Jim & Bob's Palatial Baseball Blog

Monday, July 30, 2007

Topic for Debate

From Joe Sheehan at Baseball Prospectus. He makes some interesting points. A small snippet is below. But I leave it to you, Gentle Reader, to check it out yourself and discuss the matter as you see fit...

Baseball now has a small underclass of players—real players, not anonymous minor leaguers or fringe guys—who have tested positive for performance-enhancing substances, been suspended for that use, and returned to play. In virtually every case, those players go about their business without anyone caring. They’re cheered at home for their good deeds, and ignored on the road. The Indians benefit from the bullpen work of Rafael Betancourt, by far their best reliever this season, and a big reason for their contending status. He’s not reviled in Detroit or Minnesota as a steroid user, not booed and forced to endure the taunts of “Cheater!” or worse. No one cares. The same can be said for Juan Rincon, who is essentially the Twins’ version of Betancourt.

Need more evidence that the game is more than willing to forgive and forget? Ryan Franklin tested positive in 2005, serving a 10-game suspension for his guilt. Last month, the Cardinals signed him to a two-year contract worth $5 million. Last winter, the Mets' Guillermo Mota was suspended for the first 50 games of 2007 off a positive test; a month later, the Mets signed him to a two-year contract for, again, $5 million.

Add it up, and baseball has lavished more than $30 million on players who have been found guilty of steroid use after their use has come to light. These players don’t occupy some gray area, don’t inspire “did he or didn’t he?” discussions on sports radio or the talking-head TV shows. They cheated, they got caught, served their penalties, and went on to earn millions playing baseball without being held up as examples of all that is wrong with America.

The central truth about the “steroid issue” is this: average people don’t care about PED use. They care about tearing down those who they do not like, protecting those they do, and making themselves feel superior in the process.


Sunday, July 29, 2007

Is It Any Wonder, I Reject You First?

Last week’s Baseball Weekly included a discussion of which current players have the best chance to make the Hall of Fame after they retire. Most of it was devoted to the steroids debate (understandable). However, the folks at BW also ran an internal poll of their five writers (Paul White, Bob Nightengale, Hal Bodley, Mel Antonen, and Jorge L. Ortiz) on a bunch of active players.

The caveat on this poll: the writers vote on the players’ Hall-worthiness assuming their careers ended today.

Except for veterans at the very end of their careers, this kind of “What If?” game is fraught with peril. Who knows how the careers of the hottest young players will pan out? How can you tell that “proven” veteran well on his way to Cooperstown after nine years won’t just flame out after the tenth?

Be that as it may, these brave writers voted on several players in the twilight of their careers, players that we can reasonably start to debate their Hall merits.

Some of them are no-brainers. Roger Clemens, Randy Johnson, Tom Glavine, David Wells, and Curt Schilling, to name five of them (with unanimous results for all five – the first three for, the last two against).

Ken Griffey Jr. gained a 5-0 thumbs up, as did Frank Thomas. Ditto for A-Rod and Jeter (although it might be a bit premature for that pair).

But the one vote that caught my eye was for Craig Biggio. Biggio has said he would retire at the end of the year, so we’re not jumping the gun with this discussion.

However, BW’s panel actually voted Biggio down, by a 4-1 margin.

Great googaly moogaly! I know conventional wisdom has it that the juice, smaller ballparks, and expansion have led to an erosion of milestone batting accomplishments. But 3,000 hits are still a hell of a lot of hits. Especially coming from a catcher who worked hard enough to become a solid defensive second baseman and center fielder.

I don’t understand this vote. I hope the four guys who voted no take the next five years to reconsider their position…

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Heckuva Job, Brownie

Perhaps Emil Brown has been taking lessons from the Vice President…

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I Should Have Known Better

I admit – I’m weak. I do things I shouldn’t do, things I know that will just cause frustration.

And yet, I can’t help myself. I just have to read what the Cub Fans are saying over the Internets, and listen to the post-game call-in show on WGN radio.

So last night, I’m looking over the comments on one of Sully’s posts at the Chicagosports baseball blog. Some folks were still taking swipes at Sully for his whining last week (kudos to those commenters). But that was followed by someone griping that what we need is a third baseman, because Aramis Ramirez isn’t “clutch” enough.

That would be the same A-Ram whose 16 dingers are second on the team, and whose 65 RBIs lead the team. None of those came in the clutch?

Ramirez is second to Derrek Lee in batting average and OPS, and his .550 slugging is tops on the roster. Not “clutch” enough, I guess.

Good to see that blaming the team’s best players for all that team’s failures (real or imagined) isn’t confined to the Bronx…

I called on my vast reservoir of patience and dismissed this guy as a dope. But today, it was a little more difficult.

After this afternoon’s thrilling victory in Cincy, WGN radio’s post-game show took calls from the fans. The first caller said that the Cubs needed to make a deal to get a starting pitcher to take Rich Hill (113 K, .227 BAA) or Sean Marshall’s (3.10 ERA, .243 BAA) spot in the rotation.

Fortunately, the guy in the studio showed some semblance of sense today, and wondered just who was available that was appreciably better than either Hill or Marshall. Granted, those guys aren’t making anyone forget Sandy Koufax or Warren Spahn, but come on – how many pitchers out there are throwing that well? And are any of them available in a deal that wouldn’t cost us our entire farm system, plus all their first born children?

*sigh* The old adage claims that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again while expecting different results. If that’s true, I’m insane whenever I read the message boards. Or turn on the radio…

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Saturday, July 28, 2007

Veterans' Committee Revamps Rules

I hope this doesn't make it "too easy" for these guys to elect anybody. I wouldn't want Bob Feller to cry, you know...

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Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Has It Been That Long?

Sully has a pretty decent piece on the summer of 1977 in Chicago. For a brief moment that July, both the Cubs and White Sox were in first place, and life was all sunshine and lollipops.

Soon after, unfortunately, Bruce Sutter suffered the first of many injuries do to overwork, and the White Sox couldn't hit enough to make up for their porous defense.

Ah, well. It was fun while it lasted.

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Monday, July 23, 2007

Report from Wrigley Field

Took the family to beautiful Wrigley Field Thursday to see our heroes take on the Giants. The Younger Heir and I were thrilled to be back among our people. The Older Heir and the Reason for Living, not so much.

It was a good game, won by the home team 9-8. Bonds hit two homers against a wind blowing straight in from center field at a reported 15 mph. I swear that the first was hit higher than the right field foul pole. Guess the Clear really does pay off, huh?

We got off to an early lead, thanks to Matt Morris being Matt Morris, and the Giants defense somehow letting Aramis get to third after a hard single to right in the first inning.

Fortunately, the Giant bullpen had been worn down the previous few games, so Morris was left in to give up a total of eight runs (five earned). I say fortunately, because Bonds wound up with six RBIs. It’s a good thing Marmol and Howry were able to shut down the Giants’ batters in the eight and ninth, because no Cub Fan in attendance wanted to see Bonds hit home run 754.

Other notes from the game:
** Jacques Jones went four for five, prompting the Younger Heir to ask me why I always complain about how much he sucks.

** Ted Lilly stole a base, and Cliff Floyd scored from second on a passed ball. Not a good day for Bengie Molina.

** It’s a good thing Derrek Lee is back from suspension tomorrow, because the lineup Lou trotted out that game was more than a little unimpressive. Daryle Ward batting third is bad enough – having to replace him with Mark DeRosa after an injury doesn’t inspire much confidence. Mike Fontenot should not be hitting sixth (nor should he have hit third, as he did earlier in the week). Jacques still is bad, and Jason Kendall isn’t an upgrade.

When losing Cliff Floyd to the predictable injury is a blow to the lineup, you know your team is approaching an Astros-like level of futility…

** On the whole, it was a splendid time. The rain held off, there weren’t any obnoxious drunks in our section, and the Bonds taunts were refreshingly free of vulgarity. Thanks to Todd the Mark Grace Fan for hooking us up with tickets. The Younger Heir is already asking about our next trip…

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We’ll Always Have Paris

So I’m gabbing with one of the sales guys at work this afternoon. It was a required-by-law baseball chat, since he is Cardinal Fan and I am Cub Fan, and our eternal rivalry continues tomorrow night.

As Cardinal Fan is wont to do, he was whining about how difficult his season has been. Trying to lighten the mood, I told him it could be worse – he could be White Sox Fan.

His reply: “At least they’ve won something before the last Ice Age.”

It’s a familiar refrain I’ve heard from just about everybody over the last few years. But it got me thinking – if we’re discussing what’s going on right now, this year, who the hell cares what happened last year, two years ago, or (for that matter) last week?

Last year was great for Cardinal Fan. 2005 was awesome for White Sox Fan. Alas, they don’t play for the PGA, so there’s no sponsor’s exemption for them to get a pass this year. The flag flies forever, but it hasn’t given either team any extra lift this year.

Looking at it from the other extreme, the Tigers lost 119 games in 2003. None of those affected their World Series run last year.

The Brewers haven’t had a winning season since before Ryne Sandberg retired the first time. Somehow, the Brew Crew isn’t letting that stop them from stomping on the NL Central.

I like history and reminiscing as much as the next guy. But when I’m discussing current events, neither of those is very relevant. Learning from history is one thing, but missing history in the making because we can’t tear ourselves away from our favorite stories is another…


Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Call the Waaaah-mbulance Part II

Sully holds a cry fest at the Tribune blog:

Cubs general manager Jim Hendry announced the Kendall trade during the Cubs telecast on WCIU-Ch. 26 last night, making the media wait until afterward to learn of the deal. The Cubs PR department had the press release already written and was simply waiting for Hendry to announce it on TV before telling the beat reporters. Maybe this is the wave of the future, but it shows how little the organization cares about the reporters who cover their team every day. I don't know of any other team that announces its trades on TV, but the Cubs apparently believe they're above it all.

Sweet zombie Jesus! Did not getting that press release result in Sully missing the deadline for the 9:13 pm print edition of the Trib?

I'd mock Sully until carpal tunnel syndrome crippled me for life, but the commenters at the blog took care of that for me. Read the comments and enjoy a good laugh.


Monday, July 16, 2007

Rearranging the Deck Chairs

So first we ditch Rob Bowen to make room for another pitcher on the roster.

Then we trade Bowen (and a minor-league pitcher) for Jason Kendall.

You have got to be kidding me.

Kendall, basically, is the catching version of Jacques Jones. Teams in contention don't need one Jacques Jones, let alone two.

Forcing myself to look on the bright side, I've heard Kendall is in the last year of his contract, so he should be gone at the end of the year. And can he suck any more than Bowen did?

Don't answer that...

By the way, Jerry Blevins, the LHP we sent to Oakland as part of the deal, is 3-2 with nine saves and a 1.02 ERA while splitting time in Daytona and Tennessee this year. I bet Sully is able to get in at least one Dontrelle Willis reference in time to make tomorrow's paper...

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Where, Indeed?

Big Mouth came out today and said that Carlos Zambrano is his BFF. And he's got no time for anyone who was dissin' his man earlier this year:

It's also true he [Zambrano] seems to struggle early every season. But it's well worth the wait when he comes out of hibernation. He started this season 4-4 with a 5.61 earned-run average. Remember the public gnashing of teeth?

In his last 10 starts, he is 7-3 with a 2.29 ERA. Where are the teeth-gnashers now?

Let's set the Way-Back Machine for 2 June 2007. Those happy few who purchased a copy of that day's Tribune found this nugget of joy waiting for them:

Given the way Zambrano unraveled before our eyes, turning Barrett into both a scapegoat and a punching bag in a shamefully unprofessional display -- and yes, also that 5.62 earned-run average he is lugging around -- there's no way for the Cubs to justify giving him the five-year, $75-million contract he should have had in his pocket long ago. Not anymore.

With that being the case, it's time to trade him and clear the decks for next year's free agent signings.

That was from Dr. Phil. Scanning a few inches up and to the left on page four of that day's sports section gave you this profound insight:

Zambrano is among the best pitchers in baseball, but he has looked like just another guy the first two months of the season. He's 5-5. The Braves had 20 hits Friday, 13 of them against Zambrano.

Zambrano is supposed to be better than this. Instead, he has a bad habit of zoning out for an inning or two every game. Aces win games. They don't stand on the mound wondering whether Batman could beat up Superman, or whatever it is Zambrano thinks about when he loses track of things.

He turned 26 Friday. He's not a kid anymore.

You'll never guess who wrote that. Actually, you won't guess, 'cause I'm gonna tell you. It was Big Mouth.

Unfortunately, online records from the first week of June are spotty at best, so no links are available. Go to your local public library and pull the microfiche and look for yourself.

So where are the teeth-gnashers now? A few of them are sitting in Tribune Tower, trying their hardest to disappear their strongly-held opinions of June.

And one more thing -- Batman could so totally kick Superman's ass. Partly because Supes is a stand-up guy who believes in fair play, while Batman is a sociopath who will do anything to win. But mostly because Batman carries around kryptonite for just such a contingency...

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Sunday, July 15, 2007

What the Zell?

I ran into one of our sales guys at the office the other day. He knows a guy who knows Sam Zell, the owner of the Tribune Company and, by extension, the Chicago Cubs.

The sales guy told me that the rumored Jacques Jones to Florida deal was quashed by Zell himself. From what this guy heard, Zell didn't see the logic in paying Jones $5 million to play somewhere else.

Also, the sales guy said that Zell ordered Hendry and Piniella to play Jones. Because that's how Zell rolls -- when he talks he expects stuff to happen.

Accept this story with the grain of salt you should always accept stories that come from the friend of a friend of a friend. But if it is true, it makes me happier than ever that the suits at the Tower are going to unload the team.

Zell might be a big-shot business guy, but this move shows he has little idea about the concept of sunk cost. The money committed to Jones is already gone -- no GM in his right mind would take on that contract, not even in exchange for non-prospects (oh, how I miss Chuck LaMar...).

In Zell's thinking, sending Loria the Destroyer $5 mil for the privilege of playing Jones might be a waste. But since Zell vetoed the trade, we're paying that same $5 million and wasting a roster spot. Talk about a lose-lose situation.

I didn't think the Jones signing was horrible last year. However, I also hoped that Jones would be at least a marginally productive outfielder. He's fallen off a cliff this year, and the only way we'll be able to move him is if he starts hitting.

Maybe Zell should order Jones to start hitting. If that approach works at the Tower, why not at Wrigley?

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Saturday, July 14, 2007

Settle Down

Cub Fans, please settle down. Yes, everyone's in an uproar because our favorite NBA owner has submitted paperwork so he can bid on the Cubs. But it ain't gonna happen.

Look at the owners who have bought into the old boys' club that is MLB since Baron Budhausen took over. Arte Moreno is the only one who isn't bland, boring older guy in a suit. Do you think Cuban would fit in with the rest of the fellas?

Besides, Cuban and the power behind the Baron's throne (Jerry Reinsdorf) can't stand each other (reportedly). Jerry and Cuban have history in the NBA. Do you think he'll overlook that past animosity and let Cuban buy the team just down the el tracks from him?

I'd like to see Cuban get the team just for the entertainment value. But Jim and I have a better chance of raising money through PayPal and buying the team ourselves than Cuban does...


They Write Letters

The sports eds at Tribune Tower must be having some difficulties filling their Saturday letters to the editor page. Why else would they print this missive from a reader who takes exception to Mike Downey's cryfest:

CHICAGO -- Mike Downey points out that athletes are given multiple breaks after they break the law or team rules (Tribune, July 12). Then he whines that those in the media seem to be judged more harshly. Welcome aboard the Obvious Express, Mike.

Athletes are entertainers. What they do for a living isn't critical to many people's lives. Someone needs to remind Mr. Downey that the media, at least theoretically, has a higher calling.

Therefore, as with a cop gone bad, the punishment for breaking this public trust needs to be severe.

-- G-- T--

Well said, Mr. T. I wish I had thought of it first...

With the Cubs playing well, and White Sox Fan in hiding, the eds can't rely on inane letters about how crummy the Cubs are to fill their precious column inches. Fortunately, they get plenty of inane letters about Barry Bonds to take up the slack. Like this one from Park Ridge's K.W.:

While many await Barry Bonds' big day to outhit Henry Aaron, no matter how you
slice it, Babe Ruth will always be remembered as the home run king of baseball. He did it best, and he did it faster. Why not compare apples to apples? Ruth not only hit them out of the park, he also pitched. Can't say that for Bonds.

Yes, Ms. W. -- let's compare apples to apples! But if we're going to compare Bonds and Ruth as home run sluggers (the apples, if you will), how does Babe's pitching prowess enter the equation? It would seem to be more of an orange than an apple.

Ah, well -- if life hands you apples and oranges, make a delicious fruit salad, I always say. Thank you, Tribune editors, for once again brightening my Saturday morning with your ever-fruity selection of reader mail!

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Watch for Falling Fans

What is it with New York?

First there was this at Shea. And now the Yankees get in on act.

Perhaps the New York stadiums should equip their seats with air bags...

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Things Change

With the calendar flipped to the proverbial second half of the baseball season, it's been amusing to see how things have changed in the last few months:

** Cub Fans who were ready to run Michael Barrett out of town on a rail for his poor defense and puzzling base running choices now want to run Koyie Hill and Rob Bowen out of town for their Girardi-like lack of hitting. How could Hendry be so foolish as to trade Barrett? they cry.

** Cub Fans (and members of the baseball punditocracy) who were desperate for Felix Pie to take over in center field. It doesn't matter what he hits, they claimed. He's better than anyone else they've got.

Apparently not. After posting a .216 BA and .617 OPS, Felix is once again enjoying the sights and sounds of Des Moines. And those Friends of Felix? Now they're comparing Pie to Corey Patterson -- and blaming the Cubs for rushing the poor fellow.

Reports of irony's death seem to have been exaggerated...

** It's not just Cub Fans changing their tunes. Here's a nugget of joy from White Sox stalwart Paul Konerko:

Less than two years after winning a World Series title, the White Sox aren't even considered among the top four teams in Chicago included in an ESPN poll.

The Sox were omitted from an ESPN SportsNation poll that asked: "Which sports team do you most associate with Chicago?"

Listed were the Bears, Blackhawks, Bulls and the rival Cubs.

First baseman Paul Konerko took exception to the Sox's omission during an
interview Friday on ESPN News.

Can it really only have been two years ago Paul and his teammates proclaimed their total disinterest in what the vile media was saying about them? Things change, indeed...

By the way, who would Konerko cast his ballot for?

When asked which team he would vote for, Konerko answered "Bears."

Well, maybe not everything changes...

** ...like the latest missive from Big Mouth. Read it if you can stomach it. Here's a recap if you don't have the time or inclination:

Shorter Big Mouth: Cub Fans are stupid.

What with all the changes this month, it's good to see that we still count on something...

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Thursday, July 12, 2007

Call the Waaaah-mbulance

Shorter Mike Downey: It's just not fair that reporters get fired for making up stories, enjoying pool parties with their sources, and calling young women prostitutes! After all, athletes get in fights in the dugout, cork their bats, and call other reporters f@gg*t and they don't get fired.

This post is only tangentially about baseball, but it's a great example of how your press corps works. Downey's column nominally expresses outrage that these pampered athletes get away with murder ("or at least assault," he waggishly says), while "Average Joes" get canned for much lesser offenses.

His case would be more persuasive if he spent some time talking about those "Average Joes." Instead, every one of his examples was a print or broadcast journalist whose transgressions were on par with the sins of those privileged athletes.

And Downey goes on to claim that famed New York Times fiction correspondent Jayson Blair isn't any worse than Corky Sosa and that Ozzie's homophobic slur was just as bad as Don Imus' wacky brand of racist, sexist "humor."

Perhaps most incredibly, Downey is shocked that a TV news reporter covering a local woman's disappearance can't chill by the pool with said woman's husband (who, it turns out, is a person of interest in the police inquiries) without generating a Vortex of Armageddon™ at the same time bad, evil, naughty Carlos Zambrano gets away scot-free after punching out his catcher.

Are athletes given breaks that the rest of us mere mortals aren't offered? Of course. And so are the journamalists Downey defends in his self-serving piece.

But Downey isn't interested in telling us about the perks he and his cohort enjoy. Neither is he interested in the "Average Joes" he panders to. He just wants them to undersand how unfair the world is.

Don, Jayson, and Amy got canned -- but Sammy, Carlos, and Ozzie got to keep their gig. What a world, what a world!

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Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Please Quit Your Day Job

With Bonds only five home runs from breaking Hank Aaron's career mark, the commissioner was adamant Tuesday that he hadn't decided whether to attend the

"All of this will have to be played by ear," Selig said. "I do have a day job."

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Looking on the Bright Side...

Yeah, it stinks my league lost the All-Star Game. Again.

Now I have a better understanding of what all those AL fans went through back in the day...

But, ever the optimist, I still managed to find a silver lining:

Pujols was angry about being left on the All-Star bench and the St. Louis slugger took aim at the National League manager -- who just happened to be La Russa of his own Cardinals.

"It's the All-Star game. He can do what he wants," Pujols said Tuesday night. "He does whatever he wants. If I wasn't expecting to play, I wouldn't have come up here."

Pujols, the NL MVP in 2005 and key to the Cardinals' win in the World Series last year, said La Russa didn't talk to him the entire game.

Pujols could only watch when Aaron Rowand flied out with the bases loaded to end the American League's 5-4 win.

"If he wants to get upset, he can get upset," La Russa said. "Whatever he wants to do, he can do. It's America. That wasn't the most important thing tonight."

Nothing like another episode of Cardinals Eating Their Own to brighten my day...

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Rule Of Unintended Consequences

Who would have ever thought that commuting Scooter Libby's sentence would ever have led to anything like this?

Besides judges, prosecutors, and lawyers who didn't graduate from a 4th-tier law school, or anyone else with a lick of common sense, that is. Even Harvey Birdman will be able to get clients off the hook thanks to this idiot president...I mean, precident.

Oh hell, I meant both.

Great. So now Barry Bonds continues to be reviled as a cheat, and the guy who actually is convicted of breaking a law in order to embarrass Bonds has a chance to walk.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Contested Elections

It's All-Star time again. I haven't bothered to comment on this year's teams because (a) like Jim, I find it difficult to get that excited about the game any more and (b) there were no real groaners on either team this year.

Most of the time, the "debate" over the All-Star selections is along the lines of:

How could they [elect/name] [Fill in the Blank] to the All-Star team? Doesn't anyone realize [Personal Favorite] has more [wins/home runs/stolen bases/game-winning RBIs] than [Fill in the Blank]? It's an outrage, I tell you!

Unfortunately, these discussions are only mildly diverting at best. The current selection process pretty much guarantees that several deserving players will be hosed. It sucks if it's your Personal Favorite who gets the shaft, but it's gotta happen to someone.

Case in point: Carlos Zambrano. A lot of Cub Fans thought he should have won Baron Budhausen's latest publicity flim-flam...errrrr...internet fan voting. For the record, I didn't (I thought Young, Oswalt, and Webb were more deserving).

Ironically enough, MLB created a reverse Vortex of Armaggedon by putting Zambrano on the fan ballot, with several of our esteemed pundits speaking out against Big Z's inclusion. Dr. Phil said with a straight face that Jason Marquis should have been on the ballot instead of Zambrano.

And Fox Sport's Ken Rosenthal shows us once again how fun and easy it is to mislead readers with vague statistics:

Earth to NL: Zambrano had a 5.62 ERA on June 1. Since then, he has produced five straight quality starts. Guess that makes him an All-Star.

Yes, Zambrano's ERA was an ugly 5.62 on 1 June. But Rosenthal's crack about quality starts is highly misleading.

A quality start, as we all know, is one in which the starter allows no more than four runs while lasting at least six innings. And, as we all know from the pundits who claim quality starts aren't really quality, that works to a 4.50 ERA.

Zambrano has been a little better than that. Here's what a slightly more honest Rosenthal may have said:
Earth to NL: Zambrano had a 5.62 ERA on June 1. In his five starts since then, he has produced a 1.43 ERA. In 37 and two-thirds innings, he struck out 43, and allowed only 31 base runners. But All-Stars should be honored for their body of work over the whole season, not because of a few good weeks in June. If our standards are "What have you done for me lately?" the I guess that makes him an All-Star.
I agree with Rosenthal that Zambrano should not have been on the fan ballot. But he had enough ammunition to make his case without resorting to weasel words.

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Neifi Perez busted for popping greenies? And for the second time, since the twenty-five game suspension only kicks in on the second offense.

Geez, it's bad enough he's a lousy player. But to be dumb enough to flunk the pee test twice kicks him up to a whole new level of incompetence...

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Jumping Ship

The news came out over the weekend that Pittsburgh Pirates CEO Kevin McClatchy resigned his position, effective at the end of the season. McClatchy was the principal owner of the team for ten years, until team chairman Bob Nutting took over the gig this spring.

Of course, it's far too early to even guess who might take over as CEO. Nutting said that the search would begin immediately to ensure a smooth transition.

So what does this mean for the team? Probably nothing, in the short run. Dave Littlefield is still the GM, and if Nutting was going to use his ownership hammer to can him, one would think he'd have done so by now. Or perhaps Nutting gave Littlefield one more Friedman Unit to turn things around this year.

Long-time readers know Jim and I have scoffed at Littlefield for lo these many years. It seems unlikely the Pirates can get better with him in the GM chair. Perhaps Nutting and the new CEO will clean house and implement a serious rebuilding program. That could be a tough sell for a fan base that has already endured fourteen straight losing seasons (and half of what will probably be the fifteenth). Whoever takes over as CEO better hope for a long honeymoon period...

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Thursday, July 05, 2007

Larry Doby

MLB.com has a nice write-up on Larry Doby, who became the American League's first African-American player sixty years ago today. Go read it. We'll be here when you're done.


Destination Unknown

There has been one subject on Cub Fans' minds lately -- where will Jacque Jones get shipped off to?

The corollary to that question is who will we get in return?

My answers to these questions: Don't care, as long as he goes somewhere else. And it doesn't matter who we get, because we're in no position to expect anything good.

I've heard a lot of opinion (from other Cub Fan in my acquaintance, on the radio call-in shows, and on the message boards) about what Jim Hendry needs to do. We need a catcher, we need a power-hitting outfielder, we need a "real" closer. And, somehow, Hendry will magically turn Jacque Jones into one of those valuable commodities.

Time to face realities, Cub Fans: it ain't gonna happen.

That's not to disparage Hendry's skill as a trader. After all, he is the guy who turned Hee Seop Choi into Derrek Lee, and flipped Bobby Hill for Aramis Ramirez. So he has been known to pull the Jedi Mind Trick in the past.

But Hill and Choi were at least viable prospects at the time those deals were made. Jones is...well, Jones just isn't very good.

Cub Fans rail against Jones because he's a below-average defensive outfielder who can't hit. If we can see that, rest assured that the other twenty-nine Major League GMs can see it, too. Since Chuck LaMar isn't running a team anymore, I don't think even Obi-Wan Kenobi could trade Jones for anything immediately useful. You're just setting yourself up for heartache if you expect anything more than a box of baseballs in return...

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Red Streak

I suppose it wasn't really a surprise that the Reds fired Jerry Narron last week. After all, the Reds are the worst team in the National League, and the front office has to do something to prove to the fans they're serious about winning.

Heading into the season, I reckoned the Reds would be about the same as they were last year -- a team that would hit enough to keep them on the periphery of the division race, but not pitch enough to make them serious contenders. As it turned out, I underestimated the amount they would not pitch.

The Reds are in the lower third of the league in ERA, batting average against, on-base percentage against, slugging percentage against, OPS against (not surprisingly), total bases allowed, and runs allowed. Part of that is due to park effects, since they're a little better when looking at their road stats. But not a lot better (middle of the pack for most of those categories).

Oh, and the bullpen has blown thirteen saves. I think we can agree that's not good.

It appears that Narron's biggest mistake this year was being the manager the same time Bronson Arroyo had a bad year. Aaron Harang has been great again this year, and after last year most of us figured a Harang/Arroyo combo would give the Reds two good pitchers at the front of their rotation. We figured half right, I guess.

Arroyo's scuffling made it harder to patch over the holes in the rest of the rotation. Which has, to be frank, been brutal. It's been so bad the Reds brought in the dessicated remains of Eric Milton, which ended just as well as could be expected. Milton is now on the DL, where he won't be able to do as much damage.

Homer Bailey has a chance to be real good, but he's going to take his lumps. They've brought up a few other guys, like Bobby Livingston and Mike Gosling, who could be interesting, but it's too soon to tell. I don't know enough about their farm system to tell how good the pitching is. But there didn't seem to be any immediate help available on the Louisville and Chattanooga rosters.

So it looks like Pete Mackanin or whoever takes over as the permanent manager will have his hands full for the immediate future. Arroyo won his game tonight, and looked better than he has in a long time, so maybe things will get better. "Better" being a relative term, of course...


BALCO Leaker Could Get 33 Months in the Hole

At least there's still some part of the justice system where leaking confidential information is still considered a crime. Although I suppose the precedent has been set that 33 months is "excessive" and commute the sentence...

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