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!

Monday, April 05, 2004

Washed up, part one

Mark McLemore, refusing to be put on the minor league disabled list, has asked for his release by the Orioles and apparently is headed to the big-league disabled list in Oakland. This should please Mariners fans, who spent several years watching the embodiment of "futility infielder." And he "played outfield," too. Now he'll do it for the A's. Is it just me or is Oakland snatching up all of Seattle's black players who are also former Orioles?

DET 7, TOR 0

Whoa. The last time the Tigers won on opening day against the reigning AL Cy Young winner their starting shortstop was Alan Trammell and Roger Clemens, the reigning AL Cy Young winner, was a Boston Red Sox. If you're not surprised that the Tigers pitching staff shut out the Blue Jays, then you haven't been following baseball for a while. Jason Johnson, insulin regulator and all, threw the ball very well, including pitching around a lead-off triple. The Tigers offense, apparently not a contradiction of terms this season, put up 7 runs against 2003 Cy Young stud Roy Halladay.

CWS 7, KC 9

Even though KC starter Brian Anderson owned the Pale Hose in '03 (5-1, 2.77), the Southsiders touched him for 5 runs, and tacked on two more. Guys were hitting to the opposite field. Valentin and Ordonez got two-out RBI. Willie Harris executed a bunt. Paul Konerko stole second base (!). The offense was clicking behind Mark Buehrle, who was very effective (6.2 IP, 2 ER, 1 BB, 1 SO). It was everything the "new" White Sox were supposed to be.

Then they started looking a lot like the 2003 White Sox, and how. Cliff Politte started on the mound in the bottom of the 9th with a 4-run lead. He had been sharp in the previous inning and a third. It was not a save situation. He walked the first two batters he faced. So Ozzie Guillen brought in his "closer," Billy Koch. Koch gave up a run-scoring double to Benito Santiago, then struck out Aaron Guiel. To show his confidence in his "closer," Ozzie then pulled him in favor of Damaso Marte, against whom opposing batters hit .185 last season.

Marte, after commentator Darrin Jackson noted that his velocity seemed down, then gave up a three-run, game-tying homer to Endy Lopez. And then a single to Angel Berroa, and then a home run to Carlos Beltran. Game over.

I know it's only one game. That said, it looks like it's going to be a long season at the helm for Ozzie Guillen. Let's not even use the word "era," unless you mean Billy Koch's 27.00 ERA. Damaso Marte, having not recorded an out, has an incalculable number that is represented in the box score by two dashes which, more or less, represent infinity.

In his book Moneyball, Michael Lewis refers to Billy Koch as a "crude fireballer." Now that Koch's fastball has dropped in velocity, all that really remains is "crude." Considering that plenty of guys would love to have Koch's reduced velocity of 92-95 mph, it just stands to reason that he was never a very good pitcher in the first place. Koch's arrival on the South Side last season cost the White Sox a number of games. It may have also cost them Damaso Marte.

With Koch ineffective, Jerry Manuel soon found out that his only viable options at the end of the game were Marte and Tom Gordon. (Gordon, now a Yankee, had held the consecutive saves record until Eric Gagne broke it last season). With the vacuum at the back end of the bullpen, Marte found himself busier than he had ever been. In 2003, Marte threw 79.2 innings, 19 more than he threw in 2002 and 43 more than he had thrown in 2001. He often pitched three or four days in a row, as he was suddenly both a set-up man and an erstwhile closer. Now, Marte's velocity is down. Both home runs he gave up today were on fastballs 2-4 mph slower than last season's.

Answer to last post's trivia question: Frank Thomas.