Jim & Bob's Palatial Baseball Blog

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Get Well Soon

I hope that when I wake up tomorrow morning I don't find out that this has become an obituary.

Peter Gammons, probably the best known baseball analyst in the country, underwent surgery for a brain aneurysm earlier tonight. The most recent report I have seen says that he is resting in the ICU of a Boston hospital, but doesn't list his condition.

Over the years Bob and I have found occasion to mock Gammons for things he has written. The name of our first and longest running fantasy league, the PIGSTY, is a acronym in which we refer to him as "Idiot."

At the time we came up with this clever acronym, we were a lot younger than we are now, and thought we were wiser. Peter Gammons, to us, symbolized the old school of baseball writing, and we knew how it should be done.

Now that we are actually doing baseball writing, we know it's not so easy. And we've also learned that, far from being a hidebound member of the Back In My Day club, Gammons never hesitated to embrace or at least explore the new. What's more, he has never gone in for the kind of vicious, attack dog style of writing of the Jay Mariotti school. His opinions may be right, they may be wrong, or they may be somewhere in between, but they are always civil and well intended.

Get well soon.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

In Defense Of Bloggers

I've never actually seen Bob writing anything for our little dog and pony show, so I'm relieved to read that he does indeed wear pants while at the keyboard. For the record, I am also comfortably attired in a pair of shorts while typing this. You can all relax now.

Rick Morrissey seems to think that it's some sort of badge of honor that he and his fellow journamalists get to walk into a sweaty clubhouse and see A.J. Pierzynski or Ron Artest close up. This makes him "accountable," you see, and if A.J. Pierzynski doesn't like what Morrissey wrote, he can tell him so, face to face.

Morrissey writes:

If you're a sports columnist, you show up in the clubhouse to face the music. It's a matter of fairness.

Let's say I criticize Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski for something he did in a game. And let's say I do it in the Sunday Tribune, which has a circulation of about 960,000.

Isn't it reasonable for Pierzynski to have an opportunity to lash out at me in front of media and teammates in the clubhouse if I've treated him similarly in print? It seems pretty straightforward to me. It's what I was taught to do. It's what nearly all of the columnists in the country do. The honorable thing.

If you say so. Let's say that I criticize Pierzynski here on Jim & Bob's Palatial Baseball Blog, which for all we know has a circulation of about seven. If somehow Pierzynski doesn't like what I said, he can choose from the following menu:

(a) ignore it.
(b) post a comment in response.
(c) state his case to a beat writer of columnist. Frankly, I wish that would happen. We could use the publicity.

See, he still has his chance to respond. He just doesn't have the option of screaming in my face, or for that matter of kneeing me in the area.

Morrissey skates around a major issue of up close contact with the people he or I may write about:

It doesn't mean you're being co-opted by the people you're dealing with, not if you have an ounce of integrity. It means you're being thorough and professional.

Of course it does, Rich. No sportswriter would ever allow themselves to take a positive attitude towards a player, let's call him Mark Grace, who makes their job easier by being a quote machine, or a negative attitude towards a player, let's call him Barry Bonds, who has little or no interest in talking to the media. Never happens. Never, never, never. Sportswriters are all thorough and professional.

Morrissey is right on target with something he says later in the column, however:

But something is happening in our society, and the blog is a reflection of it. So is TV. So is radio. So, for that matter, is Mavericks owner Mark Cuban.

Civility is going bye-bye. Public discussion is a bloody fistfight. And it's ok to be vapid as long as you're loud.

Want proof? Here. And here. And here. And the list goes on. Warning...you may need to thoroughly scrub your computer, your eyes, and your hands if you actually try to read any of these links.

At this blog, we believe in civilized discourse. If you don't agree with us, don't call us names, tell us why you disagree. Then we'll re-state our case. And you can re-state yours. That's how it's supposed to be done. Those with different viewpoints are welcome here.

Jay The Joke

While Performance Artist Ozzie Guillen really does need to tone down his act, please don't waste any crocodile tears on Jay Mariotti. We mock other writers, such as Dr. Phil or Rick Morrissey, for saying stupid things. Hey, Bob and I are bookending this piece with shots at Morrissey. But Rogers and Morrissey and their ilk are just bad writers. To find Jay Mariotti, you have to sink to the bottom of the barrel.

Check that. To paraphrase Roger Ebert's review of Freddy Got Fingered, Jay Mariotti doesn't scrape the bottom of the barrel. Mariotti isn't the bottom of the barrel. Mariotti isn't below the bottom of the barrel. Jay Mariotti doesn't deserve to be mentioned in the same sentence with barrels.

If you've read Mariotti's columns or seen his act on tv, here's a towel, go take a shower. If you haven't, I'll spare you the effort. Mariotti is a columnist whose forte is to be rude, antagonistic, and abusive. He's sort of the Ann Coulter of sportwriting. Like Coulter, he doesn't bother with facts or rational discourse, but simply vents whatever crap pops into his tiny mind. Kind of like I'm doing now, I guess. In his view, it seems, the purpose of a columnist is not to inform or educate, but to start fights.

Someone this mean-spirited and smug can't be done justice in a single posting like this. Luckily, someone has picked up the slack with this website. As they put it, this is one thing even Sox and Cubs fans can all agree on.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

No Shoes, No Pants, No Service

Rick Morrissey, Chicago Tribune:

One of the best and worst things that has happened to our society is the blog—best because everyone can have his say, not just us so-called experts; worst because everyone can say anything with almost no accountability...

I'll give Mariotti this: Whether he realizes it or not, he might have been the nation's first blogger, without actually writing one.

He has led the way by not leading the way to the locker room or the clubhouse. He writes what he wants without ever talking to a soul.

The only difference is he travels often to events, unlike bloggers, many of whom sit in their underwear all day and update, update, update.

Two things: first, it's hilarious that Morrissey should blather on about "accountability" so. Sure, it's one thing to have an athlete, manager, or executive chew you a new one if he doesn't agree with your column. It's quite another to write an asinine column that is completely wrong in every way...and then write another column a week later as if you had the whole thing pegged from day one, letting your earlier incorrectness fall down the memory hole.

Although I am a lowly blogger, I do my best to 'fess up when I'm wrong. I don't know if that makes me more "accountable" than Morrissey. But perhaps it makes me more intellectually honest.

Second, let the record show that when I am at the keyboard, I am always attired in pants (or, at the very least, shorts). Believe me, my co-workers thank me for that...

Why Not DH?

Every year the debate over the designated hitter returns when the horror known as interleague play rears its ugly head. I've been a National League fan all my life, and had never supported making the DH universal.

Until now. Maybe I'm just getting old. Maybe I'm just tired of fighting. While I don't care for the DH on principle, I don't think it would be the worst thing in the world if the National League adopted the DH.

Oh, I'm still a baseball purist. I prefer grass fields, day games on the radio, and (when I visit the yard) moderately volumed organ music instead of ear-shattering pop music.

But the DH has been around for over thirty years, and I can't think of anyway it's hurt the AL. Hell, I'm hard-pressed to find reasons why the AL isn't better than the NL at this point.

And since it appears that the wretchedness of interleague play is not going away any time soon, it would be nice if the rules were uniform. There's nothing more annoying than listening to some AL manager whine about how unfair it is when they have to play in an NL park.

I kid, of course. But I do understand their point of view. Is there a good reason why they have to play six or nine games under different rules than they use for the rest of the year?

No, there isn't. The NL has already bought into the gimmick of interleague play. Why not go all the way and accept the DH?

Never Darken My Towels Again

The whole Ozzie Guillen situation has been talked to death. But I just wanted to make a few more quick comments on it before I leave it in the dust, where it so richly belongs.

First, I had no problems with Guillen not apologizing to Jay Mariotti. Guillen has been abundantly clear that he doesn't like Mariotti (and he's not the only one), and whatever the issues are between those two are for those two to resolve.

However, I found it darkly amusing how he apologized to the people who might have been offended by his slur. Guillen said that he wasn’t referring to gay people with that word. He only directed the slur to Mariotti – so why was everyone else so upset?

Typical Guillen. In his world, it's always someone else's fault. In this case, it's the media's fault for printing a comment he thought was off the record. And it's everyone else's fault for being offended by his slur. It's also their fault for not being from Venezuela, too.

That whole "In Venezuela it means something else" is a weak excuse, too. If you recall, he used the same excuse after he called A-Rod a "hypocrite" before the WBC.

And now Guillen says that he'll need to take English lessons before taking his sensitivity training so he'll know what they're talking about. Give me a break. He was able to speak English well enough to pass his citizenship test. Does sensitivity training require greater fluency?

A poll at chicagosports.com indicated showed 68% of responders chalked this up to "Ozzie being Ozzie." I'm inclined to agree with them.

Only an ass would say something like that in front of reporters. And Ozzie is nothing if not an ass.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Uhhhh…What He Said?

Straight-talking Ozzie Guillen (our new favorite performance artist) certainly has the given the columnists something to write about and the radio guys something to talk about. Some people are taking him to task for being an ass. Some people are making excuses for him.

And then there’s Mike Downey of the hopelessly biased Chicago Tribune. He wrote about Guillen today. But I’m not sure which side of the fence he’s on. Maybe it’s because he spent half his column talking about Dusty Baker and how bad the Cubs are (see – it’s that typical Tribune bias again…). Mostly it’s because of this:

When a man in Guillen’s position uses an F-word about a certain individual, as he has quite often, he is within his right, exactly as he would be about an umpire or darn near anybody else. Just not that F-word – about anyone, under any circumstances, in public.

Guillen exonerates himself by calling this his Venezuelan way of calling a man a coward, not a homosexual. I get that. But to use such a word in the workplace can be an offense punishable by a suspension or a firing. In this case the Sox skipper simply was trying to be his filthy, funny self.

But it is inexcusable in any case. The word is incendiary.
To recap the arguments: Ozzie can say all the bad words he wants. Except those that are really bad – especially if he’s in public (behind closed doors, he can say whatever he wants). Downey totally gets Ozzie’s position that the word in question means something quite different in Venezuela. But it’s still really, really bad – and saying it could earn you a pink slip.

But, oh, that Ozzie – he’s just a funny guy. Except he shouldn’t have said that, ‘cause it’s really bad.

And they said John Kerry flip-flopped…

Set the Way-Back Machine Part I

Let’s go back to 30 April. It was a beautiful spring day in Anaheim, California…

''People in this league think I'm a headhunter. Anytime one of my players get hit, they warn me out of nowhere,'' Guillen said. ''I know the umpires have to protect the integrity of the game and protect the players - and they're right. But I'm getting tired of them giving me a warning every time our guy gets hit. We get hit more than any team in baseball. So if they think I'm a headhunter, they've got the wrong guy."

Wonder what Sean Tracey thinks of that?

Set the Way-Back Machine Part II

I originally posted this back in February. With the recent unpleasantness, I thought it might be amusing to revisit how the hopelessly biased Chicago Tribune views the city’s two managers:

Mark Gonzales, 17 February:

[Ozzie] Guillen insinuated that [Alex] Rodriguez was a hypocrite. “He’s full of it,” Guillen said. “The Dominican team doesn’t need him. It’s the same with [Nomar] Garciaparra playing for Mexico. Garciaparra knows Cancun because he went to visit it.”

This was merely the latest in a series of colorful pronouncements from Guillen. “People say ‘Ozzie Guillen is a big mouth, he’s so controversial,’” Guillen said. “No,
people don’t like it when you tell the truth.”

Paul Sullivan, 20 February:
Dusty Baker is hoping for a drama-free season in 2006, which would be a big departure from his first three years in Chicago.

Whether he was inventing phrases like “steroid McCarthyism,” presenting theories on how minorities handle the heat, or revealing that he sprinkles holy water on his
players, Baker often found himself involved in a controversy.

Yeah, that Dusty sure is a whack job, isn’t he?

Set the Way-Back Machine Part III

As part of its defense of straight-talking Ozzie Guillen, today’s Chicago Tribune reminds us that a member of the Chicago Cubs once used a slur against homosexuals.

On 28 April 2001, Julian Tavarez started for the Cubs at Pacific Bell Park. Tavarez had already earned the enmity of Giants Fan by getting into a fight during a spring training game with Giants third baseman Russ Davis.

So Giant Fan was in fine form that day, letting Tavarez have it with both barrels. Here’s how Tribune writer Dan McGrath described the lead-up to Tavarez’ insult, and the insult itself:

In the third inning Tavarez came off the mound to field [Marvin] Bernard’s bouncer and made the putout himself, tagging Bernard a bit more vigorously than perhaps necessary. Bernard didn’t respond, but the crowd booed loudly and did so again after Tavarez’ knockdown pitch to Armando Rios two innings later.

Asked about the reaction, Tavarez said, “What do I care about the fans here?” and used profanity and the slur about gays to describe them. “That’s what they are.”

The immediate comparison? Well, it had been just about a year since John Rocker blasted the people of New York City in a Sports Illustrated interview. Rocker received a thirty-day suspension for his idiocy (reduced from the original sixty-day sentence). And while I don’t recall anyone wanting Tavarez to sit for that long, his detractors did call for a suspension.

Like Skip Bayless, then with the Tribune:

Tavarez deserves another five-game suspension for using an anti-gay slur to describe Giants fans while seven or eight media members interviewed him. Commissioner Bud Selig again needs to drive home the point this will not be tolerated.

No, this wasn’t John Rocker going off on a lengthy redneck rant against multiple ethnic groups as he and a Sports Illustrated reporter tooled around town in his Covertte. In fairness, this was Tavarez shortly after his pride had been battered by the Giants and their fans…

Tavarez has a right to his opinions as long as he doesn’t express them in a public forum as a member of the Cubs. But he needs to be taught the difference. Another message needs to be sent rap-song strongly to all athletes…

Bring down the hammer. Continues to show them their jock-god entitlement has its boundaries. Remind them they – unfortunately – influence kids’ opinions. As [then-Cub manager Don] Baylor said, “We still haven’t learned a lot from the Rocker situation.”

In the end, Tavarez was not suspended for his remarks. He apologized to the people of San Francisco, and the Cubs fined him (no figures released, but reportedly five figures) and sent him to sensitivity training. Baron Budhausen said he was satisfied with the team’s measures, adding:

Mr. Tavarez embarrassed himself, his team, and the game of baseball. There is no excuse for such language and there is no place in our game for bigotry.

Today, Guillen received the same punishment Tavarez did – a fine and some sensitivity training. Here's what the Baron had to say about Guillen:

Ozzie Guillen used language that is offensive and completely unacceptable. Baseball is a social institution with responsibility to set appropriate tone and example. Conduct or language that reflects otherwise will not be tolerated. The use of slurs embarrasses the individual, the club and the game.

Two more comparisons. First, the apologies:


I want to apologize to the city of San Francisco and say how sorry I am for what I said. I’m a very emotional man and I don’t always mean what I say. Sometimes my emotions get the best of me. I am very sorry – very sorry.


I should be suspended because I called one guy that? I should have used another word. [MLB] can do whatever they want, but I’m not going to back up. I will apologize to the people I offended because I should have used another word.

Finally, reaction from Rick Garcia, spokesperson for the gay rights group Equity Illinois. Here’s what he said about the Tavarez situation:

In the past, anti-gay slurs have met with silence or acceptance. The Cubs’ organization clearly let it be known that anti-gay sentiment is not only inappropriate, it will not be tolerated in their organization.

Garcia on Guillen:

This isn’t the first time that he’s made an anti-gay slur, so I think the White Sox organization needs to look at one of their higher-profile people using slurs that are unacceptable. They need to do something about it.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Stand By for Wailing and Gnashing of Teeth

I look forward to hearing the amusing arguments the Bonds-haters will pose as they pretend to care about the freedom of the press:

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- The Bush administration urged a federal judge here Wednesday to force two San Francisco Chronicle reporters to divulge who leaked them secret grand jury testimony of Barry Bonds and other athletes who took part in the government's BALCO probe.

Noting that it is a crime to leak grand jury materials to the media, "there is no reporter's privilege in criminal cases, under the First Amendment or under common law," federal prosecutors Brian Hershman and Michael Raphael wrote in a 51-page brief.

The attorneys said California's shield law protecting California reporters from divulging their sources does not apply to the federal probe of who violated a court order and leaked the documents.

Maybe He Should Sell Tickets

If Jim is correct, and Ozzie Guillen really is a performance artist, he needs to get a better agent. Because he's wasting some great material on impromptu free shows. He should sell tickets for this stuff:

CHICAGO (AP) -- Outspoken Chicago White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen apologized Wednesday for using a derogatory term in referring to Chicago Sun-Times columnist Jay Mariotti, then kept up his criticism of the writer.

Guillen went into a profanity-laced tirade against Mariotti before Tuesday night's game against St. Louis and called him a number of names, including a derogatory term that is often used to describe someone's sexual orientation.

Before Wednesday night's game, Guillen acknowledged that his use of the word might have offended some.

"I shouldn't have mentioned the name that was mentioned, but I'm not going to back off of Jay," Guillen said, using another profanity to describe Mariotti.

"The word I used, I should have used something different. A lot of people's feelings were hurt and I didn't mean it that way."

Well, at least Guillen had the sense to apologize for using that derogatory term. But I wonder...could straight-talking Ozzie resist the temptation to use the fact that English is his second language as an excuse for his statement (like he did after he slurred A-Rod earlier this year) while claiming it's not an excuse?
"I've been here for 20 years, but people have to know that I grew up in a different country. That's not an excuse. I called the guy that name, but, no, that's the way I grew up, that's the way I've learned that language," he said.

"I don't have an excuse to say that, I have been here enough to know you can use so many words in the States. That's not an excuse, but I wasn't calling people that. I was calling him that."

I guess not. Or at least I don't think so. It's really hard to figure out just what the hell he was trying to say here. Ozzie ability to use a lot of words to say nothing is rivalled only by Puffy McMoonface.

Regardless, this material is pure gold. And it's a lot funnier than anything you'll see on Last Comic Standing or Blue Collar Comedy Tour.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Blackout Blues

This is something I've been meaning to write up for a while, but hadn't gotten around to it. The current blackout policies of MLB are ill-devised and short sighted, meaning that they are pretty much par for the course for MLB.

Living in Sacramento, I am blacked out for the Athletics and the Giants. Sure, I could watch them on cable, but I choose not to have cable, so I'm SOL there. And my situation is nothing compared to the guy in Keokuk. I'm not really sure how MLB thinks that this is helping anyone, including the teams themselves. Going to the Bay area for a game involves about 4-5 hours of travel time (even though I live only 90 miles away) and runs me around $100 including gas, parking, tickets, food, and anything else I'm insane enough to buy at the park. Needless to say, it's not a trip I'm going to make more than once or twice a season. Frankly, the Rivercats are more a threat to my attendance at major league games than MLB TV is.

Since this, and not this is an issue that affects the public interest, I would recommend writing your congressman. If congress is going to make grandstand plays, let's at least try to push them to make one over something that might actually help the average fan.

Ozzie's New Ambition

I think that Ozzie Guillen has a new goal. Having already won a World Championship with the White Sox, he is embarking on a personal quest to become the most psychotic manager in the history of the game. He's got a long way to go to catch this man, but Ozzie is off to a great start.

The row over the A.J./Vincente Padilla/Sean Tracey/Hank Blaylock incident is a fine example. Certainly comments by Ozzie like these are right out of the Martin playbook:

"I'll tell you one thing, if Padilla hit me twice, right now I'd be in the hospital or I'd be dead. But I will fight. I will fight because the way he hit him."

"Everybody has a different way of going about their business. They hit me, we'll fight. I'd get my butt kicked, but I will fight. I grew up fighting. I play this game the way it should be played, I coached this game the way it should be coached and I manage this game the way people have to manage in this game."

"Padilla can't say he wanted to hit him because he'd get in trouble. Everybody knows he hit him. If that situation happened to Ozzie Guillen, right now I'd be bleeding with a broken nose."

Imagine all of that in rapid-fire, heavily Spanish-accented English, and you'll get the idea of one crazy dude. A Chicago radio station used to play a game in which listeners had to determine whether a sound bite was from Ozzie or from Tony Montoya. I'd rule these as too close to call.

So Sean Tracey gets his ass shipped back to the minors for refusing to drill Hank Blaylock in retaliation. That'll teach you to have a conscience, kid. Guillen is now probably pestering Kenny Williams to sign Ben Christensen.

Maybe I'm just missing the point. Maybe Ozzie is not a manager, but a performance artist. Sometimes I half-expect him to declare himself the Inter-Gender Wrestling Champion of the World, or start reading The Great Gatsby to the plate umpire in the middle of an argument. Now THAT would be entertainment!

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Leaving So Soon?

A few commentators have speculated what might happen if Roger Clemens’ glorious return to Houston doesn’t result in the Astros righting the ship and speeding back into contention. The doubting Thomases say that the Astros have issues that won’t be solved just because Clemens is back in the rotation (stuff like a weak offense and shaky rest of the pitching staff).

Will Clemens want to stay in Houston if there’s no October payoff? Will the team want to pay him $11 million if there’s no October payoff?

Great. After months of will-he-or-won’t-he-return debate, we’re now subject to will-he-or-won’t-he-be-traded debate – and the guy isn’t even back with his Major League team yet!

Maybe ESPN should fill the hole in its schedule with Clemens on Clemens so we can all stay current on this storyline…

The Unwritten Code

The AP’s Tim Dahlberg makes an interesting point regarding MLB’s unwritten code of conduct:

Sean Tracey is back riding a bus in the minor leagues because he didn’t do it. Randy Johnson soon might be riding the bench for a few games because he did.

The moral behind the recent tales of two pitchers seems to be this: It’s far more painful to violate baseball’s unwritten rules than it is the ones on paper.

Throw at a batter, get a slap on the wrist. Don’t throw at one and you’re suddenly wondering what became of those luxury hotel rooms and that tasty clubhouse spread.

So goes the decades-old debate over beanballs – and whether or not MLB is right in trying to put the kibosh on tit-for-tat retaliation. One side says that getting beaned is just part of the game – but if you think the other guy has crossed a line (an unwritten line, of course) you have every right to protect your own. The other side says that blatant headhunting is not only unsavory, it’s dangerous.

I think the most glaring fault of the warning system as it stands now is that it forces the umpires to judge the pitchers’ intent. There will be a few occasions where the pitcher is blatantly trying to nail the batter. But a wide majority of incidents aren’t so obvious – and trying to read someone’s mind is always fraught with peril.

Did Randy Johnson intend to hit Eduardo Perez? Did Vincente Padilla intend to plunk Saint AJ twice (a different question than would Padilla enjoy plunking Saint AJ twice)? Did straight-talking Ozzie Guillen order sad-sack Sean Tracey to drill Hank Blalock? The only people who know for sure are those involved (although Ozzie has made his stance crystal clear since then…).

Those who sympathize with the pitchers (like me, for instance) say that the pitchers aren’t entirely at fault. They might also say that the various elbow, wrist, ankle, and knee armor gives them carte blanche to lean over the plate (I swear I once saw Craig Biggio get hit in the elbow with a pitch that would have been a strike…). While I don’t want to see anyone get hurt, I do wonder when MLB will draw the line on the body armor.

Speaking of unwritten codes, I’ve also noticed that some players seem to be more ticked off at Jason Grimsley for breaking the code against “ratting out other players” (as Grimsley’s former employer so eloquently put it) than for violating MLB’s drug policy (not to mention federal law).

One of the players with hurt feelings is Terry Mulholland:

Now because of maybe just a handful of guys, people are looking at baseball players as criminals first and ballplayers second. It breaks my heart.

Boo fricking hoo. Can Mulholland be naïve enough to think that the public’s perception of ballplayers would be better if Grimsley kept his pie hole shut and didn’t name names? Come on, Terry – if the fans have turned against Mark McGwire, they don’t really have a lot of faith left in the rest of you…

The Answer Is Yes

Query posed by WGN Radio’s Ron Santo during the eighth inning of today’s game:

Are these guys [Detroit] really this good or are we really this bad?

Friday, June 16, 2006

Hey Moe

I saw in the paper that Moe Drabowsky died earlier this week. Drabowsky played for the Cubs, and White Sox, among others. But most people probably remember him for his showing in the 1966 World Series for the Orioles. Afterwards Moe said, “I was the second Pole to appear in the World Series. The first one carried a rake.”

Our deepest sympathy to Moe’s family and friends.

Old Enough to Know Better

It’s been a long time since anyone cried about QuesTec. Fortunately, a few good people stepped up and dragged it back into the spotlight:

You have to thank QuesTec. Our pitch counts are getting up. Around the league, you see lots of finesse pitchers struggling because they’re not getting too many corners [for strikes]. You have to be around the strike zone a little bit more and get them to put it in play.
** White Sox ace (and, according to some, greatest pitcher in the history of the world) Mark Buehrle, when informed he was the first Sox pitcher in three weeks to pitch into the eighth inning

They should let the umpires be themselves, let them call their own zones. I’m not sure why it’s done, but it’s here to stay and we’re going to have to deal with it.
** White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper on QuesTec

Pop quiz: which stadium just had QuesTec installed this spring? If you said U.S. Cellular Field, give yourself a cookie.

Red Light Curt and Tom Glavine have expressed similar sentiments about QuesTec. And their takes were as hilarious as Buehrle and Cooper’s. You have to be “around the strike zone a little bit more” to get a pitch on the corner called a strike? Umpires should “call their own zones?”

C’mon, guys – the strike zone is pretty well defined in the rule book. The pitch either crosses the plate in the zone, or it doesn’t. There’s not a lot of wiggle room there.

We’ve already seen what happens when umpires are allowed to “be themselves.” One guy will give the pitcher six inches off the outside corner as a strike. The next night, the umpire will decide that home plate is only 14 inches across. QuesTec isn’t perfect (of course), but it’s helped get us away from those bad old days into some semblance of strike zone normalcy.

UPDATE: Saw this after I posted this first time...

Everybody's got a different way to go about their business. But hit me and we'll fight. I might get my butt kicked but we'll fight. I grew up fighting. I played the game the way it should be played. I manage the way you have to manage in this game.

** White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen, who only a few weeks ago was all for peace, love, and understanding


Blue Days for Orange Guy

Today’s hopelessly biased Tribune notes that Matt Murton could be losing his regular left field gig. His overall numbers are OK (.269 BA, .339 OBP). Unfortunately, he hasn’t done a whole hell of a lot in the last month or so. As Sully helpfully notes in his piece, Orange Guy is hitting .213 since May 29, and has only four RBIs since April 29. Although Murton’s doing better than, say, phenom Brian Anderson, it’s hard for a team already hard-up for offense to carry that kind of non-production.

Murton might be a candidate for a platoon – he’s hitting .228 against righties (in 145 ABs), as opposed to his .375 average against lefties (56 ABs). Freddie Bynum has been getting more playing time against right-handers recently, and Baker has hinted that some sort of platoon arrangement is in the works.

Sully efficiently lists Murton’s faults – besides his slumping bat, he’s a “defensive liability” with a weak arm. Even so, if Murton gets benched (or even shipped back to Des Moines), look for a chorus of “Dusty hates young players” to ring from the punditocracy.

Why the rush to judgment? In the world according to Sully, it will be either Bynum or Murton drawing the short straw when Derrek Lee gets off the DL. Bynum is out of options, and would most likely not clear waivers.

There is another option, although it’s doubtful Hendry will choose this course. He can always can Neifi Perez and his .224 OBP, and then keep both Murton and Bynum for the LF platoon. Murton might not be hitting now, but he’s got a better chance of being a viable Major League hitter next year than Perez does.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

We Now Interrupt Our Regularly Scheduled Pennant Races...

...to bring you MLB's annual cheap stunt. Yes, once again it is time for that abomination unto the Lord, interleague play, to rear it's ugly head. I certainly know that I've been waiting months for Minnesota-Pittsburgh, Toronto-Florida, and Tampa Bay-Philadelphia. That's right kids, let's all take a trip to PNC Park tonight...Torii Hunter is in town!

There is something completely wrong with a schedule that sends the White Sox to Cincinnati as often as it does to Boston or Oakland. But Baron Budhausen and crew have pronounced this dreck a rousing success, and so a rousing success it shall be.


The only, and I mean only, bit of "evidence" that anyone has ever offered against Luis Gonzalez as a steroid abuser is his 2001 season, when he hit 57 homers, 26 more than he has in any other season. That's not evidence, that's called a fluke. Such as:

In 1961 Norm Cash hit .361 with 41 homers. His career high average other than that year was .286, and although he followed that season with a 39-homer campaign in 1962 he generally averaged 25-30 homers per season. Was Norm Cash a steroid abuser? Of course not.

That same season, Jim Gentile, who only one other time topped 28 homers (33 in 1962) belted 46 for the Orioles. I didn't realize that BALCO was in business in 1961. There is another 1961 overperformer; I'll save him for later.

Rico Petrocelli jumped from 12 homers to 40 in 1969. He hit 29 and 28 the next two years and then reverted to his usual ground of 15-18. Rico Petrocelli was a lot of things, but most likely not a steroid user.

Walt Dropo smashed 34 homers and drove in 144 runs for the 1950 Red Sox. Only one other time did he hit better than 20 homers. I think that's proof enough to convict.

A Giants outfielder named Willard Marshall hit 36 homers in 1947. Marshall played 11 seasons in the majors, mostly as a regular, and never hit more than 17 in other seasons. Draw your own conclusions.

Best known as the championship-winning manager of the Blue Jays, Cito Gaston batted .318 with 29 homers in 1970. Gaston was a .256 lifetime hitter who only reached double figures in homers two other times, with 17 and 16. That's Guilty, Guilty, Guilty!

Saving the best for last...Roger Maris. Yes, the now-sainted Roger Maris (who took his share of abuse from the media in his day). Maris hit a career-high (to that point) 39 homers in 1960, an improvement of 23 from the previous year. In 1961, of course, he hit 61. In 1962, he fell back to 33. He never did better than 26 again. Something in the water? Or a good player staying in a zone for 162 games?

Baseball history is full of one- or two-season wonders, guys who jumped far out of their normal performance range for a brief time. I happens, without any sinister cause or dubious reason. Certainly one can point to many plausible explanations for the seasons listed above. One could come up with just as many for the 1990s home run boom.

We agree that steroid, HGH, etc., are bad things, and that people shouldn't be taking them without a valid medical reason. We also would like to (again) point out that there is absolutely NO scientific, non-ancedotal evidence of their impact on playing baseball.

Cheap Shot

It's one thing to take a hard line with an idiot like Jason Grimsley, even if there is every chance that it will backfire. Grimsley is a knucklehead, has always been a knucklehead, and probably will be a knucklehead for the rest of his life. He's not a beloved icon in Phoenix, has no ties to the community, and has made a very margin contribution this year. He's also made a fool of himself in public, and revealed himself as a target for the current witchhunt. He's a perfect scapegoat.

But having Diamondbacks team president Ken Kendrick open his pie hole to "defend" Luis Gonzalez against "whispers" that he has been a steroid user is akin to asking someone, "when did you stop beating your wife?"

Gonzalez is regarded, from all indications, as one of baseball's nicest guys. I've never met him, so I can't personally vouch for that, but everything I've ever read points to that. He's taken a very active role in the local community and has been a positive rolemodel, at least publicly.

Of course, one could, I suppose, be all of that and still cheat with chemicals, but the catch is this: there has never been a single public disclosure or shred of evidence that Gonzalez is anything of the sort.

Not that this matters to the witchhunters. Now Gonzalez has to defend himself against a charge that has never been made. I'll bet he never expected a Spanish Inquistion.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Snake in the Grass

OK, I will assume that you already know the details surrounding Jason Grimsley. So just a few random thoughts on the sordid affair:

** With Grimsley caught red-handed, do you think we’ll hear the end of people saying that performance-enhancers are destroying our sacred home run records? I doubt it, because the inanity of sports radio knows no bounds. The hosts and callers will still wail and gnash their teeth about Babe Ruth while ignoring the fact the Grimsley isn’t the only pitcher busted.

** Of course, in the long run no one really gives a rat’s hinder about Jason Grimsley – it’s more fun to take shots at Bonds, Palmeiro, and McGwire. But Grimsley’s affidavit includes a long list of redacted names. Is it too much to hope that those top-secret identities will also be a bunch of nobodies no one cares about?

Given how smoothly the last few years have gone, it is too much to hope. Stand by for pain...

** Speaking of those redacted names, I see in the news that one of them is rumored to be Albert Pujols’ trainer. And he has vehemently protested that both he and his famous client are innocent. Good to see the American tradition of tarring and feathering continues unabated...

** Can someone tell me if HGH is detectable? I’ve read umpteen stories about it, and all I’ve found are conflicting accounts. Some say that HGH is undetectable. Some say that it’s undetectable in urine, but not in blood. And still others say that there are blood tests out there, like the Olympics use. And then there’s the group that say the blood tests are unreliable.

So I’m wondering...if there is no test for HGH (or if the tests that are out there are unreliable), why is MLB getting beat up for not testing for it? HGH is on the list of banned substances, but if there’s no test for it, can we blame MLB for that? I mean, it’s not like you can dust for HGH or anything...

** While most people took a “Who will think of the children” attitude towards Grimsley, these nuggets of joy came out of Chicago:

Take blame, take the hit and don’t be putting it on anyone else. ‘Hey, I got caught with it, and I’m going to bring some other guys down.’ That’s what’s wrong...Why he did it, I don’t know. Maybe he was facing a bunch of criminal charges and tried to protect his own [rear]. That’s all I can see.
** White Sox reliever Jeff Nelson

Only thing I can say is that a former player should shut up and go. Shut up and move on. We don’t need these guys here. Baseball is better without him.
** Straight-talking White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen

Perhaps even more hilarious than Guillen and Nelson’s take on the situation is the Tribune’s headline to the piece (for the hardcopy, that is -- for some reason, they changed it for the online version): “Guillen, Nelson Enraged by Grimsley’s Revelations.”

Apparently, what’s ticked them off the most isn’t the fact that Grimsley’s an admitted cheat and law-breaker. It’s that he’s telling tales out of school.

As much as it pains me to agree with Rick Morrissey, I think he’s right on this one. He also offers another bon mot from Nelson:

For him to get caught and then basically throw other guys under the bridge, that’s just wrong. Even though we’re all on different teams, we’re all a big family. This is a big fraternity, and you just don’t do that. It’s something the sport doesn’t need.
That’s hilarious. I know there are still a few players on the White Sox roster who were huge supporters of the more stringent testing procedures. I can only hope they take Nelson aside and explain to him what the sport does and doesn’t need...

Rest in Peace

Former umpire Eric Gregg died last week. We offer our sincerest condolences and sympathy to his friends and loved ones. But I can't stand silently as some revisionist history infiltrates the media.

Like the notice in Baseball Weekly this week. Paul White notes:

[Gregg] worked an All-Star Game and seven post-season series, including the 1989 World Series, during a National League career from 1975-99, yet he was remembered most for his wide strike zone in Game Five of the 1997 NL Championship Series between the Marlins and the Braves.

Of course he will be remembered for that extra-wide zone -- because it was ridiculously wide! And yet, it was merely one example of a career full of ridiculously bad umpiring.

I have no doubt that Gregg was a great guy who loved umpiring. But let's not posthumously place him on par with Doug Harvey or Harry Wendelstadt.

At best, he was the poster child for all that was wrong with umpiring -- out of shape, tenured umps who had no problem with chasing after players and managers to continue arguments. As such, he was one of the catalysts for umpiring reform in the late 1990's that culminated in disastrous "symbolic" resignations and the end of the umpire's union. If we don't want to remember his horrid 1997 NLCS performance, let's remember him as one of the last of his kind.

Friday, June 09, 2006

A Few Words About The Sox

Javier Vasquez is driving me nuts. I just can't stand watching him pitch, because he clearly has such superior stuff, and such great command of it so much of the time, that it's aggravating as hell to watch the inevitable nightmare inning that he has at least once in almost every start.

My theory, from watching his games, is that when he doesn't get a call that he wants from the plate umpire, he can't move on from that, starts pouting, and loses his concentration. Maybe that's unfair, but it does seem that many of his problems immediately follow a tough call that he thinks was missed.

Vasquez is the first Sox pitcher in a few years that I've wanted to give the Bob Gibson advice. When Gibson was pitching coach of the Atlanta Braves under Joe Torre, he once told a struggling starter, "if there weren't 30,000 people watching, I'd hit you in the head."

That said, maybe tonight's game is a turnaround. Vazquez had chances to blow up in every inning through the first four, and has battled through it. After leaving nine runners on base through four, he got through a perfect fifh, retired the first two in the sixth before Grady Sizemore singled, and should have been out of the inning when Jason Michaels hit a roller to Juan Uribe.

Instead, Uribe tried fielding the ball with his head in the wrong position...up his rectum. With the speedy Sizemore on first and Michaels out by about 10 feet at first, Uribe waited on the ball and then made a nonchalant flip to second for the force play. Which Sizemore beat to the base. Two on now, and oh, look who's coming up. Travis Hafner, exactly the guy on the Cleveland roster who you don't WANT to see coming up in that spot. Neil Cotts came in to pitch, and Hafner did to him what he did (more predictably) to Boone Logan earlier this year; he drove it far into the stands in right for a three run homer. Ah well, Vasquez tried, anyway.

Jeff Nelson's career appears to have come to a grinding halt, the grinding being in his elbow. Like I said earlier, signing him was worth a try. With Cliff Politte also down, the Sox have called up Agustine Montero (who said that failed steroids tests would carry a stigma?) and Sean Tracey to fill out the back end of the bullpen. Neither are all that exciting, but both could be reasonably effective (or post ERAs above 6.00). The Sox should be fishing around for some potential postseason chess pieces for the bullpen.

They might also want to fish for a centerfielder. Rumor has Jon Garland going to the Phillies to bring back Pants Rowand. I have no idea if there is anything to it, or if it's just more made up stuff from the Chicago media. The chances of it probably looked better before Nelson and Politte hit the DL, making Brandon McCarthy needed in the bullpen.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Another Precinct Heard From

Reds broadcaster Marty Brennaman:

If they're going to let these guys in now with the steroid cloud, then they've got to rethink the Pete Rose thing. Absolutely. I think he's paid his price. I don't think he should ever be allowed back on the field again, but I think they need to rethink allowing him on the ballot to be eligible for the Hall of Fame.

Strain in Vain

As Dr. Phil taught us, it's hard to imagine anything worse than a strain.

Journamalism 101

Some interesting examples of journamalism from the obviously biased Chicago Tribune in the last few days. This week’s lesson: if there’s no news, make something up.

Let’s look back on Wednesday’s Cubs-Reds game. Carlos Zambrano started and took the 3-2 loss. You may have seen Big Z throwing a hissy fit in the dugout after being lifted for a pinch hitter.

Zambrano’s emotions are always news to the Chicago media. So the press gaggle was all over him after the game. Here’s what he said:

Did you watch the game? Yeah, I was upset…I’ve never failed in my life, and I’ve been in baseball for five years, and I’ve never felt like I feel right now…I don’t know what to say right now. I don’t want to say something bad…I’m upset with myself. That’s it. I have to do better. I’m better than this. That’s why I’m upset.

When asked if he was ticked at Dusty Baker for pulling him from the game, Zambrano said, “He’s the manager. It’s his decision when to take me out.”

You might think that’s a pretty calm, rational response from a guy like Zambrano. Some might even think of it as innocuous.

Fortunately, Cubs beat reporter Paul Sullivan knows how to make a sow’s ear out of a silk purse. Sully referred to Zambrano’s comments as “a postgame time bomb seemingly lobbed in the direction of manager Dusty Baker.”

If that’s a bomb, it’s on par with the phantom WMD’s in Iraq…

If you’re looking for bombs, look no further than this one from the other side of town, courtesy of Dave van Dyck:

With a 5.13 ERA as a reliever, could [Brandon McCarthy’s] trouble be shifting from starting duties? Is he a starter and not a reliever?

“If he thinks like that, he’ll be fine playing for [Triple A Charlotte manager] Razor Shines,” manager Ozzie Guillen said. “You think you’re a starting pitcher and you can’t be a reliever at this level, we’ll get you a lot of starts in Triple A.

“We’re not a team built to get better. We’re here to win. We have a ballclub to win. I’m not going to take that excuse, that it’s a new role. He has just been inconsistent.”

Oh, snap! That McCarthy shouldn’t be writing a check with mouth that his butt can’t cash. Ozzie laid some well-deserved smack on the kid.

Except for one thing, as van Dyck explains in his next paragraph:

McCarthy has not said he believes he is a starter, not has he complained about being in the bullpen.

No, McCarthy wasn’t belly-aching. But that didn’t stop some reporter (and, to be fair, it might not have been van Dyck) from putting the question to Guillen in a way that pushed the straight-talking manager’s buttons. If there’s one thing the Chicago media knows, it’s that they can get some good sound bites from Guillen if they can find the right buttons to push.

Finally, the Tribune’s Fred Mitchell checks in with a glowing report on Corey Patterson. After Lee Elia called him “our little Rickey Henderson” (sure, why not?), Fred wanted to get the word right from Corey:

Patterson polietely declined to be interviewed by a Tribune reporter this week, saying through a club spokesman that anything he would say would be perceived as
being negative or critical of the Cubs, and that he didn’t want to leave that impression.

One wonders why Patterson would feel that his words would be perceived that way. Could it be because he was lambasted every time he opened his mouth last year? Could it be because players who say repeatedly they are upset at themselves are accused of bombing their manager? Could it be because reporters will ask managers loaded questions to get the managers to bomb their players?

I always had faith that Patterson was smarter than the Chicago punditocracy gave him credit for. I think his insight into the media supports my faith.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Check Ignition and May God’s Love Be With You

Huzzah! Roger Clemens is back – and this time it’s for keeps!

And for all the breathless “will-he-or-won’t-he” blathering the pundits have engaged in since last October, I was amazed that some members of the punditocracy have turned on the Clemens so quickly. Typical of such negative reaction is this from Yahoo’s Jeff Passan:

In five sentences, Roger Clemens went from excited to contemplative to gloomy to contradictory to absurd, and he took what could have been a genuine moment – a father wanting to play with his son, a son dedicating his final season to his late other – and prioritized winning.

Oh, it wasn't as trite as those who claim it wasn't about the money (Clemens is making around $12.6 million, the prorated amount of his one-year, $22 million deal), and it wasn't as cliché as those who insist it was about respect (he's got enough of that), and at least Clemens didn't pull a Mike Hampton and say it was about the schools.

It was, however, either a big, fat lie or a true barometer of Clemens' disconnect.


Cracks were also made about Clemens’ going back to the Astros, especially since Conventional Wisdom says that the other three teams on his short list (New York, Boston, Texas) have a better shot at the post season than Houston. But you gotta figure that despite the Astros’ offensive woes, they’ve gotten at least a little better by signing Clemens.

One more thing: the Astros sent this nugget of joy out to their e-mail list yesterday:

Order the Roger Returns package today. The Roger Returns package includes 26-games, postseason options and a gift commemorating his return on June 22. Order now, offer ends Friday!

So, you’re going to celebrate the guy who strung you along since last October? Yay!

Just imagine if Barry Bonds tried to pull something like that…

The Blame Game

On All Things Considered the other day, Rick Gentile offered a remarkable assessment of blame for the steroids controversy in MLB. No, he’s not blaming Barry Bonds for all that is evil in the world. Instead, he lays it all at the feet of Baron Budhausen and the rest of the owners. They saw the changes in the players’ bodies, which we all accept as “proof” that players are using. But they also saw the fans (and their money) flocking to the yard to see the home run barrage, and so they did nothing.

Now, of course, they’re shocked (just shocked!) that some players are doping.

Jim has presented a similar argument before. I find it remarkable that they seem to be in a tiny minority on the issue.

Now That’s Comedy

It took a few years, but Baseball Weekly cartoonist Mike Ricigliano finally came up with something that made me laugh. His strip in this week’s issue was “More Bad Ideas for Baseball Promotions.”

The last panel: Show Us Your Ludicrous Reasons for Hating A-Rod Night. The fans in the panel offered reasons like “too good,” “isn’t named Jeter,” never has hit .400,” and “makes more money than me.” Sounds like Ricig’s been visiting the message boards…

What’s the Point of Being Grown Up If You Can’t Be Childish Every Once in a While?

This one nearly slipped past, but I would be remiss if I did not comment…

Apparently, Ozzie Smith and the Super Genius still can’t get along. You may recall that Ozzie wasn’t a big fan of the Super Genius’ plan to ease the Hall of Fame shortstop into retirement (which consisted mostly of keeping Ozzie on the bench in favor of Royce Clayton). Well, Ozzie still holds a grudge, and told a Saint Louis paper that he won’t participate in “club-related field activities” as long as the Super Genius is still in charge.

As one might have suspected, this really torqued the Super Genius. Ozzie’s invite to serve as a guest instructor during spring training? Off the table! “For him to repeat those comments is really unreasonable. That invitation is no longer there. He’s not welcome,” said the Genius, who may have had some reasonableness issues of his own.

I guess this just goes to show that none of us – not even Super Geniuses and Wizards – are above acting like spoiled kids…

Never Say Nevin Again

Jerry Hairston for Phil Nevin? Sure, why not?

Pros: We clear one second baseman off our roster. Not one of the two I would have booted first, but it’s a start. I guess.

And we only have to pay $375,000 to Nevin. That’s like getting nothing for nothing!

Cons: Do we really need two John Mabrys on the team? And Baker seems to hint he’s willing to use Nevin at third and in the outfield. Ugh. Oh, and he’s kind of an ass, too. So I guess if we need someone to deck Saint AJ next month, we’ve got our man.

This piece doesn’t really have a point. But it’s only right, as the trade didn’t really have a point, either…