FIRE JOE MORGAN: 01.07

FIRE JOE MORGAN

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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Monday, January 29, 2007

 

RSS Feed Friends

We're adding labels to our old posts, so you're going to get a lot of fake "new" posts coming your way.

My advice: read them all.

Labels:


posted by Junior  # 1:09 AM
Comments:
Yeah -- sorry about this everyone.

This is also creating weird situations on sites like ballhop and striketwo, for those who use that kind of thing. Not much we can do about it. Gotta add these pointless labels.
 
How did neither of you label this post: "labels"?
 
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Saturday, January 27, 2007

 

But What About The Cheese, Dr. Z? WHAT ABOUT THE CHEESE?

Someone's been reading too much HatGuy.

SI.com's Dr. Z (Man, has this guy been around a long time. I think he's written for SI longer than I've been alive.) is hungry, and he's going to kick off his latest column with a food metaphor bang.

I am constructing this column as one would build a first-rate lasagna. First the pasta, which would be all those nasty letters I got from Bear fans. (Andrew assures me that there were hundreds and hundreds of these noodles). Then the assortment of cheeses, leading off with ricotta. Then my sauce, heavy with meat and spices. That will be my E-mailer of the Week entry. No fair eating the column. This is merely an analogy.

What?

As reader Jack notes, "There are multiple problems with the first paragraph, but the one that bugs me is that he doesn't even use the ricotta as an analogy to anything. He suggests that a portion of his article might consist of physical ricotta cheese."

Not only that, but this is half-assedery at its worst. What does pasta have to do with nasty letters? Your "sauce, heavy with meat and spices" is your E-mailer of the Week entry? That's really "mailing it in," Dr. Z. Ho ho ho!

Also, the more you look at it, the more the analogy falls apart. Since he leaves the cheese alone, you realize that Dr. Z's lasagna column really only has two ingredients -- letters and an e-mail. Which, if you think about it, are pretty much the same thing. Lasagna. One thing.

Lasagna isn't even a Chicago food.

Seriously, though, what the fuck. It's total nonsense.

My conclusion is that sportswriters just fucking love food.

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posted by Junior  # 3:20 PM
Comments:
First of all, we are totally screwing our whole labeling system by adding comedy labels like "food metaphors." For the record, I am all for it. I would like there eventually to be 5,000 label categories with one link each.

Second, here's a sentence rom later on in that Dr. Z article:

And now we add the things that will make our dish a masterpiece of Italian cuisinery, the meat, the spices.

Someone please parse that, please. Make note of the enthusiastic use of commas in place of colons and/or conjunctions.
 
Cuisinery?

This question comes from the man who brought the world "half-assedery" approximately three inches above this sentence.
 
Did you go back and add a "food metaphors" label to a post from six months ago?

Right now we're looking at "food metaphors" label: 2 posts, "joe morgan" label: 0 posts.

Maybe we should change the name to FireFoodMetaphors.com.
 
I added the food meatphors tag to a past post.

Yup.
 
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You're Better as a Pop Culturist, Chuck

Chuck Klosterman has an article in Esquire where he posits whether certain current broadcasters were better as players than they are as announcers. Sound like a tremendous waste of time? It is. But I could not let this snippet pass without posting it on this blog, which is itself a tremendous waste of time.

Tim McCarver: Though he finished second in the voting for the 1967 National League MVP, McCarver was a journeyman best remembered for being Steve Carlton's personal catcher during much of the 1970s. As a broadcaster, he is a stubborn polymath with an uncanny propensity for predicting when broken-bat singles are about to occur. McCarver is regularly criticized for saying what already seems abundantly obvious, but then again, a lot of people who watch baseball on TV are fucking idiots. Better as a broadcaster.

For those "fucking idiots" out there who watch baseball and don't know what "polymath" means, it means: "Someone who knows a lot about a lot of different subjects."

Whereas McCarver, as far as I can tell, knows exactly nothing about one subject.

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posted by Ken Tremendous  # 2:16 PM
Comments:
First of all, hat tip to Ryan for the Klosterman tip.

Second, I just re-read the whole Klosterman article. Is that guy the Platonic ideal of alt-cutesy indie rock journalistic bullshit, or what?

Also, he kind of makes light of Steve Kerr's father's murder. Or, if he doesn't "make light" of it, he at least tries to use it for comedy purposes, kind of. Whatever. Shit's just inappropriate, is what I'm saying.
 
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Thursday, January 25, 2007

 

Colin Cowherd

This is not in any way sports "journalism," but still.

This morning, on Colin Cowherd's ESPN radio show, around maybe like 9:00, he says something like:

"You've heard of YouTube? It's time for a new segment on our show. This is: MeTube."

Then there were some weird sound effects, like a computer or some machine whirring and buzzing, and an announcer said like "MeTube, With Colin Cowherd!"

And I am thinking, okay, what's this going to be? I was guessing: some kind of thing where he says, "During the Nuggets game last night, Carmelo Anthony pulled the craziest dunk I have ever seen...here's the way it sounded on Nuggets radio..." and then they would play the radio clip.

But no.

After the intro, Cowherd says (again, paraphrasing):

"Tonight, on the Encore channel. "The Aviator." Movie about Howards Hughes...America's first billionaire. Well, one of America's first billionaires. It's about 2 hours and 30 minutes long. Good movie. "The Aviator. Tonight at...7:00 PM Eastern on Encore."

And then the sound effects thing played: "This is MeTube! With Colin Cowherd."

If this was a bit, it was hilarious, and I would like to congratulate him. But I don't think it was. I think he was just sincerely recommending that we watch "The Aviator" tonight.

Any other ideas as to what this was? Why is it this huge wind-up involving "MeTube" and not just, "Hey -- watch 'The Aviator' tonight"? Did anyone else hear it? I'm genuinely curious.

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posted by Ken Tremendous  # 5:27 PM
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Wednesday, January 24, 2007

 

Hotness!

The eternal debate over who's hot and who's not is driven by an even more maddening question: What, exactly, is the definition of hot? Well, let's ask ESPN's Bob Klarrpischrnrg:

The eternal debate over who's hot and who's not is driven by an even more maddening question: What, exactly, is the definition of hot?

Hey! You totally just copied my intro! How dare you?!

In identifying baseball's hottest division, do we mean the trendiest (most attractive to free agents), the most talented (greatest star quotient) or the most competitive (tightest races)?

I don't really care. This whole thing seems kind of meaningless to me, but off the top of my head I'd say it means the division with the best, most exciting teams.

Let's face it, instant popularity is king in a world of short attention spans, which is why the NL West gets our vote. It's hot, at least right now, because it's the new home of the game's richest free-agent pitcher (Barry Zito), the most celebrated homecoming king (Randy Johnson) and the collective migrations of Jason Schmidt, Greg Maddux, and David Wells.

Oh. I guess "hot" means..."old?"

Zito, I guess, lends some "hotness" to the NL West. But Randy Johnson? He's 43, has no cartilage in his knees, and wasn't a very good pitcher last year. Jason Schmidt is pretty good, but Greg Maddux? "Hot?" And Wells? Really? He makes the NL West "hot?" That's like saying that "Mork and Mindy" got "hot" when Jonathan Winters came aboard to play Mearth.

It's enough to make you think the lure of the East is finally on the decline; Zito turned his back on what should've been an layup courtship for the Mets, just as Schmidt blew off the Yankees and everyone else to the right of the Mississippi. Had it not been for the Red Sox's snaring of Daisuke Matsuzaka, the East would've had its worst recruiting winter in years, although it can still be argued that the Sox and Yankees are still on the shortest path to October.

Yeah...I guess the only thing that might make the AL East "hot" by your definition is... the $100m+ signing of the biggest international superstar not already in MLB. Also, Vernon Wells re-signed with Toronto early. And JD Drew is coming. And Bobby Abreu last year, for the Yankees. So:

AL EAST: Major new additions or re-ups since last July 31:

Abreu
Matsuzaka
Drew
V. Wells

NL WEST:

Zito
Maddux
Fat D. Wells
Johnson
Schmidt

You pick.

In the meantime, however, the NL West likely will post the majors' lowest overall ERA -- or as Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti told Peter Gammons recently, "[the division] is clearly a pitching-oriented division."

PetCo is huge. Dodger Stadium is huge. It's like 534 feet to left center in PacBell. The former BOB is huge. Congrats on having the lowest ERAs, NL West.

What made the West so tempting? For some, it was money. Zito obviously couldn't resist the $126 million he'll be earning over the next seven seasons. While it's true the Giants essentially were bidding against themselves -- one AL general manager called it "madness in a market that'd already gone mad" -- Zito opted for San Francisco's familiarity over, say, New York's energy.

Scott Boras: You ready to talk decision, Barry m'boy?
Barry Zito: (Ending transcendentalist tantric yoga session) Yes. Present me with a forked path, down one of whose tines I shall wander.
Scott Boras: The Mets are offering some money, as well as the nebulous idea of 'New York's energy.' The Giants are offering way way way too much money. Like, crazy "fuck-you" money. Money that will make you the richest pitcher ever, which is crazy, because you're like a B+ pitcher. So, just to reiterate: New York, money and nebulous idea of "energy." San Francisco: a million dollars for every zen water fountain in your house.
Barry Zito: But...I have 126 zen water fountains.
Scott Boras: Correct. They are offering $126 million. But remember, New York is offering "New York's Energy." Now, I know that you're a very spiritual person, so you have to think long and ha--
Barry Zito: Giants and money.
Scott Boras: That's my boy.
Barry Zito: Namaste.

Familiarity was also a critical factor in Johnson's request to be traded back the Diamondbacks. Soon after the death of an older brother, the Big Unit told a Yankees official he "wouldn't mind" if they could engineer a deal with Arizona. One club official said, "he didn't confront us and demand anything like Gary [Sheffield], but it was clear Randy wanted to move on."

The NL West is H-O-T hot! How hot? So hot that Randy Johnson, a 43 year-old jerk with no cartilage in his knee and a very bad ERA and a lot of HR given up last year, mentioned in passing to someone that he:"wouldn't mind" coming back! Feelin' hot hot hot!

The NL West: Old People Wouldn't Mind Comin' Back! If you can't take the heat, then you should mind coming back!

And why, you might ask, does an old person not mind coming back? Because he couldn't hack in in NY because of the pressure and excitement! And he got mildly grumpy and said to himself, "Hey, I know who is desperate enough to give me another year on my contract -- those desperately-in-debt folks in Arizona who need to sell tickets!"

Ouch! The scalding hot NL West strikes again!

Johnson might or might not be the strikeout machine who averaged nearly 11 K's a game in 2004, his last year in the National League. Logic says no chance, considering he's 43, coming off back surgery and was working with a diminished fastball in his two years with the Yankees. But working in a friendly environment will make a real difference to Johnson, who was a virtual outcast in pinstripes, distancing himself from teammates and fans alike.

The NL West: So Hot We Got a 43 Year-Old Grumblepuss Who Just Had Back Surgery and Has No Cartilage In His Knees to Come Back Here and Pitch for a Mediocre Team Where He Will Likely Make Very Little Difference! Feel the Heat!!!!

Runners-up

The NL Central was actually a close second to the NL West in generating winter heat. The Cubs, in particular, put on a dazzling show, spending enough money to fuel a third-world economy. The new faces include Alfonso Soriano, Ted Lilly, Henry Blanco and Jason Marquis, not to mention Lou Piniella. All that was missing from the Central's coronation as baseball's hottest division was Roger Clemens' announcement that he's returning to the Astros.

Soriano, Pinella, the presence of Carlos Zambrano and the resigning of Derrek Lee a year+ ago makes the Cubs alone more interesting and "hot" than any team in the NL West. Also, Klorprishh, guess where Clemens is going to sign? Can't guess? The team is in a big city on the East Coast. Derek Jeter plays for them. (Hint: Not Arizona.)

When Clemens signs with the pinstripers I want an immediate apology and retraction from you, Bob Krellpshren, because the AL East will officially be hotter than the NL West. And hotness is something I care about!

Further down on the list is the AL East, which didn't undergo any radical makeovers but nevertheless played host to the global bidding war for Daisuke Matsuzaka. The Thousand Year conflict between the Yankees and Red Sox became even more more intense after Boston invested some $100 million on Japan's greatest pitcher. Can't wait for the first showdown between Matsuzaka and Hideki Matsui.

Neither can I. But you know what I look forward to more? The first showdown between Barry Zito and Andre Ethier! Hot hot hot hot!

The AL Central isn't quite the bruising division it was two years ago. The Twins will be hard-pressed to replace starters Brad Radke (retired) and Francisco Liriano (Tommy John surgery). Actually, the division race will be determined by just how much leftover momentum the Tigers will have in '07. Their acquisition of Gary Sheffield was an intriguing one; his loyalty to Jim Leyland, his former manager in Florida, might be the tipping point in sending the Tigers back to the playoffs.

I just crunched the numbers, and the AL Central, especially if Liriano comes back, is way hotter than the NL West. Liriano, Sheff, the Tigers' Young Guns, Sizemore, Hafner...the Hotness Index is off the charts!

How can Kirkplecch say that the NL West is the hottest division?! If I didn't know better, I'd almost say that "hotness" is a dumb adjective to use when you think about baseball.

Wait a second...you guys don't think...

Labels: , , , , ,


posted by Ken Tremendous  # 10:20 PM
Comments:
You guys, I totally pulled my own Klapischistic boner: I just announced that all the NL West parks were huge, and linked this to pitchers having low ERAs. I kind of knew that I would get hit for this...somewhere in the back of my brain was the feeling that, like, the Former BOB was a hitters' park. And lo and behold, several of you were less lazy than I was, and wrote in to chastise me. Here's Eric:

Chase Field is widely regarded to be a hitter's park, despite its size. [However, BP] lists Arizona as a better hitters park than all but Coors Field in 2004.

Here's David:

"PetCo is huge. Dodger Stadium is huge. It's like 534 feet to left center in PacBell. The former BOB is huge. Congrats on having the lowest ERAs, NL West."

Not so fast. Park factors from ESPN indicate the division skews toward hitters. -- http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/stats/parkfactor

Coors Field, despite the humidor bringing HR back down to reasonable levels: #2 hitter's park in MLB last year.

Chase Field is located in Phoenix, which is at about 1200 feet of altitude and which was most conducive to HR last year: #4 hitter's park.

Dodger Stadium, with the new extremely reduced foul ground: #10 hitter's park.

SBC Park, even with the 421 foot power alley in right center and its tendency to destroy left handed hitters' power: #16 hitter's park last year, right in the middle
of all MLB teams.

You're right about PETCO; best pitcher's park in MLB.

Also, not that I'm defending Klapisch's choice of a term like "Hot Index", or whatever, but one can be rationally optimistic about the NL West this year because
those of us who enjoy good pitching are looking forward to the possibility the division has the four best 1-2 starter combos in the league.

Schmidt/Penny
Zito/Cain, Peavy/Young
Webb/Johnson

is each better than any other team except perhaps Sheets/Capuano, or Willis/Johnson. Extend that to the AL, and the Central is the only one of the three AL divisions with that depth of pitching talent.


Fair enough. Thanks to all of you who correctly chastised me for a silly mistake.
 
P.S. Kid Canada adds this to the discussion (as did many others, BTW):

Klapisch is giving divisions credit for its teams adding players...but if the player stayed within the same division, does that make the division "hotter" or merely maintain the previous level of "hotness"?

Jason Schmidt went from San Francisco to the Dodgers. Greg Maddux went from L.A. to San Diego. Jason Marquis (the EPITOME of hotness) went from the Cardinals to the Cubs. All of these moves just keep the hotness of those divisions at the same level. Although I would argue the NL Central would have gotten hotter if Marquis had gone elsewhere. His HORP (Hotness Over Replacement Player) was a disgusting - 182.76 last season.

 
P.P.S. A lot of people also wrote in to point out that Henry Blanco should in no way be associated with anything involving "hotness." Theron sez:

I think it's funny that the Klapisch article mentions Henry Blanco as both a new face on the Cubs and an element in making them a hot team. Not only has he been a Cub since 2005 anyway, but he's a backup catcher. Maybe the true measure of the next hot division will depend on where Chris Widger ends up?

And Eli:

Additionally, Henry Blanco is not a "new face" to the Cubs. He's a familiar face, attached to a body that plays terrible baseball.
 
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A Love Affair Finally Ends

Punter.
Sweet, so would I:
Yet I should kill thee with much cherishing.
Good night, good night! parting is such sweet sorrow
That I shall say good night till it be morrow.


A player on your favorite baseball team is leaving today. What would you say about him if you knew the following: in 2003, your team signed this player to a four-year, $32 million deal, and he rewarded you with seasons of the following EqAs:

.241
.276
.259
.219

I sense your ire rising. But wait -- what would you say if I told you his games played totals looked like this for those four years:

67
125
153
32

Easy, there. Don't go kicking a homeless person just yet. One more thing: this guy punted footballs in college. Now whaddya say?

"He's almost the last real gamer we have," Angels bench coach Ron Roenicke said.

Ah, Ersty, you old dog. People love you, don't they? No matter what you do on the field, the love affair never truly ends. You had one remarkable year -- one! -- and that's the one they still talk about.

The Angels lost another link to their 2002 World Series team and a big chunk of their heart and soul Tuesday when Darin Erstad agreed to terms on a one-year contract with the Chicago White Sox that includes an option for 2008.


Big, big chunk. It's sad, really. Look for the Angels to completely tank 2007. I'm thinking four, five wins tops. All because they didn't want to resign their heart and soul.

The deal, which is pending a physical this week, ends an 11-year Angels career marked by highlight-reel defensive plays, a spectacular 2000 season, several years of injury and frustration, and an endless reservoir of grit and determination.

Endless Reservoir, the new David Lynch film, will tackle the issues of identity, reality, and the human memory in his inimitable visual style. I'm becoming convinced that at the L.A. Times they must post a giant sign over everyone's computer that says "WAX MORE POETIC." This guy makes Bill Plaschke's articles read like economics textbooks.

Also: try to visualize an endless reservoir of grit. Does that phrase really work, Times Staff Writer Mike DiGiovanna?

Over the last four years, Darin Erstad has played 86 fewer games than heartless, soulless, gritless, undetermined J.D. Drew, who has never watched or heard of American football. During that span of time, he earned $3.3 million more than Drew. No one likes J.D. Drew.

"I don't mean the other guys aren't gamers, but Darin is the old-school type, like David Eckstein and Adam Kennedy.

You don't say. He's like Eckstein. And Kennedy. Gamers. Not like fucking lazy-ass Chone Figgins, always jogging to first like some sixty-year-old Jewish woman.

Hmmm, "old-school," you say. I wonder what kinds of players played baseball in the olden times? I mean, seriously. What did they look like? I want to know.

He's probably the biggest gamer I've been around as a coach. He really doesn't play for personal success. He plays to win the game."

I think it's pretty clear he hasn't played for personal success in a long time. Last season he managed to clog up at bats in 40 games with a sweet .605 OPS. But that's a personal number. He doesn't play for that.

"Even when he wasn't healthy, he was still valuable because of his presence," Roenicke said of Erstad. "He doesn't say much, but everyone watches him and sees how he plays and acts. I guess you could find someone to replace that part of the team … but I doubt it."


This is the power of personality and perception in sports. With virtually any other guy, you get hurt as much as Erstad did and play as poorly as Erstad did with that fat contract and you get absolutely crucified. You're stealing money from the club! You've got no heart! You're a bum!

But with the Punter, guys'll bend over backwards to say good things. Hey, he wasn't playing well, but he wasn't healthy -- and he's a leader in the clubhouse. Well, no, no he didn't really say much, but he didn't need to. He just lived the part. He was just there. Living. Breathing. Looking tough. Having stubble. Dirty hat-ting it. Smelling like sweat, like only a football player could.

I guess we could find someone to replace his smell ... but I doubt it.

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posted by Junior  # 4:57 PM
Comments:
Junior, your next post better have some empirical evidence showing that 60-year-old Jewish women run slower than 60-year-old gentiles.

Or that they're more prone to jogging or something.

Or at the very least, that Jewish women run funnier than other women. They probably do. Nevermind.
 
Also, we may have been over this ground before, but isn't punting like the most sissy-ish position on a football team?

It's not like he was nose tackle or anything. Dude kicked the ball. When he was nineteen.

This makes him tough?
 
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Tuesday, January 23, 2007

 

How Angry Do You Think He Was When He Said This Stuff?

Jim Hendry is the general manager of the Chicago Cubs. The Chicago Cubs had, well, a comically bad offensive showing last year.

In short: among all major league clubs, the Cubs finished 17th in batting average, which wasn't good and wasn't bad. It was average. (The Red Sox did them only .001 better.) And yet the Cubbies somehow managed to parlay that .268 average into an on-base percentage of .319 (the lumbering Red Sox went for .351). Was that bad? Yes, it was very, very bad -- second-worst in baseball (to the Devil Rays, who batted .255, also worst in that category).

Where do you think the Cubs finished in runs scored? Well, they were third to last, nestled between the tiny-market, tiny-payrolled Pirates and Brewers.

Naturally, with these results, some complaints were raised. Perhaps there were some franchise-wide, deep, institutional problems here. Perhaps not.

Jim Hendry is finally, extremely begrudgingly, huffing- and puffingly sort of admitting that there were. Now, the headline of this Daily Herald article is

Higher on-base percentage to take higher priority with Cubs

but from his quotes, it really sounds like Hendry is fighting himself the whole way.

“We hired Gerald Perry, who was the hitting coach of the Oakland A’s,” Hendry told a gathering over the weekend as he mentioned the Cubs’ new hitting coach. “They’ve set the standards for higher on-base percentage and working the count.”

Grrr, thinks Hendry, that'll hold 'em. Damn nerds. How long can I keep myself from disparaging numbers and touting experience?

Hendry: “Nobody sets out to ignore it. Guys don’t try to have lower on-base percentages. Certain guys in our game are still great players who don’t have high, high on-base percentages.


Backtrack. Defend. Backtrack. Come on. Your heart's not in this, Hendry. Stay the course, that's what I say.

I like that Hendry's defense here is to say "God, it's not like I'm telling the guys to try and get out, God." Humorously juvenile.

“Still, more importantly, you have to knock people in, knock the runs in the right way with two outs in the seventh, eighth and ninth inning.

Read that again. According to Jim Hendry, getting on base is less important than knocking in runs "the right way."

Jim Hendry's List of the Wrong Ways to Knock in Runs
-Using a cricket bat
-Catching the ball with your bare hand and throwing it into the gap
-Forcing a balk
-Grand slams (rally killers)
-With one or zero outs (not clutch)
-Walking (embarrassing)
-During the first six innings (A-Rod style)
-If you're a "run scorer" and not a "run producer"
-With your face
-With your ass

You can fluctuate the numbers a lot of different ways to create your own argument.

Here are the numbers I'm fluctuating. 17th in batting average. 29th in on-base percentage. 28th in runs scored. But again, those are just my fluctuationations.

Certain guys are going to be run producers that you need, but they’re not extremely high on-base guys. A lot of times, you want somebody to hit one off the wall to knock in 2 and maybe not take that walk depending on who’s up next.


Right. You're going to want to hit a double because the guy coming up after you is a Chicago Cub and there's no way he's getting on base.

“It goes hand in hand with your experience level as much as looking at the back of a baseball card or a STATS, Inc., book on certain numbers.

I'm surprised he held it in that long. Forget the number of runs your team scored -- that's just a number. That's found on cards and in books. Last time I checked, baseball is played on a field, and unless that field is somehow sitting on a planet that's inside a galaxy shaped like a book, I don't want to hear about numbers.

That's experience talking.

The game’s all about two things: scoring runs and knocking in runs, and you have to have a balance of all of it.”

And pitching. You forgot pitching. (Although as reader Ben points out, perhaps he just doesn't care about pitching -- explains the Jason Marquis (2005 OPS+: 102) signing.)

Seriously, though, this little quote does indicate that Hendry genuinely believes the letter R ("scoring runs") and the letters RBI ("knocking in runs") are better measures of a player's offensive worth than the letters OBP. This even though Hey guys, I hired the A's hitting coach, whaddya want from me?

My point is: maybe the headline of this article wasn't so accurate.

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posted by Junior  # 10:02 PM
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Monday, January 22, 2007

 

This Post Is Brought To You By The Letter K

That dirtiest, unholiest of symbols, the Worst Possible Outcome* a hitter can achieve, the crowning embarrassment of sports, wherein a professional baseball person just stands there johnson in hand as the third pitch sails by and his mother covers her eyes in the stands.

One man besting another. Mighty Casey's stunning comeuppance. No one wants to strike out. It's the worst, dummy! Or is it?

Yes it is, according to Bill Conlin of the Philadelphia Daily News, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning** article A striking contrast between Pat B & Joe D.

Striking, get it? I got it. I'm smart. I understand words.

Prepare yourself. We're about to slog through some C-minus conceptual comedy. Did I say "some"? I meant a whole damn shitload.

First, I want to thank Pat Burrell's left wrist for setting up this interview with the left hemisphere of his brain.


I warned you.

Hi, and thanks for giving me some time on this important NFL Sunday. Should I call you Pat? Half-Pat? Half-Brain?


Amazingly, it never really becomes clear why this device is necessary. He could have just called this piece "A Fake Interview In Which I Malign Pat Burrell" and been done with it. Would've been a lot more honest.

PB: Any of those would be better than what some fans attach to "Brain." Pat will be fine. He used me to hit in the cage for an hour this morning, now he's moved over to his right hemisphere for the games.

Slog slog slog, slog slog slog. Remember, we're still "talking" to Pat Burrell's left brain hemisphere, even though Bill mentioned Pat's left wrist and when Pat's left brain hemisphere says "he used me to hit in the cage" you might think that you're now talking to the wrist instead, but -- you know what? Never mind.

First, I want you to take a deep breath, close your eyes and try to clear everything out of your left hemi. Ever hear of Joe DiMaggio?

PB: The guy who sold those Mr. Coffee machines, right? I remember those ads when I was a kid. And wasn't he married to that fat actress, Marilyn somebody?

Marilyn Monroe. He was the most famous baseball player in America.


YOU DAMN KIDS GET OFF MY LAWN! Again, remember: fake Pat Burrell brain half interview. He's getting fake mad at fake Pat Burrell answers he made up himself.

She was the No. 1 Hollywood sex goddess back when models and actresses wearing shag sweaters weren't mistaken for pipe cleaners.

Take that, Pat Burrell's left brain hemisphere!

She never had to walk into a plastic surgeon's office and say, "Fill 'em up."

And that, you convolutedly contrived proxy for the youth I so desperately wish I could somehow regain once again! Please, please, somebody out there make me young again!

Joe was also a great hitter who had that 56-game hitting streak in 1941.

I, Bill Conlin, will pay any man one million dollars to transport me back to that magical year, when hitters were hitters and racists were violent, unchecked racists.

PB: Oh, that guy. Remember, I'm half-brained right now. But I do remember a tune my folks used to play that had a line, "Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio?... "

Pat, DiMaggio wound up hitting .357 in '41. He only hit 30 homers because he missed 15 games with injuries and the leftfield power alley in Yankee Stadium was 415 feet. Guess how many times he struck out in 541 at-bats?


Finally. Baseball talk. Whew. But wait. I'm about to get angry again.

PB: High-average power hitter? Probably put the ball in play. Maybe 100 to 125?

How about 13! That's thirteen strikeouts.


This is, of course, amazing. That is a very, very low number of strikeouts. And a very talented hitter such as Joe DiMaggio was effective at the plate with his low strikeout and low walk totals because he had a high average. But should we assume this is the norm because hey, Joe DiMaggio did it that way?

No, we should not. Rarely striking out is no indication of hitter value. It's just not. In fact, it might be a negative indicator these days.

That year that DiMaggio struck out thirteen times, he was only second in the bigs in at bats per strikeout. The man in first was Doc Cramer, who rode that low strikeout rate all the way to a .338 slugging percentage and an OPS+ of 77. The third and fourth place finishers, Rip Radcliff and Lou Finney, also had below-league-average OPS+s. (Cecil Travis, fifth in the majors, had a great year.) The point is, not striking out is no universal salve for hitting woes.

I know you're all dying to get back to the fake interview, so here.

What a coincidence. In 2005, when you had one of your better seasons, your numbers were similar to Joe D's 1941 in some areas. You had 562 ABs, just 21 more. You hit 32 homers, two more - of course you were playing home games in a ballpark with an alley 70 feet closer than Joe's yard. But you struck out 160 times. That's 147 times more than DiMaggio struck out in just 21 more at-bats.


Yes, Pat Burrell is a high strikeout player. Joe DiMaggio, along with being an all-time great, was a low strikeout player. In 2005, Pat Burrell was 28 years old and posted an OBP of .389. In 1942, Joe DiMaggio was 27 years old (he didn't have an age 28 season) and posted an OBP of .376. Stop trying to make fake Pat Burrell feel bad. He's not Joe DiMaggio. We get it.

Even worse, though, you're fetishizing low strikeout rates. Let's look deeper and see what's going on in the modern game. Here's a list of nine hitters:

Pierre
Garciaparra
Polanco
Lo Duca
Eckstein
T. Walker
Vizquel
F. Sanchez
Lofton

Here's another list of nine hitters:

Dunn
Howard
Granderson
Hall
Soriano
Bay
Sexson
Sizemore
Swisher

Now, let's do a little experiment, Bill Conlin. These two teams are going to play an offense-only game of baseball. You and I are going to pick sides and bet on who's going to win. On the line will be the freedom of Mrs. Conlin, who will be sold into white slavery if you lose (you are white, aren't you? Great). You pick first.

Excellent. So unless you reallly really hate Mrs. Conlin, you picked the second group of guys. Surprise! The first list is the top nine guys in at bats per strikeout, and the second list is the top nine in total strikeouts.

That was a vague, back of the envelope way of suggesting what more rigorous studies have tended to show: strikeouts aren't that much worse (if at all) than regular outs, and in fact, strikeout rate correlates positively with things like isolated power and slugging percentage.

And sigh, now back to Pat Burrell's half brain.

PB: Yeah, but he never had to face closers. And setup men. And guys throwing close to 100 mph.

And you never had to face big-league pitching at a time when there were just 16 teams and major league baseball dwarfed every other sport in importance. Bob Feller won 25 for Cleveland that year. He was clocked at 100 mph when he was 18. And the fastball was his second-best pitch. He threw a curve in the mid-80s that used to hiss like a snake when it broke 12-to-6 and letters-to-knees. He would have turned you into the mother of all right-bracket parentheses.


He was clocked at 140 mph when he was 22. He threw a spitball made entirely from real unicorn spit. People don't talk about this, but a pitch he threw killed Princess Diana. He had a super-curvy-special pitch that broke 3-to-9-to-1-to-3.65 before lodging itself in your colon and curing your colon cancer. Bob Feller was the first openly gay astronaut.

PB: So what's your point? Is this about me "protecting" Ryan Howard?

This news just in. Chase Utley has agreed to a 7-year, $85 million contract. And it sounds as if they actually think he'll earn it. Insulating Howard is part of it. But a bigger part is you getting a grip on your own baseball career. The word is you refuse to alter a flawed approach to hitting. You're stronger than DiMaggio was and he was a powerful, athletic man for his time, one of the first genuine "five-tool" players. Some scouts projected you as a .320 average, 40-homer guy for a decade. Not quite... Of course, they were basing that on the swing you had at the University of Miami before you fell totally in love with your ability to hit batting-practice pitches 500 feet.


Fun fact: Ryan Howard struck out 181 times last year. Chase Utley struck out 132 times. These gentlemen are both extraordinarily good baseball players.

Fun fact two: from 1918 to 1928, Babe Ruth led the league in strikeouts five times. The other six years, he finished second.

PB: That's a little harsh. How come Jim Thome was able to hit 47 homers in 2003 with me having my worst year? Some days it looked like Larry Bowa picked our batting order out of a hat. Abreu, Thome, Lieby, Utley, me;

Thome, Lieby, Abreu, me, Utley. I mean, on and on, different almost every day.

It's called clutching at straws. Let's close the book on Joe D's strikeouts vs. yours: Joe retired after 13 years with 361 homers - and 369 strikeouts. That's an average of 28 homers and 28 strikeouts a year. After seven seasons, you're averaging 27 homers and 147 strikeouts - that's 1,017 Ks.


Yes, let's close the book. It's a very, very uninformative book -- maybe worse than Dianetics. Maybe.

Funny you should mention Jim Thome. Good hitter. Great hitter. Sixth all time in career strikeouts. And he's still playing. 1,909 K's. Almost twice as many as Pat Burrell.

Hell, let's just look at the whole dang career strikeout leader list. Out of the top fifteen guys, seven are hall of famers (and most of the others are pretty good, too).

So let's close that book. It's misleading and dumb.

PB: Chicks dig the longball...

When DiMaggio was a teenager tearing up the Pacific Coast League, they told him after signing him off the family tuna boat that if he struck out a lot he was gone. So he spread out into that ultrawide stance and cut his stride to a matter of inches. Guess who else in the 21st century game has taken the same approach?


Juan Pierre?

PB: Albert Pujols? He spreads out and just sort of does like a half pivot on his front foot. And...

And then he hits it as far as you do. He's in perfect balance. His hands are always inside the ball. Bottom line, he's had the greatest first 6 years in offensive baseball history, going back to the deadball era. He's averaging 41.7 homers and 65.6 strikeouts with a career .332 average. And he just turned 27.


Juan Pierre strikes out less, so based on the information you're giving us I believe he's more like Joe DiMaggio.

Out of the top ten players in baseball in OPS, Albert Pujols is the only one with fewer than 99 strikeouts. He had 50. Seems like Bill Conlin is cherry-picking here. Actually, of course he is. Out of the top fifty players in OPS, Albert Pujols had the second-lowest strikeout total. Pujols is the outlier here. He's an uber-talented exception, not the rule.

PB: So you think I should spread out so I strike out less and can protect Ryan Howard?

Pass this on to the rest of your brain, as well: Forget about protecting Ryan Howard and start worrying about protecting your own baseball reputation. Start by taking a long look in the mirror and asking, "Am I the hitter I wanted to be 7 years ago?" You won't like the answer.


This whole overthought, overwrought article can be summed up by the sentence "I, Bill Conlin, think Pat Burrell ought to spread his legs more when he hits because Joe DiMaggio was told something on a tuna boat once."

*Not true, of course (a double play causes two outs!)

**Prize awarded by Peoria, Illinois' Eric Pulitzer every three hours to the work that sets back baseball analysis the farthest

Labels: , , ,


posted by Junior  # 8:14 PM
Comments:
This is a totally unfair attack, Junior. You forgot that according to baseball rules, a strikeout by the batter counts as two outs, doubly harming his team.

You also forgot that Joe DiMaggio was, until he died, the Greatest Living Ballplayer, even though there were several people still alive who were way better, like Willie Mays and Ted Williams and Frank Robinson and Hank Aaron. Anyone who can be the Greatest Living Ballplayer while many people still living were greater -- that has to mean something.

The second thing has nothing to do with this terrible article, but it still bugs me. Because DiMaggio refused to make an appearance anywhere in public without being referred to as the Greatest Living Ballplayer.
 
Yeah, that GLB stuff is total poopy poop.

If I were Ted Williams, that would have made me act all ornery and aloof and totally dick-y or something, but I'm glad he didn't do that.
 
As far as worst possible outcomes, there are also triple plays.

And, that dude who died when that grounder hit him in the neck.
 
Also!

The craziest thing about DiMaggio and the "Greatest Living Ballplayer" tag is that he insisted that it be engraved on his tombstone.
 
In hell, where he now resides, Joe DiMaggio is referred to as "The Fortieth-Greatest Dead Ballplayer."
 
(I am kidding about hell. Please do not e-mail me and complain that I said that Joe DiMaggio went to hell.)
 
By popular demand:

Yes, readers, the left side of the brain controls the right side of the body, not the left side. Another "strike" (haw haw!) against Bill Conlin!

A dozen people wrote in about this. I'm not kidding.
 
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Saturday, January 20, 2007

 

Is This Cool?

I don't even know who's calling this game, but I just flipped on the end of Kansas-Texas Tech. Jarrius Jackson slices through the lane untouched for the layup, and we get this call on the replay:

On the offensive rebound, watch Kansas! They look like Buddy Holly in an ice storm!

So they looked terrified and/or dead? Frozen?

Too soon?

How long until I can bust out "They look like Aaliyah in a twin-engine Cessna"?

It just occurred to me that he's comparing a team's entire defense to Buddy Holly.

Update: the man responsible for this gem is Fran Fraschilla.

Second update: according to reader John, "Apparently there's a Buddy Holly statue outside (near?) the Texas Tech arena, and there was ice on it. So he was probably referencing that."

I prefer to keep thinking he was talking about The Day the Music Died.

Labels: , ,


posted by Junior  # 6:06 PM
Comments:
I just got the word from HQ:

It is cool.
 
It's cooler than Selena's current body temperature.

That's cool!
 
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Friday, January 19, 2007

 

Winners Win Because They're Winning Winners

Or Alternatively: Winners Win Because of Vague Attributes We Can Arbitrarily Choose in Hindsight

A Theory by Jeffri Chadiha

The real article is at CNNSI.com, and it's called

Trial by fire
Overcoming hardship instrumental to playoff success


Do you already see what I'm getting at? First, let's have a nonsensical, contradictory introduction:

Indianapolis Colts strong safety Bob Sanders is the inspiration behind today's column. When asked before the playoffs how Indy's defense could overcome its regular season problems, he said the unit would be better because injuries had ruined the team's continuity in the past. Now that the Colts were healthier, their execution would be sharper.

You know who Bob Sanders was talking about? Bob Sanders. Bob Sanders was saying because Bob Sanders was coming back, the Indy defense would become better. Bob Sanders might have been right about this.

It sounded like the predictable response of an athlete in obvious denial about the state of his team, but Sanders was making a valid point that has larger meaning for every team in this postseason.

Right. Bob Sanders was saying that you need your best players healthy and playing.

The key to the Colts' playoff success, you see, isn't much different than that of the New Orleans Saints, Chicago Bears or the New England Patriots. It comes down to chemistry and confidence.


Huh? Bob Sanders (which should be the name of a door-to-door encyclopedia salesman) was clearly talking about getting healthy. Better players on the field, better performance. If Mr. Chadiha saw Michael Jordan return from an ankle injury, he would be the kind of guy who would exult in the new confidence and chemistry exhibited by Jud Buechler and Bill Wennington.

When you look at what's happened in the postseason this decade, it's impossible to overlook that most of the Super Bowl champions had the same formula working for them.


Quality football playing?

Most weren't heavy favorites.

Nor should we expect "most" to be, unless you think that the favorite team in any given season has better than even odds to win the Super Bowl.

Rather, they were the teams that hit their stride at just the right time,

AS DEFINED BY WINNING THEIR LAST THREE OR FOUR GAMES, YES. Yes, all teams that win the Super Bowl "hit their stride at just the right time" -- that time is the motherfucking playoffs, and hitting their stride means winning games in the playoffs. You wanna show me a real trend that links, say, the last three or four regular season games with Super Bowl-winning ability? Please do. But otherwise, this sounds awful tautological to me.

usually after overcoming some prolonged stretch of adversity that hardened them.

I'm not convinced. Let me guess: your definition of adversity is going to be so absurdly broad that at least two thirds of the NFL would qualify. Prove me wrong, Chadiha.

Like this year's NFC and AFC finalists, those Super Bowl winners had a level of mental toughness that couldn't be measured on paper.

Is there a Super Bowl winner you'd say was particularly mentally weak? Howzabout a ranking of all the champs, mentally toughest to mentally wimpiest? Mental-tough-vision is pretty hindsight-riffic.

Okay. Wait. Here we go. We're gonna find out what "overcoming adversity" means.

The 2000 Baltimore Ravens developed that tenacity because they went five games with an offense that couldn't score a touchdown. The '01 Patriots had it because they started 0-2, lost their starting quarterback to injury and then discovered that his backup, Tom Brady, had far more magic in him than anyone every imagined. The '04 Patriots? People forget they won their third Super Bowl in four seasons with a makeshift secondary. The '05 Steelers? They were on the brink of missing the playoffs until an eight-game winning streak landed them the Lombardi Trophy.

So we have the following adversities, all valid:

Bad offense
Starting 0-2
Losing your starting quarterback
Bad secondary
Close to missing playoffs

Remember these.

My point is that all these teams had to deal with some sort of crisis during the season that forced them to mature into a championship team.

It all seems so inevitable, doesn't it? Chadiha should really start putting serious money down on the team with the biggest sob story. It's a can't-miss proposition!

That's what we often overlook these days. We live in a time where we make instant judgments on teams without considering their growth potential. But the league is all about transition now. The days when you could look at the Dallas Cowboys, San Francisco 49ers or Pittsburgh Steelers and know they were as good as they were five years ago have long since passed. Every team starts anew in this NFL when a season begins and that means they're constantly evolving as the year progresses.


That is strange, strange evidence for a "team with trauma wins it all" theory. To me, a much simpler explanation is if you accept that there's more parity in the NFL these days, it stands to reason that the nominal favorites are closer to the pack than they used to be, so they ought to lose a bit more. But I guess that doesn't teach us anything about learning life lessons or the beauty of the human spirit in overcoming obstacles.

If they've been doubted, dogged or denounced at any point of the season, they're doubly motivated to make amends in the playoffs.


It really seems like every team in the league plays the "no respect" card, to a point of tiresome excess. Gosh, how to pick which one was truly disrespected the most? Because again, then we'll know exactly who's going to win the whole thing.

Look at the Colts, a team that finished the regular season with the league's 32nd-ranked run defense. Their run defense has been sterling in the playoffs. The Bears lost Pro Bowl defenders Tommie Harris and Mike Brown to injury, while their quarterback, Rex Grossman, displayed an incredible capacity for both brilliant and befuddling play during the regular season. They've overcome that and are a victory away from playing in the Super Bowl. I can also promise you that few people thought New England had enough offense to advance this far, and that few even expected the Saints to make the playoffs. But the holdovers from last year's Saints team can recall every negative memory that resulted from their nomadic, post-Katrina season in 2005, and that's been a motivator in their turnaround.


More Adversities (all rights reserved)!

By my count we've now got:

Bad offense
Starting 0-2
Losing your starting quarterback
Bad secondary
Close to missing playoffs
Bad run defense
Two injured defenders
Bad quarterback
People not liking your offense
People thinking you won't make playoffs

Conversely, what did San Diego and Baltimore, two squads who rolled through the AFC, have to endure?

Baltimore fired its offensive coordinator six games into the season and lost its team MVP (Ray Lewis) for some games due to injury. San Diego had its defensive MVP suspended for cheating and had to hear about Martyball failing in the playoffs for weeks beforehand. Fine, maybe not adversity-ish enough. Let's continue.

Actually, let's not. First, let's go through all of the other playoff teams and see if they qualified for adversity status.

Jets: No one expected anything from them. First-year coach. Subpar talent. Started 2-3. Status: Adverse.

Chiefs: Starting QB injured. Started 0-2. Underdogs. Status: Adverse.

Cowboys: QB change midway through season. TO distraction all year. Started 4-4. Status: Adverse.

Giants: Started 1-2. Bad QB play. Four-game skid nearly knocked them out of the playoffs. Tiki Barber distraction. Status: Adverse.

Seahawks: Horrific injuries. Last year's MVP out. Starting QB out. Three-game losing streak near end of season. Status: Adverse.

Eagles: QB/team MVP injury during loss that dropped them to 5-5. Heartbreaking early loss on a 62-yard field goal. Status: Adverse.

So there you go. A case that every team that made the playoffs went through adversity. It's a wonder that all of them aren't going to win the Super Bowl, what with all these problems!

(Also, this list would be much more comprehensive if I had watched or followed football at all.)

It's just that regular-season dominance means very little in the NFL anymore. With the Chargers falling to New England last week, we've now seen the team with the league's best record fall short in the playoffs for the third straight season (the '04 Steelers and '05 Colts were the others).

Yep, the regular season means nothing. That's why teams with four of the top six records (three teams are tied for sixth, actually) are in the Conference finals. It's a revolution!

As any of these teams can tell you now, success in the playoffs goes beyond impressive stats and gaudy won-loss records.

A lot of it is luck. A lot. Like, say, a team fumbling three times and losing it every time while its opponent fumbles twice and recovers (the first team is San Diego, the second New England). That's five loose balls, five Patriots recoveries. (Well, okay, not all of them were loose.) Maybe they hustled a little more. Yeah, that's it. Probably from all the disrespect. The Chargers probably should've lost a few more games to build up their Adversity Points.

The postseason comes down to momentum, heart and a belief that no matter what has happened during the regular season, you've learned enough about yourselves to apply those lessons in January.


That is cute. Really fucking awesomely Hallmark cute. The NFL: Where Large Men Learn About Themselves! People don't realize this, but right before the Pats run out onto the field, Bill Belichick bellows, "Now get out there and learn about yourself, goddammit!!!"

Re: momentum. See: "hitting your stride." (Team that wins their last game sure seems to have had pretty good momentum.)

They didn't reach this point because they were the better teams.

I actually don't disagree. I bet if New England played San Diego ten times in the next ten Sundays, they'd win four or so. But they eked one out on Sunday. No big lesson here. No sweeping moral judgments or physical measurements of guys' heart sizes. I don't believe they recovered fumbles or batted down passes with "People didn't pick us to win!" in mind. I think they were well-coached and got a few bounces. Sorry, that's probably a boring article to write.

They got here because they gained the most from the struggles that today's teams have to endure in order to be called champions.

That is really pretty. Can I get that printed underneath a photograph of a soaring eagle? I'm gonna frame it. Then I'm gonna get in my car and run it over a few times.

Labels: ,


posted by Junior  # 2:49 AM
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Wednesday, January 17, 2007

 

Trust Buster?

Nothing special here...just some weird ramblings from Buster Olney's blog:

The Phillies are built upon old-fashioned scout values, which figures, because general manager Pat Gillick is still an old-fashioned scout, prone to traveling thousands of miles on late notice to see a low-level minor league player or an amateur prospect with his own eyes.

It's hard to make fun of Pat Gillick. He's won in Toronto, Baltimore, and Seattle, and he's close to winning in Philly, maybe. He's made some stupid trades, and some stupid non-trades, and he let Brett Myers pitch the day after assaulting his [Myers's] wife on a Boston street. But hey, nobody's perfect. And in the grand scheme of things, he's got a pretty good track record. Still, all this talk of traveling thousands of miles to see minor leaguers reminds me of something...Spideysense tingling...

...[W]hile most teams are relying on on-base percentage, the Phillies have traded some of the crown princes of on-base percentage (Jim Thome and Bobby Abreu), while making a concerted effort to create a lineup of players who score high in intangibles among scouts, like Shane Victorino, Aaron Rowand, Chase Utley and, of course, NL MVP Ryan Howard.

Is the best thing to say about Ryan Howard -- or Utley or Victorino, for that matter -- that "he scores high in intangibles among scouts?" Seriously. The premise of this paragraph is that while other teams go after high OBP guys, the Phillies and Pat Gillick are doing it another way -- they're building teams around guys with "intangibles." It seems to me that these OBPs --

Victorino: .346 (first full year...not great, but okay for a 4th OF)
Utley: .379
Howard: .425

-- are pretty freaking tangible. As is an MVP Award. As are chase Utley's 32 taters and .906 OPS as a second baseman.

Rowand is another story. Here are some of Aaron Rowand's 2006 tangibles:

OPS+ 87
OBP: .321
EqA: .256

So what is Buster saying here? The Phillies, instead of going after guys with high OBPs, have gone after guys with great intangibles -- like high OBPs. Or low OBPs, or MVP Awards. Or bad hitting skills, or excellent hitting abilities.

For the record, there is one Phillies-related intangible that I care about deeply; namely, Shane Victorino's nickname, "The Flyin' Hawaiian." That's a good nickname.

Wes Helms, who will share time at third base this year, is never going to be confused with Miguel Cabrera in his production, but he is a well-respected professional and of the players with at least 150 plate appearances, he led all major league hitters in average after the All-Star break last season, hitting .385.

Let me rephrase:

Wes Helms, who is a pretty good 31 year-old journeyman, had a very flukey 240 AB last year, posting an OPS 200 points above his career average. In 130 AB after the ASB, he did this:

.385/.444/.654

In 110 AB before the ASB, he did this:

.264/.322/.482

Wes Helms ain't bad, but he ain't great neither. (Not that Olney said he was, obviously.) The only important thing about his 2006 2nd half is that it ended in early October, and will most likely have no bearing on his play in 2007. And I refuse to believe that his well-respectedness as a professional will help the Phillies' offense, or outweigh his 101 career OPS+.

What will help the Phillies' offense: Ryan Howard's total dominance of the game of baseball, Chase Utley blowing past his PECOTA forecast, and the Flyin' Hawaiian getting better at taking walks.

Labels: , ,


posted by Ken Tremendous  # 9:39 PM
Comments:
I would like to say, for the record, that I am very pleased with myself for the title of this post, despite the fact that the pun does not entirely work.
 
I think the title is some of the best writing you've ever done. Period.
 
OMG I'm soooo glad you said that! Because so do I!

xoxo,

KT
 
P.S. Reader Jeff writes in to let us know that Victorino's nickname is actually:

"The Phlyin' Hawaiian."
 
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Tuesday, January 16, 2007

 

California's Poet Laureate Waxes Dumb

In the last 200 years, California has borne or inspired many wonderful poets and other masters of the English language. Philip Levine hailed from Fresno, I believe. Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Gary Snyder, Michael McClure, and a lot of other Beats spent their formative writing years upstate. Let's not forget Charles Bukowski! Or Wilma Elizabeth McDaniel! Nor should we ignore the prose-poetry of Salinas, CA's own John Steinbeck, or any other of a thousand brilliant wordsmiths whose presence in our great state reminds us of the beauty and power of language.

And then there's this dope.

With a couple of minutes left in Schottenheimer's Last Stand, high in the chilly winds and darkening skies, the scoreboard at Qualcomm Stadium showed an old video of Marty Schottenheimer screaming some inspiration.

Right away, Plaschke starts dropping some poetry o'er our ears and hearts. O Chilly winds! O Darkening Skies! O Scoreboard!

Down below, with wide eyes and blank face, the real Marty was speechless.

Up above, he was wildly gesturing in a single direction.

Down below, the real Marty wandered around as if lost.

Up above, he bowed his head and stuck out his chest.

Down below, the real Marty cringed.

In the case of People of America v. Plaschke, LA Times, et. al., I submit to the court People's Exhibit 61. If I may briefly quote from said exhibit...

Around the hotel table sat Dodgers executives discussing trades.

In the corner sat the old scout watching television.

Around the hotel table they were talking about dumping Milton Bradley and wondering whom they should demand from the Oakland A's in return.

In the corner sat the old scout who has never worked with radar gun, computer or even stopwatch.


Around the hotel room table, someone mentioned an unknown double-A outfielder named Andre Ethier.

In the corner, the old scout jumped.

Does anything seem familiar, here, your honor? Let me distill these two articles:

August 2006:

Around the hotel...

In the corner...

Around the hotel table...

In the corner...


Around the hotel room table...

In the corner...

Aaaaaaand...January, 2007:

Down below...

Up above...

Down below...

Up above...

Down below...

It was a tough code, Plaschke's writing style, but I think I've broken it:

A = (physical location)
B = (different physical location)

A
B
A
B
A
B
A
B

With the San Diego Chargers trying to hold off the New England Patriots in the final moments of the AFC divisional playoff game Sunday, the fans wildly cheered the televised Marty.

When the Chargers eventually blew a lead and lost, 24-21, on a last-minute field goal, those same fans quietly and pitifully stared at the real one.

Call me crazy, but I don't think all 68,000 fans were staring at Marty. Maybe some of them were staring at one of the WR who dropped key passes. Or perhaps they were glaring at Marlon McCree, who, had he merely knocked the ball down, or merely fallen down, or merely run out of bounds, or merely not allowed a 5'2" 50 year-old man to strip the ball from his arms, would have probably won the game for the Bolts. Or mayhap they were staring at Eric Parker, who muffed the punt, or Vincent Jackson, who didn't drag his feet, or Drayton Florence, who headbutted Daniel Graham and gave the Pats a free first down. Or whichever dunderhead got flagged for the dead-ball penalty that forced the Chargers to kick off from their own 15. I mean, you could argue that some of these mistakes were the result of poor coaching, but if this is a badly coached team, how did they have an NFL-low like 15 turnovers this season? I mean, I really don't think that everyone in the entire stadium was staring at, and blaming, Marty.

What's that? They were all staring at and blaming Marty? All this shit was his fault? Okay. You're the poet.

He had botched a fourth-down call, bungled two timeout calls and stood idly on the cold grass while watching his team disintegrate into serial stupidity that led to the surrendering of 11 points in the final five minutes.

He stood idly by. Perhaps he should have suited up? The CBS dudes did show that funny picture of him playing for the Boston Patriots back in the day...

Seriously, what should he have done? The timeouts were dumb, and the 4th-and-11 was inexplicable -- but that was in the first quarter. What should he have done?

"I don't know if I can put it into words," said Charger LaDainian Tomlinson quietly.

I can. Three words.

January. Marty. Again.

This seems shortsighted.

Twenty-one years, 18 playoff games, and just five playoff victories.

Twenty-one years, 200 overall victories and zero Super Bowl appearances.

Schottenheimer left in front of one player, tackle Shane Olivea, who was so distraught he tore off his jersey and shoulder pads and attempted to throw the entire contraption 10 feet high into the stands.

Schottenheimer also left in front of a file of Chargers cheerleaders who were loudly weeping and complaining, "This ruins our trip to Miami!"
It's their Marty, and they'll cry if they want to.

I'm not sure what to make of this. Metaphor? Poetic license? Or is Plaschke actually claiming that he heard this, or that this happened? The cheerleaders were weeping? Pro football cherleaders? And they were complaining, and what they were saying was: "This ruins our trip to Miami?" When they wouldn't even have been going for three weeks -- assuming they won their next game?

I really don't understand what is happening at this point in the poem. I need Helen Vendler.

"Right now," said Schottenheimer, "the only thing I'm interested in is making sure that this group of young men in that locker room and that coach staff understand that we — while it didn't go anywhere in the playoffs — had a damn good football season."

Once again, he's Marty Shot-Himself-in-the-Foot-Heimer.

This is a poetic device called: the ham-fisted joke. Plaschke is a modern master.

Because, in today's NFL climate, if you have your conference's best record and are eliminated in your first game of the playoffs, you might as well be reprobates, or the Raiders.

This is sort of true -- because in 2000, the Raiders were the #1 seed and lost at home to the Ravens. The Steelers have been the #1 seed twice in the last few years and lost at home. The #1 seeded Eagles lost to the Panthers in 2002. The Colts lost to the 6-seed Steelers last year. In fact, I believe that this is the 8th out of the last 10 years that the team with the best record in football will not win the Superbowl (the 14-2 Pats of 2003 and the 12-4 Bucs, who tied for best record, being the exceptions.)

The point being, the NFL is insane, and everybody can beat everybody else. Especially Billy Belichick, who is 5-1 against #1 seeds in the playoffs. And 13-2 overall in the playoffs. If you blame Marty, blame Dungy and Reid and Cowher and every other good coach.

"We knew going into it what we were playing for," said Patriots linebacker Tedy Bruschi.

But did the Chargers? Under Schottenheimer's leadership, it was difficult to tell, beginning with a fourth-and-11 play from the Patriots' 30-yard line at the end of the first quarter.

This being a scoreless game, wouldn't it be time for Pro Bowl kicker Nate Kaeding to try a 47-yard field goal?

Instead, Schottenheimer called for a Philip Rivers pass that became a sack that gave the ball to the Patriots, who then drove and kicked their field goal.

Dumb decision. Dumb dumb dumb.

Schottenheimer, renowned for being too conservative in big games, was clearly and quickly trying to change his reputation. It cost his team the lead and momentum and who knows what else?

What else could it have cost them?

"The intention was to be very aggressive," he admitted.

His players took him literally, and it cost them more.

They should have taken him figuratively? They should not actually have been aggressive, but rather...what?

In the third quarter, Eric Parker muffed a punt, then attempted to run with the loose ball, fumbling it again and giving it to the Patriots.

In the ensuing drive, the Chargers defense pushed the Patriots out of field-goal range with a third-down sack, but after the play, cornerback Drayton Florence was flagged for the needs-his-head-examined act of head-butting.

The penalty moved the Patriots right back into field-goal range, from where Stephen Gostkowski connected to close the gap to 14-13.

All of this is Marty Schottenheimer's fault.

"How do you go 14-2 and fire the coach?" asked defensive end Luis Castillo. "The responsibility for this is all on the players."

Those players kept acting more irresponsible when safety Marion McCree seemed to have the game in his hands after grabbing Tom Brady's pass on fourth down with 6:25 remaining.

But instead of batting the ball down because it was fourth down, or instead of simply falling down, McCree tried to run.

"I thought I could score," he said.

From the middle of the field deep in Chargers territory?

That is so dumb of you, Marty Schottenheimer! I mean, Marlon McCree!

Troy Brown stripped the ball --

-- from Marty Schottenheimer's arms, I assume? --

-- the Patriots regained possession, and five plays later scored a touchdown and the tying, two-point conversion.


Despite replays clearly indicating it was a good call, Schottenheimer cost himself a timeout with a challenge, then called another timeout on the ensuing drive although the players had just been standing around for several minutes while an injured Patriot was examined.

"I don't think they were material to the outcome," said Schottenheimer of the timeouts.

This is dumb. Of course they were. But was Schottenheimer to blame? Don't teams have a guy in the replay booth who watch the plays and radio down to the head coach about whether or not he should throw the flag? Maybe the Bolts do not, or maybe Marty made this call on his own, but I haven't heard anyone definitively say that Marty made that call himself. (If anyone has such evidence, email me, please.)

Oh yeah? Well, if the Chargers had two timeouts, the NFL's most powerful fourth-quarter home offense would have had time to give Kaeding better than a 54-yard field goal attempt at the end of the game.

Ahhhh, yes. The fallacy of the pre-determined outcome.

If the Chargers had two TO left, the Pats might have played their drive differently, too. They might have gone for it on 3rd and 5 from the 15, and perhaps they would have made it, and run down the clock even further. The play calls would have been different on both sides. The whole last 7 minutes might have unfolded differently. Obviously, the Bolts would rather have had TO than not, but to say that the game would have unfolded exactly the same way...it's just plain silly.

"Hopefully he'll be back," said Charger Shawne Merriman of his head coach, shrugging. "If not, well, it's a business."

A business that Marty Schottenheimer again built into a giddy fall power before running into the cold January ground.

O Giddy Fall Power! O Cold Ground! O Plaschke, my Plaschke!

I believe it was Plato, or was it Arquimedez, who said: "Poets utter great and wise things which they do not themselves understand." Perhaps that is the problem here. Plaschke is so brilliant he is just channeling God, and even if he himself is just babbling nonsense, we must trust that he is great and wise.

Or maybe he's just a lousy writer.

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posted by Ken Tremendous  # 3:06 AM
Comments:
A few thoughts from the Mind Grapes of our readers:

Re: Marty throwing the flag himself or some other coach doing it, the aptly-named reader Read writes:

...That's one of the big (and as this incident showed, maybe fair) criticisms of Schottenheimer- he doesn't even wear a [profanity edited -- ed.] headset. Maybe if he had had a headset on, he would've heard someone shouting in his ear "DON'T THROW THE [more profanity edited; perhaps Read is a Bolts fan? --ed.] FLAG." If he wasn't the one that actually made that call then, heck, maybe it is his fault anyways for putting a complete idiot in charge of challenges.

Possibly. Although, consider this report from James:

I was watching Patriots 5th quarter after the game on one of those local channels, and one of the guys reporting said something to the effect of:

"It was Rivers' decision to throw that flag. He was looking up at the replay board, and he ran over to Schottenheimer and started yelling at him and pointing to the board, and Schottenheimer got out the flag and threw it, trusting his quarterback."

Now, this wasn't shown on TV, so I don't have any proof that it happened, but it seems unlikely that this guy, who was at the game, would make it up.


Interesting.

In any case, many of you have already written in to point out that Martin Q. Football, alias "Martyball," doesn't wear a headset -- I did see him with a good ol' Motorola around his neck at least a few times in the game, and I have to believe that before throwing that flag he either got some bad advice from a player, or else from a coach up in the replay booth.
 
It should be noted, as we discussed during the game itself, that although Marty himself was not wearing a headset during most of the game, that weird piece of chocolate / cold sore below his lip was wearing a tiny headset of its own.
 
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Monday, January 15, 2007

 

Football! (I'll Keep It Short)

This is why everyone hates Peyton Manning. You are why, Peter King.

Did anyone watch the Colts-Ravens game on Saturday? I'll tell you what you were thinking -- boy, this is pretty boring ... hey, Vinatieri is still pretty good ... should I go see Pan's Labyrinth after this? ...

I'll tell you what you weren't thinking: what a damn fine game Peyton Manning is having. Peter King, somehow, was thinking that:

In one of the biggest games of his pressurized nine-year NFL career, Peyton Manning played with the cool detachment of the greatest Colt of them all, Johnny Unitas, on Saturday.

Oh f. Come on. Ol' 6' 5"-Rocket-Laser-Arm has played enough truly amazing games where we don't have to fondle his junk for this one. Baltimore has a tough defense, and he put up a stinker. Not that much more to it than that. But if there is, Peter King, enlighten me.

In beating the Ravens, the AFC's second seed, Manning showed how ridiculous a stat quarterback rating is, compiling a woeful 39.6 rating.


No. He didn't. Quarterback rating is fatally flawed, inscrutable and weird. But Manning didn't play a great game. Is that so hard to see?

King?

But he completed 15 of 30 passes,

That's bad. Why are you bringing that up? That hurts your argument. 15/30 is 50% -- good for an NBA field goal percentage, bad for an NFL quarterback. Manning's completion percentage for the season was 65%, and it was his lowest in five years. 50% is fifteen percent lower than his season average. If he'd posted an 80% rate, we'd be raving about how efficient he was. He's gotta be docked a few points for going 15/30.

Andrew Walter's completion percentage this season was 53.3%.

was sacked only once

This is a point in his favor.

and threw two interceptions (one a Hail-Mary sort of punt)

And the other was a terrible throw that could only have steeled the beliefs of the legion of people who keep calling Manning a playoff choker (I am not one of those people).

while controlling the line of scrimmage throughout and taking away the Baltimore defense's aggressiveness.

Here's where it gets totally subjective and perhaps Peter King has some high level of football knowledge that enables him to make this sort of head-scratching blanket statement. I don't see it, and he certainly doesn't explain himself any further. To quote reader Matty, who tipped me off about this piece, "I don't even know what that means. Wouldn't an offensive or defensive line control the line of scrimmage more than some guy standing behind it? To the extent that he decides when the ball gets snapped, I guess he controlled it."

Again, did anyone watch this game? Seemed to me like Peyton played a pretty mediocre sixty minutes. Now he's controlling the line and taking away Ray Lewis' aggressiveness?

He outplayed his co-2003 MVP, Baltimore quarterback Steve McNair, who threw two terribly inopportune interceptions in Indianapolis territory.


This sentence is probably true, but McNair was embarrassingly bad. Their lines:

Manning: 15-30, 170 yards, 0 TD, 2 INT
McNair: 18-29, 173 yards, 0 TD, 2 INT

I'll give King the benefit of the doubt because McNair's interceptions were on the balance more costly than Manning's. But to me that looks like two lousy quarterback performances on a day when defense and field goal kicking dominated. And that's what I saw when I watched the game, too.

Just a reminder of what Pete saw:

Peyton Manning played with the cool detachment of the greatest Colt of them all, Johnny Unitas, on Saturday.

That is infuriating.

I guess we should amend the lines:

Manning: 15-30, 170 yards, 0 TD, 2 INT, LEVEL OF COOL DETACHMENT: JOHNNY UNITAS (GREATEST COLT OF THEM ALL)
McNair: 18-29, 173 yards, 0 TD, 2 INT, LEVEL OF COOL DETACHMENT: STEVE BEUERLEIN (GENERALLY HOT, ATTACHED)

P.S. One last piece of evidence King marshals:

"Stats mean nothing in a game like this,'' Indianapolis quarterback coach Jim Caldwell said. "Peyton controlled this game.''

Yes, that does sound like a thing his own personal coach would say.

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posted by Junior  # 1:56 PM
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Friday, January 12, 2007

 

Allow Me to Clarify

Regarding my last post:

1. No, Gwen Knapp did not vote for Ty Cobb. I don't know how old Gwen Knapp is, but I'm going to charitably assume she hadn't been born yet in 1936. Cobb did receive 98.2% of the vote, however, and I don't think it's a reach to say he would be elected if he came up again today.

2. Yes, these are apples and oranges. Cobb's stabbiness did not, as far as I know, help him hit home runs. That's why the title of the post is "Unfair Juxtaposition of the Day." I personally just find it amusing that voters do talk a lot about integrity and character and "moral guardians" in regard to an mythical place already populated by a fair number of cheats, drunks, wife-beaters (this is conjecture), racists, serial arsonists/jewel thieves (maybe?? I hope???) and stabbers (or at least one stabber).

3. Yes, Gwen Knapp voted for Dave Parker and Dave Parker did use cocaine. Cocaine is currently on Major League Baseball's list of banned substances, but again, I'm not sure it helped him in the field or at the plate. Maybe.

4. To be honest, I don't feel that strongly about this. I'm not overly upset that Mark McGwire isn't in the Hall of Fame. Writers are clearly retroactively enacting their own form of vigilante justice on the basis of moral fiber. But I ask you this: would it change your mind if I told you I once saw Paul Molitor strangle a baby raccoon with his bare hands?

posted by Junior  # 4:53 PM
Comments:
From reader Ben:

The craziest thing about that column is that she voted for Ken Caminiti "in symbolic support for his candor about steroids." So she's not punishing McGwire for (allegedly) taking PEDs. She's punishing him merely for saying "I don't want to talk about the past" in front of Congress. If he had said, "I want to talk about the past, and I took a shitload of steroids," does that mean she would have supported him?
 
One more thing. Ms. Knapp writes:

I voted for Tony Gwynn, Cal Ripken, Goose Gossage, Jim Rice, Dave Parker and -- in symbolic support for his candor about steroids -- the late Ken Caminiti.

In other words, one third of her slate (Parker and Caminiti) used cocaine. In fact, Caminiti abused illegal drugs so vigorously that he died at age 41 from "acute intoxication due to the combined effects of cocaine and opiates" (according to the New York City Medical Examiners Office). But because he admitted his steroid use, he was McGwire's moral superior.

If McGwire releases "Juiced 2: I Did It Too" tomorrow, does he get in?
 
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Thursday, January 11, 2007

 

Unfair Juxtaposition of the Day

Gwen Knapp has a ballot for the Baseball Hall of Fame. Gwen Knapp did not vote for Mark McGwire in the latest Hall of Fame election, but she did vote for Ken Caminiti. Gwen Knapp's latest column is entitled Morals should be a factor in voting for Hall of Fame.

Gwen Knapp, meet Ty Cobb's Wikipedia page. Specifically, thes two lines.:

Cobb once slapped a black elevator operator for being "uppity." When a black night watchman intervened, Cobb pulled out a knife and stabbed him.

Let's put them back to back, just for fun. I inserted a few extra words.

Morals should be a factor in voting for Hall of Fame

Hall of Famer Ty Cobb once slapped a black elevator operator for being "uppity." When a black night watchman intervened, Hall of Famer Ty Cobb pulled out a knife and stabbed him.

---

Yes, I know doing steroids has to do with baseball and stabbing a black night watchman maybe doesn't have as much to do with baseball, but still. He stabbed a guy.

I know "Integrity, sportsmanship, and character" are among the supposed criteria for the Hall, but Ty Cobb stabbed a guy.

Can we get some perspective in here? Gwen?

People who voted for McGwire have a moral code, too, one that reveres what happens on the field regardless of how it happened, and one that equates not receiving the ultimate professional honor with not being allowed to roam free in the world.


Well, no. I'm not saying that. But as many of your more reasonable colleagues -- including Jayson Stark, who ain't perfect -- have argued, we just don't know who did these PEDs. We can assume that McGwire and Sosa did because they were huge and hit a bunch of taters. But Alex Sanchez also did them. He's 5'10", 180. Ryan Franklin did them.

Gwen, hundreds of players did steroids and some probably still do. Are you going to be your own judge, jury, and executioner and just guess who did them over the next twenty years of Hall voting? My guess is yes, you will do this. You are the kind of person who voted for Ken Caminiti as a "symbolic gesture."

They stretch the principle of "innocent until proven guilty'' to "no felony conviction, no foul.''

Mark McGwire was never suspended from baseball for using steroids. You're using the principle of "I retroactively condemn this guy for doing something not against the rules of the game at the time." I'll stick with "innocent until he is caught actually breaking a rule of the game."

Come to think of it, maybe they should referee in the NBA.

Or publish O.J. Simpson's book.


Gwen Knapp is apparently a pseudonym for Wilmer Valderrama, 'cause she just got me like I was "Yo Mamma."

These same people also like to cite statistics without any context. They talk about McGwire's 583 home runs the way Nigel in "This Is Spinal Tap'' brags about the amp that "goes to 11.'' They can't wrap their brains around the idea that the number just might be bogus.

1. Yes, "goes to 11." Hilarious. A clever new spin on a 23-year-old reference. Original, yet familiar.

2. I can wrap my brain around the idea that McGwire used PEDs. But again, do you want to spend the next decade picking and choosing who else did? When Albert Pujols comes up in fifteen years, are you going to demand old urine samples? You should do this. I hear he keeps a gorgeous mahogany cabinet full of them.

3. Don't ever say I cite statistics without context. Mark McGwire had a career OPS+ of one-fucking-sixty-three and a career EqA of .335. He had 109.5 career WARP3. You voted for Dave Parker, whose comparables are 121, .286 (!), and 86.3.

At the same time, McGwire's most ardent supporters don't appear to like the human element of the process at all.

If the "human element" means establishing "hey, who's the best guy because this is clearly the Hall of Being the Best Guy," then no, I don't like that element.

If 583 home runs make McGwire an automatic inductee, then a computer program can do the job, eliminating all those pesky moral guardians.

These moral guardians welcomed with open arms a man who stabbed a black night watchman.

I can build this computer and have it on your doorstep by nightfall.

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posted by Junior  # 11:02 PM
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Wednesday, January 10, 2007

 

Hall of Fame Elections?! When?!

Hey, everyone. I have a question. Whom do you think should have been elected to the Baseballings Halls of Famous?

Well, before the vote yesterday, Jayson Stark had some thoughts.

Tony Gwynn
Anybody who votes against this man should be embarrassed. If Tony Gwynn isn't a Hall of Famer, why do we even have a Hall of Fame?

ITA, my friend. I. T. A.

Gwynn's career batting average (.338) is better than any player's since Ted Williams (.344). Among men whose careers began in the expansion era (1961-present), Gwynn is out there at least 20 points ahead of everybody -- except two Hall of Famers (Wade Boggs and Rod Carew).

Yes, he was a very good hitter. BA is like the eleventeenth-best stat to use to prove his worthiness, but I still TA that he should be in.

Tony Gwynn hit .350 or better five years in a row -- a streak unmatched by any hitter since Rogers Hornsby. This guy won eight batting titles (tied with Honus Wagner for the most in National League history). He finished in the top 10 in the batting race in every full season of his career -- and finished in the top five in all but two.

Dude. Stop talking about Batting Average. Seriously. .306 career EqA. Career 132 OPS+, including 169 in 1994. Toss something fun in, like his four years of 10+ WARP3.

He was a 15-time All-Star.

All-Star appearances are exactly as good an indication of a player's abilities as are the number of pets he has, or the number of floppy hats his wife owns, or the fucking number of times he ate fucking skinless chicken breast in ninth grade. Do you people hear me? It's a goddamn popularity contest voted on by drunk idiots and 9 year-olds at Reds-Giants games in early May. Stop using it as a barometer of anything.

He won five Gold Gloves.

Gold Gloves are worth less than All-Star appearances. Derek Jeter has won 3 straight GG at SS, despite being -5 FRAA in 2004. His fielding cost his team a half win, and they gave him a GG. Raffy Palmeiro won a Gold Glove at 1B in a season in which he played like 7 innings there all year. Gold Gloves are often the baseball equivalent of Grammies -- they are given to veterans with famous names whose best days are far behind them.

He batted .500 (8-for-16) in the '98 World Series.

This guy went 12-27 in the 1996 NLCS. .444/.516/.630. Vote him in!

He was a total class act.

Marginally relevant.

...if Tony Gwynn isn't unanimous, I can't wait to hear the rationale of the folks who voted against him. They obviously weren't watching the same player I was watching.

Despite the fact that you did not mention any of the top like 6 reasons he belongs in the Hall...I continue to TA.

Cal Ripken Jr.
It's sure tough to think of any other negatives on this guy's report card. I've heard people say the streak was overrated. And in a vacuum, most iron-man streaks really are. But when you consider what this streak meant to the sport, what the night of 2,131 meant to the sport, how could we ever claim this particular streak was overrated?

The fact is, though, that Cal Ripken would be a Hall of Famer whether he'd played in two games in a row or 2,000 in a row. That streak made him an icon, but he was already a Hall of Famer. The streak was just a frame around a great career.

You're right on here, man. I mean, the guy put up some truly insane numbers for SS. He had a 17.0 WARP3 in 1991. Do you realize that is higher than any one of Barry Bonds's years? Even 2001? That's crazy. Think about that. Cal Ripken was worth more wins to the 1991 Orioles than Barry Bonds was to the Giants the year he hit 73 HR and walked a million times.

Ripken had six years of 10+ WARP3 and two more above 9.0. He had a .339 EqA in '91 and a .284 overall, for a guy who played 2600 straight games at physically demanding positions. BP has him at 130 FRAA career, which is pretty damned good. And many of his negative years came after he had switched to 3B. The guy redefined a position. He is the greatest power-hitting SS ever, considering ARod's ill-conceived switch to 3B. There is no legitimate argument to keep him out and a million reasons to vote him in. What do you choose, Starky m'boy?

Did you know that no player was elected to start the All-Star Game more times than Ripken (17 times in 18 years)?

I want to slap you.

(To be fair, he then goes on to talk about some legitimate stuff. But that is the first thing he cited.)

Mark McGwire

It's going to require quoting a lot of this section in order to get to the part where I get angry. Hang in there.

There are a million reasons not to vote for McGwire. But of all the reasons people have dredged up lately, the one I find most amazing is the revisionist history that he wasn't that good -- except for those four years (1996-99) when he morphed into Babe Ruth.

Well, hold on. Ask any scout who saw him at USC, and they'll all tell you the same thing: This guy was a big-time masher from the day he was drafted until the day he quit.

I'm not sure, but I don't think college scouts' thoughts on "mashing" count towards Hall of Fame candidacy. Can we get someone to check on that? Julie? (Julie is my Exec. Asst. here at Fremulon Insurance, Inc.) Julie? Can you real quick just stop filing those claims adjustments and figure out if college scouts' thoughts on "mashing" count towards HOF inclusion? No? They don't? And it's a stupid question? Thanks, Jules. Take the rest of the day off.

If it took Jose Canseco's magic potion to make him any good, how come he had a .618 slugging percentage in his rookie season? Andruw Jones, Adam Dunn and Jeff Kent have never slugged .618 in any season, if that tells you anything.

A fine point.

And if McGwire wasn't any good until 1996, how did he manage to put up six seasons with at least 32 homers and 90 RBI in his seven healthy seasons before that? That's as many seasons of 32-90 as Chipper Jones and Moises Alou have, combined.

You're kind of cherry-picking stats here, with the 32-90 thing, which is weird, but still, it's a good point, kind of. I hate using RBI for anything, but whatever, the point is: he was good.

If he wasn't any good, how did this man make 12 All-Star teams -- as many as Mike Schmidt?

No. No no no no no. No no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no.

Everyone? Say it with me:

All-Star Game Appearances are Meaningless.

Do I need to keep saying this?

This guy was an All-Star twice. This guy was an All-Star. This guy had an ERA+ of 85 the year he was an All-Star. This guy is one of the worst hitters in baseball, and he was an All-Star.

And before you write me e-mails and tell me that it's the number of times that counts, that that is in some way a good representation of a player's value, Fred Lynn was an All-Star 9 times. Darryl Strawberry was an All-Star 8 times. Neither of them will ever sniff the Hall of Fame.

Stop using All-Star Game Appearances as a stat when you talk about a player's career value. It is dumb to the power of retarded.

The other shaky argument here is that McGwire just had one song on his jukebox, that all he could do was hit home runs, kind of like Dave Kingman. But if he was so one-dimensional, how did he win a Gold Glove? How did he compile that .394 career on-base percentage? And even if he had just one superior dimension, he had the best home run ratio of any player who ever lived (one every 10.6 at-bats).

See? Those are good arguments. I knew you had it in you.

The Many-Timers

Goose Gossage
The Goose has more than doubled his vote totals since 2000. So he's going to get in one of these centuries. But I have no idea why it has taken him this long. None.

Have the people who don't vote for him actually looked at his stats? In this guy's first 10 years as a closer, he spun off ERAs of 0.77, 1.62, 1.82, 1.84, 2.01, 2.23 and 2.27 twice. And he racked up those numbers while absorbing double the workload of today's closers. The guy threw 130 innings three times, and 99 or more two other times.

Good arguments.

No closer in history made more All-Star teams than Gossage (nine).

Bad argument.

And according to Retrosheet, he held right-handed hitters to a .211 batting average, .285 on-base percentage and .311 slugging percentage over a 22-year career.

Good arguments.

Andre Dawson
I covered the National League in the 1980s. And every debate about the best player in the National League back then included Dawson's name.

Neutral-to-bad argument.

He won an MVP award,

So did Terry Pendleton.

and finished second twice. He was a rookie of the year.

So was Walt Weiss.

He won eight Gold Gloves.

So did Mark Belanger, Dwight Evans, Garry Maddux, Frank White, George Scott, and Bobby Shantz, just to name a few. (BTW: based on these dumb arguments, why doesn't Dewey get more consideration? I don't think he should be in, but he's every bit as good as Hawk, and better than a lot of the other people considered "borderline.") Also, Gold Gloves are stupid and meaningless.

He had one of the most spectacular throwing arms of his era.

The same could be said of Cory Snyder.

And even though he needed to run his knees into more ice than the Titanic just to get out there, he still racked up 2,774 hits, 438 homers and 314 stolen bases. The only other players in history who can match that combination are Willie Mays and Barry Bonds.

This is one of the most egregious cherry-picks of all time. "The only other players with as many as 2774 hits, 438 homers and 314 SB are..." My goodness. (Although, now that I think about it, why is it any less arbitrary than like 3,000, 500, 300?)

So consider his whole package of credentials -- power and speed, defense and award votes, and the all-important non-statistical side of him, the leadership and the respect he commanded among his peers. Consider all that, and it's tougher to figure out why Dawson shouldn't be in the Hall of Fame than why he should.

I did consider that whole package, even the silly meaningless stuff, and I saw a guy who was very very good, but not great enough. If you don't believe me, read any of the previous posts where I break down the numbers. There's like fifteen of them.

Dale Murphy
...if we're entering an age when voters feel compelled to make moralistic statements against the cheaters, maybe those voters should think about making a more positive statement -- by voting for a guy so pure and clean, he made David Eckstein look like Albert Belle.

Even mentioning Eckstein in an article about the HOF makes my skin crawl. Because you know he's going to get like 40 votes in 2017, and there will be 1000 articles with titles like,

"Small Man, Big Heart, Why Not?"

and

"Cooperstown Should Open Its Big Doors to the Little Man Who Hustled"

and

"What the Eck? Why Not Cast a Big Vote for the Smallest Man With the Biggest Heart?"

and

"Little Man with the Big Heart Has a Tiny Chance of a Huge Honor"

and

"Big, Small, Big, Small, Small, Big, Small: Those Are the Sizes of David Eckstein's Heart, David Eckstein Himself, David Eckstein's Hustle, David Eckstein's Chances to Get Elected to Cooperstown, David Eckstein's Skin Pigment Count, David Eckstein's 'Talent,' and the number of Reasons David Eckstein Should Not Be Elected to the Hall of Fame Today, Respectively"

and maybe

"Smig: That is Small Plus Big, Which is What Eckstein Is"

Also, in re: making a positive statement by blah blah blah voting for clean people blah blah...I say to this: no.

Murphy's stats may not look so dazzling stacked up against the numbers of today. But in his heyday -- the decade of the '80s -- Murphy got more hits and scored more runs than anyone in the National League, tied Mike Schmidt for most RBI and was second to Schmidt in homers. He was also a back-to-back MVP, a five-time Gold Glove winner, a proud member of the 30-Homer, 30-Steal Club and a big enough star to lead the entire sport in All-Star votes in 1985. So he sure deserves to be getting more than 56 stinking votes.

He got 50 yesterday. Sorry, dude. He wasn't that awesome.

Jack Morris
Five years ago, Morris wasn't collecting even 100 votes. Now he's over 200. But you have to wonder if enough of these voters will ever be able to look past his 3.90 career ERA to get him to the podium.

Well, if you toss out that ERA (which is lower than Jason Schmidt's career ERA, by the way), what more evidence of this man's perpetual ace-hood could a voter ask for?

Jason Schmidt isn't a HOFer, so that's meaningless. Also, Jason Schmidt's career ERA+, which is an ERA-based stat that was invented in order to compare players of different eras, is 110, and Jack Morris's is 105. So, your comparison actually hurts your argument. So, you're a dummy for using it.

This is about more than just Game 7, 1991.

I should hope so. You don't elect HOFers based on one game.

Jack Morris pitched a no-hitter.

So did Eric Milton. Len Barker pitched a perfect game.

He started three All-Star Games.

I hate you.

He was a huge figure on three World Series pitching staffs.

He was a huge figure?! Hold the phone. Call Cooperstown! Did they know he was a huge figure?!

He always started Opening Day.

I just threw up in my mouth.

And consider this: From 1979 to '92, when Morris and Nolan Ryan were both doing their thing, Morris had 65 more wins than Ryan (233-168).

That's a very very very good indicator. Of how good the offenses of the teams Morris pitched for were. And how bad the offenses of the teams Ryan pitched for were. It is a very poor indicator of how good they were at pitching.

Jim Rice
The biggest reason I vote for him: The fear factor.

Insert Joe Rogan joke here. Or, if you're me, get sleepy and bail on it.

In the 11 seasons from 1975 to '85, Anerican League pitchers would have been happier to see Jack the Ripper heading up their driveway than Jim Rice heading toward home plate.

This is a very weird thing to write. I am tired. Pass.

Bert Blyleven
If Blyleven ever makes it to Cooperstown -- and he might, now that he's finally over 50 percent of the vote -- he'll owe it to men like Bill James, Rob Neyer and the bright statistical minds who now look at baseball in so many insightful new ways.

Until last year, I was one of those people who thought of Blyleven as a not-quite candidate, 287 wins or no 287 wins. But James did an incredible start-by-start study of Blyleven's career that convinced me it was only bad luck that kept him out of the 300-win club.

And Lee Sinins' indispensable Complete Baseball Encyclopedia proved just how dominant Blyleven was by computing how his Runs Saved Above Average compared to the greatest pitchers of modern times.

Blyleven gave up 344 fewer runs in his career than the average pitcher of his time. In the entire live-ball era, the only eight pitchers who beat him in that department are Roger Clemens, Lefty Grove, Greg Maddux, Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, Tom Seaver, Carl Hubbell and Bob Gibson.

Does a guy who hangs out with that crowd sound like a Hall of Famer to you? He sure did to me -- finally.

Out of nowhere, he ends with a rational, intelligent bang. Kudos.

And congrats to Tony Gwynn and Cal Ripken. They deserve it. More than Andre Dawson.

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posted by Ken Tremendous  # 10:02 AM
Comments:
A reader with the made-up name of Alasdair adds a few points re: Stark's comments on Gwynn:

He batted .500 (8-for-16) in the '98 World Series.

True, which is pretty impressive. Here were all of his career postseason stats, in the interest of full disclosure...
'84 NLCS: .368/.381/.526
'84 WS: .263/.364/.263 (love it when BA and slugging are identical...)
'96 NLDS: .308/.308/.385 (and when BA and OBP are identical...)
'98 NLDS: .200/.200/.333
'98 NLCS: .231/.259/.269 (ouch...)
'98 WS: .500/.529/.688

You've got to cherry-pick that one series, plus possibly the '84 NLCS, to make any kind of postseason-based argument. Much as I don't think postseason stats have great predictive quality, they do, like ERA, give a good measurement of performance in that specific situation, and Gwynn didn't generally seem to be all that special in the playoffs.

And his greatest talent was one that no player in any of our lifetimes could match: It was just about impossible to make this man swing and miss.

[Note: I did not include this point in my own analysis. --KT]


That's true - in terms of career AB/K, he's 87th, which is the best of any recent player. His career rate of 21.40 is excellent. Still, I'm a little dubious about this stat as a true indicator of quality. Take a look at the active top ten, from tenth to first:

Bengie Molina, Ichiro Suzuki, Orlando Cabrera, Jason Kendall, Lenny Harris, David Eckstein, Paul Lo Duca, Eric Young, Placido Polanco, and...drum roll...Juan Pierre. How many of those guys do you really want on your team? (P.S. #11 is Neifi Perez.)
 
Addendum:

To respond to many readers who had the same or similar criticisms of this post:

Yes, I do realize that pitchers are not voted on in the All-Star balloting. I also realize that while each of a player's individual honors (ROY, All-Star games, etc) might be relatively meaningless, that the accumulation of dozens of such honors all put together could indicate a very good player. I realize these things. Promise.

However. My point here is this.

There are many different ways to evaluate a player's career. Many good ways. Like stats that take into account a player's era and home ballpark effects. Or stats like EqA, which measure a player's total offensive output per out recorded -- a far, far better average to use than batting average. And what bugs me like few other things on God's green earth is when people make hysterical arguments for a player's candidacy based on bad ways.

All-Star game selections are stupid. I'm sorry. They are voted on by the fans. The balloting starts in May, after like 40 games. Often, the ballots don't even contain the names of deserving players, because those players break into the league in April or fill in for an injured player or something. And even if they are deserving, they are theoretically only being judged on the first half year. This is the reason a pitcher's appearance can be misleading -- lot of pitchers tire in the second half and their year-end stats aren't great, when all is said and done.

Should I go on, with reasons ASG appearances aren't a good way to evaluate players? Okay.

There are tons of considerations for the squads -- only a certain number of guys at each position, for example. Granted, Joe Torre did take four SS one year, but that is rare. Much was made (pre-steroid-scandal) in the Raffy Palmeiro should-he-shouldn't-he debate about how he didn't have that many ASG selections. Who cares? There were a lot of awesome 1Bmen in his era, who maybe played for more popular teams or something, or just had better first-halfs (halves?), so Raffy didn't often get elected to start. It didn't mean he wasn't putting up great numbers.

And, as if it needs to get any less meaningful, there is a rule that at least one guy from each team has to be on the squad. If you are a decent KC Royal right now, you can knock off 5 or 6 ASG appearances before you reach free agency. It doesn't mean you are a great baseball player.

More reasons? Okay. How about that the managers are incredibly biased, and they now pick the reserves. (Torre used to pick every Yankee that wasn't nailed down.) They still count as ASG appearances. Also, many guys who have been very good, or popular, or both, for many years often just get elected again, year after year, regardless of whether they deserve it.

An ASG selection is simply a coarse and silly way to judge whether a guy had a good season, and therefore, even in aggregate, a career. It suggests quality. It does not define it in any way.

The same is true of Gold Gloves -- perhaps even moreso. Gold Gloves are completely phony. Was Ozzie Smith really the best fielding SS in the NL in 1992, at age 38? Or did the voters just check his name off like they'd done so many years before? Was Greg Maddux really the best fielding NL pitcher last year? Really?

The GG voting is no different from the Emmy voting or Oscar voting. Certain names just ring in voters' ears, and instead of watching the players' performances closely and making an informed decision, they just say, "Judi Dench is wonderful. I shall vote for her!"

All I ask, when someone makes an argument for or against a player, is that the argument be as informed as possible. There are many good weapons an arguer can use. Why wield a dull sword?
 
Here is a fun and nicely-presented argument from Owen, who insists I am being, in this case, too tough on our old friend the Batting Average:

"Yes, he was a very good hitter. BA is like the eleventeenth-best stat to use to prove his worthiness, but I still TA that he should be in."

Look, we all know batting average isn't nearly as related to actual production as the yokels like to think. But this is Tony friggin' Gwynn. His value was almost exclusively predicated upon his ability to hit for average year after year -- the last accomplished guys to be so average-dependent were probably Sisler and Terry. Boggs would take a walk; Ichiro runs and fields brilliantly. Gwynn ran well at times, fielded well at times... but basically he was just a cherubic little fat guy who could sneak one through the infield a couple hundred times a year. Batting average isn't a great stat, but it's *exactly* what proves the worthiness of Tony Gwynn.

That's why he was good, and that's why he was fun. Let's celebrate that.

This is a rare spot where the mainstream folksy dopes have it right...Tony Gwynn was very good in terms of WARP3+ -- but he was absurdly good, even sublime, in terms of batting average. Batting averages got him into the bigs in the first place, and they carried him all the way to the Hall of Fame. In the rare case where a weak statistic can do that for a brutha, let's don't fight it. Let's freak out and party, because baseball's weird and varied and awesome. Hail batting average, and hail Tony Gwynn.

 
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