter. For all of the fireworks last night at Shea, I still say: Advantage Milwaukee.

Twins 7, White Sox 6: I must have some kind of gift, because I have clicked to the Game Cast on ESPN.com three times this week, and all three of them ended less than five pitches later with walkoff hits (the Fielder homer the other night, the Braun homer last night, and now this one). Minnesota now has the Royals (and the lead in the division) while Chicago has the Indians.

Cardinals 12, Diamondbacks 3
: And that, as they say, is that. All of the game stories today will talk about how L.A. won the division while sitting around the clubhouse on Thursday afternoon, but that's really not accurate. They won the division on September 6th, 2008. That was the last day the Diamondbacks awoke in first place, only to have their ace beaten by the Dodgers later that evening. In that way, Arizona was decisively vanquished on the field of battle, even if they did not die from their wounds for nearly three more weeks.

Red Sox 6, Indians 1: Boston could still win the division because . . .

Tigers 7, Rays 5: I have to believe that the Rays are sandbagging at this point. I mean, if they lose out and get the wild card, it means that the Red Sox will be the ones that could have to face the Twins in the first round. A Twins team, mind you, that is reminding me of those profoundly annoying 1987 and 1991 teams. Why annoying? Because the 1991 Twins beat my Braves who, in my mind anyway, were better than them. Because the 1987 team beat a Tigers team that, while not really my rooting interest anymore, still had most of the heroes of my youth playing for them and who, again, were probably better than that Twins team. I said in the comments yesterday that I was no conspiracy theorist, but I'm almost willing to buy in to the idea that the Rays are throwin' this thing so that they could go play a fat, happy, and maybe a bit rusty Angels team.

Blue Jays 8, Yankees 2: Roy Halladay wins his 20th. Which is great and all, but check out the names who played for New York last night: Gardner, Betemit, Ransom, Cabrera, Cervelli, Pavano, Giese, Robertson, Ramirez, Sanchez, and Rasner. No A-Rod, no Jeter, no I-Rod, no Damon, no Matsui, and none of the first handful of arms you'd ever see trot out of the Yankee bullpen. Halladay basically beat Scranton on a night when a couple of vets were down on a rehab assignment.

Astros 8, Reds 6: This season started out with Johnny Cueto pitching a gem against the Diamondbacks and causing many of us to wonder if he was the second coming of Bob Gibson. It ends quite differently (2.2 IP, 7 H, 5 ER), and with final season stats that are nothing special (9-13, 4.62 ERA), but I've watched this guy pitch an awful lot this year, and I still think he's going to be something special. In some ways I wonder if this season won't be a blessing in disguise for Cueto, in that many of those rough outings ended early, resulting in him only throwing 171 innings this year. If he had maintained even a reasonable approximation of that hot hand all summer, you can bet that Dusty would have ridden him like a Tennessee stud.

Rockies 3, Giants 1: Jorge De La Rosa throws bullets for seven innings to beat Barry Zito and the Giants.

Angels 6, Mariners 4: Given that they've won eight of nine, I should probably take back what I said above about the Angels being fat, happy, and rusty. But I do so like that paragraph, and I always have trouble making choices as a writer.

Padres 7, Dodgers 4: Peavy's line for the year: 10-11, 2.85 ERA, 166K, 59 BB. Still, you just know someone, somewhere is going to look at that record and say "what happened to Jake Peavy?"

Marlins vs. Nationals, cancelled: Given the utter lack of gravity of this game, how long did they wait to call it off? Five minutes? Ten? Did they just agree to cancel it at around 5PM so that everyone could grab some dinner somewhere and not go through the charade of caring?

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Sorry So Slow

The day job has been taking up all of my time today. This happens on occasion. The only thing to do in such instances is bear down and work and come back the next day hoping that more of it can be devoted to baseball. Well, another thing to do would be to find a way to charge you guys, like, a quarter a click, which would allow me to quit my job and make more money than even the legal salary pays me.

I'll go with the "bear down and work hard" plan for now, but if anyone can figure out that quarter thing, I'm all ears.
See you bright and early tomorrow.

J.T. Snow Signs With The Giants

J.T. Snow is retiring as a San Francisco Giant.

I crack wise about it over at FanHouse.

Hot Dogs Go Boom

The Phillie Phanatic is now on the terrorism watch-list.

"Never make predicitions, especially about the future" -- Casey Stengel

I somehow missed this the other day, but our friend Vegas Watch broke down the preseason predictions of various experts. The results are such that your average ink-stained wretch will likely have a stroke. Basically the computer won, followed by two guys -- Neyer and Law -- who are partial to computers. Here are the overall standings of prediction accuracy, using mean squared error, with the lower number being better. "O/U" means a perfectly-balanced guess of every team going 81-81*:

To sum up: the three sets of predictions that sprang from slide rules in mothers' basements were the only ones that did better than wild-ass guesses, while the professionals were basically shooting in the dark (with the non-sabermetrically-inclined ESPN professionals at the absolute bottom).

Remember this when everyone starts trotting out their playoff prediction columns Sunday evening.

*UPDATE: Keith Law and Vegas Watch hisself correct me in the comments. O/U is not an 81-81 guess. Rather, it's (duh) the Vegas over/under lines. As Keith notes "The 81-81 predictions' RMSE was around 10.6, although it's a little bit rigged in that case, since RMSE penalizes large errors."

Thanks guys.

And That Happened

Twins 3, White Sox 2: And now a statement from Ozzie Guillen, made just after last night's game:
Tomorrow morning, the Chicago White Sox will suspend their campaign for the AL Central title and return to Chicago after a nice continental breakfast in the hotel restaurant. We have spoken to the Minnesota Twins and informed them of our decision and have asked them to join us.

I am calling on the Commissioner of Baseball to convene a meeting with the leadership from both leagues, including the Twins and White Sox. It is time for both teams to come together to solve this problem.

We must meet as Americans, not as Twins or White Sox, and we must meet until this crisis in our testicular fortitude and timely hitting is resolved. I am directing my front office to work with the Twins' front office and the Major League Baseball Scheduling Office to delay Thursday night's game against the Twins until we have taken action to address this crisis.

Cubs 9, Mets 6: Gentlemen, set sphincters to "clench!"

Brewers 4, Pirates 2
: In CC we trust (7 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 11K). I assume that we'll see him again on short rest come Sunday as well. Assuming it's a meaningful game, anyway. I mean, the Mets may be done by then.

Rangers 14, A's 4: There was a time four or five years ago when we all assumed that Hank Blalock would hit 30+ homers a year until he got old. That didn't end up coming to pass, but he's had four in his last four games.

Yankees 6, Blue Jays 2: When you're not playin' for nothin' anymore, you have to look hard to find the positives. One positive Yankees fans can take from this one: Phil Hughes (8 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 6K, no injuries).

Royals 10, Tigers 4: This has been a disgusting display by Detroit. They have dropped 12 of 13 and have looked awful doing it. They have given up. Know what? If I'm Dombrowski, I have to think about whether I even want Jim Leyland back next year, because this is a team that has quit, and that should never happen in this league. UPDATE: OK, so I'm not Dombrowski.

Red Sox 5, Indians 4: Cubs vs. Mets were on the next channel down from this one in my hometown. Which one do you think I was watching?

Braves 10, Phillies 4: Brett Myers -- who has given up sixteen runs in his last two starts -- has probably picked the wrong part of the season to implode.

Marlins 9, Nationals 4: You know, the Marlins were eliminated from the playoffs on Tuesday night just like the Yankees were and no one really made a big fuss about it. At least the Marlins have won a World Series this decade.

Rays 11, Orioles 6: The Orioles continues with the inexplicable Radhames Liz experiment, this time showing you how to lose a game in which you touch the other team's starter up for ten hits and six runs in five innings. The guy has had basically one great start in a sea of clunkers (and the Twins are still trying to figure out how he pulled that one off).

Astros 5, Reds 0: A short shutout for Randy Wolf. And I just noticed that after being so dominant for so long this year, Lance Berkman's OPS slipped below 1.000 for the first time since April on Sunday. Bummer.

Angels 6, Mariners 5: And that's 100 losses for Seattle, as King Felix gives up thirteen hits in six innings.

Rockies 15, Giants 6: Clint Barmes goes hog-wild (4-5, 2B, HR, 4 RBI) in a game that inexplicably drew 31,000 people. Must have been free garlic fries night or something.

Dodgers 12, Padres 4: The Dodgers clinch a tie for the division, which means . . .

Cardinals 4, Diamondbacks 2: . . . That we're to the point now where all Arizona has to play for is Mark Reynolds setting the single-season strikeout record. I kind of hope he gets it. It may be the one thing that determines whether he'll have a post-baseball after-dinner speaking career or if he'll actually having to work for a living.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Trouble in Atlanta

J.C. Bradbury thinks that there is unrest in the Braves' front office. I think he may be right, though the age of the dispute -- not to mention the folks doin' the disputin' -- is rather astounding to me.

The First Pitch

The Rays don't know who to have throw out the first pitch of the ALDS:

Now that the Devil is in their past and heavenly October baseball is in their future, the Rays have a problem.

"We don't have anyone to throw out the ball for our first playoff game," Tampa Bay President Matt Silverman said. "MLB asked us who it'd be. We realized nobody in the history of the franchise had done anything to be worthy of the honor."

Nobody's even close. Not after Tampa Bay finished last in the American League East in nine of its previous 10 seasons. Not after playing in its Tropicana Field dungeon, a domed park that looks like a garbage can with its lid on crooked. Not after exorcising the "Devil" from its name this season and, apparently, erasing all of its past.

Central Command has a base in Tampa, so the Rays dream of fetching Gen. David Petraeus to throw out the first pitch. If not, as God is my witness, their second choice is Dick Vitale. That is their celebrity list.
Wilson Alvarez may be an idea in that he threw out the first pitch in team history. But then again, he got shelled in that game, so maybe they should go with Rolando Arrojo.

Hmm, that's a bit underwhelming. How about Wade Boggs? He played on the 1998 team too, and had the franchises only notable moment before this season when he got his 3000th hit. Of course, he apparently still holds a grudge against the Red Sox, so that might be best saved for a potential ALCS matchup.

Um, let's see . . . Randy "Macho Man" Savage? He played minor league ball in St. Petersburg and was even a teammate of Keith Hernandez's in the early 70s.

OK, we're reaching now. Damn. Anyone have any better ideas?

(link via Deadspin)

This Couldn't Have Waited Five Days?

The Mets are apparently giving Omar Minaya a four-year extension:

Omar Minaya will receive a four-year extension to continue as general manager of
the New York Mets, sources said on Tuesday. The deal is all but done, but it is
not known when the extension will be formally announced.

The Wilpons are aware that the Mets stand a decent chance of cratering for the second year in a row, right? That if they do, the fans are going to freakin' plotz? That they'll demand someone's head, and that head might very well be Omar's?

This is not to suggest that Minaya is responsible for the collapses or that he shouldn't necessarily be extended (like every GM, Omar has made some good moves and some bad ones, and I can't say at the moment whether it tips decidedly in one direction or the other). But this timing strikes me as profoundly tone deaf with respect to the fan base. Mets' fans are a little distracted and disturbed at the moment, and to throw this out there now sends a business-as-usual signal that, even if arguably wise for some business reason, is extremely unlikely to be appreciated.

The Vendor

A fellow by the name of Cory Bennett has written an extremely enjoyable account of a day in the life of a Wrigley Field hot dog vendor in today's Cornell Daily Sun:

A good amount of the conversations I’ve had with my fellow vendors over the last few years have concerned line numbers. We swap line number stories, discuss strategy for getting a good number, and complain about pulling a bad number — banishing you to a day of vending purgatory.

“Shit man, I’m gonna get malts in the upper deck.”

Yes, the upper deck — the bastion of bad tipping, steep, peanut-covered stairs, summer camp children trying to pay with nickels and dimes and old people too full from their blue plate special at the Golden Nugget on Broadway (the kind of diner where the waitresses are chain-smoking, bouffant-haired and hollowly call you “sweetie”).

No, you don’t want to vend in the upper deck. You want to vend in the 100-level.
Good stuff. Highly recommended.


Hindsight, that is. Doesn't mean it isn't fun and enlightening, however, as Vince Grzegorek's look at what coulda happened in Cleveland this year demonstrates:

April 2008: Andy Marte begins wearing a sign around his neck that says, "I am
not Brandon Phillips." General Manager Mark Shapiro takes note and immediately
begins looking for the franchise's third baseman of the future. What happens:
Inspired by Marte, Jamey Carroll begins wearing a sign that reads, "I am Jamey
Carroll." He receives zero more autograph requests, tells reporters he was
noticed once when he had a goatee - but only by somebody who wondered if he was
Paul Byrd's little brother.
There's much more. I'm guessing fans of just about every team could put a list like this together.

Neyer Takes A Bullet For Me

Yesterday during his chat, Neyer took this "question:"

Doug(NY): In your blog yesterday you agreed with the statement that Yankee Stadium was "one of those unfortunate 1970s-era ballparks that are now finally and mercifully gone." It's a shame that as someone who clearly has a love for the game of baseball you obviously have no sense of the history and tradition of probably the most famous sporting arena in the world. Sure it was remodeled, but it still was the location where so many historic moments took place. To say it is finally gone was beyond pathetic.

Rob Neyer: Okay. On to other, happier topics...
The statement with which he agreed was mine from my Monday morning recaps, which Rob quoted approvingly in his Mendozas post that day. I have to admit, I kinda like the idea that I can write semi-incendiary stuff and have Neyer take the flak for it.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to finish my post detailing the 17 reasons why I am convinced that Derek Jeter, Carl Yastrzemski, Tom Seaver, Sandy Koufax, Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, and Al Kaline are key members of a communist/fascist/nihilist/anarchist/homosexual/Martian/French conspiracy to advance the interests of soccer and undermine the American way. Please send all complaints to Rob_Neyer@ESPN.com

"Merkle's Blunder"?

Why can't the New York Daily News call a boner a boner? The Merc is a bit queasy about the word "boner" in its headline too, but at least they put it in the body of the article.

Boner is a perfectly acceptable word, you know:
bon·er 1
n. Informal
A blunder or an error
Boner. Boner. Boner. Boner.

Frank McCourt to Sue Andruw Jones?

Not sure how old this is, but there's some loose talk out there that Frank McCourt is looking to recoup some money from Andruw Jones due to his non-season:
One of the best "tips" we got this year was that Dodgers owner Frank McCourt was looking into filing an actual lawsuit against center-fielder Andruw Jones as a way to recoup some of the $36 million he spent for two years of his "service." McCourt's frustrations made sense—Jones finished the year with a .158 average and just 3 HRs—but it was hard to envision a world where owners were allowed to sue their players basically for "sucking."
Reader Mike Kraus shot me an email before I went to bed last night asking how McCourt could go about doing this if he really was so inclined. My answer is that he probably can't, and even if he technically could, he probably wouldn't. Why? Because, without actually seeing Jones' contract, I can think of only two legal theories under which McCourt could proceed, and both of them wouldn't be worth his effort:

Theory #1:
Sue Jones for breach of contract on the grounds that he did not honor his commitment to keep himself in good physical shape, which I'm fairly certain is a standard provision in player contracts.

Basis: There was talk in the spring that Jones reported to camp fat.

Problem: He wasn't that fat. I mean, it's not like he was 300 pounds or something. More importantly, McCourt wouldn't dare take this tack because any player who ever fluctuates in weight -- and there are many -- would be really hesitant to sign with L.A. if he thought his love of In-N-Out Burger was legally actionable. For example: do you think CC Sabathia would want to sign with the Dodgers this winter if he felt like his weight would be used against him the first time he had a bad season? I think McCourt knows that too and is too smart to go there.

Theory # 2:
Some fraud claim related to his injuries.

Basis: Maybe Jones showed up injured and wasn't honest with the team doctors? Maybe he said later in the season that he was healthy to come back but wasn't? If there was a sense that Jones' lack of candor related to his condition led to more injuries or the devotion of playing time he should not have had, maybe he could be liable for a portion of the money the Dodgers, rather than an insurance carrier, had to pay him.

Problem: Given how much a team is responsible for examining its own players and assessing their health, this strikes me as a longshot. Also, isn't suing on this kind of theory the same thing as saying "my team doctors are incompetent"?

Assuming McCourt ever actually put voice to the notion of going after Jones for money -- and this comes from a snarky ESPN Magazine piece, so take it for what it's worth -- I think it was bluster designed to make the press or the season ticket holders feel better about the team and its owner for making what now looks to be such an awful signing. Ultimately, we won't see a lawsuit or an attempt to grab back money from Jones at all.

And That Happened

Red Sox 5, Indians 4; Yankees 3, Blue Jays 1: I and many others have said that we won't officially declare the Yankees dead until we see their corpse on the cold hard slab. Well, it is now officially on the cold hard slab. But let's be clear about something: in the coming days, you'll see many a gleeful word printed about New York sitting at home in October for the first time in ages. I understand that, and on some very trivial level feel the glee as well. But let us not become so wrapped up in our schadenfreude that we lose sight of just how impressive an accomplishment thirteen straight postseason appearances truly is in this day and age. Some will say "yeah, but they just bought it." Well, lots of other teams have tried to buy their way into the playoffs only to fall short. I say this to even the most ardent of Yankee haters: understand and appreciate that there has been talent and brains in New York to beat the band for a long damn time, and that in many respects, the Yankee tide has lifted all boats for the past decade and a half.

Twins 9, White Sox 3: After all of the nonsense of the other day, I assume everyone will be saying that Ozzie Guillen was right and that Javier Vazquez just isn't a big game pitcher. If that's the case, why wouldn't Guillen have used motivational techniques that served to minimize the importance of this game in Vazquez's mind rather than build up the pressure? To put his player in the best position to succeed instead of challenging him to overcome things he's never been able to overcome when the whole damn season was on the line? I suppose doing so wouldn't have made as good a story, but it may have put Vazquez in a better frame of mind to face the Twins last night.

Mets 6, Cubs 2: Santana: 8 IP, 7 H, 2 ER, 10K. That's why they pay him the big bucks.

Brewers 7, Pirates 5: Walkoff homer for Prince Fielder with two out in the ninth! I was watching this as it happened via ESPN's Gamecast application which, as far as transmitting excitement goes, is akin to making out with a girl while wearing a ski mask, electrician's gloves, and burlap. Still, it's better than nothing. The Brewers remain one game back of New York.

Royals 5, Tigers 0: Zach Greinke (7 IP 4 H, 0 ER) dominates the Tigers, who appear to have given up. Nothing against the Royals, but the Tigers were supposed to cruise this season, and the fact that they are about to be overtaken by Kansas City in the standings is about as big an indictment as can be leveled at them.

Nationals 9, Marlins 4: It's been so long since I've said anything nice about the Nats that I've almost forgotten how, but it is worth noting that Elijah Dukes has a 130 OPS+ at age 24, and despite all of his baggage, can truthfully be called a bright spot for this otherwise lost franchise.

Braves 3, Phillies 2: If I would've told you back in April that Mike Hampton would finish the season with the same number of wins as John Smoltz you would have called the guys in the white coats with the big nets. That's why I tend to avoid the prediction business.

Rays 5, Orioles 2 (Game 1): James Shields wins his fourteenth game, which sets a franchise record previously held by Rolando Arrojo. Arrojo still has more rings -- three, if you count Cuba anyway -- and an Olympic gold medal. I'd still probably rather have James Shields' career going forward.

Rays 7, Orioles 5 (Game 2): And the magic number is now two. Not that the Rays will be content with the division. They want to beat out the Angels for the best record so that four games of an ALCS between the two of those teams will be played in St. Pete, where the Rays have won seven out of every ten games this year. Probably ain't gonna happen, but at least it gives Maddon something to talk to his team about each night. If he were Ozzie Guillen, he'd probably just tell them that they should lose as much as possible now so that they can face their failures in road games head on.

Cardinals 7, Diamondbacks 4: Albert Pujols (.350/.455/.631) watches everyone talk themselves into all manner of ridiculous NL MVP candidates that aren't him with mild amusement. He thinks for a moment of reminding Tracy "I'm voting for Lidge!" Ringolsby and his ilk that he, Pujols, has crushed everything thrown his way for six months, and has been doing it with an elbow injury that would keep him, Ringolsby, off his horse for a year. Pujols decides against it, however, because gods don't require the validation of mere mortals, no matter how fancy their cowboy hats may be.

Reds 2, Astros 1: I'm going to print up shirts for the Astros that say "Edinson Killed Us."

Rockies 9, Giants 4: Lincecum gives up six runs on six hits in four innings. Call me crazy, but I think his Cy Young chances are shot. Please Bruce: He has pitched 220 innings and has thrown more pitches in those innings than anyone else in the game. Let the boy have the rest of the season off.

Mariners 9, Angels 6: The Angels blew a four run lead in the sixth and seventh innings. Too bad games can't be saved until the ninth.

Dodgers 10, Padres 1: The Dodgers' magic number is 3.

Rangers 6, A's 4: After giving up ten of them in three innings, they should call the A's starter Josh Hitman. Um, yeah, I know I made basically the same joke the last time he pitched. Bear with me here. The season is almost over.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Revitalizing Reno

I know nothing about Reno -- well, next to nothing -- so I have no idea if this proposed AAA stadium and mixed use development is a good idea or not. I do know, however, that whenever someone who stands to benefit from such projects says something like this . . .

A self-described lifelong baseball fan, Mr. Katzoff expects the team to be profitable and self-supporting. “The two concepts, baseball and retail, actually feed off each other,” he said.
. . . the taxpayers had best hold on to their wallets.

More Spring Training

Because of the World Baseball Classic, reporting dates for spring training are being moved up:

Players will start reporting to training camps on Feb. 14, under an agreement between the players' association and the commissioner's office. Exhibition games will start about Feb. 25. In most years, pitchers and catchers open workouts 45 days before opening day followed by position players five days later. Under that schedule, workouts would not have begun until Feb. 20.
As a blogger this is good news for me because players in camp = more stories filed = more stuff to riff on. As a common baseball fan, however, this is a slight drag in that it extends that "man, I wish the real baseball season would start already" feeling that I always get after seeing my first couple of spring training games.

Less Celebrated Yankee Stadium Memories

In the past few weeks we've heard more than we can handle about all of the great moments which have occurred over the years in baseball's alleged cathedral. I didn't see much about the non-baseball stuff which took place there, however, especially not all the prize fights.

Let's Do Away With Hitting Coaches

Wally Joyner is resigning as the Padres' hitting coach.

Query: why do we have hitting coaches in the first place, and wouldn't we be better off if we didn't?

I tackle that question in my latest FanHouse post.

Ringolsby Interview

Maury Brown has a long interview with Tracy Ringolsby of the Rocky Mountain News. Lots to chew on there, but here are a couple of the tastiest morsels:

On whether a pitcher can win an MVP award again: "To be honest, I think a relief pitcher has a better chance of getting serious MVP consideration than he does Cy Young. This year is an example.I am giving strong consideration to Brad Lidge for the NL MVP."

On the players' responses to perceived awards slights: "I remember covering Seattle and Julio Cruz showing up in spring training refusing to talk to the media. He finally explained he was upset he did not receive a Gold Glove. I had to explain to him the media wasn't involved in Gold Glove selections. They are voted on by managers and coaches. We resumed conversations after that."

On last year's decision by the BBWAA to not extend membership to Rob Neyer and Keith Law: "I felt Law and Neyer should have been granted membership under the revisions made for the Internet. I found it ironic that they deal so much with how careful they are in research and then on a matter such as this, they would react based off of he-said, she-said conversations and come up with a conclusion that I was against them."

Worth noting that he dodges the question about whether the old farts in the BBWAA who never go to games have been treated differently than Neyer and Law were.

That said, I think the most interesting thing in the whole interview -- which you should really read all of -- are the facts that (a) Ringolsby commutes 120 miles to Coors Field each day from his ranch outside of Cheyenne, Wyoming; and (b) according to Ringolsby, more than 30 percent of the Cowboys in the old west were African-Americans.

The more you know.

Damn it's hard to be a taxpayer

I'm glad I'm not the only person wondering why in the heck the Yankees think they get to sell stuff that belongs to the taxpayers of New York and pocket the money for themselves:
A day after the Yanks played the last game in the House That Ruth Built, items from the storied ballpark were for sale - prompting fears that the taxpayers who own the place were getting stiffed again.

"Whatever value is in the old stadium ought to be retained for the taxpayer," said Assemblyman Richard Brodsky, whose committee is investigating taxpayer support of the new stadium.

Early this month, the Westchester Democrat asked the city agency in charge of selling off the old stadium what the Yankees were entitled to sell, because the city owns the Stadium.

He has yet to get a reply.

I love that we live in an age where poor people are demonized for needing charity but investment banks and billion dollar professional sports franchises are allowed to feed at the public trough without question, scrutiny, or complaint.

Sadaharu Oh

The legendary Sadaharu Oh is stepping down as the manager of the Softbank Hawks of the Japanese Pacific League due to health concerns.

Many Americans know about Oh due to his 868 career home runs, but he's managed the Hawks a long time -- winning a couple of championships -- and before that managed the Yomiuri Giants, the marquee team in Japan, where he also won a pennant. To state the mildly obvious, this would be like Hank Aaron or Willie Mays retiring in the mid 70s and then going on to have Sparky Anderson or Tony La Russa's career.

I've only seen grainy video of his playing and have only read about his managing (this is a great book, by the way, and everyone should read it) but in some weird way I feel quite sad about this.

Happy Boner Day!

No, really:
This date in baseball – September 23

Sept. 23

1908: In a crucial game with the Chicago Cubs, Fred Merkle of the New York Giants failed to touch second base as the apparent winning run crossed home plate. This resulted in a great dispute, and the game was eventually declared a tie and played over on Oct. 8 when the Cubs and Giants ended the season in a tie.

And That Happened

Phillies 6, Braves 2: I think the Braves owe the Phillies some collective form of life debt. It's as if there's a spiritual connection between these two teams, with the bonds consisting of grateful servitude flowing north from Atlanta to Philadelphia. When facing the Mets, the Braves become fearsome warriors. When facing the Phillies, their submission knows no bounds. Basically, I think the Braves are Wookiees. There. I said it.

Reds 7, Marlins 5
: Jerry Hairston Jr. goes 3-5 with a double and 2 RBI. Unfortunately the pregame picketing, the fierce anti-Hairston editorials, and the incessant booing for each of his at bats really soured the experience for him, just as it has for all of the monsters named in the Mitchell Report.

Royals 6, Tigers 2: There's not much left to root for this season, but one of the things I am rooting for is for Kansas City to pass Detroit in the standings. They're only a game behind now.

Rays 4, Orioles 2: According to the game story, "the victory left the Rays (93-62) one win shy of tying the 1991 Atlanta Braves for most victories by a team that had the worst record in the majors one year earlier." Yeah, but the 1990 Braves had one fewer win than the 2007 Rays, so let's make them win two more before making a big deal about it, OK? I gotta hold on to something here.

Indians 4, Red Sox 3: The Yankees stay mathematically alive for one more night. I wish they'd hurry up and put a bullet in those guys. I have a corpse picture I've been waiting to use for the occasion.

Cubs 9, Mets 5: A grand slam for Jason Marquis is but the latest addition to the Mets' annual nightmare reel. At this point, I'm inclined to simply give the NL Wild Card to the Twins, because neither New York nor Milwaukee seem to want it all that much.

A's 4, Rangers 3: Ziegler blows the save, but the Athletics hold on to win it in the 11th. They've won a lot lately, actually. Remember those late season surges that A's had in 2001 and 2002? Well, this one is just like those except it has lasted only about ten games and it's not going to end up helping them in the standings in any relevant way. But hey, wins.

Diamondbacks 4, Cardinals 2: Brandon Webb wins his 22nd game. I suppose that means that Bochy will start Tim Lincecum four or five more times between now and Sunday. I mean, what else do the Giants have to play for?

Angels 2, Mariners 1: Here's what we're going to do: I'll take the morning shifts, and a couple of you guys volunteer for afternoons and evenings. We'll brew up some coffee, and make sure there's always a TV or a radio on so that he doesn't feel so isolated. We also have to make sure that there are always lots of pictures of his family around, and that we keep the conversation light. No, it's not a guarantee, but that's what the web sites say we need to do in order to keep Zumsteg from killing himself, so we have to try.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Quote of the Day II

If Congress can spend weeks investigating steroids in baseball, you have to
think a plan that may cost taxpayers trillions of dollars should get a little
more than just a quick approval from our representatives.

-- The Dividend Daily Blog

Baltimore Comic-Con

Friday night at Camden Yards will be one of the few times that SABR memebrs won't be the geekiest people at the ballpark:

Comic book super star, Jim Lee, will help kick off the 9th annual Baltimore Comic-Con at Oriole Park at Camden Yards Friday, September 26th. Jim will throw out the first pitch before the Orioles meet the Toronto Blue Jays and then sign autographs for fans at the ballpark to help awareness for the weekend convention next door.

"We know how well he can draw Batman -- let's see if he can throw a strike," promoter Marc Nathan said.

Fans for the convention can witness this themselves, as the Orioles are offering a discounted group rate for visitors coming into town for the Baltimore Comic-Con. Tickets begin as low at $8 for both Friday and Saturday nights' games.
As both a comics and a baseball geek I, unfortunately, would be beat up and given wedgies by both the SABR and the Comic-Con crowds if I were to attend.

Nats' Revenues Fall Short

Attention citizens of Miami, Minnesota, and Fremont: Please do not believe your public officials when they tell you that the stadium you are about to fund will pay for itself:

The Washington Nationals' new ballpark is on pace to generate about $13.5 million in sales taxes for the District government in its inaugural season, well below the $16.1 million city officials had projected when the ballpark was under construction . . . The tax revenue and rent money are used by the city to help pay down debt on the stadium project near South Capitol Street and the Navy Yard in Southeast Washington . . .

. . . In 74 home games, the team has sold about 2.2 million tickets at Nationals Park, a game average of 29,261, which ranks them 19th out of 30 teams. If the Nationals continue on that pace, they will sell 2.4 million tickets this season.

Forgetting Murphy's Law

I do a bit of construction law from time to time. Since I have no architecture, engineering, or project management background, the cases I get tend to be fairly simple "who caused the delay that kept the building from opening on time" disputes. Oftentimes in these things there's some email from someone involved in the project over-promising something. They always get used as exhibits when things go sideways. They often read like this, taken from today's "Cathedral FAQ" about Yankee Stadium, old and new:

4. Is there any concern that the new facility won't be ready on time?

None. Twenty-five months after breaking ground, the Yankees say that they are right on schedule, with 75 percent of the construction complete, and 80 percent of the seats installed. The lead project coordinator said that all the heavy work had been done and they're on to the trims and finishes.
Everything I've seen suggests that this is the case, but man, you know there's some lawyer who works for the contractor reading that this morning, shaking his head and wondering why he lets anyone talk to the press.

Peace in Our Time

Pedro Alvarez has reached an agreement with the Pirates, staving off an arbitration regarding DeadlineGate:

In a stunning reversal of a summer-long drama, the Pirates and top draft pick Pedro Alvarez last night agreed to terms on a revised four-year, major league contract worth a guaranteed $6,355,000, according to three sources intimately familiar with the talks. The contract is expected to be signed once Alvarez passes a physical, which could happen early this week . . .

. . . [O]ne source indicated that a signed contract between the Pirates and Alvarez likely will quash a related grievance filed by the union against commissioner Bud Selig's office, offering a sign that all concerned have been duly informed of this development. That grievance, filed Aug. 27, alleged that MLB violated its labor pact with the union by approving the verbal agreement reached between the Pirates and Alvarez minutes after the midnight Aug. 15 deadline.
Good outcome for the Pirates in that they really needed this guy, but they lost quite a bit for having gone through the exercise. While the signing bonus remains the same, Alvarez now has a major league deal as opposed to a minor league one, and that limits the Pirates' options with him. They Pirates now have to start burning option years on him and he has to be on the 40 man roster. Of course, if Alvarez is as near to being ready as everyone says he is, that may not matter.

The lawyer in me worries about the precedent this deal sets in that, at least from where I'm sitting, it has made the signing deadline something of a suggestion, has it not? Of course I don't predict the future very well so I may be wrong about that.

I do remember the past pretty well, though, and I know that whenever Boras has ever been given an inch he's taken a mile, so don't look for this to be the last time he and his clients get into a signing deadline kerfuffle.

Movin' The Marlins

Despite the recent ruling giving them the green light, Splice Today's Russ Smith is skeptical that the Marlins will actually get their new stadium built in Miami, and scouts around for other possibilities. The piece is complete with some wet blanket goodness from yours truly, so by all means, click through.

Upon reading his optimistic creativity and my kneejerk negativity, you'll quickly understand why Smith has launched multiple successful newspapers while I am stuck keeping the gate here in the legal world.

Bear Market To Harm Cub Market?

Ken Davidoff, via Andrew Zimbalist speculates about how Wall Street's crash and burn could impact baseball:
Baseball has largely been recession-proof, but you have to wonder whether it will feel any sort of dent from the events of the past week. Specifically, will the trouble plaguing the likes of Lehman Brothers and Merrill Lynch impact future team sales? Will it decrease either the sales price or the suitors for the Cubs?

"If one is thinking of the sale of the Cubs, there are one of two ways in which this could be seen," said Andrew Zimbalist, a sports economist at Smith College. "One would involve evaluating the portfolios of the major bidders at this point. Certainly the Ricketts family, which seems to be the front-runner by a good margin at this point, their fortune is in private equity investments. One would think that they have been hit significantly by this, and that might influence their wherewithal.
Seriously. Especially considering how much debt has been said to factor into the bids for the Cubs. If the term "credit crunch" means anything, doesn't it mean that giving somebody close to a billion bucks for a baseball team is going to be a tall order these days?

But perhaps the biggest impact will be on the day-to-day bottom line:
"But also the baseball model, and the model of all sports since about 1990, has been to cater to the more rapidly growing income groups. The corporate executives, the top people in the financial sector, to make money off corporate suites and club suites. These are the population sectors that are getting hit hard right now. It seems to me logical that the sports model is going to be taking a little bit of a hit. I do think that team revenue growth, 11 percent a year, that's not going to continue. It's even more likely you'll see diminution of revenue in the next year or two."
I can't help but wonder how many Met and Yankee season ticket holders worked for the Lehmans and Bear Stearns of the world.

Last Post on the Stadium. I Promise.

Billy Crystal, who apparently has carte blanche when it comes to the Yankees, reflects in the pages of the New York Times:
If stadiums are the cathedrals of baseball, or in my case synagogues, then I have been worshiping at the same place for over half a century. The Stadium has been the safe room of my house of memories. Who would have thought that I would become a good friend of Mantle and his family? Who would have thought that Joe Torre would become one of my closest friends and would have me, still an O.K. player, work out with the team before World Series games because he felt it relaxed his players? Who would have thought I would get to recreate the old stadium to perfect detail when I directed “61*”? As I got older I appreciated it more.
Yes, thank goodness he got to recreate the old stadium to perfect detail. All he had to do in order to accomplish this is to go to a genuine baseball cathedral -- Tiger Stadium -- and deface it with green paint. Not that I'm bitter or anything.


A story about all of the stuff Yankees' players want to take from the old Stadium. Despite all of the charity and graft going in in connection with the new joint, here's hoping that someone remembers that the City of New York owns the Stadium and basically all of the stuff in it and doesn't cut any sweetheart memorabilia deals with the players.

Quote of the Day

For all of the overkill, I did like some of the pregame stuff from yesterday's Yankee game, especially bringing in the sons of Mickey Mantle and Billy Martin to represent their fathers. Quote from Billy Martin, Jr., when asked about whether he harbored any ill will towards George Steinbrenner for firing his old man so often:
Mr. Steinbrenner fired my father five times, but he also hired him five times. I am the only Martin that hasn’t been fired by the Yankees. I did an internship in 1986.
Mr. Martin Jr. was then fired.

K-Rod for MVP?

If you say so. And they say that only smart kids go to Stanford . . .

And That Happened

Yankees 7, Orioles 3: For the record, the last home run in Yankee Stadium was hit by backup catcher Duke Sims. It happened on September 30, 1973 against the Tigers. After that game, New York played for two years in Shea Stadium and then 33 years in one of those unfortunate 1970s-era ballparks that are now finally and mercifully gone.

Phillies 5, Marlins 2
: A 1.5 game lead and six games left against the Braves and Nats? Yeah, I like the Phillies' chances to win the East.

A's 5, Mariners 3: A game story and a player that acknowledge the existence of the Three True Outcomes: "Jack Cust took good-natured ribbing after the Oakland Athletics' slugger had quite a typical day.This familiar Jack Cust effort featured a walk, a strikeout and a two-run homer.'That's been my whole career for better or worse,' Cust said Sunday after his eighth-inning home run helped give the A's a 5-3 victory over the Seattle Mariners. 'Those are the three big things in my stat book.'" I wonder if he's read Rany's article.

Giants 1, Dodgers 0: Scoreless through 10 before the Giants broke through. How very 1966 of everyone involved.

Diamondbacks 13, Rockies 4: L.A.'s lead is now only 2.5., but with only seven games to play, 2.5 is an awful lot, isn't it? The Dodgers finish with the Padres and the Giants. Even though they dropped two of three to San Francisco this weekend, that's an easier order than the Dbacks closing against St. Louis and Colorado, no?

Angels 7, Rangers 3: After the game Marlon Byrd said, in reference to the Angels' 20+ lead over the Rangers in the West, "I've never seen that before, [the gap] between the first- and second-place teams." In his first season in Philly, Atlanta beat second place Montreal by 19. So, yeah, I guess he's technically right, but it ain't that big a difference is it?

White Sox 3, Royals 0: I and many others waited the entire first half of the season for the White Sox to drop out of the race, and waited the whole second half for Minnesota to really make a run and challenge them. Still, Chicago hasn't been more than a game out of first since May 15th, and looks to be taking the division going away. If confounding expectations is a skill, they may very well go deep into the post season.

Twins 4, Rays 1: Not that the Twins don't have a chance to make one last stand. They have three games against the Sox in the dome starting Tuesday night, and if history tells us anything, it tells us that anything can happen in that wretched building. They'll turn on the air conditioner at curious times. They'll pipe in the fake crowd noise. They'll invite Kent Hrbek back to tackle opposing base runners. The stops, they will be pulled out, all of them.

Cubs 5, Cardinals 1: The Cubs clinched the division on Saturday night, which meant that yesterday's lineup consisted almost entirely of backups, scrubs, and other assorted flotsam. Daryle Ward hit cleanup. I'm guessing that hasn't happened for a while.

Astros 6, Pirates 2: The only notable thing about this game from the Pirates' point of view was that it was probably the last time Jack Wilson played for them in Pittsburgh, as he is likely to be shipped off during the offseason. He pinch hit and got a single. After the game he said "It's definitely the best moment of my career. By far." That says far less about the moment than it does about the state of the Pirates since Wilson's debut in 2001.

Red Sox 3, Blue Jays 0: Dice-K is going to end with something like 30-40 fewer innings this season than last, when he seemed to be quite out of gas late and into the playoffs. Right now he's ending on a high note (7 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 6K).

Padres 6, Nationals 2: My brother, who has lived in San Diego for thirteen years, is spending the week visiting his girlfriend's family in Seattle. He called me yesterday to tell me that he has actually been talking smack with all of them about how the Padres are going to finish ahead of the Mariners in overall record. "Looks like we're putting away the Nats, too," he said, without a hint of irony or sarcasm. He didn't root this vocally for the Padres in any of the last three contending years, in the 1998 pennant season, or when they won the division in 1996.

Indians 10, Tigers 5: Dontrelle Willis is deader than vaudeville (2.1 IP, 5 H, 6 ER, 6 BB). Meanwhile, get Cleveland: they're over .500, and a scorching 41-24 since their July 9th nadir. Everyone picked them to do things in the AL Central this year and they didn't. That doesn't mean people shouldn't pick them to do something again next year.

Braves 7, Mets 6: The Mets remain 1.5 ahead of Milwaukee for the Wild Card, but with the way their bullpen is going, they won't be lasting much longer than the Brewers even if they do hold on.

Brewers 8, Reds 1: Nice, but any team that loses 2 of 3 to the Reds in the season's penultimate weekend doesn't really deserve to play in October.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

A Race Like No Other

My latest book review for the New York Post is up. The book is A Race Like No Other: 26.2 Miles Through the Streets of New York by New York Times sports writer Liz Robbins.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Dr. Andrews: Call Your Office

themarksmith runs down the under-25 pitchers who have (or who soon will) blow past the 30-more-innings-pitched-than-last-year mark that some have identified as a danger sign for young pitchers.

While I take note of high pitch counts in curious circumstances as much as the next guy does, I'm a bit out of my bailiwick with this stuff. So, to steal a phrase from Neyer, I link, you decide.

Comment of the Day

I never run a "Comment of the Day" but I just got one so good that I have to set it apart somehow. Here's reader Ted Spradlin absolutely crushing my bailout parody from this morning:

Bud and the owners found their perfect storm. Wall Street exploited housing, now lets get them to exploit bad baseball contracts.

The owners can sell their crummy contracts (Zito, Andruw, Sarge Jr, Wells, Rios, etc) to the surviving Wall Street banks at par or even at a premium. Wall Street can take
$1bb in contracts and turn it into $3bb in new SIV's, Derivatives, Credit Default Swaps, Options, ETF's, Contract Backed Securities, etc.

The GM's get to experience Brian Cashman's luxury of wasting money on over the hill players with no recourse. Ned Colleti and Brian Sabean don't look so stupid
after all.

The owners already got the money for selling off the contract and don't have to pay Lloyd's for contract insurance.

Players and agents are thrilled with the unprecedented salary boom. "Miguel Cairo is a premium utility player and the market recognizes that," said Scott Boras at the press conference introducing Miguel Cairo as the highest paid utility player in history at $12,500,000/yr.

Bud has a great new revenue source and "new media" explosion on mlb.com. He can create a Fantasy Contract Derivative League where people can trade all these new fancy financial instruments of crummy players, just like a real Wall Street trader. MLBTV airs 2-3 hours of "Fast Contracts" and "Squawk Box Baseball," ala CNBC. Jim Kramer was rumored as a host, but loses out to Erin Andrews, which turns out to be a ratings bonanza.

This opens up an entirely new world of quantitative analysis for Sabermetricians as well. Rob Neyer never saw it coming. VORP and OPS are a thing of the past.

Bud Selig needs to pounce on this opportunity. Baseball needs it and Wall Street needs it. The infrastructure is already in place. If something goes wrong, march to Congress for taxpayer relief because these institutions are "too big to fail."

Tails Never Fails

In case you were wondering:

The Mets won a coin toss over the Brewers on Friday to win home-field advantage should a one-game playoff be necessary to break a tie for the National League Wild Card berth. New York currently leads the Brewers by 1 1/2 games in the Wild Card standings. The Mets have 10 games remaining; the Brewers have nine.
I'm no sadist, but I can't tell you how much I'm hoping for a Mets-Brewers tie. I mean, the levels of anxiety in Shea Stadium for such a game would be so high that we could call it the Butt Clench Bowl.

Great Moments In . . .no, I can't. I just can't.

If a memorabilia dealer ever offers to sell you a pair of jeans and loafers once worn by George Brett, you probably want to decline.

Warning: language in video not safe for work.

More important warning: mental images inspired by video not safe for your childhood memories of one of baseball's best ever players.

"Bud Killed Us"

The Astors are taking whining about the Cubs series in Milwaukee to a whole new level, and Richard Justice isn't letting them get away with it:

If the Astros let the trip to Milwaukee do this much damage, shame on them. It would be easy to assume that considering the T-shirts some players were wearing Thursday afternoon. Those shirts had a simple message.

“Bud Killed Us”

Yes, indeed. He sent them to a place they didn’t want to be and had them play two games they didn’t want to play.

Never mind that Drayton McLane and the Major League Players Association agreed to the switch. Never mind that MLB had the matter thrown in its lap because McLane refused to call off the Cubs-Astros series until it was too late to send the teams to a true neutral site over the weekend. MLB even offered to send a second plane to Houston to take family members to safety.That said, there’s no way the Astros should have been playing in Milwaukee Sunday night after two stressful, sleepless nights.

There’s also no way that one trip should have ruined months of good work. The Astros were right about being treated unfairly.

Life hasn’t been fair to a lot of Texans the last few days, and not many of them were
offered a chartered jet to fly both themselves and their family to safety. At some point, though, the Astros should have been able to move on.
Amen. I imagine the folks in Galveston would take major offense at those shirts. At least they would if they had power and homes and possessions and hope and stuff.

(link via Olney)