Jim & Bob's Palatial Baseball Blog

Monday, July 31, 2006

Who's Running The Show? (Part 4)

The Tampa Bay Devil Rays have some great talent in their minor league system. Unfortunately, their minor league talent is apparently already complete with major league attitudes.

B.J. Upton, Elijah Dukes, and Delmon Young were critical of the D-Rays organization in a USA Today piece published last week. All three were unhappy that they were still playing at AAA Durham and not in the major leagues.

All three have immense talent. Dukes is hitting .296 for the Bulls, with an .898 OPS. Young is at .350 with a .901 OPS, and Upton, although hitting just .270, has drawn 63 walks for a .373 On-base percentage and has stolen 46 bases. But all have very heavy baggage, as well.

Young, who made the same kind of criticisms of the Devil Rays last September, was suspended 50 games earlier this year for throwing a bat which hit an umpire. Dukes has been involved in a number of incidents involving fights with teammates, coaches, and pretty much anyone else. Upton has had significant issues with his defense at shortstop and was charged with DWI in June.

Interestingly, reports on all three say that none of them are really bad guys, just kids with issues. That certainly may be true; lots and lots of 21 and 22 year olds have issues and do really stupid things, then get on with their lives. Certainly Dukes' background reads like a horror story. Young served his sentence for the bat throwing incident like a model citizen. Upton seems to be trying to be a steadying influence on the other two.

But running their mouths like this in a national publication didn't win them any friends in the major league clubhouse or front office. Becoming a major league star is very hard work. Young, Dukes, and Upton just made it harder.

Last minute update...this afternoon B.J. Upton was recalled by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.

All The Poop On Sports Auctions, Right Here At Leland's

Talk about pissing your money away on useless objects. I understand that ballparks can have a strong emotional significance to people, but isn't this taking it a bit too far?

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Big Trade in Milwaukee...Natura-Lee

Friday was a dark day for the Brewer Fans I know. I don’t think I’ve seen them so low since Billy Jo Robidoux was let go...

This time, Brewer Fan is bidding adieu to Carlos Lee. Lee, of course, went to Texas for Kevin Mench, Laynce Nix, Francisco Cordero, and a minor league pitcher. Allegedly, Lee turned down a four year, $48 million extension the day before the trade.

Was the trade a good one for the Brewers? It depends on what direction you think the team should go.

Since Lee turned down that four-year extension, I think it’s fair to assume that either Lee didn’t want to come back to Milwaukee, or that the Brewers weren’t willing to pay what Lee wanted in order to keep him. With Lee’s departure a foregone conclusion, the choice boils down to losing Lee as a free agent and getting a couple draft picks as compensation, or trading Lee and having some say in who you’re getting back.

Brewers GM Doug Melvin obviously wanted to have his say. Ironically, he traded for Mench, Nix, and Cordero when he was Rangers GM back in the day.

On the plus side, the Brewers get three guys with some Major League history. Mench will take over in left, Nix might play his way into the center-field mix, and Cordero is insurance if Derrick Turnbow continues to meltdown. The team can control Mench for two more years and Nix for three. Cordero has a $5 million option for 2007 (relatively cheap for a closer-type).

Of course, if you don’t think that Mench or Nix is as good as Lee, then the trade doesn’t look too good for the Brew Crew. Brewer Fan can take some solace, knowing that El Caballo t-shirts will soon be 50% off at the souvenir stands.

Who’s Running the Show? (Part 1)

The biggest trade in Chicago is one that hasn’t been made yet. Everybody wants to know where Greg Maddux will wind up.

In my mind, everyone is available for the right price. So I’m not one of those Cub Fans who gets bent out of shape at the thought of one of their favorites being shipped off like a piece of meat.

But what makes me laugh about the whole situation is how people talk about it. The Conventional Wisdom is that the Cubs somehow owe it to Maddux to trade him to a contender, for no other reason than the fact that Maddux is a future Hall of Famer and all-around swell guy.

If we can get something decent back for Maddux, I’ll help pack his bags. If not, I don’t care how nice a guy he is, he gets to play out the season with the rest of us.

Maddux, to his credit, hasn’t publicly lobbied for a trade, or griped about his situation. I hope he pitches well wherever he winds up. Especially if he can get us two or three good prospects in return.

By the way, all the gab about a possible Maddux trade has resurrected the scripts about the first time Maddux left the Cubs (as a free agent after the 1992 season). Of course, the scripts are full of holes. If I get time, I’ll fire up the Way-Back Machine and explore what really happened...

Who’s Running the Show? (Part 2)

Luis Gonzalez might be as popular in Arizona as Maddux is in Chicago. But even nice guys can do dumb things, as Gonzo did a few weeks ago when he found out that rookie Carlos Quentin was starting in his place.

So Gonzalez has a hissy fit that he wasn’t playing and said some things he shouldn’t have. These things are reported, of course. And being unable to let a bad situation die, Gonzo comes out with this response:

I was upset about the way I was perceived...When I picked up the paper, it made me look like an (expletive), and I’m not.

Gonzalez later said, “I’ve been playing long enough. I know what’s going on.”

You’d think someone who knows what’s going on would acknowledge that he was perceived as an (expletive) because he had acted like an (expletive).

Who’s Running the Show? (Part 3)

The San Diego Padres have taken a page from the Astros’ play book, and whined about the front office’s move.

Vinny Castilla’s release ruffled some feathers in the clubhouse. Trevor Hoffman said, “Vinny cared about his teammates.”

Brian Giles chipped in, “I don’t like it. Vinny was a good player for the clubhouse. We all looked up to him as a leader.”

I don’t pretend to know anything about Castilla’s leadership skills, nor of his relationship with his teammates. What I do know is that Vinny had a .260 OBP, and no amount of warm fuzzies in the clubhouse can make up for that offensive black hole.

Please Make a Note of This Simple Fact

Congratulations to Bruce Sutter on his induction to the Hall of Fame this afternoon.

But to all the media members out there, please note that Sutter is not the “Father of the Split-Finger Fastball” (as he was referred to on Baseball Tonight). Sutter did not invent the pitch. He may have popularized it, but the pitch was around for years before Sutter put on a Cubs uniform.

Please make a note of this for the future. Thank you.

Send Him Home

Just something I’ve noticed over the last few months, and wondering if anyone has noticed anything similar. This has been more prevalent on the national broadcasts, rather than local, but I still find it intriguing...

Imagine a close play at the plate. If the runner scores, the vast majority of the time (based on my own small sample, about 80% of the time) the announcers will rave about how the guy did a really great job rounding third, or sliding into home, or some other base running feat.

But if the guy is out at the plate, the vast majority of the time (about 80% again), the announcers will call out the third base coach for taking foolish risks.

Any ideas why that may be? Is it easier for the media to throw a coach under the bus than a player they may have to interview later?

I don’t have any in-depth research for this (just what I’ve seen on TV). It just struck me as odd...

Short-Sighted, Hind-Sighted, It's All the Same

Dr. Phil dusts off one of his favorite scripts today. For good measure, he tosses in a crack about the "short-sighted Juan Pierre trade."

This would be the same Juan Pierre Dr. Phil dubbed a "proven run producer" last winter. The same Juan Pierre Dr. Phil said would be an "ideal fit" for the Cubs' center field gig mere days before the trade was made.

Short-sightedness is a common failing among MLB executives. Hind-sightedness, on the other hand, is considered a strength among journamalists.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Click On This Tasty Link

The Brewers continue to impress everyone with their fresh young talent.

He Had Larceny In His Heart, But His Brain Was Stupid

One sure way to bring your professional baseball career to a screetching halt.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Why Do People Always Misinterpret What I Say?

It’s even funnier if you imagine the cartoonist had replaced the middle-class white teenager with a middle-aged Venezuelan manager…

Holding Out for a Hero

I was wondering what it would take to get Sammy Sosa to come out of exile.

Now that we know, I wonder what it will take to get him to go back into exile…

One Man’s Soap Is Another Man’s Waste

Ah, the last few days before the non-waiver trading deadline – i.e., 31 July. It’s the time of year we all look to see who our favorite teams will pick up (or trade away) as we make the push for the playoffs (or look ahead to next year).

And thanks to the 24-hour sports channels and the internet, there is no end to the rumors flyin’ around out there. But there’s a difference in someone reporting a rumor, and someone pulling something out of his a…errr…lower back region.

Look no further than this nugget of joy from our old friend Dr. Phil:

It’s hard to see Yankees GM Brian Cashman pulling the trigger on an A-Rod deal, but the two-time Most Valuable Player has become such a target for upset fans at Yankee Stadium that owner George Steinbrenner might decide to pull the plug…

If the Yankees let it be known they would move Rodriguez, a lot of teams would be interested. The Cubs are among the few who realistically could pursue a deal. They have both the financial flexibility, and the parts to move back to New York.

Aramis Ramirez, signed through 2008 and lately killing the ball, would be welcomed with open arms in New York.

If the deal were expanded to include Jacque Jones, essentially making this one-stop shopping for Cashman, Rodriguez’ biggest-in-baseball salary would not seem to be a huge issue…

Rodriguez has a full no-trade clause, complicating matters on the Yankee’s end. But remember his visit to Wrigley Field during the 2003 National League Championship Series? He was shopping to relocate at the time, and Chicago was high on the list of places he would have liked to land.

For those of you keeping score at home, that’s two “if’s,” two “but’s,” one “might,” and four “would’s” in the course of those 182 words. I’m not sure on how far a piece has to move into the subjunctive before it can be officially classified as mere speculation, but I’d wager this comes pretty close.

Or, to put it another way, imagine you’re at a bar talking with Cubs Fan about a possible trade. And let’s say the Cubs Fan tells you that he’s sure his heroes can snag A-Rod, and outlines the same scenario Dr. Phil presented.

Do you:

A. Congratulate him on his cogent analysis of the situation, and urge him to share his insights with the world by writing a column for a major metropolitan daily newspaper.

B. Laugh, and tell him that he’s buying the next round.

If you answered “A,” try again until you get the right answer.

But since Dr. Phil is a columnist with his own press pass, credit cards, keys, and Hall of Fame ballot, he can write this stuff, and get other people (like Yahoo sports) to write about it as if the A-Rod-to-the-Cubs idea is actually based in reality and not some piece of fluff contrived to fill column inches.

By the way, Dr. Phil’s column in today’s hopelessly biased Chicago Tribune also dealt with Alex Rodriguez trade rumors…but this time to the White Sox. Another day, another column…

The Difference Between Armstrong and Bonds

Philip Hersh, the Chicago Tribune’s figure skating and cycling expert, offers this cogent analysis about the doping allegations surrounding two of America’s most famous athletes:

That Armstrong beat cancer and is helping others try to do the same is admirable. Yet it should be no better defense against wide-ranging accusations that he used performance-enhancing drugs than the fact he had only one confirmed positive drug test, for a banned corticosteroid (his use of the substance, a pain reliever, was allowed by a medical exemption allegedly written after the doping control).

It is too easy to beat doping controls with undetectable drugs or masking agents. That makes it unfortunately impossible for clean athletes to prove they are clean and allows cheaters to do so with relative impunity.

How much different is Armstrong's case from that of Barry Bonds? There is no smoking gun in either, yet enough smoke in both to suggest there is a fire. But the U.S. public clearly does not see them the same way, because of the cancer and an irrational feeling that the French hate Americans, especially Armstrong.

Three weeks ago, the Los Angeles Times did an exhaustive story based on testimony under oath from arbitration hearings involving Armstrong and a company that did not want to pay him a contractual bonus because of suspicions he had doped. The case was settled in Armstrong's favor before a ruling was issued.

Some of the testimony, from an Australian researcher, supported the likelihood, as a French paper reported last year, that Armstrong had used the banned oxygen-booster EPO in the 1999 Tour. Former teammate Frankie Andreu and his wife, Betsy, gave testimony that Armstrong admitted in 1996 to use of a number of banned drugs. Armstrong denied it all, also under oath. Neither his denials nor any of the evidence against him is conclusive.

Yet readers of the Los Angeles Times plainly have drawn their own conclusions, as reflected in angry letters to the editor, such as one that began, "The front-page story about doping allegations against Armstrong is a disgrace."

Consider also Sports Illustrated. One week in May, the magazine's cover subject was Armstrong, lauding his fight against cancer with no mention of the suspicions trailing his career. The next week, the cover was Bonds and "The Long, Strange Trip to 715*," the asterisk emphasizing suspicions surrounding him that were fully spelled out in the story.

The difference between Armstrong and Bonds? One is seen as a selfless saint and the other a surly sinner.

So the public will buy without reservations Armstrong's statement that he has been cleared by the results of a recent investigation by an allegedly independent investigator, even if the truth is the investigator was far from independent and his investigation far from complete.

But the public thankfully is skeptical over Bonds' assertion that he thought his trainer was giving him flaxseed oil and a rubbing balm rather than what other evidence suggests were steroids and other strength enhancers.
One thing Hersh doesn’t mention is the media’s role in why one guy is a “selfless saint” and the other a “surly sinner.” Journamalists approve of Armstrong, and treat him like the saint they’ve made him. They certainly don’t approve of Bonds, and take every opportunity to paint him in a negative light.

For a fine example, note Hersh’s use of the word “thankfully.” Why is he “thankful” that Bonds is the Professor Moriarty of MLB’s steroid program? Does he want Bonds to be exposed as a cheat, to face jail time?

If Armstrong is spewing “enough smoke to suggest a fire, why isn’t Hersh just as outraged about Armstrong’s alleged doping? Are cycling’s records not as “hallowed” as MLB’s home run marks? Or is it just easier to stick to the accepted script?

Just asking…


My question is, why the hell is Sandy Alomar Jr. still an active major league player, much less why should I be excited that the Sox have the Sox have once again re-animated his decaying corpse?

Gene Wojciechowski Is A Halfwit

ESPN.com's Gene Wojciechowski wonders why Greg Anderson refuses to talk about his old friend, the unindicted, drug test-passing Barry Bonds. Obviously, he is hiding something. Lack of evidence is clearly just another bit of proof that Bonds is clearly guilty.

Shouldn't it be stunningly obvious by now that the media frenzy over Bonds has little to do with his guilt or innocence and everything to do with resentful members of the media who personally hate the man?

Monday, July 24, 2006

"The Guy WIns Ballgames for You"

Ah, what the heck does Brooks Robinson know, anyway?

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Walks in the Classroom, Cool and Slow…

Shorter Saint A.J.: Why is everybody always picking on me?

[With the humblest and most abject apologies to the Coasters…]

Buzzard Sounds About Right

The hopelessly biased Chicago Tribune columnist Rick Morrissey tears himself away from his incessant gabbing about golf and fawning over straight-talkin’ Ozzie to focus on something really important: why Sammy Sosa isn’t included on the Cubs’ “Hometown Heroes” slate.

If you’re like me, you probably hadn’t heard of “Hometown Heroes” before this morning. So a quick recap: it’s another of Baron Budhausen’s fabulous promotions. Each team chooses the five best players in its history, and the voting public gets to vote on who’s best. The guys on the Cub ballot are Ernie Banks, Fergie Jenkins, Billy Williams, Ron Santo, and Ryne Sandberg.

Does Morrissey really think Sosa should have been included before any of those guys? Of course not. This disingenuous column allows Morrissey to slam his two favorite targets: Sosa and the Cubs.

Deftly reading minds, Morrissey’s take is that Sosa didn’t make the final cut because “the Cubs believe the guy was a steroids user and abuser.” That might even be true. Are there any other plausible reasons? Perhaps.

You gotta figure that with 130 years of team history, a few deserving candidates are going to be left out. Left out in the same shameful, ignominious cold with Sosa are guys like Cap Anson, Mordecai Brown, Frank Chance, Hack Wilson, Stan Hack, Charlie Root, Andy Pafko, Billy Herman, and Gabby Hartnett (and those are the guys I came up with off the top of my head). Sammy may have drawn the short stick, but he’s got some good company.

Or you could even choose to believe the company line. The Cubs PR guy told Morrissey that they opted for their four living Hall of Famers and Santo, who (a) deserves to be in Cooperstown and (b) is probably more popular than the other four.

But Morrissey bends his tremendous intellect to the task, and can’t come up with anything more likely than the steroids angle:

I’ve tried to think of possible reasons the Cubs might have ignored Sosa: his phoniness, his selfishness, his inability to hit the cutoff man. Sorry, not good enough. The corked bat incident? Nah.

And there’s no way you can keep Sosa off the list just because he walked out on the team the last day of the 2004 season. You don’t penalize a guy for being truculent. If you did, Frank Thomas would have played for 15 teams in 15 years. And he wouldn’t be on the White Sox’s top-five list, which he is…

So where does all of this leave us? If you’re a cynical buzzard, you’re left looking at pharmaceuticals.
Now is that any way to treat a hometown hero?
Well played, sir! After listing multiple reasons why Sosa is a bad person, Morrissey draws us back to his central premise (steroids) – and then cracks on the Cubs for (allegedly) using that as a reason for not including Sosa in this promotion. Talk about your double headers…

One last thing…as loathe as I am to read minds, I wonder what the reaction would have been if Sosa had made the final cut. Would Morrissey have been mollified enough to turn his attention to the British Open? Or would he have just rewritten the passage cited above and bashed the Cubs for having the temerity to list a known cheater on their “Hero” list?

Given Morrissey’s history and M.O., I’m guessing he’d choose the latter option…

Wednesday, July 19, 2006


I know Dusty Baker is a bad manager, a bad guy, and everybody's favorite punching bag.

But this might be the most shameful excuse for journalism since...well, since Steve Stone ambushed Baker during the post-game show a few years back.

Ken Williams

Pretty good piece on Sox GM Ken Williams here. It's been a long road from the bumbler that made the Todd Richie and Keith Foulke trades to one of the games' best GMs. Some nice insights here into what drives him.

And If This Doesn't Work, We'll Try and Nail Him For Stealing Candy From Babies.

The mob of jackals continues to pursue Barry Bonds. And as yet, no actual charges filed anywhere. Just the usual hearsay and speculation.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

All Hail the Conquering AL

Hola amigos. It's been a long time since I rapped at ya. Everyone enjoy the All-Star game? Good, because it counts now, you know. And how about that dominance by the AL? Are they the better league or what?

Maybe a little bit. A 3-2 win in one exhibition game doesn't do much to sway the jury, however. The AL pulled the game out at the end, but a look at the boxscore doesn't reveal any great difference in the talent level. I'd take my chances with a lineup that included Albert Pujols, Carlos Beltran, and David Wright.

Much has been made about the huge advantage the AL had this year in interleague play. Close examination, however, shows that five teams ran up the score. The Tigers, White Sox, Twins, and Red Sox, all clearly better teams than anyone in the NL excepting the Mets, were a combined 61-11. The Mariners added a 14-4 mark to the pile. I guess they had a couple of good weeks.

It occurs to me that this is the real difference between the leagues. Any of the top three teams in the AL East and the top three in the AL Central would likely be running away with the NL Central or West. The AL has six really good teams. the NL has the Mets, the Cardinals most of the time, and a heap o'mediocrity. Look at the wild card standings if you want evidence.


Big series this week in Detroit. And to help get us all warmed up, the Detroit News’ Tom Gage takes a look back at Tigers v. White Sox. Good times, good times...

These Aren't the Droids You're Looking For...

Great googaly moogaly – when did Expos GM Jim Bowden learn the Jedi Mind Trick? In exchange for a bunch of flotsam that included Gary Majewski and Royce Clayton, Bowden scored both Austin Kearns and Felipe Lopez.

The Reds bullpen has bee terrible, but this seems a steep price to pay for a couple middle-relief pitchers. Of course, if the Reds win the division, then it was all worth it. But if they don't...well, let's just say that another NL Central GM was considered an idiot for trading this guy, and I'm pretty sure Kearns and Lopez are both better than that...

Selig Won't Put Up with Cheapskates

You know what they say: talk is cheap. We'll see if Baron Budhausen puts his money where his mouth is. From the St. Petersburg Times:

PITTSBURGH - Commissioner Bud Selig has a way of slapping people across the face without leaving a mark. His polite but stinging comments complaining about Manny Ramirez's absence from the All-Star festivities were a prime example.

But generally overlooked was his rebuke of teams who still use the big-market, small-market dynamic as an excuse for a lack of competitiveness.

"There have been franchises that have been through 11 or 12 rebuilding programs over the last 60 years. They don't always work," Selig said during his annual All-Star Game conversation with newspaper reporters. "But I can tell you specifically, we will not tolerate people not spending the money."

The money is the $323-million Selig said Major League Baseball will distribute this season through revenue sharing to help level the playing field.

"I'm very sensitive to all the constituents, particularly the big markets because they're paying," Selig said. "I want these clubs to see who spent the money and where it's spent, every (bleeping) nickel."

Armed and Dangerous

Saw an article about Mike Marshall this weekend. He's still on his quest to fundamentally change pitching mechanics, and baseball (not just MLB, but baseball in general) is still steadfast in its determination to ignore him.

I'm smart enough to know I'm not smart enough to comment on this. Feel free to discuss amongst yourselves...

Give It Up, Already

Back when this story first made the news, my reaction was “It would be funny if it weren't so pathetic.”

It still fits. Perhaps even more so...

Where Have All the Good Times Gone?

The baseball calendar has been changed to the second half of the season. But there’s nothing new to report on my heroes. The Cubs remain what they’ve been for the last three months: a team going nowhere fast.

It’s at times like this that I’m glad I’m one of those bloggers Rick Morrissey finds so vile. If I were some fancy journamalist, with my own press pass and locker room access and keys and stuff, I’d have to write about these guys everyday. And if that were the case, then I don’t think I could resist going down Sully’s path (i.e., the path of least thought) and churn out an inconsequential series of fluff designed to fill column inches rather than enlighten or entertain readers.

Some might consider this an inconsequential piece of fluff. That’s always a possibility here at The Palatial Baseball Blog. But those who boast of their allegiance only when their team does well are poor fans indeed; if nothing else, I’m here in bad times and good.

And in the spirit of those next good times, let’s take a peek at the current roster and see who’s on the chopping block:

Dusty Baker: The alpha and omega of what needs to be changed, at least according to talk radio callers and other assorted “experts.” I’m still of the opinion that he should not be brought back next year.

But Baker has gained support from a surprising source! Not two weeks from challenging GM Jim Hendry to hire White Sox minor league manager Razor Shines, Dr. Phil stepped up to the keyboard and declared that there’s “no better alternative” than bringing back Baker for two more years.

Why the sudden reversal (perhaps we should refer to it as a “Philip-Philop”)? Jeebus only knows. Maybe straight-talkin’ Ozzie Guillen told him to lay off.

I don’t think Hendry will replace Baker before the season ends. And I have a feeling that Baker will leave rather than stay on. I figure it will be like his departure from the Giants – except Hendry won’t leak word of Baker’s financial status to the press.

Greg Maddux: His name crops up on a lot of trade rumors. Why? He’s not pitching dreadfully, horribly bad, but he’s not pitching well enough to sell himself as the last piece a team needs to put them over the top. Unless, of course, that team is using a guy like Jeff Weaver as their last piece because their next-to-last piece was a bum like Sidney Ponson. I think there’s a 50-50 chance Maddux will agree to a trade.

Todd Walker: The second-most talked about piece of trade bait. I could see him getting moved (and not necessarily to a team that needs a second baseman), but I can’t see us getting anyone immediately useful in exchange.

Aramis Ramirez: Not going to happen. A-Ram has taken a lot of heat this year, some deserved, some not. But I still like the guy, and his two year, $22 million option will make any trade problematic.

Kerry Wood, Mark Prior: They’re not going anywhere this year. Unless Wood’s loyalties to the team run incredibly deep, he’ll leave as a free agent. Look for much wailing and gnashing of teeth after each of his wins next year.

Juan Pierre: He’s gotten better lately. But he didn’t really leave himself much room to get worse. His return will depend on (1) how ready Felix Pie is to take over and (2) the availability of a cheap alternative. His name has been bandied around as trade bait, but none of the contenders is desperate for a leadoff hitter.

On a related note, there are rumors that the Astros are shopping Willy Taveras, and that the Cubs might be interested. Jeebus help me...

Thursday, July 13, 2006

All-Star Silliness

Just a few random thoughts on the All-Star Game, presented in a more-or-less not-so-serious tone...

** I’m with Batgirl on this one. If “This One Counts,” as we heard so often this week, why are the managers gabbing with the TV guys for half an inning?

** I gave them four innings before I muted the TV. Joe Buck and Tim McCarver still stink. Fortunately, the local ESPN radio station was carrying the game. The radio guys were serviceable (I don’t recall the play-by-play guy’s name, while color was handled by Dave “Soup” Campbell), and spent their time telling listeners what was going on in the game, not trying to convince fans of their extreme cleverness.

Campbell made one point at the end of the game that I have yet to see repeated. He contended that if Phil Garner was really playing to win, he would have put Scott Rolen and Andruw Jones into the game in the ninth inning. Campbell’s take was that these guys were the best defenders the NL had left on the bench, and with a one-run lead Garner should have had his best defense out there.

Would it have made a difference? I don’t know if Rolen could have flagged down Konerko’s ground ball, nor do I know Carlos Beltran (assuming Beltran moves to left when Jones goes to center) could have caught up to Troy Glaus’ double. I think I’m not going too far out on a limb if I assert that Jones would not have caught Michael Young’s triple.

Again, if “This One Counts” one would think these decisions would draw a little more scrutiny.

** There was plenty of gab about how the AL “owns” the NL yada yada yada. I guess winning nine of ten will do that. But I have to laugh when the “experts” point to this game as yet another example of AL superiority.

I’m not saying that the leagues are equal. But come on – pulling a 3-2 win with two outs in the ninth out of your a...errr...lower back region doesn’t seem to conform with the commonly accepted definition of dominating the other side.

** And let’s not hear about how straight-talking Ozzie Guillen’s superior managerial talents led the AL to victory. Unless he flashed the “triple” sign to Young in the ninth inning, he did even less Tuesday than he usually does.

** The least-reported story featuring a Chicago player was the injury sustained by Cubs ace Carlos Zambrano. Big Z was giving an interview to a Venezuelan reporter behind the batting cage when he was struck on the elbow by a coach hitting fungoes during BP.

An accident? I don’t think so.

The coach in question was Joey Cora – straight-talking Ozzie’s right-hand man. And when you consider that straight-talking Ozzie has already admitted to being a head hunter and said he would be willing to fight on the field, is it really that big a leap to conclude he would send one of his men out to attack another team’s best pitcher?

And what’s the deal with Cora anyway? On my son’s coach’s pitch team, the first thing we taught the kids was that they don’t swing the bat at the plate or in the on-deck circle before they look to see if anyone’s around them. If a bunch of seven and eight year olds can grasp the concept, why can’t Cora? What is straight-talking Ozzie teaching over there?

Besides, the hopelessly biased Chicago Tribune was surprisingly mum on the whole affair. If it had been an accident, I should expect them to run huge headlines about curses and Baker over-using his staff and “mysterious injuries” and the same rot they’ve been pushing the last three years.

The Tribune’s silence proves they’re in on the conspiracy. What are they hiding? What don’t they want us to see?

** For the benefit of anyone for whom English is a second language (both those born in the USA and our friends from other countries), the previous two bits are examples of irony and sarcasm, with perhaps a smidgen of satire and snideness tossed in for good measure.

Using these literary devices means I run the risk that some people may think one word means something completely different from what I intended, much like the concepts of cowardice and hypocrisy have been misconstrued in the past. It’s an honest mistake; one many of us are prone to...


Saw a blurb in this week’s Baseball Weekly that the Oakland A’s will not be supplying beer to the clubhouses at Network Associates Coliseum. A’s GM Billy Beane made the decision after Esteban Loaiza’s alleged DUI.

Beane said, “I don’t want to wake up in the morning and have to hear about something worse happening. There will certainly be internal grumbling, but this one’s too easy.”

Given the business relationship between MLB and the breweries (I mean, the teams must rake in a healthy pile of cash for all the advertisements and naming rights beer companies buy), one wonders if there will be some external grumbling as well. Props to Beane for making this call.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

This Time It Counts

It’s the All-Star Game again. And, I must confess, I have been a wee bit cynical about the whole affair for the last few years. What with the made-for-TV drudgery of the Home Run Derby to the ridiculous “This Time It Counts” (not to mention the three long days without real baseball), my attitude towards the Mid-Summer Classic has taken a downward trend.

Fortunately, there nothing quite like a child to help you regain some of the child-like wonder you used to have. My younger son is eight, and is quite the fan in his own right. And he’s been geeked for the All-Star Game all week. Heck, he was even geeked for the Home Run Derby, which might come close to rivaling soccer as the most boring thing on TV.

And why not be geeked about the All-Star Game? He gets to see his favorite players do their thing on the same field. And what could be cooler than that?

So I will be watching the All-Star Game again tonight. But this time I’ll watch it in the only way that counts – with my son, enjoying the greatness of our favorite pastime.

Report from Miller Park

Made the roadie with the family out to the House that Bud Selig built on Sunday. It was quite a pleasant time, if hotter than all get out.

The day started inauspiciously, as Mark Prior was scratched from and Glendon Rusch flung into the fray. Oh, the howls from both sides of the field – Cub Fan howling at the thought of having paid to watch Rusch suck again, and Brewer Fan howling with laughter at the thought of an easy victory.

Well, one thing led to another. Brewer Fan stopped laughing in the fourth inning, when some very un-Cublike baseball (featuring a home run, walk, and suicide squeeze) staked the good guys to a 4-2 lead. After Doug Davis got lit up for another three in the sixth, the only sound coming from Brewer Fan was the squeal of their tires as the sped from the Miller Field car park, not even hanging around for the customary binge drinking…errrr...post-game tailgate.

By that time, the only question was whether or not the game could officially be referred to as a “laffer” (“with two ‘f’s,’” as Bob Uecker once said…or will say…making sense of the space-time continuum makes my nose bleed). Fortunately, Danny Kolb sent his first pitch to the backstop, sending Angel Pagan scampering home with our 11th run of the day. At that point, the howls of laughter from me (and all the other Cub Fans in attendance) reached 11 as well.

So we head into the All-Star break taking three in a row from the Brewhas. It doesn’t mean a whole lot in the grand scheme of things, I guess. But it’s better than losing three games in a row.

Of course, the hopelessly biased Chicago Tribune has to focus on the dark cloud instead of the silver lining. So very little is said about the wins, while a great deal of newsprint is spent on the Dusty Death Watch. The Death Watch would be worth reporting, if only there was something to report. Every day the reporters ask Baker and Jim Hendry the same questions. And every day they have the same answers.

Do you think Paul Sullivan heads to the ballpark and thinks to himself, “I know I’ve asked Hendry every day since May if he’s gonna fire Baker. But I just know he’ll say yes if I ask him again today!”

One question Sully, his press gaggle cohorts, and the bloggers who are in full Red Queen mode rarely ask is “Where do the Cubs go once Baker gets the axe?”

It’s pretty easy at this point to call for a managerial change. The reasons I offer are Baker’s poor handling of his bullpen and his ham-fisted managing of lineup resources. But is there anyone else out there we can bring in to make things better right now?

Don’t get me wrong – I think it’s time for a change. But to make some random change right now for the sake of making a change would be counter-productive. Hendry has said he’s going to be “evaluating” the team in the near future. Perhaps he’ll “evaluate” where he has gone wrong the last two years, and alter his plans accordingly.

Packing One’s Personal Baggage into Statistical Analysis (or, Clutch Cargo)

Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal provides a terrific example of how easy it is to use statistics to “prove” whatever script you happen to be peddling:

The Yankees' Alex Rodriguez is drawing criticism for his performance in close-and-late situations, which are defined by STATS, Inc. as those that occur in the seventh inning or later with the batting team ahead by one run tied or with the tying run on base, at bat or on deck. Miguel Cairo is the only Yankee with a worse close-and-late OPS than Rodriguez, but look at the bright side: Rodriguez is only the 54th worst in the majors those situations.

The best “clutch” hitters, according to the STATS definition that Rosenthal uses, are:

1. Albert Pujols, Cardinals
2. Reed Johnson, Blue Jays
3. Carlos Lee, Brewers
4. Wes Helms, Marlins
5. Julio Lugo, Devil Rays

I’ve heard this argument about A-Rod before. It’s a common theme from the A-Rod haters. And not just in the blogosphere – some time ago, David Justice received some praise in the print media for his TV presentation on why A-Rod isn’t “clutch.”

But let’s take that argument a little farther, shall we? If we accept the STATS stats, then A-Rod is a horrible “clutch” player. Likewise, the players listed above are fantastic in the “clutch.”

Are you really willing to believe that Reed Johnson, Wes Helms, Julio Lugo, and Carlos Lee (even with the terrific year he’s having) are better than Rodriguez? If so, please send me an e-mail – I’m pretty sure we can find room for you in our fantasy league. We’ll even save Wes Helms for you…