Jim & Bob's Palatial Baseball Blog

Thursday, April 24, 2008

It Happens Every Spring

It's the end of April, and that can only mean it's time for the Tribune to rehash the Lee Elia tirade story again.

Funny how things change...twenty-five years ago, Elia said a lot of naughty, naughty words. And people were shocked -- shocked, I tell ya!

Today, there's another manager in town for whom the F-bomb serves as a conjunction, preposition, and adjective. And he's praised for his straight-talking, non-PC way of takin' care of business.

[Side note to everyone in Chicago -- there's only one team in the city that gets a pass. Stop handing out passes!]

More interesting than the same-old, same-old Elia Says Curses story is the accompanying text about the reporters covering Elia's rant. From the first few paragraphs you can tell that Teddy Greenstein is giving us a rare glimpse into the soul of our sports media:

It was a few hours before their 6 p.m. sportscast, and WMAQ-Ch. 5's 1-2 punch of Chet Coppock and Mark Giangreco realized they were hurting for a lead item.

The date was April 29, 1983. The White Sox were in Toronto. The Blackhawks were down 2-0 to Edmonton in their playoff series. The Bulls were already on vacation.

"We're watching the Cubs game and Lee Smith throws a wild pitch in the eighth to bring in the [ Dodgers'] go-ahead run," Coppock recalled. "The Cubs are just awful.

"So I tell Mark, 'Why don't you go to Cubs park? There has to be somebody who will pop off.' "

What that? The media just trolling for controversial sound bites to fill its air time? And not really giving a rat's ass about what actually happens on the field, as long as they can get some good tape of "somebody who will pop off?"

Over the last quarter century, our baseball media has grown much more tolerant of NC-17 language. But they still loves them some hot, juicy sound bites.

Good to know that somethings haven't changed since 1983.

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Not That It's Wrong

Ozzie Guillen had this to say about Yankees captain Derek Jeter:

"At the All-Star Game (where Guillen managed him in 2006), I looked around to see if he has anything I don't like. No. He's the perfect man. "

Now, why does this remind me of an episode of Scrubs?

No, that's not it.

Hmmmm...closer, but not quite. What else ya got?

In the immortal words of Charlie Brown: THAT'S IT!

Not that it's wrong, of course...

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Billy Beane Ain't Nobody's Fool

You can't accuse Billy Beane of looking a gift horse in the mouth.

Beane had the option of picking up Frank Thomas for a shade over $330,000 for the remainder of the 2008 season, or letting him slip by because he's old and grumpy.

What do you think, Billy?

“Bottom line, this was a risk worth taking,” Beane said. “He looks in fantastic shape. Obviously we had a great year from him and he was a great influence on the club. It would be foolish on our part not to consider it.”

How long before someone like Joe Morgan starts whining about Thomas' Moneyball tendencies?


Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Stupid Roster Tricks

I know I'm just an ignorant blogger sitting in my mom's basement in my underwear, but I just don't get the Blue Jays. Yes, Frank Thomas is old. Yes, Frank Thomas is expensive. Frank Thomas was also really the only serious power threat on the Blue Jays roster and by releasing him the Blue Jays have pretty much guaranteed that they will score fewer runs than they did last year, probably twenty to thirty. Because the players that the Jays plan to replace Thomas are bad hitters.

Don't believe me? Let me present the Jays lineup for tonight. Granted, Alex Rios is out of the lineup tonight.

SS David Eckstein, the scrappiest of the scrappy
LF Shannon Stewart. I had forgotten that he still existed.
2B Aaron Hill. Really? Hitting third?
CF Vernon Wells. Your idea of a cleanup hitter?
RF Matt Stairs
1B Rod Barajas? Really, Rod Barajas? You're killing me here.
C Gregg Zaun
DH Robinzon Diaz. If your DH is hitting eighth, you don't understand the concept.
3B Joe Inglett. Because the mighty leadership of Scott Rolen is still on the DL with the 2,673rd injury of his career.

Remember, this is a team that thinks it can compete with the Yankees and Red Sox. Bless their hearts, we all have our delusions. Essentially, the Jays threw away their best power threat because he's expensive and grumpy. That's no way to run a roster.

Neither is the Brewers brilliant idea of carrying fourteen (14) (yes, 14) pitchers. When you're building a space shuttle, for example, it's good to have multiple redundancies, because you need that backup in case one system fails. When building a pitching staff, it's not such a great idea. I get it that you want that extra starter because you're not sure of the status of Ben Sheets, but do you really need all of the following at the same time:

Derrick Turnbow
Guillermo Mota
Salomon Torres
David Riske
Seth McClung

Maybe you should just pick two or three and dump the rest, so that you can get some other players on your roster who can hit and play in the field. Just a thought. Right now your "bench" consists of Mike Rivera (who you won't use), Craig Counsell, and either Tony Gwynn or Gabe Kapler, whichever one isn't in the lineup. There is no scenario in which this will work.

I'm sure that Brewers will return to a more reasonable roster shortly, but this mess is going to cost them a game before they do. In a division which might be decided by a single game, that could prove very costly.

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Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Frank Thomas Memorial Link Dump

** There's nothing better than beating the livin' bejeezus out of the Mets. Well, almost nothing. I admit that beatin' the living bejeezus out of the Cardinals comes first.

But what makes beatin' the livin' bejeezus out of the Mets even more special is recapping the series through You Tube videos.

** Hey -- Rob Neyer's got a new book out. I might have to give it a look-see.

** Thank you to Goat Rider Kyle for quantifying "Scrappiness." Hey, it makes as much sense as any of Dr. Phil's alleged analysis.

** Mike Downey tells us all about scrappy white guy Reed Johnson. He's a "31-year-old who hustles like Pete Rose and hero-worships Ty Cobb."

As my bilingual friends might say, Donde los yikes! Let's hope he stays away from the casinos. And doesn't beat up handicapped fans in the stands.

** This just about sums up Brewer Fans' reaction to Ben Sheets' latest.

** We've got a new addition to the links: Where Have You Gone, Andy van Slyke? Show a Pirate Fan some love, would ya?

** I was going to point out that Corey Patterson is still not having a good season, but Pat (from the aforemention WHYGAVS blog) beat me to it.

** The week's most shocking news, of course, was the Blue Jays sudden dumping of Frank Thomas. Reaction ranged from mocking the Jays for ditching their best hitting just because he had a bad two weeks and praising the Jays for getting rid of selfish, mean, no-good Thomas (both encapsulated here by FJM's Junior). Mike Downey wonders why Thomas is waiting on the unemployment line with Barry, Sammy, and Roger.

I can't reckon why the Blue Jays pulled the plug like that. The most obvious answer is economics -- after a certain number of PA's, Thomas' option for '09 kicks in. But eating the rest of this year's contract seems to be an odd way of getting out from under that option.

Thomas is on the downslope of his career, but there's nothing that makes me think he'd be a waste this year. I think some enterprising AL team needing a cheap DH would be more than happy to pay Thomas the Major League minimum for the rest of the year...

** In honor of Frank Thomas, I continue my award-winning Rutles retrospective. This song is from the Rutles' second film (the one in color that wasn't as good as the black-and-white one). Enjoy!

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Pundit-Hot-Air-Symmetry Fever -- Catch It!

Shorter Big Mouth and van Dyck: Sure, the Cubs swept the Pirates. But the Pirates suck. Therefore, if you think the Cubs have a chance to have a good year, you're an idiot.

Either the eds at the Tower really cracked the whip on Sunday night, or Big Mouth Morrissey and Dave van Dyck were typing off the same script. The two scribes expended a lot of energy explaining that the Cubs would have to do just as well against the Mets, Rockies, and (later this month) the Brew Crew to keep the Pennant Express rolling.

To which I say: No kidding.

I think it's fair to say that beating Pittsburgh is not a trial by fire for any would-be pennant contender (sorry, Pirate Fans -- believe me, I feel your pain). But imagine the wailing and gnashing of teeth if the Cubs hadn't swept the Pirates. Or -- even worse -- split their first six games.

Imagined Big Mouth and van Dyck wailing: Great googaly moogaly! How can anyone consider the Cubs a pennant contender when they can't handle a second-division team like the Pirates? Any team wanting to establish its post-season bona fides needs to beat up on the weaker sisters of the league.

I wasn't about to send in a down payment on October tickets after the Pirates series. But wins are wins, and I'd rather my heroes beat the Pirates now than the alternative.

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Sunday, April 20, 2008

Someone Will Find a Way to Blame Dusty for This, Too

Sean Deveney from The Sporting News reports this frankly mind-boggling bit of information:

Alas, in the gambling scandal that never was, the ‘18 Cubs just might have laid down for that year’s A.L. champ, the Red Sox. In their defense, those Cubs could not have known that, 90 years later, North Side fans would still be pulling hair out over this team.

Now, it cannot be said for certain that gamblers got to the ‘18 Cubs. But Eddie Cicotte, pitcher and one of the eight White Sox outcasts from the ‘19 World Series, did say in a newly found affidavit he gave to the 1920 Cook County grand jury that the Cubs influenced the Black Sox. Cicotte said the notion of throwing a World Series first came up when the White Sox were on a train to New York. The team was discussing the previous year’s World Series, which had been fixed, according to players. Some members of the Sox tried to figure how many players it would take to throw a Series. From that conversation, Cicotte said, a scandal was born.

Considering all the gambling shenanniganes going on from, oh, let's say the 1880's through 1920 (when MLB finally decided to do something to defend the faith of fifty million people), I don't think anyone should be very surprised by this information. I think the story will bear watching, if only to get a fuller understanding of just what the hell was going on in the game back then.

I'm curious as to why there hasn't been any speculation about that 1918 World Series -- at least not any that I've seen before. The Black Sox weren't the only players caught up in gambling scandals, just the most notorious. Deveney notes that Hugh Fullerton wrote about some questionable play in real time back in '18. Is there anything else out there?

How long until someone use this as another example of how only one team in Chicago gets a pass?


Thursday, April 17, 2008

Thirty-Three Is a Magic Number

I wonder if, deep down inside, Ed Wade isn't regretting trading for Miguel Tejada...


Ball Hawks

The guys at chicagosports.com put up some audio of Reds' broadcaster Marty Brennaman blasting Cub Fans because a bunch of idiots in the bleachers threw balls on the field after a Reds homer the other night.

Just a few thoughts on that...

** Marty's right -- throwing the ball back is lame. It was amusing the first time someone did it. No, wait...that's a lie. It was never amusing. Cub Fan, I implore you -- stop. Just stop.

** Marty goes on to say that there were "fifteen or eighteen" balls on the field, and elaborates that that is "so typical" of Cub Fan.

Eighteen idiots threw balls on the field. More than 39,000 other people (some of them idiots, some not) repressed the urge to hurl anything out of the stands. Is eighteen a large enough sample in this group to call it "typical" of the group?

** And just for good measure, Marty adds that people throwing baseballs on the field after home runs are one of the reasons why he roots against the Cubs. And then caps it all off by saying that you know there's just no way the Cubs will win the division this year because they're the Cubs, and will find a way to mess it up.

Is this part of the pass that one of the Chicago teams keeps getting? Just curious...

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Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Words Fail Me

Another reason why bloggers suck and you need four years of j-school to be a real baseball writer...Here's Sully's lead paragraph in his alleged game story for tonight's Reds-Cubs tilt:

When Lou Piniella and Dusty Baker squared off at Wrigley Field on the night of June 3, 2003, Sammy Sosa was ejected in the first inning for using a corked bat.

Have I mentioned that that was the lead paragraph? You know, the paragraph which, if my journalism text book is correct, should be used to summarize all the salient information contained in the article?

You see, traditional journalism used what we in the biz call an "inverted pyramid" structure. All the really, really important stuff goes first. The other interesting-but-not-essential details get shoved to the back.

The reason for this is because you can't assume that people will have the time or inclination to read all your pearls of wisdom. Therefore -- important stuff up top, less important stuff at the bottom (which also makes it easy for your ed to cut as needed).

It seems the most important fact in tonight's Reds-Cubs game for Sully is that Sammy corked his bat five years ago. Rick Reilly was right -- all these damned bloggers are ruining sports journamalism for the rest of us...

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Tuesday Night Link Dump

** Last week, Ken Tremendous at FJM pointed out this lovely piece from SI's Rick Reilly:

"It’s all over the map," Reilly says about sports journalism on the dot.com world. "There's some good journalism, and some really horrible crap on there from guys holding down the couch springs in their mother's basement...

Yes, it's another piece from a journamalist who are fed up with all us guys who think we know something about whatever sport we're writing about. Because if we don't sit in the press box and watch the players get undressed, what could we possibly add to the discourse?

I thought of Reilly's assessment today, when the Tribune wasted the lives of more trees printing this piece of crap from Sully.

This has to be one of the laziest things ever written by Sully, who is quickly becoming a master of lazy hack work (like this, for instance). All Sully does is rehash his favorite scripts about Dusty and Lou. If you've read the Trib at any point of the last four years, you've read it all before.

Cut-and-paste. Why, it's as lazy as masquerading a lame collection of links as a real blog post...

** Meanwhile, at the Tower, Fred Mitchell makes this modest proposal:

It took 22 years before the Boston organization and Red Sox Nation publicly forgave first baseman Bill Buckner for his fielding gaffe in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series...

Which raises the question: Are Cubs fans ready to forgive their former first baseman, Leon Durham, whose fielding error in the sixth inning of the deciding game of the 1984 National League Championship Series against San Diego opened the floodgates for a bitter loss?

Or do the Cubs have to win a World Series before their fans get around to forgiving Durham?

To once again quote Mr. Ken Tremendous...f*ck the heck????

I know that, in this hundred year anniversary, we'll be elbow-deep in rehashing of all the alleged tragedies in Cub history. But this is a new one on me. I didn't realize that we Cub Fans were supposed to be hatin' on the Bull.

If I'm going to blame anything for our 1984 NLCS loss, I'll blame the fact that the Padres won Game Five and we didn't.

We didn't lose the game because Durham booted the ball. We lost because the Padres played better than we did. Can we stop trying to gin up some phony "controversy" about stuff that happened almost a quarter century ago?

** Mitchell includes this nugget from Buckner. Talk about burying the lede!

"I really had to forgive, not the fans of Boston per se, but in my heart, I had to forgive the media for what they put me and my family through," Buckner said after throwing out the first pitch. "I've done that, I'm over that and I'm just happy."

Emphasis, of course, mine. Hard to believe that Mitchell would let that slip that some of his cohort might not be as "fair and balanced" about some players as they like to think they are...

** Goat Rider Curt has this trenchant response to Mitchell's idiocy. Bravo, Kurt!

Hey, as a writer of a daily blog, I understand the need to drive quantity sometimes at the cost of quality. Maybe Mitchell's editor approached him and said, "hey, 100 words on Durham and Buckner by 5PM please," leaving poor Fred Mitchell no choice but to write one of the most ridiculous articles ever written by a Tribune columnist not named Phil Rogers.

** Also at the Goat Riders, Byron has a Q&A with Reds blogger Red Hot Mama. RHM becomes one of the first to offer this tired take on a subject that should have been put to rest long ago:
As for Fukudome, he's hardly a rookie. He played at the Japanese major league level for, what, nine years? Giving him the ROY would be like letting the kid who was held back for three years win the pull-up competition.

*sigh* Once more, folks -- Fukudome, and all other players that come from the Japanese leagues, are rookies during their first year in MLB. It doesn't matter if they've spent nine years, one year, or twenty years in the Japanese leagues.

The only way that analogy works is if you're willing to argue that the Japanese leagues are at an equal level of quality as MLB. In which case, Tuffy Rhodes should be considered a brilliant power hitter.

** Shorter Jeff Passan: Nick Swisher -- what a guy! Here's wishing we could all be a little more like him!

I like Nick Swisher. I think he's a good ballplayer. It's funny that when he was with the A's, people griped more about his Moneyball skills than anything. Now, they're beginning to notice that he's got some talent.

** Last week's Rutles video was so well-received I just have to do it again. And with all this talk about Baker, Durham, and Buckner, I know just the song. Enjoy it, won't you?

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The Day All Hell Broke Loose In Baseball

Today is Jackie Robinson Day. This is one of the most important dates in baseball history; hell, it's one of the most important dates in the history of our country. Let Steven Goldman of Baseball Prospectus tell you why.

Bill Clinton said that everything that is wrong with America can be fixed by everything that's right with America. Segregation was one of the things most wrong. The courage of Jackie Robinson, the leadership of Pee Wee Reese, the quiet dignity of Roy Campanella, and the moral courage of Pete Reiser were things that were right.

While we celebrate the achievements of Jackie Robinson, let's not let MLB off the hook. This isn't a day for MLB itself to be particularly proud of; it's actually a day of shame that such a day was ever necessary. When we think of Robinson, let's also think for a moment about Cap Anson, who refused to play against Fleet Walker and George Stovey and helped cement the color line. Let's think about Judge Landis, who vigilantly enforced the line while piously telling the public that no such line existed. Let's think about Yankees GM George Weiss, who told a writer that he'd never allow blacks to play for the Yankees "because it would offend boxholders from Westchester to have to sit with niggers." Let's think about Tom Yawkey's Red Sox, who were tipped off to Willie Mays in the late 1940's but decided not to offer him a contract because he wasn't "their type of player" and didn't integrate until 12 years after Robinson broke in. Anson, Landis, Weiss, and Yawkey are all members of baseball's Hall of Fame.

As much as we criticize Bud Selig on this site, I have to say that Selig seems sincere about moving the game far beyond its sordid racist past. Jackie Robinson Day, the Civil Rights Game, the RBI program are excellent ideas that MLB should be credited for.

Racism in America is far from eliminated. A day like this is an inspiration, a day in which we can see that progress can be made against the most seemingly intractable opposition.


Sunday, April 13, 2008

It's Especially Tricky the Way It Works

In an article printed today, Sully re-hashes Carlos Zambrano's "fit" from Friday night and openly calls Zambrano "crazy as ever."

Meanwhile, Dave van Dyck advances the White Sox' assertion that they're not a bunch of "whiners." As you may have heard, Ozzie Guillen accused an umpire of having a vendetta against him, and Jim Thome was recently tossed for complaining about a called strike.

Apparently, those were not "fits," and Ozzie isn't as "crazy as ever."

Because I like to be fair and balanced, I'll let White Sox GM Kenny Williams have the last word:
There's only one sports team in Chicago that will get a pass. I won't name them. But it ain't us.

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Saturday, April 12, 2008

You've Been Warned

An interesting little tid-bit buried in Jayson Stark's latest column:

Bet you didn't even know there is a spring training crisis, right? Well, there isn't yet. But something happened this week that's about to unleash one.

That development was the finalization of the Reds' financing deal with Goodyear, Ariz., making their 2010 move to Arizona official. So why is that a crisis? Well, it's bad enough that one of the best sites in Florida (Sarasota) will be teamless. But it's a crisis because when the Reds leave, it's going to create an odd number of teams (15 apiece) in each state.

The big ramification of that mess is that at least one team will either have to be off, or scheduled for a split-squad game, every day of spring training. That's not an issue early in the spring. But by the last week of the spring, nobody wants to play a split-squad game. And if there is one, there will be so many minor leaguers playing in it, we bet some ticket-buyers will want their money back.

The Reds' exit also worsens the already-arduous travel issue in Florida, where teams are much more spread out than they are in Arizona. And you'd be surprised how many baseball people are ticked off by all of this.

Some of that unhappiness is being aimed at the government officials in Florida who don't even seem to care about all the tourist dollars they're chasing away. But some folks in baseball are also asking this question:

How could the commissioner's office sit back and let this happen? Wasn't this an issue worthy of MLB's intervention? Couldn't the commissioner's discretionary fund have ridden to the rescue when the Reds and Sarasota couldn't agree on how to fund necessary improvements to the complex?

"My understanding is, that's exactly what it was intended for," said an official of one team that trains in Florida. "They don't like to tell us what that fund is used for. But that's what it was supposed to be used for."

You'll be reading lots of stories about this "crisis" in 2010. We just wanted to be the first column on your block to alert you to the impending panic attack.

At the risk of sounding cynical, here's my two cents: Why didn't Baron Budhausen use his discretionary fund to "rescue" the Sarasota training site? Because if a MLB team is getting government financing (say, from Goodyear AZ), why in God's name would he want to spend MLB money?

That's how Budhausen has rolled in every other new facility debate that's crossed his desk. Why should his attitude be any different for a spring training stadium?

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Stay Classy, White Sox Fans

File this one under "Why Am I Not Surprised?"

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Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Tuesday Night Link Dump

It's the laziest post of the week, as I just don't feel like thinking all that much...

** Listening to the Rays/Mariners game tonight, I just heard what could be the greatest radio promotion of all time!

If you bring a radio to the Trop, and one of crew there spots you with it, they'll give you a game ball. And a chance to give a shout-out on the air.

OK, so it's not much. Still, I think it's pretty cool.

** As far as bloggers go, Sully makes me look like someone who puts effort into it. He rarely posts anything that isn't a cut-and-paste from his pieces in the next day's paper (unlike White Sox beat reporter Mark Gonzales, who seems to understand that the blog provides a medium that offers the opportunity to post in real time).

Sully, though, was quick to put this post up trumpeting the Cubs' blown seven-run lead Monday. If you're looking for a follow-up post that mentions in passing the Cubs winning that game in extras...well, you're still waiting.

What do you think about that, Kenny Williams?

There's only one sports team in Chicago that will get a pass. I won't name them. But it ain't us.

** I've already mocked Dr. Phil for his dopey "Power Rankings." Fortunately, Bad Kermit at Hire Jim Essian! presents a funnier mockery of the "Power Rankings." He even includes a re-set of this famous play:

** Fire Joe Morgan's Ken Tremendous presents a cogent write-up of what I consider to be the greatest moment in the history of ESPN Sunday Night Baseball. I mean, did the guys at ESPN really expect the umpire to say something not bleep-worthy after getting drilled in the face with a pitch?

** I'm not sure what The New Yorker's Roger Angell is trying to say here. I think he's saying that baseball players used steroids because they want to make an assload of money, not because they want to tarnish the game's hallowed records. Any thoughts on that?

** As you may have heard, the pit known as Shea Stadium is closing after this year. And while MLB.com's Michael Bauman mentions one famous non-baseball event held there, I don't understand how he could leave this one out of his column:

** And just for the hell of it, take a trip in the Way-Back Machine and revisit a classic episode of Batgirl's Legovision. Because I miss Batgirl.

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Isn't It Ironic, Don't You Think?

Of the 750 active major league players, only one, Jamie Moyer, had been born at the time the first pitch was thrown at brand-new Shea Stadium on April 17, 1964.

Guess who random chance drew as the starting pitcher for the Phillies for todays final home opener at Shea.

It's not Adam Eaton.

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Light Shining Through The Blackout?

Well, well...perhaps MLB has finally begun to realize the absurdity of their blackout policies.

Living in Sacramento, I'm blacked out of the Athletics and Giants. I can live with that, even if I don't really agree with it. Besides, who wants to watch the 2008 Giants, anyway? And I do have the option of watching the archived version of the game after it's been played, so I don't have to miss a start by Tim Lincecum if I don't want to.

But the poor guy living in Las Vegas or Billings, Montana or Cedar Rapids, Iowa shouldn't be considered part of the home market of six different teams. That's absurd.

There is bound to be resistance to this among many clubs, and the commissioner and his president will probably have to step in and umpire. While the goal of fixing this situation by the start of the 2009 season is encouraging, it's probably not realistic.

It's still a step forward. The bottom line is that the MLB TV package should serve the function of growing interest in the game as well as being a profit center. The blackout was creating a failure of the first function, which in the long run hurts the second. Allowing more fans and potential fans access to the game is good for everyone.

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Sunday, April 06, 2008

Oh Good Lord

Dr. Phil offers his special brand of baseball analysis with his first "Power Rankings" of the season:

9. Cubs (6): For this to be a magical season, they will have to play better. They were on a pace to allow a majors-worst 162 unearned runs through five games.

"They will have to play better." Thanks, Dr. Phil! I bet my heroes never thought of that!

Oh, and I love the talk about being "on pace" this early in the year. By the way -- Mark Ellis was "on pace" to hit 162 homers after the first game in Tokyo. He's fallen slightly off the pace since then...

Dr. Phil also has the Tigers ranked #31. Don't ask why he has more than thirty spots for a thirty-team list (he adds allegedly clever things to his lists). Hey -- Detroit's on pace to lose a major-league worst 162 games through five games (and most of the sixth going on right now).

I think it's obvious that for the Tigers to get the magical season everybody expected from the, they'll have to play better.

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Meeting of the Minds

Ozzie Guillen and Joe Morgan -- two undisputed geniuses of the game -- had a disagreement Sunday about who the best Puerto Rican player ever is.

Wish I could've been there to see it...

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Paranoid Much?

Normally, I wouldn't bother to make fun of Jose Canseco. But this little nugget of joy, as reported by the Trib's David Haugh, set off the WTF Alarm in my head:

A courtesy cup of black coffee was waiting for Jose Canseco on Friday when he arrived at his seat inside a downtown bookstore to sign copies of his second tell-all about steroids and baseball, "Vindicated."

Before Canseco took out a pen, he sent the beverage back.

"Who made this coffee? If you don't know who made it, you've got to dump it," Canseco snapped at a store employee. "No way they are going to get me."


So began the latest stop on Canseco's Me Against the World Tour.

Wearing sunglasses he chose not to remove, Canseco called Major League Baseball a "powerful mafia," gave a detailed account of how he once injected former White Sox teammate Magglio Ordonez with steroids inside the U.S. Cellular Field clubhouse and flexed an ego that has never needed enhancement.

About half an hour after Canseco refused his coffee in a paranoid snit, another worker returned with a fresh cup she said she had just made herself. "Good—thank you," Canseco said.

You know, I've said some pretty mean things about Baron Budhausen and his cronies before. But I don't think they'd actually try to assassinate someone who's ticking them off. Perhaps Canseco is exaggerating his affect on the Commissioner's Office?

On the other hand, what do I know? As the saying goes...just because you're not paranoid doesn't mean that they're not out to get you, too...

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Quiet Riot

So I'm listening to Sports Central on WGN radio after Saturday's Cubs game. You'd think I know better, because if there's anything I've learned in my 40+ years on this planet that one of the few places that you can find less insightful baseball analysis than internet message boards is sports radio.

So I shouldn't have been surprised to hear co-host Jim Memolo gush about what a great top-of-the-lineup hitter Ryan Theriot is. Because he's a grinder and "works the count" so excellently.

Here are Theriot's pitches per plate appearance for the last four years, courtesy of ESPN:

2005 -- 4.07
2006 -- 3.65
2007 -- 3.53
2008 (through Saturday) -- 2.96

If that's "working the count," The Riot has the cushiest job in Wrigley Field.

I'm sure that there are lots of Cub Fans who now accept as gospel truth that Theriot can "work the count" without a second thought. Because some guy on WGN radio said he could, and he must know what he's talking about because he's on the radio.

Gentle Readers, if there's one thing you take away from our little cow-town blog, it's this: don't ever accept anything anyone (even us) tells you at face value. Do your homework. Look up the numbers. And decide for yourself.

If there's something else I've learned during my 40+ years on this planet, it's that everybody is as full of crap as everyone else (even me (I won't speak for Jim here)). You know just as much as anyone on the radio, or in the newspapers, or with a cow-town blog. Or at least you do, if you're willing to put a little effort into it...

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Patterson Watch

I touched on Dusty Baker's decision to drop Corey Patterson in the leadoff spot on Opening Day a few days ago. I offered the opinion that Baker could be considered coo-coo for Cocoa Puffs for using Patterson in a role for which he has displayed no aptitude.

Over the last week, I tracked the Reds' box scores to see if Baker continued that trend. And he has. Patterson has his leadoff in three other games. So far this young season, Patterson is five-for-nineteen as a leadoff hitter (with one walk).

Four of his five hits are for extra bases (two doubles and two dingers). That's good.

His OBP so far is .273. That's...uhhh...not good.

The Reds looked good this week, so Patterson's shortcomings may be glossed over slightly. And it's early, small sample size, blah blah blah.

But still. Corey doesn't get on base enough to be an effective leadoff man. If Baker keeps running him out there everyday (against righties, that is -- it looks like Freel takes over against southpaws), the Reds will be hurting sooner or later.

And sooner or later, Jay Bruce will force his way onto the team. Even Sarge knows it:

"Where is that young kid who looked so good in spring training in center field, and why isn't he here?" — Gary Matthews Sr., former major-league outfielder, friend of Baker and Phillies broadcaster, asking about Jay Bruce.

(Hat tip to Chad at Redlegs Nation for pointing that one out.)


Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Another Triumph from Your Baseball Media

Rick Gano of the AP provides a darkly amusing insight into the baseball media's mind with the lead paragraph of his Cubs/Brewers game story today:

Incessant talk of the 100-year anniversary of the Chicago Cubs’ last World Series title already has grown old and really has nothing to do with their 0-2 start in 2008.

Several questions spring to mind with just this one sentence:

1. If the "incessant talk" of the 100 years is "already old," then why are you bringing it up?

2. You do realize you're just adding to the incessant-ness of it all, right?

3. If the "incessant talk" has "nothing to do" with the horrible, terrible, end-the-season-now-we're-doomed 0-2 start, then why are you bringing it up in conjunction with the horrible, terrible, end-the-season-now-we're-doomed 0-2 start?

It's just the latest sign of this year's favored media script: any mention of the Cubs needs to make some reference to the 100 year drought, no matter what!

Like this piece from Sully today. This article is about the new surface at Wrigley Field (one that was, by all accounts, long overdue). You'd think it would be hard to fit in a reference to the Cubs' history of futility.

You'd be right -- but Sully is equal to the challenge. He holds off until the penultimate paragraph of the piece, but he satisfies his masters at the Tower with this:
Waiting for warm weather in a typical Chicago spring can test the patience of anyone, including fans who never have seen their team win a championship during their lifetime.

He doesn't explicitly mention the hundred years, so give him points for a fresh take on an old script. Well played, Sully. Well played, indeed...

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Tuesday, April 01, 2008

The Definition of Insanity

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

Benjamin Franklin

Perusing the box scores this morning, I saw this on the top of the Reds' lineup from yesterday:
Patterson cf 4 0 0 0

And here I thought that Dusty had learned something from his time in Chicago...

Baker should know better than this. He tried the Corey-as-leadoff-hitter when he ran the Cubs. It didn't work then, and after one game it's not working now.

Dandy Don Baylor was the genius who first developed the concept of Patterson the Leadoff Hitter. Baylor's reasoning -- Corey's fast, and should be able to beat out lots of bunts for hits.

Completely absent from Baylor's reasoning -- does Corey know how to bunt for hits? Or get on base, for that matter?

Patterson had spent his amateur and minor-league career hitting in the middle of the lineup, where he put up some decent power numbers, but showed little inclination for ball four (the pitch, not the book). And, as you can imagine, a guy hitting in the middle of the lineup is only rarely called upon to beat out a drag bunt for a hit.

No matter -- Baylor proclaimed that Patterson's speed made him a great candidate for leadoff man, despite the fact that he didn't have the skill set to do the job. When Baker came in '03, he batted Patterson mostly third or sixth. Is it a coincidence that Patterson was having a helluva season before he ripped his knee to hell?

With Patterson healthy in 2004, Baker was committed to batting him at the top of the lineup. By then, we had D-Lee and A-Ram, so maybe we didn't need Patterson hitting in the middle of the lineup. But check out Patterson's 2004 splits:

Batting #1: 245 AB, .261/.317/.486
Batting #2: 196 AB, .260/.310/.403
Batting #7: 116 AB, .319/.389/.509
Leading off an inning: 166 AB, .253/.283/.422

I challenge even the most die-hard Moneyball haters out there to look at that stat breakdown and tell me with a straight face that this is a guy that you'd want to have leading off the game for your team.

It was during the 2004 season that the media starting ragging on Patterson for being a bad person and a bad ballplayer. It wasn't long before Cub Fan started believing what was in the paper, and by the end of the year it was pretty much a foregone conclusion that Patterson wouldn't be sticking around.

Was it Patterson's fault? There's been some talk that Patterson is "uncoachable," so it's conceivable that he bears some culpability for his career path.

But I put more of the responsibility on Cubs management. They tried to shoe-horn Patterson into a role (top of the lineup guy) that he was patently unprepared to handle. And then they expressed surprise that he couldn't handle it.

A better option would have been to stick him lower in the lineup and let him develop. The Orioles did that, and he put up decent numbers -- not good enough to make anyone forget Willie Mays, but good enough for Dr. Phil to start whining about how stupid the Cubs were for letting him go.

This year, Patterson and Baker and together again. And Baker still is laboring under the impression that Patterson can hit leadoff. Under Dr. Franklin's definition, one could consider Baker insane.


Why Bother with Your Best Pitcher?

A commenter at Hire Jim Essian posits this question about Lou Piniella's bullpen management in pivotal Game One of the 2008 season:

Why did Lou put in Wood in a non-save situation?

Well, jiminy jillikers -- why would Piniella run Wood out there in the top of the ninth of a 0-0 game? It's not like it was a key moment of the game or anything!

This kind of thinking drives me nuts. Jim and I have talked about this before, but the gist is this -- closers should only be used for save situations, preferably only in the ninth inning (maybe the eighth, but only if someone like Albert Pujols is up with the tying run on base).

In this situation, the comment is doubly ridiculous. The game was a scoreless tie heading into the top of the ninth -- meaning there could be no save situation for Kerry Wood to come in to close.

Does that mean that Wood should not have come in? If so, then who pitches the ninth?

Theoretically (and practically, if you take into account Wood's performance at the end of last year), Wood is one of our best relief pitchers -- why not use him in that key situation. Marmol had already been used, so who else? Cub Fan is already all over Howry -- imagine the whining if Howry came in to start the ninth...

So who else should Lou have sent in? Pignatiello? Wuertz? Lieber?

If Wood's going to be the hammer out of the 'pen, it makes sense to use him in that situation. It didn't work out this time, but it's not because Lou used the closer in a non-save situation. Give the Brewers some props, folks...

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It Was Twenty Years Ago Today

Well, OK, not exactly twenty years ago today. But close enough.

Feeling a little nostalgic, and on the prowl for an easy idea to fill a blog post, I wandered over to Retrosheet.org to check out the goings-on for Opening Day 1988. Who were the big stars twenty years ago (ok, twenty years ago April 4)? Let's find out:

The Brewers scored 12 runs on 16 hits against Baltimore's Mike Boddicker and three relievers. Ted Higuera got the win for the Crew. B.J. Surhoff batted third and put up a boxscore line of 4-3-2-1, while Dale Sveum capped off a six-run eighth with the only dinger of the day. The O's would go on to lose twenty more games before breaking into the W column, and another 86 times that year. As my bilingual friends might say, "Donde los yikes!"

In Boston, Jack Morris proved one more time what a big-game pitcher he was, taking the win in a 5-3, ten-inning game. Roger Clemens struck out eleven in nine innings, but the Bosox were done in by a Spike Owen error to lead off the tenth. Two outs later, Alan Trammell homered and hung Lee Smith with the loss.

The White Sox put it on the board in the bottom of the seventh inning -- put it on the board five times, to be exact -- en route to an 8-5 win over the Angels. Current GM Kenny Williams was the offensive star of the game, with a 3-2-2-3 line, while current manager Ozzie Guillen ended that seventh inning trying to score from third on a wild pitch. Ricky Horton got the win, Bobby Thigpen the save. Bobby Witt took the loss.

George Bell predated Tuffy Rhodes by five years with his three-dinger day in Kansas City. All three came off eventual loser Bret Saberhagen. Jimmy Key opened the season with the win, and Tom Henke went two innings for the save. Didn't Jimy Williams know that you don't put your closer in before the ninth?

The A's set a precedent for much of what was to follow the rest of 1988 in their opener. Homers by Jose Canseco and Dave Henderson. 8+ innings of sterling work by Dave Stewart, with Dennis Eckersley picking up the save in the A's 4-1 win over the Mariners. Stewart balked in the M's only run in the first -- one can imagine him getting really, really annoyed by that and deciding then and there that no one else was reach base. And, until the ninth, no one else did.

It was dueling knuckleballs in Arlington, as the Rangers' Charlie Hough battled Cleveland's Tom Candiotti. The boys must've been swining away that day, as there were only six walks between the two. Texas won 4-3 on Pete O'Brien's second dinger of the day (off Chris Codiroli in the eighth). Mitch Williams picked up the save.

Over in the National League, the purists were happy as Cincinnati hosted Opening Day. Even better -- three free innings! Kal Daniels singled home Jeff Treadway in the bottom of the twelfth for a 5-4 win over the Cardinals.

At Chavez Ravine, the Giants' Dave Dravecky picked up the complete game W as San Francisco beat Los Angeles 5-1. According to Retrosheet, the first thirteen batters of the game took the first pitch. Fernando Valenzuela fell behind ten of those hitters, but outside of two shaky innings did OK.

The last game on Opening Day 1998 was the Mets and Expos. Sadly, Dennis Martinez (one of my long-time faves) got lit up by New York to the tune of six earned in six innings. The Mets cracked six homers -- two each by Darryl Strawberry and Kevin McReynolds, with Len Dykstra and Kevin Elster chipping in one apiece. Kevin Elster? Not Denny's best day, indeed. Dwight Gooden was marginally better (4 earned on 11 hits), but managed to last the five innings required to "earn" the 10-6 win. Future Cub hero Randy Myers pitch the last inning and two-thirds for the save.

The rest of the league opened on the 5th:

In the twenty-first-to-last Opening Day at Yankee Stadium, Rick Rhoden threw a three-hit gem against the Twins. Rhoden whiffed four and didn't walk a batter. Mike Pagliarulo and Rickey Henderson both took Frank Viola deep as the Yanks cruised to an 8-0 win.

Perhaps the wildest Opening Day game of the year was the Cubs-Braves tilt in Atlanta. Rick Sutcliffe coughed up seven earned in the fourth inning to stake the Braves to an 8-4 lead. Since the Braves were still lousy twenty years ago, they let the Cubs back in the game, with Bruce Sutter blowing the save by giving up two in the top of the ninth to tie the game. Current Cub hitting coach Gerald Perry could have won the game for Atlanta in the bottom of the ninth, but was called out for interfering with the catcher while trying to score on Albert Hall's single. The exhibition of mediocre baseball came to a merciful end in the thirteenth. Manny Trillo's sacrifice fly scored Vance Law for the Cubs' tenth run, and Mike Bielecki pitched a 1-2-3 inning to wrap it up.

The Astros staged a comeback of their own, putting up five in the bottom of the eighth to gab a 6-3 win over the Padres. Terry Puhl started the mayhem with a single lined off Ed Whitson's arm. Lance McCullers came in and fooled no one, taking the loss and a robust 27.00 ERA at the end of the day. Mike Scott struck out nine in his eight innings of work.

Finally, the Pirates and Phillies offered what I consider the least inspiring match up of the year -- Mike Dunne versus Shane Rawley. The Bucs hung on for a 5-3 win, with most of the damage coming in a four-run third. Barry Bonds (batting leadoff) hit a solo home run, and Darnell Coles followed three batters later with a three-run shot off Rawley. Jeff Robinson took over with one out in the sixth for a Gossage-like save (in terms of innings pitched, if not quality).

Hope you enjoyed this trip down Memory Lane. Thanks to the good folks at Retrosheet for all their hard work. Without them, I'd be way to lazy to look this stuff up...

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Where Did I Go Wrong?

It was about 9:45 last night. I was watching ESPN's coverage of the Astros and Padres to wrap up the most important religious holiday on my calendar -- Opening Day.

It's Spring Break week here in beautiful south-central Wisconsin, so both heirs to the palatial estate were home with me. Between the pair of them, the Younger Heir is the one who enjoys the sporting life (he even likes football, for some reason). So he was with me pretty much from the Ernie Banks statue unveiling all the way through the festitivities in San Diego.

Like I said, it gets to be about 9:45 (and it's not a school night, so no cracks about my parenting abilities). The Younger Heir turns to me and says, "I think I watched too much baseball today."

I got right up in his grill and said, "Don't ever say that again. Not even in jest."

I mean, geez -- too much baseball? As if! Would you complain that the atmosphere had too much oxygen? Or that the radio played too much Beatles? Or that the best novel ever was just too much Jane Austen?

Hells, no!

He's young, so I'll cut him some slack. This time...

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YES, What Would They Say?

I'm watching the Yankees home opener. Before the game, the YES Network was running a short piece about the history of Yankee Stadium, with hack Yankees play by play announcer Michael Kay saying again and again, "if these walls could talk."

If the walls of Yankee Stadium could talk, they'd probably ask, "why is a perfectly good 30-year old facility being torn down just to help further enrich the wealthiest sports franchise in the world? And why is public money being used to pay for it? And why is Derek Jeter still playing shortstop? He's terrible!"

They might also point out that they are not the same walls as the original House That Ruth Built, which were mostly torn down in 1974 to make way for the rebuilt park. So please stop talking like they are. Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio, and Mickey Mantle never played in this park. It's a different building.

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