Baseball history, analysis, and commentary from John J Perricone; born in the shadow of Yankee Stadium. Oh, and Barry Bonds. Lots of Barry Bonds.

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First visit? Drop me an email @ John J Perricone, or pin my Guest Map.

..... New and improved, part II



I have been fooling around with this site for a week or so, and I have made many cosmetic changes. Recently, I discovered that the font I have chosen for my title and link stuff is not a basic font carried in everyone's computer. This is why when I look at my site on my wife's computer, I am embarrassed at how shitty it looks.

If you don't have TrueType Font "Papyrus" in your font folder, please get it. If you'd like, email me and I'll send it to you. All of the hard work I've put into my site is wasted without it.

Comment on this   [0]  »  July 31, 2002


..... New and improved



William Carrol, host of Under the Knife, starts his post on the 24th with the following line...



"It's a late night edition and I'm working on some breaking behind the scenes stuff, so tonight will be short and sweet. So, that means no opinions on Seligula...."



Let me just say that I am stealing that nickname. I was doubled over laughing for a couple of minutes at least.... OK, I'm alright now, back to the column.

Comment on this   [0]  »  July 31, 2002


..... Ball Four, Part II



I just read the Futility Infielder's Stadium Sojourn, June 9th, Giants at Yankees. I was at that game! In fact, I went to all three games at the Stadium.

If you want the Yankee fan take, read IF, here's my three distinctly different memories of the weekend.

First, Yankee Stadium is old and run down. If I was Steinbrenner, and I came out to Pacbell and sat in Peter Magowan's seats, I would be embarressed when Peter came to my house. I know he wants the state of NY to pay for it, I'm not talking about that. What I'm saying is fact. The Stadium is really showing her age. For the flagship franchise in baseball, and maybe in all of sports, it's a shame.

Second, Bonds' home run was maybe the single greatest sports moment of my life. It was the first inning, no score, first week of June, and the Stadium was vibrating. Bonds was standing there, wiggling his bat, Mussina was going after him, you could tell, 3 and 2 count, and......Kaboom!!!! The whole place went silent, except for the Giants fans I was with, (well really, I went silent too, I lost my voice instantly!). I almost teared up, it was that powerful and exciting. I'm getting goosebumps writing this. Which leads me to my third memory.....

Bonds vs. Clemens. This was a huge letdown. I understand what Torre said about winning the game being more important than Bonds getting a pitch and all that, and I generally give him the benefit if the doubt most of the time, but it was a real bummer for me and my friends who flew cross-country to see a once in a lifetime, Yankee Stadium, Hall of Fame showdown.

Torre will give up games during the season in an effort to make sure the older Yankees will be able to go during the post-season, making Clemens or Wells or El Duque or Giambi sit out due to being overly protective; why not let Clemens go after Bonds? It's one frigging game, for crying out loud. Have a little sense of history and the fans and drama. I really felt cheated when, during a rubber match game between two of the most storied, intertwined franchises in baseball history, charged with the unparalleled drama of Clemens/Bonds; all I got was a four walk, one HBP. I'm sorry, but that's bullshit. I spent a chunk of change, took time off work, sat there eating seven dollar hot dogs and drinking seven dollar warm Miller Lites; the least Torre coulda' done was go after Bonds, especially after spending the days leading up to the games talking about how he would!!!

Tickets to NY $400.00

Tickets to the three games $200.00

Dogs and beers for three games $130.00

Yankee shirts, hats, etc. $200.00

Hotel accomodations $650.00

Bonds vs. Clemens priceless???

Comment on this   [0]  »  July 31, 2002


.... Ball Four



For those of us who've read it and re-read it, over and over, laughing until the tears streamed down our faces, Ball Four was and still is one of the greatest books ever written on our favorite sport. It is laugh-out-loud hilarious, and you will feel like you were on a major league baseball team for a season after you've read it. On Futility Infielder, they have a couple of Ball Four links, here's the one I liked most. Check out the letters section, it's a hoot.

Comment on this   [0]  »  July 31, 2002


..... You spin me, Part II



Joe Sheehan of the Baseball Prospectus takes on Selig and his band of merry liars in today's column. Suffice to say, Joe and I are in agreement.

Comment on this   [0]  »  July 31, 2002


.... You spin me right 'round, baby, right 'round...



A reader writes:



Does the Cliff Floyd move stink to you?

MLB bought the Expos from Jeff Loria at a premium.

Jeff Loria buy the Marlins from John Henry.

John Henry buys the Red Sox at a discount (comparative to other bids to the Yawkey Trust), facilitated by (MLB), Bud Selig, etc.

Cliff Floyd is sent from the Marlins (Loria) to the Expos (MLB) for prospects and salary considerations.

Cliff Floyd is sent from the Expos (MLB) to the Red Sox (Henry) 19 days later for one decent prospect and a middle reliever.

I'd like to think it's all a coincidence.....

Tom Germack



So would I Tom. I don't, however. I work in the real world, and in the real world, things like favors, and other, less friendly sounding events just happen to occur between people who are associates one way or the other. In some instances, it can be as simple as feeling more at ease working with and making deals with people who one is comfortable with, (Hence, in my industry, I spend a lot of time entertaining clients, architects, property managers, etc.; I am spending time, money and energy creating a level of comfort with people who have the power to send work my way).

However, there are not only ethical standards of conduct that I won't breach, such as paying people cash for a project reference, there are laws and regulations in my business that prevent me, or anyone, from enjoying the benefits of an old-fashioned, good old boy type of arrangement. Baseball seems to be outside those laws right now, not just the anti-trust laws, but Bud and his band of merry liars seem to be operating outside the lines on just about every level.

More importantly, they don't seem to care if we know about it. Godfather reference here, but remember the scene where Michael Corleone crosses the line and decides the life of crime is in the cards. He explains how he can murder Sollazzo and the Police Captain, and then he says, we've got members of the press on our payroll, they would love a story about a dirty cop. That is exactly the sense I get watching Bud and his guys pull their bullshit. Next thing you know, MLB's chief lawyer is quoted in the papers as saying the players don't have to strike, it's not their only weapon... (Wow, really? The owners lawyer says the players don't have to strike? Well, what's all the fuss about, then?)

But sometimes, I just wonder too, maybe that's just a distraction, a smoke screen, you know, so that instead of being asked questions on impropriety and self-serving, ethically questionable activities, Bud is asked questions on the players insistence that they have to strike, or the All Star game fiasco, or his bad hair.... Sounds too orchestrated? Yeah, you're probably right, it's probably all one big coincidence.

Revenue sharing benefits Selig, coincidence.

Re-alignment benefits Selig, coincidence.

New stadium benefits Selig, coincidence.

Brewers get All Star game before PacBell and Giants, among many other, more viable candidates, coincidence.

Brewers get no string loans from richest man in America, violating MLB bylaws, benefiting Commissioner Selig, coincidence.

Selig proposes contracting richest man in America's team, earning said richest man huge profits, coincidence.

Selig's favorite pals buy second most prestigious baseball team in country, even though their bid doesn't qualify as best bid, coincidence.

Same pals get best hitter available before trade deadline for two tuna fish sandwiches and a Diet Pepsi, coincidence.

Comment on this   [0]  »  July 31, 2002


.... Welcome, my son, welcome... to the machine



Man, the Yankees offense is completely unstoppable, an absolute juggernaut. They're averaging just under 6 runs a game for the seaon, and in their last nine games they've gone 9, 9, 3, 14, 12, 4, 9, 9, 9, for an eye-popping 8.6 runs per. Wow. Torre and Cashman keep saying the team is built around pitching, but come on... they're like a softball team, just pounding everybody into submission.

Comment on this   [0]  »  July 31, 2002


..... New and improved



Hope everyone likes the new look. David Pinto gave a link to a new site, and it was the old version of mine, and they looked way too similar, so I changed it a bit. I am planning more color changes as soon as I get some more color cheat sheets.

Anyway, that's it.

Comment on this   [0]  »  July 30, 2002


...... Great stuff



Alan Barra. Need I say more.

Comment on this   [0]  »  July 30, 2002


..... Video killed the radio star



Two radio tidbits:

1. I'm sure a lot of you, as Giants fans, listen to KNBR 680 AM, and many of you probably listen to the Razor and Mr.T show during drive time. Recently, Ralph has had an ongoing conversation with a local contractor from Vacaville, who has discovered Amici's pizza, and offered to build an Amici's in Vacaville at cost. Last week, Ralph was talking about the T-shirts he received from John and Jerry from Vacaville.... Well, that was me. Just thought some of you might like to know.

2. Larry Krueger's show is pretty good. In fact, when he has Ned Colletti on, it's awesome. I'm not sure why, but Ned is on the air with him for about a half hour, (is it every Monday?) and Larry asks great, pointed questions; and Ned answers them. I've been wondering if these guys went to college together or what, but they have a great rapport, and more importantly, Ned really lets his guard down and let us, the fans, into his mindset for how he sees the team and the rest of the league. Perfect example last night, Larry says, Ned, what's Livan Hernandez's status with the Giants? Ned replies, "He's made it pretty clear he would like to go somewhere in particular, I won't say where, and he knows that that's almost impossible. But, yes, he's made it known through his agent that he wouldn't mind a move. Have we been shopping him? Not exactly, but he's been part of the conversation." Actually, his answer was longer and more in depth than that.

He really discusses the issues and ideas with Larry, doesn't talk down to him, treats his concerns and thoughts like they matter; it's great radio. And Larry, to his credit, doesn't tiptoe around the questions. Another great question last night, he asked how the team felt about Shinjo, given he was expected to solve the leadoff problem and now they had to trade for a leadoff guy. Ned said, his defense has been better than we thought, his offense has been worse, particularly his approach. He added that you can't continue to give away three and four outs a game without derailing an offense, and that's why the felt the Lofton move would help. It would relegate Shinjo to the bench except for late inning defense and the one or two games a week against lefties especially, and maybe that would be the best way to utilize him.

Anyway, check Larry out, and listen for me with Ralph on Friday's, that's the best time for me to try to get on.

Comment on this   [0]  »  July 30, 2002


.... emails and details, continued



Chris quickly responds,



John, giving up your best player for a slightly-better-than-league average (0.5 SNWAR, placing him 5th amongst the other starters on the Giants) and a late-inning defensive replacement is a move that Pittsburgh's old GM Cam Bonifay wouldn't even consider. If you don't visit Baseball Prospectus frequently, SNWAR stands for Situational Normal Wins Above Replacement, a stat that the boys at BP use to represent how well a starting pitcher is doing. By comparision, Barry Zito is at 4.1 SNWAR.

There are far better alternatives to Hernandez toiling in the minors if only you know how to look. Only fear of the unknown stops teams from bringing up people like Corey Lidle or Elmer Dessens, instead of wasting money on replaceable talent like Hernandez.



Chris, of course I visit Baseball Prospectus often. Thanks for doing the research that I was unwilling to. Yes, he is only slightly better than average, but remember, in the deals I speculated about, I included prospects along with Hernandez, Snow and Shinjo is a potential swap. Also, Pittsburgh has two monster contracts on their books that they are collapsing under, Jason Kendall is the only on I can think of right now, and Giles is, I believe, a soon to be 31 year old free agent, exactly the kind of player I was speaking of in my bad management piece.

After finally reaching his potential at what has been historically the beginning of a players decline years, is he worth more than a three year deal? And if he is, who pays him? The Giants will lose Kent next year, they will need another cleanup-type hitter. All I'm saying is that there's a deal in there, of course it won't ahppen, it's too risky for both franchises. But, it's not completely nuts.

Comment on this   [0]  »  July 30, 2002


..... emails and details



A reader writes,



Hey John, Great entry in your blog about bad management in baseball. Have to agree with you 100%. Frankie Frisch once said (and I'm probably paraphrasing): "Baseball is like this. If you have one good year you can fool them for 5 more because they keep waiting for you to have a good season." Many GM's are ignoring the tools now available to them in evaluating players and it's costing them millions and millions of dollars.

Anyhow, back to the reason for my e-mail. Hernandez and Shiinjo for Giles? Marcus Giles, maybe. Brain Giles? Yeah, right. One over-worked, bulk-inning starter and an all-glove no-bat CF for a power-hitting CF in the prime of his career. I know you're a rabid Giants fan but c'mon, be realistic.

Chris Hartjes



I'm not so sure about that Chris.... it's not as far-fetched as you might think. Hernandez is an inning eater, he's only 28 and he only makes 3 million per. For a team like Pittsburgh, he is an affordable rotation addition, he doesn't get hurt, and he's, (without looking into it) probably a better than league average pitcher.

It's what he's not that makes such a negative impact on the Giants or any team in contention. He's not a number one or two starter, he's not really committed to getting into and staying in great shape, he's not consistent, (Other than to say he consistently gives up 12 plus base-runners per nine innings), he's not coachable; and most importantly, Dusty Baker doesn't seem to realize any of this. On a team going nowhere for a couple of years, he would help keep the relievers healthy, and he would give a team a seven innings and 4 and a half runs given up every start. On the Giants, he makes you want to gouge your eyes out.

Comment on this   [0]  »  July 30, 2002


.... Fun, fun, fun



John Bonnes continues our discussion on the cost of making a run at a championship in today's Twins Geek.

John suggests that it is incumbent on a GM to take these kinds of risks, risks like Matt Williams at 9.5 million per, or Jay Bell at 8 milion per. Well... I think that's stretching it a bit. It's difficult for me to imagine Joe Garagiola Jr. sitting there analyzing Williams' last two years of injuries and watching from the dugout and going, yeah, I think he's gonna give me three years of pre-1997 production. No, I think what's way more likely is that he really did think that Matt would produce like he did five years ago at age 35 and coming off two years of one injury after another. I think there wasn't much thought about it at all, except to say what I've been hearing Dusty Baker and Brian Sabean say for the last two and a half years about JT Snow, he's produced for me before and he'll do it again.

It's statements like these that reveal the real problem with baseball GM's; they aren't based on reality or the here and now. Matt Williams, JT Snow, Jay Bell, Mike Hampton, the list goes on and on of players who were given massive, back-loaded contracts who never had a chance of living up to them. These contracts were never part of a championship push except in the minds of those GM's who were fooling themselves into believing they were getting something that they never had a chance to. You cannot forget that there is an enormous amount of historical, statistical evidence available to aid these GM's in making these decisions. There is a large body of predictive research out there to guide you in determining who is likely to do what. It's not that Matt Williams is worth nothing, it's that he isn't worth the largest contract for a third baseman in the league.

Not that he needs my help, but that's what I thought Gary Huckabay was getting at all along. If investment managers performed at the success rate of some general managers, they would be working at the local Gas n Sip. John wrote, "These guys aren't necessarily untradeable because of bad management as much as they are because they turned out to be bad bets." I don't see it that way. It is bad management. Mike Hampton wasn't a bad bet at Coors because of an unlikelihood of success for any pitcher in Denver (Although it's likely that no pitcher will ever be a good bet there), he was a bad bet because of the 100 plus million dollars that was put on the table needlessly.

There's gambling, and then there's "my friend is too drunk to know what's good for him so I'm taking his chips away from him before he hurts himself." The contracts and GM's that Gary was writing about fall into the latter category.

Comment on this   [0]  »  July 29, 2002


.... I know, I know, let it go



In my ongoing quest to run Snow, Benard and Dunston out of town, I thought I would have a little fun. I read that Brian Sabean was pretty pissed off after Shawon took himself out of the lineup last week, leaving Baker no choice but to play Ramon Martinez in the outfield for the first time in his career. So, I sent the following email in to the Giants management.



Dear Brian Sabean,

I recently read that you are frustrated by some of the members of the team and their unwillingness to play during a time of great need due to 'minor injuries'. I couldn't agree with you more. I am fairly certain you are referring to Shawon Dunston, among others, who strangely pulled himself out of the starting lineup last week even though the Giants had four outfielders unable to play.

I would suggest to you that you have come to realize that the money you have invested in Mr. Dunston could be better spent. He is one of several players who fall into the 'Dusty Baker guys' category. Included in that group would be Marvin Benard and JT Snow. It is unfortunate that your team and your efforts are hamstrung by the albatross contracts these three players are signed to, as all of them are not producing at a level even remotely comparable to their wages,

I have heard Mr. Magowan state that the team will not increase payroll for the stretch drive. That's unfortunate. With salary restrictions like that, may I make a suggestion? Package JT Snow ($5.9 million), Livan Hernandez ($3 million), and Shawon Dunston ($1.175 million) with a couple of prospects and see if you can pry Jim Thome from the Indians. The money should work, and you could even see if Thome would sign a three year deal at, say, $10 million, which you should be able to afford after ditching the three amigos and letting Jeff Kent go, (which I know you intend to do).

If you are planning on moving Barry to first next year, then you could see if Pittsburgh will make a similar deal for Brian Giles.

Anyway, just some creative ideas from a fan.

Good Luck,

John J Perricone

Only Baseball Matters



We'll see what happens.

Comment on this   [0]  »  July 29, 2002


...... Smart.. and final



Joe Sheehan writes so much better than I do, sometimes I feel like throwing my laptop out the window. But then I remember that it belongs to my company.

Read Joe's latest column, it's great.

At the end, he takes on the biased, pro-owner writers and other mass media types, and he is far more eloquent than I could ever be.



"It's frustrating to read a Phil Rogers, or a Hal Bodley, or a Dave Kindred and know that their message of jealousy and their counter-factual argumentation reaches so many people and drives so much of the discussion. The cacophony of pro-establishment media drowns out reasoned voices, ones that acknowledge the complexity of the issues and the forces involved. It's hard for a Doug Pappas or an Allan Barra to reach enough people to counteract that.

I, and many others here at BP, take a lot of grief for our "pro-player" stances. The point I try to make, over and over, is that I'm not necessarily pro-player as much as I'm pro-honesty, pro-not-having-my-intelligence-insulted. When Don Fehr stands in front of a microphone and tells me Alex Rodriguez made $6.45 an hour last year, then I'll equate him with the people who still insist Wayne Huizenga lost money in 1997."



That's some good shit.

Comment on this   [0]  »  July 29, 2002


.....Help me if you can I'm feelin' do-o-own



The Giants did trade a couple of prospects for the Chicago White Sox's Kenny Lofton.

This helps, although it shouldn't be thought of as some kind of life saver. Lofton is substantially better at the plate than Shinjo, probably a bit slower in the outfield, but no slouch. Still, I would have loved to have Giles.

Comment on this   [0]  »  July 28, 2002


.... Gigantic



I got an email from a reader, Mike Fischer, who has a blogspot called SF Giants. He's done a great job getting the Giants colors down, he even has the logo. Cool. Anyway, he has a post from yesterday that said the Giants almost dealt Livan and Shinjo for Brian Giles, but the Pirates backed out at the last minute. Too bad. I didn't see that reported anywhere, but that would have been awesome. Giles is only 31 and he's quite a productive outfilelder. It would mean that Sanders would have to play a lot of center field, but to go from Shinjo with an OPS of 663 to Giles who is over 1000, well, that would have been spectacular. The drop off defensively would be more than compensated by the massive upswing at the plate.

Oh well, one can dream.

Comment on this   [0]  »  July 28, 2002


.... One more thing



The local papers, the SF Chronicle and the San Jose Mercury both had almost exactly the same coverage of the Giants in today's Sunday papers, which is to say virtually nothing of interest, variety, or enlightenment. I read an awful lot of print media, and without question, the Bay Area has some of the very worst. It is mostly juvenile, peurile and almost always repetitive. I get the feeling at times that one writer sends his stuff to all of the others covering the team so nobody is embarrassed when someone actually has a scoop.

Anyway, today, at least three different sportswriters wrote that Livan Hernandez has been the Giants best pitcher in the second half! Not one, not two, but three different people covering the same team I write about and scream at and bitch and moan about said Livan has been their best pitcher since the break!! Livan!!

Please. He has been anything but. In his first start after the break, he shut out the Rockies. His other three starts have been, from my perspective anyway, abysmal. He has four starts since the break, here's what he's done in the other three; 22 1/3 innings, 30 hits, 11 runs, 9 of them earned, 11 walks. That's 41 baserunners in 22 1/3 innings! If that's excellence, Houston, we have a problem. That's mediocrity. That's letting his team down. That's Livan, a two baserunners per inning workhorse who exasperates, tantalizes and teases you with a great game every once in a while, but for the most part, is a batting practice pitcher, whose only real strength is his defense and luck.

Sorry folks, the Giants best pitcher since the break is either Reuter or Jensen, both of whom have given the team a chance to win almost every start. Hernandez? In his last start, in only two out of eight innings the leadoff man didn't get on. That's a joke.

Here's what Livan Hernandez has been for this team this season, among the very biggest disappointments in team history.

Comment on this   [0]  »  July 28, 2002


.... Ouch, that hurts



The Giants are now six games out in the loss column. That's an awful big deficit, although they are only two back in the wild-card race. They can't lose too much more ground, or they're gonna spend the playoffs watching TV and fishing.

Now's a good time to speculate about the reasons they are in this predicament. If we look at Rob Neyer's home page, you can see his Bill James Pythagoreun Standings, which show the Giants are still the worst performers in their division, having won five games less than their runs scored differential would predict. Why is that? What is it about this team this year that has them in such difficult straights?

I can think of two key, and a few secondary reasons why they weren't in better shape before the injury bug hit them: The key breakdowns are their overall offensive imbalance and Felix Rodriguez. They have been just terrible at producing runs outside of the big three or four hitters, and Felix Rodriguez has personally given two games each to the D'backs and the Dodgers. Actually, it's almost impossible to quantify his impact. He was virtually unhittable the last two years, and when someone so reliable falters, it can really derail a team psychologically.

But you add up his absolutely heart-breaking losses, Shawon Dunston's rally-killing first-half performance, Rich Aurilia's injury-riddled season, the slow start by Reggie Sanders, and Russ Ortiz, Jason Schmidt and Livan Hernandez's regression; and you can easily see why these Giants are under-performing. It remains to be seen whether the team can overcome all of these breakdowns and make the post-season.

Comment on this   [0]  »  July 28, 2002


..... Come one, come all, Part II



John Bonnes, the Twins Geek, noted my post on Pete Rose, and send me these two Derek Zumsteg columns, from Baseball Prospectus (One is Derek, the other is Zumsteg... pretty cool, huh?). I believe Derek has a background in either law or finance, and I have a great deal of respect for him and his writing.

That said, I disagree with him on a couple of details. Forget about the Dowd report for a moment. The problem Pete Rose has is with the agreement. He signed this agreement after months of conversations and hearings with Bart Giammatti, who passed away not long after the agreement was signed. Derek asks, if Pete Rose didn't bet on baseball, why did he sign this agreement rather than contest the Dowd report in court or through a hearing? Well, it's pretty obvious to me why he did. The parts of the agreement that matter most to Pete Rose read as follows:

"Peter Edward Rose will conclude these proceedings before the Commissioner without a hearing and the Commissioner will not make any formal findings or determinations on any matter including without limitation the allegation that Peter Edward Rose bet on any Major League Baseball game.

b) Nothing in this agreement shall deprive Peter Edward Rose of the right under Major League Rule 15 (c) to apply for reinstatement.

c) Nothing in this agreement shall be deemed either an admission or a denial by Peter Edward Rose of the allegations that he bet on any Major League Baseball game."

Neither the Commissioner nor Peter Edward Rose shall be prevented by this agreement from making any public statement relating to this matter so long as no such public statement contradicts the terms of this agreement and resolution."

If I were in Pete Rose's shoes, this isn't too bad an agreement. I just got nailed by the Feds for tax evasion to the tune of about $800,000.00 and 8 months in the pen, this is nothing. If I were Pete Rose's lawyer, I would be very happy that the agreement contains no findings of guilt and no admissions of guilt, but it does contain a proviso for methods of reinstatement. I'd say sign it.

Let me also say that John Dowd violated the intent of this agreement immediately after it was signed by publicly stating that he believed Pete Rose bet on baseball. You can talk all you want about how Rose isn't a sympathetic figure, but by any reasoning, Dowd screwed him royally by doing exactly what the Commissioner explicitly stated he would not do, draw a conclusion or finding that Pete Rose bet on baseball.

Let me ask a question, if the Dowd report is so damning and conclusive, why did the Commissioner sign an agreement stating that he didn't conclude that Pete Rose bet on baseball? Isn't that odd? And, why put in the statement a line clarifying Rose's ability to apply for reinstatement? I can't imagine a scenario in which he would have signed an agreement stating the opposite, but without such a coda, he would have been eligible to apply for reinstatement whether this agreement said so or not.

I believe it's in there because he was told or it was implied that by signing this agreement, allowing baseball to get the problem out of the limelight, his reinstatement would be a matter of formality. I believe that Bart Giammatti, a student of baseball history, realized that the long line of baseball legends included many men whose conduct had failed to reach the lofty standards put forth by the sportswriters and the hypocrites; and that the best interests of baseball included allowances for such men. I believe that Bart Giammatti never intended Rose's ban to be a lifetime ban and that he and Pete Rose were in agreement that Pete needed to show that he did do things that were bad for baseball, but that, over the course of his career, he had done far more good, and eventually, he would be allowed to bask in the glow of all of those accomplishments one more.

I haven't studied the Dowd Report for weeks, but I find myself in agreement with Bill James, there's a lot of speculation and conclusions, but Dowd would have been hard pressed to get a Grand Jury indictment with that pile of innuendo and scumbag backstabbing. You might want to get on a soapbox and rail about Pete Rose being a jerk, or associating with scumbags, or even being just a reprehensible guy in general, but Ty Cobb, Rogers Hornsby and a whole slew of other guys in the Hall of Fame would prefer that you just shut the hell up. Nobody's perfect, and baseball ain't a shrine or a church, it's a game.

Comment on this   [0]  »  July 27, 2002


..... Sick to my stomach



If the Giants fall out of this race completely, and they are doing a terrific job of doing just that right now, the blame will have to rest square on the shoulders of their three big right handers. No amount of justification and explanation can possibly make up for how Livan Hernandez, Jason Schmidt and Russ Ortiz have acquitted themselves so far this season, particularly during the teams recent spate of injuries.

I've spent a fair amount of time criticizing the Giants hitters, for the most part with good reason. But for these three pitchers to have performed so consistently poor has got to be baffling to the team brass. And during the last week, when they have never been needed more, they have managed to set new standards of horribly, amazingly, unbelievably disappointing performances. In fact, I would bet that Brian and the rest of the team management must be dumbfounded.

There's really no other way to put it, they have completely fallen apart. Here's the last start for each one:

Schmidt 6 innings, 6 hits, 4 earned runs, 5 walks.

Hernandez 7.1innings, 10 hits, 3earned runs, 4 walks.

Russ Ortiz 2 innings, 7 hits, 8 earned runs, 4 walks.

That's 15 1/3 innings, 23 hits, 15 runs and 13 walks, for an absolutely pitiful ERA of just under 9.00. That is atrocious. Not one of them gave their team a chance to win, not one of them even went three innings without giving up a run. If they lose tonight, they will have dropped four games in the standings in the six days since Bonds, then Sanders and Kent, and finally Shinjo went down. In that span, Ryan Jensen, a rookie, and Kirk Reuter are the only Giants starters to get through even the first three innings of a game without letting the opposition score a run. Add in Felix Rodriguez's melt-down at the Dodgers on Monday, and you have the makings of a season on the brink.

Comment on this   [0]  »  July 26, 2002


..... Come one, come all



Adrian Wojnarowski on special assignment to ESPN, writes another "Pete Rose should just admit that he bet on baseball" and all his troubles would go away article. One of the common features of these types of articles is the insistence that the Dowd Report contains irrefutable evidenxe that Rose did, in fact, bet on baseball games, and in particular, bet on the Cincinatti Reds. In this latest take, Wojnarowski goes so far as to wonder why Rose didn't fight the report in court at the time, if he was as innocent as he insists today.

Now, far be it for me to assume the role of Pete Rose defender, but as I remember it, the deal he struck was initially supposed to be temporary and confidential, with Rose being able to apply for reinstatement in one year. But two things occurred during that period of time that are part and parcel of Rose's current predicament.

First, Dowd, immediately after Rose signed the confidential agreement, violated it by stating at a press conference that he believed that Rose did indeed bet on baseball, even though the agreement Rose signed specifically excluded that admission; and two, Bart Giammatti died within months of the agreement, leaving Rose without an ally in his future attempts to bring the application for reinstatement to fruition.

Did Rose bet on baseball?

Here's what Bill James, in his New Historical Baseball Abstract, has to say about the Dowd report, particularly the "betting slips" and their role as integral to the report and its conclusions:

".... I'm not saying this is nothing. I'm saying it is almost nothing. It's vague, it's superficially innocuous, and it bears no known relationship to any specific allegation.... There is, I would suggest, a better way to think about it. Pete Rose is innocent unless there is proof that he is guilty. I've looked at the evidence as slosely as I can. The closer you look, the less you see." (italics mine)

Why would Rose choose to fight in court when he had been told that if he would sign an agreement that admitted conduct detrimental to baseball he would be eligible for reinstatement in one year, and that agreement did not include betting on baseball, a known death sentence to someone as knowledgable about baseball history as perhaps any player ever?

Because he thought that in a year, it would be over, that's why.

Comment on this   [0]  »  July 26, 2002


..... Duh!



Tom Candiotti has a 'scouting report' on Jeff Kent on ESPN's site today. Hey Tom, maybe you ought to do a little research prior to posting your report. As anybody knows, Kent's hot streak began almost a month before Dusty made the 3-4 spot switch with him and Barry Bonds. Not to be too full of myself, but Kent got hot right about the time I RIPPED HIM IN THIS POST!!!!

I wrote that post from the 15th through the 21st. At that point in the season, Kent was batting around .275, with a ton of men left on base, but he had already started showing signs of coming on. Dusty made the switch on June 26th, at that point Kent had been killing the ball for over three weeks. In fact, Kent went into June batting .260. In June alone, he had almost as many hits as he had in April and May combined, and he has hit over .400 since June 1st!!! Granted, he's batting .456 in the 3-hole, but he began his surge almost a month before the move, so you can't say the move is why he's come on.

Comment on this   [0]  »  July 26, 2002


.... Read it and weep



David Halbestram is one of the very best writers I have ever read. He writes about the strike on ESPN2 today. While you're there, click on his archives and read everything you have the time for. He's that good.

Comment on this   [0]  »  July 26, 2002


.... New and improved



On Baseball BlogLink I found a new site, Twins Geek, by John Bonnes. He posts a rebuttal of sorts to Gary Huckabay's How to easily save 160 million dollars. I'm not so sure I agree with him. The foundation of his article seems to be that the D'backs bad investments were, arguably, partly responsible for their championship. I would say that they won in spite of those investments.

He wrote, "....you can speculate that the DBacks might have won the World Series if Williams, Bell, Womack and Stottlemyre weren't on the roster. But the World Series was decided in the bottom of the ninth in game seven, so you might also conclude that the margin of victory was pretty damn small. And you could also just as easily speculate that the extra $30M spent on these underperformers might have been the amount that bought a championship flag that will fly forever. Or that the championship is worth the inability to now trade them."

Yes, the point in competition is to make bets and take risks in an effort to win. But doesn't maximizing return foster winning? The D'backs won against the Yankees in a deciding game because the breaks went their way, the A's lost to the Yankees in a deciding game because, for the most part, the breaks didn't. And the $30 million he's talking about is actually much more, it's only $30 million for one season. The corrollary would seem to be the Giants, or really any team having difficulty making in-season moves to bolster their chances because of bad contracts, like JT Snow at 18 million for three years, or Marvin Benard at 10 over three years. (I know I sound like a broken record, I just can't get over these two players)

What seems to hurt a team are contracts like Matt Williams' or Snow's, contracts that are immediately bad investments in thirty-something, marginally effective players that are obviously in the decline phase of their careers, or long-term investments in a player who takes 5 or 7 years to make it through the minors, has one good but not great year, and then is given a three year deal that just was never in line with his expected performance, a la Benard. That's what Huckabay is writing about, the ones that hurt your eyes as soon as the ink is dry. Those contracts are management failings as much as anything, and they can derail a team for years.

Comment on this   [0]  »  July 26, 2002


..... So much for that



Well, that dish of crow didn't last too long. I have to say, that after reading Stan Conte's comments that Shinjo knew his hammy was sore, knew the Giants were short-handed, (obviously), and was warned by Conte and Dusty Baker not to push the hamstring too hard since the team was in such dire straits; the only conclusion I can come to is that either Shinjo didn't understand a word they said to him, (although, in reality, it didn't take a degree in nuclear physics to figure it out on your own), or he is an idiot. There is no excuse for hurting yourself on the basepaths given the outfield's injury situation.

Let me also say that this teams lack of depth is appalling, and I am struggling with whether it should have been anticipated somewhat. I believe that Brian Sabean and Ned Colletti have done an admirable job with the team in general. They kept Barry, they have a minor league system stocked with pitchers, they snagged Bell and Sanders for very little cost.... all in all, a job well done. you could say that from an aquisition perspective, they did a great job.

From an offensive execution perspective, however, something's very wrong. There are just way too many Giants players who seem to be completely clueless at the plate, offering no power, no discipline, no plate coverage, nothing. I know I have written about this ad nauseum, but it bears repeating; don't the Giants coaches, particularly Gene Clines, bear any responsibility for this? Who decides how to approach a pitcher, a plate appearance, a game?

For example, Ramon Martinez. When he first began playing regularly with the Giants, he had some pop, he hit for a decent average, he demonstrated an ability to be a capable backup infielder at three positions. But over the last season and a half, he's fallen apart. Here's the breakdown of Martinez's first two seasons with the club versus his last two:

333 at bats, 19 doubles, 11 home runs, 44 RBI, a .285 BA, and a .453 SLG%

517 at bats, 22 doubles, 8 home runs, 52 RBI, a .257 BA, and a .361 SLG%

What happened? Is he just not a major league hitter? Or should there be questions regarding how he is being coached and assisted at the major league level?

How about Pedro Feliz? This is from the Giants player bio page, "...over his last 4 minor league seasons (1997-2000), combining to hit .273 (513-for-1880) with 107 2Bs, 77 HRs and 291 RBI." Then he comes up to the majors and goes .238 BA and .358 SLG% with an approach that can only be described as random.

And what about Tsuyoshi Shinjo? For my money, he is the single most egregious example of the Giants coaches failure. Is he a big-time producer? Of course not. But he continues to swing for the fences like Sadahara Oh, he has no idea of the strike zone, he never goes the other way (take a look at his hit chart), he does nothing to take advantage of his speed, no bunting for hits, no attempt to keep the ball on the ground, (groundball to flyball ratio of 1). Who is coaching him? What is he doing trying to hit home runs every single at bat? Doesn't anybody try to tell him how to approach his at bats?

How about Reggie Sanders? I understand that he is supposed to be a power hitter, but wouldn't it be in the best interests of the team to occasionally try to hit the ball to right field? It's not like we're talking about Barry Bonds here. 60-70% of the balls he puts in play are pulled, other than the massive number of flyballs and pop ups he hits trying to pull everything.

I understand the team is struggling due to injuries, but these issues were prevalent when everyone was healthy too. There are too many Giants who cannot meet even the minimum demands of a major league hitter. A major league baseball player has to meet a certain level of production. To do so requires that you do whatever is neccessary to get the maximum out of your ability. This is expected of every player, by his teammates, his coaches, the fans, by everyone. How do you do that? A simple plan might look like this:

1. Honest and critical assessment of your abilities.

2. Design an approach at the plate to maximize those abilities.

3. Execute your game plan.

When I see Shinjo hitting fly balls, it's obvious that he is not doing any one of these three things. When I see Ramon Martinez taking fastballs for strikes and swinging at curveballs in the dirt, I know that he isn't either. When I see Reggie Sanders go through a ten game stretch of pop ups and fly outs, Shawon Dunston pulling weak grounders to second game after game, Pedro Feliz wasting at bat after at bat..... well, it's pretty obvious to me that nothing resembling the above approach is being utilized by this team.

Who's responsiblity is this? Gene Clines. The Giants are in the middle of a second consecutive season of poor to horrible second level talent production. Last year, Marvin Benard and Pedro Feliz and Ramon Martinex absolutely killed the offense. This year, subtract Marvin and add Shinjo and Dunston. (Forget about Snow, his failure is really Brian Sabean's. His contract was an albatross the minute he signed it) When Bonds and Kent and Sanders are all healthy, the offense is damn good, albeit very streaky (read my earlier post, Where we're at, Part II). However, thecurrent injury situation brings these failings into the light, and come October, if they make it to the playoffs, the lack of an effective approach by these players will be very dificult to overcome.

Comment on this   [0]  »  July 26, 2002


..... Hmmmmm, yummy



Well, once again I am eating crow. It's amazing how quickly my posts are proven wrong by this team. Earlier this season, I put together what I thought was a brilliant disseration on the decline phase of his career that Jeff Kent obviously was entering. He's only batting around .400 since then.

So yesterday I put together a post noting the substantial deficiencies of the Giants backup players, most notably Shawon Dunston. So, of course, Dunston and the rest of the backup players led the team to an improbable 6-4 win over the division leading Cardinals, and the Giants were able to pick a game up on both the D'backs and the Dodgers. Hopefully they will continue to prove me as wrong as Jeff Kent has.

Out of the office the rest of the day, so I'll see you tomorrow.

Comment on this   [0]  »  July 25, 2002


..... Good guys, continued



In today's online edition of the Sporting News, they have a feature article entitled Good Guys. The article focuses on the efforts Derek Jeter is making through his Turn 2 Foundation, both in NY and in Kalamazoo, his hometown.

Derek Jeter is, obviously, a good guy of baseball.

Comment on this   [0]  »  July 24, 2002


.... and he gets paid to do it



Sports Illustrated's Frank Deford has a completely ass-backward take on the labor issue we've been discussing. And you wonder why so many people have no idea what is really happening or why there might be a strike or who is lying or telling the truth? It's because writers like Deford and Tom Verducci at magazines like Sports Illustrated aren't journalists, they don't investigate or research anything, they're messengers, they just sit there and listen to whatever gets said at the press conferences and relay it to the general public.

It's a common problem throughout most of the world of print media. Journalists used to compete for stories by digging around and talking to people and asking questions and being connected and having informants and working the angles. Now the only competition is at the buffet table set up by whichever politician or billionaire or corporation is sponsoring the 'newsbriefing'.

It's not the general public that's getting dumber, it's the writers and editors. I just got an email from someone I do business with. It was a warning to NEVER GET BACK IN YOUR CAR WHEN PUMPING GAS!!! You know why? Somebody read a report that said that, over the last decade, 150 people have gotten burned due to static electricity sparks igniting gas fumes at gas stations. Now, I don't know about you, but I don't think that a .000000000001% chance of anything is deserving of my attention, but if you read it in a newspaper it must be true, it must be important and golly, you wouldn't want to be burned up, would you?

So when I talk to my Dad about the possibility of a strike, he essentially quotes Deford, because if it wasn't true, they wouldn't publish it in Sports Illustrated, would they? When I talk to my boss about steroid abuse in baseball, he says, as if it were established fact, that if the players aren't on steroids they would agree to testing, and since 50% to 80% of the players are on them, then they have to test to save the game. Stupid stupid stupid.

Comment on this   [0]  »  July 24, 2002


.... No pain, no gain



The Giants recent spate of injuries puts the onus on their bench to produce, and frankly, it has been exposed as very, very thin. When you have a starter with a .294 OB% and 32 RBI in 304 at bats (Shinjo), you can bet that you have a weak bench.

The Giants have five players who make up the core of that bench, Minor, Martinez, Feliz, Torrealba and Dunston. As a comparison, let's look at the D'back's five core backup players, who based on the fewest number of at bats, would be Durazo, Bautista, Guillen, Colbrum, and Delucci.

The D'back subs, in 571 at bats, run out at .278/.378/.471 with a .849 OPS.

The Giants subs, in 529 at bats, run out at .253/.325/.383 with a .708 OPS.

The D'back subs have 89 RBI, 85 runs, 159 hits and 269 total bases.

The Giants subs have 56 RBI, 60 runs, 134 hits and 203 total bases.

That's a big difference, but in reality, the difference is much larger. The Giants subs aren't better than the D'backs subs in any category, other than to say that they have a few less strikeouts. They have hit fewer home runs, fewer doubles, fewer triples, they have fewer walks, they have no stolen bases to seven. If you were to look at the two worst hitters from each team, the disparity is even greater. The two least productive Giants, Dunston and Feliz, have 13 RBI in 211 at bats! The two worst hitters from Arizona's group have 28 in 194.

In yesterday's post, I took a look at the inconsistency of the Giants offense in comparison to their rivals. This bench is part of the reason why, maybe a large part.

Watching Brenly start one guy or the other to utilize the platoon advantage or somebody's hot streak or whatever; you realize just how handcuffed Dusty really is. Is he supposed to pinch hit Dunston for Shinjo in a tough spot? Notwithstanding Shinjo's Gold Glove defense, he is essentially a backup, with no real skills as a hitter. He reduces the Giants lineup to only seven spots, but for all intents and purposes, the Giants don't really have any ability to pinch hit for him.

Two of their bench guys can only play one position, Torrealba at catcher and Minor at first base, which, by the way, represents Dusty's only real position he can pinch-hit. Neither Feliz or Martinez would be used as pinch-hitters or platoon replacements, (except when Dusty goes all right-handed against Randy Johnson, and that hasn't been a terribly productive idea anyway). Shawon Dunston frankly, is horrible; I cannot say it often enough, he is completely finished as a hitter. He has no power and no plate discipline; and since he no longer even hits for average, he is nothing more than a hustling guy making a huge number of outs.

So Dusty sends in his lineup card, and then waits for the inning where he either makes a double switch for his pitcher, or straight pinch hits for him; usually with a player who is only marginally better as a hitter.

Regardless of the severity of the injuries the Big Three are currently recuperating from, Brian Sabean has to realize that he needs more bats, not just one more, he needs several more. Benard's return cannot be counted on, (amazingly, he is missed more than anyone, this writer included, could have imagined), and given the age of the stars on the team, he has to realize that more injuries and missed time for them is almost inevitable.

If Bonds is out for two weeks or more, this team will struggle to score runs. If Bonds and Sanders are out for any length of time, they will probably lose 70% of the games they miss. When you subtract Kent, like the last two games, they have almost no chance at all.

Comment on this   [0]  »  July 24, 2002


..... Leg it out, boys



The Giants were helpless against Matt Morris last night, no shame, he's one of the best picthers in the league. But it was a big disappointment to see Jason Schmidt start the game hit batsman, walk, wild-pitch, two-run double. With the heart of your lineup on the trainers table, the Giants pitchers need to really step up, and so far, they haven't. Schmidt last night, Herrnandez the night before, those were big games and both pitchers were nowhere near the level they needed to be for the Giants to have a chance.

I mean, there's no reason to sit here and talk about Ramon Martinez's empty .280 batting average, or the Giants inability to take advantage of Tom Goodwin's 2 hits and 2 walks last night.... It's on the pitchers for a while.

In the SF Chronicle today, the usually pointless Betting Fool has an interesting tidbit about Schmidt and Ortiz. He says, "Send Jason Schmidt and Russ Ortiz to a shrink. They've started 37 games and have 12 wins between them. That's awful. They have the best stuff on the team and they can't finish. Ryan Jensen and Livan Hernandez have started 39 games and have 17 wins. They get by with 83 mph fastballs and nibbling the corners. Something is very wrong there."

I agree. Both of them have dominant stuff, and they just nibble and walk guys and pitch from behind, and it's just tedious and boring and it just kills the team.

Comment on this   [0]  »  July 24, 2002


.... Where we're at, Part II



Well, I just crashed the post I had with the table showing the Giants and the D'backs and the Cards and their 3 runs or less scoring over the last two seasons. So.... basically, it said that the Giants have scored three runs or less in 46% of their games since the beginning of last year, a higher percentage than their main rival, the D'backs, who clock in at 36%. That's pretty significant, and a reader, Louis Campbell asked me if playing at Pac Bell vs. The Bob should factor in here.

Well, the short answer is no. The Diamondbacks and the Giants have scored pretty much the same number of runs over the period of time in question, D'backs with 1304, the Giants with 1279. Per game D'backs at 4.99, the Giants at 4.90. That's nothing.

No, what we're talking about here is offensive inefficiency and imbalance, not overall lack of run production. You look at the Giants game logs, and you see 9, 12, 3, 3, 4, 10, 0, 2, 3, 5, 3, 3, 3, 4, 10, 0 runs scored, ( for a total of 74 runs, or 4.65 per game). You look at the D'backs game logs, and you see 4, 5, 7, 3, 7, 5, 4, 9, 3, 3, 11, 6, 1, 5, 4, 3 runs scored in succession ( for a total of 80 runs, or 5 per game), it's immediately apparent that they are more consistent offensively. These are actual sixteen game runs for each team, and they are typical, you can look it up.

Comment on this   [0]  »  July 23, 2002


.... Where we're at



Previously, I wrote that the Giants failed to make the playoffs due to a woeful offensive performance from third base, right field and center field, with Snow's injury plagued season another cause. Diamond Mind Baseball has an article that shows an OPS position by position ranking of every team, and looking at this analysis, I am stunned.

The Giants were in the bottom third offensively at five positions; catcher, center field, right field, first base and third base, including 14th and 15th out of 16 teams at first and third base, respectively (as well as 11th from their DH in inter-league play). The complete failure by these positions derailed what should have been the best offense in the league, and certainly cost the Giants a playoff berth.

The Giants had the best production in the league from their three stars, Bonds in left, Kent at second base,and Aurilia at shortstop, as well as the second best from their pitchers and pinch hitters, (primarily Marvin Benard), and the only reason their pitchers were second is because Mike Hampton hit 7 home runs for the Rockies.

So where are we now, after all of the work Brian Sabean and Ned Colletti did in the off-season?

Well...

The Giants are 14th at first base, same as last year.

The Giants are 10th at third base, up from 15th.

The Giants are 15th in center field, down from 12th.

The Giants are 12th in right field, same as last year.

The Giants are 1st at DH, up from 11th, mostly due to Minor.

The Giants are 3rd at catcher, up from 10th, Santiago's just having a better year.

They are way down at short, all the way to fifth, but Bonds and Kent are still #1.

So what does this tell us? Seems like the best laid plans don't always work out. Sanders, hot as a firecracker right now, needs to sustain through the end of the season to be considered a significant upgrade in right, although he is still better than a Vander Wal/Benard platoon.

Bell continues to be a revelation as a heads up ball player with no significant weakness, he is a big upgrade, from the looks of it, Pedro Feliz is a career backup. But Bell's upswing in offense has been offset by Aurilia's struggles, Shinjo is not only bad as a hitter, he's clearly getting worse, and his woes offset any boost by Sanders.

It also suggests that there is no way to justify playing Snow over Minor given the Giants current offensive imbalance. Head to head, Minor is twice as productive, 20 RBI to 35 in less than half as many at bats, his OPS is .892 vs. Snow's .684.

All in all, it's amazing that this offense has produced the second most runs in the league. It is tremendously unbalanced, leaning so heavily on the long ball. Even if they make it to the post-season, I don't see how they will be able to sustain the kind of pressure on a pitching staff that is so important for post-season success. You know the kind of pressure I'm talking about, lots of men on base, taking a lot of pitches, tough at bats; I mean, the Giants really only have two, or at most, three guys who could be considered tough outs.

The current spate of injuries might be the best thing to happen to them. The shock of seeing JT Snow intentionally walked so teams can pitch to Shinjo has revealed their weakness in terrifying detail, and it may force McGowan to open the checkbook for Sabean to pick up a center fielder, say, Randy Winn; as well as another pitcher. We'll see.

Comment on this   [0]  »  July 23, 2002


..... Good guy, Part III



Reader John Geer sent me this link to Todd Jones' page in his hometown, Birmingham, Alabama newspaper. Mr. Jones sure is busy. He's also a pretty honest and critical writer, unafraid to take on Bud or baseball.

Comment on this   [0]  »  July 23, 2002


.... Storm clouds are a brewin'



If you want to know what lies ahead as we move towards the end of the season, and a possible strike, impasse, etc., read Gary Huckabay and Doug Pappas' latest Baseball Prospectus column.

Comment on this   [0]  »  July 23, 2002


.... Sue me, Part II,



Jason Stark says that if the owners won't agree to some sort of minimum requirement to spend the re-distributed money they receive through revenue sharing, (as the Royals, Brewers, Reds, Padres and many others have chosen not to do through the term of the current labor agreement), then the owners are revealing their true reasons for their current efforts to renegotiate the agreement; they aren't interested in competitive balance, they are interetested in insuring that money (profits) be more evenly shared.

Comment on this   [0]  »  July 23, 2002


.... Good guy, Part II



Seems my friend Pete isn't the only person who has a Todd Jones story. A reader, Al Bogdan, writes,

"Some more Todd Jones stories, he's got a pretty good rep for being fan friendly. At Fenway this year, he supposedly put a "Yankees Suck" sign up in the bullpen facing the bleachers and participated when the obligatory chant started up.

I also remember a reader of ESPN2's Bill Simmons, on the old Boston Sports Guy site wrote in with a great Jones story. Somehow he got a hold of Jones' email address and emailed him. He asked Todd if he could email the guy who owned Jones in his roto league and tell the owner to trade Todd to him. Jones supposedly replied to the guy with the text "Game On" and then emailed the other owner, telling the guy that Jones wanted to be on the other guy's team."

You can email Jones from his Sporting News page, I would bet that he is as much a fan as we are.

Comment on this   [0]  »  July 23, 2002


..... Odds and ends



Two things:

1. Found a new Giants fan site, Out to the Ballgame. It's hosted by Jmar Gambol. He's a little busy lately, so it's a bit dated, but it's a very nice site, and what writing's available is pretty good. I'll give him a permanent link when he gets back on the stick. (Just kidding)

2. Tough loss last night. What are you gonna do? The whole team is hurt right now, they battled and fought, you just tip your hat and get ready for today. Worrell is starting to show the strain of pitching almost everyday; and the thirty-something, heart of the order guys (Kent, Sanders and Bonds) are showing some age as well. The bench seems very thin right now, pitching and, particularly, hitting. When you have nothing in AAA, it shows when you have injuries. The last several years, the Giants have had very few injury problems. Actually, the ones they are dealing with now are just at a real bad time, (and coincidental).

Hopefully Kent, Sanders, and maybe Minor, can go today.

Comment on this   [0]  »  July 23, 2002


.... Baseball's good guys



My friend Pete, who has been to every single baseball game ever played at Pac Bell since it opened, including all pre-season; had a lot of fun ragging on Todd Jones during the last Rockies series. I guess he got on Todd pretty good, and the two of them shared a laugh. What's interesting in this story, is that since Pete is at every single baseball game, they managed to get together for a word or two the throughout the whole series. Well, by the time the series was over, the two of them exchanged contact info, with a promise to try to touch base whenever Pete managed to get up to Coors Field, (probably next year, but maybe at the end of August).

Talking to Pete, you get the feeling that Todd is a real person, just a good guy, not afraid to say the wrong thing, or to look uncool making friends with a fan, (especially a fan of your opponent). So, I wanted to mention Todd on my site, and say thanks. Thanks for being cool, thanks for making my friend Pete's day, thanks for being good for the game when so much of what we hear and read isn't.

Todd is a guest writer at The Sporting News, here's a link to his page.

Comment on this   [0]  »  July 22, 2002


..... Well, maybe not clueless



A couple of days ago, I wrote a pretty harsh indictment of Dusty Baker's handling of the team that I believe led to the Giants losing the middle game of their series with the Dodgers. In particular, I said that Dusty would probably write off the loss as being the result of bad breaks for the Giants and good breaks for the Dodgers, that type of BS.

However bitter and reactionary I might be at times, I would like to state for the record that this time, I was right.

Here's what Dusty actually said:

"The Dodgers have been going so badly, good fortune's got to be on their side sometimes... we could have had the four runs quite easily but that's baseball."

Comment on this   [0]  »  July 22, 2002


..... You bad, bad boy, Part II



So sue me....

Russell Adams on the NY Times online has an article on a the NFL salary cap. The part of the article that I wanted to highlight deals with the agreement the NFL Players Association made with the NFL owners that created the so-called salary cap that exists today, and is the apparent goal of Bud and his cronies.

To quote the piece:

"... the heart of the N.F.L.'s economic model is the salary cap, which the players union conceded in exchange for unrestricted free agency in the 1993 N.F.L. Collective Bargaining Agreement. The agreement simultaneously invoked a free market on player salaries and a controlled market on team payroll..."

If there is a single worst example of a bargaining exchange in the history of sports labor, I can't think of it. The NFLPA got free agency under a system of constraints so unyielding that, in effect, they got nothing. So, in the NFL, teams have all the leverage while they are constantly renegotiating with their best players in an effort to meet their cap number; and players are at the mercy of a cap-ologist, who may know nothing about the blood, sweat and tears (not to mention body parts) a player has given in his time with the organization.

Do you think Michael Strahan will have more than one or two teams interested in signing him next off-season? He's only the best defensive linemen in the game. What team has $10 or $6 or even $4 million dollars per year for him? The NFL is at the point where teams like the Ravens have to essentially release the bulk of their Super Bowl championship roster to make it work.

Exactly how is this beneficial to the fans? How is this beneficial to the players? How is this beneficial to anybody other than the owners of the team?

Comment on this   [0]  »  July 22, 2002


..... Hmmm, I think you're on to something there



Diamond Mind Baseball does some great stuff with their awesome season simulator. I just read an early season article by Tom Tippett where he looked at the old, " We're just a couple of players away from contending" line. Terrific stuff.

Comment on this   [0]  »  July 22, 2002


..... Flu-like symptoms?



In the SF Chronicle Online today, an article mentions the "flu-like symptoms" that kept JT Snow, Damon Minor and Jay Witasik out of the lineup.

I will say this, in a game as important as yesterday's, with Bonds' injury, Worrell's inablity to pitch after being used in six of their last eight, Felix Rodriguez's inneffectiveness, Marvin Benard on the DL.... I sure hope that whoever showed up at Chavez Ravine with "flu-like symptoms" actually had the flu.

Because, if those guys showed up at that game hungover, with the Giants already short-handed..... the inmates are running the asylum. The Giants ended up with Ramon Martinez at first base, for crying out loud. There better have been a good reason for that, and I mean a reason other than "I had too many Mai Tai's last night." For all the speculative BS ~~steroids~~ running out of the pens of the Giants beat writers, I sure would like to hear, just once, what the hell is wrong with somebody instead of the company line about "flu-like symptoms."

Comment on this   [0]  »  July 22, 2002


..... You bad, bad boy



For those of you interested, I will cease and desist in attempting to write illuminating diatribes against Bud, about the labor problems, or for the union anymore. If you peruse my links column on the left, you will see a permanent link to the Baseball Prospectus' new Baseball Labor and Economics page.

I cannot offer anything significant to their astonishingly deep and intelligent articles, columns, analysis and dialogues. Please take the time to visit their site and you will be rewarded.

I will stick to my strong suit, bitching and moaning in annoying detail.

Comment on this   [0]  »  July 22, 2002


..... OK, maybe I'm clueless



Well, the Giants came back to win the game against the Dodgers, through a fortunate set of occurrences as unbelievable and unlikely as the sequence of events that caused me to:

1. Turn off the game.

2. Vow to divorce myself from the Giants for the rest of the season.

3. Write two scathing posts on Dusty, the team, etc..

So I'm an idiot. I won't bore you with the customary, I only get this mad because I care, BS. I am an idiot. Go Giants.

Comment on this   [0]  »  July 22, 2002


..... Dusty's clueless



First complaint first. How can a Giants vs. Dodgers, late July game with the two teams in a dead heat pennant race not be on TV?

How in the hell can Dusty not intentionally walk Shawn Green, the only batter the Dodgers have, with a 3-0 lead and a man on second and two outs in the bottom of the sixth inning?!? If that's not bad enough, how come Ortiz wasn't pitching around him? How in the hell can Ortiz groove a fastball to Green, allowing the Dodgers their first run? How in the hell can Ortiz allow FIVE HITS ON FIVE PITCHES IN A ROW WITH TWO OUTS?!?!?!?!? How can any pitcher do that? How can you even throw that many strikes in a row? Is anybody managing this game, I mean, I thought Dusty called pitches from the dugout, what was he calling?

I can't believe the way they just gave this game away.... how many of these games do you think we can afford to lose?

Comment on this   [0]  »  July 21, 2002


..... Dusty's guys, Part III



So, Felix comes in, gives up three hits and the 2-1 lead; he leaves, and the Dodgers score the two guys on 2nd and 3rd, after the Giants were unable to do the same the previous half-inning.

Let me tell you something, Dusty's post game comments are gonna be, hey, they got the hit with two guys in scoring position, and Aurilia hits a line drive up the middle that clips Quantrill's glove, that's baseball.

That's a load of BS. Dusty lost that game. Starting Dunston over Goodwin is bad enough. Starting him as your leadoff hitter, virtually guaranteeing that the absolutely worst hitter on the team will get the most at-bats, is frankly baffling. Pinch hitting the barely adequate Ramon Martinez with runners on seconbd and third over David Bell, never getting Minor off the bench, even though your top power-hitting lefty is injured!?!?!? Dunston and Feliz as your first two batters?!?!?!

Then, with a lineup that consists of basically three guys, Aurilia, Kent and Sanders, good fortune smiles on his ineptitude (unbelievably) and rewards him with a 2-1 lead that he can't wait to give back!!!

Just like last week against the D'backs, (where he brought Felix in the half inning after the Giants scored two runs to tie the game AGAINST RANDY F&#@ING JOHNSON!!!); no sooner did his team battle and scrape and get a run to take the lead, he sprinted out to the mound to give Rodriguez another chance to derail his team of any momentum. Amazing. Amazing because Rodriguez has no chance whatsoever of succeeding, amazing because of his obstinate refusal to come to terms with the failure of a player who he likes, amazing because if I were Kent or Bonds, I would tell him to go straight to hell the next time he decides to test the teams resolve and character again, instead of MANAGING TO WIN GAMES AGAINST YOUR F%#&ING DIVISION RIVALS!!!!

Absolutely unbelievable!!!

I will say this again, the Giants win in spite of Baker. Ralph Barbieri of KNBR is a huge fan of Dusty's; you call him up and try to say anything bad about Dusty and he shouts you down. He's wrong. The Giants are on a ten year run of success because Bonds, including his current alien from outer space performance, has been the best player in baseball, not because Baker is some managerial savant. Great, he knows how to plan for a double switch. If that's the toughest thing a manager has to do in terms on in game management, we're in a lot of trouble.

Comment on this   [0]  »  July 20, 2002


.... Dusty's guys, Part II,



And just what the hell is Felix Rodriguez doing pitching in this f%#@ing game?!?!

I just don't understand how you can keep putting him in one-run and tie games against the f&*%ing teams in your division.

Comment on this   [0]  »  July 20, 2002


..... Invest in US Bonds



Here's a report on Barry.

Comment on this   [0]  »  July 20, 2002


..... Odds and ends



Great baseball game last night, Giants at LA. Playoff atmosphere, 12 innings, Giants win 3-2. That's why I love baseball, at its best, its almost like an epic novel or ballet; tension builds, oh, there's the lead, oh, they took it right back. It really was an awesome game.

Bonds' hamstring is an ENORMOUS problem for the team, obviously. But what makes it really bad is that now Dusty doesn't have to justify playing Dunston. He thinks he has nobody else, even though Goodwin is approximately twenty times the player Shawon has degenerated into. Side by side, Dunston, (5 RBI), is having a .208/.221/.257 season in a little more than 100 at bats, while Goodwin, (6 RBI), hot off his game winning hit last night, has a .277/.370/.298 in half that many as bats. Neither one of these guys has any power, but geez, how can Dusty keep sending Shawon out there with an absurd .221 OB%?!

You're tellin me a speedy, good glove guy with a .370 on base percentage isn't more valuable than the king of outs? And what is it with Dusty's pals? Last year Benard and Snow absolutely demolished the Giants first half opportunity with their 400 plus at bats of absolutely no production. Now it's Dunston and Snow. What the hell is that about? You think Dusty overrules Gene Clines and gives the his own, shitty advice? Just wondering....

Barry's likely out for two weeks, minimum. That's about 60 at bats. With Shinjo eating outs like hamachi tama, the Giants can't afford 50 plus outs from Barry's replacement.

Comment on this   [0]  »  July 20, 2002


.... emails and details



One of my readers, Robert Place, sent me an excellent article by Allen Barra, located on Salon.com. It is an extraordinarily clear and concise addition to our ongoing Bud the Liar dialogue.

Thanks Robert

Comment on this   [0]  »  July 19, 2002


..... Can I have another cup 'a Joe?



Mr. Sheehan is at it again at the BP site. If you link into him here, you will unlock a whole series of linked articles and comments on the salary cap, MLB cap vs. NBA, NFL caps; a veritable treasure trove of goodies. Here's just one excerpt:

"The salary cap is the Holy Grail of sports ownership. If you can get one in your league, you lock in ungodly profits while eliminating risk. That is a perfectly good business plan, and it's hard to fault MLB and its member owners for doing everything they can to force one on the players.

Recognize, though, that the only people who gain anything from a salary cap are those member owners. A salary cap doesn't benefit fans, it doesn't benefit the game as a whole, and it doesn't do anything for competitive balance. It reduces the financial incentives to improve and innovate and succeed. Moreover, the pursuit of a salary cap has caused the leadership of MLB to relentlessly trash its product in an attempt to reach the ultimate goal. The anti-marketing of baseball, which has done more actual damage to the game than any economic system ever could, has one goal: get a salary cap."

Comment on this   [0]  »  July 19, 2002


.... My first try



Joe Sheehan, of the Baseball Prospectus, posted a column yesterday examining the team walk rate differential (walks allowed vs. walks earned), and how it correlates --or doesn't-- with team scoring differential. In his column, he posted a spreadsheet, and it showed strong correlation in the American League, but in the National it didn't hold water as well. In his past analisys', the correlatioon was strong, but for some reason, in the National League this year, it was all over the place. Here's how he ended the piece:

"That doesn't make much sense to me, so I'm throwing it out there. What would explain these numbers, other than the obvious--"Joe doesn't know how to use Excel." Is the Walk Gap just a gimmick stat? If it has importance, why would there be such a disparity in its significance across the league? More to the point, why is there such a disparity in the two correlations?"

I thought that there might be a connection between team batting average and the apparent lack of correlation between the walks differential and the scoring differential. Simply, I felt that teams that walk more than their opponents are not neccessarily the best hitting teams. They could be fairly poor hitters, but enjoy the advantage of very good starting pitching, like the Dodgers. Or they could be a weak hitting team with outstanding relievers, relievers who strand an inordinate number of runners, like, say, the Braves.

Anyway, I took his spreadsheet and added two columns, one for batting average ranking (BA), and one for the average of the three rankings (CUM). Here's what it looks like:



American League





Team Walk Gap Rank Run +/- Rank BA Cum

Yankees +124 1 +166 1 1 1

Mariners +123 2 +115 3 4 3

Red Sox +51 3 +121 2 2 2

Athletics +51 3 +37 5 8 5

Twins +25 5 +23 6 5 5

White Sox +2 6 +11 7 6 6

Indians -12 7 -74 12 14 11

Royals -21 8 -68 11 12 10

Rangers -34 9 -29 9 7 8

Angels -35 10 84 4 3 6

Blue Jays -41 11 -60 10 11 11

Orioles -56 12 6 8 9 10

Tigers -62 13 -140 14 10 12

Devil Rays -83 14 -131 13 13 13





National League





Team Walk Gap Rank Run +/- Rank BA Cum

D'backs +132 1 +53 3 2 2

Expos +37 2 -8 8 5 5

Giants +32 3 +101 1 3 2

Phillies +28 4 -35 12 10 9

Reds +22 5 -14 9 12 9

Padres +20 6 -99 16 15 12

Astros +7 7 +11 7 7 7

Cardinals +3 8 +47 4 6 6

Cubs -5 9 -33 11 16 12

Marlins -20 10 -21 10 4 8

Rockies -24 11 -50 13 1 8

Mets -33 12 26 6 13 10

Braves -35 13 +85 2 11 9

Dodgers -46 14 +44 5 8 9

Pirates -65 15 -51 14 14 14

Brewers -85 16 -81 15 9 13



So....

It appears that batting average does offer some explanation for the poor showing of some of these teams who are leaving a lot of men on base. On the flip side, I checked the gross walk totals for these National League clubs. It appears that there may be an offensive explanation and a defensive explanation. Teams that enjoy a walk differential advantage that is primarily based on either their offense or their pitching staff will not show a clear correlate between walk and run differential. This is obvious in a team like the Braves, who have only a -35 walk differential, but offensively, they have taken almost 100 walks fewer than the number one team, so their walk positives are all on the pitching side of the equation. Then there's a team like the Padres; who have a +20 walk differential, but have scored 99 less runs than their opponents. They have a high number of walks earned, but have given up 100 more walks than the D'backs at number one.

I guess the answer to Joe's question is in there. The NL this year is a league of extremes, the D'backs have walked only 230 batters while walking themselves 362 times!! The Braves still have the pitching but their offense is woeful. And the NL also has the Rockies, who destroy all conventional analysis.

I'm still not sure what to make of this, but I will point out one obvious fact. The Diamondbacks and the Yankees are well on their way to meeting in the World Series again. The Yankees have won 4 out of the last 6 World Series by being better than their opponents in one key way. They have made their opponents work harder to get them out, and they have not allowed their opponents to do the same to them, (until last year, of course). By having a strong, balanced walk differential, the D'backs and Yankees make it very difficult for their opponents; they walk a lot, they don't walk anybody, innings are never over, games are never over, they never seem to let up. Ask the San Francisco Giants. It sometimes seems like every batter in the D'backs lineup is Rickey Henderson. And on the other side, their innings last about twenty seconds for their pitchers, since they never walk anybody.

So, back to you, Joe. That's my first try at big time numbers crunching. I'm sure 100 readers have done a better job than me, but it was fun.

Comment on this   [0]  »  July 17, 2002


Bye bye. I think this will help.

Comment on this   [0]  »  July 17, 2002


I'm trying to post an HTML spreadsheet, to no avail. Sorry for the confusion.

Comment on this   [0]  »  July 17, 2002


.... Great? No, greatest, Part II



Reader Tom couldn't wait to swing at my "Barry Bonds is the greatest player of all time" post. He responds:

"John, Before you go any further with the "Barry Bonds is the greatest baseball player of all time" argument I think you need to make the distinction between baseball player and hitter. Whereas Bonds may certainly be the best all around offensive player, Babe Ruth spent nearly 4 entire seasons as a full-time - and dominant - pitcher. That's what makes Ruth, hands down, the greatest baseball player of all time."



Well, my disagreement, in short form, goes something like this. Babe Ruth played and dominated baseball at a time when the game was still in its infancy. I believe that today's athlete's are distinctly better than yesterday's, and that the further back you go, the more easily a singular talent is able to overwhelm his opponents, and the record books. Barry Bonds is not just a singular offensive talent; he is the recipient of 9 Gold Gloves, 4 MVP awards, 10 top ten MVP award finishes, including 9 times when the voters chose him as one of the 5 best players in his league. He conceivably will be the all tim leader in single season slugging %, on base %, walks and home runs, the most important indicators of offensive ability.

Remember, this is a short version, I'll do a follow up with a more detailed comparison later. But even if you think the Babe would have done better if the awards I've listed were available when he played, and it's hard to imagine better than Bonds' being considered on of the 5 best players in the league for essentially his entire career; but even if he could have; it still doesn't sway me. I believe that the game of today is more difficult, the talent is deeper and much much better trained and skilled. The addition of night baseball, coast to coast travel, relief specialists, video analysis, more advanced scouting... all of these things make dominating today's game exponentially more difficult than twenty, forty, sixty, or eighty years ago.

Bill James once wrote, and I might be mis-quoting him a little here, "Either you have to conclude that all of the best hitters in baseball history played during the 1920's and 1930's; or you have to make some adjustment for the context in which they played."

Would Babe Ruth be one of the top players in today's game? I wouldn't bet against it. Would he be the best pitcher and the best hitter? I don't think so.

Comment on this   [0]  »  July 17, 2002


.... Link into my eyes



I am having some difficulty with my template, so in the interim, here's a link to Baseball News, a site dedicated to all of baseball, good and bad.

Comment on this   [0]  »  July 17, 2002


..... Great? No, Greatest



Jonah Keri, who writes for Baseball Prospectus, does a terrific job trying to figure out Bonds' place among the greatest hitters ever.

I, for one, am perfectly willing to say that Barry Bonds is the greatest baseball player of all time. I am unafraid of the, "He's not done yet" or the "Nobody could be better than Ruth" (or Mays, or Aaron, or whoever) arguments. Somebody is the greatest baseball player ever, and I happen to think we're watching him play right now, at Pac Bell. So sue me.

Comment on this   [0]  »  July 17, 2002


..... Lies and more lies



Here's an article in the NY Daily News, where Larry Dolan, the owner of the Cleveland Indians, points the finger at Steinbrenner. I am always amazed that these billionaires never seem to have a public relations consultant available to help them prepare their speeches, you know what I mean?

And here's am article about the Houston Astros owner, Drayton Mclane saying he intends to get out of baseball if a new system isn't instituted. He claims losses of over $100 million since he bought the team for $105 million. So I guess he'll have to sell the team for $250 million and find a new hobby.

And then there's this column by Bill Madden, explaining why Bud the Liar is ruining baseball.

Comment on this   [0]  »  July 17, 2002


....Bitch ~n~ moan



The Giants are playing well right now, and I don't want to be the bitch, but come on people.... That was a horrible, terrible loss; a devastating, momentum-killing, demoralizing loss; and it was a Dusty Baker loss. That, my friends, is exactly what I am talking about when I complain about his managerial style. He treats every game the same. There is no urgency or risk or aggressiveness or whatever; each of the 162 games is neither more or less important based on the team they are playing, the situation, the circumstances, nothing.

That is why the Giants will not win a World Series with him as their manager. There are games that are more important. There are games that demand aggressiveness or risk-taking. There are games that need to be treated like they matter.

Yesterday, the players played their hearts out. The team started seven right-handed batters along with Bonds in an effort to neutralize the dominant Randy Johnson. Russ Ortiz struggled with his control, but the team played outstanding defense behind him ~most notably, Shinjo, who blew the Pac Bell crowd away~ running down all of the line drives and bloopers and hits and blasts that were flying off the D'backs lumber.

At the plate, the players approached Johnson with a plan. They took pitches, they worked the count, they tried to get the Big Unit into situations where they could have an idea about what he might throw. And Johnson was there for the taking. Through the first five innings he never once topped 92 MPH, mostly throwing 84-89 MPH junk. Now, when Randy Johnson is throwing 75% of his pitches at or below 90, you have a chance. And the Giants took that chance. After an inaccurate but resilient Ortiz finally buckled, allowing rookie Chad Moeller to get his first big-league hit, a two-out, two-strike, two-run double to give the D'backs a 3-1 lead, the Giants fought back.

Bonds who just missed a home run in the second inning when he doubled to the warning track in left-center, blasted a two out, opposite field home run in the sixth to make it a 3-2 game. Benito Santiago followed him with a single, and the crowd started to get excited. However, with Reggie Sanders at the plate hoping to get the lead back, (on an 0-2 count), Santiago inexplicably attempted to steal second base and was gunned down. After the D'backs went down in the top of the seventh, (their first one-two-three inning all day), Sanders led off, and Johnson immediately had him down 0-2 again. At this point, after he fouled off a couple of beautiful pitches, Johnson had thrown him about ten strikes over the two at-bats. On the 11th, he blasted a solo shot deep into the left field bleachers to tie the game. Beautiful. What a battle. What a game. Defending World Series champs, WS MVP on the mound, best left-hander in the game, a chance to make it three teams within a half-game of first place in the NL West. Pac Bell was on fire. The players knew they were going to win. (After the game, on KNBR, they played a Sanders clip, and that's exactly what he said. He said that after he hit that home run, all of the Giants were saying, we're gonna get 'em now.) What a game!

Stop the season right here. Because you are looking at the Giants problem. You are looking at an 18 inning, 1-0 loss to a team that finished two games ahead of you last year. You are looking at the Mark Gardner fiasco in NY in 2000. You are looking at a manager who doesn't get it. Felix Rodriguez and Aaron Fultz have been the two worst pitchers on the staff so far this year. Both have ERA's hovering around six, and both deserve them. Both have ABSOLUTELY NO BUSINESS PITCHING IN THIS F#@%ING GAME!!!!! None! Here's what Dusty said when asked if he might have gone to some of his other relievers instead of the TWO WORST PITCHERS ON HIS STAFF: "You get paid, dude, you can't pick the games you're supposed to be in," Baker said. "Ideally, yeah, I could use them in games like that. But Zerbe went two innings (Monday night) and Felix hadn't pitched in eight days (actually five)."

Hey dude, YOU get paid to figure this stuff out. This game was important. Not only did he bring in Rodriguez THE INNING AFTER THE TEAM FINALLY FOUGHT ALL THE WAY BACK, but he bailed him out with "Line Drive" Fultz, a pitcher who has given up 61 baserunner in 34 innings. That is wrong. That is a monumental error. That is a game given away that didn't need to be given away. That is a two game swing.

I've said it before and I'll say it again. If Dusty can't figure out that there are some situations where you break the mold, where you make moves for the now and not the future, where you get on the same page as your players, who are playing TODAY'S game, and you make decisions to win TODAY'S game; if he can't or won't figure that out, they are doomed to failure, and we are doomed to watch.

Comment on this   [0]  »  July 17, 2002


.... I'm ba-a-a-ack



Sorry about the downtime, I had some health issues to take care of, (I'm fine, thanks for worrying), and I was away from my trusty computer for a few days. First things first. In the last week or so, the San Francisco Giants shaved 4 games off of their deficit in the standings, and are currently in third place in the NL West, 1 1/2 games back of the Dodgers. They seem to have really turned a corner, clicking on all cylinders right now. It just shows what a difference Livan's swoon made. With him carrying his weight (no pun intended), the Giants can get on a roll and sustain momentum. When he was losing every start for two months, it made it really difficult to move forward at all.



A fellow by the name of Marc James runs a site called Sports Central. Check it out, it is huge!



Joe Sheehan, of the Baseball Prospectus crew, has a different take in the All Star fiasco. He also has this to say bout Bud (Gilligan) Seligs' foolish statement that teams weren't going to be able to make payroll this year:




"... Baseball teams are worth hundreds of millions of dollars. I just don't see any way that a team owner--himself generally worth hundreds of millions of dollars--is ever going to allow a short-term cash-flow problem to affect the value of that investment. While people like to talk about how Selig wants a team to go bankrupt to support his claims of financial distress, I don't believe any MLB team can meet the standards for bankruptcy, and moreover, any attempt to do so will cause the true finances of a team to come to light. "



Finally, Mark Purdy of the San Jose Mercury says Dusty should manage the team with more urgency than usual, given the shaky labor situation. I am not sure what his point is ~if they strike, who cares whether they were in first or last?~ but I do think that Dusty should always manage with more urgency.

Comment on this   [0]  »  July 16, 2002


.... I'm sorry, but I have no choice



My friends Tom and John and Louis are gonna kill me, but I read Bruce Jenkins' SF Chronicle column about Bud the Stupid, and I kinda snapped.




So I went back and dug up Doug Pappas' ground-breaking analysis of Major League Baseball's claimed 500 million dollar losses. The guys at Baseball Prospectus are changing the sport, with a level of analysis that is astonishing.




Now I don't want to offend anybody, and I am not trying to exclude opinions or other people's ideas from my site; but in this little world called Only Baseball Matters, if you want to be a part of the dialogue, this is required reading. The whole thing, no skipping to the end.... you don't have to study the charts and all that, but you simply must read this man's work. You cannot have a meaningful conversation about this issue if all you bring to the table is your local baseball writer's editorial.




I've included a few excerpts:




... Player salaries are investments. A team that spends its money wisely wins more games, and in any market, a winning team means higher attendance and more public interest which ultimately translates to larger media contracts and more money for the owner. Conversely, a team perceived as too cheap to sign quality players will alienate its fans and have less to spend. A team which spends poorly, like the Orioles or Devil Rays, has the worst of both worlds: higher expenses without higher revenues.




... MLB admits that its annual revenues have risen 156% since 1995--an extra $2.1 billion per year for the clubs to spend. MLB's numbers (also) show that the players have received less than half of this new money, while over this six-year period, non-player operating expenses have risen 134%, or more than $1 billion.




Where is this money going?




We know where it's not going. Teams aren't operating more farm clubs. They haven't doubled the salaries of their scouts, ticket agents, or secretaries. Stadium rents haven't doubled. With inflation running only 17% from 1995 to 2001, clubs aren't paying twice as much for supplies and equipment. If, as the owners claim, MLB is hemorrhaging money, why haven't they tried to stop the bleeding? Why are non-player expenses continuing to increase far faster than inflation? Why won't Bud let anyone who knows the facts talk about these costs?




Unless and until the owners provide credible answers to these questions, their claimed "losses" are about as believable as Enron's September 2001 financial statements.




... As implemented for the 2001 season, MLB's revenue-sharing formula required each club to pay 20% of its local receipts, net of stadium expenses, into a common pool. Three-quarters of the money in the pool was divided equally among all 30 clubs. The remaining 25% was shared only by clubs with below-average local revenues, distributed so that the lowest-revenue teams received the most. Revenue sharing is often defended as necessary to "give small-market teams a chance to compete."




Measured against that standard, MLB's revenue-sharing plan contains two serious flaws. First, it doesn't require recipients to try to compete: owners can simply pocket the money, treating it as a no-obligation subsidy. In some circles this is known as the "Montreal business plan," which has reportedly caused several eruptions of Mt. Steinbrenner at owners' meetings. As an extreme example, in 2000 the Minnesota Twins received $21 million from the revenue-sharing pool--$5 million more than the salaries paid to their entire 25-man roster. Not surprisingly, they turned a profit... and not surprisingly, their brethren eventually concluded it would be cheaper to contract the Twins than to continue subsidizing their parasitic billionaire owner.

Comment on this   [0]  »  July 14, 2002


.... I'm sorry, but I have no choice



My friends Tom and John and Louis are gonna kill me, but I read Bruce Jenkins' SF Chronicle column about Bud the Stupid, and I kinda snapped.




So I went back and dug up Doug Pappas' ground-breaking analysis of Major League Baseball's claimed 500 million dollar losses. The guys at Baseball Prospectus are changing the sport, with a level of analysis that is astonishing.




Now I don't want to offend anybody, and I am not trying to exclude opinions or other people's ideas from my site; but in this little world called Only Baseball Matters, if you want to be a part of the dialogue, this is required reading. The whole thing, no skipping to the end.... you don't have to study the charts and all that, but you simply must read this man's work. You cannot have a meaningful conversation about this issue if all you bring to the table is your local baseball writer's editorial.




I've included a few excerpts:




... Player salaries are investments. A team that spends its money wisely wins more games, and in any market, a winning team means higher attendance and more public interest which ultimately translates to larger media contracts and more money for the owner. Conversely, a team perceived as too cheap to sign quality players will alienate its fans and have less to spend. A team which spends poorly, like the Orioles or Devil Rays, has the worst of both worlds: higher expenses without higher revenues.




... MLB admits that its annual revenues have risen 156% since 1995--an extra $2.1 billion per year for the clubs to spend. MLB's numbers (also) show that the players have received less than half of this new money, while over this six-year period, non-player operating expenses have risen 134%, or more than $1 billion.




Where is this money going?




We know where it's not going. Teams aren't operating more farm clubs. They haven't doubled the salaries of their scouts, ticket agents, or secretaries. Stadium rents haven't doubled. With inflation running only 17% from 1995 to 2001, clubs aren't paying twice as much for supplies and equipment. If, as the owners claim, MLB is hemorrhaging money, why haven't they tried to stop the bleeding? Why are non-player expenses continuing to increase far faster than inflation? Why won't Bud let anyone who knows the facts talk about these costs?




Unless and until the owners provide credible answers to these questions, their claimed "losses" are about as believable as Enron's September 2001 financial statements.




... As implemented for the 2001 season, MLB's revenue-sharing formula required each club to pay 20% of its local receipts, net of stadium expenses, into a common pool. Three-quarters of the money in the pool was divided equally among all 30 clubs. The remaining 25% was shared only by clubs with below-average local revenues, distributed so that the lowest-revenue teams received the most. Revenue sharing is often defended as necessary to "give small-market teams a chance to compete."




Measured against that standard, MLB's revenue-sharing plan contains two serious flaws. First, it doesn't require recipients to try to compete: owners can simply pocket the money, treating it as a no-obligation subsidy. In some circles this is known as the "Montreal business plan," which has reportedly caused several eruptions of Mt. Steinbrenner at owners' meetings. As an extreme example, in 2000 the Minnesota Twins received $21 million from the revenue-sharing pool--$5 million more than the salaries paid to their entire 25-man roster. Not surprisingly, they turned a profit... and not surprisingly, their brethren eventually concluded it would be cheaper to contract the Twins than to continue subsidizing their parasitic billionaire owner.

Comment on this   [0]  »  July 13, 2002


..... More game notes



Shinjo just hit a two run triple, right-center gap, the ball rolled all the way to the wall. Hernandez up with an 8-0 lead. Not much of a fan response for him, both Krukow and I were expecting an ovation for his best showing since early May. He just got a double to drive in Shinjo, 9-0. He's smiling, looks loose and confident. Only thing left is the shutout, you know he's finishing this game, no matter what happens in the ninth. Dusty would probably let him give up three or four runs before he'd pull him.

Zeile's up first. Quick 0-2 count. Grounder off Livan's glove, on to Ramon Martinez, in for Kent; one out. 1st pitch to Hollandsworth, grounder to Minor, two outs!!! Now the fans stand up, Juan Uribe at the plate. Krukow just mentioned the two shutouts in 2000, first one was against Florida, I remember now. Krukow says both of them were four hitters, and Uribe popped up to Santiago! He's got a four hitter tonight!!!!!



Outstanding, Livan, Dusty, and the entire Giants organization couldn't have asked for more. That was fun. Goodkarma, although if you guys think I'm doing this for every game, you're out of your minds. Later.

Big win for the Giants on the table. D'backs beat the Dodgers, so a win and it's 2 games back in the loss column. Couldn't have asked for a better start to the second half

Comment on this   [0]  »  July 12, 2002


..... More game notes



Kent just scored the Giants sixth run, tagging up and charging home, similar play to last night. He's another player who seems completely different over the last month... aggressive, heads up, hitting the ball hard every day. He's making me look like an idiot. I posted a blabber mouth piece on how he's entered his decline phase as a player, and he's hitting about .450 since then. Jeez!!!

Comment on this   [0]  »  July 12, 2002


..... More game notes



Hernandez has now thrown 119 pitches, 76 for strikes, 24 of 31 first pitch strikes. Looks great. He needed this, the Giants needed this, the fans needed this. Walker's 0 for 4, fly ball to Bonds. O and 2 to Helton....




{Sidebar... Livan has pitched two complete game shutouts in his career. I was at Pac Bell Park for both, in 2000. They came in consecutive games. The second was against Maddux and the Braves, I think it was a 2-0 game, he struck out Gallarraga as the go ahead run in the bottom of the ninth. He looks that good tonight. Eight strikeouts, 4 hits, Walker 0 for 4, Helton 0 for 4}

Comment on this   [0]  »  July 12, 2002


....More game notes



Livan's got a three hit, seven strikeout performance through seven innings. A terrific showing with the whole organization counting on him to step up. Sanders is 2 for 2 with a walk and a stolen base, and Aurilia is 2 for 3. Important for those guys to get hot. 3 and 0 to Minor, who sure seems to be standing there with a lot of confidence and swagger right now... ball four. Two on with one out for Shinjo. Think Dusty will bunt Shinjo, and pinch hit for Livan, let him leave the game with a lead for a change? I know I would.



BASE HIT FOR SHINJO, SANDERS SCORES!!! That takes the decision out of Dusty's hands. Now Livan can hit with a three run lead and two runners in scoring position. 0 and 2 to Livan.... chopper to short, horrible throw and catch attempt between Uribe and Bennet, Minor is safe, it's 4-0 Giants!! Replays seem to indicate that Bennett shied away from Tiny. Boy, Minor is really making it hard for Dusty to justify keeping him on the bench. He looks terrific. Aurilia gets a hit, Shinjo scores!..... Sanders is being sent too..... he's out! 5-0 after seven.

Comment on this   [0]  »  July 12, 2002


.... I brought my laptop home this weekend, so I thought I'd try a game notes kind of feature. Here goes



Livan looked just OK in the first. Struck out Walker with off-speed, outside crap. We'll see if he can do that more than once. Prior to the game, Dusty mentioned that the coaching staff noticed Livan being taken the other way a lot in the first half. So of course that's how they pitch to Walker. Why would they do that? Because the last time Walker faced Livan, he hit a 550 foot home run off him, that's why.

Giants half of the first. Bell leads off with a hit to right on an 0-1 count. 2-0 to Aurilia. When will a Giant actually get a hit on a 2-0 pitch? Tonight. Clean single to left for Aurilia. Kent is up, 1st and 2nd, nobody out. 2-0 to Kent.....fly ball to center, Bell advances to third. Bonds up with 1st and 3rd. 3-0 to Bonds, Hampton is nowhere near the strike zone. 3-1, outside and low, but called a strike.... Here's the pitch..... I,m glad I decided to do this, because I've been wanting to record the amazing number of baserunning gaffs the Giants seem to be commiting. Bonds hits a screamer, picked up by Helton; who steps on first, and then catches Bell in a run-down between home and third. Fundamental baserunning mistake, about the thirtieth by a Giant this year. Unbelievable.

Top 2nd, Livan just threw his first strike after five straight balls. Okey dokey, two walks to open the inning. Flyball out. Still two on, one out. Strikes out Uribe on a 3-2 count. He's thrown a lot of pitches so far.... Grounder to Bell, inning over.

{Sidebar.... Anybody else notice how loud the fans and sounds of the game are tonight. I mean, I can hear everything the umpire says, Bell scuffling over to make the throw, and of course, the loud mouth, "Give 'em heat!" fans sitting right next to a mike somewhere. Can't somebody on Fox's broadcast team tell the mike guy to move a bit?}

I get up to do the dishes and Minor hits his 9th home run after a Sanders single. Well, he sure is making it tough for Dusty to keep him on the bench.

Over his last 14 starts, Hernandez is 2-10, with an ERA near 6.50. The single biggest failing he's had during this time, in my view, has been his inability to get through the inning after the Giants score. Frankly, he owes the hitters about twenty post scoring innings in a row right now, but I'd still like to see one.

Great play by Hernandez on the bunt attempt by Pierre. He sure does field his postion well. After a two out hit by Butler, Livan has Walker at 2-2, so far Larry hasn't had one good swing against him. Popped him up. He's battling tonight, not staring at the ump, wandering around....

{"Come on, Richie, that's OK.... come on!" Come on Fox, somebody wanna take the mike away from that loudmouth?} Base hit for Aurilia, he's two for two. Fox just posted a stat that shows Bonds with 6 strikeouts in 94 at bats at home. What?!?

Bottom 4. These middle innings seem a bit slow right now, although the Giants have a man on Benito, at the plate, and Minor lurking in the on deck circle.... Double play, Santiago. Minor at the plate.... Pop up. Inning over

Comment on this   [0]  »  July 12, 2002


....Amazing but true



My new friend, Gary Huckabay, absolutely detonates baseball management as a whole in this article about the preventable bad contracts so many teams are handcuffed by.

He did the work, so I will just add the following local touch. Brian Sabean is widely appreciated as a superlative general manager. He is thought to be a shrewd evaluator of talent, and excellent behind the scenes negotiator; a crafty wheeler and dealer in the trade market.

Whether this is true or not is not for me to decide, but here's a question: If the Giants didn't make the playoffs last year because they were a hitter short, ( and that is almost certainly why ), and they don't again this year because they are a hitter short, ( and that will almost certainly be why again ); who answers for the 12 million dollars each year they threw in the garbage can called JT Snow, Marvin Benard and Shawon Dunston?

You think they could have picked up Floyd with that 12 mil? Let me ask you this, you think Marvin Benard at three year, 10 million dollars, was a good investment at the time? You think a thirty-something JT Snow, a below average offensive player at his very best; was worth a four year, 24 million dollar investment? You think the Giants might have been better off signing Ellis Burks for three years and 22 million, instead of Snow? They couldn't, because Snow was signed the year before.

The next time you're listening to the Brian Sabean show, and he laughingly tells Ralph and Tom how there's no more money for a bat, think about why that's true.

Comment on this   [0]  »  July 12, 2002


....One more thing, Part II



I'm having some trouble with my edit sheet, so I am re-posting the edit of the Winfield comment. Sorry if this looks weak, but I think it's pertinent to the argument.



Dave Winfield, Hall of Fame inductee, was Mattingly's teammate for several years. He was never considered Mattingly's equal as a player. Mattingly beat him out for the batting title in his first full season, edging him on the last day, and that was the closest Winfield ever got to matching his performance level. Mattingly also lost a batting title on the last day of the season in 1986, to Wade Boggs, when Boggs sat out the last couple of games to preserve his lead over Donnie Baseball. Mattingly got something like 8 hits in his last 12 but still couldn't get past the Hit Man. Incidentally, that was one of the things that Boggs had to overcome when he was traded to the Yanks. He was sarcasticallyy compared to Ted Williams, (I'm sure everyone is aware of this by now, Ted played in a doubleheader on the last day of the season in 1941, when he could have sat out and still ended the year with a .400 average).

Back to 1986. Mattingly finished second to Clemens in the MVP voting, narrowly missing consecutive awards. If anything, he was better that year than in '85 when he won. 1st in total bases, 1st in slugging, 1st in OPS, 1st in hits (238), 1st in doubles, (53), 1st in extra base hits, 2nd in batting average, 2nd in total times reaching base, 3rd in runs, 3rd in at bats, 3rd in RBI's, 5th in on base%, 6th in home runs; I mean, come on!?! He was a monster. Again, I can't find the data on when his injury occured, but from 1984 through 1987, he was the best player in baseball, bar none.

Comment on this   [0]  »  July 12, 2002


A reader chimes in on the Mattingly vs. Kirby monster truck war.....

John,

.....yeah, yeah, yeah, their numbers are similar. But, first basemen are expected to produce more offense. Now, I realize that outfielders are also supposed to get numbers in today's game, but there's still somewhat of an exception for centerfielder, notwithstanding Lance Berkman. I would say that this was even more true when Kirby started; although, possibly not true when he retired. So the fact that Kirby's numbers are the same as Donnie's actually give's Kirby a slight edge.

Defensive first baemen, whatever. I don't discount the analysis the Donnie was a great defensive first baseman. But, who cares? As long as he's not a total stiff out there, the effect of a good defensive performance saves something like 20-30 runs a year (I think that's what Rob Neyer said in one of his columns). That many runs spread out over a season doesn't account for that many more wins, maybe 1 or 2. But, if your CF is a total stiff, and it's balls aren't flying out of the ballparks before the outfielders can actually make a play on them, a poor defensive CF is a big liability. So, Kirby, even if equally good as Donnie defensively relative to the league average at their positions, gets another slight edge here. I think. I could be wrong on this one. But if I'm wrong, it's only to that the point that defense just doesn't matter for either. It certainly doesn't help Donnie over Kirby.

I believe that the fact that Kirby was forced out by catastrophic injury introduces an element of uncertainty. While Kirby could have faded away like Donnie, we just don't know. We know that Donnie faded away, so Kirby can get the benefit of the doubt here because, at least, he started out good.

And finally, what were the relative lengths of their careers? I don't know. I only really started paying attention to baseball around 1987 (hey, I was 10, give me a break) and I can't precisely remember when either of them retired. But, even after all that, I'm not sure that either of them belongs in. I'm more prepared to knock Donnie out for the reasons above, but I'm not really sure that Kirby was quite good enough to get in himself.

Louis Campbell



Louis,

Don Mattingly wasn't just a great first basemen, he was one of three or four guys who are in the argument for greatest defensive first baseman ever. That's significant, whether you think he saves 10 or 50 runs a year. I don't know if Neyer did the paper, but Bill James did a piece on Bill Mazeroski as a defensive superstar that shows pretty convincingly that no player, at any position, other than Maz, could have really argued that they significantly impacted wins with their defense. In other words, nobody is that much batter than an average defensive replacement. I buy that. Do you think JT Snow is worth 10 wins defensively over Minor? No way. So the fact that Donnie was one of the very best defensive first basemen of all-time only means to say that, until he hurt his back, he was the best first baseman in the game, and maybe the best player in the game, for several years.

Was Kirby Puckett the best defensive centerfielder in the game when he was in his prime? Probably. Was he ever considered the best player in the game? Not the way Donnie was. I was in my early twenties, living in NY at the time. Kirby was a ten time All Star, he won a LCS MVP, a WS MVP, an All Star game MVP; I think I had a good feel for his standing in the game, even though he wasn't playing in my home town. Don Mattingly was considered the best hitter in the game, by everybody, SI, TSN, everybody. He won a batting title his first full season, led the league in RBI's his second (and the MVP award), and the season after that, he hit six grand slams, establishing a major league record that has stood the test of time even through the home run happy years of today. He also hit a home run in eight straight games, that mark is also a major league record (that he shares with Dale Long and Ken Griffey Jr.) He did all of that in his first three full seasons!!!

Side by side, Mattingly won 9 consecutive Gold Gloves, Kirby got 6. Kirby finished in the top ten MVP vote 7 times, Donnie 4. Kirby made the All Star team 10 years in a row, '86-'95, Donnie 6 in a row, '84-'89. Offensively, Mattingly has the edge. He won a batting title, an RBI crown, led the league in hits twice , doubles three times, total bases twice , slugging, OPS twice, extra base hits twice. Kirby led the league in hits 4 times, won a batting title, led the league in RBI once, total hits several times, total bases twice. Baseball Reference's Hall of Fame Monitor has Kirby with 155 points, Donnie with 134. 100 gives you a good chance to get in. By the way, Donnie played for 14 years, Kirby 12.

As for Puckett suffering a catastrophic injury; Mattingly didn't fade away, he suffered a serious lower back injury in, I believe, 1987, maybe 1988 (I'm having a tough time verifying when). He was never the same. He lost his ability to drive the ball, consequently; over the last 6-8 years of his career, he became JT Snow, 35 doubles, 18-25 home runs, 90 RBI's, his batting average hovered around .290. He was still a major league player, but he was a shadow of himself. He retired at the relatively young age of 34, unwilling to continue to play with the pain and the risk of permanent disability. Should Kirby's eye problems be considered more catastrophic because he couldn't play at a reduced level of effectiveness?

In my opinion, blinded by favoritism or not, Don Mattingly absolutely belongs in the Hall of Fame. The comparison to Kirby is appropriate because in both instances, greatness was interrupted by injury. I would ask you to consider this: If Mattingly had avoided injury, and had a natural decline from the average level of offense he established in his first three years; that is, 219 hits, 48 doubles, 30 home runs, 123 RBI's, .340 batting average, .560 slugging %, .396 on base average, would he be a Hall of Famer? Without his injury, I believe he would have over 600 doubles, 350 home runs, 2600 plus hits, a lifetime BA around .320, and he would have over 1500 RBI's and runs scored. Is that a Hall of Famer? I think so.

Comment on this   [0]  »  July 12, 2002


....First half blues, second hand shoes



As the second half begins, and all of the many writers, columnists and pundits make their prognostications and predictions, I have just one thing to note regarding the San Francisco Giants and their chances for a playoff appearance.



Every team in the National League West ~other than the Giants~ has more wins than their runs scored differential (RSD), [using the Bill James Pythagorean formula] would indicate. Every one of them. This while the Giants have the largest negative differential, having lost four more games than their RSD would indicate. Not always, but with some frequency, these types of statistical anomalies tend to even out over the course of a full season. That's because, for the most part, a sample of 162 games is large enough to allow for some good luck and some bad luck to happen to teams.



There's no guarantee that things will even out, but if every team the Giants are competing against has had the breaks so far, and the Giants haven't, there should be just a sliver of an edge out there for them; and that may be enough to get them over the hump.

Comment on this   [0]  »  July 11, 2002


....emails and details, Part II



Tom replies....

Because Donnie hung on and Kirby was forced to stop. So the taste left in the mouth is different...at least for objective witnesses. But seriously, their career stats are nearly identical, even considering Mattingly was a shell of himself his final 6 years.









PlayerRunsHR'sRBI's BAOB%SLG
Mattingly10072221099.307.358.471
Puckett10712071085.318.360.477


They both played Gold Glove defense (though Puckett had a far more challenging position) and both garnered the same respect. At the time I thought Donnie was the greatest defensive 1B I've ever seen. He practically invented the 3-6-3. Watching JT for a few years now clouds my memory but still....



Tom,

Great stuff. I did an in-depth analysis of defensive first basemen several years ago, (I lost it in a computer crash and it was a lot of work, but Baseball-Reference.com can help me do a quick re-creation). The basic results were that Keith Hernandez was the greatest modern day defensive first baseman, (I compared only Gold Glove first basemen that I saw, Galarragga, Bagwell, Snow, McQwire, Mattingly, Hernandez).



Keith and Donnie were head and shoulders above all the others, Snow included; especially when it came to range factor. But when you came right down to it, Keith Hernandez got to more balls, had more assists, made more plays, and only made a few more errors each year. Per game, his totals were about 10% more than Mattingly, whose only edge came in his error rate, he made the fewest errors per game of any of them, by a substantial margin. Donnie had years of 3, 4, 5 errors, while being involved in something like 1350 plays. Keith made 8, 10, 13 errors while being involved in 1500 plus.



Quite frankly, Snow's range is much less than either of them, more in the 1050-1150 plays per year, and his double play numbers pale in comparison. We're talking five seasons of 140 plus DP's for Hernandez (133 per 162 Games, over 2000+ games), seven seasons of 130 plus for Mattingly (141 per 162 Games over 1700+ games), with a high of 154!, and Snow (132 per 162 Games over 1100+ games) with 4 years of 130's and a lot of 100's and less.



It's in his assists per 162 that Hernandez ends the debate. He averaged 130+ assist per 162 games played. Mattingly only produced 110 per 162, and Snow around 100.



You're absolutely right, time passes and we forget what it was like, but in NY, for about 6 or 7 years, we saw what was probably the greatest exhibition of defensive play at first base ever put on, side by side. At the time, it made me think of centerfield in the '50's, with Duke Snider, Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle playing in the same city.

Comment on this   [0]  »  July 11, 2002


....emails and details



A reader writes....



John,

I was just thinking back to 1985: Mattingly, Winfield, Henderson, Gator and Righetti. All I cared about was magic numbers, MVP votes, Niekro winning his 300th on the last day of the season.... and finding a way to stop Eddie Lee Whitson from taking the mound. I enjoy arguing over who deserves to be an All-Star; discussing the odds of a certain player making The Hall; determining who got the better end of a trade made long ago. I make lists of the best nine the Tigers could have fielded during my lifetime. I savor 12:35 Pac Bell starts and the opportunity to give my boss a moment's notice that I'm taking the afternoon off. If I wanted to delve into politics and labor relations I'd spend more time at work. The first game of the second half is in the books. Vladamir Guerrerro has hit two more homers. Let's get the discussions back in between the lines. Bud and the BPA are out of our control and talking about them isn't satisfying or worth the effort.

Tom Germack



Tom,



I am with you 100%. I have been banging the same drum for a couple of days now, and I apologize for not ignoring the ingnorant. Let's get back to the important stuff, the magic of baseball.



1985 was a spectacular year of baseball for me as well. I idolized Donnie Baseball, and in 1985, before he hurt his back, he and Rickey Henderson were clearly the two best players on the planet, and they played for the same team, my NY Yankees. Rickey scored 146 runs in 143 games played, and Mattingly went .325, 35 HR's 48 DB's, 145 RBI's, back when 145 RBI's was enormous.



I just looked up the MVP vote, and it went Mattingly (23 1st place votes), George Brett (5), Henderson, Boggs, Eddie Murray. Wow!!! Look at the top five players in the AL that year.... If he hadn't hurt his back, there would be no doubt he would be a HOF'er, how come Kirby gets in even though an injury cut his career short but Don Mattingly can't?

Comment on this   [0]  »  July 11, 2002


....More on Bud the Stupid, Part II



I would laugh, but Bud Selig is no longer funny. His latest lamentation leads me to the sad realization that he will do or say anything in his ill-fated, destructive efforts to force the Baseball Players Association to its' knees. I know, I know, if I thought otherwise before, it was a combination of naivete and foolish hope that Bud and his cronies had more to lose than gain. That hope is probably been extinguished, and it is a sad day for baseball.



There is only one thing worse than a crusader, and that is an ignorant crusader, because an ignorant crusader destroys everything in his effort to attain his stated goal. Bud wants the world to believe that he is on a crusade to save baseball, from its' own excess, from some monstrous, uncontrollable, internal disease, from the selfish greed of the players. He is doing nothing of the sort. He is lying, there is no other way to put it. He is lying, painting baseball and all of its teams as poor, suffering victims, all in an effort to sway public opinion against the BPA, and if that isn't bad enough; he thinks that when he is inside the negotiating room, it will matter whether you or I agree with the billionaires or the millionaires. He ignores the very history he purports to be a student of, history that so clearly shows how doomed to failure his current strategy (if you could accuse Bud of anything resembling strategy) really is. He ignores the facts, facts which will then be used to bludgeon him and the foolish owners who allow him to be their lackey.



He ignores these things because he is a fool, and men like Peter MaGowan and George Steinbrenner and Peter Angelos and Carl Pohlad; men who made their fortunes by being smarter and tougher and working harder than their competitors, men like that should no better than to hand him the keys to their expensive car. How is that? How do men who basically run entire sectors of industry in this country, allow a clueless, disheveled, clearly over-his-head car salesman from the middle of nowhere to be their representative? Has there ever been a more Gilligan-esque, blundering, incompetent figure heading up a multi-national, multi-billion dollar a year industry? Did you see him sitting there at the All Star game talking to Torre and Brenly? He couldn't think of any way to solve that problem other than to just quit? That's the Commisioner of Baseball, the top guy, the answer to the question?!?!



It's not funny anymore. It's sad. Reading the Donald Fehr and Bob DuPuy interviews on Baseball America's website yesterday was another depressing eye-opener. On the one hand, you've got the measured, thoughtful responses from Fehr, and on the other, you've got the fantastical, nonsensical posturing by DuPuy. Side by side, the former was so clearly more believable, anyone could see that DuPuy doesn't stand a chance in hell of winning an argument with Fehr in front of an arbitrator, judge or any other objective authority. And that's exactly where they're headed. They will sit across from each other a few more times over the next month or so, and then the players will strike, and they'll sit across from each other a couple more times, Donald Fehr patiently explaining to Bud and Bob that just because they say something over and over doesn't mean it's true; until finally they'll be sitting in front of a judge or an arbitrator. And when they are finally there, sitting in front of somebody who spends all day separating bullshit and lies from facts and truth for a living; that's when Bud and Bob will fold their cards, push their chairs away from the table, and eat crow, again.



Will baseball fans lose the season and the playoffs and the World Series before that happens? I hope not, but the prognosis is not good.

Comment on this   [0]  »  July 11, 2002


.....More on Bud the Stupid



Picked up this link on David Pintos' Baseball Musings page. The article, from the great Leonard Shapiro of the Washington Post, details the outraged response of Fox Networks' executive Ed Goren, after Bud the Stupid not only cancelled the All Star game, but then skipped out on a post game interview/explanation. The link was provided by super-fan John Geer, who also sent me the following, slightly edited email.



John, this latest announcement from Bud kills me...aside from my patented 'that lying a#@hole' reaction, I had to just shake my head. Instead of promoting the game of baseball, which is obviously in a GOLDEN AGE, he blows the All-Star Game in his park, and then has the balls to say two teams may not make the rest of the season? Hysterical.



Look, the announcement that 2 teams may not make it isn't just ill-timed, it's also just too damn bad. Assuming the teams are the Diamondbacks and Devil Rays, is anyone surprised? I'm supposed to feel sorry for these teams? Doesn't Bud realize that this isn't a good thing for his stance on contraction and salary caps? The Snakes are woefully mis-managed, and they should bear the wrath of whatever creditors come calling. After that, they can sell the team to someone willing to pick up the price tag, which someone undoubtedly will. Back to Bud, he clearly has no idea what public relations are, and he has no idea how much everyone is America loathes him.



Here's what Bud the Stupid had to say yesterday, "I'm done. Major league baseball's credit lines are at the maximum... We've done everything we can to help people by arranging credit lines. Frankly, at this point in time, we don't have that luxury anymore.... If a club can't make it, I have to let 'em go. I'm a traditionalist, and I hate all that. It pains me to do it. I just don't have any more alternatives"



I'm a traditionalist?!?!?! This from the man who a) implemented interleague play, b) the wild card, c) redrew division lines, d) moved his Brewers to the National League, and e) told anyone who listened that teams were going to be voluntarily contracted for the first time in the history of the game, and as many as eight might need to be folded. I'm a traditionalist?!?!?! He makes me sick, and anyone who feels bad for him, or even worse, believes him, is a sad sad person indeed.



I don't feel bad for the rumored two teams (the Rays and Snakes), and I don't believe that they won't finish the season. It's just one more horrible public relations ploy by Bud, and it's a last gasp, honestly. The sooner he gets the boot, the better.

Comment on this   [0]  »  July 11, 2002


.....What I'm trying to say, ad infinitum



Following some of the links in Doug's column, I found this one, a Baseball America interview with Donald Fehr, executive director of the Baseball Players Association. Wow.



Here's just one excerpt from the interview with Donal Fehr. This is his response to a question on the BPA's stance on drug testing, specifically steroids....



FEHR: If I were to be told that there were a lot of unlawful firearms in my hometown, I don't think I could be accused of acquiescing if I said that I still didn't think it was appropriate to bust into everybody's house without a warrant. A warrant requires a showing of cause related to an individual. Now, the constitutional protections against unreasonable search and seizure don't directly apply here. But we think there is something to the following notion: A, one ought not to make blanket accusations; B, if you're going to investigate someone, there is something to the notion that it ought to be based on reasonable cause to believe that that person is, or has been, doing something unlawful. That is a difference not between testing and no testing--it's a difference between mandatory testing of everybody, even those without suspicion, which would be the overwhelming majority, and for-cause testing, which would relate to specific individuals.

Comment on this   [0]  »  July 10, 2002


....What I am trying to say, Part IV



Here's a column by Doug Pappas, at Baseball Prospectus Online. More lies.

Comment on this   [0]  »  July 10, 2002


....What I am trying to say, Part III



Marvin Miller was the first executive director of the Baseball Players Association, selected in 1966. In Studs Terkel's, "Coming of Age," he talks about his role and his experiences while heading up the most powerful union in the country. Here are a few excerpts:



...In the spring of '66, by myself, I visited all the training camps in Arizona, California, and Florida. I stayed in motels, rented cars, found my way to the twenty training camps and met with all the players... ...They had no contact with unions and yet were subject to all the anti-labor propaganda that we're faced with all the time. [Chuckles.]



...The sheer weight of that almost got me down, because they started with a tradition of brainwashing: Baseball is not an industry, baseball is not for making money, these are sportsmen who own the clubs, and they do it for the love of it. Many of the kids believed that. It had been drummed into them year after year: "You are the luckiest people on the face of the earth. You get paid for playing a game. If you make demands, the whole game will collapse, because why the hell should these sportsmen lose money? They'll just walk away from their franchises." They believed this fairy tale. [Laughs.]



...I was asked by a reporter why I accepted the job. I said that the players' conditions were so bad you couldn't fail to improve them. No matter how incompetent you might be at this job, given where you were starting from, anybody would be successful. It wasn't just the dumbness of the owners but their arrogance as well. Their history was one of swatting down people, whether it was Congress trying to put them under the antitrust laws, or the courts. They always prevailed. When the players' union succeeded, they fell apart, as often happens with bullies. They had a long history in this respect.



Here's what he has to say about the Commissioner:



...The commissioner was a creature of the owners, hired by them, fired by them, serving them. He's not responsible to the public, as he pretends; nor to the fans. He's responsible to the owners. If there's a dispute about a contract, this handpicked toady will interpret it.



Here's what he has to say about baseball players salaries:



...I was exposing the whopping lie of the owners that they don't make money. I took the most recent figures in Fortune magazine. The total payroll figures, the total gate receipts, the TV income. It was public knowledge. I said, "I know what you've heard about unions, but you must understand that only by working together can you have any impact. Consider the player who fights back, who's a holdout. The company sends him a damn contract that is an insult. He's had a great year and they offer him a cut. You may not know this, but Jimmy Foxx, who won the triple crown, was offered a pay cut the following year. Even a Joe DiMaggio, holding out after his second and third years, probably the greatest two consecutive years any player ever had, was holding out for $35,000. He had to crawl back and take whatever Colonel Ruppert, the owner, offered him. That's the fate of an individual as skilled and valued as Joe DiMaggio. But all of you together are something else.



Miller talks about what it was like during strikes:



...During a crisis, like the '72 strike or the one in '81, the owners would hold a meeting with the players, telling them of the union's outrageous demands and how reasonable the owners were. The players would sit and look at each other. They had been at these sessions and knew it wasn't like that. They know all of what's going on. The papers can't fool them, the owners can't fool them, because they're there. [Laughs.] The players have been the most underestimated people imaginable.



...We live in a society in which people are taught not to look at people of great wealth, who control things, who really have the money and the power, not to question their sources. We're trained to look at lesser beings. The fan says, "Look at this guy, he makes x dollars a year. What the hell more does he want?" He thinks nothing of the fact that the owner makes fifty-thousand times more and has profited from the talents of others. Perhaps the owner came from the shipbuilding industry, like Steinbrenner. Didn't his workers play a role in the building of his empire? Gussie Busch, without the talents of the brewmaster and brewery workers, where would he be? We are not taught the value of labor. We're trained to think these people are nothing. We have been taught that it's okay for the entrepreneur to make billions, because he takes a risk, doesn't he? We think nothing of the fact that the worker is risking his life, his career, his whole future. That's nothing.



...Another reason these big boys buy clubs is the sense of power it gives them. It's a hobby that makes money at the same time. Publicity and glamour figure in it. Charlie Finley tells this story about himself. "For all the years I've had the insurance business, not even the elevator man knew my name. I was just a faceless millionaire. I buy the Kansas City club and suddenly everybody in America knows my name." How many people ever heard of George Stenbrenner before he bought the Yankees? But a sense of power is the big thing.



...Through the past thirty years, sports writers have gibed at the owners: they don't know how to stick together, the union has licked them, they're a bunch of weaklings, they're losers. These are very opinionated, willful men of great power in other situations. To be called losers! They fume, they die over this. They want to win one.



...I blame the media for not explaining what a salary cap is. The owners want the union to conspire with them and agree that salaries cannot go beyond x point. The difference between what the players would get in an open market and this artificial cap that would be picked by the owners? A couple of billion or so. The players are making no demands, merely protecting what they have already won. It's the owners who are making the demands. Yet, thanks to shallow reporting, the fan asks, "What do these players want now?" It's not the union or the players saying, "These salaries must be this way. Every player's salary is negotiated by the owners or their general managers and players and their agents. They're not saying, "I'll go on strike if I don't get it." The union has nothing to do with this. When the Boston Red Sox reached the five-million-dollar mark with Roger Clemens, it's because they felt he was worth it rather than lose him. Isn't this what the free, open market is all about?



...The success of the players' association may not apply to other professional sports. There are grave differences. The big difference is in the history of baseball. As they advance through the ranks, they get to know each other as minor league players. They know each other from the beginning of their careers. Contrast this with the football scab situation. Football has no minor leagues. The get them from the colleges. When they wanted scabs, they went to people who worked in garages, who had semipro jobs. They had no association with the football players they were replacing, none.

Comment on this   [0]  »  July 10, 2002


...All-Star thoughts, Part II



Robert Place tells me that in how NCAA women's softball games, they play extra innings which might be interesting for the All Star Game: Each half inning is begun with a runner on second base and no outs (the batter who made the final out of the previous inning is the runner). I would guess this might speed things up.

Comment on this   [0]  »  July 10, 2002


.....All-Star thoughts



Great game, one of the best All-Star games in recent memory. Over these last few years, it seemed that the pitchers dominated, making for boring, low-scoring affairs. This was a terrific, back and forth game, with lots of hits, great plays, heroes, really enjoyable. Also enjoyable was watching Selig get booed. For my money, no one deserves to be booed more than Bud Selig. And to have it happen in his own ballpark, after all the back-dealing and strings he had to pull to get an All-Star game to his crappy facility; well, let's just say that was the most fun I've had in a while.



Reader Bryan Davis brought up some interesting suggestions for how they could have resolved the problem last night, without disappointing the thousands in attendance, not to mention the millions watching. Anyway, he suggested a home run derby format could be used to break ties, similar to what they do at the World Cup. My boss said that they could have just let position players pitch from the top of the 12th inning, certainly somebody would have scored then. I like the home run derby format. The players in the game could continue hitting in order, they get to make an out or a home run per at bat. You could have Willie Randolph pitching, each team gets three outs per inning, and the game proceeds until one team has more runs after the bottom half of any inning.



It's already an exhibition game, there's no need to limit how to resolve such an event. I'm surprised it hasn't happened before.

Comment on this   [0]  »  July 10, 2002


......What I am trying to say, Part II



Here's an article in the NY Times this morning, by Murray Chass, he addresses the issue a bit more eloquently than I.

Comment on this   [0]  »  July 10, 2002


..... What I am trying to say is



In a continuing effort to clarify my position on the baseball labor strife, let me say this....



I believe that Bud Selig is a liar. I believe that he is lying in an effort to turn public sentiment against the players; and that he believes that this public sentiment will sway the players into giving concessions back to the owners that they have won fair and square through their past negotiations. I believe that any owner that wants to sell his team could do so in a matter of months, and there would be multiple buyers for each and every one. I believe that the owners of baseball teams care more for money than they do for baseball.

Comment on this   [0]  »  July 9, 2002


....Mad as hell, and I won' take it anymore



Gary Huckaby of the Baseball Prospectus crew, has a terrific take on our current topic.

Comment on this   [0]  »  July 9, 2002


......emails and details, Part III



A reader writes....



"John, although I want to agree with your position concerning who is right and who is wrong, I feel compelled to place blame on both sides. If baseball were truly a business like any other, I think you'd be correct as to the players being entitled to fight for as much as they can possibly get for their talents. However, baseball is not work like any other, it is a special kind of business. If the present system continues, smaller clubs will begin to go under. Probably not as soon as the Commish predicts, but it will happen.



Baseball is not a business like any other because we, the customers, don't want it to be. If it was, the market would eventually eliminate those who cannot compete. Oakland and Minnesota are prospering now, but if these clubs can't ensure the kind of revenues they need to stay afloat even when they're not winning 90 games, they will eventually go under. This is basic economics, although I will concede that it requires accepting the theory that folks in KC or TB or Montreal will not continue to patronize a club in sufficient numbers if it's on a 60-70 win pace and has no hope of paying the big cash it needs to retain its own developing talent or obtain free agent talent. Without some change, even Oakland, which has the pitching foundation to be the Braves of the "have nots," will likely be broken up by mid-decade because they will not be able to resign their aces.



Say what you will about the owners, but they have at least agreed to try and fix the problem on the revenue side of the equation. Granted, this has come after they tried to fix it on the expense side with a salary cap (otherwise known as the 1994 Strike), but they have at least learned from one of their mistakes. If the players do not work with the owners on this issue and allow the owners to try and fix the problem on the revenue side, the game as a whole will survive, but it will eventually be a smaller league....Put simply, the owners are trying to implement a system by which they voluntarily do not seek to profit as much as possible from their investment. If the players cannot make a similar commitment, there cannot be a solution and baseball will become a business like any other. Layoffs to follow.



J Corcoran



J, I'll take a stab at your email point by point, see if I make sense. But first, I recommend you read Keith Woolner's revenue sharing plan. He's much smarter than me, and he has, quite frankly, formed the foundation of my beliefs regards the issue.



First, you define baseball as different from other businesses, which therefore denies the players the right to be treated as "workers" per se. Well, I can't see that. Yes, baseball is different, but no different than any other form of entertainment if you really think about it. Is Barry Bonds very different from Tom Cruise in terms of earning power, fan base, world-wide appeal? I don't think so. How about Sammy Sosa, is he much less marketable than, say, Sting? Or Britney Spears? Why should the baseball players give up the gains they have earned through hard fought battles with the owners, gains they won legally and fairly? Because baseball is somehow "special"? Baseball isn't special, baseball players are special. they are the ones who deserve to earn what they can for their "special" abilities.



As for your second point regarding market forces, I would posit that if baseball teams are doing so poorly, it is more a reflection on poor business practices than baseball players earning too much. Why should all baseball players agree to salary restriction because some owners are giving away millions and millions of dollars to players who aren't worth it? Keeping in line with the idea that baseball is different from regular work, (I don't agree, but for the sake of argument, I'll work with it) should Tom Cruise agree to pre-set limits on his pay because Kevin Costner lost $200 million dollars on "Waterworld?" Again, I can't see that. And if they are doing so poorly, than let's see them practice basic cost controls on their own. Right now, there appears to be a substantial number of teams that are unable or unwilling to drop more cash, teams like the Dodgers, who have about $60 million dollars invested in players who are injured. OK, if the problem is as big as they say, let's see them continue to handle it the way they are right now, for more than six months. It's not the players responsibilty to help them control themselves. It's not Tom Cruise's job to help Warner Bros. control costs on movies he's not involved with.



And finally, as for the owners agreeing to at least trying to do something, I'm sorry, but you're missing the basic disagreement that exists in this situation. What the owners are trying to do is cap their costs by limiting the players earning power. Of course they are willing to do that. You said that the owners are willing to limit their profitability for the good of the game. That couldn't be further from the truth. In fact, the exact opposite is true. They want to maximize their profitability by creating a "cost-certain" environment, so that when the deals they sign with TV for ($4.4 billion dollars over 4 years) come to pass, they know exactly how much of that goes in their pockets. What they don't want to do is guarantee that the money awarded through revenue sharing actually goes towards baseball expenses; salaries and minor league scouting, and equipment and coaches and things like that, the things that make a team successful. So the Milwaukee Brewers, who, according to Bud Selig, are a small market team, earn the most profit of any team in baseball while fielding a 90+ loss club for the last seven years!!!! If the Brewers took the $17 million dollars they made in profit last year and re-invested in their club, do you think they might have been able to keep Jeremy Burnitz? Maybe sign a free agent or two to get some pitching?



When George Steinbrenner sets the price of every free agent, when the amount the Yankees are willing to pay is the top amount for all free agents; that's when I'll believe that Bud and his cronies are fighting for the good of the game. But every time anyone wants to say that the Yankees are what's wrong, somebody, the Texas Rangers (Alex Rodriguez, 10 years, $252 million), the Cleveland Indians (37 year old Ellis Burks, 3 years, $22 million), somebody, proves them wrong.

Comment on this   [0]  »  July 9, 2002


....emails and details



A reader writes....



"John, sorry but I can't side with anyone on this issue. If the players were to work a few weeks out in the real world, I believe that they would see that they have no issue at all. They play bingball for millions a year and they are financially set for the rest of their lives. (Maybe not, baseball players are a dumb lot, just give me a fraction of what they make and I can parlay that into a comfortable retirement). How much do they get for per diem out on the road? Do they share rooms anymore? What are they hiding if they do not want to get tested for drugs? Give me a break, anyone siding one bit with the players is really insulting the majority of us. There is no argument. This whole issue will spiral out of control until the fans boycott. When the media or anyone in general sides with these greedy bastards they will always continue.



Mike Grahn"



Mike,



I couldn't disagree more.



Look at it this way, the players represent the absolute pinnacle of ability at their chosen profession, in fact, they are the very best in the world at what they do, wouldn't you agree? I tell you what, go watch a minor league baseball game. Or go watch your local fast-pitch softball league. Tell me how long that works for you. Because for me, the difference is night and day. Ten minutes at a Solano Steelheads game reminds me exactly why Barry Bonds makes 15 million dollars a year. Because millions of people around the world will come to see him play. Millions of people around the world will watch the BEST PLAYER IN THE WORLD ply his trade.



Also, the idea that people have that they "play" baseball is inaccurate. They "work" baseball. Most of us, (and by us I mean sports fans, the people who would be reading my page), say that we would die for a chance to change places with them; but we represent a minority. Many many people would not want to be baseball players for a living, especially given the sacrifices involved; the travel, the extreme physical demands (including the constant pain most athletes live with year round, as well as the permanent physical degradation of their bodies), time spent away from family and friends for so much of the time. I would argue that your average major league baseball player puts in twice as many hours "at work" as most of us.



In any field of endeavor, whether it be construction, law, the stock market, accounting, acting, singing, whatever; the rarefied air inhabited by the very best frequently includes those same costs; long hours, travel, loneliness, stress. Just as frequently it includes financial rewards commensurate with ability. Would you suggest that the owner of a small, local residential real estate company earn as much money as the head of a multi-national commercial leasing organization? Would you suggest that I earn as much money as Peter Gammons? The guy who fills time on your local radio station at 2 am doesn't earn 20 grand a year, Gary Radnich of KNBR just signed a three year 4.5 million dollar deal; is he a greedy bastard? If you were offered a ten year contract for 2 million dollars per year to do what you do, would you take it? Would you be greedy, or smart if you did?



Most major league baseball players have invested far more time and effort into what they do for a living than any of us could ever imagine. By the time your average major leaguer makes it he's been working at his trade since he was 8 or 9 years old. That's maybe 12 or 14 years of preparation. Is it fun? Sure it is. Lots of people have fun jobs. My job is fun. I frequently work around my house for fun. Is it as much fun as baseball? No, but that's the hand I was dealt. But I'll tell you this, I wouldn't trade places with Calvin Murray.



I've worked in construction all my life, and do you think I was lifting weights at midnight like Sammy Sosa, to better prepare myself for the rigors of my job? When I worked overseas, I made more money, but I didn't get to see my family and friends. If I wanted to continue in international construction management, I would be earning more than three times what I earn now, but I didn't want to pay the price. The more money you want to earn; the harder you have to work, the longer the hours, the bigger the demand; any book or TV personality telling you different is selling something.



You're tired of listening to them? Fine. I agree, it's boring and all they are doing is posturing for the un-informed. But to suggest that the ball players are in the wrong for fighting for their rights is, quite frankly, naive. Unions protect the rights of the members of their organizations against the financial and political power of the companies that employ them. They are a decidely American institution, regardless of who they are protecting.

Comment on this   [0]  »  July 8, 2002


.........Opinions are like...., Part II



MSNBC has a surprisingly thoughtful and concise article on the showdown between Bud and the players union. Good, insightful, well-written, fairly accurate.... Read and learn.

Comment on this   [0]  »  July 8, 2002


......Opinions are like....



Jim Caple's column today is terrific. He has a great take on Frank Deford's Bud Selig piece in this weeks' Sports Illustrated.



Having also read the piece, let me just add that I too, wonder just how many of the people who are writing and talking about the possible strike, and about Selig and the union and all of the ancilliary aspects of the issue actually have anything resembling knowledge regarding what they hell they are saying. Or more importantly, how many of them have the slightest idea what the hell is going on in the world around them AT ALL!!!!



At what point do you just throw your hands in the air and give up? Writer after writer, public figure and politician and sports journalists and personalities and broadcasters.... Doesn't anybody read books anymore?!?!?! Even if you don't know anything at all about the issue, how can you just accept what Selig says as true? In the face of Enron and WorldCom and all of the other big business scandals being unearthed, how can you not just assume that the billionaires, like Carl Pohlad and Peter Angelos, et al, are lying?!?!



I know that I can be cynical, but come on people. History is on the players side. The law is on the players side. Every single working man or woman has to be on the players side, you just have to.... don't you understand? If it were you, and you were being told that the owner of your company wanted to negotiate a new contract with you and every person in the world who could ever come and work with you, and as part of that new contract there would be an arbitrary limit on what you could earn; an arbitrary limit on what your owner could spend on salaries; regardless of tenure, ability, profits, costs, competition.... regardless of anything.



Somehow, some way, the journalists and the writers and all of the people standing around with microphones in their faces have got be educated as to what extent this is a problem. The fact that the NFL and the NBA do it is completely irrelevant. The NFL Players Association got fleeced. Gene Upshaw is an idiot. NFL players are treated like pieces of meat, discarded when a cheaper replacement is available, contract or no contract, and we have to read how great the NFL salary system is? Are you f*%#ing kidding me? How stupid am I supposed to be? The NFL system is great for the owners of NFL teams, that's all. For NFL players, it means that every year players who have spent most of their lives sacrificing their bodies for the game they love are released or forced to renegotiate contracts that are only binding for them when it works for their teams. If they want to renegotiate, they're immediately slammed in the media as the bad guys. If they want their money up front, because they are smart enough to realize that this year is the only year of their contract that actually means something, they are villified; and even their own teammates aren't savvy enough to realize that they are fighting for all players, (Look what's happening with the Michael Strahan/Tiki Barber rift on the NY Giants) The NBA was faced with the possibility of the league folding when they came up with the salary cap, and the NBA's cap allows team to sign their own players to massive contracts; contracts so lucrative that no one could ever truly accuse the NBA of preventing any of its top players from maximizing their earning power.



And that's the crux of the issue. The Lords of Baseball want to insure that they are the ones who get to maximize their earning power, and they want the players to guarantee it. You see, right now, the system allows only those who are resourceful and smart and plan their todays, tomorrows and next week's wisely; those who research and award contracts according to actual performance... in short, the very best and brightest are the ones who have the greatest chance for both on the field and financial success; just like in the real world. But Bud and the Seligs want the players to work under a salary constraint that insures cost certainty; and as any businessman or accountant will tell you, there is no surer way to insure profitability than cost certainty, and cost certainty defined by the men signing the checks is the very best kind.



So keep that in mind the next time you see Bud poor mouthing the BILLIONAIRES he represents. Imagine that he was the owner of your company, and he wanted you to accept a cap on how much you could earn, and he wanted you to piss in a cup, and he was telling your friends and family how tough he had it living in his mansion, and how expensive his toys were, and how difficult it was not getting every single thing he and his friends want, the minute they want it.

Comment on this   [0]  »  July 8, 2002


......Opinions are like...



Three different sportswriters, three different opinions on the latest Yankee aquisition. Peter Gammons, Mike Lupica, Bob Klapisch.



More on this later today, Daddy has some chores to do.....

Comment on this   [0]  »  July 7, 2002


.....Sad but true



Al Bethke has a funny and sad post about his woeful Brewers today. It's the one after the Ted Williams funeral arrangements. Funny stuff.

Comment on this   [0]  »  July 7, 2002


....Random thoughts



My wife says the Giants should put Livan at third base. Her argument, albeit a bit under-developed, is that if the Yankees turned a Hall of Fame caliber pitcher like Babe Ruth into an everyday player, why shouldn't the Giants take a much less effective pitcher and see if his hitting ability translates.



It's not an entirely spurious argument, I would guess that Livan's age is the biggest issue, generally speaking, switching from picthing to a position and vice versa; is most succesful when done at an early age. It's been done in the modern age, of course, Felix Rodriguez used to be a catcher; but Livan's opportunity to be an everyday player has passed him by barring an injury or complete failure.

Comment on this   [0]  »  July 6, 2002


....Swap meet, Part III



Really, the more I look at this deal, the more I get the feeling that somehow or another the Tigers got fleeced. As with the Indians, the uunasked question is why did these teams trade away good young pitchers for so little? I hear all the stats about how good Brandon Phillips might become and all that, but since when is an ace-level pitcher only worth prospects? Shouldn't the Indians or the Tigers have gotten somebody good and young and inexpensive and established in return for good, young and inexpensive, established players?



I guess I'm missing it.

Comment on this   [0]  »  July 6, 2002


.....Swap meet, Part II



As John suggests, I do agree that it was terrific deal for all three teams. The Tigers got younger and ditched some cash. The A's got an upgrade at pitcher and they got more minor league depth, and the Yankees got a top-line, young pitcher.



OK, that's the simple view. Let's look a little deeper. Why did the Tigers have to trade Weaver? Did he force them to? Is his salary that cumbersome? For one of the best pitchers in the American League, (and by the way, I do agree with John regarding a pitchers won-lost record being a poor indicator of effectiveness), they got Carlos Pena, Franklyn German, and a player to be named later. For one of the best young pitchers in the league?!?!?!? I just don't see it. If there was a real commisioner, he would probably void this trade as being bad for baseball, at least from the Tigers perspective.



As for the A's, again, I am confused. Although I do understand the budgetary constraints they operate under, Weaver only make 5 million this year, pro-rated to about 2.4 for the rest of the year. He could certainly ride them into teh playoffs and they could deal him at the end of the year, after raising his value even higher. On the other side of the coin, they did get two highly rated prospects, along with a major league starter making chump change (Lilly).



For the Yankees, this is completely positive. their rotation just got younger and, if you can believe it, deeper. They now have 7 starting pitchers, all of whom would get the ball every fifth day on virtually any other team. Weaver gives them the ability to give Clemens, Wells or El Duque time off whenever they feel the need; and given their age, the need will come.



As for this deal being the bad for baseball or another example of the Yankees buying a championship or whatever, I concur with John again. The Yankees do have a plan, and they are fearless. Of course, when your local TV contract brings in 50 million per year, you can afford to be a little reckless. But, other than the unlimited supply of cash at Steinbrenner and Cashman's disposal, the deal is aggresive and impressive.



Makes me wonder what the hell the Giants are doing. Are you telling me the Giants couldn't jhave figured out a way to get Weaver either. The Giants couldn't put together a package the equal of Pena, German and anybody!?!?!?? Once again, it's my opinion that Brian Sabean missed an opportunity. Two of the very best pitchers in the league were available and were picked up in deals that amounted to basically nothing. Both pitchers fit under ANYBODY'S salary constraints.... ANY TEAM CAN AFFORD 2.5 MILLION DOLLARS FOR THE REST OF THIS YEAR.....ANY TEAM!!!!!!!!



The Giants need to make a move. They are falling out of the pennant race. Five games in the loss column in July is no joke.

Comment on this   [0]  »  July 6, 2002


.....Swap meet



The Yankees made another deal yesterday, and one of my readers offers the following...



"Amazing. Simply amazing. The Yankees acquired Jeff Weaver from the Detroit Tigers in a three way deal that included the Oakland A's. Jeff "I am a total badass getting NO run support" Weaver. I guarantee you this trade is getting no play nationally compared to the Mondesi deal because a) Mondesi is still a 'name' player, former Rookie of the Year, etc. and b) because Weaver's record is (only) 6-8. The first reason I can deal with. People are silly that way. The second is insane. Something I'm sure you agree with is that a pitcher's won-loss record is almost completely out of his control. Like Mussina and Clemens last year. Who was the better pitcher? Probably Mussina. Who won 20+ games, AGAIN? Clemens.



The Yankees scored HUGE with this deal, even if they gave up 2 good prospects and Lilly (who I like, but hey, he's not Weaver). Weaver now

steps into a role where he can thrive, like he already had been in Detroit, but now he's got a scoring machine supporting him. Crazy. Good for Weaver.



The other thing I like for baseball's sake about this deal is that it's not a huge cash deal, like 'the Yankees bought Weaver,' end of story. They

built one of the best farm systems in baseball, have a ton of prospects, and can flip them at any time for needed acquisitions. Has it bitten them in the ass yet? I don't think so, but ask Eric Milton if HE has any rings...and the other thing is they have a GENIUS at GM. Even if Cashman

(what an ironic name) does have all the money in the game to play with, he makes bold, unhesitating, genius moves like this.



People complain about the Yankees, and they have gobs of money, and they are ruining baseball. Not me. They are brilliant, fearless, and they have a plan. Getting Weaver is yet another bold stroke, and it shouldn't surprise anyone. As for the A's, well, what's not to like? Do they hold on to Weaver? No, but they come away with Lilly, who is already a good starter, and 2 blue-chip (they think) prospects. So why didn't they keep Weaver? Because they've got the three pitchers for a postseason run already, and they're all locked up. Lilly helps them for the second half when/if Lidle or Harang falter, and they have Griffin and Arnold in their system...Another good deal by (Billy) Beane.



John Geer"

Comment on this   [0]  »  July 6, 2002


.....Aces and dueces, Part IV



Man, Schilling is just pounding the Giants tonight. What a performance. Aurilia just took him deep, opposite field, to make it a 2-1 game, and Kent missed a back to back by millimeters.



Dodgers won, Giants are 5 1/2 back.

Comment on this   [0]  »  July 5, 2002


.....Bonds or bust



Watching the Giants tonight, I just realized that Barry Bonds hasn't hit a home run in quite a while. Over his last 25 games, he has only 5 home runs, although they've walked him 38 times it does seem like they're pitching to him more often, I guess my perception might be a little off.



It does appear that the constant walks are starting to take their toll on him. Over these last 25 games, his slugging percentage is actually lower than Jeff Kent's, .671 to .676. It's not syrprising that the inactivity would put him off his game a bit; what's surprising is that it hasn't happened sooner. If you look at Bonds and Kent over the last six games, the results are even more startling. Kent has gone .565 OB%, .909 SLG%, .545 BA, while Bonds has slumped to .464/.476/.286. That represents Bonds' first real slump in over a year.



Regardless of Barry's slump or Kent's surge, it appears that teams simply will not allow Barry to hurt them. Makes you wonder.... my guess is that Brian Sabean's got to do something to get another bat.

Comment on this   [0]  »  July 5, 2002


.....Aces and dueces, Part III



To take things a step further, I wonder how much longer Brian Sabean will accept the atrocious performance of Livan Hernandez. He gave up on Shawn Estes quicker than this. Livan Hernandez has been mediocre at best, for all but one half season since the Giants got him.



Being able to pitch every fifth day, in itself, is valuable. Being able to throw 230 innings a year is something that benefits the entire rotation, in large part because it allows a manager to protect the arms of "normal" pitchers; pitchers who can't absord 130 pitch outings every four starts, pitchers who have stamina issues who can generally be counted on for just 5 or 6 innings per start. By having someone like Livan in the lineup, a pitcher like Kirk Reuter, for instance, who doesn't have a lot of stamina; can rely on the relief pitchers on the team to finish the last three innings of his starts, thereby making Reuter, (or Jensen, or Ortiz, or whoever) more valuable.



That said, Livan has clearly regressed over the last two years. He's become a pitcher who's performance is more and more governed by luck. Luck, as in who's the umpire today, and does he have a generous strike zone? Luck, as in whether the line drives right at someone or in the gaps. The league is batting well over .300 against him for most of the last two years. He's always been a high pitch count, lots of baseruners kind of pitcher, but he's gone past the point of effectiveness. His ineffectiveness is starting to seem more like a true indicator of ability, and not a fluke or a slump.



The Giants fancy themselves contenders. Livan puts 14 men on base and only manages 5 strikeouts per nine innings. Unless he does something to significantly improve upon those numbers, he cannot be considered an integral part of the Giants rotation if they are serious about playing in October.

Comment on this   [0]  »  July 5, 2002


.....Knowledge is power



Read a great piece by Rob Neyer today on defensive efficiency. Read and learn.

Comment on this   [0]  »  July 5, 2002


.....Selig sucks



Read this on the NY Daily News online. Scary.

Comment on this   [0]  »  July 5, 2002


.....Aces and dueces, Part II



After my piece on Livan, I read this article in the San Jose Mercury. Thank God I'm not the only one watching. When Dusty has anything to say about a particular player, that player better watch out. I don't know if there is a manager in all of sports who has as long a leash as Dusty.



Trying to get a read on what move the Giants might try to jump-start the team is tough, Sabean plays things very close to the vest; and the sports coverage here in the Bay Area is, quite frankly, horrible.



Here's what I think, short version. They need a power hitter, and right field would be just about the only spot you could fit one in. Maybe they put Sanders in center, use Shinjo as a defensive replacement, and they get a Cliff Floyd or somebody like that. They also need a leadoff hitter, a real one, but their just sin't that much to choose from, unless they could pry Luis Castillo from the Marlins for Livan and Shinjo!?!? That would be a significant upgrade offensively, without sacrificing much defensively. Hope something happens soon. We're looking at a .500 team for the last two months, and the Dodgers are putting a lotof pressure on them.

Comment on this   [0]  »  July 5, 2002


.....Aces and dueces



As this season goes on, I can't help feeling like Livan Hernandez is single-handedly derailing the team. In his last start he gave up seven runs in the second inning against the Rockies. The one before that, against the Oakland A's, he gave up 8 hits and 6 runs in 4 and 2/3 innings. Prior to that, he went into the eighth before giving up two runs to get the loss. On June 18th, he gave up 10 hits and 7 runs before being taken out with two outs in the top of the third inning. This begs the question, is Livan the main reason the Giants aren't in first place?



On April 25th, the Giants were 13 and 7, and Livan was 4-0. Hard to imagine at the time, but that would be the high point of his season. In his start that day against the Cubs, he lost 2-1, pitching eight strong innings. The Giants would play .500 ball until his next start, against the Phillies on April 30th. He would lose that start as well, going eight innings again, but losing 8-2, dropping the Giants to15 and 11. His influence in the Giants win column was even stronger than that. Between April 28th and May 9th, that was the only loss for the Giants; and on May 10th, they suffered another setback as Hernandez lost again, 6-3 to Montreal. At that point in the season, despite Livan's three game losing streak, the Giants had surged to a 22-12 record. (For those of you at home without a calculator, they have played exactly .500 baseball since then; while the rest of the pitching staff was five games over .500, Livan has gone 2 and 7)



When Hernandez started next, the Giants had picked up another game, and stood at 25-14. He lost to Greg Maddux and the Atlanta Braves, 6-1, for his fourth straight loss. The Giants lost his next start, although he wasn't involved in the decision, and then he won on May 27th to bring his season record to 5 and 4, and the Giants back to nine games over .500 at 29 and 20. He lost his next start to Mike Hampton and the Rockies 5-4, lost his next start to the Yankees 2-1and broke through for his last win of the season against Toronto on June 12th, winning 6-3, again bringing the Giants back to ten games over .500 (anyone notice a pattern here?).



The Giants have basically gone win one lose one since May 8th. During that time, Livan Hernandez has gone 2 and 10, to set a new record for most losses by a San Francisco Giant before the All-Star break. For the most part, his losses have been completely devastating; either because they have ended winning streaks, been complete heartbreakers, or they've been complete blowouts, destroying the bullpen.



Pardon me for asking, but what the hell is going on here? What is he doing? I mean, from the outside looking in, could he be more lost, more disinterested, more completely helpless? What the hell are Dusty and Righetti doing? Anybody have an answer? From the start of last year until now, he is a staggering 19 and 25, giving up well over five runs a game. This while he has been handed the ball every fifth day, no questions asked. Here's a question; where's the accountability? On what team in all of baseball does a pitcher get to tank it for 300 innings and 25 losses without a demotion, a move to the bullpen, something.... anything?!?!? The San Francisco Giants.

Comment on this   [0]  »  July 5, 2002


....emails and details on the Fourth of July, Part II



Chris and Louis.



One, injuries, bad managers, poor timing, slumps, lack of opportunity; all of these are only some of the myriad obstacles to a major league career. If these players never make it, would anyone be surprised? I wouldn't.

Two, this approach is Brian Sabean's, not mine. It's worked for him to this point. the Giants have done a good job trading players who were nothing for players who have been something else.



Sorry for the brevity, my computer has crashed out my last five attempts to post a detailed response.

Comment on this   [0]  »  July 4, 2002


....emails and details on the Fourth of July



Got kicked in the head by two of my readers. Check it out:



"John, I wanted to point something out. Alex Rodriguez, the best player in baseball, failed in two separate trials in the majors before he exploded.



Let's examine the reasons why the players you mentioned in your article got sent down or didn't:



Sean Burroughs: he was hurt last season and tried to play through it.

Hank Blalock: Texas panicked because they were losing and didn't let Blalock play through an early slump.

Adam Dunn: He hit well early, he stayed up.



Bill James is right though: the top players tend to get their start in the majors at an early age and stick in the majors at an early age.



Soriano is an interesting case because he failed miserably in his first callup in 2000. In 2001, he was their only in-system option to replace Knoblauch. Given that Soriano never hit like this in the minors (even when adjusted to MLE), I'm impressed by him. I also worry about his incredibly crappy plate discipline (so few walks and so many strikeouts). Maybe he's one of those hackers who can put up good numbers consistently. But in fantasy baseball (and real baseball too), you always have to bet against those things and let other teams assume the risk. What would it be like in New York if Soriano goes into a 2 for 31 tailspin?



And yes, the Giants have traded away a ton of prospects (none of whom I would call top) and are finally paying the price. They have an old team with nobody in the minors who is even close to being ready to contribute. Next year will be a tough one as the Giants will be under a huge cash squeeze and no in-system options to replace Jeff Kent's booming bat.



Keep up the good work and I double-dog dare you to put this e-mail on your website!



Chris Hartjes"



John, Brandon Phillips is only 21. He's no Crash Davis. His stats so far this year in AA before promotion .327 9 HR, 35 RBIs, 6 SB. The pitcher, Cliff Lee is 24, kind of old for AA, but here's his stats: K/BB ratio: 105/23 BA against: .197 in 15 starts, 7-2, 3.23 ERA. Sizemore is too young to know anything. Only 19, has athletic ability. I agree that he's not worth anything and the Giants certainly had a similar player in their system. But, I'm not sure The Giants had a Phillips or a Lee to trade.



Louis Campbell"

Comment on this   [0]  »  July 4, 2002


....Oh Reilly



Maybe Rick Reilly would like to read a legal interpretation of his pee in a cup fun and games. Check out "Supreme Urinalysis" on Slate. This is a column filled with facts and research, not innuendo and suggestion. I seem to remember that being part of the journalism class I took at community college.

Comment on this   [0]  »  July 3, 2002


....Oh, the humanity



So now Selig's pals support him through thick and thin. What a crock. The lackey's Selig orchestrated into the Boston Red Sox ownership are peeved that one of their own players is going negative against Bud. Please. Cry me a river.

Comment on this   [0]  »  July 3, 2002


....emails and details, Part III



I just got chastised by a reader for saying the Indians got nothing for Colon. Well, I may be an idiot, but here's what I think...



Colon is an ace-level pitcher, 29 years old and one of the best in all of baseball. For every kid who looks like Soriano in the minors, there's about four hundred who don't make it. Look at Sean Burroughs, Hank Blalock. Guys that are sure things who are back in the minors after a couple of months. Will they be back? Probably. Soriano didn't go back down. Derek Jeter didn't. Adam Dunn isn't. Anyone who looks at baseball history (Bill James, for one) will tell you, players that are the cream of the crop play major league baseball early, real early. Colon is cream of the crop. Sabean has traded away something like forty of the Giants top prospects over the last five or six years, all to get major league talent, guys like Kent and Felix Rodriguez and Livan and Nen.



Here's a short list I compiled showing just a few of the Giants transactions from 1999 through June. Magruder, Chris (CF) - Traded to Tex, for Andres Galarraga in four-player deal. Jason Grilli and Nate Bump - Traded for Livan Hernandez. Chris Brock - Traded for Bobby Estallela. Scott Linebrink - Traded to Doug Henry. Armando Rios and Ryan Vogelsong - Traded for Jason Schmidt and John Vander Wal. Kevin Joseph & Jason Farmer - Traded for Jason Christiansen.



Any of those prospects make the news lately? Who got the better of those deals? Every guy the Giants got is a major leaguerl. Every guy they gave away either wasn't, or wasn't for very long. Bottom line, this is Brian Sabean's strategy. This is what he does. The Expos out-Sabeaned Sabean.

Comment on this   [0]  »  July 3, 2002


....Numbers



Check out Rob Neyer's link on the left. He runs Bill James Pythagoreum Standings, which show the San Francisco Giants 5 games worse than they "should" be based on how many runs they've scored and allowed.



Using the theorum, I broke down that 25 game stretch I mentioned earlier today, and the theorum shows that intead of 13 and 12, the Giants "should" have gone 17 and 8. That's essentially how far behind the Dodgers they are. I've railed on Dusty letting loyalty to a player or players get in the way of wins; is it possible that during that stretch that it was his loyalty that cost the Giants those four or five games? As I've said before, your window of opportunity is usually exceedingly narrow. During a stretch of 25 games in which the Giants pitchers were outstanding, the Giants were unable to take advantage, basically treading water.



What did Dusty Baker do during this time? Did his loyalty get in the way? I don't think so. He hit Bell, Shinjo, and Sanders in the leadoff spot. He sat Snow, started Minor, rested Aurilia, benched Shinjo for Benard, played Pedro Feliz, put Kent at first, and finally, swapped Kent and Bonds and gave Minor the first base job essentially full-time. These last moves seem to have awakened the offense, and Dusty deserves a lot of credit for handling a difficult problem with patience and flexibility. He shook up the team, and he didn't embarass anyone.



Someone else that deserves credit is Brian Sabean. Earlier this season, as the offense floundered, Sabean was being interviewed on KNBR, by Rapl Barbieri; and Ralph asked him point blank whether he was looking to make a trade in an effort to address the lack of production from his lineup. His answer irritated me; I felt that he was being disingenuous when he replied that he had to believe that the players he had on his team would eventually hit to their normal levels, and that he wasn't really looking at all. that took guts, it took faith, and it showed once again why he has the job, and I watch on TV. Kudos to the entire San Francisco Giants management staff for showing amazing patience.

Comment on this   [0]  »  July 3, 2002


....emails ~R~ us Part II



Another reader sent me this exciting note.



"The Giants have entered the Cliff Floyd sweepstakes. Read this article in the Sun Sentinel

Tom Germack"



How much fun is this site?

Comment on this   [0]  »  July 3, 2002


....emails ~R~ us



Here's another take on the Kent trade/no trade debate...



"John,

I wanted to comment on an ongoing discussion that you've had re: trading Kent for Rolen. Do his back problems not scare you at all? I understand that he is a very good player at a weak position, but the "known" injury possibility would be enough for me to not even consider him for someone like Kent.

A big move like that isn't something that I could see the Giants doing. I believe that the Giants need a lot more help than just a few bats. The pitching staff may have put up some pretty numbers at the start, but lately virtually all of their pitchers have struggled, with the exception of Nen and maybe Worrell. The division has become a little tougher, and the smoke and mirrors that the Giants have gotten by with during the last few years isn't going to fool anyone anymore.



Aaron Loomis"



Aaron, you make some good points. I think the consensus among the Giants' fans I have communicated with is that moving Kent is not a viable option. An upgrade for pitching might be smarter, since pitching wins championships. It would have been nice to see them get their hands on Bartolo Colon, who was picked up for a handful of prospects, but nothing amazing. I don't know... is Minor the real deal? If you think he is, then there's no spot in the lineup where a deal would be worthwhile, unless you are able to unload a Marvin Benard and his salary for a middle reliever, preferably a lefty.



If you're not sold on Minor, then (I guess) you could package him with a prospect to the Indians for Thome, as I said yesterday; Thome might love Cleveland, but two or more years of 100 losses a year would make it tough for him to stay; not to mention that they would love to see him go, he is a bit pricey at 11 million per. The real question is whether you believe the Giants recent offensive surge is a true indication of ability or a short-lived spike. I am going to take a look at that in a longer post this evening.

Comment on this   [0]  »  July 3, 2002


.....Hmmmm, crow tastes good



Ever since I posted an in-depth column suggesting that Jeff Kent is in the midst of his decline phase, and that Dusty was hurting the Giants by insisting on batting him fourth, a couple of things have happened. First, Dusty swapped him with Bonds in the order, a move that has seemed to charge Kent up while completely derailing Barry. Second, the Giants offense has awakened from their season long slumber. And third, the Giants pitching has tanked.



I'm not sure what all of it means, but I will say that I'm not the only one eating some crow. Check out Rob Neyer's latest column.

Comment on this   [0]  »  July 3, 2002


....I love this game



In their last 9 games, the San Francisco Giants have given up 58 runs, an average of 6.4 runs per game. Amazingly, over that stretch, they are 6 and 3, a .750 winning percentage. And if that's not amazing enough, over their previous 25 games, the Giants pitchers had given up just 77 runs, an average of only 3.08 runs per game. During that stretch, they went 13 and 12, a winning percentage of only .520. That's some stretch of baseball.



Giants fans are hoping that two things happen over the second half; one, the offense keeps clubbing teams into submission, and two, the pitchers get back to the form that led them to the second best ERA in the league up to the last two weeks.

Comment on this   [0]  »  July 3, 2002


....Truth in advertising, Part II



Sports Illustrated's Rick Reilly sure comes across like a sanctimonious, hypocritical jerk, doesn't he? Hey Reilly, why don't you piss in the cup? Read this.

Comment on this   [0]  »  July 2, 2002


.....It's not nice to gloat



Shawn Estes continues to make Sabean look good after unloading him to the Mets in the off-season. Read this.

Comment on this   [0]  »  July 2, 2002


.....Truth in advertising



I am on record challenging sportswriters who write about steroids to do research and apply journalistic standards to their work; as opposed to Chicken Little stories based on conjecture and/or suspicion. Shaun Assael of ESPN the Magazine has done just that, and this article and this one are eye-openers.

Comment on this   [0]  »  July 2, 2002


....Trading places



One of my reader offers a interesting trade perspective. Too good not to post. He writes....



"Thome was my first inclination...he fills the need at first and he diversifies what is a predominately right-handed line-up.



Quick side-note: I noticed this at the game the other day - why are all the players the Giants picked up in the last two years right handed? Shinjo, Sanders, Bell, Galarraga, Benny, Dunston, E. Davis, R. Davis, the lone exception being Vander Wal. Looking at the (stats) courtesy of ESPN the Giants have the following splits:



Vs. Lefty - 53 games, .854 OPS, 2nd in National League



Vs. Righty - 81 games, .752 OPS, 8th in National League



Are the Giants intentionally targeting right-handers or is this some type of anomaly? Wouldn't the addition of Thome go a long way in resolving this disparity? That said, from everything I read Thome loves Cleveland and hopes to be able to stay there because his wife is currently pregnant. Maybe Matt Lawton, a lefty with a career .375 on-base, could be a solution to the Giants lead-off woes. He would be a defensive downgrade from Shinjo in center but would go a long way in kick starting the offense.



Tom Germack"



Tom, that is a bit odd.... My guess is that it's an anomaly, driven by cost restraint of some kind. Not only are they all righties, the're all cheap, er, sorry, cost-effective. As for Thome, remember, the Indians are making it clear that they are going nowhere for the next two to three years. As that starts to sink in, (and the losses start to pile up) I'm sure he's going to start to re-think his love for Cleveland. Remember McGriff?

Comment on this   [0]  »  July 2, 2002


....The Yankees win, the-e-e-e-e- Yankees win!!!



The Yankees made the deal they have been looking at all season, upgrading their right field position by trading a Double A pitching prospect for the Toronto Blue Jays' Raul Mondesi. The Jays are picking up about half of the 18 million owed to the slugger, and the Yankees brass feels that playing for a contender will energize the oft-times malcontent.



Mike Lupica and Jayson Stark offer different perspectives on the deal. I am a Yankee fan since I was a wee little baby. My dad is a Yankee fan, my brother, all my friends and family. Everyone say that this deal is bad for baseball. Well, maybe it is. Maybe it's not.



But think about it. What if there were a salary cap or some simliar type of restraint system? What would happen then? Let's say you capped salaries at 95 million. Would any trades take place? How long would it take until every team was at or near the cap total? Look at the NBA. How many teams were able to offer a contract to Chris Webber? Tim Duncan? Shaquille O'Neal? How many teams have jettisoned veterans and their costs in an effort to create cap space for future free agent signings, thereby insuring their fans of a sub-standard product for a year or two. How is that better, or for that matter, different from what MLB already does?



Look at the NFL. Look at the Baltimore Ravens. Is that good for the NFL? Is it good for the league to have a Super Bowl Champion dismantling itself 15 months after it wins? Is it good for the league when teams are forced to release their best players, or trade them in salary dumps?



That's what happens when you put an artificial restraint on salaries. Is it the players fault that the Dodgers gave Darren Driefort a 55 million dollar guaranteed contract? Is it the players fault that Rangers out bid nobody by 100 million dollars to get A-Rod? I don't see what a salary cap does, other than eliminate real player movement by handicapping free agents and general managers. Artificial restraints will ultimately lead to shorter contracts, which will lead to less stable rosters, and of course, more animosity between owners and players. It will be more difficult to make the mid-season additions for the stretch run, something that is much more important in baseball than the other sports because of, among other things, the length of the season.



I don't believe that any system of artificial salary restraint will ever work, if by work you mean improve the product, unless it is one that is beneficial to THE GAME, and not skewed towards the owners or the players.

Comment on this   [0]  »  July 2, 2002


....Open mouth, insert foot



Well, I sure look like an idiot by now. It's been two weeks since I posted a long, detailed piece explaining that Jeff Kent is clearly entering a decline phase of his career.... Well, we'll see. He was hitting about .260 four weeks ago, which means that he could follow this run with an equally abysmal two month stretch and make me look smart again. Whatever. I've been wrong before, and I'll be wrong again.



One of my readers and I have been exchanging emails debating the plus/minus aspects of a potential deal involving Kent. We've reached a tenuous consensus that there is nothing out there that would justify moving him; or at least nothing that we can see. The players that could be quantified as equal or better from San Francisco's perspective are mostly playing for contenders, and outside of those options, there isn't that much to get. That would leave the Giants having to trade him for prospects, and they're not gonna do that.



What the Giants need to do is what the Yankees just did. Pick up somebody from a non-contender for prospects. Of course, it will probably involve picking up salary, like the Mondesi deal, but that's almost unavoidable in today's market. Nobody will take JT Snow or Marvin Benard off their hands, so there's only a tiny bit of leeway available for financial adjustment. The question that I can't find an answer to is who. Who could they get, and what position will he play?



I like the idea of maybe picking up Randy Winn of the D'rays, but that means Shinjo sits. Hope against hope they pick up Cliff Floyd, but where will they play Sanders? Or could Floyd play first base? It would appear that their only real option is to try to upgrade first base, and they seem committed to allowing Damon Minor to prove that he is or isn't a major-league hitter. Maybe they could swing a deal for Jim Thome or Carlos Delgado, but that's too much cash, and it's not Brian Sabean's style.



I think that what you see is what you're gonna get. Hopefully the current offensive surge is indicative of the team reaching its real performance level; and the pitching gets back to form. If those two elements are going well simultaneously, the team will be able to make a push into contention, and Sabean can address the detail needs, like one more lefty in the bullpen, or a speed merchant to come off the bench.

Comment on this   [0]  »  July 2, 2002


.....One more time



I've gotten a lot of emails about my issue with Dusty Baker and/or the individual Giants I write about when dealing with the subject. I am not being clear enough, based on the feedback, so I will try once again.



The point of what I am trying to say, is that you cannot keep giving away games in an effort to allow people to "work through" their problems. Not over and over and over. Eventually you have to protect the interests of the team, the organization, the fans; and make decisions that are directed towards wins. Otherwise, all you are doing is proving a point. Proving that Marvin Benard is worth a 9 million dollar contract. Proving that Shawon Dunston still has it. Proving that Livan is a number 1 pitcher. Proving the Benito can catch still 145 games at 90 years old.



To me, sometimes that's all it seems like Dusty is doing. Proving to all of us non-baseball people that he knows more about it than we do. That's all well and good, and he probably does, but his job is to get the maximum number of wins out the talent he is given.



The best example of this flaw involves the Andres Gallarraga/JT Snow dillemma from last season. Here's what I wrote about this issue a week or so ago....



Andres Gallarraga was acquired on July 24th. In the 20 games after he arrived, the Giants went 17-3, surging from 6.5 games behind the D'backs to just a half game out of first place. Their run production spiked upward, from an average of 4.93 to 6.75 runs per game. During that stretch, Gallarraga was a dominant force, providing a whole new look to the Giants lineup. Not only offering greater protection for Jeff Kent; virtually everyone in the lineup was able to significantly boost their production. The difference between having the Big Cat instead of JT in the lineup was obvious to even the most casual observer, (my wife, just back in the states after 14 years living in Italy); the team simply looked unbeatable. After the surge, the Giants were a season high 17 games over .500 at 69-52, and seemed a lock to make the playoffs.



By that time, however, JT Snow was healthy, and Dusty was faced with a decision. Should they bench the Big Cat? Should they platoon the right-handed Gallarraga and the lefty Snow? Many articles and columns were written around this time, and there seemed to be a lot of references to someone not losing their job because of injury, (a bogus bit of nonsensical "common sense").



Dusty made some reference to JT producing in the past, and how they couldn't expect to win without his bat (really, you could look it up), and then he benched Andres and started playing Snow. And how did that work? Almost exactly as you might expect. When they made the switch from Andres, with a slugging percentage around .600, to Snow, with a slugging percentage around .350; it completely derailed the offense. Over the next twenty games, the Giants offense slumped to only 4.05 runs per game, and the team produced a record of 9-11. (By then even Dusty could see that JT wasn't going to get it done, he started platooning them, but the damage was done. Andres and the team never got back on track)

That twenty game stretch, in which Dusty Baker's loyalty to one player superseded his loyalty to a team, to an organization and to its fans; cost the Giants the playoffs. From that 69-52 record, the Giants went 21-20 the rest of the way, losing the division by two games to the eventual world champion Diamondbacks.



That's not loyalty. That was an obvious mistake. It was obvious to the sportswriters covering the team, it was obvious to me and all my friends in the ballpark, it was obvious to my wife, who had never been to a baseball game in her life!!! It was an mistake; made by someone who did not recognize what was apparent to everyone. That is my point. Inability or unwillingness to make an honest appraisal of your capabilities is a devastating flaw in any venture, one that is almost impossible to overcome.

Comment on this   [0]  »  July 1, 2002


...Stats and more stats



Something is going with the Giants that I really don't like. They were only 15 and 12 in the month of June, although they clearly have hit their stride offensively. They had a 3.68 ERA, the Dodgers was 3.67 and they went 19 and 8. The thing that's really strange is that for the month of June they had the hottest offense in the league. They scored the most runs, had the most doubles, hits, total bases, batting average, slugging percentage, on base percentage; I mean they were off the charts. How do you go three games over .500 with the best offense and the --in reality-- second best pitching staff in the league?



You know how? You have to look beyond the numbers, the averages. You have to watch the team, game in and game out. They have had pitching breakdowns while scoring a bunch of runs, they have gone cold when involved in pitching duels. They have had a few, stat-padding blowouts while winning a couple of low-scoring close games. Basically, everything that could go wrong has gone wrong, often at the worst times. They won 3 out of 4 from the Padres, while their starters gave up at least five runs in each game; you don't do that too often. They had nine one-run games and five two-run affairs, going just 6 and 8 in those games. That's a lot of bad luck, and a lot of line drives into somebody's glove.



They just have to hope the ball starts to bounce their way again, and that their offensive surge is a sign of things to come and not a short-term fluke.

Comment on this   [0]  »  July 1, 2002


....Emails and details, Part II



I just got another terrific email, but it's a bit long, so I will summarize:



1. Scott Rolen will not protect Barry any better than Jeff Kent. Also, if Kent leaves, the Giants get conditional draft picks.

2. Kent is still the Giants second best hitter whether he hits third or fourth. Batting Barry fourth might mean he will walk even more.

3. Dusty's loyalty has worked well throughout the years. Benard ended up the Giants fourth best hitter last year (Using Bill James win shares system), that's where he ranks now, as well. The Giants shouldn't give up on players, Snow, Rodriguez, Benard, et al.

4. Livan's status as an ace/not-ace is immaterial. Dusty shouldn't re-arrange his rotation. The Giants don't have an ace anyway.



Tony Sertich



OK. Short version.

1. I concede. Nevertheless, if Kent leaves at the end of the season, it's hard to imagine that conditional draft choices are equal to Scott Rolen.

2. I never said Kent wasn't a good hitter. What I am saying is that his usefulness as a clean up hitter is starting to end. His power has declined, his double plays are increasing, his strikeouts are up; and he clearly hasn't responded well to the strategy of walking Bonds whenever there is an open base.

3. Dusty's loyalty has worked for the most part. But, like all things, it has its limitations. Marvin Benard's end of season totals don't make up for the 60 games at the beginning of last season when he clearly should have been benched. Same thing goes for putting Felix Rodriguez out there in a tie game with runners on (Oakland, last week) when he is obvioulsy not up to the challenge right now. Felix has never held runners well, he is a strike out pitcher, not a ground ball pitcher, and he is clearly off his game this year. He should be allowed to work out his kinks without pressure.

4. My issue isn't with Livan. It's with Dusty's penchant for assesing players inaccurately. I just posted a lengthy treatise on this, so I won't go into it again. But, for the record, so I won't have to say it again, my point is that you cannot keep giving away games in an effort to allow people to work it through. Not over and over and over. Eventually you have to protect the interests of the organization, the team as a whole. Otherwise, all you are doing is proving a point. Proving that Marvin Benard is worth a 9 million dollar contract. Proving that Shawon still has it. Proving that Livan is a number 1 pitcher. That is what it sometimes seems Dusty is doing. Proving to all of us non-baseball people that he knows more about it than we do. That's all well and good, but his job is to get the maximum number of wins out the talent he is given.



Thanks for the feedback guys, keep it coming.

Comment on this   [0]  »  July 1, 2002


....Emails and details



A reader of mine sent the following email:



Onto new business: Jeff Kent, and his lack of love, respect, whatever. Since you dropped the gang at Baseball Prospectus' name, I'll have you look at their "Equivalent Average" for second-basemen. You'll find Kent, despite the layoff due to his Evel Knievel impersonation and slow start, right behind Alfonso Soriano. He's a stud (a SUPER stud, really), and he has been for the last 4-5 years. That being said, what value could you get for him, and is it worth dealing him, or putting up with the attitude and perceived bad feelings and keep him for the second half? Maybe. I'll let you know that I am a HUGE Marcus Giles fan. I always have been, following him up through the Braves' system, and going crazy when he hit a grand slam off Hampton last year during his brief callup. The Braves, however, may not know what they have in Giles. Cox likes defense, and sticks with organizational soldiers like Lockhart way beyond their usefulness. So, could the Giants pawn off Kent to the Braves for Giles and a pitcher or two? Maybe. That might be a decent deal, especially in the Braves' eyes, but long-term, I love it for the Giants. If you have a copy, crack open your BP 2002, and read the Giles' entry. They love him, too.



So it comes down to freeing Giles (from) the whims of Bobby Cox, and swallowing hard and deciding if the Jeff Kent era should continue in SF. Honestly, I'd love to see Giles move on if the Braves won't give him the playing time he obviously deserves (I know he's been hurt, and had a family tragedy, so he's been slow getting back, but even before, when he was healthy, Mike Benjamin, er, Mark DeRosa was stealing time from him). But I don't know how the Giants could get anything close to Kent's actual value, tantrums and rantings aside...



John Geer



Well, John, great work. Of course you are right, Jeff Kent is an almost irreplacebly good second baseman. Doesn't make a lot of errors, never gets hurt, great production from a middle infielder. Bam! Bam Bam!! As for the rest of your email; I am not really a Marcus Giles fan, I mean, I'm looking at his numbers....



If you take everything he's done and do a simple projection to a whole season, you get 150 hits, 79 runs, 70 RBI's, 20 home runs, .325 on-base percentage and a .240 batting average. He's 24 years old, so I guess he might be on his way to a bit better, which wouldn't be too bad. I don't see him play that often, so I can't say if he's a defensive whiz. I'm kinda wafflling here, I know. So here's what I want to say:



First, I just ran a post where I clarified my position on Kent, but I'll say it again in case I'm not being clear. I don't think that Jeff Kent is not productive. I think that Kent's time as a cleanup hitter is coming to a close. He no longer shows the consistent power neccessary to man the #4 slot, his latest run batting third only reinforces my belief. (It also bears mentioning that Bonds has clearly evolved into a cleanup hitter anyway. If he were a classic #3 guy, it would behoove him to take advantage of the entire left side of the field and give up some of his power, but that is in neither his nor the Giants best interests. This is a great move, and I feel stupid for not thinking of it sooner) Kent is, as John points out, an almost irreplacable commodity.



That said, he and the Giants have made it pretty clear that this is his last season as a Giant. Should the Giants just take what he gives them this year and then get nothing when he leaves? His value will never be higher than it is right now. Perhaps they should move him. As I have said, you could package him for Scott Rolen, and move David Bell to second, where his production really lines up. This is beneficial for the Giants in that, if they have to make another big salary commitment next year, at least it's to a young player entering his prime, rather than a veteran entering his decline years. Of course, the Phillies will want something in addition to Kent, that's why I proposed Jeff Kent, Pedro Feliz, and a pitcher, say Ryan Jensen for Rolen. This way, the Phillies get a young third basemen in return, as well as some pitching, to go with Kent.



The other alternative is to do nothing. Over the last month, it's the Giants pitching that has betrayed them. From the inexplicable failure of Felix Rodriguez to the 2 wins in his last fourteen starts by Livan Hernandez to the continued struggle to find the strike zone by Russ Ortiz; the Giants pitching has really hit the wall. Against some of the weakest teams in the league the Giants have gone 15-12 in June; with the only real test being the Oakland A's, who beat them 4 out of six. Dave Righetti and Dusty Baker better figure something out. The dog days of August are still a month away, and the Giants relievers are putting in a lot of work.

Comment on this   [0]  »  July 1, 2002


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