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Sunday, May 30, 2004

OK, This Time We'll Blow It With A Walkoff Catcher's Interference... 

First they can't buy a baserunner, then they jump out to a lead, then they blow the lead and fall behind on a two-run wild pitch, and then finally lose it on a 12th-inning walk-off homer. The M's are inventing new, more disappointing ways to lose every night.

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Bob Melvin Is Turning Japanese (I Really Think So) 

Here's a snapshot of where the Mariners rank in the American League in the major offensive statistics:

Runs: 202, 13th
Average: .262, 12th
Slugging: .381, 13th
On-Base Pct.: .325, 12th
OPS: .705, 13th
Hits: 451, 11th
Walks: 145, 10th
Home Runs: 26, 14th
RBI: 188, 13th

None of this comes as a surprise, of course. Trying to at least grasp at the straws of optimism in the absence of the Optimist, I decided to scrounge the many statistics made available by ESPN to find categories in which the M's place in the top five, and found exactly two:

Sacrifices: 14, 3rd
Intentional Walks: 14, 1st

Where the Mariners really excel is in bunting runners over to set the table for their few-and-far-between "ept" hitters (making up a word here; think "not inept" but without going so far as to say "apt") and then having those ept hitters predictably intentionally walked.

In "You Gotta Have Wa" by Robert Whiting, a great read about American baseball players in the Japanese Leagues, Whiting gives an anecdote about a particularly frustrating strategy employed by one American slugger's Japanese manager. Every time his team's leadoff man reached base, the manager would put the bunt on for the two hitter, moving the leadoff man to second. The American slugger was the team's third hitter and only power threat and was consistently walked, bringing up the contact-hitting fourth hitter.

Melvin's bunting-before-my-best-hitters strategy hurts the offense in two ways: it burns outs needlessly and sacrifices the best hitters' ABs. Swing away, Bob. Swing away.

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Thursday, May 27, 2004

Enjoy It While It Lasts 

A winning streak! Flying chickens in a barnyard! It had to happen at some point this year. A look at the 2004 Seattle Mariners "winning streaks":

Dates, streak:

April 17 through 20, 4 games
May 2 and 4, 2 games
May 6 and 7, 2 games
May 23 to present, 3 games so far

AND THAT'S ALL.

Just for comparison, let's look at the only .500 ballclub in the majors, the New York Mets:

Dates, streak:

April 11 and 12, 2 games
May 2 through 6, 4 games
May 12 through 14, 3 games
May 16 and 18, 2 games
May 21 through 25, 4 games


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Wednesday, May 26, 2004

You may have noticed that my right sidebar now appears at the bottom of the page, after all the text. This will be fixed tonight when I get home from my laboratory.

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Monday, May 24, 2004

SA and CSPAN leaders have been updated. You'd expect to see several Mariners on both lists, but at this point the only one you'll see is Dick Aurilia.

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Gather 'Round, Children 

It's been requested that I tell my favorite Mike Cameron story. It's not exactly in line with the current Mariners discussion, but in this dismal 2004 season, we could use the levity.

It was late summer '01. The Mariners and Mike Cameron were having the seasons of their lives. My buddy Ed and I arrived three hours early to the game to watch the M's warm up, take batting practice, and most importantly eat our Subway.

As was his custom, Cammy was carrying his bat everywhere he went on the field. He'd run his warmup sprints with bat in tow. He'd take practice cuts in the middle of the outfield. Wherever he was, he was swinging a bat.

The crowd was still sparse, with just about a dozen or so fans occupying each section of seats. As can be expected, every time a Mariner picked a baseball off the Safeco Field grass, nearby fans groveled for a souvenir. A group of particularly loud fans in the center field bleachers (the best bargain in the park) were asking for a ball to be thrown their way, since there was no way anyone was going to hit one that far away from the plate. These guys were louder and louder with each ball, and finally got Cammy to bite.

Since he already had a bat handy, Cammy decided that the most convenient way to deliver the precious souvenir was to hit a lazy fly ball in the fans' direction. He wasn't too far away, standing about 50 feet or so beyond second base on the center field side. He flipped the ball in the air and took a firm-but-not-too-hard uppercut swing.

The problem was, he topped it.

Instead of the lazy fly ball he wanted, Cammy sent a screaming line drive into section 104, where the only fan was an unsuspecting old lady reading her program oblivious to what was happening on the field.

Quoth Ed and I, "Oh, $H!T!"

The ball was headed right for the old lady!

All we heard was the SMACK! of baseball striking plastic seat.

The ball ricocheted off the seat immediately to the lady's left and back on to the outfield below. The unwitting old lady looked up from her program, looked to her left, and saw about fifty people staring at her with dropped jaws and expressions of complete shock. Not realizing just how close she came to disaster, our old lady looked back down at her program and didn't look up again until just before gametime.

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Friday, May 21, 2004

A Day I Will Remember Forever 

Today is a historic day in the madcap adventure that is my life. For today, a very special person will be coming over to my apartment a bit before dinnertime to do something very special for me.

Today at 3 PM, the cable guy will install basic cable in my apartment. I can watch the M's again, and South Park, Chapelle, and all those other goodies as well. Glorious!

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Thursday, May 20, 2004

That Was Awesome! 

So I went to the Cubs game last night, and what a freaking game! It was perfect, the perfect baseball watching experience. The Cubbies were down almost the whole game, then fought back to win dramatically in extra innings--but not too many extra innings. Carlos Zambrano is officially one of my three favorite baseball players. The other two are also Cubs pitchers--see if you can guess which! (Answers at bottom.)

But the best thing about the game was that afterwards, we were sitting outside at the Dark Horse Tap, when a giant black Mercedes SUV stops right next to us. And who's SUV is it? Moises Alou's! There's old urinal-hands himself, leaning out the window, waving excitedly at the drunken revelers, and generally making a childish spectacle of himself! It was awesome!

Even though I never did figure out how to throw a second pitch (never thought I had to with a fastball that occasionally snuck past 75 on the gun), if I were facing Moises Alou with nobody on in the bottom of the tenth, I would never EVER give him a fastball in the strike zone. In fact, I'd probably just avoid throwing him fastballs altogether, in any situation. Here's a telling split:

Moises Alou's Career Stats,

1) When he gets a fastball in the zone with a hitter's count: .783 BA, 224 HR, 877 RBI.

2) All other situations: .087 BA, 25 HR, 135 RBI.

Unfortunately, those numbers aren't really available, but I'm pretty sure my estimates are reasonably accurate. At the very least, the totals add up.


Answers to Pete's Cub Trivia Blitz: Kent Mercker and Glendon Rusch, obviously.

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Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Pop Goes Perfection 

Randy Johnson was perfect today.

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Sunday, May 16, 2004

SA leaders have been updated, and CSPAN leaders have been added. Look for them on the left sidebar.

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This Is Really Starting To Annoy Me 

For the umpteenth time since Blogger redesigned itself, I had a double-post. Here's the pattern: I post something, check out what it looks like on my site (it's only posted once, so all is well so far), I post something else later, and the previous post appears twice. Does anyone know why this is happening, or what I can do to prevent it? Email me if you do, please.

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Umpires Have Always Been Complete Jerks 

I was just thumbing through my copy of the 1991 "Bill Mazeroski's baseball" pre-season annual (bought way back when because of the "Mariners Prodigy Ken Griffey Jr." cover photo), and came across this headline:

ARBITERS OR ANTAGONISTS?
Players and Management Are Fed Up With Confrontational Umpires

In light of yesterday's Chris Guccioni episode, it goes to show that some things never change.

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Talk About Sneaking Up On A Big Milestone 

Thanks to a recent post on Cub Reporter, I now know that Greg Maddux has a very very very good chance to reach 3000 strikeouts for his career. That would put Maddux, the model of a finesse pitcher before Jamie Moyer started doing his thing, 13th on the all-time list. He's at 2800 now, so barring injury, he should get there by the end of next year. Good luck to Maddux, the only Brave I've ever liked.

EDIT, 3:09 PM -- I should have phrased that last sentence better. Something like "only Brave I've liked since 1991 or so." Hank Aaron is one of my all-time favorites, and his autobiography "I Had A Hammer" is one of my favorite baseball books, to boot.

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Joel Pineiro is Back 

Great performance today from Pineiro. 5 hits in eight innings, and what should be to nobody's surprise, he took the loss, 2-1. Nine hits for the M's, and one run, on a Spiezio solo homer, to show for it. This is starting to get old. The really scary thing, though, is that it seems like not only the fans, but the players too, are getting used to losing. They need to make a move, or get into a brawl or something. Anything to shake things up a bit.

Melvin left Pineiro in for 120 pitches today, working all eight innings. In my opinion, there was no advantage to be gained leaving Joel in that long. First of all, the M's were behind in the late innings, so Joel wasn't in the position of protecting his own lead. If they were ahead, I could see (but maybe not agree with) the rationale of allowing Joel to win it himself, with the boost in Joel's confidence being worth the tradeoff of wearing him out for his next outing. Second, there's an off day tomorrow. While the bullpen had to work hard yesterday, everyone gets a day off tomorrow, so there's less need to conserve anyone's arm. Finally, Pineiro's been terrible so far this year. Why not take a fine seven inning performance to the bank and not risk a potential blowup in the eighth? Luckily, Joel came through in the eighth, but if he didn't, he'd be set even further back from returning to his nasty old self.

It was such a tough loss today. Right now they're not playing like a terrible ballclub. There getting hits, though mostly singles, and eventually they're going to string together a few and score some runs. Hopefully sooner than later.

Note: Shannon Drayer just said on the radio that the only relievers available today were Hasegawa and Myers. I'd go with Shiggy in the eighth, in that case.

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Saturday, May 15, 2004

Chris Guccioni Can Suck My B@!!$ 

Guccioni was just terrible today. Good for Melvin for getting tossed. It had to happen. I hope they have Questec installed in the Bronx so Guccioni can get torn up in his next review.

What I think needs to change is how umps are judged. If a hitter like Raul Ibanez can't see a pitch within about an inch or so, he's not going to have any idea what a strike is and be horrible. But if an umpire misses, say, the outside corner consistently, that's just what his strike zone is and he's considered a good umpire. When Jamie Moyer lives on the corners but doesn't get the call and has to come down the middle, that's the umpire's fault, not Moyer's.

After running spell check on this post, it was recommended that I replace "Guccioni" with "zucchini."

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Friday, May 14, 2004

Lately Blogger has been double-posting a lot of my entries on this fine blog. Does anyone know how to avoid this?

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A Game of No Limit Hold 'Em, Anyone? 

Wow, what a week for Chris and gambling. It's like the Matrix, and I'm Neo. If anyone out there has played no limit Texas Hold 'Em, you know what I'm talking about. Know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em, to borrow a line from Kenny Rogers (the country singer, not the pitcher). I'm a couple hundred ahead the last two weeks, and I just want more!

So, does anyone out there play cards? What I'd like to propose is a game of no-limit Texas Hold 'Em among the Blogosphere. We'll buy in for fifty bucks or so. Is anybody game?

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Thursday, May 13, 2004

Bases Loaded, and No Dice 

The M's loaded the bags with one out in the eighth, yet still couldn't eke out a single run. The pitch that Ibanez grounded weakly to third was so far outside that Dave Niehaus was surprised it was even swung at. It was something like "Outside, no, wait, Ibanez grounded it to third!" A walk ties the game, and Rauuuuuul's flailing at a pitch that's a foot outside. Quoth Charlie Brown, "Arrrrrghhhhh!"

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IDAHO SUCKS!!!!!!! 

From this week's Onion:
Top Child Punishments, By State

No moose for a week (MT)
Allowance not adjusted for inflation (DC)
An hour in closet with Roy Acuff's bones (TN)
Sent to public school (NY)
Written out of Daddy's pilot (CA)
Must stay in state until 18 (ID)
Toe shot off (KY)


Even when I just go across the border to Moscow, I have this overwhelming urgency to get back to Washington as soon as possible. I can't describe it; it just is.

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News Flash 

When I turned on the radio today, the first sentence I heard out of Rick Rizzs was "Franklin has pitched very well, but the Mariners have not been able to string anything together offensively." Well, duhhhhh.

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Raul Ibanez: A Man With An Approach 

In the few games that I've been fortunate enough to watch on TV (poor college student me has no cable, so no FSNW), I can't discern any observable strategy to Ibanez's AB's this year. Case in point: Edgar just bombed, we're down by one with nobody out in the ninth, and Joe Nathan takes the ball to face Rauuuuuuuul. I say to my buddy Kevin (neighbor with the good fortune to have cable): "First pitch fastball, right down broadway, and Raul looks at it for strike one." Nathan reaches back and fires a first pitch fastball down the midle for strike one. Don't get me wrong, there's nothing wrong with trying to work the count to get your pitch, but that one was RIGHT IN IBANEZ'S WHEELHOUSE, and he just watched it. Take a friggin' hack, buddy! After Nathan got strike one, he was able to just nibble for strikes two and three, and Ibanez was dead as disco. I'm not going to read too much into one pitch, but when I can call what's going to happen, things are going south.

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Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Dave Valle, Man Of Letters 

Dave Valle, describing the ball that Matt LeCroy hit off Freddy's leg, just barely stopped himslef from saying "hit the shit out of it," then followed that by saying "right butt-cheek" on the air.

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Ask And You Shall Receive 

A question has been posed of the Blogosphere, and while it's not really my style to comment on what the other blogs are saying, I want to put in my two cents on this one.

David at USS mariner asks the question:
Regardless of how much better you could expect some players to perform, does anyone see any kind of acquisition enabling this team to play like a 104 win team for the next four and a half months?
Yeah, I do.

Let's get a real center fielder again. Carlos Beltran. How many extra bases have been taken this year already on Randy Winn's weak arm? How many balls in the gap have been just out of either Winn's or Ibanez's reach? The biggest change in the M's performance this season over last (besides veterans hitting below expectations) has been the huge jump in balls in play falling for hits. If the M's get themselves a great center fielder again, I think we'll see that number fall back down where it belongs. Let's look at the two pitchers struggling the most:

PitcherIPKOuts In PlayHHRHits In PlayAVG on Balls In Play
Joel Pineiro41.1299561853.358
Shigetoshi Hasegawa15.1103618018.333


.358 and .333 are really above last year's numbers. I don't know exactly how much is due to downgrading center field, but it's pretty clear that a lot is. Sure, Rich Aurilia is killing us too, but there really isn't a great shortstop available right now. Adding Beltran (for Winn or Ibanez and some minor league talent?) would improve the pitching and defense greatly, and if you consider the expected improvement in Boone's, Edgar's, Ichiro's, Aurilia's, etc. offensive performance, they could be as good enough to contend in the west.

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Sunday, May 09, 2004

You Don't Have To Throw It Back! 

You're sitting in right field. The M's are in the field, and the hitter belts one your way. You catch it (bare-handed, of course) on the fly flawlessly and hold it high in the air for all to admire. Within seconds, the chant begins. "THROW-IT-BACK! THROW-IT-BACK! THROW-IT-BACK!" What do you do? If you give in to the pressure and throw it back into the outfield, the ballgirl retrieves the ball and hands it to the snot-nosed punk rich kid in the front row who already has probably a bucketload in his closet at home in Mercer Island or Medina (not that there's anything wrong with MI, Leah). You could keep the ball for yourself, but that's not cool, either. The way I see it, there are two respectable courses of action.

Take a shot at the hitter.
This only can be done if you field the ball cleanly (as any fan worth his beer should) and are sitting near the aisle. Catch it clean, get to the aisle, and try to get him as he comes around second. It's about 250 feet or so, but if you have an arm, put some air under it and give it a shot. Or, you could...

Give it to a kid.
And not the rich punk kid, either. When you get to the game, look around your section and pick out your kid in advance so you can quickly make the transfer to the lucky kid when the time comes. If you get little Billy the ball right away, you should nip the "Throw It Back" chant in the bud.

Corollary: What The Punk Rich Kid Should Do If He Gets The Ball
I'd love to see the ballgirl give the home run ball to a kid in the first row, and see that kid throw the ball right back on to the field. Then the ballgirl chases it down and give it to another kid, who throws it back on to the field again. I'd love to see how many times they could make the ballgirl go get the ball before she just gives up.

This "throw it back" thing has gone too far in Seattle, and most other ballparks not named Wrigley. Let's come up with our own thing for once.

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Friday, May 07, 2004

I'm Still Alive Too! 

We have Mark Prior's return date: June 4th! So the doctors finally let me out of intensive care this afternoon, but they gave me a pacemaker connected to Prior's achillies. They say this should prevent the coronary I would surely have, if that precious tendon ever ruptured, from being fatal.

I still think the M's are likely to have a major resurgence. Unfortunately, it looks like things are coming together pretty well for the Angels, so this resurgence won't be likely to matter, what with there being two 105-win teams in the East. Oh well! I still see the M's winning 90 games. The pitching is solid, the bullpen is not as bad as it's playing, and the entire lineup (save Ibanez and Spezio) will improve substantially from here on out. It's far from over.

I thought about your Hall of Fame post frequently, Chris, while I was recovering from the series of minor heart attacks this young baseball season has caused me, and I've decided that you're dead wrong about Albert Belle.

Belle was like that quiet, harmless kid in your Junior High School who, for no discernable reason, everyone absolutely hated. Honestly, what's the worst thing he ever did? If it was knocking Fernando Vina 's block off (when Vina was in the base-line, for Christ's sake), then he's A-okay in my book.

If Puckett and Ralph Kiner get to be in the HOF despite abbreviated careers, then Albert Belle certainly does too. There's just no getting around it. If Belle were as charming as Kirby Puckett (who, it turns out, isn't so sweet when there are no cameras on him), we wouldn't even be discussing it.

If I were the best hitter in the world for five years, but everyone hated me for some reason I couldn't figure out, I'd start acting like an asshole too.

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Wednesday, May 05, 2004

Thanks to everyone that emailed suggestions for fixing the tables in my May 3 post. I must have had three or four different suggestions within a couple of hours. Also, it was pointed out to me that I had Junior's name attached to McGwire's stats. That was also fixed.

Finals are nearly over, so you can look forward to the frequent posting you, the reader, have come to expect very soon. Until then, happy Cinco de Mayo!

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Randy Winn Needs A Hug 

Just a quickie about tonight's game:

I watched tonight's game from the 11th inning on from Shaker's, and something caught my attention that bears mention. Did anyone else notice that after Randy Winn scored the winning run in the bottom of the sixteenth, Winn looked like he expected the dugout to erupt onto the field to greet him, and when he saw that no one was going to mob him and slap his helmet, he just kinda walked slowly off the field disappointed?

The 2004 Mariners look like they have given up. They just won on a questionable call on a close play at the plate, and no one was excited about it. It's gonna be a long year.

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Monday, May 03, 2004

Don't Worry, I'm Still Alive 

What a hectic last couple of weeks. Finals are this week, so academic commitments have been piling up lately. In addition to a newly busy, uh, social calendar, Sox-1918 hasn't had the same level of attention that it has in the past. I haven't even listened to a M's game in a week or so.

A few weeks ago, someone in the blogosphere (I was thinking it was Jeff, but I couldn't find it in his archives, so maybe it was someone else) in passing mentioned the Hall of Fame Monitor scores on Baseball Reference and Albert Belle's score of 134.5. A score of over 100 means "likely Hall-of-Famer," so statistically, this means Belle should be a lock. The author of the post expressed surprise at this. A long-running argument of Pete's and mine is Belle's HOF worthiness, so I wanted to comment, even if it is a little bit late.

From the years 1992-1999, Albert Belle was one of the best few hitters in baseball. The players of comparable offensive value over that time period fall into three categories:

First-Ballot HOF'ers:

Barry Bonds
YearHRRBIAVGOBPSLGOPS
199234103.311.456.6241.080
199346123.336.458.6771.136
19943781.312.426.6471.073
199533104.294.431.5771.009
199642129.308.461.6151.076
199740101.291.446.5851.031
199837122.303.438.6091.047
19993483.262.389.6171.006


Mark McGwire
YearHRRBIAVGOBPSLGOPS
199242104.268.385.585.970
1993924.333.467.7261.193
1994925.252.413.474.887
19953990.274.441.6851.125
199652113.312.467.7301.198
199758123.274.393.6461.039
199870147.299.470.7521.222
199965147.278.424.6971.120


Ken Griffey Jr.
YearHRRBIAVGOBPSLGOPS
199227103.308.361.535.896
199345109.309.408.6171.025
19944090.323.402.6741.076
19951742.258.379.481.860
199649140.303.392.6281.020
199756147.304.382.6461.028
199856146.284.365.611.977
199948134.285.384.576.960


Mike Piazza
YearHRRBIAVGOBPSLGOPS
199242104.268.385.585.970
1993924.333.467.7261.193
1994925.252.413.474.887
19953990.274.441.6851.125
199652113.312.467.7301.198
199758123.274.393.6461.039
199870147.299.470.7521.222
199965147.278.424.6971.120


No one (at least no one that matters) would argue against the HOF candidacy of any of the above men. Just look at those numbers (and Piazza's a catcher!). Griffey and Bonds are two of the best outfielders ever, McGwire one of the greatest sluggers, and Piazza is probably the best hitting catcher ever.

Next category:

The Argument Could Certainly Be Made:

Edgar Martinez
YearHRRBIAVGOBPSLGOPS
19921873.343.404.544.948
1993413.237.366.378.744
19941351.285.387.482.869
199529113.356.479.6281.107
199626103.327.464.5951.059
199728108.330.456.5541.009
199829102.322.429.565.993
19992486.337.447.5541.001


Frank Thomas
YearHRRBIAVGOBPSLGOPS
199224115.323.439.536.975
199341128.317.426.6071.033
199438101.353.487.7291.217
199540111.308.454.6061.061
199640134.349.459.6261.085
199735125.347.456.6111.067
199829109.265.381.480.861
19991577.305 .414.471.885


We've heard the case for Edgar, and Thomas's follows a similar line of logic. I'd vote for both, but that's just me.

And now the final category (at least in terms of the voters' perception), with only one entry:

Stupid Jerk-Heads That Had No Business Playing This Game In The First Place:

Albert Belle
YearHRRBIAVGOBPSLGOPS
199234112.260.320.477.797
199338129.290.370.552.922
199436101.357.438.7141.152
199550126.317.401.6901.091
199648148.311.410.6231.033
199730116.274.332.491.823
199849152.328.399.6551.055
199937117.297.400.541.941


The only difference between Belle and the others is his rep. If he wasn't such a gaping asshole, we'd all be really sad that his career was cut short and be forecasting what his career numbers would have been with a couple more years of big league service. Speaking simply as a Mariners fan, I hid my eyes when Belle came up in his prime. Especially if Jeff Nelson was on the hill. Belle hit in the neighborhood of 8 thousand jacks against Nellie, travelling an average distance of 893.83 feet.

Albert Belle seemed to hate everybody equally -- teammates, umpires, opponents, fans, hot dog vendors, etc. Kind of like the drill sargeant in Full Metal Jacket. His anger seemed to fuel his fire, though. The only other player I can think of that played better with a chip on his shoulder was probably Jackie Robinson. Granted, Jackie's motivation was a wee bit more noble. The question that bears asking is: How much does attitude matter? For every voter, the answer is a little different. For me, if I had a vote, I'd leave Albert Belle on the outside looking in.

EDIT 10:46 AM -- Sorry about all that space between the tables. No idea why that happens, or how to fix it.

EDIT 12:14 PM, 5/5/04 -- Thanks for all the suggestions on repairing my tables. Much appreciated to all who responded so quickly.

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