Where Bad Sports Journalism Came To Die

FJM has gone dark for the foreseeable future. Sorry folks. We may post once in a while, but it's pretty much over. You can still e-mail dak, Ken Tremendous, Junior, Matthew Murbles, or Coach.

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Saturday, April 28, 2007


Joe Wants to Chat.

Who am I to tell him he shouldn't?

Sadly, this version is surprisingly devoid of weird nonsense. There are a few gems, though...

Joe Morgan: Good morning. This week wasn't as interseting as last week in baseball. Let's get started.

Ken Tremendous: Way to fire people up, man.

Lane (Kukuihaele, HI): Who's the best leadoff hitter in baseball today? Who's the best that you've played with or against?

Joe Morgan: Well, I have to go with Jose Reyes, because he makes so many things happen when he gets on base. He may not have a high OBP, but he creates things on the bases. I think he's a pretty special player. I think he's the most exciting player in the game today. And he has great enthusiasm for the game. You can see he loves what he's doing.

KT: Reyes is a great player, and he's only getting better. I just like how he dismissed his low OBP as not that big a deal, for a lead-off guy. He also doesn't bother to point out that this year his OBP is .429, which is 100 points higher than his career average.

Thus, here's what I conclude: Joe used to praise Reyes as a great lead-off guy because he "does things on the bases." Then he got yelled at by people who said "He doesn't get on base enough to be a top-line leadoff guy!" So now, without doing any research, he tries to play to those critics by mentioning that Reyes's OBP isn't high enough, but the joke's on him because Reyes is doing a much better job of getting on base.

Barry (winston salem, NC): What do you think about the recent Giant's run? Do you think that they can compete in the west?

Joe Morgan: What I really think is that I'm surprised. I'm surprised because I didn't think their offense was good enough, but that shows the impact Barry has on the lineup. He makes everyone else in the lineup better just by being in the lineup. But I am surprised that they've been able to score like they have.

This is truly wonderful. Joe is surprised that the Giants have been able to score like they have. Listen to me very carefully:

As of right now, the San Francisco Giants are last in the Major Leagues in runs scored.

Dead. Last. 30th out of 30 teams.

This, my friends and naysayers, is why we believe Joe Morgan should be fired. The number one analyst in ESPN's stable of broadcasters has just said that he didn't think the Giants offense was good enough to score like they have. In reality, they have scored the fewest runs of any team in the sport. This is absolutely unacceptable.

Justin (marlboro, NJ): How do you feel about the Mets pitching as we get later and later into the season. I think that so far Oliver Perez and John Maine can definitely get the job done, but what about the fifth starter?

Joe Morgan: I don't expect the Mets to have a downfall. I expect them to win the division. I expect Pedro to be back in the second half. Just his presence will have an impact on the other pitchers. I think they're the best team in the NL and I think they'll win the NL. But that's why they play the games. No one knows for sure. I think the Mets are fine. Every team would like to have another starting pitcher. The Mets are in that category as well.

KT: The second Joe makes a prediction -- I think the Mets will win the NL -- he backpedals as fast as his Hall of Fame legs can carry him. But that's why they play the games. No one knows for sure. I think the Mets are fine. Don't quote me on that. None of this is written in stone. Who knows what the future holds? Just forget I said anything. Stare at this watch. You are getting sleepy. You never saw me. I was never here.

Tom, Chicago: What is wrong with the Twins' offense? They are really having a difficult time scoring runs.

Joe Morgan: They play in a very good hitters' ballpark. Last year a lot of the guys had career years. Morneau had a career year. Mauer will be consistent. A lot of their guys had career years and they're not going to have those years year in, year out. That's why they're struggling right now.

KT: it's quite early, but the Metrodome is currently 21st in runs-scored Park Factor. Last year: 19. Year before that: 14. Back in 2003 it was 8th, which is probably the last year you could say it was a "very good" hitters' ballpark.

Chris (Knoxville): What kind of legacy has Ken Griffey Jr. left behind and how much longer can he play?

Joe Morgan: I think that's a very very good, but difficult question to answer. When he was playing for Seattle, I always loved to watch him because he reminded me of Willie Mays. He love to play and played good defense. It appears to me now that he has fun hitting and not so much playing right field. He has 564 HRs, that's a pretty good legacy. I'm not sure what his legacy will be. He'll be elected into the Hall of Fame. He's one of the greatest players in the history of the game.

KT: Never posited how much longer he might play. Also, let's try to follow the line of thought regarding KG's legacy:

He has 564 HRs, that's a pretty good legacy.

Joe's opinion: Good legacy.

I'm not sure what his legacy will be.

Joe's opinion: Unclear legacy.

He'll be elected into the Hall of Fame.
He's one of the greatest players in the history of the game.

Joe's opinion: Hall of Fame, one-of-the-greatest-ever legacy.

Jacob (IL): Biggest surprise of the season so far?

Joe Morgan: Probably that the Yankees have struggled as they have. I thought they would get off to a good start this year because of all the struggles last year. That's been a surprise. Another surprise has been how poorly the Cubs have played. After spending all that money, I thought they would improve, but I don't see it.

KT: You thought that they would get off to a good start because of all the struggles last year. That doesn't make any sense. Also, last year they won 97 games. And their division.

And as for the Cubs: everyone who thinks about things (a subset of humanity that does not include Joe, apparently), came to the same conclusion about the Cubbies' spending spree: they didn't get that much better. $136m for Soriano was insane. They still had massive pitching problems. They gave $40m to Ted Lilly and $21m to Jason Marquis. Exactly why did you think they'd be so much better?

Rob Clearwater, FL: Joe, With the redsox 1-4 starters giving up just 2-3 earned runs a start and with John Lester's anticipated return, should the rest of the AL east be worried about the redsox really seperating from the pack?

Joe Morgan: I think they should be worried, because Manny Ramirez hasn't hit like he will. I think they should be worried about that. But make no mistake about it, those pitchers will not continue to shut people out day in day out. But like all the other teams, Boston is going to have trouble with their pitching at some point. But I wouldn't say the Red Sox will pitch like this for the entire year, but if you're in the division, you have to be weary.

KT: But make no mistake, but like all other teams, but I wouldn't say, but if you're in the division. Joe starts off by saying other teams should be worried, then lays down four "but"s, then ends by saying other teams should be "weary" [sic]. Four left turns make a straightaway.

Tamiko (kansas city, mo): Hey Joe, will the Royals ever be at least good team?

Joe Morgan: Well, I don't think they'll ever get back to where they were the team to beat in the AL, but I think they can get back to where they're a good team and can compete. I don't konw much about their front office and their scouting systems, so I can't say how long it will take, but I do expect them to improve.

KT: This is one of the great vague answers of all time: I can't say how long it will take, but someday, somehow, and I have no idea how or when or what will cause it, the Royals could be a better team than they are now. Thank you all for coming to my information session, where I give you all information about things. Please disperse.

Sausage King (Chicago): As a former player and manager, what's the most important thing that managers do? Set lineups?

Joe Morgan: That's a very good question, becuase I've always felt that when I played, other than Sparky Anderson and Robinson, I never thought that the manager was as important then as it is now. It is far more difficult now to be a manager than before. There are so many guys with long term contracts and guys who are into statistics. That's not their fault, because everyone hypes the statistics and talks about statistics. I'll give you an example, I saw a quote that Billy Hall had a monster year last year, but only drove in 70-something runs. He hit 30 HRs, but only drove in 70 runs. That's not a monster year, but that's how people compare statistics. My point is you can't compare things with statistics. Now, a manager has to deal with all that. It's more difficult to be a manager now than before. I think a manager has a greater impact now than he had before.

KT: Okay. Breathe. Everybody breathe.

First of all, I'm not sure how any of this has to do with managers. I can see the point that there are a lot of guys who make a lot of money, and the money they make is based on statistics, and in some ways managers might want to do things with their line-ups or pitching choices that prohibit guys from getting like easy save chances or something, which might make certain selfish players jealous. But that's not what Joe is saying.

I'll give you an example, I saw a quote that Billy Hall had a monster year last year, but only drove in 70-something runs. He hit 30 HRs, but only drove in 70 runs. That's not a monster year,

Billy Hall had 35 HR and 85 RBI. He had a .293 EqA and a 7.1 WARP3. That's a pretty good year for a 26 year-old SS. There are very very few teams who would not want a 26 year-old SS who hits 35 HR a year. (I also like how to Joe, the concept of a "monster year" is a tangible thing, presumably with its own set of criteria and measurements.)

but that's how people compare statistics. My point is you can't compare things with statistics.

KT: My point is: you can't compare things with statistics.

Think about that, people. "You can't compare things with statistics."

Exactly what, one might be tempted to ask, as one's hands were shaking so badly one would think one had just survived an assassination attempt, might one use to compare things? Metaphor? How about the infallible human memory? Or perhaps poesy?

Much have I traveled, in realms of gold
And many goodly states and kingdoms seen
Round many Western Islands have I been,
And I have observed some stuff about some shortstops
Bill Hall did not have a monster year
Derek Jeter has a calmer set of eyes
David Eckstein is super clutch
Please don't show me statistics that disprove my observations

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posted by Unknown  # 9:31 PM
I was disappointed to find that no Major League Baseball player, from any era, was born in Darien (Connecticut).
Not even deep-browed Homer (Bush)?
A new planet just swam into my Ken (Tremendous).
Maybe stout Cortez (Kennedy) was born in Darien (CT).
Which Josh Bard in Bobby Kielty to Apollo Anton Ohno hold...
In a baseball-related note:

Reader Thomas takes me to task about my anti-Cubs sentiments.


You said

And as for the Cubs: everyone who thinks about things (a subset of humanity that does not include Joe, apparently), came to the same conclusion about the Cubbies' spending spree: they didn't get that much better. $136m for Soriano was insane. They still had massive pitching problems. They gave $40m to Ted Lilly and $21m to Jason Marquis. Exactly why did you think they'd be so much better?

In fact, PECOTA calculations show that were/are expected to improve about 20+ games going into the season. Also, if you look at baseball prospecutus's expected wins you'll see right they are drastically underperforming and will most likely pick things up and we'll see a correction in their record.

Well-argued. I would only say that the Cubbies may have benefited, early on, from Lilly's first (meaningful) tour through the NL. And Marquis will no have a 1.17 WHIP for very long. Nor will Lilly's and Rich Hill's stay below .80.
Just to make sure we don't get too far off-track, reader (and dude we may have met once ) HHD points out that Citizens Bank Park is on Darien St. in Philly.
So, just so I'm sure I get this -- if Pat Burrell refuses to give a post-game interview and instead runs out of the clubhouse at to the top row of the bleachers just to be alone, you might say he was silent upon a park on Darien?
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I am Getting Hammered!

Our loyal readers took umbrage -- a great deal of umbrage -- with this comment I made in the "Managers" post below:

3. Mike Scioscia
Smart and solid, he's extremely even-keeled, and his players have bought into his aggressive, NL style.

Whatever. He's fine.

Not exactly a ringing endorsement, but I got hammered for it nonetheless. Let's go to the e-mails:

From Zubin:

Mike Scioscia is FINE!?!?!?!?!?!?! Mike Scioscia is not only a terrible manager, he is a terrible, terrible person. Have you seen how much his teams do nonsense like bunt, hit-and-run and get caught stealing (led the AL in 2006). He is the quintessential target of FJM...not someone who you should accept as "fine." As a loyal reader, I am thoroughly disappointed.
From Rob:
That guy runs his teams into outs so often it is border line insanity. He has had a better team than the A’s every year, yet he continues to lose division titles to them. The only reason anyone considers him good is his one WS title, which was kind of like him having a good run in blackjack while hitting 16 against a dealer’s 12 all game. Not to mention the fact that his team couldn’t even win the division that year. The only people that should be happy with the work of Mike Scioscia are A’s fans!
And so on.

Mike Scioscia is not my favorite manager, and I do think he runs into too many outs and all that stuff. My blasé refusal to go after him is based anecdotally on two things: I thought he outmanaged Dusty Baker in the 2002 Series (not that that is such a big accomplishment or anything. Dusty couldn't even manage to keep his son from almost getting a brain-full of JT Snow). And he seems always to have some kind of plan -- e.g. (and I know it's meaningless) in that All-Star Game when he kept Hank Blalock out of the game just so he could hit for someone against Gagne, and then Blalock hit that HR and the AL won the game. Now, obviously, there is luck involved there, but I remember thinking about Scioscia that at least he had some kind of attack plan.

Red Sox fans who like Tito Francona -- and those who don't are idiots, frankly -- like him because in the first few months he managed the team, he told the media that he wouldn't always make the right decision, but he would always have a reason for doing whatever it is he did. That is all a team's fans can ask for. Not like "I hit-and-ran there because I wanted us to be aggressive" or "I wanted to try to make things happen," which are stupid by-the-book platitudes managers offer for mistakes and failures alike. But rather: "That pitcher tends to throw his curve on 0-1 counts, and Grendleman is a good curveball hitter, and we noticed that Blergston (their SS) cheats up the middle with runners on, so we figured if we could get a good jump and Grendleman could pull the ball into the hole we might be able to get Flornberger (our runner) all the way to 3rd with nobody out."

(Names have been ridiculousized for my amusement.)

The point is, Scioscia probably relies on outdated methods too much, and yes he runs into outs, and yes he does resemble Crazy Ozzie a lot in terms of the crap he does that we SABRists consider bad management. But he seems to me to be a thinker, and he seems to at least have a gameplan. This is, again, anecdotal, and on this blog anecdotalism is second only to McCarver Worship in the concentric hell-circle depth chart. But I would rather have Scioscia manage my team than Ozzie, La Russa, Grady, or maybe even Willie Randolph.

Also, to those of you who wrote in about skipping some people in the list -- yes I did realize it. I just found nothing interesting to say about those guys or had no quibble with their selections.

Stay tuned for JoeChat!

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posted by Unknown  # 2:03 PM
As reader Matthew points out, it was David Bell who almost tragically steamrolled Dusty's son, not JT Snow. JT was the guy who grabbed the kid and got him out of the way.
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Thursday, April 26, 2007



Okay, fine, it's just a generic AP recap of a Twinkies / Royals game. Still:

Torii Hunter's beaning gave the struggling Minnesota Twins a little spark.

Mike Redmond's run-scoring single in the 11th inning Thursday gave the Twins a 1-0 victory over the Kansas City Royals that ended their four-game losing streak.

After watching Hunter get hit in the face by Zack Greinke's 2-2 fastball leading off the second inning, the Twins were fired up. Players were hopeful the victory could provide momentum and help snap their offensive slump.

After watching Torii Hunter almost catch a 90 mph'er in his mouth, the Twins transferred their anger into motivation. In turn, those angry bats were able to muster one run over the next nine innings. And now, they're hoping that their 1-0, 11-inning win will spell the beginning of the end of their offensive slump.

Sure. That checks out.


posted by dak  # 8:09 PM
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Wednesday, April 25, 2007


Managers's Jon Heyman lists his top 10. And away we go:

1. Tony La Russa
He put to rest the notion his players tighten up come October with one of the great managing jobs of our time last year. It's no easy thing to make an 83-win team believe it can win. Now he's made me believe. He's an original thinker who's unsurpassed strategically. "I have tried to guess along with him on what moves he'll make next,'' David Eckstein told me in spring training, "and it just can't be done.''

If you haven't already, I invite you to read Buzz Bissinger's book 3 Nights in August, about La Russa. The purported aim of the book is to show how brilliant La Russa is as a strategist. The actual accomplishment is to make one feel like one wouldn't trust La Russa to take care of one's cats, much less one's baseball team. It starts with an anecdote about how Albert Pujols has a severe arm injury -- one that allows him to swing a bat but not throw. La Russa wants to play him anyway, to like intimidate the other team (which doesn't know about the injury), so he puts him in left field and tells him to casually underhand the ball to the SS if it gets hit to him. A doctor has told La Russa that Pujols, the most important player on the team by a factor of fifty, is risking severe like career-threatening shit if he throws a baseball. This is a not-super-important game. I mean, what the hell?

Avid readers of this blog might remember many months ago when I wrote that I was going to do a lengthy review of this book. I started reading and making notes. By page 80 I had filled ten notebook pages with scribbles and exclamation points and frowny faces, and decided the task was just too big.

And before we go talking about how La Russa is a master strategist because his crappy team won the WS after winning 83 games last year, let's all remember that he controlled three of the most disappointing WS teams in recent history -- the 88 A's (104 wins, McGwire/Canseco, 3 16 game winners and Eck, blown out in 5 games by the Dodgers), the '90 A's (who got humiliated by the Reds) and the '04 Cardinals (who won 105 games and got brushed aside like sidewalk trash).

2. Jim Leyland
Perhaps he isn't the master strategist that La Russa is, but as a salesman and motivator, no one's better. His only blemish is his short time in Colorado, when his heart wasn't in it.

I fail to see why it's okay that his heart wasn't in it when he had a tough job. As opposed to when he managed the '97 Marlins, the best team money could buy, or the ultimately disappointing 90's Bucs. I think he's a fun guy, and a good manager, but shouldn't a big part of a manager's evaluation be how he does when he gets handed a pile of crap? (And please don't tell me the '06 Tigers were a pile of crap. They were well-positioned to be a solid team with that pitching.)

3. Mike Scioscia
Smart and solid, he's extremely even-keeled, and his players have bought into his aggressive, NL style.

Whatever. He's fine.

4. Joe Torre
Fourth place for the four World Series rings. But can he please take it easy on his favorite relievers? He especially needs to be careful with Andy Pettitte and Mariano Rivera.

I don't really know what to make of Torre. I happen to think that the most important job a manager does is handle the clubhouse and the owner. He has a tough clubhouse and a terribly whimsical/crazy owner, and is always even-keeled, so, to quote that weird guy who writes a weekly column about Starbucks and The Sopranos for, I think I think he's good. He also has a $200m payroll every year and occasionally makes some really odd decisions.

5. Lou Piniella
He didn't do his best work in Tampa, and baseball people noticed. Plus, he's been cited by some for mishandling pitchers. He certainly can lose his cool, as well, but that's part of his charm. Wouldn't want to have to match wits against him in the postseason, though that might not be anyone's worry this year.

I believe Sweet Lou is insanely overrated. Tampa never seemed one ounce better off with him than with anyone else. But what really irritates me is that he's sitting here at #5, and is followed by

6. Bobby Cox
I'm sure most would rank him higher. But since the goal is to win titles, that has to be seen as a failing.

I mean, you've got to be kidding me.

Figuring out what effect, if any, a manager has on a team is very difficult. Moneyball famously talks about how Billy Beane loved Art Howe because Howe sat stoically in the dugout and stared straight ahead and had the appearance of a leader, while essentially just following orders. He presided over those overachieving computer-generated teams that everyone loves to call underachieving because they got terribly unlucky in October, and then he went to the Mets and stunk up the place.

As I said, most anecdotal evidence (because empirical evidence with managers seems misleading) says that managers' most important job is that of a sheep dog -- herding the players in the same direction, keeping them from going astray over the course of a long season, focusing them on the task at hand, that kind of thing.

If that is at all true...who is better than Bobby Cox? He didn't win titles? He won every division title from 1844 to 2005. He throws some of the best player-protecting temper tantrums in the game. His guys love him. He handles veterans and rookies and retreads and rich guys and does gutsy things like make John Smoltz a closer. If I were GMing a team, I might get Bobby Cox to run it. Assuming he secretly agreed to run it Moneyball-style.

7. Grady Little
He was knocked hard for sticking with Pedro Martinez in the 2003 ALCS, when his critics apparently would have rather seen him turn the game over to a very iffy bullpen. He's a low-key guy who doesn't get the plaudits he deserves.

Grady Little is a bad manager. He is a very nice man who says pleasant things in a pleasant drawl. He has no business being anywhere near a dugout. And this is not sour grapes. This is common sense.

9. Ozzie Guillen
It may look like he's managing on emotion, but few know the game better.

He hits Podsednik first, doesn't care about OBP, thinks everyone should steal, bunts all the time, and says racist and insulting things. But he has a fun accent!

10. Terry Francona
The Red Sox skipper keeps his cool in a tough environment. He manages both the clubhouse and game well.

If these are your criteria: put Torre first, Terry 2nd, Cox 3rd, and everyone else 4th.

11. Ron Gardenhire
Always has the Twins hustling, just like in the Tom Kelly years.

He also thought Luis Castillo was worth 15 extra wins for his team. He seems decent, I guess, though he does some funky things with his line-up.

Managers are a mystery. Uneven payrolls and the large element of luck in short series make conclusions about their abilities very difficult. In general they should probably be judged on their overall team management skills, on and off the field -- controlling their players well and also letting them have fun without letting things get out of control...all that jazz.

However, I believe -- and this is from memory, so correct me if I am wrong -- that it was Rick Pitino who once said that the only time a basketball coach really has any tangible influence over that fluid game was coming out of a timeout, when (s)he could set up a specific play. If there is any corresponding truth in baseball, then people who famously make bonehead moves at crucial situations should never be on the list of best managers in baseball.

I'm looking at you, Grady.

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posted by Unknown  # 11:25 PM
From reader Allen:

It should be noted that in the same article, Heyman seems to imply credit to Schuerholz for the acquisitions of Maddux, Glavine, Smoltz, Andruw and Chipper. ("...the one who procured the talent")

Glavine was drafted well before Schuerholz took over.

Smoltz was acquired in a trade (Doyle Alexander to the Tigers) during Cox's tenure as GM of the Braves, which I think a lot of people (including paid journalists) forget.

And this is just speculation on my part, but given that Chipper was drafted in the first season of Schuerholz's tenure as GM, it's at least somewhat likely that it was Cox and his team who did the early legwork on that one.

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Tuesday, April 24, 2007


I know I'm Going to Make Fun of Someone

I just don't know who yet. Let's find out, as we look at this article from Pittsburgh Post-Gazette writer Dejan Kovacevic.

It was a week ago today, fewer than 24 hours after the Pirates had put down a sizzling St. Louis rally in the ninth inning, that catcher Ronny Paulino reflected upon it and offered this surprising tidbit.

"You know what the key was to that whole inning?" he said. "When David Eckstein got hit by that pitch."

Say what?

Hitting Eckstein -- not intentionally -- loaded the bases and, ultimately, forced closer Salomon Torres to pitch to Albert Pujols with a one-run lead.

"Doesn't matter," Paulino said. "Eckstein's the guy you don't want to face there."

There's a lot of stupid stuff in this article. I am happy to say -- since I get bored of disparaging journalists only -- that most of it is said by actual baseball players. That's new and fun!

David Eckstein's career EqA is .260, which is exactly league average. Albert Pujols's career EqA is .341, which is easy, don't-even-think-twice Hall of Fame shoo-in. Anyone who ever wants to pitch to Albert Pujols over David Eckstein in any situation, including pick-up whiffle ball games at family barbecues when Pujols has dengue fever and Eckstein gets to use one of those over-sized red bats while Pujols has to hit with a live cobra, is a goddamn moron of the highest order. So I'm sure Paulino is the only one who thought this.

Others agreed without hesitation, players and coaches alike.

"Can't let Eckstein beat you there," shortstop Jack Wilson said.


Albert Pujols Career OPS: 1.042

David Eckstein Career OPS: .708

I feel stupid even comparing these two people. They almost don't play the same sport.

OK, so, just to be clear here: The Pirates are happy to duck a 5-foot-7 career .282 hitter to take on the sport's most imposing hitter?

And why, exactly, is this?

"Because," Wilson said. "Eckstein's clutch."

I don't like that stupid "close and late" stat, but...

Eckstein "Close-and-Late" 2004-2006: .722 OPS

Pujols "Close-and-Late" 2004-2006: 1.088 OPS. He has 24 HR in 231 AB.

On page 191 of the famed book, "Moneyball," Billy Beane, the innovative Oakland general manager and prime subject matter, barks at a television as he hears a broadcaster describe his Athletics as failing in the clutch.

"It's [expletive] luck," Beane says.

Those words resonate with some as gospel, mostly because they are so easy to support.

Easy to support? My whole effing life all I do is yell at people that there's no such thing as "clutch." Everyone tells me I am wrong. My friends and I had to start a blog so we could stop shouting into the wind and start typing into the wind (easier on the vocal cords). Easy? Easy?!?!

The numbers will show, the game's statistical-minded followers will say, that a hitter with a .280 career average will hit ... well, right around .280 in whatever anyone might define as a clutch situation.

Some use batting average with runners in scoring position. Some use a fairly new statistic called close-and-late, which measures average in the seventh inning or later with the score no more than a run apart. Some just count up RBIs.

Whatever the bar, it is true that the disparity of numbers is little different between clutch and non-clutch.

At least this Dejan Kovacevic fellow seems to have read Moneyball. Unlike some ESPN Moneyball-disparagers I could name, named Joe Morgan.

"It's obvious that some players perform better in clutch situations," said Dan Fox, author for the statistics-based journal Baseball Prospectus. "The question is whether that difference, as measured in a week, a month or a season, actually reflects an underlying ability to come through more often."

A BP reference in a mainstream newspaper. I bet this is how Galileo felt (posthumously, obviously) when the Church finally admitted that the earth revolved around the sun.

"What they've found is that while there may be a small clutch ability -- for example, hitters who can adjust their approach in different situations seem to have a small advantage -- that ability is dwarfed by the normal differences in overall performance. In other words, in the bigger scheme of things, it's the best players who do best in the clutch."

Take the cases of David Ortiz and Derek Jeter, the widely recognized kings of clutch.

Over the past three years, Ortiz has batted .296 in all situations, .331 with runners in scoring position. Jeter has batted .315 in all situations, .310 with runners in scoring position.

Some difference, but not much.

Still, every time Ortiz launches one of those extra-inning bombs for the Boston Red Sox, it leads "SportsCenter" and resonates far more in the psyche than anytime he might fail. And when Jeter wins Game 4 of the 2001 World Series with a home run, he gets dubbed Mr. November, never mind that he batted .148 for the series.

Did I write this article somehow? Is this like a Fight Club-style thing where I split my personality and got a job writing for a Pittsburgh newspaper under the pseudonym Dejan Kovacevic? If not, I'm really enjoying reading this. What's next?

Oh, and Eckstein's clutch reputation? His average with runners in scoring position is .280, one point lower than his regular average.

I would have added that in Games 1-3 of the WS last year he was 2-13. Then he went 4-5 and 2-4 and won the MVP award and no one has shut up since.

The strongest anti-clutch argument on the Pirates' roster can be made by Freddy Sanchez.

He won the National League batting title with a .344 average last summer, and his .386 mark with runners in scoring position was the team's highest. Only Pujols' .397 mark was higher in the league.

Seems plenty clutch.

Not the case at all, he maintains.

"To me, it's pretty simple," Sanchez said. "If you're hot going into that clutch situation, you have a good chance. You're already feeling good. Obviously, there are times when a hitter can tense up, and there are some better mentally prepared than others. All I can say is that, for me, when I go up to the plate, it's not about the men on base. It's about how I'm feeling."

He rolled his eyes, remembering those four consecutive strikeouts in a game last week in Milwaukee.

"Trust me: If I'm feeling lousy at the plate like that, I'm not just going to walk up there with bases loaded and get a hit because I'm some great clutch hitter."

Freddy Sanchez: FJM's new favorite non-Red Sox. (I can't resist pointing out here that he used to be. Hometown pride.)

Still, come on ... no such thing as clutch?

What, then, of Reggie Jackson launching those three home runs in a World Series game?

He hit 563 HR in the regular season. He was excellent at hitting HR. It was probably his greatest skill. One day, in a big game, he hit 3.

What of Michael Jordan nailing that last-second jumper to sink Utah?

He was the best basketball player ever in history.

What of John Elway driving a stake through the heart of Cleveland?

This one kills me. In the eyes of basically everyone, Elway was a Choke Artist, a Big-Game-Failure, until Terrell Davis came along and the Broncos won two Super Bowls, and suddenly all of Elway's terrible SB performances were forgotten and he became Clutch. So incredibly stupid. The guy was always good. He ran into some awesome coaches and defenses in Super Bowls. Then one day, with a more complete team, he won. Like Peyton Manning. And Kobe. And Shaq. And McNabb getting over the NFC Championship hump. And like 1000 other examples.

What of Mario Lemieux burying that rebound behind Ed Belfour to raise the dome at the Igloo?

He is probably the second-best hockey player ever in history. He scored a lot of goals.

Those focusing on the numbers would lean toward the notion that those were elite athletes simply being themselves.


But those inside the games -- players, coaches and managers -- are almost universal in their belief in clutch.

Of those who feel otherwise, Pirates pitching coach Jim Colborn said, "Dead wrong. There is an element in certain people that allows them to focus at their peak and get into a zone when the situation is more important."

Well. I'm not "inside the game," which invalidates my opinion in the eyes of some. But isn't this quality merely one aspect of what determines a "good" player? And thus, isn't it sort of making our argument for us? In other words, the players one thinks of as "clutch" are just always good. Or, in Eckstein's case, "clutch" is simply a false notion, since very basic statistics show that he is no better in "clutch" situations than in regular situations. The end.

He cited, from his playing days, Joe Rudi, a career .264 hitter who had a reputation of elevating his level every postseason for the Athletics, at least as measured by the intangibles of timely hits and key defensive plays.

"Believe me: For all the great players in that lineup, Joe Rudi was not the one you wanted to face. He just had a knack."

You're not going to believe this. I was not familiar with Joe Rudi's postseason stats, so I looked them up on my Computational Machine. Kovacevic goes out of his way to mention that Rudi was a career .264 hitter. Want to guess what his career postseason average was?

Did you guess: .264? You're right.

In his career, Rudi went .264/.311/.427.
Postseason: .264/.329/.386

He was essentially exactly the fucking same in the postseason. 3 HR in 140 postseason AB. 179 in about 5500 regular season AB. So, his HR rate was actually higher in the regular season. (Small sample size alert in the PS, obviously. But what do you want me to do?)

Perhaps anecdotally Rudi did all kinds of amazing Lemke-esque shit in some postseason games. A lot of middle-of-the-road guys do a lot of better-than-that things in postseason games. Endy Chavez made like the greatest catch I've ever seen in the NLCS last year. Does that mean he is a "clutch" fielder? No. It means he is a pro baseball player, which means he is one of the best 600 or so baseball players in the whole wide world, which in turn means that he has the ability to do extraordinary things in specific situations. Other players, who are better than Endy Chavez, will do those amazing things more consistently. Is this really hard to grasp for anyone? Really?

Some players, the argument can be made, do become better in trying situations. But those cases -- and this is one area where statisticians and those inside the game tend to agree -- are much rarer than those where performance decreases.

In other words, the absence of clutch might be more prevalent than a rise to a clutch level. The athlete rises to the level of competition and, in doing so, maintains similar numbers. And the rest ... well, for every Joe Rudi, there are many more like Barry Bonds and Alex Rodriguez.

Uh oh.

Bonds has a .300 career average and a home run every 12.9 at-bats. But in the playoffs, as the still-bitter baseball fans of Pittsburgh can attest, his drop-off is dramatic: His average in seven playoff appearances is .245, and the home runs come once every 16.7 at-bats.

Bonds had six pretty crappy postseasons. Then he had four awesome ones after he started using steroids. They are all small sample sizes. Also, would you have pitched to Bonds in 1990 if he had Steve Buechele hitting behind him?

Rodriguez is having a superhuman April, but that will do nothing to quell doubts about his clutch value. He has batted .306 in the regular season for his career, .280 in the playoffs.

Basically the same.

The home runs come once every 14.3 at-bats in the regular season, once every 22 at-bats in the playoffs.

Dumb way to look at this. Here's a better way. And please, after I go through the trouble to type this out, let's end this.

1997 ALDS: 5-16, 1 HR, .313/.313/.563 (Very Good)

2000 ALDS: 4-13, .308/.308/.308 (Eh)

2000 ALCS: 9-22, 2 HR, .409/.480/.773 (Monster)

2004 ALDS: 8-19, 1 HR, .421/.476/.737 (Monster)

2004 ALCS: 8-31, 2 HR, .258/.378/.516 (Very Good)

2005 ALDS: 2-15, .133/.381/.200 (Bad, though he got on base)

2006 ALDS: 1-14, .071/.071/.071 (Terrible)

In seven series, he has two absolute beasts, two very good series, three kind of crummy ones. How can you say this guy falls apart in the postseason? In 2000-04 he went 25-72 with 5 HR and 7 2B. Now hear this, people:

Derek Jeter's Career Splits: .317/.388/.463

Derek Jeter's Career Postseason splits: .314/.384/.479

Mr. Clutch is actually Mr. Exactly the Same No Matter What Month You Are Talking About. He is Mr. Equally Excellent Hitting SS Every Month from April to November. He is Mr. Outrageously Similar Statistics Every 30 Days.

And for the record, in that huge 2004 ALCS against Boston, which earned ARod the reputation as a non-clutch player, Jeter went 6-30, .200/.333/.233.

The Pirates' Jason Bay never has known playoffs, but he batted .346 with runners in scoring position in 2005, then saw that drop nearly 100 points to .242 last season and to .133 in the early going this year. Surely, some clutch factor was involved.

How is that the conclusion?! The conclusion should be: in small numbers of data points, there is bound to be enormous fluctuation. This is like saying: yesterday it was sunny, today it poured. Surely, some Fertility God disapproved of our elk sacrifice.

"It's not so much a matter of raising your level in a clutch situation. It's a matter of keeping your level the same," Bay said. "Baseball is predicated on the idea that the people who are the most successful are the ones who do things the same way most consistently. It's not an emotion game like football or hockey, where you can go bust some skulls."

Jason Bay: possibly replacing Freddy Sanchez as FJM's new favorite non-Red Sox.

Bob Walk, among the living Pirates to have participated in a playoff game, is very much a believer.

"There are some guys who are better hitters in tough situations, and the stats will show that, too," he said.

I think we have sort of disproved that...with actual stats. I like it when guys just say "the stats will show it!" without actually looking at stats.

"They take a different approach to the plate. They're maybe not thinking so much about themselves and trying to pull the ball or hit it out of the park."

No. They take the exact same approach, and are already good, so they perform well.

"The guys who are successful don't have that fear of failure. Some guys have that, believe me."

I believe this. I also believe that they are good baseball players.

There is no bigger proponent of clutch in the Pirates' clubhouse than the man in charge.

When his team wins, Jim Tracy invariably points to "big" hits that were delivered. When the team loses, he points to the lack of same.

If you win a baseball game, ipso facto, you have gotten some "big" hits. If you lose a baseball game, ipso facto, you have failed to get some "big" hits. This is tautology, Mr. Tracy. Tautology, I say! (I mean, even if you are up 15-5 in the seventh inning and you fall apart and lose 16-15, you could look back and say, "If we had only cashed in on that bases-loaded-nobody-out in the fourth..." You get the idea.)

Even after the Pirates were blanked on three measly hits in their home opener April 9, Tracy lamented, "We had chances."

Yes. At least 27 of them. Like in every game.

Tracy's view is reflected in how he forms his lineup, bucking the modern thinking that the highest on-base percentage players should be stacked at the top. Instead, he favors the more traditional approach of getting the runner on, moving him along and getting a "big" hit.

How's that working out for you, Jimmy?

"Isn't that what makes teams good?" Tracy said when asked about his value of clutch. "It's what separates you from the pack, your ability to take the big at-bat. You don't expect somebody to hit 1.000 with runners in scoring position, but you have to get your share of hits in those situations. Look at the upper echelon of clubs, and that's what you look for. And if we can get to that point, we've got a chance to become a pretty decent team."

Amazing. Just amazing. I don't know where to begin.

What makes teams good, offensively, is not making outs. And of course you have to "get your share of hits" in any situation. But what in the world would prevent you from putting your high OBP guys at the top of the line-up? Baseball Prospectus has proved that line-up order doesn't really matter that much, but the higher in the order you are, the more AB you get. And the higher your OBP, the fewer outs you make, so -- given those extra AB -- you will increase your chance of winning baseball games. This is not black magic, people. This is straightforward logic. Delivered in a exaggeratedly strident tones over a blog.

It could not hurt. The National League's highest average with runners in scoring position last season was the .286 of the Los Angeles Dodgers, and they were one of the four playoff teams. The other three also ranked above the league average.

But then, so did ... the Pirates? Their .266 mark ranked seventh, even though they finished with the fewest runs and were nowhere near the playoffs.

So what does that teach us? It teaches us that it's not that crucial a stat, relatively speaking, because if the team isn't getting anyone on base, you can hit .300 with RISP and you won't score as many runs as other teams with lower BA and SLG with RISP. See?

The statistic that correlates most closely with scoring runs is on-base percentage ---- how many times a batter reaches base safely, whether by hit, walk or hit batsman -- and this is backed by every spreadsheet back to the late 19th century.

Where were you a paragraph earlier, man? I just typed all that shit for nothing?

Last year, the Pirates' on-base percentage was .327, third lowest in the league. This year, it is .303, second lowest.

Huh. So, Tracy is a bonehead?

But then ... so is their .190 average with runners in scoring position, which might bolster Tracy's case.

If their team OBP is .327, they can hit .500 with RISP and they still won't win anything. Tracy's "case" is that they need a high BA with RISP, and that OBP doesn't matter so much. That's like saying that the important part of the alley-oop is the slam dunk, and it doesn't matter so much whether anyone bothered to lob you the ball.

So, in the end, I guess I made fun of Jim Tracy. Dejan Kovacevic gets a check-plus, because I think if you read between the lines he is on the side of Facts and Truth. Freddy Sanchez and Jason Bay get gold stars. Ronny Paulino and everyone else who would rather pitch to Albert Pujols than to David Eckstein get a punch in the face and an exhortation to seek counseling.

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posted by Unknown  # 11:20 AM
Thanks to, among others, readers Matt and Peter for the tip.
I love that Jason Bay actually began a sentence "Baseball is predicated on the idea that..."

Jason? Are you okay?

Is he going to get beat up in the clubhouse for that kind of prissy-talk?
I know -- I loved that too. That's mostly why I said that he might have replaced Sanchez as our favorite player.
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Thursday, April 19, 2007


Attention, Readers

I am going to give this blog an official thumbs-up. Not just because she's hot. Because she likes baseball. And who would have ever thought that someone who was in "Charmed" would ever type:

P.P.S. When will Betemit's bat wake up?

into a blog?

I say: awesome. Keep it coming, Alyssa. Maybe someday you'll get your site blown up by Colin Cowherd.

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posted by Unknown  # 10:42 PM
Dude, Milano spelled "Betemit" right and you did not.

She was on Charmed.
She must have put a "spell" on you.

Okay, I'm done.
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We Have a Lot of Work To Do, Vol. XVII

Bill Taaffe, who presumably has a functioning human brain, thinks Colin Cowherd is awesome.

In a column about national sports talkers a few months ago in this space, I awarded Cowherd a B-minus. I was wrong and have done my penance in Canossa.

The more I listen to Cowherd, the more I value his reasoning, candor, intelligence and distaste for political correctness. I don't take to his sleazier double entendres at times, but here's his new grade: A-plus.

I have invented a new word for the sound my throat made when I read this:


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posted by Unknown  # 12:15 PM
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The Evolution of Idiocy

For two years now, even as he compiled (literally) MVP-level statistics, the press has been asking: "What's wrong with ARod?" They based their ideas that something was wrong with ARod on his performance in a very very small number of games in October, which is like basing John Gielgud's acting career on "Arthur 2: On the Rocks."

Yes, he swiped the ball from Arroyo's glove, and yes, he failed to come through in the "clurmtch," or whatever that word is. But so did every other Yankee. Sheffield popped the ball up in key at bats. Matsui K'd a lot. Giambi forgot to take his medicine and turned back into a pumpkin. They all fell apart, but only ARod got blamed. And in the 2005 postseason, when he went 1-14 (the very definition of a small sample size) the press was all over him like a cheap suit.

Now he's off to a torrid start, and the new fun story to write is "ARod Finally True Yankee!!!!" But whom are they going to blame now, based on a tiny sample size?

Not...surely they wouldn't...oh my God...Run!!!!!!!!!!

Time to ask ... what’s wrong with Jeter?

As A-Rod's fortunes soar, Yankee captain down in dumps

By Mike Celizic
MSNBC contributor

Mike Celizic

Alex Rodriguez has undoubtedly had many moments — some of which could be timed with a calendar — during which he wished he were Derek Jeter. This is not one of them.

The Yankee captain and New York’s favorite baseball player since Don Mattingly has been having a rough go of it this year. It’s not so much his hitting, although his average is sinking fast after a torrid start and he’s got just three RBI in 12 games, but his fielding that’s been a problem.

Jeter has made a lot of errors so far. But so has Mike Lowell. And unlike Jeter, Lowell is actually a good fielder. Freaky things happen in small sample sizes. That's why after a week Ian Kinsler is 2nd in HR. That's why people say things like "At this pace, Garth Iorg will have 300 RBIs!" and then he ends up with like 34. You really can't tell anything about a player's year after 40 AB or 10 games in the field.

For the record, the reasons Jeter has made a lot of errors are probably: (a) it's been really crappy playing conditions, or (b) he's never been that good a defensive SS, or (c) it's a complete fluke.

Jeter has won three Gold Gloves, but he’s not on his way to winning a fourth. Through 12 games, he has six errors, the most in the major leagues.

For the millionth and final [sic] time, Gold Gloves are 99% meaningless.

Everybody’s writing about his problems catching and throwing, but no one’s trying to run him out of town. Yankee Stadium with him would be like the Sistine Chapel without Michelangelo’s ceiling work.

I’d ask you to imagine A-Rod in the same situation, but you don’t have to, because we’ve seen what would happen...He was booed at every opportunity and flayed daily by the talk-show guys and the columnists, many of whom suggested the only way for him to fix things was to take the first plane out of town. I was one of them, and I don’t apologize for it.

You should. It was insane. In 2005-06 he hit 83 HR, drove in 251. He walked 181 times. His OBPs were .421/.392.

SLG .610/.523.

EqA .354/.319.

His WARP3s were 13.0 and 7.5 (same as Troy Glaus in 2006, BTW), and if he had been able to play his natural position on the field, they would probably have been much higher, all things being equal.

Even when he had his legendarily "terrible" year, when everything "fell apart," when he hated New York and was a "head case" and everyone in the world wrote about how he didn't fit in with the Hallowed Pinstripery of New York, he was an awesome, awesome baseball player. Who in his right mind can think differently?

He had come to the Yankees as the best player in baseball.

By last season, he wasn’t even the third best third-baseman.

J'accuse, Monsieur de Chapeau!!!

And the worse it got for A-Rod, the better it got for Jeter. Every bad throw, every late-inning out, every clumsy attempt to explain himself made A-Rod look more misplaced and Jeter more the true Yankee hero.

Jeter had a great year last year. ARod had a very very good year that looked bad only in comparison to his outstanding previous years. It happens.

So this year, A-Rod showed up wearing high stirrups and after a couple of games to warm up started hitting — for average and power, in early innings and late, by day and by night.

I don't think this makes cognitive sense. "...after a couple of games to warm up started hitting." Does that mean, "after taking a couple of games to warm up?" Also, the part that comes after the dash reads like a weird parody of "Paul Revere's Ride."

After three years of waiting for him to do his part, he was suddenly doing everybody’s part.

He has been doing pretty much what he did in his 2005 AL MVP Season, when he went .321/.41/.610 with 48 HR, a .354 EqA and a 13.0 WARP3. This didn't come out of nowhere, people. He has always been this good. He was this good even while you were all talking about how bad he was.

But there’s something wrong with this picture — the Captain’s early-season slump, especially in the field. The SABRE folks will tell you that Jeter has never been a particularly good shortstop despite the Gold Gloves, but his teammates, his manager and anybody who watched him every day will differ.

"The facts will tell you some information. Some casual anecdotes will contradict this. Your choice."

There are some things the stats don’t tell you, and unless you watch the guy every day, there’s no way to tell you about them.

I've seen somewhere in the vicinity of 500 Yankee games, I'd say. And I think Jeter is vastly overrated as a fielder by every anecdote-toting sportswriter and fan out there. Twice a year he goes deep into the hole to his right, stabs a backhand, jumps in the air and gets the guy at first by a step. It's very impressive and flashy, but it doesn't nearly make up for the fact that he gets nothing to his left. He has what people often call a "high baseball IQ" in that he is very alert and smart when the ball is in play -- I will give him that. He takes relays well and is very athletic. But he is nowhere near the league of the Vizquels, Everetts, or even Cabreras of the world.

But there’s no denying he’s killing his team in the field right now, and his hitting isn’t that great either. Come to think about it, he’s not even stealing bases with his normal ease — just one-for-three on the season.

He's not off to a great start, but his OBP is .390, which tells you his patience is still there. And it's been like 50 AB. In 2004 Jeter had an 0-32 in April, and ended up having a fine offensive year.

It’s as if he and A-Rod are two yo-yos that are out of synch. When A-Rod was down, Jeter was up. And now that A-Rod is tearing the cover off the ball, Jeter is down. It’s a little spooky. It’s as if he thrives on A-Rod’s negative energy and is being sapped by A-Rod’s success.

Or, alternately -- and I don't mean to disparage the Yo-Yo/Vampire-Energy-Suck Theory, which seems air-tight -- ARod has always been awesome, Jeter had a mediocre first 50 AB, and this is all pointless and stupid.

I’m sure — well, pretty sure, anyway — it’s just an aberration, that Jeter’s problems are just a slump that will pass and not the result of him trying for the first time since A-Rod arrived, to keep up with and outdo his teammate.

Yeah, probably. Or -- and bear with me here -- what if ARod, brimming with jealousy and malice, is secretly poisoning Jeter with a magic serum that causes him, Jeter, to have a slightly mediocre first 50 AB of the season and be slightly worse in the field than normal? Could such a serum exist? Get on this. Pronto.

You never thought of Jeter as needing to outshine anyone. He’s shared the stage with plenty of great players, and it’s never stopped him. On the other hand, in the three years that A-Rod’s been playing next to him, he’s always been the leader and A-Rod the guy trying to keep up.

The roles are reversed right now. Jeter says it’s just a slump. So do Joe Torre, his manager, and Brian Cashman, the team’s G.M. They’re probably right.

But what if they’re not?

I said get on this! Visit every witch doctor in the city! Search ARod's home for boiling cauldrons! We will get to the bottom of this, fair readers. That I promise.

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posted by Unknown  # 9:59 AM
This comment has been removed by the author.
My theory is that for years, Joe Torre has been secretly feeding Jeter an experimental Awesome Serum concocted by a Haitian witch doctor in Queens. This season that witch doctor has gone missing, perhaps kidnapped by his mortal enemies, the yakuza.

So you see, KT, the real problem here is the absence of a serum rather than the presence of one.
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Wednesday, April 18, 2007


Hard To Make Jokes When Shit Like This Is Actually Being Written

So ESPN previews the 2007 baseball season by playing a simulated season on MLB 2K7. The team-by-team write-ups include stuff like "90 speed" and "77 overall" and "surprise Cy Young winner" or whatever. But then, in the Phillies section, we find this:

Team leader Chase Utley (the No. 1 ranked 2B in the game) plays with lots of heart.

The video game character Chase Utley plays with lots of heart.

Not the dude. Not Chase.

Digital Chase Utley. Chase Utley 2K7 -- he's the one who plays with a lot of heart.

posted by dak  # 1:46 AM
Sorry everybody -- I forgot to make the obligatory "99 whiteness" joke.
Eagle-eyed reader Michael M. notes that the simulated playoffs include a best-of-seven Divisional Series.

Which is not a thing.
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Tuesday, April 17, 2007


I Don't Want to Chat With Joe, as I Don't Watch Him Chat Every Day, So I Don't Want To Chat One Way Or the Other.

Look at this.

John (New York, NY): Do you agree with other analysts that Derek Jeter's defense is overrated? With the number of errors he's made so far this year, it seems like everyone's jumping off the bandwagon.

SportsNation Joe Morgan: I would not put myself in that group.

Ken Tremendous: Explain why.

First off, as a middle infielder, shortstop is the most difficult position to play on the field.

KT: I agree.

Any lapse of concentration or injury can throw you off.

KT: Same can be said of all positions, but I'm still with you.

I think with Jeter, he's been losing his concentration recently, but I expect him to get out of it. Middle infield demands that you have your highest confidence at all times, so a few errors can throw you off.

KT: It's a confidence problem? For Derek Jeter? Are you sure?

I won't say someone's overrated because I don't see him every day.

KT: All-time low for the Joe Morgan "I don't see him every day so I can't comment" thing. How many times have you seen Jeter in your life, Joe? A hundred? Two hundred? And you still can't comment on whether you think he's overrated? This is insane. If you are telling me you can't make a comment on Derek Jeter because you haven't seen him play enough, you are officially saying that you can never render your opinion on anything, ever.

Obviously, if he's won 3 consecutive Gold Gloves, he has to be pretty good.

KT: Opposite of true.

Rick in DC: Mr. Morgan: The Tigers are pitching well thus far, but all we hear about are the arms on the Red Sox. Do you think these teams will meet in the ALCS this year?

SportsNation Joe Morgan: I actually feel like Detroit might win the American League again. Obviously it's early, so I can't make a real prediction.

KT: People make predictions all the time. Before seasons even start. Can you ever just offer an opinion without qualifying it? What is the point of constantly saying you can't give your opinion? Why do you have this job?

So far, with Boston, Schilling has bounced back, Beckett is capable but hasn't reach his full potential, and Dice-K looks like a stud. You can't say they have a great staff just yet; they've certainly made some good starts. The Tigers have more room for improvement than the Red Sox, as Schilling and Wakefield aren't getting any better. I still think the Tigers will prevail in the end.

KT: See? Was that so hard?

Tony (Weymouth MA): With all of the injuries to the Yankees starting rotation, will Roger Clemens lean to signing with the Red Sox as the best chance to win it all one last time? Does he stay in Houston or retire?

SportsNation Joe Morgan: I know Roger pretty well, but I'm not going to predict what he will do.

KT: Oh my God.

Here's a play I just wrote:

(Scene: Joe is the blind Greek seer Tiresias. Oedipus approaches.)

Oedipus: Tiresias, priest of Zeus. I come to you to gain knowledge of the slaying of King Laius.
Joe Tiresias: Well, I knew Laius pretty well, but I don't want to say I know who killed him.
Oedipus: But your visions are never wrong, great seer. You see all.
Joe Tiresias: I have seen a lot of things happen, yes. I have been a seer for a long time, so don't tell me I don't know what's gonna happen in Greece.
Oedipus: (confused) ...I wasn't saying that. I am saying the opposite of that. I am asking you for your help in learning the identity of the slayer of King Laius.
Joe Tiresias: I knew Laius. I watched him be King for a long time. He was a great veteran King.
Oedipus: ...What?
Joe Tiresias: If you're saying that he is not as good a King as you, I wouldn't say that. You just started as King, and he did it for a lot of years. He knew how to rule.
Oedipus: ...Yikes. Okay. Listen. I want you to use your wisdom and sight and the power of the Gods to tell me who killed him.
Joe Tiresias: Well, I didn't watch him rule every day, so I don't want to comment. I don't want to say one way or the other.
Oedipus: (Blinds self out of frustration)

Personally, I believe the only place Roger Clemens can play is Houston, because Roger doesn't want to travel, and Houston is the only team of the three to allow him to do what he's doing. Neither the Yankees or Red Sox can allow him to do that. If he pitches again, as an analyst, I feel he will pitch with Houston.

KT: And again, he ends up answering the question after saying that he can't answer the question.

Shawn in Philly: Do you really believe the lack of African-American players in the game is a "crisis"? Does it matter how many there are in the league as long as the opportunity is there? To me, the real problem is the lack of African-Americans in front office positions.

SportsNation Joe Morgan: Of all the people I've listened to about this percentage, you have the right understanding. I cannot find it in my heart to blame MLB for the percentages. The opportunity is there. Players are making a choice to go to the NBA or the NFL. If baseball wants to try to help persuade them to go that way, that's great, but it's not baseball's fault. Football is 70 percent African-American and basketball is 80 percent African-American. All those athletes are not playing baseball. I agree fully that the problem is in the front office and in the management, but if you do not have African-American players, where are the managers going to come from? They have brought people into the front office who have graduated from Harvard, but not African-Americans who have graduated from Harvard. You have guys who get two, three chances, but a guy like Cito Gaston, Dusty Baker, Don Baylor, Lloyd McClendon, Davey Lopes, Jerry Manuel who don't get as many chances. Yet a aguy like Phil Garner, who lost in Milwaukee and Detroit, found a good team in Houston. Not to pick on him, but the opportunity isn't there. Only Frank Robinson has managed more than three different teams; Cleveland, San Francisco, Baltimore, and Washington. You have a very good understanding of what I see as the problem.

KT: All right, look. Dabbling in racial discussions is always a dangerous thing. And I fully agree that all different types of people should have the opportunities to manage MLB teams, and I think it's probably true that MLB, like the NFL and the NBA, should have more minority managers and front-office types -- especially African-Americans.

But. Look at that list of guys who, Joe is insinuating, didn't get a fair shake. Cito Gaston won two WS, then went 56-88, 74-88, 72-85, and was fired. I'll quote from his Wikipedia page here...

He had failed to lead the team to a winning record since 1993 and seemed uninterested in keeping his position. Gaston forced [GM Gord] Ash's hand by telling his boss that he was taking a vacation at season's end and would not be around for the usual post season evaluation process, thus ending his Jays managing career in an undignified fashion. He was replaced by then-pitching coach Mel Queen on an interim basis for the last week of the 1997 season. Gaston rejoined the team as a hitting coach after the 1999 season but was not retained after a disappointing 2001 campaign and the sale of the franchise to Rogers Communications. In 2002, he was hired by the Jays for a third time, as special assistant to president and chief executive officer Paul Godfrey.

Given Gaston's impressive record and World Series titles, it is somewhat surprising that he never managed again in the Major Leagues. Nevertheless, Gaston was a final candidate for the Detroit Tigers manager's job in the 1999-2000 season and was the runner-up to in the Chicago White Sox manager position in the 2003-4 off season. Sox GM Kenny Williams, a former Blue Jays player, had Gaston as one of two finalists for the job but decided to hire Ozzie Guillen. Gaston had several offers to rejoin major league teams as a hitting instructor...but declined offers. His length of unemployment now makes it unlikely he will return to the major leagues as a manager. was African-American GM Kenny Williams who hired Ozzie Guillen -- a minority candidate -- over Gaston. Just sayin'.

And Lopes, well, he has a career record of 144-195. (Also, I don't believe he is African-American. Am I wrong?) Dusty Baker is the man who thinks that you shouldn't "clog up the bases." He probably ended the careers of Mark Prior and Kerry Wood by having them throw like 150 pitches a game even after DL trips. He stinks on ice. Don Baylor won more than 83 games once in nine years. Lloyd McClendon was 336-446 in five years. Jerry Manuel was better (500-471), and is currently coaching for the (African-American-coached) Mets, I think, and he's only 53. He'll get another chance.

A lot of these guys -- like McClendon, and Baylor to some extent -- had crappy teams. But they also didn't do that great, so it's not totally surprising that they haven't been handed other jobs. I don't know. MLB should do more to encourage front-office -- and, I guess, non-Harvard -- minority hires. But I don't think it's racism, necessarily, that has kept, say, Dusty Baker, from getting hired. I think it's good sense.

Doug (New Rochelle, NY): Joe - how do you assess Junior Griffey's legacy? The last few years have been marred by injuries, and yet he still has a great shot at 600 home runs and he is one of the few sluggers in this geneation without a steroid question hanging over his head.

SportsNation Joe Morgan: What you havre with Griffey is a Hall of Fame career, but unfortunately people may remember him near the end, when he broke down. Willie Mays was the greatest I ever saw, but he was average toward the end of his career. Fortunately, he's already built his legacy. His place in history is already set. He's one of the greatest to ever play the game.

KT: That part is kind of boring. But I love this next part:

SportsNation Joe Morgan: When you saw Griffey on the field, you knew he was having fun. You don't see that with all the other players.

KT: To me Griffey is kind of a famously sourpuss kind of guy. He always looked unhappy, to me. Am I crazy? And also: who cares?

Bob(Chicago): In your opinion, why didn't more teams interview Dusty Baker during the offseason? Has he been scarred by the Wood/Prior injuries since 2003 or is it just the residue of being a Cubs manager?

KT: Here's a quotation you might have read, that Dusty Baker once said, when his team was last in the league with a .318 OBP and was asked if his team should walk more: "On-base percentage is great if you can score runs and do something with that on-base percentage," Baker said. "Clogging up the bases isn't that great to me."

That is why more teams did not interview him. It betrays a lack of understanding about baseball bordering on the criminally insane. But let's see what Joe thinks.

SportsNation Joe Morgan: I think all those things are in play. I don't think the Wood/Prior situation is as important as being in a losing situation in a big market. I'll go back to my answer before. Do you think if he was not African-American and had his same resume, would ha get interviewed?

KT: I think that no matter what ethnicity a man is, if he believes that walks "clog up the bases," he should not be a major league manager, because he is ill-suited for that job.

The same goes with Cito Gaston. We can say we shouldn't look at it that way, but you tell me another way to look at that, and I will.

KT: I just did. But here it is again, same guy (Dusty), same subject, different quote:

“No. 1, I’ve let most guys hit 3-0 (in the count). That’s one reason. . . . I think walks are overrated unless you can run. If you get a walk and put the pitcher in a stretch, that helps, but the guy who walks and can’t run, most of the time he’s clogging up the bases for somebody who can run.”

And this one:

“Who have been the champions the last seven, eight years? Have you ever heard the Yankees talk about on-base percentage and walks? . . . Walks help. They do help. But you aren’t going to walk across the plate, you’re going to hit across the plate. That’s the school I come from.”

For the record, the Yankees' championship teams were very much about OBP and walks.

Want more?

“Everybody can’t hit with two strikes, everybody can’t walk,” Baker said. “You’re taking away some of the aggressiveness of a kid if you’re telling him to go up there and try to work for a walk. . . . It’s like when I see kids in Little League and they make the small kids go up there and try to get a walk. That’s not any fun. . . . Do you ever see the top 10 walking (rankings)? You see top 10 batting average. A lot of those top 10 do walk, but the name of the game is to hit.”

How in the world is any sane GM going to let that guy manage his team?

There's no way that you can win like Dusty and Cito and not get another job. If you're an honest man, you realize there's something wrong with that picture.

KT: I actually take offense at this. Joe Morgan is calling me a racist. Or at least, not an honest man. That's wrong. If he's not careful, my friends and I might create a blog that ridicules him and people like him who don't know what they are talking about.

Bob (Tinley Park, IL): Joe, what do you think of Henry Aaron and Bud Selig's stance on Bonds breaking his record? Should they be there in your opinion or is Bonds a cheater and therefore not worthy of their presence?

SportsNation Joe Morgan: I don't ever call anyone a cheater unless I know for sure.

KT: Okay. Fair enough.

Barry Bonds told a federal grand jury that he used a clear substance and a cream supplied by the Burlingame laboratory now enmeshed in a sports doping scandal, but he said he never thought they were steroids, The Chronicle has learned.

Federal prosecutors charge that the Bay Area Laboratory Co-operative, known as BALCO, distributed undetectable steroids to elite athletes in the form of a clear substance that was taken orally and a cream that was rubbed onto the body.

Bonds testified that he had received and used clear and cream substances from his personal strength trainer, Greg Anderson, during the 2003 baseball season but was told they were the nutritional supplement flaxseed oil and a rubbing balm for arthritis, according to a transcript of his testimony reviewed by The Chronicle.

Federal prosecutors confronted Bonds during his testimony on Dec. 4, 2003, with documents indicating he had used steroids and human growth hormone during a three-year assault on baseball's home run record, but the Giants star denied the allegations.

During the three-hour proceeding, two prosecutors presented Bonds with documents that allegedly detailed his use of a long list of drugs: human growth hormone, Depo-Testosterone, undetectable steroids known as "the cream" and "the clear," insulin and Clomid, a drug for female infertility sometimes used to enhance the effect of testosterone.

The documents, many with Bonds' name on them, are dated from 2001 through 2003. They include a laboratory test result that could reflect steroid use and what appeared to be schedules of drug use with billing information, prosecutors told the grand jury.

In a September 2003 raid on Anderson's Burlingame home, federal investigators seized documents they said showed Bonds was using banned drugs, according to court records. Anderson was indicted in February on charges of money laundering and conspiracy to distribute steroids in the BALCO case.

Now can you say he cheated?

(Did you not hear about that, Joe? it was a really big story.)

SportsNation Joe Morgan: Hopefully this will be a better week for all of us, and baseball will help us move forward in the aftermath of what happened at Virginia Tech. It has not been a good start to the week. I'm concerned because my two daughters will be going to school two years from now. It's almost like the Imus situatiion; kids and people going to get educated and being hit from the outside with negative comments and threates on their lives. I guess if you're not safe in college, where are you safe?

KT: I'd just like to say here that the Imus situation was horrifying and despicable, and I'm glad he was fired. But how on God's green earth do you even begin to compare that with the Virgina Tech massacre? That's not even apples and oranges -- it's like apples and hurricanes of murderous insanity that destroy entire communities.

Sorry this chat was so downerish and sad. Hopefully next week he'll just go back to saying he can't comment on anything.

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posted by Unknown  # 6:23 PM
From Nick:

i wouldn't expect joe to know this, or do any research, but mike hill (assisstant general manager for the florida marlins) is an african american harvard graduate. he played football and baseball for the crimson and was recruited by a coach i work with, which is the reason i know he's a harvard grad. additionally, his race should be fairly obvious from his picture.
From Andrew:

Don't know if you heard the Dan Patrick show today but Joe Morgan was on and had the audacity to compare the VaTech massacre to the Don Imus comment. He said, "Here are kids going to school, not bothering anybody; trying to make something of themselves, trying to be better--and this is what they're subjected to."

I'll let that sink in for a moment...

Anyway, here's the link:
You need to be an ESPN insider to access it.

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Sunday, April 15, 2007


Transcript: Meeting of High-Level Dodger Personnel

Dodger Executive #1: April 15 is the sixtieth anniversary of Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier in baseball. It's a pretty big deal -- he's in all the history books and stuff. We need a speaker before the game who will be able to convey the magnitude and historical significance of Jackie's achievements.

Dodger Executive #2:
I got it. Marlon Wayans.

Dodger Executive #1:
Done. What's for lunch? Tacos? I love tacos.

Dodger Executive #2:
Better idea: burritos.

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posted by Junior  # 8:06 PM
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Baseball Players

Tribe-ChiSox. 8th inning. One-run game. Darin Erstad just bunted a guy over to second. Take it away, Hawk Harrelson and the other guy (Darrin Jackson?).

Hawk: He [Erstad] just does a lot of things good on the baseball field.

Other Guy
: Well, again, mentioned it earlier. It's because he's practiced. And taken pride in the practice. Just keep doing things right and they pay off for you.

: The term is becoming more popular with players, you didn't hear it too much in the past, but...he's just a baseball player. And that is a tremendous compliment. Because there are some guys who play in the big leagues who are really not baseball players. They're just either hitters, o -- or, you know, good defensive guys. But they're just not baseball players. They don't have real good instincts. [Konerko steps into the box.] So here's Paulie. And I think that probably the "instincts" is the key word in being named a "baseball player."

Other guy
: I'd agree and also, I'll take it -- I'll add to that, in the fact that I look at a guy when I sit there and say "He's just a baseball player," it's just somebody that can do everything out there. Just everything. Bunt, get dirty, hustle at all times, kind of "heads and above" the others that are out there. Not that they're not baseball players, but when you see Erstad, or anybody else -- like, if David Eckstein, you know? Giving everything they have on the field, you just say, "Man, there's a baseball player!"

Hawk: Roberto Alomar. Go right to the top.

Other Guy
: Oh yeah.

Hawk: Didn't have to tell him anything.

[moment later]

Other Guy: There's more distractions for players in today's baseball than with past players, when you were playing. There were a whole bunch of baseball players.

Hawk: Oh no no no. There were a bunch of guys [laughing], back in those days too, who were not baseball players.

Other Guy: Really.

Hawk: The only thing they could do was hit. The only thing they could do was field, you know.

Other Guy: Yeah. [beat] I just saw the highlights.

(Sabathia gets out of the inning.)

So, to sum up.

In order to be a baseball player, you have to do everything. Which is:

Bunt, get dirty, hustle at all times. And be "kind of 'heads and above' [sic]" other non-baseball players.

Some examples of baseball players (and their career OPS+) : Darin Erstad (96), David Eckstein (88), Robby Alomar (116 -- and he's probably a HOFer, so they've got me there).

If we get any more information on the actual occupation of the other people we assumed were baseball players, due to their employment by professional baseball teams, we will let you know.

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posted by Unknown  # 3:32 PM
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Where's My Ladies At?

Here's one. Her name is Gwen Knapp, and I'm guessing she had a deadline, and had nothing to write about, and Googled "Yankees+cliches+team chemistry+true yankee" and cribbed a bunch of other crap to write this:

(starts with a perfectly good analysis of the injuries that have hit the Yankees this season. Then...)

Other teams go through this stuff all the time, piecing together lineups. The A's swear by spare parts. But vulnerability doesn't suit the Yankees, and as a team, they look shockingly fragile.

On Saturday night, they managed to beat the A's 4-3 in 13 innings after losing the night before in 11, partly because Rasner didn't unravel when Derek Jeter and Robinson Cano each committed an error behind him in the first two innings. In the end, the Yankees had four errors and won primarily because of the rookie and the bullpen, the one element of their team that remains overwhelming.

Well, I wouldn't say "overwhelming." Rivera still lurks out in the bullpen like an invincible Panamanian Destructicon, but Farnsworth is a mess, and if you think Myers, Henn, and Bruney are going to stay this good for the whole year you've got another thing coming. (They do have Vizcaino, who was a great addition [9.92 K/game last year] and Bruney looks decent to me, but in the 13th last night he threw a fastball to Bobby Crosby that was so meaty and straight and thigh-high I swear I saw Crosby's eyes actually like toy-train-headlight-style light up before he jumped too early and fouled out to left.)

Anyway, if you ask me, the one element of their team that remains overwhelming would be their offense. It seems to me that Damon-Jeter-Abreu-ARod-Giambi-Posada-Cano is a pretty good 1-7.
I know, I know. I'm crazy.

The scouting reports issued appropriate warnings, but seeing them up close, inning by inning, brings home how reduced they are. The reputedly thin pitching staff is actually emaciated, much like the bench, and the lineup has a greater intimidation factor on paper than in reality.

Well, I know it's early, but in "reality" they have scored the second most runs in baseball so far.

Perhaps watching the Yankees wither in October so often the last few years has stripped away an aura, and the talent hasn't changed that radically. Or maybe it's merely the fact that Hideki Matsui resides on the disabled list. But something is clearly missing from this team.

They're probably a little less intimidating without Sheffield. And Matsui will be back. But isn't what's missing...their pitchers? Mussina/Pavano/Wang/no Clemens? I mean, those people are actually physically missing. No? It's not that? Then what could it possibly be?

Oh. Oh God. No. Please don' can't mean...please no dear Jesus...are you going to talk about...?

One of the New York beat writers pointed out that the 2000 team had a relatively underwhelming lineup, and visions of Scott Brosius at third and Ricky Ledee in left came rushing back. Glenallen Hill and Jose Canseco spent time on the roster, too. Of course, that team had Roger Clemens, plus El Duque and the first pinstriped incarnation of Andy Pettitte, on the pitching staff. And in the end, it had a World Series trophy, too.

What is she getting at, you might ask?

She's talking about aura, people. Aura. Mystique. That indefinible je ne sais quoi de sinistre that the magical underachieving Yankees of 1996-2000 had in spades. Think about the improbable run of that team. They were made up entirely of career minor leaguers, rag-tag humps, 42 year-old semi-retired recovering-alcoholic player-coaches, a pretty-boy third baseman (Corbin Bernsen), a young, raw base-stealing phenom with a batting glove obsession, a placekicking horse, Kathy Ireland, that weird quiet kid Jimmy who swore he would never play basketball again, and a simple Iowa farmer who ploughed his field because Ray Liotta/his own dead dad/he himself talked to him in a funny way, and they were all coached by Emilio Estevez. And somehow, someway, they overcame extraordinary odds, came together, and using nothing more than guile, team chemistry, mystique, aura, and togetherness, won four World Series in four of the biggest upsets in the history of professional sports!

(In 2000, by far the worst year in that run, they also had Pettitte, Clemens, El Duque, and 145 IP from Nelson and Rivera at like a 200 ERA+. And Jeter and Bernie, and a catcher who walked 107 times. And a reserve outfielder, David Justice, who in 78 games hit 20 HR and went .305/.391/.585.)

The payroll became more menacing after that, but the trophy has not returned. As the Yankees stocked up on Randy Johnson, Kevin Brown, Jason Giambi, Johnny Damon, Gary Sheffield, et al., they became less potent.

Incorrect. They became far more potent.

In 2000 they won 87 games and got to the WS from a very weak AL East. They scored 871 runs, allowed 814 .

In 2002, the first year with Giambi, they went 103-58. They scored 897 runs, allowed 697.

In 2003, they went 101-61. They scored 877 runs, allowed 716.

In 2004, the first year with Sheffield/ARod, they went 101-61 again, scored 897 runs, allowed 808.

In 2005, 95-67. Scored 886 runs, allowed 789.

In 2006, first year with Damon: 97-65. Scored 930 runs, allowed 767.

So. To sum up. More "potent" pretty much every year since 2000. Just haven't won the WS, due mostly to thinner pitching, better competition, and bad luck (esp. 2001, 2004).

The core of their roster when they won four of five World Series from 1996 to 2000 was homegrown. Derek Jeter, Bernie Williams, Mariano Rivera, Jorge Posada and Pettitte all came through the farm system. They didn't have to adapt when they put on pinstripes. They were born to them.

Is there an emoticon for: I Am Barfing? Here, I'll make it up:


The 2001 Diamondbacks, the 1997 Marlins, the 2004 Red many examples of teams with few homegrown players. Who cares? It's nice. But it's not necessary.

And this overblown "to the manor born" shit about the Yankees has got to stop. It's fucking ridiculous. They weren't "born" to anything. They were drafted by the Yankees and weren't traded. They were good players because they would have been good players for any team. Derek Jeter was the fucking 6th overall pick in the draft. He was not a scrub who suddenly put on a Yankee uniform and became Superman. Pinstripes do not add Special Powers.

Giambi and Damon, a pair of colorful, irrepressible characters, each shed part of himself to become a Yankee. The transformation went beyond frequent visits to the barber. They are still vital, important players, but they aren't linchpins the way they were in Oakland and Boston. They can't be.

Damon OPS+ 2005 (BOS): 113. (35 2B, 10 HR.)

Damon OPS+ 2006 (NYY): 120. (35 2B, 24 HR.)

Jason Gambi's OPS+ in the four full years he's been a Yankee: 171, 156, 151, 154.

To be fair to Gwen Knapp, does not keep track of the players' Lynchpin Indexes. But I bet she's right -- they are probably far lower now, maybe as far down as the low 65.00's or maybe even 64.00's...what's that? There is no Lynchpin Index? And the idea of applying the concept of "lynchpin" to a baseball player is confusing and meaningless when evaluating the team's overall performance? Okay. Sorry.

Alex Rodriguez is another story.

Fasten your seatbelts, people. You knew it was coming, didn't you?

The Yankees exiled Alfonso Soriano, a homegrown star, to get him, and he was tagged a soft pretender last year, not a true Yankee.

Gwen Knapp, how do I ridicule you? Let me count the ways.

1. Alphonso Soriano is not a "homegrown" player. He signed with the Yankees as one of those foreign-free-agent deals in 1998.

2. AlSo has a career 114 OPS+. (And $136 million from the Cubs. What idiots.) ARod has a career 146 OPS+. They were both middle infielders. ARod was, and is, one of the very best players in all of baseball. He is going to retire with 900 HR and probably 3-4 MVPs. When they traded for him he was about to his the very sweet-sport prime of his brilliant, Hall of Fame career. (AlSo was also lying about his age before he was traded.) Are you seriously suggesting that trading Soriano for ARod was a bad move?

3. Anyone who signs a contract with the New York Yankees or any of its affiliate minor league teams and receives a check for services rendered from said team is a "true" Yankee.

4. If you read that sentence again: 'The Yankees exiled Alfonso Soriano, a homegrown star, to get him, and he was tagged a soft pretender last year, not a true Yankee" you will note that "he was tagged" is a bit of a confusing, dangling modifier type deal, since one could conclude that the antecedent of "he" is Soriano. I would suggest this rewrite:

"In a stunningly brilliant coup by GM Brian Cashman, the Yankees traded Alfonso Soriano, an overrated star,and a bunch of other garbage, and landed a sure Hall of Famer in Alex Rodriguez. But some Yankee fans did not take to Rodriguez right away, because their brains are stupid, and Rodriguez was soon tagged "not a true Yankee," which is a four-word piece of gibberish used exclusively by asshole-morons."

See how that just flows better?

But he is staggeringly talented, and his powerful start this spring suggests a grit that, if it flourishes, could make the Yankees more intriguing than they've been in a long time.

They are just as intriguing this year as they ever are. They win 97-103 games and make the playoffs. And what was ARod's grit index in 2005, when, and I am going to do one of these newfangled typeface explosions here:


(Side-note: In the time it has taken me to write this, Darin Erstad has struck out twice, and is now hitting .189 with a .532 OPS.)

When the Yankees lost the bidding for Dice-K last winter, the Boston victory called to mind New England's gloom four years ago, when the Yankees snared another pitcher from the international market, Jose Contreras. That did nothing for New York. The following year, A-Rod veered away from Fenway at the last minute and ended up in the Bronx -- another giant transaction that didn't look so big on the field.

Except in 2005, when he won the A.L. MVP Award. Although to be fair, he has never won the...what's it called? Shoot. I forgot. What's that award called that is given to the player who is even better than the player who gets the MVP award? Oh wait -- that's right -- there fucking isn't one.

Now, they're reduced, scraping by, and not terribly scary. That's the best route to a fairy-tale ending.

Oh, those loveable little scrappy non-intimidating Yankees. They're just going out there every day and winging it, with nothing more than a $189,639,045 payroll and a dream. You have to admire that.

Erstad just singled. MVP! MVP! MVP!

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posted by Unknown  # 1:33 PM
But he is staggeringly talented, and his powerful start this spring suggests a grit that, if it flourishes, could make the Yankees more intriguing than they've been in a long time.

"Suggests a grit" that "flourishes"? That is a weird way to talk about grit. I imagine flourishing grit is sort of the same process you use to bloom yeast -- put the grit in some water, let the grit do its thing.

Grit is like midichlorians.
A pretty kick-assedly scathing e-mail from Rick:

At the end of the season, when they announce the awards – or even before then, when they’re just discussing it -- can we remind you how you explained here that winning MVP = best player in the league?

Nicely done. Got a little excited in my criticism, and our loyal readers call my shit to the table.

The fact remains, however, that although the MVP award is frequently not given to the actual best player in the league. (See Vaughn, Mo.) However, it is rarely given to a bad player.

Anyway, mea culpa.
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