Jim & Bob's Palatial Baseball Blog

Thursday, January 31, 2008

A Is For Aardsma

If David Aardsma was going to come along and knock Hank Aaron off of the top spot of MLB's all time alphabetical roster, would it have too much to ask that he should actually be good?

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Double Your Standard, Again

Anyone notice or comment on this little goody from earlier this month? All of you howling for the scalp of Barry Bonds or voting "no" on Mark McGwire for the Hall of Fame want to chime in here? Let's see a show of hands here: how many think that Dana Stubblefield's accomplishments be marked with an asterisk, or stricken from the recond books altogether?

I'm hearing crickets here, people.

A Google search for the exact phrase "Barry Bonds steroids" this morning turned up 35,000 results. A Google search for the exact phrase "Dana Stubblefield steroids" turned up three (3) results.

Here's another one that caught my eye. MLB takes crap every year for it's record on hiring of minorities. Some of the criticism is fair, some of it not. As much as Bob and I pile on Bud Selig, we have to admit that his administration has taken some very positive public steps such as the RBI program and the Civil Rights game. There is a lot of progress to be made, but at least I see MLB making some effort.

I suppose the NFL is, too. See? Only 42 years into the history of the game, the Super Bowl will have its' first black referee this year. And just think; 42 is Jackie Robinson's number. What a tribute!

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Since Bob Asked...

What about the players the Twins received from the Mets in the Santana trade? I hate to break Batgirl's heart, but it's a fairly unimpressive lot.

Carlos Gomez is a tools guy; fast, athletic, looks great in a uniform, but is not well versed in plate discipline or pitch selection and has a long way to go to develop any power. Philip Humber and Kevin Mulvey are middle to back of the rotation starters at best, and Deolis Guerra is impressive but is 19 and hasn't cleared A-ball yet.

While mid level rotation guys have value, and Guerra is as likely as any hot young pitcher to turn into something special, the real problem with the deal from the Twins end is that they already have a farm system full of promising young pitchers. What they needed (and now still need) are young position players, of which the system is pretty empty.

Super What Racing, Now?

Never mind fantasy baseball, I want fantasy superbike racing. And I want it now! Categories can include first, second, and third-place finishes, laps led, and pinkies amputated. And maybe a camel riding component.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Trading Places

Hey -- some for-real-trade-news! And some...uhh...not-so-real trade news.

The Johan Santana saga finally reached its conclusion, and reaction seems mixed. Well, not about the trade...but about how screwed the Twins got in the deal.

There's a couple people questioning whether or not Twins' GM Bill Smith waited too long, got forced into a corner when neither the Yankees or the Red Sox started a bidding war, and had to settle for a lesser package of prospects.

And then there's the contingent who believes that the trade was made solely to make ten-year-olds cry.

I don't know much about the guys the Twins got from the Mets (Jim, any help here?). But it seems that these guys are still a year or two away from being ready for the Show, so we'll have to wait and see how smart Smith is.

Meanwhile, Erik Bedard is still an Oriole. Some people say that it's because Peter Angelos is a meddling jerk. But Andy MacPhail says that ain't so:

Asked if Angelos was responsible for nixing a deal, MacPhail responded, "No." He wouldn't elaborate further or provide details on why the talks appear to have hit a snag.

Not exactly a stirring defense of his boss. But a lot of the speculation I've read that Angelos is meddling in this deal seems to be based solely on the fact that he's been a meddling jerk in the past.

And maybe that's true. I dunno -- I'm no mind reader. For the sake of the Orioles franchise and its fans, I hope it's not true. Or, at the very least, if Angelos is nixing the deal he's got a real good reason for it.

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Do What Now?

So I get that MLB is wanting to check out the umps a little more carefully because of the whole NBA-ref-gambling thing. But this is pretty extreme:

"The questions that we found out are being asked are about beating wives, marijuana use and extravagant parties," World Umpires Association president John Hirschbeck said in a telephone interview Wednesday. "And then finally with this whole thing about the Ku Klux Klan."

Just for the record, neither Jim nor I condone umpires (or anyone else) participating in domestic violence, illegal drug use, or the Klan.

But, jeez Louise...are they really worried the umps are up to their eyeballs in this stuff?

I think Ken Tremendous at FJM puts it best when he asks "F*** the heck?"

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Monday, January 28, 2008

A Bird in the Hand

A while ago, Jim mentioned the tedium of the ongoing Johan Santana saga. I will suggest that the endless speculation over where Erik Bedard will spend 2008 is rapidly approaching that level.

The latest bit of non-news from the AP says "Orioles president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail has been actively seeking to trade Bedard for prospects. He appears close to working out a deal with the Mariners, but insisted Monday that a trade was not necessarily imminent. "

In other words...nothing to report.

But that's the way it goes, as we slog through the last few weeks of winter. Training camps open in about two weeks, and I can hardly wait. Then maybe we'll have something to write about.

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Friday, January 25, 2008

Jerry-rigging The Lineup

Looks like the White Sox are already trying to short circuit the offense for 2008. Kenny Williams spent part of SoxFest today talking up the modest talents of Jerry Owens and his chances for being the leadoff man.

Said Williams, "We'll see how Owens comes into camp after he had what we thought was a solid debut, when you look at his overall numbers compared to other leadoff-type guys getting their first shot in the big leagues."

Owens is a fifth outfielder at best, but his play after the all star break in 2007 apparently impressed both Williams and mlb.com beat writer Scott Merkin, who today wrote, "But if Jerry Owens shows the same ability to be a lineup catalyst during Spring Training as he did during the second half of 2007, he could jump to the top of the lineup."

For the record, Owens had an on-base percentage during the second half of .339, and slugged .327. That's a catalyst?

Jerry Owens is very fast, very athletic, looks great in the uniform, and can steal bases. Any lineup with him leading off will finish below the league average in runs scored.

D-efense, D-efense!

Having acquired Delmon Young from Tampa Bay this winter, the Minnesota Twins are looking at a new defensive alignment in the outfield. One that moves Michael Cuddyer to centerfield. When asked about the possibility, Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said, ''with Delmon Young in right and Jason Kubel in left, I'm going to talk to Cuddy about it."

For the sheer entertainment value in watching an outfield like that, I'd talk to Cuddyer about it myself.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

The Unbearable Faultiness of Memory

In the midst of an article about Cub GM Jim Hendry's off-season moves, the Tribune's Fred Mitchell dropped this nugget of joy in out of the blue, and appropos of nothing that came before or after it:

The Cubs were favored to win their division last season, yet they had to scramble to overtake the upstart Milwaukee Brewers to make the postseason.

They were? I don't remember that. I remember a lot of smack about how they spent "$300 million" during the winter and still sucked.

But, as I always say, never rely on your memory. Let's fire up the Way-Back Machine and see who the favorites to win the NL Central last year were.

First up is the Wall Street Journal, if only because they still have a link up. The WSJ asked ten writers for their picks to win the divisions and wild cards.

Of those ten guys, three went for the Cardinals, three went for the Reds. Only two went for the Cubs -- Joe Sheehan of Baseball Prospectus (who said he had "no faith" in three of his picks, then names the AL Central, AL West, and NL Central specifically as divisions too close to call -- hardly a ringing endorsement of the Cubs) and Dave Studeman of the Hardball Times (who makes a joke about how he'll "look like a genius for picking the Cubs" -- again, hardly a ringing endorsement).

Brandon Stroud of The Dugout picks the Cubs to win the wild card, and go on to the World Series. But that's not the same as being favored to win the division, is it?

Sports Illustrated and The Sporting News picked the Cubs to finish second.

Athlon Sports' Baseball Annual pegged the Cubs fourth.

ESPN's Dan Patrick predicted the Brewers would win the Central.

Four out of thirteen writers at Baseball Prospectus listed the Cubs as their faves to take the flag. The opinions on the NL Central were so split that was enough to make my heroes concensus favorites (by a small margin) to win the crown.

Baseball Weekly's season preview listed the Cubs third.

And what of Mitchell's own publication? How did they view the Cubs' chances in 2007?

Unfortunately, the Trib's Opening Day special section only lists their "experts" top picks, not the complete divisional standings from each. Here's the run-down:

Mike Downey -- Milwaukee
Mark Gonzales -- Saint Louis
Big Mouth Morrissey -- Saint Louis
Dr. Phil -- Milwaukee
Sully -- Milwaukee
Dave van Dyck -- Chicago

From my brief survey of 2007 guesswork yields a grand total of seven examples of the Cubs being the favorites. Out of a possible thirty-four. Actually, it's six, because I'm counting BP's Joe Sheehan twice.

So fewer then twenty percent of the crystal-ball gazers pick the Cubs to take the NL Central. It doesn't matter. Nine months later, Fred Mitchell waves his magic wand and turns that into a ringing endorsement of Sweet Lou's squad -- and jiminy jillikers, how could they have almost pissed away the division to the Brewers like that?

This is how scripts get started. In Mitchell's mind, he probably does feel he Cubs were a solid favorite to win the division (although I can't be sure, since I'm not a mind reader). After all, they spent all that money!

So he types his script, cleverly slips it into his column about Hendry, and it passes into the record. Unknowing readers will plunk down their seventy-five cents for the paper, nod sagely to themselves, and say, "Why yes -- the Cubs were favored to win the division last year. Everybody knows it."

Technically, I guess, some people favored the Cubs. So Mitchell is technically correct (which is the best kind of correct). But if you believe that he intended to say that only some people (rather than the vast majority) of prognosticators favored the Cubs, then you probably believe a "simple" plus-minus system is a good analytical tool.

Human memory is extraordinarily faulty, especially on matters dear to our hearts. Mitchell wants us to believe his claim, but the real-time record of those predictions shows that the Cubs were, at best, a prohibitive favorite. Just another example of the difference between knowledge and bullshit.

Of course, this is by no means a comprehensive survey of 2007 pre-season predictions. But I'd be willing to bet that I spent more time looking things up than Mitchell did.

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Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Fish in a Dixie Cup

I've beaten this dead horse before, but Dr. Phil just won't let his batshit-insane plus/minus system die the quiet death it deserves.

In a post on the Tribune's blog, Dr. Phil defends himself against the slings and arrows of the readers:

When I wrote about this the first time, I tried to explain that it was just one way to evaluate the ebb and flow of talent, not to judge an off-season. There are two ways for teams to improve: through the addition or development of young talent (always the best way, assuming you have talented young players) and with veteran players. This only looks at veteran players, not the entire picture. One of Tuesday's posts correctly points out that the system I'm using would count Alex Rodriguez and David Eckstein equally. That's why I called it a very simple system.

And the reason your "simple system" counts Alex Rodriguez as the equal of David Eckstein is why I and Jim have called this a stupid system.

In typical fashion, Dr. Phil goes on to try to defend his "analysis" by digging up two of his favorite off-season scripts. First:

...raise your hand if you knew 102 players would drive in more runs than Alfonso Soriano last year, including Brandon Phillips, Bengie Molina, Mark Ellis, Jack Cust, Curtis Granderson and Mark DeRosa...

And then:

This time around, it's easy to get excited about the Cubs adding Kosuke Fukudome, but it shouldn't be forgotten that they have subtracted Jacque Jones, Cliff Floyd and Jason Kendall, who did make contributions in 2007.

It seems to me the plus-minus does a decent job of showing the White Sox have improved more than the Cubs, even while missing out on Torii Hunter and Miguel Cabrera (they lose only Jon Garland among their most significant players and add Orlando Cabrera, Nick Swisher, Scott Linebrink and Octavio Dotel).

Once again, that evil Tribune bias is at work. The Cubs are dumb, stupid, no-goodniks for letting great players like Jacque and Jason and Cliff go. And they didn't get no one good back for them guys! Meanwhile, that swell Kenny Williams is a genius because of all his great pick ups.

And, if you didn't already realize that Dr. Phil has no idea what he's talking about, he drives the point home by criticizing a leadoff hitter because he doesn't drive in runs. Sadly, that reminds me of the guy who said that Goose Gossage isn't a Hall of Famer because of his paltry career win total.

By the way, did you know that 126 players had a higher OPS than Orlando Cabrera last year, including such stalwarts as Jose Bautista, Ty Wiggington, Curtis Granderson, and that no-good worthless bum Alfonso Soriano? And that most sane people think that OPS is a more viable method of analyzing the game than some half-witted plus/minus system?

Click on the link, if only to read the comments from the peanut gallery. Some good stuff there, too. Better than I could come up with., to be honest. And, in true Trib bias fashion, that last comment (as of this writing) is from White Sox Fan calling Cub Fans stupid. Ah, the bias. I'll miss it when the team finally gets sold...

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The Gift That Keeps On Giving

The most frequently asked (and annoying) question of writers is, "where do you get your ideas?" Sometimes it is hard coming up with things to write about; those are the days you don't see a new post here. Sometimes it's much easier, and sometimes we get a little help from our friends.

Both Bob and myself have already taken a turn at mocking this lunacy, as has Ken Tremendous at FireJoeMorgan.com and others. Many others, it seems. So many others that Dr. Phil has found it necessary to devote a blog post defending it. He defended it about as well as the French army defended Paris in 1940.

When you are finished reading Dr. Phil's nonsensical expanation, please read the comments posted below. Take note of two things. First, not one respondent defends Dr. Phil's system. Because, frankly, no one with any functioning gray matter could. And second, neither Bob nor I are the "Bob" or "Jim" who posted.

Also, please take notice of the comments of "Kevin" at 8:07:24 AM. Even a dimwit such as Kevin recognizes that Dr. Phil is full of crap, although poor Kevin is completely unable to clarify his thoughts in a coherent matter, or even in passable English.

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Tuesday, January 22, 2008


Is anyone else as tired of this story (or non-story) as I am?

I'm pretty sure I've written about this before, but I think it bears repeating. The entire Johan Santana story is about the feeling of entitlement held by fans of the Yankees, Mets, and Red Sox; the belief that any good player they want should be handed over to them posthaste, for whatever pittance that is offered.

The decision of whether to trade Santana or to hold onto him belongs to the Minnesota Twins, not to ESPN or anyone else in the East Coast media. The Twins are under no obligation to deliver Santana to the Red Sox or Yankees just to enable the wet dreams of Yankee fan in the media. Ungrateful Twins! Why won't they just accept Melky Cabrera and be done with it?

Be prepared to hear variations on this theme all the way up to the trading deadline.

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Knowledge and BS

Rich Lederer at The Baseball Analysts (I just discovered the site and think it's fab -- it's well worth your time) has been conducting some conversations with ESPN's Buster Olney over whether or not Jim Rice is a Hall of Famer.

In his post, Rich goes back to the archives for this quote from Bill James' 1985 Baseball Abstract:

Virtually all sportswriters, I suppose, believe that Jim Rice is an outstanding player. If you ask them how they know this, they'll tell you that they just know; I've seen him play. That's the difference in a nutshell between knowledge and bullshit; knowledge is something that can be objectively demonstrated to be true, and bullshit is something that you just "know." If someone can actually demonstrate that Jim Rice is a great ballplayer, I'd be most interested to see the evidence.

Well said, Mr. James.

No, I'm not just cracking on Rice -- feel free to extrapolate that into a universal truth.

As Yogi Berra once famously said, in baseball, you don't know nothin'. So don't believe what the guys at ESPN tell you, or what you hear on the sports radio call-in shows, or whatever scripts the guys at the Tribune Tower are typing out that day. Or, for that matter, whatever Jim and I are going about here.

Do the research and find out for yourself. Nothing wrong with delving through the archives...

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Monday, January 21, 2008

Fish in a Barrel

It's almost too easy, but I have to mock Dr. Phil for updating his rather...errrr...oh, the hell with politeness, let's just call it sprocking stupid mathematical system for judging off-season talent acquisition:

5. Atlanta's trade for Mark Kotsay and the recent signings of Jon Lieber (Cubs), Mike Cameron (Milwaukee), Emil Brown (Oakland) and Jeremy Affeldt (Cincinnati) have caused slight changes in the plus-minus inventory numbers from this winter's transaction. In terms of proven players added, the leaders are Detroit (+3), the White Sox (+2), Tampa Bay (+2), Toronto (+1), Houston (+1) and Cincinnati (+1). Houston's improvement comes with a big asterisk, however, as Tejada's status for 2008 is uncertain. The teams leaking the most proven talent are St. Louis (-5), Oakland (-4) and Florida (-2).

Jim's already ripped on Dr. Phil for this idiotic accounting system. For further proof, see the above paragraph, where the A's get props for signing Emil Brown and the Reds get a plus one for signing Affeldt. Neither is a horrible, horrible signing, but neither are they anything to get overly excited about.

PS -- Remember, this guy has a Hall of Fame ballot. I weep for the future...

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Come In Out of the Raines

Dayn Perry at Chicago Sports Weekly touches on a theme I noted here:

Despite the protestations of mainstream writers to the contrary, they have trouble wrapping their heads around the idea that a hitter can be valuable without flashing a light-tower stroke. These scribes will whine that fans and the league have made a fetish out of the home run, but then cast more ballots for the inferior Jim Rice than they do for Raines. All too often, we’re subjected to generational spats over whether the Moneyball approach to offense (i.e., waiting for your pitch and hitting it out of the park when you see it) is better than the traditionalist’s beloved “small ball” game (bunts, hit-and-run, stealing bases, being aggressive at the plate). We know that the former leads to more runs, but it’s odd that the shrillest advocates of the latter would abandon Raines, who played the small-ball way better than almost anyone else. Somehow, though, they’ve turned their backs on him.

So, apparently, power matters to the writers except when they’re grouchy over the fact that bloggers/Web-based writers/stat geeks/kids on their lawns happen to like power.

Got it? It all raises the possibility that they don’t believe their own words. The truth is that Raines is a Hall-of-Fame caliber player regardless of how you think the game should be played. That he’s been so inexcusably dismissed by the writers speaks to the flawed nature of the process. Fans, however, are free to recognize Raines as one of the greats regardless of whether or not he ever gets the Cooperstown imprimatur.

As for the writers, we’ll leave them with their rank inconsistencies and their extra-large helpings of cognitive dissonance.

Sounds about right...

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Some Transactions Notes

The White Sox will announce Tuesday or Wednesday that they are making a move to help out one of the major leagues' worst bullpens, signing Octavio Dotel to a two year contract. While Dotel has a pretty impressive injury history he is a solid reliever when healthy and struck out 41 batters in 30 2/3 innings in 2007. He's at least an improvement over pretty much anyone the Sox trotted out from the bullpen last year.

Mike Cameron, suspended for the first 25 games of the 2008 season after testing positive for a banned stimulant, will join the Milwaukee Brewers at the completion of his suspension. Bob and I had a brief e-mail exchange on this signing; the short summary is that I like it. Cameron is still a good ballplayer, the price (one year, $5 mil) is right, and the Brewer defense gets shuffled and (theoretically) improved.

Having already scored a major coup with the signing of Cesar Izturiz, the Cardinals were proud to announce that they will be subjecting their fans to four more years of this. Because catchers who slug .350 are very hard to come by.

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Sunday, January 20, 2008

I'm a Be-Lieber

As much as I hate to agree with Sully, I have to give Jim Hendry some props for taking a flier on Jon Lieber.

I don't expect Lieber to post another twenty wins for my heroes. But he gives us another option for the back end of the rotation, especially if he's willing to start the year in a long-relief role (which he has indicated he is). And having another starter in hand would make trading a younger pitcher (like Marshall or Gallagher) a bit more palatable.

For one year and a relatively low price, it's well worth the risk. Best case: Lieber gives us 100-150 innings of league-average pitching. Worst case: Lieber is the second coming of Marquis and we DFA him in June. Unlike the hopefully forthcoming DFA'ing of Marquis, we feel a little bad about it...

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Check Your Brain at the Door

This has been out there for a while, but I'm still trying to get back in the swing of this blog thing...
After the Hall of Fame vote was announced, The Sporting News' Sean Deveney made this...well, for want of a better word, interesting observation:

Today, Rich Gossage was elected to the Hall, but, as usual, some of the top offensive stars of the 1980s remained out in the cold. Boston's Jim Rice finished with 72.2 percent of the vote, 16 votes shy of induction. Andre Dawson got 358 votes, 50 shy of induction. Tim Raines, one of the best all-around players of the '80s, got just 24.3 percent of the vote. Murphy -- a back-to-back MVP who hit 398 home runs -- got just 13.8 percent of the vote.

All four deserve Hall entry. But all four are greatly underappreciated because of the Steroid Era that came immediately after their careers were over. They were impressive players during their time on the field, but the problem is, by the time they came up for the Hall of Fame, baseball numbers everywhere were swelling -- thanks in large part to steroids. That made numbers put up earlier look paltry.

Deveney doesn't say anything I disagree with here. It's obvious to any sentient being that there were a lot more home runs hit in the 1990's than the 1980's. Kinda like how there were a lot more home runs hits in the 1930's than that 1910's (for different reasons, of course).

And that's why guys like Bill James and the folks at Baseball Prospectus and a host of other people who are smart at math have developed a variety of methods of comparing different eras.

But I digress...It's the last line of Deveney's piece that made me laugh out loud:

With baseball infected by swollen stats from the last 15 years, the stars of the 1980s are easily overlooked.

Note the clever use of the passive voice. Writers (and other assorted weasels) will use the passive voice when they don't want you to know who is actually performing the action they describe.

Let's recap Deveney's argument. Swell players like Rice, Dawson, and Raines "deserve Hall entry." But the offensive inflation of the Steroids Era made their numbers "look paltry." And because of those "swollen stats," Rice, Dawson, and Raines are "easily overlooked."

Ask yourself, Gentle Reader -- who overlooked those players in this year's Hall of Fame balloting? If Deveney wanted to be honest, he could have reworked that last sentence thusly:

With baseball infected by swollen stats from the last 15 years, the BBTAA easily overlooked the stars of the 1980s.

Deveney's entire piece is a lamentation over those damned dirty steroid cheats, and how their damned dirty cheating ways have unfailry kept our faves of the '80s out of the Hall. But is it really those dopers' fault? Or is it because the members of the BBTAA can't be bothered to conduct some critical thinking when it comes to cast their ballots?

Look, since McGwire, Sosa, and Palmeiro first when to Capitol Hill, we've been inundated with reports about the phony, fake numbers of the Steroid Era. You'd think those phony, fake numbers would be easy to disregard, especially in comparison to clean players like Dawson, Rice, and Dale Murphy. Apparently, you'd be wrong.

Is it because the members of the BBTAA can't grasp math more complicated than "fifty homers is more than thirty homers?" Is it because concepts like OPS+ or Equivalent Average get too close to the heresies espouses in Moneyball?

In fairness to Deveney, he wasn't the only one to make this argument, or the only one to disappear the conduct of his cohort. He's just the guy unlucky enough to have had an easily-found web link.

But all the arguments are ludicrous. If Rice and Dawson aren't in the Hall of Fame, don't blame McGwire or Bonds. Blame it on your fellow typists, the guys who actually vote. Bonds might be the worstest person in the history of the universe, but it's not his fault the writers check their brains at the door when it comes time to vote.

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Thursday, January 17, 2008

Missed It By That Much

ESPN's Howard Bryant nearly gets it right:

Angry denials on the part of Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association, which had condoned a decade-long drug culture, marked the hearing on March 17, 2005. These gave way to a very different mood Tuedsay. Selig and Fehr looked beaten, weary of the subterfuge.

This time, there were no subpoenas or confrontations, no threats that Congress ultimately would oversee baseball's drug-testing program or torpedo its anti-trust exemption. There was simply the public acknowledgement by the two most influential men in the sport that their game had gone awry with them at the controls. It was an obvious, but powerful and unprecedented, moment. Anyone looking for fireworks would have been disappointed. In the larger scope, Congress received its victory by forcing Selig to abandon his former positions and by taking the teeth out of Fehr's usually sharp rhetoric. That left Selig and Fehr where Congress has long wanted them: accepting responsibility for their considerable roles in allowing performance-enhancing drugs to define the 13 years that followed the 1994 players strike.

When Rep. Mark Souder, R-Ind., asked if they felt they had been complicit in the steroids era, Selig and Fehr answered softly in the affirmative, and this game of running from the truth was at last over.

So close! And yet, so far...

Selig and Fehr may have stopped running from the truth. But that leaves two complicit parties to the Steroid Era who have yet to admit their part in the shameful proceedings.

One is our baseball media. The other is us, the fans. Real-time reporting shows that both groups thought Lenny Dykstra and Ken Caminiti and Big Mac and Sammy and the rest of that crew were just ducky back in the day. Let's stop "running" from that truth, 'fess up, and get on with the game we love.

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Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Taking Care of Business

Good to see Congress getting down to the nitty-gritty and diving into the business of running our great nation...

...Oh, wait. They're just making a big show about steroids in baseball. Never mind.

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No One Can Succeed Like Doctor Roberts

I've been pretty quiet about the Cubs since our return, and for good reason. There's just not a lot going on with my heroes lately.

Sure, there's Fukudome-mania about to erupt. But outside some obvious jokes about Ron Santo mispronouncing his name (and incurring an FCC fine or two), all I can say is that I think he'll be an improvement over Jacques Jones and Cliff Floyd. And if that's not damning with faint praise, I don't know what is.

Other than that, the biggest story swirling around Clark and Addison is whether or not the long-rumored deal for Baltimore second baseman Brian Roberts will go down or not. Dr. Phil reported last week that the deal was imminent, but he frets that the price might be just too darned high -- Sean Marshall, Sean Gallagher, and Ronny Cedeno.

Is that really a high price? Cedeno's OK, but his career seems to be heading into a super-sub arc (if he's lucky). Marshall and Gallagher have had their moments, and I project them to be mid-rotation starters. There's value in that, but is it worth putting the kibosh on getting Roberts?

There's been some scuttlebutt from Orioles Fan on the message boards at chicagosports.com that Roberts is over-rated (along with the usual hysterical rantings from Cub Fan ready to string up Hendry for daring to think of trading a product of the farm system -- hasn't the guy learned anything from Brock-for-Broglio???). Besides perhaps being over-rated, there is the unpleasant fact that after the Mitchell Report was release, Roberts admitted to doping. Once. And never again.

On the one hand, at least Roberts had the decency to 'fess up. He claims he hasn't used since that first time because it was a "terrible decision." Since he hasn't bombed any tests, I can only assume he's telling the truth.

And on the other hand, that admission allows us the luxury of giving him a wacky nickname. One of the Goatriders dropped "The Injector" on him, which I do like. However, as a fan of the Beatles, I'm inclined to stick with "Doctor R0berts," for his self-medicating ways.

Setting aside the doping issue for now, will Roberts be a plus for the Cubs? To answer that question, I provide two stat lines from 2007:

Doctor Roberts: .377 OBP, 269 times on base, 448 outs
Chicago Cubs Lead-off Hitters (mostly Soriano): .341 OBP, 257 times on base, 507 outs

So...yeah...I think sticking Roberts at the top of the lineup just might be a good thing.

I think a Roberts for Marshall/Gallagher/Cedeno deal would be good for my boys, and Hendry should pull the trigger on it now if he can. However, I have my doubts that this trade will ever see the light of day. Partly because of other rumors floating out there that the Mariners are willing to make a bigger deal to get both Doctor Roberts and Erik Bedard. But mostly because Dr. Phil claims that "the deal is almost certainly going to happen."

In my experience, the only person who has been more wrong than Dr. Phil making trade prediction was me playing roulette at my company's last casino night (meanwhile, my Reason for Living was putting her chips on the square root of pi and 83 Plaid and winning every time -- but did she share her winnings with me? hell, no!).

This is one situation I wouldn't mind being wrong (and giving Dr. Phil props for being right). Trading young pitching is never a pleasant experience, but Marshall and Gallagher are already on the bubble of the Major League roster as it is. If we can score a proper lead-off hitter for them before we lose them as minor-league free agents, I say go for it.

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Don Cardwell

Saw in the news today that former Cubs and Cardinal pitcher Don Cardwell died yesterday.

Cub Fans of my age are probably well aware of Cardwell's claim to fame (being the firt pitcher to throw a no-hitter in his first start after being traded). Even though Cardwell's gem came more than six years before I was born, I knew the last out of the game like the back of my hand.

Why? Because back in the day, whenever there was a rain delay and the guys in the TV booth got tired of gabbing, the folks at WGN TV would pull out highlight films to fill the time. Cardwell's no-hitter (complete with Jack Brickhouse's impassioned plea "Come on, Moose!" as Moose Moryn lumbered after the line drive he caught for the last out), Ernie's 500th home run, Ken Holtzman's no-hitters, and the 1948 World Series were on heavy rotation when the weather turned dodgy.

Rain delays also gave fans a chance to catch a rerun of that week's This Week in Baseball -- the good one with Mel Allen, not the half-hour of pablum they pass off as TWIB nowadays.

Nowadays, as soon as the tarp goes on the field, WGN cuts to a rerun of Fresh Prince of Bel-Air or Charles in Charge or whatever crappy show they have lying around. And that's too bad. Kids today should have an opportunity to see the stars of yesterday. Give 'em a sense of history and all that.

But enough of "back in my day." Our condolences to the Cardwell family and all his friends.

Another mournful note -- Johnny Podres also died yesterday. Saw a lot of him, too, when Channel 44 in Chicago would show the highlights of the 1959 World Series during White Sox rain delays. Our sympathies of Podres' family and friends as well...

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Saturday, January 12, 2008

Here's More Professional Journamalism, Folks

Bob already covered this, but I can't pass it up. If you want to see what the drunken ramblings of the guy two barstools down from you looks like in print, go here.

And remember, as you read this, that Mike Downey received a paycheck for this. Who needs The Onion or the Daily Show? This is comedy gold.

Believe it or not, there are still many who claim that a degree from some journalism school and a professional gig makes what you say much more serious and wise than any silly bloggers. They are the same people that turn out crap like this.

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Friday, January 11, 2008

Quiet Time

Not much happening in baseball news these days, and I got out most of my ire the other day. I'll be on vacation next week, so no posts for a while. If anything more exciting than D. J. Carrasco getting inviting to spring training happen while I'm gone, I'm sure that Bob will cover it. Until then, good night, and good luck.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

The Hell With It, Part II

Just a quick follow-up on Jim's post below...

Like Jim, I've come to the realization that the results of the Hall of Fame voting (much like the results of the post-season award voting) aren't worth the bother getting upset about.

I used to be quite passionate in my arguments, railing over the injustice of leaving Obviously Qualified Candidate A out of the Hall while, at the same time, Obviously Unqualfieid Candidate B gets a plaque in Cooperstown.

But now I'm older, and perhaps the additional gray hairs have allowed some wisdom to seep through my thick skull. Sure, I'll be disappointed if Santo and Raines and Blyleven never get in the Hall. But I shan't lose any sleep over it.

I'm not interested in arguing about it anymore. I don't mind the conversations -- you know, where I say, "I think Blyleven should be in the Hall because of X, Y, and Z" and then you say, "Really? I disagree because of Q, R, and S." Or maybe you agree, which would be nice, too.

But the only way we can get to that point is if we're both interested in having a conversation. A conversation is not "You fool! This guy's a Hall of Famer! I know what a Hall of Famer is, and this guy is all of that!"

That's just shouting. I'm too old and tired for that nonsense.

And then there's this special nonsense, courtesy of the Tribune's Mike Downey. Jeebus only knows why the editors at the Tower keep waving crap like this into print:

How do you justify to people why Goose Gossage and Bruce Sutter are in Cooperstown, with their humble stats, whereas Lee Smith is not and Clemens with his colossal 354 victories might never be?

How do you point out to the public—or, for that matter, to the voters—that Baines stands 40th on the all-time hits list? That he had seven fewer hits than Babe Ruth?

Couldn't they contend that Bill Buckner's 2,715 hits also are more than the likes of Ted and Billy Williams had, more than Reggie and Mickey, more than Fox and Foxx, more than Mr. Cub and Joe D and Yogi and the Duke? But that by no stretch of your imagination would Billy Buck strike you as worthy of the Hall?

How do you argue with Ron Santo's rabid supporters that, good as he was, he ranks tied for 140th place in hits, 80th in home runs, 82nd in RBIs and that his .277 lifetime average was not exactly the stuff of legends?

Downey pretends he's having a conversation, but he's not. He's throwing numbers around, but there's no real reasons behind the numbers -- Downey's just pulling things out of the Cupboard of His Love to shout all the louder just why Baines and Buckner and Big Lee are Hall of Famers.

This kind of rubbish is, sadly, what passes more and more for the Hall of Fame "debate." And it just doesn't interest me anymore. Oh, I'll probably still throw my ballot out there every January. But I've given up hope that the BBTAA will stop their collective shouting long enough to give their votes the thought they deserve.

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Baseball Like It Oughtta Be!

Here in beautiful south-central Wisconsin, the local home-town team is the Northwoods League's Madison Mallards. For those of you unfamiliar with the league and the team, the NWL is a summer league for college players to get more playing time (and to get experience with wooden bats, which has led to some 1906-like league slugging averages).

You may remember Ryan Spilborghs from the 2007 World Series. He is the most famous Mallard alumni.

Because these kids want to keep their NCAA eligibility, they don't get paid. And so, in an effort to pander to the "these damned players make too damned much money" crowd, the team's marketing slogan was Baseball Like It Oughtta Be!

Because those kids played just for the love of the game, not because they were trying to get drafted by a big-league team and make too damned much money, don'tcha know.

Anyway, it looks like the Mallards are moving away from Baseball Like It Oughtta Be and into Baseball Like It Rather Depressingly Is in Real Life.

The Mallards play their games at Warner Park, which hosted the legendary Madison Muskies back in the day. Unfortunately, a lot of the park still dated back to the Pleistocene Era...errrrr...mid-eighties. So the Mallards are doing what every baseball team does at some point: demanding a new stadium!

OK, not a new stadium. Just a bunch of renovations of the current yard. However, the plan has run into a few snags.

The latest plans are projected to cost $5.6 million, a mere $1.6 million more than what was originally figured. No one knows where this extra money is going to come from.

And to top things off, the city and all the various commissions involved need to sign off on the project this month in order for it to be completed in time for the 2009 season. Of course, that has annoyed some of the alders and concerned citizens. For some reason they think the public needs to be involved in the discussion of how to spend the public's money.

Now the Mallards are saying that the renovation needs to be done for 2009, because the existing bleachers won't be safe after 2008:

Mallards General Manager Vern Stenman is not so sure that the Mallards can continue if the project is delayed another year.

In 2004, an engineering consultant to the city, which owns the stadium and leases it to the Mallards, determined that the existing bleachers can only continue to be used safely through the 2008 season. The consultant estimated replacing the bleachers would cost $800,000, which went into the city capital budget and is the only amount the city has so far agreed to put directly toward the project. The remaining $1.2 million of the city's share of the original $4 million project was going to be a loan the city took out on behalf of the Mallards.

"I've been working with these bleachers every day for seven years. It's time to replace them," Stenman said today.

Schumacher said he wants the bleachers looked at again by a professional to see if they really must be replaced before the 2009 season starts.

Neither Rhodes-Conway nor Mayor Dave Cieslewicz's spokesman, George Twigg, commented on the need for a new study of the bleachers, but Twigg said "the bleachers are close to the end of their useful life. They do need to be taken care of. All the issues are intertwined -- the schedule, the finances and everything."

Dodgy stadium financing, veiled threats from the team...gosh, it's like I've got a real-live Major Leaegue Baseball team right here in my backyard!

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Wednesday, January 09, 2008

See, It's Not Just Me

Ken Tremendous at Fire Joe Morgan has a post of his own along the same lines as mine, only better. It's not only myself and Bob who are beyond disgust with the state of sportswriting (and for that matter, political reporting) in the 21st century. I swear, this kind of thinking is the baseball equivalent of intelligent design, and makes just as much sense. Which is to say none at all.

The Hell With It

I had a sudden realization today while driving to work and thinking about the Hall of Fame voting. My flash of insight? Why do I even care any more who gets voted into the Hall and who doesn't? There is no rational thought process behind it; never has been, really. When I look at the balloting and see that Jim Rice was named on 72% of the ballots and Andre Dawson on 65% while Tim Raines, a far greater player than either, was only named by 24% of the voters, I should stop and realize that I'm just howling into the wind; that reason and objectivity are no match for baseball writers and HOF voters who know that Rice and Dawson were great players because they saw them up close and they just were, dammit! When I see that some idiot gave a vote to Todd Stottlemyre and another one decided to vote for Shawon Dunston, I think maybe it's time to declare the whole thing a total loss and move on.

Because if the voters want to decide that Jim Rice and Andre Dawson and Jack Morris belong in the same room, with the same honors, as Hank Aaron and Ted Williams and Tom Seaver, then who am I to say otherwise? If next year voters decide to pass again on Mark McGwire but cast votes (and they will) for Mark Grace and Mo Vaughn, well, bless their hearts.

Baseball writers are no longer any kind of objective reporters. They are a pack of ass-kissing, jock-sniffing front runners who would rather prove to athletes that they are part of the little clique than do any kind of honest, detailed journalism.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Any Port in a Storm

While I was off on my sabbatical, a funny thing happened...

The Cardinal Fan in my acquaintance called me early in December all geeked up. The reason for his glee?

His heroes had signed Cesar Izturis.

Yes, Cardinal Fan was happy as a pig in slop (to borrow a favorite metaphor of Cardinal Fans) because (in his words), the Cards "stole the Cubs' shortstop." Guess he missed the news that the Cubs drop-kicked Izturis to Pittsburgh in July.

Cardinal Fan was also psyched that Izturis was an upgrade over the scrappy David Eckstein ("scrappy," of course, being one letter off from a proper description of Eckstein). Sadly, that's probably true.

How bad an off season is your team having when your fans are excited about picking up Cesar Izturis? Better make sure the Super Genius has a designated driver on call at all times...

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Jim mentions Dr. Phil's latest foray into the world of numbers yesterday, but I would be remiss if I did not point you to Ken Tremendous at FJM for his take on this nonsense.

It has all the snark we've come to expect from Mr. T. But I think my favorite part is the reader comment reminding us that the Cubs' projected starting catcher next year is Geovany Soto. As the reader notes:
The Cubs are replacing a 34 year-old who hit 7 HR in the last four seasons with a 24 year-old who hit 3 HR in 54 big league AB. And this is minus-one.

In Dr. Phil's mind, that's a minus-one. Of course, Dr. Phil was the genius who thought it would be preferable to intentionally walk Barry Bonds every at-bat (and guarantee him a base) than it would be to pitch to him (and have a better-than-even-chance of getting him out). He also came up with the system that teams with the most starting pitchers who threw more than 150 innings the previous year would be in the best shape the next year (again, quantity vs. quality -- Kyle Lohse counted the same as Roy Oswalt).

But math is hard, as Malibu Stacy taught us, so we can't expect the good Doctor to have all the bugs worked out of his various systems.

And the next time Dr. Phil regales us with his latest statistical nonsense just remind yourself: this man votes for the MVP, the Cy Young, and the Hall of Fame. And then weep softly for future generations...

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Good for the Goose

I second Jim's congratulations to Rich Gossage on his election to the Hall of Fame. Unlike Jim, however, I am snarky enough to carp about a few aspects of the vote.

First, Rod Beck, Travis Fryman, Robb Nen, Shawon Dunston, Chuck Finley, David Justice, Chuck Knoblauch, and Todd Stottlemyre alll received votes for the Hall of Fame. While these guys were all worthy players in their day, does anyone seriously consider them Hall of Famers?

Especially you lot out there who keep telling me Blyleven and Raines aren't Hall-worthy?

The fools who cast these votes have demonstrated that they don't deserve the honor.

Second, I find it amusing that the inflated numbers of the Steroids Era have turned some members of the BBTAA (Jim calls them the Baseball Reporters' Association of America -- I cannot give them that much respect, and fully believe that Baseball Typists' Association of America is an apter description) on to the concept of statistical context.

The latest to come to this mind-boggling conclusion -- The Sporting News' Sean Deveney. He's exceedingly put out that his good friends Jim Rice, Dale Murphy, and Andre Dawson were left out in the cold again this year:

There was some hope that, after the release of the Mitchell report confirmed the suspicions most had already had -- that steroids were prevalent among every level of player in the last 15-plus years -- voters might reconsider their views on the hitters of the '80s, might be more willing to put their numbers into the right context. Didn't happen.

No doubt, the gaudy numbers put up in the '90s has caused many to shrug off the accomplishments of those toiling in the previous decade. But keep those guys within the context of their decade and you realize that, yes, they did not wind up with enormous home run numbers. That's not because the players weren't any good. It's because home runs were harder to hit.

Putting aside the arugment that the Mitchell Report confirmed anything, I think it's sad that it took this confluence of events for Deveney and his cohort to realize that you just can't compare numbers from one era to another without taking the contexts of both eras into account.

Plenty of other baseball writers have been going on about this subject for years now. Bill James has been talking about it for over twenty years now! Too bad the typists couldn't be bothered to listen.

And if some deserving players from the '80s get hosed because some voters just can't wrap their minds around statistical concepts more complex than "Fifty homers is more than thirty homers"...well, you can't blame that on the juicers.

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And Goose Makes Six

Congratulations to Goose Gossage on today's election to the Baseball Hall of Fame. With the possible exception of Hoyt Wilhelm, Gossage was the greatest relief pitcher of all time and more than earned his selection.

Gossage will join the five men selected earlier by the Veterans Committee at this year's induction ceremony.

This is a feel good moment, so I'm not going to spoil it by discussing the flagrant stupidity evidenced by most of the rest of the voting.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Counting With Doctor Phil

I wasn't feeling too well tonight and wasn't going to post, but then Bob forwarded me this.

Now that's thinking. All you have to do to improve your team is get more major league players back in your trades than you give up? So, if I trade you Babe Ruth and get fifty guys like Neifi Perez, I'm way ahead?

I'm quite amused by his notion that the Cubs are somehow behind in the accounting because they only added Kosuke Fukudome while "losing" the awesome talents of Cliff Floyd, Jacque Jones, and Jason Kendall.

Guys like Doctor Phil should stay away from numbers and leave the math to trained professionals.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Some Reflections On Awards Voting

Since we have been taking the BBRAA to task over some incredibly stupid arguments for or against various Hall of Fame candidates, let me take a moment to throw some credit over to the reporters for a change. Last year, the BBRAA made a complete hash of the MVP voting in both leagues, simply checking a list to see who the RBI leaders were and anointing Ryan Howard and Justin Morneau as the MVP of their respective leagues. This year they only missed on one of two, while correctly identifying the Cy Young award winner for each league. Kudus to you, good BBRAA!

The one they missed was the NL, and, to be fair, this was far from the worst selection they've ever made. The NL field this year was crowded with many almost equally deserving candidates. In retrospect, I missed the true winner myself. Here is how the reporters voted as they chose Jimmy Rollins as NL MVP, and this was my vote:

1. Chase Utley
2. Albert Pujols
3. David Wright
4. Prince Fielder
5. Matt Holliday
6. Hanley Ramirez
7. Chipper Jones
8. Jake Peavy
9. Miguel Cabrera
10. Brandon Webb

Not that I don't think that Rollins is a good player; he certainly is. I thought that the ten listed here were better. Rollins was pretty much equal in value in 2007 to anyone named on my list except for the number two and number thee guys. It was overlooked by most (myself included) but Albert Pujols had another incredible season in 2007. His offensive numbers were a disappointment only by his usual standards; they were still better than all but only two or three guys in the league. Add his incredible defense (possibly the best at first base since Keith Hernandez) and you have the best player in the league. David Wright was a strong candidate and probably did not win only due to his team's collapse, hardly Wright's fault as he hit .352 and slugged .602 in September. I should have had Pujols and Wright one-two on my ballot.

The AL MVP and both Cy Young award were correctly handed out. If you are bored, you can compare my votes with the BBRAA's.

1. Alex Rodriguez
2. Grady Sizemore
3. Jorge Posada
4. David Ortiz
5. Magglio Ordonez
6. Vladimir Guerrero
7. C. C. Sabathia
8. Curtis Granderson
9. Ichiro Suzuki
10. Carlos Pena

NL Cy Young
1. Jake Peavy
2. Brandon Webb
3. Roy Oswalt
4. John Smoltz
5. Aaron Harang

AL Cy Young
1. C. C. Sabathia
2. Johan Santana
3. John Lackey
4. Josh Beckett
5. Eric Bedard

I also was not in agreement with either rookie of the year selection, although both choices are very defensible. In the NL, it was simply a matter of picking the awesome slugging of one candidate over the awesome defense of another; in the AL, they voters chose one media darling over another.

NL Rookie of the Year
1. Troy Tulowitzki
2. Ryan Braun
3. Tim Lincecum
4. Hunter Pence
5. Josh Hamilton

Any of them would have been a winner in many other years.

AL Rookie of the Year
1. Daisuke Matsuzaka
2. Dustin Pedroia
3. Rafael Perez
4. Travis Buck
5. Jeremy Guthrie

I remain skeptical of Pedroia's long-term chances for success, but I didn't expect this much out of him this year, either, so what do I know?

This is probably the last year I'll even comment on the Manager of the Year awards, because, frankly, I think that they are silly awards which illuminate nothing at all. So enjoy them one last time:

NL Manager of the Year
1. Charlie Manuel
2. Clint Hurdle
3. Bob Melvin

AL Manager of the Year
1. Eric Wedge
2. Terry Francona
3. Joe Madden

Most of those are pretty obvious: their teams won, so they must have done a great job, right? I wanted to put in a word for Madden. Quick, what team does he manage? No peeking! Madden did a very good job sorting out the abundance of raw talent he had, eventually finding the proper places for them all. He finally resolved the organization's unwillingness to move BJ Upton out of the infield, created a bargaining chip by letting Brendan Harris play shortstop, dealt well with the Elijah Dukes issue, and gave Carlos Pena a chance. He also handled his two outstanding young starting pitchers well, not letting either burn out just to try and win a couple of extra games. How he'll do when his team finally enters a pennant race in a year or so remains to be seen, but this was an impressive job. He didn't receive a single vote from the BBRAA.

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Saturday, January 05, 2008

They're Not Booing, They're Chanting BOO-IE

The Veteran's Committee of the Hall of Fame actually figured out how to make selections this year. It took a major revamping of the committee to pry it out of the hands of Joe "No one else is as great as me and my friends so no one else gets in" Morgan, but on December 3rd the committee announced the selections of Walter O'Malley, Barney Dreyfuss, Billy Southworth, Dick Williams, and Bowie Kuhn.

Bowie Kuhn?

Four out of five ain't bad, I suppose.

All Right, All Right

You can lay off now, Jim. The peer pressure has worked. It's been a while, but now I'm back.

Like Jim, I've been away for a while, and for mostly the same reasons. Although the White Sox' crappy season didn't affect me nearly as much as it did Jim.

So, also like Jim, I'm going to give this blogging thing another go. No promises about the frequency of posts, but perhaps the quality will improve over last year's output...

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What the Hall?

OK, so the Hall of Fame voting results are due out next week. And as any regular readers left to us know, it has been our tradition to write up our choices for the Hall of Fame.

We've been doing this for a while now, and I for one have grown weary of recycling the same arguments for and against my choices. And those arguments haven't really changed from last year (or from years long past).

In an effort to shake things up a bit, I thought I'd try something different. Instead of relying on the same, boring, rational, semi-well-thought-out arguments, I shall instead recycle some of the less-well-thought-out arguments I've seen bandied about for some of the less-than-qualified candidates for the Hall of Fame by some of the less-than-rational members of the BBWAA (and you know who you are).

Besides, Jim has already laid out some pretty good stuff. I’d just be repeating what he said.

Here are my choices for the Hall, accompanied by some lame arguments that I won't take credit for:

Bert Blyleven: Back in 1990, I sent him a polite note asking him to sign the enclosed baseball card. He was nice enough to sign it and send it back (in the SASE, of course). Because Bert was nice to me, he should be in the Hall of Fame.

Rich Gossage: He was a key member of two World Series Champion Yankees teams. 'Nuff said.

Mark McGwire: Numbers should never enter into these kinds of discussions. He’s a Hall of Famer – ‘nuff said!

Alan Trammell: I remember seeing him play in 1987, and he always came up huge when it counted. And he clutch in the 1984 World Series. Post season performance should count for more than the regular season…

Tim Raines: Dude played in Denver for a while. Anybody who played in Denver is a bona fide Hall of Famer in my book!


The Cupboard of the BBWAA's Love

One of the few channels provided by my good friends at DirecTV that I bother to tune into on a regular basis is BBC America. Yes, this is just another sign of my vast reservoir of pretense.

At any rate, I particularly enjoy the wacky comedy Coupling (also available on DVD from Netflix, if you're so inclined). One episode I recently viewed is titled "The Cupboard of Patrick's Love," in which it is revealed that resident stud/borderline creepy guy Patrick keeps a video record of his sexual conquests in his closet (or cupboard, as the Brits would say).

All this is a roundabout way to discuss how the BBWAA approaches the Hall of Fame election. Far too often, the writers don't bother looking at the record when making their choices. All they need to do is look in the Cupboards of Love in their own minds to determine who's in and who's out.

The difference is that the Cupboard of Patrick's Love actually contains an actual, historical record of that happened. The Cupboard of the BBWAA's Love contains no records, historical or otherwise. It's a garbled mish-mash of increasingly fuzzy memories that get focused only in the context of favored scripts.

Do Andre Dawson and Jim Rice deserve to be in the Hall of Fame? Hell, yeah! We remember seeing them back in the day, and they were awesome! Pitchers hated facing those guys! They were clutch!

How about Rich Gossage or Jim Kaat? Hell, no! We don't remember them doing anything particularly memorable. And don't bother us by reciting their stat lines – yawn, yawn, boring, boring. There's no room for dull numbers in our cupboards!

There's nothing wrong with using memories as part of the reasoning process. But there is everything wrong with using memories as all of the reasoning process. That's because human memory is faulty – mine, yours, everybody's.

That's why humans invented numbers and writing and stuff all those centuries ago. So we could keep track of stuff. Because it's hard enough remembering what you had for lunch two days ago, let alone how good a player was twenty-five years ago.

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Friday, January 04, 2008

Hall Pass

On Tuesday, the Baseball Writers Reporters Association of America will announce the results of their Hall of Fame voting for 2008. I've already exposed you to some of the sheer lunacy by which members of the BBRAA make their selections; the really scary thing is that the reporters usually do a BETTER job of selecting than the Veterans' committee does. More about that later.

Since Bob and I don't have the "privilege" of entering a smelly clubhouse to ask real live players and managers stupid questions, we have no real say in the voting. But we can tell you how we would vote, if we could.

The BBRAA votes from a ballot of players with at least ten years service in the major leagues. A committee pre-screens candidates to remove guys like this and cut the field to players who were actually good players. The weakest candidate on the ballot this year is probably Todd Stottlemyre, and Todd Stottlemyre won 138 games in the big leagues. That counts as a good player.

Bob and I have been over most of this ground before, but it's a really crappy, cold, rainy, windy day here today so I have nothing better to do than to cover it all again. Let's start with the guys who are honored enough just to be on the ballot and are not really qualified in any way for the Hall of Fame:

Brady Anderson (although highly qualified for Bob's fantasy team HOF)
Rod Beck (overqualified for the facial hair HOF)
Shawon Dunston
Chuck Finley
Travis Fryman
David Justice
Chuck Knoblauch
Robb Nen
Jose Rijo
Todd Stottlemyre

Pretty much the entire new group of nominees, with one exception. We'll come to him later.

Now let's commence the arguin'. Not getting my vote:

Harold Baines. The sponsor of his baseball-reference.com page says, "Here's to one of the greatest White Sox of all time and my favorite player! Harold belongs in the Hall !" Harold Baines is also my favorite player, and I'm here to tell you that no, he doesn't. Only in 1984 could he reasonably have been considered to be one of the best players in the league, and accomplishing that only once in a 22-year career doesn't make you a Hall of Famer.

Dave Conception. Yes, he was the best NL shortstop of the 1970's. Being the tallest midget in the circus is not a HOF-worthy acheivement. Conception was a good player, but nowhere near as good as the guy who succeeded him as the Reds' SS. No, not Kurt Stillwell.

Andre Dawson. Don't even start with the knee injury stuff. Yes, the injuries reduced his skills and hurt his career. That's part of the game. A Hall of Fame election should be about what a player did, not what he might have done. The same claim about the knees could be made, in fact even more so, for Harold Baines. Injuries very likely kept Tony Oliva, Pete Reiser, Hal Trosky, Charlie Hollocher, and many others out of the Hall. Sorry about that, but those are the breaks.

The only things Dawson has going for him are (1) he won an MVP award, (2) he's a nice guy, and (3) he was a very athletic player. Well, the most athletic guy I ever saw in a baseball uniform was Glenn Braggs, and this was his career. Looking great in the uniform doesn't cut much in this election. Neither does being a nice guy, although it's certainly a positive for your karma. As for the 1987 MVP election, that was one of the worst choices of all time, rivalled by the AL vote the same year (more on that one later). Andre Dawson wasn't one of the 20 best players in the NL in 1987, 49 homers or not. And if you don't believe me: Tony Gwynn, Tim Raines, Mike Schmidt, Will Clark, Jack Clark, Ozzie Smith, Dale Murphy, Pedro Guerrero, Darryl Strawberry, Eric Davis, Kal Daniels, Bill Doran, Andy Van Slyke, Tim Wallach, Juan Samuel, Howard Johnson, Nolan Ryan, Orel Hershiser, Mike Scott, Rick Reuschel...I could go on for a bit, but that's piling on.

OK, one more thing. Andre Dawson's career on-base percentage was .323. Dave Conception's was .322. If you're a power hitting outfielder with the same low OBP as a light hitting shortstop, are you really a Hall of Famer?

Tommy John. I'm a big Tommy John fan. Tommy John was a better pitcher than many who are already in the Hall (I'm looking at you, Pennock, Hoyt, and Haines). But being a really good pitcher for a long time isn't the same as being a great pitcher. All throughout his career, he had contemporaries who were better: Palmer, Carlton, Perry, Jenkins, Clemens. Sure, it's a tough standard, but this is the Hall of Fame, for crying out loud. The standard had better be tough.

Don Mattingly. I know that this is an emotional issue for a generation of New Yorkers, but facts are facts. No matter how bright your childhood memories, no matter how nice a guy he is, Don Mattingly had a career of only fourteen years, and in only four of them was he a HOF level player. Back injuries suck. Mattingly is another great "if." If he had two or three more years like 1984-1987, if he had been able to play even at his 1988 level for three or four years, then I could see a case. Lacking that, I can't.

Jack Morris. Among the silliest of the arguments this year are those supporting Morris over Bert Blyleven. Setting Blyleven's candidacy apart for the moment, Morris' case is weak. He was a good pitcher, and durable, but much of his record comes from the support of the teams behind him. A lot of people thought that this guy was a good pitcher, too, at least until he left Detroit. And don't give me that crap about game seven, 1991. Yeah, it was one of the greatest games ever. Yeah, Morris pitched a great game. If that's going to be the criteria for induction, here'are my votes for Johnny Podres, Don Larsen, and Steve Blass.

Dave Parker. Spent 1980-1984 blowing his career up his nose. Had his career continued at a normal progression during those years, he'd be in. It didn't; he's not. Please take note; I don't hold the drug years against him as a character flaw, I hold them against him because for what should have been five of his peak seasons he was a highly talented mediocrity.

Jim Rice. See Don Mattingly. I don't want to hear about how feared he was. Frank Howard was feared, too, and he's not in. In fact, Howard and Rice are pretty damned similar, and even finished with exactly the same number of career home runs, 382. I could even make the argument that Howard was a better player than Rice. One measure of a hitters' greatness is his OPS+ (on-base percentage plus slugging percentage, compared to the league average) . On this scale, a score of 100 is exactly league average. Rice's best three seasons were 157, 154, and 147, good scores all. Howard's were 178, 170, and 170. Howard also had seasons of 153, 149, 147, and 144. Like Rice, he was considered the strongest guy in the league, was not a good outfielder (although he had a very strong arm, which Rice did not), and when his career slipped, it slipped quickly. Unlike Rice, he played in the worst hitting era in fifty years, in a poor hitters park, for teams that were bad and unpublicized. Frank Howard for the Hall of Fame, anyone?

Lee Smith. Was a fun guy to watch, racked up a lot of saves. Good for him.

And now, my waffle votes:

Dale Murphy. On the plus side, won two MVP awards (although both should have gone to Mike Schmidt), was truly outstanding between 1982 and 1987, was able to stay in center field for a long time (unlike Dawson), nice guy. There are a lot of nice guys on this year's ballot. Negatives: Didn't reach 400 homers (although he had more than Rice), played most of his career in the best home run park in the league, career went completely off the cliff in 1988.

I'm going to vote no this time, and look at him more closely next year. While he's certainly better than many outfielders currently enshrined, I don't know if the total package is enough to win my vote.

Alan Trammell. One of the biggest reasons for Jack Morris' success, and the best player on the strong Tigers teams of the 1980's. Should have won the 1987 MVP award. I mean, come on, George f*****g Bell? Trammell was a terrific defensive shortstop with a .352 lifetime on base percentage. I'm gonna vote for that.

And now, the obvious winners:

Bert Blyleven. Most of the anti-Blyleven argument is that (1) he was a good pitcher, not a great one, and (2) his W-L record isn't good. People making these arguments have been in space too long. The answer to both is the same: dude, did you look at the teams he pitched for? No one is going to look great in front of this or this or this. Those aren't just random bad teams; most of his career is like that. Until he reached the age of 37, Blyleven's ERAs were better than league average every year except 1980, when he was just a bit worse than average, and 1982, when he was hurt and only pitched in four games. And most of the time it wasn't just a little better than average, it was a lot better:

Year Bert ERA League ERA ERA+
1973 2.52 3.98 158
1974 2.66 3.77 142
1977 2.72 4.11 151
1984 2.87 4.12 150
1985 3.16 4.26 134
1989 2.73 3.81 140

And so on, and so on. If that doesn't look like the records of a great pitcher, then I don't know what else to tell you.

Goose Gossage. The greatest relief pitcher of all time, possibly excepting Hoyt Wilhelm.

Mark McGwire. Get off of your soapbox. Especially those of you who acted as his cheerleaders in 1998 and 1999. Mark McGwire didn't have an Underdog Super Energy Vitamin Pill; I didn't notice Howie Clark, Larry Bigbie, or Chad Allen hitting 70 homers. The Mitchell report named a lot of players; a lot of those names can be placed as evidence that PED's have little value as performance enhancers.

Tim Raines. Twenty three seasons of .385 on-base percentage works pretty well for me. So do the 808 stolen bases (at an 85% rate). So do the 1571 runs scored, and the 1330 walks. Raines should have won the 1987 MVP award that went to Dawson, and maybe one or two more. But the BBRAA didn't appreciate him then, and I won't be surprised if they don't appreciate him now.


Thursday, January 03, 2008

Mind Numbing Idiocy

I am going to talk about the Hall of Fame tomorrow, but I want you all to be able to see why Hall of Fame elections suck and are getting suckier. Please read this. Your assignment afterwards will be to answer the following question: Who has their heads further up their asses, Republican presidential candidates, or the BBWAA BBRAA?

Show your work.

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Kenny Williams Finds An Outfielder

Back in November and December, pundits in the Chicago media were wailing and gnashing their teeth over Kenny Williams' "failure" to sign a high-paid, aging center fielder with a misspelled first name such as Andruw Jones or Torii Hunter. While not much interested myself in either Jones or Hunter, I had been wondering if there was any plan to improve on an outfield that was among the worst in baseball in 2007.

Well, three cheers for Billy Beane's rebuilding program. Today, the Sox were able to obtain slugging, popular, and borderline insane outfielder Nick Swisher from the A's. While not exactly Willie Mays, Swisher can at least cover center, has 30-homer power, and, most importantly, gets on base, a concept most Sox hitters, seemingly emulating their manager, had little knowledge of in 2007.

Back in December, the Sox made a little-noticed trade with the Diamondbacks, sending power prospect "first baseman" Chris Carter to the Snakes for busted prospect Carlos Quentin. While I liked Carter (who now, ironically, has also been dealt to the A's), I still like Quentin, who has a bit of power and also can reach base. While I don't think he'll ever be the star I once thought he would, Quentin is also an upgrade to the lineup.

The bad news of the Swisher trade is that the Sox once again gave up the very best of their farm system. Gio Gonzalez and Fautino de Los Santos were the two best pitchers in the organization. Remember, this is a team that thinks Gavin Floyd is a viable starting pitcher, so the loss of Gonzalez may be felt hard some time this summer.

Williams' next trick will be to clean up the logjam on the left side of the infield. The trade for Orlando Cabrera made Jose Uribe superfluous (not that he wasn't a crappy player to begin with) and the rules only allow one third baseman on the field at once, so either Joe Crede or Josh Fields will have to be moved. I advise Williams to try giving Brian Sabean a call; the Giants are good at collecting crummy veterans who can't get on base.

The AL Central is going to be a handful, and even with the Swisher trade the Sox still trail the Tigers (who made a much bigger deal last December) and the Offensive Stereotypes. But it's certainly a step in the right direction.

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New Year's Resolution

Hello and welcome back to Jim and Bob's Palatial Baseball Blog. Most of you probably didn't notice (hell, most of you probably aren't noticing us now) but we were away for a while. Why? Well, I can't speak for Bob (although I sometimes try) but in my case, it was a combination of the following:

1. An incredibly dull, painful, disaster of a White Sox season that I could barely stand to watch, much less comment on.

2. A lack of interest in participating in the shrill discourse about Alex Rodriguez and Barry Bonds.

3. General apathy.

But this is a new year; a chance to start fresh. And so, I hereby resolve to post daily every other day at least once a week in 2008. And if I don't, your money back, guaranteed!

What say you, Bob?

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