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…. Knowledge is power

Bill James is still the best. He has a new article up on his site (It’s a pay site, $3 bucks a month, and you should be going there), it’s not about baseball, per se, it’s sort of about himself, and his relationship to statistics. In fact, it’s the text of a speech he made to a group of statisticians. In the piece, he writes something that should be mailed to Brian Sabean:

…. Baseball teams play 162 games a year. I just realized last week that, sometime in the last 20 years, baseball experts have fallen into the habit of saying that a baseball team has about 50 games a year that you are just going to lose no matter what, 50 games a year that you’re going to win, and it is the other 62 games that determine what kind of season you’re going to have. This is not ancient knowledge; this is a fairly new one. A more inane analysis would be difficult to conceive of. First of all, baseball teams do not play one hundred non-competitive games a year, or anything remotely like that. Baseball teams play about forty non-competitive games in a season, more or less; I would be surprised if any team in the history of major league baseball ever had a hundred games in the season that were just wins or losses, and which the losing team never had a chance to win after the fourth or fifth inning. The outcome of most baseball games could be reversed by changing a very small number of events within the game.

But setting that aside, this relatively new cliché assumes that it is the outcome of the most competitive games that decides whether a team has a great season or a poor season. In reality, the opposite is true. The more competitive a game is, the more likely it is that the game will be won by the weaker team. If the Royals play the Yankees and the score of the game is 12 to 1, it is extremely likely that the Yankees won. If the score is 4 to 3, it’s pretty much a tossup. The reasons why this is true will be intuitively obvious to those of you who work with statistics for a living. It is the non-competitive games—the blowouts—that play the largest role in determining what kind of season a team has. Misinformation about baseball continues to propagate, and will continue to propagate forever more, without regard to the fact that there is now a community of researchers that studies these things.

In reference to the Giants, this Giants team, the pitching-dependent, offensively challenged team we’ve been ranting and raving about for the last two and a half seasons, these paragraphs explain what we’ve been experiencing. It’s like a light in a dark closet.

Of course we’re frustrated, being in nail-biters game after game, week after week. It’s because we can sense that something’s not right. There’s something about a team that wins by being perfect that fails to inspire confidence. Of course it doesn’t. As James explains so clearly, it shouldn’t. Winning teams dominate. Winning teams consistently win big. Winning teams are not built upon winning one-run games. Winning teams don’t win because they always win the close ones. They win because they blow teams out. Close games are far too often decided by one single mistake, on missed play, one error, one walk, just like Monday’s game. Teams dancing along that fine line are simply far too dependent upon luck to win enough of the time to be a real contender. And we can see that, even though the Giants are winning right now, they are not really a contending team.

“The more competitive a game is, the more likely it is that the game will be won by the weaker team.”

Great teams blow you out, and it’s the games in which they don’t that you have a chance against them. The Giants are not a great team. They have great pitching. They are one dimensional. They rely on making your offense look as bad on this day as theirs is regularly. That is no way to win a championship. It simply isn’t. You cannot bet on being able to hold down a great offensive team game after game after game. Eventually, a great offense is gonna get you, and if that great offense has some pitching, well, then you’re in real trouble.

Look at these eight games with the Padres. These two teams are exactly the same. So you get eight games of one-run baseball, each team doing everything it can to prevent the other team from running away with the game, tons of bunts, lots of runners left in scoring position. Eight games of let’s see who blinks first. Each team is playing the same way, so, on the surface, the games seem exciting.

But, in fact, they are anything but. They are frustrating. They are exasperating. They are, to me, anyway. Going back and forth between the Giants/Padres and the Yankees/Red Sox games is illuminating. Those Yankee games are exciting. Those games feature game-winning home runs, (something so rare as to have become pretty much a once a year event in San Francisco) and when a pitcher strikes out a guy with men on base, it’s an actual accomplishment. When you watch the Giants bat with men on, the exact opposite is true, it’s an accomplishment when the Giants get the runner home.

Don’t be fooled. Look closely at what’s happening with this team. They are gonna tease you all season long, but, in the end, it will take a miracle for them to make the playoffs. They simply do not have enough hitting to get it done, no matter how many shutouts they throw.

UPDATE: Really!?! 32 total bases, 6 home runs, and 8 walks allowed? Wow.



…. News Flash

The latest steroid scandal involving Lou Merloni is old news. I wrote about teams bringing in doctors to talk to players about the positive aspects of using steroids years ago, and the Mitchell Report mentions it as well. Nonetheless, it is refreshing to hear a player, even one who is out of the game, talking candidly about the issue:

…. Merloni’s exact quotes, according to The Boston Globe, were: “I’m in Spring Training, and I got an 8:30-9:00 meeting in the morning. I walk into that office, and this happened while I was with the Boston Red Sox before this last regime, I’m sitting in the meeting. There’s a doctor up there and he’s talking about steroids, and everyone was like, ‘Here we go, we’re going to sit here and get the whole thing — they’re bad for you.’

“No. He spins it and says, ‘You know what? If you take steroids and sit on the couch all winter long, you can actually get stronger than someone who works out clean. If you’re going to take steroids, one cycle won’t hurt you; abusing steroids it will.’

“He sat there for one hour and told us how to properly use steroids while I’m with the Boston Red Sox, sitting there with the rest of the organization, and after this I said, ‘What the heck was that?’ And everybody on the team was like, ‘What was that?’ And the response we got was, ‘Well, we know guys are taking it, so we want to make sure they’re taking it the right way.’ … Where did that come from? That didn’t come from the Players Association.”

Steroid Nation’s piece goes on:

…. In fact, there were occasions when physicians presented steroids in a favorable light, in particular Dr. Robert Millman, of Cornell. Here is what John Rocker said about a presentation:

The loudmouth former reliever said he and then-Rangers teammate Alex Rodriguez, among others, were advised in spring training of 2002 by management and players’ union doctors on how to use steroids in a way that is “not going to hurt you.”
Rocker said a doctor hired by the Players’ Association pulled aside himself, A-Rod, Ivan Rodriguez and Rafael Palmeiro following a spring training lecture and candidly told them how to use steroids.

“Look guys, if you take one kind of steroid, you don’t triple stack them and take them 10 months out of the year like Lyle Alzado did,” the doctor told him, Rocker said yesterday during an interview on the Buck and Kincade Show on WCNN-680 The Fan in Atlanta. “If you do it responsibly, it’s not going to hurt you.” (italics, mine)

My steroids category link is taking too long, but I’ll find the piece I wrote back in ’03 or ’04. Old news, but still good news. I’m all for transparency. The people who profited from the home run explosion, the owners, GM’s, and baseball officials who are pointing fingers need to be put to the same scrutiny players have been. About time.



…. Hall of Fame?

So new we learn that one more player was willing to do whatever it took to win, one more player who took the mantra that winning isn’t just everything, it’s the only thing as seriously as a heart attack.

One more reason for all of the talking heads to wring their hands, declare themselves the last bastions of decency and all that’s good, to remind us that while Manny Ramirez doesn’t care about saving the children, they sure do. One more overwrought response to an overblown issue, by one after another overweight and underpaid hacks.

The NY Daily News has nine articles related to Ramirez, this from a paper that considers itself the anti-steroids locus operandi of the sports world, but is, in reality, a joke; running one more innuendo-filled smear after another. Or, if smear jobs aren’t enough, the News will run flat out attack pieces, with enough anonymous quotes to make Selena Roberts blush. Here’s John Harper:

…. Unless you think that cheating the game shouldn’t matter, you continue to cross the names off the list of future Hall of Famers. Not that deleting Manny Ramirez’s name from consideration is particularly painful.

It was always going to be hard to vote for someone who quit on his team as transparently as Ramirez did with the Red Sox last year, when he forced his way out of Boston. So in this case, Ramirez’s suspension for using a banned substance just makes it easier to say no.

Or the poster boy for calling everyone a cheater, Lupica:

…. Ramirez talks about some doctor doing this to him. What doctor? He doesn’t give us a name on his doctor any more than A-Rod gave us the name of that Nurse Betty-cousin of his. Manny and Boras also fail to mention that there is a hotline ballplayers can call, one that tells them exactly what drugs they can and can’t use.

So, in a one-paragraph statement, Ramirez manages to give us a story as full of holes as the one Rodriguez gave in Tampa before he choked himself up.

Again, baseball officials and sportswriters know, FOR A FACT, that virtually every baseball player for the last fifty years has used performance enhancing drugs of some kind during his career.

Let me write that again, so you understand how disgraceful all of this posturing and hand-wringing really is:

BASEBALL PLAYERS HAVE BEEN USING PERFORMANCE ENHANCING DRUGS FOR THE LAST FIVE DECADES:

…. Here’s what Gilbert wrote FORTY YEARS AGO!!!!

…. “A few pills—I take all kinds—and the pain’s gone,” says Dennis McLain of the Detroit Tigers. McLain also takes shots, or at least took a shot of cortisone and Xylocaine (anti-inflammant and painkiller) in his throwing shoulder prior to the sixth game of the 1968 World Series—the only game he won in three tries. In the same Series, which at times seemed to be a matchup between Detroit and St. Louis druggists, Cardinal Bob Gibson was gobbling muscle-relaxing pills, trying chemically to keep his arm loose. The Tigers’ Series hero, Mickey Lolich, was on antibiotics.

Bob Gibson? He’s one of the heroes these guys keep going on and on about. He’s one of those guys who would never, ever have used steroids, right, Lupica?

…. “We occasionally use Dexamyl and Dexedrine [amphetamines]…. We also use barbiturates, Seconal, Tuinal, Nembutal…. We also use some anti-depressants, Triavil, Tofranil, Valium…. But I don’t think the use of drugs is as prevalent in the Midwest as it is on the East and West coasts,” said Dr. I. C. Middleman, who, until his death last September, was team surgeon for the St. Louis baseball Cardinals.

Tim McCarver was Gibson’s catcher, wasn’t he? When is McCarver gonna come out and tell the truth? When is McCarver gonna be asked a tough question? He and Joe Morgan can sit there during games and drone on and on about how horrible it is that this player or that player is cheating…. WHEN WILL THEY COME CLEAN?

Think about that when you listen to these guys talk about their heroes being so full of love for the kids, so true and honorable that they saved people from burning buildings before hitting the game winning home run. We know, KNOW that all of these guys, Reggie Jackson and Cal Ripken and Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays and Tom Seaver and Joe-fucking-Morgan ….. all of these Hall of Fame players absolutely, positively used speed to play baseball. And we know, for a fact, that the only reason they didn’t use steroids is because they weren’t readily available.

And we know that the sportswriters and broadcasters knew as well.

Instead of another article quoting Cal Ripken as being disappointed or shocked, I’d love to read an article in which Ripken lists, in detail, every single thing he ever took to play in 2130 games in a row.

…. “I don’t know what people would think. You stand for what you stand for. If you’re asking me whether I juiced, the answer is no.

When different people are suspected or popped, there’s a kind of shock that runs through your system. This falls in the shocking category.

You can only control what you can control. You have to live your life and live it as consistently as you can, the way you believe.

Instead of looking at it from a pessimistic point and saying it’s dragging the game down, I still would like to believe most players are making the right choice and right decision based on who they are. That’s how I choose to look at it. Whether it’s going to prove out to be wrong, time will tell. The truth will come out.

Yeah, don’t ask him a real question, like, what did you take, at any point during your career, to take the field? Or better yet, did you ever use speed, or anything stronger than ibuprofen, EVER?

This is all bullshit. It’s all lowest common denominator, pander to the idiots, race to press and make sure everyone knows that you stand for honor. And it’s all a lie.



…. Collusion-esque

Let me see if I understand how this works….

Manny Ramirez quits on his team, fails to run out grounders, falls down fielding fly balls, doesn’t swing at pitches in a game that his team is down a run against their biggest rivals, assaults a club employee, rants and raves about how much the team he plays for is against him, hurting him, lying to him, and basically forces the Boston Red Sox to do something, anything, to get rid of him, and the Los Angeles Dodgers trade for him. That is, they not only declared that they wanted to have him on their team, but that they were willing to give up valuable baseball talent in order to do so.

And now, I get read all of this speculation about how a 37-year old moron, a player who has always given his best effort only when he wants to, is in line for another $100 million dollars at the end of this season.

…. “I bet he gets $15-20 million a year for three or four years, especially if he keeps his nose clean and helps the Dodgers win it,” said another executive who has worked for large, small and middle-market teams. “Hell, it wouldn’t surprise me if [Dodgers owner] Frank McCourt would do that. He loves all those Boston guys.”

Meanwhile, Barry Bonds can’t find a job.

…. As one NL executive said, “If they’re looking for some justification (for going after him), now they’ve got a way to justify it.” But there is still no indication Tampa Bay has any interest — for all the obvious reasons.

“The thing they’re scared about is disrupting what they have in the clubhouse,” said one scout who has seen a lot of the Rays recently. “And really, that’s the only way he doesn’t fit in there. But I don’t blame them. Their chemistry is the best thing they have going for themselves right now. … There’s really something magical going on with that club.”

Yeah, that “magic” includes the Rays –looking for their first-ever playoff berth– having just lost their two best hitters. In the AL East, having to stave off the Red Sox and the Yankees, the Rays decision to ignore Bonds as a DH option has to be considered as part of baseball’s ownership, and quite frankly, the sports media establishment’s, effort to keep Bonds from ever playing again. That, my friends, is collusion, and Bonds ought to be going after the owners just as hard as he would any fastball.

Because, here we are, with Bonds, who never did anything except fanatically prepare himself to be the absolute best baseball player that ever lived, who never put anything ahead of winning baseball games; that man is being told that he isn’t good for your team. In this world, Bonds is the clubhouse cancer. We keep hearing that having him around wouldn’t be good for young baseball players. We are being told –by “experts”– that no team would want their young players to see a 45-year old who was in better shape than they were, who maniacally prepared himself for every at-bat, every pitch, every play; who methodically planned, analyzed and then destroyed whatever approach the opposing pitcher had for beating him.

It is explained to us that, a guy who would leave no stone unturned in his efforts to be the best would be a bad influence.

No, better that they see Manny Ramirez dogging his way out of one team, and into the jet-stream of a new $100 million dollar contract.



…. Really

William Rhoden thinks the time for Bonds has come:

How does Bonds get back in baseball? How do we end the owners’ apparent unholy conspiracy to keep Bonds out of uniform?

Which team will have the courage to step up to the plate?

In 2004, Bonds told reporters that he could see himself ending his career in the American League as a designated hitter.

The time has come. Bonds belongs in the American League; he belongs in Boston.

Boston has a great legacy of hitters: Ted Williams, Carl Yastrzemski, Jim Rice, David Ortiz. Bonds is the greatest of them all.

Unholy conspiracy? Nice.



…. Bandwagon

Once upon a time, Frank Deford was one of my favorite writers. I wonder now if I was just naive. Was he always this full of himself?

…. But let’s look on the bright side. The Report does give Barry Bonds more esteemed company as a cheat. Right? Unfortunately for him, though, it removes the one excuse his supporters offered — that he was picked on for racial reasons. Now that Roger Clemens, a white man who is to pitching in this era what Bonds has been to hitting — has been fingered and dishonored, Bonds, as a black man, can’t claim that he has been discriminated against.

Ummm…. Frank? Bonds has been targeted by sportswriters and talking heads for four years now. Bonds was investigated for most of that time by multiple government agencies, (at an estimated cost of over $10 million dollars), and has had his name and reputation dragged through the mud during what should have been the most exciting and proud years of his life by assholes like you. All this has happened while the men who supposedly gave Bonds the PED’s he “cheated” with have denied doing so the entire time.

Now, Clemens simply says he didn’t use PED’s and you and all of your “journalist” friends are to falling all over yourselves to make sure we know that the man responsible for these accusations is a shady character. He is a “weasel,” a “sewer rat,” a “disgruntled former employee,” and, of course, testified under duress. Oh, you don’t believe him? Please. Thanks for the good work. I’ve got friends who think it’s unfair if someone uses steroids to get in shape to be a carpenter because of all the bullshit you’ve been spewing for half a decade, and now you wanna go after Clemens, after ignoring a decades worth of results that suggested he might have more going for him than just a heavy-duty workout regimen. Bonds’ head is bigger? Great investigative journalism.

McNamee says Clemens used PED’s, and that he helped him do it, and is immediately labeled an unreliable witness with a bone to pick with Clemens, while Greg Anderson –who says that he did not provide Bonds with PED’s, and never saw him use them– has been accused of waiting for some big pay-off. Hmmmmm…. something doesn’t add up here. That’s right, Mr. Save the Children. It’s you and your sportswriter friends that have a credibility problem right now.

You can’t tell us one trainer is a liar for saying that his guy used PED’s –based on nothing at all, by the way, no interviews, no first-hand knowledge, NOTHING– and the other trainer is a liar for denying that his guy did –this time because a couple of your friends wrote a book that contradicts his direct, under oath, testimony. You can’t have it both ways. Either you believe the trainers, or you don’t.

If McNamee is lying when he outs your pal, and Greg Anderson and Victor Conte are lying when they say the bad guy didn’t…. Well, even a blowhard like you can see where I’m going here. You’re being selective, and if race isn’t the reason why, well, then; what is?



…. Hypocrisy

Between Curt Schilling’s noticably uninformed ramblings, and the suddenly awake NY Times editorial staff, the recent blather about our “scandal” has really become tiresome. Here’s Schilling, telling us that Clemens should give back his Cy Young awards unless he can clear his name:

…. as a fan my thought is that Roger will find a way in short order to organize a legal team to guarantee a retraction of the allegations made, a public apology is made, and his name is completely cleared. If he doesn’t do that then there aren’t many options as a fan for me other than to believe his career 192 wins and 3 Cy Youngs he won prior to 1997 were the end. From that point on the numbers were attained through using PED’s. Just like I stated about Jose, if that is the case with Roger, the 4 Cy Youngs should go to the rightful winners and the numbers should go away if he cannot refute the accusations.

Yeah, thanks for the thoughtful and unasked for comments, there, Curt. I guess painkilling shots and pills must not be performance enhancing to you, eh? I guess a pill or shot that allows you to play through injury and pain isn’t quite the same as a pill or a shot that allows another player to workout and train through pain. I guess you haven’t considered that it is likely that one or more of your teammates on the Red Sox last year, or in ’04 used some form of PED’s. You think you’re ready to give back your rings? How about your ’01 championship with the D’Backs? Somebody on your team had to have been using something, no?

Oh, that’s right. No one’s accused anyone directly. That must be why you have reserved your comments for Bonds and Clemens. Because they happened to get caught. Good thinking. You wouldn’t want to be called out for selectively criticizing anyone, would you?

Meanwhile, over at the newspaper that once was, we are reminded that being a member of the BBWAA is not like being a member of MENSA:

…. In a survey of 90 veteran baseball writers who vote on player inductions, neither Bonds nor Clemens garnered the 75 percent that is required to gain entry into the Hall.

…. To Bill Conlin of The Philadelphia Daily News, Bonds and Clemens are the “Tainted Tandem.” To Paul Sullivan of The Chicago Tribune, they are “weasels.” To Drew Sharp of The Detroit Free Press, they are “pariahs.” To others, they are cheaters who should only enter the Hall by paying admission.

“I think these guys have stained the game, and I’m not in the mood to forgive and forget,” Hal Bock of The Associated Press said. “I prefer everyone on a level playing field. Their actions changed that.”

How’s that for revisionist? Amphetamines were commonplace for decades, virtually every “hero” these “writers” grew up worshipping used them; but Clemens and Bonds are somehow deserving of a more focused scorn.

What a disgrace, watching these assholes falling all over themselves in their bold-faced efforts to show everyone who really cares about integrity, who is really committed to saving the children.



…. I’ve got friends in high places

Unlike a certain country and western singer. ;-)

Steve, of the Boston Dirt Dogs, is running the Red Sox links feed for the Boston Globe, (you know, like, THE BOSTON GLOBE), and has decided to include OBM in the small roster of blogs covered on their page. Needless to say, this is one of the biggest things to ever happen to my little site, and I’m super excited about the exposure, and the new readers I hope we see.

If you are one of the new Boston fans who’re here for the first time, take a look around. I have what I believe is the most extensive and well-rounded Steroids & Baseball coverage anywhere in the world (down there on the right), my Guestmap is a really cool way to see where my readers are from (Israel, Italy, Australia. Japan, Russia), you can email any of the authors on the site, (who make up the roster in my header bar), and my archives are available from day one, (if you are looking to see whether I have always been so smart (or stupid).

Thanks to Steve for noticing us. We’re very proud. :-D



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All commentary is the opinion of John J Perricone unless otherwise noted.
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