Archive for July, 2004
Listen, keep the backtalk coming. I love it, and I have a lot of respect for what you guys have to say. I know I’m an extremist a lot of times, and I can be reactionary. Let me say, following some serious introspection, that I don’t think I’m wrong here. Listen to Another John (Who still won’t give me a way to get in touch with him!!!)
Most Giants fans agree this trend sucks. And, sure, it would be great to have Bud tell folks to ease up.
But imagine that you’re Bochy. Or LaRussa. Or Bowa. And your team is in the pennant race. And you decide to pitch to Bonds even in situations where we think the “code” or “book” does not merit a walk. Someone mentions a situation where a walk would move a runner to 3rd with 2 out. And Bonds starts hitting 3 run bombs with regularity.
If I’m a manager of a club, I care about two things: (a) the team winning, and (b) keeping my job. Those who think a=b are sorely mistaken. Any manager whose team misses the playoffs in a situation where a bad 3 or 4 game series against the Giants can be chalked up as a contributing factor may be able to weather the storm. Unless Bonds going on a tear is part of the equation. This seems irrational, but many sportswriters have the gene which compels them to nod their head knowingly when the manager says “hey, I know we lost a close game when Feliz hit that 3 run double but the name of the game is to let someone else other than Bonds beat me.”
It’s like the Sports Guy says this morning, quoting DeNiro – “there’s another side to that coin.” All of the Giants fans (reasonably) complaining could be transferred to the fans of another club whose manager decides to honor the “code” and not walk Bonds. And Bonds torches them.
And studies about Runs Created and a “teams full of Bonds” and everything else Baseball Primer and Baseball Prospectus can throw at the issue will mean squat when the opposing manager’s head is on the chopping block.
Is Bud going to prevent a manager from being canned? Is Bud going to get the manager another job? No manager gives a hoot what Seligula says. Not one.
Too many people are looking at this from a Giants-centric standpoint. Opposing managers don’t care about being booed and they don’t care about being booed at some so long as they win, or “have someone else beat them.”
Bud is not the problem. Nor is he the solution.
No, Bud isn’t the solution. There is no solution. I mean, think about this for a second. I’m not suggesting some mandate from above (although I admit I may have sounded like that in that first post). All Bud needs to do is talk to the owners. Just a little mention that their fans might like it more if the team would go after him once in a while. That the league would benefit from the idea that fans might take Bonds’ chance at history in the game they are deciding they might go to, might actually happen while they are there. Is that tampering? Would that change the game? No, of course it wouldn’t.
The managers take their cue from above. The owners could make a modest suggestion that unless it’s really neccessary, these weak-ass, man on second with two outs walks, (In the second inning, for Chrissakes!! And I don’t care if they’re intentional. He’s got 131 total walks at the All-Star break!!!!) might be cut in half. Guys, the league is quitting! Quitting! Don’t you see that? It’s so screwed up, and everyone keeps justifying it. It is not justifiable. It’s just not.
Let me put it another way. Everyone agrees that it is not in the spirit of fair competition. It is not sporting to give up the way the NL is doing right now. Why do nothing? Barry Bonds is a once every fifty years kind of great player. He is performing at the highest level of offensive productivity ever seen in the history of the game. How can anyone suggest that we should let him suffer through the last two or three seasons of his greatness in such a weak-ass way? How can anyone say it’s OK for a manager of any team to make the decision that you, the paying fan, will not get to see Bonds perform, perhaps the one guy you paid to see? Because the manager thinks he’s too good? WHAT THE HELL KIND OF BULLSHIT IS THAT?!?
Think. It’s wrong. It deprives the fans of the game the chance to be a part of history. Something should be done. I’m making a suggestion that I think is pretty damn reasonable. The boss of the league, the guy whose job it is to care for the best interests of the game, should do just that.
Well, that was a terrific response from all of you, and many thanks to all the writers out there who took the time to mention my article on their sites. On to the issue at hand….
Many of you seem to not have read the article, the backtalk had a bunch of comments regarding a rule change. I am not advocating a rule change. Some thought I was blaming Bud Selig, (huh?). I am not blaming Bud Selig for Barry getting walked all the time. My good friend David Pinto suggests there is nothing to talk about, since the Giants are winning, arguably because of the extra offense that all these walks generate, That’s not what I’m talking about either. Backtalker Tim perhaps states my thoughts more clearly than I do:
1) When a set of conditions virtually guarantees that decision-makers will employ a strategy that is aesthetically repugnant, and not in the best interests of the sport, then those conditions are not in the best interests of the sport.
2) Sure, fans enjoy “strategy,” but automatic decisions are not strategy. The IBB for Barry is like the pitcher bunting with 2 on and none out–it’s automatic.
3) As John mentions, basketball has altered its rules to eliminate aesthetically repugnant “strategy”; e.g. the shot clock is a response to the “four corners” offense.
4) Baseball has certain unwritten rules about competition: sign-stealing and peeking back for pitch location are punished. There was no need to codify these rules, because people respected the game’s spirit. But recently, baseball DID codify an ump’s ability to deter stalling on the mound or in the batter’s box.
I have no problem if Barry is walked in the same situations that Manny Ramirez would if he played for the Giants. But the 1st and 2nd with two out IBB is against the spirit of the game. It’s a statistical wash (or slight Giants’ advantage), but it disserves the sport.
It’s time for Seligula to do *something* about it. And don’t tell me there’s *nothing* that can be done.
That sums it up very nicely, thanks Tim.
David Pinto also wondered whether it was true that no player has been treated this way before, particularly George Herman Ruth. While we can’t know how many of his walks were intentional, we can look at his overall numbers to get a sense. Here’s some data:
For his career, Ruth averaged 544 at-bats per season, along with 133 walks, which comes out to about 3.5 at-bats per game; or put another way, roughly 20% of the time he came to the plate, he was walked. Looking closer at some of his monster seasons….
1920 150 walks 458 at-bats 24%
1921 145 walks 540 at-bats 21%
1923 170 walks 522 at-bats 24%
1927 137 walks 540 at-bats 20%
1928 137 walks 536 at-bats 20%
You all know these seasons. These were, prior to Bonds’ last three campaigns, the greatest offensive seasons in history. During those peak seasons, not one time did the American League take the bat out of Ruth’s hands more than 25% of the time. Now let’s look at Barry’s last four seasons, including this year….
2001 177 walks 476 at-bats 27%
2002 198 walks 403 at-bats 32%
2003 148 walks 390 at-bats 28%
2004 131 walks 189 at-bats 41%
I’d have to say, it’s pretty clear that Barry is once again sailing through uncharted waters. By the way, Bonds is currently leading the league in slugging, (.794) but I would guess that his edge over Thome (.653) is greatly enhanced by the fact that he has almost 3 times as many walks, (131-56). You’re talking about 75 bases earned, at no cost (meaning no outs).
Anyway, to reiterate, Bonds is being treated like no player in the history of baseball. By refusing to compete with him, NL managers are quitting, they are essentially pulling their team off the field, (remember a couple of years ago, the Stanford rugby team ended their annual game with Cal, because they were getting annihilated year after year?). This is sorta like that, except that these are professionals, the best in the world at what they do. To refuse to compete, to decline the challenge, shouldn’t be OK. The challenge, the my best against your best, is the whole reason there is a major league. Everyone wants to talk about how taking performance enhancing drugs is against the spirit of fair competition, how is this any different?
And don’t tell me that because it’s within the rules, it’s OK. That’s total crap. It’s in the rules that you can throw over to first as many times as you want, is it OK to do it fifty times when Kenny Lofton is on first with a one-run lead? It certainly helps the pitcher’s team win. What about a pitching coach conference after every batter? It would certainly help the pitcher stay focused. Or how about the batter stepping out of the box after every pitch? It sure would disrupt the pitcher, helping the hitter’s team to win. Crap like this isn’t done, because it’s, well, it’s crap. You don’t do anything to win. The rules aren’t designed to be pushed up against, they can’t cover every contingency. The reason there are walks in the first place is to force the pitcher to pitch to the batter.
The spirit of competition, the heart of competition, is under assault here. And before you go there, I’m not suggesting a mandate that Barry gets pitched to, consequence be damned. I’m talking about something subtle, a comment, an off-the-cuff remark, a quiet suggestion that perhaps the best interests of baseball are not being served by walking Barry with a man on third and two outs in the second inning game after game. Is it that nuts to think that the commissioner could let it be known that, in his opinion, things are getting a bit out of hand?
I could think of about ten ways he could do something like that; I’m sure he has handled many things during his tenure in just such a way. He didn’t think twice about asking Bonds to compete in the Home Run Derby, even though Bonds wanted and needed the rest, even though Bonds getting the extra rest is better for his team’s chances to win. Why shouldn’t he make a similar entreaty to the managers in the NL. Something like, “Hey guys, come on. I know he’s a tough out, but your hurting the game. Let’s at least look like we’re trying.” It’s called influence, and he has plenty, he should use it, for the good of the game.
Last night’s 3-1 win over the D’backs was highlighted by Barry Bonds’ 69th, 70th and 71st intentional walks, meaning he shattered his own single season record of 68 before the All-Star break! As amazing a stat as that is, I’d like to bring some other tidbits to your attention:
Barry Bonds has come to the plate with runners on base 153 times so far this season. He has been walked 83 times and pitched to 70 times. He has 97 plate appearances with runners in scoring position, and has been allowed to hit only 35 times. With a runner on second, he has 6 at-bats, with a runner on third, he has 2. With runners on second and third, Bonds has not been allowed to hit one time this season. Alex Rodriguez, widely considered the only real competition with Barry as the best in the game, has a completely different set of opportunities. With runners on base, A-Rod has 186 plate appearances. He has 162 at-bats, and just 23 walks. With runners in scoring position, he has 82 at-bats. In just about every situation, he has many many more chances to ply his trade than Barry. He has 22 home runs, Barry has 23. Barry has almost twice as many intentional walks as A-Rod has walks (47).
This is a disgrace to baseball. It is an insult to the spirit of competition. This situation has gotten completely out of hand, as National League managers have decided that they would rather cover their asses than accept the challenge of getting Bonds out. They have become quitters, en masse. In doing so, they are making a mockery of the game.
I know you’ve been reading Doug’s ideas of changing the IBB rule, and while that’s an interesting idea; everything I’ve read leads me to believe that there is nothing remotely resembling a consensus on the issue. Anyway, I don’t think a change is needed at all. What is needed, you ask?
A commissioner who actually believes and acts as if the best interests of the game is his primary job function. Bud Selig has ignored the SF Giants and anything to do with their success and failure for his entire tenure. When the team almost left for Florida, he said nothing and did nothing to support the city and their fans. When Bonds was approaching the all-time record for home runs in a season, he didn’t even bother to come to the games. The All-Star game has brought the national spotlight to several new ballparks, but not to the city by the Bay, widely acknowledged as the best of all.
Now Barry Bonds, approaching one once-in-a-lifetime, history-making milestone after another, apparently plays baseball in a league not governed by Seligula. Why should Bud care about Barry’s accomplishments? Why should he pay any attention at all?
Because Barry is the single greatest draw in the game today, an absolutely magnificent player doing things never seen before in the history of baseball! Because he is the reason people are spinning the turnstiles, and NL managers are flipping the bird to the fans, every day, with no concern for the integrity of the sport; the actual thrill of competition, the challenge of pitting your best against mine.
The rules of the game, of any game, are always under assault from the competitors they govern. That is why all sports have rules committees charged with the job of making sure no team or position or player is enjoying an unfair advantage or somehow altering the game in such a way that lessens the game in any way. A few years back, college basketball decided that the three-point line was too close, so they moved it farther away. Football is constantly altering, in minute ways, the rules, for instance, governing pass interference. This is done to ensure that the game is being played fairly, that there is balance between what offensive players can do and what the defensive players cannot do.
The way Bonds is being handled by the managers in the NL is wrong. This is a clear case of teams taking an action that they believe is best for themselves (walking Bonds in almost any situation where he can hurt them), that is at odds with the best interests of the game (seeing an immortal carrying his team to victory). A commissioner with heart and guts and integrity would put a stop to this. He would send a memo, or make a phone call to every Goddam team in baseball telling them to buck up like men, and quit being such chickenshit babies.
In the history of baseball there have been perhaps five players so great that they have bent the game, distorted the way it is played. Never before has there been such a universal response to such a player. Never before has a whole league decided to quit, to take a pass on facing the challenge. A real commissioner would put a stop to it. It’s bad for the game, end of story. It’s up to Bud to do something about it. He and his cronies at MLB had the audacity to pressure Barry to participate in the Home Run Derby. They told him that the fans deserved to see the living 500 home run guys in action. If I were Barry, I’d a told him to kiss my ass, I’ll come to your Home Run Derby when you do something about the BS I face every day.
Baseball doesn’t need a rule change. It needs a commissioner with some balls.
It says in this ESPN report that Larry Walker would OK a trade (he has a no-trade clause) to a contender. Hmmmmm…. He makes around $13 million through 2005 (with a $1 million buyout for ’06), so he’d cost the Giants about $20 million for one and a half seasons. I can’t see how they could get insurance to cover his semi-weekly injuries; but damn, he’d be nice batting fourth behind Bonds (back in the three-hole where he belongs).
On to some more pie-in-the-sky meanderings….
Rumor has it that multiple teams are pressing Randy Johnson to see if he’ll waive his no-trade clause to pitch for a contender. Again, these are two impossible ideas, given Magowan’s apparent committment to fiscal responsibility; but these two players would be real difference makers on a team that has some of the parts of a contender. How can the Giants braintrust allow these players to end up with the Yankees or the Red Sox; I mean, talk about the rich getting richer. Come on, make a splash. Blow the minds of your 43,000 loyal idiots, and make a statement to the rest of the league that you are World Serious.
Give the Rockies Alfonzo and a prospect or two for Walker, if they’ll take him. Edgardo’s owed something like $20 million over the rest of his contract, so it’s almost a wash. Next up, send Felix Rodriguez and a couple more prospects to the D’backs for Johnson. Sure, you’ll end up eating about, what, $8 million for the half season rental; but Johnson and Schmidt are absolutely powerful enough to give you the same championship chance that the Big Unit did when he was teamed up with Curt (I am too an asshole) Schilling in 2001.
Is a ring worth $8 million? Are you kidding me?
Another intriguing possibility could be Nomar Garciaparra. What if the Giants could send Felix Rodriguez to the Red Sox, (always in need of pitching), add in, say Deivi Cruz, who will never be more valuable, and plug in a future Hall of Famer at short? He can hit after (I prefer after) or in front of Bonds, and he’s an offensive powerhouse. He’s a free agent after this season, sure, but even a half season rental would be worth Fe-Rod, in my opinion.
No matter what, the Giants need to do something. Otherwise, what was the point of giving Barry the contract extension? Why bother dropping another $60 million on an aging superstar when you were already preparing to rebuild? What, to guarantee sold-out crowds as he approaches career milestones, while the team has no real chance at a title? Wouldn’t that seem a bit disingenuous? Particularly to Barry, whose only real goal is a championship? It would seem that way to me.
The Giants look like they could be heading into the All-Star break on a nice long losing streak, which has taken all the momentum out of the season. After last night’s come from ahead, 8-6 loss, the team is in third place for the first time since May. While the offense has continued to be impressive, the pitching has started to show its’ true colors, in that both the starters (even Jason Schmidt) and the relievers have failed in critical moments these last two weeks. After beating Oakland 6-4 on June 25th, the Giants were a season-high 10 games over .500, at 42-32. The next night, Alou left Rueter in to start the seventh inning, even though he had already thrown over 100 pitches, and Rueter lit the fire that the relievers couldn’t put out. Walker, Eyre and finally Felix Rodriguuez all allowed hits and a tie game got out of hand. Since that night, the team is 3-7, and they’ve lost games by being blown out early, they’ve given up leads late, and pretty much every pitcher on the team has been involved.
The game that stands out in my mind as the one that derailed the team was the June 29th loss to the Dodgers. Schmidt was the starter, and he simply could not hold a lead, as he allowed the Dodgers to tie the game immediately after the Giants had scored three separate times, and the Giants eventually lost a game in which Schmidt, arguably the best starter in the NL so far this season, had a 4-2 lead heading into the bottom of the seventh. Adding insult to injury, not only did Schmidt give up three leads, but it took Felix Rodriguez about ten seconds to lose the game in the eighth.
Hopefully, the All-Star break will allow the entire pitching staff to get some much needed rest, and Brian Sabean can continue in his efforts to pry Kris Benson from the Pirates.
Might I mention that it was Felix Rodriguez who, again, was the losing pitcher; this time in today’s 6-2 loss to the A’s. As I wrote the other day, (to the tune of 17 backtalkers!!!) the time to move Rodriguez is now. Every loss he takes as the season moves forward means you’ll get less and less for him. As for my suggestions being based on anectdotal evidence, read on boys.
After reaching his peak in 2001, Felix has been in an obvious and pronounced decline. Take a look:
1999 66.1 IP 67 H 55 SO 29 BB 3.80 ERA 2-3 1 Blown Saves
2000 81.2 IP 65 H 95 SO 42 BB 2.65 ERA 4-2 5 Blown Saves
2001 80.1 IP 53 H 91 SO 27 BB 1.68 ERA 9-1 3 Blown Saves
2002 69.0 IP 53 H 58 SO 29 BB 4.17 ERA 8-6 6 Blown Saves
2003 61.0 IP 59 H 46 SO 29 BB 3.10 ERA 8-2 1 Blown Saves
2004 36.2 IP 32 H 25 SO 13 BB 3.19 ERA 2-4 2 Blown Saves
In 2001, his K/BB ratio was a stellar 3.37. It’s now almost half that. His K/9 IP is down 40%, his OPS allowed is a solid 200 points higher…. Click on his link, look at all of his numbers…. they confirm what we’ve been seeing for most of the last three seasons. He’s lost it, confidence, attitude, health, whatever. It doesn’t matter what it is, what matters is that he can no longer be counted on to come in in a tough situation, he can no longer handle the toughest hitters in a lineup, he can no longer blow people away….
He has become a liability, a pitcher whose need to be handled a particular way overrides the needs of the team. The Giants need another hitter and another starting pitcher, badly. Felix Rodriguez (and with the emergence of Deivi Cruz, Neifi Perez) represent the only real commodities Brian Sabean has; a fireballing reliever, and a defensive specialist in the infield. Both are moderately priced. Please please please, somebody take them off our hands! Please!!!
Update: Sunday’s Chronicle features an article on the recent failings of both Rodriguez and Ray Durham. I haven’t focused on Durham’s errors because he is known as a shaky defender; you accept his miscues in the field because he is an offensive powerhouse. That said, he has been as bad in the field as he’s been good at the plate lately. As for Felix, the article highlights that he has been the losing pitcher (deservedly) in each of the teams’ last three losses.
Update, Part II: Over at Skaldeim, Jefferson has an interesting take on a possible starting pitcher trade. He thinks the Giants should make a play for Randy Johnson. Hmmmm….. Here’s what he says:
Why the Giants would go for it:
* Your starting rotation is now Johnson, Schmidt, Williams, Rueter and Hermanson. Duh.
* Create huge buzz among the fans. Not that the Giants need to sell more tickets, but you’d sell out whatever was left, and guarantee postseason revenue.
* In the postseason, you have two aces.
* A chance for Sabean to make a Fucking-A Trade that would put anything Billy Beane did to shame.
I like it, a lot. I’d add Rodriguez and subtract one of teh younger guys, or even Torrealba, but thet deal would change the team completely. Expensive? Yup. Worth it? What’s a World Series ring worth to Magowan? Jefferson also links to this Oakland Tribune article advocating the same deal. Yikes! I am officially jumping in the bandwagon for this deal. Come on, Sabes!!
After last night’s disheartening 5-4 loss to the Dodgers, the Giants must face the reality that Felix Rodriguez isn’t going to blossom into the reliever they are hoping he will, at least not with the Giants. He failed again, unable to simply throw a strike; and more importantly, he is perhaps the only valuable chip they have in their efforts to improve the team.
Brian Sabean must realize that they have given Rodriguez more than enough time and coaching and whatever else they should to help him get himself together. It’s time to give up. It’s time to get whatever real value they can for all their efforts, because no matter how hard he can throw, no matter what his apparent talents; he is a failure at his job. Last night’s broadcast featured a trivia question; “Who has the most relief wins in baseball since the start of the 2000 season?” Felix Rodriguez. Relief wins are one of the most misleading stats out there. Most of the time, to get a relief win, the reliever must give up a lead first; in other words, a lead that means a win for a starter.
Felix is good at that. He’s also good at throwing the same pitch over and over to a batter, usually until the batter gets a handle on his velocity, and hammers him (a la, Scott Speizio). He’s good at shaking off his catcher, ignoring his pitching coach, infuriating his manager…. Enough said. It’s time. Anyone who can regularly hit 98 mile per hour on a radar gun will generate interest. Go find a team that has one too many starters, home run hitters, whatever; and GET SOMETHING FOR HIM. His run with the Giants needs to end.
After last night’s 7-1 win over the Dodgers, the Giants head into the Fourth of July weekend in first place. I remember reading something a few years back that basically said that teams in first at this stage of the season make the playoffs 75% of the time or something like that. So the Giants have got that going for them.
Anyway, Bonds hit his 20th, AJ got four hits, Tomko built upon hs last excellent start, and San Francisco now has the second best record in the National League. At 44-34, they have completely turned themselves around from their horrific 14-23 start. Their 30-11 streak appears to be long enough to suggest that this team may have found its true level, once again reminding me why Brian Sabean is a GM, and I am a builder. Beat LA!