Jim & Bob's Palatial Baseball Blog

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Sure, Why Not?

Jim has mentioned Ed Wade's odd decision to trade for Randy Wolf.

That move looks positively brilliant compared with his latest acquisition.

Come on, Ed...LaTroy Hawkins? Good for me, I guess, since it's a sign I won't have to worry about the Astros until about 2012. Not so good for Astro Fans.


Put Me In Coach

The Trib's Mike Downey takes a break from retyping his usual scripts about the evils of the Cubs, their organization, and their fans to laud his BFFs for their big trade today:

The Tribune, 9:36 a.m.: "Griffey headed to Sox."

Excellent news. I was stoked.

Oh, that Ken Williams, always something up his sleeve. If not an ace, then a king.

Ken Griffey Jr., in center field at the Cell?

A cause to rejoice -- set off the fireworks.

Uhhh...One wonders if Downey realizes Junior hasn't played center field since 2006. And wasn't particularly good at playing center field back then, either.

Oh, well. Set off the fireworks! Everyone gets a pony!

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Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Jerome Holtzman

Chicago sportswriting legend Jerome Holtzman died yesterday.

Those of you of a certain age (say, about my age and older) who grew up in a certain area (say, the greater Chicago metropolitan area) will certainly remember Holtzman, one of the finest journalists to work in Chicago. I grew up reading his stuff, and it was a sad day for all when he retired from the newspaper grind (to be replaced as the Trib's baseball writer by [shudder] the estimable Dr. Phil).

Anyway, his daily columns were a joy to read. I was blessed to be in the right time and place to read at least some of his work before he died.

For those folks who weren't in that right time and place, Holtzman is probably best remembered for two things.

First is the piece in Bill James' The Baseball Book 1991. On page 375 (and I know because I have a copy open on my desk right now), James (perhaps a bit too antagonistically) penned an essay titled "Jerome Holtzman Has a Cow."

The cow-birthing involved some minor corrections made to the eighth edition of Macmillan's Baseball Encyclopedia. As hard as it might be for some of you kids to understand, back in the day stats and records were kept by hand, not on Excel, and occassionally errors would creep into the records. The only way to make sure you were right would be to go through all the box scores and and it up. Again, by hand.

Anyway, here's how James described the situation:

When they were putting together the book, the editors of the new Macmillan undertook to rectify some errors in the old stats. Honus Wagner had previously been credited with 3,430 career hits, but Macmillan decided that the actual total was only 3,418. Larry Lajoie, credited with 3,251 hits, was pared back to 3,244.

Well, Jerome Holtzman just about sht in his pants.

In the June 10 issue of the Chicago Tribune, Holtzman wrote that the editors were "tampering with baseball's most sacred and trusted text." Wagner and Lajoie, said Holtzman "have been the civtims of a statistcal grave robbery," which he compared to "a baseball Watergate."

Uhhh...yeah. Not one of Jerome's finer moments. Holtzman doesn't get much more rational in the rest of the piece (I just dug it out of my archives).

Just for the record, baseballreference.com lists Wagner with 3,415 hits and Lajoie with 3,242. No word on what Holtzman thought of that, at least that I saw.

On a similar topic, when those damned grave robbers found another RBI for Hack Wilson, raising his record-setting 1930 total to 191, it was officially okee-dokee with Holtzman. Guess it just goes to show that everyone can get goofy about something...

The second thing Holtzman is famous for, of course, is the creation of the save. Few people can say that they single-handedly changed how the game is played, but Holtzman did with the save.

Thanks to Holtzman, we're now treated to the sixty-five inning closer. The guy who comes in only in the ninth inning and only with a lead of three runs or fewer.

And we're also subjected to the usual round of gibbering about the importance of "proven" closers and how important it is to find the guy who's mentally tough enough to protect that three-run, ninth inning lead.

I think it just goes to show how smart Holtzman was that even he had some second thoughts about the value of the save:

"The reality is, he revolutionized baseball," former Sun-Times columnist Bill Gleason said. "He glamorized the relief pitcher, who was just another guy before [the save rule]. Jerome said not long ago that he was sorry he'd come up with the concept, that it wasn't necessary. But there was no need to apologize. If there were more people who thought like Jerome Holtzman, the newspaper business would be in better shape."

Holtzman was right -- saves aren't necessary.

And Gleason (a terrific writer in his own right) was right -- the newspaper business would be in better shape if we had a few more like Jerome Holtzman. Our condolences to his family and friends. We will all miss him.

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Ed Wade Is Off His Meds

We have a leader in the clubhouse in the 2008 Dave Littlefield Sweepstakes. Littlefield was the Pirates GM who last year traded for the washed up Matt Morris and his entire salary at the trading deadline with his team buried in last place. The trade had no basis in common sense and was the last straw which got Littlefield fired.

If Ed Wade thinks that his sad sack Astros team is in any kind of pennant race, he is serious deluding himself. If he thinks that Randy Wolf, 1-6 with a 6.63 ERA outside of pitcher's haven Petco Park, is going to pitch them into the playoffs, he is delusional on a scale of the residents of Arkham Asylum.

This is Wade's "thinking:"

"We still think the club we have is good enough to play better than it's played. We've got a million games left in our own division at this point in time. Our fate rests in our hands and I think it's important for us to do whatever we can, from the baseball ops side, to give our guys as much support as we possibly can."

He may be slightly exaggerating the "million games" part. I'm going to go on record right now that the Astros won't be in contention for at least five years.

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Friday, July 11, 2008

That Took Longer Than I Expected

Before I get into the meat of this post, let's have a little reminder of what Kenny said:

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

Giving passes today is the Trib's Fred Mitchell. Take it away, Fred:

Tuesday's six-player swap with Oakland doesn't figure to render such historic ramifications. But there are no guarantees when young players are sent packing. The Cubs acquired talented but oft-injured right-hander Rich Harden and reliever Chad Gaudin in exchange for speedy infielder-outfielder Eric Patterson, promising young pitcher Sean Gallagher, serviceable outfielder Matt Murton and catching prospect Josh Donaldson.

Patterson has given no indication he might become another Brock. But Brock, then 25, was hitting only .251 with two homers in 52 games in 1964 when the Cubs dealt him. Patterson, also 25, hit .239 with one homer in 20 games with the Cubs.

No, Patterson has given no indications that he's anywhere near as good as Brock. But let's make the Brock-for-Broglio comparison anyway.

Just another way that damned Chicago media gives the non-White Sox team a pass...

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Memo to the Brew Crew

Dear Mensa Members of Milwaukee:

When celebrating your teammate's selection to the All-Star Team, please do not rush him during a press conference and douse him with beer when he is holding his young daughter on his lap.

That kind of behavior might fly in Milwaukee, but the rest of the civilized world might not be down with it...

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Wednesday, July 09, 2008

That Didn't Take Long

Mark Mulder seems to be hurt again.

It's unfortunate. Although I don't want the Cards to get any better, I always like Mulder and hoped he had one last good streak left in him. Here's hoping he can come back one more time.


The Stars...Like Dust

This time of year is always amusing. Whether it's folks griping about undeserving bums like Ryan Dempster (I kid, Jim :-)) making the All-Star team, or other people wailing that guys like Jermaine Dye didn't make the team, it seems like everyone has some complaint about the All-Star rosters.

To them, I say: unclench. Please.

We go through this every year. A while ago, I said that the typical post-All-Star-selection argument goes something like: How could they put [fill-in-the-blank] on the team? There's no way he's better than my favorite guy, [fill-in-the-blank].

This much should be clear, after all these years: the system is flawed, for a variety of reasons I'm too lazy to go into right now. So it stands to reason the teams will, from time to time, be flawed as well.

And if the fact that Ryan Dempster makes the team, or David Wright doesn't, ruins your enjoyment of the game...I can only offer condolences. Because two days after the game, when the season picks up again, no one will give a crap.


Cheap Shots and Shameful Behavior

It's been a shameful week so far at the Tribune Tower, as two of the company's star columnists engaged in some pretty disgraceful behavior.

First, Big Mouth Morrissey took it upon himself to get Ozzie Guillen to respond to his insulting, anonymously-send e-mail. At the end of the day, Big Mouth is man enough to tell Ozzie he's the guy who's been sending the insulting e-mails. But still -- why in God's name would anyone do that?

Let alone an allegedly professional journalist?

This little escapade doesn't quite reach these heights in terms of outright ignominity. But it comes close.

Meanwhile, Dr. Phil gives us his take on the Brewer's trade for Captain Cheeseburger and the Cubs' move to pick up Rich Harden. True to form, in Dr. Phil's world everything is sunshine and lollipops for the Brew Crew, and doom and gloom for the Cubs.

Buried towards the end of the piece is this little nugget of joy:

Another scout said he did not view Harden as the next best pitcher available after Sabathia because of "makeup" and health questions. He said Harden, who had spent months rehabilitating from a strained shoulder, declined to make starts last September because the A's were out of the race.

If true, that's positively Prioriffic.

Well played, sir! A definite two-fer for the mediocre Doctor! Getting the boot in on Harden and Prior at the same time...not everyone can pull that off. It takes some real talent.

A couple thoughts on the cheap shot(s):

1. If true (and that's a big if, considering all we have to go on is the word of an anonymous scout who's already on the record as being anti-Harden and is probably not a world-class clairvoyant able to read Harden's mind), is it really such an awful thing? For a pitcher rehabbing a bum shoulder to not push himself just to pitch some meaningless September games?

For years, Dr. Phil (and others) lambasted Dusty Baker for pushing Kerry Wood and Mark Prior to the breaking point in 2003. Which, you may recall, was a year my heroes were in the midst of a pennant race.

But now it's bad form for Harden to not want to pitch for the opprtunity to pitch the A's to 81 wins rather than the 79 they wound up with?

2. And perhaps a real smart baseball guy like Billy Beane would agree that, perhaps, it wouldn't be wise to hustle a pitcher back on the mound just to impress the scouts.

3. A couple years ago, Derrick Lee begged off some meaningless September games while he recovered from a broken wrist (and to be with his ailing daughter). He could have played, but opted to be with his family and get healthy for the next year. Does that make D-Lee "Prioriffic," too?

4. And why the cheap shot at Prior in the first place? I was as frustrated at Prior's health problems as anyone. But good God -- is there any reason for the constant harping on the guy?

Especially since Dr. Phil himself was pimping Prior as a potential Godsend for the Padres mere days before the start of the 2008 season:

While still feeling the effects of his 2007 shoulder surgery, [Mark] Prior had an outstanding spring training. He will benefit from being away from the intense scrutiny that came with the expectations he created for himself at Wrigley Field. He will start the season on the disabled list but could make 20-plus starts. Prior can be a free agent after this season, which was a factor in the Cubs not offering him salary arbitration, so he won't lack for motivation. It will be interesting to see if the Cubs will have two starters pitching better than Prior in August and September, when he could have been pushing the Cubs toward the playoffs.

Prioriffic, indeed. I'm willing to bet we have two starters pitching better than Prior in August and September...

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Monday, July 07, 2008

Letter to Joe Sheehan

Hi Joe,

Excellent piece on the ASG roster selections, but I do find myself puzzled by one of your comments. You denounce (quite correctly) the "thought" process that goes into choosing players for the game based on a hot streak of two months while ignoring past history. On the other hand, you make the comment, regarding pitchers who were left off, "No Cole Hamels or Johan Santana, but Ryan Dempster and Brandon Webb."

Never mind Dempster; his selection is silly. Brian Wilson, who you also mention, is another perfect example of players and managers not understanding what defines an elite player but instead being distracted by a bright, shiny bauble (ohhhh, saves! pretty, pretty saves!). But to mention Brandon Webb in the same group is to be guilty of the exact reverse of the prejudice you oppose.

Webb has been one of the elite pitchers in the game almost from the moment of his debut in 2003. Webb has never had an ERA+ of worse than 126. He was better than 150 each of the past two seasons; this year he stands at 132, hardly the record of an undeserving pitcher. Your implication of him as undeserving of selection seems to be based entirely on a poor 4-5 weeks in June and July, ignoring his record from 2003-2007 and his April-May of 2008, in which he had a BB/K ratio of 16/66.

I fully agree that Johan Santana and Cole Hamels are elite pitchers of the type who should be found in the All Star game, while Ryan Dempster and Brian Wilson are not. But to imply that Brandon Webb is some sort of fluke or undeserving selection is a comment perhaps born of frustration and beneath the standards of your usually fine commentary.

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Sunday, July 06, 2008

Sully Explains It All

Why aren't MLB.com reporters members of the BBWAA? Let Sully break it down for you:

Reporters for MLB.com have already been told who is on the team, giving them a head-start for their reporting. This is one of the reasons why MLB.com reporters likely will never be allowed into the Baseball Writers Association of America. MLB wants to pretend their reporters are the same as beat reporters for newspapers and other media, but obviously that's not the case or the names would be released to everyone at the same time.

Two reactions:

1. Someone send a waaaaahhhhhh-mbulance to the corner of Boo Street and Hoo Avenue, stat!

2. MLB.com reporters aren't BBWAA members? They are now officially my favorite baseball reporters ever. If the BBWAA hates them enough to exclude them from the clubhouse, they gotta be doing something right...

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Heavy Duty

Cap'n Cheeseburger a Brewer? Does that mean the two fattest players in the National League are on the Milwaukee roster?

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And That's Why He's Got a Hall of Fame Ballot and We Don't

Dr. Phil shows off his impressive analytical skills once more:

The next two months will determine whether the St. Louis Cardinals will be in the National League Central race for the long haul, as his teams usually are.

Two months from now would be September. So...if the Cardinals are still in the race come September, that would determine if they will be in the race for the long haul.

Can't argue with logic like that.

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Wednesday, July 02, 2008

That Was Fast

It didn't take long to find a solution to this particular sort of mockery of the game. It's not quite the rule I proposed, but it seems reasonable.

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Too Late The "Hero"

Geez, Jerry, where were you a dozen or so years ago when you could have helped stop this thing?

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