Jim & Bob's Palatial Baseball Blog

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

The Wrong Question

The 23 August Baseball Weekly poses this question:

Dontrelle Willis arrived in spring training to questions about whether he would come close to matching the numbers he posed in his career 2005 season.

After all, Willis led the majors with 22 wins and finished second in the NL Cy Young Award voting while pitching for a lineup of All-Stars and veterans. So how could be possibly duplicate those numbers in 2006 with a lineup loaded with rookies?

How, indeed? 22 wins and a Cy Young runner-up are a difficult act to follow. But I think Baseball Weekly asked the wrong question by focusing only on Willis’ win and BBWAA vote totals.

No matter how great a pitcher is, his win total will always be influenced by factors beyond his control – most notably, how good the team behind him is (although this is not the only factor involved). I think it’s fair to say that none of us expected Willis to win 22 games again this year – not after Loria the Destroyer got his claws into the team.

But some of Willis’ other numbers indicate that he would win 22 games, even if he pitched for the Tigers. And these are numbers Willis has more control over than he has over his win count.

Most glaring is his strike out to walk ratio. Last year, his ratio was 170 K to 55 BB, or 3.09 whiffs for every free pass. This year, he’s struck out 126 (in 179.1 innings), but he’s also allowed 67 walks – a ratio of 1.88.

And while Willis has already walked more batters this year than last, he’s also hit more batters – 16 YTD, compared with only 8 for all of 2005. I’m not smart enough to know if that means he’s been a little wild, or if it’s indicative of a more serious control problem. Marlins Fans, any thoughts?

A more concerning issue is Willis’ home run rate. Last year, he served up 11 homers in 236 innings (averaging one home run about every 21 innings). His numbers this year are 16 dingers in 179 innings (one homer about every 11 innings).

Other numbers seem to indicate that he’s more hittable, too. The league is hitting .293 against him (up 50 points from last year), and slugging .413 off him (up 61 points). And with all the walks and hit batters, it’s not a surprise to see the league’s got a .370 OBP against him (compared to .292 last year).

Some of this discrepancy must be accounted for by the Marlins’ defense. Alas, I couldn’t find a listing for defensive efficiency or zone rating that doesn’t involve a subscription. So I’m in the dark on this one. Can anyone (Jim, perhaps?) shed some light?

At any rate, given Willis’ peripheral numbers, it seems highly unlikely that he could have matched his magical 2005 season – but you can’t blame that on the rookies, or on the Destroyer scattering the team to the four winds.

It’s Inconceivable

The Tribune’s David Haugh presents this…interesting take on last week’s story about Dusty Baker’s racist hate mail:

When Dusty Baker essentially opened his racist hate mail to America by sharing details of several letters with a USA Today reporter this week, critics questioning Baker's tactics out of habit wondered if this was part of his exit strategy.

It suggested to some that Baker was just lining up excuses in case the Cubs do not offer him a contract, especially when he said he was "sorry it even came out."

Why else risk creating the perception nationally that Cubs fans had become more intolerant about their manager's skin color than impatient about their team's futility?

Why raise suspicion about every Bleacher Bum who walks into Wrigley Field being a bigot?Why not just realize that a few kooks hardly speak for an entire fan base and a $4 million salary buys a measure of discretion when dealing with matters so potentially explosive?

The bit struck me as condescending. Haugh…errrr…I mean, the nameless “critics” Haugh cites ponder Baker’s ulterior motives for even talking about the racist mail he gets. After all, the dude makes $4 million a year. Doesn’t he realize that if you make that much money you’re supposed to shut your pie hole, sing a happy tune, and not talk about stuff like that?

We’re a rather innocuous little blog here. We talk about baseball, not deep sociological issues facing our world. But how can Haugh and his “critics” can be so shocked that there are still racist jackasses in the world after seeing this guy all over the news? Or do their salaries buy enough discretion to ignore such unpleasantness?

Surprise, Surprise

I guess Saint A.J. got the Twins’ undies in a bundle this weekend. And while I’m not exactly his number one fan, I can’t say I really blame him for pulling his act at that point. I mean, if you crank a home run right after you’ve been (allegedly) intentionally hit by a pitch, you’ve earned the right to rub the other team’s nose in it.

That said, I did have to laugh at this bon mot from Jim Souhan of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune:

Which brings us to Sunday at U.S. Cellular Field. With runners on second and third and one out in the third, A.J. came up against Carlos Silva, who promptly drilled him. Pierzynski took his base.

In his next at-bat, he hit a two-run homer off Silva, carried the bat halfway down the first-base line, then flipped it with the skill of a drum major.

Yes, the Twins took note. Feel free to read between the terse lines.

A.J. is the arsonist running with the burnt match in his hand claiming the smoldering building must have been struck by lightning.

He answered questions in the clubhouse Sunday holding his daughter, like a scandalized politician trying to win back the voters.

That's A.J. Pierzynski: Father of the Year, Adjunct to the Dalai Lama and leading candidate for the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Management Death Watch

Fox’s Ken Rosenthal presents a rather lengthy list of managers who might be seeking alternate employment for the 2007 season. This being a lazy Sunday, I’ll let him spell it all out for you. I will add, however, that I don’t think Bochy or Girardi will be going anywhere...

Bizarro World

Great Googaly Moogaly! I could hardly believe I was reading the Chicago Tribune this week...

Dr. Phil criticizing Ken Williams for not signing Kenny Rogers? He usually reserves that treatment for Jim Hendry not signing Matt Clement.

Mike Downey cracking on Ozzie Guillen for being a hot-head? It’s a nice bookend to his piece on Dusty’s kooky comments about “steroid McCathyism.”

A lengthy piece on the comeback season Frank Thomas is having in Oakland? Just a few months ago, Corey Patterson was the One Who Got Away.

And perhaps the oddest of all – Sully criticizing Dusty’s handling of young starter Rich Hill. Sully said “the question was whether Hill could have lasted one more inning before turning it over to the bullpen.”

So it’s come to this – Baker’s judgment is called into question when he pulls a young starter after 93 pitches. In his previous start, Hill threw 112 pitches.

After all the wailing and gnashing of teeth over Wood and Prior, Sully is now advocating that Hill be allowed to throw 100+ pitches two straight starts? It must be Bizarro World. It’s the only explanation...

It Pays the Bills

Despite this week’s Bizarro World version of the Chicago Tribune, it’s good to see that some things remained the same. Like this lead to Dave van Dyck’s 25 August game story:

Does it matter when a player gets his hits, when he makes his pitches?

Sure it does, but sometimes the results apparently are beyond control.

Take Aramis Ramirez and Carlos Zambrano, who will finish the season with big numbers but who made miniscule contributions before the Cubs’ season spiraled out of control.

Ah, yes. The time-honored tradition of blaming a team’s best players for the team’s failure. At least our wayward press is consistent in that respect.

Would van Dyck prefer that Ramirez and Zambrano continued their April suck-tastic ways? I can’t say, but he does give them some grudging props (although he still can’t resist getting in another dig):

Ramirez and Zambrano have helped the Cubs turn this season into one that has become at least watchable most of the time. Of course, it might have helped the team if they had done it earlier, when the Cubs needed it most.

Ironically enough, if you were to turn the page of Friday’s Tribune sports section, you’d see Dr. Phil’s dispatch on White Sox ace Jon Garland:

After starting the season 4-3 with a 6.19 ERA in 12 starts, Garland has gone 11-1 with a 2.87 ERA in his last 13 starts. He’s allowed one run or no runs in seen of his last 10 starts.

But Dr. Phil doesn’t go on to moan about how the White Sox might be leading their division if Garland had been helping the team during those 12 lousy starts. Instead, he discuses how Garland’s shoulder “didn’t feel exactly right” back then. So Garland is a hero for pitching through the pain, and Zambrano is shameful for winning nine straight when the team didn’t “need it most.” (Is there a wrong time win nine straight? Just curious...)

And just in case you had any doubt what the Trib’s editors want you to feel about Carlos and Aramis, look no further than the headline they attached to van Dyck’s piece (in the print edition, at least): It’s Called a Salary Drive.

Ballplayers need to produce to earn their pay. And reporters need to produce pleasing, script-compliant stories to justify their salaries to their editors. As the season winds down, van Dyck hit a few home runs for his own salary drive.

No Help from the Audience, Please

White Sox Fan gets busted for interfering with a foul pop? Why, it seems like just yesterday White Sox Fan was crowing that they were too smart to do something stupid like that.

Oh, wait. It wasn’t yesterday. It was three years ago...

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Fumbling Towards Ecstasy

Here’s a question I’ve been pondering the last few days: does anyone deserve to win the National League Central?

Thanks to the Astros’ stunning self-destruction, the division race has been pared down to a pair of teams: Saint Louis and Cincinnati. Be honest – has either team played well enough to earn the right to hoist that Division Champion banner up a flag pole?

August is prime time as far as the pennant races go. As any baseball broadcaster or pundit will tell you, it’s the time of season that separates the contenders from the pretenders. Heading into tonight’s games, the Reds boast an 11-11 mark for August. And yet they’re only a game out of first place, thanks to the Cardinals’ 8-13 showing in August.

Glancing at the post-All-Star Game stat lines for both teams, I’m thinking the Reds might be able to steal this one from under the Super Genius’ nose. Not because the Reds have suddenly morphed into a group of world-beaters, but because the Cardinals have become suddenly very ordinary.

Since the Mid-Summer Classic, the Redbirds are right in the middle of the pack in runs scored and OBP (174 and .333, respectively – good for eighth in both categories). Their team OPS in the second half stands at .775, sixth-best in the league, but only a hair better than the Cubs’ .774. Barely outperforming a team that featured way too much Neifi isn’t a good thing.

The Cardinals have been better in August (.811 team OPS). But the Reds have been keeping pace this month; their .809 OPS is in line with their post-All-Star .810 mark. In fact, the Reds have the most fearsome second-half lineup in the Central.

I know that’s not really an impressive feat. But the Reds will need all that hitting to help overcome their pitching. Even with the steady (if unspectacular) Bronson Arroyo and Aaron Harang, the team ranks in the bottom half of the league (second half stats, that is) in ERA (tenth), WHIP (twelfth), runs allowed (twelfth), and batting average against (fifteenth).

As mediocre as that sounds, the Cardinals are keeping pace with the Reds – thirteenth in ERA, ninth in WHIP, seventh in runs allowed, thirteenth in bathing average against. For the month of August, the Reds have allowed the most runs, the Cardinals the fourth-most.

It’s no surprise that the Reds pitching has been taking its lumps (just as it’s no surprise the Reds lineup is handing out its share of lumps, too). What surprises me is how bad the Cardinals staff has been this month. The team’s 5.16 August ERA is easily the worst in the league, and only Chris Carpenter has pitched effectively.

But I guess it should have been expected. I mean, is it a surprise that Jason Marquis has a 5.70 ERA? Or that Jeff Suppan and Jeff Weaver would get lit up? Uber-prospect Anthony Reyes hasn’t lived up to the hype, posting some Cub-like numbers (44-27 K-BB ratio, 12 HR in 64 IP).

Not even recent scrap-heap acquisitions Preston Wilson and Jose Vizcaino can make up for pitching this bad. If the Super Genius can’t come up with a brilliant idea soon, the only thing Cardinal Fan will have to look forward to in October is the start of another exciting Saint Louis Blues NHL season.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Blue Jay Way

Earlier this year, I didn’t pay much attention to the John Gibbons v. Shea Hillenbrand war of wills up in Toronto. After all, you get a group of 30 guys together in a contained space and disagreements are bound to happen. And there were whispers that Hillenbrand was kind of a jerk (which doesn’t fully explain why he and Gibbons got into it…but if you get a group of 30 guys together in a contained space odds are one or two will be considered jerks by the others).

But the latest goings-on in the Blue Jays clubhouse have me thinking that maybe Gibbons is more culpable than we thought.

On the one hand, I can see why Gibbons would be less than pleased when Ted Lilly coughed up seven earned in the third inning yesterday. And I can see why his temper may have flared when Lilly wouldn’t hand over the ball after Gibbons came to the mound to bring in a reliever.

Even so, I don’t think any of that explains why Gibbons would chase Lilly into the clubhouse and (allegedly) push his pitcher. A Canadian Press photographer said, “Gibbons just went at him…It was mayhem in the tunnel.”

For his troubles, Gibbons wound up with a bloody nose. Which seems to be just rewards for (allegedly) going after one of his players. That act might have worked (for a while, at any rate) for Billy Martin. But it might not have the same effect this year, as the Jays struggle to stay in the wild card chase.

Add It Up

I asked last week if the Astros were finished. Now I have to ask if the Boston Red Sox are done after the brutal smack down inflicted by the Yankees over the weekend.

There was a lot of gab about how Theo Epstein was to blame for not re-signing Johnny Damon and trading away Bronson Arroyo in the off-season. But from where I’m sitting, the simple reality is that the Yankees are playing like a good ball club right now, and the Red Sox aren’t.

I’m not saying the Yankees are a good ball club, mind you. They still have some issues to sort out if they want to go deep into October. But the Red Sox are just a mess.

Injuries to Jason Varitek and Trot Nixon have weakened the lineup. Coco Crisp hasn’t been as good as his press clippings made him out to be. And if Manny Ramirez is going to miss an extended period, the middle of the Boston lineup looks less than formidable.

Red Sox pitching is a train wreck, too. Red Light Curt is having a typical year, and Jonathon Papelbon has taken to the closer’s role. Do they have anyone else who inspires confidence in big game situations?

Add it all together, and it’s a team that is slowly drifting out of contention. This lost weekend left Boston six and a half games behind New York, and four games behind the White Sox for the wild card. They’re not out of it yet, but it doesn’t look good.

Sticking to the Script

The Tribune’s Dave van Dyck knows a good script when it’s fed to him. In his piece today about Jamie Moyer returning to Wrigley Field, van Dyck just can’t resist bringing up Greg Maddux:

Maddux was allowed to leave for more money after the 1992 season.

It’s often said that newspapers are the first draft of history. If that’s true, why do reporters get the most basic facts wrong?

In 1992, Larry Himes offered Maddux the biggest contract ever offered to a pitcher. The Yankees upped the ante, but Maddux opted for Atlanta, and a smaller payday than he could have scored with the other two teams.

I’ve threatened before to open up the Palatial Archives and present what really happened back then. I just might if the media keeps trying to blow wind up my hinder.

I Am a Neifi on the Wind – Watch Me Soar!

It’s Christmas in August for Cub Fans. We ditch Neifi, get a warm body in return, and con the Tigers into paying his contract next year. Everybody wins! Well, except the Tigers, because they’re stuck with Neifi. Chumps.

Anyway, the Tribune’s Mark Gonzalez was quick to stick his microphone in Neifi’s face to get the inside scoop on what was ailing the Cubs this year:
“When you go with three rookies [in the rotation], it’s tough,” Perez said in the Tigers’ clubhouse after arriving Monday from Chicago. “Like the other day (Aug. 15) we were facing Roger Clemens with [Juan] Mateo from Double A. [Mateo] pitched great that day. I don’t take anything away from him, but the respect wasn’t the same.

“Only one out of five starters, [Carlos] Zambrano, was healthy the whole year. They traded Maddux and a lot of good players in the organization. They have good guys, a good manager and a good general manager. But the thing was wrong this year.”

As the GROTA guys point out, Perez had ample opportunity to pick a game where those overmatched rookies got lit up. Instead, he picks the game where the kid comes through. Oy…

Oh, and if Perez’ take sounds familiar, it’s because we’ve heard it before. From Dusty Baker.

When Dusty said it, the pundits beat him up for making excuses. When Neifi said it, Gonzalez accepted it as gospel, nodding in agreement to the sage’s wisdom. Go figure.

Christmas in August, Part 2

Sully notes that the Cubs activated Glendon Rusch today. Rusch had been on the DL with an inflamed ERA…errr…elbow tendonitis.

Normally, such news would cause much wailing and gnashing of teeth in my house. But my mood brightened when Sully went on to say that the team hopes he can stop sucking long enough to fool some contender into thinking he’s a viable left-handed option. An interested party (allegedly) – the New York Mets.

Great Googaly Moogaly! I don’t think God likes me enough to make this happen. I mean, first Neifi gets dumped, and then Rusch? And to the Mets, no less? I couldn’t think of a nicer team to fob him off on. Except maybe the White Sox. Just kidding, Jim :-)

Looking at the news before I post this, the news report is that Glavine will be back in a week or so. I didn’t think God liked me enough for this…

Compare and Contrast Part 2

Let’s look at another pair of players, shall we?

Player A: .272 BA / .309 OBP / .413 SLG / .722 OPS / 62 R / 12 HR / 46 RBI
Player B: .266 BA / .320 OBP / .452 SLG / .772 OPS / 91 R / 24 HR / 72 RBI

Player A is the redoubtable Corey Patterson, the guy Orioles manager Sam Perlozzo referred to as “our Rickey Henderson” not too long ago.

Player B is…well, I cheated a little bit, because Player B is also Corey Patterson. But this time, he’s Bad Corey, the guy with the Cubs in 2004 who was an abject failure and, even worse, “soft” (according to Dr. Phil).

Conventional Wisdom considers 2004 the year that Patterson started sliding into the Pit of Abject Failure™ that finally consumed him in 2005. Oddly enough, that season compares favorably to Patterson’s 2006 – and yet this is the year the media is comparing Patterson to Henderson. Hmmm…I wonder what other differences there are between 2004 Corey and 2006 Corey?

I peeked into Patterson’s stat lines because it had been several months since I’d seen any snarky comments in the Tribune about what a chump Jim Hendry was for trading this prodigy away and what a bunch of losers Dusty Baker and his coaches must be for not being able to teach him. The snark was at its loudest in May, when Patterson put up a .292 BA / .357 OBP / .506 SLG for the month. Since then:

June: .280 / .313 / .364
July: .275 / .290 / .352
August: .220 / .270 / .407

Unsurprisingly, the pundits had succumbed to the siren song of a small sample size. Patterson had 97 good plate appearances in May, and Dr. Phil couldn’t stop falling all over himself to announce the second coming of Lou Brock.

But anyone with a brain and a dash of sense could have seen that Patterson hadn’t made any real progress. His main problem has been a complete lack of patience at the plate. Nothing has changed this year: 8 walks in May, 5 in June, 1(!) in July (in 91 AB), and 4 August to date. Rickey himself will tell you Rickey don’t put up such lousy numbers.

I’m still a Patterson fan, and take no pleasure in his continuing offensive woes. He’s a good guy who deserved better than the bum’s rush the media (yes, the same media that sang his praises in May) and the fans gave him. Here’s hoping he can get his act together and build a nice career for himself; he may never be the Rickey Henderson or Lou Brock people predicted, but there’s no shame in that.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Compare and Contrast

Let's look at the year-to-date line on two players:

Player A: .335 BA / .411 OBA / .472 SLG / 85 R / 10 HR / 75 RBI / 55 BB / 77 K
Player B: .288 BA / .390 OBA / .507 SLG / 87 R / 25 HR / 91 RBI / 71 BB / 109 K

Looking at the stats, I think we can agree that both these guys are fine players having good years. Player A has an edge in batting average; Player B has the advantage in power. Would any of us complain about having either of these guys on our favorite team?

Evidently, some of us would. Because Player B is this guy, who is getting more grief this year than anyone outside of Barry Bonds.

We've pondered why Rodriguez has taken so many hits this year in previous posts. This week, the hits kept on coming (probably with the focus on the ever-exciting Yankees/Red Sox series this weekend). Baseball Tonight's Tino Martinez said before the series that if Rodriguez could deliver a big hit against Boston, "all would be forgiven." We need to forgive a guy who's hit 25 homers and driven in 91 runs? Is it possible that maybe one or two of those runs were the result of a "big hit?"

Fox's Ken Rosenthal says Rodriguez needs to "play great." The guy's got an .897 OPS -- is that not great enough?

The latest cracks about Rodriguez I've heard involve his defense. Rodriguez has made a lot of errors, the pundits say. His range factor is for crap, they cry.

That's funny -- we've been saying that same thing about Player A for years. And yet, Player A is the epitome of all that is right in the world, while Rodriguez has (as Rosenthal tells us) brought all this bad karma on himself.

In his piece for ESPN, Eric Neel touches on the human need for clearly defined "good guys" and "bad guys." I just wonder how rational humans can define Rodriguez as a "bad guy" when his stats indicate he's at least as good as a "good guy."

Thank You, God

I'd heard the rumors, but didn't dare raise my hopes. But it's true -- Neifi Perez is now someone else's problem!

I hope Dave Dombrowski doesn't believe his own sound bite that Neifi is "a legitimate everyday player." That's crazy talk, that is. Is Omar Infante really so bad that Neifi is an upgrade?

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Loria the Destroyer

Loria first infected Major League Baseball in 1999, when he purchased a minority share of the erstwhile Montreal Expos. However, over the years, Loria proved to be more saboteur than steward. On his watch, the Expos failed to negotiate a television contract or an English-language radio contract, allowed a lease on land set aside for a new ballpark to expire, nixed the long-standing practice of giving free tickets to sponsors, exploited a clause with his partners that allowed him to increase his ownership stake and fired the boundlessly adored Felipe Alou as manager. And then Loria had the gall to wring his hands over why no one would come to see the team play. It all smacked of orchestration, to say the least.

So with the viability of baseball in Montreal now called into question, Loria sold the team to MLB. In a "stunning" coincidence, this was just about the time that commissioner Bud Selig was angling to contract the Expos and Minnesota Twins. You'd think that a ham-fisted owner like Loria, who ran baseball to seed in a city that once was feverish for its hometown nine, would be expelled from the ranks of ownership. However, that's not what happened. MLB promptly approved Loria's bid to purchase the Florida Marlins and even floated him a $38-million, interest-free (!) loan to do so. There was certainly the whiff of quid pro quo.

Read the rest here...

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Done Diddley Done For

Are the Astros done for the year? Judging from what I saw of them the last three days, I say yes.

Getting rolled by a team as bad as the Cubs isn’t a good thing to begin with. But each of those three games was exceedingly winnable. But thanks to the Astros’ lousy lineup (which was shutout in Games One and Three, despite the plethora of walks handed out by Cubs pitching) and a porous bullpen (Brad Lidge blowing another save in Game Two), they managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

This afternoon’s game just might be the low point of the Astros’ season. Dusty used everyone on his staff last night, except Carlos Zambrano (who went Tuesday) and Carlos Marmol (who went Monday). That included the guy who was supposed to start today (Rich Hill, who got the win).

Since Scott Eyre helpfully pulled his groin, the Cubs were able to DL him and pull some guy off the Iowa roster for an emergency start. I’ve never heard of this guy, which shows you how obscure he is.

Fortunately, the I-Cubs were in Round Rock this week. So young Ryan O’Malley hopped in a limo at 6:00 am so he could get to Houston for his 1:00 pm Major League debut. And somehow this schmuck managed to out-duel Andy Pettitte. Pettitte made one mistake (an 0-2 gopher ball to Barrett), but it was enough to make him a 1-0 loser.

O’Malley wasn’t exactly sharp. But if it’s possible to “scatter” 11 base runners over the course of eight innings, O’Malley managed it.

Give an adequate offense 11 base runners, and it should manage to push one or two of them over the plate. Houston’s problem is that it doesn’t have an adequate offense. Not with out machines like Willy Taveras, Brad Ausmus, and Adam Everett cluttering up the lineup. And three months of Roger Clemens won’t be enough to overcome that weakness.

Phil Rogers Is an Utter Hack

I didn’t think it possible, but Dr. Phil, Beat Writer is even more of a hack than Dr. Phil, Baseball Columnist. His game story in Wednesday’s Tribune is as shameful a display as any I’ve seen this year.

Here’s the lead paragraph in the Trib’s Midwest edition, put to bed long before the eighteen-inning affair finished:

Trying to save Juan Mateo’s life, Dusty Baker might have cost the Cubs a victory Tuesday night. His decision not to expose Mateo to retaliation from a seemingly angry Roger Clemens set up a long, hard night at Minute Maid Park for everyone.

This is one for the record books. Dr. Phil can’t wait to crack on Baker for leaving a pitcher in too long. Now, he’s cracking on Dusty for taking a pitcher out of a game. Bravo for life’s little ironies.

The final story (posted at 1:22 this morning) revises the lead slightly, saying that Baker’s foolish decision “merely set up one of the longest, craziest nights in Cubs history.” As if Baker was sitting in the dugout pondering what he could do to give the fans at Enron Field a whole ‘nother game for free.

Clemens hit Jacque Jones in the first inning; Mateo hit Clemens in the fifth. So I don’t know if either or both were intentional, semi-intentional, or completely accidental. I did see Clemens hit Ryan Theriot, and, while I don’t claim to have read Clemens’ mind, I can honestly say it looked like the Rocket was trying to prove his manhood by drilling Theriot. Although it didn’t exactly happen as Dr. Phil describes:

Pinch-hitter Ryan Theriot instead received the brunt of Clemens' wrath. Clemens missed Theriot with his first inside pitch, then nailed him in the back with the next one.

I don’t know what game Dr. Phil was watching, but Theriot wasn’t hit in the back. Theriot backed out of the way of Clemens’ first pitch (neck-high and way inside). The next pitch was merely chest-high, and Theriot was bailing all the way. Not fast enough, though. Cubs TV guy Len Kasper said that the pitch nicked the front of Theriot’s uniform. Ausmus was able to catch the pitch, too, which would have been a real neat trick if the pitch had hit Theriot’s back.

How is it possible that a reporter gets such a simple fact wrong in his story? I’ve no clue. Perhaps he was busy proofing the galleys of his book on the 2006 White Sox.

If the action on the field may have eluded Dr. Phil’s eagle-eyed vigilance, you can be sure it’s because he’s focusing on what’s really important:

The dugout camera caught Baker swearing, and it was obvious why when Wuertz's get-me-over fastball was pulled past first baseman John Mabry for a two-run double.

Horrors! Dusty Baker swears! Who will think of the children?

Full disclosure: I, too, let fly a naughty word or five after Wuertz blew the lead. I apologize to any children who heard me. Kids, don’t swear.

In yet another of life’s little ironies, the cameras also caught Clemens having a hissy fit after returning to the dugout after the fifth inning. He angrily flung his glove against the wall and trashed an innocent water cooler before stomping angrily…errr…I mean, “seemingly angrily,” in Phil-speak. Maybe Dr. Phil was color-correcting some photos he’s planning on including in his book and didn’t see Clemens’ tantrum.

I can go on about Dr. Phil’s slanted interpretation of events (and I usually do). But he couldn’t even be bothered to get the simplest of his facts straight in this story:

The game-winning hit came after Astros manager Phil Garner intentionally walked Michael Barrett to get to Murton, who has 22 runs batted in over his last 26 games.

[12 paragraphs later]

Murton, who has 20 runs batted in over his last 26 games, had entered the game as part of a double-switch in the seventh inning.

Jeebus help us! Dr. Phil, can’t you even bother to proof your own stuff before you send it to the Tower? Yeah, OK – it was late, I’m sure Dr. Phil was tired after blue-penciling his proof pages. And the editors deserve their share of the blame, too. After all, they’re the folks who let this glaring error into print (and haven’t bothered to correct it yet).

We can only hope that Dr. Phil prepares his Hall of Fame ballot with more care…

Late update: Another classic bit of Rogic from Dr. Phil:

In the series opener, Baker allowed his ace, Carlos Zambrano, to throw 121 pitches over eight innings. It was the seventh time this year Zambrano had thrown 120-plus, a heavy workload for a guy on a team going nowhere. But with so many kids in the mix, Baker feels he has to push his horse.

His handling of Zambrano was nothing compared to how Baker managed Tuesday night. He was in Game 7 mode, making moves now and asking questions later. Baker ran through his entire pitching staff, using Zambrano and converted catcher Carlos Marmol to pinch-hit and getting 13 innings of relief from nine others, including closer Ryan Dempster for three innings and Rich Hill, the scheduled starter Wednesday, for the last two.

For those of you scoring at home: leaving his starter in for 120 pitches is bad. Making frequent pitching changes is also bad, because you never know when the game's going to go 18 innings. I hope that clarifies things...

Ain't Progress Grand?

Any thoughts about the new Yankee Stadium? It better be damned nice for a billion dollars (that's four A-Rods, you know). At least Billy Crystal seems happy...

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

What Jim Said

Just to follow up on Jim’s A-Rod comments…

Why do we [the collective “we,” of course – Jim and I have no problem with A-Rod] hate A-Rod? ESPN.com’s Eric Neel offers this theory:

We prefer the simple, familiar mechanics of winners and losers, heroes and villains, guys who have it and guys who don't. We say it's all about the rings. We say, as if we have no weaknesses ourselves, as if we've never shrunk from anything in our personal or professional lives, "suck it up" and "be a man." We demonize, then exile the "weak" guy. We treat him as if his sensitivities were contagious, as if he had cooties.

Once that die is cast and he's outside the realm of empathy, we can have our way with him, even if the way we do him seems wildly out of whack with his performance.

"He's held to an impossibly high standard," Kay says. "I really believe they expect him to get a hit every time up. The guy gets his temperature taken every single at-bat."

And he's found wanting. Every single time. Every single time he collects a check. Every single time Jeter makes a play or Papi goes deep…It's all fair game…

As he makes his way toward some of the all-time records, will we soften our A-Rod stance and expand the register of what we can connect with, express empathy for? Or will we hold to the old tough-guy standards and keep doing him the way we do? It's on us, not him, from here on out.
If it’s really on us [the collective “us,” of course], then A-Rod is doomed. It’s just easier to look at life as a collection of celluloid villains and heroes. There’s no need to bother with any of that “thinking” stuff, no need to ask yourself why you hate somebody with such venom. It’s Occam’s Razor taken to its most disheartening extreme…

Thought Police

Following up on another of Jim’s posts, The Onion has the latest scoop on our favorite performance artist, Ozzie Guillen.

Suck It Up

By now, you’ve probably heard about Paul LoDuca’s personal issues. I have no comment about what LoDuca is going through. His divorce is none of my business. And as long as he isn’t gambling on baseball, he can play the ponies to his heart’s content.

But I had to laugh dark, mordant chuckles when I read the Met’s statement about their catcher:

We have talked to Major League Baseball and they have expressed no concern of any violation of any Major League Baseball rule regarding Paul Lo Duca. Right now, we urge Paul to focus on baseball and we support him through this difficult period in his life. [emphasis mine]

In other words: Hey, Paul…too bad your marriage imploded. But don’t forget we got a game tonight. Suck it up and get on the field.

Why I Love Ron Santo

If you ever have a chance to listen to the Cubs’ radio broadcasts, I strongly urge you to take it. Pat Hughes and Ron Santo are great to listen to.

A lot of people slam Santo because he’s not a polished broadcaster. But that’s one reason why I love him so. At heart, he’s a Cub Fan, just like me. And every once in a while, a little more of that Cub Fan will break through than the WGN radio suits would like.

Like tonight, when I will swear on a stack of bibles that I heard Ron say the “S” word on air.

Fortunately, Hughes is a polished broadcasting professional. So after a moment of awkward silence, Hughes said, “Sometimes the fans get a little too close to our field mikes. We should be more careful about that.” He and Ron then shared a manly laugh.

It’s not a lot, I know. But allow me my little pleasures as this season winds towards its close. And Ronnie, if you’re reading, I’ll chip in $10 if the FCC decides to make an example of you…

Monday, August 14, 2006

This Is Kind Of Funny, Too

I have no idea whether Joe Girardi is or isn't a good manager, but his Florida Marlins team seems to be doing ok for a bunch of kids with the lowest payroll and worst fan support in the majors. I will guarantee that he's better at his job than his teams' owner.

During an August 6 game with the Dodgers, Marlins owner Jeffrey (The Destroyer) Loira began berating the home plate umpire after a couple of close pitches went against the Fish. Loira was seated close to the dugout, and asked Loira to stop, reminding him that "I'm the manager."

The Destroyer blew a fuse, left his seat, and was reportedly ready to fire Girardi at the end of the game. Cooler and saner heads managed to talk him off of the ledge.

According to one source with the Marlins, "Jeffrey can be very knee-jerk." I think that this sentence works better without the word "knee."

On A Lighter Note

Now this is funny. Since the Vancouver Canadians are now the Sacramento River Cats, I think that these should be offered at Raley Field, too. I want one.

Nothing Here To Joke About

This is very sad. We hope that Mr. Allison is able to recover and work things out.


Pretty good piece . Yankee fan, you're just not going to convince me that this guy is a stiff.

What is it about Alex Rodriguez that makes Yankee fan so irrationally angry? It can't be just that the Yankees haven't won a World Series since he's been with them. Mike Mussina, Jason Giambi, Hideki Matsui, Gary Sheffield, and Randy Johnson haven't won a ring with the Yankees either, and none of them seem to be taken to task about it the way A-Rod is.

The contract? Maybe, but with George Steinbrenner writing checks, no one can claim that A-Rod is preventing the Yankees from spending the money to build the team around him.

When I was growing up in Milwaukee, I watched the first six years of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's NBA career. Adbul-Jabbar was clearly the best player in the league those years, and for some years afterwards, but there were always those who expected even more. Why? Because he was so good and so graceful on the court that it looked to many as though he was just gliding through the game, not having to work hard.

Of course, that was complete lunacy. Abdul-Jabbar was under siege constantly on the court from big, physical guys, from great players like Nate Thurmond and Wes Unseld to guys like Dennis Awtry who were in the NBA only to push Abdul-Jabbar around. One season Abdul-Jabbar averaged 45 minutes per game (NBA games, remember, are 48 minutes long). This guy wasn't working hard? He should have done more?

Some people just make things look easier than they really are. Abdul-Jabbar was like that, and so was A-Rod. But that's not what plays with Frustrated Jock Sportswriter and Guy in the Box Seats. They love guys who dive around a lot and run into walls. Even when Rodriguez tries to be that guy, it backfires. When he slapped the ball away from Bronson Arroyo during the 2004 postseason, it was a stupid thing to do, and he was rightly hammered for it. But if David Eckstein had done it, Tim McCarver and John Kruk would have been all over what a gamer Eckstein was and what a gutty play he tried.

It's sadly common for a team's best player to be used as the scapegoat when they don't win. It's just that these days, especially in New York, the volume is just louder.

They'd Have Gotten Away With It, If It Weren't For That Medler-ing Judge

MLB and the MLBPA took some time off last week from bickering with each other in order to bicker in court with companies who run online fantasy games. In the case of CDC v. MLBAM, the dynamic duo tried to convince a U.S. District Court in Missouri that the names and statistics of players participating in major league games are copywritable materials and that anyone wishing to use them for the purposes of selling fantasy baseball leagues must pay a licensing fee.

I'm no lawyer, not even a simple country hyperchicken, but this seemed pretty clear even to my layman's eye that it was a case without any legal merit. Aside from the hundred or so years of precendence of boxscores containing names and statistics being available in newspapers every day during the summer, the whole idea is about as logical as declaring the minutes of the United States Senate as copyrighted materials.

Judge Mary Ann Medler came to about the same conclusion. She ruled that such names and stats were not protected by the privacy rights of the players (even if they played for the Marlins), but were instead part of the public domain.

Unsurprisingly, Major League Baseball Advanced Marketing and the MLBPA plan to appeal the decision. No doubt, the other major sports will file "friend of the court" briefings to help them. Good luck with that.

Judge Medler's opinion and conclusion can be found here and here.

Does This Man Ever Shut Up?

Comedian Mort Sahl used to ask his audience, "is there anyone here I haven't offended yet?" Performance Artist Ozzie Guillen is continuing Sahl's act:

"Puerto Rico has a lot of bad shortstops ... I mean bad. Well, look at it, when Alex Cintron and Alex Cora can play shortstop on your team [as they did for Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic], that's not a good shortstop country. They can borrow one from Venezuela."

I'm sure that those words mean something different in Venezuela.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Surf's Up in Cincy

Reds Fans do the wave. Good thing Sully isn't there to witness the horror...

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Boo Fricking Hoo

When a guy gets roughed up for six earned in six and two-thirds, who’s to blame? Most folks would say the pitcher had a bad day. But the greatest pitcher in the world has other ideas:

Although the Sox were angered at home plate umpire Eric Cooper’s strike zone, [greatest pitcher in the world Mark] Buehrle put most of the blame on the QuesTec pitch-tracking machine that Major League Baseball employs to help grade umpires.

“When [QuesTec] gets in every stadium, it’s going to be a hitter’s league,” said Buehrle, echoing the sentiments of pitchers such as Boston’s Curt Schilling, who once smashed a camera and was fined.

“I need the corners. [Cooper] was calling the high strike, but I don’t live upstairs. I live on the corners. I’m not saying they were strikes. I think some of them were.”
For the record, this year Red Light Curt is 14-4, with an ERA of 3.78 and a 142-20 K to BB ratio. Apparently, QuesTec isn’t bothering him much this year…

Who’s Running the Show? (Part Seven)

Dr. Phil reports that:

A very good source told me Clemens had gone to [Astro owner Drayton] McLane a few days before the deadline to request a roster shakeup.

Good to see the ‘Stros found someone to fill the leadership void created when Jeff Bagwell hit the DL…

Lowering the Bar

The Chicago Tribune’s baseball coverage hit a new low Monday, and its writers had everything to do with it.

Since the Cubs have won ten of their last fourteen games, Sully had to dig deep to find something to kvetch about. Here’s how low he had to go:

The Cubs reached another low point in their season Sunday, though the players had nothing to do with it.

With the Cubs at bat in the bottom of the fourth inning, the crowd of 40,320 began doing the wave.

I’m no fan of the wave, either. But it’s something I keep in the “Who Cares?” file, along with stuff like sausage races, guess-the-attendance games, T-shirt tosses, and post-home run fireworks displays on sunny afternoons. In other words, things that really have no place in baseball games, but a lot of people seem to enjoy.

But evidently it’s something Sully and his bosses at the Trib care about, as evidenced by Sully’s 196 words on the subject Monday (compared with 548 words about the actual game itself). The eds care about the wave so much they pimped a feature on it above the masthead in today’s paper (the story, naturally, was a complete piece of fluff from the usually-reliable Melissa Isaacson).

Yes, people at sporting events do the wave. And when it happens at Wrigley Field, it somehow reflects poorly on the Cubs. I’m surprised this hasn’t been spun as Dusty Baker’s fault.

Meanwhile, Rick Morrissey dusts off one of his favorite chestnuts to help pad his column on Michael Barrett:

What would possess an otherwise sane person to come to Wrigley Field to watch the lowly Cubs take on the lowlier Pittsburgh Pirates? OK, besides the beer?

…Anyone who expected Barrett to be batting .329 in early August needs to check himself back into rehab.

Delightful! The great scribe points out how Cub Fans go to Wrigley Field to drink beer (apparently, fans of the other twenty-nine Major League teams don’t). And some of those Cub Fans are so beer-addled they need to go back to rehab (since the first go-round didn’t work).

Is the Tribune biased? That’s a question that’s been kicked around since 1981. I’ve said before that of course they’re biased – in favor of anything that will sell their advertisements (and if they sell some papers at the same time, all the better).

These folks say that the fact the Tribune printed a piece by its architectural critic about the new bleachers at Wrigley Field without running a disclaimer that the same media conglomerate owns both the newspaper and the baseball team is proof positive that the paper is hopelessly biased.

Meanwhile, what passes for news in the sports section goes unnoticed. Cub Fans drink beer! They need treatment for alcohol abuse, the major metropolitan daily tells us. And they do the wave! The foolish fools!

I guess that’s the kind of material that sells advertisements. And if it paints a sizable portion of the readership as rubes, that’s just the price of doing business. No one will care, as long the architecture guy keeps his nose clean…

Monday, August 07, 2006

Eldon Auker

One of my favorite historical players passed away last week. Eldon Auker, who posted a 130-101 record in a ten-year career with the Tigers, Red Sox, and St. Louis Browns from 1933-1942, died on Friday in Florida at the age of 95.

I love watching sidearms and submariners, and Auker was one of the most extreme, and most successful. Like Chad Bradford today, Auker often brushed the dirt with this hand during his delivery. He almost certainly could have won another fifty or so games during the war years, but decided to retire after the 1942 season at the age of 32.

Auker, who was an outstanding football player at Kansas State, was a rarity as a college-educated player during the 1930's. He put his intelligence to good use, becoming a very successful business executive after his playing days. In 2001 he co-wrote a terrific book, Sleeper Cars and Flannel Uniforms, which I recommend. Unlike many players from back in the day, Auker didn't indulge in the "players back in my day were so much better" crap. And he shared our feelings about Pete Rose.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Who's Running the Show (Part 6)

Should we really feel sorry for a guy making millions of dollars for playing half a season? Jayson Stark thinks so:

The owner easily could have done for Clemens what the Cubs did Monday for Greg Maddux. There are times when certain people deserve to be rescued from their sinking cruise liners. This year, for those two living legends, was one of those times.

Stark prattles about the "obligation any team has to a player of Roger Clemens' stature." I didn't realize they had an obligation beyond paying the guy to play baseball.

Not every Hall of Famer gets to go out in a blaze of glory. It looks like Clemens won't, either. Boo fricking hoo...

A Fun Trade Deadline Fact to Know and Share

Listening to the Cubs on WGN Radio this afternoon. Pat Hughes just offered an interesting little factoid regarding deadline deals.

The last three pitchers traded within a week of the non-waiver deadline to win a post-season start are Ken Hill, David Cone, and some other guy I can't remember...back in 1995.

I'm not sure if this reflects poorly on the deadline deals made in the last ten yeras, or if it's just one of those wacky happenings that baseball so often gives us. Just thought I'd share...

That's Guilty! Guilty! Guilty! Guilty!

So, if we accept as fact that Greg Anderson's refusal to talk to investigators is "proof" that Barry Bonds is an evil juicer, what can we infer from this?

That's Very White of Him

One of the more disheartening things I've found over the course of this year is the level of vitriol directed towards Dusty Baker. I'm already on record as saying he should not manage the Cubs next year, so I'm not trying to defend his managerial abilities.

But there's fair criticism, and then there's being an ass. Unfortunately, a lot of Cub Fans (and others) have decided to be asses.

Normally sane people who could rationally discuss the shortcomings of Don Baylor, Davey Lopes, Lloyd McClendon, and Lee Mazzilli can't speak a sentence about Baker without including at least two obscenities and an insult or two before demanding that he be run out of town on a rail. They call into question Baker's sincerity, religious beliefs, and motivation. They bring up Baker's dealings with the IRS and alleged drug use as if they're relevant to what's happened to the team this year.

One guy I talked to even presented Baker's feud with Tommy Lasorda as an indictment against Baker's character (ironically, I always counted that as a positive for Dusty...).

I was hoping that the recent announcement that Baker would finish the season would put an end to the carping, and perhaps lead to a rational conversation during the off-season. Alas, I hadn't taken into account the media's ability to pull a story right out of its lower back region, as Sully shows here:

Scratch White Herzog from the possible replacements if the Cubs don't bring back Dusty Baker as manager in 2007.

The former St. Louis manager told SI.com columnist Jon Heyman he would be interested in coming out of retirement to manage again but said the unpredictable arms of Mark Prior and Kerry Wood would create a problem.

That must have been a tough call for Whitey. I mean, the guy is turning down a job that (a) isn't open and (b) hasn't been offered to him.

Herzog offered further opinions on the Cubs' Disabled Duo:

The Cubs would be interesting if you knew those two pitchers would get up off their [butts] and pitch. I shouldn't put it like that, but...it has t be a tough decision for the Cubs. But if you take them away, you're starting to scratch your head.

A few thoughts on Herzog's take:

1. Herzog implies that the Cubs would be a better team if Wood and Prior were healthy (unless he believes that fifth place teams really are "interesting"). Sully accepts this with no comment. When Baker suggested the same thing earlier this year, he was slammed for using injuries as an excuse.

2. There have been whispers going around the last two years that Wood and Prior aren't "tough" enough to pitch through their injuries. Herzog's crack about the pair getting "up off their [butts]" won't do anything to stop the speculation.

3. Despite being away from the game for a few years, Herzog still knows how the media works, as his last sentence sets up this off-season's script perfectly. If the Cubs let Wood leave as a free agent this year, there will be more than just some head-scratching from the experts at the Tribune. After all, these are the people who claimed that Sergio Mitre was a top prospect the minute he got traded to Florida...

Fun with Poll Numbers

The hopelessly biased Chicago Tribune showed its true colors again Friday, burying the news about how the White Sox are gaining popularity in Chicago in a story that takes up a mere two-thirds of the front page.

The survey is described thusly:

"If I were to show you a graph or a trend line, you'd see the Cubs' and Sox's [popularity] is almost identical," said Howard Goldberg, senior vice president for Scarbrough sports marketing.

Indeed, according to data collected by Scarborough Research, a syndicated firm numerous professional sports teams use, 53 percent of Chicago consumers watched a Sox game on television, attended a game, or listened to one on the radio last year, during their World-Series winning season.

The Cubs and Bears enjoyed 56 percent penetration in the market...

Hey, I don't doubt that the White Sox gained fans over the last year. Winning will do that for a team.

But I find it amusing that the measuring stick Scarborough used to determine a team's popularity is based on whether the 4,182 people surveyed watched, listened to, or attended one game.

Hell, by that standard, I must be a White Sox Fan! I've probably seen then on TV fifty times over the last twelve months.

Of course, it also means I'm a fan of the Red Sox, Yankees, Devil Rays, Phillies, Padres, Rockies, Cardinals, Royals, Braves, Brewers, Giants, Mariners...well, you get the idea.

Unfortunately, this article has already resulted in stupid letters from Cub Fan to the Tribune, which will result in stupid letters from White Sox Fan. It would be funny if it weren't so pathetic.

Just Curious

Chase Utley's hitting streak ended at thirty five games Friday night. The AP blurb mentioned that Utley's streak was second to Jimmy Rollins' thirty eight game hitting streak earlier this year (and last year) in franchise history.

While Rollins' streak was active, there was daily blab about the great Joe DiMaggio was and how his hitting streak is an unbreakable record. But there was no passionate defense of DiMaggio this time around. Any theories on why?

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Double Your Standards...

A few years ago, Baseball Prospectus' Joe Sheehan opined that the Cubs' acquisition of Derrek Lee was just more evidence proving how much Dusty Baker hates young players.

I'm sure his column today will be a scathing indictment on how much Theo Epstein hates young players...

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Tough Crowd

I thought the Chicago media was rough...it seems the Saint Louis media can kvetch just as well...

Belliard trade shows La Russa hasn't played his Cards right

On second thought, maybe Grudzielanek was the answer

Hail Cesar

Just to expand on one of Jim's thoughts below...

I wasn't a big fan of the Maddux-for-Izturis deal when I heard about it yesterday. But I became certain that the trade was a stinker when I saw this from our old friend Dr. Phil:

It's also hard to believe that the Los Angeles Dodgers would trade 26-year-old shortstop Cesar Izturis, a 2005 All-Star, to have Maddux for the stretch run. Credit both Maddux's stature and the deal-making skills of Jim Hendry for bringing the Cubs the best return of any of baseball's sellers at the deadline for waiver-free trades.

When the weekend's flurry of trades ended Monday, no one had done a better job getting a return on his investment than Hendry, who struck a major blow for the Cubs' uncertain future by landing Izturis. The only organization that came close was the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, who not coincidentally also dealt with the Dodgers.

Getting the second coming of Neifi is a "major blow" for the team's future? The word "blow" is appropriate, but not in the way Dr. Phil uses it here...

Then there's this nonsense from Mike Downey:

In one of the Cubs' smartest maneuvers of this century, they have found themselves a player who could be a fixture in Wrigley Field's infield for the next five to 10 years.

Izturis is a beauty, a gem. Stick him next to third baseman Aramis Ramirez and leave him there daily for the rest of this year. You won't be sorry. Ronny Cedeno can study him from the dugout or switch to second base. Whatever. A shortstop like this does not come along every day.

Actually, shortstops like that do come along every day. Shake the AAA tree and you can find a bunch of shortstops who can't hit...

Who's Running The Show (Part 5)

This is sad, but it's of his own making. Having talent is great, but at some point you have to get a handle on your emotions or you're not going to have a career. It's looking at this point as though Dukes has passed that point.

This is a guy who should takes some notes on this subject, too. There are a lot of baseball people that think this kid is going to be a star, but I don't see it happening at the rate he's going.

Passing The Deadline

The best thing about the trade deadline is that it's over. I used to enjoy the speculation, but it's reached the point where the rumors have overshadowed the games themselves, and that ain't right. That's why you haven't seen any trade speculation here. That, and laziness. Now that it's done, there are some things I want to say about what did happen.

Earlier this year, I told anyone who would listen that the Yankees would not be able to fix any breakdowns through trades, as the Yankee farm system had nothing left to offer. Little did I know that both the Phillies and the Pirates would be willing to give up good players for nothing. In exchange for Abreu, one of the best players in the game despite his unexplained power outage this year, the Phillies accepted a tools guy hitting .240 with two homers in low A ball, a pitcher whose upside is to be Damaso Marte, and two guys who are three years away from hitting a major league roster. This trade would have been laughed out of a good Yahoo league.

But at least Pat Gillick and the Phillies can use the excuse that someday these guys might be good. Dave Littlefield of the Pirates doesn't even have that. Craig Wilson is a useful player who can play first base and right field and crush lefthanded pitching. The Pirates misused him for several years and finally gave him away for Shawn Chacon. Yep, Shawn Chacon, a guy who has had an ERA of 7.00 two of the past three years and walks as many batters as he strikes out. I used to think that Littlefield was simply hamstrung by having to work for a complete moron of an owner. Now I just think that Littlefield is an idiot.

There were some other head-scratching moves. Littlefield made some small amends for the Wilson trade by getting a modest pitching prospect from the Tigers for Sean Casey, a great guy in the clubhouse who lacks the power needed for a modern first baseman, grounds into a ton of double plays, and is a lousy defensive player. I know that the Reds have been desperate to improve their pitching; do they really think that Kyle Lohse is the guy to do that? The Padres spent the last week trying to acquire a third baseman; failing that, they traded for Todd Walker and plan to plug him in for OJT at the position.

I'm amused by the reaction of the media to the Dodgers' pickup of Greg Maddux. Not that Maddux won't help the Dodgers; he's still a decent enough fifth starter. But there were some who needed to be reminded that this isn't the 1995 Greg Maddux; this is the 40-year old with ERAs well over 5.00 each of the last three months. I'm even more amused by Chicago writers like Phillip Rogers who think that the Cubs got something valuable in Cesar Izturiz. What they now have is double your Neifi, double your fun.

Oh yeah, Littlefield and the Pirates again. Having just traded Craig Wilson, why give up two pitchers to pick up Xavier Nady, who walks, quacks, and sheds water like Craig Wilson, only not as well? What a hopeless franchise. I've picked on the Royals a lot this year, but the Pirates are just as dismal.

Only 364 shopping days until next years' trading deadline. Start your rumors any time.