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!

Thursday, April 15, 2004

Around the Horn-Again Christians

** The 1-7 Mariners have now officially gone off to the worst start in franchise history. That is actually quite an accomplishment considering just how many god-awful seasons the Mariners have had in their twenty-seven year history. But, to add insult to injury, Mike Scioscia – you know, the manager of the team that is responsible for handing the Mariners five of those seven losses – had the gall to tell the Mariner’s faithful to “have faith.”

"Those guys are so professional that they could be 7-1 instead of flip-flopped," he said. "You see guys playing hard, digging for the extra base, staying in the game defensively. I have the utmost respect for those guys."

"There's no quit in that team," Scioscia said. "They can do a lot of things well and beat you in a lot of different areas. Let me tell you something: They're going to be there at the end."

As a Mariner fan, this kind of talk really pisses me off. This is like having someone who just broke up with you tell you, “I’m sure you’ll find someone wonderful very soon.” Yeah, of course I’ll find someone else and of course my life will go on but I don’t fuckin’ need to hear you tell me this shit and especially not right now so just get the hell out of my life. (Note to self: take a deep breath, remain calm, it's only baseball).

** The Mariner’s decision to hire Bill Bavasi was not very welcome in the Mariner nation especially in that one corner of the country known as the blogosphere. Most vocally or most obviously (depending on how you look at it) was the Bavasi Stinks web page. Now, those anti-Bavasi sentiments seem to have grown and spread. Even the Mariner’s Optimist has started to mumble and grumble. Hey, M.O. remember what Scioscia said, “Have faith!”

** The other day I briefly mentioned that Garret Anderson had signed a four-year, $48 million extension. I had planned on writing a piece on why this contract was so well deserved but, fortunately for me (and probably for you), Aaron Gleeman over at the Hardball Times has already written an excellent article discussing Anderson's value and why he is in the unique position of being overrated by some and underrated by others.

** And while we’re on the subject of contracts: Magglio hit a walk-off homerun in the tenth inning today against the Royals. He’s currently making $14 million for the year and the word is that he wants a five-year, $70 million contract. For those of you running the math in your head, you will notice that this comes to $14 million per year. Reinsdorf has reportedly countered with a four-year contract also at an average of $14 million but it’s backloaded (something that Mags does not want). So, is Magglio worth the money? Well, fortunately for us, since Anderson just signed a contract extension we have a point of comparison.

Magglio OrdonezGarret Anderson

Bats Right, Throws Right
Six full seasons
Left Field
Bats Left, Throws Left
Nine full seasons
Left Field

Chicago White Sox”Anaheim” Angels

January 28, 1974 June 30, 1972




Mags is one and a half years younger than Anderson but Anderson has spent three more seasons in the majors. Even though Anderson is playing center field this year, I've listed him as a left fielder since that where he has played for most of his career. Their overall batting averages are about the same; defensively, Anderson is probably a notch better (especially with that arm of his); they’ve both been relatively injury free playing around 150 games per season; and I realize this last point may be completely irrational and irrelevant but I really love the fact both players have been lifers. I don’t buy the argument that free-agency has ruined baseball and that somehow in the Golden Era of baseball players were more likely to stick with their team. Statistically, that’s not true. It’s just that we remember the best players and no franchise is going to let their best players go. And by the way, remember that Babe Ruth played for three teams (Red Sox, Yankees, and the Boston Braves).

Anyhoo, getting back on track, the big difference between the two comes in power and patience. Mags has 181 career homeruns while Anderson has 195 (but, remember, Anderson has three more seasons which translates to 1857 more at bats). Mags’s SLG and OBP are both forty points higher. Most notably, however, Mags’s OPS (which I never include because if you’re too lazy to quickly add up SLG and OBP then you should be doing something else with your time) is nearly 90 points higher than Anderson’s.

Bottom line, if you’re going to pay Anderson $12 million per year to play until he’s 36 then I don’t think it would be outrageous to pay Magglio $14 million per year to play until he’s 35. Of course, you could just as easily make the argument that Anderson was way overpaid and that Mags is not worth $14 million over five years. And I guess, ultimately, the only opinion that counts is Reinsdorf's (which we'll know soon enough I suppose).

** On a quick tangential note
(and possible peek into a future post): The fact of the matter is, I don't think a player's worth should be figured in raw numbers but, instead, it should be figured in relationship to payroll. In other words, the question should not be "Is Garret Anderson worth $12 million per year?" but rather, "Is Garret Anderson worth X% of the Angel's overall payroll?" The big mistake that Tom Hicks made when he signed A-Hole to that ridiculous contract was not in giving A-Hole so much money in terms of raw dollars but in giving him such a large percentage of the overall budget.

The Yankees can afford to overpay because a $15 million contract is a smaller piece of their overall budget than a $10 million contract would be for a team like the Minnesota Twins. While it would be incredibly foolish for a small-market team like the Twins or the Royals to pay Anderson $12 million, it might not be so foolish for the Angels since the two teams work with dramatically different payrolls. So, the answer to the question as to whether or not Magglio is worth $14 million per year needs to be filtered through what the White Sox are planning to do with their overall budget. Are they going to compete as a large-market team or are they going to compete as a small-market team? If it's the latter, then the answer is no. The Mariners, on the other hand, could most certainly afford to absorb a $14 million contract but, of course, despite having the second-highest overall revenue, the Mariners refuse to be in the top ten in payroll.

It's not unlike life: You don't have a car and you need to buy one. There's a dealer right across the street from you and he can sell you a car with air conditioning for $30 K. Now, way across town, there might be another dealer who will sell you the same car without air conditioning for $25 K. And let's say the "raw" value of air-conditioning is only $500 so if you buy the car at $30 K you are overpaying for the air conditioning by a whole lot of money. Now, if you're "working-class" and you worry about your budget then it is most certainly worth the effort to take the bus and search out this other dealer (even though you may have to take your time and visit at least four or five places before finding the right one) but if you happen to have lots of money and the difference of $5 K is not worth that much to you then you would most likely save your time and energy and just walk across the street.

In other words, the "real" value of the car -- and the value of the air conditioner -- should be measured not in the raw numbers but in those numbers as they relate to your overall budget. Perhaps to put this in "metric-friendly" terms we can call this the "affordability index." But, of course, you could argue that this is still "inefficient" -- that even if you could afford to spend an extra $5K it would be inefficient to do so when you don't have to. Yes, you could make this argument and I wouldn't disagree but this is baseball and baseball has never been known for its efficiency.

So, Magglio is asking for $14 million. For $4 million you could probably get a very decent player ... someone about the same age who can produce, let's say, 90% of the numbers Mags is capable of producing for 75% less money someone like ... oh, perhaps Randy Winn. (AVG/OBP/SLG: .283/.343.406). In 500 at bats, Winn's numbers translate to 142 hits (via AVG) and 203 bases (via SLG). Magglio, in those same 500 at bats would have 156 hits (with his career .308 AVG) and 264 bases (with his career .528 slugging). Simply put, Mags will produce approximately fourteen extra hits and sixty-one extra bases over the course of a typical season. Are those fourteen extra hits worth the $10 million difference between Winn and Ordonez? Well, again, the answer depends on whether or not the White Sox can afford the extra $10 million for those hits just as in my hypothetical example, the question of whether or not the air conditioner and convenience are worth the extra $5 K is dependent on your budget.

I'm not particularly good at math but, nonetheless, over the next few weeks, I'm going to try to figure out some formula that can measure the affordability index (heck, maybe this will get me in a job in the Mariners front office ... oh, I can dream, can't I?). Wish I had majored in Econ instead of English.

** And so let’s stick with the AL Central for a moment, shall we? This afternoon, the Motor City Kitties got destroyed by the Toronto Blays 11-0 and Roy Halladay got his first win of the season (he’s now 1-2). Perhaps the stars are finally starting to realign in their proper places (and perhaps this means the Mariners will win a few games … hey, Texas is coming up this weekend). But what I found most amusing was that at one point the Tiger fans actually started booing their own team. Come on! Talk about being spoiled. Just remember how awful your team was last year? Sure, they had a bad day … every team has a bad day (or bad first two weeks of the season) but you guys still have a 6-3 record and are tied for first with the ChiSox. You’re well into the second week of the season and this is the first series you’ve lost. Boy, I hate to see the riot that will ensue when, heaven forbid, the Tigers fall below .500. Geez.

** More on the Tigers for a bit – and let’s subtitle this paragraph “A Tale of Two Kitties” – I was listening to their game on Tuesday (which the Blays won 7-5). After two full innings, the Tigers had a 5-1 lead which the Blays slowly chipped away at with two runs in the third, one run in the seventh, one run in the eighth, and two (go-ahead) runs in the ninth. It was a decent game with a few good breaks going to the Blays but something happened in the eighth inning that I think very neatly summarizes the difference between the Tigers version .03 and .04.

In the top of the eighth, the Tigers managed to load the bases without a single out. In 2003, this would probably have resulted in some crooked numbers for the Blays. Instead, the Tigers got out of the inning having given up only one run (granted, it was the tying run but oh well). In the bottom of the inning, the lead-off man got on and they ultimately ended up loading the bases with only one out. But, just as soon as we thought Tigers version .03 was long gone buried, it reared its ugly head again and the Tigers were knocked out of the inning with a big goose egg … and, of course, they proceeded to give up two runs in the top of the ninth for the loss.

** Those crazy cats over at ESPN’s Page Two, have put together a bunch of articles on baseball’s most agonizing moments. Schoenfield has compiled the most miserable moment in every franchise’s history while the usually grating and not very funny Jim Caple has compiled a misery index to determine which franchise has given their fans the greatest amount of torment. The article I like best, however, is Eric Neel’s twenty-five most miserable moments in baseball history (well, except for his poke at Ken Burns’s baseball documentary – #25 – which I liked quite a it). Top of the list (or is that bottom?) is, of course, the 1994 strike that canceled the world series. As Bud Selig said at the time:
We have reached the point where it is no longer practical to complete the remainder of the season or to preserve the integrity of postseason play.

I know more than a few people who completely gave up on baseball after that and have not returned to the game since. In fact, one of them did not realize until a few months ago that baseball now had three divisions.

At numbers three and two, respectively, Neel has the 1986 ALCS and the 1986 World Series. This is basically a battle of the lowest moments fronted by Donnie Moore’s Angels and Bill Buckner’s Red Sox. I’ve mentioned this before, but I think one of our readers, Eyespy, put it best:
After the gaff Bill Buckner retired from baseball, after the homerun Donnie Moore retired from life. It's not the same thing.

Damn straight. But hey, Mr. Neel, how’s this for misery? As I’ve mentioned before, I grew up an Angels fan, my family moved to Seattle and I became a Mariners fan. And every single day of the season I have to be reminded of that 1986 Donnie Moore pitch because guess who does the color commentary for the Mariners? Yep, you guessed, Mr. Dave “Hendu” Henderson, the very man who hit that go-ahead homer off of Donnie Moore. Damn, gap-toothed Hendu! Now THAT’S misery.

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

O Brother Where Art Thou?

Recently on ESPN Radio, the brother of Phil "tits” Mickelson (a.k.a. Emilio Estevez), Tim, was invited on air to discuss the Mickelson family’s reaction to Tit’s Master’s victory. Not too surprisingly, it turns out that Tim is the Golf coach at the University of San Diego (just across town from San Diego State University where Tony Gwynn currently coaches baseball). I would imagine that to be the brother of a superstar athlete can be rather difficult especially when you, the unknown brother, also happen to play the same sport. It’s one thing to be Brett and Aaron Boone but it’s another thing to be, oh, let's say for example, Jose Canseco’s brother. As pathetic a creature as Jose has become over the years, at least he had his time in the limelight whereas his twin brother, Ozzie, had a career total 65 at-bats with an average right on the Mendoza Line (.200). A brother is a brother and I’m sure that in your heart of hearts you are happy for your brother’s successes but, at the same time, you’ve got to be feeling those pangs of sibling rivalry (by the way, when Aaron Boone hit that walk-off homer in the ALCS, the camera spent quite a bit of time on Brett as he watched his kid brother circling the bases and I couldn’t figure out if Brett was happy for his brother or if he was singing along to the Cure’s “Why Can’t I Be You?”).

Of course, such sibling rivalries and tensions are not exclusive to sports (anyone know Donnie Wahlberg’s whereabouts by chance?). Everyone knows who Bing Crosby is but not many people realize that his kid brother, Bob Crosby, was also a rather accomplished musician. The Bob Crosby Bob Cats (a swing-era orchestra name not nearly as cool as Mel Torme and the Mel Tones, by the way) was a regular staple on the radio during the 1930’s and 1940’s and ol’ Bob himself had a television variety show in the 1950s. But, despite these accomplishments, he could never overcome the moniker of “the other Crosby.” In fact, he was once asked what he did for a living and he replied his job was to be Bing’s brother.

And getting back to the MLB, this season we have a couple of rookie Crosby’s. No they are not brothers but they might as well be considering one is named Bubba and the other Bobby. Nomenclature aside, what I find compelling about this little coinky dink is the fact Bubba and Bobby are playing for two teams that are the complete antithesis of one another: the big-spending Yankees (Bubba) and the strapped-for-cash-but-surviving-nonetheless Oakland A’s (Bobby). While Bobby was sped through the minor leagues and has been touted as a promising replacement for Tejada, Bubba has spent six years in the minors and is currently a bench player for the most overhyped version of the Yankees in about forty years. In other words, one has to fill the shoes of a superstar while the other has to figure out how to live within the shadows of superstars.

Here’s a quick look at their minor-league stats:




The OBP’s are estimates as the records I found are incomplete. Although Bobby’s sample size is obviously smaller (since he spent only half the time in the minors), their overall averages are remarkably similar. Bubba has a better strikeout to walks ratio but Bobby has better power and batting averages. Overall, I think that it's safe to say that Bobby was a better batter in the minor leagues but not by a whole lot. The biggest difference, I think, is in their bios:

Bobby (Richard)Bubba (Robert)

Bats Right, Throws Right
Three Years in Minors
Bats Left, Throws Left
Six years in Minors

1st Round (25th Overall)
2000 by Oakland A’s
1st Round (23rd Overall)
1998 by LA Dodgers

January 12, 1980August 11, 1976

Long Beach State UniversityRice University

Bobby is 24 and, according to most projections, should steadily improve over the next four or five years whereas Bubba is 28 and so, statistically speaking, should be coming into his prime years. Bobby is right-handed whereas Bubba is left-handed. They both went to college in their home states. They both had the proverbial cups of coffee before this season.

Throughout the season, then, we’ll be following the progress of the Crosby boys. Since Bobby is an everyday player, he will obviously have the bigger sample size and, ultimately, the comparison might be meaningless but hell so is this blog and, as Emma Goldman once said, “If I can’t dance, I don’t want to be in your revolution.” So, here are their 2004 numbers as of Sunday, April 12. Oh, and you may wonder, "how the hell did Bubba get a SLG of 1.600?" Easy, he may have had only two hits but both of them were for homeruns. Bobby, on the other hand, has three singles.




P.S. What the hell happened today at The Cell? Seventeen total runs, 22 total hits, 6 total homeruns. Steve is in Chicago right now (and I believe he's going to the Yankees/Chi Sox game this weekend) so I'll let him go into this when he gets back.

P.P.S. Garret Anderson just signed a four-year extension with the Angels for $48 million. Hmm, I wonder what this might mean for Beltran's contract next season. Perhaps a five-year, $65 million contract or something in that range and you can bet that the Mr. Burns fan club (also known as the Seattle Mariner's front office) will not be getting into that deal.

P.P.P.S. (promise this is the last one) While listening to the Chi Sox/Royals game on MLB Radio today, the issue of Magglio's contract was brought up and it seems that the Chi Sox and Mags are not that far apart in numbers. The difference seems to be between the Chi Sox offering a four-year contract whereas Mags wanting a five-year deal. I wonder what the over/under is on Reinsdorf blowing this one.

Sunday, April 11, 2004

Opening Day (version 5.0)

Well, not exactly opening day but rather the first full weekend of baseball. And boy does it feel good to be home again, so to speak. To continue briefly on the bashing-the-voices-of-baseball thread that’s been running through here the past few days: I think there should be a rule that you can use the phrase “a catcher’s best friend” once per game. I don’t care how many double plays occur in a single game: you can only say it once! You hear that, Ron Fairly, only once and definitely not twice in the same damn inning.

Anyhoo, so here are some observations from the first full weekend of the baseball season:

* Do you remember that Seinfeld episode when George Costanza decides to completely turn his life around by doing the exact opposite of what his instincts tell him to do? This is the episode in which not only his personal life gets better but his professional life as well: he ends up working for the Yankees. Conversely, Elaine’s life begins to go downhill really fast in every way possible. After seeing George’s sudden success she realizes that she has become the “new” George. Very funny episode. Oh, and by the way, the Mariners are 1-5 and the Tigers are 5-1. Very funny episode, indeed.

* And speaking of the Mariners: when Randy Winn overran the line drive by Eric Chavez on Friday night how many thousands of people in Seattle do you think were crying Mike Cameron’s name into their microbrews and organic lattes? (If you follow the Cameron link, scroll down a bit and you will see a great article about Mike Cameron as the most underrated player in baseball). Defense is probably the most difficult aspect of baseball to gauge in any objective manner. Sure, we can have errors but they really only tell a very small part of the whole story. Having been spoiled the last few years with the amazing defensive play of the Mariners, seeing this year’s Cameronless version feels like watching a AAA team. Even those plays that are not counted as errors just look sloppy.

* And speaking of Mike Cameron: I recently rented Cameron Crowe’s Say Anything. It had been quite a while since I last saw that film (and, by the way, it’s as good as now as it was then). Anyhoo, the movie is set in Seattle and there are two very minor characters: one is named Mike Cameron and the other is DON Wilson. It appears the future was written in 1989. Whatever became of Ione “Daughter of Mellow Yellow” Sky?

* And speaking of questions, big thanks to Rob M. for solving the riddle regarding why the Angels have Angels and not Anaheim on their gray, away uniforms:

The Angels have dropped the "Anaheim" formerly on their away uniforms because new owner Arte Moreno wants to market the team to all of Southern California.

Back when I was a kid growing up in Southern California, I was actually quite an Angels fan. I got to see the arrival of Rod Carew (after he had given his best years to Minnesota, of course) and the implosion of the 1986 ALCS. And by the way, for any Red Sox fans out there whining and bitching about Bill Buckner and Game Six, I’ve got two words for you: Donnie Moore. Enough said.

* And speaking of the Red Sox: After the world series, and more specifically after the pathetic lovey-dovey kisses Tim McCarver threw at his favorite Mr. Clutch (Dirk Jeter), Aaron Gleeman did a wonderful breakdown of Jeter’s at-bats during late and close situations (defined as an at-bat in the 7th, 8th or 9th innings with your team being no more than two runs behind or ahead). During these situations, Mr. Clutch’s numbers dropped dramatically. I won’t go into them here but you can check them out for yourself on Gleeman’s page. So, what does this have to do with the Red Sox? Well, in their Easter Sunday, extra-inning win against the Toronto Blays, David Ortiz hit a walk-off homerun in the bottom of the twelfth to win the game. This compelled the radio announcer, Jerry Trupiano, to declare that Ortiz had a “flair for the dramatic.” This, of course, made me think of McCarver’s loving odes to Mr. Clutch so I decided to do a little check on Ortiz’s late and close numbers and yes, indeed, Mr. Trupiano was correct. In fact, so much so that from now on, David Ortiz will be hereby known as the Drama King. In the 2003 regular season, the Drama King had an AVG/OBP/SLG of .288/.369/.592 (over 448 at-bats) but during the close and late situations, Drama King stepped it up to .306/.390/.681 (over 72 at-bats). Most impressive indeed.

* And speaking of Drama: Those Tampa Bay Drays are playing a pretty exciting brand of baseball. I started paying attention to them last year (like most people not living in the greater St. Petersburg metroplex). I remember their having played lots of very close games and now it seems a little bit of that luck is turning their way. They split four games against the hapless Yankees and won two of three against Baltimore. Do the Drays have a chance at the playoffs? Will Victor Zambrano (currently 3-0) win twenty games? No, of course not. I’m not that stupid. Zambrano is a good pitcher but one who is benefiting from providence (his 15K/10BB ratio is not very encouraging). But I do think they might have a shot at fulfilling Lou’s promise that the Drays will play .500 ball over the season. Then again, Lou did promise that the Mariners, after dropping the first two games of the 2002 ALCS against the Yankees, would bring the series back to Seattle and we all know what happened then. The big test for the Drays will be this upcoming week when the Drays go up to the Bronx to play the team formerly known as the Manhattan Highlanders.

* And speaking of the Yankees: I know it’s early and you can’t tell too much from just the first week of the season but while their questionable pitching has been fairly decent (Mike Mussina aside), their supposedly potent offense seems MIA. As a team, their AVG/OBP/SLG numbers are: .205/.323/.371. By any standard, that is not good. One might chalk this up, of course, to Chicago’s stellar pitching except that they were playing the Chicago White Sox and not the Chicago Cubs. Garland and Shoen-knife both have career ERA’s in the 4.5 range and Dan Wright owns an impressive 5.52 Career ERA.

* And speaking of the White Sox: while the AL Central may be the "weakest division in baseball," I certainly do think it is the most exciting. (Go to Steve's post, "AL Central: Central to What?" to explain the scare quotes). For all intents and purposes, the AL West and the AL East are two-team races. Between the East and West you have four teams vying for three spots. The AL Central, on the other hand, is a three-team race with all three teams hoping for one playoff spot. Heck, with the way the Tigers are playing, the AL Central could be a four-team race well into the dog days. By the by, if there are any Tigers fans out there, I’d be curious to know how many of the everyday starters were actually starters last year. From my count, only half of the starting eight were Tigers last year (Sanchez – CF; Higginson – RF; Pena – 1B; and Munson/Young – 3B). The other four (Guillen – SS; Vina – 2B; Rodriguez; and White – LF) were all off-season transactions. With such a large turnover the Tigers could be looking at the biggest single-season turnaround. To some extent, the Tigers and the Drays seem to be using the same formula: hold on to their core group of talented youngsters and match them with some veterans who have come from winning teams.

* And speaking of the Tigers: Do you remember that Seinfeld episode when George Costanza decides to completely turn his life around by doing the exact opposite of what his instincts tell him to do?

Forever Hold Your Piece

* I picked on Angees broadcaster Rex Hudler the other day (though a certain Angels fan didn't exactly disagree with my assessment), so to continue in this vein of ridiculing people whose job is a lot harder than it looks, let me share with you some treasures from the White Sox season: while in Kansas City, Darrin Jackson commented that the team, under new manager Ozzie Guillen, had a stronger sense of togetherness and, as he put it, "comaraderieship"; yesterday, while describing the infield shift put on for Jason Giambi, DJ described shortstop Jose Valentin as being positioned on "the second base side of second base." DJ--stay off dem treez, man.

* Speaking of the White Sox - Yankees game yesterday, how about zero earned runs for the limousine boys? If Jose Valentin hadn't airmailed an easy double play relay, and if Billy Koch hadn't one-upped him by throwing one into the stands, the score would have been Chicago 7, New York 0. Tom Gordon gave up 2 earned runs on 3 hits against his old 'mates (after saying he wanted to close, turning down an offer from Chicago and then accepting a job as a set-up guy in New York).

* Has anyone been watching Bonds bat lately? Last night he took a 2-1 fastball right down Broadway. I mean, Market Street--he plays for San Francisco, right? Whatever, it was a fastball right down the main throroughfare. A lambchop was thrown right past the wolf, and the wolf missed it; that was weird to see.

* Anyway, Michael Kay on the YES Network has the most irritating voice on earth, as I was reminded today; apologies to Wonder Dog fans. You know, last week at the Trop, when Drays fans got up to cheer with two outs and two strikes, Kay said, "and just like they do at Yankee Stadium, the fans are on their feet." Never mind the atrocious grammar; I guess I had forgotten that Yankee fans invented standing up and cheering. Today they may have invented booing their own reigning MVP (A-Hole struck out against Dan Wright after getting ahead in the count 3-0, and is "hitting" a lot like Jeff Cirillo, at .160).