Wednesday, December 10, 2008

See, this why nobody like yo' ass.

You never blog.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The World Series at Tropicana Field.

This AP photo used without permission.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Hail the new AL East overlords.

The World Series will begin at Tropicana Field on Wednesday.


This AP photo of David Price used without permission.


Imagine how good they will be once their other 1.1 comes of age.


Fans of AL East teams not named the Rays: Steel yourselves for the next decade of serfdom.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

J. Arnold Ross didn't say that line in 'Oil.'

Danny Cepero, 'keeper for the New York Red Bulls is buying. In the 83rd minute of tonight's win over the Supporters' Shield winning Columbus Crew, Cepero sent a strike of a free kick from 81 yards out, drinking Crew 'keeper Andy Gruenebaum's milkshake.




Blame it on the Giants Stadium turf, Gruene. Will Hesmer would have stopped it.


Cepero was making the first start of his MLS career, and only because regular Bulls backstop Jon Conway was busted for using the juice and suspended for 10 games. Damnable.


(MSG has a good thing going with the British announcer, too.)

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Who kind of man attends a John McCain rally?



The man on the left has a mullet, enough said. The man on the right is wearing a Packers jersey. To a political rally. Where he'll be broadcast on national television.


Please vote on Nov. 4. Don't let idiots like these three hijack our country. Again.

Dangan Ressha.

It started with a simple query to a colleague:


Has anybody had as much success as Daisuke Matsuzaka while walking as many people as he does?


Thanks to the Baseball-Reference.com Play Index, we found the answer: kinda.


It's hard to say that walks are Daisuke Matsuzaka's Achilles Heel, since the Red Sox hurler just finished an 18-3 season with substantially fewer hits than innings pitched (128 hits in 167.2 IP), nearly a strikeout per inning (8.27 K/9), a 2.90 earned-run average and -- most notably -- a 158 ERA+. Had Cliff Lee not spent the last year hurling cowhide with the combined glory of Thor, Leonardo Da Vinci, Alan Thicke, and Sandy Koufax, Matsuzaka would have led the league in ERA+ and would be the odds-on favorite for the AL Denton True Young Award.


Still, even my colleague (a Red Sox fan) had to concede that Matsuzaka's propensity to walk batters (5.05 BB/9) doesn't make his success appear sustainable. A few unlucky bounces or centered balls and his stats wouldn't be so sanguine. But back to the original question: How rare was Daisuke Matsuzaka's 2008 season?


Pretty damned rare. The list of pitchers (min. 162 innings) since 1901 with a BB/9 greater than 5 and an ERA+ greater than 150:


YearERA+BB/9
Daisuke Matsuzaka20081585.05
Hal Newhouser19421615.59


In other words, it hasn't happened since John McCain was a spry youngster. But maybe we set the parameters too high. Specifically, maybe we asked too much of ERA+. So we reset the study, this time using a BB/9 greater than 4.75, a H/9 less than 7 and an ERA less than 3.25.



YearBB/9H/9ERAERA+
Hal Newhouser19425.596.712.45161
King Cole19104.886.531.80159
Daisuke Matsuzaka20085.056.872.90158
Nolan Ryan19776.145.962.77141
Herb Score19556.106.262.85140
Al Leiter19964.976.392.93140
Johnny Vander Meer19415.016.842.82129
Tom Cheney19625.046.963.17128
Nolan Ryan19724.985.262.28128
Bob Turley19556.466.133.06123
Nolan Ryan19745.465.982.89118
Jim Shaw19144.806.932.70104
Allie Reynolds19434.946.342.99104


Of the selected seasons, only Hal Newhouser and Nat Cole dominated like Matsuzaka did in 2008. Al Leiter was the most recent to do so in 1996. Before that, it hadn't been done since Nolan Ryan did it thrice in the roaring '70s.


Notice that Ryan's name appears on that list more than anybody's. Is Daisuke Matsuzaka the second coming to Nolan Ryan? Time will tell.


It's important to note that after 2003, Matsuzaka's age-22 season, he was never plagued with a large walk total while playing in Japan. Perhaps by this point, he had acquired enough status there to get close calls on balls and strikes, status he lost when he traveled across the Pacific. Could it be that umpires are to blame for Daisuke Matsuzaka's high walk totals?

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Fun with the AP Photo wire.

Two Titans of Tennessee who couldn't seal the deal on the largest stage chat before the Presidential debate at Belmont University:


This photo used without permission from the Associated Press.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Black is the new black.

Update/ED. Note: As per AP style, I use "black" in place of "African American." In doing so, I unwittingly created ambiguity. The post specifically concerns American-born black players.


As reported by the Associated Press at the start of the 2008 season, a study by the University of Central Florida's Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports indicated that the percentage of black players on Major League rosters was at a two-decade low:


Among major leaguers, though, just 8.2 percent were black players, down from 8.4 percent in 2006 and the lowest level in at least two decades.


In an article special to espen.com, Richard Lapchick, who runs the annual UCF study, presented some theories about the decline in the number of black ballplayers:


MLB has struggled with an image problem that it hasn't welcomed African-Americans into front office.


Another contributing factor, perhaps, is that Barry Bonds, arguably the biggest African-American baseball star of his generation, is one of the most vilified athletes ever -- deservedly or not -- in spite of the fact that he broke one of the most revered records in the history of Major League Baseball.


If you are a young African-American athlete trying to decide what sport to pursue, you find superstar role models far more often in the NBA and NFL who may inspire your decision. You may also struggle to figure out how and where to play baseball, if you come from an urban area where there are few fields. If your family doesn't have the resources, you might not be able to buy the equipment or pay the fees to join a youth travel team.



While Lapchick noted the efforts of Major League Baseball to include more black youths in programs at a younger age, efforts that include the Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) program, he concluded that:


In spite of those efforts, it appears that baseball will virtually skip a generation of African-Americans. If there are to be increases, they will come in the future and not in the short term.


While the data undoubtedly still support Professor Lapchick's conclusion, I hold empirical evidence that baseball has not skipped a generation of black players: the 2008 postseason


Consider the number of black players on the eight 25-man Division Series rosters:


Chicago White Sox: Jermaine Dye, Ken Griffey Jr., Dewayne Wise, Jerry Owens


Tampa Bay Rays: David Price, Carl Crawford, BJ Upton, Cliff Floyd


Los Angeles Angels Angels of Anaheim: Darren Oliver, Chone Figgins, Howie Kendrick, Garret Anderson, Torii Hunter, Gary Matthews Jr.


Boston Red Sox: Coco Crisp


Milwaukee Brewers: CC Sabathia, Ray Durham, Prince Fielder, Rickie Weeks, Mike Cameron, Tony Gwynn Jr.


Chicago Cubs: Derrek Lee, Daryle Ward


Los Angeles Dodgers: James McDonald, James Loney, Matt Kemp, Juan Pierre


Philadelphia Phillies: Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins


There are 29 black players spread over the eight postseason clubs, an average of 3.6 per club, or 14.5 percent of the players participating. This rate is more than double the number of black players in the Major Leagues.


And look at who comprises this list: Should the White Sox reach the World Series, the main storyline will undoubtedly revolve around Ken Griffey trying to win his first title. You would be hard pressed to imagine a scenario in which the Phillies, Brewers, Dodgers, or Angels reach and win the World Series without their black players making significant contributions. This list even includes some of the game's biggest stars -- including the 2007 National League MVP (Rollins) and the probable 2008 NL winner (Howard).


The list also includes several alums of RBI programs, including Crawford, Crisp, Loney, Rollins and Sabathia.


Make no mistake: In no way am I trying to suggest that having black players is a key to winning. The Red Sox have one black player, a relative role player, and they are a fine bet to take the whole tournament. To win, you get the best players, regardless of race, color or creed.


Instead, what I am trying to suggest is that if Major League Baseball is serious about increasing the number of black players who pick up the sport, now is the time to market itself heavily in the black community. Think of the times in which we live -- a black man is almost assuredly going to be our next president. For the first time in American history, people are uniting across racial lines to elect a minority leader to the nation's highest office. MLB would be well served to dovetail on this momentum.


One of the explanations given by Richard Lapchick for the declining number of black Major Leaguers bears revisiting:


If you are a young African-American athlete trying to decide what sport to pursue, you find superstar role models far more often in the NBA and NFL who may inspire your decision.


Not right now. Not with the players in the 2008 postseason. There are superstars. There are marketable players. There are role models.


The iron is red hot. If the league is serious about reviving baseball in the American inner cities, now is the time to strike.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Blogging.

Resolved: Blog more.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

PEDs in NASCAR (and not just Flying J coffee).

Ron Hornaday's 2007 NASCAR Craftsman Trucks Series championship is now shrouded under a cloud of doubt after the racer admitted to using HGH and Testosterone from December 2004 to January 2006. Hornaday, who currently sits second in the 2008 Trucks Series standings, told the espens that the drugs were shipped from a Florida clinic to his home in North Carolina under his wife's name, and that he used them to treat an undiscovered thyroid problem that since has been corrected.


Hornaday says he "couldn’t see a difference," so he stopped using.


First Andy Pettitte, then Ron Hornaday. Athletes failing in their attempts to use performance-enhancing drugs is a troubling trend. These guys are winners, damnit.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Seriously, Flushing is a shit-hole.*

Bundesliga club Hamburger SV has partnered with a local cemetery to give their fans the chance to ascend to the afterlife from a club-sanctioned graveyard, complete with a view of HSH Nordbank Arena and grass from the pitch covering their plot. From the AP:


Fans of the German soccer club Hamburger SV now have the chance for the ultimate resting place—their own cemetery and a grave covered with the original grass from the team’s playing field.


Fans traveling to their final resting place will enter the afterlife through a large replica of a goal. Because that's not tacky at all.


Alfred McLane**, a representative for Queens Borough President Helen M. Marshall, shot down rumors that the Mets would try something similar near CitiField, saying, "Flushing is already a fucking boneyard. What would be the point?"


* Not a lie.


** No such person.

Shef shuffles to 250K.

Well, unlike the first one, at least No. 250,000 was hit by a player of some historical legitimacy. Let's hope Gio Gonzalez has more of a career than Cherokee Fisher. The Beane hopes he will, at least.


Let's see, how'd I do?


• Second week of September? Check.


• Penchant for speaking in the third person? Check.


• Tendency to show up the competition? Check.


• David Eckstein?


Well, can't win 'em all.

Oscar Pistorius is why the fuck we watch.

The feeling may be muted by the lack of life-and-death exigency, but sports nonetheless comprehensively capture the full range of the human condition. Quoth the nasal-voiced "Wide World of Sports" voice-over:


The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. The human drama of athletic competition.


What he said -- that's why we watch.


Oscar Pistorius is why we watch.


Pistorius has a congenital condition that prevented his legs from forming below the fibula. He was amputated below the knees at 11-months-old. In a perverted way, he's lucky to never have known regular legs and lost them. He's been forced to cope since he was born.


Cope he has.


Pistorius has made a name for himself after challenging and winning the Olympic ban on runners who must use prosthetics to compete in track and field events. He narrowly missed qualifying for the Beijing Games but dominates Paralympic competition.


Oscar Pistorius' quest of competing in the Olympics is inspiration incarnate. The wonder of a man with no legs competing at the highest levels of sport is no freak show; it's triumph of the highest magnitude, an achievement to be celebrated.


Oscar Pistorius transcends banal questions of winning and losing. He stomps in the realm of sublime on a pair of magic legs.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

The Full Melvin.

At first glance, B.J. Upton's season looks lost. To wit, with virtually the same number of at-bats as he had last season, Upton's batting average and slugging have dropped precipitously:


 ABAVGOBPSLG
2007474.300.386.508
2008475.272.380.398


His "fantasy" numbers have correspondingly dropped. Upton hit 24 home runs last year; he's hit eight this year. He drove in 82 runs last year; he's driven in 62 this year. Those are never positive signs from a recently turned 24-year-old.


Plus, Upton has been benched by manager Joe Maddon several times because Upton failed to run hard when leaving the batter's box.


Clearly, it's been a tough year in the life of Melvin Emmanuel Upton.


But take a closer look at some selected, secondary stats, and you'll see a player who has shown progress in key categories:


 BBKDoubles
20076515425
20088611932


Upton's jump in walks and drop in strikeouts show a player who has better command of the strikezone than he did last year. The jump in doubles shows that the power is still there -- though to be fair, Upton's speed helps him secure doubles that the Pujolses of the world can't get.


The bottom line is that Upton is still young for this level and retains a ton of room to grow. He hasn't had the breakout season that was predicted of him, but he remains a breakout candidate entering the final month of the 2008 season and heading into 2009. There's still time for him to fulfill the expectations that come with the name Bossman Junior.

Friday, August 29, 2008

The Bengals should trade Chad Johnson to a team that already has a No. 85.

With the news that Chad Johnson's name change is complete, the mercurial wide receiver is now legally known as Chad Ocho Cinco. And in keeping with Johnson -- and now Ocho Cinco's -- earlier trade requests, the Bengals should trade him to a team that already has a No. 85.


Frankly, there isn't enough pettiness in sports, and the bottom line is that Cinco can buy the number from just about any player out there. It would be a publicity coup for all involved. It would move a disgruntled player to a club where he could be gruntled. The Bengals would finally get closure, along with a first-round pick.


And, you know, it'd be pretty damned hilarious to see Ocho Cinco wearing No. 82.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

"Ten years? Rickey's been playing at least 16, 17 years."

And to think, if Barry Bonds had discovered Winstrol sooner, we'd have gotten here a few years ago.


As we steam toward the postseason, the baseball world inches closer and closer to a milestone, 250,000 home runs. On May 2, 1876, Chicago's Ross Barnes took Cincinnati's Cherokee Fisher yard for the first home run in Major League history. Barnes stopped to admire the bomb, styled his way around first base, high-fived the first- and third-base coaches, and stomped on home plate while pounding his chest and pointing skyward. The hit preceded the 1,434th benches-clearing brawl in Major League history. Following the game, Barnes delivered his post-game quotes in the third person, even though nobody was around to interview him.*


The blast was the only home run Barnes would hit in '76, and the penultimate of his career. Fisher's not-so-special brand of slop would add five more to the league total.


It took Major Leaguers over three years -- until June 17, 1879 -- to reach the century mark. For contrast, on August 27, 2008, Major Leaguers hit 31 dingers. Bigger players, more teams, better equipment ... yawn.


A rough guesstimate puts the monumental shot at some time during the second week of September. In keeping with the first one ever hit, allow me to be the first to wish that David Eckstein hits it, since he's probably the closest thing we've got to 145-pound Ross Barnes, particularly in his penchants for speaking in the third person and starting fights.**


* The last three sentences aren't factual. I don't think.


** Vicious lies.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Two Argentinians received their bronze medals in jorts.

The Americans won the gold. The Spaniards won the day.


The United States Olympic basketball team parlayed a 27-point outing from Dwyane Wade and 20 points from Kobe Bryant into a 118-107 victory over the Spain, giving the United States its first gold medal in men's basketball since the 2000 Sydney Games. But if the goal of the exercise -- the underlying mission of the Redeem Team -- was to prove that the United States is still the basketball hegemon, Operation Redeem Team was a crashing failure.


Make no mistake, the United States won gold fair and square. But the margin of victory belied the closeness of the game. Spain proved itself capable of making comebacks on the U.S. Though Spain was young, it demonstrated that it could hang with the finest team the NBA could assemble when both teams were playing balls out. Rudy Fernandez, Marc Gasol and Juan Carlos Navarro proved that they could match their best with the NBA elite's best. That's not to ignore Ricky Rubio, who had 6 points and 6 rebounds at age 17, or Pau Gasol, whom we know to be a superstar.


Spain is extremely talented. Give that fivesome four years to hone their games at the highest levels, and they'll be a formidable outfit. Spain put the United States on notice.


That was heartfelt emotion on the part of the U.S. players at game's end. The medal was in doubt for them, too. Both teams went back and forth, throwing haymakers. Spain refused to let the U.S. put it away. But the United States prevailed because it had better depth. Coach K was able to bring guys like Deron Williams and Tayshuan Prince off his bench, guys who could dominate Spain's bench players. The United States had the luxury of All-Stars for scrubs.


It was a convincing team victory for the United States. But it needed everybody on its roster to win. In four years, facing a better Spanish team, the United States will again need a club of equal ability. The elite American players must again desire gold medals. They may even need to play better than they did this year.

Friday, August 22, 2008

This story isn't true.

BIEJING (AP)-- Police raided the hotel room of American basketball player Carmelo Anthony on Saturday, taking the Denver Nuggets forward into custody after seizing over one pound of marijuana. Anthony was charged with one count of possessing contraband and one count of defacing the national honor of the Chinese people. While Chinese officials would confirm that Anthony is in police custody, they declined to say where he was being held.


"Beijing police have trailed the suspect since his arrival in China twelve days ago," said Chinese government spokesman Zhang Yang. "He was observed transporting illegal drugs into China, consuming those drugs and conspiring to bring discredit on the Chinese people."


U.S. Olympic Committee spokesman Peter Grimaldi claimed the arrest was made in retaliation to the American charges that Chinese gymnasts have been underage. The USOC pressured the International Olympic Committee to investigate the age of He Kexin on Monday, after the Associated Press obtained documents indicating that the gymnast was 13 years old, three years under the mandatory cutoff of 16. Grimaldi claims that Anthony's arrest was retribution.


"Everybody knows those girls are underage," said Grimaldi. "Everybody knows that NBA players smoke weed. We pointed out something obvious, so they pointed out something obvious. It's that simple."


Anthony had just returned to the room following the Americans' 101-81 victory over Argentina earlier Saturday when police burst in, arresting the basketball player and several members of his entourage. Police also seized several items considered marijuana paraphernalia in China, including incense, rolling papers, a glass pipe and the Dutch Masters cigars.


Anthony's lawyer, Mark Wittenstein, said his client was simply following his normal postgame routine. The Americans advanced to the gold medal game against Spain with the victory.


"Mr. Anthony was just doing what every NBA player does after a win," Wittenstein said. "He was getting blunted before going out to get his Goose on. Where's the harm in that?"


A State Department spokesperson declined to comment on this story.

Rehashing old stories.

ED. Note: I covered the Belmont stakes for one of the websites I produce, writing a live blog of the proceedings. I also wrote a recap of the race, but it was bumped because the website was breaking in a new writer and the editor wanted to run with his guy. Them's the breaks and such is life. This is that recap.


ELMONT, NY -- After weeks of speculation and thousands of man-hours of preparation, the 140th running of the Belmont Stakes went off with just one hitch on Saturday -- in the step of favored horse Big Brown.


Instead of the coronation of a racing legend, the crowd of 94,476 spectators was treated to a win by the longest of long shots, Da' Tara, trained by Nick Zito. Da' Tara left the post with the worst odds of any horse in the field, 39-1. His victory should have been the type of underdog story that ramped up an already cacophonous din. But afterwards, the focus was squarely on Big Brown.


The buildup to the race billed Big Brown as a the next great race horse, one who had crafted a reputation of dominance during convincing wins at the Kentucky Derby and Preakness. The three-year-old thoroughbred was trying to become only the 12th Triple Crown winner in more than 125 years, the first since Affirmed accomplished the feat in 1978.


The colt began the race in the inside position and ran with the pack for most of the trip around the 1 1/2 mile oval. But he faded around the last turn and was pulled up by jockey Kent Desormeaux, failing to finish the race. Instead of becoming the first Triple Crown winner of the new millenium, Big Brown became the first-ever Triple Crown hopeful to finish in last place.


"I had no horse," Desormeaux said after the race. "He was empty. He didn't have anything left. There's no popped tires. He's just out of gas."


"When he turned for home," Big Brown's trainer Rick Dutrow said, "something wasn't right."


Big Brown's struggles became all the more puzzling after a thorough physical revealed that the horse was healthy.


"He looked fine," said Dr. Larry Bramlage, who examined Big Brown following the race. "All I saw was when Desormeaux started to slow him down. The first thing you expected is something is wrong. He was not lame when he stopped here in front of the stands."


Big Brown suffered a quarter crack in his left front hoof during training, but the injury was patched on Monday. A cracked hoof is a common injury among horses and shouldn't have been debilitating. Still, the lasting image of the Belmont Stakes was of Big Brown slowing to a stop as eight other horses sped away, including Denis of Cork, who finished the race second, and third-place-finisher Anak Nakal.


Casino Drive, the horse seen as the most capable challenger to Big Brown, was scratched Saturday morning because of a bruised left hind hoof. The Japanese colt was supposed to provide the best challenge to Big Brown's Triple Crown bid. Instead, he spent the race in a stable at Belmont, a forgotten footnote.


With Casino Drive out of the way, the scene was set for Big Brown to sprint into the proverbial sunset as the winner, one who would demand stud fees approaching $50 million. Instead, Big Brown broke down.


Like his horse, Dutrow appeared to have run out of gas following the race. The trainer assumed the role of promoter in the weeks leading up to the Belmont, fueling the hype with bold predictions and declarations of his horse's superiority. The veteran trainer seemed to be impersonating a boxing promoter like Don King or Bundini Brown.


"These horses just cannot run with Big Brown," Dutrow told reporters on May 29. "We're sitting in an unbelievable spot. We know we have the best horse in the race."


But Dutrow's horse didn't win. The final image of the 140th running of the Belmont Stakes wasn't one of Zito celebrating with his newest prized pupil. It was of a crestfallen Dutrow dutifully answering questions about why his horse came up short, struggling to find the right words. In the end, the brash trainer who seemed to have an answer to every question was stumped.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Ryan Ludwick was once dealt for Carlos Pena.

An interesting coincidence, since Ludwick is the leading candidate for the Nothing to Something Award, won by Pena in 2007. Per BR:


January 14, 2002: Traded by the Oakland Athletics with Jason Hart, Gerald Laird, and Mario Ramos to the Texas Rangers for Carlos Pena and Mike Venafro.


The interesting paths of two non-prospects.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Rater Hater: Derek Jeter

I'm going to make a bold statement: Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter is underrated.


(Pause to allow the boos to subside)


Consider the list of players with the majority of their at-bats at short since 1901, grouped by OPS+:


 OPS+
Honus Wagner152
Alex Rodriguez148
Arky Vaughan136
Nomar Garciaparra125
Derek Jeter121


Wagner and Vaughan are already Hall of Famers, A-Rod and Jeter are sure bets and injuries have robbed Nomar of his place in history.


Keep in mind, the only player on this list who stayed at short longer than Jeter (to a later age) was Wagner, who played the 6 into his 40s.


The point is ceded that it's better to be a mediocre defensive player at an unimportant defensive position than a truly dreadful player at a key one. To be sure, Jeter has been dreadful in the past as a defensive player. But an improved offseason regimen seems to have corrected some of Jeter's glove flaws. After scoring abysmal -22 and -34 scores in 2006 and '07 (per John Dewan's Plus/Minus system), ranking 31st in the league both years, Jeter ranks 23rd in the Majors with a -5 rating. It's not average, but it ain't terrible, either. This year, it's fair to say that his defense is improved.


While his bat has lagged a bit this year, he's got a useful 13 Win Shares. Purely for comparison, I cherry-picked the numbers for some starting Major League shortstops: Jose Reyes, 20; Michael Young, 15; Jimmy Rollins, 14; Hanley Ramirez 21. With plenty of season left, and a monster lineup hitting behind him, Jeter's got a pretty respectable total against some excellent players in their prime years.


He's got a historically great past and is a valuable player into his mid-30s. Long ago, Jeter booked his e-ticket to Cooperstown. People will always treat him as such. But there's legitimate case to be made that Jeter is the best career shortstop of his generation. I'm not sure he's viewed as such.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

She gettin around.

She always come at the worst time, don't she? Right when you got sorted out and you puttin it together, she drop in and pay y'all li'l visit. F'it aint a beanball off the knuckles, s'a foul off a shin. Or a dead arm. I hate when she brang a dead arm.


She been travelin'a New York this week. Seen her.


She seen that boy Joba. One bad start'n theyre skippin'm, sen'in him down'a Birm'n'ham, see Doc Andrews. Shame of it is, that boy's got talent. Got a-hunnerd-four K's in eighty-nine innins. Seventy-six hits. S'rare t'see them boys up'n the New York media get one right. Be a damn shame t'waste it.


She seen that li'l redneck boy on the Mets this week, too. Got him on'a forearm. We see bout that, them thangs c'n move. Don't wan'a make light of the dead, but the funny part's they got that Heilman boy closin now. You seen that boy on'a mound in Shea? Hoo'h.


I seen a bear once. Twelve-years-old. S'with my cousin. Said my eyes got real wide'n big. My mouth kind'a fell open half-way. Years later, he told me it was'a first time in his life he seen terror. Course he did tour'a Nam, so he know a li'l bit. I'm stuck imagining, and I'm picturing I looked a bit like Heilman when he's giv'n up a three-run lead at home. But I don't wan'a joke on another man's misfortune, or nothin. That's just my over-active imagination, n'all.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

J.P. Ricciardi remains bad at general managing.

It's a testament to the shabbiness of the Toronto Blue Jays fanbase that they've yet to give J.P. Ricciardi the full John Ferguson treatment and get him fired. Sure, there are die-hard Blue Jays fans just as there are die-hard D.C. United fans. But in a town where the Leafs are king, a hardly relevant baseball team isn't going to draw significant media coverage -- and it won't as long as J.P. Ricciardi is in charge.


Ricciardi has already had an unconscionably bad year, including jettisoning still-useful Frank Thomas and crushing Adam Dunn -- both of these players could really help the Jays, by the way -- but the stark dichotomy between the seasons of Scott Rolen and Troy Glaus should fuel the ultimate slow burn for anybody still watching Jays baseball.


To wit, when they were swapped in January (as the Canadians call it), both were seen as damaged goods. Rolen had two bum shoulders, Glaus' body was breaking down because of past steroid use. Both started poorly, Rolen on the DL with a "finger," Glaus wearing glasses to combat his "allergies."


Through May, Rolen had the higher OPS and played the better defense. But since then, Glaus has kept it close with the glove -- John Dewan has him at plus-13; Rolen is a ludicrous plus-22. But Glaus has crushed Rolen offensively in the summer months, hitting 15 home runs to Rolen's four and putting up .927 and .991 OPS's to Rolen's scores of .859 and .457. On the whole, Glaus has an .864 OPS and 18 home runs to Rolen's .749 and six home runs. Glaus' offense more than makes up for his "deficiency" with the glove. Their Win Share totals also reflect this: Glaus is at 15, Rolen at seven.


By most statistical measures, Troy Glaus has been the superior player. Then there's this: While the two players cost virtually the same amount from year to year, Glaus' contract expires after 2009, while Rolen is locked down through 2010. Which is bad news since his ludicrously predictable shoulder breakdowns have returned.


Glaus is a huge reason the Cardinals remain in the race for the NL Central. Offensively, he's been everything the team expected. Defensively, he's been better than advertised.


Rolen is still a dominant defensive player, but he hits like a catcher.


There's no question J.P. Ricciardi lost this deal.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Rush Limbaugh wants to buy the Rams.

That's no punchline. Per the St. Louis Business Journal:


"The Rams would be a great team to have," Limbaugh said in a phone interview from his Palm Beach, Fla., studio. "I have a lot of friends in ownership in the NFL, and my desire to get involved has not been a secret."


It goes without saying that mixing politics and sports can often end poorly, but consider another St. Louis owner with deep political ties: Cardinals owner Bill DeWitt Jr., who famously owned the Texas Rangers with fellow Eli George W. Bush. DeWitt has also publicly supported such causes as Ashcroft 2000 (aside, lost to a dead man), McCain 2008 and Romney for President. DeWitt isn't widely criticized for his support of the Arch-Conservative (pun intended, deployed) agenda because his views reflect the views of St. Louis as a whole. His teams also win, that helps.


Limbaugh, with a fortune comprised or Republican blood money, is a bit of a different beast. Remember what happened the last time Rush got involved with sports.


In truth, Limbaugh is likely doing what he does best, flapping his gums. The Rams are a high profile business in a lucrative industry, and Limbaugh is no fool. He recognizes an opportunity to make money when he sees one. He also recognizes a good opportunity for publicity. We shall oblige him on the latter front.


Every Rams fan must find thelselves dreaming of owner Rush Limbaugh's first acquisition of the 2009 offseason: fellow Vicodin alum Brett Favre.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Did MLB put a hit on Scott Kazmir?

As I was reading this story by virtuoso AP scribe Ronald Blum about the potential David Wright-J.D. Drew pitching matchup that wasn’t part of Tuesday's All-Star Game -- one of the contingencies dreamed up by two desperate managers with hopes of maintaining the integrity of a (mostly) pointless exhibition -- I was struck by this innocuous line:



By the 13th inning, MLB dispatched senior vice president Joe Garagiola Jr. to remind the managers that the game would be played until there was a winner.



Remember that in the 12th inning of the game, Terry Francona burned his last ├Čacceptable├« pitcher, George Sherrill, to strike out Adrian Gonzalez. The National League was in slightly better shape, with Carlos Marmol to replace Aaron Cook, do-not-use Brandon Webb and Lidge to blow the game. But consider the predicament of Francona (I know Joe Buck and Tim McCarver discussed it ad nauseam, bear with me) in being forced to use a competitor's asset for a game of indeterminate -- though clearly terminating -- amount of time.



Ostensibly, what the MLB decree meant to Terry Francona was one of three options:



• Use George Sherrill for as long as necessary. As it worked out, Sherrill’s 2 1/3-inning appearance was his longest since a July 2004 game against Boston. Wonder how the Orioles will feel if their closer breaks down because a division-rival manager had to run Sherill until he dropped in an exhibition game. By the way, the Orioles ain't gettin' s*** out of this All-Star business. For them, they never count.



• Use Kazmir, Francona's final pitching option. Francona did so, no doubt to the annoyance of Rays management. If Kazmir comes down with a recurrence of his elbow trouble, you can bet the Rays will lobby MLB for teams to have the right to hold back players from All-Star games, perhaps some other prohibitions on player usage. It would have been interesting to see how far Francona would have run with Kazmir. As it was, he got to put 17 pitches of game wear, plus a substantial number of warm-up tosses, on the arm of the most important player on his closest pursuer. There’s no question that’s a tactical advantage. Even something as small as the Rays pushing a Kazmir start back a day because of fatigue is advantage Tito, advantage Red Sox. That's one less day the Rays can use him, even if just hypothetically.



• Use a position player to pitch. Francona would have used his own position player, J.D. Drew, to pitch, had it come to that. Had Drew been injured, the uproar out of Boston would have been furious. The fact that Drew is on Francona’s club, not somebody else's, would make Francona appear honorable. That would combine with the afore-mentioned MLB decree to absolve Francona of the blame, leaving MLB to face the cold, bleating wrath of Red Sox Nation. This doesn't even begin to discuss the potential eruption from Flushing if David Wright had pitched and gotten hurt.



The bottom line is that by forcing the managers to put players in compromising situations (aside: ha!), MLB risked injury to some of its biggest stars and introduced potential ethical quandaries. The corporation should have more sense than that. MLB should have realized it is a strong enough institution to call an All-Star Game a draw and shift focus to what will be a fascinating trade deadline and some shapely division races.



So people think your All-Star Game is a joke. Guess what? It is.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The definite Ankiel

Most players who achieve the definite article, one of the greatest honors in sports -- The Pujols and The Santana for example -- reach definition by virtue of complimentary abbreviation. That is to say, people get tired of calling them The Great Albert Pujols, or The Great Johan Santana, and simply go by The Pujols, or The Santana.


But Rick Ankiel's ascent to article definition happened more as a celebration, a coronation really, of normalcy. Sure, his career slash line of .265/.306/.502 helps, but it's Ankiel's pursuit and ultimate achievement of zen on the baseball field, after his theatrical youth, that grant his status.


As Ankiel passes through the league and visits each city for the first time, the story of his meltdown is replayed upon arrival, like urban legends and creation myths surrounding carnival freaks. This is also true of Josh Hamilton. Now, most people don't show up for the freaks, but when they're there, it's natural to remark, "There's the freak, there's the monster." Freaks are kind of hard to ignore.


But whereas Hamilton has embraced the role and is easy, accessible and free with fans and media, Ankiel remains private, a clubhouse shut-in who rarely speaks to even the most partisan beat reporters. Because of this, Hamilton's story is rehashed the second time he visits a city, and the third. Hamilton perpetuates his image as a(n) (recovering) addict.


In the absence of content, and in the interest of not boring their consumers, Rick Ankiel's returned presence demands highlights of his first visit, if it demands mention at all. Media-types may bring up Ankiel's complicated past, but only as a vehicle for introducing his present, and often his pitching exploits go un-noted the second time through.


Rick Ankiel the pitcher is quickly dying. Is Josh Hamilton the addict?


The remarkable thing is, it's not supposed to work that way.


The Ankiel narrative started as a story.


The Phenom Rick Ankiel who demanded -- and received -- such a large signing bonus he fell a round in the draft was supposed to represent the evolution of pitching -- and was covered accordingly (think Kazmir, Scott circa 2005). Then, he was the future, a lefty who combined a mid-90's fastball with a devastating curveball. He wasn't afraid to throw inside and was a bit wild -- but had enough command he racked up 416 K's in 298 Minor League innings as a teenageer


When he lost "it," Ankiel became The Freak Rick Ankiel, somebody to be mocked and derided. In reality, he was just a man who's always been able to throw a baseball, who forgot how. See why he constructed the cocoon?


He remained The Freak when he took up hitting, his unfortunate past always taking center stage before his at-bats. Then he hit. Then he looked like he finally found peace. Then people started to forget about the past.


That's what he is now, he's The Non-Story Rick Ankiel


This is abbreviated to The Ankiel.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

28.

I thought a lot about redemption while I was watching Josh Hamilton tear Yankee Stadium a new a****** last night. Redemption is a powerful thing; it that can drive a man like a train without a master. Atonement fundamentally underpins the Hamilton story. He’s paid the price for his sins against the game. Now, he’s returned to reap.


While I watched a Ranger receive a standing ovation at Yankee Stadium for breaking a Yankee’s record (ahem, Abreu, 24), I thought about the creation of myth, and how Hamilton’s redemption song feeds the folklore that surrounds him. It gives the Hamilton story extra meaning, extra poignance, that he comfortably inhabits the penthouse of the baseball world because we know he once cleaned the toilets. Shucks, he probably still does.


My favorite: Josh Hamilton is so talented he could spend three years away from the game and step into the Major Leagues to hit 40 home runs in his first 183 games. Whatever your statistical poison, Hamilton wasted it for three years.


While I pondered getting flames tattooed on my forearms, I considered the power of despair in building legend. Were Josh Hamilton’s 28 home runs more impressive than, say, 28 home runs hit by Lance Berkman? Does Josh Hamilton represent whatever meager potential we’ve yet to tap? Does Fat Elvis?


Josh Hamilton’s script is so hackneyed even the least jaundiced producer would reject.


But what I saw on the espens was a genuine, Malamudian Natural. Josh Hamilton set the Bronx ablaze last night; he was “Now.”


That wasn’t just a baseball player getting a standing-o at Yankee Stadium last night.


That was a crackhead become legend


(maybe there’s hope for us yet).

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Rays continue to win

After sweeping the defending champion Red Sox at home, the Tampa Bay Rays now have a .619 winning percentage, good for tops in Major League Baseball. The Rays are 33-13 at the Trop and 19-19 away.

The ghosts they's is a real.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Rays reach first in AL

I intended the title of this blog to serve as a reminder of the zaniness of the game itself, rather than any sort of celebration of an otherwise-obsolete, juice-box eyesore, or the ghosts who call it home. But since this is nominally a Rays-themed blog, I'm obligated to comment.


The Rays' presence at the top of the standings serves as a not-so subtle reminder of the world-upside-down potential within a 162-game season and between them. Tampa Bay ranks fourth in the AL runs scored and fifth in runs allowed. Translation: These Rays aren't doing it with smoke and mirrors. Are they overachieving right now? Probably. But with the wealthiest farm system in the game, a cost-efficient roster born of that farm system and 1.1, Tampa Bay looks to remain atop the American League for some time.


By the way, the Rays have secured 21 of their 32 wins at home. Maybe there really are ghosts.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Jon Lester threw a no-hitter.

Lester is the rightful story. Lost in the shuffle, however (quoth the AP):


Catcher Jason Varitek, who has been behind the plate for a record four no-hitters [...] also caught [Clay] Buchholz's no-hitter, along with gems by Hideo Nomo and Derek Lowe.


I don't know if there's a way to measure the ability to call a game -- Catcher's ERA is unreliable at best -- but I do believe it is a skill. Four no hitters by four different pitchers, as well as the consistent success of the Sox' pitching staff, leads me to believe Jason Varitek is the best at it.


I still hate the Red Sox.

There it is.

This nature photo used without permission from the Associated Press.


There it is. That impulse to write. Wonder what comes of it this time.