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, April 09, 2004

Children of Around the Horn

Here's a quick look at what's happening in the world wide baseball web:

* The stat-heads (and I do not mean that disparagingly) over at The Hardball Times have posted their staff predictions. While most every baseball page has their predictions, what I find fascinating about this particular set is the near unanimity of the ten writers. Statistics are supposed to provide objective analysis. It appears that objective analysis can lead to uniform analysis as well.

* ... and speaking of the annoying Angels (to continue Steve's rant on Rex) ... David over at the U.S.S. Mariner posted this hilarious observation the other day:


Fun quotes from the Anaheim feed.
"Freddy is rolling. He's retired seven in a row with a walk in between."
So, he hasn't retired seven in a row, then...

* Although I haven't put up the AL East links quite yet, I reccomend that you go check out Soxaholix. This is, by far, one of the most entertaining baseball blogs I've seen. Thanks to the Cinetrix for passing along the groovy link.

* The folks over at The Tigers Weblog (and you bet they must be wetting their pants in joy) are not only following this season but are putting together a retrosheet of the 1984 season. That sounds like a great idea. Perhaps some enterprising blogger from Mariner Nation might put together a retrosheet next year to celebrate the ten-year anniversary of the 1995 Mariners ... ah, I can still remember sitting in an annoying sports bar in Minnesota watching game five of the ALDS and seeing Edgar hit "the double." I started screaming so loud that I was actually told to quiet down. I guess the frat boys couldn't hear themselves grunt over my cries of joy. Ah ... good times, indeed.

* According to the reliable sources, Johnny Damon -- the half-Thai sports wunderkind ... well, other than Tiger, the other half-Thai sports wunderkind -- is now officially known as The Passion:
The hair gives him power. He actually just threw out the winning run at the plate in the 10th at Baltimore. Old, cleancut Damon was notorious for his Charmin arm. The hair must provide some kind centripetal momentum as his arm comes around.
Hmmm ... note to self: marry a Thai woman, have plenty of half-thai kids, train them into Atheletes, retire early. Make sure at least one of them throws left-handed.

* I know I've mentioned this before but I think it needs to be said again: Jack McDowell is one of the most annoying baseball writers out there. Great pitcher, terrible writer ... he's quickly becoming the Joe Morgan of Internet Publishing.

* I just recently noticed that The Sporting News web page has been coopted by Fox Sports which is, of course, just as bad as Fox News. Let's just hope that a fine writer like Ken Rosenthal can get out of their before the Fox culture infects him too.

* I'm listening to the Chi Sox give the Yankees a nice little spanking. It's 9-1 in the bottom of the seventh. Anyhoo, one of the Chi Sox announcers just mentioned that the Yankees might not have recovered from their trip to the Orient. That just struck me as weird. Do people not talking about the 19th-century spice trades or the travels of Marco Polo still say the orient? Besides, the Yankees and Drays just went to Japan. That would be like going to England and then telling people you went to visit Europe. Stupid island nations.

Grumblings and Mumblings

* First off, in case you missed it, the Tigers are undefeated. They've scored over 20 runs in their first four games; last year, they were 1-10 before they had scored 20 runs. That leads us to the first question of the day: How much do the Twins miss LaTroy Hawkins? The Twinkies rallied to tie yesterday's game 4-4 and then had their bullpen do its best White Sox impersonation: suddenly it was 9-4 and the Tigers were looking like this year's Royals.

* Apologies to any Angels fans, but Rex "Wonder Dog" Hudler has the most irritating voice in television broadcasting. Except for maybe Thom Brennaman. In any case, during yesterday's unlikely come-from-behind win over Tommy's Mariners, Wonder Dork dropped one of those lines that only the truly stupid let slip. Commenting on the fact that M's closer Eddie Guardado was injured, Rex posited that Seattle would utilize a "bullpen by committee" for the time being. Hey, asshole, name one bullpen that is not a fucking committee.

* Anyone who watched the Yankees beat the White Sox, 3-1, should have duly noted a few things. First, Scott Schoeneweis, who owns a career ERA of 5.08 as a starter and hasn't started a game in almost two years, got the ball for Chicago; second, the Yankees have a pretty good lineup; third, if Schoeneweis hadn't walked the first two batters he faced, the score would have been 1-1 heading into the bottom of the ninth, since Sheffield's 15-foot swinging bunt and Posada's sac fly scored those walks. The Yankees had the bases loaded in each of the first two innings and only scored two runs. Posada hit a solo homer later in the game. Javier Vazquez (8 IP, 3 H, 1 ER) was scary good. Not as scary looking as Kevin Brown, but very, very good. On the plus side for the Pale Hose, Joe Crede flashed some serious leather at 3rd base, Schoeneweis was sharp after he settled down, Neal Cotts exorcised his Bronx demons and Jon "Lo-Carb" Adkins actually looked like a major league pitcher out there.

* Re: Paul Abbott. During his 16-win season with the Mariners, he averaged right around 7 runs of support per start. But, he looked damn good against the Yanks the other night. It's not as if his 5.1 no-hit innings were a total gift of great defense, lucky bounces and the like. He was dealing. It'll be interesting to see if he can keep it up.

* For his walk-up music yesterday, Hideki Matsui chose "Day Tripper" by the Beatles. I took this to mean that Japanese baseball players have far better taste in music than American baseball players, since most of the Yankees lineup walked up to your typical Clear Channel bullshit. Karl Ravech? Comments? (If you're scratching your head in confusion, see the "Brown-Eyed Girl" post).

Wednesday, April 07, 2004

Updated Links and news briefs.

Just put up the links for the AL Central. Will get around to the AL East in the next week or so. Winners for the most creative blog names: Exile in Wrigleyville (White Sox) and Eye of the Tigers.

In baseball news:
* Joe Mauer is out indefinitely as he awaits knee surgery. Bummer!

* Paul Abbot took the Yankees for 5.1 no-hit innings before getting touched for two runs. All in all, a very good performance. Warning to Rays fans: don't expect too many. Abbot is not a bad guy and is a serviceable end-of-the-rotation pitcher. Just don't expect a 16-win season. By the way, The Drays may have one of the best performance pitches I've heard in a long time. In Seattle, if a Mariner gets four hits in a game, someone wins a year's supply of free groceries. In Tampa Bay, if a Drays pitcher strikes out ten or more batters, everyone with a ticket stub gets 10 free hot wings from HOOTERS. That is soooo awesome.

* The White Sox's bullpen managed not to blow a lead. Particularly amazing is the fact Koch actually got the save. I have to give Guillen credit for not giving up on Koch (as I surely would have based not just on the other day's performance but on his entire year last season) and sending him back out there for the save.

* Check out the following numbers from the three Texas/Oakland games:

Game 1

HitsRunsKBBLOB
Texas1144421

Oakland
954413


Game 2
HitsRunsKBBLOB
Texas51714

Oakland
73816


Game 3
HitsRunsKBBLOB
Texas725416

Oakland
518414



Ok, so why should you care about these numbers? Well, to be honest, I'm not entirely sure other than I'm amazed that Chan Ho "out of the" Park pitched a far better game than I had thought. 8K and 1BB is a pretty nice ratio. What makes me particularly interested in these numbers, however, is that they are all fairly low-scoring games. Has Texas pitching really improved or has Oakland's offense been seriously downgraded? It's too early to say for sure but it does intrigue me. By the way, this is Texas's first win against Zito.

Tuesday, April 06, 2004

Opening Day (Version 4.0)

I don’t understand MLB’s decision to spread “opening day” over such a long period. The first opening day, of course, was in Japan. Then we had the first U.S. version of opening day on Sunday (April 4) in Baltimore. Yesterday was “opening day” for about half the league and then today, of course, is opening day 4.0. Granted, I’m not a marketing person and maybe I’m completely talking out of my ass but I would like to see MLB turn opening day into a huge television event on par with the first day of the NCAA basketball tournament. Now that would be cool.

Anyhoo, so here’s a quick trip around the AL for today:

Boston at Baltimore

The first game of the series saw Pedro getting touched up in a very un-Pedro like fashion. This time around, we saw Kurdt Schilling being Kurdt Schilling. A couple of seasons ago I saw an amazing highlight of Kurdt telling the batter what he was going to pitch. He actually told the batter, “fastball, outside” and he threw a fastball outside for a strike. This is the pitching equivalent of a batter pointing to centerfield to indicate where he is going to hit a homerun. Is it obnoxious and annoying? Sure. But if you can actually pull it off, it’s also really cool.

Oh yeah, so Boston won the game 4-1 but they should have won by a larger margin. The BoSox left nine on-base. Damon also struck out with the bases load and, in fact, Damon has not had a hit yet. The other highlight: Mr. Viagra (Palmeiro) actually stole a base. He went a perfect 2-2 in stolen bases last season so he’s already halfway there to matching last year’s total. Go-go Raphie.

Anaheim at Seattle

The first game of the season is precisely just that: the first game. You never get too excited or too frustrated with early season numbers and performances. Moyer was very mediocre and Colon was very good and while I have no doubt that Colon will continue to be very good I also believe that Moyer will not continue to be very mediocre. And I’m not going to get excited because Willie “Boom Boom” Bloomquist got an RBI Double. If Boom Boom were not a hometown boy, I do not think he would be on the major league roster. All teams, not just the Mariners, seem to be suckers for hometown boys.

Anyhoo, so what worries me about this game is that, offensively, the game went according to script. Anaheim hit long balls and the Mariners singled the opposition to boredom. The Mariners have been in the top three team batting averages for the last three seasons but they have also consistently been in the bottom in terms of homeruns. This year’s Mariners were supposed to sacrifice defense for more pop … well, unless they were talking about installing a new Coke machine in the clubhouse or installing a bigger stereo system, I see nothing of this “more pop” and I have no reason to believe I will be seeing it anytime soon. I love the Mariners, I root for the Mariners, but I’m also not deluded and I will be very pleasantly surprised if the Mariners manage to make the playoffs (much less avoid placing third in the AL West).

Two random observations: I always thought that away uniforms were gray and had the name of the city on the front. Apparently, the Angels have gray away uniforms that say Angels across the chest. Anyone know anything about this? Secondly, Ichiro appears to have a new glove. He traditionally uses a black glove that is handmade by some old Japanese leatherworker. For sponsorship purposes, Ichiro slaps a Mizuno label on the glove but it’s not a Mizuno glove. Anyhoo, this season he appears to have a brown glove. I’m wondering if that old Japanese leatherworker died or something.

Detroit at Toronto

TIGERS WIN! TIGERS WIN! Yes, two in a row … the Tigers are on a hot streak! Conventional wisdom says that early in the season pitchers are generally ahead of the batters but the Tigers were able to light up Toronto’s pitchers for fourteen runs and twenty-three hits in two games. Yeah … believe it or not, the Tigers have scored seven runs in each of their first two games. Heck, maybe they didn’t really need to sign Urbina as a closer … yeah, and maybe Ty Cobb will rise from the dead and lead the Motor City Kitties to the World Series.

I think the Tigers are going to have an amazing turnaround and finish above or very near .400. Now, .400 might not be too impressive but that translates to a 65-97 record. That’s a twenty-two-game turnaround from their last year’s 43-119 record.

New York at Tampa Bay

Most critics of the Yankees have pointed out that despite the stellar lineup, their rotation remained questionable. The other day, in fact, my brother and I sat around trying to figure out the Yankee’s rotation and couldn’t remember who their #5 pitcher was until we realized they don’t have a #5 pitcher. Their rotation is basically Mussina, Brown, Vazquez, Contreras, and whoever else they might be able to find and as of today that “someone” is Donovan Osborne, a veteran left-hander. Although his lifetime ERA of 3.96 is respectable, take a look at his ERA over his last four seasons:

1997 4.93 3-7 (14 starts) 80.1 IP
1998 4.09 5-4 (14 starts) 83.2 IP
1999 5.52 1-3 (6 starts) 29.1 IP
2000 Injured
2001 Injured
2002 6.19 0-1 (0 starts) 16 IP

I think it’s safe to say that Osborne, who is 35, would most definitely fit into the category of “sucking.” But, of course, perhaps Osborne will have a bounce-back season, he’ll gets lots of run support, and besides he’s the fifth starter so he doesn’t have to have lots of starts. Plus, with the front-end rotation of Mussina, Brown, Vazquez, and Contreras, the Yankees are still looking good, right? Well, no. In the preseason, Mussina was the only “sure thing” in that lineup. Brown, if he is healthy, may be the best active pitcher on the planet but that’s a mighty big if. Vazquez and Contreras haven’t proven anything yet.

So, there’s Mussina except Mussina hasn’t looked so hot in his first two outings (both against the Drays). In fact, Mussina is the first pitcher to ever lose back-to-back starts against the Drays in their seven-year history. In Tokyo, he was touched up for ten hits and five runs in five innings. Today in Tampa Bay, the Drays got nine hits and six runs in four innings. Like I said before, it’s early you can’t draw too many conclusions but I certainly wouldn’t mind seeing Mussina obliterated on a regular basis.

Since last season, I’ve rather enjoyed following the Drays. Aside from my own fondness for sweet Lou, the Drays had a great rookie combo in Crawford and Baldelli. This year, however, watching the Drays is like stepping into Mr. Peabody’s wayback machine in that the entire right side of the defense is made up of former Mariners: Rey Sanchez, Tino Martinez, and Jose Cruz, Jr. Two years ago I was at the St. Louis/Seattle game with my brother and father. When Tino first came up to bat most of the fans stood up and gave Tino a rousing ovation. Seattle fans may know squat about baseball but they sure love that 1995 team. Jose Cruz, Jr. went 4-5 today and came up a homerun short of hitting for the cycle (quick: name the three Mariners who hit for the cycle).

Rey Sanchez, who was basically a rent-a-player for the Mariners last season has always intrigued me and I think the Mariners made a big mistake in letting him go and opting for Aurillia instead. Sanchez’s .273/.310/.334 (average/slugging/obp) numbers might not be very impressive but for whatever bizarre reason, whenever he’s been in the American League Sanchez has been close to a .300 hitter whereas in the NL he’s more like a .260 hitter. Go figure.

Oh yeah, and the funniest stat from this game: the Yanks got 9 free passes (8 base on balls and a hit batter) but aside from their four-run first inning (walk-homerun; walk-homerun) they couldn’t do squat.

Cleveland at Minnesota

Man alive, how good is this Mauer kid? Yesterday he stepped up to the plate 5 times netting two hits and two base on balls. Yep, that’s a .667 BA and .800 OBP. Not bad for a 20-year-old’s first major league game. What I find most impressive about Mauer is not the two hits but the fact he got two walks from C.C. “not the guy from Poison” Sabathia. I’ve seen the scouting reports and while his swing has been noteworthy, most scouts have gone ga-ga over his plate discipline. It wouldn’t surprise me to see a rookie-year OBP of over .500.

The Twins and Indians played the equivalent of three games within two days – that is, they played two actual games with the first game going twelve innings and the second going fifteen innings. That’s a total of twenty-seven innings or, again, three complete nine-inning games. The game should have been much shorter. In the eleventh inning the Twins had a man on third with one out but couldn’t bring him in. In the fourteenth inning they had men on second and third with no outs but still could not manage to score a run. Finally, in the bottom of the fifteenth, the Twins had the bases loaded with two outs when, of all people, Jose “barely worth the league minimum” Offerman smacked a single to win the game 6-7. Twenty-seven innings over two games: can’t wait to see what the bullpen is going to look like tomorrow.

If you ever get a chance to listen to the Twins on the radio (WCCO), I highly recommend it. Herb Carneal and John Gordon are incredibly entertaining partially because they are so unabashedly partisan. While I certainly have a soft spot for the sweet baritone of Dave Niehaus (Mariners) and the slow cadence of Vin Scully (Dodgers), listening to Carneal and Gordon is a lot like sitting in the bleachers. When there was a close call in the bottom of the 15th, for instance, Gordon started screaming, “no, no way. He was safe.” In the 12th when a ball nearly went out of the park, Carneal yelled out, “Come on, baby, come on … get up, get up!”

Injury report: Mauer hurt himself today and left the game in the third inning with 1 hit in 1 at bat. Santana also left in the 4th inning with a strained right calf. Torii Hunter left in the 11th inning with some sort of leg injury that has not been announced yet.

Texas at Oakland

A couple of weeks ago, I posted a rather negative post about Chan Ho “Out of the” Park. While I still think he’s an incredibly mediocre pitcher with a bloated contract, he did manage to pitch one hell of a gem. Unfortunately, Texas did not bring along it’s typical big bang and Park ended up losing the game. He pitched 7.2 innings and with the exception of a 3-run hiccup in the 6th, he pitched extremely well. You know, Texas is not going to get very many good outings from their pitchers and they really cannot afford to waste them like they did today.

Of course, Hudson had a lot to do with Texas’s offensive ineptitude. In 7 innings, Hudson allowed 5 hits, 1 run and 1 BB (with 4 K). Arthur Rhodes also got his first save for the A’s. I think by the end of this month, the Mariners are going to feel really stupid for letting Rhodes go.

By the way, Mark Teixeira might be the cutest girl in baseball.


Monday, April 05, 2004

"Brown-Eyed Girl"

During the season opener between Tampa Bay and New York, Karl Ravech, part of a trio of bleary-eyed ESPN announcers, noted that Van Morrison's "Brown-Eyed Girl" had been playing over the P.A. between innings at the Tokyo Dome, and that somehow this was an indication of the "difference in cultures." At the time, I didn't really understand what he meant by that. He'd said it with sort of a smirk in his voice, so I could only assume it was an obvious difference, like the difference between sushi and Philly cheese steak. But it wasn't. Did he mean that because the Japanese were willing to embrace the foreign game of baseball, they were therefore also willing to embrace the foreign music of Van Morrison (a foreign concept)? Did he mean that the Japanese, willing to play a love song at a baseball game, are somehow fundamentally different from us Americans because of it? What on earth does the song "Brown-Eyed Girl" mean in relation to the cultural differences between Japan and the U.S.? I still can't think of a single one.

Now, this very evening, when Ron Gardenhire went to the mound to talk to J.C. Romero in the top of the 9th inning at the Metrodome, the familiar strains of "Brown-Eyed Girl" came over the P.A. Again, I tried to analyze the situation. If this were happening at Safeco Field, I'd say that because the Mariners have so many fans come from Japan to watch Ichiro, this was merely a nod to their fans who had traversed afar. But this was at the Metrodome, not exactly a hotbed of Japanese fandom. So what did it mean? Was there some couple making love in the green grass, behind the stadium? Was an old man being gunned down with a transistor radio? Was it because peoples' hearts were a-thumpin'? Are the Twins turning Japanese? Is it a dome thing? Is that what the "difference in cultures" is? Dome cultures versus open-air cultures?

By the way, Joe Mauer got his first hit. In America.

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.