In 1881 the future National League wanted to upgrade its image and target a more upscale fan base by doubling ticket prices, banning gambling, and outlawing alcohol sales. Several team owners who happened to be brewers refused to accept the new rules and banded together to form what would eventually become the American League. The National League attempted to discredit the new league by dubbing it the Beer and Whiskey League. This, of course only made the new league more popular. Duh!

Friday, March 26, 2004

AL Central: Central to what?

First off, let's talk about THE WEAKEST DIVISION IN BASEBALL.

In a not-so-recent roundtable discussion, the people at discussed the AL Central like they were discussing their great-aunts' bunyons. And I don't blame them. It's not a very glossy division and it isn't necessarily that easy to get excited about if you're not a fan of one of the teams. People tend to think of the AL Central--if they think of the AL Central at all--as being, more or less, the cellar, with not so much a divsion winner as a loser with the fewest losses. But let's put this in perspective. Granted, the ALC is a weak division. However, the Pirates--I mean, the Cubs--won the NL Central last season with a record of 88-74, the worst record of any division winner. Shocking, isn't it? The Twins won the AL Central by going 90-72.

But let's face it: the AL Central just is not very splashy. There's no Ichiro to hit .360 in May and .180 in August. There's no $40 million left side of the infield, or whatever the figure is. Albert Pujols isn't there swinging a mean stick for a team that won fewer games last year than the underachieving White Sox. There's no "gem dandy of a ballpark," no mystique, no aura, no green monster, no curse, no ivy, no big unit, no big three, no moneyball, no Alyssa Milano Pavano, no retractable roof, no cove, no hot-tub, no flag pole, no nothing. What a worthless division. Do they even play baseball in the AL Central?

Now, two quick trivia questions for you.

The first one's easy: Which team had the best winning percentage for the 1990s? Correct: the Braves. No surprise there. Now, who had the second-best winning percentage over the same decade? Incorrect: the Yankees. Correct: the White Sox.

Shucks, let's make it three. If you've heard this one before, don't ruin it for the others. Who is the only player in major league history to bat .300, hit 20 home runs, walk 100 times, score 100 runs and drive in 100 runs for 7 consecutive seasons? Answer in my next post. Hint: it's not Sammy Sosa.


Just for fun, let's do that thing where we look at stats for three pitchers without listing their names. Here are the stats for three guys in their first full big league seasons.


Granted, the first fellow has a significantly higher strikeout ratio, but other than that, these guys all stack up rather evenly. That first fellow is Mr. Coconuts himself, Bartolo Colon (1998); the second is Andy Pettitte (1995); and the third is--you guessed it--Jeremy Bonderman (2003). Last season, my friend Tom (who, by the way, says he'll take Scott "F." Spiezio over Jeff Cirillo every day of the week and twice on Sundays) and I were talking and I said that in spite of everything (including being neither a Tigers fan nor a pitching scout) I liked Bonderman and thought he was going to be good some day. Tom disagreed, or at least was doubtful. I've been wrong many times before, but looking at his rookie numbers--at least the numbers that a pitcher can control, walks and strikeouts--you see pretty good stuff. Promising stuff, at least.

In case you missed it last year, which I certainly did, Rob Neyer has an article on the young man from Pasco, Washington that makes me look like I just read him and tried to claim the idea for my own. I had already written most of this by the time I stumbled across Neyer's observations, so I decided to just post anyway. Bonderman has never played above single A, and started for the Tigers, the most woeful offensive team outside of the post-All Star break Mariners, at the wise old age of 20. If you read Neyer's article, you'll also see that Glavine and Maddux lost 17 and 14 games, respectively, in their first full seasons.

It may be of some interest that Mr. Bonderman was drafted by none other than evil genius/number-cruncher Billy Beane's Oakland A's and twirled 160 strikeouts in 144.2 innings at Modesto before being traded to Detroit and making the big jump to the Show before he could buy beer. Granted, as Moneyball readers know, Beane prefers pitchers who've had college careers, which may be why the A's let Bonderman go--but he was drafted in the first round (26th pick overall) by a team who has been known to choose wisely now and again where pitchers are concerned.

If Bonderman's innings seem low, that's because manager Alan Trammel pulled him from the starting rotation on September 3rd to spare him the ignominy of joining Brian Kingman in the record books as a rookie. He was also on a 170-inning limit. From August 1st to September 3rd, Bonderman was 2-4 with a 7.53 ERA, but one figures he was beginning to tire. Oddly enough, 17 of Bonderman's 19 losses came at night, which may mean nothing, may mean something, but seems weird either way. In any case, it's not completely crazy to think that J.B. might be a pretty good pitcher some day, even if he isn't the next Tom Glavine, who put up very Bonderman-esque numbers himself last year (9-14, 4.52).


Speaking of the Tigers, it's funny/awesome that they signed Ugueth Urbina. The reason I say it's funny (it's more uncanny than funny) is because just the other day I was thinking it would be great if he signed there. Why? The kissing, of course. If you watched last season's playoffs (and I have reason to question your sanity if you didn't and you're reading this) then you witnessed a veritable lovefest between Urbina and his fellow Fish, Ivan Rodriguez. Does the Elias Sports Bureau keep stats for kissing? When was the last time that a pitcher and catcher who kissed on a World Series champion team both signed to the same (different) team the next season? This has got to be a first! Especially with two kissers going from the Series champs to the team with the worst record in all of baseball.

Apparently, Pudge has been calling Urbina every day to tell him to come play with him in Detroit. And why not? Sure, I bet a lot of guys out there don't like seeing grown men kiss. They think it's the behavior of homosexuals, or Europeans, or homosexual Europeans. Or that it's sissy. Or an abomination. But to me, it's about the same as seeing guys pat each other on the ass, which they do with great frequency in just about every professional sport that I've ever watched. That whole butt-touching thing has always struck me as a bit strange. But kissing--now that takes balls.


The Kansas City Star reports that about 15,000 tickets for the Royals' home opener were "inadvertently" printed with the Cubs, rather than the White Sox, listed as the visiting team. I'm sure they were just trying to boost attendance, being in the worthless AL Central and playing in that scummy old ballpark.