Monday, May 23, 2005
Tuesday, April 26, 2005
Quote of the BLEEPIN Century
As you may well know, there has been a recent rift between Ozzie Guillen and Magglio Ordonez. Well, here's a rather erudite and insightful comment from Mr. Guillen when asked about Ordonez. From Friday's Chicago-Sun Times:
''He's a piece of [bleep],'' Guillen said. ''He's another Venezuelan [bleep]. [Bleep] him. He thinks he's got an enemy? No, he's got a big one. He knows I can [bleep] him over in a lot of different ways.
''He better shut the [bleep] up and just play for the Detroit Tigers. Why do I have to go over and even apologize to him? Who the [bleep] is Magglio Ordonez? What did he ever do for me? He didn't do [bleep] for me. But he said I'm his enemy -- he knows me. Tell him he knows me, and he can take it how he wants to take it.
''Did he play good for me? Yes, he did. Did he play hard for me? Yes, he did. He might like me. He might be sensitive of me. He might be jealous of me, I don't know why. But saying I'm his enemy, he hates me, I could care less what that [bleep] thinks. I don't give a [bleep] what he does with the rest of his life. He [bleep] with the wrong guy, and he knows that, too. He knows for a fact that he [bleep] with the wrong people.''
I'll let Steve add the commentary to this.
In other baseball news, The New York Times has two rather interesting tidbits. One is a long article by Michael Lewis. It's not exactly a follow-up to Moneyball (although Lewis has indicated in the past that he does want to write such a book) but he does follow the career paths of two players who were drafted in the now infamous "Moneyball" draft. What I found most interesting about this article was the suggestion that there existed a deeply-ingrained, institutionalized value on power that made steroid use almost inevitable.
One of the players Lewis spotlights is Steve Stanley ... basically a speedy, slap-hitting OBP machine (kind of in the same mold as little David Eckstein). Even though Billy Beane valued OBP, the organization's coaching and scouting staffs continued to emphasize power. While I don't necessarily disagree with this assessment, Lewis seems to overlook one simple fact: the "statistical community" is in many ways just as guilty. While stat-heads may value walks more than "traditional" scouts, the ultimate stat line is OPS. In other words, slugging ability is a highly valued skill even with stat-heads; hence, all the slack that Ichiro gets for hitting a "meaningless .365 average."
And speaking of Ichiro ... Bob Sherwin has a nifty little piece on Ichiro (also in the New York Times). I realize that at the beginning of every season, it's easy to get overly excited about a hot start but considering that Ichiro has historically been a slow starter it's pretty darn hard not to think .400! What a BLEEP year this might be!
Wednesday, April 20, 2005
So I lied ... well, no, I didn't lie because I wasn't intending on writing about the Yankees but recent events made it just too damn hard to avoid another swipe at the Stoneboners.
After da Boss made his big-bad-wolf declaration that "Enough is enough. I am bitterly disappointed, as I'm sure all Yankee fans are, by the lack of performance by our team," the Yankees went on to answer this criticism by putting together an offensive juggernaut of an evening with a 19-8 pounding of ... THE DEVIL RAYS! Yeah, that's showing them.
Most news coverage saw this as a direct answer to Steinbrenner but, thankfully, there was one sane voice in Yankee Land: Larry Mahnken of Replacement Level Yankee Blog. In his analysis of the first game between the Drays and The Stonboners, Mahnken rightfully points out that any win is a good win and any offensive explosion is a positive but before people get too carried away let's not forget this one little tidbit: Jaret Wright had a horrendous outing. Granted, you spray enough perfume around a piece of crap and everything smells like roses but, at the core, there's still a piece of crap on the ground and, in this case, that piece of crap is Jaret Wright and his career 5.18 ERA.
Look at this guy's line for the night:
5.1 IP, 11 Hits, 8 Runs (all earned), 3 BB, 4 K, 1 HR
Now, I'm sure Wright will have a decent outing a couple times this season but unless Stonboner somehow manages to buy Leo Mazzone away from the Braves, Wright's going to quickly turn into the very mediocre pitcher he's always been.
Oh, and by the way ... did you all notice that the very next night the Stoneboners "answered" the boss by losing to the Drays 6-2. Hmmm ... isn't the definition of an ace supposed to be someone who can carry a team in a must-win situation? I guess the offensive juggernaut that is Eddie Perez (career .246 avg/.424 slg). I mean, boy, Johnson must have had one hell of a pitching performance to allow ONLY TWO homeruns to such a fierce hitter as Perez. As my friend, Paul (a lonely Twins fan living in Mariner country), said the other day, "Maybe if George had spent 206 Million instead of 205 ..."
In other baseball observations ...
Eric Neel, from ESPN's PAGE TWO, had a great little story a few days ago about how baseball out West is the best. Well, if parity means anything, there's some exciting new brewing in the AL WEST where every team is sitting at .500 (Oakland, Seattle, and Anaheim -- you heard that right, Moreno, I said ANAHEIM, mofo -- are all sitting at 7-7 and the Rangers are 7-8). It's early in the season, anything can happen, blah blah blah ... but from the perspective of a fan whose team, the Mariners, will most likely finish third or fourth, seeing such parity is indeed rather exciting. Ah, let hope spring eternal and the facts be damned.
Shut Your Trap
Minnesota 1, Chicago 3
Hey, Torii, your (Venus fly) trap is open! So why don't you shut it, bitch? Last night, the normally defensively stellar Torii Hunter let a line drive struck by Joe Crede go over his head for a double, allowing his former teammate, A.J. Pierzynski, to score. Perhaps he was too busy trying to keep his gum from sticking to his little braces.
Speaking of Joe "Not Speedy" Crede, he advanced to third on the next play thanks to a funny-looking bunt by Juan Uribe. From third, Crede tagged and scored on a sac fly by Scott Podsednik (not "Podesnik," as he was announced at the Triple H Metrodome). As Crede came running toward home plate, Twinkie the Kid moved toward the line as if to block the plate. Mr. Crede then lowered his shoulder and brushed Mauer, who had thought better of it and stepped out of the way. As Dick Bremer would say, "if you're the runner, you've got--you're well within your rights to clean out the catcher."
Wouldn't it have been something if Joe Crede had, with the Franchise, Twinkie the Kid, the guy the Twins drafted instead of Mark Prior, standing there in front of the plate, waiting so patiently for a sad little throw from Shannon Stewart to finally arrive--wouldn't it have been giddy and high-five inducing if, with all the bad blood between these teams, and even though Mauer had backed off the plate, Crede had just gone ahead and flattened him anyway?
No, you're right. It would have been a cheap shot. But I wish he'd done it. He was, after all, "well within" his "rights."
Oh, and the Twins got 10 hits off El Duque without scoring a run, something no team had been pathetic enough to accomplish since 1983. Versus the Cubs.
Tuesday, April 19, 2005
Permission to Speak Frankly
Last night, the Minnesota Twins and the Chicago White Sox were tied for first place in the American League Central. Joe Crede hit one and Carl Everett hit two home runs for Chicago.
In the top of the 5th inning, Torii "Fly Trap" Hunter, clearly revelling in the rivalry, stole second base, advanced to third on a throwing error by his former teammate, A.J. Pierzynski, and scored on a wild pitch by Jose Contreras, who had already balked home a run in the inning.
In the top of the 9th, Twins 21 year-old catcher Joe Mauer, whom I will refer to henceforth as "Twinkie the Kid," hit yet another home run off struggling Sox closer Shingo Takatsu (10.80 ERA), who managed to hang on and get the save anyway.
With the win, the White Sox regained sole possession of first place in the Central and notched the second best record in the major leagues (9-4) behind the Dodgers (10-2). The White Sox, like the Dodgers, have yet to lose a series and have a better record than the Yankees, Red Sox or Cubs.
But, this morning's only headlines that mention the White Sox (or Twins, for that matter):
ESPN.com: Frank Thomas unhappy Guillen called him out
MLB.com: Thomas, Guillen set record straight
CBS Sportsline: none
Fox Sports: White Sox manager rips Thomas' 'bad attitude'
Frank Thomas, though he has certainly been a sourpuss through the years, has not taken a single at-bat this season because he is recovering from surgery to repair a bone in his foot. I understand that gossip and infighting and heresay and all of that is fair game as news. However, even though we're still hearing about Sheffield this and season ticket revocation that, we're also hearing about the games that the NYY actually play on the field.
Is it so much to ask that a first place team, with the best record in its league, get some coverage of its actual baseball games, in addition to the coverage of comments made by their manager about players who are not currently on the roster?
Friday, April 15, 2005
Slow to the draw
Well, it looks like Steve beat me to the A-Rod bashing post. I keep telling myself that I'm going to stop writing about the Stoneboners, especially if it's at all related to the "most storied rivarly in sports," but every once in a while I run into a story (like the most recent one from Joel Sherman of the great ass-wiper the NY Post) that is just too good not to share.
In contemplating the Yankee's slow start, Sherman offers this sweet little gem:
What is Sherman saying on the surface? Both Rivera and A-Rod seem shook by the Red Sox and it's especially surprising because Rivera is normally so "steely" as we all know from those swell Nike ads:
But here's the really cool part about Sherman's little piece ... by indicating that it's a surprise to see Rivera shaken up, Sherman is implying that it should come as no surprise that A-Rod is a bit flustered since we all know that he's basically a mental midget.
Next posting: no Yankees, no Red Sox ... I promise.
Plain Trains and Automobiles
According to the Associated Press, Alex "A-Rod" Rodriguez saved an 8 year-old boy's life the other day:
[Alex Rodriguez] said Thursday he was standing in a crosswalk on Newbury Street near downtown Boston at about 3:30 p.m. Tuesday when he saw the boy starting to run across the street into the path of an onrushing truck. Rodriguez reached out and grabbed the boy, pulling him back and preventing a serious accident.
Inexplicably, Rodriguez went on to say, "That was a train wreck waiting to happen." Apparently, A-Rod not only doesn't know which base to throw to, he can't tell a truck from a train, either.
Friday, April 08, 2005
Don't Be a Dick
April 6, 2005. Wednesday night, top 8, Safeco Field. Nick Punto on 3rd, Luis Rivas on 2nd (running for Justin Morneau, who had been struck in the helmet by Ron Villone), Matt LeCroy on 1st. Jacques Jones at the plate. Jones hits a fly ball to right fielder Ichiro Suzuki. Punto tags from third. Dan Wilson bobbles the throw from Ichiro, and while doing so throws his leg into the baseline, forcing Punto to choose between getting tripped and leaping awkwardly toward home plate; Punto chooses the latter, missing home plate entirely. Punto does score, howver, because Wilson doesn't bother to look back to see him scrambling for the plate like a catfish on a driveway. So: trying to trip a guy who's running toward home plate is not a nice thing to do. I agree. But then Twins broadcaster Dick Bremer, refering to an incident between the Twins and White Sox last year, makes the following statement:
You know, when I saw that the first time, the first flashback I had was Jamie Burke, who was in a similar spot when Torii Hunter came home in Chicago and some people had the audacity to criticize Hunter for running into the catcher; you see a catcher pull a play like that, and if you're the runner, you've got--you're well within your rights to clean out the catcher.
Talk about a false analogy. Here we are in Seattle, with Dan Wilson whipping his leg into the baseline and Dick is using this as proof that Torii Hunter was beyond reproach for bowling over Jamie Burke. In Chicago. Last season. It's clear that Mr. Bremer will (still) go to nonsensical lengths to defend Hunter's actions, even if it means bringing the incident up out of nowhere and suggesting that Burke whipped his leg into the baseline last year, which he did not.
Despite Mr. Bremer's assertion that Jamie Burke was in a "similar spot" last season as Torii Hunter came down the third baseline, let us recall that Jamie Burke last year, unlike Dan Wilson this week, did not have the baseball; furthermore, let us recall that Jamie Burke last year, unlike Dan Wilson this week, was neither in the baseline nor blocking home plate; and finally, let us recall that Jamie Burke last year, unlike Dan Wilson this week, did not in any way extend any part of his body into the baseline in an attempt to trip or in any other manner waylay the progress of Mr. Hunter, who himself took a step toward first base in order to lay a full-body blow on Burke, who never saw it coming--again, because he did not have the ball and was not blocking the plate.
It seems that Mr. Bremer believes that when "you see a catcher pull a play like that" (referring to Dan Wilson, this week) it serves as proof that any runner, at any time, regardless of the circumstances, is within their rights to "clean out the catcher." Among the people who "had the audacity to criticize Hunter for running into the catcher" was Twins fan Aaron Gleeman. You can read his comments here.
Wednesday, April 06, 2005
Cleveland's starters, Jake Westbrook and Kevin Millwood, have combined for 14 innings without giving up an earned run. Their offense has scored 3 runs in 18 innings. Their closer, Bob Wickman, has an ERA of 108.00. The "Tribe" is 0-2.
Is it me or are the umpires not calling many breaking ball strikes?
Bert Blyleven keeps pronouncing Seattle RF Suzuki's first name as "Eesheero." Come on, Bert, the guy's Japanese, not French. Okay, so it's your birthday and you're drunk on tv and wearing a plastic lei. Fine. But stop saying "Eesheero." Dork.
Hey, Torii Hunter, there's a venus fly trap on your face, and you look like a stupid asshole. There must be a better way to hide your little man-braces. Don't try that scorpion lipstick-holder that Rivera's got, though. You should both fire your agents. At least Pujols looks scary in that mask.
Curmudgeonly is a word, by the way.
Tuesday, April 05, 2005
Around the Horn (Pt1: AL West)
In our attempt to be less curmudgeonly (is that a word?), I wanted to do a quick go-round to see what's happening in the world of baseball during this oh-so wonderful time when hope springs eternal.
First off, here's a nice little tidbit from Aaron Gleeman which I think very neatly highlights a very small detail that also sums up what is so wonderful about baseball:
Granted, my own bias as a Mariners fan makes this especially meaningful to me but I think almost any baseball fan can appreciate this kind of collective thrill (except, of course, if you're a Mets fan ... then I guess it's about a collective groan)
In the world of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (and that will be the only and last time you ever hear me refer to the Angels by that stupid monker), the folks at Purgatory Online have a funny observation I thought was worth sharing:
And speaking of funny ... apparently some Oakland A's fans have a serious case of low self-esteem problems. The The Elepheants in Oakland for some reason feel their team is greatly underappreciated:
I don't know what those elephants have been smoking but the A's had been favored to win the AL West several years in a row and even with their rebuilding project are still considered to be in the running.
And while we're on the topic of people who smoked a little too much crack ... Hank Blalock is apparently bullish on the Ranger's pitching:
Sure, the Rangers pitching has improved steadily but that's a lot like comparing two pieces of dog crap and saying one smells better than the other. Sure, that may be true but you're still sniffing two pieces of crap. Ah, yes, everyone's a contender in the Spring.
We're Back ...
Alrighty, we're back in business ... hopefully this time around we'll be a lot less bitter and vitriolic in our posts but no guarantee and, truth be told, I'm sure about one-third into the season something is going to piss off one of us enough that we'll feel compelled to vent right here.
Hey, if anyone knows how to create a custom template on blogger please let me know. I've been trying to upload a template with a nice little graphic that Steve created but I can't seem to get it to look right and so I've given up. Keep in mind that both Steve and I are English Teachers so there are many facets of technology that are way beyond us (or at least me ... perhaps I shouldn't speak for Steve).
Welcome to 2005!
Tuesday, September 07, 2004
The Angriest Little Boys in the World
I realize that the following post is only going to add to our horrible reputation as bitter baseball dilettantes ... heck, maybe we should change our need to the Drunk on Beer and Whiskey League ... but sometimes you just got to call people out for being fucking idiots. And so, today, my anger is going to be vented (yet, once again) at the spankees.
Like those boys at Soxaholix, I don't really hate the Yankees and I even have a little respect for the organization ... well, I don't hate them nearly as much as I hate the jack-ass media that seems to fawn over everything they do (the best or worst of it was when the Astros no-hit the bombers last season and rather than crediting the Stros for a fine performance, the talk was all about what the Yankees did wrong). Anyhoo, the recent request for a forfeit because of the Drays inability to get into the Bronx in a timely manenr was just plain fuckin' idiotic. There really is no other way to describe it. This is pure urban provincialism -- the city that is supposedly so "cosmopolitan" and worldly is plagued by its pathetic solipsism that it can't fathom that important events actually occur outside their immediate domain. Hey, numbnuts, there was a potential, life-threatening hurricane to worry about!
What makes this even worse is that it comes a little over a week after another recent yankee gaffe when King George compared the Indians 22-0 victory to the attacks of 09/11. As quoted in a recent NY Times article:
"I wanted to show the fans that we have the same courage and the same attitudes all New Yorkers have had in fighting back from that terrible episode on 9/11," Steinbrenner said in the statement. "New Yorkers never give up and the Yankees never give up."
Hmm ... being shut out and beaten badly in a baseball game versus the death of millions of people? Yeah ... that's a real good comparison.
Oh wait, but there's more (as Ron Popeil might say) ... the idiots at both the NY Daily News and the NY Post (both such great papers of quality, eh?) didn't think that enough fun had been made over this potentially life-threatening disaster.
Peter Botte's recent article at the NYDN featured this winning headlilne: Bombers Take Rays by Storm. Yeah, that's real funny. And the next time the Yankees are blown out maybe the headline should read, "Yankees terrorized and bombed by Boston." Gee, has such a nice ring, doesn't it?
Kevin Kernan from the Post offers something close to sanity by hinting that it was inappropriate of the Yankees to request a forfeit but then like the typical jack-ass that he is, Kernan blows his own load all over himself by joking that it was understandable the Devil Rays would rather take shelter at home than at Yankee stadium.
Ok, now, deep breath ...
By the way, is it just me or does anyone think it's rather weird/suspect that Kevin Brown had the wherewithal to punch the wall with his non-pitching hand? I mean, if you are truly carried away by your emotions, truly out of control, wouldn't the natural instinct be to punch the wall with your strong hand?
Friday, August 27, 2004
Tom Verducci is a flippin a-hole and other random baseball observations
I know that we here at Beer and Whiskey have been known to be a bit on the surly side (what with our rampant use of words like annoying to describe just about everything under the sun that doesn’t fit neatly into our world view) but this just needs to be said (again): Tom Verducci is an a-hole or more precisely he’s a stupid a-hole idiot.
In a recent column for SportsIllustrated.Com (and why is it that the venerable magazine whose product is, in my opinion, far superior to ESPN: The Magazine can’t manage a web page nearly as entertaining and intelligent as the four-letter network), Verducci posited that Edgar Martinez should not be in the hall of fame because he was a DH. Specifically (or more precisely), a reader asked Verducci that if Piazza, a very mediocre defensive catcher, could make the Hall of Fame based on his offensive numbers then why not a DH. Verducci, in response, says:
I don't think Piazza is that awful defensively. Is his throwing terrible? Yes. But he blocks balls OK and calls a decent game. But ask yourself this: how much better would his numbers be if he never had to worry at all about playing defense? No wear and tear from catching. One hundred percent of his time devoted to hitting, including watching video or taking swings in an indoor cage in between at-bats during games. I will always consider DH a specialist's role, an easier job than playing the game the way it was designed to be played.
There are precisely three things about this statement that really pisses me off. Now, I shouldn’t totally vent out at Verducci because he’s only repeating the same incredibly inane and inaccurate observations that seem to run rampant in the world of “conventional” baseball thinking: that Edgar was a career DH, that it’s easier to play the game as a DH because of the wear and tear factor from playing defense, and that the DH somehow goes counter to the way the game was “designed to be played.”
The Right Way to Play the Game?
The latter point irks me the most so I’ll start there: WHAT THE HELL DOES THIS MEAN? Hey, Mr. Verducci, according to the first set of baseball rules written down by Alexander Cartwright in 1845 a ball hit out of the field of play was considered a foul. In other words, the homerun is not really a part of the game as “it was designed to be played” by the founding fathers of the game. So, should we just eliminate homeruns too so that we can remain faithful to the heart of the game? Oh yeah … and while we’re at it, why don’t we just get rid of this nine-inning bullshit since, again according to the original rules, you’re supposed to play the game until someone gets twenty-one runs.
Why stop there? Let’s also move the pitcher’s mound back to its original distance of 45 feet so that we don’t give these hitters an unfair advantage that would ruin the spirit of the game.
Look, I’m not some panglossian cheerleader that thinks all change is good. Part of the beauty of baseball is its rich history and that we can compare players from different eras with a greater degree of accuracy than other sports can. But to rely on some dumb-ass argument about the “way the game was supposed to be played” is just asinine. Baseball has always evolved and everytime it evolved there have been critics who have decried that baseball was losing its spirit: when the Cincinnati Red Stockings became the first team of paid professionals, when homeruns became an integral part of baseball, when teams began moving out to the west coast, when free agency became a reality, and, of course, when the DH came into existence.
Is DH a cush-job?
As for wear and tear, while Verducci certainly has a point when it comes Piazza (after all, it’s hard to deny that catcher is the most physically grueling position) but what about 1st base and, to a lesser extent, 3rd base? Outside of a few stellar gold-glovers like Olerud, 1st base is usually the domain of slow guys with not a lot of dexterity (a la Frank Thomas and Jim Thome). Does being a DH really offer someone the “advantage” of sitting around, resting, watching video, taking swings in a batting cage between innings, etc. that Verducci claims it does?
If it were truly more difficult on your body to hit while playing first than as a DH then why has Thomas hit almost 60 points higher as a first baseman? Yes, you heard that right: in 3485 at-bats while playing first, Thomas has a career .337/.453/.625 (avg/obp/slg) while in 3341 at-bats as a DH Thomas’s line is: .280//404/.510. That’s not an insignificant drop-off – heck that would be like trading in a Randy Winn for an Edgar Martinez.
Thomas isn’t alone, of course. Jim Thome did quite a bit of DHing while with the Tribe and although his sample size is obviously smaller has hit nearly thirty points lower as a DH than as either a first or third baseman (career totals: .260 as DH in 423 at bats, .289 as 3B in 1624 at bats, and .287 in 3551 at bats). I also ran the numbers for several other notable DHs around the league and guess what? All except David Ortiz hit better as position players than as DHs.
||avg/obp/slg as DH (at bats)||avg/obp/slg as non-DH (at bats)|
|David Ortiz||.282/.358/.539 (1603)||.274/.358/.471 (731)|
|Jason Giambi||.265/.396/.504 (896)||.312/.429/.569 (3135)|
|Rafael Palmeiro||.280/.379/.549 (1438)||.291/.373/.517 (7714)|
|Reuben Sierra||..256/.312/.439 (1491)||.272/.320/.448 (5748)|
One could certainly make an argument that these stats do not mean anything because Edgar plays everyday as a DH and the other players platoon between the DH and their respective positions (first base for all except Sierra who has played both corner outfield positions) but I bring these stats up to point out one very simple fact: there is no evidence that playing as a DH is in any way easier than playing as a position player. One could certainly argue that being a part of the game, defensively, helps the player maintain a certain rhythm which makes hitting “easier.” So, before people like Verducci go out spouting stupid shit maybe they should take heed to the words of another annoying white guy, Fred Durst, and check yourself before you wreck yourself.
Oh, and regarding Verducci’s third assertion that Edgar Martinez is a pure DH, here are some stats people continually forget:
Edgar has 100 at-bats as a 1B (yes, small number) in which he hit .380/.453/.810
Edgar has 1943 at-bats as a 3B in which he hit .302/.391/.459
His DH numbers are 5007 at-bats hitting .316/.430/.535
So, while Edgar did play a huge chunk of his career of his career as a DH, nearly 30% (ok, 28%) of his at-bats came as a position player.
Alrighty, I was going to add some more stuff about the recent talk of Beltre and the downgrading of Ordonez as a free agent (hmmm … maybe the ChiSox will be able to keep him after all) as well as a little nostalgia trip about the mariners pre-Piniella but this ranting and raving has gone on for far too long so I’ll close off with one last link that you must absolutely visit: the lego-vision re-enactment of a Twins/BitchSox brawl. Worth many guffaws.
Monday, August 09, 2004
The future's so bright, I got to wear shades
A quick note on why people hate the Yankees and why Mariner fans should not fret:
There are two kinds of baseball fans: those who love the Yankees and those who hate them. I, of course, fall within the latter but, to be honest, it’s not so much that I hate the Yankees but, rather, that I hate what the dumb-ass media has to say about the “most storied franchise in baseball.”
A few days ago I was sitting around watching the Yankees/A’s game on ESPN’s Wednesday Night Baseball. At one point, Bobby Crosby made a throwing error to first and the commentator (who was, quite fortunately, not Joe “The Idiot’s Guide to Baseball” Morgan) proclaimed, “If you want to beat the Yankees, you can’t make mistakes.” Oh really? So does that mean you can make mistakes and still win against every other big-league team? I realize the Yankees won Saturday’s game but that had absolutely nothing to do with the throwing error.
The next day I was stuck at the car dealer getting my car fixed. Fortunately, they had a TV in the waiting room and I got to watch a bit of the Yankees/A’s afternoon rubber match. When Olerud hit his two-RBI single early in the game, the commentator mentioned Olerud’s hitting woes this season in Seattle and then added, “but things are a little different when you put on the pinstripes.” No, jackass, things are a little different when you have Bernie Williams hitting behind you rather than some sorry-ass switch hitter like Spiezio.
And while we’re on the subject of Olerud …
Jim Caple had an article about a week ago on the sorry state of the Seattle Mariners with particular focus on Mr. Olerud himself. For those of you who may not be familiar with the story or just don’t want to suffer the ordeal of reading through an entire article written by Caple, Olerud’s one of those “fan favorites” because he’s a local boy who has done his hometown proud (as well as his alma mater, Washington State University).
The Mariners at this point are just sad beyond sad. In 2001 they had that magical 116-win season and then followed up with back-to-back 93-win seasons (although they missed the playoff both times). While most everyone, myself included, thought the Mariners would hit hard times I don’t think anyone could have predicted just how hard those times would be. For all the talk there is on the miraculous turnaround in Detroit, scant attention seems to be paid on the incredibly disastrous turnaround in Seattle.
The Mariners are on pace to LOSE 100 games this season. This following three seasons in which they averaged 100 wins! As Aaron Gleeman pointed out a month ago in the Hardball Times, Seattle’s winning percentage at the time was .252 less than last year’s while the Tigers winning percentage .211 better … and this was before the Mariner’s began their 2-21 road-losing streak.
Oddly enough, however, following the boys in teal has been just as exciting (if not more so). Sure, it’s never quite as fun when your team loses game after game after game but at a certain point a fan has to stop thinking about wins and losses and instead just think about individual performances especially when those individuals happen to be a bunch of rookies.
The most notable of these young rookies is, of course, Bucky Jacobsen. While he’s certainly not the second coming of Hank Aaron he certainly may be our generation’s Harmon Killebrew (and that ain’t bad). While he can certainly look more than a tad silly when he misses on a breaking ball, he’s also shown some amazing plate discipline. In 67 at-bats, he’s posted a .328/.418/.642 (avg/obp/slg). That ain’t no typo either … he’s really got a .418 OBP. I know that 67 at-bats is a paltry sample size but still … a .418 OBP would put him second amongst qualified leaders in the American League, right behind Melvin Mora (.430). At 28, Bucky should be hitting his peak and he will most likely show signs of some major decline in three or four years but considering that this is his rookie year and he won’t be eligible for arbitration for some time, he would certainly make a nice short-term replacement for Edgar. (note: I wrote this before Edgar's announcement that he was to retire at the end of the season ... more on that later).
The supposedly pitching rich Mariners farm system, however, has so far proven to be a bust in the majors. The two call-ups who have received the most playing time, Clint “Sweats a lot” Nageotte and Travis Blackley have shown signs of promise but they seem another year or two away. Both Nageotte and Blackley have serious control problems and seem to lose it after four or five innings. The latter problem I would chalk up to inexperience … major league hitters are making adjustments and the pitchers are not so that after two or three times through the lineup, the hitters have pretty much figured them out. More of concern, of course, is their walk to strike ratio. Nageotte has a disappointing 21 walks to 20 strikeout but Blackley has an unbelievably bad 22 walk to 16 strikeouts.
I like to think myself an optimist and so I’m hoping that these control problems are due mostly to their youth. A 1:2 ratio is considered pretty good. In 361 innings pitched over three years in the minor leagues (at all levels) Blackley had a great BB/K split of 135 BB to 386 K – that’s almost a 1:3 ratio. Blackley is only 22 years old and I think still has a lot of upside in him. So, despite his painfully bad major league numbers, I still think he can be a pretty good middle-of-the-rotation pitcher.
A year older than Blackley, “Sweats-a-lot” Nageotte also had a minor league K/BB ratio of 1:3 (in 617 innings pitched over four years). While I certainly do not expect either pitcher to repeat those numbers in the majors, I do think that once they get their heads on straight, we should be seeing much more consistency from these two.
Bottom line, I think at least one of them should turn out pretty well (my money is on the left-handed Blackley) but the Mariners need to bring him in slow. The front office has already indicated that they are planning to acquire a number one or two starting pitcher via free agency. Basically, if Moyer, Piniero, and Franklin stay in the rotation (and regardless of what others might say, I think Franklin is a fine number four pitcher) and the front office does manage to get a good starter then we can have Blackley or Nageotte as the number five.
Tuesday, August 03, 2004
Contreras to Popular Belief
Before either of them makes his first start for his new team, I just want to put my two cents down on the Loaiza-for-Contreras deal, since most of the coverage I've read really only talks about what Loaiza will purportedly do for the Yankees and what Contreras has not done for them.
Sportsline gives a moderate edge to the Yanks, saying that "the Yankees acquire the runner-up in last year's AL Cy Young Award voting in exchange for the inconsistent Contreras." This is fairly typical of the coverage, which tends to read things off of Loaiza's resume (Cy Young runner up last year, All-Star); of course, it's even more obvious than usual that none of these writers have been paying any attention to the White Sox this season.
You want to talk about inconsistent? Okay, Contreras has certainly been that, but Loaiza this season has been consistent in only one area--his decline; he put up an ERA of 3.71 in March and April, 3.68 in May, 5.35 in June and 6.89 in July. Here are his hits allowed vs. innings pitched, last year versus this:
2003 196 H, 226.1 IP
2004 156 H, 140.2 IP
Last year, Loaiza gave up 17 home runs all season; this year, he's already given up 23--with two months to go. He has an ERA of almost 8.00 in his last 7 starts. And yet, Brian Cashman doesn't seeem to think that we've already seen the best we're ever going to see out of Loaiza, and neither do most of the sports writers. At the beginning of the year, nobody thought Loaiza was going to come close to last year's numbers; now, everyone thinks New York got the better end of the deal because of them. Meanwhile, everyone's mumbling about how Kenny Williams just traded away last year's Cy Young runner up--many of the same people who were mumbling that Loaiza would never put up those kinds of numbers again.
Loaiza's success last year came largely because he learned a new pitch--the cutter--which allowed him to mow down all kinds of hitters who thought they knew him. But when the final weeks of the season rolled around, and the White Sox needed big wins out of him against the Twins, who had already seen a lot of the new Loaiza, he lost both starts. As 2004 opened, his velocity was down, his arm slot was dropping, and he didn't look much at all like the Cy Young runner-up Chicago fans remembered. Not only did opposing batters know there was a new pitch to look for, but it wasn't coming at them as fast. That didn't stop Joe Torre from inexplicably selecting Loaiza as the White Sox's lone representative for the All-Star team, though his 4.37 ERA and .283 opponents' batting average hardly seemed worthy of the honor. Perhaps, in retrospect, we should see this as an audition? Why else select a guy who was nowhere near the top in any category (Loaiza) over guys who were near the top in several (Thomas, Konerko)?
It's not as if Kenny Williams hasn't made some bad pitcher-for-pitcher trades in the past (okay, let's say that Kip Wells + 2 for Todd Ritchie was worse than bad), but everyone seems to think that Cashman pulled the wool over his eyes on this one. Let's remember that no one doubts Contreras's stuff. It's incredible. Loaiza's stuff, on the other hand, seems to have left the premises (along with a lot of his pitches); he can hardly hit 90mph anymore, which wouldn't be such a problem if it weren't for the fact he doesn't exactly fit the Jamie Moyer mold. Contreras, enigmatic as he has been, still has a huge upside, whereas Loaiza appears to be in the midst of not only a regression to the mean, but a rather swift decline. For a moment, let's remove the names Loaiza, Contreras, Williams and Cashman and just say this: "Here's a former 21-game winner whose velocity has dropped 5 mph since last season and whose ERA has increased steadily each month this year; and then here's a guy who throws 95, struck out 17 in 11 postseason innings last year, but has been incredibly inconsistent--which one would you rather take a chance on for the stretch run?"
Perhaps the move to New York will be good for "Zesty," and I wish him well. Perhaps the goatee has been hindering him all this time. Perhaps a move out of New York and into a clubhouse with a Spanish-speaking manager will do a world of good for Contreras. I think it's a crapshoot for both teams, and not the unmitigated New York victory everyone seems to think it is.
Thursday, July 29, 2004
If Only I Could Hunt the Hunter
It's the bottom of the 7th inning and the White Sox trail the Twins by a run, 4-3. Here's what the first six batters do:
Jose Valentin walks (1).
Juan Uribe singles (2).
Joe Crede singles.
Aaron Rowand walks.
Joe Borchard walks.
Timo Perez singles.
Total runs scored: 1
Footnotes: 1) Valentin, thinking that catcher Henry Blanco was going to throw behind him (but not waiting for an actual throw) takes off for third and is out by about 10 feet); 2) Juan Uribe, practicing the "Who Cares? Be Aggressive" style of White Sox baseball, is easily thrown out trying to steal second.
Bottom of the ninth, tie game now, 4-4.
Juan Uribe strikes out. Joe Crede singles. Jamie Burke singles. Runners on the corners, one out. Joe Borchard (1) swings at the first pitch he sees and grounds into a 5-4-3 double play. Inning over.
Footnote: 1) Joe Borchard pinch-hit for Ben Davis in the seventh; Davis had hit a home run in his previous at-bat.
Top of the tenth, still tied, Shingo Takatsu on the mound. Two outs. Jacque Jones hits a pop-up in foul ground on the third base side. Jose Valentin calls everyone off, gets under the ball and, with plenty of room between himself and the stands, has it go off his glove. Soon thereafter, Jones soft-serves a single to left and drives in the go-ahead run.
It's bad enough that this White Sox team didn't have enough character to take care of things after Torii Hunter needlessly knocked over and concussed their catcher, who a) didn't have the ball and b) wasn't blocking the plate. That's bad enough. Something should have been done and wasn't. But to give away the final game of a series in which you've been outplayed on every front by trying to be aggressive--i.e., trying to make up for not taking care of business in the first place--is just plain pathetic.
The Sox have an easier schedule the rest of the way than do the Twins, but if they can't play better than my rec league team, it isn't going to matter.
Tuesday, July 20, 2004
Left Field Sucks
Yesterday's game between the White Sox and Rangers was played in Arlington, Texas. In the first inning, Sox left fielder Carlos Lee hit a home run into the left field seats. A fan immediately picked up the home run ball and threw it back onto the field. As I witnessed this, I thought, "What is this idiot doing? Does he think this is Wrigley Field or something?" And, lo and behold, the camera returned to the fan in question to reveal that he was indeed wearing a Cubs jersey. At a White Sox-Rangers game. In Arlington, Texas.
Folks, if you really think that "Wrigleyville" (what the Chicago Tribune is quick to refer to as "Lakeview" when, say, there is a murder outside the ballpark) is a cool neighborhood, then by all means move there. But until you can save up the money to make the big move, please keep your silly Cubs traditions to yourselves.
(For those of you not familiar, another one of those "great Cubs traditions" is the bleachers shouting back and forth at each other, "left field sucks/right field sucks," hence the title of this post; take a sample of some of the great minds that help propel such traditions by clicking here. Incidentally, Albert Pujols, the subject of the heckling guide alluded to in the previous sentence, today went 5-for5 with 3 home runs and 5 RBI).
Court Less Panic
Again, to the folks running the show in Boston: Curt Leskanic lost his job as closer for the Kansas City Royals. As in the we're-15-games-out-of-first-place-but-things-aren't-so-bad-that-we'd-have-Curt-Leskanic-as-our-closer Kansas City Royals. Apparently that has not given you pause. Maybe last night did. Incidentally, Keith Foulke blew his 5th save of the year. Keith, if you throw away, away, away, then the hitters will look away, away, away, and that is where the ball will fly, fly, fly.
Speaking of the balls that flew away (goodbye, baseball) in the 9th inning last night, one of them was struck by former White Sox Miguel Olivo, who was part of the trade for Freddy Garcia (Aaron Gleeman thinks the M's got the better part of that deal, by far). Olivo hit his first round tripper since joining the M's and having his kidney stones removed. The other was struck by elderly pinch-hitter Edgar Martinez, for whom one of the Tacoma Rainiers surrendered his spot in the batting order. Sr. Martinez is one half the subject of a recent rant on the North Side about whom might be called the best right-handed hitter of the 90s. No offense to Edgar, of course.
And since Bret Boone evoked M's broadcaster Dave Niehaus's famous grand slam call, I should take this moment to say that absolutely the best salami in Seattle can be found at a tiny little joint, not too far from the Safe, called Salumi.
How about Carl Everett going 2-for-5 with a home run and 2 runs scored in his first game back with the White Sox against the team that traded him to Chicago last year? How about the White Sox giving up five prospects in two years for Carl Everett? How about Buck Showalter saying that he'd take Carl Everett back any time?