Jim & Bob's Palatial Baseball Blog

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Surely He Must Be Joking

ESPN's Jerry Crasnick has a list of the nine top acting performances by ballplayers.

Reggie Jackson ranks merely an honorable mention for a Mr. Belvidere appearance.

I sincerely hope that Crasnick was only counting TV appearances. How could he forget Mr. October's dramatic turn in The Naked Gun? Jay Johnstone was there, too. But he didn't attempt to kill the Queen...


Getting Ahead of Ourselves

Dr. Phil trips all over himself to welcome back an old favorite:

Look for Sosa to turn up his production in June as he closes in on an unexpected trip to the All-Star Game. It would be his first since 2004 and eighth overall and might let us all enjoy—one more time—Sammy's biggest game of the season: The home run contest.

Sosa entered Texas' Monday night game at Oakland hitting .259. He was leading the Rangers with 37 RBIs, which put him on pace to produce 32 homers and 120 RBIs, his most in a season since 2001. If he can keep it up, he's a lock for the comeback player of the year award and most likely a multiyear contract, not bad for a guy who didn't want to play a year ago.

Sosa is certainly bashing the ball -- his .503 slugging average is good for 18th in the AL (35th overall), quite respectable for a guy who sat out a year.

But the scounts the Beane haters like to refer to say that Sosa is crushing mistakes, and looking bad on quality pitches.

I don't know it they're right. But I look at Sosa's .317 OBP and can't help but think that he's not quite the elite batter Dr. Phil seems to think, no matter how gaudy the home run and RBIs totals project to.

Besides, the last time Dr. Phil singled out an ex-Cub as being back on track after a good May, he was predicting stardom for this guy. So forgive me if I'm a little skeptical of the Doctor's prognosis...

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Clemens to Start in Chicago

Looks like the White Sox get to be ESPN. No, I haven't seen it on the schedule yet. But do you think that the guys in Bristol will be able to help keep themselves away from the Most Important Start of the Year?

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Fair and Balanced

The eds at the Tower have taught us again and again that blowing leads late in the game are just the most shameful, ignominious things a team can do -- especially if you lose the game by forcing in a run with the bases loaded!

So I'm sure there will be strong words, indeed, in tomorrow's paper after this game. After all, we all know how much they hate the Sox over at the Tower. Expect a nasty tongue-lashing...

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Saturday, May 26, 2007

Farewell, Sweet Bat-Girl

It is with heavy heart I report that Twins blogger Bat-Girl has decided to leave the blogosphere.

Lord knows that I'll miss her and Legovision. Bat-Girl was a joy to read, and I am sorry to see her go. Someday, I hope to be half as entertaining a writer as she is.

Bat-Girl, if you're reading this, please check in every once in a while. The world needs you!

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The Stupid! It Burns!

While Josh Hancock's death was tragic in the classical sense of the word, it doesn't excuse his family's response to it. Bryan Burwell of the Saint Louis Post-Dispatch describes the situation:

"That," of course, is the lawsuit that Josh Hancock's family has filed seeking to blame someone, anyone for the senseless death of the late Cardinal pitcher who died nearly a month ago when he plowed his SUV into the rear end of a tow truck on Highway 40 (Interstate 64). "That," of course, is the story of a 29-year-old man who was drunk, speeding, had a tin of marijuana in the front seat, was driving without his seat belt buckled, was talking on a cell phone, and who failed to brake before he barreled into this flatbed with the emergency lights flashing.

Of course Shannon didn't want to talk about this because Hancock's family is trying to blame him, as owner of the restaurant where Hancock spent his final 3 1/2 hours, for the death. So the family is suing Shannon and his daughter, the restaurant manager who tried to persuade Hancock to take a taxi. Hancock's family also is suing the tow truck driver and the man whose car he was attempting to remove from the highway, in some twisted logic that tries to make all of these folks responsible for a man's own
self-destructive behavior.


Why can't Hancock's family see the disturbing irony in blaming the two people (tow truck driver Jacob Hargrove, and Justin Tolar, the man whose car Hargrove was towing) who could have been killed by their intoxicated son? Are they incapable of understanding the madness in blaming Shannon's daughter, the one person we know of who vainly attempted to make him take a taxi?


Wednesday, May 23, 2007


Ugh. I've already dumped this thug from my fantasy team.

Anyone who wants this piece of shit can have him, free of charge. Good luck to you.

Friends have kidded me over the years about running a fantasy halfway house, and yes, I have from time to time taken a chance on someone with a less than sterling record as a person. I believe that people, especially young people, make mistakes with their lives, but I also believe in giving another chance to someone willing to do the work to change themselves for the better.

This idiot hasn't reached that stage. I doubt that he understands the meaning of his actions. Check out his excuse for not wanting to talk more about the matter: "I've got a video game to finish."

Dukes is the leader on the "MLB player most likely to do hard time" board.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Never Be Together Again

The Younger Heir to the Palatial Baseball Blog came up to me the other day and asked me if what he heard on ESPN was correct: that Jason Giambi admitted he used steroids.

This may seem like a straight-forward question for you, Gentle Reader. But it was a question I had been dreading since Giambi ‘fessed up about the juice.

You see, the Younger Heir is a huge A’s Fan. And has been for two-thirds of his life. Jason Giambi was his favorite back when the slugger was with Oakland, and since my progeny is emotionally developed to understand that he can still like a player even though he’s with a different team, he still roots for Giambi. I will admit that makes him more mature than me, since I don’t think I could root for a Cub who would go on to the Mets (hell, it’s hard enough having Cliff Floyd on the roster).

But I digress…I told my son that yes, Giambi did admit to using steroids.

He paused for a moment that seemed to last a year and a half, and finally asked the question I had been dreading: Does that make him a bad person?

Gentle Reader, I do my best to be a Good Dad™. I’ve dusted off the speech about the dangers of booze, ciggies, and drugs. I’ve outlined the risks (legal, medical, and otherwise) of indulging in these vices. And so the Younger Heir has had it drilled into his skull that steroids are bad, steroids are now against the rules, and winners never cheat and cheaters never win.

So now it was my turn for an eighteen-month-long pause. Finally, I offered a carefully worded answer that no, Giambi was not a bad person. But he was a human being who had made some bad choices, and now he had to live with the consequences of those choices.

The Younger Heir pondered this dubious wisdom and seemed to accept it. But he noted that while he still liked Giambi, he wasn’t sure if Giambi could still be one of his most favorites after this.

This was the point that the whole steroid scandals first really, really pissed me off.

Again, I do my best to be a Good Dad™. As such, I try to shelter both Heirs to the Palatial Baseball Blog from the harsher truths of the world for as long as I possible can, in a probably-vain effort to keep them from becoming sullen cynics until their mid-teens. And that meant letting my kids believe that their heroes really are Heroes™, and not just some typically stupid, messed-up person.

Goodbye to all that now.

I guess I’ve found my breaking point in the steroid debate. I don’t give a rat’s ass about our allegedly hallowed home run records. I do care about my kid’s youthful idealism. Does that make me a hypocrite, given what I’ve posted about steroid use in MLB here? Are they different sides of the same coin?

It’s at times like this I wish I were smart…

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They Make a Lot of Money Because They Spend a Lot of Money

I can’t remember which NBA player coined the phrase I cribbed for the title of this post, but Todd Jones proves that he was right in this column

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Taking the Fifth

You can’t say that Lou Piniella doesn’t like to keep things hopping.

In the space of an hour on Sunday, Ryan Dempster went from closer to fifth starter back to closer. At least he kept his sense of humor about it. Demp told the media gaggle, “I’ve got a headline for you. ‘Dempster taken out of rotation after one non-start.’”

I’ve no idea what Piniella was thinking. Perhaps he was just thinking out loud, and Dempster ran with the idea before his boss had a chance to think it through. Or maybe Piniella gave Dempster the thumb’s-up that he was joining the rotation, only to come to his senses later.

But for today, at least, the pitching staff is set. Dempster is still in the bullpen, where he will play Obi-Wan to Angel Guzman’s Luke Skywalker. Cubs’ management (not sure if it’s Piniella or Hendry) thinks Guzman is better suited to the bullpen. There’s an ages-old debate over whether good pitchers best serve their teams by throwing eighty innings out of the pen or 200 innings in the rotation that I shan’t get into here.

But better pitchers than Guzman have served apprenticeships in middle relief before earning their way into the rotation. Guzman has shown promise this year (and last), along with some shakiness – in other words, he’s performing like an inexperienced pitcher in the Major Leagues. I just hope that he’ll view his trip to the bullpen as a learning experience and show us all that he deserves a roster spot.

And taking Guzman’s spot in the rotation is lefty Sean Marshall, fresh from Des Moines. He’s another guy who looked OK at times and not-so-OK other times last year.

Shipped out to Iowa to make room for Marshall: Neal Cotts. The move was sort of a surprise. Cotts hadn’t done much lately, but I don’t think anyone expected them to demote a guy that came over in a semi-big transaction over the winter.

If they were going to move the guy who pitched the worst, they’d probably move Eyre or Howry. But Cotts probably has an option left, so he loses this round.

I half-expected Guzman to take one for the team this time, along with the resulting “Lou hates young players” chorus from the press. Thanks for surprising me this time, guys…


They Read Letters

Nice to see the ombudsman at the Trib reads missives from his readers. I’ll pat myself on the back and take full credit for this nugget o’ joy:

* A story in Sunday's Sports section misstated the last time the Cubs had swept the White Sox in their interleague matchup. The year was 2004.

Better late than never, I guess.

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Much Ado About Nothing

Give credit where it’s due: the Chicago media is great at ginning up controversies where there are none.

Like Sully’s claim that some White Sox players are “getting tired” of Saint A.J.’s antics:

Pitcher Mark Buehrle said Pierzynski's remarks to North showed little respect to backup catcher Toby Hall.

"I think it is disrespecting Toby," Buehrle said before Sunday's game. "It's kind of saying: 'You can't do your job.' I don't see where he has to be in there just because it's a big rivalry. That doesn't matter. He needs a day off. Whether it's against the Cubs or anyone else, he needs a day off."

Buehrle was not surprised that Pierzynski was putting himself ahead of his team with his public griping, putting Guillen in a tough spot.

"It's just A.J.," Buehrle said. "Everything I keep hearing is 'Oh, A.J. is not in the lineup. He's a big part of this team and with the big rivalry, and with him being such a part of it because Cubs fans don't like him … ' We don't look at it that way. And I'm sure Cubs fans don't care if he plays.

"He can't play every game. Yeah, it's a big series, but that's why we signed Toby—to play against [selected left-handers]."

Buehrle believes Pierzynski enjoys playing the role of the villain at Wrigley Field because he craves the attention.

For those who didn’t follow every moment of the Cubs/White Sox series, here is what the Saint said on a radio program that prompted Buerhle’s rebuke and a profanity-laden tired from Ozzie Guillen:

I don't make the lineup and Ozzie has the ultimate decision. It's his decision. I'm not going to go in there and complain. … I'm just going to do what I'm asked to do. Of course it's frustrating and of course I'm disappointed. It's the Cubs-Sox and it's fun. It's what it's all about.

As the kids say: Oh…snap? More like what Gertrude Stein said about Oakland: There’s no there there.

That was pretty rational for the Saint. The guy wants to play (nothing wrong with that), but this wasn’t a full-on tantrum. At least not enough to make a sane person think the guy was dissing a teammate. I’d like to know how the reporters posed the question to get Buerhle’s reaction.

Buerhle later blew the “controversy” off as a misunderstanding, which it most likely was. He can still be friends with his catcher while disagreeing with him, or thinking that he runs off at the mouth too much. That’s how a lot of adult relationships work.

Maybe some White Sox are weary of Saint A.J.’s shenanigans. But does this tempest in a teapot have enough weight to be the straw that broke the camel’s back?

I doubt it. But anywhere there’s a camel’s back, you can be sure to find the media, ready to pile on.

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Monday, May 21, 2007

Yeah, You're Just Like Him, Except That He Was A Great Player And You're A Crybaby

Boo-hoolian Tavarez makes my job easy again today:

"I don't know who Ernie Banks is, but I hope he was a good guy. I'm like him, I hope."
Ernie Banks:

*Spent entire career with Cubs
*Hit 512 home runs
*Beloved by generations of fans
*Most famous quote: "It's a beautiful day, let's play two!"

Julian Tavarez:

*Let go by seven different teams
*Suspended five different times (so far)
*Sucker-punched Joey Gathright during a spring training game
*Most famous quote: "San Francisco fans are a bunch of faggots."

I think that the similarities are obvious.

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Sunday, May 20, 2007

How Do They Sleep?

As we all know, it's exciting Cubs/White Sox interleague series this weekend. And Sully is on the job, making sure Lou Piniella can't put anything past us stupid fans:

It took a little bit of lobbying from Lee, but Piniella eventually gave in to his slugger's request.

"At first he told me no," Lee said. "Then he thought about it."

Piniella insisted he had not ruled Lee out before the game as a pinch-hitting possibility, though the videotaped evidence suggested otherwise.

That's right, Lou -- don't bring that weak "I never said Derrek Lee wouldn't play at all" crap around here. Not with Sully and Co. checking the tape. Face it Lou -- you've been served!

Unfortunately, Sully's "videotaped evidence" only goes back five or six hours. This assertion made laugh long and hard:

The Cubs now have a chance at their first sweep of the Sox since 1998, with Carlos Zambrano facing Nick Masset on Sunday afternoon.

Everything about this statement is completely true. Except the four numbers "1998." Or, in other words, the four most important characters in the sentence.

Those of us with longer memories than an eighteen-month-old toddler's recall that my heroes swept the White Sox in 2004. But, as they say, records from that time are spotty at best. If only Sully had been there first-hand to witness the series.

Oh, wait. He was.

I'm no mind reader, so I don't know if this revisionist history is due to some darker machinations from the Powers That Be over at the Tower, or just gross incompetence from Sully and his eds.

Regardless, it's shameful and ignominious. And it makes me wonder how these people sleep at night.

The sad thing is, most readers will look at how Sully calls out Lou on the allegedly controversial Lee-pinch-hit-availability decision and applaud the intrepid scribe for his initiative in keeping the Cubs' skipper on his toes. And then they'll completely overlook the blatant misstatement of fact that Sully slips in six paragraphs later -- after all, if it's in the paper, it must be true.

I can hear them from the Tower now. "Hey, rubes," the editors call. And the rubes swallow it whole.

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Saturday, May 19, 2007

What Is Wrong with These People?

In a column featuring the tag-team byline of Sully and Mark Gonzales, we learn the Chicago media isn't above just making crap up:

Told before the game Guillen had called him "the worst manager in baseball," Piniella said: "He's probably right. If I can't hold a four-run lead in the ninth inning, you're right. I agree with that."

Actually, Guillen didn't say that all. The reporter who asked the question apparently was trying to be funny.

Oh. Your. God. I've seen a lot of unprofessional crap from the Chicago media over the last seventeen years, but this just might be the most shameful thing ever.

What kind of horse-$%!^ reporter makes up such an inflammatory crack...and then attributes it to someone with a history of saying stupid things?

Sully/Gonzales claim this "reporter" (and I'd love to know who pulled this stunt) was just "trying to be funny." But given the media's ongoing thigh-rubbing fascination about when Mt. Piniella is going to erupt, you don't have to go too far out on a limb to say that this nutty funster was really just goading Piniella into some ill-advised sound bites.

I'm no mind reader, so I'll never be sure one way or the other. This should have been plenty for the press to chew on without resorting to allegedly comic statements...

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Thursday, May 17, 2007

Six More Months

Dayn Perry at Fox Sports drops this nugget of joy in a column about Barry Bonds:

Lance Williams, co-author of Game of Shadows, recently told Sports Illustrated that he suspects Bonds will be indicted for perjury within the next six months.

A cursory Yahoo search finds that rumors of Bonds' impending perjury indictment date back to April 2006. Could we have stumbled on MLB's equivalent of the Friedman Unit?

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Oh, Snap!

Sometimes, it's nice to see that you're not the only person who feels the way you do. Jim and I have long felt that Roger Clemens' retirement/un-retirement antics are shameful, selfish, and, ultimately, counter-productive to his chosen team's chances of winning the World Series.

Today, I saw this from ESPN's Scoop Jackson:

He's a self-absorbed, beyond-arrogant, bigger-than-the-game, I-have-no-respect-or-honor-for-the-concept-of-team, I-only-pitch-when-I-feel-like-it, any-team-should-feel-blessed-to-have-me, Randy-Johnson-will-never-be-on-my-level, the-world-revolves-around-me, kiss-the-ground-I walk-on, worship-who-I-am-because-I-am-the-me-myself-and-I-in-MLB pimp.

But again, my problem is not with Roger, it's with us. The media cowards. Because all of us, for too long now, have looked past all of this and validated what I've said my whole life: "Pimpin' ain't easy, the media is just scared."

That just might be the greatest thing I've read today -- a media guy who corroborates my feelings about both Clemens and the media...

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These Guys Weren't So Stupid, Either

Expanding on the thought Jim had the other day about actually waiting for games to be played before judging a trade, there were some free agent signings that were widely panned last winter that don't appear to suck too much now.

Lucky for me, I saw that ESPN's Jerry Crasnick got around to writing about it before I spent any appreciative amount of time on research. And Crasnick highlights the guys I had first thought of when I began this little thought experiment: Jason Marquis, Jeff Suppan, Gil Meche, and Ted Lilly.

Yes, the season is still early. Yes, nobody expects any of these guys to continue to post such terrific numbers,

On the other hand, no one expected these guys to do anything but (a) stink and (b) cash their ridiculously large paychecks. Although I don't think any of this lot should make room on their mantle for a Cy Young, I think they deserve some respect for their performances to date.

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Management Death Watch

Back at our old site, I penned a semi-regular feature called Management Death Watch, which was pretty much exactly what it sounded like.

I haven't bothered to start it up here, partly because I'm lazy, and partly because teams haven't been as quick to can the manger or GM when their seasons started circling the drain. I guess that's progress.

But now that the real contenders are starting to separate themselves from the pack, it might be worthwhile to take a look at guys who might be on the receiving end of a pink slip -- if not immediately, then some time this year.

Fortunately, Fox Sport's Ken Rosenthal has done the leg work for me, so all I have to do is give you the link. Told you I was lazy...


Wednesday, May 16, 2007

The Danks, Moe, The Danks!

Remember the frigid days of last winter, when White Sox GM Kenny Williams was roundly booed by the Chicago media and by White Sox fan for trading that great future ace Brandon McCarthy to the Rangers for a nobody like John Danks? I sure do.

Handy up-to-the-minute 2007 stats, courtesy of the Palatial Baseball Blog:

Brandon McCarthy TEX 9 8 3 4 0 37.1 45 29 27 5 19 23 6.51 1.71

John Danks CWS 6 6 2 4 0 35.1 35 17 17 6 11 28 4.33 1.30

Hmmm...maybe Williams isn't the Cook County village idiot after all.

Of course, McCarthy has plenty of time to turn things around. My point here is that it's a good idea to wait for some results to come in before trying to call a trade a success or failure. I know, that's not what punditry is about. After all, who knows more about judging baseball talent, Kenny Williams or Phillip Rogers?

Rapping Up His Prospect Status

If you have Lastings Milledge in a fantasy keeper league because you think that he's going to be some kind of star, forget about it.

Milledge has talent, but he doesn't have the sense given a lamppost. Milledge spent much of his time during his callup last year infuriating his teammates with his ego and poor work habits. This latest is probably pretty close to the last straw for the Mets.

Major league baseball teams will make exceptions for players with extra talent. But it only goes so far. Teams are also very efficient at cutting out flakes, head cases, and players with poor attitudes. Milledge is very close to following this career path.

Monday, May 14, 2007

It Might As Well Rain Until November

So it's come to this...World Series games scheduled for November.

Here's how Baseless Bob DuPuy rationalizes it:

Starting the World Series in the middle of the week, when television viewership is historically higher, will provide more fans with the opportunity to watch the games. The additional off-days throughout the postseason will give us greater flexibility to facilitate travel and protect against poor weather.

Good thing they're planning for crappy weather. The closer we get to November, the greater the chance for crappy weather.

But weather schmeather. There's TV money to be had. MLB is caving in to the demands of the networks to grab every last dollar it can.

Great googaly moogaly...the regular season ends on 30 September. MLB has 31 days to get a total of 19 games scheduled and played. And they can't.

The hell? Is the NBA scheduling their post season?

[Editor's note: thanks to Jim for letting me steal that last line. Now if I can steal 5,000 more, we'll be even. I kid, of course. It's closer to 3,675.]

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Sunday, May 13, 2007

Don't Let the Door Hit You...

If anybody out there is looking for a guy with a 6.93 ERA, call Terry Ryan immediately.

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It's That Time of Year Again

I let out a load groan while glancing at the schedule this week for my heroes. Coming up this weekend -- three games against the White Sox.

Nothing against the White Sox. I wouldn't mind playing them twelve times a year. But only if they were in the National League.

Great googaly moogaly, I despise interleague play. I know Baron Budhausen and his cronies are very pleased with themselves for ginning up this annual stunt. But I can't stand it.

For me, it disrupts the flow of season. Here we are, middle of May, just when the real pennant races are getting interesting. And three games with the Sox get crammed down my craw. It all just seems so artificial.

Unfortunately, we're stuck with it. But I will take solace in the fact that no less a personage than Larry Jones thinks it sucks, too.

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Tough Crowd

Geez..I thought the Chicago media was quick to throw in the towel. I guess even the Canadian press loves its knee-jerk reactions...

UPDATE: I found this amusing...

There is no denying that the injury bug has stung the TORONTO BLUE JAYS of late. Despite the bumps and bruises, the team continues to work hard on the field of play and in the community. As a way to keep recent headlines in perspective, the Blue Jays will host "JAYS ANATOMY" NIGHT on Wednesday May 16, 2007.

The team is asking fans to help in their road to recovery. Fans attending the May 16 contest versus Baltimore can show team pride and support by donating First Aid supplies in a symbolic gesture to stop the bleeding. The first 5,000 fans, with a valid game night ticket, who make a donation, will receive a complimentary Toronto Blue Jays baseball cap. Supplies collected will in turn be given to the Canadian Red Cross to assist in their community outreach.

"There is no denying that the bumps and bruises have tested our team and fans," commented V.P. of Marketing, LAUREL LINDSAY. "But we are Toronto and we will not give up. We're asking fans to help us mend a little faster by coming out, donating first aid items and cheering us on to victory."

I was going make a crack about how the truth was bruised by J.P. Ricciardi, but it seemed too easy...

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Saturday, May 12, 2007

Little League Follies

The younger heir to the Palatial Baseball estate is enjoying his first year of Little League baseball (or “Minors,” as we call it here in beautiful south-central Wisconsin). I’ve already signed an affidavit giving my wife permission to shoot me through the head if I ever become Little League Dad, so I’m just sitting back and offering advice only when asked.

And most of the people involved with the league and the other teams have pretty much the same attitude. We are blessed -- the two coaches are very cool, the other lads are supportive and team-centered, and the parents I’ve met are under no delusions that what happens this year will be reflected on the back of their kids’ baseball cards.

But, you know…there are always one or two who have to stir things up.

Before one game, I heard the coach from the other team tell his kids, “They call it hitting the ball, not walking the ball.”

OK, so not everybody’s down with the Moneyball approach. But that’s innocuous compared to what I heard a coach tell his batter before this morning’s game:

Think of the ball as your sister – you really want to hit it!

I couldn’t help myself. Perhaps a little too loudly (or not loudly enough, depending on your point of view), I had to say, “Oh, domestic violence is fun, isn’t it?”

Maybe this guy worked with Bobby Cox and Brett Myers. I kid, of course…

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They Write Letters

A recent survey found that most white folks don’t think the negative perception of Barry Bonds has anything to do with race. On the other hand, most of our African-American brethren believe the opposite.

The subjects of Barry Bonds and race are prime fodder for the boneheads on sports talk radio and indignant letter writers. The eds at the Tribune Tower do not disappoint, selecting this letter from Chicago’s William P. Gottschalk for publication:

Allegations…that aversion to Barry Bonds and disinterest in, and/or disgust with, his likely successful assault on Henry Aaron’s home run record are racially motivated are outrageous and irresponsible.

Any objective and honest study would find equal disdain for Sammy Sosa, who at last look is Hispanic, and for Mark McGwire, who certainly seems to be white. Pete Rose, who is banned from baseball and thus ineligible for the Hall of Fame, is also white.

The conclusion is that we do not respect, and will not honor, cheaters and liars, regardless of race, creed, or color. Barry Bonds’ limited number of supporters are merely cloaking themselves in the mantle of racism in order to try to cloud the real issue, which is that, despite all his talent, he has cheated and lessened the game.

As long as we’re being objective and honest, let’s look at how the players Mr. G references before the drug and gambling scandals caught up with them:

Before he charmed the world with his 66 homers and Pepsi adverts, Sammy Sosa was not the beloved cartoon character he turned into. When he was a member of the White Sox, many pundits considered him an uncoachable malcontent. He took a lot of criticism (some deserved, some not) during his first six years as a Cub for being a selfish player who torpedoed the Cubs’ chances to win with his desire to pad his own stats.

McGwire was an all-American hero who led the A’s to three consecutive World Series appearances. When the andro was found in his locker, hordes of people leapt to his defense, outraged that anyone would dare taint his awesome assault on the record book.

Jim and I have vowed not to mention Charlie Hustler, so I’ll make this as brief as possible. The Hustler claimed his innocence for nearly twenty years. That fraud was swallowed hook, line, and sinker by thousands of fans and journamalists. Right up until the time he admitted that he had been lying.

Finally, I remember Bonds bashing as far back as 1990, during the Pirates’ last period of excellence. The scripts about Bonds’ surly, selfish ways got their start back then. Also making the rounds – whispers of his unsavory actions in college, as further explored by Jeff Pearlman and others. There were some people who swore on a stack of Bibles that Bobby Bonilla was a much, much better player than Bonds (no, that last bit is not relevant to the topic, but it’s always amazed me).

If you’re scoring at home, that’s two white guys who got the benefit of the doubt, and two not-white guys who were treated with “aversion, disinterest, and/or disgust.” Bonds and Sosa were taking heat long before they began bashing at home run records.

It certainly could just be coincidence. This is not even close to being a rigorous study of public attitudes towards these four players. And there have been white players lambasted for being selfish jerks, just as there have been black players lauded for their achievements.

But as much as we like to pretend, our society is not color-blind (recent debates over whether Barack Obama is “black enough” to connect with black voters is the latest example of that). It is disingenuous to say that race has absolutely nothing to do with Bonds’ issues. Just as it is disingenuous to say that race has absolutely everything to with them.

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You’re Still Here?

I was shocked when I saw the headline that Phil Nevin retired. I thought he did that last winter…


Friday, May 11, 2007

It's Not Personal!

Not a baseball post per se, but a very nice bit that anyone engaging in the sort of discourse that Bob and I do should read.

There are a few people who we think are pretty dismal human beings, and we don't hesitate in saying so. There are a lot of other people who we think perhaps don't do their jobs optimally; but in saying so we don't mean to cast any aspersions on their character as a person. Paul Sullivan, as far as we know, is kind to stray puppies and helps little old ladies across the street; he's just a poor journalist. Pointing out the latter does not invalidate the former. Neifi Perez might well be a prince of a human being, but he's a godawful baseball player, and it's our duty to point it out. It's not personal.

Like Ebert, we wish that everything was perfect in the world and we'd never have to write a harsh word. Like Ebert, we recognize that it is our duty to call a shovel a shovel when we see it.

I once (ok, twice) referred to a nationally-distributed columnist as a blockhead. To our enormous surprise, it turned out that said columnist (ok, it's Jeff Pearlman) actually reads our stuff, and has sent several very kind and complimentary comments and e-mails. That's not only professional but a mark of a good person, and we like him. No matter what we think of his opinion of Barry Bonds.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Uninformed People Are Fun!

Got a call at work this morning. After dispensing with the boring, business-related stuff, we get to gabbing about baseball.

"Those Cubs of yours still in last place?" he asks.

No. We're in second. Not tearing up the league, but not as godawful as people thought we'd be.

"Oh. Well, it would help if Soriano would start hitting," he says.

It has. He's up over .300, and (not coincidentally) we've had a good two weeks.

"Oh. Has Jason Marquis given up ten runs in an inning yet?"

Ummm...no. In fact, he's won five and had a complete game shutout.

"Oh...well, gotta run."

Call back anytime.


Wednesday, May 09, 2007

That's Not Libel, That's Slander!

Red Light Curt Schilling runs off at the mouth again.

Of course, Bonds has never actually admitted to any of those things, despite what experts like Schilling and Rick Reilly tell you. And Schilling did beat a fast retreat when confronted over his comments. Which is good. It takes a lot to apologize publicly. It takes less, however, to just not say stupid things to begin with.

It figures that Schilling is a fan of the current administration. Facts aren't important to them, either.

Call Him Old School? No, Call Him An Idiot

Kevin Hench of FOX doesn't think that beer in the clubhouse is a bad thing.

Call me old school, but I believe beer belongs in the clubhouse. A guy playing almost every night for six months should be able to unwind with a couple of frosties after he gets a couple of knocks. When banning alcohol in his clubhouse, Oakland GM Billy Beane said he thought the A's should behave like any other business, which, of course, is ludicrous. If Aetna insurance salespeople were having 95-mile-an-hour missiles whizzed past them in front of 40,000 people and needed a shower after work, I'd say they were entitled to a beer.

Of course they would be. And they could have it at home, or at the hotel bar.

To be fair, Hench does make a couple of good points. Beer sales in the stands have the potential to do far more damage than a player having a cold one in the clubhouse after the game. MLB has taken some steps to reduce drunkenness in the ballpark, but they will never, ever take the final, drastic step of banning beer once and for all without a catastrophic event taking place.

And I'm going to be perhaps unsympathetically harsh here, but let's face it: Josh Hancock was a damned fool, driving drunk down the highway with a cellphone stuck to his ear. He was a major league ballplayer; I'm pretty sure that he was familiar with taxicabs. And could afford to use one.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

I Can’t Put My Finger on It, But Something’s Wrong

The Cubs have played their best ball of the season over the last week. And you know what that means – time to find fault with something the team is doing!

What awful, awful thing is Lou Piniella doing? Dave van Dyck provides this week’s litany of horror:

• The Cubs have used 24 different lineups in 29 games
• The Cubs have used a different lineup in 19 straight games
• The last time the Cubs used the same lineup in consecutive games was April 13-14
• Seven batters have hit second, and five each have hit in the fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth spots
• Five players have started in right field, four in left, and three in center, at short and at second
Yes, the fact that Piniella is using his roster is a bad, bad thing. Look how much the players hate it:

Though the situation could become a tinderbox, most Cubs seem to relish the everyday excitement of who plays where. Winning has a way of breeding togetherness, and the Cubs have finally embarked on some winning ways, having taken five straight and eight of nine.

"We like to say there's a lot of chiefs on this team and no Indians," DeRosa said. "Lou made it clear in spring training that he was going to play everybody, and he's been true to his word.

"Nobody should be caught off guard."

Said Theriot: "Everybody has to contribute, and contribute a lot, to be successful, and you can see that the last week and a half."

To be fair, Piniella's lineup appears to be more settled than it was in the first month as he learns his personnel, with the permanent move of Alfonso Soriano from center
field to left, the installation of Jacque Jones as the primary center fielder, a platoon involving Cliff Floyd in right field and the demotion of infielder Ronny Cedeno.

But Cesar Izturis' slow start at shortstop and the need for Theriot, DeRosa and Matt Murton to play still creates an unusual situation.

"Honestly," Theriot said, "everybody comes expecting to play, and even though you're not in the starting lineup, it doesn't mean you're not going to play."
Just a few thoughts on this mess…

While a lot of Cub Fans want Matt Murton or Cliff Floyd of Ryan Theriot or [fill in the blank] to get more PT, it’s not going to happen right now. And while it sucks that someone’s favorite player doesn’t get to start, look at it this way: Would you rather have Orange Guy or The Riot come off the bench to pinch hit in the seventh, or Neifi Perez? Or John Mabry? Or Angel Pagan? Or Jerry Hairston? Or Freddie Bynum?

In other words, the group of bench players we had last year who couldn’t hit water if they fell out of a flippin’ boat. I, for one, would rather see Floyd, for all his faults, at the plate late in a close game than Neifi.

Van Dyck does his best to gin up some false drama (a “tinderbox?” Please…). But none of the guys he quotes seems to be bent out of shape about it. The winning probably helps assuage hurt feelings. And it probably helps that the guys know they’ve got a good chance to get in the game – if not that day, the next day.

So far I like what I’ve seen of Piniella. He doesn’t suffer the fools in the press corps gladly. He keeps his reserves ready to play. He’s got no problem telling his pitchers to stop mucking around and throw a sprocking strike. And, unlike his immediate two predecessors, he has an idea of how to manage a bullpen. I can’t put my finger on it, but something’s right here…

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Sure, Why Not?

Rickey Henderson wants to come back and play.

Good luck with that.

Oh, and it’s good to see that the Crotchety Old Geezer Club has inducted Rickey as its newest member:

The players they put on the field nowadays, they couldn't make it in my day. They'd get sent back to Triple-A.

Somewhere, Bob Feller is smiling…

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Our good friend Sully takes time from his busy schedule to answer questions from Cub Fans at the Trib’s web site. This question caught my eye:

The end of your column is very annoying. Just what mistakes did Prior make in Chicago? Did he not try to get along better with people like you? His body broke down. It happens. How is that a mistake? --Mike Wuebben, Nutley, N.J.

Good question, Mr. W. Even in New Jersey, readers can sense that the media (i.e., people like Sully) just didn’t seem to like Prior. Maybe it was the past three years of carping about how soft he was, how he wasn’t tough enough to pitch in The Show.

So how does Sully answer?

Aside from his general rudeness and condescending attitude, Prior's biggest mistake was his reluctance to be totally upfront with management about his health. As late as the end of March when he was sent to Triple-A, Prior was insisting he was healthy and could get major league hitters out, implying the demotion was undeserved. He pitched two innings in his first extended spring game before leaving with arm soreness. This led to the medical examinations that preceded the surgical clean-up of his shoulder. So are we supposed to believe he got injured in that two-inning stint? Please.

Hilarious. For three years, Sully and his cohort dumped all over Prior for being a wuss. Now, Sully paints Prior as a guy so desperate to pitch that he lied about being injured in a last-ditch effort to stay with the team.

If I may paraphrase attorney Lionel Hutz: Your honor, are these the actions of a man who’s too soft to pitch?

Of course, there’s plenty of mind-reading going on in Sully’s world here. I’ll venture a little mind-reading of my own – it’s just possible that Prior didn’t feel any soreness before his demotion. Or perhaps he was desperate to help his team and fulfill the expectations of the fans and tried to pitch through it.

I don’t know, and neither does Sully. But this week’s script says Prior is a rude liar, and Sully is nothing if not an efficient typist.

I did allow myself a rueful smile when I saw the last two questions posed to the illustrious scribe:

Paul, I don't know if it's your goofy "Rascals" hairdo or your glasses, but you really should fix one of them, if not both! -- Nancy Chesnutt, Seattle

Paul, how come you never address your unsightly hair in your Q&A columns? Us women out there want to know! --Patti Van Noord, Batavia, Ill.

At least Sully’s enough of a sport to take questions as fatuous and inane as those he poses to the players…

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Will Wonders Ever Cease?

It’s not often I say this…or even want to admit this…but I have to agree with David Wells:

"Roger might set the tone for the 40-and-above guys," Wells said of his former Yankee teammate. "Hey, I might do it. He's a smart businessman."

In the next breath, however, the hefty lefty caught himself. No, the 231-game winner said, he couldn't follow the Clemens plan after all.

It's not just that Wells turns 44 in two weeks or that he was recently diagnosed with
diabetes. It has more to do with the ballplayer's code that requires you to show up day after day throughout the endless grind.

"I don't think I would ever do it because of the fact I personally think it would disrespect the team and your teammates," Wells said. "You look at the other players. How are they going to respect you? What are they going to think if you're not there
pulling for the team?"

Jim has mentioned this before, but it bears repeating: everybody loves the Rocket, and his little perks about not traveling with the team and (allegedly) not showing up at the yard when he didn’t feel like it. But would the fans and the media be as accepting if some other player got the same perks? Somehow, I doubt it.

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Sunday, May 06, 2007

Yankee Goes Home

On the plus side, at least we won't be treated to the endless speculation of "Where will he go?" this year.

On the minus side, we will have to listen to all the gab about how great it is that he's back in pinstripes...

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Saturday, May 05, 2007

Call the Waaaah-mbulance

Dear Mr. Guillen:

I know you're a way-smart World Series-winning manager and I'm just a dumb Cub Fan, but I feel the urge to offer you some unsolicited advice...

If you don't want people to say that you made sport of another team's clubhouse alcohol ban, don't make sport of another team's clubhouse alcohol ban.


Friday, May 04, 2007

I'm Sad To Say That I'm Not Surprised By This

At the risk of Tony LaRussa thinking that I'm insincere, I want to pass this along.

Tony can threaten people with his fungo bat all he wants, but perhaps he ought to look into a mirror first. You're running the team, Tony. I'm pretty sure that you have some idea which players might have a problem like this. Or do you?

I'm not really holding LaRussa responsible, just reminding him that he might be better off helping players who have issues rather than looking for enemies in the media. For a smart guy, LaRussa falls into bunker mentality very quickly...remember his tirade about the reporter who spotted and reported the andro in Mark McGwire's locker?

Josh Hancock was a grown man, capable of making his own mistakes. Baseball isn't responsible for Hancock's poor choices. But baseball is far, far behind the curve when it comes to alcohol consumption in the workplace. The Cardinals' new ban is well past due.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Oh, For Fun!

I bet there's a lot of folks out there who wish this story were true...

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Light In the Blackout?

Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports has a good piece on MLB's archaic blackout rules and a possible discussion of removing them. Go here to read it.

The situation is absurd, and it's a wonder that MLB's cable and internet broadcasts have gained the popularity that they have with these rules in place. The rules that MLB follows were made a long time ago, for situations that have become obsolete. There is no question that MLB could change them without much bloodletting; the question is whether or not ownership thinks it is in their best interest to do so.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Last in the National League

Over at Fox Sports, Ken Rosenthal has a fairly comprehensive round-up of the wretched state of the Washington Expos. The franchise obviously needed time to recover from MLB's tender mercies, but it seems the new regime isn't a significant upgrade over Loria the Destroyer...

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The Doors of Perception

Making a bold move to turn around the team after its poor start, the New York Yankees fired their strength and conditioning coach.

Is it Marty Miller's fault the pitching staff has fallen apart? I dunno. And it seems like the GM doesn't know, either:

"It got to the point where the perception is there's a problem here," general manager Brian Cashman said.

I realize I'm just some guy in my basement, and not an MLB executive...but shouldn't you base your decisions on reality, instead of what some people perceive is reality? I guess if it's good enough for the Executive Branch, it should be good enough for MLB...

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Sobering Thoughts

At the risk of having the Super Genius come at me with a fungo, I direct you to Dr. Phil's suprisingly decent column today. I don't pretend to know what happened that night, and I offer it with no comment, other than an apology for a probably too-flippant title...

It's premature to reach any conclusions in advance of the toxicology reports. But you knew there might be more to this story than was reported initially because no one who had been with Hancock stepped up to say he was stone sober.

The culture of the sport suggested he had started drinking -- maybe a little, maybe a lot -- as soon as Saturday afternoon's 8-1 loss to the Cubs was over. And the drinking probably started in the players' lounge at Busch Stadium, the inner sanctum of the defending World Series champions.

This isn't meant to point a finger at Hancock, general manager Walt Jocketty or anyone else with the Cardinals. It's just the way things are done in baseball. The clubhouse is one of the few havens in North America where employees are permitted to drink in their workplace.


And That's No Bull!

Devil Rays broadcaster Joe Magrane came out with another great line tonight. Twins outfielder Jason Tyner make a catch on a play in which he overran the ball, stopped quickly, threw up his hands in front of his face, caught the ball, and fell over onto his hinder.

Magrane, after reviewing the replay, told the audience that the catch "once again reminds us of rodeo clowns, and all the great work they do for this country."

Gimme an "S," Gimme an "A,"...

What does it spell?


Longest surname in MLB history. You're going to be seeing around for a while; this kid is pretty good.

The reasons behind his promotion by the Braves today are explanations as to why catchers have shorter careers than most players and why they don't lead the league in too many batting categories. In last night's game with the Phillies, starting catcher Brian McCann was hit on the glove by a swing, re-injuring a finger he had hurt the same way a couple of weeks earlier. Brayan Pena replaced him, and later was hit on the top of his helmet by Greg Dobbs' backswing. Pena went on the DL today with "concussion-related symptoms." I'm no doctor, not even Phillip Rogers, but I'm guessing that means he has a concussion.

Whatever the reason, I'm glad to see him reach the majors, because I like saying, "Saltalamacchia." If only Harry Caray had lived to see this day.

These People Make Me Sick

I don't even know where to begin to discuss idiocy like this. That such a whackjob represents U.S. citizens in Congress is a pretty frightening idea. To talk about a war in which over 3000 Americans and thousands and most likely hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have been killed as though it was a baseball game is beyond the pale of any type of human dignity.

But not beneath the dignity of wingnut Republicans, I see. I think that this group is perfectly able to answer the famous question that Joseph Welch once asked another loon in Congress. Their answer would be a very firm "no."

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Another Reason to Love MLB Mosaic

There are four games in progress right now. Across the top of my screen are the Mets/Marlins, Brewers/Cardinals, and Tigers/Orioles. Watching from left to right, Oliver Perez, Chris Capuano, and Nate Robertson, lefties all, go into their deliveries and pitch, and the batter swings and misses.

I thought I was watching some sort of synchronized swimming event for a moment.

Double Your Standard, Double Your Fun

This is just for anyone who thinks that rule interpretations like the Tom Glavine Expand-A-Zone (tm) strike zone are unique to major league baseball.

There is and has always been a double standard for stars when it comes to rules enforcement. That goes for MLB, the NFL, NBA, and probably the World Marbles Championship. Wilt Chamberlain played in 1045 NBA games and never fouled out. Craig Biggio can wear more body armor than an Imperial Stormtrooper and lean over the plate until he covers half the strike zone and umpires look the other way.

Why? Stars pay the bills, and every sporting organization knows it. Is it right? Not really. Is it going to change any time soon? I seriously doubt it. There is no incentive for MLB or the PGA or anyone else to change it, no matter how blatant it appears to you or I or how much their own rank-and-file complains about it.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007


I play in three fantasy leagues along with my girlfriend. After one month, she is beating me in all three, and not by just a little bit, either. Frankly, she's kicking my ass.

So, should I shoot myself, or marry her?

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Dred Manny Decision

Good to see that MLB has the rules covered regarding Manny Ramirez' hair. According to MLB's VP of umpires, Mike Port:

"The dreadlocks are part of his body. Thus, if he is hit by a pitch, he would be awarded the base, unless he failed to make an effort to avoid the pitch or was struck by the pitch in the strike zone--in other words, were his hair to intrude upon the strike zone in trying to get out of the way, hanging over the strike zone or such. Also, if tagged out on the bases via a tag or on the hair, he would be out. If he were to be struck on the hair by a batted ball, he would also be ruled out."

And if his hair intrudes into the strike zone, does it mess up Questech? I personally would laugh myself sick if the Red Sox lost a playoff game because of Manny's hair being tagged for the final out.