Ah, the "face of a closer." That menacing stare of pure intimidation that weakens the knees of the game's best players. The "clutch" equivalent of face-having. Clutchface.
Dave O'Brien of the AJ-C knows that face, and sees it in none other than Rafael Soriano. How do I know this? Mainly because (a) reader Charles H. tipped us off and (b) the friggin title of the article is:
"Soriano has the face of a closer."
The article itself is not much more than you'd expect: "scraggly goatee"; "hard throwing"; "face of sheer domination"; "his countenance is dark, serious"...
Wanna see some other faces of closers? Here. I'll show you the faces of the all-time leaders in saves.
And of course sixth on the all-time list...oh fuck.
Finally, a picture of the subject of the article, Rafael Soriano. Children, pregnant women, and faint-hearted non-Ecksteins of the world may not want to look. This face is so closer-y it will give you lucid nightmares.
(That is sung to the "Charge" tune they play in baseball stadiums. Who got that?)
Joe Morgan: Good morning and welcome to the chat!
Ken Tremendous: You know what I like about you, Joe? You're always so polite to me, even though my sole intention is to point out what a bad analyst you are. I respect that.
Jason (West Orange): Do you see anything wrong with Bobby Abreu?
Joe Morgan: I don't see him enough to make that evaluation, but Joe Torre said that he's not as aggressive as he normally is. A lot of guys get off to slow starts. He's a proven hitter so you'd expect him to pick it up before the season is over.
KT: "I don't see him enough to make that evaluation." Strong start right out of the gate. If for some reason this is your first JoeChat, I am going to now list some sentences Joe has written in previous chats that will explain why I am so continually frustrated with him. All of these, and more, can be accessed by doing a blog search for Joe Morgan at the top of this page.
I haven't seen enough of him this year It's tough for me to answer that question from afar I don't see how they go about their business on a day-to-day basis I can't answer that because I don't know what they think individually Well you cannot compare anything anymore anyway I don't know much about their front office and their scouting systems I won't say someone's overrated because I don't see him every day I know Roger pretty well, but I'm not going to predict what he will do I won't say someone's overrated because I don't see him every day I can't answer if they're the worst ever, because I didn't see all of the others that didn't win It's hard because I didn't see the 27 Yankees I don't know either of them well enough to make the statements that you made I'm going to have to wait until the season's over I haven't seen him play first base I don't know what the city needs I'm not sure that's going to happen next year I'm not sure how much he's going to want or how many years I'm not sure if it's ever happened before I'm not sure if it ever happened before I'm not sure about three different players. I have no idea where he'll play. I have no idea I just don't know how good the Dodgers are I haven't seen him play much I live in the Bay area, so I get to see a lot and read a lot on the Giants I'm not there to see how he's throwing and his mental state I haven't had much of a chance to check him out, but I have heard some good things
This is only back through August of last year, because I got bored. And you probably did too. But you see the point, right? This guy is an analyst. And he never analyzes anything. And he remains literally ignorant about much of what goes on in baseball, and defends his ignorance proudly by saying things like: "I don't see him enough to make that evaluation."
It is our crazy belief, here at FJM, that Joe Morgan, the #1 analyst on the #1 baseball-broadcaster in the world, should watch some baseball games in order to be able to make cogent analyses of various things. If you agree, please continue to read.
Paddy (St. Louis, MO): Hey Joe, Do you miss the old style carpet astro-turf?
Joe Morgan: I always preferred natural turf to play on. I almost got used to it, but there's nothing like playing baseball on natural turf. I would prefer all the parks to be on natural turf.
KT: Not that the point of these chats is to attack Joe or anything, but this is the biggest softball question ever asked in a chat. "Hey Joe: would you prefer to eat a urinal cake or pizza?"
Jerry (DC):Just because the all-star game is in a national league park, why should Kevin Youkilis be left off the ballot in favor of Big Papi? I like Big Papi, but Youkilis is having an All-Star season this year. Is it really all about money and popularity? I thought the All-Star game was for performance.
KT: No no no, friend. The All-Star Game is about fan/player voting, representing every team, and managers rewarding their own players. It is only marginally about performance. It is a silly exhibition joke nothing game and should never be used as a measure of anything important.
Joe Morgan: Every year, someone gets left off while they're having a good year. Sometimes a player that's hot is left off the ballot. Steve Garvey was a write-in once in a good year when he was left off the ballot. When you make up the ballots, would you rather have Youkilis or Ortiz? You can't have a ballot of 600 players.
KT: I would, ideally, like to reward the players who are having the best seasons. I know -- it's a loopy notion. Brad(NM): Who, in your opinion, has the best looking swing in baseball?
Joe Morgan: That's a hard question because there are so many guys who have great swings when they're swinging well, and not so much when they're not. I like Griffey's from the left, and Manny or Albert Pujols from the right.
KT: Even when he answers the questions, he begins with a laundry list of disclaimers. Hard question. Lots of guys. Blah blah blah. Just answer, man. You could handle 3x as many questions if you just answered. Mark (Boston): How great was it to see an inside the park home run? Which do you think is rarer: triple plays or inside the park home runs?
Joe Morgan: I don't know which one is rarer. Probably the triple play, because you have thousands of at-bats where people have a chance to hit an inside-the-park home run, but fewer chances to hit into a double play.
KT: I timed myself. In 23 seconds I found that there have been 666 triple plays in MLB from 1876 through April of 2007, (weird), and 975 ITPHR since 1951. So, yes, you were right, Guess-o-Matic 3000.
Nate Taylor - Denver: Joe, the Rockies have won six straight and naturally they aren't making headlines outside of Colorado. Do you think this is an aboration or can they put together a .500 season?
KT: Joe knows nothing about the Rockies team, I guarantee. I bet he mentions absolutely nothing specific about any one of their players.
Joe Morgan: At the beginning of the season, they had high hopes in Colorado. The fact that they used the humidor up there to take the offense out of Coors Field has definitely helped them. They have a chance of being a good team. As you go along, your confidence level raises, so this may get them to a level above .500.
KT: I win. I mean, how fricking bizarre would it have been if Joe suddenly started talking about Brad Hawpe and Troy Tulowitzki and Todd Helton's resurgence and Matt Holliday? Wouldn't that have freaked your bean? And shouldn't how much it would have freaked your bean mean that he shouldn't be the #1 analyst on the #1 baseball-broadcasting network?
I would also add that the Rocks have been outscored by 41 runs so far, so let's not go making plans for October just yet. Slew (Seattle): Three straight against the Tigers? Are the Indians the favorites in the AL central?
Joe Morgan: I don't think so. I think the Tigers, when healthy, are the best team, especially with their bullpen. At this point, Cleveland is playing great, but it's a long season. I think you'll have a close race in the division, with the White Sox and Twins also in the race. It's the best division in baseball.
KT: Cleveland has a better run differential. Chicago has been outscored by 23 runs. My money's on the Indians, frankly. And is Joe even taking Zumaya's injury into account when he talks about the Tigers' bullpen? It's still good, but that guy made it a beast. Whatever. I'm just casually and without-putting-too-much-thought-into-it offering answers to these questions. I learned from the master. Nick (Cincinnati): Hey Joe, Not exactly seeing the Big Red Machine these days in Cincy. What do you think is the biggest problem with the Reds? They're not this bad, are they?
Joe Morgan: They looked good at the beginning of the season. Griffey is hitting well right now, but they're not playing well. I think one of the biggest problems in baseball right now is GMs evaluating pitching. They tend to overestimate what they have. The Reds' pitching has not lived up to its potential, and their offense has not been as good or consistent as they thought it could be.
KT: What do you think would happen if Joe clicked on this link and learned that Adam Dunn is out-hitting Griffey in basically every category? Would he suddenly renounce his knee-jerk non-researched claims about striking out a lot and become interested in Sabermetrics? I bet he would!!!!!! Let's do it!!!!!!! Let's...somehow get him to use a computer!!!!! Go!!!! Do it, you guys!!!!!! (I haven't thought this through very well.) Chris (Orlando): Hi Joe, I just want to say thanks for hitting that homerun on the final day of the '82 season against the Dodgers to send my Braves into the postseason. Thanks
Joe Morgan: You're welcome, but Ted Turner promised me a case of Cristal, and I'm still waiting for it!
KT: Bud Selig should investigate this immediately. It smacks of conspiracy. (I'm grasping at straws, but I'd like the guy fired, so I'll try anything.)
Jeff (Washington): Is the nationals recent "surge" a fluke or as Manny really brought this team into their own and do us fans in DC really have something to be excited about.
Joe Morgan: Let's hope it's not a fluke, because at the beginning of the year, people said they were going to set a loss record. It's a long season, but Manny definitely has something to build on there, and they could end up with a decent season.
KT: What do you think would happen if Joe clicked on this link and read about how Manny Acta employs sabermetrically-inclined strategies into his management style? Would he suddenly quit his job and read Moneyball and realize his entire post-playing career in baseball has been a total waste and renounce his material possessions and go overseas to help the poor and write a book called I'm a Dummy: My Life in the Booth and mail it to everyone who reads this blog free of charge and use all of his money to start a Joe Morgan Honorary Fellowship for retired baseball players to study sabermetrics and move to a mountaintop and become a guru for people who want to learn intelligent ways to answer chatroom questions?
Darin Erstad was a punter at the University of Nebraska! And besides that, he plays baseball really hard!
Did you know that? No? I guess that means you never read this. Or this. Or this. Or this. Or this. Or this. Or this. Or this. Or this. Or this. Or this. Or this. Or this. Or any other of the 2.7 million articles that have been written about how Darin Erstad used to be a punter and plays baseball "hard."
On the off-chance that you have never in your life read any articles that talk about how Darin Erstad used to be a punter at the University of Nebraska and now plays baseball really hard, which would mean that you have never read anything in your life -- because the fact that Darin Erstad used to be a punter and currently plays baseball "hard" can be found in every single piece of literature ever printed, including The Bible, John Grisham's The Rainmaker, J.D. Salinger's Franny and Zooey, The Secret, and the novelization of Down Periscope -- here is one more article about how Darin Erstad used to be a punter and also plays baseball really hard, courtesy of the must-be-a-joke-named Carol Slezak.
Husker & Hustler
Going all out | Ex-Nebraska football player Erstad plays with intensity, abandon
If outfield walls could talk, they'd have harsh words for Darin Erstad, who has crashed into dozens during his career.
If baseball analysts could talk, they would gently remind Ms. Sleestack that Darin Erstad isn't that good at baseball. Because, the baseball analyst might correctly surmise, any article that begins this way is bound to turn into a massive fawning cockstroke of a guy who has a career .270 EqA and hasn't had a WARP3 above 5.3 since 2002.
If grass and artificial turf had a voice, they would ask Erstad to stop crushing them while diving for balls. If infield dirt had feelings, it would beg Erstad for mercy. And in response, he would shrug, as if to say, ''Hey, I'm just playing baseball.''
A lot of people dive for balls. A lot of people slide hard, and run hard, and play hard. In fact, like 90% of all professional baseball players play hard. And many of them are better at the actual skills of baseball than Darin Erstad. Where are these articles for Grady Sizemore and Johnny Damon and Carl Crawford and Ivan Rodriguez and Torii Hunter?
Unfortunately for the things that get in his way, Erstad knows only one way to play baseball. Fortunately for the White Sox, after 10 years in Anaheim, he has come to Chicago this season.
How is this fortunate for the White Sox? He has a .258 EqA this year. He's hitting .275/.326/.359 with 2HR. As for fielding, he's 10th out of 12 AL CF in Range Factor, though he is fourth in Zone Rating. Who knows, with fielding stats, really. But anecdotally, he seems to take weird routes to balls and has let a few line-drives sail over his head.
Although, to be clear, Erstad doesn't really get why people make a fuss about his style of play.
Finally, someone who is baffled by all these articles about Darin Erstad: Darin Erstad.
Imagine an entire roster of Erstads.
Okay. Such a squad would score 4.27 runs per game. For comparison, a roster of Carlos Beltrans would score 7.53 runs per game. Nine Torii Hunters would score 6.79 runs per game. Nine Curtis Grandersons would score 7.09 runs per game. The good news: the Flyin' Erstads would defeat the Fleet-of-Foot Juan Pierres, 4.27 to 3.36. So they've got that going for them.
Guys who sacrifice their bodies to make a catch. Guys who run out every ground ball, even a soft tap back to the pitcher, as if they were legging out a triple. Guys who always slide hard to break up double plays. Guys who prepare for each game as if it were Game 7 of the World Series.
This describes a lot of players. Who are better at baseball. Than Darin Erstad.
"I wouldn't want to have a bunch of me's,'' Erstad said with a laugh.
You and every thinking GM in baseball.
''That would be pretty annoying. You can't have 25 guys beating their heads against the wall and playing the way I do. It takes all kinds to make a team work. You have to have different personalities, different styles of play, to make things work."
You also need guys who can hit. That is another thing that you need.
If Erstad, who turns 33 next month, seems to play baseball with the mentality of a football or hockey player,
Yes, he does seem to do so. Do you have any idea why? Because I have never read anything in my entire life and cannot fathom why this might be.
it's likely because both sports have played big roles in his life. Although he went to Nebraska to play baseball, he also played football in 1994, joining the team as a kicker and punter (and also kicking field goals from outside 40 yards).
Da-whaaaaa?! You are joking with me when you say this! This cannot be a true fact. I simply cannot for one tiny second believe that Darin Erstad once played football for Nebraska. My brain is aflood with confusion because I have learned this interesting fact about Darin Erstad re: Nebraska/punting. Please continue informing me of information.
Legendary Cornhuskers coach Tom Osborne had found himself in need of a kicker that season and knew that Erstad had kicked in high school. After watching video of Erstad, Osborne asked him to join the team. Talk about great timing -- Nebraska won the national championship that year.
Because Darin Erstad punted a touchdown with two seconds left? Because he baseball-tackled an opposing player inches from the goal line? Because he inspired his team at halftime with a display of punting that rallied their spirits? No, friends. They won the national championship...just befuckingcause he was on the team!!!!
For a kid who wore his dad's softball shoes, jock strap, gloves and jersey ''since Day 1, even before I can remember,'' Erstad's decision to pursue baseball would seem obvious. But for Erstad, who played forward on his high school hockey team, the choice wasn't so clear.
Here's Sleestack: "Hey Ken Tremendous -- Darin Erstad was a punter at Nebraska." Here's me: "You're kidding. That is without question the single most interesting and relevant and important fact that has ever been discovered." Here's Sleestack: "Yes. But check it: he was a hockey player, too." Here's me: "My brain is exploded."
''I was a good hockey player, but to get to the NHL in hockey you have to be a different breed. They are special players.''
You have to be good at baseball to play baseball, I'm pretty sure.
''I've been an admirer of Darin's style of play for a long time,'' said general manager Ken Williams..."I readily admit that last year's club missed a little bit of that edge. That recklessness and all-out style. So I sought to correct that this offseason and bring a little bit of that back to us. I think overall it will serve us well. It already has and will continue to as the season goes on because it's infectious. He's not shy about his desire to win. And that fits into what we're about.''
The White Sox are 14th out of 14 teams in the AL in runs scored. Whatever you're doing, there, Kenny, it ain't working. (And yes, I know Thome has been hurt. Relax. They have a .312 team OBP. Thome can't change that all by himself.)
So, there you have it, for the millionth time: Darin Erstad was a punter, and a hockey player, and is currently a mediocre baseball player. Rejoice!
Toni Ginnetti of the Chicago Sun-Times wrote a little piece on Pablo Ozuna's injury. The headline of this article is:
Ozzie on Ozuna: He's Irreplaceable.
Now, I know that utility guys are often key pieces of their teams' success, given their flexibility and "gutsy spirit" and all that. But what strikes me as semantically amusing about Ozzie Guillen's declaration is that Pablo Ozuna's WARP, or Wins Above Replacement Player, is -0.1. His WARP2 is 0.0, and his WARP3, adjusted for all-time, is 0.1.
Thus: Pablo Ozuna, this year, is virtually the very definition of "replaceable."
Yawn. Larger Than Life: Today's Future Legends by Eric Neel
DEREK JETER, SS, NEW YORK YANKEES ...His numbers (despite some serious and legitimate questions about his defensive effectiveness, particularly as it applies to range) are outstanding, but he can't be reduced to statistics because every swing, every throw, comes to us laden with aura -- with some preternatural, supernatural composure that never fails to amaze (even if, it must be said, it also rarely manages to charm) us.
Laden with aura. Preternatural. Supernatural. Composure. Barf.
That's par for the course, I guess. No real crime here except Kool-Aid Consumption. This is the real doozy:
(Remember: the subject is: Future Legends)
DAVID ECKSTEIN, SS, ST. LOUIS CARDINALS In a country that loves gritty and gutty, he is the grittiest, guttiest cat of them all.
He has the averagest, most perfectly mediocre .260 career EqA of any gritty, gutty cat in the world.
He barely can throw the ball across the infield,
Not a good quality for a MLB SS.
and he chokes the bat like a T-baller.
The very definition of "neither here, nor there."
But he comes up big,
He had two good WS games last year. Congratulations. He also has a .358 lifetime SLG.
comes up swinging, and is humble and gracious about every miraculous accomplishment.
He does seem like a nice person. I will grant that.
The guardians of days gone by like to think they have the market cornered on gamers, but this generation has its Eck. And though little, he stacks up.
I am not a trained psychologist, but I can say with 100% certainty that Newsday's Wallace Matthews has serious emotional problems. How else to explain this bizarre ad hominem attack on Tim Wakefield?
If the commissioner of baseball truly wants to get to the bottom of one of the great mysteries of his game, he can shelve the steroid investigation and start looking into how Tim Wakefield has managed to get away with his act for the past 15 years.
Let's just get a few facts and figures out of the way right off the bat, here. In his career, Tim Wakefield has thrown almost 2500 IP at an ERA+ of 109. That's pretty solid. Only twice has he ended the season with a below-league-average ERA+. In 2002 he had a 157 ERA+ and a WHIP just over 1.0. This year, at the age of 40, he has a 139 ERA+ in 57 IP. That's pretty darned good for a fourth starter.
In 1995, he was 3rd in the Cy Young voting and 13th in the MVP voting.
Let's face it, we already know that Juicin' Giambi, among many others, took steroids, that baseball's greatest batting records are already either irrevocably tainted or soon about to be, and that at least three of its MVP awards were won by cheaters under false pretenses.
What I want to know is, how in the world has Wakefield been able to draw a major-league paycheck since 1992 with the kind of stuff you generally see at a family barbecue?
What is your deal, man? How does this have anything to do with steroids, even in an over-the-top facetious way? Seriously, what are you talking about? The guy is a rock-solid MLB pitcher. He has better numbers year-in year-out than the majority of the other MLB pitchers. In this day and age, if a guy can throw the ball backwards over his head lefthanded and post a 109 ERA+ over 2500 innings, he's going to be very successful. In fact, one could argue that Wakefield's contract, which pays him $4 million a year in perpetuity at his team's discretion, is one of the absolute best veteran contracts in all of MLB for any team. His knuckleball, or whatever you want to call it, is a bigger menace to the game than steroids, growth hormone or Clomid will ever be. Okay. Even though you're joking, this is actually offensive to me. This is the sports journalism equivalent of yelling "fire" in a crowded theater. You need to apologize for this. I'm not kidding.
When Wakefield is pitching, the game moves slower than David Ortiz going from home to first.
Here are the times of the 8 games Wakefield has pitched in this year:
April 6: 6IP., 2:14 April 13: 7IP, 2:49 (and the Sox scored 10 runs) April 18: 7IP, 2:24 April 23: 6IP, 3:02 April 28: 5.1IP, 3:25 (nine total pitchers used, one long injury delay) May 4: 7IP, 2:33 May 10: 7IP, 2:18 May 15: 7IP, 2:45
The average time of a baseball game in 2006 was 2:51. Tim Wakefield works very quickly, and the longer he pitches, the faster the games go.
If as many guys in major-league baseball threw the knuckler as have taken performance-enhancing drugs, the game and its fans would have died of boredom years ago.
Hey! What did I just say to you? This is shitty irresponsible journalism. Steroids are actual health risks. They kill kids sometimes. MLB stood idly by and allowed them to infiltrate and generally fuck up the game that I love. Tim Wakefield is a good dude who is good at baseball. His knuckleball has nothing to do with anything bad. If anything, actually, it is a cool (and dying) link to the past. So shut the fuck up.
At 40 years old, Wakefield might not be quite ready to retire, but it certainly is time to retire his reputation as a Yankees killer. After last night, when he allowed six runs and five walks in five stupendously mind-numbing innings, his record in his last nine starts against the Yankees stands at 1-7, with an ERA of 6.00. That's not even counting the home run he allowed to Aaron Boone that put the Yankees into the 2003 World Series. In October, he's done more for this franchise than Alex Rodriguez.
Wake has struggled against the Yanks recently. But look at this game (6IP, 2H, 2R and a win) and then look at this game a few days later (7IP, 5H, 1R, and the win), and then shut the fuck up, please, again, thank you.
So before you start to think that the Yankees, who have now won two straight, are back to normal, here's one bit of advice: Now, let's see them do it against a major-league pitcher.
If you thought the Yankees were "back to normal" after salvaging one game of a 3-game series with the Mets and then winning the first game of a series with the Red Sox, making them an awesomely "back to normal" 4-6 in their last 10 games, you are already a moron, and if you think that Tim Wakefield is not a "major-league pitcher" you are a double moron, and if you just blindly write spittle-laden hate pieces against a guy because he doesn't throw fastballs despite the fact that he has pitched an an above-average level for fifteen years, you are a triple-asshole moron, which are very rare. So, this is actually quite an honor, to be reading your writing, good sir!
Wakefield may very well be the least entertaining player ever to appear in a major-league uniform, unless of course passed balls, uncontested stolen bases, endless delays between pitches and three-ball counts on every batter is your idea of fun.
Well, your claims about speed have been scientifically disproven. Passed balls are indeed an element of his game, yes, as are a lot of stolen bases. Over his career, Wake walks 3.0 per nine innings. Tom Glavine is at 2.7, as is Randy Johnson. So, there you have it. Tim Wakefield: walking one more person every three games or so than Tom Glavine and Randy Johnson.
Last night's 6-2 victory over the Red Sox at Yankee Stadium was like watching a T-ball game, only slower. There's nothing remotely entertaining about watching big-league hitters stand rock still in the box, waiting for the ball to make its interminable trip from Wakefield's hand to home plate, then rock back on their heels to swing for Westchester County.
I happen to think it's incredibly entertaining to watch him pitch. It's weird and different and fun. Perhaps you would like all pitchers to be replaced by pitching machines, and for the batter to be able to program the pitch speed and location. Now that would be some fun-style baseball!
And the only thing slower than Wakefield's knuckler is the time he wastes in between throwing it.
I have already shown you to be a moron when you make this claim. And yet you continue to make it. Your only real move right now is to resign in disgrace.
Once Terry Francona, and the rest of Yankee Stadium, had seen enough, the remainder of the game moved along in an orderly fashion. By then, of course, Wakefield had done his job, at least for the Yankees. He got Rodriguez back on track in the first inning, allowing a monstrous two-run homer, and did the same for Giambi, who claims now to be playing with the help of nothing more than orthotics for his aching feet. In fact, Giambi's performance-enhancer of choice last night was Wakefield, who served him an upper-deck homer in the second and walks in the third and fifth.
He also did wonders for Johnny Damon, who had three hits off him, and Robinson Cano, who tagged him for a double and a three-run triple. In fact, by the time Wakefield was lifted, it was hard to believe this was the same Yankees team that was sitting dead in the water, four games below .500, 10 1/2 games behind the Red Sox and 7 1/2 games out of the AL wild-card spot.
The Yankees are very good hitters. They hit all kinds of pitchers. Last night they hit Wakefield. What is your point? That Wakefield losing that game is going to propel the Yankees to a return to glory? Well, Papelbon just struck out Captain Intangibles looking, and the Yankees are right back where they were before Wake took the hill.
A sweep would still leave the Yankees 7 1/2 games out,
and to reach 90 wins, the minimum number any team could expect to need to eke out a playoff spot, they would have to go 70-49 the rest of the way. Under any circumstances, it is a lot to ask.
Unless, of course, they get to face Wakefield 70 more times.
Why do you hate Tim Wakefield? What is your problem? Is this just sour grapes because ther Yankees are having a bad year, or something? Seriously. I need to know. Please, Wallace Matthews, if you ever read this, e-mail me and explain this weird factually inaccurate and bizarre attack so I can sleep at night.
(I mean, Papelbon just struck out Jeter looking to end the game, so I'll sleep fine. But I would sleep better if you e-mail me and explain yourself.)
Listen: I like Tim Kurkjian. He's a stat nerd, and he loves baseball, and when he's on BBTN and he talks, in amazement, about something that happened in some Pirates-Phillies game, and he gives his trademark, "This is why we watch baseball -- because every night you're bound to see something you've never seen before" I get kind of choked up, because he really seems to derive pleasure from that quirk of our nation's pasttime.
How hard is it? Ask Danny Ainge, perhaps the best all-round athlete of the last twenty-five years. There wasn't a sport that he couldn't play, and he did play in the major leagues, but when Orioles pitcher Tippy Martinez was asked what he threw to get Ainge out, he said, "Strikes."
Danny Ainge. Perhaps the best all-round athlete of the last 25 years.
How quickly can we refute that claim? I'll start the bidding at Bo Jackson.
I'm going to buy this book, because again, I like Tim Kurkjian. But seriously: Danny Ainge?
SI.com's Jon Heyman has a list of trades that "should happen." Here's #1: 1. Scott Rolen to the Dodgers
Los Angeles is desperately seeking additional power, and Rolen fits the bill.
In that he's slugging .318 in 129 AB this year, has an EqA of .230, is 32 and expensive, and is always injured? Is that the "bill" he fits?
Ned Colletti, one of the game's more aggressive GMs, has looked just about everywhere for power, which is the glaring weakness on an otherwise well-balanced team. Colletti recently said he wasn't going after Blue Jays third baseman Troy Glaus. But he hasn't denied interest in Rolen.
Troy Glaus: 30 years old, slugging .614 with a .346 EqA. This = better. (Edit: I am getting slammed on e-mail, so I will hereby add what I thought, on May 20, was an implied: Small Sample Size Alert!!!The original point was: Glaus is younger and equally injured and hitting better.)
The Cardinals have not yet signaled they're ready to throw in the towel, but if things continue to go south, it would make sense to trade Rolen, who has an uneasy relationship with manager Tony La Russa and would have some market value despite his awful start (.215). (Rolen has three years and $36 million remaining on his contract after this season.) The Dodgers have prospects to trade, including a third baseman, Andy LaRoche, plus young pitchers.
Who would be dumb enough to trade for Scott Rolen? Who is dumb enough to think that Scott Rolen will provide "power" for a team, especially one that plays in a cavernous stadium? And who would be dumb enough to trade Andy LaRoche, who is 23, cost-controlled, and 7-for-his-first-27 with 2 2B, for Scott Rolen, who will be paid $12m a year until 2009?
While the point that Rolen is hardly an answer to offensive woes, your implication that Dodger Stadium is cavernous was off-base. Dodger Stadium actually increases home runs for hitters, rating just below Coors Field in that category. While it's overall Index is below average for runs (at 95), it is a HR park.
Mea culpa. I looked at the wrong stat row on ESPN's Park Factor's page. And you'll see why, if you follow this link soon, before it all changes, and you notice that Coors Field is .877 for HR. What the hell?!?!
This is why my blood boils when people cite All Star Game Appearances as a measure of a player's abilities. Take it away, Bruce Jenkins:
One of the game's most astute writers, Jayson Stark of espn.com, marveled this week at the National League's candidates to start the All-Star game at shortstop. Narrowing it down to a statistical analysis of his top five candidates -- J.J. Hardy, Jose Reyes, Hanley Ramirez, Jimmy Rollins and Edgar Renteria -- he still found it a difficult choice. No kidding. Here's an even better way to go: Omar Vizquel. He's the greatest defensive shortstop in the history of the game. He may well wind up with 3,000 hits. The game is in San Francisco. And not one of those guys would have a problem with it. They all bow to the master.
First of all, Omar is 40 years old and has 2508 hits. If he gets 3000, I will buy Bruce Jenkins a new car -- his choice of model -- and I will personally chauffeur him to the game when Vizquel reaches the milestone. I will pay for the tickets to the game, all the hot dogs Jenkins can eat, and I will perform a striptease for him after the game. I will then hang myself in the public square of Jenkins' choosing, with "I'm an Idiot" spraypainted across my chest.
But back to the main thesis of this piece of nonsense.
Omar Vizquel has a .213 EqA. .213. His traditional stats are a sparkling .242/.283/.282. And you want him to start the All-Star Game.
I mean, I get that he's a great SS, and his career should be held in very high esteem. But come the fuck on, man.
23 year-old Jose Reyes has a .334 EqA, and is already at 8 FRAA. That translates to an 11.3 WARP3 for the year. He might be the most exciting and talented all-around player in baseball.
23 year-old Hanley Ramirez has a .344 EqA. .344!!!
24 year-old J.J. Hardy has a .319 EqA and a SLG of .601.
28 year-old Jimmy Rollins has a .296 EqA with 9 HR.
Edgar Renteria has a .316 EqA and is pounding the ball.
This is an absolute golden age of NL SS. Baseball should make it mandatory that all of these guys be on the All-Star team. They should make videos of them playing and give them away free at all MLB games. Bud Selig should learn how to play the lyre so he can write paeans to each of these men, who are baseball's best chance to get kids hooked on their product.
And Bruce Jenkins wants 71 year-old Omar Vizquel to start the All-Star Game.
I understand the desire to celebrate the careers of great players. But seriously. Bruce. That's batshit insane.
It's time for a small number of people's favorite FJM post-type: The Gallimaufry!
From today's NY Daily News: A poll of 15 baseball "brains," taken to determine which player is superior: Jose Reyes or Derek Jeter. Reyes wins 8-5, with 2 voters undecided. Fine. My gripe is with this, in defense of Jeter:
"Those who picked Jeter talked about his clutch play and leadership. As a National League GM put it, 'Derek Jeter wins Game 7 of the World Series better than anyone in baseball for 2007.'"
Derek Jeter, were he to play in a WS Game 7, would win...better than anyone? What?
So: Jose Reyes could conceivably be on a team that wins a WS Game 7, but if Derek Jeter were playing in place of Reyes, he would win the same game "better?"
And, presumably, Jeter would also win "better" than his own teammates in such a game, since they would each count as "anyone in baseball for 2007."
It's fun to try to figure out which anonymous NL GM made this asinine comment. My guess is the Nationals' Jim Bowden.
I second the nomination of Bowden. Few others can match that quotation's combination of senselessness and poor grammar.
I was watching the Yankees/White Sox game yesterday, and it was the Chicago feed, featuring the loathsome Hawk Harrelson. I'm sorry that I don't have a transcript of what he had to say about Darin Erstad, but I do have a very good memory.
"You look at Darin Erstad, and you don't see the best hitter in the game. You don't see the best centerfielder. You don't see the best first baseman. But put it all together, and he's one of the best baseball players you'll ever see."
This was after a little opposite field single and a stolen base. Imagine if he had laid down a bunt!
Yes. Just imagine. My goodness. Hawk might have had a heart attack.
***Note: Reader Jim chimes in to say that it was Darrin Jackson, not Hawk, who said this about Erstad. Even so, I'm betting Hawk was right there with him. Plus, there's also this next comment...
Speaking of Hawk and Ersty, Patrick files this report from the financial heart of Boston:
This came from Hawk and DJ during the Chisox v. Yanks game tonight,
about one Darin Erstad...
DJ: "I think he's faster now than he was with the Angels a few years ago."
Hawk: "Oh, yeah, I totally agree. You know, a lot of people don't know this, but he was the state champion in the 110 and 330 meter hurdles in high school, up there in North Dakota."
Punter, hockey player, track star.....WHAT CAN'T HE DO???!!
Play baseball well. Dan writes in with a special hockey note:
I know you don't really cover hockey, but on ESPN's Sabres/Senators highlights from last night's game, after the Sabres' 3-0 lead was chipped down to a 3-2 lead, Barry Melrose described the Sabres' mental state as being "like Jack Nicholson in the movie 'Psycho' "
That makes me angrier than Hank Azaria in "The African Queen."
And finally, John writes in to explain Joe Morgan's overuse of "consistency."
It's simple: Joe doesn't actually know the definition of the word "consistency." He just uses it because it sounds analytical.
Case in point, the Twins/Tigers game from Sunday night. The Twins scored 14 runs, you might recall. Joe said something during the broadcast to the effect of "the Twins have had trouble staying consistent, until tonight."
So....they haven't been consistent, until this one game. How is one game a sign of consistency? It's clear that Joe thinks that consistency just means "playing well", instead of what it actually means. So don't expect a consistent answer from Joe.
And as always, loyal readers, thanks for the continuing stream of links, tips, thoughts, and analyses. You, not the children, are truly the future.
It's a new FJM game where we take as a given that the article and its included quotes from various people are wrong, and then we rate each wrong-time on a 9-point scale. Why nine? It's Juan Pierre's uniform number.
Pierre, Matthews Stake Out Middle Ground
Critics said the Dodgers and Angels overspent for their new center fielders, but both teams are getting pretty much what they expected from the free-agent signees, and both are in first place.
By Bill Shaikin, Times Staff Writer
Let's just begin by wondering what these teams were expecting from these guys.
Juan Pierre, in his career, has a .256 EqA. That is below average for a major league baseball player. He is a below average offensive baseball player. Drink that in, Ned Colletti lovers. (And if you somehow think that Pierre plays stellar-enough defense to overcome this below-average-itude, his career FRAA is -7.) 50th percentile PECOTA had him at .250 EqA and 3.4 WARP3. His highest WARP3 in a season is 6.0. He plays CF. He has 4,286 AB and 265 BB. This = not good.
Juan Pierre: slightly below average in all phases of the game. Gary Matthews Jr. A career line of .265/.338/.421. A career .269 EqA. -18 FRAA career. Season high of 7.2 WARP3 (not bad, but also flukey compared to the 2.0, 3.7, 4.2 he had in the three previous years). His 50th percentile PECOTA projection had him at .272 EqA and 3.5 WARP3.
Gary Matthews Jr. -- above average in some aspects of the game, mostly about average or below average.
That's what these teams should have been expecting. So, how much is it wrong to say that both teams are getting what they expected? It's only a 4 on the 9-point wrongness scale, because this year, Juan Pierre is at a .240 EqA and Gary Matthews Jr. is a good-for-you! .305. The Halos have to be happy, while the Dodgers should totally have been expecting the .616 OPS they're getting from out-maker extraordinaire Juan Pierre.
Chone Figgins speaks with some authority about center field. He played there last year, before the Angels signed Gary Matthews Jr. and bumped him to third base.
Yes. Let us listen to Chone Figgins instead of: reason.
Figgins sees Matthews every day. He speaks with Pierre, his best friend in baseball, almost every day. He gives Matthews the edge in power,
Really? Even though Juan Pierre has almost thirteen career HR? Okay, Chone, give the power edge to Matthews. It's your funeral.
Pierre the edge in speed, and thumbs up to the clubs that invested a combined $94 million to bring them to Southern California.
"You can't go wrong with either one," Figgins said.
I guess that depends on one's definition of "go wrong." If by "you can't go wrong" you mean "you can't go very right with Matthews, and you can't go anywhere with Pierre" then I agree.
That opinion was far from unanimous during the winter, after Matthews and Pierre each signed a five-year deal to play in the Southland.
The Angels paid $50 million for Matthews, and the critics howled: way too much for a guy coming off a career year! The Dodgers paid $44 million for Pierre, and the critics howled again: way too much for a singles hitter with a spotty on-base percentage!
But what do the critics know, right? I mean, Matthews is having a good year, but he's 32, and he projects to a 1.7 WARP in the final year of his $50m contract. And Pierre...Pierre is just hopeless. In 180 AB he has walked 8 times and has a .307 OBP, good for a rock-liquid 140th in MLB. And he's a leadoff/2-hole hitter. He is one of the worst people in the league at not making outs, and the D0dgers give him the maximum possible number of out-making opportunities a player can have. Trying to score runs with Juan Pierre as your leadoff hitter is like trying to suture a wound in a moving car. You might still be successful -- but why make it so hard on yourself?
Anyway, I'm sure Bill Shaikin will come to the same conclusions.
Yet, if you base the early returns on the standings, the investments are paying off. The Angels are in first place with Matthews, the Dodgers are in first place with Pierre, and isn't that the point?
Bad news -- I fed that paragraph into the Wrong Machine, (expecting a perfect nine, obviously), and the Wrong Machine just started shaking back and forth and smoke came out and it exploded.
Let us use the logic of this piece of writing to form some other conclusions:
1. In 2003 the Detroit Pistons drafted Darko Milicic instead of Bosh, Carmelo, or D-Wade, and won the 2004 championship, so it was a good idea to draft Darko Milicic.
2. In 2006 four top Italian soccer clubs were investigated for match-fixing in one of the biggest scandals in European sports history, and Italy won the World Cup that year, so it was a good idea to get involved in match fixing.
3. James Dean got into a car wreck and died and he's still really famous, so it's a good idea to get into car wrecks.
And so on.
The simplest way to say this is: if the Dodgers' hit anyone in their line-up -- LaRoche, Martin, even Ethier -- in the slot currently occupied by Juan Pierre, they would probably score more runs. And if they could go back in time and undo the insane contract they gave Pierre and instead just play a decent AAA guy in his place, they would score about the same number of runs and have 43.667 million extra dollars.
The Angels are getting all of what they wanted from Matthews, the Dodgers most of what they wanted from Pierre.
They apparently wanted Pierre to punch them in the face and set fire to the clubhouse. That's the only way they could be happy with what they're getting.
Matthews, 32, has been a godsend to an offense that scarcely extends beyond Vladimir Guerrero.
Sadly, this is a low 2.6 on the 9-point Wrong Scale. (Found a replacement machine -- it's up and running again.) Matthews is having a good year. Again: he's 32 and embroiled in an HGH scandal, so I'm still not quite sure that $50m over five is a good idea. But right now, fine.
The Angels coveted him for defense, and he has delivered from opening day, when he robbed Mark Teixeira with a leaping catch so impressive that television cameras caught pitcher John Lackey mouthing, "That's why we got him!"
Said Lackey: "I got dividends right out of the gate. He's made a lot of difference. He's already robbed a few home runs. His range has helped us a lot."
Yes, Matthews does make spectacular catches. The one he made last year will be shown on JumboTrons forever. But his career FRAA indicate that he is not an otherworldly CF.
Pierre has not starred on defense.
You don't say.
In the first inning of the first game, Vin Scully pointed out Pierre's weak arm, explaining how Rickie Weeks set up the Milwaukee Brewers' first run by racing from first base to third on a single to center field.
This is going to happen a lot over the next five years, Dodger fans. Get used to it.
He has occasionally taken a poor route to a ball. Dodgers General Manager Ned Colletti said Pierre's range has been statistically outstanding over the years and suggested he might simply be struggling to adjust to the conditions of his new home field, with its five decks and palette of pastel seats.
Juan Pierre: susceptible to architectual aesthetics.
"No," Pierre said. "If I play bad, it's because I play bad. It's not the field or any kind of condition."
This gets a 0.0 on the Wrong Scale. Nice work, Juan.
On offense, he gets hits and steals bases, as expected. He leads the Dodgers in both categories, and he's on pace to score 100 runs. But he's batting .278, below his career average of .302, and his on-base percentage of .304 would be a career low.
"He's hitting .280 and stealing bases. That's all right," Figgins said. "If you want to take that as struggling, a lot of guys will take that. He's scoring runs, which is what you want, and they're in first place."
How do you not understand that he would be scoring more runs if he made fewer outs? Why is this so hard to grasp? If his OBP is .304 and he's on pace to score 100 runs, isn't it obvious that if his OBP were, say, .360, he'd probably be on pace to score 125 runs? (Wild guess -- don't email me with corrections.)
"For the first three weeks or so, he was trying to get six hits every game and steal five bases every game," Colletti said. "I told him, 'All you have to do is be Juan Pierre.'
Is it possible that Ned Colletti is pulling a "Producers" on the Dodgers? Deliberately tanking them so he can pocket a lot of investors' money and skip town? Giving Juan Pierre $44m over five years and telling him to just be himself...that's enough to convict a GM of racketeering and fraud.
-- He hasn't been consistent -- I'm not convinced they're going to be consistent -- Small ball -- Smart ball -- I don't know -- I haven't seen enough of him this year -- Dice-K is considered a rookie, but I don't buy that. -- If I had to pick an actual rookie, I'd have to say Dice-K will have the largest impact. -- It's tough for me to answer that question from afar -- I don't see how they go about their business on a day-to-day basis. -- I'd have to think more about it -- I don't know
That about sums it up. If you're a glutton for punishment, read on. Brandyn S. - Chicago: Joe - what are your thoughts on the success the Red Sox have had without major contributions from David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez to this point in the season?
Joe Morgan: I think Ortiz has contributed big hits, but hasn't been as consistent as he'd like...If you look at that team overall, you still have to wonder where the runs are going to come from, other than Manny and Ortiz, so I'm not convinced they're going to be consistent.
Ken Tremendous: How exactly has Ortiz not been "consistent?" he has a 1.046 OPS in 140 AB, with 9 HR and 28 BB. It's not like he put all that up in a 2-week stretch. He has been incredibly consistent. You can't just say stuff like that, man. Also, with Manny, Lugo, Crisp, Pedroia, and JD Drew all biting it hard, the Sox lead the AL in runs and have a .814 OPS. They are walking like maniacs (170, tops in the AL) and thus have a .369 team OBP. You know what that means? That means they have a very good chance at being "consistent," because their hot start is not based on flukey BA stats that will even out. This is why it's good to walk a lot. Because it allows your offense to be consistent. Hence: You are a moron.
Matt (Knoxville, TN):Would you name some palyers (past and present) who changed/are changing the way baseball is played?
Joe Morgan: I don't think there have been that many players that have changed the game.
KT: Yeah. You're right. Very few players have changed the game. Good answer.
Maury Wills changed things in the '60s bringing the SB back from where Ty Cobb put it. There was a change as far as pitching, with the split-finger fastball...but I'm not sure who gets credit for that. Hitting styles in the '90s changed when players started diving in. George Brett and the Royals got that going. That stayed for a while. And then, I'd say late '90s, everybody started with a slight uppercut like McGwire and Sosa took off. In the 2000s, pitching has gone more to offspeed pitches than ever before and I really believe now, small ball - or as Ozzie Guillen called it, smart ball - is starting to come back. I can't say who initiated those changes, but that's what I've seen.
KT: So, here are Joe's choices for Players Who Changed the Game:
Maury Wills Split-Fingered Fastball Guy, Whoever That Is George Brett McGwire/Sosa (Uppercutters) Smallball/Smartball
Here are some he didn't name:
Babe Mother-Humping Ruth Jackie Robinson (both for breaking the color barrier and for his actual play) Joe Page (some consider the first real "closer" or relief ace) Rickey Henderson Dennis Eckersley Jose Canseco (for introducing steroids, mostly) Cal Ripken Barry Bonds
And hell, why not Billy Beane? Or Moe Berg, or Goose Gossage? Or Pete Rose and his gambling?
And for the record, Roger Craig is often given credit for the spread of the splitter. Bruce Sutter threw it a lot. Have you not watched a lot of baseball, Joe?
Mike (NYC): Do you see Roger Clemens making a serious contribution to the Yanks? I think a rotation of Wang, Pettitte, Moose, Rocket and Hughes can be tremendous.
Joe Morgan: On paper, you're right, Mike. But on paper, the Yankees looked good at the beginning of the season, too. Guess what? You still have to go out there and pitch and stay healthy. I don't know how many starts Rocket's going to get and I'm sure he'll pitch well. But to say that staff is going to match, say Detroits or Boston's when they're healthy, I don't see it that way. I guess my point is, Rocket's going to do his thing, but they have to stay healthy. That said, I don't ever discount what the Yankees can do, because they have such a good offense.
KT: Let's boil this paragraph down to its essence:
Joe Morgan: On paper, but on paper, guess what? I don't know, I'm sure, but, I don't see it that way. I guess my point is, but that said, I don't.
KT: Equally helpful.
Grady Sizemore (Cleveland):Joe what's wrong with my bat right now? People have said I'm as good if not better than Beltran, but I sure don't feel like it right now. Any thoughts?
KT: I'm guessing Grady is not going to get any actual analysis of his slump. I'm guessing he's not going to get: "You have a hitch in your swing," or "You're not taking outside pitches the other way like you did last year" or "Don't worry -- you're still walking a lot (26 in 130 or so AB) so the power will come back" or anything like that. Anyone want to bet me? You all do? You all think Joe will give specific and insightful comments about Grady Sizemore's hitting slump? You want to be me $100 each? Okay. Let's see.
Joe Morgan: I haven't seen enough of him this year to give a real good opinion, but hitters go through stretches where they're not swinging the bat well. If a guy gets off to a .400 start, at some point he'll hit .100 to balance that out...and vice versa. Remember, we're talking about a batting AVERAGE, and you're never going to have all great months. I wouldn't panic just yet and I think there's a long way to go. I'm sure he'll get hot, because he is a good player.
KT: Send your $100 checks to:
Ken Tremendous c/o Area 62 Secret Coast Guard Whale-Monitoring Program Ejeisseurleunde-Trei Weather Station Transfeille, Greenland FS-6
Norman (NY): Good morning Joe. I was wondering what your thoughts are on the fast starts for both JJ Hardy and Prince Fielder. Can Hardy keep up this MVP like pace and do you think that Prince Fielder can already be considered one of the elite power hitters in the game?
Joe Morgan: I think I said this on our first chat this year. When I went to Spring Training this year, the only game I saw was Milwaukee-Chicago Cubs as a practice game.
February 27, 2007
Joe Morgan: That was a good game. The Brewers are a fun club. ESPN Talent Handler: You want to head over to the other field? The Reds are playing a split-squad game against the Padres. Joe Morgan: No, I'm good. ESPN Talent Handler: ...Okay. Well, I'll drive you back to the hotel. Tomorrow, the Giants play the Braves, we have the Dodgers-Angels, and at night the DRays are playing the Tigers. Where do you want to go? Joe Morgan: I'm good, I think. ESPN Talent Handler: You...don't want to see any of the games? Joe Morgan: Nah. I saw this one. That seems like enough. ESPN Talent Handler: For the whole Spring? Just one game? Joe Morgan: It was a long game. ESPN Talent Handler: So...you're just going to head home? Joe Morgan: (inexplicably furious) I saw a game! Get off my back, Phillip! ESPN Talent Handler: Jennifer. Joe Morgan: Whatever.
Wade: (Nashville, TN): Joe, what rookie do you think will have the biggest impact on their team the rest of the season?
Joe Morgan: Just off of what I've seen Travis Buck and Jack Cust, although not a total newcomer, are strong candidates for impact guys the rest of the way. Dice-K is considered a rookie, but I don't buy that. He's played in Japan all these years, and although it's correct that it's his first MLB season, I don't think it's the same as a Phil Hughes from the Yankees. So, if I had to pick an actual rookie, I'd have to say Dice-K will have the largest impact.
KT: Jack Cust is 28 years old and has had 29 AB this year. Let's hold off on the coronation a little, can we? Also, I don't need to point out why this is stupid, right Joe? I don't need to point out that you said that you don't think DiceK is a rookie, and then immediately -- like in the next sentence -- said that the rookie who will have the largest impact is DiceK. Do I? I do? Okay.
David (RedLegs Nation): Hey Joe Whats up you see any thing turning the reds around or are we stuck in the basement?
Joe Morgan: I'm disappointed in the Reds, because they got off to a good start and I thought their confidence would be high. But things haven't gone well the last two weeks, so they'll need to straighten it out.
KT: How about this one? Do I need to point out that the question was "will anything turn the Reds around? and your answer was "they'll need to straighten it out"? Do I have to explain why that is not a good answer? Or, more accurately, not an answer at all?
Sam Perlozzo (Baltimore): Joe, I had a horrible 9th inning in Boston Sunday followed by a near fight in the dugout last night between Mora and Payton. Is my time as manager drawing short?
Joe Morgan: It's tough for me to answer that question from afar, because I don't see how they go about their business on a day-to-day basis.
KT: You are a baseball analyst. This is unacceptable. Get off your ass and start researching these things. Or at least fake it, for Crissakes. It's pathetic.
Brian(NY): Joe here's a tough one for ya...if you we're to start a franchise from scratch for the next 5 years who would you're infield team be , mine would be Pujols,Kinsler,Reyes and Wright.
Joe Morgan: I can't argue with that. I'm not sure I'd put Kinsler ahead of Cano. He's hitting home runs, but is he a better hitter than Cano, who hit .340 last year. I wouldn't argue with that infield other than 2B, but I'd have to think more about it.
KT: I know it's early this year, and he was great last year, but are you sure you want Cano? And his .226 EqA? Even though he's older, I think I'd take this guy and his .326 EqA.
Dave (Richmond VA): Hey Joe! How good do you think that Phil Hughes can be this year? Is he a legit number 2 or 3?
Joe Morgan: I don't know how good he can be, since he hasn't pitched enough games.
KT: You are a baseball analyst. This is unacceptable. Get off your ass and start researching these things. Or at least fake it, for Crissakes. It's pathetic. (This answer is now F2 on my keyboard.)
He doesn't have enough starts to gauge whether he's a 1, 2, 3 or 4. That's the problem sometimes is that people want to slot guys. Paper doesn't make you a No. 1, 2 or 3. Handling adversity does.
KT: Also making you a #1, #2, or #3 pitcher: how good a pitcher you are.
Joe Morgan: It was a good chat. Excellent questions and I look forward to talking to you again next week!
KT: Every time one of these things ends, I pray he will sign off with: "Thanks for the questions! I have realized I know nothing about baseball and have decided to retire!"
Until he does, I'll just keep rolling this rock up this hill.
This is SI.com's Jon Heyman explaining where Cardinals' owner Bill DeWitt, Jr. went wrong in the last off-season. Jocketty brought in Kip Wells (1-6, 6.59) for $4 million for 2007, Adam Kennedy (no home runs, .239 batting average) for $10 million over three years and brought back a recovering Mark Mulder (who could be ready for the second half) for $13 million over two years, when even the notoriously cheap team across the state that hasn't won a thing in decades spent $55 million on Gil Meche (wisely, it turns out).
Meche has been great, and it's nice that the Royals have an "ace." But it's probably premature to say that the Cardinals should have spent that money for him, or that it's already "worth it." The other moves are pretty standard, and haven't worked out super well, but remember -- last year was a terrible free agent class. Whom should they have signed? Carlos Lee? For $100M+?
But here's where it gets crazy...
The Cardinals offered postseason hero Jeff Suppan $18 million over three years, and it's no surprise that Suppan more than doubled that bid, going to the division rival Brewers for $42 million, where he's 5-2 with a 2.63 ERA.
Jeff Suppan is a mediocre pitcher who strikes out 5 guys per nine innings. His 2007 OPS against is 60 points lower than his career average. His DERA is 1.5 runs below his career average. He is soaring high above his 90th percentile PECOTA projection. I would bet -- no, sorry, I will guarantee -- that he comes back down to earth by the end of the year, if not before the All-Star break. If he doesn't, it will be one of the flukiest things in baseball this year.
Now, he's better than some of the scrubs the Cardinals are throwing out there these days, but 4/$42m is a lot to pay for 32 year-old Jeff Suppan after last year. (The BrewCrew also gave him a 2-year no-trade clause and a further 2-year limited no-trade clause.)
But now, let's get really nuts.
The Cardinals offered Jeff Weaver $10 million over two years to stay, and La Russa called Weaver to tell him they needed him, that they'd be in trouble without him. Weaver said he'd love to stay, and that he'd even stay for no raise, for the same $8.325 million he made last year. But when the Cardinals said no, he got his money in Seattle instead. Duncan brought out the best in Weaver, certainly better than the 15.35 ERA he is now toting as a Seattle Mariner, and that was another loss.
Wow. I truly am baffled by this.
The Cardinals offered Jeff Weaver $5m a year for two years. Weaver said "No thankee -- but I will sign for $8.325m a year. The Cardinals said, "No thankee. Enjoy Seattle." Now Jeff Weaver is 0-5 with an ERA over 14. He has given up 50 hits in 22 IP. And the Cardinals made a mistake, somehow? This was a "loss?"
How do you sit down to write an article about the Cardinals' off-season mistakes, and look at Jeff Weaver's 14.00 ERA and $8.325m contract with Seattle, and say to yourself, "Not only am I going to include these facts in my article, I am going to somehow make it seem like facts that support my thesis that the Cardinals should have signed him."
What kind of writer writes that? What kind of editor allows it to pass? What kind of world are we living in, friends? A scary one. A terrifying one, where insane loony crazies like Jon Heyman are allowed to roam free in the hallways of our nation's leading sports magazines and write whatever they want with no repercussions.
Well I, for one, have had enough. That's why I am announcing my candidacy for President of America.
But first, here's one more weird thing from this article:
Jocketty did try to sign Randy Wolf and Jason Schmidt. But Wolf only wanted to pitch in Los Angeles and Schmidt wanted to stay somewhere on the West Coast.
Well, now, there you go. They did have a plan, and it was a good one. Schmidt is good. Wolf is younger than Suppan, for example, and strikes out 2.5 more guys per nine IP than Suppan. He was a much better bet. It isn't Jocketty's fault he wanted to pitch in L.A. I guess it might be DeWitt's fault for not upping the $$$ available to pry guys like that away from the West Coast, but on the other hand, maybe no amount would have gotten it done.
Hear me now, American citizens: When I am President of the U. States of A., the very first thing I will do is fire Jon Heyman. That is a guarantee! Then I will take a brief nap and meet with my advisers. Then probably a light dinner and maybe turn in early. I have to pace myself.
Joe Morgan: Roger is back and that is good for baseball!
Ken Tremendous: You're back too, and that is not.
Lane (Kukuihaele, HI): Do you think the Yankees' position players really care about Roger Clemens not traveling with the team when he isn't pitching?
Joe Morgan: I can't answer that because I don't know what they think individually. I do not know if they want all that to happen. But they will always say the right thing.
KT: Hey Joe -- can I ask you a question? Joe: (stumbling backwards) I don't know anything. I wasn't there. KT: You haven't even heard the question yet. It's about the Yankees-- Joe: You got the wrong guy! I wasn't there, I tell you! I can't help you! KT: But you're a baseball analyst--? (Joe falls backwards over a chair; scrambles to his feet; runs off into the night)
Brian (Sunnyvale, CA): Can this year's Brewers re-create the turnaround of the Tigers last year and reach the postseason?
Joe Morgan: I think they can reach the post-season, but I do not know if they can recreate what the Tigers did last year. KT: That is what the Tigers did, for the purposes of this question, dummy. Let's get math nerdy about this:
The question is: "Do you think (x) can do (y), which is (z)? And you said, "I think (x) can do (z), but I don't know whether they can do (y)."
Troy (Portland): Hi Joe, love your work. Mike Hargrove doesn't play "small ball" much, but it was small ball that got them back in the game last night (despite the blown call). Any chance Hargrove starts giving the green light to some of the runners to manufacture a few more runs?
KT: Troy included "small ball" (twice), "I love [Joe's] work" and "manufacture a few runs" into one question. Poor Troy.
Joe Morgan: Anyopne who expects to win had to use small ball with big ball. You can't win on home runs alone. I like to use Ozzie Guillens term "smart ball." It is more smart ball, and you have to learn to encoporate that into the power part of your offense.
KT: "Smart Ball" is meaningless. And, amazingly, also a misnomer. To me, Smart Ball is looking at an expected runs matrix, like this one, and calculating whether it's worth trading an out for a base, and realizing that in 90% of cases it is not worth it, and thus not doing it. And for the record, nobody believes you can win on HR alone. You also need hits and walks. What you don't need is: outs. Which "Smart Ball" often trades for un-smart base advancement.
Also, something just occurred to me. Why is a team that walks a lot not called a "smallball" team? Isn't that the essence of "smallball?" Walking? I mean, it's so small you don't even make contact with the ball. From now on, I am going to refer to walking a lot as "smallball." Take that, nobody!
Mark (Bangor, PA): Joe, I know it is still very early in the season, but does it appear the AL Central is developing into a 2 team race?
Joe Morgan: It's early is the proper answer, and I believe it is going to be at least a four team race before it is over.
KT: Play along at home: read Joe's answer aloud in an Oxford English accent. When did Joe become a snooty British schoolmarm?
Robert (FL): Do you think the D Rays can challenge for 3rd in the AL East? They've shown early they can score runs and pitching is starting to turn around.
Joe Morgan: The way the game is set up now, you can go from last to first and any place I between in the same year.
KT: Well, sure. You can start 1-0, and be in first place. Then 1-1, tied for second. Then 1-2, last place. If you are the DRays, you have absolutely zero chance of being in first place in any meaningful way.
The D-Rays have a lot of good young players, if they play well for two weeks, their confidence will soar and the sky is the limit.
And the limit is third place.
They have a shot, but eveything has to come togehther for them and I am not sure everything is going to work out for the Yankees so we will have to wait and see.
Joe is getting worse. The question was whether the DRays can make it to third place in their division. He concludes with -- in one sentence -- (1) They have a shot, but (2) everything has to come together, and (3) I am not sure what will happen with other teams, so (4) we have to wait and see.
The guy wasn't asking for a daring prediction. He was asking if the Devil Rays have a shot at third place. And Joe equivocated four times in once sentence.
David (Colorado): Joe: What is with the Cardinals' bats? Rolen, Edmonds, and Eckstein are killing us and even Pujols is a pedestrian .259 average.
Joe Morgan: Well no one pitches to Pujols and he does not have the protection he needs. I do not know what is wrong, but Pujols has been hurt because the other guys are not protecting him and pitchers are deciding to pitch around him and that is the smart thing to do.
Paddy (St. Louis, MO): Joe, How do you and other veterans feel about the armor that a soon to be record holder wears on his elbow? I would like to have seen the numbers Mays and Frank Robinson would have put up wearing a shin guard on their elbow and standing on the plate.
Joe Morgan: Well you cannot compare anything anymore anyway.
KT: Shut it down, people. It's over. Word just came in -- we cannot compare anything anymore. Nothing. There's nothing we can compare to anything else. So shut down the chat, shut down the internet. See all your clothes and burn the money in your bathtubs. There is no point in making observations of the world around us. And there are certainly no stats in baseball like OPS+ or ERA+ or WARP3 or something that would allow us to compare players of different eras. And there is definitely no way to just use our brains and analyze things and make educated guesses as to how events in baseball might be different in different situations.
I mean, come on. Isn't the whole fun part of baseball analysis: discussing things? Arguing? Forming opinions based on research and observation and educated guessing? Isn't it fun to talk about how Roger Clemens might have fared in the 1930s, or what would have happened if Ted Williams hadn't missed time due to war, or how many games Satchel Paige would have won if he hadn't had to wait until he was like 50 to break into the league? Isn't that the fun part? What, I humbly ask, is the point of being a baseball analyst who refuses to offer opinions? What is the point of constantly saying you can't answer questions because it's impossible to guess, or you haven't seen [player x] enough, or it's too early to tell? Who benefits from this buzzkilly behavior? I would have loved to see what thoose guys would have done with the smaller ball parks and livelier baseballs. But Barry is not the only one who wears armor. It is what it is. It is a different game today. This helps no one.
Al (San Francisco): What trades, if any, do you see the Mets making this summer?
Joe Morgan: I mean they need starting pitching because even their best pitchers are towards the end of their careers. You always need some pitching. But I cannot say who they will get.
KT: It's seriously like "No Exit" in these chat rooms. Question? Can't tell you. Question? No way to tell. Question? No idea. Question? Shrug. Question? Can't say.
Hell is -- Joe Morgan chatting.
JP (OC, CA): Joe, What do you think about the current Dodgers lineup, and do you think they need to add a big bat to be a contender this year?
Joe Morgan: Well everyone can use an extra bat or pitcher. But in the West I think the Dodgers have the best chance of winning because I like their mixture of veterans and young players. But everyone needs another bat and everyone needs another pitcher right now. KT: Here's another one he loves: What does Team X have to do to get better? Answer: every team stinks and every team needs everything. I guess if you don't do any research at all and have no idea what you are talking about, the simplest way to answer these questions is by making outlandish generalizations that cover all possible bases.
Alon (Brooklyn): Do you see MLB bringing in instant replay in after all the botched calls so far?
Joe Morgan: I would only want to see it used on home runs, whether a ball was fair or foul or over the line or not. Other than that I do not want to see instant replay because you would have to review too many plays, and we would have four hour games instead of the three hour 59 minute ones.
KT: I don't even know how to handle this. Is he making a joke? And if so, how does this joke illustrate his point? Is he actually concerned that the games would be one minute longer? Someone please e-mail me a hypothetical explanation for this. I will be forever grateful.
Joe Morgan: Enjoyed the chat today. Looking forward to next week!
KT: Do you really enjoy this? Seriously. Because it's taking years off ol' KT's life.