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Tuesday, December 30, 2003

Baseball's Day Off 

Today is baseball's day off on Sox-1918. I need to conserve my strength for the Holiday Bowl. I'll be at the Joker, putting back pitchers of Bud Light, cheering on the Cougs. Maybe I'll see Johnny O.

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Monday, December 29, 2003

Further Research On The Origin Of The Forkball 

Bill, from Skagit County, was kindly enough to give me the tip that Elroy Face was famous for his forkball in the 1950's. Thanks to the King County Library System, which has an outstanding selection of online databases, I was able to piece together some of the story today.

Face, who holds the single-season won-lost record at 18-1, used the forkball with great success, particularly during the 1960 World Series, when he saved three of the four victories for the Pirates (the one victory he didn't save was game seven, which Bill Mazeroski won with a walk-off homer). According to an October 23, 2000 article in Sports Illustrated, Face learned the forkball from Joe Page, the former Yankee reliever. Page was attempting a comeback with the Pirates in 1954 and showed the pitch to Face during Spring Training of that year. Face, who, at the request of Pirates GM Branch Rickey, was trying to learn an off-speed offering, was an eager pupil. Face spent the '54 season at Double A New Orleans, and refined the pitch with which he would later record a then-record 188 career saves.

In my search, I was able to find an earlier, though less reliable, forkball reference. In an August 1998 Sports Illustrated article about Babe Ruth's 1927 home run barrage, passing mention is made to Milt Gaston, a St. Louis Browns pitcher, against whom Ruth homered in '27. Specifically, Gaston is called a "forkball pitcher," but I was not able (or willing) to find anything to substantiate Gaston's use of the pitch.

I would consider either Face of Page to be the true pioneers of the forkball, since both men were best known for their successful use of the pitch.

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Ivan Calderon 

Rest in peace, Ivan. Puerto Rican cops say he was shot execution style. Calderon started out with the Mariners, but I'll always remember one brilliant moment he had with the White Sox. Playing left field in Old Comiskey Park, Calderon climbed onto the padding that went halfway up the outfield wall, held on to the fence with his throwing hand, reached up with his glove, and took a home run away. That catch is one of the most creative thieveries I've ever seen, right up there with Buhner going over the fence at Fenway and that Japanese guy standing on top of the wall to take one away.

Ivan Calderon was only 41 years old when he was killed.

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Saturday, December 27, 2003

Christmas At Grandma's 

I've been in Pasco all week, spending time with my grandmother and uncle. There's not a lot going on in Pasco, so I was able to finish "Sandy Koufax: A Lefty's Legacy" while I was there. Some thoughts (Mariner-related and otherwise) about that fine book:


Page 34:

"In Jewish tradition, there is a luftmensch--a person with the capabilities to see things that more accustomed eyes miss. When you're different you think. Unbelonging makes you free."

Leavy quotes Herb Cohen, a boyhood pal of Koufax, describing how Koufax was different from the other kids in their neighborhood of Bensonhurst, in Brooklyn.

True Mariners fans are luftmensches of a sort. What we see, that the more accustomed eyes (Yankees fans in particular) miss, is that, despite the team never reaching the ultimate goal, we've had plenty of great memories and experiences. Furthermore, if the M's never do reach the World Series (I think they will soon), we will continue to watch and to celebrate the most majestic and beautiful sport in the world played at the highest level, and will continue to collect the fond memories. Yankees fans remember whether they won or lost. Mariners fans remember Junior's grace, Edgar's perfect swing, Randy's intimidation, and Ichiro's electricity. In prioritizing the aesthetic, we aren't burdened by wins and losses, but free to appreciate what makes baseball great.



Page 60:

Here Leavy recounts Koufax's September 9, 1965, perfect game versus the Cubs. In the second inning, Leavy contends, Koufax struck Ernie Banks out on a forkball. I haven't researched the origin of the forkball, but I'm interested to know when it was introduced. 1965 is the earliest mention of the pitch that I can recollect. If someone knows more, please let me know.



Page 65:

On the Dodgers' signing of Koufax:

"The Dodgers were...desperate for a Jewish presence, given the demographics of Brooklyn..."

This could be rewritten as
"The Mariners were desperate for a Japanese presence, given the demographics of ownership."

or as
"The Mariners were desperate for another over-30, goateed presence, given the demographics of the team."

I just wish the M's could take players based on their ability or potential rather than how well they fit the mold.



Finally:
Pages 118 and 123:

You can't write a book about the old Dodgers without a couple of Red Fairly's homespun yarns:

"'This one time, Pete Richert (Dodger relief pitcher) did go out and have a good time and wasn't feeling well the next day and, lo and behold, Koufax was struggling on the mound,' Ron Fairly said. 'And Alston (Dodgers manager at the time) walked out to the mound and asked, 'Sandy, how do you feel?' And Sandy said, 'A lot better than the guy you have warming up.''"

On Koufax's high-velocity throws to first base:
"'Threw it between my legs and chipped my cup,' Fairly would remember. 'It almost killed me.'"

Way to go, Red.



Finally, Bill's father, "Buzzie" Bavasi, was Dodgers GM throughout Koufax's career and is mentioned extensively in Leavy's book. Bill himself even got a passing mention on page 257. It's interesting that Bill owes his baseball career to his dad, who was a capable GM during the time of the reserve clause, a time in which the front office landscape was completely unlike it is today. The primary duty of a GM at that time was to negotiate contracts of players who were bound to play only with one specific team, thereby giving the player only very trivial negotiating leverage. Talent evaluation was the job of the scouts and the coaching staff. In fact, Buzzie played a key role in the Koufax's lack of innings early in his career. So you can see where Bill's baffling sense of talent evaluation comes from. I just hope he doesn't keep Soriano out of the rotation.

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Sunday, December 21, 2003

The 10 Greatest Mariners Of All Time 

On a slow news day, here's my 10:


10. Jamie Moyer

It's the top of the seventh, Moyer on the hill, and some 25-year-old rookie is coming to the plate. Rook's seen about eight change-ups in his previous two AB's, grounding out twice. First pitch, Moyer breaks his bat with a fastball on the hands. 0 for three. No one else I've watched in my life can do that.


9. Omar Vizquel

Just an incredible defensive shortstop, and we got to see him at his best. That play that sealed Bosio's no-hitter was just awesome.


8. Harold Reynolds

Slick-fielding and fast, HR was one of the few bright spots for the M's prior to Junior. Not a bad post-playing career either, hanging out with Peter Gammons all day.


7. Alvin Davis

The first major award winner for the M's (1986 ROY), AD is still the only player in the Mariners Hall of Fame (that will change very soon, however).


6. Ichiro

We all know what Ichiro can do. He's the reason we go to the park in April when it's 34 degrees outside. Would be higher with more seasons of service.





5. Jay Buhner

When there was a runner on second, my dad and I used to root for a single to right, just so we could see Bone uncork a throw. Bonus points awarded because I've been to his house.


4. Alex Rodriguez

Love him or hate him, we got to see one of the best players of all time, back when he was young and still had the fire in his belly.


3. Randy Johnson

Going to a Mariner game between 1995 and 1998 was a fun way to spend an evening. Going to a game when Randy pitched was an event. Some (not me) argue that without the Unit's contribution, fans in Tampa would be rooting for the Tampa Bay Mariners.


2. Edgar Martinez

Leads the American League in number of times newly acquired pitchers have said, "I'm thrilled that I don't have to pitch to THAT GUY any more." Does Gar belong in Cooperstown? I would say so. One of the best hitters in recent memory when it counts.


1. Ken Griffey Jr.



Is there any question? He won a Gold Glove award and was an All-Star every season he was with the M's, with the exception of his rookie campaign. The catch that he broke his wrist on remains the best defensive play I've ever seen. Oh yeah, he was our best hitter, too.


HONORABLE MENTION

Bret Boone, Dan Wilson, Kazuhiro Sasaki, Bill Caudill, Mark Langston.


WORTHY OF MENTION OF YET UNDETERMINED QUALITY:

Frankie Rodriguez, John Marzanno. Let history show these men's propensity for instigating bench-clearing brawls.

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Some 2003 Cirillo vs. Bell data to support (or refute) Pete's comparison:

Bell: .195 BA, .296 OBP, .283 SLG, .579 OPS
Cirillo: .205, .284, .271, .555 OPS

So, it looks like Bell is actually about 10 points better than Cirillo on average. It should be noted, however, that once a player's slugging percentage dips below his on-base percentage, a ten points difference is a drop in a bucket in the Atlantic.

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Saturday, December 20, 2003

Cirillo Spoils Bavasi's Revolutionary 6-Outfielder Plan 

I dont know what Jeff was thinking! Nothing cures a major league headcase like being suddenly dropped in front of New York City fans.

I (Pete Ziemkiewicz, acting president of Cubs Fans in Favor of a Cubs/Mariners World Series), agree with Caldwell about Cirillo's chances to bounce back next year. He could easily hit .280 with 40 doubles, and what available third baseman's likely to beat that? I'd also like to take this opportunity to note that, as bad as Jeff Cirillo was last year, David Bell was significantly worse.

Not that that makes Jeff Cirillo's performance any less pathetic. I'm just saying that fate has saved the Mariners' new GM from making two VERY bad trades this week.

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Friday, December 19, 2003

Finals Are Over: A Collection Of Miscellaneous Thoughts 

Kevin Millwood accepted salary arbitration from the Phills. The "Jose Mesa Is No Longer My Closer" light must have been slow to click on. Billy Wagner will help Millwood bring his win total in 2004 back near 20 where it belongs.


Checking out the other M's blogs, I see I've been discovered. Steve got me first. That means, all told, there might me as many as seven people reading anything I might post here. Pressure's on.



MARINER NICKNAMES:
We need more. Here's a few I've come up with while staring blankly at exam questions:

"Mr. Electricity" - Randy Winn (actually, my friend Pete Ziemkiewicz coined this, in one of those "I guess you had to be there" moments)
"Plastic Man" - Ryan Franklin

"Goat Boy" - Bill Bavasi



"Robocop" - Rafael Soriano
"Jazzier Sausage" - Kazuhiro Sasaki (see 12/17/03 post)


EXISTING NICKNAMES TO KEEP:

"Papi" - Edgar Martinez
"Big Chief" - Freddy Garcia
"Everyday Eddie" - Eddie Guardado

PLAYERS IN NEED OF NICKNAME REPLACEMENT SURGERY

"Big Ben" - Ben Davis
"Boonie" - Bret Boone
All other players whose nickname consists of "ie" suffixed to the first syllable of his last name
"Daimajin" - Kazu Sasaki

INANIMATE NICKNAMES IN NEED OF REPLACEMENT

"The Thang" - Kazuhiro Sasaki's splitter. Nothing makes me cringe more that when Rick Rizzs says, "And here comes the Thang." Next time I see Rick at the Joker I'll make sure to tell him.

HONORABLE MENTION

"Gump" - Bob Melvin. Too bad Sox fans at SOSH have already used this one for Grady Little.

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Does anyone remember the contract Magic Johnson signed with the Lakers way back when? 25 years, $25 million. A creative offer like this might get us Vlad. Or might not.

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Thursday, December 18, 2003

A Tangent Of My Sources Of Optimism: Why The M's Should Hold On To Garcia AND Cirillo 

As I stated yesterday, I think Garcia can be as good in 2004 as he was in 2000 and 2001. I'll always like the prospects of a power pitcher in a big ballpark, especially one with prior success in said ballpark. Suffice to say that a lot of arguments can be made for three possible cases: sign Garcia and keep him, sign Garcia and trade him, and non-tender Garcia (the least defensible option). I like option one, can live with option two, and wouldn't put it past Bavasi to choose option three.

Cirillo's case is admittedly difficult to defend. For the last two seasons, he's been a one-man rally killer, batting a combined .234 in his two seasons with the M's, slugging .308 with an OPS of .603. Pretty crappy, from any perspective. (Unbelievably, he was intentionally walked once last year. Must have been during interleague play.) He did save a few runs with his glove, which offsets a negligible amount of his offensive liability. In his defense, he never took his slumping bat with him to the field.

Watching Cirillo the past two seasons, he's had a few AB's where he's turned someone's 95 mph fastball around and crushed a liner into the gap, or over the left field wall. He really has two distinct swings. There's the one he's used for about 725 AB's the past two seasons. The one where he's trying SO hard to get out of his (we need a more descriptive word than "slump" here) slump that he's starting to run to first before he finishes his follow-through. And not in a good Ichiro way either. Then there's the swing he's used about 25 times or so, where he stays behind the ball, swings through the ball, and crushes. From what I've seen, the ability to hit at a high level is still in his body, and has all but departed from his brain.

I think Cirillo's woes can be corrected with the proper instruction. That's where Paul Molitor comes in. A right-handed, compact-swinging, line-drive machine during his playing days. My first impression of Cirillo, as a matter of fact, during BP on a cold April evening in 2002, was that his swing reminded me almost exactly of Paul Molitor's. That Molitor MIGHT be able to fix Cirillo is reason to hold on to him. The only alternatives proposed thus far have been to release him and eat his salary for TWO YEARS, or to trade Cirillo to the Mets in exchange for Roger Cedeno. It would be foolish to trade Cirillo, who has at least an unlikely upside, for Roger Cedeno, who is a lock to stink.

A lot of people are pointing out what the M's are losing this offseason, and ignoring the rock-bottom seasons two of their key players had in 2002. Even if Cirillo only improves to .275 and Garcia only goes 15-10, it might be enough to contend in the weakened AL West, and at worst they both become very tradable at the deadline for a contending team's best prospects. Even if they exactly duplicate their 2002 seasons, the team isn't making any moves that put them in contention anyway (remember, Quinton McCracken is going to bat at least 100 times in 2004), so they come at no real cost.

I gotta learn an entire semester's worth of analytical chemistry by tomorrow afternoon, so until then, adios.

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Wednesday, December 17, 2003

The once-great defense has been chopped and sold for parts. Last year's struggling offense hasn't been improved and isn't getting any younger. The rotation is still looking to find a top-of-the-line starter. Kazuhiro Sasaki is the closer. All that being said, it is still premature to give up on the 2004 Mariners.

The Mariners have holes. Parallel-park-an-18-wheeler-no-problem sized holes, in fact. And it seems that management is unwilling to take reasonable measures to address these holes. Fodder for another post, however. Today we're talking optimism.


SOURCE OF OPTIMISM #1: ICHIRO

It's entirely possible that Ichiro hits .350 again this year, swipes 50 bags, hits 20 home runs, and wins the AL MVP. Plus, he makes an amazing play in right field about once a week. The kind of amazing play that makes you call your dad from the Safeco Field payphone to talk about it, the kind of play that makes you stay up for the early morning replay of "Baseball Tonight" just to get one more look.


SOURCE OF OPTIMISM #2: EDGAR

Poppy does crazy things in clutch situations. Is there a more clutch situation than "Last Chance At A World Series"? I submit there is not.

P.S. Did anyone else get one of those POS Edgar Martinez "The Double" figurines last year? Worst. Giveaway. Ever.


SOURCE OF OPTIMISM #3: RAFAEL SORIANO

Soriano is one of the few pitching prospects in baseball with truly unlimited potential. I was lucky enough to get tickets in the first row behind the visiting dugout for a game against the Angels last year, and my brother and I felt gypped because Soriano didn't pitch. I was caught up in the excitement of that AB last year against the Red Sox, when he struck out Nomar on three pitches with the bags full, and at the top of my lungs shouted "We're gonna win the World Series!" That scared the crap out of my roommate at the time, who was, per usual, parked in his La-Z-Boy sorting through a box of eight-year-old clippings from The Stranger.


SOURCE OF OPTIMISM #4: FREDDY GARCIA (tentative)

He should have won the Cy Young in 2001. (Only pitcher in the history of the award to lead his league in innings and ERA and not win) He was a deserving all-star for his first half of 2002. It's even money on whether he's a spectacular success or a spectacular failure in 2004. For what we'd get in return from a trade, isn't it worth the wager to keep him, Bill Bavasi?


Gotta go, more S.O.O.'s to follow...

BTW- The Spellcheck-suggested replacement for "Kazuhiro Sasaki" is "Jazzier Sausage." I did not make that up.

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