Jim & Bob's Palatial Baseball Blog

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Razor Shines

He's the new third base coach for the White Sox, as Joey Cora moves into the dugout to become bench coach. I don't really have any further comment on this, I just like saying the name, "Razor Shines."

There Is An "I" In Sheffield

I'd certainly welcome this guy to my team:

"Here's some friendly advice. If you want to trade for me, you have to deal with me directly. Trust me, you won't want me there if I'm not happy. I don't care if I love the owner, if I love the GM, if I love the city. I'm going on my terms."

What if you are traded without getting new contract?

"That's the worst thing to do for the other team because I would be forced to come to [them]. If they trade me, the other team better come talk to me first. That's going to make a major problem worse. Even Atlanta."

Would you retire?

"It would depend where they sent me. There are several places I wouldn't play....
If I just go to a team for one year, there's going to be a problem. A big problem. I will not do this."

That's Gary Sheffield, disgruntled outfielder. For a 38-year old who can't play the outfield any more and missed three quarters of the 2006 season with injuries, he's certainly got a high opinion of his current value. I suspect he's in for a rude surprise. And if he finds a team who shares his opinions, they are in for a shock, too.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Spare Me

Cardinal Fan checked in at the Yahoo baseball group I'm a semi-regular participant in.

His take: This year was great for long-suffering Cardinal Fans!

Yes, it must have been hell on earth the last few years. How did they ever find the inner strength to stand by their team through thick and...well, slightly less thick. Oy.


So, 38 years ago an outstanding defensive centerfielder playing for the St. Louis Cardinals turns the wrong way on a fly, slips, falls, and the Detroit Tigers go on to a victory in the 1968 World Series. This year, an outstanding defensive centerfielder playing for the Detroit Tigers turns the wrong way on a fly, slips, falls, and the St. Louis Cardinals go on to a victory in the World Series.

I don't mean any slight to either the Cardinals or the Tigers, but that had to have been one of the most boring World Series ever. Only one of the five games was ever really in doubt, and the Tigers played so badly in that game that they really didn't deserve to win it. The series was so dull and poorly played that even I was wishing it would end quickly.

There are just a few points I want to make:

Here is a great reason why we don't make predictions here at this site, and why we don't take predictions from pundits all that seriously.

I'm not sure how anyone could watch the entire series and chose David Eckstein as the MVP over Scott Rolen, but I guess picking the little guy made for better stories. I wonder if Dallas Green still thinks Rolen is a loser?

As recently as 2002, Jeff Weaver was considered to be one of the best pitchers in the game. In 2004 and 2005 he pitched decent, although certainly not outstanding, ball for the Dodgers. But he stunk as a Yankee, and that's all the media remembers. Based on his career, should we really be surprised that he pitched a month of above average baseball?

General Managers, please, please take notice. Relief pitchers in the series for the Cardinals allowed one run in nine innings of work, giving up just four hits and striking out nine. These six relievers worked 39 2/3 innings during the postseason and struck out 42 while allowing only seven earned runs. That's a 1.59 ERA, for the mathematically challenged. The six:

Adam Wainwright, 2006 salary, $327,000
Randy Flores, $350,000
Tyler Johnson, $327,000
Brad Thompson, $334,000
Jeff Kinney, $327,000
Braden Looper, $3,500,000 (wow, one of these things is not like the other)

Did not participate: Jason Isringhausen, $8,750,000

Moral: There is plenty of good relief help available without spending star money on 60 innings a year middle relievers.

Chris Duncan goes on the short list with Lonnie Smith, Howard Johnson, and Greg Luzinski as the worst outfielders I've ever seen in my life. I don't really blame him; he was a first baseman doing OJT during the World Series. As bad as he was, I credit Tony LaRussa for taking the risk to get Duncan's bat into the lineup.

A lot was made of Placido Polanco's hitless streak during the series, but did anyone notice that his opposite number at second base, Ronnie Belliard, went oh-for-twelve himself? Belliard, who apparently subscribes to the Jabba the Hutt diet, also displayed the range of a sloth with a hangover and was probably the worst player on the field for either side during the series.

Did anyone notice that Buck and McCarver stopped talking about the veteran leadership of Pudge Rodriguez when they noticed that he hit .158 for the series?

If there is anything that this postseason should make clear, it's that the baseball season is very, very long, and that even good teams can be very streaky. The Tigers were good for four months, not so good for two, great for two weeks, and terrible for the last week. The Cardinals were very similar, but they had one more week of strong play than the Tigers did.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Where’s Your American League Superiority Now?

Congratulations to the Saint Louis Cardinals for pulling the upset of the century.

As a National League fan, I must admit that I’m enjoying the irony. A whole off-season of the pundits harping on the NL’s eight game World Series losing streak. An entire second half of this season listening to them proclaim the AL the “dominant” league after pulling the All-Star Game out of their a…errr…last at-bat. And let’s not forget the constant rehashing of interleague play. And then three weeks of the post-season, listening to them (including this dope with a blog) chortle about those bumbling Cardinals and how they didn’t really deserve a post-season berth, let alone a chance against the mighty Tigers.

Well, you nay-sayers can take your snide asides and NL disparagement and suck it. Our league rolled yours, Sparky! How’s that taste?

Yeah, yeah, yeah – small sample size, in a short series anything can happen, blah blah blah. Those are valid points – and they were valid points back in 2004 and 2005. So if you want to discount this year’s Cardinals, feel free – as long as you’re willing to discount the last two “superior” AL champions.

A few other thoughts on the Fall Classic:

** I will steal Stephen Colbert’s take on the World Cup and apply it to the World Series. He said that since the U.S. team tied Italy (the only team not to lose to them), our boys deserved a share of the World Cup Championship.

I submit that since the Cubs rolled the Cards 11-8 in the season series, not only are we better than the Tigers (and, by extension, the rest of the AL), but we should get the trophy. I’m feeling expansive today, so I’ll allow the Cardinals a share of the title (maybe a third, let’s say).

[Note to those lacking a sense of humor: I kid. Mostly…]

** There’s been a lot of talk about the weather this week, but no one’s done a damn thing about it. The rainy conditions in Saint Louis have revived the calls for MLB to do “something” about playing games in the cold and damp.

But until Baron Budhausen and the rest of the owners decide to shorten the season or mix a few doubleheaders in during the summer, the World Series will always stretch into the last week of October. And neither of those changes will be made anytime soon.

This year, the weather was rainy and cold and miserable. That’s the risk you run playing games this late in October.

Saint Louis also hosted the post-season in 2004, and the weather wizards didn’t raise a fuss then. That year, they had the good luck to not get rained on. That meteorological good luck didn’t hold up this year, and thus a crisis is born.

** There will probably be a lot more gab about the errors made by the Tigers’ pitchers. But give the Cardinals some credit for capitalizing on those mistakes. The Cards had the runners on base to score as a result of those miscues, or had someone come up with a hit to keep the rallies going after the errors.

Meanwhile, the Tigers couldn’t get any offense going. Maybe they were rusty after their week-long layoff, maybe the cold and damp left them lethargic, maybe the Cardinal pitching staff did a good job. Whatever the reason, the Tigers just didn’t get the job done at the plate.

We’ll see replays of Zumaya and Rodney throwing balls away on ESPN Classic until the end of time. Just another example of how nobody ever wins, someone else just blows it. Give the Cardinals credit for cashing in on the opportunities the Tigers gave them, and for not giving the Tiger offense those opportunities in the first place.

A New Front in MLB’s Labor War?

Most of the baseball punditocracy have expressed approval of the new CBA. Sure, some wanted stronger testing for performance enhancers that there are not tests for, or a more stringent Yankee…errrr…luxury tax. But on the whole, the predominant feeling is relief that both sides managed to reach an agreement without even the threat of a labor stoppage (either a strike or a lockout).

However, Yahoo Sports’ Jeff Passan casts a dark shadow on the good times. He found an obscure clause in the agreement that will cause him and his cohort some discomfort:

Clubhouses close to reporters an hour before the start of each game instead of 45 minutes. This became a collectively bargained issue because of players’ complaints about too much access for reporters, who contend that the 3½ hours of pregame face time with the players has made baseball writing the richest of all sports. With the new precedent set, journalists fear what other access limitations will be imposed or bargained in the future.

Heavens! Such draconian limitations on clubhouse access mean that reporters won’t be able to get as many sound bites from the players! How are the reporters supposed to do their jobs if they can’t get those sound bites?

No wonder Passan is worried. Clubhouse access is the one thing your baseball media cares about. If they can’t get enough player quotes to fill a column (or a game story), they might have to resort to actually watching the game on the field and writing something intelligent about what happened and why. And that’s just too darned hard to do.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

More on the CBA

Some more details about the new CBA, which will run to 2011.

I'm intrigued by a few changes. Compensation for types A and B free agents has been altered slightly, so teams won't lose as many draft picks after signing free agents. And the pool of Types A and B free agents is reduced -- the top twenty percent for type A, twenty one to forty percent for type B (it was top thirty for type A, and down to the top fifty for type B).

A lot of the deadlines for free agents have been removed, too. So if Roger Clemens decides he's coming back again, he won't have to wait until May 1 to re-up with the Astros.

And, if I'm reading this correctly, the MLBPA has dropped the players' right to demand a trade if they are traded in the middle of a long-term contract.

Revenue sharing, salary tax, and the drug testing program continue unchanged.

Perhaps most important, contraction is off the table for the next five years. I wonder what Loria the Destroyer will use for leverage in his quest for a taxpayer-funded stadium?

So It's Come to This

You know things are getting bad for Albert Pujols.

Last week, Saint Louis Post-Dispatch columnist Bryan Burwell took Pujols to task for being "surly" and unfavorably compared him to Barry Bonds.

Today, Sully says, "Pujols could learn a lesson from Sosa, or he can continue to morph into the next Barry Bonds."

Geez, that's gotta be the nicest thing any member of the Chicago media has said about Sammy Sosa since...well, since he got a couple hits in his first game with the Orioles.

What mortal sin had Pujols committed to merit such scorn? He called the media "a pain in the [butt]." And he told them not to crowd his locker.

Of course, that's enough to get any player on the media's poop list. Why can't he be more like that nice Mark Grace?

Ask and Ye Shall Receive

Shorter White Sox Fan: How come the the biased Chicago media isn't celebrating our awe-inspiring third place finish? White Sox Fans are smarter, tougher, and [since we can't use Guillen's famous word anymore] not as sissified as than those loser Cub Fans! Why doesn't anyone pay attention to us?!

Shorter Tribune Editors: By Jove, you're right. Here's a two-page spread on the one-year anniversary of your classic World Series victory! We even include Greg Gumbel making fun of those sissy Cub Fans! And then just to prove how non-biased we are, we'll run a bit from Sully where he rehashes the terror the Cardinals felt in April when there was no hot water in their Wrigley Field clubhouse. Boy, those Cubs and their fans are stooopid, aren't they?

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

We Interrupt Our Regularly Scheduled Broadcast

This is completely off-topic, and if you only want to read about baseball here, that's fine. Feel free to scroll on down to the next post, and enjoy. I have something that I need to say, and since this is my forum (and Bob's), I'm going to say it here.

There is a midterm election coming up in this country in less than two weeks. I have a very strong interest in it, and if you don't, maybe you ought to think about it. The shameless people running this country today, in the White House and in Congress, have pushed this wonderful country to its' lowest point in history, and November 7 is our chance to take it back

I want you to understand, this is not an anti-Republican rant. I have Republican friends; my girlfriend is one. Unlike, say, George W. Bush, I have no problem in saying that all of my solutions and ideas may not be right, and that others have valid opinions on how to best run this country. The people that I am fed up to here with are the arrogant, the greedy, the liars who have hijacked the Republican party for their own selfish, ideological ends.

At the risk of sounding like a complete geek (which I probably do already anyway), I want to admit that one of my heroes is Captain America. Why? This is why: flying in a transport plane full of soldiers en route to take on an unknown menace, he was asked, after all you've been through, why do you keep doing this? What's left to fight for?" His answer:

"I...don't see that I have choice...I believe in something greater than myself, something bigger. At some point in life a man makes a decision...is he alone in this world, or are we all in this together? Those of us in this plane right now...have made that decision."

Are we alone in this world, or are we all in this together? Is it everyone grab what you can get, or are we here to pull together and help each other up? I've made my decision too. The people I speak of who are running this great country now, have made another:

A congressional candidate from California mails letters, purporting to be from an immigration reform group, to legally registered Latino voters telling them that "if... you are an immigrant, voting in a federal election is a crime that could result in jail time."

A political party runs an ad against a candidate for the U.S. Senate in Tennessee, who is black, featuring a bimbo implying that she wants to have interracial sex with him. The party's own candidate claims to be appalled by this, then produces his own ad in which jungle drums beat in the background whenever his opponent's name is mentioned.

A well-known actor, who suffers from Parkinson's Disease, appears in a campaign ad for a Senate candidate in Missouri, talking about the promise of hope which stem cell research offers to those with afflictions like his. A right-wing blowhard with a national radio show claims that the actor is faking the symptoms of his illness.

A United States Senator, not born in the state he represents, tells the crowd at a campaign stop to "give a welcome to Macaca, here. Welcome to America and the real world of Virginia." The young man he is pointing out to the crowd, a campaign worker for the Senator's opponent, is an Indian-American born in Virginia.

A Congresswoman from Wyoming threats to slap a wheelchair bound Libertarian Party opponent following a debate.

Another Congressman, this time from Indiana, about to lose his seat in Congress, runs a radio ad claiming that if he and his ilk are voted out, "Speaker Pelosi will then put in motion her radical plan to advance the homosexual agenda."

Moving over to Illinois, another congressional candidate says this his opponent wants to cut and run in Iraq. His opponent, a National Guard captain, left both of her legs in Iraq when her helicopter was shot down.

Back in Pennsylvania, during a debate a congressman asks his opponent, a retired Vice Admiral, “were you always in the admiral quarter drinking out of your wine goblets and being waited on by your sailor servants?”

The leadership of the House of Representatives covers up the inappropriate behavior of one of it's members towards underage congressional pages, even though evidence shows that they may have been aware of this behavior for as long as eleven years.

I could go on, but enough is enough. Enough of the smears, the lies, the fear campaign. Enough of people who say that bipartisan politics is "another term for date rape." Enough of the Swift Boaters. Enough of the people who could view an edited videotape of a woman with a liquified brain and pronounce that "she certainly seems to respond to visual stimuli." Enough, enough, enough!

Don't even think of this as a partisan issue. If you are a Republican and you really believe that your candidate is honest, is open, is really working to make this country as great as it can be and not to line his pockets and those of his friends, then by all means, vote for him (or her, of course). And there are some candidates like that.

But please, take a good hard, honest look at the candidate who wants to represent you. Then take a good, hard, honest look inside yourself, at what you really value, at what you really believe. Do you really believe in this, or this, or this, or this, or this?

Are we alone in this world, or are we all in this together? It's time to decide.

We now return to our coverage of the World Series.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Wanted To Reassure All Of You Readers

That is NOT Bob, in his Cubs shirt, being talked down out of the tree by Tommy LaSorda.

In fact, I'm pretty sure that, if Bob were in a tree and saw Tommy LaSorda coming, he'd climb higher.

Peace in Our Time

Nice to see Baron Budhausen and Dandy Don Fehr on the pre-game show talking up the new CBA (after they discussed the Kenny Rogers flap, of course).

I mentioned it a few days ago, and I’ll say it again – it’s good to see that the players and owners are finally acting like professionals instead of the whiny preschoolers they usually turn into when negotiation time rolls around again.

And credit where it’s due: Dr. Phil has a decent column on Baron Budhausen’s role in the labor peace process. Regular readers know we don’t think highly of the Baron, but we will tip our cap to him for his efforts at the negotiating table.

What in Tar-nation?

I don’t know about you, but I was bored with the debate over whether or not Kenny Rogers had pine tar (or some other nefarious substance) on his pitching hand by the sixth inning of Sunday’s game.

But thanks to the travel day, the media needed something to write about, so we were treated to another round of shock and outrage that Major League players might cheat (or, at the very least, bend the rules ever so slightly). And plenty of footage of Rogers’ other starts this October – with each report examining the blemishes on Rogers’ hand with the excruciating care that is usually reserved for visages of blessed saints in flour tortillas.

Despite the breathless hysterics over the affair (like the Cardinal Fan Sully found who said, “They should cut off his left hand”), my favorite comment is right from the Super Genius himself. When asked why he didn’t ask the umpires to check Rogers, he said, “I just don't like to BS.”

Bwa-ha-ha! Pull the other one, Super Genius! If that’s true, it might be the only BS he doesn’t go for! This from the guy who almost single-handedly invented the concept of the LOOGY (that’s Lefty One-Out GuY in the bullpen, in case you didn’t know)? The guy who whined about how unfair it was that the team hotel in Boston was just too darned far away from the ballpark? The guy who gave Dusty Baker a lineup card with “TBD” playing left field?

Come on, Super Genius. We won’t think any less of you if you just admit that you didn’t know what was going on until it was too late.

Mmmmmm…Free Taco

Normally, I’m not down with MLB’s incessant whoring…errrrrr…marketing campaigns. But when Joe Buck mentioned that any home run will get me a free Taco Bell taco, I have to admit I’m tempted to change my mind. Long enough for me to enjoy my free taco, at least…

Not Understanding The Concept

Jim Leyland just pulled a double switch, moving his pitcher into the number eight spot in the lineup, replacing Brandon Inge, who made the last out of the eighth inning. This is a move made to not have to lead off the ninth, trailing by at least 4-0, with the pitchers' spot in the lineup.

The hitter chosen by Leyland to fill the ninth slot, and thus make this critical leadoff at-bat? Neifi Perez.

Adventures in Journamalism

Only tangentially connected to baseball, but I had to crack on Rick Morrissey for this:

In place of the “o” in “Chicago” in its front-page nameplate, the [Chicago] Sun-Times has taken to using a Bears helmet next to a palm tree.

If you don’t get the message, it’s that the paper is rooting for the boys in blue and orange to get to the super Bowl in Miami. Swell.

Pandering to the emotions of fans is not our job in journalism, although the other message the editors are sending with their banner-waving is that covering sports isn’t journalism.

Maybe they’d like to talk with the two San Francisco Chronicle reporters who are facing jail time for their reporting on star athletes’ alleged use of steroids.
1. Hello, kettle? This is Rick Morrissey. You’re black.

When it comes to bottom-of-the barrel journalistic standards, finding fault with the Sun-Times is like…well, shooting fish at the bottom of that barrel. But Morrissey might want to look at what’s going on around him at the Tribune Tower before shooting his mouth off.

Like the “Hunt for SOXtober” the Trib has treated us to the last two years. That seems to indicate that the paper was rooting for the boys in black and white to get to the post-season.

And pandering to the emotions of fans? Would that include activities such as tarring players as surly (LaTroy Hawkins), lazy (Aramis Ramirez), or lazy and surly (Corey Patterson)?

Morrissey is notable as one of the few Chicago pundits who at least tried to keep the discourse about Dusty Baker’s performance out of the gutter. But did he not notice his cohorts’ pandering behavior during their two year War on Baker?

Pandering might not be their job, but it does seem to be a popular hobby.

2. Rick, if you’re going to talk smack about pandering to emotions, at least get your facts right.

The Chronicle reporters are not facing jail time because they dared to write about Barry Bonds’ alleged steroid use. They’re facing jail time because they may have illegally revealed sealed grand jury testimony.

One might think that framing this debate in terms of Bonds vs. intrepid investigative reporters instead of focusing on the fairly straightforward legal question of whether or not grand jury testimony is confidential could also be considered pandering to the emotions of fans. One would most likely be correct.

The Rating Is the Hardest Part

Saw a blurb from the AP announcing the sad, sad news that Game One of the World Series was a record low in the TV ratings. It also reported that although ratings for Game Two improved a bit, the overall ratings for the first two games were down five percent from last year. Last year’s Series was the lowest-rated ever.

Shameful. Ignominious. Look for another go-around of the “Baseball is dying because of this and that and the other thing” script that is a favorite of the punditocracy.

However, the AP also notes another semi-interesting fact that won’t be included in the scripts. As shameful and miniscule as the ratings for the first two games were, they were still enough to give Fox the top-rated prime time show both Saturday and Sunday nights.

Yes, the ratings are down compared to thirty years ago. But all network TV ratings are down compared to thirty years ago. If you don’t believe me, compare the ratings for Laverne and Shirley or Three’s Company to The Office or Lost or CSI: Quad Cities or whatever it is you kids watch nowadays. But that would mean looking at the numbers in the context of their time. If baseball’s “experts” can’t be bothered to do that when it comes to ERA or batting average, should we really expect them to do so when it comes to TV ratings?

No S@%#, Sherlock

Tim (I'm Smarter Than You Are) McCarver, describing a play tonight in which Joel Zumaya threw a sure double play ball down the left field line, letting in two runs:

"That's a bad play by Zumaya."

Sunday, October 22, 2006

How About Those Cardinals?

There's nothing quite so satisfying as seeing the Conventional Wisdom turned on its head. Which is what we saw last night at Comerica Park.

Last night's game left the pundits scrambling to explain why the Cardinals managed to win a game (in convincing fashion) from the mighty Tigers, who many predicted would take the World Series in three games.

On the surface, the reasons that Cards won were simple: Reyes pitched a great game (although the pundits seemed more interested in his cap brim than anything else) and the offense put up seven runs. Good hitting and good pitching will win you some ballgames.

No predictions here that the Cardinals will pull off a stunning upset (like in 1968, the last time these two teams met in the World Series). Of course, as the National League half of this partnership, my rooting interest is for the Cardinals.

On paper, the Tigers are the better team. But the Cardinals beat another team that was better than them to get to this point. Hopefully the Super Genius and his crew will have enough left to make this an interesting World Series.

I Don't Know What to Think About This

I noticed this a few weeks ago. And now ESPN's Tim Kurkijan is talking to Baron Budhausen about the number of minority managers getting the axe.

Does this mean that MLB is run by a bunch of racists? Is MLB doing enough to give minorities a chance at managerial and front office gigs?

Lord, I don't know. I'm not smart enough to comment on important issues like that. Can anyone out there help me?

Good News

Players and owners are still meeting to hammer out a new CBA. That's good news.

Even better news, perhaps, is that there hasn't been any wailing and gnashing of teeth from either side in the press. Do you think both sides have figured out that they'll all make lots of money if they can work out their differences like adults instead of acting like refugees from Romper Room?

Your Press Corps At Work

I was going to write these up in greater detail, but after awhile even a cynic like me gets dispirited with our lazy and insipid press corps. I'll leave it to you, Gentle Reader, to follow the links. Just beware what you will find there.

Part I
The Tribune's Ed Sherman offers this telling glimpse of what the media thinks is important:

The Chicago media are in for a wild ride with Lou Piniella.

The scouting report from beat writers who covered him in Seattle, Cincinnati and Tampa Bay is that Piniella is engaging, compelling, cooperative, brutally frank and definitely combustible.

"Covering Lou on a beat is a thrilling experience," said Marc Topkin of the St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times, who followed Piniella during his stint as manager of the Devil Rays. "Some nights you could be halfway through a calm conversation and then all of sudden he goes off on something and you have a news story. You never know what to expect, but you know you're going to get something."

Or nothing. It is hardly a secret that Piniella hates to lose. If a particular loss gets to him badly enough, he has a history of refusing to talk afterward.

Topkin said Piniella averaged six to 10 games per season when he didn't come out of his office to address reporters.

"He leads the league in managerial closed doors," said Jim Street of MLB.com, who covered Piniella during his tenure with the Mariners for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. "He was afraid he would say something he would regret later."

Street said Piniella usually would apologize and explain his behavior the next day. After a while, the beat writers got used to it, Street said.

Chicago, though, isn't Seattle or Tampa. The sheer volume of reporters, not to mention a much higher intensity level in Cubs coverage, will make it more difficult for Piniella to get away with his closed-door act.

Got that, Lou? You've been served -- no way are you gettin' away with any of that closed door stuff in Chicago! And don't use any of those lame "afraid of saying something you'll regret later" excuses. That's exactly what the press wants from you! Just ask Ozzie.

Part II
Shorter Dr. Phil: The Tigers wouldn't have made it to the World Series if Jim Hendry hadn't been stooooopid and signed Ivan Rodriguez and Magglio Ordonez when he had the chance.

There's no sight like hindsight, is there? Especially when one uses it as the whestone for the axe one is grinding.

But if you want to play these "What If?" games, you should have at least a basic grasp of the context in which those decisions were made. It's easy to say now that Hendry should have signed Ordonez. It would not have been so easy to say that he should have signed Ordonez after a season in which he missed 100 games because of a knee injury.

At least the Cubs are in good company. They're with the other 28 teams that failed to sign Pudge and Maggs, thus guaranteeing the Tigers the AL Championship. If one can ignore the real-time context of one team, one should be able to ignore the real-time contexts for all teams.

Like the White Sox, for example. Didn't the manager and GM of the team run Ordonez out of town because he was a bad guy? Dr. Phil glosses over that decision. After all, it didn't fit in with his War on Hendry scripts.

Part III
Shorter Sully: Me and my cohorts have been telling you all year that Aramis Ramirez is soft and doesn't hustle and chokes under pressure. But if he opts for free agency the Cubs will lose a franchise-caliber player. And Jim Hendry is stupid, too.

The moral of this story is that all the players on the Cubs suck (like Corey Patterson). Unless they go to other teams (like Corey Patterson); then they're great. It's kinda tricky the way it works...

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

They’re Not Booing…

They’re cheering, “Lou! Lou!”

The votes have been tallied, and the experts at the Tribune all agree: Lou’s dreamy!

Forgive me if I’m not nearly as sanguine in my feelings. I know the punditocracy has proclaimed Piniella to be the best candidate available, and Cub Fans are pumped because he’s the anti-Dusty as far as personality goes…but how do these kudos make the team any better?

Unless Piniella can magically poop out a leadoff hitter, or can browbeat Marshall, Guzman, O’Malley, et al, into throwing a sprocking strike every once in a while, I don’t see how much of an immediate impact he will have.

And for all the gab that Piniella will stress solid, fundamental baseball…what good will that do if the team isn’t as talented as the competition? I guess instead of losing 9-2, we’ll lose 5-3 – and look darned good in the process!

As far as Piniella being a Proven Winner™, consider this, which I will shamelessly steal from something Jim wrote before:

He didn’t win jack in New York, despite having guys like Rickey Henderson, Don Mattingly, Dave Winfield, Ron Guidry, and Dave Righetti on his roster.

He won a World Series in Cincinnati. As well he should have with a roster that included Barry Larkin, Eric Davis, Jose Rijo, Rob Dibble, Paul O’Neill, and Randy Myers.

He won 116 games one year in Seattle – when he had Ken Griffey Jr., Ichiro, Edgar Martinez, Randy Johnson, Jay Buhner, and Jaimie Moyer at his beck and call.

He then went to Tampa Bay…and didn’t do a damned thing. Not that he was expected to win another 116 games, but there was little (if any) proof of improvement.In other words, Piniella’s a Proven Winner™ – as long as he has good players to work with. Unless Jim Hendry can upgrade the lineup at several positions, it won’t matter if we have Lou Piniella, Lou Grant, or Lou Rawls at the helm.

Oh, with Piniella we might win 72 games instead of 67. But we’ll still be 20-odd games out of first place, so who cares?

Ironically, Dr. Phil offered a similar take in his column today. Of course, he never mentioned that we might need better players for the last week, when he was carping that Jim Hendry would be a foolish fool if he didn’t hire Piniella. But now that Piniella is on board, he has to shift his script slightly so that Hendry will still be a foolish fool if the Cubs don’t win 162 games next year. After all, Lou can’t be blamed for anything. At least until he does something to tick off the press corps.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Psycho Broadcaster, Quest Que Cest

About what I'd expect from a guy who once pulled his pants down at first base.

It is interesting that Fox, which as Bob points out has done more to lower broadcast standards than any other network, chose this incident to remove someone from the air, not that Lyons didn't deserve it for being an idiot.

Nice Shootin', Tex

Looks like the White Sox will be looking for a new shortstop next season.

Not that it should have taken something like this. Uribe was one of the problems with the 2006 White Sox. Sure, he hit 21 homers, but his ridiculous .257 on-base percentage helped kill many, many rallies. By failing to draw a single walk in 80 at-bats after September 1, he managed the almost impossible feat over that final month of posting an OBP lower than his batting average (.200 to .198). Uribe was a good player for the Sox in 2004 and a decent one in 2005, but a poor one in 2006.

Hmmm, here's a decent shortstop who might be available. Not that I expect that to happen, but I'm sure that if there is a possibility, Kenny Williams will consider it.

Either that, or find out how well Quick Draw McGraw can throw from the hole.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Burning Bright

So how about those Tigers? I guess finishing the season strong is over-rated – Detroit seems to have shrugged off its sputtering September quite nicely.

The Tigers were so hot in the ALCS that not even Neifi Perez could stop them. Reports indicate that regular first baseman Sean Casey hopes to be well enough to play in the World Series, which would allow them to move Carlos Guillen back to short (where he belongs) and Neifi back to the bench (where he doesn’t belong, but it’s better than him being in the lineup). Or perhaps the Tigers will add a real first baseman to the roster for the World Series (Chris Shelton, anyone?).

Two things about the Tigers that impressed me while I watched the ALCS. First, their lineup doesn’t really have a big-name threat along the lines of Pujols or Jeter or Thomas. Maybe Ivan Rodriguez of Magglio Ordonez, I guess.

But outside of Neifi, was there anyone in the lineup that could be could be classified as an “easy out?” It seems counter-intuitive to me, as I’m a believer in being patient at the plate, that so many free-swingers can be so efficient when it comes to scoring runs. But the Tigers have done it the last eight games.

Oh, and it’s good to see that Placido Polanco and Carlos Guillen got some time on a national stage. I’ve always liked Guillen, and while it took me longer to warm up to Polanco, I think he’s a terrific player, too. Seeing guys like that play great ball in the post season is a nice reminder to the punditocracy that not every good player resides on the east coast.

The other thing that impressed me was the Tigers’ pitching. Great googaly moogaly, those guys can air it out!

I could tell from the box scores that Verlander, Bonderman, and Robertson were good young pitchers. But because they don’t play on the east coast, I didn’t get many chances to see them pitch. It’s been fun for me at home watching these guys.

It most definitely wasn’t fun for the A’s trying to hit those guys. Some writers have again fallen into the trap of blaming the A’s for failing instead of praising the Tigers for succeeding. The A’s looked shaky at times during the series (including a few puzzling fielding plays), but let’s face it – the A’s just got rolled by the better team.

Speaking of better teams, the Cardinals have looked like the better team the last two games in the NLCS. I know there’s a long way to go in the series, but the Cards’ staff looks to be in better shape than the Mets’ right now. I mean, the Mets might be scrambling to replace Steve Trachsel, which is not a situation that many teams in the NLCS find themselves in.

And the Mets’ lineup has been shut down by Jeff Weaver (he took the loss, but gave up only two runs) and Jeff Suppan. That doesn’t inspire much confidence, does it?

Of course, the Redbirds were shut down by Darren Oliver, and that doesn’t inspire much confidence, either. The NLCS has become a war of attrition. The lucky team left standing at the end wins the chance to get mauled by the Tigers. Good luck with that.

Stop Writing Letters, Dammit!

It’s getting so I dread opening up the Saturday Tribune, for fear of the idiocy the sports eds will print on page 2. My fears were justified again this week, as Cub Fans check in with their votes for the next manager.

J. Miller of beautiful Las Vegas chimes in with this:

The Cubs are out of their minds if they hire Joe Girardi as manager. This guy only hit like .254 and isn’t qualified to be a manager. All this talk about him being manager of the year is just trendy hype.

The Cubs already have the right manager to hire right in the broadcast booth – Bob Brenly. He’s won a World Series. If the Cubs keep Kerry Wood ad Mark Prior and hire Girardi, they have lost this fan permanently, and I’m sure others as well.

Just for the record, Girardi’s career batting average is .267, while Brenly’s is .247, I’m not sure how this determines how good a manager the guy is, but if Miller is right perhaps that bodes well for Neifi’s post-playing career.

If that weren’t enough, a Dick Bonner from sunny Palatine IL also supports the dreamy Bob Brenly:

Who else has watched them daily for two years, knows the personnel, knows what the needs are and what needs fixing? [Brenly] has been a manager and won a World Series. What more is needed?

I’ve been a fan since the early ‘40s and among my old cronies and my seven kids and their families we are all 100 percent behind Bob Brenly...Look at the facts. They all point to Brenly.

Jeez, I can only hope that the Bonners’ extended clan and circle of friends are among the fans who will permanently leave if Brenly isn’t hired. That should free up at least a section in the upper deck for the rest of us sane fans.

I find it amusing that Cub Fans like Miller and Bonner point to Brenly’s World Series ring as proof of his managerial genius. They conveniently forget that Brenly became so stupid in 2004 that he got the boot.

It’s been two weeks since Baker got his boot. In that time, there’s been plenty of gab about which guy won a World Series, which guy did a great job with a roster of rookies, which guy is the most quotable...but little about why this guy will be a better manager for the 2007 Cubs than the other guys [the GROTA guys had a good series about the actual managerial tendencies of the big names involved, but that’s about all I saw]. As my financial advisor likes to remind me, past performance is no guarantee of future results.

Two More Precincts Heard From

It’s not just Cub Fans who are blathering about the new manager (whoever that may be). The pundits are feeding at the trough with a gusto not seen since...well, since the script against Dusty Baker was approved.

Check out the redoubtable Rick Morrissey from today’s Tribune:

Hiring Lou Piniella says you're serious.

Hiring Bruce Bochy says you're still rubbing the sleep out of your eyes.

No offense against Bochy, who has done a decent job in San Diego, but this is the time for the Cubs to make a statement, not to ask a question.

Statement: Piniella is the kind of manager who, through sheer force of will, can lift a team.

Question: Assuming you're not a family member, would you be able to pick Bochy out of a lineup? Didn't think so.

A better question: Do the Cubs honestly believe they can sell Bochy to a fan base that needs Red Bull intravenously just to stay awake these days?


If the Cubs believe the status quo is just fine, they should hire Bruce Bochy, a name that sounds more like it should belong to a handbag designer than a baseball manager. And we can watch him try to measure up to Ozzie Guillen, the mouth of the South Side.

But if the Cubs come to the conclusion their fans have decided winning is important, they should hire Piniella. He'll fill the seats. He'll feed the fire. Something will happen, for better than worse.

The Cubs should hire Piniella because it will “make a statement” and “fill the seats?” This from the same Morrissey who wailed and gnashed his teeth that the hiring of John McDonough “proved” the Cubs were more interested in marketing than winning?

Bravo for life’s little ironies.

Ken Harrelson throws his support behind Piniella, too. I’m too lazy to post a clip, but you can find it here. Props to the Hawkeroo for offering a few more reasons why Piniella is a great manager other than the “proven winner” nonsense that’s been part of this week’s approved script. But given Harrelson's track record as a GM, is his blessing really a good thing?

Cubs’ GM Jim Hendry says the hiring process will be over soon. Thank God. It’s time Cub Fan and the punditocracy stop politicking for their favorite candidates and get on with the next step – figuring out why the guy Hendry brings in is a complete idiot who will almost certainly be an utter failure. That’s how we roll in Chicago...

Will Vendors Sell Squishies, Too?

The White Sox announced that they will change the start times for some games to 7:11 as part of their whoring...errrrrr...marketing agreement with the 7-11 convenience store chain.

Yeah, yeah, I know it’s just the latest example of MLB’s willingness to do anything from a buck. I guess it’s just a logical extension of the thought process that brought us the Pepsi Starting Lineup, the Cellular One First Call to the Bullpen, the Budweiser Play of the Game, and the Southwest Airlines How Far Did Fly home run measurement.

Just curious, though...if the Wrigley Co. wanted to market Extra gum with the White Sox, could they demand that every game go into extra innings?


Watching the NLCS game...Rafael Belliard was thrown out trying to go from first to third on a single to left. McCarver said that runners who are thrown out on the bases often make the "best" choice.

No, I don't get it, either. McCarver's explanation was that Anthony Reyes was up next, and he would "bunt him over anyway."

Soooo...Belliard is thrown out at third base, on a single to not-particularly-deep left field. That left the Cards with a runner on first with two outs and the pitcher at the plate. That's better than runners on first and second with one out and the pitcher at the plate?

I do not think the word "best" means what McCarver thinks it means...

The Lyons Sleeps Tonight

Fox Sports has rather famously canned rather famous nutball Steve Lyons this weekend over what it deems insulting comment he made during Saturday’s ALCS broadcast.

Personally, I have little use for Lyons’ color commentary. He’s adequate, but oftentimes I think he’s working too hard to be funny. He’s like that guy in the office who’s always “on.”

Having heard the exchange that got Lyons fired, I think it was a case where he was trying too hard to be “on,” stretching really hard to make a joke where there was no need for one. I thought it silly, but not malicious, and certainly not anything more inane than some of the other babble he offered this weekend.

But the guys who brought us Married with Children, ‘Til Death, and Family Guy evidently thought it was offensive enough to earn Lyons a ticket to the employment agency. Bravo for life’s little ironies.

Speaking of the ALCS crew, I have to give credit where it’s due. As much as I run down Fox and its announcers, I thought Brennaman, Lyons, and Piniella did a good job. Well, an adequate job in Lyons’ case.

I was most pleasantly surprised by Piniella. I didn’t expect much from him, but I found his analysis cogent and informative. Sometimes he would make a comment seemingly at random that didn’t go anywhere, but overall his conversational style gave fans an insight into the situations without a sense that they were being talked down to. If Steve Stone weren’t such a pompous windbag, he’d be Lou Piniella.

So, Sweet Lou, I beseech you – you have a brilliant career in broadcasting ahead of you. Don’t risk it by accepting a managing gig. Think of the children, Lou – without your wisdom, they’ll have to learn from McCarver. And I don’t think any of us wants that.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006


Joe Torre must be dancing with joy right now

Failure to Launch

I was glancing through our archives and came across my piece on young Ryan O’Malley’s excellent Major League debut, which featured a 6:00 am limo ride from Round Rock to Houston so he could get to the yard in time for the 1:00 pm game.

Jiminy jillikers, I thought. If the Astros could have won that one game (well, actually, any of the games that series), they might be playing the Mets instead of the Cardinals.

But then I thought, it’s a gross oversimplification to say that any one game (or three game series) ruined any particular season. Instead of playing those “what if?” games, it would be more useful to look at more substantial causes for the Astros’ inability to reach the postseason. Here are a few I found after a quick perusal of stats:

** Did the Astros really expect to win with nearly-automatic outs like Brad Ausmus (.308 OBP) and Adam Everett (.290 OBP) in the lineup? Include the pitcher’s spot and 700-odd plate appearances wasted on Jason Lane (.318 OBP) and Preston Wilson (.309 OBP with the Astros), and that’s almost half the lineup that’s a complete waste.

** Come to think of it, more than half the lineup was a complete waste. Craig Biggio posted a Neifi-riffic .306 OBP, but still managed to get 352 of his 548 ABs in the leadoff spot (where he did slightly better, with a .310 OBP). The other leadoff guy was Willy Taveras. Despite the flashy hitting streak, he wasn’t a good leadoff man, but he was better than Biggio (.326 OBP in the leadoff spot). Teams with leadoff hitters that can’t get on base don’t usually win much. For further proof, look at these guys.

** If you must play “What If,” the question to ask just might be “What if Roger Clemens didn’t take half the year off?”

Because the Rocket didn’t decide to come back until July, the Astros had to give starts to Wandy Rodriguez (24 starts, 5.64 ERA, 1.60 WHIP), Taylor Buchholz (19 starts, 5.89 ERA, 1.25 WHIP), Jason Hirsh (9 starts, 6.04 ERA, 1.57 WHIP), and Matt Albers (2 starts, 6.00 ERA, 1.60 WHIP).

I think it’s safe to say that if Clemens had been in the rotation all year, he may have taken some of these 54 starts. Could those 15 or so starts made the difference between a playoff spot and October tee times?

Maybe, maybe not. But you’d have to figure that Clemens would have given his team a better chance of winning than any of those other guys.

That’s My Boy!

So I’m watching the game with my younger offspring. Out of nowhere, he asks, “What’s Marco Scutaro’s on base percentage?”

Of course, I hadn’t the faintest idea. But I was intrigued, so I asked him why he wanted to know. “Because it’s important,” he said.

And why is it so important, I asked the lad. “Because it measures how often the batter gets on base, and that’s the most important thing a batter can do.”

True story, swear to God. And I also swear I haven’t preached to him any of them funny sabremetric hoo-hahs that those old-school baseball guys find so offensive.

But if an eight year old can figure this out by himself, why is it so darned hard for those old-school baseball guys?

Let This Be an End to It

For all those who believe that power hitters need “protection” to be productive, I offer the following stat line:

.339 BA, .568 SLG, .430 OBP, 78 extra base hits, 26 HR, 114 RBI, 112 runs scored

The slugger in question? Miguel Cabrera.

Let this be an end to the myth of “protection” in the lineup. Unless you really think that Josh Willingham and Dan Uggla provided a heapin’ helpin’ of “protection.”

No Wonder Newspapers Are Dying

Today’s Chicago Tribune provides more evidence as to why print is a dying medium…

First, Mike Downey reports that “all 27 men who have managed the Yankees have had a common pigmentation, one that is the same hue as a shiny new baseball.”

Uuuuhhhhhh…OK. I guess. Is that a bad thing? A good thing? Does it make the Yankees hierarchy a bunch of bigots?

I don’t know, because Downey steadfastly refuses to draw any conclusions about the situation. I won’t either, because I’m not smart enough to discuss the sociological implications of the Yankees’ decision-making process.

I’m not smart enough to figure out what Downey’s point was in this column, either. You’d think a guy who has an opinion column in a major metropolitan daily newspaper would, you know, tell people his opinion. If he wants to write about nothing in particular and draw no particular conclusions from it, he should switch to blogging.

Next, Fred Mitchell unearths the desiccated remains of Dallas Green to “analyze” what’s been going on at Wrigley Field. “It sounds like a mess over there,” Green sagely tells the hapless Trib scribe.

No duh, as the kids like to say nowadays. If Mitchell had read this space, or any other Cubs blog, he could have discovered the same cogent “analysis.”

Green then goes on to offer some self-serving blather about the dastardly suits at the Tower:

Through the years, there has just been too much interference in baseball decisions. I understand some of that because of the money that’s involved. But [Tribune Co. executives] make as many mistakes as any baseball guys ever dreamed of making. So that’s not the whole answer either.

Hell, I’d settle for a fraction of an answer from Green, let along a whole answer. Is Green indicting the Trib execs here? Or is he saying that the baseball guys made their share of snafus as well? It’s hard to tell in this Zen koan of a response.

Mitchell doesn’t bother to follow up. Or maybe he did, but he didn’t bother to actually report the answer. Instead, he gushes:

If the Cubs had won or even made it to the World Series in 1984, Green might still be the team’s president/general manager.
Great. Judging from his later tenure in New York and Philadelphia, I have an idea of what would have happened if Green had stayed on in Chicago: he would have done his best to shred Kerry Wood’s shoulder beyond repair in 1999. If Wood survived that, Green would run him out of town anyway for being a wuss.

But really – what does Dallas Green know about what’s going on with the Cubs today? It’s been almost twenty years since he left town. The Trib execs he worked with aren’t involved with the team any more. Mitchell might as well have asked a psychic to contact the spirit of Joe McCarthy to get his take. Even a fake medium would have been able to come up with something equal to “It sounds like a mess.”

I Gave Them a Chance

After ignoring Fox’s post-season coverage, I figured I should give them half a chance tonight. I tuned in to the pregame show just in time to hear Kevin Kennedy say that the biggest reason the Tigers were able to stop being losers and start being winners was because of Jim Leyland (he’s dreamy!).

After plugs for seven Fox shows I have no interest in ever watching (and The Simpsons), I sat through thirty seconds of Brennaman-Lyons babble before I went running for the radio.

Aaaaahhhh…Jon Miller and Joe Morgan. Thank you, ESPN radio.

Monday, October 09, 2006

World Series Picks

OK, I guess officially these are my picks for the League Championship Series. But let’s face it – the A’s - Tigers match up will be a great series, and one that would be hard to beat even if the NL had a team that was worth a damn.

NLCS: Some other Cub Fans are having a stroke over this one. Not me. I respect the Cardinals as our ancient and honored adversaries. I have no such feelings for those other guys. Go Cardinals!

ALCS: We’ve waited 35 years for this ALCS re-match. If only Charlie Finley were still around to see it...

I’ll pull for the A’s this time around. Jim’s right there to enjoy the ride, and my younger son is a huge A’s fan. Hey, if I can’t enjoy a playoff victory, I’d prefer to see friends and family having a good time.

“World Series:” If the Cardinals win the NLCS, I’m pulling for the Cardinals. I’m the National League guy in this partnership, so it’s rather expected of me.

Unless the Mets win. Then I root for the other side. Go anyone playing the Mets!

It’s Sad, Alright

Just to further expound on Jim’s earlier post about the Yankees...

I understand that the whole purpose of professional sports is to win. It’s not like the NCAA and Olympics where the purpose is to become a well-rounded person or get an education or foster international good will or...

Sorry about that. I couldn’t type any more without bursting into laughter. The NCAA and the Olympics is all about winning, too. Bad examples.

But back to the Yankees. Yes, they want to win the World Series. So do the other 29 MLB teams, despite what some fans and hyperventilating pundits will tell you (well, maybe not Loria the Destroyer). But, as Jim eloquently points out, there’s a difference between wanting to win and demanding a win as your due, just because you’re the Yankees.

I’m sure Steinbrenner and everyone involved with the Yankees is sorely disappointed by how their season ended. But to dismiss the year as a “sad failure?” Seems a bit harsh (and melodramatic), doesn’t it?

After the 2003 NLCS, I was sorely disappointed, too. But I got over it. I reckoned I could either wallow in anger and frustration, or tip my hat to the Marlins, remember how great the ride was, and get on with my life. Batgirl stole my idea, is basically what I’m saying.

Steinbrenner, with his “sad failure” crack, seems to want to wallow in anger and frustration, like some kind of uber-Little League Dad. Didn’t he learn in the 1980’s that standing behind the backstop screaming at his kid to throw a strike doesn’t work?

This is the point where I should include the obligatory sermon on how baseball is supposed to be fun. You all know the drill by now, so I won’t rehash it again.

But if there’s a purpose to sports outside of winning, it’s to have fun. And anyone who has reached the point where a 97-win season is dismissed as a “sad failure” just might have lost sight of something more important than winning. And that’s very sad, indeed.

[Upon further review, this entry sounds like something that might have come straight from a very special episode of Webster. Never fear – we’ll soon get back to our regularly scheduled cynicism and sarcasm...]

Focusing on What’s Important

Last Friday was a slow news day. So Sully phoned in a typically lame piece comparing how the most famous names attached to the Cubs’ managing gig (Brenly, Girardi, Piniella) “match up in some key areas.”

And which area is most key? Quotability, of course! Sully spent 261 out of 1,121 words discussing this very important subject.

Sully used exactly zero words describing their managerial tendencies, favored in-game strategies, lineup construction, handling of pitching staffs – in short, any subject remotely useful to evaluating their performance as a Major League manager.

But who cares about that? As long as the Cubs hire a guy who can pop off a few quick sound bites before deadline, it’s all good. Even if the Wrigley interview room is the Worst Place on Earth.

They Write More Letters

Last week, White Sox Fan used the Trib’s letters to the editor column to tell me to keep my pie hole shut about his team. This week, White Sox Fan decided to he was enough of an expert about my team to offer his two cents.

An Andy Stavrou from Geneva IL describes himself as a “lifelong White Sox Fan,” but he still wants to play the “What If” game for this year’s Cubs.

Most of his musings rehash the Trib eds’ favorite scripts. A few bear commenting on, if only to serve as examples of how hindsight isn’t any damned good if you have no understanding of what was really going on when those real-time decisions were being made...

Mr. Stavrou’s first pondering asks what if Nomar had stayed with the Cubs? And played which position, exactly?

The punditocracy demanded that Ronnie Cedeno take over at short; if Cedeno wasn’t at short and Matt Murton wasn’t in left, it would be more “proof” that Dusty hates him some young players. Now, Jim Hendry has to bring in some Proven Veterans™ to shore up short and left. Things change, huh?

Mr. Stavrou goes on to wonder what if:

Miguel Tejada and Erik Bedard had come to town for Mark Prior and others after Furcal got away.

That would have been a boffo trade for the North Siders, wouldn’t it? Alas, the only side in that trade offer that wasn’t willing to make that deal was the Orioles.

Shoved down the memory hole is that Hendry offered Prior to the Orioles, despite the lamentations of the press and Cub Fans. The Orioles turned that down because they wanted Carlos Zambrano, Felix Pie, and two or three other guys in our minor league system.

I can’t blame the O’s for trying to get as much as they could for a guy like Tejada. But at this point, Hendry said thanks, but no thanks. A good thing to – Hendry got raked over the coals for trading Sergio Mitre. Just imagine how char-broiled he would have been for trading Big Z!

One other thing: Tejada has been taking some heat from the Baltimore press for lack of hustle. This is the same mortal sin committed by Aramis Ramirez. Still, the yokels praise Miggy’s leadership, while lambasting A-Ram’s bad attitude. Bravo for life’s little ironies.

My favorite of Mr. Stavrou’s What Ifs:

They had held on to Corey Patterson or at least got some Major League value for him.

Hilarious! Please, Gentle Reader, look at Corey’s 2005 stat line and tell me: what sort of “Major League value” would you be willing to part with in exchange for that? Chuck (That’s Hedley) LaMar isn’t around any more to fleece. Hendry’s lucky he got more than a box of baseballs in return.

Besides, was Patterson any better than the three guys we had out there? Don’t take my word for it; here are numbers (BA/OBP/SLG):

Patterson: .276 / .314 / .443
Murton: .297 / .365 / .444
Pierre: .292 / .330 / .388
Jones: .285 / .334 / .499

It’s funny how the human mind reasons. Patterson had one really, really good stretch, and didn’t do squat besides that. The Cubs’ trio each had one really, really horrid stretch, and did OK the rest of the way. But when the time comes to evaluate, it’s that one outlying stretch that we remember.

But that’s how they roll at the letters to the editor section. They’ll print anything as long as it reinforces their pleasing scripts, whether it makes any sense or not.

White Sox Fan doesn’t want me to say mean things about his team. I’m more open-minded. As long as you can make a rational argument, feel free to say whatever you want about my team.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

New York: If You Can Whine Here, You Can Whine Anywhere

This is a perfect summary of why I root against the Yankees.

Come to think of it, so is this.

It's pretty sad, really. What we have here is a historic franchise and a fan base that is so full of itself that it can no longer celebrate anything. Even if the Yankees had won the ALDS, the League Championship, and the World Series, it most would only have been payment of a past-due account, and not something joyous. And anything else is reason to consider a 97-game winning team a "sad failure."

I really am not a Yankee hater. I don't mind, so much, the overwhelming financial advantage that they have, nor do I object to players who want to take top dollar to join a successful organization (which is the right of any worker, in any field). What I do hate is arrogance. And this organization and it's fans very, very arrogant. And the universe really does seem to get very creative when punishing the arrogant.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Mets vs. Dodgers: The Maine Man?

This is going to be interesting. The Mets spent the entire season looking like the only good team in the National League, but as the NLDS begins, their best-known pitcher is unavailable, the guy who was going to replace him as the game one starter is also hurt, and their ubervaluable centerfielder has a very sore thigh and is not 100%. The Dodgers finished the season very strong, emerging from the pack of wild card contenders looking strong, but they'll be starting a rookie with a 1-5 record in game four.

The two least known starters on each staff could hold the keys. John Maine will take over as the game one (and game five, if needed) starter. Maine made 15 starts for the Mets this year, allowing only 69 hits in 90 innings while striking out 71. He did allow 15 homers; however, the Dodgers help minimize this, as they hit the second fewest homers in the league this year. If the ball stays in the park, Maine is very effective, and could be a big surprise.

The Mets will need him to be, because after Tom Glavine starts game two, they are pretty screwed. Steve Trachsel, who was 15-8 this year despite being frankly terrible (185 hits allowed, 78-79 BB-K ratio in 164 2/3 innings, 4.97 ERA) will pitch game three. For game four, they are reaching all the way down to Oliver Perez, 3-13, 6.55 split between the Pirates and Mets. Without looking, I can't think of a pitcher with a worse record ever starting a postseason game.

The Dodgers, meanwhile, will start rookie Hong-Chih Kuo in game four. Kuo was 1-5, 4.22 and has some control issues, but he struck out 71 in 59 2/3 innings. More importantly, he's a lefthander, and the Mets struggle a lot against lefties. If the Mets can't win two of the first three games, Kuo might slam the door in their faces.

Both teams have very strong bullpens, although the Dodgers suffered a blow this morning when lefthander Joe Beimel cut his hand badly on broken glass in his hotel room and will be out for the series. With the Mets' troubles with lefthanders, that's a big loss.

The Mets clearly were the class of the league from April through September. But they are up against it right now. If they don't win both games at home to start the series, they're going to facing a long winter.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Jeebus Help Us…

Why are Jim Leyland and Joe Torre doing TV interviews during the sprocking game?

Doesn’t he have anything better to do…like manage the game?

Just another example of MLB whoring itself for TV money.

How Do I Love Thee? Let Me Count the Ways…

Is the Chicago media “slanted” towards the Cubs, as White Sox Fan is fond of alleging every time he opens his mouth?

Here’s one example of many where Mike Downey shows which way he slants, along with a glimpse into what your press corps finds important:
Inside the park, the Cubs, in their continuing effort to treat the media like dirt despite the team being owned by a media company, hold Baker’s farewell and Hendry’s Q & A inside that suffocating, dehumanizing hell hole of an interview room of theirs that makes the Abu Ghraib prison look like a Ritz-Carlton.

An official statement from the team is distributed to the 50 or so individuals cramped together shoulder-to-shoulder in this sorry excuse for a room that is disgrace to the good name of Major League Baseball.

Hey you two – get a room!

A few more snide comments about Baker, a few non-insightful comments about the Proven Managers™ rumored to be in the running, and Downey calls it a day. But at the end of that day, the over-arching theme of Downey’s “analysis” isn’t a pithy recap of Baker’s tenure, or the state of the team now, or an inquiry into which direction Hendry will go.

Instead, we’re left with Downey’s petulance that an old, cramped, crowded ballpark has an old, cramped, and crowded media room. And that’s what’s really important to the punditocracy – their own comfort. Teams (and players) that accommodate them will receive reciprocal treatment. Teams (and players) with the temerity to not lavish them with posh interview rooms or sound bites do so at their own peril.

One other thing: Downey might want to avoid comparing his lot in life with Abu Ghraib. Is an hour in a crowded, uncomfortable room really analogous to a living embodiment of the erosion of American values?

More Dusty Baker Coverage!

I read it so you don’t have to (unless you’re really into vapid journamalism):

Shorter Sully: It’s not really news that Baker’s gone, so I’ll rehash all the negatives in Cubs history. And talk to Steve Stone – he’s dreamy!

Shorter van Dyck: I have nothing new to add, so I’ll pimp the script that interim President John McDonough will focus only on marketing, and rehash the same tired speculation on who’s gonna get the job that you’ve been reading since July.

Shorter Dr. Phil: I can’t believe Hendry is so clueless that he didn’t hire a new manager before he got rid of the old one! But Lou Piniella is the best guy for the job. He’s dreamy!

Shorter Fred Mitchell: Now that arch-nemesis Andy MacPhail is gone, Mark Grace wants back in! He’s dreamy!

The Yankees? In Prime Time? Who Woulda Guessed?

Imagine my surprise when I looked at the TV listings and saw the A’s-Twins game was scheduled for 1:00 pm, while the Yankees-Tigers game got the prime-time spotlight.

Actually, you couldn’t imagine my surprise, because I had felt absolutely no surprise at that turn of events.

I know why Fox and ESPN just loves them some Yankees. New York’s the largest media market and all. But all the rest of the country is a little bigger than New York, and it would be nice to see some games that don’t involve the Yankees (or the Red Sox, for that matter) every once in a while.

Do you think it was MLB’s idea to put all the Yankee games in prime time? Or was it entirely Fox’s decision? Did MLB even bother trying to showcase the other seven teams involved?

And why only one game in prime time during the Division Series? I am fully aware that if they schedule two or three games during prime time I can only watch one at a time. Is that any different than the way things are now, where I can only watch one game because I’m at work while the other two are being played?

If there’s one thing that Baron Budhausen’s reign as “Commissioner” will be remembered for, it will be MLB’s ignominious, ever-growing willingness to whore itself for TV money.

P.S. I know this duplicates what Jim said earlier. But, darn it all, I spent five minutes writing this, and I’m not going to waste that kind of investment…

Shocking Scheduling

As is the case every year, the Yankees will be playing all of their Division Series games in the prime time, 8:00 PM Eastern spot.

Is everyone else as sick of this as I am? The A's and Twins played a great game this afternoon, but only slackers like myself who had the day off got to see it. Is it asking too much that someone else gets the prime time game once in a while.

Yes, it is. Fox and ESPN get to call the shots, since MLB annually whores itself out to them and allows them to make up the schedule. And Fox and ESPN think that the Yankees mean ratings, so the Yankees it will always be, other teams be damned.

And people wonder why I root against the Yankees every year.

Yankees vs. Tigers: Tigers Tanked?

The Detroit Tigers appear to be the Rodney Dangerfield of this years' postseason, getting absolutely zero respect despite a 95-win season. This is, of course, due to two factors: the Tigers' 19-31 record over their last 50 games, which cost them the AL Central title, and the fact that they are playing the almighty Yankees, heroes of the media. Since everyone has already given this series over to New York, I think I'll waste a few paragraphs talking about how the Tigers can actually win. I will grant, it is a longshot, but best of five series make longshots possible.

The Tigers have four pretty good starters, and have arranged them so that lefthanders Nate Robertson and Kenny Rogers will start three of the five games. The Yankee lineup is fairly balanced but does lean a bit to the left, with Damon, Abreu, Giambi, Matsui, and Cano. Justin Verlander, he of the 100-MPH fastball, will be pitching on nine days rest after showing second half fatigue, and along with Jeremy Bonderman (who also looked tired) give the Tigers a potential advantage on the mound in games three and four. Randy Johnson, with his sore back and 5.00 ERA, is no longer Randy Johnson on a regular basis, and Jared Wright is Jared Wright.

The Tigers have Joel Zumaya, Fernando Rodney, and Jamie Walker to take over from the starters. The Yankees have Kyle Farnsworth and an overworked Scott Proctor. Zumaya could be a huge advantage, if he's not already exhausted and Jim Leyland wants to work him as much as needed. The Yankee bullpen just isn't solid until you reach Mariano Rivera, and I could certainly envision a big crooked number in the seventh inning somewhere along the line.

As great as he is, Rivera is more of a threat with his cut fastball against lefthanders. The righty-dominated Tigers lineup could turn that against him in a key spot. Of course, the Tigers insist on closing with Todd Jones, who is perfectly capable of playing the part of the HMS Hood to the Yankees' Bismark at any time.

Gary Sheffield is playing first base. Regardless of what some people think, you don't play first base by getting the appropriate glove and standing a few feet from the bag. The Yankees have had a pretty decent defense this year, but one mistake at first could break open a close game.

An injury to an up-the middle player in the Yankee defense. If Posada, Jeter, Cano, or Damon went down, the Yankees are forced into using Sal Fasano, Miguel Cairo, or Melky Cabrera, which is not what they had in mind when they spent $220 million to build this team.

Like I said, these are longshots. But the history of postseason baseball is full of longshots. Any game player can tell you about that terrible roll of the dice that cost him the game just when he thought he was in control. The Yankees will have to roll the dice like everyone else, and there is always that chance of hitting snake eyes.

Padres vs. Cardinals: Wings And Prayers

In 2005, the Cardinals and Padres met in the first round. The Cardinals were 100-game winners in the regular season, while the Padres barely crept over .500 and had about as much business in the MLB playoffs as the Bad News Bears. The results were as expected.

In 2006, things are a bit reversed. While the Padres final record of 88-74 isn't exactly that of a juggernaught, they played very well down the stretch and come into the postseason in the best shape they've been in all year. The Cardinals, on the other hand, came close to blowing a big lead in the final two weeks and frankly are a very mediocre team being carried on the backs of two or three outstanding players.

The matchups don't seem too favorable for the Cardinals, either. The top three hitters in the Padres lineup are the keys to success with their strong ability to get on base. All three are lefthanded hitters, but the Cardinals have no lefthanded starters to counter them with. Instead, the Cardinals will be giving a start to Jeff Weaver, who is almost helpless against lefthanded hitters, who lit him up for a .340 batting average with 22 homers this season. Lefties also batted .304 against game three starter Jeff Suppan, and game four pitcher Anthony Reyes had his struggles against them as well.

While the Cardinals are struggling to put together a competent rotation behind the excellent Chris Carpenter, the Padres rotation has excelled throughout August and September. Jake Peavy (2.64 ERA for August/September), David Wells (3.03), Chris Young (3.23), and Woodie Williams (3.62) are probably the most solid foursome of any playoff team.

Unless somelike like Juan Encarnacion or Ronnie Belliard just goes completely off his head, or Jim Edmonds is a lot healthier than he's appeared to be, the Cardinals must pin all of their hopes on Albert Pujols and Carpenter. It's certainly not impossible for someone like Pujols to carry a team through a short series, but it's just as likely that Bruce Bochy will just pitch around him in any crucial situation.

In keeping with our policy, we're not making any prediction here. But I will say this; I really like the Padres chances to reach the World Series.

Twins vs. A's: The Harden They Come

This is about as even a matchup as I can imagine. Both are teams that started slowly, then put the pieces together and came on like Mark Foley chasing a congressional page. Either could stake a claim as the best team in the game right now, but both have some gaping holes in the hull.

Both teams really get the idea of on-base percentage. Looking up and down the Twins' lineup, the only guy with a sub-optimal OBP for the season is Rondell White, and even that is a bit deceptive, as White followed a horrible first half (a .209 OBP? how is that possible?) with a .354 OBP after the All-Star break. The A's finished in the middle of the pack, but after the break everyone in the lineup had a .342 mark or better. While the Twins don't draw walks at a prodigious rate, they are very good at working the count for a good pitch to put into play.

This makes for an interesting matchup, because Twins pitchers specialize in controlling the strike zone. Teams like the A's who like to take a pitch or two will frequently find themselves behind in the count. A's game one starter Barry Zito, despite his many virtues, does at time find himself working behind in the count. I think that this is the key to game one.

The biggest problem for the Twins is filling out the rotation after Johan Santana starts game one. Boof Bonser will pitch game two; Bonser is a tremendous talent and pitched outstanding ball down the stretch, but is a rookie who is new to all of this. After that, their are nothing but question marks. Can Brad Radke pull another strong start out of his demolished shoulder and elbow? Would you even consider starting Carlos Silva in a playoff game, even if the alternative is inconsistant rookie Matt Garza?

The A's will be starting Zito, Esteban Loiza, and Dan Haren in games one through three. I'm not sure why Loiza is starting ahead of Haren, but the A's have a likely advantage in the rotation. As even as things are, I think that the key to the whole series may well be Rich Harden, who is expected to pitch game four after missing most of the season. If Harden pitches anything like the Rich Harden is capable of, the series could end right there. If he struggles, then the series may well go to game five, when Santana pitches again.

Both teams have very strong bullpens. The Twins pen may be the best in the majors, strong and deep. The A's aren't much behind, although Huston Street has had some struggles. My suspicion is that these games are going to have to be decided early.

This series could go any number of games, with any imaginable outcome.

Postseason Preview: The Flawed Leading The Flawed

Well, this should be interesting. The usual bleating of the eastern media aside, which considers a Yankee victory as the only correct outcome, there is absolutely no clear favorite to be holding a victory parade around November 1. Instead, what we have are eight teams with formidable strengths and considerable weaknesses. There is a case that can be made for every team in the room; although certainly some cases are stronger than others.

As usual, we make no predictions, other than predicting that this round will be unpredictable. That's not a copout; it's the way we see it. What we will do is lay out some facts and some opinions about each series and tell you what we think might be some key aspects of each matchup, rather than tell you who we think will win.

Strap yourselves in. This could be a wild ride.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Oh, Lordy

ESPN brought some strange-looking men on Baseball Tonight, who gave straight-talkin’ Ozzie Guillen some sort of award for his verbal beating of Sean Tracey after Tracey failed to drill Mark Texieria a while ago. Guillen’s tirade in favor of head hunting “made even Vic Morrow uncomfortable.” That’s just wrong…

Hurry Up Please, It’s Time

The big news out of Wrigley Field today wasn’t the merciful end of the season. No, it was the sudden departure of team president Andy MacPhail from the front office.

Many members of the Cubs blogosphere are doing happy dances now. I can only imagine their gyrations of joy tomorrow, when the team will probably announce that Dusty Baker will not be asked back. On second thought, I’d rather not imagine that. Some things are better left behind closed doors…

Before Cub Fans starts getting delusions of grandeur, they should remember that we’re probably in for business as usual for the next few months. John McDonough was named interim president, which implies that the suits at the Tribune Tower are looking for someone else to run the team. Until they announce a permanent replacement, there’s no way to even guess how things may or may not change.

Besides, GM Jim Hendry’s job seems safe for now. I don’t think we can expect sweeping changes as long as Hendry is putting together the roster.

I’ve already heard some fanciful notions floated around as to who the Cubs should bring in to be team president. Dave Dombrowski’s name comes up a lot, since he’s a Chicago guy. Unfortunately, he’s also got a job, and his current employers might not be keen on letting him go.

Another popular theory is that the Cubs should bring in someone similar to Dallas Green. Yes, Green had a hand in the 1984 and 1989 Eastern Division titles. But he was also an ass who ran Scott Rolen out of Philadelphia. Is that the judge of talent we need?

On the subject of MacPhail, I have to give credit where it’s due. I crack on the Trib’s columnists a lot, so I would be remiss not to point out when they do a serviceable job.

Rick Morrissey offers this scathing indictment of the front office’s performance. It’s a fair cop.

Unfortunately, Morrissey burns through whatever little bit of good will that column engendered by being the first guy on the block to rip the Cubs for bringing in McDonough, the marketing guy, to be president. See, all the Cubs care about is partying and drinking and stuff! Note to Morrissey: Ned Coletti also started as the marketing guy for the Cubs, and he turned out OK…

And Dr. Phil has a surprisingly decent column about MacPhail. While I’m not sure if I agree with the argument, I think Dr. Phil raises some interesting questions…

It’s Gonna Be a Long Week

I saw two of ESPN’s post-season baseball commercials featuring Tommy Lasorda tonight. There’s never a good time to see Lasorda on my television. But I’ve got a feeling I’ll see his skeletal visage a lot this week. Oy…

They Write Letters

Ever since I noted how the media had turned on the Chicago White Sox, I wondered how long it would take for White Sox Fan to start whining the letters to the editor columns.

Not long, as it turns out. From Saturday’s Chicago Tribune, a Mike Barnard of beautiful Lisle IL writes:

I am so tired of hearing sportswriters and talking heads around Chicago say the White Sox “choked.” If the Chicago newspapers and sports stations weren’t so slanted toward the “lovable loser” Cubs, they would see the Sox had a pretty good year. They were defending World Series champs and they contended again, which is more than can be said for Tribune Co.’s team.

I believe Jerry Reinsdorf, Ken Williams, and Ozzie Guillen have the desire to bring more World Series championships to Chicago. Do the Cubs and their management have that desire? Doubtful. Cubs management is all about selling Wrigley Field, “the experience.”

Before any Cub apologist talks about the White Sox choking, look at the 2005 World Series trophy and tell me when was the last time the Cubs owned one. When the Cubs actually make a true attempt to win, then and only then can their fans start taking shots at the White Sox.

Well played, sir! Mr. Barnard rehashes the same old scripts White Sox fan has been sending to the editor for years (with a brief hiatus from October 2004 through last week).

Like that favorite chestnut of the “slanted” media. I’m willing to believe the media has a certain slant…but when the media can’t be bothered to get basic facts of one team correct, or feels the need to openly ridicule that team’s players, or offers crap like this as journalism…well, it’s difficult to say that the slant is in that particular team’s favor.

If Mr. Barnard is truly the savvy media critic his letter implies he is, he should understand a simple reality of journamalism that I’ve noted on this blog: Journamalists like winners because winners are fun to write about how great they are. But they like losers (or heavily favored teams who don’t win) just as much, because it’s fun to write about how much those guys stink. Ask A-Rod if you don’t believe me.

And for a letter that is allegedly an impassioned defense of his heroes, Mr. Barnard spends an inordinate time talking about the Cubs. I count five slams against the Cubs in those one hundred fifty-six words. Mr. Barnard is bent that some people are saying mean things about his heroes – how exactly does criticizing the Cubs’ marketing strategy strengthen his case that the White Sox didn’t “choke?”

If I said that the Cubs didn’t really have a bad season because, boy, those Royals were worse, I’d be laughed off the blogosphere. But that’s the argument Mr. Barnard is using here – the White Sox had a better year than the Cubs this year and last, therefore the White Sox did not “choke.” It’s hard to argue with logic like that.

One more thing: don’t tell me what I can and can’t do, Mr. Barnard. I’ll take shots at anyone I please. Perhaps I’ll stop taking shots at you if you make a true attempt to develop a coherent argument…

A Man Can Dream

Here at the Palatial Baseball Blog, we generally don’t like to make specific predictions. Partly because other people do it better than we do, and partly because it takes too much work.

That said, I will go take a tentative step on that limb and list the teams I hope will make it to their respective League Championship Series. Please note that these are not necessarily the teams I think will win, just the teams I’ll be pulling for this week:

American League:
Tigers v. Yankees – Gotta go with the Tigers. Even with the Tigers’ “choke” job this weekend, I’d like to see the feel-good story of the year continue. Oh, and a Yankees loss will probably make the Fox executives cry, and I’m still very, very bitter over their cancellation of Arrested Development.

Twins v. A’s – My younger son is A’s Fan, and I admit I have a soft spot in my heart for Barry Zito and the rest of the A’s staff. But Batgirl has taught me just what a fun team the Twins have. It’s a tough call, but I want to see more Johan, more Boof, and (maybe) more unicorns coming out of Little Nicky Punto’s butt…

National League:
Dodgers v. Mets – Dodgers all the way. I loathe the Mets and all they stand for.

Padres v. Cardinals – Another tough call. On the one hand, a Cardinals victory would set up another NLCS meltdown by the Super Genius. On the other hand, after the last two weeks I don’t think the Cardinals deserve to even get this far. But I need to conserve my precious hatred to root against the Mets, so I will root for the Padres, rather than against the Cardinals.

The Real Juice at Minute Maid Park?

The Los Angeles Times got its hands on Jason Grimsley’s indictment (remember that?) that didn’t have the names blacked out. The Times said that the guys tabbed by Grimsley include Astros pitchers Andy Pettitte and media fave Roger Clemens.

Uh-oh! After the last few years of the media’s fawning coverage of the Rocket (especially the interminable Clemens Watch this year), I wondered how this story would fly.

We need wonder no further. Peter Gammons addressed the crisis on Baseball Tonight. Pretty much ignoring the other guys listed on the affidavit (Pettitte, Miguel Tejada, Brian Roberts, and Jay Gibbons), he spent his air time defending Clemens.

As expected, Gammons was having no part of this. First, he said, the affidavit didn’t say anything about what substance Clemens may or may not have taken. Perhaps, just maybe, it might be in the realm of possibility that Clemens has indulged in steroid use. But since the affidavit doesn’t specify, there’s also the possibility that Clemens could just have been popping uppers.

Yes, Gammons actually did imply that amphetamine use might not be all that bad. I’m sure that will come as a surprise to the fans, media, and members of Congress who wailed and gnashed their teeth about MLB players taking greenies before the game.

Gammons’ second point is that Grimsley is a scumbag, and therefore is not to be trusted. I admit that he has a point. Grimsley has admitted to using steroids , and reportedly told investigators that he had used HGH (although he hasn’t been charged with anything yet).

However…I remember certain media members immediately speculating what Grimsley might have to say about Barry Bonds. Nobody seemed too worried about the strength of Grimsley’s character then. Why is it an issue now?

I haven’t the foggiest idea if Clemens or anyone else named in the story was a doper. But I find it darkly amusing (and very telling) that the media will rush to condemn certain players, while rushing to protect others…