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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.... Out there

Mike Carminati rants and raves about the $10 million bucks the White Sox just gave Billy (I win games too) Koch to be their closer. I get the feeling Mike would say that the SF Giants paying Robb Nen almost $9 million is a bit much. With the Giants seeming intention to trade Felix Rodriguez ($3million) and keep Nen, well, you see where I'm going here.

Comment on this   [0]  »  January 31, 2003

.... News and notes

The Houston Astros do the right thing, signing Craig Biggio to a two year deal that might end up being the last of his career. The team has indicated that they will make sure that both Biggio and Jeff Bagwell will end their careers as Astros. A lot of times, we forget that it's not only the players who decide whether they finish their career with a team. Look at the Tom Glavine situation. The Braves did offer him a two-year deal, but in essence, they told him to take it or leave it. They never made a point of letting him know that it mattered to them that he stayed. It was all on him. I don't recall Atlanta's GM John Schuerholz say anything like this:

"This was a tough situation for everyone," Astros general manager Gerry Hunsicker said. "The main factor for Craig was that he was being asked to move to a new position in the last year of his contract. We had empathy for that and we wanted to show what he has meant to the Astros over the years."

Pete Rose apparently will face more difficulties as allegations continue to surface that indicate he has (gasp!) bet on sports since his banishment. Hey guys, why don't you drop the moral indignation routine and just tell him to go to hell. I am so sick of the false shock and dismay that Rose has actually done something THAT IS LEGAL, betting on sports at a casinso in Nevada or Las Vegas. A team of acountants couldn't count the mountain of money that everyone involved in baseball has made through their various affiliations with gambling. Drop the charade, or drop the issue.

Here's something you'd hope you hear from a player like Livan Hernandez. Instead, we learn that Alex Rodriguez, who has hit 109 home runs and driven in some 270 runs the last two seasons, wants to take his game to the next level. Apparently, Livan is more interested in his golf swing, as opposed top what players like A-Rod and Barry Bonds are up to, working their asses off in an effort to fix the weaknesses they see in their games. Maybe it's just easier to do when have so few weaknesses to begin with.

Comment on this   [0]  »  January 31, 2003

.... emails and details, Part II

Reader Doug Purdie sent me this:

John, Rob Neyer is right that Sanders represented a significant upgrade for the Giants right field, from '01 to '02, The upgrade was more significant on the defensive side, which Rob totally missed. Did anyone but me notice during the Series that the Angels did not go from 1st to 3rd as much, on singles to right as they did on hits to the other fields? Reggie has an uncanny ability to get to base hits in a hurry, and not just in the familiar home park. He seems to know how to play the rebounds all over the league. Another of his overlooked defensive attributes is his ability to get rid of the ball quickly. It's an attribute perhaps more important than throwing hard, which by the way Reggie also does reasonably well. His throws are almost always accurate too. Add to that his speed, not outstanding but better than Burk's and Benard's, and the Giants right field defense improved exponentially last season.

By acquiring David Bell, Tsuyoshi Shinjo, and Reggie Sanders, Sabean improved the team pitching by major strides. You read it right. Sabean improved the pitching by acquiring three position players. The excellent nature of defensive play by those three, was largely responsible the Giants decreased Team ERA. I'll take a stab and say that it accounted for about 0.30 differences in the team's ERA. Defense does effect ERA. Unfortunately there's no objective measure for it. You can at least visualize it. With runners on 1st and 2nd and one out, the batter rips a screaming one-hopper down the 3rd base line. If the 3rd baseman misses it, it's likely a two-run double - still only one out (and who knows how many more runs will score in the inning). If he fields it cleanly, he steps on 3rd, fires to 1st (or 2nd) for an inning ending double play - no runs across. In that situation the error, a more objective measure of good defense, plays no role. The difference is how many earned runs are charged against the pticher. Earned runs are the only statistic that measure it and unfortunately it only shows in the pitcher's line.

Also, I was impressed with how closely Cruz Jr. and Sanders compare offensively. I was under the impression that Sanders had more power, but the three year comparison refutes that. One thing not mentioned was Cruz's ability to steal. Though Sanders is speedy and a smart base runner, he's not much of a klepto.

Thanks for the email, Doug. You're right to say that defense impacts pitching effectiveness, but I'm not sure I agree that Sanders defensive attributes mean that much. At least not as much as Shinjo. Also, of course you are aware that there is a way to determine how much the impact of adding Bell, Shinjo and Sanders may have improved the Giants overall pitching performance. Just check the team earned run averages over the two seasons. In 2001, the Giants posted a 4.18 ERA, good for seventh in the NL. In 2002, they were able to drop it all the way down to 3.54, which ranked them second overall. Of course, you're right in saying that it's tricky to determine who is responsible for what, but that's over half a run better, and you can bet the outfield defense of Sanders and Shinjo had a lot to do with it. For my money, I'd bet that it was more Shinjo than Sanders, simply because of how bad Benard and Murray were compared to Shinjo; but I'll give you some leeway. A half a run is a lot. Let's give .20 of a run to each of the three. However, Neyer was specifically talking about Sanders bat, and on that count, I was on target. Sanders' month long strikeout streaks really get in the way of his productivity.

Comment on this   [0]  »  January 30, 2003

.... emails and details

Reader Alex Bogdan writes:

John, I've been beginning to do research for the upcoming fantasy baseball season and one name that keeps showing up on my lists of players to look for is Livan Hernandez. Granted, his strikeouts have been down the past two years, but his other numbers look to be improving. Hernandez had his lowest walk and HR allowed totals of his career last year. He's getting hitters to put the ball in play and keep it in the park. With the additions of Durham and Alfonzo in the infield and Cruz in the OF, the Giants overall defense should be improved this year. Keeping balls in play plus an improved defense should lead to an increased performance from Livan. What am I missing here? Why are you so down on him?

Alex brings up a good question regards talent evaluation. When evaluating players, we must look at many many different variables. Raw data alone will never be sufficient to fully answer the question of a players realized abilities. There are many other issues that have to be considered and weighed, either in a players favor, or against a player. I have serious issues with Livan that I feel make him a terrible risk as a player. He is a player who is in terrible physical condition, year in and year out. I have been listening to Krukow and Kuiper talk about what a great athlete he is for four years now, and you know what? It's all bullshit. Pretty much everyone in the major leagues is a great athlete. A handful are fat and out of shape. An even smaller percentage of those players are among the best at their position. Livan is not one of them.

In fact, Livan is among the very worst pitchers in all of baseball, year in and year out. His overall stats, looking at them from virtually any angle, lead one to question how he is allowed to take the mound every fifth day. In this post, I looked at his half season numbers since becoming a Giant, and he has had one single stretch of a half season of positive contribution in that time. That's since 1999! The second half of 2000, he went 10-4, the only time he's won ten games in any half season of his career, and the Giants went to the playoffs. In 2001, he began the season in what could only be called embarassingly bad condition, and went through a dismal string of losses, massive numbers of base-runners, and as the Giants lost the division to the Diamondbacks by just two games, he had to be considered one of, if not THE primary reason Barry Bonds historic season ended prematurely.

At that moment in time, a player might be considered to be at a crossroads in his career. After reaching a new high in accomplishment, followed by a coming back to earth season; that player could reasonably be expected to rededicate one's efforts, to make it clear to everyone on your team and in baseball that your commitment level and professionalism is of the utmost. Livan came into camp this past season in pretty much the same condition he has been wasting his talent with his whole career. Which is to say, lousy. He was able to get off to a terrific start, relying strictly on adrenaline and talent, but as we all know, baseball is a grind, a marathon. Sure enough, as the season wore on, he became less and less effective, sometimes allowing as many as ten baserunners in two innings, staring at the umpires as they failed to bail him out, losing an unheard of ten straight decisions at one point. His season was a dismal, grim exercise in futility and frustration, finally ending with his woeful Game Seven performance. Did he have some high points? You bet. But relying strictly on talent will only produce so many of those. His low points out-numbered the high points ten to one.

I grew up idolizing one of the consumate professionals in all of baseball, Don Mattingly. Now, I understand that every player isn't Mattingly. But watching Donnie Baseball, I came to understand that the commitment level neccessary to sort of pay for the privilidge of being a baseball player was high, much higher than the commitment level needed to be a plumber, or a waiter, or a carpenter. I have come to look for this in the players and teams that I follow; and if it is not there, then neither am I. How many of your friends have said that they would do anything if they could be a baseball player? I know I have said it a million times. Livan is a baseball player, and to me, he is doing the bare minimum to get by. He is cheating himself, his teammates, his organization, and the fans of the Giants. He is essentially showing up and collecting his check. I abhor that kind of behavior, it deeply offends my sensibilities, and as someone who loves baseball so much, I cannot understand for the life of me how he would allow himself to be this way. His lack of conditioning is the tell, as it were, of his poor, immature, unprofessional attitude.

You ask why I am so down on him? I'll tell you this. Were I a GM, there wouldn't be a spot on my team for him, unless I was stuck with him like Sabean is now, and then I would make him my fifth starter, and he would have one short leash out there on the mound. Dusty gave him a million chances to step up to the plate and be the man, and he blew them all. Now he gets arrested for allegedly attacking an elderly man, eyewitnesses say that if he would have hit the old man, he'd be up for murder. What is he doing? Where is his head? Let me ask you a question? If all of your fantasy baseball indicators are so high on Livan, how come Sabean can't give him away? He'll be 28 in February, and he's averaged 220 innings a season for the last five years, and he only makes about $3 million per. There are probably twenty teams that could use a pitcher like him. Why is he still a Giant?

Because he is a baby, a child. His act is old. Baseball people say a player can get five years out of one great performance. Livan's five years are up. Are you willing to bet he comes to camp in great condition, ready to rock? Virtually no GM in baseball is.

Comment on this   [0]  »  January 30, 2003

.... New and improved

Many of you know about and use the Lee Sinins Baseball Encyclopedia CD-Rom for research. It is an invaluable, inexpensive tool for the serious baseball writer as well as the hard-core fan. In fact, if you're here, you need it. I have it, and use it almost every time I write a piece. if you look there on the left, in More Baseball, you'll see a new link called Encyclopedia. If you go there, you can pick up a basic copy for under $30 dollars, or a deluxe copy for about $60. You can't go wrong. Also, Lee will send you updates constantly, including team and player comments. I'm not gonna go through a whole pricing blah blah blah. It's awesome stuff, and as I've said before, if I endorse it here, I use it.

Lee is also sending me an advance copy of his brand spanking new Around the Majors book. Here's what his web-site says:

The book will feature player comments similar to those that appear the reports. But, it will have much than those comments. The book will be loaded with numerous charts, comments and statistical studies that go beyond what appears in the daily reports.

After I read it, I'll tell you how awesome it is. In the meantime, as Lee is expanding his little domain, I have also just subscribed to his free Around the Majors Reports, and will be giving you the lowdown on those as soon as I see my first one. Lee's Baseball Immortals site has been featured here for almost as long as I have run this little show, he is a tremendous talent, and he has been a real source of information and support for OBM since its inception. Take a peek at his stuff, and you'll feel the same way.

Comment on this   [0]  »  January 29, 2003

.... Better than bad, it's good

Mike Carminati has a terrific take on the recent stories regarding the possiblity of collusion. He and I almost always see eye to eye on these types of issues (Authority figure issues, Mike? Me too.), and he hits the nail on the head regarding the BS being sold by some of these owners.

The bottom line is this; if there really are agents getting exactly the same offers from one team after another, than no amount of statistical analysis can eliminate the possibility that something fishy is going on. Because, friends, something fishy is going on. There are fifty-odd free agents out there who would have been snapped up like free shrimp at a sportswriters award dinner last season, and they are sitting at home reading OBM. There's a limit to how many amazing coincidences I am willing to swallow, and you know what? I'm full.

Comment on this   [0]  »  January 29, 2003

.... Followup

I just received a quick email from Will Carroll, and he assures me that there was no injury-related problem contributing to the large disparity in Jose Cruz Jr.'s drop in production from the right side. Again, this shouldn't be construed as some huge insight. His total at-bats right-handed is such a small sample that there is little that can be derived from such disparity year to year.

Will had some other things to say about Cruz, here's a taste:

John, in all the published reports on his signing I keep hearing the same thing over and over. That the Giants signed a rightfielder. It wasn't that long ago that Cruz was considered a very good defensive centerfielder. So I'm thinking one of two things here:

1) He's lost serious mobility since being injured, or

2) By putting a good defensive outfielder in Pac Bell's tricky right side you hopefully mitigate some of the defensive defecits you get from putting Grissom/Durham/Benard in center. Could there possibly just be an arm-strength issue?

Mobility's never been that big an issue. He was always tolerable in center, and the ankle didnt slow him up much. I wouldn't want him in center if I had a better option and he's likely to be in right, replacing Sanders, where he should be solid.

Will and I are in agreement that, as I noted in my earlier post, he will likely be the starting right fielder. Does that mean the Giants have a better option in center? Not exactly, but it's better if all these new guys are playing in positions they are familiar with. Cruz is listed as a left fielder on ESPN's stats page, and he hasn't played center in at least two or three seasons. Putting him out there at PacBell may be asking too much. The big question is whether he will be able exceed his production from last season, because whatever gains he may see by being in the National League (more fastballs, primarily), will be off-set by playing in the toughest hittters park in baseball.

Meanwhile, the Giants have signed Andres Gallarraga to a minor league contract. Brian Sabean had this to say:

"While J.T. Snow is our everyday first baseman, Andres is a man who's given a lot to the game of baseball and we wanted to give him an opportunity to make our club off the bench with this invitation."

Here's what I have to say about it. He will make the team better. He is a tremendous clubhouse guy, but unlike Shawon Dunston, Gallarraga actually hits home runs and singles and stuff like that, and he actually drives men in. He almost single-handedly saved the team's season in 2001, and the decision to bench him and start the recovering from his fifth injury in nine months JT Snow was THE reason the Diamondbacks beat the Yankees and not the Giants. Anyway, if he can make a big impression during spring training, he will likely force the Giants to figure out a way to dump Damon Minor, hopefully they can convince somebody to take Livan with him.

The inimitable Ray Ratto has a bitchy little Giants piece in today's SF Chronicle. I don't agree with him about the teams chances this season. And I hope he's wrong when he talks about trading Felix Rodriguez as a way to pare salary. Rodriguez, outside of that Erstad at-bat, is the real deal. He is tall, strong, and young. He has an electric fastball, and he has upside, as he continues to fiddle with a change up that could make him one of the dominant pitchers in the game. Please please please trade Livan and keep Rodriguez. Or even better, trade Nen, open up almost $10 million dollars in your payroll, make Rodriguez your closer. Then go after one more big pitcher, dump Chubby, and make everybody happy. Yeah, I know. Dream on.

Comment on this   [0]  »  January 29, 2003

.... emails and details

Reader STL sent the following email regarding yesterday's Jose Cruz Jr. post:

John, you bring up the idea of platooning Cruz with Grissom, pointing to Cruz's large split. I thought his split was a little strange, given that Cruz is a natural righty, and would therefore be expected to bat better from the right side, rather than the left. Actually, in '99, '00 and '01 his split wasn't very large, about .40 in OPS difference, and it favored batting right handed in '00 and '01. Unfortunately, the enormous '02 split hid that he's batted about the same from both sides in the past. I would suggest (though I'm not the team physician or anything) that his enlarged split was largely a result of playing injured in '02.

STL brings up an interesting point, but I don't think the data is quite as suggestive. Looking at Cruz's splits, he has more than twice as many at-bats from the left side than the right over the last three seasons, and as many of you know, I believe that the last three seasons are the most important indicator of a players "ability" (unless there are mitigating circumstances, such as injury, etc.). But that few at-bats, (400 or so) spread out over three seasons is too small a sample to be definitive. Looking more closely, in 1999, his OPS from the left-side was higher, primarily due to his almost six times as many walks as a lefty. In 2000, his OPS from the right side was a bit higher, primarily due to his 65 point edge in batting average. In 2001, he again posted a better OPS from the right side, this time due to a sudden surge in his BB/AB numbers. Then last season, he posts the largest split of his career, due to an over 100 point drop in his slugging from the right side. So that's four seasons and four different reasons for the fluctuation in his splits. Which is to say, his right handed splits numbers are too small to draw a conclusion from. His left-handed splits are a much larger sample, and as such, much less subject to such strange swings.

Was he injured last season, in some way that affected his swing from the right side? I have sent an email to Will Carroll, who runs the team health reports over at Baseball Prospectus, and I'll let you know what he says.

In the meantime, STL is right, even though the data may be a bit inconclusive for Cruz's right-handed splits, he is the one outfielder, other than Bonds, who can reasonably be asked to play everyday. If I were running the team, I'd platoon Grissom and Benard and rest Cruz occasionally against really tough lefties. That's if the Giants go into the season with just four outfielders (which they won't, of course).

Comment on this   [0]  »  January 29, 2003

.... Out in the wild

By the way, the prodigous Aaron Gleeman is at it again, with another Baseball Primer article.

Comment on this   [0]  »  January 28, 2003

.... News and notes

The Giants picked up another right fielder, signing free agent Jose Cruz Jr. to a one year deal worth $2.8 million dollars, with a club option for '04. This deal is probably one of the last signings Sabean makes for a hitter, barring a last minute pickup of one of the almost fifty remaining free agent players. Of course, Giants fans continue to hope for a surprise Livan Hernandez for a box of donuts deal.

Crux has failed to live up to his early hype, and after finishing second to Nomar Garciapparra in the 1997 AL Rookie of the Year voting, he has struggled to keep his batting average above .250 for most of his career. A brief comparison between Cruz and Reggie Sanders is worth our time. Sanders is 35 years old, Cruz will be 29 in April. Sanders is a right-handed hitter, while Cruz is a switch-hitter. Let's look at 2002:


Cruz Jr.4666411426187051.245.317.438.754

A look at their last three seasons combined shows even more similarities:


Cruz Jr.16462474189683234167.254.322.481.803

OK. Apart from Cruz's edge in raw power, they are, for all intents and purposes, statistically identical. Neither player has mastered the ability to reach base consistently, and given the power shown by each, this inability to force their will on pitchers has prevented either of these top-flight athletes from reaching the limits of their potential. Since Cruz is still in his prime, a corrected approach at the plate may reap large dividends for San Francisco. Sanders, on the other hand, is finding little interest outside of SF, at 35, it's a little late to be learning the strike zone.

Cruz has the added plus of being a better hitter against righties, posting a nice .813 OPS vs. .775 against lefties, mostly due to his upswing in power. Between Marquis Grissom, who struggles against righties, and Cruz, perhaps the Giants are looking for one more outfielder. Grissom posted a 2002 OPS of .971 against lefties, and a .742 against righties. If you used both players properly, sitting Grissom against tough righties and Cruz against tough lefties, you might get a lot out of both. Of course, then you are looking at a lot of Marvin Benard.

Anyway, Sabean picked up a younger, slightly more useful version of Reggie Sanders, for about the same he paid Sanders last season. His roster moves have been both shrewd and timely, somewhat expensive; and extremely well-thought out. He has replaced half his infield, two thirds of his outfield, and two of his starting pitchers while getting younger and faster at virtually every position. I'd say the Giants have weathered the loss of some of their seemingly irreplaceable players fairly well. We'll see how it plays out, but for the time being, kudos to him and his staff.

Comment on this   [0]  »  January 28, 2003

.... Is there anybody out there?

Good friend and New Yorker Alex Belth has been hard at work over at Bronx Banter. Go. Now.

Mike Carminati has been working on a history of relief pitchers. It is huge, detailed, and needs to be seen to be believed. Go straight to Mike's Baseball Rants, and start scrolling. He also chimes in on the Pete Rose case, and does so with his characteristic eloquence. Here's a taste:

.... Rose is a scumbag. Didn't we already know this? But his actions off the field should have nothing to do with his reinstatement. His case's the thing wherein Bud will catch the conscience of the "Hit King". MLB is playing an odd game with Rose, holding him to a higher ethical standard to somehow mitigate his actions from more than 13 years ago. If Selig believes that Rose bet on the Reds while he was the manager--that is the only offense that would ban him for life, not just the misdemeanor of betting on baseball in general which carries a one-year ban--then by all means, do not reinstate him. If he feels the evidence is strong enough, then his path is clear. I would disagree with the strength of the evidence--especially since then-commissioner Bart Giamatti signed a document that said no finding could be made on this exact issue--, but I would respect the decision. But to continue to conduct a vivisection of Rose's personal life to plumb the depths of his soul, or lack thereof, before deigning to allow him back in is misdirected and hypocritical. Recently admitted Hall-of-Famer Kirby Puckett was recently enmeshed in a sexual assault lawsuit apparently causing his wife to file for divorce. Is Selig set to examine Puckett's personal life and to determine if he should lose his plaque in Cooperstown if he is found wanting? Of course not because it has nothing to do with his performance on the field. So what do Rose's morally reprehensible actions have to do with his reinstatement? Nothing. Bud's cold feet in re-uniting with the puckish Rose are understandable, but he needs to understand that asking Rose to have been squeaky clean for the past 13 Elba-esque years is unrealistic. His goal should be to put this ugly chapter in baseball's rearview mirror while he and his fellow owners prepare to plunder the baseball landscape.

Many of my constant readers know that Mike and I are in the very small minority of baseball writers who feel that the Dowd Report leaves a little to be desired. What most of our critics don't get is that we actually believe in the rule that allows for Rose to be permanently inelgible. Selig is forgetting this, and that is one of the reasons why I find myself being so critical of his actions and intentions. Being a leader demands more than just trying to figure out what your constituency wants you to do. You must constantly act in a way that is in alignment with your internal conversation, your inner self. If those actions inspire, then you are a leader. If they do not, get in another line of work. Selig's job, to represent the other owners, basically removes him from having to be a leader, he just sits around asking everyone of they agree with hiim.

But that's just the job part. The calling of the Commissioner's Office is more than that. The Commissioner is the caretaker of a game that is loved and followed by millions upon millions of people. His job in that capacity absolutely demands leadership. It absolutely demands vision and integrity and commitment to the game, the fans, the players, its history... Bud has very little of these qualities. He has no vision, other than to beat the players and make more money for him and the rest of the owners. His appreciation of history is completely false, he uses references to players and teams and events from the past inaccurately and in distorted and often-times dishonest portrayals, depending on what story he is selling at the moment.

Bud Selig is not qualified to make this judgement on Pete Rose. He is not qualified to examine the historical context of Rose's actions, behaviors, lies and truths. It is perhaps the most delicious irony possible, one man who gave to the game he loved a twenty year run of lies and truths, of darkness and light; having his heart and soul examined and declared worthy by a man whose connections to that game were founded in despair and opportunity, whose job is a conundrum of balancing the demands of those who pay his salary versus those who create the need for him to exist in the first place. I am sure that only Daniel Webster would relish such an opportunity. Or maybe Johnnie Cochran.

Comment on this   [0]  »  January 28, 2003

.... Shut up and get back to work

Once again, I return from the mountains of Busch, beer... just kidding. About the beer. I'm back, and things are starting to pick up again in the world of baseball. Here's a quick run down on what's happening.

Here's an interesting, (although a bit long) article about parents who push their children too hard into sports, from the Dad's perspective.

More on Pete Rose. Now, the story is that he has recently been gambling, at casinos and such, and he also has new tax troubles. Oh no! What hypocrisy. Bud Selig, a man who never saw an inside deal he didn't like, who has done more harm to the game of baseball than Pete Rose could ever hope to; who is partnered up with Bob Dupuy, a lackey the likes of which hasn't been seen since the days of Watergate, this is who gets to decide whether Pete Rose has re-configured his life? These are the men who will make such a monumental decision?

Selig has made it clear that he doesn't want any surprises from Rose, especially involving gambling. "If there's one thing Bud is taking into consideration, it's that he's not going to make this decision and end up being embarrassed by it," one source close to Selig said.

Embarrassed? That's the most important thing to Selig, that he doesn't get embarrassed by Rose? Like Selig hasn't been embarrassing himself for most of the last three years, with all of the public disclosure of his own rule-breaking and lies and distortion and bashing the game and thoughtless, heartless, gutless decision-making.

Hey, Bud, the most important thing is that you actually lead, take a stand, make a key decision, ON YOUR OWN, that resonates with YOU, such that YOU know in your heart that you did the best you could under the circumstances. Of course, that's not going to happen.

If I were Rose, I'd tell them to forget about it. He has a better chance if he'd just let it go until after he was dead, or at least until there was a new Commissioner and crony package running the show. As it stands now, his fate will be decided by a man who never asks for a vote until he knows what the outcome will be.

Jayson Stark profiles some of the free agents and arbitration cases.

Rob Neyer takes a Hot Stove Heater stab at the Giants. He doesn't swing for the fences, so he doesn't really stirke out, but his comment that Reggie Sanders represented a significant upgrade over the right fielders of 2001 was a bit off. The Giants received almost exactly the same amount of production from the position in '01 (.258/.330/.460 with 27 home runs, 80 runs scored, and 92 RBI) and '02 (.258/.322/.446 with 25 home runs, 84 runs and 98 RBI), and they ranked essentially the same in relation to the rest of the league (9th in the league '01, 8th in '02).

At Baseball Prospectus, Will Carroll has a team health report on the SF Giants. Using his fancy new red light, green light, one-two-three system, he feels that the team has a few minor injury concerns, and one major one. The minor ones pretty much all are related to some surgery recovery issues, while the major one is Barry, specifically, his hamstrings and his age. He also praises two of the un-sung heroes of the team, Head Trainer Stan Conte and his assistant Barney Nugent.

Also at BP, Derek Zumsteg focuses his excellent skill on the great Will Clark. I always felt that Mattingly was better, especially before his back problems; but for while there they were both pretty awesome.

Comment on this   [0]  »  January 28, 2003

.... Quick hits

Mike Lupica has the real, and most compelling explanation of the situation Pete Rose is facing with Bud Selig. I still find it hard to understand how Selig can contemplate re-instatement after a Rose confession. That's me.

.... Correction

It was Aaron Loomis that sent the Rose link. My bad. Thanks, Aaron.

Comment on this   [0]  »  January 23, 2003

.... emails and details

Reader Aaron Murphy sent me a link to this Jayson Stark report that Pete Rose may be ready to admit that he bet on baseball, lied and all that; and that Seligula will more than likely re-instate him if he does.

What a comedy of errors the Commissioner's office has become. The All Star fiasco, the ridiculous new All Star determines the home field in the World Series, and now this. After Seligula completely ignores Rose for most of a decade, in direct opposition of the obviously overwhelmingly fan support for some form of a reconciliation, he now has decided that the answer to the problem is to re-admit Rose after he admits that he did do that he was denying he did all along, which is why he is ineligible in the first place. Insane.

Here's a suggestion, Mr. Commissioner. Make a decision. Ask yourself whether you believe what is contained in the Dowd report, and act accordingly. Forget about Rose admitting or not admitting anything. Did Dowd prove that Rose bet on baseball? If you think he did, who cares if Rose apologizes. If he admits that he did, then how can you possibly consider re-instatement? If he flat-out admits that he broke the cardinal rule of the game, what could be the reasoning behind re-instatement? This is exactly the type of waffling, rudderless leadership that draws critical attention to the worst of the Selig regime.

Guest columnist Tim Walker, over at the Baseball Prospectus, asks a couple of questions about another area of questionable ethics regards Selig's regime. Here's a question or two of my own, borrowing from Mr. Walker's excellent use of Occam's Razor. Who the hell does Bud think he's fooling? How long can MLB continue to ignore the fact that so many things that go on at the league offices are dubious? How long can/will the media ignore these "coincidences"?

Comment on this   [0]  »  January 22, 2003

.... The rich get richer

The Yankees have to be kidding somebody. This article suggests that they are looking to pick up the Chicago Cubs' Jon Lieber for 2004. That's right, they're gonna pay him to rehabilitate. Amazing.

Talk about strange bedfellows. Former Madison Square Garden President Dave Checketts has made an offer of $650 million dollars to buy the Los Angeles Dodgers. Checketts was run out of town by the infamous Larry Dolan, after being a part of running the most succesful periods of time for both the NY Knicks and the NY Rangers franchises since the championship years of the early seventies. The O'Malleys have said they will listen to offers, but as Derek Zumsteg has pointed out so eloquently, it's likely that they are doing more than just listening.

Comment on this   [0]  »  January 22, 2003

.... The winds of change are a blowin'

As many of you know, the team at Baseball Prospectus are essentially the Yankees of the online world of baseball writing. I plug their stuff constantly, partly in hopes of just being associated with such excellent writing, and more so because they are head and shoulders above everyone else out there, and I love their work. Derek Zumsteg demonstrates why in this piece on the little ways the owners screw around.

So the news that Baseball Prospectus is going the subscription route is a real shocker. Wow! I am surprised, although they do more in-depth and detailed analysis than most anybody, I would have guessed that the sales of their books would have allowed them to provide free content, aimed at building deep, long-term relationships with an enthusiastic fan base.

I am not privy to the internal conversations they have had, but I too have found myself wondering whether I could derive some income from this stuff, especially since I have discovered that the more I do it, the more I want to. I don't know how that will happen just yet, so for now, I still work a regular job, although you, constant reader, may have noticed the slow down through these last few weeks. Sorry, but bills to pay and all that.....

Anyway, back to the Prospectus fee deal. If you feel you can't afford the fee, which is $39.95 per year, then you can come here. I'm not as proficient as that team of All Stars, but I'll do my best. I think I can fill some of the void of analysis and commentary for the fan who doesn't want to pay for it, you know many of the other writers who will also be working to meet that demand. I'll try my damndest.

Anyway, I am going to subscribe. I can't afford not to have access to the work they do. They are simply the best, and they inform my efforts constantly. If you have the scratch, it's guaranteed to be worth it. If you can't, come here.

Comment on this   [0]  »  January 21, 2003

.... emails and details

For those of you new to OBM, you may not know that one of the best parts of this site is the commitment I have to an open dialogue. From the start, I have been willing, even eager to publish the views of others, especially if they aren't the same as mine; simply because I believe a free exchange of ideas is integral to a quality discourse. One of my earliest foils was the inimitable John Bonnes, aka the Twins Geek. Earlier today I sent John an email regards the Minnesota Twins giving Torii Hunter all taht money.... well, here's our back and forth:

John, what is your take on the Hunter signing? Is it possible that Pohlad is actually going to invest money into the team? Do you think/feel that perhaps Selig has told him to start playing fair now that the new deal is in place pouring revenue sharing cash into his pocket? My readers await your sage words eagerly...

John, you know, I've never been on the "Pohlad is a Monster" wagon. Pohlad's biggest fault is that he LOVES the art of the deal. He loves to negotiate. And he can't help himself from applying leverage any way he can. That's screwed up his stadium deal time after time, since the public thinks a deal is done only to have the rug pulled out from under them. And over time, everyone has learned to respond to his bluffs with might yawns. I think threatening contraction as a negotiating ploy is unconscionable, but that's blown up in his face too, so one can only be so bitter about it.

But I've never felt that the decision to cut back the Twins payroll to a miniscule level to rebuild the organization was a bad one, because this wasn't a "98 Marlins fire sale" kind of thing. The Twins from 1995-97 were a below average team with a mediocre core that could have invested an additional $30M in their payroll and still not have been able to compete with the big boys. When the big cut came, the message from the Twins camp was "We're at $40M and we're willing to go up to $60M, but even then we're going to be outspent by another $50M and be unable to compete." And you know what? They were right about that.

All of which underscores the difference you and I have about revenue sharing and a salary cap. The difference between the Twins philosopy this year and the Twins philosophy three or four years ago isn't that Pohlad's gained a conscience or that Selig is pressuring anyone. The difference is:

1) there's a solid talented core of young cheap ballplayers that they invested several losing seasons in, and

2) with the new CBA, there's hope that teams (with the exception of the NYYankees this year) won't just throw enough money around to make their Twins investment moot.

Truthfully, I think #1 is far more important than #2, but I also think that the previous "all hail the free market" philosophy left smaller markets with only one real choice: Destroy. Build. Compete. Repeat. And for the perpetually competitive large market owners to complain that those teams aren't spending enough money during the first two phases of that cycle is incredibly hypocritical. The system that favors those large market teams year in and year out is the same system that makes that cycle necessary. And all the money that Pohlad was supposedly pocketing doesn't even cover this one contract that the organization needs to risk to extend the 'Compete' phase.

I don't see eye to eye with John on some of these points, mostly regards his idea that the Twins were operating in a "We can't compete at $60 million, so we're gonna run it at $30 million dollars." First of all, the Twins went from 1993 to 2000 with a high water mark of 78-84. During that eight year stretch, they weren't even remotely competitive, losing as many as 91, 92, 93, 94 and 97 games. So, the time frame John refers to is a bit small, (and I'm not even a Twins fan). Whether they suffered the talent drain that I seem to think they did, well, I'm not so sure I remember them doing much more than losing. Anyone else remember?

As for the rest of his comments, I always have to remember that John knows more about the Twins than I ever could. I have to take his feelings regards Pohlad very seriously, simply because he's there, he's involved, day to day, just like I am with the Giants. Bottom line, he forgets more than I could ever learn about his team. If he feels satisfied by the way Pohlad is running that team, I must respect that. And I do.

When it comes to the question of whether Pohald was either pressured or is actually a changed man, John seems to think neither. He feels that the change in the "opportunity" that's available to the team is what's behind the big deal. Well, if that's the case, I'd expect a little more, as I'm sure John does. I would think that we're gonna see a couple of Twins get "stay here, please" deals, and we should also see some "come here, please" free agent contracts too, as the Twins window of competitive-ness has to be taken advantage of. Thanks to the Geek.

Comment on this   [0]  »  January 18, 2003

.... News and notes

So, Torii Hunter signs a big contract with the Twins. What does this mean about Seligula's right hand man, Carl Pohlad? Has he finally decided that he's sucked enough money out Minnesota? I'm sending an email to John Bonnes, the Twins Geek to get his reaction.

Meanwhile, Mike Carminati uses the Hunter signing as a prelude to talk about the possibility of collusion. Here's the gist of what Mike is saying:

The recent rash of one-year deals causes me to believe in collusion more than anything else. How do teams so quickly change the prevailing theory of locking young players into long-term contracts? And how do they all do it at the same time? I doubt that if one GM were going against the prevailing strategy that he would forewarn his fellow GMs so that they could all follow suit.

This is different from the lack of offers to established free agent players, which I could understand. There is incentive from the last Collective Bargaining Agreement for teams to keep salaries low by not signing overpriced stars. But this is different because these are still under-priced stars in the making, the bedrock that teams have always been built upon. Itís almost as if all these teams are gambling on salaries going down in the coming years. Letís just pay enough this year to keep them happy and then sign them next year for less. How would they all suspect that at the same time and how would they all be brave enough to act upon that suspicion? I find it all highly suspicious, but then again itís in my nature.

Over at Baseball Prospectus, Nate Silver does a pretty thorough job of examining that same question, and he concludes that the owners are not colluding. Using comparisons from 1986-87 to today, he finds that sigings are lagging, but nowhere near the degree they were.

For me, I'm with Mike. It's a feeling more than a defendable argument, but the owners have been so consistently underhanded and dishonest over the course of my lifetime, (forget about all of history, I'll even grant that concession) that I have a tough time not thinking about how strange it is that so many players have been standing there with their hats in their hands. Could it be that there has been a "hundreth monkey" effect happening, that just enough GM's are starting to think like Billy Beane that it is impacting everyone? Sure. Is that likely? I don't think so. I think it's far more likely that Bud "Consesus Man" Selig has everyone in line (with the obvious exception of General von Steingrabber, who, if you really think about it, is sort of the enemy of everyone else in baseball anyway), and they're all gonna aqueeze the players til they drop.

Back in the original collusion situation, the $280 million dollars award given to the players was enormous, but the impact of collusion to many players careers was devastating. Forget about cash, these players were denied the oppportunity to fulfill their dreams, their destiny. They were crushed, suppressed; mentally, emotionally, you name it. Look at Tim Raines. At the time, he was one of the very best players in all of baseball. Look at his 1987 numbers:


He never had a season like that again. He was 27 years old, coming off the best season of his life, and he never reached that level of performance again. Think about that. Instead of being at the beginning of the best years of his career, he held out, and when he came back, he was never the same.

That's the kind of impact collusion has on a player. When you are lied to, told in a million ways that you are not wanted, or that you are not going to be allowed to find your destiny, or be treated with the respect and consideration and honesty that you deserve as a human being; when that is taken from you by treachery, your heart is taken too. Your desire and heart and love for the game is poisoned. Have the owners poisoned the game before? Have they been accused and then proven of treachery? Yes they have. Am I to believe that there is no chance that they will do it again? No thanks. As far as I am concerned, they are guilty until proven innocent.

Comment on this   [0]  »  January 18, 2003

.... Odds and ends

The only thing that's caught my attention this morning is the story in the NY Times that says Pete Rose has been nominated for the Canadian Hall of Fame, whatever that is. Jayson Stark takes a look at the Rose situation, particularly the fact that since the announcement that Selig would convene a meeting with all of the living members of the Hall of Fame to see what they thought of re-instatement; virtually nothing has happened. Along that vein, Gary Carter and Eddie Murray said that it's Seligula's job to decide what to do with Rose.

Comment on this   [0]  »  January 17, 2003

.... emails and details

Travis Nelson, the Boy of Summer, sent me an email offering the following correction:

John, I agree with your post that Bonds had a much better season as a hitter than even A-Rod's stellar performance, but you know as well as anyone that you can't just pro-rate his at-bats, you have to use plate appearances, otherwise, Barry takes a trip to the dish about 950 times over the course of the year, or almost 6 times per game. His numbers stretched out over the same number of plate appearances (721) as A-Rod are more like 476 AB 138 Runs 176 Hits 37 2B 54 HR 130 RBI 11 HBP 234 BB 300 Outs ...which is still nuts, but not as nuts as 300 walks and 945 plate appearances.

Ummm... yeah, of course I knew that. ;-)

Here's what the two sluggers look like using Travis' translations:



Thanks Travis.

Comment on this   [0]  »  January 16, 2003

.... More more more

And our friend Alex Belth has been very very busy lately. Read his extremely well-researched and detailed piece on the forgotten Minnie Minoso.

Other friends out there are working their asses off too. John Bonnes, the Twins Geek, lets two of his colleagues, Dan Landherr and Doug Hennessee semi-interview each other in a back and forth about the Colon trade, as it obviously strengthens one of the Twins main competitors in their division (White Sox), and it seems to have cost next to nothing.

Meanwhile, Aaron Gleeman is very distraught over the chain of events that led to Colon being aquired by the White Sox. In particular, he looks at not only how little the Expos ended up receiving for Colon; he also reminds us of just how much the Expos originally gave up to get Colon. Seligula's evil reign continues to beguile and befuddle.

David Levens has an intelligent and snappy take on MLB's plan to have the All Star Game determine home field advantage in the World Series. Here's what he had to say about how the athletes have affected the way All Star Games are played:

The difference in the MLB stance on the All Star Game can be seen as a direct change in the philosophy and mentality of the modern athlete; "If it doesn't matter and I ain't gettin' paid, I ain't doin' it...If it don't matter and I get paid, I'll do it, but I ain't gettin' hurt doin' it." We wouldn't go as far to say that today's atheltes aren't as competitive as yesterday. In fact, they might be more competetitive. They just pick and choose their battles. Throw down a PlayStation2 or Game Cube and you'll see the competitiveness return. A professional athlete gets paid a lot of money to stay healthy and in shape (unless he plays for the Dodgers), play their best and give it their all.

I agree with his premise, but I see the cause a bit differently. I'd say players like Ken Griffey Jr. and maybe Darrin Erstad have learned the hard way that injuries will have a definite impact on their ability to; a) Play at all, and b) Get anywhere near the Holy Grail of a championship. No matter what MLB wants, the players will not, under any circumstances, do anything to jeopardize their own and their teams' efforts to make the playoffs. More importantly, no All Star manager is going to risk injuring his or his competitors best player, for any number of potential conflict of interest charges or concerns. Can you imagine what would happen if Joe Torre called a steal with Nomar at first base, and he hurt his wrist again sliding into second? What if he let Clemens go one more batter and lost him to a groin pull? You think Steinbrenner would be OK with that?

The All Star Game is an exhibition. If you think last year's tie game has a real chance of happening again, then all these dummies need to do is stop the ridiculous practice of getting everyone into the lineup. Play the stars three innings apiece, like the old days, maybe the younger ones a little longer, and the problem goes away. But that depends on whether you really think that there is a real chance of it happening repeatedly. I don't. And even if it was, even if you ran into this problem every year, there's no reason to end any All Star game that way. Here's just one idea: They could have allowed the pitching coaches to throw batting practice fastballs to each team, one time thorugh the lineup, and whoever hit the most home runs could have been declared the winner. It would have been fun, the fans would have went crazy, and you wouldn't have a tie game. Of course, I can't even find the right words to describe how far from a solution like that Seligula is.

Comment on this   [0]  »  January 16, 2003

.... Get off your ass and dance

There is so little baseball news (that I care about, anyway), that I have been able to spend some time looking at some sites I've never seen before. One that caught my attention this morning is The Dump's Sportslog, run by Matt Barnard, Pete Siroka, and Dan Stein. Here's a little taste:

With each new decree from the high office of Czar Bud, it becomes painfully clear that Selig is doing everything in his power to ruin the competitive nature of baseball. Since his system of alternating leagues for home field each season is painfully idiotic, he decided to fix it. Instead of logically saying that the team with the better record would take home field in the WS, he decided to say that the winner of an arbitrary, fun, meaningless game would take home field advantage.

After his wild card ruined the race for divisional supremacy, he must have been left wondering how he could further ruin the other big end-of-season race: home field advantage. Under this plan, and the failure to address the problem, a first place team at the end of the season will be encouraged to pack it in and give their minor leaguers some time, as they do not need to have the best record to have home field advantage.

As for the all-star game, the big problem is not that it wasn't competitive, it was that it wasn't fun. Players were running stiffly and afraid to get hurt and leaving after a few innings. Fans don't want to see these players playing competitively, they want to see them having fun. Thats why its called an 'All Star BREAK'!

Good stuff, a little nasty and sarcastic. Still need to pick up on using Seligula instead of Bud. Check them out.

Comment on this   [0]  »  January 16, 2003

.... Things that make you go hmmm....

Alex Rodriguez has been awarded the first Ted Williams award by the Boston chapter of the BBWAA, as the best hitter in baseball for 2002. Now, Rodriguez is a terrific choice for any award, he is a tremendous hitter, and a great all-around player and person. But, if you want to know who was the best hitter in the majors last season, I'm sorry, but it wasn't A-Rod. Best in the AL, sure. But over in the Senior Circuit, Mr. Bonds had a season for the ages that dwarfed even the monster production of Rodriguez.



As great a season as A-Rod had, you couldn't possibly come to the conclusion that his was the better year. Not to mention, Bonds' season was far more similar to the type of production that the Splendid Splinter would have rung up than Rodriguez's was. Bonds led his league in five categories, Rodriguez led his in two. Bonds led the all of baseball in batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage and OPS, had the fourth highest slugging percentage of all-time, and established new major league records in OBP and OPS.

This is exactly what I was talking about the other day, when I said that many people still view runs batted in as a measure of ability rather than opportunity. Obviously, the only area where Rodriguez out-performed Bonds was RBI. Bonds was superior in every other measure of effectiveness, and he used almost 200 fewer outs! If you pro-rated Bonds season out to 624 at bats, he hits 71 home runs, scores 180 runs, and has 170 RBI. This award was given out by the Baseball Writers Association of America, the same guys who vote for MVP and Cy Young awards. The same guys who vote people into the Hall of FAme, for crying out loud!!!!

Comment on this   [0]  »  January 15, 2003

.... FNG

I have had a Guest Map visitor from Eliot, who runs a tight, funny site called Darn Sox. You know, I have to pat myself on the back for all of the very generous and open support of the hated Boston Red Sox fan sites we offer here at OBM. Or, maybe I just feel sorry for them.... Hmmmm.... Red Sox.

Comment on this   [0]  »  January 15, 2003

.... Greatness

People are constantly referring to this person or that as great, the greatest, on and on. Well, Will McDonough was a great sportswriter, writing in a great sports town, for one of the premiere newspapers in the country, if not the world. He passed away last Thursday, January 9th, and I have kept his link open, there on the left, among the Smart Guys. I'll keep it open as long as the Boston Globe keeps it active. As a Yankee fan, I always appreciated his Boston perspective. He will be missed by sports fans everywhere. I'd like to extend my condolences to his family and friends.

Comment on this   [0]  »  January 15, 2003

.... The Yankees of the Internet

The guys at Baseball Prospectus are the Yankees of the little world I travel in here, this little place I lay myself open in. They are formidable, detailed, and extremely well-organized; and consequently, they routinely address the many aspects of baseball with wit, sarcasm and attention to detail and accuracy that really force all of us out here to do our damndest to make sure what we put out there can hold up to scrutiny.

Nate Silver shows us exactly what I am talking about here in this detailed analysis of the possibility that the owners may be guilty of collusion a second time.

And as many of you know, Will Carroll now writes for the BP team, and here's his first column.

Comment on this   [0]  »  January 15, 2003

.... Friends and family

David Pinto has a post on the issue of what cap a player will wear on his Hall of Fame plaque. The post is well done, but David finishes by saying that the people who run the Hall of Fame are just as susceptible to some form of payola as a player might be. Well, I don't have the book in front of me, but I was just re-reading Bill James' "Whatever happened to the Hall of Fame" and in it, he explains that the Hall is essentially as sound financially as any institution in the country, with operating expenses of about 40% of revenue, meaning that the Hall of Fame was making about $4 million in profit the year he looked it up.

And our good friend Travis Nelson just had his 5,000th hit. Congratulations, and here's hoping he'll get his next 5000 that much faster.

John Bonnes, the Twins Geek, has the link to this ESPN article that confirms the trade between the Yankees, White Sox and Expos that sends Bartolo Colon to the White Sox; and a bunch of players hither and thither to make nobody else any better.

Over at the Cincinnati Reds Blog, you can follow the many pitcher signings that the Reds have been involved in these last few weeks. Seems to me that they are rightly fixing the real weak spot on the team.

Alex Belth has picked up the pace, and as he writes more, he writes better. Good for him, and for you, if you get your ass over there right now.

Comment on this   [0]  »  January 15, 2003

.... News and notes

Apparently the Yankees are beginning their efforts to sort out their overcrowded rotation by trying to rid themselves of the better Hernandez, Orlando. The San Francisco Giants appear to have no interest in obtaining Orlando, even though he has been a far superior to Livan since he's been in the majors; and perhaps could be the mentor/big brother who might be able to help Livan get his career back on track.

Meanwhile, even though the Yankees also have more outfielders than they need, Steinbrenner got mad at the Pirates for suggesting that they Yankees eat a major part of Raul Mondesi's contract, and so ended trade talks that would have netted the team some much needed minor leaguers, as well as reduced the pressure on Joe Torre to continue to ask starters to sit on the bench with him and Zimmer.

And Jayson Stark and Jim Caple both like Seligula's plan to have the league that wins the All Star Game earn home field for the World Series. I am not sure, so for now, I'll reserve my opinion.

Comment on this   [0]  »  January 15, 2003

.... Back to the future

Well, I'm back from my second mountain trip, and I must say, it's great to be back in civilization. When I'm in the mountains, I sometimes feel like I'm in a time warp. I am lucky to get a 2100 kps link on AOL, and even that is subject to high winds and possible disconnections, so really, I can barely get my emails to work. It's not enough for OBM and my readers, obviously.

So, on to the world of baseball. Actually, not very much seems to be going on these last few weeks. Several of you wrote in to chastise me for being too hard on Livan Hernandez, after he was arrested and then charged with assault in Florida.

John, I'm no Livan fan, but I have to disagree with your statement about his "poor performance" in 2000: 17-11, 3.75 ERA isn't too shabby, plus he pitched a great game in the playoffs vs. the Mets. Plus, it's not at all clear what happened in the fight. My first reaction was similar to yours, but I don't think all the facts have come out yet.

Well, yeah, I guess we don't know everything that happened down there in Florida, and sure, Livan can be given the benefit of the doubt, and yeah, maybe I was a little harsh. But you know what? I don't care. My expectations of a professional baseball player are pretty low. Be in the best shape you can be in, play hard, play smart.... Not too much more than that. Livan has hardly ever met even those limited expectations. He has shown up overweight every year he's been with the team, and seemingly more so each season. His approach to the game borders on casual, (It's a running joke among Giants broadcasters that he will foul off bunt attempts to work himself into a two-strike count so he can swing the bat), he also appears at times to be completely at the mercy of whichever umpire happens to be working his game. When things don't go his way, he folds.

And more importantly, his performance is simply awful. You want to talk about him being some kind of a help to the team in 2000, well, take a look at this:

Post-All Star 199910334.3863.266
Pre-All Star 200018774.25127152
Post-All Star 2000151043.19113102
Pre-All Star 2001196116.07126156
Post-All Star 200115744.20100110
Pre-All Star 2002186104.94113133
Post-All Star 200215663.76103100

From my perspective, all he did in the second half of 2000 was fool the Giants into giving him a contract extension. He has had an ERA below 4.00 in just two half seasons since joining the team. He is a model of consistent mediocrity, and as I've said before, the biggest disappointment the Giants have had in the time I've been watching them. Dusty made the mistake of starting him in Game Seven, but even so, he could hardly have performed worse. Now he's beating up senior citizens. Who cares what happened? Will we ever really know? Of course not. His lawyers and spin doctors are already hard at work convincing everyone that it was his friend that punched the old man, not Livan. Whatever.

Livan needs to grow up, and my sincere hope is that it is with another team. My site, my opinion. Livan needs to go.

Comment on this   [0]  »  January 15, 2003

.... Giant disappointment

Livan Hernandez was arrested in Florida on charges of attacking an elderly man with a golf club, the SF Chronicle reports today. Highlights of the story include the following:

An eyewitness interviewed by a local television reporter said Hernandez swung the club at the man's head and missed by 4 feet, adding, "If he would have hit him with the force he had swung the golf club, he would have killed him."

Let me just add that Hernandez, owed almost $10 million dollars by the team over the next two seasons; has now forced Sabean's hand.

Hernandez has been a model of immaturity, inconsistency, and flat-out laziness for most of the time he has been with the team, and with his career 69-69 record, he has essentially milked one postseason run of excellence for six years now. Without question, he is the biggest disappointment in team history, his amazingly poor performance in both 2000 and 2001 was a key to the teams failure to do more in the postseason, and last season he almost single-handedly prevented the Giants from winning the championship.

He will be even more impossible to trade now, but Sabean must exhaust all avenues to rid the team of this lazy, fat, child.

Comment on this   [0]  »  January 9, 2003

.... History lesson, Part II

Our good friend Alex Belth has an in-depth look at Eddie Murray, the 38th first ballot Hall of Famer. Terrific work, Alex.

Comment on this   [0]  »  January 8, 2003

.... History lesson

David Pinto has an interesting exchange with one of his readers about the possibility of teams colluding to suppress salaries, as well as a bit of back and forth regards general managers of today vs. yesterday. Here's part of what Brian DeCaussin has to say:

[You imply], perhaps unintentionally, that all GM's prior to Bill James arrival and sans a diploma were/are either ignorant, stupid or both. I find that not only unfair, but demeaning and shortsighted. There is no question that James and his brethren have opened the door on a new universe of analysis, one that the baseball community hasn't quite figured out what to do with. However, to even imply that the GM's prior to this new realm of analysis weren't able to evaluate talent is far too broad a suggestion for me.

Well, David replies that Brian is misinterpreting a bit, basically saying that he believes that today's general managers, ball players, doctors, lawyers, etc.; all are better than yesterday's, mostly because they build upon the work and the lessons and discoveries of those who came before them. Here's the gist of his rebuttal:

.... There is a lot more information available to GM's today, due to advances in technology, and GM's like (Billy) Beane, due to their education and acceptance of sabremetrics, are better able to process it. When you give people with similar skills the same information, you're going to get similar answers.

Listen, it wasn't that long ago that many people, I mean a lot of people argued that how many runs batted in a player had was a significant measure of that players value. Or that clutch hitting was a skill. Many people believed, and still believe today, that a pitcher wins are the most significant measure of his effectiveness. For decades, hitting instructors would tell players, "Hey son, nobody ever walked to the Hall of Fame. Get up there and swing that bat." Pitchers with sore arms were told to throw more to work out the pain. There are thousands and thousands of stories written about baseball players or managers or coaches saying and doing things that we know now were flat out wrong, and even with all of that; players and general managers and coaches today still persist in taking actions that fly in the face of literally mountains and mountains of research.

Were people able to make accurate evaluations of talent sans sabermetrics? Were there GM's who understood the nuances of in game strategy? Of course they were. But has sabermetrics changed the way we view the challenge of evaluating talent, of planning and executing game plans, building lineup cards, deciding on the best course for minor league skill instruction? Absolutely. We, guys like me and David and you, my readers; have more information available about how runs are created, or what makes the difference between an effective and an ineffective player, or team or pitcher or hitting approach or situational strategy or whatever, than every manager in baseball combined in 1960. Wouldn't it follow that if I have access to this information, any manager who fails to take advantage of the same knowledge is going to be taken advantage of? Of course it does. That's one of the reasons you see a Billy Beane getting Keith Foulke or Ted Lilly or Jermaine Dye or whoever in a trade with some other team that apparently doesn't realize that they are being taken to the cleaners. That's part of the reason you never see a player that Brian Sabean trades away being more succesful than the players he trades for.

Knowledge, and the talent and vision and guts to act on it are just two of the prerequisites for a terrific general manager. Today's best, with the tools and information available to them now, would absolutely mop up the best from ten or twenty years ago, and in fact, they do so now, against any GM's who insist on clinging to outdated notions about baseball.

Comment on this   [0]  »  January 8, 2003

.... Compare and save, Part II

The announcement that Bill Mueller has reached an agreement with the Boston Red Sox on a two year deal worth about $4.5 million begs further discussion. In fact, the majority of the deals announced recently are astonishing in their consistency; without fail the deals being announced are about 50% of what the same player might have gotten last season or the season before. Fred McGriff just signed with the Dodgers for $3.75 million. Two years ago the Cubs were begging McGriff to come to Chicago so they could pay him $8 million per season to be somnabulant.

The San Francisco Giants general manager Brian Sabean can't be happy to see Mueller sign so cheaply, especially when he has just given essentially the same deal to the soon to be killing the team, Niefi Perez. A quick comparison of the two players is frightening, here's their last three seasons combined:

Mueller .271/.352/.401 .753 OPS 1136 AB 186 runs 116 RBI 141 BB

Perez .269/.296/.378 .674 OPS 1786 AB 240 runs 167 RBI 76 BB


Mueller .262/.350/.393 .743 OPS 366 AB 51 runs 38 RBI 52 BB

Perez .236/.260/.303 .563 OPS 554 AB 65 runs 37 RBI 20 BB

For the record, Mueller is 31 years old and Perez is 29. Sure, Perez apparently has some speed; but again, his batting skills appear to have eroded to the point where his speed is completely irrelevant, as you can only use a pinch runner so many times over the course of a season. The sad part is that the Giants management loves Bill Mueller, and many stories have appeared in the local papers indicating that he loves San Francisco. But a month ago, it was unclear how powerfully the new economics would impact free agents, so I would think that Mueller expected to get a little more, particularly more years; and he was surprised by how little he got.

Comment on this   [0]  »  January 8, 2003

.... Slow down

Other than the Hall of Fame inductions of Gary Carter and Eddie Murray (First ballot Hall of Famer?), there isn't a lot to talk about lately. Plus, I have been strangely busy, so I haven't had much to say.

Congratulations to my friend Will Carrol, who has joined the Yankees of baseball writing, Baseball Prospectus. Derek Zumsteg has a terrific Daily Prospectus column explaining one more way the baseball owners take advantage of the fans of their teams. Will is in good company there.

Comment on this   [0]  »  January 7, 2003

.... Elephants memory

Peter Gammons has a column on the Yankees, and particularly George Steinbrenner's mad spending habits as he tries to reclaim the ring. For the most part it's well written and accurate, but as a born and bred Yankee fan, I take offense to his little conclusion:

Few teams ever enjoyed winning more than the 2002 Angels. Even if the Yankees sweep the 2003 World Series in four games, they or their fans will never experience what the Angels experienced.

Let me tell you something. The Yankees went 16 years between championships as I was growing up. Their last title prior to this run was in 1981. Now, I know if you are my dad's age you've seen enough championships to last a lifetime, but I came to baseball late. For the most part, all I knew as a Yankee fan was Don Mattingly watching the playoffs on TV just like me. Then in 1996, Jeter and O'Neill and Williams and Cone and Leyritz and the rest of these guys put together a season of magic, a postseason of miracles, and a World Series for the ages. So don't tell me that Yankee fans can't feel what the Angels just felt. That's horseshit.

Now Steinbrenner is wrong for trying to hang on to it for as long as he can? He knows it won't last forever. Spend now, because when his core of championship players, with drive and character and heart is gone, he'll be starting over just like everyone else, and money can't buy character. You can use it to surround character with talent, and that's what he's doing.

Comment on this   [0]  »  January 5, 2003

.... Quick hits

The NY Mets are considering a three way deal with the Montreal Expos and the Boston Red Sox that would send Shea Hillenbrand to NY, Bartolo Colon to Boston, and some contingent of Mets prospects to Montreal. Let me just say, that this is exactly the kind of deal a loser organization makes. If you have the goods to get Colon, you don't trade him for Shea Hillenbrand, under any circumstances. If Steve Phillips makes this move, on top of the ridiculous, flushing money down the drain moves he made last off-season, he has to lose his job. A GM that would trade Colon for a third baseman who has drawn a grand total of 38 walks in over 1100 at bats in his career is a bad GM.

David Pinto has this to say about the deal:

So the Mets would get a cheap third baseman who may or may not be very good. If the Red Sox can pull off this trade and get Vazquez, they'll have a 1-2-3 punch in their rotation equal to or better than Oakland. It's not clear what the Expos will get, but it looks to me like a big win for the Red Sox and not such a great deal for the Mets.

The Players Association is taking the possibility of this collusion thing very seriously, with player agents are recording the details of all contract offers this off-season. Boy, would that be a bad thing for Seligula.

Here's David's opinion on the collusion issue. Basically, he says the same thing I said earlier, it looks bad for the owners, but it's not the same as back then, and it's probably not happening. You just have a much more open bargaining situation, a tough economy, and more well-read, prepared GM's than ever before.

Comment on this   [0]  »  January 4, 2003

.... Unbelievable

I know that only baseball matters, but I just had to put my two cents in on last night's National Championship between Ohio State and Miami. Simply, that was the greatest college football bowl game I have ever seen, my apologies to the memory of the title game between Miami and Nebraska in 1987. Two tremendous teams, both playing with the heart of a champion, brutal, crushing defensive plays, terrific play by the offenses. Every yard earned came with the price of a pound of flesh. Truly an epic contest, and the overtime format college football uses ought to be looked at real hard by the NFL. That was tremendous.

Congratulations to both teams, and all hail Ohio State.

Comment on this   [0]  »  January 4, 2003

.... Ramon, we hardly knew ya

My good friend Christian Ruzich chastised me for a fluff comment regards Ramon Martinez, one where I basically said he wasn't as good as his numbers. OK. Let me see what I am trying to say here.....

Ramon has had 924 at bats in his career. He has 249 hits, and 75 of them have been extra base hits, including 20 career home runs. He has 106 runs batted in in his career. Wouldn't you expect him to drive in more men than that, given that kind of power distribution? I would. Last season was completely in line with his career, he had 16 extra base hits and just 25 RBI. In 2001, he had 26 extra base hits and just 37 RBI. These numbers don't surprise me, given my gut sense that I have watched him fail to drive in a runner in a tough spot many more times than I have seen him succeed.

But you know what? His splits suggest that maybe I'm talking out of my ass. Take a look at his last three seasons:

None On 447 AB's .242/.300/.367 .667 OPS 7 HR 7 RBI

Runners On 314 AB's .309/.378/.449 .827 OPS 8 HR 80 RBI

Scoring Position 162 AB's .340/.436/.500 .936 OPS 4 HR 72 RBI

Bases Loaded 13 AB's .615/.611/.846 1.457 OPS 18 RBI

Now, I know these are fairly small samples, but they pretty much make me look like a complete idiot. His OPS numbers in the different men on base categories read .699, .835, .865, .963, .857, and .858. These are good numbers, and in fact, they indicate the opposite of what I was saying. Ramon Martinez appears to be a much better hitter when there are men on base, and the situations in which he is facing the most pressure seem to be the situations in which he thrives. I stand corrected.

Comment on this   [0]  »  January 3, 2003

.... Happy Birthday to my good friend, Aaron Gleeman

Inspired by the inimitable Aaron Gleeman, who just celebrated his 20th birthday, I have also looked up the major leaguers who share my birthday, November 9th. Turns out there are fifty-one players who have share my birthday. Thanks to for providing everyone with this critical service.

Among the big leaguers with whom I share a birthday is one Hall of Famer, Bob Gibson, whom I admire immensely for his competitive rage (something my wife will tell you I share to an alarming degree, although mostly in games of Scrabble and Trivial Pursuit), and one manager to whom the honor is likely to be bestowed, Whitey Herzog. You will find an Angel, a Homer (albeit, not a Simpson), a Carter (none too Presidential, alas), a Dion sans his Belmonts, a singer/preacher (Al Greene), a running back (Rick-[y] Williams), more than a few Yankees, a Neighbor, the real McCoy, a Gooch, and above all, the scene-stealing star of the best baseball movie of all time, Archibald Wright ~ Moonlight ~ Graham.

The immortal Kevin Mmahat is the only major league player who shares my exact birthday. Interestingly, he pitched for the NY Yankees in 1989, losing the only two decisions of his career, which lasted a total of 7.7 innings pitched. His career ERA is 12.91, and he allowed 13 hits and 11 earned runs in those 7.7 innings.

Go here to see the full list.

Comment on this   [0]  »  January 3, 2003

.... Cold cuts

Where I'm from, we call them cold cuts, but whatever. Some of you may remember what founding father I am, (Alexander Hamilton, if memory serves me). Now you can see what kind of meat I appear to be.... ;-)

You are BEEF. The studly meat.
What Lunch Meat Are You?

Comment on this   [0]  »  January 2, 2003

.... New and improved

I was wandering around in the blogosphere and I came across this very interesting site called Blissful Knowledge. It now rests happily in More Baseball on the left there. More importantly, apparently the proprietor accurately picked the Angels in seven games on October 18th, something that deserves notice.

Comment on this   [0]  »  January 2, 2003

.... Best of 2002

For those of you with the time and/or the desire, you can go here to nominate Only Baseball Matters for various weblog awards, including weblog of the year. For the record, I will not nominate myself, nor will I ask anyone to do it for me. Do it if you want to, if you think OBM merits any such recognition. If not, disregard this message.

Comment on this   [0]  »  January 2, 2003

.... Hall of Fame

Don Malcom has a terrific article on Hall of Fame first basemen, and he concludes that Donnie Baseball is a likely candidate via the veterans committe, not BBWAA vote.

Comment on this   [0]  »  January 2, 2003

.... Bad taste

Oops, I almost forgot. I will never, under any circumstances, for any reason, regardless of threat or litigation, refer to the San Francisco Giants home field as SBC Stadium or Park, or anything other than PacBell Park.

Come on, SBC. If you guys are as honest, smart and hardworking as Tommy Lee Jones says you are, you should be able to figure this one out for yourselves. The name PacBell Park is part of the amazing amount of history the boys in orange and black have created for all of us in the short time they've been down at King Street.

Leave well enough alone.

.... Follow the leader

Meanwhile, Christian Ruzich reports that Ramon Martinez has decided to accompany Dusty to Chicago. As I pointed out in this post, Martinez is much more likely to be a useful player than Niefi Perez is. Now we'll get to see if the cozy confines of Wrigley are just what the doctor ordered for Martinez to finally produce enough offense to start for somebody; and maybe even post that .800 OPS I suggested might be possible under the right circumstances.

I'd guess Martinez could run out a good-looking .290/.360/.460 with half his games at Wrigley if he played every day, and maybe that would be enough to allow him to pile up 500 plus at bats. I still don't think he's a real threat at the plate, but he's better than a fair number of guys who play every day.

Comment on this   [0]  »  January 2, 2003

.... Friends and family

Travis Nelson takes a look at the NY Daily News interview of George Steinbrenner, and follows with a fine piece on the Jose Contreras signing.

Mike Carminati has a detailed, and I mean detailed, look at the Hall of Fame possibilities for players like Don Mattingly, Jim Rice, Andre Dawson and such.

Aaron Gleeman, on vacation from school, has done exactly as he said he would and written voluminously on baseball, basketball, and all sorts of other stuff, including his excitement on reaching the 20K milestone at his site. Congratulations, Aaron.

Edwards Cosette is following the revival of the bitter rivalry between the NY Yankees and the Boston Red Sox very closely, and he does it with style.

Meanwhile, don't forget to pin yourself on my guest map, and get that Papyrus font if you haven't already. I assure you it's worth the effort.

Comment on this   [0]  »  January 2, 2003

.... Happy New Year

Well, I'm back. To those of you who faithfully visited OBM during the break, I apologize for the inconsistent production. You will be rewarded in the next life for your loyalty. Me, I'm just happy to be here in '03. On to baseball.

Murray Chass talks about the free agent blues. Come on boys and girls, can you spell collusion? Actually, I don't believe we are seeing a new form of collusion. We are seeing the bad economy, the new agreement, and as David Pinto has pointed out, a glutted market. By the way, Chass focuses on Jose Hernandez, the erstwhile strikeout king who apparently cannot find a contract offer greater than one year for $2 million dollars. Which, of course, reminds me of just how bad that deal Sabean gave to Neifi Perez really is.

2002 Jose .288/.356/.478 50 X-base hits

2002 Neifi .236/.260/.303 27 X-base hits

2000-02 Jose 1513 AB's .261/.324/.434 .758 OPS 72 2B 60 HR 400 Runs + RBI

2000-02 Neifi 1786 AB's .269/.296/.378 .674 OPS 85 2B 21 HR 407 Runs + RBI

Meanwhile, Glenn Dickey seems to have a bone to pick with Giants owner Peter Magowan. He says that Magaowan's arrogance has damaged the teams chance to repeat as NL Champs next season. First of all, that's a pretty easy position to take, since the odds of the Giants repeating are astronomical. It's all but certain that Dickey will be able to crow about his prognosticating prowess at the end of the season.

But what I take exception to is how Dickey has woven together a series of disparate events into some strange web of blame, one that apparently falls at the foot of Magowan. Uh, didn't Magowan save the team? Didn't he put together the financing to build the first privately owned ballpark in decades? Hasn't he done pretty much everything he promised to do when he bought the team, including paying out huge amounts of cash to sign and then re-sign twice, the best player in baseball?

Listen, I am as critical as anyone, and Magowan certainly could have handled things better, but Baker has to take some responsibility for their little spat. Baker wanted to be treated like Joe Torre, but in the end, he failed where Torre succeeded. In 2000, with the best team in the league, he lost to Timo Perez and Jay Payton. In 2001, he failed to make the playoffs even though he had Bonds re-writing history daily. And in the end, he failed to win a title even though his team fielded the MVP of the league for three consecutive seasons, something Torre never had. (The last team that did was the Big Red Machine of Cincinatti, and they won back to back World Series)

This is not to say he hasn't done a lot of good things for the organization and its fans. But so has Magowan, and both men had a right to their opinions, and a right to disagree. One of them was the boss. The other isn't here anymore. Does Dickey really think Jeff Kent would have stayed because of Baker? Please.

Comment on this   [0]  »  January 2, 2003

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