Thursday, April 27, 2006

Nero Fiddled

Jim Rome is a smug jerk who hosts a show on ESPN called "Rome is Burning". It should be called "Rome is an idiot who has a man crush on David Eckstein and Darin Erstad and really doesn't know anything about sports", but I guess that's not as sexy. On his show, he basically substitutes catch phrases and name calling for actual sports commentary. He first came to national prominence by getting a NFL player to attack him on camera. Jim Everett was a QB for the LA Rams at the time and Rome always questioned his toughness, so he tagged him with the nickname "Chris Everett". Jim Everett appeared on the show and told Rome that the didn't appreciate it and didn't want him to use that nickname anymore. Rome decided to use the nickname anyway and Everett physically attacked him on his show. (Click here to see Rome get pimp slapped)

He opens and closes his current show on ESPN with his personal musings about the previous evenings sporting events and it really is absolutely hilarious. Earlier this week he was talking about David Ortiz bunting for a base hit in a segment entitled "what a drag". He kept on talking about Ortiz and how he laid down a drag bunt in a game against Toronto. Now this is a fairly small point, but Ortiz actually laid down a push bunt. A drag bunt for a left handed hitter would be hit down the first base line. The hitter is dragging the ball in the direction that he's running. Hence the term "drag bunt". A push bunt is hit in the opposite direction. Any twelve year old baseball fan would be able to tell you the difference, but since he couldn't come up with any cute headline for a push bunt and assumed that the audience was as stupid as he was, he just decided it didn't matter.

I can't tell you the number of times that he's talked about how Darin Erstad and David Eckstein just "get it done". It's as if they are the only players in baseball who actually play hard. Erstad "got it done" to the tune of a .696 OPS last year. I've already made comments about David Eckstein, so there's no need for me to repeat them. I have nothing against these players, and I certainly understand that not everyone can be Albert Pujols, but using a head first slide or getting your uniform dirty does not make you an all-star. I'm sure if Jim Rome had a vote he would put both Erstad and Eckstein in the Hall of Fame.

A lot of sports commentators are annoying but Rome is annoying, stupid and smug. He's a know-it-all who actually doesn't know anything. Where is Jim Everett when we need him? Jim Rome wins the first annual "Be Like Mike" award, which is named after the patron saint of idiot sports commentators everywhere, Mike Lupica. Congratulations Jim. You deserve it.


Monday, April 24, 2006

Here Today...

Just a quick update on the supposedly "finished" Randy Johnson. Yesterday's line: 8 innings, 3 hits, one run, five strikeouts. If Miguel Tejada hadn't been in the line up, he might have pitched a no-hitter. Not bad for a pitcher on fast track to "has-been" status.


Stop the Madness

The Hall of Fame is clearly one of my favorite topics. I've talked about the push for mediocrity in the Hall before and I really wanted to stay away from that topic for the most part, but when I read an article like the one that Joe Sheehan wrote for on Sunday, I just have to say something. First of all Joe Sheehan writes for Baseball Prospectus, which provides some of the most in depth analysis of baseball available. They provide stats on just about everything that you could ever want to know about baseball. I have nothing but good things to say about the site, however just looking at statistics can lead to some strange conclusions. Joe's article on Sunday was based on the idea that Jim Edmonds is going to be a Hall of Famer.

Jim Edmonds has been a very good player for the last 12 years. He's hit 334 home runs, he has 1,010 RBI's, he's scored 100 runs 4 times, he's won 8 gold gloves, and has a .925 OPS. He's had a very good career. However, he has never lead the league in anything, he has only 2 top 10 finishes in MVP voting and he only has 1,600 career hits. Mr. Sheehan pre-supposes that Edmonds will continue to be a productive player for three or four more years, which may or may not be true. Even if we give him that production, I don't see him being any more qualified for the Hall of Fame than Dale Murphy or Andre Dawson. At least you could make the argument that both of those players were at least considered at one time, the best players in their respective leagues. Both won MVP awards (Murphy won two) and both retired with numbers that would put them solidly in the second tier of Hall of Fame outfielders. The problem is that those second tier hall of famers shouldn't be in the HOF either. Murphy and Dawson were very good players, but they were not among the best players of all time and neither is Edmonds. It's a ridiculous argument to make that a player who has never led the league in anything or even come close to winning an MVP award belongs in the Hall of Fame.

Mr. Sheehan mentions two other retired players who by the numbers could be Hall of Famers. They are Bobby Grich and Dwight Evans. They were both fine players in the seventies and early eighties. The problem with their candidacy is the same as Edmonds'. They never led the league in anything and they never came close to winning an MVP. To be a Hall of Famer, you should at least have come within sniffing distance of an MVP and you must have been considered at least among the two or three best players in the game. I'm not talking about at your position, I'm talking about among all players in the game. Mr. Sheehan's argument for Edmonds talks about him being the 2nd best centerfielder in the majors during his career. Now I'm sure you could make an argument for Bernie Williams, but I'm not going to get into that right now, but being the 2nd best player at your position DOES NOT QUALIFY YOU FOR THE HALL OF FAME! Who was the 2nd best third baseman during Wade Boggs' career? Robin Ventura? Does that now qualify him for the Hall of Fame? It's a ridiculous argument and the kind of things that just drags the HOF down.

The problem is that there are now so many undeserving people in the HOF that you can make an argument for anyone who has had a good career. You can point to a host of people who had similar careers and have been enshrined in the Hall. That really isn't the point. Come on people, let's stop the madness. We can't kick people out of the HOF at this point, but lets try and do the right thing from now on.

Sorry, Jim.


Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Here Today, Gone Today

I was watching "Around the Horn" on ESPN today. They were discussing the future of Randy Johnson and whether he was in trouble because he had a terrible outing against the Blue Jays yesterday. Three of the four writers said that he was definitely in trouble and that his career was in either a freefall or serious decline. I bring up this particular topic because yesterday they were talking about Greg Maddux. Maddux has gotten off to a great start this year and all four of the writers said that he was on his way to great year.

Now I'm not sure whether Johnson is done or Maddux is about to have a renaissance in Chicago, but what I do know is that it's way too early to make those sorts of prediction. And if you are forced to make those predictions then shouldn't you look at the track record before making some ridiculous proclamation? Greg Maddux won 13 games last year and lost 15 with an ERA of 4.24. The previous year (2004) his ERA was 4.02. The last time Randy Johnson and Greg Maddux played in the same league was 2004 and Randy had an ERA of 2.60. It is true that Randy's ERA went up over a run last year, but he did have to adjust to moving to the Yankees and changing leagues to the AL where more runs are scored. He still won 17 games and was 10-2 after the all star break and his ERA was still a 1/2 run lower than Greg Maddux.

Every pitcher has bad starts. I'm not sure why there's always a rush to say that Johnson is done whenever he has a bad start. Clearly he's not the consistently dominating pitcher he used to be, but I don't think he's quite ready for the scrap heap yet. Maddux is an all time great, but if his last two years are any indicator, his fast start will not last. He will continue to be an effective starter but not a spectacular one. Johnson still has the ability to dominate. And whatever his issue was on Tuesday, I'm fairly sure that he'll figure it out.

It's amazing how far goodwill goes with sports writers and commentators. They are all willing to throw Johnson under the bus at the first opportunity, yet they will bend over backwards to support Greg Maddux. It really is just amazing that sports writers would base their argument on one start or on a handful. Aren't these guys supposed to be paying attention to what happened before yesterday? Why not say that Chris Shelton is going to hit 120 home runs this year? I mean he has 9 through 14 games. Using their logic, it only makes sense that he'll continue that pace throughout the entire season.

Once again, the sportswriters who should know better, are guilty of shortsightedness. It's a shame that most of the general public actually take these people at their word.


Death by Dying

It's time for me to expose another stupid cliché that makes the rounds among baseball writers and announcers. The term that for some reason got included in the baseball vernacular is "Bullpen by committee". The term comes up when a team either has no effective closer or their closer is injured. As a result of that situation, the manager is forced to use different pitchers out of the bullpen to close games. The proper term to use in this case is "closer by committee". The last time I checked, the definition of a committee is, "a body of persons delegated to consider, investigate, take action on, or report on some matter." A bullpen is, by definition, a committee. Therefore using the term "bullpen by committee" is about as redundant as saying a batter got a hit by hitting the ball. Of course I have heard this term come out of the mouths of supposed baseball experts innumerable times.

I don't really want to name names (Michael Kay), but trust me, that if you watch baseball at all, you will hear announcers constantly make this mistake. I know it's a small matter, but I'm really hoping that this article will be the beginning of the end of the term "bullpen by committee". And if I can accomplish this one thing, maybe I can end war and hunger and, and... you know what? I'm just gonna stick with ending the madness that is "bullpen by committee" today.

You gotta start somewhere.


Monday, April 10, 2006

Hurt So Good

Michael Kay was commenting on Frank Thomas the other night and his Hall of Fame chances and he put them at no better than 50/50. Now I think I've already made it clear how I feel about Michael Kay, but now that baseball season has begun, I get to make fun of his baseball knowledge as well.

Let me just rattle off a few of Frank Thomas' achievements. There are 9 people who have played baseball in the modern era (since 1900) who have a better OBP than Frank Thomas. Seven of them are in the hall and two of them are still active. I'd also discount Barry Bonds since he only moved ahead of Frank Thomas after his steroid fueled assault on the record books. He is 15th all time in slugging percentage. The only active players ahead of him are younger and their numbers may not remain ahead of his for their entire careers. The retired players are all in the Hall of Fame (except for Mark McGwire and he's not eligible until this year). He ranks 11th all time in OPS, once again behind a group of Hall of famers and few younger players. He won the MVP twice. He finished in the top three in voting 5 times. He had a string of seven straight years of batting .300, driving in 100, and scoring 100. That streak has only been bettered by Jimmie Foxx, Lou Gehrig and Ted Williams. I think you could easily make the argument that he is one of the five or six best hitting first basemen ever to play. He's also not quite done yet and I'm fairly sure that he'll stick around to hit 500 home runs, but even if he doesn't, I just can't see him not getting into the HOF.

Jeff Bagwell is just about done and I have seen many articles saying that he's a hall of famer. Now it just so happens that Bagwell and Thomas were born on the same day and played the same position and their numbers are fairly comparable. Bagwell has played about 100 more games and has a few more RBI's, Thomas has a higher Batting average and OBP. Bagwell stole a lot more bases, Thomas has a lot less strikeouts. They both have exactly the same number of home runs at this point. Now it's a fairly simple equation that if Bagwell is a Hall of Famer, then so is Thomas. And this is not a case of the Hall being watered down. They were both considered among the very best at their positions for a decade and they are definitely in the argument among all time players at their position.

During the 90's their was only hitter I feared as much as Thomas and that was Griffey. He hit his way into the hall during that decade. His accomplishments may be looked upon in an even better light if he comes out clean during the steroids investigation. The bottom line is that he's a Hall of Famer. Almost anyone who knows anything about baseball would realize that. Of course Michael Kay isn't really aware of these types of things. Perhaps if Frank would go on Michael's show on the YES Network, He could get Kay to kiss his ass and perhaps change his mind about Frank's Hall of Fame worthiness. I guess since Frank Thomas never played for the Yankees Kay is just unaware of his accomplishments. Or perhaps he's just an idiot.

I vote for the latter.


Saturday, April 08, 2006

Waiting for Guffman

The Yankees blew a game this week when Joe Torre refused to use Mariano Rivera in a non save situation. The game with the A's was tied 3-3 in the ninth inning and Joe in all his wisdom decided to go with Scott Proctor. Now I'm not saying that Scott Proctor can't be a valuable member of the bullpen, but why on earth would you bring him in for that situation. There were days when managers were not afraid to go to the closer in any situation. I remember Billy Martin brining in Sparky Lyle in the 4th inning of a playoff game. Sparky not only got out of that inning but pitched the rest of the game. He pitched something like 5-2/3 of shutout ball. He also pitched the 9th inning and closed out the series the next day. Of course that is an extreme example and I wouldn't recommend using your closer that way (unless you want a closer with a blow out elbow or shoulder), however the Tony LaRussa method limits the contribution that the closer makes to the team.

It's not like Rivera has never been brought into a tie game. He pitched three innings in the '03 ALCS against the Red Sox. What would have happened if Torre had decided to stick to the formula on that night? Do you think that the bullpen would have been able to hold the lead? Probably not. Joe made the right decision in using Rivera in a tie game but for some reason, he thinks that only applies to the post season. Here's a scenario for you; 7th inning two out and the tying and go ahead runs on 2nd and 3rd. The question is do you want the third best pitcher out of the bullpen to handle this situation? Why would you save your best pitcher for the ninth when he may never get used if those runners score? There was a time when managers were not afraid to use their closers before the 9th inning, but Tony LaRussa and Dennis Eckersley changed all that. Now closers are only used in the 9th inning in save situations. That has done wonders for the save totals that closers can rack up, but I believe it has made them less valuable.

If I can watch the game and know that the winning or losing time is in the 7th inning, then why can't the manager? Closing out the game is an important function, but coming into a game with no one on and a three run lead is not the most stress filled situation in baseball. I would argue that using your closer in tie games or in critical situations before the ninth inning makes him more valuable to the team. Save totals would go down, but team wins would undoubtedly go up. It's going to take a manager with the balls to go against the current trend, but hopefully someone will see the wisdom of using their best pitcher out of the bullpen in the correct way. I don't know if the Yankees would have won the '03 World Series if Joe Torre had brought in Mariano Rivera instead of Jeff Weaver (Jeff Weaver??? What the f#@K?!!) in game 4, but I would rather have lost that game with our best pitcher on the mound, rather than a cast off from the starting rotation. Joe Torre probably would have too.


Thursday, April 06, 2006

Hollywood Ending

It was very sad to see Doc Gooden sentenced to prison yesterday. He actually chose prison over rehab because he doesn't think that he can get clean without being locked up. Doc has lost everything at this point. His family, fortune, fame (I think he just qualifies as infamous at this point) are all gone. He was given so many chances that it made Steve Howe blush. It seems that he's hit rock bottom and that he has no one to blame but himself for it.

The thing is that I just can't seem to let go of the image of a 19 year old kid from Florida just toying with major league hitters. If you never saw him in his prime (and Gooden's prime was from 19-21), you missed something special. His fastball was just a rumor to most batters. His Curveball, which was so majestic that the usual term "Uncle Charlie" didn't suffice. His curveball was call "Lord Charles" and it caused more knees to bend than Sunday mass at St. Patrick's. His 1985 season was as dominating as any I have ever seen. It was as good as Guidry in '78, it was as good as Clemens in '86, as good as Maddux in '95, as good as Randy Johnson in '92. Hell, I'm sure he was as good as Lefty Grove, Sandy Koufax and Walter Johnson in their primes. I'm a Yankee fan and it hurt like hell that the Mets had come up with what looked like the next great pitcher in baseball. I was jealous, sure, but I was also in awe of his unbelievable ability. I was sure that they were already preparing his HOF plaque in Cooperstown. He won the Cy Young award at the age of 20 and I knew that it was just the first of many.

So what happened? How did the kid with the golden arm and golden future end up in prison? It's a sad tale of partying, drugs and loose women. Gooden along with his literal partner in crime, Daryl Strawberry partied their way through what should have been a dynasty with the Mets. Instead of winning multiple championships, the Mets won only one (and that one took a miracle). I don't think it really mattered to Doc. He was enjoying himself too much. He world was his for the taking. And he took whatever he could get. You can't blame him really. He was a teenager who was thrust into the spotlight in the loudest city in the world. New York puts it's heroes up on a pedestal so high that the view from up there is absolutely dizzying. Doc reached Mount Olympus and that made his fall from grace even harder to endure. The Yankees briefly resurrected his career and he ended up pitching a no-hitter and winning another World Series ring. You would have thought that after being on the precipice of disaster, his life was back on track and that he had seen the error of his ways, but apparently that was just a brief respite on the way to skid row.

In a scene from "The Natural", Roy's dad is talking to him as a kid. He tells him that he can't rely too much on his gift, because if he does that he'll fail. That's exactly what Doc did. He was so supremely talented, such a prodigy that he never saw the pitfalls that lay in his future. He could have been the best ever. He could have had the career that Roger Clemens is having. He could be the one that people point to as an example of the best that baseball has to offer; instead he ended up being a cautionary tale. He could have had it all. And for one brief shinning moment, he was the best that anyone had ever seen. Maybe that's enough for him. It's going to have be enough for us. It's certainly more than most people will ever get, but you can't help but wonder what he might have been.

Maybe there's a Hollywood ending to this story. Perhaps this year in prison will turn his life around. Perhaps he'll make it his life's work to make sure that kids don't end up like him. I certainly hope so because Hollywood also produces a different kind of ending. The one where the flawed hero doesn't hit the game winning home run, doesn't get the girl and doesn't live happily ever after.

Good luck, Doc. You're going to need it.


Wednesday, April 05, 2006

In This Corner

The press in NY is trying to drum up a rivalry between the new Mets closer Billy Wagner and the Yankees closer Mariano Rivera. They both use the song "Enter Sandman", by Metallica as their entry music. Wagner actually started using the song first and is a fan of the group; Rivera isn't a fan and had nothing to do with picking the song. Rivera is one of the most agreeable men in baseball and he has already stated that he doesn't care if Wagner uses the song. Given Rivera's exposure in the post season and the fact he plays in NY, the song has become synonymous with him. Some in the press has even given him the moniker of "The Sandman". Wagner on the other hand, played in Houston and Philadelphia and has not had quite the press exposure that Rivera has. He has also made it clear that he doesn't mind that Rivera uses the song as well.

Clearly there is only one way to solve this dilemma and that is for both of the men to fight it out and have the winner keep the song. They could hold the fight in the garden and call it "Nap Time, two Sandmen enter, but only one can leave!" They could have Metallica perform before the fight. It would be a concert and a fight. This all beginning to sound really good to me. No, wait, instead of a fight, they could just throw fastballs at each other. It would be great. It would be like dodgeball with baseballs. Perfect. Maybe Howard Cosell can come back from the grave to announce it. I can just hear him now, "Oh the humanity, this is the saddest thing I have ever witnessed in the ring. I, for one am sorry that I disturbed my eternal rest to witness this travesty of sport! This is Howard Cosell signing off, forever". Come on people, get with the program. Can't you see it?

The most amazing thing about this is that it was a story in all three NY papers today, including the Times. The NY Times saw fit to devote a column in the paper of record to this "story". I'm sure a good portion of the Mike and the Mad Dog radio show was spent discussing the merits of both sides. It's simply amazing what passes for sports journalism these days. I guess Randy Johnson's illegitimate child isn't that interesting anymore. Perhaps they can drum up a conflict between Mike Mussina and Tom Glavine over who uses the better dandruff shampoo. I'm sure that it would be an appropriate sequel to the "PHANTOM ATTACK OF THE RETURN OF THE THE NEW STAR EMPIRE ENTER SANDMAN WARS!"


Band on the Run

Bud Selig is now attempting to defend his inability or unwillingness to appoint a genuine independent investigator to look into the steroids problem in baseball. Here's some of what Bud had to say:

"It's important for somebody who understands what I call the mores of culture of this sport as well as he does. That helps in the investigation. That doesn't hurt it,...He has complete autonomy. He wouldn't have taken this without complete autonomy."

I'm sure he wouldn't have taken the job without complete autonomy, but that doesn't mean that he wants the fingers pointing at his friends. Maybe they'll find some sacrificial lamb to throw under the bus, but the owners were as guilty as anyone in this mess and just don't believe that the esteemed Senator from Maine is going to be looking too hard in that direction.

Bud continues:

"I mean the fact that we're friends had nothing to do with it."

What the hell is he talking about??!! The fact that they are friends had everything to do with it! Bud Selig could have chosen any one of a thousand qualified people for this role. He could have chosen someone who was truly an INDEPENDENT investigator. Perhaps Bud doesn't understand the meaning of the word. I'll help you out Bud. One of the definitions of INDEPENDENT is, "not affiliated with a larger controlling unit." Oh let me see, do you think the BOSTON RED SOX or MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL count as larger controlling units? Who exactly is he trying to convince of this fact?

Here's part of what he claimed he said to Sen. Mitchell:

"What I said to Sen. Mitchell was that, 'Look, we've done now everything we can do."

What he meant to say was that he said, "Look George, we did absolutely nothing about this for years and now that we've been forced by outside pressure into action, I need someone who's going to look good to the people on Capitol Hill." Once again, I have to quote the Onion headline that so succinctly stated the point about steroids in baseball, "Barry Bonds took steroids reports EVERYONE WHO EVER WATCHED BASEBALL", apparently everyone except for the commissioner and every owner in the game. They were too busy looking at attendance figures.

Here's Bud talking about the reaction of the crowd in San Diego to Barry Bonds:

"I guess none of this is unexpected. I'm saddened by it in the sense that Opening Day was such a good, positive day, every game was sold out. It was really a great baseball day."

He's actually talking about the f*$king crowds on opening day!! Can you believe it? He's trying to gloss over the crowd reaction to Barry Bonds by talking about attendance figures. It's pretty much what he has been doing since the steroids controversy began. I guess there's a lot to be said for consistency.

Bud, seriously man, how can you look at the public with a straight face and say that you appointed the best man for the job. George Mitchell is a part owner of the BOSTON RED SOX! Does that sound independent to you? There happen to be two players on the Yankees who are part of the steroids scandal. Do you think whatever report Mitchell comes up with is going to be kind to them? Even if they are both guilty (and both have admitted to taking steroids in Grand Jury testimony), how do you think the public is going to perceive that information when it's coming from someone who sits on the board of the BOSTON RED SOX?

Buddy, my boy, I'm going to share one life's great constants; just because you say something is true, doesn't necessarily make it so.


Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Mini Me

I was reading a couple of articles over on the fire Joe Morgan blog today and I just have to throw my two cents in about the new catch phrase that seems to have swept over baseball. That phrase is "Small Ball". For some reason people seem to believe that the best way to have a successful team is to scratch out runs. The part of small ball that every team is in line with is solid pitching and defense. Those are not new concepts. I don't believe that any team goes into the season thinking that their pitching and defense suck but because their offense is so potent they will still carry the day. Everything starts with pitching. Every team knows that if they don't have decent starters that their season is going nowhere. You could have the ' 36 Yankees lineup but if you combine them with the '05 Royals pitching staff you will get a lot of 12-9 losses.

When people talk about "Small Ball" what they really mean is a fundamentally sound team that has good pitching and defense and timely hitting. Writers and commentators talk about "small ball" as if that is the preferred way to score runs. They talk about manufacturing runs as if a run driven in by an extra base hit just magically happens. Every run is manufactured. It's one of the more idiotic sports clichés. The new poster boys for SB are the Chicago White Sox. Apparently they "manufactured" every one of their runs last year. Of course they did hit 200 home runs, but there's no need to talk about that. And what did they do this off-season? Did they give up on Paul Konerko and trade for David Eckstein? No they re-signed Konerko and traded for Jim Thome. Does Thome add to their SB credentials? Not unless you consider the 414 home runs he has hit in his career as just a pre-curser to his new role of hitting behind the runner and bunting.

"Small Ball" prinicples are always going to be important, but there is a limit to how much that will get you. Bunting, advancing the runner, stealing bases are important factors in the game, but they simply are not as important as on base percentage and slugging percentage. Stolen bases are good but only if you're successful about 75% of the time. Otherwise you are taking away from your team and losing runs, not creating them. Bunting and moving a runner into scoring position likewise is important, but it will never be as important as an extra base hit that drives the runner in from first base.

The bottom line is that winning takes a combination of factors. The Red Sox won with great pitching from Schilling, Pedro and Foulke and a great lineup. The White Sox won with great pitching from their four starters and timely hitting (including, get this, some extra base hits) from their lineup. The White Sox won last year because they had better pitching, not because they could scratch out a run better than other teams (The White Sox hit more home runs than the Red Sox did last year, by the way).

If you would like to test this theory, I'm sure there's a computer program somewhere that can show what would happen if a team of David Ecksteins (the poster boy for small ball) played a full season against a team of Arods. As long as the pitching staffs were equal, I would guess that the team of Arods (probably scoring in the 7-8 runs a game range) would have a significant advantage over the team of Ecksteins (probably in the 2.5-3.5 runs a game range). There are times when a sacrifice or a stolen base makes sense, the problem is that for some reason that has now taken on Holy Grail status. I ask you would the White Sox rather have Konerko or Thome bunting or swinging away? It seems a ridiculous question to pose, but according to the pundits who are writing today, it would appear not to be so.

When writers and announcers use the term "small ball" they are just being lazy. Rather than point to the real reason that teams win (pitching, hitting and defense), they point to the catch all phrase "small ball" or the teams' ability to manufacture runs as the reason. Manufacturing runs is not the issue, producing them is. Perhaps saying that pitching wins championships is just not sexy enough. Perhaps they feel that the public is too stupid to understand a complex equation like pitching + hitting + defense = winning. I would give the public more credit, but perhaps I'm giving the sports commentators too much credit. The last really successful team that lived and died by "small ball" was the St. Louis Cardinals of the 80's under Whitey Herzog. They stole 250 - 300 bases had only one person on the team hit over 15 home runs (Jack Clark), usually hit under 100 home runs as a team and still managed to be successful. They also had great defense and solid pitching.

There are no real "small ball" teams in baseball today. If they are, it's certainly not by choice. "Small Ball" is situational. Some situations do require a sacrifice or hitting behind the runner. And while some teams are better at doing those things than others, no team could survive on those things alone. I know that we are never going to get rid of the term, but could we please stop referring to entire teams that way. It's simply not true, however the people who should know better seem hell bent on perpetuating it. Maybe i'm crazy but I'll take my team of Arods (and his 1.031 OPS) versus a team of Ecksteins (.758 OPS) any day of the week.


And Away They Go

Yesterday was Opening Day in baseball. I just want you to let those words sink in. Opening Day! Never have two words seemed to belong together as much as those. Unless of course It's, Play Ball! The season opened around America yesterday and once again all is right with the world. We now have 6 months of the agony and ecstasy to look forward to.

The usual suspects performed as expected. David Wright got his possible MVP candidate season underway with a bang. Albert Pujols reminded us all that he's the best player in the National League who's not a candidate for steroid poster boy. Roy Oswalt was absolutely dominating as the offensive challenged Astros beat the minor league Marlins 1-0. Barry Bonds got booed mercilessly in San Diego. ARod and Randy Johnson got the Yankees started off in the right direction and the Red Sox and Curt Schilling showed that they are going to be a thorn in my side all year long. All in all it was a great day.

I can't say enough for the great feeling that opening day provides. For one brief moment everyone is in first place, nothing is out of the question (except for the Marlins winning more than 70 games), God is in his heaven and the prospect of 162 games of the best sport in the world is enough to make a man think that the world is perfect. And then, of course, the first annoying loss will happen. And then the second and then the third. And then, well, you get the picture. Baseball is a very humbling sport, not only for the players, but for the fans as well. Regardless of how good your team is, they are probably going to lose over 60 games and each one is going to be a painful reminder of just how frustrating this game can be.

That's also part of the appeal of Baseball. In the other major sports (Football, Basketball), the best teams wins most of the time. In Baseball that's is also true but not nearly to the extent that it is in the other sports. I mean the NFL has had an undefeated team and also a host of one to two loss seasons. Basketball has had a team win 70 games. That's basically the equivalent of a team in baseball winning 140 regular season games. It's just not possible. Regardless of how dominating they are, there are just going to be days when they get beat. No one is going to win at a .850% clip for an entire season. There have only been a few seasons were a team won at a .700% clip. So what are we looking at for even the best teams? About a .600% winning percentage. That means that on four out of ten games, your favorite team is going to go out and lose to what amounts to an inferior team. It's just going to happen and it's going to drive you crazy. I know it drives me crazy. I have questioned the heritage of every player on the Yankees, I've cursed their mothers, their countries, their wives, their families and yet they still lose to the Devil Rays.

Considering the fact that the Yankees have caused me such heartache over the years, I should probably have given up rooting for them years ago just to prolong my life. And baseball with its labor issues and steroid issues certainly is not the bastion of fair play and honest competition. So why do I love the game? Why do I keep coming back? Because we all need some drama to keep our lives interesting. And what the hell would I do with my summers if I didn't have baseball? I might actually be a productive member of society. And really, who needs that. So, I'm ready for another summer of cursing, drinking, arguing and complaining all in the name of a game that kids play. All I can say is God bless baseball and burn in hell you scum sucking Red Sox Fan!

It's gonna be a great year.


Monday, April 03, 2006

2006 MLB Predictions

I have written nothing on this Blog for weeks. This is due to either my deep contemplation of the socioeconomic implications of rising housing prices in a stable wage environment, or it's because I have better things to do than write posts on a Blog. Since I have nothing better to do this morning and since it is Opening Day (notwithstanding the White Sox's win last night), I will share my predictions for this upcoming baseball season, which I have been mulling over for at least 3 minutes.

NL East: Braves -- Hey I've been right for 14 years straight; why stop now?
NL Central: Cardinals--Pujols and starting pitching
NL West: Giants--Bonds off the juice is still the best hitter in the game, if he's healthy
Wild Card: Mets--David Wright, Superstar. Good offense (for the Mets), old pitching staff.

AL East: Yankees--Hey I've been right 8 years straight; why stop now?
AL Central: White Sox--Starting pitching and a rejuvenated Jim Thome
AL West: Rangers-- I don't care who wins the Al West
Wild Card: Indians--Peralta, Sizemore, Martinez

NL Champion: Cardinals
AL Champion: Indians

World Champion: Cardinals; Hooray for Pujols; LaRussa can go sit and spin.

I actually hope the Mets win the World Series. So, although I know that I am wrong above, I hope I am wrong in the (W)right way.