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Home » Category Listing » Around Baseball

April 4, 2010

Planet Baseball

I could spend hours playing with Google Translate. Unlike Babel Fish, which uses a rules-based approach licensed from SYSTRAN, Google uses statistical machine translation refined by Franz Josef Och.

These languages either use “baseball” or don’t have the word in Google Translate yet: Afrikaans, Czech, Danish, Finnish, French, German, Hungarian, Icelandic, Indonesian, Irish, Italian, Malay, Maltese, Norwegian, Polish, Romanian, Slovak, Slovenian, Swahili, Swedish, and Welsh.

Albanian: Bejsbol
Arabic: البيسبول
Belarusian: Бейсбол (byejsbol)
Catalan: Beisbol
Chinese: 棒球 (bàngqiú)
Croatian: Bejzbol
Dutch: Amerikaans balspel
Estonian: Pesapall
Filipino: Beisbol
Galician: Béisbol
Greek: Μπέιζμπολ (béizmpol)
Haitian Creole: Bezbòl
Hebrew: כדור בסיס
Hindi: बेसबॉल (bēsabŏla)
Japanese: 野球 (yakyū)
Korean: 야구 (yagu)
Latvian: Beisbols
Lithuanian: Beisbolas
Macedonian: Бејзбол (beJzbol)
Persian: بیس بال
Portuguese: Beisebol
Russian: Бейсбол (byeĭsbol)
Serbian: Бејзбол (beJzbol)
Spanish: Béisbol
Thai: กีฬาเบสบอล (Kīḷā besbxl)
Turkish: Beysbol
Ukrainian: Бейсбол (beўsbol)
Vietnamese: Bóng chày
Yiddish: בייסבאָל

Google failed to return “Honkbal” for the Dutch translation while Babel Fish and Bling Translator (a competing statistical machine translation system developed Microsoft) displayed the correct result. But Google had more languages than Bling, even though they bloated the list somewhat by separating Croatian, Serbian, and Macedonian. In Bling, these mutually intelligible languages appear under the rubric Bulgarian. Google also offers a feature to show romanization for those scripts that do not use the Latin alphabet.

In a year where all eyes will turn to South Africa for the flash and glamor of the World Cup, our little sport will chug along for the next seven months like a Molina on the basepaths.

Bud Selig urged teams, most notably the Red Sox and the Yankees, to speed up their games. But perfection, they say, can’t be rushed.

June 10, 2007

Crowning Clemens

I sincerely wish that sports broadcasters and so-called baseball analysts would stop fellating Roger Clemens over his recent start over the Bucs. He lasted six innings with a line of 5 hits, 3 runs (all earned), 2 walks, and 7 strikeouts.

The Pirates offense is wretched even in comparison to other National League teams:

  • 14th in batting average: .250
  • last in OBP: .311
  • 14th in slugging percentage: .380
  • 12th in home runs: 50
  • 14th in RBIs: 241

Pittsburgh is 10 games under .500; even a team with losing record like the Yankees should beat them. The table below shows a wide range of pitchers who faced the Pirates and beat them.

Other Pitchers Who Defeated the Pirates in 2007
Pitcher Date Line
Braden Looper April 9 7 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 3 BB, 3K
Final score: Cardinals 3, Pirates 0
Russ Ortiz April 13 8.2 IP, 10 H, 5 ER, 1 BB, 7 K
Final score: Giants 8, Pirates 5
Jeff Suppan April 19 6 IP, 6 H, 3 ER, 1 BB, 3 K
Final score: Brewers 7, Pirates 5
Matt Belisle April 28 9 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 5 K
Final score: Reds 8, Pirates 1
Aaron Harang April 29 8 IP, 10 H, 5 ER, 1 BB, 9 K
Final score: Reds 9, Pirates 5
Claudio Vargas May 4 6 IP, 4 H, 0 ER, 3 BB, 4 K
Final score: Brewers 10, Pirates 0
Jason Marquis May 9 9 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 5 K
Final score: Cubs 1, Pirates 0
Kyle Lohse May 28 9 IP, 6 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 K
Final score: Reds 4, Pirates 0
Chris Young May 30 7 IP, 4 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 7 K
Final score: Padres 9, Pirates 0

Below average and middling pitchers pitched about the same as Clemens and even surpassed him. Exceptional pitchers lasted longer than the Rocket did and had better performances.

Instead of coming up with puns about the Rocket’s reentry or his red glare, here’s the real lead-in: “Yankees offense performs to expectations and bails out its starter. Highlights up next after superfluous mentions of Paris Hilton’s incarceration.”

May 6, 2007

Clemens Rejoins Yankees

Fans, for the past two weeks you have been reading about the bad break this team got. Yet today I consider myself the riche..., that is, luckiest man on the face of this earth. I have been in ballparks for 23 seasons, some of those not complete seasons, and have never received anything but kindness and encouragement from you fans. As well as millions and millions of dollars. But the fans are more important. Really.

Look at these grand men. Which of you wouldn’t consider it the highlight of his career just to associate with them for even one day? Sure, I’m lucky. Who wouldn’t consider it an honor to have known Miguel Cairo? Also, the builder of baseball’s evilest empire, Brian Cashman? To have spent five years with that wonderful, sometimes little, sometimes big fellow, Jason Giambi? Then to have spent the next those years with that outstanding leader, that smart student of psychology, that coddler of gargantuan egos such as mine, the best manager in baseball today, Joe Torre? Sure, I’m lucky.

When the Red Sox, a team you would give your right arm to beat, and vice versa, sends you unrelenting overtures to rejoin them to finish out your career — that’s something. When everybody down to the groundskeepers and those boys in white lab coats remember you with trophies — that’s something. When you have a wonderful mother-in-law who takes sides with you in squabbles with her own daughter because of all the cash you haul in — that’s something. When you have a father and a mother who work all their lives so you can have an education and build your body through better chemistry — it’s a blessing. When you have a wife who has been a tower of strength and shown more courage than you dreamed existed, following me as I chased the next big paycheck — that’s the finest I know.

So I close in saying that this team may have had a tough break, but I have an awful lot to get paid for.

April 29, 2007

Triple Take

Today Troy Tulowitzki became just the thirteenth man to turn an unassisted triple play in Major League Baseball history. See it courtesy of MLB by clicking this link.

It is my favorite play in baseball because it requires a perfect and serendipitous coincidence of circumstances: the person who catches the ball must do so on a line, pivot in time to the base, and tag the approaching runner. All this must be in place and, of course, must be no other outs in the inning.

For these reasons the triple play is more rare than the perfect game. There’s seventeen of those, and two of them have been by Yankees. Only Cy Young has thrown a perfect game for the Boston American League team, while George Burns and John Valentin are immortalized as unassisted triple play turners.

I thought Tulowitzki might have been the first rookie to have made this play, but shortstop Ernie Padgett of the Boston Braves accomplished the same feat on October 6, 1923. It was the first game of a doubleheader and Padgett’s second professional game. Cotton Tierney was the second out of that play, the man who is the namesake for Cot’s Baseball Contracts.

The most amusing aspect of this very specific type of triple play is that the players always overcompensate. After tagging both second base and Edgar Renteria, Tulowitzki threw to first base when it wasn’t required. Valentin tagged both Mike Blowers (who was on second when Marc Newfield was at the dish) and Keith Mitchell (who was advancing from first to second) when he only needed to tag second base and Mitchell.

April 1, 2007

At Last

opening day 2007

At last my love has come along
My lonely days are over
And life is like a song
At last the skies above are blue
And my heart was wrapped up in clover
The night I looked at you
Mack Gordon & Harry Warren

I haven’t written as much as I would like because I have been consumed by fantasy baseball preparations. Last year was my first year and I had surprisingly good results: I finished in the top three in three rotisserie leagues (first, second, and third) out of four and made it to the semi-finals in a head-to-head league.

This year I started participating in a franchise league that requires managing rosters from Class A all the way to the majors and doing so under a salary cap (which is more than can be said for real-life baseball general managers). It’s been engrossing and challenging, but shouldn’t detract from my writing here once the season gets underway.

Play ball!

December 22, 2006

Checks and Inbalances

The Yankees have until January 31 to pay their $26M luxury tax bill. Their taxable payroll was $201.5M, which was $65M more than the permitted threshold. There were a dozen teams whose payroll was less than $65M. The gap between the Yankee and Red Sox payroll was greater than $65M.

The Red Sox are the only other team to have exceeded the payroll limit this past season and must pay $497,549.

Yankeecheck

May 17, 2006

Short-Changed

One of the big lies demographics experts tell sports media machines is that that sports fans want a player that is all flash, no substance. These marketeers tell oblivious programming heads that the public wants sound bites, not hard-bitten play on the field. The more scandalous, extreme, and tawdry, the better. Twenty-four hour non-stop coverage in every conceivable mode of communication predicates the constant prowl for the next greatest, biggest, shiniest thing to catch the ever-more-distracted viewer’s eye and ear.

The truth is, sports fans probably want a mixture of both outrageous plays and extravagant sayings. Which might be why Nomar Garciaparra seems globally misunderstood and underappreciated.

Nomar is the epitome of throwback baseball. He doesn’t rehearse speeches, cares not a whit about which lighting angle flatters him most. His postgame interviews are a litany of clichés and platitudes. He is a tremendous baseball talent in a market that craves, nay, demands to have its every whim catered. Not just plain catering from the local restaurant, either: full spreads with Cristal champagne fountains, ice sculptures of Versailles, and entrées (yes, “entrées,” not plain old “entrees”) comprised of the meat of endangered game.

No, Nomar will not be your server for this evening.

Garciaparra began his first season as the Dodgers’ first baseman on April 22nd. Since that day, he has a .341 batting average, a .418 OBP, and .647 slugging percentage, with five home runs in 85 at bats.

Slowly but surely, salvos that Nomar could have released in the public relations war with certain parties of the Red Sox front office are coming to light, as this quote from Nick Cafardo’s recent article in the Boston Globe illustrates:

One of Garciaparra’s ex-teammates in Boston said the Dodgers and Yankees made the same offer, but Garciaparra chose LA because, “He always considers himself a Red Sox. That’s one thing people don’t understand about Nomar. He would have never signed with the Yankees because he always thought of himself as a Red Sox player.”

Everyone’s clamoring for Roger Clemens to come back. But I wouldn’t mind seeing Nomar return for his final seasons as a designated hitter for the Red Sox. Like Nomar himself, I will always think of him as a Red Sox player.

April 3, 2006

Now

Mlbopeningday2006Ahora. 今。Itá. Nå. Attualmente. Sasa. Maintenant. теперь. Agora. Núorðið. An-dràsta. Ngayón. Jetzt. I kēia manawa. 지금. Nunc. Ankehitriny.

While we’re waiting for the Red Sox to return, try and guess which languages I used.

March 17, 2006

Wish You Were Here

So go the postcards from Cuban, Dominican, Japanese, and Korean players who are on their way to San Diego for the World Baseball Classic finals. Mexico knocked off the United States tonight in a 2-1 pitcher’s duel. The US featured a powerhouse lineup that leads the tournament in home runs (9), is third in team OBP (.385), and first in team slugging percentage (.533). The home team was supposed to flatten the competition with its offensive prowess, but instead suffered on the other side of the plate due to Dontrelle Willis’s two starts. Willis turned in an ERA of 12.71, the fourth-worst of the event.

Mexico was the victim of atrocious umpiring in the bottom of the third inning. Outfielder Mario Valenzuela hit a ball that clearly bounded of the right field foul pole for a homer, but it was ruled a double. Valenzuela eventually scored on a Jorge Cantu single, erasing a potential scandal. But for the WBC to enhance its stature to even a fraction of other international sporting events such as the World Cup and the Olympics, better umpiring and greater media coverage will be a must.

I thought the lack of coverage on Red Sox Spring Training games would be irksome, but it will be compelling to watch the Red Sox, current and former, on the remaining WBC teams. I doubt a match-up between David Ortiz and Byung-Hyun Kim is in the offing, but I’ll enjoy watching their distinctive pivots. Heck, even throw Julian Tavarez into the mix as one whose face I’ll have to grow accustomed with.

Speaking of postcards, I found Aardsma to Zuverink, a little site commemorating autographed baseball postcards. There’s a surfeit of Yankee players (really, one would be too much), but it nevertheless is an engaging site. You’ll even find Jere’s (A Red Sox Fan in Pinstripe Territory) favorite player.

Bobby Doerr
Postcard courtesy of Aardsma to Zuverink.

March 14, 2006

World Baseball Carnage

In revenge for M*A*S*H episodes beyond season four (after Colonel Henry Blake died and beyond the admittedly disputed end of the war), Korea beat the United States last night 7-3 in the World Baseball Classic to remain the only undefeated team in the tournament. It would have been a much worse defeat had the Korean short track speedskaters not triumphed in Torino. Recall that the South Korean soccer team recreated the 2002 Olympics controversy between Apolo Anton Ohno and Dong-Sung Kim at the World Cup later that year after scoring a goal in a match against the United States. I enjoy that other countries take sports on the international stage so earnestly.

Former Red Sox closer Byung-Hyun Kim made a one-inning appearance with a line of 2 hits, no runs, 1 walk, and 3 strikeouts, including a key whiff of Vernon Wells with the bases loaded and two out to end the fourth inning. Key to the US’s loss was the 11 left stranded on the bags, some of which can be attributed to Jason Varitek, who struck out swinging with the bases loaded in the first inning. Mike Timlin pitched the sixth inning and had a similar line to Kim’s except he allowed an earned run with 2 hits, 1 walk, and 2 strikeouts. Finally, another Red Sox organization member has been seen hanging around in Korea’s dugout: Chang-Ho Lee, the assistant trainer.

The spirit of competition the WBC is invigorating, but could do without the jingoistic and yet impassive American fans. Judging by sight, the folks sporting the “F*CK CASTRO” t-shirts were your typical ugly Americans with an axe to grind. The reaction of these types if the US loses to Mexico on March 16th will be like the fox in Aesop’s fable of the grapes. But if the US wins, suddenly patriotism will abound. Since Japan has two more games to play, the Pool 2 prospects are murky.

In Pool 2, the picture is clearer. Every team is knotted at 1-1 records. Therefore, the winners of the Venezuela-Dominican Republican and Cuba-Puerto Rico games will advance.

In other news, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory has contacted David Ortiz because he is so exemplary at getting things into orbit.

March 1, 2006

Rainbowed Out

I was supposed to see the UH Rainbows play the Texas-Arlington Mavericks last night at Les Murakami Stadium. It would have been the first Bows games in the First Hawaii Title Rainbow Baseball Tournament, featuring a fairly competitive group of teams. In addition to the Mavericks, the Arkansas Razorbacks and the Washington Huskies are also visiting the islands.

I did see the last few innings of the Razorbacks-Huskies contest. The team from the Northwest handed the eleventh-place Arkansas club their first loss of the season. The Huskies (or Dawgs, as the University of Washington’s website calls them) had a four-run first inning and concluded the match-up with a 5-2 score. Tim Lincecum, the Dawgs’ right-handed starting pitcher and All-American last year, pitched a season-high seven innings with two runs, four hits, five bases on balls, and eight strikeouts.

Since UH baseball games are, sadly, sparsely attended, so I had exceptional seats right behind home plate and five rows back. In my area, there were about a half a dozen scouts, including an older Japanese-American gentleman who I believe works with the Red Sox. I have seen his name is past media guides and I can’t recall it at the moment. I didn’t go up to speak with the scouts because they looked busy, but it was neat to overhear their conversations. I’m sure they will be back this Thursday evening to check out Steven Wright, the 2005 Russ Ford Award recipient for outstanding relief pitcher in the Cape Cod Baseball League. Collegiate Baseball has the Bows ranked 24th; they are not currently ranked in the top 25 by Baseball America and USA Today, so these tournament games against nationally-ranked teams are crucial. Hopefully then the team will start getting more attention.

February 18, 2006

This Is Not My Beautiful Home

Lucky you live Hawai‘i, or so the saying goes. Poring over the newspapers, though, it seems that you’re lucky you’re not homeless in Hawai‘i if you choose to live here. Lee Cataluna, a columnist for the Honolulu Advertiser, wrote about a closet being rented for $100 a month. Not only did someone secure the space almost immediately, the lessors had over 30 inquiries. The housing prices on Maui make Boston-area real estate look practically sane. The median price of a single-family home continued to drop from a record $780,000 last summer to just barely under $700K this month. Well, at least you could possibly pay for such homes with a 50-year mortgage, a product banks and loan companies may begin offering.

Today I’m going on a sojourn to find Alexander Cartwright’s grave in Honolulu. I also did some research on the player Jere of A Red Sox Fan in Pinstripe Territory mentioned in the comments to my previous post, Joe DeSa, but if the cemetery DeSa is interred is the one I’m thinking of, it will be very difficult to find him.

The University of Hawai‘i baseball team is on a tear. They beat Loyola Marymount on the road, 3-1, with right-handed pitcher Steven Wright (not that Steven Wright) pitching a complete game with only a single hit against him. The story says Wright had a career-high 10 strikeouts, but the boxscore states only 9; this discrepancy really annoys me. There’s not a statistical reason why this difference would exist, I believe. I’m sure someone will correct me if I’m wrong. Wright was invited to the Cape Cod Baseball League last summer. As a relief pitcher, he helped the Orleans Cardinals win the league championship with a 3-0 record, 12 saves, and a 0.63 ERA.

January 27, 2006

Act Globally

World Baseball ClassicBaseball has always been defined as something intrinsically American. But how do you define “America”? For me, the word is evolving into something ever more worldly and abstracted; more of a concept and a lifestyle than a static, geographically limited identity.

At first blush, one might limit the term to mean only a citizen of the country of the United States of America. There are 34 other countries in North and South America and their populations total 550M, or 65% of the total population of the two continents. Although the first definition of “American” in the American Heritage Dictionary is specific to the US, the second usage is the more inclusive “of or relating to North or South America, the West Indies, or the Western Hemisphere.”

On Opening Day 2005, 25 percent, or 205 players, originated from Latin American countries. There were also fifteen Canadians. Estimates of minor league players from countries other than the US hover at approximately 48%, which means that the MLB of the future will continue to be more diverse.

With the World Baseball Classic, MLB is attempting to unbrand its players and teams from the league franchises and resell them in their countries’ colors. For all the ballyhoo about making this a showcase for the game and birthing a global sports phenomenon, to me the event is more a slick promotional package to make headway into untapped consumer markets. It’s not an affirmation of love for the game--it’s commoditization

Baseball used to open hearts and minds. Now it opens wallets and trade barriers; just read this Forbes article on the MLB’s strategy to grab market share.

Ken Burns touchingly documented the game and emphasized how baseball is a reflection life and society in the United States. I’m not so callow to think that money and baseball have never been bedfellows, but with the huge amounts of revenue at stake, the connection has never been more manifest.

As much as the typical US baseball fan may say she yearns for the days of yore, I believe the tepid reaction to the WBC by fans in the US has an economic basis. For the most part, these fans have already invested their dollars into their chosen MLB team. Given ticket prices today, that investment is not trivial. If one of the stars of the WBC should be injured, there will undoubtedly be a hue and cry in that player’s MLB fanbase. In fourteen other countries, however, the fans don’t have major league teams of their own. The classic probably holds more meaning to them.

It’s ironic that the one country where baseball is played at an elite level for the joy of the sport alone was nearly barred from participation and is only allowed to play because it will receive no revenue from the games.

Baseball is America’s gift to the world, but Selig wants an burgeoning product line to accompany his bequest. And that seems to be the real American way.

January 21, 2006

Scouting the Scout

Earlier this week I gave an all-too-brief synopsis of Ray Fagnant’s talk at the Boston SABR meeting. It may have been because the World Series championship ring he wore had some sort of memory-erasing effect that only now I have been able to shake. Ray was actually featured in a chapter of the book Minor Moments: Baseball’s Best Players Recall Life in the Minor Leagues. Publisher’s Weekly summarized his story:

... Ray Fagnant [was] a career minor leaguer who was playing for an insurance company’s slow-pitch softball team when a Connecticut club signed him as an emergency catcher. Just a few weeks after leaving the insurance team, Fagnant hit a home run off star major league righty Jack Morris, who was in the minors temporarily to rehab an injury. Fagnant bought 25 newspapers the next day and clipped the box scores.

Who better to learn about scouting than someone that is so impassioned about the game? Other points that Ray discussed:

There are peculiarities to scouting the Northeast. Scouts often speak of the “senior effect” in the kids they look at, meaning that a player has shown all that he is capable of by his senior year in high school. Scouts in this region, however, have found that a player here may not show his abilities until after this generally accepted milestone. Consequently, scouts here may exercise more patience than their counterparts in the West.

When on his journeys, if Ray spots what he thinks is a potential major league player, he notifies one of three crosscheckers to observe the player in action. If the potential player passes the crosscheck, he is seen by another crosschecker who oversees a larger territory and has the knowledge to compare prospects from different regions. Most major league clubs have this structure or something like it. The Red Sox have more heavily invested in amateur scouting since John Henry acquired the team.

Collegiate players who want to be seriously considered for professional baseball will use wooden bats during batting practice. Of course, the more outstanding of these players will be invited to wooden bat leagues outside of the NCAA schedule, such as the Cape Cod Baseball League.

A scout may be considered successful if once out of ten times a player he scouted makes the major leagues, so they have it a lot easier than major league hitters. A large part of Ray’s job is to find good organizational players who may never make it to the show but would good role models for the young players as they advance through the ranks. In fact, this is his favorite part of the job because at that level they it truly isn’t about the money: it’s about playing the game you love.

Ray spoke of the naïveté of players he finds along the way. When kids find out that he is a scout, the first thing they want to do is get an agent. They dream of Craig Hansen contracts while Ray hasn’t even decided if he’s going to alert his crosscheckers. One youth said that he’d sign, but he wanted “a three-figure deal.” Ray was kind enough to inform the player of the concept of place value. I wonder if it was Carl Pavano? Just one of the players Ray scouted.

When driving between scheduled stops, if Ray sees lights on at a field, he will always drop by to see what’s going on. You never know what you might see. It fits in with his motto, “Never let anyone fall through the cracks.”

December 21, 2005

Throws Like Bernie Williams

JohnnyjesusJohnny Damon reportedly signed a 4-year, $52M contract with the New York Yankees. Did he miss Mark Bellhorn, Alan Embree, and Mike Myers that much?

Pivotal as Damon was to the 2004 championship run, I can’t say I’m entirely surprised at the move. The center fielder took to the spotlight, as did his wife Michelle. I don’t know the YES Network’s policy on spousal participation in their productions, but she’ll at least find a bigger stage to parlay her talent in New York City. Imagine her disappointment when she finds herself squeezed out of the headlines each time Derek Jeter gets another girlfriend.

Larry Lucchino was the point person for the Damon deal. Scott Boras’s client left a 4-year, $40M deal with the Red Sox to die, and given the Red Sox’s frugality with time and Damon’s likely decline as he enters his mid-30s, I’m surprised Lucchino didn’t try and offer less years for a higher annual average value.

Looking over the 5-year projections for Damon on Baseball Prospectus, I was surprised to note that his DWARP wasn’t negative. I suppose his fielding skill compensates somewhat for his atrocious throwing arm, although I must say he had at times been looking somewhat lost in the field and I wonder if his collision history hasn’t impacted him more than he’d like the public to know. In 2009, presuming the Yankees stay with him for the entire length of his contract, the New York club will be paying $13M for 3 wins above a replacement player. Note that BP missed the 2005 WARP prediction for Damon by a 1.3 game underestimation.

I wonder how Yankee fans will take to Damon? Will they remember the grand slam and 2-run homer of Game 7 with some bitterness? Will it be a benefit or a detriment to have Jeter batting second (if you believe in that batting order mumbo jumbo)?

As much as I appreciate Damon’s contributions to the Red Sox, I hope that when his hair is shorn his destiny follows a different biblical character’s path: that of Samson.

December 19, 2005

West Sox

The Los Angeles Dodgers are five people in to their master plan of recreating the Red Sox on the West Coast. Nomar Garciaparra signed a 1-year, $6M deal that will likely having him batting clean-up and playing first base. Surprisingly, the contract is not incentive-based, which is something I certainly would consider given the former shortstop’s injury history. Late last week, the inimitable Bill Mueller agreed to a 2-year, $9.75M contract, and Dan Shaughnessy temporarily retracted his claws for an excellent piece on the third baseman. It turns out that Mueller was the player that gave Grady Little a good reference, leading to Little’s hiring by the Dodgers to be their field manager. Derek Lowe is now in the second year of his 4-year, $36M term.

That gives us four people. Who is the player that completes this quintet? Why, Jose Cruz, Jr., of course. Cruz spent about a dozen days in a Red Sox uniform this past season in those tumultuous post-Jay Payton doldrums.

Ned Colletti’s coup of the offseason is the unloading of Milton Bradley to the Oakland A’s. I guess the undervalued trait this upcoming season is the tendency to have psychotic episodes. Bradley was packaged with Antonio Perez for Andre Ethier, an outfielder who garnered the Texas League Player of the Year award.

December 9, 2005

The Dodger Dunces

Come and listen to a story about a man named Ned
Assistant GM, barely a thought in his head
Then one day by the Dodgers he was wooed
And soon he moved south, plumb full of gratitude

GM of the Dodgers, he is. Head honcho. The Big Cheese.

Well, first thing you know ole Ned’s full o’ hot air
Grady called and said, “Ned, we’d make quite a pair!”
Said “Californy is the place I oughta be.”
So he finally pulled Pedro and headed toward the sea.

Chavez Ravine, that is. Traffic jams, pitcher’s park.

Well, now it’s time to say goodbye to Ned and all his kin
And they would like to thank you folks for kindly droppin’ in
You’re all invited back again to this locality
Just don’t leave the park when the score’s tied at three

In the bottom of the 7th, no less. Sit a spell. Try and stay for a full nine innings.

Special thanks to Piney for inspiring this parody with her comment.

December 6, 2005

Little Did We Know

The recently anointed Dodgers GM Ned Colletti just made a move that would probably raise the hackles of even the normally diplomatic and always enthusiastic Dodger blue fan Sarah Morris. One of Colletti’s first acts as GM was to show up at Chavez Ravine wearing a San Francisco Giants NL championship ring from 2002. He topped that tonight by naming Grady Little, former Red Sox field manager, as the skipper of the Dodgers.

It might have something to do with Frank McCourt, who lived in Boston during Little’s two consecutive winning seasons of 93 and 95 in 2002 and 2003. It might have to do with Colletti’s hiring philosophy, which is divergent with most business executives’. Rather than surround himself with smart people, it seems Colletti thinks hiring dumb folks will make him appear smarter.

Keep on enjoying that ring, Ned. If you have somehow forgotten the events of Game 6 of the 2002 World Series, you’ve certainly set yourself up to relive some of that lost magic.

November 16, 2005

I Wanna New Drug

Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association came to an agreement over a tougher schedule of penalties for violators of the performance-enhancing drug policy. The notable lacuna of amphetamines has been mended and agreement enforces a “three strikes and you’re out” approach to steroids. One of my primary issues with the policy remains: the testing is limited to urine. Since blood tests are still not permitted, any player taking the next generation of growth hormones will go undetected and unpunished.

To be sure, this is a great leap forward. However, it is incredibly shortsighted not to allow blood tests nor the retroactive testing of stored samples for enhancers for which tests have not yet been developed, as the National Football League does. The MLB drug policy continues to be mere window-dressing to satisfy Congress. The federal government will probably intercede in a few more years, when offensive production propels into the stratosphere once again and the gaps in the policy are exploited by the next generation of cheaters. And the burlesque will begin anew.

Violation Steroids: Previous Penalty
Steroids: Revised Penalty
Amphetamine Penalty
First positive test 10 days 50 games Mandatory additional testing
Second positive test 30 days 100 games 25 games
Third positive test 60 days Lifetime ban 80 games
Fourth positive test 1 year ban -- Commissioner’s discretion with arbitration option
Fifth positive test Commissioner’s discretion -- --

October 28, 2005

Rethinking Agency

Step Up to the Mike
The title of this post may give literature, philosophy, or social science majors some bad flashbacks to the postmodernist authors articles they had to wade through. It did me.

Sean McAdam of the Providence Journal reported that Mike Timlin and the Red Sox came to a tentative agreement for him to return for the 2006 season in a deal worth approximately $3.5M. He’ll likely end his career with Boston, especially given Terry Francona’s tendency to overuse him. The Red Sox are most likely going to return the veteran righty to the role of set-up pitcher for Keith Foulke.

Catacorner Conundrum
Kevin Millar and Bill Mueller, the pair whose names confused us when they were signed prior to the 2003 season, both filed for free agency yesterday. My wish would be that Mueller retired with the Red Sox, but such a thing seems unlikely. My other wish is for Millar to retire, but if he does not, I hope that whichever organization picks him up will have the foresight and good judgment to have his access to the media curtailed.

Cars Not Bombs
GreenvillelogoThe Class A affliate of the Red Sox in Greenville, South Carolina has changed its name from the “Bombers ” to the “Greenville Drive. ” I’m not a fan of the abstract nicknames that have been the vogue lately, but I suppose there are only so many savage carnivores and ethnic slurs to go around.

Theodolite: Its Uses and Abuses
No, it’s not the name of a new cult that has sprung up around the Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein. According to the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, fourth edition, a theodolite is “an optical instrument consisting of a small mounted telescope rotatable in horizontal and vertical planes, used to measure angles in surveying, meteorology, and navigation. ” In other words, nothing that will help gauge the progress of the talks between Epstein and the Red Sox, which according to Gordon Edes and Chris Snow, appear to be close to a deal acceptable to all parties. Assistant general manager Josh Byrnes will probably take a job in the arid Arizona Diamondbacks organization and will likely be replaced by current assistant to the general manager Jed Hoyer.

Our Goliath
Prior to Game 4, David Ortiz of the AL and Andruw Jones of the NL accepted their Hank Aaron awards in recognition of their outstanding offensive production this past season. An amazing 89,809 fans voted for the Red Sox designated hitter, which was 42% of the total AL votes. Many baseball writers consider the DH to be less important than position players, the implication being that being a good hitter doesn’t require the same commitment. Ortiz said, “It takes a lot of concentration and a lot of hard work to get to that level. I guess it’s been working the right way for me, and I’m going to want to keep it that way.”

October 19, 2005

Fveum and Fortune

Dale Sveum signed with the Milwaukee Brewers to be their third base coach today. Sveum will probably appreciate a place that cares more about which sausage will win a race than his name or performance. The Red Sox will now consult with Don Quixote about which windmill to hire next. The thing that most fascinated me about Sveum after his incredibly bad judgment, lack of depth perception, and inability to gauge the speed of moving objects was his nearly unpronounceable surname.

I looked up “Sveum” at ancestry.com and found that it is Norwegian in origin, which explains his height of 6'3", which might be shorter than the average Norwegian. The name is dervied from “Sveen,” which in turn has its origins from the Old Norse word “svið” (land cleared by burning) and “sviða” (to burn). That is fairly descriptive of his tenure here. He took the fans’ criticism with a good sense of humor, however. I will always remember him in the rolling rally pretending to wave in runners in response to fans who recognized him and honored him with that trademark motion.

October 18, 2005

All the Hexes Live in Texas

Does it feel as awful to be a Houston Astros fan today as it did to be a Red Sox fan back on October 16, 2004? It’s probably fairly comparable, although the details vary. Last night the Astros suffered what Bill Simmons has already classified as a stomach punch-level defeat.

For Red Sox fans last year, however, the league championship series was not a vacillation between highs and lows from game to game. It was pure agony followed by pristine ecstasy. Houston fans probably feel as if they were being strung along, and rightly so.

One out away from the 2005 World Series, Brad Lidge, he of the 42 regular season saves and 2.29 ERA, only had to strike out David Eckstein to advance his team. Lidge’s team was leading 4-2 and the league championship seemed to be in the bag. Eckstein, he’s small potatoes, right? Sure, he’s gutty, but he can’t win the game on his own. With the count 1-2, Eckstein eked out a single to give the Cardinals a baserunner and another chance. To faze the Astros’ closer further, the Cardinals shortstop took second with the infield standing by diffidently.

Lidge was both shaken and stirred. He walked Jim Edmonds on five pitches. Then Albert Pujols came to the plate. This is not a man to be trifled with, a fact he proved in two pitches, the second of which was neatly deposited onto the train tracks staked above the left field seats to grant his team a 5-4 lead. Predictably, Houston went down 1-2-3 in the bottom of the 9th.

The trajectory of that homer instantly effaced the memory of Lance Berkman’s 3-run round-tripper in the 7th that gave his team a 4-2 edge. What I thought would be the abiding memory of this game and the series was re-written into a footnote in Pujols’s hagiography.

I thought I’d prefer that the Astros make it since it would be their first trip to the Fall Classic. Such a novelty, combined with the White Sox’s historic appearance makes for a more compelling match-up. The Redbirds have been there, done that. Denying St. Louis one last series at their old stadium seems fitting to me: that would be payback for tearing down the stadium where the Red Sox won their first World Series in 86 years. And yet, I just can’t get too emotional about the National League. I’d just as soon see the Cardinals have another go at it for their tenth title in 16 tries.

Despite, or more accurately, because the Red Sox are not embroiled in the race for the trophy, postseason baseball has been highly enjoyable rather than utterly nerve-racking. Go Astros, go Cardinals, but moreover, go baseball.

October 13, 2005

It Ain’t Quaint

Much of the appeal derived from baseball is its rich and celebrated history. We can imagine, when attending a modern game, that it was much like the sport our predecessors watched.

And yet, it is much different. Fielders used to perform their duties without gloves, and by the 1870s they wore gloves designed only to relieve the impact to their hands of balls they rapped down to eventually throw back into the infield. Gloves gradually evolved into the fundamental defensive tools they are today. Players did not wear numbers on their uniforms until 1929, when the Cleveland Indians and New York Yankees began the practice so that fans could identify their favorites from afar. Numbers used to indicate a player’s position in the batting order. Now we honor players for their achievements by retiring their numbers, signifying their everlasting impact on the game.

So things change, often for the better.

Last night, Game 2 of the ALCS was determined in part by a questionable signal given by home plate umpire Doug Eddings. The scored was tied 1-1 in the bottom of the ninth. A.J. Pierzynski was at the plate with 2 outs and the count full. He swung and missed at Kelvim Escobar’s sixth pitch that backup Angels catcher Josh Paul caught cleanly. Eddings first signaled with his right arm that Pierzynski swung and then pumped his fist, seemingly indicating the last out of the inning. However, he did not verbally announce Pierzynski was out, so the White Sox catcher bolted for first base. Meanwhile, Paul rolled the ball to the infield and the rest of the Angels defense ran towards their dugout because they thought Eddings called the final out when he was actually indicating the third strike.

Pablo Ozuna pinch ran for Pierzynski and stole second base on the 0-2 count. Of course, Ozuna scored the winning run on a double to left field by Joe Crede to grant the Chicago AL club a series split before flying to the West Coast for the next three games.

It is time for further standardization in baseball. Football referees have a system to indicate every type of score, foul, and down. Baseball umpires are in desperate need of such a system, especially because play can continue based on their judgment. There is no clock to stop nor replay system to which an appeal can be made.

To be sure, the Angels made an incorrect presumption that cost them the game. They also would have likely played differently had they known Eddings was calling strike three rather than the third out. Umpires are like air: essential, but it’s better when you don’t realize they are there.

And don’t even get me started on the capricious personal strike zones of individual umpires....

October 11, 2005

Not Going Coastal

With the Yankees, Red Sox, and Braves eliminated, there are no teams from the eastern divisions of the leagues remaining in the playoffs. But the oft-alluded to East Coast bias will prevail; I can just see the ESPN SportsCenter recap now:

“Leading off on tonight’s SportsCenter: A-Rod steals away Johnny Damon’s stylist in his efforts to establish a more grassroots appeal. More on this [dramatic pause] hair-raising scandal after the break. In other news, the Angels beat the White Sox in a 27-inning duel in Game 7 of the ALCS.”

What better way to while away the upcoming winter than examining the salaries of the eliminated teams? Reviewing the postseason roster salary totals, I devised the following breakdown:

Eliminated Team Postseason Salary Total Runs Scored $ Per Run Innings Played $ Per Inning
New York $170M 20 $5.7M 44 $3.9M
Boston $105M 9 $7.6M 27 $3.9M
Atlanta $68M 21 $3.2M 44 $1.5M
San Diego $51M 11 $4.6M 27 $1.9M

It’s hard to comprehend how the Red Sox, the AL leading offense in multiple categories throughout the regular season, managed only 9 runs in the ALDS, two less than the laggard Padres, who were fourth to last in the majors in runs scored (684). Other points of interest:

  • Alex Rodriguez made almost twice as much as the entire Padres infield and just slightly less than the Braves infield. Rodriguez went 2 for 15 but did manage 6 walks in his ALDS for a .435 OBP, .200 slugging percentage, and no runs batted in. The Padres offense managed a .375 OBP collectively with a .425 slugging percentage and 11 RBIs.
  • Manny Ramirez made about $6M less than Rodriguez and was 3 for 10 with 2 walks in his 3-game series. His OBP was .417 and he garnered a slugging percentage of .900 with 4 RBIs.
  • Derek Jeter continued to be worth the money he makes. He completed the postseason by going 7 for 21 with .348 OBP, .619 slugging, and 5 RBIs, many at key points in the game (unlike other Yankee infielders we could name).
  • The Yankees played almost 30% more innings than the Red Sox but their per inning price tag was nearly equal.
  • The combined salaries of the starting pitchers left off the Yankees’ playoff roster, the trio of Kevin Brown ($15.7M), Carl Pavano ($9M), and Jaret Wright ($5.7M), was $30.4M, which was $7.4M less than Boston’s playoff pitching staff. This total is $3.9M more than the Braves and $12.5M more than the Padres.

Once wonders how marketable the Yankees will be after their long championship drought. I have a sneaking suspicion they’ll use their defeat to their advantage by exploring new realms of endorsements.

Sheffcrosby_justdoit

Special thanks to Joe a.k.a. gerky for the image, inspired by this thread at redsoxnation.net. Salary data gleaned from multiple sources, including ESPN, USA Today, and The Hardball Times. You can download this file for salary details.

September 27, 2005

Counting the Rosaries

Going into the day-night doubleheader, here is how the AL stands:

AL East W L GB
New York 92 64 --
Boston 91 64 0.5
Toronto 76 79 15.5
Baltimore 70 86 22.0
Tampa Bay 65 91 27.0

AL Wild Card
W L GB
Cleveland 92 64 --
Boston 91 64 0.5

Today they play for all the marbles. The Yankees play the lusterless Orioles who have already flown south for the winter, so it’s up to the Red Sox to send the Blue Jays migrating, too.

September 12, 2005

Talking Baseball

Thanks to the Royal Rooters message board interview guru David Laurila, I had the opportunity to talk with left-handed pitching prospect Jim Baxter recently at LeLacheur Park. You can find the interview I did here in The News Hole subforum. Be sure to check out previous interviews, especially the following:

August 28, 2005

August Glory

‘Ewa Beach won the Little League World Championship title with a flourish of excitement. The Hawai‘i team went into the bottom of the 6th and final inning trailing by 3 runs. They rallied back to tie the score and force the first extra inning title game since 1971. Vonn Fe‘ao, who was able to pitch the major league equivalent of 101 MPH, shut down Curaçao in the top of the 7th, setting the stage for a remarkable comeback. On the 3-2 pitch, Michael Memea hit the tournament’s only walk-off homer and the first championship-winning dinger in Little League history.

Congratulations to the ‘Ewa Beach team and their families. I noticed that many players cited Red Sox champions as their favorite players. The way the Hawaiians never gave up is a tribute to the undying faith that carries teams on the verge of elimination, like Boston and ‘Ewa Beach, to victory.

Ewabeachworldchamps

Shaka Brah

Congratulations to ‘Ewa Beach for defeating Vista, California for the United States Little League Championship. Today they play Curaçao, who are defending their title, for the World Championship.

It’s interesting how similar Hawai‘i and Curaçao are. Both are islands that have been colonized by larger nations; Hawai‘i by the United States and Curaçao by Spain and the Netherlands, respectively. The indigenous people that originally inhabited the land were subsumed by waves of diverse immigrants since the islands were magnets for immigration. As a result, both developed creole languages that are an amalgamation of many tongues.

Hawai‘i Creole English (HCE), called “Pidgin” by those who speak it, had been considered a substandard form of English until fairly recently. Linguists have proven that HCE is a language, not a dialect or regionalism. HCE is classified as a creole because it is transmitted to children as their native tongue. Creoles use another language as its lexicon, hence the confusion of HCE with English, but have grammatical rules of their own. HCE also has vocabulary from Cantonese, Filipino (primarily Ilokano and Tagalog), Hawaiian, Japanese, Korean, and Portuguese. The momentum for a common language amongst these diverse peoples as mainly driven by the exigencies of plantation life: the landowners needed a means to communicate with and control their workers. This is one of the reasons the language carries a stigma. There are local writers and artists that have claimed pidgin as their vehicle of expression, making the method used for domination as their own tool.

Ewabeachuschamps

Curaçao has a creole of its own called Papiamentu, dialects of which are also spoken in Aruba and Bonaire. The primary lexicon is based on Cape Verde Portuguese creole spoken by Sephardic Jews with additions from Dutch and Spanish. The native population also contributed words in Arawak. Other words of Spanish origin were added through Ladino, a language derived from Spanish and Hebrew and spoken by the Sephardim expelled from Spain. Unlike other creoles, Papiamentu is a tonal language because of influence of African languages spoken by slaves, making it highly unusual. Like HCE, Papiamentu arose because of an oppressive economic and social structure, in this case slavery. Currently Papiamentu is evolving into Spanish and those who would have adopted the creole as their native language are speaking Dutch in order to be upwardly mobile. The language is at risk for extinction for these reasons.

Curacaorowchamps

August 20, 2005

‘Ewa Bound

LlwsThe Northwest champions are from ‘Ewa Beach, Hawai‘i this year. They defeated Council Rock-Newtown from Pennsylvania 7-1 yesterday and face Midwest champs Davenport Northwest from Iowa on Sunday, August 21st. ‘Ewa Beach has been absolutely demolishing the competition, outscoring them 87-19 in the qualifying rounds. The team from my hometown Kihei didn’t even face these juggernauts from ‘Ewa, but got beat by Hilo and Pearl City (those townies). That’s all forgotten now; I’ll cheer for the team from Hawai‘i as well as any teams from the New England area. Imua! (Go!)

A note on the title of this post: When you give driving directions in Hawai‘i, if you were born and raised there you wouldn’t typically use north, south, east, or west but “mauka” (towards the mountains) and “makai” (towards the ocean). Since there is a prevailing wind pattern from the northeast, the land on the side of a mountain range that faces the tradewinds is called “windward” and its opposite is “leeward.” These terms are habitually used to refer to sides of the island, not directions. Honolulu is on the leeward side of the island and south of the Ko‘olau Mountains, so mauka is north and makai is south. In the Honolulu area, you would use “Diamond Head” as a way to say eastwards and “‘Ewa” to mean west. Traffic going “‘Ewa bound” on H-1 (yes, Hawai‘i has interstates) in the afternoon is atrocious, sort of like 93 North after work in the Boston area. In fact, city and county planners are trying to make the towns around ‘Ewa into a “second city” and built a satellite city hall in Kapolei to that end.

August 19, 2005

Less Cowbell

Mark Bellhorn was designated for assignment tonight. The second baseman will probably be best remembered for his pivotal home runs in Games 6 and 7 of the 2004 ALCS, as well as Game 1 of the World Series. He did tend to strikeout frequently, but the impact of this fault was ameliorated somewhat by his ability to get on base.

04alcsgame6bellhornmarkhr

Keith Foulke was hit by a comebacker from Trot Nixon’s bat during a simulated game today. As the ever-cheery Edna St. Vincent Millay said, “Life isn’t one damn thing after another. It’s the same damn thing again and again.” Let’s just be thankful Nixon didn’t mistake Foulke for Ryan Rupe. Despite the seeming setback, Foulke predicts that he’ll be back with the major league team by September 1st.

There are whispers of Craig Hansen skipping over triple A and coming straight to the majors. It’s a bit of a shame as Kevin Youkilis was all set to show the right-handed reliever his arcane knowledge of Pawtucket. Get realtime updates of Hansen’s performance in his prospect tracker thread on the Royal Rooters site.

August 14, 2005

Red Rain: News Roundup

During the second protracted rain delay of today’s game I had enough time to rifle through some recent baseball news, some serious, some fun:

Jon Papelbon will probably be called up from Pawtucket to start on Tuesday, August 16th against the Tigers in Detroit. He would be replacing Wade Miller, who was placed on the 15-day disabled list on August 9th to make room for Mike Remlinger. Papelbon should find the vastness of Comerica Park somewhat of a relief to McCoy and Fenway as long as hitters don’t find the gaps.

First-round draft pick Craig Hansen, signed July 25th, was assigned to the Portland Sea Dogs on August 11th. The 21-year old was rated by Baseball America as having the best breaking ball and second-best fastball amongst draft-eligible college pitchers, was considered the draftee closest to being able to compete in the majors, and was the 4th pitching prospect in the June 2005 draft. The righty might have to readier sooner than he thinks given the current state of the Red Sox bullpen.

Larry Krueger, host of the pre-game show that aired on KNBR, was first given a one-week suspension and then fired from his position at radio affiliate of the San Francisco Giants. He said that the Giants were a team of “brain-dead Caribbean hitters hacking at slop nightly” and that field manager Felipe Alou’s mind had “turned to Cream of Wheat.” After the initial comments by Krueger, Alou responded on ESPN where he labeled Krueger as a “messenger of Satan.” KNBR parodied Alou by splicing his comments with sound bites from South Park. You would think that the suspension was warning enough. I’m not one to encourage censorship, but rather promote enough tolerance and understanding so that such obviously idiotic behavior wouldn’t be possible. Call me an idealist. Not knowing if KNBR is consistently racist and sexist like WEEI or Boston Dirt Dogs, I can’t say if the terminations of Krueger, program director Bob Agnew, and producer Tony Rhein were justified. The personnel responsible for making the follow up parody certainly weren’t prudent to so flagrantly and immediately taunt those they had wronged, however.

Rafael Palmeiro returned to baseball after serving his 10-game suspension for use of steroids, a banned substance under the collective bargaining agreement agreed to by MLB and MLBPA. As the designated hitter batting 6th, he went 0 for 4. The fourth player to achieve both 3,000+ hits and 500+ home runs failed to assist his team with his final at bat with the tying and winning runs on base.

An elephant named Laura threw out the first pitch of the August 13th West Michigan Whitecaps game versus the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers. The 23-year old star of Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls, has decided to intentionally lower her profile by making small appearances in events across Michigan. “I couldn’t believe how far and how hard she throws it,” said Andrew Kown, a pitcher for the Whitecaps. Perhaps Laura can consider a second career in the national past time.

Finally, 12-year old Katie Brownell threw out the first pitch for the Los Angeles Dodgers on August 12th. Doesn’t seem very noteworthy, as many parks have kids throw out the first pitch, right? Brownell, however, is a Little League pitcher that threw a perfect game consisting entirely of strikeouts. She sat down 18 hitters in succession on May 14th in a game pitting her Oakfield-Alabama Little League Dodgers against the Yankees. She is the only girl in her league. The major league Yankees are trying to see if they can secure her services in time for a September call up.

August 11, 2005

Fish Tricks

With runners on first and third and one out, the score was 5-4 in favor of Florida in the top of the 8th. The Diamondbacks were 90 feet away from tying when third baseman Mike Lowell executed the hidden ball trick. The Arizona center fielder, Luis Terrero, strayed from third and was tagged out by Lowell for the second out. Todd Jones, a member of the Red Sox for part of 2003, had to stay off the mound for the trick to work, and he did so. Jones struck out Craig Counsell to end the inning. Another former Red Sox player, Tony Clark, was part of the action; he pinch-hit to put the runners at the corners.

For other successful hidden ball trick plays, see Retrosheet. Bill Deane, compiler of the list, still has holes in the data, so if you can help him, be sure to contact him.

August 2, 2005

Hall of Shame

PalmeiroschillingWith your accomplishments, you placed yourself in a pantheon that contains only Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, and Eddie Murray, but may have been aided with performance enhancing drugs. You testified before Congress and stated your innocence before your god and your country, but perhaps perjured yourself with your assertions of innocence. Now you issue weak, equivocal denials regarding your positive test results for steroids.

If a respected, high-profile player like Rafael Palmeiro is willing to put at risk his health, his credibility, his integrity, his Hall of Fame candidacy, what about lower tier players that toil in obscurity to get their shot at fame or a bigger payday?

Major League Baseball’s drug testing policy, as I noted back in January, is still woefully incomplete in comparison to the National Football League and Olympic policies. This might be the best, worst thing to happen to the MLB and the MLBPA, the only thing that would goad them into further collaborative efforts to combat performance enhancing drugs in the sport. The gaping absence of blood tests, the only method to detect human growth hormone, needs to be rectified and the penalties need to be stricter. How many more will fall from their artificially attained heights of glory before there is action taken?

July 30, 2005

New York Cheesecake

Yesterday the Yankees signed Alan Embree after he had cleared waivers. What will he look like without a goatee? The New York AL team is so desperate for pitching, they went to Colorado to pick up Shawn Chacon, who managed to compile a respectable 4.09 ERA in the lofty climes of Boulder. Chacon is the 4th player to wear the number 39 this season (an illustrious list that includes Melky Cabrera) and he is the Empire’s 13th starting pitcher. Yankees pitching is thinner than Lindsay Lohan post-Herbie. Sweet and just desserts.

July 27, 2005

Terribly Wrong

Looking back at this post in December, I was completely off base in labeling Carl Anthony Pavano as the next Jeff Weaver, Jose Contreras, or Javier Vazquez. Near as I can recall, these three former Yankee pitchers’ names weren’t bandied about as trade bait near the deadline as Pavano’s is now. Rumor mill grist has Pavano going to the Seattle Mariners for outfielder Randy Winn and possibly a starting pitcher. So, Pavano ends up not being Weatrequez, but something worse. I apologize for my inaccurate divination.

May 29, 2005

Grave Situation

Danny Graves was designated for assignment on May 23, 2005, a day after he had made an obscene gesture to a fan that yelled, “Go back to Vietnam, you slant-eyed [epithet].” Graves was born in Saigon to a white American father and Vietnamese mother. The “Baby-Faced Assassin,” as he was known (a nickname I have issues with), was the first player born in Vietnam to make the major leagues. The fan was seated in the high-priced seats near the dugout. Being able to afford such seats doesn’t buy one class, intelligence, or tolerance to people of different ethnic backgrounds.

Despite Graves being the Cincinnati Reds’ career saves leader, a two-time All Star (2000 and 2004), and winning the Lou Gehrig Memorial Award in 2002, he was unceremoniously cut shortly after the incident. It was an unsurprising move from a team that boasts Marge Schott as part of its illustrious history. Playing in a Rust Belt city as a person of color, particularly of a minority group that is considered perpetually foreign is a challenge, more so when your ERA is 7.36.

In baseball terms, the move can be justified. But I think the Reds organization was remiss in not strongly condemning the fan who verbally assaulted Graves. The Reds could have done what the Red Sox did to the fans that interferred with the ball in play at Fenway Park. Some measure of punishment in terms of being ejected or having his ticket privileges revoked is in order. I also wonder why this incident was not covered more extensively by the media. I was on the road when this happened, so perhaps I missed it, but usually debate is sparked by such happenings. I have seen nothing in response on ESPN, not even a segment on “Outside the Lines.”

Given Keith Foulke’s recent difficulties and ERA of 6.65, if Graves comes cheaply, he might be worth trying out for a spell. With the Red Sox fans’ history with pitchers of Asian descent, however, I doubt that Graves would find Boston an appealing option. And it’s a sad thing if players don’t want to come to Boston because of the team or its fans’ reputation, since the Henry ownership team has tried to overcome its past problems with integration.

(On a different tangent, my problem with Graves’s nickname is that it alludes to the myth of the Asian male as somehow less manly than white American males. “Baby-faced” infantalizes him, while the “assassin” part of the name reinforces the “shifty” stereotype that plagues Americans of Asian descent. Furthermore, “assassin” is rife with cultural resentment because of its origins as the appellation of a clandestine group of Muslims in the 11th century who fought against Christians during the Crusades.)

May 3, 2005

Mourning McCarty

I’m consoling a somewhat distraught Dave McCarty right now. You may have heard about this already. He knew it was inevitable, but it’s still a difficult thing with which to cope. Dave did mention that his fellow Stanford alumnus, Mike Mussina, might be interested in filling in for the time being.

Worse yet, McCarty was designated for assignment to free up space for Jeremi Gonzalez. The ends with “i” Jeremus.

Be sure to return this Friday for “Mussina’s Musings.” Be gentle, dear readers.

April 3, 2005

Today

OpeningdayHoy. Kyō. Oggi. Itá nga aldáw. Aujourd’hui. Heute. Ngayón. I dag. Vandag. сегодня. Hoje. Ma. Tänään. Leo. Dzisiaj. يَوْم

March 31, 2005

Experiment Over

KimByung-Hyun Kim is headed to the Colorado Rockies, with quite a bit of financial hijinks on the balance sheets. The Rockies only have to pay the major league minimum of $315,000, leaving the Red Sox with the remaining $6M and LHP Chris Narveson, who was then optioned to Pawtucket. The shell game was with Charles Johnson, whose $9M salary was immediately removed from Boston’s books when he was released. In return, the Rockies got the difference between Kim and Johnson’s salaries. For the Sox, this doesn’t apply to the luxury tax, so it’s a bit of a break.

I saw Kim pitch when the Red Sox matched up against the Arizona Diamondbacks on June 8, 2002. Curt Schilling was the starter, and Mike Myers made a relief appearance as well, ironically enough. Three Diamondback pitchers with World Series rings that eventually get a matched set with the Red Sox.

In 2002 I had seats right near the visitor’s bullpen. I got to see and harass some of the best that year, from Mariano Rivera to John Smoltz. The interesting thing about Kim pre-Sox days was that he inspired sympathy among fans, almost a kinship. Is there a Red Sox fan who doesn’t know what it is like to see their team face the Yankees in a big moment, and then watch them fail? Despite his disastrous 2001 World Series, he went on to be an All-Start the next year.

Trading Shea Hillenbrand for Kim freed up the glutted infield. Without Kim, there’s no Bill Mueller batting champion season. No Kim, possibly no Ortiz breakout year. Sans Kim and his 0.00 ERA in September of 2003, we’re likely not in the Wild Card that year.

Those facts evaporate in the intense heat of fan scrutiny. He flicked off fans after they booed him. He didn’t have a public relations machine to smooth over friction and didn’t live up to expectations. The rancor was compounded by his race, language skills, and nationality. Sadly for him, Colorado is the worst place to rehabilitate a pitcher, but I hope he’ll find some peace there.

January 29, 2005

Sammy Sosa Joins the AL East

Or was that Sammy Sooser? The Baltimore Orioles continue to ignore starting pitching and concentrate on getting big name hitters by acquiring Sosa this evening. Orioles owner Peter Angelos probably feels pressure to stock up on some superstars to compete for fan attention with the Washington Nationals coming to the area, as well as keep up with the Red Sox and Yankees. Sosa was traded for Jerry Hairston, Jr. and players to be named later. Some batting match-ups between Sosa and a few Red Sox pitchers:

Pitcher AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
Curt Schilling 52 17 3 0 7 13 2 21 .327 .339 .788 1.128
Wade Miller 24 7 2 0 0 3 2 10 .292 .346 .375 .721
Matt Clement 16 3 1 0 1 2 4 4 .188 .350 .438 .788
David Wells 10 3 0 0 0 1 1 2 .300 .364 .300 .664

The Clement and Wells sample sizes are small and hardly relevant, but I have included them anyway. Sosa gets a lot of extra bases off Curt Schilling, but his strikeout rate is also fairly high at 40%. I imagine he’ll be batting behind Miguel Tejada, providing the shortstop with some protection.

He can’t pitch, though.

January 20, 2005

Bullpen Goodbyes

Scott Williamson and Curtis Leskanic are flip sides of the same coin. What could have been, and what became. Both living the tenuous, tumultuous life of a bullpen pitcher, subject to quick hooks and dirty looks.

I had forgotten that Williamson was the NL’s rookie of the year in 1999. He missed the 2001 season due to Tommy John surgery, and from that point was not to be one of the anointed elite but a journeyman, eeking out a niche by needing to prove, time and again, that he wasn’t washed up. In 2003, I witnessed the pinch-hit home run Ruben Sierra lofted into right field in Game 4 of the ALCS. It was the only earned run he gave up through the entirety of that postseason. A postseason that should have included the World Series, with him striking out Ivan Rodriguez to get the final out of the 100th WS. What could have been.

What will he become? Someone like Curtis Leskanic, the very definition of nomad? Someone that is supposedly not to be trusted when the game is on the line? When the call came in Game 4, Leskanic pitched 1 1/3 innings of shutout ball, earning a win, and another chance for his team to play. In that act, he sacrificed his arm, ending his 12-year career and his chance to play again. But he cannot possibly regret that he was one of the 25, and what he became.

Williamson has signed a minor league deal with the Chicago Cubs, once again needing to prove he can play and that the rigors of relief pitching have not diminished him. Since he was denied in 2003, I hope that he hears that call, and that, like Leskanic, he answers and becomes what he was meant to be.

Leskanic

January 11, 2005

So Goes Lowe

Dlowe_1Brilliant. Awful. Clutch. Choke. Choose any two diametrically opposed concepts, and I can guarantee you that both have been applied to Derek Lowe at some point in his career with the Boston Red Sox. As erratic and unpredictable as Lowe could be on the mound, when he was on, and threw his seemingly predictable sinker, batters grounded out consistently.

He came to the team from the Seattle Mariners along with Jason Varitek on July 31, 1997 in exchange for Heathcliff Slocumb. From his debut in 1997 and through 1999, he alternated between starting and relieving. And so his capricious tenure began.

In 2000, he was converted to full-time closer and had 42 saves in 47 opportunities, tying for the lead in the American League with Todd Jones, then with the Detroit Tigers. He still holds the second highest single season save total behind Tom Gordon’s 46 in 1998. He was selected to his first All-Star Game, the sixth different Sox reliever since 1980 to achieve this honor. By season’s end he proved to be one of the league’s best relievers, finishing behind only Jones for the Rolaids Relief Award.

The next season saw a tremendous reversal of fortunes. He was tied for first in the league for relief losses with 10. He went 4-10 with a 4.04 ERA. His 24 saves in 64 opportunities shows how dismal his season was. The only bright spot was his 8 game save streak, the best since Gordon.

In 2002, he was reinvented as a starting pitcher with outstanding results. He won 21 games with a 2.58 ERA, second in both categories, while he was third in BAA at 210. He placed third in Cy Young Award voting and was the AL’s starting pitcher in the ASG. Torii Hunter helped him out by robbing Barry Bonds of a home run ball he threw, although most will recall that this game resulted in a tie. During the regular season, he threw a no-hitter against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays at Fenway Park, the first there in 37 years, after nearly no-hitting the Baltimore Orioles a week before.

He’ll be most remembered for this postseason heroics, in both 2003 and 2004. Despite the ups and downs of his career, he was most dependable when the stakes were highest.

He’s an athlete that’s a sports fan. He won’t be reading Dostoevsky in the bus like Mike Mussina. When you see him excited at a Celtics game, he really means it. (And knows enough to pretend to be a Cs fan when in Boston, despite being a Detroit Pistons devotee.) He plays a kid’s game with a child’s abandon, every scintilla of emotion shining through.

Pitching in Dodger Stadium with a stellar infield behind him and a pitcher in the nine hole will most likely be another boost to his career. Maybe he’ll mature further and gain that consistency that he lacks. I hope that he doesn’t lose the kid in him, though.

December 30, 2004

Inevitable

Rjohnson_2The Yankees sign a big ticket free agent. In other news, the sun rose and water is wet.

December 22, 2004

Meet the New Pitcher, Same as the Old Pitcher

Cpavano The Next Incarnation of Weaver - Contreras - Vazquez. Presenting Carl Anthony Pavano, career ERA of 4.21. That equals to $10M per earned run for his four-year contract. His K/9 is decent at 5.92. Many of the questions that plagued previous signings by the Yankees apply: Can he pitch under the scrutiny of all of New York? What of the transition from NL to AL? Does pitching in a new park factor into his success?

Doesn’t he look cool tossing up the ball? When it lands in his palm he can ponder it as Hamlet did with Yorick’s skull.

December 14, 2004

Pedro Martinez: Meet the Mets... Greet the Mets

I can’t say that I’m not entirely surprised that Pedro has decided to accept the Mets’ offer. After getting over the initial shock, this is a smart decision by all parties except Omar Minaya. Pedro gets to go to the National League and not have to pitch to a designated hitter in a park more favorable to pitchers. Also, there has been mounting evidence that he was losing his effectiveness against American League East hitters. The Red Sox continue to make rational decisions that keep salary flexibility at the forefront. Guaranteeing a fourth year could potentially hamstring them; they knew exactly what they wanted to offer Pedro, and four years was too much of an expense as well as a risk.

Minaya is acting like the late 90s Dan Duquette, wanting to make high impact, splashy signings without considering the future of the team. However, at least when D. Duquette was signing Manny Ramirez to an outrageous deal, the Red Sox were a contending team. Furthermore, the free agent market was like a freewheeling dotcom speculative market with everyone overpaying. How does someone let go of a talent like Scott Kazmir and then sign pricey, aging pitchers like Al Leiter and Pedro Martinez? I guess the Mets are expecting a massive turnaround with Willie Randolph at the helm, but I am highly skeptical on how realistic that is.

Focusing on the business aspects of this deal helps me from the kneejerk, gut wrenching emotions I’m actually feeling. Let’s just say I’m glad he was here to help win a World Series and that we had him when he had some of the best seasons any pitcher of any era ever had. Looking back at that time, had the current ownership been in place, there probably would have been more championships. This idle speculation, however, doesn’t change the fact that the front office now has a large void to attempt to fill. But they at least have the funds to try and do so.

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