Sunday, May 24, 2009

The Charnel House Rules

Homer Bailey made his first start of the season this week. Homer Bailey was optioned to the Minors this week.

Even at an age when many of his contemporaries are still bumming around Europe, or, if they're like me, finishing up those last few credits (semesters), the 23-year-old pitcher whose name sounds suspiciously like it was conceived by John Irving is dangerously close to moving to Bustville.

Over three seasons, the former seventh-overall pick has posted a Major League line of 18 starts, 86 IP, 74 H, 51 BB, 49 K, and a ghastly 7.71 ERA. PECOTA pegs the erstwhile top prospect's closest comparables as Mark Grant (reliever), Andy Hawkins (mediocre starter) and Mike Harkey (somewhat less mediocre starter).

Is Homer Bailey doomed to repeat the vicious cycle of mediocre starterhood? Or can he figure out how to pitch in the Major Leagues like slightly less comparables Todd Stottlemyre, Ben Sheets and Matt Morris.

One thing's for sure: Homer Bailey won't gain much more by pitching in the Minors. Bailey was victimized by an abnormally high BABIP in 2008, but his K-rate remained constant relative to 2007 and his BB-rate fell by 0.5. His Fielding Independent Pitching of 3.96 was more indicative of a good pitcher than his ERA of 4.77. Bailey has increased his K-rate in 2009 while decreasing his BB-rate, but his FIP is an abysmal 5.14.

Still, after nearly 40 Triple-A starts, something must give. Ready or not, Homer Bailey belongs in the Majors; he's spent two full calendar years on the 40-man roster, and he's approaching the stage when he'll have lost most of his trade value (see Jackson, Edwin). The Reds have designs on contending for the NL Central this year; they should move Bailey for a piece they can use for their final push.

Until then, it's probably time to call a moratorium on Homer Bailey's prospect status.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Now let's see Jon Stewart interview Peter Gammons.

Maybe it's because I work in sports, watch sports in my free time and am generally obsessed with sports, but I couldn't help but see Jon Stewart's interview of CNBC's Jim Cramer through the lens of steroids in baseball. Financial journalists like Cramer were complicit in creating the financial disaster by intentionally disregarding information about criminal activities that would have been zapped like mildew in direct sunlight if only journos hadn't blocked the sun with their own largesse. Similarly, though on a much smaller and far less criminal scale, journalists like Peter Gammons blocked out the steroid story in baseball because they were unwilling to ask the tough questions and report the hard news.

As reporters, both Cramer and Gammons alike are obligated to report the difficult stories, not just the ones that their networks or newspapers can sell. Just like questions about Bear Stearns leveraging at 30-to-1 are legitimate, so are questions about Brady Anderson finding a magical workout and hot streak and hitting 50 home runs at age 32 when his career high was 21 bombs. But as Stewart noted in his interview, the point of journalism isn't to find religion after the fact. It's to ask the tough questions while they're still relevant, and before people begin losing their homes, before people like Ken Caminiti and Lyle Alzado pass away.

We don't demand of reporters that they catch every story, but we do demand that they catch the ones directly in front of their faces.

Saturday, March 7, 2009


When IBM's primacy as the leading computer manufacturer went into doubt -- when other companies began making similar machines with similar specs at similar prices -- IBM did what smart companies do and started IBM Global Services, the business consulting arm of the company. Consulting allowed IBM to leverage its name as the leading technology innovator in the field and open new revenue streams.

Similarly, with a recession promising to cut into the profits of the Colorado Rapids, the club decided to begin offering ESL classes to Denver's sizable Spanish-speaking population. For $200, fans will get six sessions, class materials and tickets to Rapids matches. Rapids players and coaches will also be involved in teaching the course.

The program could provide a valuable public service, while offsetting losses from tickets and merchandise revenues during the recession. Plus, presumably the students will use these courses to find better employment -- if that's possible nowadays -- and the Rapids will have helped some new fans find more affluence. Bravo to the Colorado Rapids.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Get well soon, Johan.

I'm a refugee from a small midwestern town, who's currently stranded in New York, so I don't have any particular affinity for the local ballclubs. In fact, given the fact that roughly 60 percent* of the locals I know are Mets fans, and 70 percent** of that group is insufferable, I think it's fair to say that I downright dislike the Amazin's. In the NL East, I tend to pull for the Marlins and Nationals. Call me a sucker for lost causes.

That said, as a baseball fan, I can't help but be terrified to lose a year of Johan Santana's prime to an elbow injury. Santana has been experiencing recurring soreness and tightness as he trains in Florida. There's talk that he could miss the start of the season because of the injury and, well, we've been down this road so many times before with so many pitchers.

Not Johan, though. The two-time Cy Young Award winner has been largely healthy for the duration of his career -- aside from a surgery to remove bone chips prior to the 2004 season -- and he's arguably the best pitcher in the game. He's the proper heir to Pedro Martinez as the most entertaining pitcher in the Majors.

Santana has seen his fastball decline in velocity from 93.1 MPH in 2006 to 91.2 MPH in 2008, which could be an indication of lingering, or developing, injury. His walk rate has also increased, from 1.81 BB/9 in 2006 to 2.42 BB/9 in 2007 2008. His K/9 has decreased from 9.44 in 2006 to 7.91 in 2008. These dropoffs in stuff could be indicative of an injury, or they could be indicative of Santana getting a bit older and craftier.

Even a diminished -- loose usage of this word -- Santana is still an elite pitcher, and the results remain phenomenal. To wit, his 166 ERA + in 2008 was his highest since he put up a 182 ERA + in 2004.

Still, throwing a baseball is one of the most stressful things you can do to a joint, and every Major League pitcher is a high risk to blow out his elbow. If Santana has developed a serious injury, it would be a shame but not wholly surprising. But hopefully he's just sore, because the only things more intolerable than Mets fans when their club is winning are Mets fans when their club is awful.

* Probably lower.

** Probably higher

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Devine inspiration

I remember watching Joey Devine's first Major League appearance, a Fox Saturday Baseball game that was played two short months after the Braves drafted him 27th overall out of N.C. State in 2005. Devine entered a game against the Padres that was tied at two in the 12th inning and pretty easily retired the side. Then Bobby Cox allowed Devine to start the 13th, and the scalding waters of Hell broke loose and drowned poor Joey right there on the Turner Field mound. He gave up four runs, capitulating on a monster grand slam to Xavier Nady. I thought I may have seen the last of Joey Devine. I hadn't.

The second time I saw Joey Devine pitch was two months later, when Bobby Cox again brought him into an extra-innings game, this time in the NLDS against the Astros. Devine, whose entrance literally emptied the bullpen in the 17th inning, quickly retired the Astros but gave up the NLCS-winning home run to Chris Burke with one out in the 18th. Though I've read about his travails, I haven't seen him pitch since.

Which is why I guffawed when I saw his 2008 line as a member of the A's -- he was traded in the Mark Kotsay deal in January 2008. In 45 innings, Devine struck out 49, while allowing 38 baserunners (15 walks, 23 hits). His ERA was a nifty 0.59 and his ERA + was a staggering 685. I had no idea ERA + could get that high. In fact, it doesn't very often.

Thanks to the life-changing Baseball-Reference Play-Index, I now know that among pitchers with at least 25 innings pitched, Joey Devine posted the second-highest single-season ERA + total since 1901. He trailed only Buck O'Brien, who posted a ludicrous 866 ERA + in 47.2 innings of the 1911 season. Moreover, only nine players have ever posted an ERA + over 500 in more than 25 innings of work since 1911, including Jon Papelbon (515) and Dennys Reyes (504) in the 2006 season.

I'll eschew the obvious descriptor and say that Joey Devine's 2008 season was the apotheosis of great relief pitching and is a feat that may not be equaled for some time. But damn, way to rebound, young man.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

You throw batteries at the other Drew.

Consider the stats of three 25-year-old middle infielders, all playing in good hitting environments:

Player A: .291/.333/.502, 21 HR, 67 RsBI, 110 OPS +

Player B: .263/.355/.441, 20 HR, 61 RsBI, 109 OPS +

Player C: .266/.308/.468, 13 HR, 57 RsBI, 93 OPS +

The third set of counting numbers are diminished because their owner, Chase Utley, only appeared in 94 games as a 25-year-old. But the rate stats hold true.

The second set of counting numbers are also dampened slightly because their owner, Ian Kinsler, appeared in 130 games. The rate stats still hold true.

The owner of the first set of stats, Stephen Drew, played 152 games as a 25-year-old. His rate stats are the best of the bunch. He also became only the third short stop in history -- joining Nomar Garciaparra and Robin Yount -- to accumulate 40 doubles, 10 triples and 20 home runs, which is admittedly a bit of an invented stat.

All told, Drew accumulated 76 extra-base hits in 2008, which beat Hanley Ramirez (71) and Jose Reyes (73) -- though to be fair, Ramirez and Reyes didn't play in hitter-friendly parks.

Now consider what Kinsler and Utley did as 26-year-olds:

Kinsler: (121 GP) .319/.375/.517, 18 HR, 71 RsBI, 134 OPS +

Utley: .291/.376/.540, 28 HR, 105 RsBI, 132 OPS +

Baseball Prospectus' PECOTA projection system doesn't see Drew quite matching the age-26 seasons of Kinsler or Utley, but it does rank Drew as an elite short stop in EQA (ninth among SS), slugging (third), VORP (sixth) and Upside (ninth).

Drew is a talented hitter with a ton of upside. He's not that far off from being an elite short stop, and he bears watching in 2009 and beyond.

Monday, February 23, 2009

The Audacity of dope.

For fans who are tired of the A-Rod scandal but not quite ready for World Baseball Classic scandal, consider the curious case of Nationals general manager Jim Bowden. During a week in which Bowden should still be basking in the glow of his first big-fish free agent signing as Nationals GM, Adam Dunn, the embattled executive instead finds himself answering to reporters about his club's operations in Latin America. Specifically, Bowden must address questions about whether he was involved in wrongdoing in skimming bonuses from Latin American players. Moreover, it is Bowden's employer that is encouraging the investigation.

Bowden's best possible outcome is that he's portrayed as an incompetent supervisor, one who, potentially since 1994, has unwittingly allowed his scouts in the region to illegally take pieces of signing bonuses that should have gone to players. This would add to Bowden's already impressive run of incompetence, from the 102-loss 2008 regular season to failing to properly gauge the contract demands of ninth-overall pick Aaron Crow and adjust his team's draft board accordingly.*

Bowden's worst possible outcome is that he was complicit in the scandal, in which case he should find legal representation. He will be fired if he had a hand in the scandal.

Either way, it makes the decision to double the next-highest bidder in the Esmailyn Gonzalez negotiation look like another of Bowden's major blunders. Gonzalez was, of course, found out to be four years older than originally thought, making the Texas Rangers happy that the Nationals overbid for his services by $700,000.

As a general rule of thumb, anytime an executive must stand before reporters and say, "I'm innocent of any wrongdoing, and besides that I don't have any comment," it usually means his walking papers are in short order. Organizations, particularly baseball teams, don't run well with controversial winds swirling. Already, team president Stan Kasten appears less-than-pleased with the storm. Witness this quote from the WaPo writeup:

"While talking about Bowden on Monday, Kasten bemoaned the lack of recent attention given to on-field story lines. 'It's happened with your backs turned to it at the moment,' Kasten said, motioning to one of the practice fields. 'I hope you're not happy about that. Something could be happening out there. We could have Adam Dunn at third base at the moment and you wouldn't know about it.'"

Win or lose, it may be time for Jim Bowden to freshen up his resume. Unfortunately, he won't have Cold Pizza as a fallback option this time.

* The Nationals get the tenth pick in the 2009 Draft as compensation for losing Crow, but that just delays their rebuilding by a season. They would have been better served drafting a Brett Wallace, a Justin Smoak or a Jemille Weeks and adding that player to their 25-man roster as much as a full year earlier.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Votto is my Vato.

Consider the stats of two rookie first basemen, both 24-years-old, both playing in friendly hitting environs:

Player A: .297/.368/.506, 24 HR, 84 RsBI, 124 OPS+

Player B: .315/.380/.530, 25 HR, 97 RsBI, 119 OPS+

The question arises: Player B has the better numbers across the board, but Player A has the better OPS +. What's the disconnect? It may help to point out that Player A is Reds first baseman Joey Votto, and Player B is Rockies first baseman Todd Helton. Adjust their numbers to neutral ballparks, as OPS + does, and Votto comes out ahead. That bears restating and italicization:

In a neutral hitting environment, Joey Votto was a better player as a rookie than was Todd Helton.

The Reds are counting on Votto to play a key role in their offense in 2009, and he will rack up plenty of RsBI while hitting with Jay Bruce and Brandon Phillips on base. Votto's logical place in the Reds batting order is the cleanup spot, and he'll feast on NL Central pitching, where the most fearsome lefty is Ted Lilly.

Baseball Prospectus projects Votto to finish 12th among first basemen in EQA, 9th in slugging and 11th in VORP. Eschew the Justin Morneaus and Adrian Gonzalezes and draft Votto a few rounds later. Better yet, draft both and get a solid first baseman and utility player.

Votto is a solid bet as he enters his second season in Cincy -- draft him in the middle rounds so you can take premium talent at other positions early. Plug Joey Votto in their lineup every day and focus your worries elsewhere.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Tiger's back.

Who is the best American athlete going right now? Is it LeBron? Kobe? Manning? Casey Hampton?

It's this guy.

Tiger Woods will never again exist outside public consciousness, but he's spent the past eight months about as far out of sight as possible The biggest story about Tiger since he went down to injury has been the birth of his second child, a son named Charlie Axel. So when his caddy and confidant Steve Williams says Tiger's knee is about "95 percent" healthy, and that he "just needs a little bit more walking. He hasn’t been able to walk too well," it should put the rest of the PGA Tour on notice.

Like baseball players, golfers must have strong legs to hit the ball at peak efficiency, so it's a bit disconcerting to hear that "Woods had remodeled his swing to accommodate his injured knee." But in the annals of recorded medical history, recovery from a torn ACL and stress fracture isn't unique. Woods is a great athlete, though the talk of him being able to succeed in any sport is a bit over-the-top. Regardless, he's just about the perfect golfer. And he's back.

Over/under two major wins for Tiger this year?

Intransigence in Lubbock, Texas

Mike Leach is a good, albeit somewhat overrated Big 12 coach. He's probably not worth a five-year, $12.7 million contract ($2.54 million per annum), but in the Big 12, that seems to be the going rate for somewhat overrated head coaches. Gary Pinkel makes $2.3 million per year until 2015; Mike Gundy makes $2.2 million until 2015. Leach is not a better coach than either Pinkel or Gundy, though he is more in-demand -- HE LIKES PIRATES, says ESPN, HE'S TOTALLY NOW -- so he will get a small popularity premium included in his salary.

That said, the sticking point in the Leach-Tech negotiation seems to be a clause in the contract that "would trigger his firing and a $1.5 million penalty if he interviews for another job without athletic director Gerald Myers' permission."

In an era when Bobby Petrinos openly quit on their teams and Rich Rodriguezes leave their dream jobs unfinshed, there is no loyalty in football coaching, college or pro. It's somewhat refreshing to see college ADs take stands against head coaches with clear, obvious cases of Wanderlust. Anybody who thinks -- new contract or otherwise -- that Leach won't bolt Lubbock for the first major college big-fish job he can find is fooling themselves and has probably never visited Lubbock, Texas. Monetary penalty be damned, Leach is gone. Tech should save themselves the trouble and start interviewing candidates now.

And as far as Leach goes, well, Dabo Swinney should probably watch his back. Clemson boosters are aiming a Sword of Damocles named Mike Leach for a spot located just below Swinney's fifth lumbar vertebra.

Sometimes winning isn't everything.

Great writing by AP sports columnist Tim Dahlberg, who tells the story of a game between the DeKalb, Ill., High School basketball team and Milwaukee Madison. After traveling two hours to play a road game, the DeKalb players made a tremendous show of sportsmanship, sacrificing two points to help an opposing player honor his recently passed mother. It reminds us what sports can mean to people in their times of need. It reminds us what sports writing can and should be.

The rites of spring.

A day late with this, but such is life.

Ah, Spring. Printemps. Snow melts, skirts appear, pitchers and catchers report. A Yankee explains to a media horde why he used steroids.

Alex Rodriguez told reporters at the Yankees' Spring Training facility in Tampa that his cousin regularly injected him with substances between 2001 and 2003. “I didn’t think they were steroids,” Rodriguez told the assembled crowd, though he conceded that “I knew we weren’t taking Tic Tacs.”

“This public bloodletting of individual stars, the fallen stars, anybody who witnesses what these individuals have to go through after the fact, say, ‘You know what? I don’t want to be that guy. I don’t want to be in the chair, I don’t want to be the one—the poster child for the problem with the game, and on every newspaper across the country and every talk show.”

Whether he likes it or not, Rodriguez is now the poster child for this era. He got into that boat when he signed a $250 million contract. He's got the best numbers in an era when everybody's numbers were inflated. The one thing he is not is shunned.

Now let's hear from that cousin.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Mr. Dunn goes to Washington

The Nats got themselves a steal in Adam Dunn for two years, $20 million. Dunn is a very strangely controversial player, inasmuch as he flys pretty low under the radar. Still there are people out there who hate Adam Dunn. Toronto Blue Jays General Manager J.P. Ricciardi recently made the conventional anti-Dunn argument.

“Do you know the guy doesn’t really like baseball that much?” Ricciardi asked a call-in show questioner. “Do you know the guy doesn’t have a passion to play the game that much?"

Dunn is also controversial for another of Ricciardi's charges, that he's "a lifetime .230, .240 hitter that strikes out a ton and hits home runs." Dunn is a lifetime .247 hitter, and he strikes out in 32.4 percent of his at-bats.

That doesn't mean Dunn is particularly prone to making outs. Break out the handy Baseball Reference Play-Index and sort the numbers of all active non-pitchers between age 21 and 28 -- the years Dunn has been active in the Majors -- by the number of outs they have made. Dunn ranks 18th, behind Jimmy Rollins (2nd), A-Roid (3rd), The Pujols (6th), Derek Jeter (11th), Barry Bonds (12th), and Carlos Beltran (15th). The rest of the list is impressive enough. You have to be pretty good to make a lot of outs at a young age, to be allowed to make a lot of outs at a young age.

Go back to the Play-Index and sort the same group* by on-base percentage and see that Dunn is 13th. Dunn ranks behind fellow free agent Manny Ramirez (3rd) but ahead of fellow free agent Mark Teixeira (14th).

Sort the same group by home runs and see that Dunn ranks 4th.

So Adam Dunn makes a lot of outs, though he still gets on base at an elite level, and he slugs the ever-loving crap out of the ball. Dunn will be moving to first base, where defense is really a formality. He's a valuable hitter who isn't going to kill you defensively.

Less than a week after Ryan Howard, who is 10 days younger than Dunn, signed for three years and $54 million, THE NATIONALS signing Dunn for two years and $20 million is a veritable masterstroke for Nats GM Jim Bowden. Bowden, however, is still a doufus with a segway, a DUI -- unrelated -- and Elijah Dukes.

As far Adam Dunn not liking baseball goes, if not liking baseball means a .381 OBP and 40 home runs every year, like clockwork, I'll take not liking baseball any day. Adam Dunn may not wear his heart on his sleeve, but you don't get to the Major Leagues without caring. A lot. Saying otherwise disrespects the amount of work that it takes to be a Major Leaguer.

* Lie. I set a minumum number of 879 games played to exclude Kei Igawa.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Free Alex Rodriguez, or steroid fatigue.

The worst part about baseball's steroid story is that it lends itself so perfectly to bottomless pessimism, and I find that my cynicism extends to all the agents of the story, from the players to the executives, and especially to the reporters. I believe most baseball writers either missed or willfully ignored the steroid story in the Nineties and early Aughts, and now they're forced to play catch-up. This makes much of their sanctimoniousness retroactive, hence the focus on and romanticization of baseball's past.

I'll admit steroids sell. But if the public never again has to read about another of Alex Rodriguez's urine samples, I think they'll find a way to live. The general public is not too attached to the steroids story that it can't let it go. It's the writers who do the perpetuating.

Baseball writers forget the fundamental rule of baseball players: They are scoundrels. This has been common knowledge since the game was first formed. Baseball players will do anything and everything to get ahead, from sharpening their spikes to taunting Jackie Robinson with racial epithets to injecting Winstrol in a teammate's buttocks.

It's irresponsible for me to name names, but suffice it to say that if baseball players from Babe Ruth's era to Hank Aaron's era to Mike Schmidt's era had access to the types of supplements and performance enhancers that today's players use, they would have used them as well. If you ask a retired player today whether or not they would have used steroids of course they'll deny it. Today's baseball players haven't exactly been forthright about their steroid usage, have they? That's because baseball players are scoundrels.

So as I read articles with titles like A-Rod has destroyed game's history, I can't help but be annoyed. I have this image in my mind of writers like Jayson Stark firing off a priggish invective in one burst of creative energy, sitting back in their desk chairs and feeling like they're righting a wrong. It's so disingenuous. Where were you in 2002, Jayson? Here:

We keep hearing how players today can't play like they did in the olden days. Give it a rest. You can go to a game these days and see [...] a shortstop who has hit 50 homers two years in a row (A-Rod) [...] Or you can see a six-time Cy Young award-winner (Roger Clemens) [...] a 600-homer man (Barry Bonds) [...] In Babe Ruth's day, the game was played by a whole lot of slow white men. Players today are far better athletes [...] Let's broadcast that to the world, huh?

You ain't foolin' me, fellas. If you had done your jobs right the first time, this wouldn't be necessary.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009


I've never actually ranked the loves of my life, but I know that if I did Cardinals baseball would rank disturbingly high. It's not a question of whether or not I take it too seriously; It's a question of how long victory or defeat will fundamentally affect my baseline mood. Far too often, memories of Cardinals baseball are so viscerally seared into my memory that I can tell you ludicrous specifics about my surroundings during weighty Cardinals games. When I say I'm a Cardinals fan, I mean I've lived and fucking died with them.

For example, I can't tell you many specifics about the year 1996 -- think there may have been some sort of Presidential election -- but I can tell you that I watched the entire NLCS Game 7 -- a feat, I assure you -- in my parents' kitchen, and that I ate four bowls of Frosted Mini Wheats during the game. Two percent milk.

Or that I skipped school -- first time ever -- and watched Rick Ankiel's meltdown in the Game 1 of the 2000 NLDS at the bar of Houlihan's in the St. Louis Galleria -- malls are very big where I'm from -- while drinking three iced teas.

I also sense that my experience isn't particularly unique.

My street-cred established, I come to bid farewell to one of my favorite players, Jim Edmonds. He's the greatest center fielder I've ever watched on a daily basis, and he's the new benchmark for a center fielder who falls just short of the Hall of Fame.

If the payroll contraction inspired by the economic crisis causes star free agents to remain unsigned, Edmonds' career could very well be finished. Edmonds crushed the ball with the Cubs last year, and I think he can hit the 18 home runs he needs to reach 400. But time is a fast current and Edmonds has been swimming against it for a while now. Edmonds gets no play in the media. Take a look at a Google News search of Edmonds' name and you'll find a lot of older articles and terrible sources. (Not you, David Heck of the Tufts Daily.) Free agency is still at a point where a team can sign Manny Ramirez or Adam Dunn. Jim Edmonds isn't a hot commodity right now.

So if Edmonds is finished, I think it's the end of a career that was historically significant but not worthy of Hall enshrinement. According to the always handy Baseball-Reference Play Index, Edmonds ranks 12th in career OPS+ among players who played at least 500 games in center field. Ahead of him are the following 11 names:

1-8: Mickey Mantle, Ty Cobb, Tris Speaker, Willie Mays, Joe DiMaggio, Hack Wilson, Duke Snider, Ken Griffey Jr.

9-11: Wally Berger, Larry Doby, Earl Averill

Every single name on that list is a Hall of Famer, though some (the Earl of Shomish) are less significant than others (Seven). Edmonds stacks up well to the final three, though Doby is, of course, an exceptional case relative to Edmonds. Still, based on their stats, it's not unreasonable to say that those players have marginal Hall of Fame candidacies. Doby, of course, still being an exceptional case relative to, well, nearly everybody.

The problem is that there are also impressive names directly following Edmonds -- players who aren't Hall of Famers:

13-15: Fred Lynn*, Jimmy Wynn, Ellis Burks

All of those guys were fantastic players for a lot of years, but aside from Red Sox homers wanting to see their boy Fred get in, these guys don't have groundswells to get them elected to the Hall of Fame (And why doesn't Red Sox nation have more love for Ellis, who began and ended his career in Boston? Probably racism.)

So Jim Edmonds is stuck in the middle between a group of marginal Hall of Famers above and a group of talented non-Hall of Famers below. Then there's the fact that he played during an era of unprecedented chemical advantage, legal or otherwise. It's the unfortunate truth of this era and, all things considered, I'll take it over World War and institutional racism.

Jim Edmonds has authored as many Cardinals moments that are burned into my memory as anybody. Jim Edmonds is so great, he's beloved by both Cardinals and Cubs fans (admit it, you were smitten last June). I will one day prattle to the idiot friends of my children's children about the catch I saw Jim Edmonds make in second inning of Game 7 of the 2004 NLCS on a ball that Brad Ausmus hit that I don't think Jim even thought he could reach. But Jim Edmonds falls short of the marginal Hall of Famers.

Jim Edmonds is not worthy of Hall of Fame enshrinement.

* Stylistically, Jim Edmonds is the Fred Lynn of this generation. You heard it here first.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Prado given chance government would like.

With no regard to Sole-Survivor Policies, Hall of Fame jockey Edgar Prado will ride the brother of Barbaro, a horse he rode both zenith (a Kentucky Derby win) and nadir (life-ending injuries). Prado is excited to teach Nicanor, Barbaro's three-year-old younger sibling, all about the circle of life.

Michael Matz, who also trained Barbaro, pits the latest progeny of La Ville Rouge and Dynaformer in a battle for his life starting either this weekend or on Feb. 7.

“He’s getting there. Either one of the two,” Matz told the Associated Press. "I’m not sure yet. When we get him back to the track, we’ll see how he is.

"I'm looking forward to milking this one for his semen before turning him into superglue, just like his brother."*

* May not be included in the Associated Press story

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Super. Bowl.

I was too young to be conscious of the fact that the Arizona Cardinals left St. Louis. I know now that it happened somewhere in the jumble of tire swings, ThunderCats and Muppets taking Manhattan, but I have no recollection of the events themselves. My first memory as a football fan isn't akin to my first memory as, say, a baseball or hockey fan. It's not of a game I attended, a player I cheered or an Avant-gaudy uniform that's seared into my memory. It's not of the Cardinals leaving; it's of them being gone. I went from blissful ignorance -- and judging by my older brother's deep-seated hatred for the Cardinals, I'm pretty sure I was the lucky one -- to not having a team, and there's never a sense of loss when you can't remember what you had.

My first memory of Kurt Warner, on the other hand, I still own. It was the Rams' third preseason game before the 1999 season and big-ticket free agent quarterback Trent Green had just been carted from the field to a standing ovation. At that point, Green had not thrown a single pass for the Rams, but he was symbolic of an expected rebirth that included Marshall Faulk and Torry Holt. With him out of the way, that rebirth was on life support.

Then, the only thing we knew about Warner was that he couldn't beat out Tony Banks or Steve Bono for playing time in 1998. He was representative of the same-as-always, sorry-sack Rams. When Warner went three-and-out in his first series, I remember joining 65,000 fans in booing him. Vociferously. 

I remember turning to the previously mentioned older brother and saying, "They're fucked. Time for them to start scouting college talent."

One legendary press conference, two MVPs and three Super Bowls later, Kurt Warner continues to make a mockery of my first instinct.

So as I watch the quarterback I once booed lead the team I never knew I lost into the Super Bowl, I struggle to summon the vitriol to hate them in a suitable fashion. I won't be rooting for the Cardinals on Super Sunday, that much is sure. But I won't be too angry if Kurtis can lead the Cardinals to the top of the mount. As a fan, I'm forever in his debt. And as far as the Cardinals, well, good for them. The Cardinals seem to St. Louis a bit like a crazy ex-girlfriend they hear is about to get married. Sure, there's some nostalgia, but it's more of a time-and-place wistfullness, as opposed to a yearning-to-possess-again. They don't want to get back together with her. They're happy she finally got her act together. There's really no jealousy.

But why did she have to get together with an old friend?