Jim & Bob's Palatial Baseball Blog

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Memo to Brewer Fan

Boo hoo -- you had me, then you lost me...

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Friday, March 30, 2007

Bittersweet Symphony

My definition of the time when you are extremely proud of someone at the same time they are making you rip your hair out?

When your girlfriend picks FOUR DIFFERENT PLAYERS in your fantasy baseball draft that you were waiting to grab with your own next pick.

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It Happens Every Spring

Right about this time every year we get several guys just like this, shocked and appalled that they are deemed as unneeded by management.

Dude, try to remember that you're Seth McClung. You don't exactly have a track record of success.

Oh, and that thing growing between your lower lip and the tip of your chin isn't doing you any favors, either.

Rick Morrissey Spills the Beans

Good grief -- what's gotten into the Trib's columnists lately? First, Dr. Phil admits he may have been wrong. And now Rick Morrissey confirms two things I've long suspected.

His column today was on the futility of making pre-season predictions. So loathe was Morrissey to subject himself to ridicule for his usual inane stabs in the dark that he pressed his thirteen year old son into service to make them for him.

Why offer his son as a sacrifice to the eds? He explains thusly:

We [columnists] are no more experts than the next guy, although perhaps we're a little more informed. If we were any good, we would be in Las Vegas, wearing velour warmup suits, adjusting the gold chains on our open collars and swimming in the dough.

Long-time readers know that this is one of the central tenents of the Palatial Baseball Blog: just because a guy (or gal) is spouting off about baseball on TV or in print doesn't make him any smarter than me, you, or the guy in the right-field bleachers.

Thanks to Rick for confirming.

But then he drops this bomb, which really made my week:

I give my son the list of categories the editors have thrust upon us. He has to pick the winners of each division in both leagues, as well as wild-card teams, league champions, World Series champion, most valuable players, Cy Young winners, rookies of the year, managers of the year and batting champions.

I have one rule for him: Don't pick the Cubs. He wants to, with all his heart, but I tell him it's a sucker's bet. You want to be a rube, a hayseed, a bumpkin when you grow up? No. Why watch yourself bleed in print, son? I don't care how good the Cubs' lineup is or how weak the National League Central is. So he doesn't.

He absolutely shocks me by picking the White Sox to win the AL Central. We'll never know the anguish this caused him, but I take my hat off to him for trying to be objective, even though he's going to get killed, just killed, by his Sox-loving friends for it.

Is the Chicago Tribune biased? Yes, and it's as plain as day in Morrissey's column.

If you like the Cubs, and think they'll do well: you're a sucker, a rube, a hayseed, a bumpkin.

If you're down with the White Sox and predict big things for them: saints be praised for your objectivity!

I've long suspected that the eds at the Tower play Cub Fans for rubes every chance they get. This time, they don't even bother to pretend that they're not. By rushing Morrissey's scribbling to print, they endorse the opinion. Thanks for confirming, fellas...

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Thursday, March 29, 2007

Shorter Baron Budhausen

With all the competitive balance we've got nowadays, everything's hunky-dory for MLB. And all the revenue-sharing has money pouring into the coffers of teams like the Twins, Expos, and Marlins. But despite of all that revenue-sharing money, there's no way those teams can survive without taxpayer-funded stadiums.

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Shorter Mike Downey

I was so damned smart last year when I said the Cubs would finish last that there's no reason to think that my prediction of fourth place finishes for both the White Sox and Cubs is a complete load.

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Oh to Be in Des Moines, Now That April's There

In a move that shocked nobody, the Cubs sent Mark Prior back down to Iowa of the Pacific Coast League to get his act together. So now instead the usual snarky debates over when Prior will get hurt, we can now have snarky debates over What It All Means.

Here's what I think it means: the Cubs' front office and coaching staff got together and decided that Prior wasn't one of the twelve best pitchers in camp. Ironically, he must not be hurt enough to hit the DL (not even with an inflamed ERA), so their choices narrowed down to: (1) carry him on the Major League roster and hope he doesn't flush away too many games before he rights the ship (if I may mix a somewhat disturbing metaphor), (2) punt him back to Des Moines and let him work out his problems in a more low-pressure environment than Wrigley Field, or (3) wash their hands of him and ditch him (with little chance of getting anything more in return than a box of baseballs, given how low Prior's stock is right now).

Given what I've heard from the Chicago punditocracy and the Cubs message boards, a dismayingly large number of fans and "experts" would be more than happy to go with option (3). I don't agree with that sentiment quite yet; in for a penny, in for a pound, as they say.

Jim and I had a nice chat about this situation, and he mentioned that someone on a Reds broadcast he was watching (and correct me if I'm wrong, buddy) said that the Cubs would get rid of Prior because he wasn't "Lou Piniella's kind of player."

I'm not sure if that means that Lou's kind of player is a guy who gets people out, or if it was an oblique reference to what must be the second-most-speculated-about psyche in the game today. The Trib has been questioning Prior's toughness for the last two years. And I think it's a safe bet that those questions will come up again after his rather defensive responses at this press gaggle.

I'm not a mind reader, so I don't know if Prior's too wussy to pitch through the pain. And I'm not Bill Frist, so I can't determine if Prior's problems stem from physical injury.

But I am a Cub Fan with a slight tilt towards Zen, and that means I'll do what I always do: wait for events to unfold, and hope for the best. In for a penny, indeed...


Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Earth To Rocket: Go To Hell

Roger Clemens, whose selfishness pretty much cost the Houston Astros a division title in 2006, won't come back until he decides which team has the best chance to win the World Series.

In a rational world, 30 major league teams would tell him to go pound sand. In this world, someone will enable his little game and sign him on for the stretch run.

One wonders what the reaction of the media and fandom would be if it were Barry Bonds pulling this childish act?

Where's Johnny Cochran When You Need Him?

Unlike O.J., another former athlete didn't get away with it.

I'm not sure what the ideal sentence is for attacking people with a machete and pouring gasoline over them, but 14 years sounds reasonable to me.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

New Math

Here's a nugget of joy from Dr. Phil:
MLB accepted a seven-year, $700 million deal with DirecTV seemingly without considering that it had in effect taken access to the game away from potentially millions of its most passionate fans—specifically, the transplants who have moved away from their hometowns but still live and die with their teams. [emphasis mine]

Millions of fans? That's funny -- I see in a sidebar right next to Dr. Phil's article that there were a total of 500,000 subscribers to Extra Innings last year.

"Potentially" is one of those weasel words that writers like to use in order to puff up their arguments. And before you ask, yes, I will cop to using similar tactics in my own work. It's an old, useful trick.

But it's also weaselly. Dr. Phil will rush to tell you that the DirecTV deal will mean that millions of people who may or may not want the package will not be able to get Extra Innings. You have to read the Trib sidebar to see that 230,000 subscribers got their baseball fix with cable or the Dish Network. There's nothing potential about that lot. They're the folks who will be left out, unless they change their providers.

230,00 is a pretty big number. But apparently not big or impressive enough for some...

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More Sutcliffe

The Red Baron also jumped on the bandwagon of the "Japanese players aren't rookies" crowd.

"These guys aren't rookies...Alex Gordon, that's a rookie. They won the World Baseball Classic, Team Japan. That's legit, that's big league baseball over there."

I love Japanese baseball and mean no disrespect, but let's get something straight. The Japanese major leagues are approximate to AAA baseball in the US, perhaps a bit higher. Because a Matsuzaka or an Ichiro Suzuki graduates from them to become an outstanding major league player does not mean that the Japanese leagues are equal in talent or depth to the American majors. Leon Lee was a star in Japan. So were Randy Bass, and Tuffy Rhodes. I could go on for a while listing guys who had very little impact in the majors who has solid careers in Japan. They were AAA or AAAA players, but marginal major leaguers.

There is a reason why Japanese stars come here, and Albert Pujols and Derek Jeter don't go there. The competition here is the best that there is.

Daisuke Matsuzaka will be playing in his first year in the major leagues. That makes him a rookie, just like Alex Gordon.

Trees, Meet The Forest

Reason #3,618 why players and former players should not be involved in Hall of Fame voting:

Watching the Red Sox/Reds game yesterday (the one in which Daisuki Matsuzaka pitched five no-hit innings), Rick Sutcliffe, who can't get through nine innings without telling a Mark Grace story, called Grace "someone who might be in the Hall of Fame someday."

Ron Santo and Minnie Minoso can't get in, but Sutcliffe is ready to enshrine Mark Grace. Are we electing the best baseball players of all time, or are we choosing a prom king?

Monday, March 26, 2007

Just Imagine that Cubs-Expos Tilt in HD!

If you've been longing for Baron Budhausen to get off his keister and finally name an Official High-Definition Television of Major League Baseball, your prayers have been answered. At least for the DirecTV customers...

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This Is What Four Years in J-School Gets You

Sully checks in with this news flash:

It’s easier to hit in the warmth and sunshine of Arizona in March than the bitter cold and biting winds of Wrigley Field in April.

No kidding.

Ironically, there was a blurb last week that mentioned that while the Cubs’ team ERA was tenth in the NL, it was best among the NL teams that trained in Arizona. And since it was easier to hit in Arizona than Florida, the Cubs’ staff was doing OK. The blurb then went on to say that the Cubs offense had opened a can of whoop-ass lately, and weren’t things just rosy?

I wish I could find a link to it, but I can’t, so please take my word for it.

But anyone with the critical thinking abilities of a middle school student should be able to see the disconnect in that statement. You can say that the Cubs’ ERA is okee-dokee because it’s so damned easy to hit in Arizona. But that makes it a bit difficult to bask in the warming glow of the Cubs’ offense glowing warmth.

If Sully wanted to talk about spring training stats, he could write about how nobody gives a rat’s hinder about them after about April 10 instead of pestering A-Ram about how he’s going to adapt to the artic conditions in Chicago.

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Will Wonders Ever Cease?

I could hardly believe my eyes this morning when I looked at the front page of the Tribune’s sports section – Dr. Phil was there in all his newsprint glory, allowing that perhaps the decision to trade Brandon McCarthy for John Danks didn’t suck as bad as he originally thought back in December.

How about that – a member of baseball’s punditocracy actually admitting that he was wrong about something. I can only figure that Danks’ stellar turn in the Cactus League has Dr. Phil dreaming of another U.S. Cellular Field World Series – and it would really hurt his book deal if he kept alienating the guys who held the keys to his clubhouse access.

I kid, of course. I’m sure Dr. Phil cares more for reporting the truth than access and book deals.

Annnnyyyywaaaaayyy…this one paragraph intrigued me more than the rest of Dr. Phil’s bit:

This spring I've asked executives and scouts from other organizations how they see McCarthy, and the consensus is that he looks like a middle- or even a back-of-the-rotation guy, not the kind of guy you build a rotation around.

Perhaps I’m just too curious, but I wonder who those executives and scouts are. I mean, last winter, when Dr. Phil was wailing and gnashing his teeth over the trade, McCarthy was the bee’s knees. There were plenty of executives and scouts pimping him as the future savior of the White Sox rotation then.

So what’s changed? Are these guys throwing out the book on McCarthy based on three weeks of spring training? Could they have just been that wrong about him to begin with?

I understand the concept of There’s No Such Thing As A Pitching Prospect. But this strikes me as borderline ridiculous. If all it takes to lose your prospect status is a handful of crummy outings in Arizona in March, then maybe Billy Beane wasn’t too far off base in Moneyball.

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Give a Hoot – Read!

Contrary to popular belief, I do take an interest in the world outside of baseball. And when I want to catch up on that world, there’s nothing like settling down with The New Yorker.

But there’s nothing quite like settling down with The New Yorker and discovering that the worlds inside and outside baseball intersect in unexpected ways. Like in the 19 March 2007 issue, which includes a profile of attorney Harley Lewin by staff writer Larissa MacFarquhar (no link, sorry – the folks at The New Yorker don’t keep archives on line).

Lewin is a lawyer specializing in copyright infringement. If you’ve ever bought a “Gucci” purse off the back of a truck on Canal Street in New York, Lewin is probably on the trail of the guy who’s supplying goods to the truck driver.

It’s an interesting read, made even more so by its tangential connection to the world of baseball:

A few years later, Reebok told Harley that it was having sneaker problems down at the border. Counterfeit shoes had been showing up all over Arizona and Texas and Southern California and that company had decided the problem was Mexico. “Conventional wisdom was you didn’t go near Mexico,” Harley says. “It was dangerous, it was drugs, it was corruption. I, of course, didn’t know that.” After some nosing around, he figured out that something like half the counterfeit shoes in Mexico could be traced to a guy named Byron McLaughlin, who lived just over the border in a suburb of San Diego. Byron McLaughlin had been a major-league baseball player in the seventies and early eighties—he had pitched for the Seattle Mariners – but in the mid-eighties his career foundered and he started playing in the Mexican leagues. He made a deal with a couple of Korean companies to manufacture cheap counterfeit sneakers – Reebok, Converse, Vans, Adidas – for the Mexican market. By the time Harley caught up with him, his business was booming: in a good month he would sell around eighty thousand pairs of sneakers for about three-quarters of a million dollars. (As Footwear News reported, McLaughlin pleaded guilty to money-laundering charges but fled the country before sentencing and is believed to be living near Cannes).

Note to Mariner Fans visiting today – now you know why ol’ Byron hasn’t shown up for any old-timers days lately…

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Sunday, March 25, 2007

I'm Here All Week, Folks, Enjoy The Buffet!

My brother passed this little joke along to me, I thought I'd share it with the class:

Moe and Joe are two gentlemen in their 90's. They've been lifelong friends; grew up together playing baseball in the sandlots and later together in the minor leagues. They love the game; it's always been their favorite thing in life.

Sadly, the day comes when Joe is on his deathbed. Moe visits him, and asks, "Joe, promise me one thing. When you get to heaven, come back and tell me if there is baseball there."

Joe looks up at him through his half-opened eyes and tells him, "Sure, Moe, anything for you. If there is a way, I will do it."

Joe passes on the next day. A couple of nights after the burial, Moe is awaked by a flash of light and the sound of a voice:

"Moe. Moe, wake up!"

"Who's there?"

"Moe, it's me, Joe!"

"Can't be...Joe's dead."

"Moe, wake up. It's me, Joe. You asked me to come back and tell you if there is baseball in heaven."

"Joe, my god, it really is you! How wonderful to hear your voice again! Tell me, is there baseball in heaven? You are in heaven, right?"

"Moe, you idiot, of course I'm in heaven. And I've got some good news and some bad news. The good news is that not only is there baseball, it's the greatest baseball ever played. All of our old buddies are here, too. It's always spring and never rains or snows. We can play all night and all day and never get tired."

"Joe, that's incredible! It's better than my wildest dreams! So, what bad news could you possibly have?"

"You're pitching Tuesday."

(Rim shot, and good night, everyone! You're a great crowd!)

Bearing the Bruntlett of the Decision

Came across this while skimming the news on MLB.com today. It interested me for a couple of reasons.

First, I immediately remembered this pearl of wisdom from Astros manager Phil Garner. Was that only ten short months ago? And now Garner can't find room on his roster for his "best player?"

Of course, the Astros picked up Mark Loretta over the winter to take care of the utility infielder/guy that goes in after Adam Everett is pinch-hit for role. That's a position which Loretta is more than qualified to fill. And Chris Burke, while listed as an outfielder, is available to run in at second base as well.

But it still seems odd that Garner can't find a spot for his "best player." Unless, of course, the quote from last May was just an example of a manager blowing smoke.

Here's where it all becomes clear: The Astros can't make a decision about which marginal second-liners should fill out the pitching staff, so let's keep them all!

The Astros can pretend they're considering opening the season with only 11 pitchers, but seeing that they have yet to determine who will win the fourth and fifth spots, it would be foolish to assume that they won't need an extra hand in the bullpen.

So if it comes down to keeping Bruntlett on the team or carrying a 12th pitcher, Bruntlett is clearly the odd man out. And since the only time the Astros carry three catchers is when rosters expand in September, Munson, who has caught considerably fewer games than front-runner Humberto Quintero, is probably ticketed for Triple-A Round Rock.


This is an insane bit of roster construction. The seventh hitter in the Houston lineup will be Everett, who had a .290 on-base percentage with a .352 slugging average last year. Batting eighth will be Brad Ausmus, who somehow remains in the game despite a .285 slugging average in 2006. Ninth is the pitcher. So, in any game in which the Astros are behind late, they really need three pinch hitters, plus two guys to replace Everett and Ausmus in the lineup. So, the best thing to do is to saddle yourself with a five-man bench, including another catcher (Humberto Quintero) who can't hit, either?

In Munson's case, contract status has a lot to do with why he probably won't make the team. As a non-roster invitee, the club can send him to the Minor Leagues without risking losing him. Quintero is out of options, so if the Astros wanted to send him to Round Rock, he'd have to first pass through waivers.

Also, Munson made the team last year because the Astros were relatively desperate for offense. This year's revamped lineup will allow manager Phil Garner to rely more on defense at the catcher position.

--mlb.com (again)

Yeah, because who needs offense out of the bottom third of your batting order? Hmmm...pennant winning teams, perhaps?

Oh, and who the hell cares if Humberto Quintero has to pass through waivers? Or even if you lose him? There is no shortage of guys like him available for the price of a phone call.

Brewers and Cubs, right down to the wire in the NL Central this year. The Astros won't be a real factor. Not with this kind of thinking.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

$200 Million For This? Where's Costanza?

If there is a God, he must really like me.

So let me get this straight, Joe Torre. You'd rather open the season with a bum on the mound than adjust Mike Mussina's spring training schedule. That's the kind of thinking I like in a Yankees manager.

Then there is this. The idea of the New York Yankees starting Doug Mientiewicz at first base is pretty hilarious to begin with, but the real comedy gem is the idea of not penalizing Andy Phillips for missing part of the spring. One would think that this kind of career performance would be more than enough of a penalty, but Joe sure has his favorites.

Hope continues to build in Boston, Toronto, Baltimore, and Tampa.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Congratulations, Baron Budhausen

This just in.

Well done, Baron! All those years, of lying, deceiving, bullying, shakedowns, and looking the other way have finally paid off!

It must have been that "This Time It Counts!" thing that tipped the scales for you.


I Didn't Think God Liked Me This Much...

The Super Genius gets taken to the slam on DUI charges. Pinch me -- I must be dreamin'!

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Hard-Hitting Reporting

Once again, Sully proves that the key to informative, insightful reporting is that all-important j-school degree:

MESA, Ariz. -- HoHoKam Park was all abuzz Wednesday for Sammy Sosa's long-awaited return, making it feel more like a family reunion than a Cactus League game.

Sosa heard more cheers than boos from the crowd of 11,674 when he stepped up to the plate for the first time against Jason Marquis. He seemed grateful to be received like a long-lost friend in his first trip back since his walkout at the end of the 2004 season.

"It was very nice," said Sosa, who went 1-for-3. "Regardless of where I play, my heart is always going to be in Chicago, pretty much. Today was a great day. I haven't played against [the Cubs] in years. … Everything came out great."

His profs must be so damned proud...

Addendum: Yesterday's spring training game featured homers by Jacque Jones, three RBIs from Derrek Lee, a runner count down at the plate by Angel Pagan, and a walk-off grand slam by Daryle Ward. And yet, the copy eds at the Tower chose this headline: Marquis gives up back-to-back HRs. Maybe if I had a j-school degree I could understand the pro-Cub bias that leads to such blatant favoritism...

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Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Golden Age

Bob, myself, and a group of our friends play fantasy baseball. Some of us started way back in 1994, and have never really stopped. Anyway, our first league draft of 2007 is this Friday night, and, like all fantasy baseball geeks with no real life, I've been spending a lot of time lately studying players.

You know what I've found? We are living in a Golden Age of talent. With college programs always improving, with the Caribbean sending player after player to the States, with more and more Japanese players coming over every year (saw Daisuke Matsuzaka for the first time today, he's everything I had heard), the game is awash in talent. I don't think I've ever seen a year in which there are so many good players at every position.

Someone like Bob Feller is always around to try and tell you that players in his day were so much better than these overpaid stiffs today. Guys like Bob Feller are wrong. These, as Paul Simon once said, are the days of miracle and wonder.

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Tuesday, March 20, 2007

The Original Big Daddy

You know who I admired when I was a young lad? Rick Reuschel. Or, as he is known to Cub Fans of a certain age, Good Ol' Number Forty-Eight.

If memory serves correctly, Reuschel had a decent sinker. I recall a lot of ground balls in his starts (he once tied the record for the most putouts by a pitcher in one inning with three). He didn't strike outs tons of batters, but he worked quick and kept the ball around the plate.

He won twenty games for a decidedly average Cub team, making him the only Cub twenty-game winner between Fergie Jenkins and Maddux.

His brother Paul saved one of his starts back in the day, making the Reuschels the first brother combo to score the win and save in a Major League game. Paul had a relatively nondescript career, but one thing I will remember about him is that he wore number 47, the jersey that Yosh Kowano affectionately refers to as "The Tent."

Rick's last appearance at Wrigley Field was a start in Game 2 of the 1989 NLCS. It was probably not the way he wanted to go out, as my heroes roughed him up en route to our only win in the series. But Cub Fans cheered him as he walked off the field. I like to think it's because they remembered what he meant to the team during those years we didn't have a lot to cheer about.

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Maybe He Should Give Santo a Call

Saw a blurb in the paper that David Wells was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. Wells says:

From the time I found out, I made changes. No more starches and sugar. No more rice, pasta, potatoes and white bread. No more fast food. I've cut out alcohol. This is a major lifestyle change. . . . I want to be around for a while.

Good call.


It's Quiet...Too Quiet

The most remarkable thing about the Cubs' spring training camp this year is that there really hasn't been anything remarkable.

Everyone was waiting for Lou Piniella to explode into paroxysms of rage. But he's kept his cool, even in the face of some less-than-stellar performances the first week of Cactus League games.

I'm actually rather enjoying the Piniella Era so far. Oh, it's early days yet, I know. But it's nice when a manager actually makes an attempt to explain why he's doing certain things. There was precious little of that when Dusty was here; he was a nice enough guy, but his unwillingness (inability?) to present a coherent rationale for his decisions made him look bad.

With Mount Lou seemingly dormant, the punditocracy turned its attention to Alfonso Soriano's OJT in center field. Alas, he has yet to be slain by a misplayed can of corn, and so the reporters were left to find other diversions.

Prior and Wood are up to their usual hijinks, and that helped fill the column inches. But the fact that they're hurt again isn't remarkable anymore, is it? It's almost a given at this point that the pair will stay in Arizona when camp breaks.

For a team coming off a 96-loss season, the roster is quite settled. The only real question is whether we'll head north with eleven or twelve pitchers. Piniella has said it depends on how long he thinks the starters will go; if he thinks they won't last deep into their starts, he'll take the extra arm to avoid overworking the bullpen crew in April.

Piniella's decision on the pitching staff (I think he'll take twelve) will affect the only other question mark -- the last guy off the bench.

Ryan "The Riot" Theriot is definitely in. As is backup catcher Hank White. Daryle Ward will probably make the team, despite his poor showing so far, if only because he fits the cliché of the veteran pinch hitter that every ball club has to have. In the unlikely event Ward doesn't make it, we could see Buck Coats make the roster. As Harry Caray would say, Coats should make the team just because he's got a great ballplayer name.

The practical upshot of all this is that Ronnie Cedeno, Felix Pie, and Angel Pagan appear to be on the fast track for another all-expense paid tour of the PCL. Pie was a longshot to make the team, especially after Hendry couldn't con anyone into taking Jacque Jones off our hands (where are you when we need you, Chuck LaMar?). And the rumor mill, while not actually buzzing, is at least muttering softly about other teams' interest in Pagan.

Not exactly compelling stuff. So what's a 24-hour news cycle to do?

Well, if you're Sully, you write puff pieces about Sammy Sosa and Adam Greenberg. Or (as Jim informed me of one source) you spread idle speculation that Rich Hill would get optioned back to Des Moines to make room for Prior. Such gab is so idle that not even this rag mentioned it.

I can't get too bent out of shape about it, though. There's nothing wrong with a bit of quiet. Especially after the self-inflicted soap operas of the last few years. If there's idle speculation, at least it's about baseball matters, and not boom boxes or players being mean to the media.


Ohio Gambler in Hall of Fame

No, it’s not that guy. But perhaps he can be a guest on the other guy’s show…


Getting Up in Manny’s Grill

Why in God’s name is this news?

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Remember, This Guy Traded For Mo Vaughn

This is the leader in the clubhouse for the award of Stupidist Column of the Spring.

I'm really not quite sure what he's saying here. "Josh Hamilton is a great story and he deserves a chance, but giving him one sends a bad message?"

Phillips is disappointed because Hamilton was selected in the Rule V draft, which requires that any player selected must stay in the majors or be offered back to the team that lost him. Phillips used to run a major league franchise; he should know what the success rate for these guys is. For every Roberto Clemente or George Bell there are hundreds of guys who wash out because the development time lost sitting on a major league bench stalls their career just as it's reaching the end of the runway.

Realistically, spending the year with the Reds is probably not a good thing for Hamilton's career. Having been out of the game as long as he's been, what he needs is to get 500 at-bats in AAA, or perhaps even AA. He needs experience, which is not what he'll get sitting around on the bench. Actually becoming a starter might be even worse, once the spring training magic wears off and he shows himself to be overmatched.

By the way, Steve, you once traded for a guy who spit in the face of an umpire to help your team try and win a pennant. What kind of message did that send?

Making a major league roster through the Rule V draft might very well turn out to be anything but a boon for Josh Hamilton, who has already lost four years of his development time. Ironically, it's the young players working all the way up through the system, the ones Phillips feels such anguish for, who have the better chance right now of having major league careers.

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Monday, March 19, 2007

There Are Guys I Root For...

Josh Hamilton has been one of the feel-good stories of the spring. Once the number one pick in the amateur draft, Hamilton has been in and mostly out of the game since 2001, first due to injuries and then due to drug abuse. On July 10, 2002, Hamilton was suspended for violating MLB's substance abuse policy. Hamilton wasn't caught using steroids; by his own admission Hamilton was using crack, cocaine, and pretty much anything else he could get his hands on.

The suspension was finally lifted last June and Hamilton played 15 games in the New York-Penn League before suffering a minor knee injury. Over the winter the Devil Rays left him off the 40-man roster and he was taken in the Rule V draft by the Cubs, who then peddled him to the Reds.

A very long shot to make the roster this season, Hamilton has hit this spring like the guy the Devil Rays thought they were drafting. As of today he's gone 19-39 (.487) with six walks. That does tend to make an impression.

I'm really pulling for Josh Hamilton. Young, scared kids put in situations that they don't understand often make mistakes, and sometimes the mistake is more than they can handle. A few years ago someone very close to me made bad decisions similar to Hamilton's and nearly destroyed his life. Thankfully, he learned in time to make better decisions and put himself back on track. Hamilton was down a long time and lost much, but he seems to be in a good place today.

...And There Are Guys I Root Against

Fat non-roster invitee Minnesota Twins pitcher Sidney Ponson had this to say about the people of the town in which he started his pathetic waste of a career:

"They booed me when I was playing there. It doesn’t bother me. Baltimore fans have no clue what baseball is all about. The old Baltimore fans over on 33rd Street [Memorial Stadium], that’s true baseball fans. [The Camden Yards fans] were booing me the last two years. It doesn’t matter. I could be pitching a good game and give up a run in the eighth and they would boo me. It doesn’t hurt my feelings."

Sidney, I'm pretty sure that the 5.30 and 6.21 ERAs over those two years weren't helping your cause. Your surly attitude didn't exactly win friends and influence people, either.

I don't think that Ponson has a clue of what baseball is about, either. He is, however, an expert on being a public hazard on the beach and assaulting the judiciary.

Surely, the Twins have better options than that.

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Friday, March 16, 2007

Surprising News

I thought Angel Berroa lost his starting gig a long time ago...

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Just Saying

I'm not an expert at the intricacies of MLB's rules and regulations. But I'm pretty sure that the applicable rule about gambling doesn't have a footnote saying gambling is okee-dokee as long as you only bet on your team to win...

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Tuesday, March 13, 2007

If It's Broke, Don't Fix It

So seems to be the Hall of Fame's attitude towards the Veterans' Committee.

Coincidentally, Jim and I were discussing the Vets' Committee earlier today. The gist of the conversation came down to whether we really need the Committee at all.

Let's face it -- most of the truly marginal Hall of Famers (if such players can be said to be marginal) were elected by the Veterans' Committee. But we don't want to turn the clock back to that era of laxness.

However, ratcheting up the standards so that nobody can get in is pointless, too.

I've heard Joe Morgan and a few others make the argument that Ron Santo and Minnie Minoso and Gil Hodges (and the others) all had their shot with the BBWAA -- and how can anyone hold the Vets' Committee at fault if those guys weren't good enough to get the nod from the writers?

That's a fair cop. But if that's the reasoning, why have the Committee at all? After all, the only guys who are on the Committee's ballot are the guys who didn't get elected by the writers. And thus (by this logic, at least) are therefore unworthy of election.

The Hall of Fame directors should make some changes to the current voting procedure, and not necessarily just for the players. There are plenty of managers, executives, umpires, and others who should be in Cooperstown that deserve better than the Vets' Committee current quadrennial shafting. I love Ron Santo, but I think it would be far more shameful if guys like Doug Harvey, Walter O'Malley, Marvin Miller, and Bill James were left out for no better reason than Bob Feller and his Crotchety Old Geezer Club didn't want to let anyone else into their little clique.


He's Dreamy!

I just couldn't believe Jeff Passan's claim about Cleveland center fielder Grady Sizemore:

To deal with it – the double-barreled attention from opposing teams on scouting reports and from the fans in Cleveland, including Grady's Ladies, a growing group of women smitten as much by Sizemore's dimples as his doubles – Sizemore retreats into his own land, Gradyville, pop. 1.

Well, forgive me my foolish, foolish doubts. And check out Grady's Ladies, which could be the best fan site devoted to a single player ever (unless Batgirl devotes a site to Johan Santana, that is...).


Strong Words, Indeed

Almost missed this in the weekend rush. Here's our old friend Baron Budhausen, taking one of his patented strong stands on steroid use in MLB:

This is a social institution. We have enormous social responsibilities. That means every single one of us. That means starting with the commissioner and everybody in this sport. And therefore when something happens in instances like this, I think we all have that responsibility. I know this from an institutional standpoint, when we have something like this that comes up, I can't hide it, nor should I, nor should anybody else.

Great googaly moogaly! I had to read that a dozen times just to parse all the various ways the Baron managed to say absolutely nothing.

But the Baron didn't spend all his time blowing wind up our keisters. Here's his take on Gary Matthews Jr., and whether or not he believes Little Sarge should say something (anything) about those pesky steroids allegations:

A statement would be very, very helpful, to say the least.

Strong words, indeed.

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Sunday, March 11, 2007

Hope It Was Worth It

So the Tigers and Red Sox decided to have a little beanball war this weekend. Complete with benches clearing and baseball-style fighting (i.e., lots of pushing and milling around)!

Tiger closer Todd Jones threw two pitches behind J.D. Drew, which is a terrific way to earn yourself an early shower. And maybe a few extra days off during the regular season.

Props to Jones for sticking up for Magglio Ordonez. But is risking a suspension over an exhibition game worth it?


Before and After

Life is funny sometimes.

Last year at this time, based on observations based only on bullpen sessions, experts like Dr. Phil and Will Carroll and Steve Stone were telling the world that Mark Prior was obviously injured. These diagnoses were based on whispers around the team and Prior’s obvious poor showing in those sessions.

This year, Prior has made it to the point where he has actually appeared in a pair of Cactus League games. In both, he has looked god-awful. It’s been so bad that even Ron Santo has noticed obvious flaws in Prior’s delivery. I love Ronnie, but let’s fact it – he’s not exactly the most insightful color analyst out there.

Last year, flaws in Prior’s delivery coupled with his poor performance led to the conclusion that he was hurt.

This year, flaws in Prior’s delivery coupled with his poor performance have led to…nothing. Every fantasy site out there lists Prior as a dangerous injury risk. But so far, I haven’t seen even a hint that Prior may be hurt. And you know the Chicago media wouldn’t bury that kind of story.

I’m no doctor, and I’m no mind reader, so I know about as much as you do, Gentle Reader. But comparing what I’ve seen of Prior with video of him back in ’03 and ’04 (yes, I am enough of a geek that I have Cub games on tape), he doesn’t even look like the same guy.

Piniella has said that Prior will pitch in minor league games, hoping that getting out of the spotlight will help Prior relax a little bit. Does he really think the media will blow off a Prior appearance just because he’s in a minor league game?

Regardless, I almost hope that there’s something physically wrong with Prior. If he’s hurt, there’s a chance he can get healed and back to form. But if there’s something psychologically wrong with him…oy. I’d hate to see Prior go all Ankiel on us…


How Scripts Are Disseminated

After yesterday’s Cub-Royals game on WGN radio, I hung around for the Sports Central gabfest. And hosts Jim Memelo and Glen Kozlowski provided a terrific example of how the media spreads around its favored scripts.

Mark Prior, of course, was brutal in his stint against Kansas City. And so the first topic for discussion was Prior’s fate. One of the guys (forgive me – they’re pretty interchangeable to me, and WGN provides no transcripts) started out by lamenting that the Cubs didn’t trade Prior to Baltimore for Tejada back in December of 2005. He did have the good grace to admit that hindsight is 20/20. But, damn, moving Prior would have saved them a lot of heartache, if only Jim Hendry had been willing to pull the trigger.

This wasn’t the first time I had heard this sentiment. But it has come up more and more often, even in casual conversations, and I fear it will become as much of a favorite as the Greg-Maddux-really-really-really-wanted-to-stay-a-Cub-in-1992 script that we all know and love.

There is nothing wrong with the way the Sports Central crew laid out the Prior-for-Tejada script. Except that the way they laid it out was completely incorrect.

One of the guys even admitted it on the air during the discussion. He said that the Orioles must have known something that the Cubs didn’t, because they didn’t want Prior.

Judging from information in the Palatial Archives, Hendry had no problem shipping Prior to Baltimore. As the Trib’s Dave van Dyck notes in this report from 30 December 2005:

The Cubs, apparently, would be willing to part with Prior for Tejada, which would save the Orioles money and give them a young starting pitcher.

The proposed deal has been altered several times to include such Cubs as Corey Patterson and Todd Walker and perhaps Rich Hill. The Cubs would want young lefty Erik Bedard back. The Orioles prefer Carlos Zambrano to Prior.

One could argue that Hendry was getting a little grabby when he asked for both Tejada and Bedard.

On the other hand, I can see why Hendry would get cold feet. Besides the names listed above, other players that Baltimore was rumored to want in the deal include Felix Pie, Ronny Cedeno, and Brian Dopriak. Patterson wound up going to the O’s in a separate deal a few weeks later, so let’s take him out of the equation. That leaves the deal as Tejada and Bedard for Zambrano, Hill, and some combination of Walker, Cedeno, Pie, and Dopriak.

Yikes. That price may be a bit steep. Even for a guy like Tejada.

At any rate…the why-didn’t-the-Cubs-trade-Prior-for-Tejada script is slowly working its way into Cub Fans consciousness, with helpful pushes by hapless radio hosts like Memelo and Kozlowski. They’ll question Hendry for not making the trade.

If you’re lucky, they’ll tell you the trade was killed by Baltimore, not the Cubs. If you’re really lucky, they’ll tell you why Hendry balked at the asking price.

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Friday, March 09, 2007

Degrees in Journamalism

I'd like to add, as someone who spent most of his high school days and three years in college studying journamalism, that there is nothing about a journalism degree that endows anyone who receives one with any kind of superpowers.

Frankly, I think so little of such a degree that I will go on record as saying that, given eight hours a day, Monday through Friday, I could teach you everything you need to know to be a beat writer in two weeks. We'd even have time for a nice lunch every day.

The Goat Riders piece reminded me of this discussion from last June. The idea that beat writers and columnists ask tough questions is, frankly, laughable. To most beat writers, the idea of a tough question is, "why didn't you walk Pujols in the seventh?" To me, tough questions would be:

"Mr. McClatchey, how is it possible for your organization to be so incompetent as to have fourteen straight losing seasons? Do you guys even have a clue what you are doing?"

"Mr. Clemens, doesn't your retirement/un-retirement act over the past few years make you look less like a great teammate and more like a selfish jerk? Particularly when you consider that it probably cost the Astros the NL Central title last year?"

"Gil Meche? Are you f-----g kidding me?"

No beat writer will actually ask any of these, because they are afraid of losing their access, that they'll be booted from the clubhouse and famous athletes will be mad and won't talk to them any more. Better to lob softballs and stay on everyone's good side. That's not journalism, that's stenography.


Now That's Some Mighty Fine Leadership

Senator John Kerry (D-MA), showing the same leadership qualities that made him such a fan favorite in the last presidential election:

I will review this deal to ensure it benefits consumers. I'm encouraged that Major League Baseball may be willing to provide broader access to their games than what was initially proposed. I will be watching closely to ensure the league works in good faith so that America's pastime is available to all fans. My concern all along has been that fans continue to have the ability to enjoy baseball on television.

Jeebus help us. Aren't there a few things that might be just a tad more important for Kerry and the rest of Congress to worry about?

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More Writerly Goodness

Yesterday, my own immaturity and poor taste compelled me to mock Sully for a statement he made in an interview at Goat Riders. Here's the quip in question, in case you don't feel like scrolling down a bit:

Obviously anyone with an ISP can start a blog, while most newspaper reporters have to actually go to college and get a degree before they can get a job in the media. We've paid our dues.

I then went on to cite a few examples of how all that training is shaping the state of the Chicago baseball media.

However, I forgot a pair of the most egregious examples I've chronicled on this blog. For this, I blame Jim for distracting me while blogging.

The first is this classic from September '06. While Sully may have earned that degree in journamalism, he evidently minored in smirking. I guess if you pay your dues, you can smirk whenever the heck you want...

The second is this nugget of joy, posted just last month. I may not have gotten a fancy degree at J-school like Sully, but I've slogged through a few journalism classes in my day. And in this compare-and-contrast piece, I think even those readers who haven't gone to college and earned a degree that would allow them a job in the media will be able to tell which story follows the classic "pyramid" of a straight news story, and which one is written by Sully.


Thursday, March 08, 2007

Oh, For Fun!

Death of the Goat Riders talked with some real live journamalists about bloggers and the traditional media.

Our good, good friend Sully took part in it. Here's the bit from him that made me laugh and laugh:

I don't know why bloggers would want to feel they're part of the media. It's not like there are any great rewards for being able to say, "I'm in the media." It's just our jobs. Maybe they should invent a separate category, like the "bloggia." Obviously anyone with an ISP can start a blog, while most newspaper reporters have to actually go to college and get a degree before they can get a job in the media. We've paid our dues.

Actually, Sully is wrong -- you don't even need an ISP. We could go to the public library and post on Blogger. Technically, I guess that's an ISP, but you're not paying for it...

And that J-School training Sully is so proud of? Is it really worth the time and effort when the end result is panicking over a team's 0-3-1 start in the Cactus League? Or if he can't be bothered to get the basic game facts correct?

Whatever. Read the piece. Death talks with Will Carroll of Baseball Prospectus and a guy I actually respect in Bruce Miles of the Arlington Daily Herald. It's worth your effort.


Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Greetings from Orlando

Limited posting the next few days, as I'm down in Orlando. Not for fun, baseball-related stuff. No, I'm trapped in a conference room talkin' replenishment to help make the world's largest retailer that much more profitable...errr...customer-friendly.

Anyway, I had to laugh dark, mordant chuckles at the press's panic over the Cubs' start this spring. Sully had this nugget o' joy:

The Cubs started the 1997 season with a National League-record 14 straight losses.

Ten years later, manager Lou Piniella is hoping to see his team win a Cactus League game before the end of spring training.

Ha ha ha ha! 'Cause everyone knows how important those spring training games are.

I mean, who could forget that last week of the '06 Cactus League pennant race? When those...two teams...you know, those guys who were winning a lot...came right down to the wire to claim that...well, it's a championship, I guess. So it's important.

No, no one remembers who won last year's spring training championship. Because the games don't count for jack. Unless you're a hack looking to beat someone up.

No one seemed to remember that the White Sox started this year 0-4 (slightly worse than the Cubs' 0-3-1 mark at the time Sully made his funny). But the eds at the Tribune Tower didn't bash the Pale Hose. There were more exciting things going on in Sox camp to cover...like all the great athletes in John Danks' family!

Must be part of that Tribune Co. bias I keep hearing about...


Saturday, March 03, 2007


When I first read about Ozzie's latest blow-up, I missed this nugget of joy, right at the end of Mark Gonzales' piece in the Trib:

Sox general manager Ken Williams sighed when he learned of the exchange.

"Why can't this be about business?" Williams said. "This was good for Brandon, and it was good for us."

Oh, Kenny. You knew Ozzie was a loud-mouthed jerk when you hired him. If the reporters aren't asking you about "business," it's probably because Ozzie was busy being a loud-mouthed jerk...

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The Least They Could Do for the Guy

Good to see that Baron Budhausen has found Frank Robinson a new gig in the MLB Executive Offices. F. Robby will be a Special Advisor to the Executive Vice President, Baseball Operations.

No, I have no clue what that means, either. But given the amount of crap that Robinson had to deal with -- crap that was dealt to him as a direct result of Baron Budhausen's decision to ignore the obvious conflict of interests and allow MLB to run the Expos (giving former owner Loria the Destroyer a sweetheart deal in the process), giving Robinson what I hope will be a cushy job to ease into retirement with is literally the least MLB could do for one of the all-time greats.

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Card Sharks

Picked up my first packs of the new '07 baseball cards this morning. Mmmmm...there's nothing quite like that new card smell...

At any rate, I was "lucky" enough to score one of those kooky Derek Jeter cards from Topps. You've seen them -- the one with W and Mickey Mantle lurking in the background. What larks, as Virginia Woolf used to say.

Somehow, my life feels no more complete now than it did when I woke up this morning...

In other news, I also pulled two autograph cards out of my foil packs. Unfortunately, they were rookies I know nothing about.

So I'm asking you, Gentle Readers -- are Zach Johnson and Josh Fields any good? Should I be encasing these cards in plastic, getting them graded, and stashing them in a safety deposit box until the time comes to pay for my sons' college educations? Or are they just this spring's flavors of the month, doomed to languish in obscurity?


Friday, March 02, 2007

Just Wondering

So Sports Illustrated reporters Luis Fernando Llosa and L. Jon Wertheim have been working the latest steroids story.

Among the names linked to the story:

Boxing's Evander Holyfield. I haven't heard anyone wailing about boxing's hallowed records.

Richard A. Rydze, a doctor who works with the Pittsburgh Steelers. I haven't heard anyone gnashing their teeth about the NFL's crummy steroids policy.

And Gary Matthews Jr. and Jerry Hairston Jr. The reporters note that neither Matthews nor Hairston are accused of actually using the juice; the investigation just questions if they received the steroids. Good to see the presumption of innocence in action.

Meanwhile, I haven't heard a roar of outrage from the collected masses of baseball fans about the latest alleged cheaters. And I've read only a few columns bemoaning the latest allegations.

Could it be that the hackles of the fans and the media are raised only if our hallowed home run records are at stake?

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Bombs Away

Well, at least Ozzie made it into March before dusting off his special brand of performance art:

Manager Ozzie Guillen fired Friday at former White Sox pitcher Brandon McCarthy for questioning the makeup of the Guillen's Sox clubhouse and alleging it possessed a negative atmosphere.

"I don't see Neal Cotts talking about me, I don't see Freddy Garcia talking about me," said Guillen, who also revealed he called McCarthy into his office last season about his late-night habits. "I don't see Timo [Perez] or Sandy Alomar Jr. or any of those guys. I think it was an unnecessary comment he made."

Guillen was perturbed especially about McCarthy's claim about the positive support he has received in Texas that he said doesn't exist with the Sox.

"When he says it was hard to fit in the clubhouse, when you have teammates like Paulie (Konerko) and Ross Gload and Jim Thome and (Jermaine) Dye, when you talk about clubhouse, I can say there's only one [jerk] in the clubhouse, and he's one of my buddies and that's A.J. [Pierzynski]," said Guillen, who initially revealed his displeasure with McCarthy in a Friday morning interview with WSCR-AM 670 host Mike North.


In an interview with WSCR, Guillen expressed his displeasure with McCarthy's contention that he was uncomfortable in the Sox clubhouse because he and Brian Anderson were the only players who weren't married or didn't have steady girlfriends.

"I think Brandon should look himself in the mirror," Guillen said. "I say, 'Who is the bad guy in the clubhouse?' Then say it."You played with us 162 games and all of a sudden you leave and say you don't have a friend in the clubhouse, only Brian Anderson? Well, he picked the wrong guy to be friends with.

"People forgot that Brandon McCarthy got caught a couple of times out at night. I called him into my office and said, 'You been hanging around the city a lot, huh?' I said, 'I don't have a spy on you, but I know a lot of people in the bars in Chicago. I've been here for 20 years, and they will tell me everything.'"


"He forgot he lost a couple of games for us," Guillen said of McCarthy, who was 4-7 with a 4.68 ERA. "He lost at least five of the 73. We might be in the playoffs without him."