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Saturday, January 31, 2004

Friday Night In Pullman, And Here I Am 

In the latest Silly Rob Neyer Column, the Whiz Kid presents some data to back his claim that bullpens don't matter in one-run games. He looked at the best and worst bullpens in each league for the last 11 years (ignoring the Rockies, presumably since their park-effected ERAs led the league just about every year), and compared how they did in one-run games. His summary of his data:

IP ERA 1-R Win%
Good Pens 10,088 3.29 .545
Bad Pens 10,301 5.24 .469

He then shows that the teams with "Good Pens" did better, winning 58%, and the teams with "Bad Pens" did worse, winning only 44%, in games decided by two or more runs.

Here's the thing: The over 20,000 inning sample size seems pretty significant, but it's misleading. Only a fraction of those inning actually represent those pitched in one-run games. A better survey would look at every team (not just the exceptionally good or bad), and only in one-run games. Being the nerd I am, my Friday night schedule left plenty of room to begin such an analysis, so here goes:

First, I went through the 2003 March and April American League schedule, and looked at the boxscores for every one-run game in that span (51 games altogether). Then I sorted the pitching stats into two categories: Winning Team Bullpen ERA (WBE), and Losing Team Bullpen ERA (LBE). If carrierd out for the eleven years of Neyer's study, we would have around a 4,000-inning sample to work with. In my limited sample, WBE in one-run games was 3.32, and LBE in one-run contests was 4.54, a difference of 1.22. Bullpens averaged roughly 3 innings on both sides of the one-run games, so bullpens accounted for about 40% of the winning margin in these games.

A better statistic thatn Bullpen ERA would be ERA of a bullpen's top three pitchers. These are the ones that get the outs that count. It is quite irrelevant if a team's mop-up reliever has an ERA of 3.00.

Close game performance, in my view, is the true measure of a bullpen's strength. Pitchers pitch completely differently at the end of these games than they do if the score is, say, 6-3. Batters are fighing for every inch, and pitchers aren't giving in to anybody.

(If you were looking for a strong finish to this post, I'm sorry, but it's past my bedtime, and I'm bushed)

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Thursday, January 29, 2004

Thank You, Tyler 

Thanks to a high school English teacher in Lompoc, California, for taking the time to call me to task. The articles about the high school kid's recruting trips were made known to me via the Sports Guy's Super Bowl Blog, available on ESPN's Page 2. Tyler J. actually mentioned "I would nuke your paper for plagiarism." Hopefully we can all avoid a catastrophic war that nobody wins.

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The M's Never Had a Shot at Pudge Anyway 

I love Ivan Rodriguez as much as the next guy, but Detroit just plain overpaid him. Unless he's some kind of unprecedented supercatcher, he's already started going downhill athletically. He's only played one full season since 1999, and he didn't hit that well. Yes, he's still one of the best at his position, but there's very little chance this will be true three years from now.

And frankly, I don't think the Mariners were serious players in the Pudge sweepstakes anyway. My understanding was that he really wanted to stay with the Marlins, but he turned down a very nice three year deal with them. Then the Cubs were his first choice, but Hendry flatly refused to offer him more than two years. Then Detroit showed up with a big bag of money.

So Pudge has been sitting around trying to choose from three very nice offers:

1) Wait until May, sign that 3 year deal with Florida, the place he wants to be.

2) Take the two year deal from the Cubs, the team he wants to play for.

3) Sign with the Tigers, who are offering him the amount of money he wants.

So what made anybody think the Seattle (not where he wants to be) Mariners (not the team he wants to play for) could sweep Pudge off his feet with a 1 to 2 year deal for less money than Detroit was offering?

Doesn't make sense. Boras just likes to drop names. Chill, Chris. Chill.

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Wednesday, January 28, 2004

This One's A Little More Pleasant Than The Last One 

Ever wonder how FSU or Miami pull out all the stops on recruiting visits? The Miami Herald is following the top college football recruit in Florida to all his campus visits. A couple of excerpts:

On an FSU recruiting dinner:
The steak didn't even have a price. The menu said something about market value. I was kind of embarrassed so I didn't order a lot.

On Coach Bowden:
''Coach Bowden was cool, but Ms. Bowden was the bomb,'' Williams said. "I swear, she must be related to Betty Crocker or something."


FSU Trip

Auburn Trip

Miami Trip

Read these, laugh, and forget about the M's for a minute or two.

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Warning: Angry Rant Follows 

Pudge is going to sign with the Tigers. I can't freakin' believe this. If you can't outsell your team's situation over DETROIT!, you have no business even buying a ticket to a big-league game, much less running a franchise (unless you mean in to the ground). If Goat Boy lacks the people skills to get this move done, he needs to be fired IMMEDIATELY. There's just no excuse. I actually hate him now. I've moved beyond disagreeing with him, past feeling sorry for his bumbling idiocy, into full-blown hatred. If I saw him at Shaker's this weekend, I'd fight him right there. AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!

...have I mentioned lately that Goat Boy's dad was the guy who kept Koufax out of the Dodgers' rotation?

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Be Prepared To Shield Your Eyes 

I'm a little concerned about the lack of uproar at the move to make Scott Spiezio the M's everyday third baseman. In a way, I can understand - on the average, a good defensive third baseman doesn't make a very big difference over a bad one, say one, MAYBE two games over a 162-game season. This assumption, however, works only if we assume that the bad third baseman is still good enough to man the hot corner at the big league level. If, for example, a big league team replaced their league-average 3B with, say, my dad, even only as a defensive replacement, this move would cost the team a WHOLE LOT MORE than 2 games. Try ten. Or twenty. Maybe more. Scott Spiezio is probably a better 3B than my dad. Probably. (The old man was not too shabby as a ballplayer.) But he's not as good as Russ Davis when he notoriously "defended" the Mariners' hot corner from 1996-1999.

Russ Davis as M's 3B:
0.933 Fielding Pct., 2.24 Range Factor

Scott Spiezio, Lifetime, as 3B:
0.929 Fielding Pct., 1.66 Range Factor!

(Statistics from Baseball-Reference.com)

Russ Davis was so bad that Lou replaced him in 1998 with Rico Rossy, a .198 hitter. Spiezio has Davis' stone hands, but without the range. But Spiezio is such a better hitter, you might say. Kinda. Davis' average OPS+ (weighted by # of plate appearances) during that span was 92. Spiezio's weighted average OPS+ the last four years is 106 (100 is by definition average). So Spiezio is just a hair above average at the plate (actually, OPS+ considers all hitters, not just regulars, so, compared to starting position players, he's probably below average) and a complete and utter hack with the glove. By any measure, Scott Spiezio figures to be one of the worst regualrs in Mariners history. And his band blows. Hard.

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Quick factoid:
Last year, the Cubs won 16 games by six or more runs, the Astros 23.

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I guess I was a little unclear in my point yesterday. My hypothetical situation was meant to illustrate how Pythagorean Wins overvalues runs scored when the game is already decided compared to the average run scored. In other words, having a bullpen catcher that mashes late September's AA-caliber pitching doesn't make your team any better or worse, as Run Differentials might predict.

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Luck? Smartypants Bill James Doesn't Think So 

This is just to keep things argumentative. I totally agree with your last post, Chris, but I'm going to dispute the very last thing you said: that the difference between five games here and there is "blind luck". I've heard this insistence before, and I'm sure it's easy to prove half-assedly, though I've never actually seen it done. I've also seen a lot of old baseball guys (the Joe Morgans of the world) have near-fatal strokes disagreeing with it.

Well, I hate to throw my hat in with Joe Morgan, but I'm with the old baseball guys, dammit. Sort of.

And I'm not the only one. Bill James, inventor of pythagorean standings and the ultimate smart-ass-baseball-obsessed-stat-whiz, came to the same conclusion some years ago. After spending decades trying to figure out how the hell stats become wins, he spun the world of baseball-obsessed-stat-guys on its head by starting with a brand new assumption: that the exact number of wins a team ends up with are a perfect reflection of the performances of the players on that team.

Not pythagorean wins, but wins. This implies that, after years of scorning the foolish assertions of "clutch performance" by the Joe Morgan Crowd, James essentially shrugged and decided they were right. Sort of.

There's one key difference between the way Joe Morgan sees clutch performance and the way James does. Morgan and his ilk drastically overestimate the importance of the odd clutch hit or "forced" double-play. Anybody who's heard him call a ballgame knows this. There's always some shlub he insists is going to be a star because he saw him hit a game-winning double a few months ago. Bill James insists on establishing the value of each of these discrete events statistically, then adding them up.

As a stat-minded person who failed miserably as a baseball player, I'd love to believe that there's no such thing as clutch performance. Because in the clutch, I always choked. But there is. You can't play any sport without knowing this. It's just that "clutch performance" is a much more complicated formula than people think.

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Tuesday, January 27, 2004

Pythagorean Records To Be Taken With A Grain Of Salt 

Hypothetical situation to illustrate the caution necessary when looking at Pythagorean (sometimes called Expected) Won-Loss Records:

160 games into the 2004 season, the Angels have locked up the A.L. West crown with a 93-67 record. They've scored 760 runs and allowed 649, giving a Pythagorean record of 93-67.

The second-place Mariners, 90-70, are out of wild card contention. They've scored 753 runs and allowed 660, giving a Pythagorean prediction of 90-70.

As you can see, both teams are performing exactly as predicted by the Bill James' Pythagorean Postulate (it's not a theorem; a theorem is proven mathematically) of Baseball.
(the formula is Winning Percentage = Runs squared / (Runs squared + Runs Allowed squared)

The Angels and Mariners play the last two meaningless games of the season against each other. In the first game, Jamie Moyer goes for his 20th victory versus John Johnson, a AA pitcher called up for September roster expansion by the Angels. Moyer pitches well and Johnson is absolutely shelled, and the Mariners win, 12-1.

In the final game of the season, Freddy Garcia faces Sancho Sanchez, another Angels farmhand called up to fill the extra roster spots. Freddy pitches well, but Sanchez is brilliant in his Major League debut, and the Angels win, 2-1.

The Angels finish with a 94-68 record, scoring 763 runs while allowing 662. Their final Pythagorean record is 92-70.

The M's finish with a 91-71 record, scoring 766 runs while allowing 663. Their final Pythagorean record is 93-69.

As you can see, one blowout shifted each club's "expected" record by two games. The differences between actual W-L records and expected W-L records are often cited as a credit or discredit to the managers' abilities, but neither team was managed particularly well or poorly in the last two games of the season. It would be ridiculous to think that Mike Scioscia was four games better as a manager (his team outperformed "expectations" by two games) than Bob Melvin (his team underperformed by two games) based solely on the teams' Pythagorean Records in this example. Scioscia's team simply had the good fortune of having their asses handed to them when the race was already decided.

Pythagorean Standings are based on a pretty good hypothesis, but like any empirically-obtained formula based on a population distribution, there's random error involved. In other words, the Pythagorean Standings offer a good estimate of actual won-loss record, but whether "expected" record is, say, five games too high or five games too low is just a case of dumb luck.

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Tearin' The Roof Off The Safe 

David's listed what he'd play when he went to bat, so I'm following suit (links will take you to amazon.com's site for each album, where you can listen to a sample at the bottom of the page):

First, a few situation-specific selections:

Situation: First AB of the game
Song: Mothership Connection, Parliament
Alright, alright! Star Child here! Put a glide in your stride and a dip in your hip and come on to the mothership!

This next one is more for the irony than anything else.
Situation: AB in a road game
Song: All About U, 2Pac
Every other city we go
Every other video
No matter where I go
I see the same ho

Situation: Late in the game when they're obviously going to bring in a specialty reliever
Song: For Whom The Bell Tolls, Metallica
This one takes about a minute to develop, getting progressively harder and harder, so it would be perfect for those occaisional key AB's late in the game.

Now, a few tunes for any old time:
Them Bones, Alice In Chains
It hits hard right away, and it's got that awesome scream right at the beginning.

Rush, Talib Kweli
It opens with the hook, "Feel the rush, Feel the rush," and it's got this horn lick in the backgound that reminds me a little of "Gonna Fly Now" of Rocky Training Montage fame. Plus, I've never heard Kweli at the ballpark, and, frankly, I'd like to someday.

Immigrant Song, Led Zeppelin
This fills the exact niche that is alredy covered by Them Bones, but the song's just too good to leave out.

Spottieottiedopaliscious, Outkast
What can I say? This is probably the smoothest hip-hop song I've ever heard. Another brilliant usage of horns with hip-hop. From the Aquemini album.

Hunting Bears, Radiohead
The beginning of this one is pretty much just an electric guitar playing a riff that sounds like something from the great Johnny Depp western, Dead Man. It's from the Amnesiac album, if anyone cares to give it a listen.

Finally,
Renegade, Styx
Oh, don't give me that. Everyone is a closeted Styx fan.

Hmmm, that makes nine. One more to give me a nice, round number:
Ring Of Fire, Johhny Cash
Pay your respects to the Man In Black!


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Rob Neyer Needs to Do his Math! 

I like Rob Neyer and everything, but if he's going to go on snobbily blasting people for insisting that RBIs are a usefull stat, he needs to beef up his own analysis a bit. In this very silly article, Mr. Neyer insists that, despite some small improvements, the Cubs are clearly not the class of the NL Central. His reasoning is simple: the Cubs' run differential was much weaker than the Astros' run differential last year, and since the end of last year, the Astros have done more to improve than the Cubs have.

He argues that the Cubs basically had no business even being in the race last year, so why should they be expected to win this year?

Good question, professor! And I have a good answer: Because the Cubs did most of their improving BEFORE the end of the year. That's why they won the division, remember? Because they added Aramis Ramirez (one of the three or four best hitting third basmen around) and replaced the underperforming Hee Seop Choi with a platoon of Eric Karros and Randall Simon. I was watching all year, and after those trades, the Cubs were a completely different team.

But don't take my word for it. Just check the run differentials before the All-Star break and after.

(Before Break, After Break)

Cubs: (-2, +43)

Astros: (+70, +58)

The Cubs didn't improve on the AVERAGE of these two teams, they improved on the second-half team. And frankly, I don't know what makes Neyer think the Astros have improved more. They lost Billy Wagner, for heavens sake! The Cubs lost nothing but dead weight (ooh, that's a burn, Randall Simon!). The Astros have added two solid starting pitchers. They have also gotten older the old-fashioned way, by aging. The Cubs, on the other hand, have replaced the squeaky old Karros / Simon platoon with Derek Lee, the Scott Rolen of first basemen. They added Latroy Hawkins to a bullpen that was already very good. Then they added Todd Walker, just because it's always nice to have one great ballplayer you can't fit in the starting lineup (though it seems likely to me that Grudzielanek, not Walker, will be the McLemore).

Just because the Cubs haven't done anything too splashy (yet!) doesn't mean they haven't improved substantially.

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Kaz's Last Day 

Kazuhiro Sasaki is in town to sign papers terminating his involvement with the Seattle Mariners today. M's management expects the situation to be fully resolved by the end of the week. Goat Boy will have $9 million buring a hole in his pocket, a thought that scares the bejeezus out of me. One can be certain, though, that management will repeatedly mention that their budget is increased by only $8 million (Kaz's 2004 salary), leaving out the $1 million 2005 buyout and $500K in minimal performance incentives that the team is also saving. Ten bucks says they claim to not be able to afford Pudge.

One more thing about the Kaz situation has been brought to my attention. Brian Meehan of the Oregonian, in a Jan. 23 article, reports the following:
Bavasi said a Japanese team would have to compensate Seattle for signing Sasaki, the amount subject to negotiation.
This is analog to the Mariners negotiating with Orix in 2001 for the rights to Ichiro. Sasaki will be a big draw in Japan, and whichever Japan League team gets him will be willing to shell out some dough for the attendance boost. Rest assured that this revenue will NOT be factored into the M's 2004 payroll, or any other season's payroll, for that matter.

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Monday, January 26, 2004

I Never Knew Barry Had So Much Dramatic Range 

The Oracle Of Baseball of course is an offshoot of The Oracle Of Bacon, where you can type the name of any actor, and through his or her film projects, he or she will be linked to Kevin Bacon. For example, Barry Bonds has a Bacon Number of 2:

Barry Bonds was in Rookie of the Year (1993) with Tom Milanovich
Tom Milanovich was in Novocaine (2001) with Kevin Bacon

Thanks to Barry's file on the Internet Movie Database, I now look forward to seeing him as Senator Wilson in 1994's made-for-TV Moment Of Truth: Broken Pledges, an emotional drama about a woman's fight for legislation to be passed banning the fraternity hazing which resulted in her son's death.


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For When You're Bored At Work 

Here's a cool toy. The Oracle Of Baseball, on the Baseball-Reference site. You type the names of two current or former big-league players, and the Oracle connects the two through their teammates. Here's an example using George Bradley (author of the first complete-game no-hitter in Major League history) and Kevin Millwood (most recent CGNH):

George Bradley played with Bert Cunningham for the 1888 Baltimore Orioles

Bert Cunningham played with Nick Altrock for the 1898 Louisville Colonels

Nick Altrock played with Bud Thomas for the 1933 Washington Senators

Bud Thomas played with Dizzy Trout for the 1939 Detroit Tigers

Dizzy Trout played with Brooks Robinson for the 1957 Baltimore Orioles

Brooks Robinson played with Dennis Martinez for the 1976 Baltimore Orioles

Dennis Martinez played with Kevin Millwood for the 1998 Atlanta Braves


One thing I just noticed: check out the career of Nick Altrock. 1898-1933 makes 36 seasons! Altrock only played in 19 of those, but still, he was 56 years old in 1933.

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Move On, Mo Vaughn 

Mo Vaughn says he's through. I, for one, will miss the big guy. I'll never forget his menacing stance when he stood at the plate, big chaw filling his cheek, waving the bat around like it was a toothpick. It looked as if he wasn't lifing a finger as he'd launch 450-foot blasts, then waddle Babe-Ruth-like around the bases. Good luck with whatever comes next, Mo.

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On The Topic Of Ballpark Tunes... 

Anyone else ever notice that about 25 players around the league use the AC/DC (sorry for the standard slash, blogger doesn't have a "lightning bolt" character in it's font) song, "Hell's Bells," yet no one uses Metallica's "For Whom The Bell Tolls," even though the Metallica song is way more badass?

I anxiously await the day someone walks up to the plate with ODB's "Got Your Money" bumping. Either that, or Outkast's "Spread."

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"I Am A Golden God!" 

If you don't hate Scott Spiezio as much as I do, you obviously haven't read this article.

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Sunday, January 25, 2004

Moving Ichiro = Higher SLG% 

Talk has been circulating (check it out here, here, and here) in response to Gump's intent to try Ichiro as a two- or three-hitter. Everyone seems to support a move like this, myself included. A lot of strong reasons for the are offered, and I'd like to add a couple more.

Ichiro has kept a leadoff hitter's approach in most situations, even with runners in scoring position. Many times have we seen him, say, bunt for a base hit with a man on second. While he might not drive the runner home with his bunt, he does succeed in extending the rally and putting additional pressure on the pitcher and the infielders. Batting second or third, we may see Ichiro alter his game a little. I think he's going to try to drive the ball a lot more, which would have two effects: a few more strikeouts and quite a bit higher slugging percentage.

Ichiro should also benefit from having Edgar Martinez following him in the lineup, instead of a two-hitter. Nobody's going to want to pitch around Ichiro and put a speedy runner on for Edgar. Especially if Winn does a good job getting on base at the top of the order, Ichiro should get a lot of pitches to hit.

Here's my hopelessly optimistic prediction of Ichiro's 2004 numbers:
.340 BA, .395 OBP, .485 SLG, 18 HR, 100 RBI, AL MVP

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Saturday, January 24, 2004

It's So Dumb Goat Boy MUST Be Considering It 

The Toronto Sun is reporting today that the Jays have offered two prospects in a trade with the M's for Rafael "Robocop" Soriano. Unless a team is offering it's entire AA roster, or Barry Bonds, you just don't trade a dominant young Major League pitcher making the league minimum. For those readers that don't remember, the Jays made a similarly one-sided trade offer several weeks ago. Goat Boy smartly (or by a matter of dumb luck; the jury's still out) rejected that offer, but we clearly should not put it past him to accept this one.

It appears that the rest of the league now takes Goat Boy for an idiot. What was the hold-up?

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Detroit's Pudge Perspective 

Jerry Green of the Detroit News reports that the Tigers weren't nearly as close as people were led to believe to signing Ivan Rodriguez. Says Green:
...on Friday night, (Scott) Boras (Rodriguez's @!#$ of an agent) told The News' Tom Gage that a contract length had been agreed upon with the Tigers. That leaves just the economics to be negotiated. Just the economics!

So where did Boras come up with his forty million dollars figure? I would love to see the Mariners sign Pudge, but they need to proceed with caution when dealing with Boras. Sports agency is in the same category as event ticket brokerage and the towing industry when it comes to fairness and honesty, and nobody does more to cement that reputation than Scott Boras.

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Friday, January 23, 2004

Halladay's $42 Million Deal 

The Jays have signed Roy Halladay to a four year, $42 million contract extension. That's big money for what is considered this offseason to be a long contract, but I think it's a move that's good for both parties. Halladay's only 26, so his best years are probably ahead of him. He's a power pitcher, so, barring injury, his performance is unlikely to inexplicably taper. Even though he tossed 266 innings in 2003, he hasn't thrown a lot of innings over the course of his career, so a stress-related injury is less likely to occur. Halladay, like Tejada and Guerrero, is an example of a player worthy of the long-term, big-money deal that the Mariners would be reluctant to offer to anyone not Japanese in descent. I don't even think Babe Ruth would get a multi-year deal from this gutless bunch.

You make it so hard, Goat Boy, but still we're all trying REALLY hard to believe in 2004, so throw us a friggin' bone, please?

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You're Not Making This Whole 8 AM Biochemistry Thing Any Easier, Bill 

One of these mornings, just ONCE, I want to be reading the news online, sipping my coffee, and see that one magical headline: "Mariners Lock Up (some player we'd all crap ourselves if we got him) To Multi-Year Deal," but instead all I see is that Maels Rodriguez didn't top 90 on the gun in his workout. Just once, Bill Bavasi, put me in a good mood for biochem, please.

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Thursday, January 22, 2004

Bud Selig's Conflict Of Interest And How He Has Profited 

Bud Selig has been quoted time and time again, stating unequivocally that his (oh, my mistake -- his wife's and family's) ownership of the Milwaukee Brewers in no way has influenced his course of action as Major League Baseball's commissioner. Now he's (sorry again -- his wife and family are) looking for a buyer for the club, in order to finally, after all these years, rid the Commissioner's Office of this Texas-sized conflict of interest. Better late than never, I say.

Selig has also gone on the record many times, outlining the vast financial woes of his family's Milwaukee Brewers. One of the biggest problems facing the Brewers (as well as the White Sox) is that their geographical fan base is already partly spoken for by another club, the Chicago Cubs. To their credit, the Brewers club has made every effort to "convert" these Cubs fans living in Wisconsin, albeit to a very limited degree of success.

Selig was presented a golden opportunity to improve the fortunes of the Brewers in 1998, the first year of the expansion Arizona Diamondbacks and Tampa Bay Devil Rays. The addition of these two new teams presented a difficult dilemma for Major League Baseball. Both the National and American Leagues already had an even number of teams (fourteen each), meaning every team could play on any given day. Adding one team to each league would mean at least one team in each league would be off on every day of the schedule. Furthermore, adding both teams to one league or the other would have the undesirable effect of thinning the overall talent of one league with respect to the other. In an effort to spread the initial dilution of talent to both leagues, it was decided that each league would get one new team, and one existing American League team would move to the National League. Selig selected his Brewers to be that team.

Prior to 1998, the American League Milwaukee Brewers hosted the locally popular National League Chicago Cubs in exactly zero regular-season games each season. In 2004, the Brewers are scheduled to host the Cubs ten times, a direct result of the Brewers' league change, and of the recent "unbalanced schedule," a Selig-backed policy by which a team plays its own divisional opponents more often then their non-divisional foes. These contests with Chicago have resulted in an attendance spike of 12,000 additional fans per game (when compared with attendance figures for games in which Milwaukee hosted other teams), earning Selig's family a gain in ticket revenues of approximately $6.7 million over the last six seasons (1998-2003).

Average price of a Brewers ticket (according to Team Marketing Report, as reported in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel):
1998: $10.28
1999: $11.55
2000: $11.72
2001: $18.12 (1st season at Miller Park)
2002: $17.63
2003: $16.86

Average attendance of a Brewers-Cubs game in Milwaukee (all attendance figures derived from USAtoday.com's season attendance figures and daily box scores):
1998: 47,010
1999: 38,290
2000: 29,154
2001: 35,990
2002: 30,126
2003: 32,572

Average attendance of a Brewers home game against all other opponents:
1998: 20,393
1999: 19,181
2000: 18,649
2001: 34,583 (1st season at Miller Park)
2002: 23,491
2003: 19,897

By adding the Cubs to the Brewers' home schedule, Selig has directly and immediately created additional revenue for his ballclub in a way that other owners who don't happen to be Commissioner of Major League Baseball are unable to do. Other teams certainly benefit from the unbalanced schedule (the Yankees and Red Sox immediately come to mind), and I suppose the realignment of the divisions has helped many clubs as well. But Bud Selig is full of crap when he says that his family's ownership of the Brewers never has never been a factor in his decisions.

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Wednesday, January 21, 2004

Dempster Signs One-Year Deal With Cubs, Hopes to Pitch in One Year 

The Cubs just signed Ryan Dempster to a one-year deal, which is a bit odd, since usually it takes about that long to recover from Tommy John surgery. I guess the thinking is that, should they lose someone in the rotation halfway through the year, there's a chance Dempster will be healthy enough to hop right in there. It's an interesting idea, but I think I'll continue to pine after Greg Maddux.

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Hell Hath Officially Frozen Over 

Jesse Orosco is retiring, at age 47. His career started in 1979, the year of my first Opening Day as a living, breathing thing. One more player is thus removed from my "In the Major Leagues as long as I can remember" list. Here's the rest:

Rickey Henderson
Roger Clemens
Julio Franco
John Franco

They're dropping like flies...

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Tuesday, January 20, 2004

The Seattle P-I is reporting that the Kazu/M's relationship will likely be severed without a hitch, at least according to Gene Orza. Which once again proves my theory:

ORGANIZED BASEBALL SUCCUMS TO THE VERY WHIM OF GENE ORZA!

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A-Rod / Manny Talks Special Edition DVD, Now With Never-Before-Seen Deleted Scenes And Outtakes 

The Mariners are suddenly (at least potentially) a whole lot richer, right about the time A-Rod / Manny heats up again...

Coincidence?
Yes, at least probably.

Don't be shocked, however, if it isn't.

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Bavasi's Millions 

Okay, Bill, you washed up hack: You have ten million dollars to spend in two months. And no, you can't waste it all by overpaying that Maels Rodriguez guy.

The question now, I guess, is whether or not the Mariners have assumed all offseason that Kaz was going to take his ball and go home. I kind of bet they have. Obviously, Bavasi's hands haven't exactly been tied.

But using the power of imagination, we can all pretend that the Mariners just got their budget expanded by a significant amount. What do you do?

I see three options:

1) You could get involved in one of Scott Boras's imaginary twenty-team bidding wars. But the Mariners just don't need Maddux (Especially since the addition of Kevin Jarvis!). And I get the feeling they don't really want Pudge, insisting instead on giving Ben Davis another chance to prove he really is the second coming of Paul Bako.

2) You could make a flashy trade. Magglio Ordonez remains available (and, coincidently, about ten million dollars more expensive than either Randy Wynn or Raul Ibanez). Boston's got this expensive, pissed off shortstop with a little brother in the Seattle organization (Does anybody else like the idea of a Garciaparra-Garciaparra double-play combination down the road?). Colorado would love to lose the long-term commitment of Todd Helton's salary. And the word out of Saint Louis is that Pujols is feeling jerked around by management. Possibilities in this area are endless.

3) You could put that cash in your pocket and wait. I hate to say it, but this would be the smart thing to do. We all know that the best trades are made during the season. Good players become available for cash when owners get furious, and owners get furious in May, not February. The only guys available right now are the most expensive ones. You never know what'll happen during the season, though. Just look at what the Cubs accomplished before the deadline last year.

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Monday, January 19, 2004

A Word Of Caution 

Ken Rosenthal is reporting that Kaz will forego the remainder of his contract to return to Japan to attend to some kind of family situation. Before we all get too excited about what the kagillion dollars the M's would potentially save could buy, realize that major news sources around the net aren't exactly tripping over eachother to publish this story. In other words, I'll believe it once ESPN or USA Today picks up the story.

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Sunday, January 18, 2004

It is of interest that, upon examination of Tatis's stats last year, he was just as bad as Cirillo and DaBell.

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I Won't See It If I Live To Be 100... 

Fernando Tatis hit two grand slam home runs in the fourth inning of a April 23, 1999 game against the Los Angeles Dodgers (both slams were hit against Chan Ho Park, now with the Texas Rangers). Clearly, the odds of Tatis's record ever falling are slim on the same order as the odds of the moon and earth colliding on Thursday. A team would score a minimum of twenty runs in an inning in which one player hit three grand slams. Seventeen runs, the modern record, have been scored in one inning by one team exactly once in the modern era, in the seventh inning on June 18, 1953, by the Boston Red Sox against the Detroit Tigers (another futility record the 2003 Tigers fell short on). The all-time mark is only eighteen, done by the 1883 Chicago White Stockings (now the Cubs) in a game against the defunct-since-1890 Detroit Wolverines (thanks to the Major League Baseball Franchise History page for the franchise nicknames). So the odds of a team simply scoring enough runs in an inning to make three grand slams by one player even possible are Switzerland-invades-Morocco slim.

Killing some time at home yesterday, I again turned to the King County Library System's online journals to stave off my boredom. There I discovered "The Baseball Research Journal," a wonderful periodical from University of Nebraska Press full of fascinating historical and statistical research on the game we all love. One article that particularly impressed me came from the 2002 issue of the journal (vol. 31, pp 54-61), entitled "Baseball's most unbreakable records: polled from SABR's Records Committee" written by Joe Dittmar. The idea of strange, seemingly unbreakable records has always held my interest, especially since the May 2, 2002 game (more memorably, Mike Cameron's 4 home run performance) when Cameron and Bret Boone twice hit back-to-back home runs in the same inning against the White Sox, becoming the first and only duo to accomplish the feat.

In Dittmar's poll, SABR members were asked to asked to name what each considered to be unbreakable records under one or more of the following criteria:

Different performance expectations

Scoring, league structure, or rules changes

Ballpark configurations / improvements in crowd control

Equipment innovations

Outside influences

Simply unbelievable performances

"Alignment of the stars"

Many of the records named were ones you would expect, like Pete Rose's 4,256 career hits, Cal Ripken's 2,632 consecutive games played, or Cy Young's 511 career wins. Here are some that you may not have heard of, arranged by the criteria of the poll:


DIFFERENT PERFORMANCE EXPECTATIONS

In the early part of the 20th century, pitchers threw a LOT of innings. With one-year contracts almost exclusively the norm, there was little reason for managers to conserve pitching arms and their fragile ligaments. Furthermore, with the concept of the bullpen still a couple of decades away, managers had few options expect to stick with their starters for all nine innings. In fact, pitchers were often left in the game, to bat for themselves, while trailing in the bottom half of the ninth inning. Even in the midst of being shellacked, pitchers remained in the game to pitch. Some of the more interesting records of this type:

Jack Taylor, Chicago Cubs / St. Louis Cardinals, 1901-1906: 1,727 consecutive innings pitched without relief.
Eddie Rommel, Philadelphia A's, 1932: 29 hits allowed, single game.
1901 Boston Braves, 1904 Boston Red Sox: 5 pitchers used, entire season.


CHANGES IN SCORING / PLAYING RULES

Today, if a runner advances from first to second base, in the late innings of a lopsided game, with no throw from the catcher, no stolen base is awarded due to what's called "catcher's indifference." According to Dittmar:
Another rule change, one of defensive indifference, will likely keep safe the mark shared by the Senators of 1915 and the Phillies of 1919. Each club stole eight bases in one inning, the Nationals (Senators) doing it in the first inning against sore-armed Cleveland catcher Steve O'Neill, and the Phillies notching eight in the ninth inning of a lost game. The rule was changed in 1920.



BALLPARK CONFIGURATIONS

In 1912, the Pittsburgh Pirates set the record for most triples by a team in a single season, with 129. Playing their home games in spacious Forbes Field (365' to left, 376' to right, and 435' to center), the team was quite adept at circling the bases on line drives. Owen Wilson (no, not that Owen Wilson) alone notched 36 triples that season, also an untouchable record.


TIGHTENED CROWD CONTROL

So many St. Louis Cardinals fans attended a doubleheader versus the Cubs on July 12, 1931, that areas of the outfield and foul territory were roped off as a Standing Room section to accommodate the overflow. A gameday rules change was made, making any fair ball that reached the roped sections a ground-rule double.

Several fly balls that likely would have caught for outs fell into the Standing Room area, and as a result, in the second game both teams combined to hit 23 doubles, a record that has yet to be approached.


EQUIPMENT INNOVATIONS

Perhaps the single most significant innovation in baseball has been the adoption of the more tightly-wound baseball, creating the live-ball era that we enjoy today, and ensuring that a few dead-ball records will stand forever. During the dead-ball era, extra-base hits were scarce, and teams that scored runs did it with small-ball tactics. It was then that Ray Chapman of the Cleveland Indians established the record for sacrifices in a season, with 67 in 1917.


OUTSIDE INFLUENCES

Today's Major League Baseball player's union would never allow the 1943 Chicago White Sox to play 43 doubleheaders, but they did. Also of note, on three separate occasions teams have played tripleheaders.


Finally,
ALIGNMENT OF THE STARS

Walter Holke, Boston Braves, 1920: 42 putouts, single game.
Fernando Tatis, 1999: 2 grand-slam home runs, single inning.
Rennie Stennett: 7 consecutive hits, nine-inning game.


What I like to think about is that, at some point, a few of these record are going to fall. Dittmar sums up his list of unbreakable records on a similar note:

It should be kept in mind, however, that a half-century ago, prognosticators confidently predicted the immutability of many marks no longer found on this list, such as Gehrig's consecutive-games-played streak and Ruth's single-season and lifetime home run benchmarks.


Yep, records were meant to be broken. Personally, I'm rooting for "first and only instance of walk-off catcher's interference" to be established, but that's just me.

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Saturday, January 17, 2004

Typically, I shy away from posts that simply reference a post made on another of the many fine M's blogs, followed by personal thoughts and feelings regarding said referenced post. I'm making an exception today, because this one's right up our alley.

Steve at Mariners Wheelhouse found this article about the effect of former Cub players on their current teams. Specifically, Steve breaks down the AL West by "Cubness," which is determined by a combination of three factors: number of former Cub players on the teams' rosters, length of these players' tenures with the Cubs, and elapsed time since these players' last Cubs appearence (or, the degree to which their "Cubness" has worn off).

Steve's article is a must-read for fans of Sox-1918.

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Friday, January 16, 2004

More About Rocky 

David from Sports And Bremertonians was good enough to email me a link to this Bill Simmons article comparing and contrasting the first four "Rocky" flicks. Simmons pretty much nailed it; I would choose "Rocky IV" as well.




There is a central character missing from Wednesday's "Rocky"/baseball comparison, Rocky's ever-discouraging wife, Adrian.

Ladies and gentlemen, playing the role of Adrian is...
RANDALL!

Typical Randall (an acquaintance of Pete's and mine) statements:
"The Cubs can't do it. They have X, Y, and Z flaws."
Later:
"I knew X, Y, and Z would come through! I just knew it!"

Playing on that slowpitch team with Randall's co-workers remains the worst athletic experience of my life, but that's another story.

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Wednesday, January 14, 2004

If The Plots Of The Rocky Movies Shaped The Baseball Future 

Pete, you got it all right except the very end. Edgar won't be able to throw back to his li'l bastard, so he'll have to use a pitching machine with those dimpled balls instead. And he'll have to run some kind of power supply to the field.

Also, who gets to play Apollo Creed, and when can we expect him to die at the hands of the unstoppable Russian, who declares his lack of concern over Apollo's condition coldly, uttering "If he dies, he dies."



Predictions based on the "Rocky" series model:

"Rocky II": Rocky captures the heavyweight title for the first time, in a rematch with Apollo.

Baseball Future: The Cubs win the 2004 National League pennant (thus avenging their previous defeat).


"Rocky III": Clubber Lang defeats Rocky by a knockout, but in the rematch Lang falls to the more determined Rocky.

Baseball Future: The Red Sox sweep the Cubs in the 2004 World Series. In a 2005 Series rematch, the Red Sox are again dominant, but are out-gritted by the Cubs, who win in seven games.


"Rocky IV": Trained by the latest methods and the best equipment money can buy, the Soviet champion Ivan Drago is out of Rocky's league on paper. Rocky's determination defeats the juggernaut, however, winning the favor and respect of the Soviet people and displaying the fallibility of Communist Russia.

Baseball Future: Armed with all the high-priced talent money can buy, the Yankees look like a lock to run away with the 2006 World Series crown. The Cubs, however, come out on top in an epic 22-inning game seven, drawing a standing ovation from the imbecillic Yankee faithful gathered at Yankee Stadium.


"Rocky V" is omitted due to the excruciating headache induced by the mere thought of that terrible film.


Let it be said, the cards have spoken.

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Fool! It has Already Begun! 

Did you miss last season? That was Year of the Cubs #1. It was a lot like Rocky I. They didn't win, but they went the distance...almost. In 2004, they're at least GOing to the series. Sadly, they'll lose when Edgar hits a 600-foot season-ender into the left-field lights and rounds the bases in slow motion while sparks rain down on SafeCo Field and then he's out in some field throwing the old baseball around with the son he didn't know he had.

I stand by what I wrote.

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Cubs Closing In On Maddux 

According to MLB.com, The Cubs have made Greg Maddux an offer for two years and between 13 and 15 million dollars. I'd like to see that money go to Pudge, but 7 mil a year for a Hall of Fame starting pitcher who's still got it suits me just fine. I can't help but wonder, though, how much success he could have at Safeco Field. I support Freddy, but the M's could have had Maddux for the same yearly salary they've committed to Garcia. It calls into question whether Goat Boy bothered to check the entire list of free agents, or if instead he stopped at Spiezo's name near the top and boldly announced, "Bingo! Our Search Is OVER!"

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In The Name Of Prudence... 

...we should hold back any declaration of the "Decade Of The Cubs" until we have established a "Year Of The Cubs" or, at the very least, a "Month Of The Cubs" from which we can build.

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Come on Tribune Company: This is the Decade of the Cubs! 

Cubs GM Jim Hendry has been a busy man, having made about two major personnel changes per month since last June. And now he's got himself in three simultaneous games of tug-of-war.

The most dangerous of these involves a certain gaping hole in the roster and a certain ex-Cub who would fill it very nicely and a certain division rival and a certain very evil agent. This is the one that scares me to death. If Greg Maddux ends up with St. Louis, the Central becomes a very scary place. At the moment, people are saying the Cubs have the upper hand, which probably means they don't. Terrifying.

The strangest is the one between Hendry and Pudge Rodriguez. He wants to be a Cub. The Cubs want him to be a Cub. No one else wants him. Yet he remains unsigned. Irritating.

But by far the most important game of tug-of-war is the one between Hendry and the infamously stingy Tribune Company. Right now, Hendry has enough extra money to sign Maddux OR Pudge while retaining juuuust enough flexibility to make an emergency move during the season. But he can't sign both of them, because the Tribune Company won't give him an extra ten million bucks to play with. This is the same company that just successfully sued a bunch of their neighbors (You know, the ones with those adorable rooftop decks that help make Wrigley Field look so cool?) for millions of dollars. Infuriating.

Here's my advice for Jim Hendry: Screw the flexibility. Put all the pressure on ownership, and do it publicly. Come to agreements with Pudge and Maddux as soon as possible, even if it means going over-budget. The fans are on your side, man, and that's all you need!

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Tuesday, January 13, 2004

Goat Boy And Gump Stink, But We're Not In THAT Bad Of Shape 

Misery breeds company, or so the saying goes, and Sox-1918 has had plenty of company (read just about any of the links at the side of the page) when we blast the Mariners' current attempts to improve for the upcoming season. And so far, we're absolutely correct in our analysis. The 2004 Seattle Mariners are worse than the second-place 2003 version in a lot of important ways of which any reader paying attention the last few weeks is all too aware. This impressive string of talent- and youth-sucking transactions is leaving me looking through the local papers and ESPN.com each and every day, anticipating yet another example of Mariner management shooting the team in the foot. This trend is leaving a grim residue on the fans' outlook in Marinerland.

Is it time to throw in the towel? Are drastic measures in order, like massive season ticket boycotts or angry protests outside the gates of our hallowed ballpark? For a while I considered the possibility. Then, on a whim, I went through the Sox-1918 December archives and remembered my 2004 sources of optimism post. Everything about which I was hopeful then I'm hopeful still. All is not lost.


2004 is Edgar's swan song. There shouldn't be anyone in baseball, let alone on the Mariners, that doesn't want to see Edgar retire without ever appearing in the World Series. Imagine the excitement of a late-inning tie game in the NL champions' ballpark. The M's have two outs with two men on base with Scott Spiezio due up. But wait! Edgar Martinez is putting on his helmet and grabbing a bat; it looks like he's going to pinch-hit for Spiezio!

No one on the M's wants to be the one that makes the last out or crucial mistake that ends Edgar's career, and veteran leadership, starting with Boone and Aurilia, is going to make sure the entire team feels that way. The 2004 M's should be a motivated bunch.


Ichiro is signed to a contract extension. Bavasi did the right thing this time, taking care of Ichiro. Popular opinion has shifted, from Ichiro being one of the top outfielders in the game, to Ichiro being one of the more overrated players in baseball. The little guy's got a lot of people to prove wrong, and I expect he will likely do just that. Don't be surprised if he puts up a line close to .340 AVG, 20 HR, 75 RBI, .410 OBP, .900 OPS. Throw in about 40 steals and another Gold Glove, and he could be looking at another MVP award with those numbers.

Many of you might not buy into the Player With A Chip On His Shoulder rationale, and you could probably find examples of players that try too hard and subsequently experience a dip in production to back your skepticism. John Mabry definitely tried too hard when he was with the M's, for one. To counter, I'll cite two examples of players stepping up their performances with the mindset of disproving their nay-sayers: Mike Cameron and Jay Buhner. From 2001 to 2003, Cameron posted a .309 AVG, .444 OBP, .649 SLG, and 1.093 OPS against the White Sox, the team that gave him up to Cincinnati for next to nothing. Cameron himself has said on many occasions that he always looks forward to the ChiSox on the schedule, just so he can prove them wrong. A similar pattern can be found (unfortunately, ESPN does not provide splits for retired players) for Buhner's performance against the Yankees.

I sincerely believe Ichiro will be in the Cameron/Buhner category rather than the Mabry category. Remember Ichiro's great 2001 season, when he was American League MVP? He seemed excited to be playing every day, given the chance to prove that Japanese position players could make an impact in the Major Leagues. In 2002 and 2003, those moments of joy and excitement were few and far between, and Ichiro's -- and the Mariners' -- fortunes likewise diminished. I understand that this correlation does not imply causation -- Ichiro's state of mind may have had nothing to do with his performance late in the 2002 and 2003 seasons -- but the correlation at least should provoke thought.


Rafael Soriano is straight nasty. Other blogs have referenced this already, but it bears repeating: Robocop had a 0.21 ERA in winter ball!

Soriano is one of FIVE Mariner starting pitchers who could conceivably be All-Stars in 2004, along with Moyer, Piniero, Meche, and Garcia. Could be the best rotation in the AL if things fall into place.

A NOTE ON SORIANO:
By repeatedly acquiring and re-signing marginal veteran starting pitchers, Bill's father, "Buzzie" Bavasi, effectively kept Sandy Koufax out of the Dodgers' rotation for years. It seems like Bill Bavasi is trying to repeat the same mistake with Soriano. Don't blow this one, please, Bill. No one in the game is too valuable as a middle reliever to be moved into the rotation.


For the above reasons, Mariners fans should hold on to their hopes for the 2004 season. Add in the contributions expected of the bullpen, with Mateo, Guardado, and Hasegawa setting up Sasaki, and the continued excellence of Bret Boone, and we should be downright excited. The M's aren't the favorites, by any measure, but they're certainly contenders. And as long as they're in contention, they may just go all the way.

Think back to the 2001 season. Who would have thought the Arizona Diamondbacks could have won the World Series? The players overcame the mistakes made by their management (in their case, by Bob Brenley, their rookie manager) and took home the trophy. Baseball's a funny game. Anything can and does happen.

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Sunday, January 11, 2004

I Guess Things Could Be Worse 

The Rockies are on the verge of signing Turk Wendell and Jeff Fassero.

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Oh NO! Angels Nab Guerrero! 

All of a sudden, Anaheim looks like the class of the division, easily. This move makes their defense a total mess (Garret Anderson in center? Erstad at first?), but there's no denying the scariness of the new lineup:

Eckstein (SS)
Erstad (1B?)
Guerrero (RF)
Anderson (CF?)
Glaus (3B)
Salmon (DH)
Guillen (LF)
Molina (C)
Kennedy (2B)

Their pitching will be much improved too, with the additions of Colon and Escobar. The Mariners need to get better to compete with this team.

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Friday, January 09, 2004

Ding, Dong, The Witch Is Dead 

Bye bye, Barbara!

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I Hate Aurilia, And These Other Guys Too 

Before I begin, a note about hatred in general:

For many of the players that follow, I have a pretty decent reason for my hatred, or at least a bad reason. For the players I hate the most, however, I won't have a reason. Like hatred in all it's other reprehensible manifestations, it's indefensible. Finally, I've never met any of these players, and I'm sure they're all good men that love their mothers.

Alright, let's hate:



Rich Aurilia
See yesterday's post.

Scott Spiezio
Get a friggin' haircut. You're not a rock star. Since, at best, Spiezio is a "utility" infielder (I use the term loosely, because how useful is a "utility" man that plays only one position adequately?), he's almost not enough of a factor to be included. I hate him that much.

Adam Kennedy

David Eckstein
Is this the father/son game?
Any player that plays a position where arm strength is important should have a better one than my sister.

John Mabry
Ordinarily, I like players that don't wear batting gloves. George Brett didn't need them. I also like players who hustle. I just can't help but think that Mabry wouldn't suck so much if he toned it down a notch. Mabry also boasts the lowest talent to spouse attractiveness ratio in the league.

Terrence Long
Called strike three! Season over!
Also, what was up with that face shield?

Armando Benitez

Nick Johnson
Modern-day professional athletes should be in shape.

Juan Gonzalez
Get the lead out.

Frank Thomas (A.K.A. "The Big Skirt")
This is one player that I really should like. I just don't.

Carl Everett
I'll miss that Rangers outfield duo of Carly and Juanita.
Everett was also the target of the second-best heckle I've ever heard, a two-parter (the best being Pete's "You suck, Albert Belle!"):
(during the lull between pitches, with Everett playing center field):
"Get your hand off your knees, Carl!"
(a pitch goes by for a ball, then all is quiet again):
"You're paid way too much to be unprepared!"

Alfonso Soriano
Just because he's often mentioned in the same breath as Bret Boone.

Derek Jeter
A gimme for this list.

David Wells
See Nick Johnson, above.

Jason Giambi
Giambi used to be one of my favorite players, when he was with Oakland. I've always had great respect for the Mariner Killers, like Rafael Palmiero or Garrett Anderson, and Giambi used to be just that. Then came a series of events from which no player could recover. He went to New York. Strike One. He got rid of the trailer-park haircut. Fouled off for Strike Two. He started doing male hair care product commercials. Strike Three.
Oh, and his play has suffered. He went from the best all-around hitter in the American League to being a .250-hitting strikeout machine.
Oh, and every other word out of his mouth was about how great it was to be part of the Wankee legacy. Strikes four through ten.

Manny Ramirez
I'm too sick to play, so I'll go hang out with someone on the Wankees instead.

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Pudge To Cubs Would Mean An End To The Chicago World Series Drought 

ESPN.com says that the Orioles are making Pudge an offer. I don't think anyone would disagree that a Pudge/Javy catcher platoon would be the best ever. Plus, by playing the Sox and the Wanks all the time, that lineup would wear on both teams' pitching staffs, which is good for everyone.

If the Cubs get Pudge, baseball's all-time greatest catcher, they'll immediately become my pick to win the World Series. They'd have a great lineup from one to nine, with two great starting pitchers (Prior and Wood) and one really good one (Carlos Zambrano). The 'pen will be better with LaTroy Hawkins on board, and Corey Patterson, who would have been an All-Star last year without his injury, will be back. There's good reason for Northsiders to be excited this year.

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Why Won't the Cubs Sign Pudge? 

In general, I think Jim Hendry has done a fantastic job. If the Cubs of today were to play 162 games against the team we had when he took the GM job, the present day Cubs would win at least 100 of them. The guy is clearly a maestro. So I would really like to know why he doesn't want Ivan Rodriguez on the team for the next three years.

This is the most skilled all-around catcher of all time! He wants to be a Cub! The Cubs are one Pudge away from being every bit as good as the Yankees! All the pieces fit, but I'm getting the feeling that it won't happen. We're just going to let him slip away again, just like last year. He's really not that old, and he really hasn't gotten hurt all that often, and $10 million really isn't out of the question. I do not get it.

Maybe if the Astros sign Clemens, Hendry will respond with a Pudge signing. That's my call.

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Wait a Minute... 

Okay, I'm starting to think I've been reacting a bit inappropriately to the moves of Bill Bavasi. Deep breath. He's done some good stuff. He made Ichiro happy with a four year deal at an anual cost lower than what Baltimore gave Tejada. He got Freddy to sign a reasonable one-year deal, avoiding arbitration and giving him another chance to find his ace stuff in Seattle. It's true that fate saved him from making what would have been a totally unforgivable trade (the Omar Vizquel debacle), but when you look at the players the Mariners have picked up and lost, the sum total of this offseason really hasn't been half bad. In fact, it's been pretty good.

That's not to say that someone else wouldn't be doing better. But at least with this guy you know that in a close pennant race, SOMETHING will happen before the deadline. Hell, he might trade for a whole new lienup.

As for the Aurillia=crybaby post, I completely agree. He always seems ready to choke somebody when he fails to hit a 400-foot home run. I guess the team needed a new resident assface after losing Cirillo.

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Thursday, January 08, 2004

Rich Aurilia Is In Need Of Perpetual Motherly Attention 

Something has bothered me about the Rich Aurilia deal since it first surfaced a few weeks ago, but I haven't been able to place it. Call it a feeling of genereal uneasiness regarding Aurilia, that until today has been shrouded in mystery. Like a ton of bricks, it finally hit me: Rich Aurilia is Organized Baseball's biggest crybaby since Paul O'Neill, hands down. This guy throws bats, helmets, gloves, water coolers, and anything else that isn't bolted down. Plus, every time he strikes out (which is a lot), he looks like steam should start shooting out of his ears any minute. Somewhere, early in Little Richie's development, no one hammered down the point that that behavior is embarassing to just about everybody.

I waver between pro-Guillen and pro-Aurilia in my analysis of the two shortstops, but crybaby factor eventually swings things in Guillen's favor every time. We'll miss you, Carlos.

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What's the Holdup in the Aurillia Deal? 

ESPN said several days ago that the Mariners were very close to signing Rich Aurillia to a one-year deal worth about $4 million. It was also said that if they did this, Carlos Guillen would almost definitely be traded to either the Tigers or the Rockies. I haven't heard anything for a couple of days now, so maybe it's all off. Still, it's a more interesting idea than anything else Goat Boy has done so far.

I've always thought of Guillen as a better than average shortstop with the potential to make an All-Star team or two someday. But the Mariners think he's a bum. At least it seems that way. I guess there's no way to know whether they're really going out of their way to get rid of him this offseason, or it's a case of other teams seeing Guillen as desirable and attainable and going after him.

Anyway, I think Aurillia would likely be an offensive upgrade over Guillen, though probably not by a whole lot. Even if Guillen continues to improve slowly and Aurillia contnues to decline, Aurillia will still probably be a better hitter than Guillen in 2004. Having performed well in pitcher-friendly Pac Bell Park, he seems unlikely to suffer any dramatic decline due to the move to Safeco. Defensively, this would be another downgrade.

My take is, go ahead and sign Aurillia for a year. But for God's sake, play him at third.

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Wednesday, January 07, 2004

Jayson Stark voted for Ryno.

I've been looking all day for an actual voter who has published his votes and didn't vote for Sandberg. If anyone finds one, please let me know. And give him hell.


Also, the Eddie Guardado signing was good. I reluctantly give Goat Boy credit where credit is miraculously due.

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It's Hard To Still Care 

Note on Bavasi:
Any one of us (contributers to Sox-1918 and readers like yourself) could have matched, and probably bested, the zero good moves Goat Boy has made so far for the M's. A few more stinkers, and we needn't question his competence any further. It's nearly to the point that this string of bad moves requires not the total incompetence surmised by most; since even the most incompetent GM will get lucky, say, one transaction out of ten. Rather, this impressive streak of ineptness is reaching the level where it can only be explained by an uncanny baseball knack, one with which Bavasi is recognizing one slam-dunk move after another, and taking exactly the oppostite action. Instead of dumping Cirillo outright, or keeping one worthless player with at least a marginal upside, he has traded Cirillo (at a financial wash with the cash involved) for four worthless players who will serve only to further set back the Major League debuts of more highly-talented minor league prospects. Oh, and he threw in a top pitching prospect, to boot.

The guy at Ahoy The SS Mariner! said it first and I'll paraphrase: the moves keep getting worse, but it's getting harder and harder to find a sense of outrage, since our once-lofty expectations have been so greatly diminished.

Spring semester begins Monday to mercifully distract me from the M's woes, at least until Spring Training starts.

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Cirillo Deal Getting Stupider as Details Emerge 

It seems that the three total bums (not including the bum to be named later) the Mariners got for Cirillo are actually due closer to $6.3 Million next year. And that undisclosed sum over one million dollars? Well, it's disclosed now, and it's a shocking amount.

$4,775,000, payable in 2005.

Why so much, you ask? The simple yet baffling answer to this fair question is that this very large sum of money represents the entire difference between the 2005 salaries of Jeff Cirillo and Wiki Gonzalez, who will still be a Mariner. Yes, that's right. In 2005, the Mariners will effectively be paying $7 Million for third-string catcher Wiki Gonzalez, who should henceforth be known as "The Seven Million Dollar Man".

This trade didn't save the Mariners a dime. Instead of one bum taking up space, they now have three bums taking up space. Why is this better?

"Jeff had made it clear that it was important to him and to his family to play elsewhere next season," Mariners general manager Bill Bavasi said in a statement. "We think this deal gives us flexibility in 2004 and 2005 that we did not have with Jeff on the roster, and helps fill some needs on our big league club."

Ignoring the bogus "flexibility" and "filling needs" claims, are we to believe that this deal was a FAVOR to Jeff?

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Tuesday, January 06, 2004

Well, hopefully Sandberg's vote totals will continue to follow the Gary Carter pattern, and he'll be in by 2007.

Molitor's easy induction should be brought up frequently and angrily when Edgar is mired in Blylevenville.

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Caple backs Sandberg. So does Tim Kurkijian and Larry Stone. So who didn't vote for Ryno? Who are these people? Somebody tell me; I'd like to know.

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Peter Gammons said on ESPN that he didn't consider Sandebrg anything less than a first-ballot Hall-Of-Fame inductee. Waiting for Neyer to chime in...

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The Results Are In, And They Stink 

Today is a good day in the lives of Dennis Eckersley and Paul Molitor, as each was elected to the Hall Of Fame. Congratulations to both men; they are deserving of the honor.

Ryne Sandberg will have to wait another year, however, to get his due. Receiving only 61.1 percent of the vote, Sandberg again fell well short of the 75 percent required for enshrinement. The good news is that, receiving just 49.2 percent of the vote a year ago, his support is on the rise. Molitor was a lock for the Hall, and deservedly so, yet any GM in baseball not named Bavasi would have traded Molitor for Sandberg without batting an eye. Ten All-Star selections, nine Gold Gloves (at a key position), and an MVP award don't amount to squat in the eyes of 38.9 percent of the voters, apparently.

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Hall of Famers 

The thing about guys like Ryne Sandberg, Dennis Eckersley, Robin Yount and Paul Molitor, is that they were gamers. They brought an air of excitement just about every time they walked out on the field. There will always be arguments about who gets into the Hall and who is the greatest of all time. However, when you look at these guys and their era of baseball, you see guys with whom you could relate. When you watch a game you want to see guys bring a level of play that these guys brought to their teams. It might be that my opinion of these guys, and guys like Rickey Henderson, are biased due to the fact they were stars while my love for baseball was being developed as a kid. But, these days those types of players who have a knowledge of the game and who busted their butts every game are starting to disappear. As with all sports, players get stronger and specialized in new aspects of their respective sports. As that happens I look back, as previous generations of sports fans have, and wonder if holdovers from the aforementioned era, like Edgar Martinez and Tony Gwynn , will surface in the new generation of athletes. Hall of Famers or not, I will always have respect for the working man's pride that these guys brought to the game. They where ballplayers.

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Details of Cirillo Deal Just as Stupid as You'd Expect 

San Diego gets Cirillo, Brian Sweeny, and some undisclosed amount of money over one million dollars.

Seattle gets Kevin Jarvis (a very bad 34-year-old pitcher due to make $4 million...for some reason), Wiki Gonzalez (a very bad catcher), Dave Hansen (a very bad 35-year-old first baseman set to make almost a million), and an unnamed minor leaguer.

Cirillo was due to make $6.7 million. Jarvis, Hansen, and Gonzalez are due about $5.5 million next year and are, combined, approximately three times as useless as Jeff Cirillo.

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Sandberg Should've Been a Lock Last Year, but Eck... 

I defy anyone to name ten better all-around second basemen. It can't be done. Only a handful of those crazy little guys have had the kind of offensive impact he did over a whole decade. And this was a decade when Daryl Strawberry was a superstar for hitting .260 with 39 home runs, as a right fielder. And Wade Boggs was the second coming of Ted Williams despite never getting past second base without help.

If he had played, and sucked, for four more years, he would have made it on the first ballot.

There's no point arguing about Molitor, though something about his being such a sure thing bothers me. Maybe I'm just dreading his speech.

As for Dennis Eckersley, I think I'll take the contrarian position. I'm not so sure he's a hall of famer at all.

There's no doubt that he posted two or three of the best seasons by a closer in the 80's, and he racked up a lot of saves--a novel stat at the time. But if that's enough to get him in the hall of fame, then we're going to have an avalanche of hall-of-fame closers in about ten years. Billy Wagner, Rob Nen, Mariano Rivera, Kieth Foulke, Kas Sasaki, Eric Gagne, John Smoltz, and Trevor Hoffman have all put up numbers just as good as Eck's in much more difficult times. Even lesser guys like Jose Mesa and Ugueth Urbina compare pretty well.

As for argument #2 (He even had four very good seasons as a starter.), that's just silly. If he was such a good starter, why did he make the switch? Was it because somebody saw in him the makings of the perfect closer? No. It was because he lost it. He sucked for five years before being relegated to the pen and turning it around.

All that said, I'm willing to admit that maybe he is a hall of famer. I mean, he was really awesome for about four years there. But then (and I'm sorry to use this name again Chris), Jose Mesa has had four great seasons too.

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Saturday, January 03, 2004

P.S. -- Great game by the Sonics last night. It was good to see GP back in town, and it was good to see the Lakers lose.

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Hall Of Fame Announcements - Coming January 6 

January 6 should be a big day for Paul Molitor, Dennis Eckersley, and Ryne Sandberg. Last year's selections surprised a lot of people, myself included, who thought Sandberg should have been elected then. He's got tons of All-Star selections, tons of Gold Gloves, and an MVP award. Eckersley is considered a borderline prospect this year, which is also ridiculous to me. He was the dominant player at his position for an extended period, and he enjoyed success at another position as well. He also boasts a Cy Young award and a World Series ring.

The 1980's is considered a lesser decade, baseball-wise, for a couple of dubious reasons. Power numbers among the league leaders were down compared to previous decades (no player posted a 50-homer season), and today's emphasis on on-base percentage had yet to be established. For fans of my generation, however, the stars of the eighties were our childhood sports heroes. Players like Sandberg and Eckersley were able to grab our attention away from the NBA with Jordan, Magic, and Bird. These men need to be enshrined for their roles in getting baseball through a lull in popularity that it wasn't necessarily destined to overcome.

Incidentally, Molitor and his former teammate, Robin Yount, are the two Hall Of Fame-caliber players from that era that I was least excited about seeing play at the time.


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