Jim & Bob's Palatial Baseball Blog

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Hall Passes

In what is quickly becoming a rite of spring, the Veterans’ Committee has once again passed on admitting a new member or two to its exclusive clique. And, at the risk of alienating all those fans whose pet candidates (Santo, Kaat, Oliva, Minoso, Torre, even Doug Harvey and Marvin Miller) weren’t elected, I can’t really work up the dander to declare that this latest non-election will result in dogs living with cats and the general end to Civilization As We Know It™.

I’m a Cub Fan, and I’d sure like to see Santo get his moment in the sun. And I think you can make a case for Minoso and Olivo, and perhaps a few other guys on that list. But at the same time, the Hall of Fame is a private institution with its own rules for admission. Unless Diebold was tabulating the ballots, it is unlikely that the election was fixed to screw one of these guys,

The AP reports that the Hall of Fame is now considering revising the Veterans’ Committee process, which was revised a few years back. I guess they’re getting a little nervous that, after three votes, the Committee hasn’t elected anybody – and that sure won’t draw the tourists to Cooperstown in July. Hall Chair Jane Forbes Clark said:

We are disappointed that no one has been elected in the three voting cycles. We will be evaluating this process and its trends at our next meeting, which is March 13, and discussing whether there should be any changes.

The board may decide that the trends are not what we thought they were going to be. Perhaps this hasn't worked as well as some of the board members thought it would and maybe it needs a little bit of change.

Ironically enough, the board decided to revamp the Vets’ Committee back in 2001, which was the eighth straight year it had given someone a plaque (not a bust, as some Hall of Fame voters seem to think).

Typical Hall of Fame – set up a system that makes it too easy to get in (or appears to be too easy to get in), replace it with a more stringent system, and then fret that it’s too hard to get in, and maybe it should be a little easier. Should we expect anything less of the institution Bill James once famously described as “a self-defining institution that has by and large failed to define itself?”

Oh, well. Much like the MVP and Cy Young votes of November, the Veterans’ Committee votes every other February give fans something to argue about in the off-season. And sometimes that’s the most you can hope for…


Make of This What You Will

Presented without comment:

Tigers slugger Gary Sheffield told USA Today that he doesn’t plan to cooperate with Major League Baseball’s steroids investigation, joining Barry Bonds as players who have said they will not cooperate.

“The [players’] association told us this is just a witch hunt,” Sheffield told USA Today. “They don’t want us to talk to them. This is all about getting [Bonds].

“If this was legitimate and they did it the right way, it would be different. But this a witch hunt. They’re just trying to collect a lot of stuff that doesn’t make any sense and throw the [expletive] against the wall.”

However, later Tuesday Sheffield backtracked from those comments, telling SI.com that “I’ll let the Players Association make the call whether I should.”


Hobson’s Choice

Jebus help me. Here’s Jeff Passan wailing and gnashing his teeth:

Performance-enhancing drugs aren't going away.

When Major League Baseball tries to say its steroid testing is working, it seems to forget that there still is no test to determine hGH use.

Its testing is working, yes.

Its testing just isn't good enough.

Nor is the NFL's nor the NBA's nor any other professional sport's. The doctors, much as they try, have not been able to keep up. Athletes are in the same place they were during the go-go '90s: If careful enough, they can get away with just about anything.


Baseball fans have long embraced their game with the knowledge that players have used, do use and will continue to use. Many don't care. The game's greatness usurps all of the damage the players perpetuate through their own selfishness.

For others, however, this comes down to a moral issue: As a fan, can I accept this?

This question is slowly dissolving into an ultimatum: Accept it or don't. Because the more time wears on, the more obvious it becomes that performance-enhancing drugs are the party crasher that refuses to leave.

Sure, you can hold out for the players' unions in every league to subject their constituencies to blood tests that can be stored and re-tested later when doctors find effective tests. That won't happen. If baseball's most hallowed record, Henry Aaron's 755 home runs, is about to be broken by a man in Bonds who allegedly admitted to using two types of designer steroids and that doesn't force the union into action, nothing will.

So we're stuck with a nasty reality. Either we admit every player – even our favorites – might be using performance-enhancing drugs, or we simply deny that reality and live in a cocoon where sports are good and righteous and fair.

Loving sports should come naturally and last unconditionally.

Now, it just isn't that easy.
Three reactions to this:

1. Perhaps I’m misreading Passan’s intent, but what I get from his piece (and please do read the whole thing) is that there’s so much stuff out there that can’t be tested for we have to assume that everyone’s doping or we’re living in a magical fantasy land full of fairies and ponies and free ice cream for everyone. Does that mean that we approach steroids along the same lines of “When did you stop beating your wife?”

2. Admitting that “even our favorite” players might be doping? Spare me. The baseball punditocracy has its pets, and even the most jaded member of the BBWAA, the one who sees a syringe lurking behind every clubhouse towel, would be hard-pressed to admit that the possibility exists. Just as they “know” that guy is definitely on the juice, they “know” their boy is pure. It’s just human nature.

3. Sports (especially Major League Baseball) have never been good, righteous, or fair. Start at Cap Anson and work your way through baseball history, and you’ll find plenty of reasons to not love MLB unconditionally. The Steroids Era is just the latest reason. We’ll see if MLB deserves to survive this time.

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I Should Know Better

I’ve been saying this for the last few years, and reality has always proved me wrong. But I just can’t help but think that maybe this is the year the Pirates turn the corner.

With Jason Bay, Freddie Sanchez, and Adam LaRoche, they’ve got a third of a pretty good lineup. If Chris Duffy can get on base consistently, and if Jose Bautista can cut down on the strikeouts and develop his power, and if Ronny Paulino is the real deal behind the plate…

And then if Ian Snell and Tom Gorzelanny and Paul Maholm can cut their walk rates and suck up some innings, the Bucs just might have the makings of a decent rotation.

I know, I know. There’s a lot of ifs going on there. Even so, it’s better than what Pirate Fan has had to look forward to in a long time…

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Saturday, February 24, 2007

Funny How It Works

Someone please explain this to me…

The Super Genius says:

It's not an issue. We've got other things to concern ourselves with now, like how to get ready to win ballgames.
And, as if by magic, his feud with Rolen is over. Past tense, if you will.

But when Alex Rodriguez says:

We're still good friends. We get along well. We cheer hard for each other. He cheers for me. And we both want to win a world championship. Do we go to dinner every night like we used to? No. But we're good friends, have a lot of respect for each other, and we want to win.
It just means it’s open season for every amateur psychologist in the land to delve into how his relationship with Derek Jeter affects his fragile psyche…

Bullpen Blues

There has been a rash of stories this week about the Red Sox bullpen and who their new closer will be now that Jonathan Papelbon is in the rotation.

Assuming, of course, that Papelbon stays in the rotation. The afore-mentioned rash of stories also outlined the circumstances that would lead Papelbon back to the bullpen (i.e., the team can’t find a closer, he can’t get his act together as a starter, and Red Sox Fan starts whining).

If you believe the pundits, having that Proven Closer™ is ultra-important, because that 27th out is the toughest one to get. But if you think about, how many closers come out of nowhere and get the job done on a yearly basis?

Look at the league saves leaders from last year. Sure, there were stalwarts like Francisco Rodriguez and Trevor Hoffman and Mariano Rivera. But you also saw guys like Bobby Jenks (6 career saves entering 2006). And B.J. Ryan – remember how the pundits guffawed when the Blue Jays gave him scads of money to be their closer? Did anyone think Akinori Otsuka would rack up the saves like he did last year?

Todd Jones and Joe Borowski both resurrected their careers last year. They both posted more saves than that unknown rookie the Red Sox pulled out to close because Keith Foulke was still hurt.

Making Papelbon the closer in 2006 makes perfect sense now. In real time, the decision wasn’t so clear.

In an ideal world, every team would like a no-brainer go-to closer. Everyone would love to have a Hoffman or Rivera. In the real world, things are a bit more complicated.

So what will the Red Sox do? The same thing every team does – they’ll go with their best option, and if that doesn’t work out, they’ll move on to Plan B. And hope they find this year’s Bobby Jenks.

You Think You Know a Guy…

Miguel Batista is a published author. That is probably the coolest thing I’ve heard this week.

Spring Reruns

As I’ve written here too many times before, there’s nothing the baseball punditocracy loves more than a good script. Because if you’ve got a good script, you’ve got half your column written. And that means you can get back to the hotel bar and do some damage to your expense account that much sooner.

But just as the players use training camp to work themselves into mid-season form, so do the writers. And sometimes that means dusting off a favorite script and plugging it into a current story.

So I can’t really hold it against Sully for dropping this into the lead of his story in today’s Trib:

Corey Patterson spent a few years in the minor leagues being promoted as the next great Cubs outfielder, only for impatient fans to run him out of town because they wondered when he was going to live up to the buildup.

Actually, that’s a lie – I really can hold it against Sully.

This was a favored script immediately after the Cubs sent Patterson off to Baltimore last year, especially after his one good month last year. Those mean Cub Fans were so mean to poor Corey – he’d be a star for sure if Cub Fans weren’t so mean!

Of course, this script also completely disappears the conduct of Sully and his cohorts in the Chicago media. You know, that group of people that circulated stories that Patterson was lazy because he didn’t want to play winter ball. And that he was stubborn and uncoachable because he wasn’t bunting for base hits. And that he was a bad guy in the clubhouse because he didn’t glad-hand with the press as much as their buddy, Mark Grace.

Who cares about that stuff – Patterson was run out of town by Cub Fans! If only they could be a little more patient!

[Aside: If you follow what the scribes in the hopelessly biased Chicago Tribune say, Cub Fans are suffering from some severe bi-polar disorder. They’re either impatient with players who don’t produce Hall of Fame numbers immediately, or they’re apathetic boobs who don’t care what happens on the field as long as the Old Style is flowing. It tricky the way it works…]

And then there’s Dr. Phil, who goes even further back into the script archive than Sully for this chestnut:

HEE SEOP CHOI - Devil Rays

The guy the Cubs kept over Mark Grace in 2001 is still kicking around after failing to emerge as a big-league regular. He hasn't really been the same since he was knocked silly in the 2003 collision with Kerry Wood.

Five years on, Dr. Phil is still bitter that his buddy Grace wasn’t brought back. If Dr. Phil didn’t have an axe to grind against the Cubs, he could have phrased it differently. Like:

The guy the Cubs traded to get Derrek Lee in 2004.

Alternatively, if he wanted to show how dumb some other team was:

The guy the Marlins kept instead of Derrek Lee in 2004.

But don’t hold your breath waiting for either of those takes to become Officially Accepted Scripts. We’ll see the New York Times admit that Whitewater was a bunch of hooey before the Trib disavows this tripe…

I Come Not to Praise Griffey But to Bury Bonds

Long-time readers know that Jim and I have had some issues with Jeff Pearlman in the past. But this time, I will admit that I agree with him.

Pearlman is absolutely correct that we should appreciate Ken Griffey Jr. while we can. Griffey is one of the great players of our generation, and despite the injuries and emergence of the new generation of stars (Pujols, Howard, Guerrero, Beltran, Santana, et al) deserves to be remembered as such.

However…if you’re going to write a piece about how great a player Junior is, then write a piece about how great a player Junior is. And not another attack on how vile Barry Bonds is.

PS – For no real good (or mature) reason, I find it utterly hilarious that Pearlman breaks out another Hall and Oates reference in this piece. Perhaps those jokes can make Sara Smile, but I Can’t Go For That. Maybe it’s because I’m Out of Touch. If I were a Rich Girl, I could hire some Private Eyes to go One on One with Pearlman to find out why a Family Man would resort to cheap jokes like that…

PPS – For the record, I want to reiterate that I have no mature (or good) reason for finding Hall and Oates jokes utterly hilarious.

PPPS – Jeff, if you’re still reading us, I just wanted to confirm that, yes, we are still a couple of uneducated blockheads (if the preceding postscripts haven’t confirmed that already). Perhaps I need to sign up for some Adult Education.

What Have You Done for Me Lately?

Uh-oh – there’s trouble in Yankee paradise.

No, I’m not talking about the Jeter/A-Rod nonsense. There are other Vortices of Armageddon going down in Tampa – Bernie Williams won’t accept a minor-league deal, Mariano Rivera says he’ll become a free agent this winter, Jorge Posada and Joe Torre in the last years of their contracts…

And because we’re talking about the Yankees, the punditocracy really, really cares about the story, and is doing its best to make sure the rest of us really, really care, too. Fox’s Ken Rosenthal offers this typically lame explanation as to why we should care:

Such uncertainty is not atypical for teams in the free-agent era, but the emotions are more intense for the Yankees, considering the importance of Rivera, Posada and Torre to the team's late 1990s renaissance.

I’m sure Yankee Fans love those guys for their contribution to the team’s success in the 1990’s. But if Yankee Fans are smart, they’ll offer their sincerest thanks for the memories and wish them well in their future endeavors.

Just as there’s no crying in baseball, there’s no room for sentiment, either. What the players did ten years ago is great and should be applauded – but should have no bearing on the team’s decisions today. Sentiment is great for us fans, but in the front office the attitude should be “What have you done for me lately?”

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Rain Man

Bob touched on this earlier, but I wanted to offer a tip of the (sweat-resistant) cap to Sandy Alderson and the Rules Committee. Yes, there really is such a committee. It's not easy to be aware of that, since it has done nothing for the past ten years, but a few weeks ago they announced a number of changes. None are ground-breaking (which is good, because ground-breaking change is not needed at this time), but all are distinct improvements.

Most importantly, the idiotic idea that games that result in ties due to rain must be counted as such and completely replayed is gone. Instead, MLB has bowed to logic and will now suspend such games, to be concluded prior to the next scheduled game between the two teams involved.

If you've ever witnessed the sight of professional baseball players intentionally making outs (or conversely, intentionally failing to record them in the field), you know what a mockery of the game this rule led to. This was especially ludicrous because all other games which couldn't be finished (due to curfew, for example) were simply suspended and concluded later.

There is often enough chicanery going on in baseball outside the rules. Good for the Rules Committee for closing a loophole in the rules that encourages more.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Watch Where You Stick That Pen

Lord knows I care as much about the state of A-Rod and Jeter's friendship about as far as I could comfortably spit a rat. But this is probably the best write-up I've seen on it, which includes this nugget of joy:

Alex and Derek were once so close they autographed each other's balls.

Tip of the Cap

That’s a load off my head…errr…mind.

Adventures in Journamalism – Spring Training Style!

I was hoping that the start of spring training would put an end to the stupid sh!t vomited up by our baseball media and presented as “news.” As usual, my faith in mankind was misplaced.

How dumb is your press corps willing to play? Consider this offering from Sully in today’s Tribune:

Part I of the Carlos Zambrano saga ended Tuesday when he agreed to a one-year,$12.4 million deal, avoiding an arbitration hearing only minutes before it was to begin.

But the degree of difficulty increases significantly in Part II of this mini-drama as Zambrano attempts to nab a five-year deal for about $90 million.

Which is it, Sully – a “saga” or a “mini-drama?” I’m pretty sure that a saga, by definition, is just a little bigger than a “mini-drama.”

A minor, nit-picky point? Yes. But the next question to ask is: why in God’s name phrase it in these terms in the first place? Why not just, I don’t know, report the sprocking news!

How would a real news reporter craft the lead to this story? I’ve had some experience at this sort of thing, and feel confident that this would be acceptable to any wire service in the land:

Carlos Zambrano and the Chicago Cubs avoided an arbitration hearing Tuesday when the two parties reached an agreement on a one-year, $12.4 million deal only minutes before the hearing was to begin. Both sides will not turn their attention to a long-term contract. Zambrano has said he is looking for a five-year, $90 million package.

The difference between my version and Sully’s: my version focuses on what’s actually happening in reality, while Sully panders his scripts. So far, the negotiations between Zambrano and the Cubs have been amicable. That’s boring! Better to ratchet up the hysteria by maintaining that every move this spring is fraught with “drama.”

For God’s sake, Sully – it’s just baseball, not an episode of 24.

And just to show that even a wire reporter can fall prey to the local scripts, here’s the lead from the AP’s Andrew Seligman’s story about Cub third baseman Aramis Ramirez:
Aramis Ramirez was the last Cubs regular to arrive at spring training, which a cynical Chicago fan might say was fitting.

No, he wasn't late -- he just didn't hustle to get to camp early. But the bigger question is whether he hustles on the field during the season.

Ha ha ha ha! This script was debunked about twelve times last year (A-Ram had some quad issues last year; Dusty, in his wisdom, figured it was better for his one offensive threat to take it easy on routine plays rather than go all out every time and risk a more serious injury). And yet it’s got a longer shelf life than Twinkies. I’m just surprised Seligman didn’t mention that Ramirez got head in the head by a pop fly.

But that’s probably because Dr. Phil was at Giants camp, and thus not available to relate one of his favorite scripts of 2006 to the AP man. The Trib just had to have its best baseball guy on hand to give us this gripping account of Barry Bonds’ arrival in Scottsdale:

At this point in his career, Bonds still has the ability to keep a team relevant, if not competitive. So there he was Tuesday morning, checking in for his 22nd season, his 15th with the Giants. He arrived at 8:30 a.m. in a silver SUV that was driven by his marketing rep and carried a well-dressed bodyguard.

Bonds dressed down in a long-sleeved black T-shirt, distressed jeans, shades with silver frames and a thick silver chain around his neck.

He walked past a group of 15 or 20 fans, mostly there to get autographs, and went into the clubhouse. He dressed quickly for a workout, at one point turning his cap backward, the only player in the room trying that look. Perhaps 30 to 40 reporters watched his movements, almost outnumbering the players and coaches who sat or stood, mostly watching the reporters.

It was an awkward moment, as so many around Bonds are.

The one guy who doesn't seem to feel too awkward about the spectacle is Bonds.

Now that’s some mighty fine baseball reportin’ there, Dr. Phil. He hits all the highlights – we know what car Bonds rides in, we learn that his bodyguard is nattily attired, and we get the red carpet rundown of Barry’s own outfit. And omigod – he put his hat on backward! And none of his teammates did! See how out of touch with his fellow players he is?

And of course Dr. Phil gets in a dig about what a meanie Bonds is – he walked right past those autograph-seeking fans. I’m surprised there wasn’t a doe-eyed young lad reduced to tears by the snub.

My favorite bit is the last two sentences. Thirty to forty reporters crowding in the Giants clubhouse watching Bonds get dressed. And Dr. Phil wonders why it’s an awkward moment?

Not to be outdone, Sully has his own fashion report, ready for tomorrow’s paper but fresh off the Internet tonight. Try to believe that a major metropolitan daily would use this as a story lead:

After Cubs pitchers were done running Wednesday at Fitch Park, coach Larry Rothschild gave young right-hander Jeff Samardzija some unsolicited advice on how to wear his cap.

Rothschild recommended the centered look, the way almost every major-leaguer has worn his cap since 1876. Samardzija's cap was cocked slightly to the left, just as it was in a photo in a recent edition of Baseball America, which named him the No. 3 prospect in the Cubs' system.

It's safe to assume Samardzija won't be wearing what Rothschild called "the left-handed look" any time soon.

Jeebus help us! OK, I get that it’s sports, and not real news. But can we get a story that’s a little more “sports” and little less like something that would run on The View?

Saturday, February 17, 2007


Some stuff you may find interesting…

ESPN interviews Don Motley, former scout and one of the founders of the Negro League Museum.

More on the Negro Leagues from MLB.com. This is stuff we should all know, and not shove back in the closer after Black History Month is over.

People, pay attention: Grady Sizemore is good.

Two reporters covered for an attorney who broke the law. Now that the law-breaker has ‘fessed up, the reporters should be cleared. Because they’re heroes and the First Amendment and stuff…

That poor child…

Hasn’t He Figured It Out Yet?

In Sully’s piece today, he reveals that Mark Prior is puzzled:

Mark Prior's visit in October to orthopedic specialist James Andrews proved there actually were some physical issues with his oft-injured right shoulder.

But when asked Friday if it helped his mind-set knowing the problem wasn't in his head—as some had surmised—Prior wondered why reporters always focused on his head rather than his health.

"Everybody is always talking about my mind-set," Prior said. "It's funny. Everyone wants to talk about my mind.

"I knew I had some significant problems going on with my shoulder and [Andrews] just laid them out in more black-and-white [terms] than gray. We all know doctors aren't always definitive, but it was good to get a second opinion—this is what it is and this is what you have to do.

"It wasn't easy to take, but that's life."

Come on, Mark – you’re a smart guy. You’ve been around the pinheads in the Chicago media for a couple years now. And you can’t figure out why the punditocracy is more worried about your mind-set?

It’s easy to understand – the media loves playing amateur psychologist nearly as much as it loves its scripts. Don’t believe me? Ask Alex Rodriguez. Or Manny Ramirez. Or Barry Bonds. Or, if you want to dig into the microfiche, Frank Thomas and Magglio Ordonez as they approached the end of their tenures in Chicago.

In Prior’s case, the alleged root cause of his problems wasn’t because the pressure of a big-market, or a desire to leave a big-market, or legal issues, or squabbles with management. With Prior, the punditocracy had the luxury of moving from one script to the next.

At first, they were able to flog the “Dusty Baker abuses young pitchers” script (although they never reconciled that with the “Dusty Baker hates young players” script they also flogged). Of course Prior’s health issues were all Baker’s fault! How could they be otherwise?

But then Prior got hurt in odd ways. He didn’t notice Marcus Giles standing between him and second base. He got hit by a line drive. Can’t blame that stuff on Dusty (although they tried…).

But who to blame? The media needs a scapegoat. And, as if sprung from the skull of Zeus himself, a new, fully-grown script appeared – Prior can’t pitch? Must be because he’s soft! A real man would be able to shake off that line drive and get back in the game!

As Sully notes, one Chicago newspaper (and it’s easy to guess which one) ran a headline referring to “Mrs. Prior.” Nice – the paper got to smear Prior and demean half its audience in one fell swoop.

But this is the kind of stupid stuff the media has been focusing on for years. Will A-Rod opt out of his contract because he can’t take the pressure? What’s Manny thinking today? Why does Frank hate Jerry? Why can’t Mark sack up and pitch?

Instead of focusing on what’s actually happening during the games (or, as I like to call it, the important stuff), the media feeds us a constant stream of this crap. Why? I’m no mind reader, but my best guess is that it easily fills a lot of column inches and air time. And you can always count on your press corps to take the easy option instead of reporting what’s important (in all endeavors, not just sports).

Need More Proof?

I asserted in the previous post that the media fixates on stupid stuff. Fortunately, my friends at the Tower offer ample evidence this week to support my claim:

The Cubs are putting ads on the storage-room doors in the outfield. Because, as we all know, no other teams in the Major Leagues have ads or sponsors or anything. How dare they defile tradition like that! (Oh, and be sure to check out the message board for some unintentionally hilarious responses from outraged Cub Fans…)

And Rick Morrissey offers yet more proof in a series of columns this week just what a wanker he is. But in a way, I’m glad. He gives me hope.

Every time I worry that my blog posts are pointless and stupid, I re-read his columns and feel better. If a big-time journamalist like that can be pointless and stupid, why not me? I’m just some schmuck in my basement, after all – not a guy with a press pass and clubhouse access and a Hall of Fame ballot like Morrissey...

Thinking of the Children

Saw an AP report today on some rules changes for this season. Seem to be some good ideas.

Like this one. Hopefully, it will teach the children that scuffing balls is cheating. We wouldn’t want any of our hallowed pitching records tainted by scuffed balls, would we?

A major league position player who scuffs or defaces a baseball would be ejected and receive an automatic 10-game suspension under changes approved Friday by the sport's playing rules committee.

Previously, the penalty was to call the pitch a ball and warn the player. For pitchers, umpires have the discretion to issue only a warning if they determine the pitcher's actions weren't intended to alter the characteristics of a pitch.

The rules committee also put a limit on the time between pitches when no one is on base. Pitchers will now have to make their next pitch within twelve seconds of the time the batter is ready at the plate.

Didn’t they try that before? And wasn’t the rule largely unenforced?

Oh, well. This time for sure! Because speeding up the game will mean that all those kids will be able to stay up and watch on school nights…

Finally, they passed a rule that calls for tie games called for weather-related reasons to be suspended, not replayed as has been the case. I never understood why they didn’t do this in the first place…

Tuesday, February 13, 2007


From a report by Mike Fish at ESPN.com:

According to Major League Baseball, more than half of all pro baseball players who tested positive since the start of the 2005 season -- 169 of 289, or 58.5 percent -- hail from the Dominican Republic, and that includes major and minor leagues, as well as those who play in the Dominican and Venezuelan summer leagues.

Of the 157 players suspended during this time, 37 (close to one-quarter) are from the Dominican Republic. And approximately 132 others have tested positive since 2005 in the 32-team Dominican Summer League, which generally features players just starting out in pro ball. They can't be suspended because of the country's labor laws.

Why Aren't They Thinking of the Children?

Great googaly moogaly -- isn't the MLBPA interesting in keeping steroids away from the innocent, impressionable children?

Federal investigators originally demanded to see the 2003 results for Barry Bonds, Gary Sheffield, who was recently traded by the New York Yankees to the Detroit Tigers, the Yankees' Jason Giambi and seven other players.

When they raided the testing labs for those 10 results, investigators also seized computer files containing the test results of nearly 100 other players not named in the government's subpoena and warrants.

"If the majority's decision is allowed to stand, it will create circuit law giving the government carte blanche to use a warrant for some piece of data on a computer as the pretext for seizing the entire computer and perusing its contents," attorneys for the union and lab wrote.

Blah, blah, blah. Carte blanche is a small price to pay for the children...

What to Do with Alfonso?

Surprisingly, Sully asks a rather good question in his article today. Subtitled “Alfonso Soriano wants to bat atop order, but is that the best place for his power?,” the gist of the piece is summed up in these two grafs:

Still, the question of whether Soriano would be wasted in the leadoff spot is one Piniella is sure to be asked again in spring training, which begins Wednesday when pitchers and catchers report to Fitch Park.

An argument can be made that he’s best-suited for the middle of the order, where his home-run power can be exploited to the fullest.

Unsurprisingly, Sully goes on to answer the question in the most blundering, ham-fisted way possible. Oh, he lays out the pertinent facts acceptably: Soriano is fast. But he doesn’t walk a lot, and his OBP isn’t optimal for a lead-off hitter. He’s shown enough power (46 HR last year in Washington, not a hitter’s haven) to be considered a viable middle-of-the order guy. But on the other hand, he’s had some measure of success in the leadoff spot...

All this talk about the player is well and good, but Soriano won’t be playing in a vacuum. But Sully doesn’t mention the rest of the lineup at all. If you were going to write a bit about the best spot for Soriano in the Cubs’ lineup, wouldn’t you think to actually look at the rest of the lineup?

Not if you’re Sully, I guess.

Should Soriano bat in the middle of the lineup? Well, here’s my projection for the three through seven spots:

1B Derrek Lee
3B Aramis Ramirez
RF Jacques Jones
C Michael Barrett
LF Matt Murton / Cliff Floyd

So what do you do with the guy displaced by Soriano? Do you shift him down one spot?

No, because the eight spot should be wasted by Cesar Izturis. I’m comfortable with him hitting at the top of the order – in Los Angeles, or Houston, or Seattle, or even Des Moines. Not so much in Chicago.

Do you move that guy up to the top of the lineup? Well, maybe.

That leads us to the second question Sully should have answered: if not Soriano, then who? Who out of this lot should his leadoff?

If it were up to me, I’d hit Murton lead off. He’s not “proven,” which would result in much wailing and gnashing of teeth among the punditocracy. But after a terrible slump in June, he came on strong and, at times, looked like the only Cub on the field that understood that ball four was an acceptable outcome to a plate appearance.

The Cubs’ major lineup issue this year (as it has been every year since 2003, when Kenny Lofton came in mid-season) is the leadoff spot. We don’t need more power in the middle of the lineup; the guys we have should prove adequate, if somewhat lacking in star power.

What we need is to have runners on base in front of those guys. It’s a simple concept – no runners, no runs. Soriano can hit 50 homers batting fourth this year, and he’ll still wind up with 80 RBIs if our leadoff hitter only thinks of first base as that white thing he passes on his way back to the dugout.

So should Soriano bat leadoff for the Cubs? He’s one of the better options we have.

Which is more an indictment against the Cubs’ roster than an endorsement of Soriano’s abilities...

Mad Dogs and Englishmen

Pestilence at Goat Riders draws a parallel between this year’s Carlos Zambrano contract negotiations and another contract dispute from the not-too-distant past:

I don’t know if Jim Hendry knows his Cubs history well. I should expect that he knows this bit though, because his former boss Andy MacPhail was brought in to clean up the mess left by Larry Himes.

By some rights, Larry Himes could have been considered a competent “Baseball Guy.” Not every executive brings a Hall of Fame caliber slugger with speed and power to a club in exchange for an aging George Bell... but Chicagoans don’t really remember that part. Cubs fans remember letting Greg Maddux walk because of a pissing match over money.

While it is only natural for Cub Fans to be concerned about Big Z bolting for a bigger payday, I think this analogy is fundamentally flawed.

The entire Maddux-left-because-the-Cubs-were-too-cheap-to-pay-him script pleases many Cub Fans. It paints Maddux as the homegrown talent who really, really wanted to stay but was driven away by vile, penny-pinching management.

And while former GM Larry Himes did his share to drive Maddux from the team (and thus has earned a good proportion of the blame), to dump it all on him is, as I noted, fundamentally flawed.

Were the Cubs too cheap to pay Maddux what he wanted? From 2007, that script sounds perfectly cromulent. But in real time, you would have noted that Himes offered Mad Dog what was (at that time) the largest contract in Cubs history. And more than what the Braves ultimately signed him for.

Did Maddux really, really want to spend the remainder of his days in blue pinstripes? Again, hearing this tale recited in 2007 is most pleasing to the ears. But in real time, you didn’t even have to read between the lines (or be a mind-reader) to hear Maddux tell you that he had no intention of re-signing with the Cubs after the 1992 season.

Nearly a decade ago, I wrote a piece detailing what was going on in real time. Alas, it has since been lost on the hard drive of a long-abandoned computer running Windows 95. Other matters prevent me from delving into the archives, but one day I will revisit this story. Consider that a promise – or a threat, if you prefer.

Cub Fans should be worried about Big Z’s future. Losing Zambrano would leave a bigger hole in the roster than losing Aramis Ramirez – and one that would be exponentially harder to fill.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Return on Investment

The Field of Schemes guys are on top of Loria the Destroyer's latest stadium hijinks.

My favorite bit so far:

Meanwhile, Samson said that the Marlins' league-bottom payroll "would not go up at all during construction" of a new stadium, and would be "average," he hoped, once a new home opened, which would be no sooner than 2011. Now there's a p.r. campaign: "If You Build It, We Won't Suck (As Much)."

Friday, February 09, 2007

Mr. Peabody, He Isn’t

The Trib’s Ed Sherman is the latest to check in with a typically breathless piece on evil MLB’s evil exclusive evil deal with evil DirecTV (or should I say DirecTeVil?) for its oh-so-good Extra Innings package.

Sherman hits the highlights in his lead grafs:

Major League Baseball, which has an infinite ability to infuriate fans, is about to do it again.

As early as next week, Commissioner Bud Selig will announce baseball has cut a seven-year, $700 million deal with DirecTV to place its Extra Innings exclusively on the satellite carrier.

The package features as many as 60 out-of-market games per week; the 2006 price was $179 for the season.

Previously, Extra Innings had been available in 75 million homes through cable, the Dish Network or DirecTV. Now only DirecTV's 15 million subscribers will be able to gain access to all-baseball-all-the-time.
The rest of the bit carries on in this vein, blah-blah-blah. I regretted spending five minutes of my lunch time reading it until I came to the penultimate paragraph:

Nothing is forever, but baseball just seems bent on reducing access. The decision seems to follow the same game plan that says let's put all the World Series games at night so kids can't see them. Growing the game doesn't seem to be part of the equation.

Ah, the old “Who will think of the children?” argument! Works for steroids, but can it work for pay-per-view?

Sadly, no.

Jim and I were discussing this topic just the other day, and he made a good point. Most fans (those of casual-to-average fannishness, a pretty big majority) aren’t going to spend the $179 to get 60 games a week. Because even though they like baseball, they don’t like it that much.

Hell, even I’m not all that interested in getting the package, and I’m a completely besotted baseball geek. But my antipathy to pay-per-view is that (a) I’m a tightwad and (b) I barely have enough time to listen to the Cubs, let alone the other fourteen games that might be going on that day.

No, the real market for Extra Innings is sports bars and uber-geeks who like nothing more than spending a beautiful summer day inside watching TV.

Sherman writes in his column that there were 500,000 Extra Innings subscribers last year. Attendance at Major League games last year was about 74 million. Figure out the ratio of subscribers to attendees, and then try to convince me that fans of average passion for baseball are beating down the doors to sign up for the package so their kids will never again miss a Padres game.

And the World Series night game argument doesn’t fly, either. Yeah, it’s a drag that all the games are at night. But if they play those Monday through Friday games during the day, those poor children Sherman is so worried about because they can’t watch the games at night still won’t be able to watch the games.

Where I live, October is a school month. And despite the nostalgic blather of the media, most teachers don’t take too kindly to the kids sneaking radios into the class so they can hear the game.

Better Them Than Us

So…the Orioles scored themselves another year of Corey Patterson for a cool $4.3 million.

That’s about $200K for each of his 2006 walks.

Or, to put it another way, the O’s just dropped star money on a guy who posted an OBP over .320 in only two of the season’s six months. And those two months represent 133 of Patterson’s 463 season ABs.

But I’m sure the O’s have a good reason for what they’re doing. Right?

His 45 stolen bases -- on 54 attempts -- was tied for the third in the AL and was the third-highest single-season total in Orioles history. He had steals in nine straight games from May 25-June 7, the longest streak in the majors since Rickey Henderson had a similar nine-game run in 1986.

In addition, he did not ground into a double play in 499 plate appearances. That was the sixth-highest total without a GIDP over the last 73 seasons, according to STATS, Inc.

That explains it, I guess.

I’ve always been a Patterson fan, and I sincerely hope that he can build some semblance of a Major League career for himself. But despite the oohs and aahs over his alleged breakout season last year, I don’t see any signs of progress. I’m just glad it’s the Orioles pinning their hopes on him instead of my heroes…

Compare and Contrast

Is the Chicago Tribune biased? This week’s news provides us an easy opportunity to find out.

Both the Cubs and the White Sox…errr…I mean, White Sox and Cubs (don’t want to show any bias) both raised their ticket prices. How would the stalwarts at the Tower report these earth-shattering events?

Here are the opening paragraphs of both stories. See if you can detect any difference in tone or style that might indicate one team is held in higher esteem than the other.

First, Sully’s report on the Cubs:

It was so much simpler 25 years ago, when almost every Cubs game aired on WGN-TV, a bleacher seat cost $2 and the Cubs were coming off a season in which they finished with the worst record in the National League.

With a new owner, Tribune Co., a combustible broadcast duo in Harry Caray and Milo Hamilton, and a new, no-nonsense manager in Lee Elia, 1982 was billed as the start of a new era: "Building a New Tradition."

To buy tickets in advance, you would drive to Wrigley Field and buy them, or just send a check or money order to the ballpark. If you had a group of 25 or more, you could order tickets by phone. Bleacher tickets and general admission seats, of course, were available only on the day of the game, and tickets ranged from $2 for the bleachers or general admission for children 13 or younger to $6.50 for a box seat.

Fast-forward to the "Buying a New Tradition" era of interim President John McDonough.

Once again trying to right themselves after a disastrous season, the Cubs currently have 16 different ticket designations with a three-tiered pricing system. Prices range from $8 for an upper-deck reserved outfield seat for one of the seven "value" dates in April and September to $255 for a premium dugout box for one of the 46 "prime" dates from April through August.

As expected, the Cubs announced Tuesday a $2 across-the-board increase in prices for the majority of individual tickets, which go on sale at Wrigley at 8 a.m. Feb. 23, and through phone and Internet outlets at 10 a.m. that day. Ticket prices for the two premium seating areas—the bullpen boxes and the dugout boxes—rose $5. The Cubs have yet to announce when those and the bleacher boxes (up $2) will go on sale.

And now Mark Gonzalez’ hatchet job on the Sox:

After winning the 2005 World Series, the White Sox were one of the hottest tickets in the majors in 2006.

But it will cost a few dollars more in 2007 to see what could be the Mark Buehrle/ Jermaine Dye farewell season, especially if you want to sit close at U.S. Cellular Field.

Individual tickets, which go on sale to the general public on Feb. 16, will increase from $2 in the upper deck sections to $3 in the lower box sections.

The increase comes one year after the Sox won 90 games but finished third in the competitive American League Central. Despite falling short of the postseason, the Sox drew a franchise-record 2,957,411 fans.

They ranked third in the league in home attendance—their highest finish since 1993 when they won the AL West.The Sox also set a franchise record with 52 sellouts, including 22 consecutive full houses from July 5-Aug. 17. The Sox drew 75 home crowds of 30,000 or larger.

It’s a tough call, I know.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

The Stick Didn't Work, So Let's Try the Carrot

The Florida Marlins haven't had any luck in their quest to get a shiny new taxpayer-funded stadium. So after years of threats and tantrums, they've decided to change their strategy.

Here's how team president David Samson describes it:

It's always nice that the governor has a similar view of economic development as we do. And when he goes public saying he believes that sports teams spur economic development, we say we agree, and we're hoping the legislature does too.

Ah, yes -- the economic development card! That old chestnut! Come on, Florida -- just think of all that extra tax revenue and business that will be driven by a new yard for the Marlins! Don't you want to get in on the ground floor?

I would've thought that our experiences with new taxpayer-funded ballparks over the last twenty years would have taugbt us that these claims are (let us say) overstated, at best? But I guess there's one born every minute. Or perhaps that's what the Marlins are hoping...

There's no word of this over at Field of Schemes. But I'll be watching for more news.

One more thing: the AP report notes that Baseless Bob DuPuy (MLB's COO) said last month that scoring a new park for the Marlins was MLB's top offseason priority.

I'm sure that will come as a surprise to the anti-steroid crowd. If MLB is tring to get the Marlins a new home, who will think of the children?

More Moments of Silence

Many thanks to Jim for remembering Molly Ivins this week. I've been a fan for years, and the Tribune Op-Ed page is a darker place without her.

Along the same line of thought, we should also remember some members of the baseball fraternity who have moved beyond the mortal plane recently:

Milwaukee Braves World Series hero Lew Burdette

Steve Barber, the Orioles' first 20 game winner

Max Lanier, WWII-era Cardinals starting pitcher

Ray Berres, second-oldest Major Leaguer

Art Fowler, pitching coach for the "Bronx Zoo" Yankees

Our sincere sympathies to the families and friends of these men.

Should He Stay or Should He Go?

Spring training can't come soon enough. I say that every year, but in these dog days of February, I really, really mean it.

Especially since we're reduced to scraping the bottom of the barrel for any semblance of baseball news. And this year we've perhaps scraped right through the barrel and have dug through a considerably amount of topsoil, since the amateur psychologists are now worried about whether or not Alex Rodriguez will opt out of his quater-of-a-billion dollar contract after this season.

In typical fashion, the AP's Ronald Blum painted Rodriguez in an unflattering way right in the lead of his story:

Alex Rodriguez sidestepped whether he plans to opt out of his record contract with the New York Yankees and become a free agent following this season.

J.D. Drew, like A-Rod a client of agent Scott Boras, used an opt-out clause to leave the Los Angeles Dodgers for a $70 million, five-year contract with the Boston Red Sox.

During a promotional appearance Tuesday, Rodriguez was asked what he thought about Drew's decision.

"I didn't follow the J.D. Drew situation," Rodriguez said. "My situation and my only goal is to win a world championship, and I'm going to take it day to day. And that's about it."

Those are the first four paragraphs of Blum's story. Rodriguez is asked about J.D. Drew's choice to opt out of his contract. Rodriguez replies that he didn't follow the story, because he's worried about taking care of his own business.

How does one infer from that that Rodgriguez is "sidestepping" questions about his plans to opt out of his contract? Nobody asked him if he was planning to opt out. Is is possible to "sidestep" a question that you haven't been asked?

And nowhere else in the article does Rodriguez say anything about his contract. He talks about winning the World Series and how much he's looking forward to this season. His agent blathers on about how Rodriguez might get more money if he were a free agent in this market. But his agent is Scott Boras, who is very good at both blathering and getting his clients scads of money in the free agent market, so that is to be expected.

But nothing of the sort is attributed to Rodriguez. This is sidestepping?

That verb ("sidestepped") is fraught with implication. It implies that Rodriguez is somehow being dishonest by not disclosing his plans for 2008.

But that's how the media on A-Rod watch rolls. They've developed a pleasing script about an emotionally fragile Alex Rodriguez, desperately unhappy in New York. It's easy to milk that script for a few more weeks by implying that Rodriguez is looking to escape.

It works even if Rodriguez doesn't actually say anything about leaving New York. But that's the nature of a script -- it puts words in people's mouths.

The High Cost of Living

Shorter Sully: The Cubs raised the price of a bleacher seat! Ohmigod! Stuff costs more than it did in 1982!

Great Lion of Zion, what an idiot.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Simansium Update

Back in December I wrote a few hundred words on my first experience with Total Baseball by Simnasium, the online simulation baseball game using players from throughout the game's history. Back then I promised (or threatened) more to follow the next day, but being the lazy hack that I am, I'm just getting around to it now. Since it's been two months, here's an update on the Mud City Manglers.

Turns out I was right when I predicted that I would blitz the league. Helped by the fact that no one in my division could break .500, the Manglers took the division pennant by a whopping 14 game margin. Replacing Jim Northrup in right field with Wahoo Sam (no relation to Yosemite Sam) Crawford helped the offense, while my pitching was the league's best. If the league had a Cy Young award, Robin Roberts would win it. Roberts went 21-14 with a 2.56 ERA in 312 1/3 innings, all league leading marks. Goose Gossage made the $8 million I spent on him worthwhile, saving a league-leading 31 games with a 1.79 ERA.

The Manglers walked through the first round of the playoffs, winning four games to one. Roberts was big again, winning games one and five. Sadly, I can't start him again until game two of the World Series.

Final Mud City Manglers Batting Stats:

Hinton, Rich 3 1 1 1 0 1 0 0 0 0 1.000 1.000 3.000
Nelson, Gene 16 3 0 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 .333 .333 .333
Crawford, Sam 122 472 62 150 30 11 7 76 10 8 .318 .365 .472
Hartsel, Topsy 154 604 120 173 27 8 12 48 32 21 .286 .392 .417
Jackson, Sonny 2 7 1 2 0 0 0 0 1 0 .286 .286 .286
Salazar, Luis 71 96 11 27 4 1 2 12 1 2 .281 .324 .406
Lundy, Dick 162 669 77 187 23 9 3 86 5 15 .280 .315 .354
Douglass, Klondike 65 121 16 33 2 0 1 19 0 0 .273 .323 .314
Donaldson, John 77 135 14 36 12 0 1 12 0 0 .267 .303 .378
Murray, Eddie 158 586 72 151 22 4 22 103 1 4 .258 .333 .422
Boston, Daryl 10 35 5 9 1 1 0 3 0 0 .257 .333 .343
Kreevich, Mike 147 530 56 136 28 5 4 54 7 4 .257 .297 .351
Kreuter, Chad 107 275 36 69 12 3 5 37 0 0 .251 .334 .371
Fisher, Eddie 39 4 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .250 .250 .250
Thomas, Derrel 75 173 20 43 6 3 0 9 7 2 .249 .340 .318
Oliver, Gene 14 33 4 8 1 0 1 4 0 0 .242 .419 .364
McAuliffe, Dick 131 442 73 107 20 10 5 54 3 1 .242 .350 .367
Haselman, Bill 50 136 8 32 9 1 0 17 0 0 .235 .306 .316
Lahoud, Joe 64 77 8 18 2 2 0 5 0 0 .234 .302 .312
Rader, Doug 155 548 68 127 32 8 12 62 4 1 .232 .318 .385
Stanton, Leroy 10 27 3 6 1 0 0 2 0 0 .222 .276 .259
Carman, Don 32 21 2 4 1 0 0 2 0 0 .190 .182 .238
Northrup, Jim 24 79 1 15 3 1 0 6 0 0 .190 .226 .253
Earnshaw, George 31 74 6 14 1 1 0 9 0 0 .189 .184 .230
Vollmer, Clyde 61 110 12 20 1 2 3 8 0 0 .182 .224 .309
Freitas, Tony 16 34 2 6 1 0 0 3 0 0 .176 .293 .206
Roberts, Robin 41 97 4 12 3 1 0 13 0 0 .124 .171 .175
Dismukes, Dizzy 28 68 6 8 1 0 0 4 0 0 .118 .143 .132
Lyons, Steve 12 9 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .111 .111 .111
Nixon, Russ 4 9 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .111 .111 .111
Cisco, Galen 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000
Dayley, Ken 31 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000
Gossage, Rich 72 8 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000
Patterson, Bob 12 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000
Hickerson, Bryan 5 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000
Wells, Bob 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000
Drews, Karl 26 8 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .111 .000

Final Mud City Manglers Pitching Stats:

Gossage, Rich 5 5 1.79 72 0 0 31 90.2 69 20 18 33 101 7
Roberts, Robin 21 14 2.56 41 41 13 0 312.1 285 102 89 68 190 17
Fisher, Eddie 3 3 2.63 39 0 0 1 51.1 48 16 15 14 24 3
Dismukes, Dizzy 13 8 2.80 28 28 7 0 205.2 217 73 64 61 81 10
Freitas, Tony 8 6 2.88 16 16 3 0 109.1 119 44 35 33 59 2
Donaldson, John 16 11 3.41 35 35 9 0 250.2 224 110 95 101 191 13
Patterson, Bob 1 1 3.65 12 0 0 0 12.1 14 5 5 1 8 2
Earnshaw, George 12 12 3.91 31 31 4 0 202.2 207 99 88 81 134 15
Carman, Don 4 2 4.61 32 9 0 0 93.2 89 51 48 45 59 12
Hinton, Rich 0 0 4.91 3 0 0 0 7.1 8 4 4 2 5 2
Drews, Karl 2 0 5.26 26 2 1 0 53 59 37 31 24 38 6
Dayley, Ken 5 4 6.09 31 0 0 1 34 35 25 23 20 23 1
Hickerson, Bryan 0 1 7.36 5 0 0 1 7.1 14 6 6 3 9 3
Nelson, Gene 2 2 7.94 16 0 0 0 17 23 17 15 12 5 0
Cisco, Galen 1 0 7.94 2 0 0 0 5.2 3 5 5 3 1 0
Wells, Bob 0 0 9.00 2 0 0 0 2 1 2 2 1 1 1

Lone Star Fallen

Before I get back to writing baseball, I want to talk about someone more important in the scheme of things than Randy Johnson or Bud Selig or Tony Womack.

We lost my second favorite Texas girl last week. Molly Ivins was a treasure and an inspiration. From her writing and from the record of her wonderful life, one gets the feeling that she was never afraid of anything or anyone, from the Bush Crime Family to the editors of the New York Times to the cancer that failed twice to kill her and had to come back a third time to finish the job. Even as her body was breaking down, she continued writing, dictating her final two columns. Friends often described her as a force of nature, and she wasn't letting something like impending death slow her down.

She left us with some final words that we should never forget. Her last column, published on January 11, ended with this paragraph:

"We are the people who run this country. We are the deciders. And every single day, every single one of us needs to step outside and take some action to help stop this war. Raise hell. Think of something to make the ridiculous look ridiculous. Make our troops know we're for them and trying to get them out of there. Hit the streets to protest Bush's proposed surge. If you can, go to the peace march in Washington on Jan. 27. We need people in the streets, banging pots and pans and demanding, "Stop it, now!"

Some might say that we need Molly Ivins now more than ever. What we really need is for all of us to be more like Molly Ivins.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Can He Really Be This Dense?

A few big howlers in Dr. Phil's column today...

First, here's his expert opinion on some of Cleveland's bright young things:
There are terrific young players almost everywhere you look in Cleveland, but Jhonny Peralta, Andy Marte, Ryan Garko and even switch-hitting catcher Victor Martinez haven't developed the consistency that marked Cleveland's great teams in the 1990s.

Fair comment about Martinez. And maybe even Peralta (even though he's only been a big-league starter for two years). But the other guys?

For the record, Marte has 244 plate appearances in the Major Leagues. Garko has 210.

And yet Dr. Phil finds ample cause to crack on them for their lack of consistency! The hell???

But Dr. Phil has access to the clubhouses, press box, and a Hall of Fame ballot. So I guess that means he knows what he's talking about. Two hundred-odd PA's are more than enough time for a player to show what he can do.

Moving on, here's how Dr. Phil describes the state of two team's outfields. Team 1:

Manager Ned Yost benched him last year. [Geoff] Jenkins, once the cornerstone in Milwaukee, came back to hit .409 with seven homers in September but still was viewed as expendable in a crowded outfield that has Bill Hall in center, Corey Hart in right and Kevin Mench, Brady Clark, Gabe Gross and Tony Gwynn Jr. in the left-field picture with Jenkins.

And Team 2:

Somebody is going to have to explain how the Cubs have room for Jacque Jones, Cliff Floyd and Daryle Ward on the same roster.

Great googaly moogaly. Someone is going to have give Dr. Phil a nudge during those boring, long-winded press conferences down in the cramped, overheated Wrigley press room.

Both Hendry and Piniella have talked about Floyd platooning in left with Matty Murton. Ward was brought in to waste...errr...take Mabry's pinch-hitter/backup 1B role. And God only knows if Jones will break camp with us. Besides, the point will be moot come May when Floyd gets hurt again.

The Brew Crew has seven outfielders and in Dr. Phil's world the Milwaukee OF is merely "crowded."

The Cubs bring in a bench guy and have two outfielders who probably would make a decent platoon combo. And Dr. Phil is demanding explanations as to how they can possible carry all those bodies?

Just when you think Dr. Phil can't top himself, he ends his column with this:

The Cubs should go to camp with at least 15 solid choices for the 12 jobs on the pitching staff. The doesn't count anyone from the group of prospects that includes Sean Gallagher, Carlos Marmol, Angel Guzman, Juan Mateo, Jae Kuk Ryu, Clay Rapada and Rocky Cherry. Ex-manager Dusty Baker never was blessed with this much depth.

Fifteen pitchers and seven prospects for 12 roster spots? That's "depth."

But carrying Jones, Floyd, and Ward? That's too much for Dr. Phil to wrap his brain around. Somebody "explain" to him how the Cubs can do that!

Can he really be that dense? Can he seriously take players with 200 career plate appearances to task for inconsistency? Can he seriously not understand how a team might want an extra outfielder and first baseman?

If I told you that there were baseball "experts" puzzled by these things, you'd never believe me. You'd think I was making it up, because there's no way any rational person can be this stupid.