Jim & Bob's Palatial Baseball Blog

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Me And Jorge Julio Down By The Schoolyard

This is a rehash of something I posted to the message board of a fantasy league I'm in, but there are no refunds if you already read this and want your money back.

One of the things I hate most about fantasy baseball is the inflated value given to counting stats, in particular saves, wins, steals, and RBI. Yesterday, there was some speculation that Jorge Julio would take over save situations for the Diamondbacks, and fantasy players (myself included, sad to say) reacted like it was the IPO of Google. Just mention the word "closer" and almost anyone will start looking good:

David Weathers
Jorge Julio
Tyler Walker
J.J. Putz
Chris Reitsma
Ryan Dempster
Joe Borowski
Ken Ray

But it's not just a fantasy ball thing, because real-life managers and executives and players also vastly overrate the role of closer. Because, you know, it takes a special kind of pitcher to get those last three outs. That line of crap makes players happy, because it feeds the myth that successful baseball players are better all-around people than the rest of use. And it makes managers happy, because it relieves them of the burden of actually having to think in the late innings; all they need to do is to fall back on a preselected bullpen pecking order.

I'm not really sure why management likes it, since it inflates the salaries of a selected few players in excess of their actual worth. My guess is that they are afraid of the media backlash if they try something different and it fails, as it did for the Red Sox in 2003.

Some year, we'll finally have the right stats available for many fantasy leagues to be able to ditch "saves" as a category. And "wins" is next. Followed by "rbi" and "stolen bases." A man can dream, a man can dream.

Management Death Watch, Glass House Gang Edition

The Glass House Gang has a new General Manager. Don't get too excited, Royals fan. Dayton Moore certainly has some strong qualifications, having been Assistant GM to John Schuerholz in Atlanta since 1994. It can be reasonably assumed that he's formed some good ideas about how a winning franchise is run.

The problem is that the old GM is gone, but the owner remains. As long as David "You and I have different definitions of child labor" Glass and his halfwit sons still control the franchise, there is little chance that the Royals will be anything other than the modern incarnation of the St. Louis Browns.

Glass became Chairman of the Board of the Royals on September 23, 1993. By an amazing coincidence, the next season, 1994, was the last time the Royals posted a winning record. By another amazing coincidence, the Royals were sold to Glass on April 18, 2000, with the sale approved by a Board of Directors including Glass and Glass appointees. Perhaps inadvertantly, the board overlooked a bid by a different ownership group which was $24 million higher than Glass' offer. I know this will be hard to believe, but the Commissioners' Office took no action on this. Of course, there is absolutely no chance that Baron Budhausen was rewarding Glass for his unyielding role as one of the worst labor hawks during the 1994 strike.

The whole situation in Kansas City is rotten to the core. But fear not, Royals fan. Bud Selig and David (Gl)ass have a plan to restore your franchise to its former glory. And all it will cost you is a shiny new renovation of Royals Stadium (and Arrowhead Stadium) paid for by your tax dollars. Please, join the fight to help the cruelly oppressed David (Gl)ass. You'll be glad you did.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Must-See TV

Here's a question for our readers (and you too, Bob). Who are your favorite players to watch? I watch at least a couple of games almost every night, and usually bits and pieces of other games. But when I know that Ichiro is coming up, I switch over to the Mariners. If Johan Santana is starting for the Twins, I almost always tune in. These are my top ten guys that I consider Must-See TV:

1. Ichiro. I know the complaints. He doesn't walk enough, he doesn't hit with power. But I almost think that he can get a hit every time up. Good pitcher, bad pitcher, or in between, Ichiro gets his hits. It's fun to watch pitchers and catchers trying to figure out a way to stop a guy who can slap the ball safely no matter what kind of pitch you throw him, or where you throw it.

2. Johan Santana. It's not just that he's so good. Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt, and Pedro Martinez are about as good, and Justin Verlander is already getting close. It's the way he makes even good hitters look totally stupid with that insane changeup that makes him so much fun to watch.

3. Albert Pujols. Worth tuning into every at-bat. This is how I used to feel about Barry Bonds, before managers decided to just start walking Bonds every time up.

4-6. Justin Verlander, Joel Zumaya, Bobby Jenks. It's pretty damned cool to see that radar gun hit triple digits.

7. Julio Franco. Because someone who can still hit at his age is worth watching.

8. Jamie Moyer. Penn and Teller have nothing on his illusions. Every pitch looks like it should be beaten like a mule, and yet he gets batters out, year after year. See, folks, nothing up my sleeve...

9. Prince Fielder. The start of something and someone big.

10. Scott Baker. Not that he's anything special, but it's worth watching for another appearance of Nutty.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Off the Table

It was nearly a sidebar in the reporting on the Twins' new stadium, but it merits more coverage. According to a report in the St. Paul Pioneer Press, Baron Budhausen says that the threat of contraction will not be used as leverage during negotiations for the next CBA.

The Baron told the Pioneer Press, "Contraction is off the table. We're not talking about contraction. It's not a secret.''

Of course, a cynic would say that it's also not a secret that the two teams on the chopping block in 2001 (the Twins and Expos) both have the taxpayer-funded yards the Baron has long claimed are necessary for the continued existence of the franchise. Coincidence? You be the judge.

Of course, there are still a few teams out there agitating for new stadiums, like Oakland and Florida. Will the Baron put contraction back on the table if these attempts continue to fail? Stay tuned and see...

The Answer Is None – None More Black

In a previous post, I mentioned that baseball is supposed to be fun. So that's why I'm officially abdicating any hope I have that the Cubs might get back in the pennant race.

No, I'm not giving up my status as Cub Fan. And I stopped letting my team's performance affect my self-esteem when I was eleven, so it's not like I'm on suicide watch or anything.

It's far simpler than that. Like I said before, baseball is supposed to be fun. Watching my boys lose is not fun, especially when it's compounded by the wildly inventive ways they've found to emerge non-victorious.

There comes a time when even I have to avert my eyes from the train wreck. And so I make the conscious decision to stop watching the proceedings with abject horror. Instead, I will keep my emotions to bemused resignation (or, failing that, dull surprise).

Besides, why in God's name should I hold out hope for this team when it is plainly obvious that no one in the front office does? That last nail in the coffin that is the 2006 season is the last (and perhaps least) second baseman added to the roster. For reasons known only to them, Dusty Baker and Jim Hendry think that Tony Sprocking Womack deserves a roster spot.

To make room for Womack, we sent Ryan Theriot back to Des Moines. As I noted earlier, Theriot won't make anyone forget Ryne Sandberg. But he's got a better chance of being the Show next year than either Womack or Perez. And somehow Baker couldn't get Theriot more than ten at bats – just another sign that Baker has no clue how to manage the talent he's given.

For those of you keeping track at home, that gives us four second basemen on the roster – the only one actually worth a damn is currently filling in at first base.

I know this team isn't as horsepoop as it has played this month. Neither Pierre nor Ramirez are .220 hitters, so you gotta figure they're due for a month of .280 just to balance things out. Lee will be out of his cast in about two weeks. His return can only help, because Walker will go back to second and Perez will go back to the bench.

Wood has looked OK in his return to the rotation. Prior should be starting his rehab this week, and perhaps Wade Miller will soon follow. If all three can show that they can be effective, that would give us one too many starters, perhaps giving Hendry some trade fodder to bring in help for next year.

There are rumors circulating that Pierre is also on the trade block, since he will be a free agent at the end of the year. I can't really see a market for Pierre right now (how many contenders are desperate for a center fielder?). I think if Hendry moves Pierre it won't be until after the All-Star Break – giving Hendry plenty of time to determine if Felix Pie is ready to take over.

Just goes to show what kind of year it's been – I'm already pondering possible waiver deadline deals. I'd be a lot more upset by recent events if I hadn't been snorting graham crackers through a rolled-up pocket schedule all afternoon...

Any Port in a Storm

Not sure who the more desperate team was in last week's Mets-Reds deal. The Reds were so eager to get rid of Dave Williams and his 7.20 ERA that they moved him for a Class A pitcher. And they sent the Mets $500K to cover half of his remaining salary.

And the Mets are so eager to find anyone who might be better than Jose Lima that they're willing to take a flier on a guy with a 7.20 ERA. Sounds like both sides came out a winner on this deal.

Friday, May 26, 2006

A Reminder That We're Supposed to Be Having Fun

If you're not regularly reading Batgirl's blog, why the heck not? More often than not, she reminds us that baseball is supposed to be fun, dammit!

Recent bits of hilarity:

A Legovision re-enactment of last Saturday's unpleasantness at Wrigley.

No spoliers for this one...but I will say it might be the first time I've ever read the sentence "Redolent of a day at the seaside, as long as you spent that day snorting graham crackers."

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Medical Mystery

One way or another, this explains why Billy Koch was almost completely unable to pitch effectively after joining the White Sox. I'm just not sure whether it means that he is sick, or is nuts. Either way, I hope that he and his family find some answers.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Win Twins!

So the Minnesota Twins got their new ballpark. Old news by now, of course, and I won’t even pretend to understand everything about the details of the legislation; if you want to get technical about it, visit our friends at Field of Schemes.

Anyway, I’ve just got caught up on the news reports, and a few things caught my eye…

** Like this nugget of joy from the Baron Budhausen:

I was nervous we were coming close to the end. And if anybody thinks that was an idle threat, they were kidding themselves…I know Carl [Pohlad] has taken some hits…but there’s no family that wanted to stay there more in their hometown than they did…I felt like I did when we got our stadium [in Milwaukee]. That’s how much it meant, because that’s the last thing in the world anybody ever wanted to do, to think of no Twins in Minnesota.

Hoo boy. This is chock full o’ weaseliness, even for the Baron…

Let’s start with the Baron’s unbridled praise for C. Montgomery Pohlad. No one wanted to stay in Minnesota more than he did? If that were the case, then why did he offer the team up on the contraction altar? If that bit of unpleasantness had gone through, the Baron would have had to think of no Twins anywhere, let alone Minnesota.

The Baron’s crack about “idle threats” gets an honorable mention for dickery – I mean, is he trying to celebrate the success of his extortionist tactics?

** There was no direct quote offered, but the Minneapolis Star-Tribune’s Sid Hartman offers this from C. Montgomery himself:

Carl Pohlad said he would have sold the Twins after this season had the legislature not made a move to pass the stadium bill, which it was attempting to do late Saturday.
Talk about the geezer who cried wolf. C. Montgomery has claimed he was this far from selling the Twins for what, the last ten years? If the MLB business is really that bad, why didn’t he sell the team years ago? Maybe offering to contract the team scared off potential buyers. Or maybe he figured that he could huff and puff and scare the state and city into building him a new yard.

** Credit where it’s due: I will give C. Montgomery whatever props he deserves for putting up $130 million of his own (or should I say, the team’s) money to pay for the new stadium. Of course, that leaves about $392 million for the government to pay, so C. Montgomery isn’t off the Misers list just yet.

** Minnesota Public Radio has an informative article about how the stadium plan passed the state legislature. That piece gives us an insight into how the team was able to persuade stadium opponents to change their minds:

Rep. Greg Davids, R-Preston, voted against every stadium plan for the past decade, but voted for this year’s proposal. Davids says he told the Twins to find a way to build the stadium without using state taxpayer money, which this plan does.

“They took advice that I and others have given them as to why we have been voting ‘no’ in the past,” Davids said. It would have been a bit hypocritical for me to ask them to do something and then they come back with a plan I ask them to do and then I vote against it.”
Putting aside the tortured syntax of that last sentence…it’s good to see someone in government defending the taxpayers. But what Davids doesn’t mention is that most of that $392 million will come from taxpayer money.

Technically, Davids is correct (and that is the best kind of correct to be) – according to MPR, the stadium plan permits a 0.15% sales tax in Hennepin County to raise money for the stadium. So the state taxpayer money remains safe and sound, just like Davids wanted. Apparently, he wasn’t as concerned about the county taxpayer money.

One more thing about the stadium deal – that sales tax increase does not need voter approval. So everybody wins – the Baron, C. Montgomery, the Twins, Minnesota politicians wanting to show their constituents that they’ve kept their promise not to spend state tax money. Everyone except the people who live and shop in Hennepin County, I guess.

Adding Insult to Injury

According to a Sports Illustrated survey, the one player other MLB players would most like to see drilled with a pitch? A.J. Pierzynski.

Saint A.J. won the hearts of 18% of the 470 players who responded to SI’s survey. He also racked up huge in the AL Central, with a whopping 42 percent of the vote. Barry Bonds was number two overall (14%).

In an effort to be totally honest with you, Gentle Readers, I will admit that I am partial to seeing the Saint get drilled, too. But not his head, of course – I don’t want to see the guy get injured. Somewhere where it will hurt, like maybe his ass…hmmm…on second thought, hitting his ass might result in a concussion. Just to be safe, just drill him in the arm or back…

Tuesday, May 23, 2006


This kind of strategy always works. As near as I can tell, Chris Duffy blames the Pirates for his failings, because they wanted him to do things like be more selective at the plate so that he would actually reach base more. Bastards. What nerve, trying to tamper with someone with the proven track record of Chris Duffy.

If I were Chris Duffy's agent, I would be telling him in no uncertain terms to get his sorry ass to Indianapolis, to appologize profusely, and then to shut the hell up and play baseball, if he ever wants to see major league meal money again. Major league organizations will forgive or overlook a lot, but they are very good at abruptly halting the careers of malcontents. The last time a Pirates' outfielder tried something like this it didn't work out too well.

Duffy has a choice. He can get with the program, or he can join Bell on a boat somewhere.

Royals, Flushed

I know that I should stop kicking, flogging, and screaming at this dead horse and just send it off to the glue factory, but I can't help it. How in the hell can a team have already had two 11-game losing streaks by May 23? I think that the reason I keep writing about this is that the Royals offend me. I am disgusted by the reality that a major league team can be allowed to be this bad in this day and age. Isn't this what things like the draft and revenue sharing were supposed to prevent? But when you have an owner who simply pockets the revenue sharing money and a management team that runs drafts like this, it doesn't matter what kinds of structures are put in place to help teams improve.

"Bell Concerned With Talent." That's beautiful. I'd be concerned, too, if my team didn't have any. And if I didn't have any discernable talent as a manager. The gist of the article had less to do with talent than a worry that some players weren't trying hard enough and had bad attitudes. That's like worrying whether the iceberg messed up the paint job on the Titanic.

The more I see of this team, the more disgusted I get. If Bud Selig really wanted to act in the best interests of the game, he'd be working to find some new ownership for this franchise.

Full Nelson

Sure, why not? There are a lot of tough righthanded hitters in the AL Central; Chris Shelton, Magglio Ordonez, and Ivan Rodriguez of the Tigers in particular. Nelson still has that frisbee slider that has always eaten up righthanded hitters, and could be a very nice tactical weapon for Ozzie in late-inning matchups.

At least, he's got to be a step up on Boone Logan. His story was nice, but he really had no business being in the major leagues. To be honest, he lasted longer than I thought he would.

The only thing I have to say about the Pierzynski/Barrett incident is that two knuckleheads don't make a right. Three knuckleheads, if you want to count Brian Anderson. I guess it adds some color to the Sox/Cubs "rivalry," but the Sox/Cubs rivalry means about as much to me as a rivalry between the Sox and the Indiana Pacers. The Cubs are not in the Sox' league, they play each other only two series a year, and shouldn't even be doing that.

Speaking of Anderson, yes, he hasn't hit, but he's played well in center, the Sox have no better alternative at the moment, and they are 30-15 even with Anderson struggling as badly as he has at the plate. I think he'll hit, so the best thing right now is just to let him work his way through it.

Another Day In The Sunshine

Today was my day off from keeping the airways safe, and the Sacramento Rivercats had an 11:35 game. That's an unbeatable combination in my book. I love having my days off on weekdays...pretty much anywhere I want to go will be less crowded than it would be on a weekend, and the Rivercats have decided to play a few more weekday games this year.

Unfortunately, today was a school promotion, and the park was full of kids. Don't get me wrong, kids are great. They aren't as great when they are tearing around the park. Ah well, I had a seat in the second row at field level, so they were behind me most of the day.

The Iowa Cubs, who for some reason are part of the Pacific Coast League, were todays' opposition. This is a pretty bad club as far as prospects go, but two good ones were in today's lineup, and both were very impressive. Felix Pie played right field and was the leadoff hitter. It's easy to see why scouts love him; he really looks like a ballplayer. He hit like one today, going 5-6 and scoring three runs. He's had strike zone issues in the past but didn't really show them today. He worked the count full a couple of times and I don't remember seeing him swing at any terrible pitches. Frankly, it's hard to find much to criticize in a guy who goes 5-6.

As good as Pie was, Jae-Kuk Ryo was just as impressive on the mound. If you have an image of Korean players as small or slight, get that out of your mind. Ryo is 6'3" and 220 pounds and looks it; a nice Tom Seaver-like body type. He looked like he had a very good two-seam fastball going today, as the Rivercats were beating the ball into the ground most of the day (13 ground ball outs). He allowed only three hits and a walk in eight innings, striking out five. In six of his eight innings he retired the side in order.

I was also looking forward to another look at the two best prospects on the Rivercats roster, Daric Barton and Jeremy Brown. I was disappointed, although my disappointment is probably going to be less than that of Barton, the Rivercats, and the Oakland A's.

After Pie singled to lead off the game and moved to second on a wild pitch, Tony Womack (yes, really, that Tony Womack) laid down a good bunt. Scott McClain fielded it, but his hurried throw was into the runner, and Barton reached into Womack for it. The two collided and both went down, but while Womack was able to continue, Barton left the game after writhing on the ground kicking his feet in pain. I was sitting only about 40 feet behind the play with a direct line of vision, and it looked really bad. I hope I'm wrong, but I'm pretty sure it's a broken wrist.

Brown had the day off, so I didn't see him, either. This is probably the weakest roster that the Rivercats have had since they've been here. Their pitchers in today's game threw about 1137 pitches, some of them for strikes. No one in the lineup looked like anyone who could contribute to a good major league team in anything more than a marginal role.

The game itself was interesting until the last three innings, when the Cubs jumped on three relievers and scored five runs over that span, winning 7-3. They had 16 hits, which is about four games worth for the parent club right now. Here is the game log, if you want to look for yourself.

I hope that Sacramento never gets "blessed" with a major league franchise. With the Rivercats here, there will always be good baseball at decent prices with a park full of good seats. For $13 I was in the second row from the field in Section 103. Can you even get a bleacher ticket for $13 at a major league park now?

My goal this year is to see more live baseball. Right now I think I'll be back at Raley Field on June 6.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Casting the First Stone

Should this guy really go around referring to people as "enormous?"

An Inconvenient Truth

I’ve never been a big believer that a manager has so much control over the fate of his team that he can make an also-ran a pennant winner, or a pennant winner an also-ran. I mean, the manager has to have players capable of winning in order to be successful. If Bobby Cox managed the Pirates the last fourteen years, they would still have stunk. And if Lloyd McClendon had managed the Braves that last fourteen years…well, they might not have won all those divisions, but they still would have contended.

Which is why I’ve always been puzzled by the “Fire Dusty” crowd, when it has been readily apparent that we’ve got a lot of other roster problems to work through first. Until now. While I’m not throwing my hat in the “Fire Dusty” ring (as I was back in the Dandy Don days), I won’t lose much sleep if his contract isn’t extended at the end of the year.

The incident that changed my mind was last Thursday’s game against the Expos. With Lee out and Ramirez forced to sit out a game with back spasms, Baker had to send out an even more jury-rigged lineup than usual:

Pierre CF
Murton LF
Walker 2B
Barrett C
Jones RF

So now we come to the sixth spot in the order. Who would YOU hit there?

Player A -- .486 OPS
Player B -- .540 OPS
Player C -- .694 OPS

Granted, none of those are appealing choices. But someone has to hit sixth, and since Carlos Zambrano wasn’t pitching that day, he wasn’t an option…

If you guessed Player A, you’re not right, but you are Dusty Baker! Yes, he batted Neifi Perez in the sixth spot, followed by John Mabry (Player B) and then Ronnie Cedeno (Player C).

Baker did have the sense to have Murton bat second – he’s usually been buried in the seventh spot, even when Jones wasn’t hitting.

But to bat Perez sixth…that’s shameful. Hell, to have Perez in the lineup at all is shameful. Cedeno isn’t going to remind anyone of Cal Ripken, but he’s doing a lot more than Perez.

Of course, this peculiar lineup came back to bite us in the ass late in the game. We’re down by two runs, Walker on third, two outs, and Jones at the plate. Expos closer Chad Cordero hadn’t looked good that inning, and Jones comes up with a chance to cut the lead in half.

Or maybe not. Someone on the Expos notices Neifi in the on-deck circle, and realizes that there’s no reason at all to pitch to Jones. So four balls later, Jones trots to the place, and the game hangs on Neifi and his ass-bat.

Perez must have known that his ass-bat wasn’t going to win the game, so he decided to throw a surprise party and tried to bunt for a hit. Unfortunately, he bunted it right back to Cordero, who only came a step or two off the mound to field it. Thus endeth the ballgame.

Back in the day when I played Dungeons and Dragons, our little group of adventurers would often find ourselves in some sticky situations. But whenever we had to choose between certain death and probable death, we always opted for probable death – the odds still favored Death by a long shot, but at least we had a chance (however slight) of getting smart (or lucky) enough to escape with our lives.

By sticking Perez in the sixth spot, Dusty chose certain death. The fact that he had Perez in that spot of the order, when there was not one, but two marginally better choices, just shows that Baker has no idea what to do with whatever talent he has to work with.

Firing Baker now won’t help matters. It might make Cub Fan happier in the short run. It might make guys like Dr. Phil scramble a little bit, as they use Word’s find and replace function to take Baker’s name out of their carefully-prepared scripts. But no manager (not even the Super Genius) can make these guys play better than they are right now. The only way that happens is if these guys actually start playing better.

I heard Dr. Phil on the radio after today’s game muttering something about how the Cubs need to pull of a trade to get some help. Of course, Dr. Phil will tell you that Sergio Mitre was a high price to pay, so one wonders how the Cubs can get any player who won’t cost too dear a price in his eyes, especially since the only “help” even remotely available nowadays are guys like Kevin Millar and Edgardo Alfonzo. Perhaps Matt Lawton can come back; he can’t suck any more than he did last time…

** This is all I have to say in the matter: Yes, Michael Barrett crossed the line Saturday, and then went on to cross the International Date Line. It was a cheap shot, but one that Pierzynski richly deserved for his cheap shot that leveled Barrett at the plate. Baker went out of his way to say it was a clean hit. I call bullpoop on that. From my vantage point, it was a typical ass move by Pierzynski. And even if it wasn’t, where’s that famous Dusty Baker “I support my players” bullpoop? Geez, Baker had Perez’ back when he laid down that crappy bunt on Thursday. You’d think he’d do something for Barrett, who made more contact then than Perez has all year…

I also call bullpoop on Pierzynski’s “Golly gee whiz, me and Michael is good pals and I dunno why he’d go off like that.” And Konerko can drop the “Jiminy jillikers, A.J. sure finds himself in the middle of a lot of things. I dunno why all those bad people are out to get him” act. If Pierzynski wasn’t an ass, those things wouldn’t happen. Of course, the typically pro-Sox Tribune swallows this tripe hook, line, sinker, fishing pole, and tackle box…

By the way, if Barrett needs to be taught a good and proper lesson for his sucker-punching Pierzynski, then I look forward to Brian Anderson learning the same good and proper lesson for his sucker-punching John Mabry. Good to see Anderson learning how to be an ass at the feet of a master. Even though Anderson has had a rough start to his career, at least he’s showing flashes of being Ozzie’s kind of player.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

The Pickering Parade, 2006

Last year, back at our old site, we introduced a feature called The Pickering Parade. The idea was to mock and scorn teams which made the most foolish and short-sighted personnel decisions. The feature was named after Calvin Pickering, who was dumped by the Royals after 31 plate appearances so that the Royals could play 37-year old Matt Stairs at first base.

The Royals, bless their hearts, are back to lead off the feature this year. Justin Huber is a 23-year old first baseman/DH who slugged .570 at AA Wichita and .540 at AAA Omaha last year. Back at Omaha this spring, he had slugged .603 in 23 games, with a .427 on-base percentage, to boot. On May 3, when Mike Sweeney had to be placed on the DL, the Royals decided that maybe this kid was worth a look.

Mind you, I said a look. Not an extended look, not an opportunity, just a look. Huber got to make his 2006 Royals debut that night, getting one at-bat. Ok, so he was just getting his feet wet. Ok, just a toe wet. Ok, he got to see the ocean from a distance. He didn't play again until the 7th, when he started, going 1-2 with a walk and a stolen base. That must have made a real positive impression, because he got to play again. Five days later. On May 12, Huber went 1-3 with a double. Apparently the Royals expected him to go 5-for-3, because the next night he was back on the bench, getting in for one at-bat. But be patient, Justin, another chance is right around the corner. And down the block. And through six stoplights, across a set of railroad tracks, and past an abandoned warehouse. Huber didn't get back into a game until May 18, when he went 0-3 against Cliff Lee.

Oh-for-three? That's enought out of you, young man. Back to Omaha with you. After all, when you are a 10-30 team, there isn't any room to be messing around with someone who might have a future. Not when Doug Mientkiewicz is around to play first base.

What a hopelessly inept franchise. I really don't believe that there is a single competent person in this entire organization, this Glass House Gang. The teams' marketing slogan this year is, Your Team, Your Town. I have nothing personal against the city of Kansas City, but I'm damned glad it's not mine.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Now THAT'S Some Pitching

MLBTV brought me another great game tonight. Twins at Detroit, Johan Santana versus Justin Verlander, and the matchup turned out to be as good as promised.

Santana is the best in the game right now. He spent most of the night making the Tigers chase his changeup, that Bug Bunny pitch that comes out of his hand looking like a rocket and then seems to stop in midair on the way to the plate. Five times in the first seven innings the Tigers went out in order, not counting another 1-2-3 inning in the fifth when Carlos Guillen singled but was thrown out stealing. Going into the eighth, Santana had faced only one batter over the minimum, striking out 10 along the way.

Verlander was matching him all the way, with some help from the Twins themselves. The Twins lost two runners on the bases. In the fourth, Michael Cuddyer was hit by a pitch with two out. Justin Morneau followed with a long single, but Cuddyer rounded third too far and was tagged out by the alert Tigers defense. In the eighth, Nick Punto, Utility Infielder, led off with a single and got himself picked off by Verlander. Despite reaching 100 MPH on the speed gun at least once during the evening, Verlander didn't strike out a batter? How is that possible? Easy, when you face the Twins. Their only strategy of hitting seems to be that if the pitcher throws the ball, you are required to swing at it. As hard as Verlander throws, it's hard to strike anyone out when everyone is putting the ball in play on the second or third pitch.

It was still 0-0 in the bottom of the eighth. Santana struck out Guillen, who had singled in his previous two at-bats. Chris Shelton drew a walk, the first allowed in the game by either pitcher. Brandon Inge went down as Santana's 12th strikeout victim, but Vance Wilson, of all people, jumped on a first pitch fastball and drove it out of the yard in left.

That was all it took, although Tigers manager Jim Leyland managed to make it more exciting in the ninth by brining in Todd Jones to relieve Verlander. Jones put the tying runs on but got Tony Batista to pop out to end it.

The Tigers have the following three guys in the bullpen:

Fernando Rodney, 1.59 ERA, .136 Batting Average Against, 17 IP, 8 H, 8 BB, 16 K
Joel Zumaya, 2.45 ERA. .180 Batting Average Against, 18 1/3 IP, 11 H, 7 BB, 20 K
Todd Jones, 3.97 ERA, .319 Batting Average Against, 11 1/3 IP, 14 H, 2 BB, 5 K

Which one is the closer? Jones, of course...he's "proven." Actually, Jim Leyland, by using the worst of the three as the closer because of blind obedience to the managerial "cover your ass" laws, has stumbled on the best arrangement, getting Rodney and Zumaya into the game when it's really on the line in the sixth and seventh and eighth.

I'm starting to be a convert to this Tigers teams. I've been skeptical, but tonight I saw a talented team beat the best pitcher in the league by playing a smart game. Shelton is a terrific hitter, Curtis Granderson is turning into an excellent leadoff man, and the rest of the lineup is solid. Verlander is real, and Jeremy Bonderman is also a first-rate starter. Kenny Rogers has pitched well, and Mike Maroth and Nate Robertson are capable of filling out a rotation with league-average pitching.

As for the Twins...well, they have Johan.

Russ Springer Is An Ass

Tuesday night, Giants at Astros. The Giants are kicking the crap out of the 'stros, having put up two five-spots within the first four innings. In the fifth, Barry Bonds comes up against Russ Springer. Either Springer decided to aim his pitches directly at Bonds, or he has a vision disorder which makes him see home plate as being a foot to the left of where he should see it. Here's the pitch sequence:

Pitch #1: Slider, behind Bonds. Home plate ump County Joe West warns the Astros.

Pitch#2: Slider, right at Bonds' knees. He dodges it.

Pitch#3: Fastball, up and in. Bonds ducks back and the ball hits the knob of his bat, for a foul ball.

Pitch#4: Fastball, right at the chin. Bonds pulls back again.

Pitch#5: Fastball, right between the shoulder blades.

Springer and Astros manager Phil Garner were immediately and rightly ejected. There is a good compound word for this kind of thing. The first part is "chicken" and the second part rhymes with "spit."

Yes, I fully agree that pitchers have the right to pitch to the inside part of the plate. That has nothing to do with this. It should have been clear to anyone watching it that Springer was trying to hit Bonds, with as hard a pitch as he could. The fact that the last three pitches were up near the head only makes it worse.

I suppose we'll hear from the "Don Drysdale and Bob Gibson would have done it" crowd. Drysdale and Gibson pitched 40 years ago. I like to think that we are a little less tolerant of "assault with a deadly weapon" these days. Or maybe not. Ty Cobb used to sharpen his spikes and use them on infielders. Because he did that in 1909, do we want to allow it today?

Springer (and Garner) should be facing suspensions. Batters, be they Bonds or anyone else, are not targets.

Loss Of A Lesser Hero

The Oakland Athletics today sold the contract of outfielder Matt Watson to the Chiba Lotte Marines of the Japanese Pacific League. This is a transaction that probably passed unnoticed in 99% of the country, involving a guy with a .183 batting average in 34 major league games. Another journeyman.

In Sacramento, we noticed. Watson, who joined the Sacramento Rivercats in 2004, was one of the best players in team history. In 2004 Watson batted .305, slugged .515 (59 extra base hits), scored 79 runs, and drove in 96, all in 125 games. Last year, he was even better, batting .315, drawing 67 walks for a .404 on-base average, and slugging .516. He drove in 81 runs and scored 82, in only 113 games. He also connected for a homer in front of the Sacramento fans during the 2005 Minor League All-Star Game at Raley Field.

Watson was batting .317 for the Rivercats in 2006, with five homers and 28 RBI in 32 games. Despite his terrific minor league record, Watson was never going to be more than a fourth or fifth outfielder at the major league level. But in Sacramento he was a star, and we are going to miss him.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Sure, Why Not?

A columnist for the local Madison rag wrote today that all teams should intentionally walk Barry Bonds for every one of his plate appearances for the rest of the year. That way, he won’t taint baseball’s hallowed home run record, even though he’s still 43 homers short of the record.

It makes a weird kind of sense…let’s keep Bonds from making a mockery of the home run record by making a mockery of the game. Brilliant…

Doctor’s Orders

The last two weeks have been great for our old friend Dr. Phil. The only thing that is easier to write about than good news is bad news, and the Doctor has had plenty to write about with the Cubs.

One motif Dr. Phil has hit time and time again over the last fortnight is the Cubs taking an outfielder (Murton, Jones, or Pie – take your pick) and sticking him at first for some OJT until Derrek Lee comes back. Dr. Phil has gone out of his way to praise Mike Scioscia and Jim Tracy for their outside-the-box thinking (they’ve used a second baseman and a catcher (respectively) at first base for a game or two this year), in contrast to Baker’s “pulse-less” managing. I guess in Dr. Phil’s world, having nine games of experience over two years at first base (as Todd Walker has) qualifies him as an old hand.

Given the incessant carping, I was astonished to see this on my newsprint this morning:

While the Cubs enter the Washington series having lost 14 of 16 games, the right move to make is to seek a multiyear commitment from Baker. You’ve got to find out how passionate he is about digging out from under the rubble that has fallen around him.

And if Baker doesn’t want to discuss an extension until after the season, or wants accountants to work overtime massaging the numbers, then it’s time to find another manager and coaching staff….

I believe Baker – if anyone – still has the best chance to salvage this season…

The more I consider this morass of a season, it seems to me that the Cubs probably still need Baker more than he needs them…He’s still the best guy for the job, provided he wants to be here.

I couldn’t believe this was an actual Dr. Phil column – he hasn’t had this many nice things to say about Baker since, oh, I don’t know…Game Four of the 2004 NLCS, I guess.

Regardless, it is a puzzling piece. Perhaps most puzzling is Dr. Phil’s insistence that Baker get signed to an extension. If Baker is really the last, best hope to “salvage” the season, if he’s really the “best guy” to turn things around this year, why make him prove his loyalty?

Dr. Phil has this to say about Baker’s integrity:

Baker has a tremendous dignity, which he wears on his sleeve. He has credibility from his playing and managing days. He gets respect from umpires and opposing managers.
Does this sound like a guy who would tank the season if he weren’t on the hook for a few more years?

After a few weeks of using Baker as a punching bag, why the sudden about-face? Beats the hell out of me. Perhaps he wanted to change things up a little, keep us all on our toes. As we all learned on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, “Everyone once in a while, declare peace. It confuses the hell out of your enemies.”

Or maybe Dr. Phil figures the time is right to throw a little love Baker’s way, so as to stay on the skipper’s good side and not lose the all-important access. Or perhaps he figures Baker truly is doomed, and this show of support would lend credibility for the inevitable “they never should have fired Dusty” column waiting on the Doctor’s hard drive.

Dr. Phil might even sincerely believe this. Stranger things have happened.

Ask a Stupid Question…

While Dr. Phil was pounding out his puzzling defense of Dusty Baker, his fellow Tribune scribe Dave van Dyck was wasting time asking Cubs GM Jim Hendry pointless questions.

Here are a few of van Dyck’s queries:
Can you give a vote of confidence to Dusty Baker?

Who’s at fault for what has happened recently? Everybody? Nobody?

So you wouldn’t fault Dusty Baker more than anybody else?

Is there anything you can do, make a trade or shake up something?

Does it bother you, some of the mistakes that have been made, the lack of hitting in clutch situations?

Obviously, fans are up in arms, but you really don’t see this as the end of the season? Do you feel your team can salvage something?

Again, you don’t think a managerial change is going to help right now?
You can read Hendry’s answers for yourselves. I’m not going to bother with them here, because anyone with any experience listening to any general manager, coach, or manager can make a good guess about Hendry’s answers.

In the next few days, I’m sure we’ll hear from Cub Fan bent out of shape that Hendry wasn’t screaming at his staff or throwing things around the clubhouse (as Dr. Phil suggested Baker should do to get the team out of its lethargy). But, come on people, what do you expect him to say?

These are the kinds of questions I expect to hear on the WGN radio sports talk show. But those Cub Fans aren’t exactly the sharpest knives in the drawer. Meanwhile, van Dyck has his own press pass and Hall of Fame ballot and credit cards and everything. Is it too much to ask that he at least try to be slightly more insightful than Bill calling in from Cicero?

I Should Be Riding on That Train to San Antone

Saw a blurb in the paper that the city of San Antonio has withdrawn its offer of $200 million to build the Marlins a new yard. This is not a surprise, as the city had given MLB a 15 May deadline to make a “firm offer” to move the team, which (according to my calendar) was yesterday.

More surprising was the news that Marlins officials were working with the city of Hialeah to get something going there. I don’t know if we can put Hialeah on the short list just yet. Actually, I guess the short list is really more of an empty set, since the cities most frequently mentioned (Las Vegas, Portland, Charlotte) all have substantial issues that must be resolved before Loria the Destroyer can get his hopes up. More on this later, I’m sure…

Monday, May 15, 2006

Yeah, Sure

Sometimes you really have to wonder: do managers really believe the things that they say, or do they just understand the need to talk up all your players? Take this quote from MLB.com, with Astros manager Phil Garner discussing infielder Eric Bruntlett.

"Eric is very valuable," Garner said. "He can play a position [anywhere on the diamond]. [With his ability to play anywhere,] he might be our best player."

This is Eric Bruntlett's career record.

Bruntlett is a decent enough utility player, but the Astros' best player? That would be this guy. One would hope that Garner knows that.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Compare and Contrast

Player A
Fifty is a fair amount, and I'm going to serve it and then I'll be back on the ball field…I'm competitive. I just let the emotions get a little better than me sometimes. I've got to control that…I'd like to say I'm sorry for this incident. I do regret this situation. I'm going to get through it. Today is just a new day, I'm going to get started today.
Player B
Major League Baseball has turned into a badminton league. They told me I didn’t have any shot of getting my suspension knocked out. The fact that they won’t knock anything off is embarrassing to the game because the game has changed. Now you can’t really defend yourself…

I understand I have to be suspended, but it’s not like I went out and picked a fight. Nothing would have happened if he wouldn’t have said anything to me, if he wouldn’t have taken three steps hard at me. I get called out by Lackey. He calls me out and disrespects me and I’m supposed to sit here and have him yell at me? …

I think the big thing was this was my fourth time, and all four of the fights I’ve been into has been about sticking up for myself or sticking up for my pitcher. I guess they don’t look at that. People that are making decisions have never been in a situation like that. They wait for situations like this to happen so they can have this big power. And that’s what they did. They have the power right now...

Now ask yourself, who is the gritty, hard-nosed player, and who is the emotionally unstable player whose berserker rages could be evidence of steroid use?

They Can't Be This Stupid – Can They?

Saw an AP report that gives the MLBPA the right to bail out of the current drug testing policy if a new CBA is not agreed to by August 15. Needless to say, this news has created a vortex of Armageddon on Capitol Hill among legislators with nothing better to do.

I honestly can't think of any good reason the Players' Association would have to invoke this clause. So many players were in favor or stricter testing when the policy was ratified I can't imagine that the rank-and-file members would be down with the idea of scrapping it. And the fallout from the public's reaction to such a move would probably be only slightly less than the fallout from the comet that killed off the dinosaurs.

And it's not just steroid testing that would enter into the public's opinion. Labor negotiations in MLB are always fraught with peril, as any delay in approving the deal is seen by Average Fan as a personal affront, and yet more proof that the billionaires who own the teams and the millionaires who play the game don't care about the fans.

It's always dangerous to hope that Don Fehr will do the smart thing. But is he really stupid enough to do this? I sure as heck hope not...

Consider the Source

Only tangentially related to baseball, but it's a topic that Jim has brought up on more than one occasion. The reporters from the San Francisco Chronicle who wrote the tell-all book about Barry Bonds are facing an investigation about how they obtained the secret grand jury testimony they used in their book. The reporters, of course, won't tell anything, claiming that they need to protect their sources.

I'm no lawyer, and I'm not knowledgeable enough in such matters to say with ay certainty that this is a valid defense. But I think it's a good thing a federal prosecutor is at least asking the question. After all, this country is supposed to be under the rule of law – even truth-seekers looking to expose the sins of a celebrity.


Three words come to mind when I think about the Cubs' performance over the last two weeks.

One is "shameful."

Another is "ignominious."

The other is one I can't say here (there could be children reading, after all), but it's what gets swept off the street after, say, the Fourth of July parade in your hometown.

Perhaps the most frustrating thing about the current losing streak is how we've been losing games. When we get good pitching and play good defense, the offense fails to take advantage of opportunities (as indicated by the fairly sizable runners left on base numbers last week).

And when the offense scores some runs (which, lately, means three runs), the pitching goes to hell, and the defense starts throwing the ball around like they're auditioning for the lead role in The Steve Sax Story.

To all the gab that I hear about how all our woes can be traced back to losing Lee, I say: horse hockey! Not even Derrek Lee at his best last year could have saved this bunch of sad sacks.

At the beginning of the year, I said the Cubs wouldn't get any better if they didn't get better at getting on base. Well, we haven't. We're staying off base in droves.

It's a simple truth that I learned reading Bill James: you can't score runners who aren't on base. I'm looking at you, Juan Pierre. You too, Jacques Jones.

If Pierre and (to a lesser extent, which is really the only extent that you can count on from him) Jones don't kick their games up a notch, we're sunk. It won't matter if Lee comes back tomorrow and hits .800 for the rest of the year. It won't matter if Wood, Miller, and Prior come back next week and combine for thirty starts apiece, because they won't be able to throw the thirty perfect games they'll need to in order to have half a chance of winning.

What to do? Well, if you listen to Cub Fan and the Chicago punditocracy, all our problems disappear if GM Jim Hendry would just go out and get better players. Somehow, even that blinding bit of insight looks rational when compared with Dr. Phil's repeated calls for Jones or Matt Murton to take over at first base in order to get Felix Pie into the lineup. Hell, Dr. Phil has even suggested putting Pie at first base!

But however distasteful it is to agree with Dr. Phil, I have to agree with one of his comments today: why bother having John Mabry as back-up first baseman if he's not going to play first base?

With Lee out, Baker has made Todd Walker the everyday first baseman. This has the unhappy effect of installing a Jerry Hairston-Neifi Perez platoon of sorts at second base. That ain't good.

I don't know if Mabry would be any better. But the bar is set pretty low when you just have to outhit Neifi. Why not let Mabry play a little first base? Will it make the team play worse, Dusty?

Can help be on the way? The Cubs recalled Ryan Theriot and sent down Michael Restovich (another first baseman who didn't play). Theriot almost made the squad out of training camp, and Baker has hinted that he will be giving a shot at second base.

Theriot's bat isn't going to make anyone forget Ryne Sandberg. But, as I said before, the bar is set way low.

In recent days, a new subplot is making the rounds: will Dusty make it through the year?

There has been a sizable contingent of Cub Fans who have been anti-Baker since Day One. Needless to say, recent events have gained converts to their cause.

Will playing musical second basemen or firing Dusty actually accomplish anything? Or is it just rearranging the deck chairs on the Hindenburg (to steal a phrase)?

I've been watching the Cubs for over thirty years now, so I have some experience with bad teams. But what makes this year really frustrating is that this wasn't supposed to be a bad team. Maybe not a great team, but at the very least an OK team.

At this point, we'd need divine intervention to get to OK. Unfortunately, there is no help on the immediate horizon. For better or (probably) worse, we're stuck with this lot.

Management Death Watch

Back at our old place, I used to regularly update the list of managers (both field and general varieties) who were in danger of losing their gigs. But over the last year or so, I haven't had the opportunity to report on poor prognoses. Whether that's because people are doing better jobs, or because teams are beginning to understand that firing people willy-nilly in the middle of the season usually doesn't help, is for smarter people than me to determine.

That said, there are a couple guys who are treading on thin ice (if I may mix a metaphor). As has usually been the case for this column the last few years, we being in Kansas City.

Allard Baird. By this time, the name is usually followed by "He still has a job?" And with good reason.

To be fair, Baird's boss is pretty sh...errrr...lousy, too. But on the other hand, other small market teams have operated under similar condition -- the A's, the Twins, even the Devil Rays -- and not abased themselves to such shameful, ignominious levels.

In many ways, the Royals are the Chicago Blackhawks of MLB -- things won't get any better until new owners take over.

Meanwhile, the tranquility of the Pacific Northwest has been disturbed by some grumbling about Mariners' manager Mike Hargrove.

The Mariners have had a brutal time of it during Hargrove's tenure. But the thing that's really pumped up the drum beat for a regime change is the fact that Ichiro apparently isn't one of Grover's fans. Who does Ichiro think he is – Jeff Bagwell?

Unless the Mariners hit rock bottom, I don't think Hargrove is in imminent danger. Baird's days, on the other hand, are numbered. Not even David Glass can afford to overlook this level of incompetence for much longer.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Faith Based Science

On what peer-reviewed studies does this author base this on? Just goes to show you that anyone can get a book published these days.

Notice how Keating insinuates that substance use that is only alleged is actually proven, undeniable fact. Yes, he does mention that these charges are "according to "published reports" and the like, but it is very clear (so to speak) that he holds these truths to be self-evident. And you should to, because hey, some writers said so.

There are two steps conveniently left out of this leap of logic. The first is proving Bonds guilty of something, anything...if only he'd knock over a meth lab, by god, we'd have him then! But Bonds has not been proven guilty of a single thing; he's never even ever been formally charged with anything.

Then, we would like to see some repeatable, scientific studies showing what effect, if any, steroid use has on the ability to hit a baseball. We would also like to know which other players have used similar substances, particularly pitchers, who circumstancial evidence shows may have gotten a greater benefit than hitters. Speculation about how someones career would have looked if he hadn't used the substances we can't prove he's used is right along the lines of claiming Mission Accomplished.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Saw This Coming...

Anyone surprised by this? The pointless investigation of the unprovable has already irked the MLBPA. Not that the Mitchell group will wind up amounting to anything but a publicity stunt.

Big Yellow Hackney

It's interesting to see that it's not only Americans who tear down historic facilities. Somehow I always thought that the British had a much greater sense of appreciation of the past than Yanks do, but as always, money talks, sentiment and history walk.

Professional sports have their bad points. They receive far greater attention than is deserved, they are another cause of redistribution of wealth to the already wealthy, and they provide employment for a nitwit like Phillip Rogers.

But at their best they are also a celebration, a way to bring together a city for cheering and laughter instead of the usual unpleasantness. I live in Sacramento. From a sports perspective, I could give a rats ass about the fortunes of the Sacramento Kings. Yet on a certain level I always root for them. Why? Because when they do well, it makes my city a happier place to live in, and I love my city.

So when a stadium which was once a center of the community, a place holding the memories of generations, becomes an apartment complex, something is lost forever. Arsenal gets a new stadium, but it's not the same, just as Sell Your Soul Field will never be Comiskey Park; just as a new Yankee Stadium would not be The House That Ruth Built.

It's all the same to the money men, though. They are all very good at taking paradise and putting up a parking lot.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Takes One to Know One

Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal drops this nugget of joy in a column explaining why fans will be more cynical about home run records in the future:

But the greater issue is trust.

Major League Baseball has implemented the harshest penalties for steroid use in professional sports, but only a fool would proclaim that the sport is clean, given MLB's inability to test for human grown hormone and other non-detectable substances.

Ponder that for a moment: fans don't trust MLB's testing policies, because the tests can't detect non-detectable substances.

Now ask youself who is the bigger fool: fans who believe the sport is clean, fans who think MLB should detect non-detectable drugs, or journamalists who put crap like this into print with a straight face.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Our Long Nationals Nightmare Is Over

Huzzah! Word trickled down from Baron Budhausen’s office that the brazen conflict of interest we now know as the Washington Nationals will finally be resolved. Yes, after several long years, the Nationals will be getting real owners, as the group headed by real estate maven Theodore Lerner. Former Atlanta Braves president Stan Kasten is part of the group, and will take over as team president.

The reported selling price is about $450 million, which will give MLB a nice little nest egg when it comes time to pay off Loria the Destroyer when the owners start talking contraction again…

The Baron said, “This has been a long journey…While I do apologize for the time, I think history will prove it maybe was time well spent.”

I’m not sure if you can “prove” a “maybe.” And I suppose there’s a small chance that the Baron is right. Unless you’re a fan, player, or other employee of the Expos or Nationals. Then it sucked.

Kasten was quick to point out that under his watch, the Nationals will focus on developing home-grown talent. He said, “We’re going to spend money on the minor leagues, player development, and scouting. We have principles.”

That will be a refreshing change of pace for Nationals Fans.

Dr. Phil, Attorney at Law

The Tribune’s Dr. Phil puts away his stethoscope in order to show off his knowledge of jurisprudence:

Unfortunately for all of us, and especially for [Barry] Bonds, the questions that matter are:

** When will the indictment come?
** Will he get hit only with perjury and tax evasion, or also with some version of conspiracy or obstruction of justice?
** Will Major League Baseball have to wait until George Mitchell’s steroids committee renders a finding to give Bonds his career-ending suspension, or can Commissioner Bud Selig act upon the issuance of federal indictments?

…It wouldn’t be surprising if the case against Bonds produced some form of charges sooner – say, before the All-Star break – rather than later. It’s possible, though not all that likely, that however many home runs Bonds has hit on the day of an indictment winds up his eventual career total…

Here’s my guess what happens: The Mitchell committee will issue its report next winter. Selig will hand out immediate suspensions to Bonds and at least two others tied to BALCO, Jason Giambi and Gary Sheffield. And Bonds, unwilling to deal with such a public slap in the face and possibly deep into a criminal defense by then, never plays again.

Or, as Mark Slackmeyer once said, “That’s guilty! Guilty! Guilty! Guilty!

Of course, Marvelous Mark was talking about someone who was really guilty. The jury is still out on Bonds, but Dr. Phil is already lining up the firing squad.

Attack of the Ass-Bats

I said before that things would be difficult without Derrek Lee. I also said that whining about it wouldn’t help, and that our boys would need to suck it up and hold down the fort until Lee gets off the DL.

Well, I was half right. The Cubs have sucked, but that’s about it. It seems to be an extreme case of what Batgirl refers to as “Ass-Bats.”

After the Ass-Bats showed up in full force during the last four games (four runs total against the Brewers and Pirates), the Conventional Wisdom from the punditocracy said that the team was struggling because Lee wasn’t in the lineup. Not having Lee doesn’t help matters, but be serious – not even Lee could save this crew.

The problem, once again, is that no one is getting on base. The entire team is at fault, as the .312 team OBP indicates. But I think it’s fair to single out Juan Pierre, Jacques Jones, and Aramis Ramirez for special consideration.

I mean, we brought in Pierre to be the leadoff guy we needed to make the offense run. Jones was allegedly an upgrade over Burnitz in right. And Aramis…I had such high hopes for you this year…Perhaps you’re pressing to carry the team in Lee’s absence. Or maybe you just haven’t hit your stride yet. But whatever the reason, you’re bringing the Ass-Bat. Anytime you want to stop is OK with me.

The latest rumor has the Cubs interested in Tony Clark. Jeebus help me. Will Clark add so much to the offense to make it worth our while? I doubt it. And do we need a guy like Clark on the bench when Lee comes back? I’m sure we don’t.

To their credit, the Cubs haven’t tanked it since Lee went down. Considering the imminent doom predicted for them, hanging around .500 without Lee isn’t the worst thing that could happen. But unless they find a way to ditch the Ass-Bats, staying at .500 is going to be a pipe dream.

*** On the plus side, Kerry Wood continues to make progress from his various injuries. The latest news is that he will make a rehab start on Sunday. The best-case scenario has him rejoining the Cubs on 17 May. I’ve got my fingers crossed…

V For Very Suspicious

The injury plague that strikes down Rule V draft picks every year has made its first appearance of 2006. Like a virus, it mutates from player to player, taking the form of a sprained ankle to a sore shoulder to a bonkus of the konkus. It is a strain almost undetectible to graduates of the Hollywood Upstairs Medical School as well as the fraud investigation unit of the Commissioners Office.

Yesterday this deadly curse struck down Rangers pitcher and Rule V draftee Fabio Castro. Castro is a 21-year old prospect drafted by the Royals (good idea) from the White Sox organization and then given away to the Rangers for Esteban German (bad idea). The Rangers needed to open up a roster spot for Robinson Tejeda, so Castro, who was not reported to be suffering from any ailments previous to yesterday, suddenly was felled by a groin strain. Modern medical miracles being what they are, I expect the Castro will only need until September 1 to be fully healed and ready to return to the roster.

I realize that it's pointless to compare Baron Budhausen to Judge Landis, and that Judge Landis was far, far from perfect. But one thing that Landis considered to be one of his priorities was watching over roster shennanigans. Under Selig, there may as well not be any rules involving rosters or transactions at all, as they are never enforced.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Boorish Behavior

I know that Cleveland has a lot of good baseball fans. A pity that they let the idiot fringe drown them out on Monday night.

Jim Thome played for 12 seasons as a Cleveland Offensive Stereotype. During most of those 12 seasons he was one of the most dangerous hitters in the American League. He showed up for work every day, never caused a controversy, and was well-loved in the community. In the winter of 2002-2003, at the age of 32, Thome had a opportunity to take a better paying job in a new town, and moved on. On Monday night, he returned to Cleveland for the first time since leaving, wearing the uniform of a hated rival, to whom he had been traded over this past winter. From the reaction he got, you'd think that he had sold out the country into a pointless war, encouraged torture, and turned the keys to the country over to the oil companies.

Cleveland "fan" got the idea into his tiny little mind that it would be great fun to go out to the Jake and boo the living crap out of Jim Thome. Not just when he was introduced, not just during his first at-bat, but all night long. It was a classless display, but it got worse.

Scott Sauerbeck, pitching to Thome in the ninth, lost control of a fastball that came up and in, causing Thome to bail out quickly or get hit in the face. I swear, "fan" almost gave Sauerbeck a standing ovation. Only Travis Hafner's grand slam in the seventh got a louder cheer.

Is that what you go to the game for? To angrily boo someone who made a career decision you didn't agree with? To hope that he gets hurt? I'm not trying to single out Cleveland; there are boorish cretins at every ballpark. Usually, they show up at Giants road games, following Barry Bonds.

Buying a ticket does give you a right to express your opinion of what is happening. It does not give you carte blanche to engage in behavior that would be unacceptable in other public places. It does not give you the right to be rude, obnoxious, and stupid.

Want To Get Away?

Thanks to MLB.com TV, I watched a couple of innings of the Tigers/Royals game tonight, before switching over to more interesting games. In the fourth, the Royals went out in order on eight pitches. In the fifth, it only took them six. Against Mike Maroth, who is a decent pitcher but not exactly Sandy Koufax.

I know this is a very, very, very bad team, but do they have to just roll over already?

Monday, May 01, 2006

Hard to Argue with That Logic

Jim’s pretty much summed up my thoughts on Devil Rays prospect Delmon Young. The paraphrase Crash Davis, the guy’s got a million dollar bat and a five cent head.

I came across another, quite different take on Young’s latest excursion over the line. A poster on the Yahoo baseball message board I frequent pointed out that this is not Young’s first run-in with an umpire. Then he suggested that such behavior could be the result of steroid use.

If behaving like an ass is a clue that a player is on ‘roids, then we’re in deep doo-doo. Just think of all the potential cheaters out there: Jeff Kent, Randy Johnson, Roger Clemens, Pedro Martinez, Kenny Rogers, Carl Everett, Mike DeFelice…if we drop the standard of “reasonable doubt” to merely being a jerk, the possibilities are endless.

This novel theory showed up in one of Ken Rosenthal’s columns:

There's no defending Devil Rays prospect Delmon Young, who was suspended indefinitely by the International League for throwing a bat that hit a replacement umpire in the chest. But with the minor-league umpires on strike, the ineptitude of the replacement umps should not be discounted as a factor in the incident, says a scout who currently is assigned to the minors. "I think it was a cumulative effect," says the scout, who contacted FOXSports.com to volunteer his thoughts while emphasizing that he does not condone Young's action. "There were a multitude of events that led up to this. It was representative of the frustration that all the players are feeling throughout the minor leagues. This is a byproduct of the labor situation. I just watched five games in Triple A and saw horrendous calls. There were inconsistent ball-strike calls, (missed) balk calls, out calls, speed-of-game issues, control-of-game issues. It's affecting the players' development, their strike-zone judgment."
Blaming the umpire? Sure, why not?

On another note, I guess Albert Pujols must be juicing, too. After all, the court of public opinion has decided that many other players who hit lots of home runs in a short period of time must be on steroids. And no one’s hit more dingers this year than Albert. QED.

I exaggerate, of course. No sane person would accept the assertion that Pujols uses steroids. And yet on the message board, people whose previous postings indicated they were sane were more than willing to entertain speculation about Young. I’d attribute it to simple human folly if I could be sure the umpires weren’t somehow to blame…

Bum’s Rusch

Dear Mr. Baker:

Praise Jeebus you’ve come to your senses.

Thank you.

Walk the Line

There’s been a spate of articles about Barry Bonds’ intentional walk rate. Most of them involve some variation of exasperated sputtering about why in God’s name managers would walk Bonds more often than Albert Pujols.

ESPN’s Jayson Stark does a better job with this than most others I’ve seen. He actually talked to some of the managers in question to find out why they’re still loath to pitch to Barry.

Rockies manager Clint Hurdle’s response was the most telling:

You know, if you're driven by numbers, and your only world is just numbers, it doesn't make any sense. But when you start putting experience into it, and you put past history into it, and you know the feeling when you get beat late by him, and you know the feeling when you go into your locker room and look at the 25 guys inside after you just got beat by Barry instead of by Moises Alou or whoever is hitting behind him, as great a hitter as they may be, it makes a lot more sense. Because it's a much different feeling [getting beat by someone else]. It's easier to accept.

Yes, it’s easier to explain to the guys on the team why Alou got the game-winning hit instead of Bonds. I’m willing to bet it’s easier to explain that to the press gaggle, too. Much like the media, managers have scripts they love to follow, even if it flies in the face of common sense. It’s called The Book, and managers may disregard it at their own peril…

Not Just A Bonds Thing, I Guess

More innuendo and hearsay, this time with an international flavor.

While I have criticized the MLBPA in the past for doing nothing to help players who have issues with substance abuse, you can see here why they were so adamant about testing, fearing breach of confidentiallity.