So, some of our loyal readers have mentioned that we should spend at least a little time discussing writers who are good at what they do. So, here's the FJM Check-Plus of the Week, from FoxSports.com's (!) Dayn Perry:
The following is an exercise in craven subjectivity.
We're talking overrated and underrated. Any time these two words are introduced into the discussion, you're taking into account individual perceptions, however skewed and adulterated those might be...
If they were a band, they'd be Coldplay. Yep, it's the top 10 most overrated players for 2005...
All right. I am ready. Tell me how Adam Dunn is overrated, so I can kill myself.
1. Scott Podsednik, LF, White Sox
Oh my God, I am so excited. My heart is beating at like 4x normal rate right now.
To hear many in the media tell it, Podsednik is the catalyst for the best team in the American League. To hear the numbers tell it, Podsednik is a below-average performer by left-fielder standards. He has his merits — good defense, solid on-base skills, speed on the bases — but his failings are more critical. To wit, he can't hit for power. At all. Podsednik's .337 slugging percentage is appalling for a corner outfielder playing half his games in one of the best power parks around. A left fielder with no home runs this late in the season isn't doing his job, no matter how many bases he steals.
It's just...music to my ears. Someone is actually saying it. I might start crying.
3. Hank Blalock, 3B, Rangers
Blalock has loads of ability, but his levels of offensive production are illusory. That's because Ameriquest Field is drastically inflating his numbers.
Consider his career batting line on the road: .241 AVG/.300 OBP/.401 SLG. Now contrast that with his work at home: .316 AVG/.386 OBP/.566 SLG. Until he learns to hit away from Arlington, Blalock won't be the All-Star he's passed off as.
Okay...not the best grammar there at the end, but you convinced me. I didn't think of Blalock as overrated. Now I kind of do.
4. Kevin Millar, 1B, Red Sox
Folksy and likeable? Sure. Idiot, Cowboy Up and all that stuff? Sure. Productive? Nope. This season, Millar is putting up a batting line of .270 AVG/.357 OBP/.367 SLG, which isn't adequate for a defensively challenged first baseman. He's had a couple of very good seasons in his career (both as a Marlin), but he's been unable to produce at all on the road in recent seasons (Fenway is a haven for right-handed batters). Regardless of clubhouse chops, he needs to be benched for road games and cut loose altogether after this season.
Fish in a barrel, but he's right. Although, I don't think there is really anyone who overrates Millar these days. Ditto his #5, Victor Zambrano.
6. C.C. Sabathia, SP, Indians
In some circles, Sabathia is regarded as an ace. He's not. In only one season has Sabathia worked at least 200 innings while maintaining an ERA better than the league average. This season, his ERA has risen to a career-worst 4.75. Sabathia's still only 25, but the time has come to realize his promise.
7. Zack Greinke, SP, Royals
Fits and starts for a pitcher this young are to be expected, but a 6.28 ERA? Greinke was once hailed as the best pitching prospect in baseball, but it's not likely he'll ever live up to those expectations. Why?
Greinke posts low strikeout rates in tandem with fly-ball tendencies. That's a dangerous mix. No matter how good a pitcher's command might be, if he's allowing a lot of balls in play and a lot of those balls are in the air ... well, that's bad. Press clippings aside, don't expect future greatness from Greinke.
Ignoring the nebulous "command." Talking about K-rates and GB/FB ratio. I might have a crush on Dayn Perry.
8. Ichiro Suzuki, RF, Mariners
Ichiro is a cultural luminary, an important figure in baseball history and a thoroughly likeable and engaging athlete. He also hits for average, runs the bases well and plays an exceptional right field.
However, Ichiro lacks secondary hitting skills. That means he doesn't draw walks and doesn't hit for power.
Because of these deficiencies, he's a player who needs to hit .330 or higher to be effective. Some seasons, he does that, and some seasons he doesn't. When you consider all Ichiro signifies and his global popularity, he's worth the attention he gets. However, through the prism of on-field performance, he's not.
Ichiro is overrated! Ichiro is overrated! Wheeeeeeeeeeeeee!
The last two are Sean Casey and Klesko. Whatever. The point is, Dayn Perry, we salute you.
I hear you, dak. This was just a little palatte cleanser. Overall, I'd like to go 99% bad, 1% good -- so look for the next FJM Check-Plus, a review of a Peter Gammons chat, coming to the site in March 2008.
In his latest ESPN.com article, Joe Morgan writes: "When I was in college, I wrote my thesis on the Negro leagues." He also says he got an A.
Now. I'm not saying Joe Morgan never went to college. Even I, a guy who writes for a website called "FIRE JOE MORGAN," could not possibly believe that Joe Morgan would fabricate some sort of collegiate experience if he never enrolled in any sort of post-high school academic institution.
That said, here are some facts: 1.) Baseball Almanac plainly states that Joe Morgan did not attend any college. I don't put too much stock in this, as they don't list any nicknames for Joe Morgan neither. ("Little Joe" might be terrible, but it's still a nickname. Ditto "The Little General.")
2.) I've been searching online for about an hour now, and I can't find any evidence that Joe Morgan went to college. I could be missing something, or it just might not be out there. I'm this close to signing up for a trial membership to Encyclopedia Brittanica online, which seems to have a more complete Joe Morgan bio than any other site.
3.) Joe morgan was all of 20 years old (and like 2 days) when he played his first major league game, in September of 1963.
So, did 19-year-old Joe Morgan write and complete a thesis -- not just a paper, but a thesis -- just before playing in the big leagues, at some college that can't be found in any internet search? Please help me solve this mystery.
Thanks to everyone who wrote in. Turns out Joe attended about a year of JuCo before his playing days. Could've written something there.
BUT, here's the real answer, as quoted from several of our readers: "He promised his mother when he left college to sign with the Colt 45s that he would earn his degree. Taking classes in the off-season and into his retirement, he graduated from Cal State-Hayward in 1990 at the age of 47."
CS-H is apparently now called "Cal State East Bay." So, there you go...I guess.
I don't know why it didn't occur to me that the dude could've gone back to college after he played. Kind of embarrassing.
What's more, I know now that JM has two children, which for some reason makes me feel kind of bad about the name of the site.
Steve Phillips, I can't believe someone put you in charge of a major league baseball team. Bryan (Fayetteville): Among all the teams in the chase for the AL Wild Card, pick one player who could impact their team the most by stepping up the batting?
Steve Phillips: The key guy for the Angels is Rodriguez. He has to stabilize the end of their games for the Angels to have a chance. The Yanks need Musinna and Johnson to pitch like the aces they are. The Indians need Kevin Millwood to pitch well enough to win, not well enough to lose. Pitchers can't complain about run support this late in the season. If your team scores 2, then hold your opponent to 1. Millwood has pitched well but not well enough to win.
>> Kevin Millwood has the fifth-best ERA in the AL. He has a better WHIP than Roy Oswalt, A.J. Burnett, and Randy Johnson.
But he can't score runs for his team. Pitchers aren't allowed to do that in the AL.
If your team scores 2, then hold your opponent to 1.
>> Kevin Millwood has, in fact, allowed 1 ER four times this season. His record in this four outings? One win, two losses, and one no-decision. Guess he should have thrown a lot more complete game shutouts.
Actually, in four of his losses, his team scored zero runs, so maybe that wouldn't have helped that much. In Millwood's 11 losses, his team has scored an aggregate of 13 runs.
But sure, he's pitched well enough to lose.
Consider that phrase: "well enough to lose." If you think it makes sense, please consult a doctor. You may have been the victim of a Phineas Gage-style mishap in which a pole is lodged inside your skull and certain parts of your brain.
EDIT: I can't believe I missed this, but Bryan from Fayetteville's question specifically ends with "pick one player who could impact their team the most by stepping up the batting?" (emphasis mine)
Phillips names four players, all of them pitchers.
Junior -- I think you failed to point out the most obvious insanity here. The question is: which player can help his team the most by stepping up the batting. And then Stevie P. comes back hard with a list of pitchers. It's a rare FJM double-bonus when a guy answers the entire question wrong, and within that wrong-answer he has a new, and even worse, wrong answer.
Hmm. As far as thinking the statement "well enough to lose" makes any sense, I think it depends just how Phineas Gage-like the hypothetical mishap is. Because in Gage's case, the dude didn't really lose any reasoning skills. He became, well, pissy. Irritable, moody. But aside from his personality, most of his brain function remained intact.
Which is to say, even post-accident Phineas Gage could have told you that "well enough to lose" is a phrase that should never be used when discussing anything.
I know that Phineas Gage did not lose the capacity to reason; in fact, there is almost no doubt he would have run the Mets better than Steve Phillips.
However, one could imagine, perhaps, a man who suffers a Phineas-Gage-style accident who is not so fortunate. One who, due to massive brain trauma, decides to give Roger Cedeno a four-year, $18 million deal.
Thanks to reader Bryan for this nice little nugget:
On Saturday's FOX broadcast of Mets vs. Giants:
"Offerman is a guy who can clearly still hit. His numbers don't indicate that this year."
This is really the essence of the problem, isn't it? Pundits making statements about the game which are in direct contradiction to actual fact. Of course, it is very rare, and exciting, for one of them to immediately acknowledge how wrong he is -- in essence, to do FJM's work for us.
(FTR: Offerman has had an OPS above .716 once since 2000, and that was in 172 AB with the Twinkies last year.)
Buzzmaster: We'll get started in just a minute, so keep the questions coming!
Ken Tremendous: No! I'm going to hang back and point out how stupid the answers are instead!
Joe Morgan: Good morning, let's get going!
Rochester: The Mets seem to be surging at the right time. Do you think they can overcome the rest of the Wild Card teams with their veteran pitching?
Joe Morgan: I don't think the Mets have any edge in any capacity. All the teams are pretty equal, and they will have to score runs and continue to play good defense. But sure, they can win it if that keeps up.
KT: Strong start here, Joe. If the Mets score runs and play good defense, they should have a shot. I like the seemingly sarcastic: "But sure, they can win if that keeps up," as if he's not the idiot who just suggested it.
John (Waterbury, CT): Hi Joe...in your opinion, who has the better rotation at this point in the season, the Red Sox or the Yanks? And Bullpen?
Joe Morgan: That's like flipping a coin. The Yankees have the most potential if Johnson and Mussina are up to par. But it's not about potential. With the Sox you don't know what you're going to get out of Schilling and how long it will take him to find his rhythm. If it takes a while that will have an effect on the race.
KT: You think? The guy who went 21-6 last year and beat the Yankees (in the Stadium) on one leg -- you think missing that guy will affect the race? Are you sure? Think about this. Also, "if it takes a while?" It's August 26, and he just started for the first time in months. It has taken a while.
3FF (Arlington, VA): Hey Joe, the Reds looked pretty good. We all know they won't do anything this year, my question: Is it a mistake by the organization to not trade Griffey this season? What could/should they have done?
Joe Morgan: No, I don't think so. I hear this all the time: trade him and get something that will help them. What are they going to get that will help more than Griffey. When he's himself the pressure is off the young kids and that's why they're playing well. He still has some years left in him so they should keep him on.
KT: Junior is having a good year. But with the money they would save, and the prospects they might get in return, trading him is a no-brainer, in the right deal. The ChiSox are desperate for a bat -- they might give up a ton for the chance to win their first Series in 88 years. The Reds are not going to win anything while Junior is playing. A deal makes a lot of sense. (These are all examples of sentences a normal human might have written.)
John (Charleston): how come the Tigers have gotten no love this season? they have really turned it around over the last two seasons
Joe Morgan: Every team in baseball would be a contender with more pitching and another bat, which is what the Tigers need, but they have gotten much better in the last couple of years and if there is something available in the offseason they should go after it and try to improve even more.
KT: This one is hard to parse, perhaps because it is three run-on-sentences strung together. Play along at home:
1. Every team in baseball would be a contender with more pitching and another bat. (True, I guess, if meaningless. "Every building would be taller if you added more stories and a tower at the top.")
2. "...which is what the Tigers need..." (Again, I guess true, but the question was about why they haven't gotten any "love," since they have improved so much over last year. It's like, whatever anyone asks, Joe answers as if the question were: "What do you think about [TEAM X]?")
3. "...but they have gotten much better in the last couple of years and if there is something available in the offseason they should go after it and try to improve even more." (Again, not the question, in any way. Also, I think it goes without saying that TEAM X should try to improve in the off-season by acquiring players who are better than the players they have now. This is reaching new heights of stupidity.)
Chadwick (Philly): How about Vicente Padilla. He is looking like the all star from a couple years ago. With him pitching well along with Lieber and Myers as well as our stud 3 in the bullpen. Do you think the phils can do some damage in the playoffs if they make it?
Joe Morgan: The reason I like the Phils is because they are capable of scoring in bunches. They're not consistent, but they can do it. Everyone is overrating what pitchers do this time of year. It's great to have that, but you have to score to back it up. Look at the Astros. If they were scoring they'd be way out in front in the Wild Cars. So pay more attention to the teams that score runs consistently.
KT: I like the way Joe constantly chides teams for not being able both to score tons of runs AND pitch brilliantly. It's like he doesn't understand that often, with a salary cap and a limited roster and free agency, that it is hard to do either one without sacrificing the other. Also, "Wild Cars" is a good name for a band.
Ryan (Pittsburgh, PA): I know the Yankees have the experience, but I think the combination of great pitching and solid, timely hitting will get the Indians into the postseason. I don't think the experience matters when a team is young and confident like the Tribe is. What do you think?
Joe Morgan: Again, they have as good a chance as anyone, but remember the late-season swoon from last season when they fell apart. Experience does matter, but in this case they have been through it once and learned from it. But like I said a minute ago, they can score and they have some good pitching, so that gives them a good chance. But remember, the teams that streak to get into contention are the first ones to fall out because the percentages eventually catch up to them.
KT: The use of the word "percentages" seems dangerously close to actual statistical analysis here...fortunately for all involved, Joe has no idea what he is talking about. The Marlins streaked into the 2003 playoffs and won it all easily. The Red Sox streaked into the playoffs last year and won it all. (It's not even worth continuing.) Also, lets look at some of the details here:
1. The Indians have as good a chance as anyone. 2. But remember the late-season swoon of last year. (Read: they might flop in September again.) 3. Experience does matter... (So, theoretically, they will not swoon in September again.) 4. ...but in this case, they have been through it once and learned from it. (Why does he start this part with "but?" He is saying, "Experience does matter, but in this case, experience matters.") 5. Any time you start back-to-back sentences with "But," and no one else is writing or talking, you have written poorly.
Brandon (Boston): Do you think that the Red Sox offense can lead them to a repeat? Is Schilling going to be back to his normal self?
Joe Morgan: Boston has an edge not just in terms of hitting, but there's also an energy around that team that is evident in New York. The Sox play much more on emotion than the Yanks and that can carry them for stretches last season and could help them win it again this season.
KT: Why is the Red Sox' "energy" evident in New York?
John (Providence): Joe, how do you like the A's chances of making the playoffs after everyone wrote them off in May? Do you like what Beane has done?
KT: Uh oh.
Joe Morgan: It's inevitable that after the long winning stretch they had that things would fall off because you can't continue to play .800 ball all season. The fact that they bounced back the last two days against Detroit shows they are still in it and the offense is what's going to win games for them. They win games 7-6 or 9-7 and lose when they don't score, so that will be the biggest factor for them, just like every other team in the races.
KT: Phew. I was afraid Joe was going to blow his lid at the very mention of award-winning author and inventor of the computer Billy Beane. Thankfully, all he did was spout nonsense. "The offense is what is going to win games for them." okay...well, the A's as a staff are 5th in all of MLB in ERA, 4th in WHIP, 1st in BAA, and 1st in OPS against. Their offense has been okay -- 8th in MLB in runs, but only 19th in team OPS. So, I'd say, actually, their pitching is winning games for them, so I don't know what evidence Joe is using for the claim that they win a lot of 7-6 or 9-7 games. Seems more like the Red Sox and Yankees, to me. Then comes the brilliant statement that the A's "lose when they don't score," which is not only true of the A's, but also true of every team and individual competing in every sport ever invented. And finally we get, "...so that will be the biggest factor for them, just like every other team in the races." Which weirdly, is Joe's unwitting admission that he in fact understands that all teams need to score points/runs in order to win. It's like he's arguing with himself.
EDIT: A few hours after I wrote this, the A's won 4-1, and the Red Sox won 9-8. Minimum-possible sample size of one game a piece, but still.
Chris D. (Madison, Wis.): It looks like the White Sox have righted the ship. How important is a solid rotation with the depth they have, Joe?
Joe Morgan: One of the reasons I keep saying that pitching is not the whole issue is because most pitchers have a lot of innings on their arms and will not shut teams down the way they did earlier. Therefore teams have to score to win...
KT: Wow. Again.
Joe Morgan: ...and the Sox were having troubles at the plate recently. I still believe in them, though, because they have more ways to win than most teams and will be even better once Podsednik comes back from injury.
KT: Do you know what Scott Podsednik's IsoP is? .055. That's pathetic. His WARP2 is 3.8. He is incredibly average, if not worse.
Mike G, NYC: David Wright - What's the cieling on this kid? It looks like he still keeps improving
Joe Morgan: I think he's going to be an excellent player because of his attitude and drive to improve. I've talked to him and am impressed with the way he goes about his business. Randolph did a great job of moving him along slowly and not putting him into the RBI slots in the lineup before he was ready.
KT: So, Willie Randolph did a great job by keeping their second best offensive player mired in the 6- or 7-hole while far lesser players were trying to give Cliff Floyd protection? How is that? Seriously, it's like if the White Sox batted Paul Konerko sixth behind Joe Crede and AJ Pierzynski.
Chris, Chicago: Do you believe the Cubs are pretty much finished this season, now with Nomar and Ramirez hurt? Should they just call up Felix Pie, Matt Murton, Ronny Cedeno and Rich Hill now?
Joe Morgan: It's hard in this day and age to throw in the towel and start working toward next season. I don't know if they should do that and I don't think they can.
KT: This is what just went through Joe Morgan's head: "Felix Who? Matt Huh? Ronny Which? Rich Whatnow? Uh oh. Better fire off some crazytalk."
NJ (Miami): Hey Joe, don't you agree that even though the Nats are slipping away this season, the success they are having during their first year only proved that they are going to be contenders in years to come? They are so young and unexperienced, that after one or two years behind their belts, they could be a serious threat to the Braves, Marlins, and Cardinals. I don't see this year being a disappointment, do you?
Joe Morgan: I don't see it as a disappointment. Things are on the right track to be a force in that division, but there's a thin line between being a championship team and being on the periphery. As I said before, they're falling out of the race because they can't score consistently, and they have to address that first and foremost.
KT: The main point to take away from Hall of Fame commentator Joe Morgan here today, kids, is: "You have to score runs to win athletic contests."
Julie (At Work in Bayonne, NJ): Hey Joe - what do you think of Roger Clemens chances at the Cy Young this year? His last 2 starts have been bad, but if he keeps that ERA, I think that he should get it over Carpenter... what do you think?
Joe Morgan: First of all, his last outing wasn't shaky since he lost 2-0. I look at wins first in the Cy Young and then ERA to break a tie...
KT: Oh my God oh my God oh my God oh my God.
Joe Morgan: ...At this point I think Carpenter and Dontrelle Willis have a leg up in that category...
KT: You think? "Wins" is a measurable stat. It's also one of the least important stats for a starting ptcher.
Joe Morgan: ...I don't think you can win the Cy Young with 15 or fewer wins and the Astros have to score to get him some wins. They've been shut out seven times in Clemens starts. But as I've said, NO ONE has pitched better than Roger Clemens this season.
KT: Then give him the goddamn Cy Young Award, Joe. Why in the name of fuck should you penalize a guy who, you believe, has pitched better than anyone else, simply because his teammates, with their bats, haven't performed well? I do not understand this. You are so unbelievably stupid when you talk about this issue.
Joe Morgan: I have to get going, but thanks for all the questions. It looks like we might be in for the greatest Wild Card races ever and things in both leagues could turn on one or two players getting hot and carrying a team. I'm looking forward to watching and to talking about it again next week!
The first pitch is seven hours away, but Mike Scioscia's mind is already at the ballpark, churning, plotting, fantasizing.
That's his job. He's the manager of a major league baseball team. Let's say the game starts at 7:05. That means that at noon, Mike Scioscia is thinking about baseball! A true inspiration to our children.
There's grind-it-out baseball, Moneyball baseball and three-run homer baseball.
I would love to hear Hal Bodley's definitions of these three kinds of baseball.
Scioscia says there's merit to whatever philosophy works for a certain team, but his approach that's kept the Los Angeles Angels in first place in the American League West virtually the entire season is even simpler: Get in scoring position, create havoc on the base paths - and win.
That approach has made the Angels the eighth-highest scoring team in the American League. Just ahead of the Tigers. Right behind the Devil Rays. But the D-Rays probably create way more havoc on the base paths.
The Angels are, however, a very good pitching team (third in the AL, behind the White Sox and the Twins). We should really be praising Scioscia for magically turning John Lackey from a guy with a 6.5 K/9 rate to a guy with a 9.1 K/9 rate.
In a restaurant high above Baltimore's Inner Harbor, million-dollar yachts look like toys in a wading pool. They move slowly, methodically across the water, much like a baserunner going from first to third.
You just said the yachts were moving slowly and methodically! Wouldn't a baserunner going from first to third moving in the exact opposite way -- I don't know, fast?
Much, much later the Angels, behind Bartolo Colon, are in a tense scoreless tie with the Orioles in the fifth inning.
Isn't this second-guess time? Why would Scioscia order Erstad to bunt, thus leaving first base open and an almost-certain intentional pass for Guerrero, 2004's AL MVP? Take the bat out of his hands?
Yes, those are all good questions. I don't know why he would have Erstad bunt.
That's exactly what happens. Guerrero gets the pass and up comes Garret Anderson, who's been hurt and struggling.
Anderson drops a single to center, and the Angels are up 1-0. Before the inning ends, they score twice more, giving Colon all the support he needs for a league-leading 17th victory.
Okay, but that doesn't prove anything. Garret Anderson is a guy who this year makes an out 68.5% of the time. That's terrible. If Mike Scioscia had put in a midget batting with a piano leg as a pinch hitter for Vlad, and that midget raked a double, it would still be a questionable decision.
When you think of the current managerial elites, La Russa, Bobby Cox, Joe Torre, Lou Piniella and Jack McKeon are often mentioned.
Put Scioscia on the list. He just might be the most underrated skipper in the majors.
Who's underrating him? How much press coverage of Mike Scioscia do you want?
"When we get into our game," Scioscia says, "we can play with any team in our league."
And that's called Sciosciaball.
What's called Sciosciaball? "Getting into our game"? "Playing with any team in our league"? That's quite possibly the most generic, boilerplate quote ever given by any manager, ever. Why would you close your article with that?
Well, at least you compared yachts moving in a harbor to guys moving from first to third.
This is Scoop Jackson, writing an open letter to Jeff Kent on ESPN.com:
The first thing you gotta understand is that sometimes we be trippin'. Now I'm not saying that Milt was wrong, I'm just telling you that we black people tend to "bug out" or "snap" at times. No reason, no excuses. Our women do it more than the men. But somehow we give them reason, they say. But that's a whole 'nother story. Anyway, get used to the "snappin'" -- that's just us.
Look, cousin (not that we're related, that's just the way black folks talk to one another sometimes), I know you saw "White Men Can't Jump." Remember the scene where Woody was telling Wesley that "black people would rather look good" than get dirty on the court. Well, that's true. That's how we are.
>> He then qualifies this by saying that black ballplayers do hustle, but also, "we try to look smoove at all times."
Am I wrong, or is this like an Asian person writing, "Look, you gotta understand: we're inscrutable, crafty, and good at math. Also, we're fucking terrible drivers. Why can't you understand us?"
How many people want Scoop Jackson making these generalizations about an entire race of people?
He is the only one who knows the strength of his body right now and if his ankle will allow him to throw 100-plus pitches in a game. But I think the Red Sox have a better chance of winning with Schilling as their closer.
He has broken down as a starter this year and the Red Sox bullpen has faltered on many occasions. Going into the playoffs, I would give Schilling the closer role. It would turn every playoff game into an eight-inning affair.
>> Really. Every playoff game. Eight-inning affair. Please consider what you're saying, Mr. Sandberg.
Schilling's pitched 24.1 innings since coming off the DL. In those 24.1 innings, he's allowed 14 earned runs for a tidy ERA of 5.18. That's not good by any standard. Danys Baez would kill himself if he woke up tomorrow with a 5.18 ERA. Schilling has allowed earned runs in five of his last eight appearances, including two 3-run disasters.
Here are some closers who have a better ERA than Curt Schilling has as a reliever this year:
Bob Wickman Jose Mesa Braden Looper Ryan Dempster Mike MacDougal David Weathers
Former Braves closer and human disgrace Danny Kolb has a better ERA, and he has a WHIP of 1.69.
Now, I don't even totally disagree with Ryno's overall point, which is that it's pretty unlikely that Schilling will be an effective starter given his physical condition. And it's not out of the question that Schilling, with his past record of success, would be a better bet in the playoffs than David Weathers.
But he hasn't proven that he's even remotely close to being a lights-out closer, so let's not anoint him as the next Mariano Rivera just yet.
At a time when baseball pundits seem to have lost their zeal for publishing wrongheaded baseball opinion pieces, Mike Celizic thankfully summoned all the power of his jaunty fedora to make one of the most idiotic arguments about this year's playoff races. The article's title?
"Baseball's stretch run is going to be boring"
You are truly a poet for the ages, Mike Celizic.
"If it weren’t for those damn Yankees, this would be a pretty good stretch run for Major League Baseball. A neck-and-neck battle in the AL West, a jam-packed NL East, scads of teams fighting for the wild cards, with no real favorite.
Instead, I find myself looking at the standings and the teams at the top of the eight playoff races and thinking that there isn’t a great team among them and hoping that no one asks me for a World Series pick, because there just isn’t a clear-cut favorite."
Umm, what? Let me see if I have this right. The playoffs are going to be boring for these three reasons.
1) There are too many teams with a shot at the playoffs (currently about 16). 2) The winner of the World Series is not a foregone conclusion. 3) The Yankees, a team that has made the playoffs for the last 10 seasons, might not make it, even though they are in a three way tie for the AL wild card.
Isn't this the opposite of a boring stretch run? Or does boring mean that over half the teams in the major leagues are going to be busting their asses for the next 50 games to make it to the playoffs, where literally any of them can win?
"I could say the Cardinals [are the favorite], but they have some serious injury issues, and the memory of their collapse in last year’s World Series is too fresh to think of them as prohibitive favorites."
As opposed to the Yankees? Didn't they have something of a collapse last year? It was so long ago I can barely remember!
"There are the White Sox, but this is a team that just showed it can go a week without winning...Besides, they’re the White Sox, who haven’t won a World Series since 1917, and when you’ve gone that long without a title, you can’t be a favorite to win any tournament."
First of all, the length of time since a team's last championship has no bearing on their chances this year. Secondly, isn't this article about why the stretch run is going to be boring? Wouldn't a team with a chance of winning their first title in 88 years make their run less boring? Have I forgotten what boring means?
"Even the wild-card race is tainted by the Yankees. They’re not supposed to be fighting to just slip into the playoffs. And they’re definitely not supposed to be worried about being passed by Oakland and Cleveland.
It’s guilt by association. If the Yankees aren’t great, then nobody else can be, either."
I think I just swallowed my tongue. I am deadly serious when I ask: how can a journalist seriously make this claim and not immediately be fired?
"Baseball is moving in the same direction [as the NFL], the dampers on team payrolls and the additional two playoff spots slowly leveling the playing field and bringing more teams into contention."
The New York Yankees set a record this year with a payroll in excess of 200 million dollars. Only two other teams have payrolls over 100 million dollars. More than half of all baseball teams have payrolls less than 70 million dollars.
"We’ve become so used to having the Yankees as baseball’s all-powerful monster that it’s hard to think of the regular season as a fair fight. Instead of appreciating what we have, we’re consumed by what we don’t have. And we keep imagining that the real Yankees — like the real Mike Tyson — will suddenly emerge and give us the thrill of the massacre again."
Wouldn't most people (and I include many Yankee fans I know in this group) argue that when one team is allowed to spend three times more than most of the other teams in the league, it makes the game less interesting? Yes, it is fun when David beats Goliath, but only because Goliath has spent the better part of a decade kicking David's ass and signing every awesome free agent. And that is not fun to watch.
"Would the Red Sox’s victory last year have been as sweet and memorable if they had not had to go through the Yanks? Would the Angels’ first world title? Would Arizona and Florida have celebrated with the same gusto if they had beaten Cleveland instead of New York."
1) Yes. 2) Yes. 3) Yes (even though there was no question mark at the end of that question).
You could make a case that the Sox title would have been less awesome if they hadn't beat the Yankees, but I think that's only because of the circumstances of their historic comeback in that series. If they had swept the Yanks or beat the Twins in 5, I'm still pretty sure Boston fans would have lost their shit just as hard when they won it all.
"It’s possible that my view of things is warped by being too close to the gravitational field of Yankee Stadium."
It's either that or the fedora. Your guess is as good as mine.
"Elsewhere in America, baseball fans may well be consumed by what their teams might accomplish rather than by what the Yankees might not."
I don't know. I know a lot of Phillies fans who have barely noticed that they're currently in the middle of a dogfight for the NL Wild Card because they just can't take their eyes off this past Yanks-Jays series.
"They’re not a good team anymore, and still they dominate the way we view 30 teams and six months of competition. These are good races we’re watching. But without the damn Yankees leading the way, it’s hard to see them that way. If the Yankees aren’t great, nobody’s great."
I'm going to dispense with the sarcasm and vitriol here for a second, if I may, and make this heartfelt and sincere entreaty to Mike Celizic:
"Would Arizona and Florida have celebrated with the same gusto if they had beaten Cleveland instead of New York?"
It's too bad that there's no empirical way to know the answer to this question. Like, say, a world series where Florida played Cleveland instead of New York, and won that world series, and thus generated a celebration whose "gusto" could be measured.
Jesus, it's like he's so intent on using "Cleveland" as the archetypal boring city that he doesn't even bother to remember that they WERE IN THE WORLD SERIES AGAINST FLORIDA IN 1997. Or to recall that the series went seven games, the last of which went thirteen incredibly exciting innings. Or to mention the fact that people came down on the Marlins so hard for the '98 fire sale precisely because the '97 team was so good, and played so well together, and made a notoriously fickle South Florida audience fill an 80,000-seat football stadium for the duration of the playoffs. Or to express any knowledge that the Marlins' nemesis at that time was not the Yankees (huh?), but the Braves, whom they defeated in an electric six-game NLCS that included Livan Hernandez striking out 15 batters during a game that still makes me sort of misty when I think about it.
Then there's the ensuing celebration, which in 1997 included a mere three parades, Bobby Bonilla starting a car dealership, and my mother very nearly leaving my family for Craig Counsell. Of course, I only had season tickets and attended every home playoff game, so it's possible that I couldn't actually see how boring it all was without Mike Celizic's magic lens of watertight objective sports journalism."
I know this isn't misguided sports commentary, but how about newly-annointed genius manager Ozzie Guillen's comments after last night's loss to the Yankees (the ChiSox' 7th in a row)?
From the Sun Times:
"I'm sick and tired about all nine guys,'' Guillen said after a question about third baseman Joe Crede's 0-for-14 slump. "I don't like to criticize my players, but you get sick to your stomach. We're having terrible at-bats, and when you do that, you lose. It's not always easy to get a base hit, but good at-bats, I expect that from everyone.
"It's a shame because the way they [players] shake their heads, it's like they feel sorry for themselves. People should stop feeling sorry for themselves. If you're a baseball player and feel sorry for yourself, you're in the wrong business.''
Guillen feels more sorry for fans.
"Sometimes you get sick of watching the same thing the last two weeks. You're putting my hitting coach and [general manager] Kenny Williams and me at fault. When you struggle, it should be us to blame. But I don't want Greg Walker [hitting coach] and Kenny and my staff to be blamed.''
That's the way to lead, Ozzie! You were the catalyst when they were winning, but in no way are you to blame now, right? Great job. Nicely done.
Joe Morgan: I'm looking forward to today's chat! I'm in San Antonio for a friend's wedding!
David: (Lincoln, RI): Hey Joe, I am one of Barry Bond's biggest fans and i constantly get in arguements with my friends that if he played in Yankee stadium as the DH over a full season he could hit 100 hrs. With that short right field porch and say having sheff and arod batting behind him don't you have to pitch to him? Whats your opinion on this? Thanks Joe
Joe Morgan: Three years ago he would have hit 60 or 70 home runs. At this point in his career, he would probably hit around 40 in that scenario.
KT: Brilliant analysis. Four years ago he hit 73, and for the last three years he's averaged about 44. So, you are saying...nothing. A better answer might have been: hitting 100 home runs in a season is insane and impossible, in any stadium. Or that, yes, he might be better off as a DH in an American league home park, though he has repeatedly said he does not want to be. Or anything that is not just...the thing that is.
Kerry Wood (Wrigley Field): How did I look live out of the pen on Sunday night versus the Cardinals? I was throwing some nasty stuff, huh?
Joe Morgan: Coming in for one inning, Wood can look good as long as he throws a few strikes. When I watched him Sunday night, he looked great. But we'll just have to see how he handles it on a more daily basis.
KT: Classic no-answer. Also, anyone can look good as long as he throws a few strikes, if those strikes are not hit by the batter. That's meaningless.
Cubs Fan: Joe, Are you surprised at how well Nomar has hit since his return? Is he now past the adrenaline phase and can he keep up the pace for the rest of the year?
KT: Pay close attention to Joe's answer here.
Joe Morgan: I am surprised. But I said he would swing well the first week because of all the adrenaline of coming back. But it looks like he's getting his timing down pretty well, so I am surprised. But he's a special player so it's not too surprising.
KT: That is gosh darn poetry. Are you surprised at how well Nomar has hit since his return? I am surprised. Is he now past the adrenaline phase? I said he would swing well because of all the adrenaline (i.e., I am not surprised). Can he keep up the pace for the rest of the year? It looks like he's getting his timing down pretty well, so I am surprised. He's a special player, so I am not surprised. Joe Morgan contradicted himself three times in one answer.
anthony,Kansas City, MO: Will the royals ever win again?
Joe Morgan: When things start going downhill, it's hard to stop that momentum. You go to the park expecting to lose unlike the better teams who expect to win. I don't think they are nearly as bad a team as they look right now.
KT: So...yes, they will win? When? How? Where? Why? Which? Who?
Mike (Hope, Arkansas): Are catchers just better at throwing out runners in today's game or have the base stealers really become worse?
Joe Morgan: Catchers haven't gotten better. The real thing is nobody works at it anymore. It's just not part of their game. They don't work at reading pitchers. They just take off when they want to take off.
KT: "They just take off when they want to take off?" Is that the problem? I don't think that's the problem. I think the correct answer is: many teams have wised up and realized that stolen bases aren't really worth the risk, so they have deemphasized that skill in their systems in favor of plate discipline, and as such have been able to score more runs. Thanks for playing.
Scott: Is Felix Hernandez the best pitching prospect you've seen in his teenage years?
Joe Morgan: You can't help but be impressed by him. You want guys to have success right away so his attitude will stay positive. I'm just impressed with how he has handled himself. He will be a very good pitcher.
KT: So...he is?
Patrick O'Brien--NJ: Mr. Morgan, In your book Long Balls, No Strikes you open up describing the Summer of 1998 as the year baseball came out of its coma. This was the year Sosa and McGwire chased Maris' 61 homers. You describe Sosa and McGwire as heroes and even stated.."They gave us a chance to celebrate genuine accomplishment." (Pg3) Have your opinions since then changed amid steroid allegations and the use of a corked bat? Wouldn't it be safe to say that summer was the start of a dark period for baseball, a period where alot of players stats will now be questioned?
Joe Morgan: When I wrote the book, everyone thought it was a great year. To be blunt, I still think it's great. Baseball needed a year like that. Now, I guess to be honest the past is the past. I've put it behind me. The think that bothers me is the present, knowing guys are still being caught using steroids. But even knowing what I know now, it was still a great year in baseball.
KT: I, for one, am glad Joe has put it behind him. By that, I guess, he means that he is choosing to ignore it, since he has never publicly (that I am aware of) chastized the players involved for their steroid use. But at least he can sleep at night knowing that as a prominent baseball analyst and commentator, he has done everything he can (nothing) to deal with the past.
Ian (MacLean, GA): What is the hardest pitch to hit in baseball? Also, is Clemens on steroids?
KT: Hilarious sneak-attack question. Love it.
Joe Morgan: I haven't heard any rumors about Clemens. [...]
KT: Really? Because everyone else in the universe has. I mean, everyone. Do you still cover baseball? It's on the ESPN homepage right now. It's in every chatroom and website about baseball. Why don't you just turn on your computer and...oh. Right. Sorry. Continue.
d (st. louis): Can you give Peter Angelos a few recommendations before he hires his next manager?
Joe Morgan: I think he needs someone who is more respected in the game. Nothing was wrong with hiring Mazzilli at the time but moving forward, I think they need someone who is just more respected around baseball.
KT: Respect is the issue? Maybe it is. I don't know how much Lee Mazzilli was respected. But maybe, how about getting somebody good?
Travis (Indy) : What about a good change-up?
Joe Morgan: A lot of pitches are tough to hit .. a change-up is only difficult in the proper location. When you are pitching to your kid, you pitch underhand so he has time to hit. You don't throw straight and hard. A change up in the middle of the plate will get hit.
KT: So will a fastball in the middle of the plate, a slider in the middle of the plate, a curve in the middle of the plate, a knuckleball in the middle of the plate, and a foshball in the middle of the plate. Remember Mike Boddiker's "Vulcan" pitch? If it were thrown in the middle of the plate, it would be hit.
Mark (Rutherford, NJ): What are your thoughts on how managers deal with their pitchers these days? Isn't it frustrating to see starters get pulled from a game that where they are pitching well just based on the fact they have thrown 100 pitches? Every playoff team right now has to question if their bullpens are overworked, wouldnt it make sense to get more out of starters and avoid this situation? It is killing me watching the yankees right now, Torre pulls his starters only to watch the bullpen collapse night after night!
Joe Morgan: Very good question. I agree 100 percent. Managers protect themselves. If they take somebody out in the seventh and the reliever doesnt' do his job, it's not his fault. He can say he's doing what everyone else is doing. The bullpen is a security blanket for the manager and they're using it.
KT: That's insane, Joe. Managers are killed routinely for not yanking guys at the right time. They are also killed for yanking them too early. Come on. You're not even trying anymore.
Peter (Albany NY): Joe, what's the most important function of a manager? Managing egos or handling a pitching staff?
Joe Morgan: Another great question. People assume the manager's job is to take pitchers in and out. But the most important is getting every player pointed in the same direction. Making sure every player puts the first. That's easier said than done. It's' about preparation and dealing with these issues over a long season.
KT: [sic] [sic] [sic] [sic]
Hogcard (St. Louis, Mo.): Joe: As of right now, who's your choice for the N.L. Cy Young award, Carpenter or Clemens?
Joe Morgan: Well, it's difficult. Nobody has pitched better than Clemens.
KT: Then give it to Clemens. No need to continue. What? You want to continue?
Joe Morgan: Carpenter has had better support from his team.
KT: Irrelevant. So, Clemens, then? What? You want to keep talking?
Joe Morgan: But don't forget Dontrelle has more shutouts and is only one win behind Carpenter.
KT: So...Dontrelle? Or...oh, sorry. You weren't finished.
Joe Morgan: No one has pitched better than Clemens though.
KT: So, I was right the first time. Great work.
TJ (Los Angeles, CA): Do you think that anybody was doing steroids during your era Joe?
Joe Morgan: No. The reason is they just weren't aware those things could help you. Same reason players didn't really lift weights before my era. They just didn't think it would help them.
KT: I will give anybody who reads this five hundred dollars for proof that somebody on the 1975 Reds did steroids, or anything of the kind. Go.
Peter (Sudbury, MA): Joe, what's behind the A's surge in the second half?
Joe Morgan: I think it's been the offense. Everyone talks about the pitchers, but they were next to last in runs scored when they started the streak and they have moved up in that category.
KT: Fine analysis. They scored more runs. My finacee could have told you that. (Hi, honey!)
Phil(grand rapids, MI): Joe, do you think the BoSox have what it takes to win it all again
Joe Morgan: I think they can win it all again. Every team that was in the playoffs last year is not as good this year, with the exception of St. Louis. Boston lost Pedro and don't have Schilling in the rotation. Every team except St. Louis is consideraby weaker this year. So Boston could still win but it all depends who gets hot on Oct. 1. Any team in the playoffs can win it all. Any team. Don't forget that.
KT: I won't, because, um, it's always true.
Joe Morgan: Sorry to have to cut it short but my friend Jack Carroll is getting married tomorrow and we're having a bachelor party here at LaCantera in San Antonio. 16 guys playing golf! I enjoyed all the great questions again this week. I'll be back next Friday (on schedule) for more! Take care!
KT: I will give anyone who reads this five hundred dollars if (s)he crashes Jack Carroll's bachelor party and pantses Joe Morgan. Go.
Francoeur is one of those rare hitters who's a free swinger yet not considered a complete hacker. He simply doesn't stick around at the plate long enough to strike out. Francoeur has whiffed only 19 times so far. That doesn't put him anywhere near someone like the Reds' Adam Dunn, a July call-up in 2001 who hit 19 homers and drove in 38 runs while striking out 74 times in 244 at-bats. Dunn set a major league record last season, whiffing 195 times.
Jeff Francoeur is awesome. I love him. The story of the 2005 Atlanta Braves is my favorite in baseball this year. But come on. How many times have we seen this? Jeff Francoeur has 105 ML at-bats, and he hasn't walked once. Eventually, the league will learn how to pitch to him, and if he doesn't adjust and start walking and being more selective, his numbers will drop precipitously. I promise. If not this year, then next. And to take this swipe at Adam Dunn...well, who would you rather have on your team? A 25 year-old guy with several years' experience and a .909 lifetime OPS, or a 21 year-old rookie with 105 great at-bats?
For the overwhelming majority of situations in baseball, strike-outs are the same as fly-outs, are the same as ground-outs, are the same as pop-outs, are the same as foul-outs. They are outs. They are bad. What are not outs are walks, which are good. Adam Dunn walks 100 times a year. Adam Dunn's OBP is .394. Jeff Francoeur's is .389, because he is hitting .373 and has been hit by three pitches. Check back in a month or two, Mr. Donovan, and let's compare these stats again.
One of my favorite myths, promulgated by the likes of our own Joe Morgan, is that of "Postseason Pressure." The conventional wisdom is, a team comprised of "untested-in-the-postseason" players is more likely to fall apart in October, because, as we all know, professional athletes are nervous wrecks who flail around like newborn gerbils under the glare of a spotlight. Check out excerpts from Joe's recent column on how the '05 Playoff Field is weaker than in years past:
With the exception of the St. Louis Cardinals, none of the teams that made the playoffs last year is as strong this year. The defending champion Boston Red Sox miss Pedro Martinez and a healthy Curt Schilling anchoring the top of the rotation. The New York Yankees don't even know who their top starters are; offseason pickup Randy Johnson (11-7, 4.22 ERA) hasn't been the Cy Young-caliber pitcher we're accustomed to seeing. The A's have a good rotation, but some of their young starters haven't experienced postseason pressure (Rich Harden is as good as any starter in the league, though).
Now, I agree with the first two points. The Red Sox badly lack a stopper, and if the Yankees make the playoffs, it's anybody's guess how their pitchers hold up. But do we really think the A's pitching staff is going to fall to pieces? Barry Zito studies meditation and seems impervious to pressure. Also, if Joe searched his memory banks for just one second, or perhaps deigned to do some actual research, he might remember/learn that Zito in the postseason is 3-2, 2.76, giving up just 23 hits in 32.2 IP. So, he has experienced postseason pressure, and has flourished. Rich Harden is an absolute bulldog, who might be considered the best #1 postseason starter in the league outside of Buerhle or Garland. Danny Haren pitched in all three levels of the playoffs last year, giving up just 2 ER in 8.1 IP with 7K's. He was the only Cardinal pitcher to shut down the Sox' lineup. So, overall, Joe, two of the A's three best starters have stellar postseason records, and the third, Harden, is so awesome it probably couldn't matter less. (And he does have a little postseason experience, throwing a couple innings in the 2003 ALDS against the Red Sox as a rook. Neither here nor there.) Blanton and Saarloos are "untested," but every staff has a few guys who are "untested," and I'd take the A's pitching staff over just about anybody's right now in a five-game series.
By the way, the White Sox starters have just as little experience. Buerhle threw 1/3 of an inning in the 2000 ALDS. Garland has never been. Jose Contreras has been awful in 8 games: 0-2, 11 H in 11 IP, 7 ER and 7 BB with a 5.73 ERA. El Duque, of course, has been otherworldly, with a 9-3 record in 17 games, but this October 11 he will turn 140 years old. Freddy Garcia has some experience, and has been decent -- 3-2, 3.71 in six starts, 36 H and 14 BB in 34 IP, but it's been five years since the 2000 ALCS when he beat the Yanks twice, and he wasn't nearly as good in 2001.
The point of all of this is, there is scant evdence that postseason experience is a huge plus for a pitching staff. If it were that important, the Braves would have won more than one WS in the last 13 years. And furthermore, to suggest that this mythological advantage will affect the A's more than any other team is simply not supported by something we call "facts."
I didn't anticipate the Yankees' pitching woes this season. Johnson has been so dominant, and I expected him to continue to dominate, even at age 41. I also expected more from Mike Mussina. I though Carl Pavano would pitch well. And to be honest, I didn't even factor Jaret Wright in because of his injury problems in recent years. The Yankees made two offseason mistakes: They should have kept Jon Lieber and Orlando Hernandez.
Well, okay. Johnson has been a bit of a surprise with his mediocre (by his standards) pitching. Mussina, we have seen in the last two years, is on the decline. Why you thought Carl Pavano would pitch well is anybody's guess -- he was a career .500 (roughly) pitcher who'd had one good year in an extreme pitcher's park in the NL, and he strikes out less than 6/9 IP, and the Yankees have a terrible defense. Also, was keeping Lieber really a good idea? He has given up 173 H in 156 IP this year with only 102 K's. His WHIP is an average 1.30 (I know you think that is "outstanding," Joe, but it's not) and he has a 4.85 ERA. Some of that can certainly be attributed to playing in a ballpark the size of a Denny's, but not all of it. The guy has amazing control, and he's fairly durable, but he doesn't fool anybody. The Yanks had an $8 million option on him, I think, which is a lot to pay for a 35 year-old guy who had a three-year ERA+ of 108. Keeping El Duque might have pleased the fans in New York, but, again, he is a thousand years old. The Yankees have made a lot of front-office mistakes recently, but I think Lieber/Duque or Pavano/Wright is a wash. Until you factor in the money they spent on those guys, which, admittedly, is crazy, so okay, fine, it was a mistake. I just don't think you think it's a mistake for the same reasons I think it's a mistake, because you refuse to do research.
Meanwhile, any contender can win the AL pennant. If you make the playoffs, you have as good a chance at getting to the World Series as anyone else. The Chicago White Sox, with the best record in baseball, will be the statistical favorite in the AL, but they haven't been to the playoffs in a while so they're untested in the postseason.
The 2003 Marlins. The 2002 Angels. The 2001 Diamondbacks. The 1997 Marlins. There are 4 teams in the last 9 years who had never been to the postseason (with their core line-ups), yet still managed to win the World Series.
The way I see it now, the Angels will win the AL West and the A's will win the wild card. As things stand, I don't think the Yankees will make the playoffs. They have a better chance of catching Boston than winning the wild card, although I don't think that's likely (I believe Boston will win the AL East). Of course, it depends not only on who gets hot but also on who stays healthy down the stretch.
The Sporting News' cover story this week is a piece called "Playing the numbers game." And not unexpectedly, it's far from perfect.
There is, for instance, a sidebar led prominently by the words "This cheat sheet will tell you which numbers are worth crunching." Really, sidebar?
Then explain this horribly misleading "number worth crunching" inside of you:
FOR CATCHERS Catchers' earned-run average, CERA (earned runs x 9 / innings caught). This takes into account a catcher's talent for handling a pitching staff and his ability to call a good game, plus more standard defensive skills such as preventing wild pitches and passed balls and throwing out runners attempting to steal. The Astros' Brad Ausmus (3.01) has the best CERA.
Ugh. Can anyone guess where the Astros rank in terms of regular ol' ERA? If you guessed first, you're awfully close. They're second. (To the Cardinals, by the way. Hmm, I wonder if Yadier Molina also has an amazing CERA?) This version of CERA is incredibly uninformative: it doesn't even attempt to control for the pitchers who are throwing! Ausmus has had the pleasure of catching Roy Oswalt, Andy Pettitte, and the absolutely inhuman Roger Clemens this year.
But of course, it must be his handling of the staff, his ability to call a good game, his prevention of wild pitches and passed balls and his skill at throwing out runners attempting to steal that account for his CERA. You know who probably sucks at all of those things? Jason Varitek. I bet his CERA is through the roof. Or how about noted defensive laggard Ivan Rodriguez? Since the Tigers' ERA is 4.24, I bet his CERA is atrocious.
And remember, this is from an article trying to convince people how statistics can be useful -- and furthermore, from a sidebar inside said article giving you the only statistics you should pay attention to.
Sometimes I wish all magazines would spontaneously combust.
Mike Celizic: full of sound and fury; signifying nothing
Another day, another hyperbolic article from Mike Celizic. Frankly, I'm quite bored of him, but as long as he remains un-fired, he deserves a good talking to.
[Mariano] Rivera is today more than just the most valuable Yankee, the only utterly reliable performer on a pitching staff that has more holes than a two-acre putting green. He is the leading candidate for his first Cy Young Award and, if the Yankees somehow make the playoffs, as good a candidate as there is for the AL MVP award.
No, sort of, no, and no. Out of 1033.0 innings pitched by Yankees this year, Mariano Rivera has thrown 55.1 of them. And he's been really damn good. But it's still only 55.1 innings. Maybe you could argue he would be the MVP of his team if he were on, say, the Devil Rays, or maybe the Tigers. But you know who else is on his team? Alex Rodriguez. You know who else? Gary Sheffield. These guys are two of the best players in baseball, and they play every day. The Yankees only "utterly reliable" pitcher? Well, Tom Gordon has been pretty good. Rivera has an outstanding DERA of 2.15, but Gordon's is a very solid 2.88. Rivera is certainly a candidate for the Cy Young, but as has been discussed on FJM before, the leading candidates have to be Jon Garland and Mark Buehrle. And finally, if the Yankees make the playoffs, their best candidate by far for the MVP would be A-Rod, who probably should win regardless of where they finish.
So to recap: two sentences, three claims that are totally wrong.
Sports are full of stories like Rivera’s, stories about people who were sold short and played long. Johnny Unitas was picked up off a sandlot. The Dodgers took Mike Piazza last in the draft, not because they thought he’d amount to anything but as a favor to Tommy LaSorda. The list is a long one.
He's still not the Yankees' MVP. Also, why did you capitalize the "s" in Lasorda? You're weird.
And this year, no one has pitched better and no one has been more valuable to his team.
Roger Clemens has a 0.37 ERA on the road. In 73 innings, he's allowed 3 earned runs. And he's been decent at home, too.
To fully appreciate what Rivera has meant to the Yankees, though, you have to look at what other teams have run through their bullpens during Mo’s nine seasons of dominance.
Since 1997, the Braves have used Mark Wohlers, Kerry Lightenberg (sic), John Rocker, Mike Remlinger, John Smoltz, who held the job for three full years, and now Chris Reitsma and Dan Kolb.
Wohlers' ERA+ as closer (1997): 120 Ligtenberg's ERA+ as closer (1997, 1998): 156 Rocker's ERA+ as closer (1999, 2000): 174, 161 Remlinger's ERA+ as closer (2000): 134 John Smoltz's ERA+ as closer (2001, 2002, 2003, 2004): 131, 127, 371, 157
Kolb was a disaster, and Reitsma has been fine, with an ERA of 3.56.
The point is: yes, Rivera has been the greatest closer of this era, and almost definitely of all time. But just rattling off the names of other teams' closers doesn't mean they were bad. The Braves' closers, in fact, have been uniformly good, if not great, in the case of Smoltz.
But I'll grant that it's a significant advantage for the Yankees to be able to plug Rivera in every year. It's not like Celizic's saying he's the only reason the Yankees are always good, right? Right?
But for the Yankees, there’s been just Mo. Year in and year out, he’s been there to save the day and make all those other guys with all those bloated salaries look good. He’s the reason they’ve made the playoffs every year, the reason they won the World Series in three straight seasons, 1998-2000, the reason they got to the Series two other times, the reason there’s still hope in this season.
He's the reason? What about Jorge Posada, David Cone, and Roger Clemens? What about Andy Pettitte and (circa 1999) Bernie Williams? What about Captain The Face of Baseball?
Right. You're just making things up at this point.
Also, since you brought up bloated salaries:
Mariano Rivera WXRL (Expected wins added over a replacement level pitcher): 3.626 Chad Cordero WXRL: 5.005
Mariano Rivera 2005 salary: $10,500,000 Chad Cordero 2005 salary: $346,500
The body is still skinny, but the shoes get bigger by the day. The Yankees can survive losing five starting pitchers. They could get along if Derek Jeter or A-Rod or Gary Sheffield or any one player went down.
But they can’t live without Rivera. There’s no longer any question, if there ever was. When you talk about the most valuable Yankee, the discussion starts and ends with number 42.
The Yankees would plug Tom Gordon into the closer role and use Tanyon Sturtze as their setup man if Rivera got hurt. If A-Rod went down, they would have to replace him with a minor leaguer.
I think the Yankees will overtake the A's and win the AL wild card. They have playoff experience that Oakland doesn't have, and they also have a lineup that can make any pitcher nervous.
So now the Yankees' playoff experience will lead them to a better regular season record than the A's? That's really convoluted reasoning.
Also, I thought the A's were this awesome regular season team that always choked in the playoffs. With their amazing winning-in-the-regular-season experience, I think they have to be considered the favorites in this regular-season-game-winning competition.
FACT: The Yankees haven't won a Wild Card in SEVEN YEARS!
You have to give the A's the advantage in the Wild Card race experience department.
Emily (Charlotte, NC): Can Andruw really win MVP with a .280 batting average? it hasn't happened since the '70s, right? But he's a deserving candidate!
Joe Morgan: I think he could. That shouldn't be a deterrant (sic).
That's correct, Joe! Batting average, along with RBI, is one of the most overrated statistics in the game. I could care less if Andruw Jones is batting .280 if he's OBP-ing .395 and slugging .620. (Actual numbers: OBP .366, SLG .605.)
If you are an MVP, you're (sic) BA doesn't really matter.
Okay. Wait. Hold on. We're talking about if a certain guy can be elected MVP, and hence the process of choosing an MVP. MVPs aren't born MVPs. But let me get this straight, Joe, you're saying "If you're already an MVP, your batting average during the season doesn't really matter." What the hell does that mean? How does he think MVPs are selected? They just magically are? Is the following scenario what Joe's imagining?
August 12, 2005 MVP Voter: Hey, Russ Branyan. Russ Branyan: That's MVP Russ Branyan to you, buddy! Ha ha! MVP Voter: What? Russ Branyan: That's right. I'm your 2005 NL MVP. It's already been decided. MVP Voter: How did you -- ? What? How can you be MVP? Your batting average is only .263. Russ Branyan: Yeah. That doesn't matter. See, I am an MVP. MVP Voter: Am I in one of Joe Morgan's fever dreams? Russ Branyan (slowly morphing into a baseball-playing computer monster who waits for the three-run home run): Yes.
Gibson won it for the Dodgers with a low average and low RBI's. It's MOST VALUABLE .. not MOST VALUABLE STATISTICAL PLAYER
First of all, Darryl Strawberry should have won the 1988 NL MVP, with an OPS+ of 165 to Gibson's 145. Second, Gibson's BA wasn't that low. It was .290, and league average was .253. Plus, only one man on the list of top 10 MVP vote-getters had a higher BA: Andres Galarraga (.302), and he finished 8th in the voting, so he probably wasn't a serious candidate.
More importantly, if not with statistics, how do you propose we pick an MVP? With just our memories? I can't stress this enough: statistics are a record of what's happened on the baseball field because no one can watch every single game between every single team, much less remember exactly what happened in every single play. Yes, the statistics we use now are imperfect, but at least they're something. A computer's not going to hurt you, Joe. Think of a computer as a very large notepad that a good baseball scout uses to write down what a player does on the field. You're not against notepads, are you?
Oh. You are. In your day, nobody used notepads, either. They're for nerds who've never played the game. Okay.
Buzzmaster: Hellooooooo! Joe will be here momentarily!
Ken Tremendous: Fantastic.
Joe Morgan: Hello! I'm looking forward to your questions today! I'm on the way to the airpot so I might have to cut it a little short today. I'm heading to the Cubs-Cardinals game.
KT: What's an "airpot?"
Scott Ziegler (Madison,WI): Joe was that the worst collision you've ever seen, Beltran and Cameron. That could have been alot worse.
Joe Morgan: Yeah, that's one of the worst I have seen. I saw one with Jesus Alou and a SS whose name I can't remember. The SS swallowed his tongue. That was pretty scary.
KT: I'm sure no-name SS who swallowed his tongue is honored by your memory of this event. It kind of sounds like a weird fairy tale Joe made up. "Jesus made a guy swallow his tongue once."
Ben (NY): I hate to bring this issue up again but... There are rumors everywhere that MLB will announce positive tests for 2 more players (described as bigger than Palmerio). My question is how do you stop the rumors from flying, If the public is even hearing rumors (for whatever they are worth) it is still distracting the fans from the game, and we've learned that most times when there's smoke there's fire.
Joe Morgan: The rumors are caused because if there is an appeals process before the announcement, things leak out. The Palmeiro thing, they said he tested positive in May I believe it was...
KT: The rumors are caused "because if there is an appeals process before the announcement, things leak out?" Did anyone even have a whiff of Palmeiro's positive for all that time? How about, "The rumors are caused by several players actually testing positive?"
Dan (Custer, MI): Joe given the way inflation has gone up over the years. How its effected contracts of players today. Does it ever make you wonder what kinda money you'd be playing for today?
Joe Morgan: I don't think about it. I'm very happy with the time I played. In my mind, I played during the greatest era of baseball. The 60s, 70s and 80s have the most HOFs than any other time. I didn't play the game for money. I got to play against Mays, Koufax, Gibson, Aaron, Frank Robinson, Clemente .. I got to play against all those great players in their prime and money can't buy that.
KT: I kind of admire you for saying this. However, "the 60's, 70's, and 80's have the most HOF than any other time," besides not being a sentence, is meaningless. You mean they have more HOF players than any other...three decades? Three contiuous decades? Also, maybe the 90's doesn't have as many because a lot of them are still playing? Maybe? Joe?
Andy (OH): Joe, when a team like the Cubs, with so much talent, bombs out like they are, how long before drastic changes need to be made?
Joe Morgan: I would think they would have to change their direction. They have put all their eggs on Prior and Wood. They have to go in a different direction.
KT: Here is a short play I have written:
(Scene: Cubs' clubhouse after a tough loss. Kerry Wood and Mark Prior stand at their lockers.) Reporter: Guys, what do you think is causing this slump? Is it the terrible hitting? Is it the bad contracts? Is it that Dusty Baker is an awful, awful manager? Is it the poor defense? Is it the injuries? Kerry Wood: No, it's none of those things. Reporter: Then what is it? (Mark Prior points to his and Kerry Wood's heads. There are eggs on them.) Mark Prior: The team has put all of these eggs on us. Makes it hard to pitch. (Flourish. Exeunt. Curtain.)
Brian (Philly): Joe, football question - What the heck would you do with a player like TO in your clubhouse?
Joe Morgan: First of all, he's not 100 percent wrong but he is wrong a lot of the time. It's something you have to deal with. Football is a little different from baseball in the approach to hold outs. Baseball contracts are guaranteed. A lot has been made of T.O's 7-year, $49 million contract. But it's not guaranteed. Philly could drop him and stop paying him. In baseball, once you sign the dotted line, you are obligated. Just because you sign a $49 million dollar contract doesn't mean you are getting $49 million.
KT: Well, okay...but he sure was, barring injury. This is not a Hines Ward situation. He played one year, held out, came back, refused to speak to his teammates, screamed at his coach, and got sent home. That sounds like "100% wrong" to me. On a side note, how come Joe Morgan, who incessantly talks about teams and team play and being a good teammate, continues to stick up for Gary Sheffield and now T.O., the two most selfish, me-first athletes in all of sports?
Bernie Williams: Where am I playing next year? How much for?
Joe Morgan: I think Williams will find another home but there might not be a lot of good places for him to go.
KT: A nice, classic, "refuse to answer the question" moment from Joe here. Acceptable answers would have been: any MLB team. Best answer: he takes a pay cut to stay in NY. The end.
Ted(New York): Can the Cleveland Indians keep it up, and make a strong push for the playoffs?
Joe Morgan: I think the Indians will continue to play well, as they did last year in the second half, but the A's are playing so well they will either win the division or the Wild Card.
KT: And...if they win the division, can the Indians win the wild card? Joe? Are you there?
Ariel: How good can David Wright become?
Joe Morgan: I don't think anyone can predict. It depends how much he wants to learn and improve. But I've talked to him and he has a great mindset. He has so much ability, it's just a matter of continuing to grow and progress. He's a very very good player.
KT: Why does Joe Morgan flat-out refuse to answer questions sometimes? He is constantly saying things like "there's no way to tell" and "I wasn't there, so I don't know" and "no one can predict". I think we all know that it is impossible actually to predict the future. We know you are not an augurer, Joe. We know you are not Tiresius. It's okay to offer your opinion. I am go goddamn tired of writing these words.
Jesh (Charlotte): Greg Maddux got complete game 106 yesterday. Will another pitcher ever get into the triple digits?
Joe Morgan: I don't know where some guys are in terms of complete games, but as for young players, I would say no. The game has just changed completely in terms of that stat.
KT: I timed myself. From the moment I read this question, I was able to get this information...
ACTIVE LEADERS, CG
Roger Clemens 117
Greg Maddux 106
Randy Johnson 92
Curt Schilling 82
Kevin Brown 72
Mike Mussina 54
...in 21 seconds. So, the answer is: Johnson maybe, Schilling maybe, Brown no, Mussina almost definitely not. Twenty-one seconds, Joe. You should use one of those computers that the Oakland A's invented to calculate OBP, which they also invented. A computer helps you answer questions about baseball, which is a computer game the Oakland A's invented.
Doug (Fairfax, CA): Should Ken Macha get serious consideration for manager of the year? What Bobby Cox has done is great but it can be argued that what Macha has done is better, not to mention the fact that he's always overshadowed by Billy Beane.
Joe Morgan: You're pretty smart, Doug. It seems when the A's play well, it's Billy Beane. When they don't, it's Macha. Macha kep the ship afloat when they were so far under .500. He kept them pointed in the right direction. Last year, someone asked how I could say Macha was doing a great job when it was Beane who got him the players. The manager is the one who handles the players and that's where the job gets done on a day to day basis.
KT: I just had a stroke. In reality, where, admittedly, Joe does not live, if you listen to the press, when the A's don't play well, it's beacause Billy Beane's cockamamie philosophy has finally bitten them in the ass. When they do play well, Macha is doing a great job. In reality, Beane is a genius, who took it on the chin for the Mulder deal when that has without question kept them alive this year. And Macha is straight-up a pretty good manager, who wasn't bad when they were losing and isn't a genius now that they're winning.
Michael (NJ): Joe, If you were able to play today, what three stadiums would you most like to play in on a regular basis (forget how good or bad the team is, answer strictly on the stadium and the field). Thanks.
Joe Morgan: Probably Minute Maid Park. It seems to be the easiest to hit the ball out of down both lines.
KT: Great. Now just name the other two, and you have answered the question.
Teddy (NYC): If you could ask Bud Selig or Bob Dupuy one thing about their handling of the steroid issue, what would it be?
Joe Morgan: Whatever happened to the power the commissioner had that he could make decisions in the best interests of the game which would allow him to do more in terms of the steroid controversy?
KT: That is amazing. Your one question to the commissioner about the steroid issue is whatever happened to the power of the commissioner to deal with the steroid issue. Also, still waiting for those two other parks.
Joe Morgan: I loved your questions again this week .. you are asking more and more ''baseball'' questions which is great.
KT: Yeah. It's about time people started asking "baseball" questions in a "baseball" chat with a former "baseball" player turned "baseball" analyst. Good work, Joe!
Excellent Research by FJM Readers Proves John Kruk to Be A Complete Liar
Let's go back for a second: Here's what John Kruk wrote, earlier excerpted in a post by Murbles: "I remember a game against the San Diego Padres when I played for the Phillies that went into extra innings. Padres' hitter extraordinaire Tony Gwynn had a reputation for letting the first pitch always go by him, but every once in a while he'd take a hack just to keep a pitcher honest. Before we went back into the field I told the pitcher that Gwynn might be looking to take a big swing if it was a fastball. The pitcher ignored me and Gwynn stepped up and hit a bomb that ended up winning the Padres the game."
Two of our readers wrote in, on a hunch that Kruk's frontal lobes have been encrusted with too many chocolate covered (with sprinkles) donuts to remember this accurately. Neither of them mentioned the donuts. But both were right.
It turns out that this simply never happened. Tony Gwynn never hit a home run against the Phillies in extra innings, when John Kruk was playing first base. John Kruk is a liar.
To be honest, I was rooting for JK to have completely made up that story. I'm afraid I can't come to that conclusion. He certainly got the extra innings part of his very relevant antecdote wrong, but that might not be enough to electronically serve him. The Schilling game in 1992 looks like his unattractive saving grace.
This is a true story: I saw that Rob Dibble had written a new column for FoxSports.com, and I literally jammed my fingers trying to cut and paste it into this blog as fast as I could. I type this with my left index finger soaking in a plastic cup full of ice water:
When Congress wanted to hold hearings on steroids I was amazed. Don't we have bigger problems in this country? I had just been to Iraq six months earlier and found out there is a giant war going on. And when I was a player with the Cincinnati Reds, my teammates and I helped raise money for the homeless.
>>You didn't know there was a war in Iraq...until you went to Iraq? Were you headed there on a vacation? And what in the world does the second sentence have to do with the first?
Just examples of the far more pressing questions in this country than why does Rafael Palmeiro use steroids, or why did any of the eight out of the 1,200 major-league roster players get caught using a banned substance?
>>I used a computer to decipher the grammatical structure of this sentence, and can officially report: it is dumb. At the time Congress intervened, Palmeiro hadn't tested positive, nor had most of the eight players he references. (I'm kind of making his point for him, but oh well.)
Let me get this straight, one more time, baseball is the root of all the problems in America?
>>Yes. That's the lesson to be learned by Congressional intervention. That baseball is the root of all the problems in America. That's what all the congressmen said when they had the hearings. "Mr. Selig, you are here because baseball is the root of all the problems in America." "I understand, Senator, and I am sorry. Sorry for the crime, sorry for the poverty, and especially sorry for WorldCom and Qwest."
If I take 1,200 policemen, 1,200 firemen, 1,200 doctors, 1,200 politicians and 1,200 airline pilots, how many of them do you think would test positive for a banned substance? Yeah you got it, more then baseball. So why is it when baseball has a problem it's more important to clean it up than the rest of the country? I can't figure that one out either.
>>Um...okay. Where do I start...baseball is a product, not a service, so that makes his policemen and firemen analogy moot. Baseball has antitrust exemption. Baseball is televised. Baseball is intricately woven into the fabric of the country, as a pasttime and as a product. Kids don't play "politics" when they are young, nor do they look up to politicians, nor are they influenced by their behavior in the same way. Also, the "drugs" in question for baseball are performance enhancing drugs. They are cheating drugs, not recreational drugs. If doctors, for example, were able to take illegal drugs that made them better doctors, and gave Americans an inflated view of their abilities, we would have to clean that up, too. Dibs: pay close attention: this is an apple. That is an orange.
I was driving into work today and heard this bleeding-heart writer on a radio show. He said, "If I ever have children, and maybe one is a boy, and 20 years from now, if we are at a ballgame, and someone hits a pitch out of the ballpark and he asks me who hit the most home runs ever? Well, if it's a steroid user, or a rumored user, how will I explain to him what has happened to our game? The cheaters have taken that away from us."
Are you freaking kidding me?
>>I'm guessing he wasn't. It's a little melodramatic, but I, for one, have had my love of Bonds, Palmeiro, Giambi, and others, dulled pretty significantly.
I almost crashed my truck.
>>Man. We were so close.
I am a father of two children and I do get asked way tougher questions everyday. Like "Dad, why is that man living on the street? Dad, why are all those men and woman dying in Iraq?"
>>Oh my God. Rob Dibble is lecturing me on homelessness and war. What concentric circle of hell is this?
I'm sorry I got political on you, but let's get serious.
>>This is amazing. "I'm sorry I got political on you, but let's get serious." Dibs just let his deep wellspring of emotions about homelessness and war overtake him...he is a slave to his heart, and his soul...he sometimes stares up at the sky and writes in his journal...he has a tattoo of Ichiro's name on his ass...he freaking *cares*.
Baseball is a game, it's not a social issue. I played it, I should know. AIDS, cancer, war ... these are social issues, and of far greater importance than Major League Baseball.
>>Okay. Okay. I'm literally shaking with anger. How do I explain this? No one -- not ever, once, anywhere -- has ever suggested that AIDS, cancer, and war are less serious issues than baseball. Everyone in the universe with half a brain knows that AIDS, cancer, and war are more important issues than baseball. That does not necessarily mean that congress should not try to do something about the drug problem in baseball. Congress can walk and chew gum at the same time. You could say, perhaps, that not nearly enough is being done to combat AIDS, or cancer, or war, and I would probably agree with you. But you are ascribing attributes to this congressional intervention that do not exist. And frankly, as a fan of baseball, and as someone who believes that baseball is -- despite being a game -- somewhat important to the fabric of this country, and seeing as baseball did absolutely nothing to police itself in these matters, and seeing as congress has given baseball an antitrust exemption, and seeing as baseball is a business that conductes itself nationwide, giving congress the right to regulate certain aspects of its business, I think it wholeheartedly appropriate that congress took a few days to whip this sport into shape.
Can we all just wake up, and stop crying about baseball and stop trying to fix the world through baseball? Enjoy the game, it's a distraction, it's entertainment. But I don't think it will cure cancer; I should know, my father died from cancer.
>>I honestly don't even know where to begin here. Rob Dibble is trying to guilt me into agreeing with him because his father died of cancer? That is horrific and disgusting. Not to mention the fact that it apparently hasn't occurred to him that some people enjoy the game less when they know that the players are cheating. Nobody is trying to "fix the world through baseball." "But I don't think it will cure cancer?!?!?!?" What the fuck is he talking about?
To me it's simple, let baseball clean up its own act or else. And let the government clean up the country.
>>Baseball adamantly refused to clean up its act. And as far as the "or else" goes -- or else what, you numbskull? Or else what?! What is the threat? Or else...it won't? The "or else" is: THE FUCKING GOVERNMENT WILL CLEAN IT UP FOR THEM.
I seriously think Rob Dibble is the worst writer I have ever read, on any subject.
"Rarely since Jay Leno replaced Johnny Carson on "The Tonight Show" has an impending television show gotten the buildup ESPN's Stephen A. Smith received for his "Quite Frankly" debut on ESPN2 last Monday night (Aug. 1)."
I struggled with the answer, between BA and RBI. Although they are both overvalued, I voted BA, since people think there is a massive difference between .279 and .301, which is silly and stupid. So, what does America think?
With 10,530 votes so far, America thinks the most overrated stat in baseball is...
And it's not even close. 44% say SLG.
The second most overrated stat? Home runs. (HOME RUNS!) 24%.
Third? BA, but only 3 percentage points more than OBP, 13% to 10%. RBI, apparently, is the LEAST overrated stat, with only 8% of America's votes.
Gentlemen, we have a lot of work to do.
By the way, it's fun to roll your mouse over various states and see which are the dumbest. Some of them have absurdly small sample sizes, but given the way the whole country is voting, it's fair to say that they are not super out-of-whack on a state-by-state basis.
John Kruk has some ideas regarding Oakland's recent success. This should be good.
Kruk notes that he's glad the steroids controversy is dying down because:
"I'd much rather talk about the wild-card races and the great job the Oakland Athletics and manager Ken Macha have done in the past few months. Macha has this team working on all cylinders..."
Okay, nothing against Ken Macha, but where is the evidence that he's doing anything differently than he was in May? And also, how can you possibly talk about the A's going on a crazy second half run for like the 20th year in a row, with a lineup full of 24 year olds, and not mention Billy Beane even once? I seem to remember a lot of baseball pundits talking about how the "Moneyball" approach doesn't work without Hudson and Mulder; shouldn't those same pundits give the guy a little credit? I'm not saying Billy Beane is the sole reason for the A's being awesome, but attributing their success to Ken Macha is like eating a delicious meal and giving all the credit to the waiter.
"Also, the Athletics' hitters seem to be getting more aggressive when they are at bat...The rumor that I've heard is that Macha is encouraging his hitters to be more aggressive, making pitchers have to guess more in terms of their pitches. Over the years, pitchers have been able to get ahead in the count because they know they can get a pitch in the strike zone early without fear of the batter swinging. Now they have to start working a little harder earlier in the count."
>>First of all, I recognize oblique criticism of the OBP-centric approach when I see it. It's like these guys are so desperate to discredit this style of play that they'll latch on to anything, even an unsubstantiated rumor. And speaking of rumors, you know what I do when I hear one? I try to find out whether or not it's true. Weird, I know, but that's how I play it, friend. You know what's even weirder? Sometimes I use statistics to support my arguments.
Oakland A's P/PA April 3.86 May 3.86 June 3.83 July 3.89 August 3.76
More aggressive, huh? It sure wouldn't seem that way, aside from the 9 games they've played in August. But forget about the numbers, Krukie. Tell me a story!
"If the rumor is true, it's a brilliant move by Macha because pitchers can get lazy and think that hitters are just automatons sometimes. I remember a game against the San Diego Padres when I played for the Phillies that went into extra innings. Padres' hitter extraordinaire Tony Gwynnhad a reputation for letting the first pitch always go by him, but every once in a while he'd take a hack just to keep a pitcher honest. Before we went back into the field I told the pitcher that Gwynn might be looking to take a big swing if it was a fastball. The pitcher ignored me and Gwynn stepped up and hit a bomb that ended up winning the Padres the game."
Oh my god, you're right! Ken Macha must have seen that at-bat, shown it to all of his players, and told them "See? This Pads-Phillies game from 1994 is the reason you've gotta stop trying to get on base all the time! What more evidence do you need?"
By the way, this is how I imagine that conversation between Kruk and that pitcher.
"Hey. HEY! Tonnny Gwynn's gonna swing atta fassball." "Jesus, John. You're sweating pretty bad." "He's gonna sssswing attit!" "Are you drunk?" "I'm gonna sw...Tonygwynnns gonna swing atta fassball!" "Where is your jersey? C'mon. I'll help you find it." "I gotta lie down."
If a team's performance were as tied to managerial aptitude as analysts would have us believe, then why has Ken Macha been one of the worst managers in April and May over the past three seasons? Macha then somehow convinces his team to play harder, swing earlier, or whatever fake reason you come up with to spur on the A's annual playoff push? Kruk, Steve Phillips, and Joe Morgan have all been quick to praise Macha for the A's turnaround. A confederacy of dunces rallying against Beane if there ever were one.
Remember in "Moneyball," that book about computers inventing the Oakland A's that Joe Morgan hates so much/hasn't read, how Beane liked Art Howe because he looked the part of a manager but didn't actually do anything? And remember how the A's won their division and everybody praised Art Howe up and down the street for doing such an amazing job? And then Art Howe went to the Mets for like fifty million a year and stank up the joint? I actually believe Ken Macha to be a pretty good manager -- he seems smart, and he buys into the A's philosophy and doesn't seem to panic or anything. He uses his bullpen pretty well and the players seem to like him. But please, please, everyone, stop crediting him and him alone with the turnaround.