Jim & Bob's Palatial Baseball Blog

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Let's Follow Your Train Of Thought

Yes, I sure do agree with you. Testing for steroid use began in 2004. But we know, we just all KNOW, that Barry Bonds (and others) were using them before testing began, so let's wipe their achievements out of the record books anyway. We have all the evidence that we need; after all, lots of anonymous sources say so.

And while we're at it, it's now against baseball rules to use ampthetimines, and there is testing for them. But we all KNOW that players in the 1950's and 1960's and 1970's used them, so let's be sure to wipe out the records of Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays and Hank Aaron. Oh, and you too, Jim Bunning.

While we're at it, alcohol was illegal during the 1920's. We had better erase the records of Babe Ruth, too. Because we know about his activities. Shameful, just shameful.

Since you mentioned all this, it's also now against the laws of the United States to discriminate in employment practices based on race. So, we had better flush all of the records of baseball prior to 1947 down the toilet as well.

Anyone else have any stupid ideas? Or can we move on?

Why This Crap Matters

You might ask yourself, why are we defending Barry Bonds? Isn't he a cheater, and isn't cheating wrong? Why are we on the side of the terrorists?

To clear up some misconceptions, let's make it clear that we are not, exactly, defending Barry Bonds. Nowhere in anything we've ever written have we said that Barry Bonds could never possibly have used steroids. We weren't born yesterday. There is certainly a large pile of circumstantial evidence to indicate the contrary.

Yes, cheating is wrong. Yes, cheating should be punished. When there is evidence that someone broke the rules, we punish them. And in doing so we follow the legal processes established for such proceedings.

As much as we love baseball, in the overall scheme of the world it's really not that big of a deal. But the issue involved here is a very big deal. It's symptomatic of a large, growing, and very dangerous problem in this country: our justice system has been turned on its head.

The principles that this country was founded on included a rule of law which held, among other things, that sufficient evidence was required to convict someone beyond a shadow of a doubt, that a person has the right to face his or her accusers, that one cannot be convicted of or punished for committing an act that was not a crime at the time it was committed, and finally, that everyone is innocent until proven guilty.

I guess that those ideals must be so 9/10. Why bother with old-school formalities like law; can't you see that they are all guilty? Of what? Of whatever we accuse them of, of course.

When I was just a lad, I learned in school that one of the things that made America so great, what set us apart from totalitarian regimes like Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union was that they conducted show trials, kangaroo courts in which the accused were automatically guilty. I guess my civics teachers didn't have their facts straight.

A large part of the "evidence" that is being used against Bonds is leaked Grand Jury testimony from the BALCO case. Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't Grand Jury testimony supposed to be confidential, and isn't it a felony to release it? Ah, I'm being all 9/10 again. Stupid inconvenient laws! Ignore them, they were written by guys who didn't understand our modern world.

The issue here is not, "did Barry Bonds use steroids?" The issue is, "is the rule of law that our country was founded on collapsing?" The evidence I'm seeing, from the Bonds case to Guantanemo Bay, says that it is.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

It Will Get Worse Before It Gets Better

The AP is reporting that Baron Budhausen plans to open an investigation of steroid use by Barry Bonds and other players. The report indicates that former Senator George Mitchell will lead the witch hunt…errr…investigation.

So far, there is no word what the Baron plans on doing with any information that Mitchell and his crew come up with. If they find evidence of juicing, what then? Doing nothing won’t sit well with the fans or the media. But doing something might be equally as unpalatable. As we (and many others) have pointed out, steroids were not banned by MLB until two years ago. Can MLB punish players for something that wasn’t against the rules? It’s a safe bet the MLBPA will have something to say if MLB tries.

I’ve got a bad feeling about this. No matter what happens, look for things to get worse before they get better…

Shouldering the Load

Is anyone surprised that the Astros’ insurance claim on Jeff Bagwell’s ailing shoulder was denied?

The Astros seem to be, as they vow to take the Connecticut General Life Insurance Company to court if they don’t get their money. As Jim has said before, they have no one but themselves to blame…

He Takes a Lot, But He Gives a Lot

It’s hard to remember the spring training of my youth, when crowds were sparse and nobody particularly seemed to care about how the games turned out. Now, we’ve got national columnists fretting over the use of the DH, and pitchers decking base runners at home plate.

Yes, our old friend Boo-Hoolian Tavarez was at it again this week. But his teammates were quick to defend him:

“It takes a lot” to anger Tavarez, [Josh] Beckett said. “Obviously, you say the right thing to him or do the right thing to him, he’s going to snap. He’s a gentle soul as far as any of that stuff goes.”

Boston third baseman Mike Lowell added, “He’s not going to back down to anyone. He’s a competitor, a good teammate.”

Just watch your step if you’re on the other team. Oh, and ask the good people of San Francisco just how gentle Boo-hoolian’s soul is…

At any rate, Trot Nixon had a novel theory as to why tempers were flaring during a meaningless game:

“This is a prime example of why Bud Selig needs to take a look at teams playing each other 19... times a year,” Nixon said Tuesday.

“The run-ins that we've had in the past four years have been with the Yankees, with Tampa and maybe a couple with Baltimore,” Nixon added.

He suggested going back to a balanced schedule, which was used in the AL from 1977-2000.

Brawls “probably could be prevented by that one thing, but it might not either,” Nixon said. “If enough people say something about it (Selig) will or his advisers will” consider a change.

Or maybe people can stop thinking that baseball games justify fisticuffs. That might prevent brawls, too.

The Laughter of the Gods

Over at The Daily Howler, Bob Somerby is fond of alluding to Homer’s epics when discussing some particularly fatuous scribe’s feeble attempts at shaping our national discourse. It’s not uncommon for Somerby to drop in something like, “Laughter echoes off Zeus’ walls as the gods watch these fallen men peddle their tales.”

That line sprung to mind yesterday as I read Dr. Phil’s latest piece of tripe. The Doctor sticks with the script that all is doom and gloom in Cubdom…but then adds an unexpected twist – the team might just be too darned nice!

I’ll leave it to you, Brave Reader, to delve into the tripe and find out why Dr. Phil feels this way. While you’re reading, remember that this guy has a Hall of Fame ballot, and his gigs with a major metropolitan daily and ESPN.com gives him ample opportunity to shape public perceptions of our great game.

If the Olympians take the bother to glance at the sports section, they would find ample reasons to roar with laughter at such folly…

Tinkering Around The Edges

The White Sox have set the Opening Day roster. Sort of, anyway. They haven't yet placed Dustin Hermanson on the disabled list, where he will certainly start the season. And they haven't made official the media-friendly but baseball-stupid Boone Logan promotion. Both moves will happen this weekend, when the Sox return to Chicago to open the season on Sunday night.

Yes, Logan has had a great spring. The 20th round pick in the 2002 draft has pitched 11 1/3 innings, allowing just five hits and two walks while fanning five. That's very nice, and should have resulted in a nice pat on the back and a bus ticket to Birmingham or Winston-Salem. Instead, Kenny Williams and Ozzie Guillen are bringing him north as the third lefty in the bullpen.

Setting aside the ridiculous idea that a team "needs" three lefthanders in the bullpen, there are a whole lot to worry about here. Logan has barely progressed past the Pioneer League; he made four appearances at Winston-Salem last year and didn't pitch particularly well. The Sox credit a change last year from an overhand to a three-quarters delivery for his success. Great, but shouldn't he get some minor league time to perfect it, instead of trying to sharpen it by pitching two innings a week against Travis Hafner?

Essentially, the Sox have saddled themselves with a Rule V pick from their own system. At least they have the option to send him back down when the chariot turns back into a pumpkin.

I liked the Jeff Bajenaru for Alex Cintron trade. I liked it even better when it appeared that Cintron would replace Pablo Ozuna, but now the Sox are carrying both, which is a bit of a redundancy.

And then there was the Joe Borchard/Matt Thornton trade. I've hoped against hope that Borchard would develop, but it just wasn't happening. With Borchard out of options, the Sox had to find a trading partner, and they managed to get someone with a very live arm. The problem for Thornton, besides a couple of injuries in his past, is his walk rates, which are dreadful. The idea, I'm sure, is that Don Cooper can fix him. If he can, the Sox have a valuable weapon. Essentially it was a swap of two broken parts, with each side thinking that they can put the pieces into working order.

Seeing Ross Gload make the roster gave me a smile. I like Gload; who can play or at least stand around first base and the outfield, DH, and supply a strong left-handed bat to the bench. I'm of the opinion that he is more the player he was in 2004 than in the injury-plagued 2005.

Ozzie Guillen has shown himself to be very flexible with his bench, using everyone in a number of roles and keeping them fresh. Gload, Cintron, and Rob Mackowiak give him the players he needs for that.

Has The World Gone Topsy Turvy?

Pete Rose, of all people, makes sense on the Barry Bonds/steroids issue.

The actions of the Bush administration to the contrary, we are supposed to be living in a land of law, in which real evidence is needing before convicting someone. Without testing, there is no evidence. Anonymous former teammates can run their mouths all they want, but unless a player fails a drug test administered under the current rules or suddenly confesses, no action can or should be taken.

Get Them To The Church On Time

Jim Bowden is an idiot, part 3,832.

Yesterday the Washington Nationals sent outfielder Ryan Church to AAA New Orleans. Although Church posted the Expos' second best on base percentage last year, and slugged a very credible (for a center fielder) .466, he had a slow spring, hitting only .200 in 55 at bats. That was enough for Bowden and manager Frank Robinson.

Replacing Church will be rookie Branson Watson and failed Phillies prospect Marlon Byrd, both of whom hit over .300 this spring. Because, you know, 62 at-bats in spring training games is all the proof you need.

Watson has no power; despite batting .306 this spring he slugged only .339, and his ability to reach base is far below that of Church. But he and Byrd look so much better in a uniform, so they must be better players.

"Ryan will be back," said Bowden. "He's a guy who will hit in the big leagues. He's going to hit home runs, he's going to drive runs in. He's a good player."

So why the hell would you send him to New Orleans? Unless sending a Church to the Katrina-devasted city is some kind of faith-based recovery initiative. In which case it will work about as well as anything else the administration has done in the Gulf region.

Anyone need a center fielder? I know where you can find one, cheap. Needs good home, will take best offer. Just call (202) 675-5100, ask for Jim.

Maybe He Really Is An Idiot

"The biggest thing that enticed me about the Yankees is knowing that Derek Jeter is going to be here five more years, [Alex Rodriguez] is going to be here five more years, Jorge Posada's going to be here. Bernie Williams is going to be here as long as he wants. I believe they're going to make a big effort to sign Gary Sheffield. Jason Giambi is here three more years. That core is something that enticed me a lot. The core in Boston, unfortunately, is coming to an end."

-- former Jesus Christ lookalike and new Yankee center fielder Johnny Damon

In five years Johnny Damon will be 37. Derek Jeter will be 37. Alex Rodriguez will be 35. Jorge Posada will be a 39 year old catcher. Bernie Williams is 37 now and slugged .367 last year. Gary Sheffield is a month younger than Williams; both will be 42 during the 2011 season. Jason Giambi, noted fitness guru, will be 38 when his contract expires in three years.

That's a core that certainly entices me, too. Because I'm not a Yankees fan. If you're looking short term, sure, that's a terrific core, and the 2006 Yankees have as good a chance at winning the World Series as anyone else. Except for having a terrible pitching staff, that is. But in five years? If this is really the core of the 2010 Yankees, they are going to need a pitching staff that strikes out 97% of opposing batters, and rest stops along the basepaths.

Damon is confusing a core that is coming to an end with a core that is fluid. Where the Yankees love to lock down big stars with long term, expensive contracts, the Red Sox understand that assets depreciate, and that signing replaceable parts like Kevin Millar to a five year deal is not a desirable investment.

His frustration is understandable. When you have a bunch of friends in your workplace, you don't want to see them broken up. But professional sports aren't like other organizations. Athletes have a short window of excellence; when the window starts closing a team needs to replace them or risk falling behind its competitors. That's why, of the regulars on the 2004 world champion Red Sox, only Manny Ramirez, Jason Varitek, and Trot Nixon remain. Damon himself has been replaced by Coco Crisp, essentially the same player, but six years younger and cheaper as well.

Sometimes these moves work out, and sometimes they don't. But teams have to make them.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Random Thoughts

*** According to some armchair doctors and detectives, the most damning evidence that Sammy Sosa is a juicer is the fact that his career flamed out so quickly. Yes, just a few years ago he was an All-Star. But a sudden onset of injuries resulted in the crashing and burning of his career.

Just like what’s happening to Barry Bonds now – first it was his knee, now it’s his elbow.

The premise is that steroid use will always end in a sudden, catastrophic collapse of players’ bodies. That may very well be true. I’m not smart enough to speak about it one way or another, and I’m not foolish enough to pretend I am (unlike some BBWAA members).

Anyway, using that logic, I have to ask: is Jeff Bagwell a juicer?

From 1996 to 2004, the fewest games he played was 147. He played 160 or more games in five of those years, so he sure wasn’t a malingerer. In 1999, he had perhaps his finest year, posting a 1.045 OPS.

But his OPS has dropped every year since then. In his last full season (2004), it was a mere .842 – more than 200 points short of his peak.

Last year, he managed only 39 games, and a pedestrian .738 OPS. This year, he’s facing more surgery and rehab in an effort to rescue his career.

If we can accept that the injuries and ineffectiveness that ended Sosa’s (and perhaps Bonds’) career are because of steroids, shouldn’t we consider that steroids may be the root cause of Bagwell’s woes?

I have no proof one way or the other…I merely present it as food for thought…

*** The Cubs revealed last week that reliever Roberto Novoa has Valley Fever, and not pneumonia as they had previously thought. Just another example of how the Cubs can’t tell us the truth about their pitchers’ health…

*** When the Cubs traded Hee Seop Choi for Derrek Lee a few years ago, one esteemed baseball writer said that it was one of the costs of having Dusty Baker for a manager. Now that the Dodgers dumped him (and the Red Sox have picked him up via waivers), I look forward to the column saying that having Nomar at first base is one of the costs of having Ned Coletti as GM.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

So It's Come to This

It was just one sentence, buried at the very end of the wire service round-up in today's paper. But it's something important I think more people should be aware of:

The Royals would host the All-Star Game sometime between 2010 and 2014 if voters approve a sales tax to fund Kauffman Stadium upgrades.

This is a step below the extortion attempts we've seen in Miami, Saint Louis, Minneapolis, and Montreal over the last few years. But it's still pretty awful.

Perhaps Baron Budhausen and his cronies have learned, and are now offering the carrot instead of the stick. But what happens if the good citizens of Kansas City decline the Baron's generous offer? How long until the song and dance about "the future of baseball in Kansas City" gets trotted out for the cameras?

One more thing: is this a precedent we want to set for scheduling All-Star Games? Do we want cities to be obligated to fork over tax money for the privilege of hosting the Home Run Derby?

I can understand MLB's desire to showcase its newer ballparks. But the only team with a recently-built yard that's been shut out of the All-Star Game has been the Giants, and they're going to be getting their shot soon. I guess MLB figures that they can leverage the All-Star Game to get a government windfall.

I guess if Kansas City doesn't come up with the dough, the Baron can schedule the game for Pittsburgh again...

Doomwatch 2006

A new script is making the rounds among Chicago sports media. This latest offering says the Cubs are doomed -- because three of the five starters they planned to break camp with will start the year on the DL.

In this case, one out of three is bad, since the only one who we were planning on going north with to start the year was Mark Prior. His shoulder strain, as hard as it is to imagine for some medical experts, was an unexpected spanner in the works.

The other two guys are no surprise at all. There was wailing and gnashing of teeth over Kerry Wood's future. Last month, the media experts were saying that his best-case scenario would be a return sometime in May. Some were predicting he'd come down with leprosy or bird flu or Romulan fever or some other fatal illness and would never pitch again.

That was last month's script, so it's long been forgotten. Now that the news out of Cubs camp is that Wood's rehab is progressing quite nicely, the worrying is what will happen if Wood can't come back by 1 May.

And just to prove that the medial script readers are insane, the other guy they're shocked won't be ready by Opening Day is Wade Miller. Yes, that Wade Miller.

Look no further for proof of the media's phoniness. Nobody in their right minds thought Miller would be ready this April. Hell, I wasn't expecting him to do anything until August. But now he's an integral cog in the Cubs' pennant express.

Jeebus help us.

As GM Jim Hendry gently reminded the press gaggle, "Two of the three, we knew exactly what we were getting into." Yes, we all knew -- but some of us prefer to pretend otherwise...

But we can't feel sorry for ourselves, because the rest of the league isn't going to. To start the year, it looks like the rotation will be Carlos Zambrano, Greg Maddux, Glendon Rusch, and Jerome Williams. Not a quartet that will strike fear into the hearts of batters. But not the worst in the division (thank you, Reds).

With several off days in the first few weeks of the year, we might not need to use a fifth starter very much in April. It looks like the competition will fall to some young pitchers -- Rich Hill, Angel Guzman, Sean Marshall, and Jae Kuk Ryu are in the running.

Of course, the same media that cracks on Baker for not giving young players a chance are now carping on Hendry to swing a deal for a Proven Veteran™ to shore up the rotation. Bravo for life's little ironies...

** In other non-news out of Cubs camp, there was a small flurry of Alfonso Soriano talk. Dr. Phil Rogers, among others, said Hendry needs to make a trade for Soriano right now.

No, we don't. Soriano is expensive and over-rated. His flashy batting average may have impressed Dr. Phil, but if you look at his other numbers (like his OBP, for instance)...well, it's not all that good. And by some accounts (and stats) he's a brutal second baseman.

We've already got a second baseman who can't field (Todd Walker) and a second baseman who can't hit (Neifi Perez). Do we need to put both of them together in one player? And pay $10 million for the privilege?

If Hendry does pull the trigger on a deal (which seems unlikelier than ever now that Soriano has trudged out to left field), he'll know exactly what he's getting into. And he'll have no one to blame for himself when it ends in flames...

Better Dead Than Red

The Cincinnati Reds changed their management team over the winter, but they didn't change their ways. Having finally found a way to clear their logjam in the outfield by finding someone dumb enough to take Sean Casey off their hands, the Reds turned around and punted their good fortune this week.

I know that the Reds are desperate for pitching, but why would anyone in his right mind trade Wily Mo Pena to get Bronson Arroyo. Arroyo is a decent enough middle/back end of the staff guy, but not anyone to get all excited about. I wouldn't trade somelike like Pena to get Bronson Arroyo, Charles Bronson, and Then Came Bronson.

Pena is a 22-year-old who slugged .500 over the past two years. Young players who slug .500 at that age don't grow on trees. Baseball Prospectus lists among his ten most comparable players at his age Willie Stargell, Frank Howard, Jesse Barfield, and Kirk Gibson, while baseball-reference.com lists Harmon Killebrew, Rocky Colavito, Willie Horton, and Roger Maris. Arroyo's best comp is to grow up to be Ron Reed.

Just because Pena has a similar profile to those guys doesn't mean that he will develop into one of them. But if you were running a last place team, wouldn't you rather take that chance than trade it away for a guy that the Red Sox found two years ago on the scrap heap?

But it gets better. With Pena traded, the Reds moved Adam Dunn back to the outfield, making room at first for...are you ready for this? Scott Hatteberg. Perfect. With Hatteberg and Tony Womack, the Reds will have the weakest right side of the infield of any team in the majors. Including the Royals. The Sacramento Rivercats will have a better right side.

And to top it off, the remaining outfielders for the Reds are famed Iron Men Ken Griffey Jr. and Austin Kearns. Look for a Dunn/Ryan Freel/Chris Denorfia outfield by July.

Remember when the Reds were the Big Red Machine? They are now the Big Red Perpetual Motion Machine, designed with the hope that it will function in the face of all logic and physical laws. Good luck with that.

It Can't Happen Here

Among critics of the World Baseball Championships, one of the trendiest arguements was that there was too much risk of players getting injured in "meaningless" games. George Steinbrenner, in particular, was furious with Yankees players who chose to participate in the WBC, as well he might be, since he never bothers to invest in any depth to back up his highly paid starting players.

So I find it ironic that the biggest injury (and fortunately not a serious one) of the spring was not suffered during the WBC, but rather right in the Yankees training camp, where catcher Jorge Posada broke his nose playing catch. Posada is expected to be ready to take his spot in the lineup by opening day; the Yankees sure hope so, because the alternative is Kelly Stinnett.

My point here is not that the injuries couldn't have occured during the WBC, which had a wonderful run of luck in that regard. My point is that spring training facilities are not a safe haven, where everyone is somehow protected from being hurt. I suppose I could list Ben Sheets and Mark Prior as casualties of the spring as well; Sheets strained a back muscle in an exhibition game, and Prior's shoulder started hurting during a throwing session. Neither were involved in the WBC.

Injuries are a part of the game. They can happen in WBC games, in exhibitions, in the batting cage, getting dressed at your locker, in your sleep, or carrying groceries up the stairs of your apartment.

I enjoyed what I saw of the WBC, and myself and others would probably enjoyed it even more if much of it hadn't been broadcast on ESPN37 in the middle of the night. Bud, if you want people to get fired up about your new toy, perhaps you can work out a better broadcast deal next time? Other than that complaint, I have to give you credit for a great idea.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Left Out

I've been watching baseball for thirty years, and I've never heard of anything as goofy as what Alfonso Soriano did yesterday. In case you haven't caught wind of it yet, Soriano refused to leave the dugout at the start of the Expos' exhibition game against the Dodgers. Apparently he really, really, really doesn't want to play left field.

Hilariously, this incident prompted GM Jim Bowden to do some tough-talkin' to the media. He said that if Soriano refused to play left field in today's game, he would request that Baron Budhausen's office put him on the disqualified list. Which is like a suspension, but worse from a player's point of view: no pay, no service time.

Bowden also added this:

We're in a position that if we can't make a trade that makes sense, we're not going to give him away, and we have a team to run. Our feeling is we don't want to wait till Opening Day to do this... Therefore, we told the player we needed him to play left field, that Jose Vidro was at second base, and that gives us the best chance to win.

Maybe the Expos wouldn't be in this position if Bowden had paid attention to all the times Soriano crabbed about playing the outfield before the trade this winter. Talk about a trade that made no sense: giving up some useful players for a high-paid out machine who is on record as saying he's not interested in playing the position his new team wants him to play.

As Jim has already noted, this is all on Bowden. I didn't think it was possible for MLB's Expos "ownership" to get any more embarrassing, but Bowden proved me wrong.

Compare and Contrast

Presented without comment...

Dr. Phil Rogers, 21 March Chicago Tribune:
You can call [Joe] Borchard a bust. You can criticize the White Sox for his failure to turn the corner. But the knee-jerk reaction misses the point.

That Borchard was in the Sox's system at all speaks highly of the organization’s commitment to scouting and player development...

Borchard was definitely an expensive proposition for the White Sox. That doesn't mean he was an expensive mistake. The only sure thing in baseball is you never hit a home run with the bat on your shoulder.

Dr. Phil Rogers, 10 January Chicago Tribune:
Should Patterson somehow turn in a good season – 25-30 homers isn’t out of the question if the Orioles hit him far below Miguel Tejada, who no longer appears to be available – it would be a huge indictment of Baker and his coaches. But he’s not turning into Lou Brock. He’s too soft for that to happen.

Dr. Phil Rogers, 9 February Chicago Tribune:
Will Patterson hit .270 with 30-plus home runs and make Dusty Baker and the Cubs look silly for allowing him to flounder? The potential is there if he ever clears his head.

Rick Hearts Ozzie

BFF! Man-hugs all around...

Sunday, March 19, 2006

The Doctor Is IN!

Phil Rogers isn’t a doctor, but isn’t shy about handing out his medical opinions.

Here’s how he describes Mark Prior’s latest foray onto the DL:

But there’s noting good about shoulder injuries, especially when they happen to a 25-year-old with the potential to be a perennial All-Star. They are probably even worse for a guy who previously has been shelved with elbow problems...

The Cubs are worried enough that they will have Prior huddle with three rather high-priced doctors – [Dr. Lewis] Yocum, team orthopedist Stephen Gryzlo, and team physician Stephen Adams – on Saturday to determine the best way to treat an injury [Cubs trainer Mark] O’Neal calls a “moderate strain of the subscapularis.”

By the way, moderate is not the most comforting description. It’s hard to imagine there is a severe strain, at least not in official terms when describing the injury to reporters. The guess here is there are two levels – mild and moderate, and O’Neal did not say mild.

Note the descriptives Rogers uses. Shoulder injuries are “probably” worse. He “guesses” that there are only two levels of muscle strain, because it’s “hard to imagine” any more than that.

Some physicists believe that ours is not the only universe, that there are an infinite number of parallel dimensions out there. I can only hope that some of those other parallel Earths can boast journalists who go through the tedious bother of basic research before making guesses about what probably will happen. Because it’s getting harder to imagine that any of the media on our benighted planet do…

Look, I’m no more a doctor than Rogers is. But I am capable of typing “moderate strain of the subscapularis” into Yahoo and learning a little something. Things like the difference between chronic and non-chronic strains in the shoulder. In case you were wondering, chronic strains are worse. And while I could find no grading scale for the severity of strains (I did for sprains, but that’s for another story), I’ll go out on the limb and say that a chronic strain would be considered a third level of strain.

I also discovered that muscle strains are more commonly called “muscle pulls.” And that really bad muscle pulls will actually tear the muscle. Which I guess would be a fourth level of strain.

I’m just a schmuck with a blog, and I was able to learn this much in about ten minutes. Rogers is an accredited member of the BBWAA, with a seat in the press box and a Hall of Fame ballot. I’m willing to bet that he’s got access to Yahoo, and the ability to talk to some of those “rather high-priced doctors” to get some real information, without having to rely on guesswork and imagination. So why didn’t he?

Here’s my guess – it’s hard to imagine Rogers as anything other than a lazy hack with an axe to grind. Doing research is hard; better to stick with the script that Prior, Wood, and the Cubs are all doomed. Doomed! Dooooooommmmmmmed!

My crude internet search did not give me any insight into what’s going in Prior’s shoulder. And I’m no doctor, so I don’t really have any clue about when Prior will be back. But I do know that I’d rather take the advice of this doctor (or even this doctor) before I listen to what Dr. Rogers has to say.

Food for Thought

Ken Rosenthal quotes agent Seth Levinson on a potential Bonds investigation:

Would Bonds be banned? Would his achievements be stricken from the record books? Would the Giants forfeit past games in which he had played? Selig likely would not address such questions until an investigation was complete.

Agent Seth Levinson, whose client list includes Cardinals third baseman Scott Rolen, White Sox right-hander Javier Vazquez and Mets left fielder Cliff Floyd, raises additional concerns.

"It is fundamental fairness for a person to be able to confront his accusers," Levinson says. "Therefore, all of the anonymous sources in the book (Game of Shadows) will have to be identified. Thereafter, the credibility and motives of all accusers will be scrutinized. Those people with an ax to grind whether it is a criminal defendant who cut a deal, a scorned girlfriend, etc., should not be enough to convict or penalize Bonds. MLB and the federal prosecutors will need documentation, witnesses, video, statements by those people who have no vested interest, for this matter to go further. Absent credible evidence — and anonymous sources are not credible — this potentially can become a witch hunt. If MLB goes after Bonds they had better get him, or they will have unfairly and unjustly derailed a man's pursuit of an all-time record and brought further pain and embarrassment to the game."

What’s the Rush?

Baseball Weekly’s Bob Nightengale offers us a nugget of joy in this week’s paper. According to Nightengale, Baron Budhausen says the Expos will have a real owner by Opening Day. The two front-runners are former Mariners owner Jeff Smulyan and Washington real estate tycoon Ted Lerner.

Gee, Bud, what’s the rush? You’ve been telling us for years that a sale was imminent. Why the scramble two weeks before Opening Day? You wouldn’t be trying to cash in on the new stadium deal before any other entanglements popped up, would you?

I’ll believe it when I see it. Until then, the Expos remain the most embarrassing conflict of interest in Major League history.

In other franchise sale news, I hear MLB has given the good folks at Time-Warner permission to seek a buyer for the Atlanta Braves. Further updates as events warrant…

Friday, March 17, 2006

Still A Blockhead

Regarding Jeff Pearlman, author of one of the two new books of unsubstantiated claims about Barry Bonds, has come to our attention before. What a surprise, it was for a piece bashing Barry Bonds, who, it's quite clear, Pearlman detests because Bonds is a bastard to those hardworking, truthseeking journalists.

From Jim and Bob's Palatial Baseball Site, October 17, 2002:


Thanks to Sports Illustrated columnist Jeff Pearlman, we discovered this week that there is a new method of determining league champions. It has nothing to do with who scored the most runs in four games out of seven. It has everything to do with which team provides the better feel-good stories for the media.

Like a lot of media people, Pearlman apparently hates Barry Bonds. Bonds is a terrible human being, don't you know. He doesn't talk much to media folk like Pearlman, thereby making their jobs harder by having to come up with something to write about all on their own.

Oh, and Pearlman seems to feel that Bonds has an ego, as well. Wonder why Bonds would feel that way? Maybe his hard work and incredible play entitles him to some pride in his accomplishment? Accomplishments which will be remembered long past the time that Pearlman's will have been forgotten, which I plan on doing about ten minutes after I'm done writing this.

It seems Kenny Lofton is a jerk, too. Whatever. I don't know how many more times I need to stress this to people like Pearlman, but we just don't give a rat's hindquarters. We care about the game on the field. That's what gets recorded in Total Baseball. All the off-field stuff exists only to keep people like Pearlman employed.

I mean no disrespect to the Cardinals, who certainly suffered greatly this summer. We salute their achievements in the face of adversity.

But games on the field are not decided by personalities, or by who makes better copy for Jeff Pearlman. The cold hard fact is that what matters is who wins more games. And that trick was accomplished by the Giants.

Regarding Pearlman's snide comment about Bay Area TV personalities, again, who cares? These people live here, and many have been Giants fans for most of their lives. Should we be surprised that they are happy by the outcome of the series?

Silly me, I forgot. "Professional journalism" means a dispassionate attitude towards everything, unless it's a heartwarming story like Daryl Kile's son being the team batboy for the series.

Oh, one more thing. The Hall and Oates of arrogance? I guess it takes a second rate writer to use a second rate musical act as his metaphor. I was thinking that if you want to portray Bonds and Lofton as being the pinnacle of arrogance, maybe you should use a duo who also represents a pinnacle? The Lennon and McCartney of arrogance, if you want to keep it a musical metaphor? The Ruth and Gehring of arrogance, if you want to keep it in the ballpark? The Bush and Cheney of arrogance? Actually, Bush and Cheney are the Bush and Cheney of arrogance, so we'll give them that.

Sorry that your good guys didn't win, Jeff. Hope you haven't lost faith in the Tooth Fairy, too.

Once a blockhead, always a blockhead, so it appears.

Another One Crawls Out Of The Woodwork

If a man who wore bear teeth around his neck on the mound says so, it must be true.

There's No Evidence Better Than Hearsay Evidence

Scoop Jackson at ESPN.com has it at least partly right.

Bud Selig is going to absolutely nothing about the Bonds allegations, because:

(a) they are hearsay, not the result of any kind of positive test.

(b) investigating further would be to open an whoop-ass sized can of worms, and

(c) nothing Bonds did was against the rules of baseball, which is Bud's domain. Should Bonds be convicted in a criminal court case, the matter would be different. But I don't see that happening, either.

Trying to punish a player, any player, for steroid use, in the absence of an actual failed test, would send Bud into a serious conflict with the MLBPA, one which he wouldn't stand a snowball's chance in hell of winning in front of an arbitrator.

Getting into a battle that he has no chance of winning isn't Bud's style. Despite the media frenzy, he's not going to do it here.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Strained Relations

The MRI results are in, and it’s only a strain. Not a tear, as the hopelessly biased Chicago Tribune had been hinting. At least, that’s what Dr. Yocum says of Mark Prior’s latest aching body part.

Of course, the hopelessly biased Tribune’s coverage of the story has focused on one thing: why are the Cubs lying about Prior’s injury? Because there’s just no way that Prior could have felt no pain before Tuesday’s throwing session. I wouldn’t be surprised if tomorrow’s paper accused Yocum of being part of the conspiracy, too.

I wasn’t surprised when today’s Tribune brought out a big gun to start taking shots at both Prior and Kerry Wood. Fred Mitchell gave Fergie Jenkins a call to get his perspective. Jenkins did have some sensible opinions about Wood’s mechanics, but offered nothing substantial about Prior. Jenkins then veered into some odd territory, wondering why Wood and Prior can’t be more like that nice Greg Maddux:

What is he [Maddux] doing that is good for him and the other guys haven’t learned it? [sic] They have the best example in the world…Don’t they talk to him enough? He has been with the team three years no, so there should have been something to rub off on these other young pitchers.

Intriguing concept. I think I’ll find a way to just hang out with Maddux for a couple of years. If Fergie is correct, I should become a great pitcher just by osmosis. Woo-hoo!

Mitchell also offered this completely irrelevant comparison:

Wood has pitched 200 innings just twice in his seven-year career. Prior has done it once in four ears. Jenkins threw 300 or more innings five times and at least 200 innings 13 seasons. In his Cy Young Award ’71 season with the Cubs, he threw 325 innings while going 24-13. Three years later, he threw a career-high 328 1/3 innings for Texas when he was 25-12.

Is Mitchell suggesting that Wood and Prior haven’t thrown enough innings? Because if he is, he’s way off script. He should talk with fellow scribe Phil Rogers, who’s followed the script so often he can write it in his sleep:

So what price are you willing to pay to see your team play October baseball?

For the Cubs in 1998, a big part of the price was the future of Kerry Wood, then the 20-year-old wunderkind. For the Cubs in 2003, the price got even steeper – this time it was the futures of both Wood and Mark Prior.

At the time that Jim Riggleman and Dusty Baker pushed their two aces far into what is seen as the danger zone for a pitcher, especially young pitchers, the managers were criticized more often when they took Wood and Prior out of games than when they left them in beyond 120 pitches.

But now, with Wood and Prior headed towards season-opening stings on the disabled list – again – people want to know why the Cubs can’t get it right with these guys.

Well played, sir!

Rogers takes it a step further, with this mangled bit of reasoning:

How much culpability do Baker, pitching coach Larry Rothschild, and Cubs management have in the recurring pitching injuries that have crippled a team built to contend?

You would have to say, quite a lot…

Yet for many of the people who care the most about the Cubs, the ivy addicts in need of a 12-step program, it would be the height of hypocrisy to use this smoking gun [i.e., the high pitch counts Baker and Co. have forced Wood and Prior to endure] as evidence it’s time for a change.

Hmmm…Baker and Rothschild are culpable for the injuries. But it’s hypocritical for Cub Fan to blame them for it? Rogers goes to Jim Riggleman to explain his Rogic…errr…logic:

“It’s fair to ask about how many pitches I let Woody throw that year, and what effect it might have had on him,” Riggleman, now a top assistant in the St. Louis Cardinals’ farm system, said last spring. “But the only time people seemed to be upset was when I took him out of the game. That’s when I heard it from the fans and when I got asked questions by reports. Nobody seemed to care when I left him in.”

No, they didn’t. Everyone has too good of a time to sweat the details when the Cubs win.

Pure genius! Cub Fan is to blame for the injuries, too, because we just don’t care what happens as long as we win.

There just no way I can argue with that kind of Rogic…errr…logic. Except by dipping back into the archives for these two nuggets of joy from Phil Rogers. I offer them with just one caveat: as you read them, please remember that it was Rogers himself who brought the words “height of hypocrisy” into this conversation:

It’s amazing the Cubs did not learn anything from [former manager Jim] Riggleman’s handling of Wood (and Jeremi Gonzalez) in 1998. Wood was just 20 when then-GM Ed Lynch brought him to the big leagues. Yet Riggleman was allowed to push him to 120 pitches nine times that season.
*** Phil Rogers, Chicago Tribune, 16 March 2005

[Riggleman] has been uncompromisingly protective of Wood, as he should be.
*** Phil Rogers, Chicago Tribune, 20 August 1998


Reports today indicated that Baron Budhausen was pondering an investigation of Barry Bonds’ alleged steroid use, a la John Dowd’s investigation of Charlie Hustler. Don’t hold your breath: the Baron being the Baron, he’ll take his time doing nothing for a while.

I just saw a blurb on the ESPN crawl reporting that MLB wouldn’t dole out any punishment (suspension or otherwise) against Bonds unless he were found guilty of perjury or tax evasion.

Jeebus help us. We’ll be longing for the idyllic days of the Charlie Hustler scandal by the time this process is over…

By the way, there’s another book bashing Bonds due out soon. For a guy everyone hates, there must be a lot of people willing to pay good money to learn more about him (and other people willing to take good money for writing about a guy everyone hates).

The Tribune ran a blurb about the new book. I laughed dark, mordant laughs when I read this:

Sure, [author Jeff] Pearlman tried to interview Bonds…but he got his best material from previously overlooked ex-teammates such as Jerry Don Gleaton and Jay Canizaro.

With sources like that, I’m sure it will be a fascinating read…

Awkward Out-of-Context Line of the Week

I called up my wife and said, “Honey, I just dyed my little thingy red.”

** Cardinals hanger-on Scott Spiezio

By the way, he’s referring to his soul patch, not his…uhhh…you know…

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Tuesday Roundup

A fairly quiet week so far…but a few things have cropped up that might generate some interest…

*** Let the wailing and gnashing of teeth begin: Mark Prior’s shoulder is hurting. Cubs trainer Mark O’Neal said, “He had some posterior cuff irritation that obviously we need to get evaluated.”


GM Jim Hendry hoped that this is “just a little snag.” There’s no way to know for sure, until Prior consults with his good friend Dr. Yocum in LA. Until then, I’ll keep my fingers crossed and hope for the best. And hope that Prior’s irritation doesn’t irritate my posterior…

*** Is there anything that Red Light Curt won’t talk about? Why he feels compelled to defend his beaning of Pirate outfielder Chris Duffy is beyond me. Most amusing is his assertion that Duffy has “got be able to get out of the way of that pitch.”

Perhaps Duffy didn’t properly announce his presence at home plate. Like another guy who got nailed accidentally…

*** Happy days for Washington, I guess. MLB settled its lawsuit over the rights to the name “Washington Nationals,” and unveiled the plans for their new yard.

I haven’t seen drawings of the new ballpark, but the players seem impressed by the $611 million stadium. MLB is saying the park will be ready for the 2008 season.

And now that the lease is signed, the plans are ready, and the contractors are sending in their bids, it’s time for Baron Budhausen to look for a real owner and end the shameful conflict of interest that MLB has been engaged in for the last few years.

Oh, and that new owner? According to Baseless Bob DuPuy:

The new owner will be involved at every stage [of the stadium construction]. Of course, if changes are made at the new owner’s request and they add to the costs, it would be the new owner’s responsibility.

Just so we’re all on the same page, I guess…

Sunday, March 12, 2006

That’s Some Fine Scrutinizing

Despite Baron Budhausen’s efforts to pimp the WBC, the biggest topic in the baseball world these days is Barry Bonds – did he or didn’t he? You can’t walk down the street anymore without getting an earful on the topic.

The stakes in the debate were raised last week when Hall of Famer Willie McCovey said, “I don’t think is would be this big a deal if [Mark] McGwire was still playing and was in the same shoes chasing that record.”

Would it? The point is moot. And this is not a forum to discuss race relations in America.

But Rick Morrissey must think his column is a forum to discuss the topic. I won’t comment on his argument (which, essentially, is “Can’t we all just get along?”), but this nugget of joy caught my eye:

McCovey apparently has forgotten the intense scrutiny McGwire endured as a player when he admitted using a steroid precursor. And McCovey must have forgotten the mountain of criticism that fell on McGwire when he refused to tell a House committee whether he had used steroids.
One of two ain’t bad, I guess. Morrissey was right when he said McGwire got beat up last year after the House hearing. But did he “endure intense scrutiny” back in 1998?

Sadly, no. I touched on this subject back at our old web page last year. And, at the risk of boring regular readers, I present it again below. If the real-time reporting was intense, there is obviously a definition of “intense” that I am not familiar with…
After the dog-and-pony show…errrr…Congressional hearings on steroids in Major League Baseball last week, I was struck by one thing: how the entire world seemed to have turned against Mark McGwire.

Granted, his testimony was rather clumsy and ham-fisted. But my mind boggled at how quickly public opinion soured. Former supporters, like Dan Shaughnessy of the Boston Globe, deserted him. Other media pundits pondered whether or not he was worthy of the Hall of Fame. Previously-adoring fans were calling him a cheater.

All of a sudden, these people all “knew” that McGwire was juicing.

And that didn’t gibe with my recollection of that magical 1998 season. Sure, there was the androstenedione flap, but that was but a brief rain shower in the Summer of Love. I mean, if we “know” six years after the fact that Big Mac was doping, wouldn’t we have “known” as events were unfolding? Wouldn’t someone, somewhere, have published the opinion that they “knew” back then?

So I cracked open the Palatial Baseball Archives to see what was being written in real time. Granted, we don’t have the Library of Congress at our fingertips. But I do have an extensive collection of clippings from the Chicago Tribune, and a complete run of Baseball Weekly. If any allegations of steroid use were leveled at McGwire, there should be some record of it in the Archive.

Guess what? There weren’t any. Well, nothing of substance, that is.

Most of what I came across was, simply put, fawning, like this piece by Baseball Weekly’s Deron Snyder (1 July 1998):

McGwire isn’t anxious to share all the secrets of his success. But he says it’s not just size and strength that allow him to hit homers at the fastest rate ever.

“There are probably a dozen guys stronger and bigger than I am in the major leagues,” he says, not quite convincingly, sitting on a trunk outside the clubhouse. “It’s just God-given ability, that’s what I believe. Everyone is given the ability to do something on this earth, and the ones who take it to the fullest owe it to the good Lord. Whatever you’re given, you have to refine it, make it work.”

[Tony] LaRussa has been McGwire’s manager for 11 of the redheaded slugger’s 12 major league seasons. He says McGwire is simply maxing out his talent, work ethic, and experience.
The andro story broke in August. But the debate always centered on andro. Andro had been banned by the NFL and the Olympics, but not Major League Baseball. McGwire did his best to keep the argument centered on andro, as Bob Nightengale writes in the 26 August 1998 Baseball Weekly:

Major League Baseball prohibits the use of “all illegal drugs and controlled substances, including steroids or prescription drugs for which the individual in possession of the drug does not have a prescription.” But while many in the sports community are split about whether androstenedione is a steroid, one thing is clear: McGwire has not violated baseball’s drug policy because the substance is sold legally in the United States.

“I’ve done nothing wrong,” says McGwire, who is closing in on Roger Maris’ single-season home run record with 53 home runs, as of Aug. 24. “It’s legal stuff, sold over the counter. Everybody that I know in the game of baseball uses the same stuff I use...

“I just think this is really unfair, for me to have to defend using something that is perfectly legal and allowed by Major League Baseball.”

McGwire’s team quickly defended him.

“Androstenedione is a natural substance which is a natural precursor product of testosterone,” Saint Louis Cardinals trainer Barry Weinberg said in a statement. “It has no proven anabolic steroids effects nor significant side effects. It contains no testosterone, it stimulates a slight increase in one’s natural testosterone levels for a short period of time (one hour).”...

Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa, infuriated by suggestions that this could taint McGwire’s accomplishment if he breaks that home run record, told the Saint Louis Post-Dispatch he is considering banning all AP reporters from their clubhouse. Baseball would never allow a ban to occur, but it was meant to serve as a warning to other reporters who dare imply that McGwire’s strength is not natural...

I guess we shouldn’t be surprised that the Super Genius is so vehement in his support for McGwire. He’s been doing it for years, and he would look rather silly if he gave up now. In for a penny, in for a pound…

Our friend Paul Sullivan chimed in with this from the 28 August 1998 Chicago Tribune:

“It’s sad, it’s really sad,” McGwire said. “The media is making something out of nothing and is trying to critique something that is perfectly legal, that anybody can go to the counter and buy.”

McGwire said 10 to 12 other players on the Cardinals use the substance. Several other players, such as Jose Canseco, Dave Hollins, Jason Giambi, and Dante Bichette, also said they have used it. Bichette wrote a column for the Rocky Mountain News on Thursday saying users of “andro” are “trying to provide a safer alternative to steroids.”...
Well, if Dante Bichette is down with it, it must be OK!

Sully holds true to form in that column, showing his concern about how his livelihood will be affected by the andro debate:

The real losers in the controversy may ultimately be the media, because some media outlets are going overboard on the story. The New York Post allegedly tried to hire a St. Louis photographer to snap pictures of McGwire’s locker when he wasn’t around. The Cardinals’ front office found out about the plan and quickly banned photographers and TV cameras from Busch Stadium clubhouses.
A few columnists offered mild questioning of McGwire’s use of andro (and, in an indirect way, his alleged use of steroids). Most took the “Who will think of the children?” approach, like Skip Bayless (Chicago Tribune, 1 September 1998):

McGwire would have you believe [andro] is no more dangerous than bee pollen. But like it or not, McGwire must accept that he has a responsibility to kids who want to be like Mark.” At the very least, he should repeatedly warn kids during interviews against rushing out and buying andro as if it’s muscle-building nitro.
And Paul White (Baseball Weekly, 2 September 1998):

As for McGwire, nobody can say for certain andro has affected his home run total. It certainly didn’t help him make contact. Oh, maybe a couple cleared the wall because he was a bit stronger.

But as you savor history and watch the game thrive, think about a more important issue – the need to be informed about what goes into our bodies and into our kids’ bodies.

Baseball Weekly’s Tim Wendel comes down the harshest (26 August 1998):
Rest assured that this news [i.e., andro] is going to undeservedly taint McGwire’s march. His could be the ultimate asterisk. What’s ironic about this news is remember when fans derided Jose Canseco, McGwire’s former Bash Brother? Does anybody dare begin such a chant when Mac hits 60?
As it turned out…no. No one dared. No one wanted to ruin the warm fuzzies the home run chase brought to Major League Baseball.

The media watchdogs became lapdogs, as Bob Nightengale describes (9 September 1998 Baseball Weekly):

[T]he Cardinals perhaps were angry with an Associated Press report a few weeks ago about McGwire’s use of androstenedione, a controversial dietary supplement. They feared that the flap would taint McGwire’s record since androstenedione is banned in the NFL and the Olympics.

Sure, McGwire was annoyed, but it was as if he almost mocked the issue. He often wore a cap from a particular store that sells androstenedione, during press conferences, and was sure to wear sleeveless T-shirts, permitting the whole world to see his massive 20-inch biceps. He even joked privately with reporters saying that they should give it a try.
Back then, no one was worried about andro tainting the home run record. They were worried about Roger Maris’ record being broken by more than one person (Nightengale, Baseball Weekly, 12 August 1998):

[B]ut before baseball gets completely giddy, there is a possible glitch to all of this madness.

What happens if two players, such as McGwire and Griffey, break Maris’ record? What if there’s a third, such as Sosa? How about a fourth or fifth, if Greg Vaughn and Vinny Castilla get hot?

Just what happens then?

“I don’t care who breaks it,” Hall of Fame broadcaster Vin Scully says, “as long as only one person breaks it.

“It would taint the record if more than one person breaks it.”

Says [Tony] Gwynn: “I think Vin Scully is right. I’d love to see one guy do it, and if not this year, another year. But I’m not sure if it’s good for the game to see a bunch of guys do it.

“It just wouldn’t look good, you know what I mean?”...

Says Merv Rettenmund, hitting coach of the San Diego Padres: “Hey, as long as they’re legitimate [i.e., legitimate home run hitters], who cares? If they’re legitimate, I’d like to see five or six guys do it.

“Now, if you’re talking about Chris Gomez hitting three or four a game, you’ve got problems.”
Yes, as long as “legitimate” sluggers broke the record, who cares? And that attitude hung around through the end of the season, as illustrated in this paragraph from Tim Wendel (Baseball Weekly, 16 September 1998):

Since the spring, McGwire has been playing out the three-stage theme that has dominated stories, legends, and history since civilization began. If we want to get really cosmic, the Jungians among us would claim that the Saint Louis slugger strikes all kinds of emotional chords. It’s not only a feel-good story in these roller-coaster times of presidential revelations and monetary upheaval; it also applies to our sense of what makes a great tale. In the film room of our collective subconscious, the McGwire saga gets two thumbs up.
That may be the first and last reference to Carl Jung that you’ll see here at Jim and Bob’s Palatial Baseball Web Site.

So how did McGwire go from a feel-good story to a fallen hero? I think we can get a sense of how things spiraled out of control to the point we are today with these sadly prescient comments (Bob Nightengale, Baseball Weekly, 26 August 1998):

“We have testing for unlawful substances when there is cause,” says union chief Don Fehr. “That’s when it is done. There is no reason for cause right now. I disagree that there is a (steroid) problem. If there was a problem, I’d know about it. And I don’t know about it.

“This latest thing (with McGwire) is not a serious issue. No one has suggested that this is damaging to your health. It is perfectly lawful.”

Added Fehr: “Look, Mark has had 50 home runs the last two years and no one suggested anything then. The only difference this time is that he has avoided injury. This is a one-day or two-day wonder story.”...

“I think the general managers all know,” Philadelphia Phillies hitting coach Hal McRae says, “but they don’t want to know. The trainers have got to tell them. They know who’s on it and who isn’t.

“I’m not saying it’s right or it’s wrong, but for baseball’s sake, I hope the issue dies for the time being.

“Look at McGwire, he’s great for the game. He’s making money for everybody. So let it go. Don’t taint his record. Don’t hurt the game.

“If people want to talk about it two years from now, go ahead, but not right now.”
No worries, Hal – it’s six years on, and we’re still talking about it.

Stand Up and Say Something

I was thinking about the last four years and saying to myself, it would be nice if all those fans who were part of that parade route had said something to theirelected officials about wanting to keep baseball there.
*** Loria the Destroyer, owner of the Florida Marlins

If the Destroyer had thought about it for a while, he would have realized that all those fans had said something to their elected officials when they repeatedly voted against buying him a shiny new ballpark…

In other Marlins news, a dark horse has emerged in the franchise sweepstakes: San Antonio. Plans are circulating for a $300 million stadium, and Red McCombs (who used to own the San Antonio Spurs and Minnesota Vikings) is allegedly interested in acquiring a stake in the team.

My highly-placed sources in San Antonio (i.e., my Uncle Bill) tell me that the AA San Antonio Missions draw 4,000 fans when they’re doing well. I mean no disrespect to the great city of San Antonio, but can we seriously assume that support for baseball will increase tenfold if the Marlins move in?

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Life In Purgatory

This is the final team preview of this spring, and I'm not going to mince words: this is a really bad team. Part of it is beyond team management's control; since MLB bought out the Expos franchise, the team has been a ward of the state, holding out the bowl hoping for one more refill of gruel which never comes. But lots more damage has been accomplished under the watch of Jim Bowden, one of the most incompetent general managers of all time. The latest, the Alfonso Soriano fiasco, is just another example.

Projected 2006 Lineup:

LF? Alfonso Soriano
2B Jose Vidro
1B Nick Johnson
RF Jose Guillen
3B Ryan Zimmerman
CF Ryan Church
C Brian Schneider
SS Christian Guzman

The Nationals in 2005 scored the pitiful total of 639 runs, worst in the major leagues. Seeking improvement, Bowden traded Brad Wilkerson, one of his best hitters, and two others to Texas for the wildly overrated Soriano, who immediately staged a public tantrum about being asked to shift to left field. Guzman was one of the worst offensive players in recent memory a year ago; to light a fire under him Bowden brought in Royce Clayton. Wow, there's an upgrade.

Guillen has been a very productive hitter the past few years; he has complained of a sore wrist this spring, a big concern for a power hitter. Johnson spends half the year as a very fine hitter and half on the DL. I love Zimmerman, but at this time he doesn't have the power for a middle of the order hitter, moving him to leadoff or second would be much better. I'd also move him to shortstop and bring in someone else who can hit to play third, but I'm not Jim Bowden or Frank Robinson, so what do I know?

Projected 2006 Rotation and Bullpen:

SP Livan Hernandez
SP John Patterson
SP Ramon Ortiz
SP Tony Armas
SP Ryan Drese

CL Chad Cordero
RP Gary Majewski
RP Luis Ayala
RP Joey Eischen
RP Travis Hughes

Hernandez has turned into the exact antithesis of his brother El Duque; he's a reliable innings-eating workhorse. He did undergo knee surgery during the offseason and has had a slow start this spring, so be careful in your fantasy draft. Patterson, finally healthy and finally given a chance, developed into one of the league's best and least-known starters. The rest of the rotation is filler, and not very good filler.

A large chunk of the credit for the Nats playing .500 ball last year goes to the bullpen. I don't see a repeat. Cordero is very good, but the rest are journeymen of the type who will have one good year followed by two or three not so good.

The fire sale in Florida might keep this team out of the NL East cellar, but it's a tossup whether the Nationals or the Bush Administration will have a worse summer. Bowden would fit right into the administration, truth to tell; not only is he incompetent but he's egotistical as well.

That wraps up the 2006 team previews, thus fullfilling Bob and Jim's plea bargain with the good people of Hell. How did we do? Ask in October. Until then, enjoy the season.

Beauty Is Skin Deep

We've been speculating for the past few years now that the biggest issue holding the New York Mets back is the name "New York." While I might think the city a hellhole that no sane person would ever want to visit, there is no denying that some find it to be some sort of financial and media capital. Those are distinct assets to a professional sports franchise, but like others also located in the city the Mets have found that being able to spend a lot of money is no guarantee of success. The Mets seem to think that they have to be the Yankees in order to succeed. The current team is a perfect example; the Mets spent a lot more money in the offseason, signing or trading for big stars in Carlos Delgado and Billy Wagner, but have given the roster no depth. Just like the Yankees!

Projected 2006 Lineup:

SS Jose Reyes
3B Carlos Beltran
CF David Wright
1B Carlos Delgado
LF Cliff Floyd
C Paul LoDuca
RF Xavier Nady/Victor Diaz
2B Kaz Matsui

Sure, why not lead off with the guy with the .300 on-base percentage? That always works. Willie Randolph was an outstanding leadoff-type hitter back in his day; I have no idea why he's taking a page out of the 1960's playbook now, leading off with a fast shortstop with no ability to reach first base.

The two through five spots are very good, although this is a rather ominous note. We hope that there is nothing serious here; we've joked about Floyd's long injury history before, but this isn't funny.

Beltran was considered a disappointment in 2005 for having a merely decent year instead of being the next coming of Joe DiMaggio; I expect he'll be healthier and better this year. Wright is one of the games brightest young stars, and Delgado remains a powerful force in the cleanup spot.

The rest is just fair. LoDuca is still the golden child of the L.A. media, but in truth is an overrated player whose total offensive value is wrapped up in his batting average. When I saw that Nady and Diaz were sharing right field, my first thought was that it could be a productive platoon, until I remembered that both hit righthanded. So much for that. To simplify things, let's just say that the Yankees got the better Matsui and leave it at that.

The Mets had better hope for an incredible run of good health, because the best available replacements on this roster are Julio Franco, Endy Chavez, and Chris Woodward. It's a bad thing when your best option off the bench is a guy who was playing when Stonehenge was built. The farm system is attrocious, so any additional help will have to come through trades or the waiver wire.

Projected 2006 Starting Rotation and Bullpen

SP Pedro Martinez
SP Tom Glavine
SP Steve Trachsel
SP Victor Zambranno
SP Aaron Heilman

CL Billy Wagner
RP Duaner Sanchez
RP Jorge Julio
RP Chad Bradford
RP Matt Perisho or Mike Venafro or someone else with a working left arm.

Martinez, Glavine, and Trachsel have two things in common. All three have had good-to-great careers, and all three are now old and fragile. I put the over/under on their combined total starts this year at 80. Any takers? Zambranno has a good chance of being the guy obtained in one of the Mets' worst-ever trades, a field that includes giving up Nolan Ryan (and three others) for Jim Fregosi, and Amos Otis for Joe Foy.

The bullpen should be at least solid, with a strong closer and some decent setup men. The main concern should be the health of the starting rotation; again, there are no good replacements available (not that a Pedro Martinez is easily replaceable anyway).

With another winter spending spree behind them, the Mets are looked upon by many as the favorite to finally unseat the Braves at the top of the NL East. While it could happen, I think that it's more likely that enough regulars will miss enough time to leave the Mets trailing the Braves and fighting for the Wild Card.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Book 'Im

I'm sure by now you've heard all about the latest allegations against Barry Bonds. Jim and I have supported Bonds in the past, but I have to confess that I don't know what the hell to think anymore.

On the one hand, I can't get behind the crowd that wants to crucify him, because (a) steroids haven't been banned until last year and (b) until there's a drug test, we can't know for sure.

But on the other hand, I can't say that I trust Bonds 100% anymore. There just seems to be so much evidence piled up...I can discount some of it as coming from people with an axe to grind, but I can't discount all of it without drifting into conspiracy theory territory. Even if just one of the allegations is true, Bonds' claims that he never knowingly took steroids are so much rubbish.

The whole thing leaves me sad and confused. I think I liked it better when I lived in ignorant bliss...

One more thing: I heard some yahoo on sports radio saying that Barry Bonds taking steroids was worse than the Black Sox Scandal. To him and everyone else out there who holds this view, I say: no, you're wrong.

Using illegal substances and then lying about it is not as bad as intentionally losing World Series games. I don't understand why the people who are so concerned with the "sanctity" of home run records seem to take the "sanctity" of who wins or loses the actual games so lightly...

Perhaps a Car Wash?

The Boston Red Sox will be getting about $8,000 in unclaimed property from the state of Massachusetts. According to a team spokesperson, that's almost enough for a game's worth of baseballs. Great. Now if they can do that another 80 times, that's one budgetary line item covered.

I'm all for Major League teams trying to maximize their revenue streams, but this is ridiculous. What's next? Bake sales? Door to door magazine subscription drives to help send a youngster to training camp? Lottery tickets?

Theo might want to check under the cushions of the clubhouse sofas. There's probably a few bucks in change right there...

Feel the Bias!

Presented without comment, from the hopelessly biased Chicago Tribune:

The Tribune is looking for advice from U.S. Cellular connoisseurs on how best to enjoy the experience. Share your advice and some entries will appear in the Trib's special section Sunday, March 19.

Uncharitable Reaction

Think of all the tributes to Kirby Puckett you've read and heard this week. Puckett wasn't a perfect man, but it's plain to see that he touched many lives.

Now here's how the Tribune's Phil Rogers remembers the man:

Other than Triton [College] coach Bob Symonds, [Puckett] didn't remain close to any people in Chicago, including old friends like [childhood friend Michael] Armstrong. He was honored with Major League Baseball's Roberto Clemente Award and named to something called the World Sports Humanitarian Hall of Fame, but his largesse was almost exclusively limited to Minnesota's Twin Cities (although he did help build a field at Triton College)...

"I got toughened," Puckett said of life in the [Chicago] projects, where Catherine [his mother] kept a close eye on him. "That's a very big part of who I am... [But] if I had stayed there, I would not have realized my dream."

Yet Puckett did not try to make things better for those who followed him, putting his resources elsewhere. That's no crime. But it is a shame.
It's also a shame that Rogers has to belittle the man before he's even been put in the ground. As John Lennon famously asked, Phil, how do you sleep?

Monday, March 06, 2006

A Moment of Silence

Kirby Puckett.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Spring Has Sprung!

It's been snowing pretty much all day here in beautiful south-central Wisconsin, but to me, it's spring.

And why has this feeling of vernal delight taken hold of me? Because after several long, dark months, Pat & Ron are back on the air!

Even though these were just meaningless Cactus League games, it was terrific spending the last two afternoons listening to baseball again...

Saturday, March 04, 2006

More Proof

More proof that Barry Bonds’ teammates actually think Barry’s a good guy, courtesy of the Tribune’s Mike Downey:

I never have thought of Bonds as a funny guy but according to Cubs outfielder and ex-teammate Marquis Grissom, “Barry is hilarious. The guy is a total jokester, just funny as hell.”
I’ll leave it to you, Gentle Reader, to decide whose testimony deserves more credence. But I’ll side with Grissom on this one...

The Knights Who Say “Knee”

Spent the better portion of last week out of town, combining a business trip with a small vacation with the family. For most of that time, I was pretty much out of the loop when it came to baseball news. I caught Keith Olbermann’s griping about Buck O’Neill (as Jim expertly described it below), but that was about it.

Needless to say, I couldn’t wait to get back home and see what my heroes had been up to in Mesa. As it turned out, not a lot.

It’s been an extraordinarily quiet camp this year, for a few reasons. First, there are no real position battles going on. Second, the media is focused on White Sox camp; why else would a picture of Paul Konerko playing with his baby merit full-color, page one attention?

Fortunately for Paul Sullivan and Mike Kiley, something finally happened this week. The news came down that Kerry Wood needs yet another surgery.

Word that Wood needs to hit the OR is like the first robin or tulip -- a sure sign that spring is on the way. As a Cub Fan, I am legally required to look for the bright side of things, and the best I can come up with is that it’s his knee and not part of his arm.

Wood and the Cubs said that it’s not that big a deal, that they wanted to get the surgery done before it became a big deal, and that Wood’s return would be delayed only a few weeks. We’ll see.

Meanwhile, the other traditional spring worry is gaining momentum. Mark Prior apparently isn’t as visible as some people think he should be. And noted windbag Steve Stone told a Chicago sports talk show that he thinks Prior is injured. Thank you, Dr. Stone.

God only knows what to make of this. Trying to parse useful information from the Cubs party line is like trying to parse useful information from the crap Puffy McMoonface provides at the daily press gaggle.

** Potentially as distressing as any injury to Prior or Wood is this nugget of joy from Dusty:

He [Marquis Grissom] doesn’t have to have a great spring...You want to see progress as spring goes on. I have a pretty good idea of what he can do. I’m looking for just what he has left

God help me. It’s bad enough Neifi is still cluttering up a roster spot. Do we really need the outfield version of Neifi?

By the way, the GROTA are calling Grissom the Marquis de Suck. Harsh. But funny.

** Things have been so quiet that Sully had to dig really deep to find something negative to write about. After the Cubs won pivotal game one of the Cactus League schedule, Sully threw this wet blanket in the game summary:

Ominous start: Reliever Bryan Corey gave up seven runs on six hits, including three home runs, without retiring a batter.

I’m not ashamed to admit that my first reaction to this was “Who the hell is Bryan Corey??” Let’s face it, if I haven’t heard of the guy, he’s probably not really high on the depth chart.

In the real world, there’s nothing ominous about a 32 year old NRI getting pounded in the first game of the exhibition schedule (unless you live in Des Moines, maybe). But in the hopelessly biased world of the Tribune, it’s enough for Sully to start the doom watch.

** It’s always fun to mock people who can’t be bothered to learn basic facts. Today’s victim: Tribune columnist Mike Downey. Downey concludes his wacky Saturday column with this bon mot:
A billboard at Sox camp reads: “If At First You Succeed, Repeat.” I think these were the same words spoken at the 1909 Cubs’ camp.
Oh, for fun! Excuse me as I wipe the tears of mirth from my eyes...

That’s better. But I must point out that this billboard actually made its debut at the 1908 Cubs’ camp. The 1909 Cubs’ camp billboard actually read “If At First You Succeed, Repeat Again.”

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Bucking Popular Sentiment

As usual, no good deed goes unpunished. A committee was selected and charged with selecting a group to represent those excluded from Organized Baseball in the days before Jackie Robinson. They do a pretty damn good job of it, the Hall is opened to 17 deserving (mostly) entrants, and what is the response?

"They've insulted Buck O'Neil!"

Where do I want to start here? First of all, it is not an insult to anyone to decide that they are not quite up to the standard of the highest honor that can be given a player. It's an honor to even be considered in the first place. It's not an injustice, either. The injustice was barring O'Neil and Ray Dandridge and Cool Papa Bell and Oscar Charleston and Bullet Rogan from the major leagues in the first place.

Second, and I know that I'll catch all kinds of hell for this comment, Buck O'Neil was a good player during his career. Bill James, in the Historical Baseball Abstract, compares him to Mark Grace and Mickey Vernon, both very good players. Mark Grace and Mickey Vernon won't be inducted into the Hall of Fame.

I mean absolutely no disrespect to Buck O'Neil, who is one of the most decent people ever associated with the game, and was a fine player to boot. There is no shame in being very good, but not great. Harold Baines is also a nice man, and my favorite player of all time. He had a very good career, but he's not going into the Hall either, nor should he, and even I wouldn't advocate him.

While I wouldn't consider myself an expert on what we now call the Negro Leagues, I do think I'm fairly knowledgeable. Of the twelve players chosen (along with five mostly non-players), I am completely sold on all but perhaps two. And those two, Ray Brown and Andy Cooper, have good cases; better, I think, than O'Neil. Hell, there are quite a few more (Louis Santop, Spot Poles, Dick Lundy, and of course Minnie Minoso) who have better cases as well, but were also passed over.

So now Congressmen get involved. I'm sure glad that they got all of the nation's problems fixed first.

I'm surprised that no one has played the race card yet. I know that it would make absolutely no sense, but when does that stop some people?

Now, if you want to ask me whose great idea it was to induct a numbers runner for Dutch Schultz into the Hall, feel free. I don't know the answer to that one. At least I'm not as bent out of shape over this as Keith Olbermann. Keith...one of the founding principles of our nation is a secret ballot. Why should a private organization like the Hall of Fame force it's voters to tell us all who was on their ballots?

Olbermann also expresses indignation that two white people were included in the group of 17. There is a reason why they were included. Because they were important leaders in the Negro Leagues, and were accepted by all involved with them, and because their accomplishments make them deserving. Keith, I know that you know better, but if you really don't, here is some light reading to get you up to speed.

So I guess that Olbermann did actually play the race card. Congratulations, Keith, for making yourself appear much more ignorant than you really are.

The committee did good work (well, except maybe for selecting Pompez). The Hall of Fame selection process, by it's nature, is always going to leave someone out, and there is always going to be a group going to bat for those not included. But non-inclusion is not, in itself, an injustice.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

More On The Scandal In Washington

You mean this one?

Or this one?

Maybe you meant this one?

Oh I know...this must be the one you meant.

Of course! You must be refering to this.

Nah, I'm just talking about the Alfonso Soriano foolishness. My earlier post may have misled you to thinking that I believe the Nationals to be innocent victims of the selfish bastard Soriano. While I do think that Soriano is acting like a selfish bastard, the Nats have only themselves to blame. Whose idea was it to trade three properties of some value away to get this guy with the idea of moving him to another position, and never bother to make any inquiry as to whether or not he'd agree to it? I mentioned before that Soriano isn't part of the front office, so I'm betting that it probably wasn't his.

The Nationals were idiots for making the trade, and Soriano is being an idiot now. It's a perfect match.

The Heart Of The Matter

Is forgiveness, Frank, even if you don't love me anymore.

Life's Easy When You Overlook Inconvenient Facts

Mike Schmidt still thinks that Pete Rose should be eligible for the Hall of Fame.

Schmidt is probably in the 29% demographic here, too.

It Must Have Been Black History Month

How can I tell? Because MLB, in a change from its' usual method of exluding blacks from team ownership, front office positions, managerial openings, and most of the seats in the ballpark, made some postitive news in the black, excuse me, urban, community last week. One press release celebrated the past, and the other provides a glimmer of hope for the future.

I suppose that "celebrate" is probably not the right word to use when discussing what we now call the Negro Leagues. The 60-year exclusion of Americans (and Latins) who had more melanin in their skin than those running MLB found acceptable is a sorry, shameful history that stains the past. But I suppose it is proper to celebrate the achievments of those who created their own outlet to excel, despite all the hardships in their paths.

The committee entrusted with the selections did a pretty good job; there are a couple that I question, but they certainly didn't pick anyone without a good case. I am disappointed that Minnie Minoso missed another chance to get into the Hall, where he clearly belongs, but I guess that I can keep hoping.

Hope is a fine word, and the opening of baseball's first Urban Youth Accademy is a cause to use it. I'm not going to play sociologist and offer half-baked explantations as to why the baseball, which was once so important in the black community, has slipped badly in popularity. Anything that creates opportunity is a good thing, and I'm happy to see MLB putting some of its' money where its' mouth is for once on this issue.

This is off-topic, but I will go on record against the ridiculous phrase, "urban." I've lived in cities all of my life, but I'm not "urban," by this definition. I suppose that since the Academy is located in Compton, which is urban by a real definiton, as opposed to a made-up one, the label fits, but I'd rather it just be called a Baseball Academy, without implying that it is in some way limited to a specific group.

Now if only we can see actitivity like this from MLB twelve months of the year, and not just only in February.