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, May 07, 2004

Squash that Bug

Originally, I was planning to avoid writing about this whole Spiderman fiasco but I couldn’t stop thinking about it. There’s obviously been no shortage of press on this mess and so I won’t bother to link them here since if you’re reading this blog that probably means you read most of the major baseball cyberpress that’s out there. I will point out, however, that Rob Neyer’s recent take on this mess was particularly interesting. Rather than cry out for the sanctity of the game, Neyer very smartly points out MLB’s horrific duplicity in their supposed justification and reasoning behind this promotional tie-in.

According to an official MLB press release, the son of Satan (President and Chief Operating Officer, Bob DuPuy)

[W]e think this is a terrific promotion for Major League Baseball and Columbia Pictures and a great opportunity to reach out to children and families


In response to a similar statement made by Jacqueline Parks, senior vice president of advertising and marketing, Neyer “translates” the PR double-talk:

Kids don't care about baseball like they used to. We haven't figured out how to make kids like baseball without running baseball clinics, opening baseball academies in urban areas, and subsidizing youth baseball programs, all of which would cost us millions of dollars. Sure, that would be a great investment in the future, but you have to remember that most of the current owners will not be owners 10 years from now. Most of the current owners couldn't care less about the next generation of fans, because by the time the next generation can afford to buy its own tickets, most of the current owners will have worn out their tax breaks and will have moved to their next expensive toy.


There are essentially two key (and obviously related) points that Neyer makes here: Baseball is in the business of making money and does not want to sink its revenues into long-term projects no matter how good they may be for the game; the way tax shelters work, most owners are not in the game for the long-run and, therefore, only looking for short-term fixes (like revenue generation movie tie-ins).

As someone who studies historical novels and the culture of nostalgia in contemporary America, I’m always wary of people harking back to the good old days because more often than not, those old days really weren’t so good (especially if you happened to be anything other than a rich, white, heterosexual, protestant male). I also have very little patience with people who cry out for the “purity” of the game. As much as I abhor the Spiderman tie-in, one has to wonder if it’s any worse than going to see a baseball game at Minute Maid Park or U.S. Cellular Field where the first pitch is sponsored by Pepsi and the day’s defensive highlight might be sponsored by a local stereo store (as it is in Seattle).

No, waxing nostalgic is strictly for the birds. But, with all that said, I do miss the days of stable owners (as opposed to ownership groups). I grew up an Angels fan and you always knew that was Gene Autrey’s team and even though I feel no loyalty to the Angels anymore I certainly am glad that Disney got out of baseball and an individual with a real face and a real personality (or at least a public version of a personality), Arte Moreno, is now the chief owner. Hell, I can’t stand Tom Hicks and his soul-crushing music empire known as Clear Channel but I have to admit that, as a fan of Mariners, Inc., I’m a tad envious of any team that has an owner with a real conviction for winning (even if that does mean the occasionally stupid contracts).

Of course, we’ll have to see if Moreno and Hicks stay in the game for the long-term. Will they be like the legendary Walter O’Malley or the Yawkey family or will they be more like the testicle-grabbing Wayne “the video trashman” Huizenga? If I were a betting man, I’d place a couple of bucks on the latter. Jeffrey Loria has done a great job to keep the Marlins together (unlike the trashman) but I’m willing to bet that once stadium financing goes through and the value of the Marlins rises exponentially, Loria too will cash out.

So, what does all this rambling on about owners has to do with Spiderman? Well, nothing and everything. That is, nothing directly and everything indirectly. I thin it’s wrong or misleading to say that baseball has been infected by a culture of greed. Baseball has always been motivated by greed. The legendary owners of whom I just spoke fondly in the above paragraph were also notoriously cheap-bastards who kept their players indentured via the reserve clause. I have no delusion that previous owners of baseball were wonderful people. They, like all Americans, were driven by greed. It’s an ugly secret Americans all know but like to pretend isn’t true.

Just to break on another quick tangent, we have this romantic mythology of the Puritans as the first Americans – that is, we like to believe that this country was founded by people who were out seeking freedom. Well, as any amateur historian can tell you, that’s a load of hogwash. The Mayflower arrived in 1620 … thirteen years after the colony of Jamestown had been settled … fifty years after the first English settlement (in present day Roanoke) had been attempted. No, this country was founded by a bunch of opportunists who wanted to make a lot of money and even the majority of those people who were living in the “Puritan” communities of New England were not Puritans. Those folks simply put up with the Puritans because you could still make lots of money there. (Sorry about this transgression but every once in a while I have to prove to myself that my master’s degree in 17th-century American Literature was not a complete waste of time).

So, getting back to baseball, if greed has always been a part of baseball then how is the new greed different from the old greed? Well, while the old owners always kept one eye on the bottom line, they also kept one eye in the standings. These people may have been cheap bastards but they were cheap bastards who wanted to win and who cared about winning. In today’s market, being competitive is important only insofar as it keeps the turnstiles moving and the cash registers (or credit card machines) jumping. I think Neyer’s suggestion that the baseball teams are “toys” for these owners is wrong. I think the Dodgers, for example, was very much a toy for Walter O’Malley as was the White Sox for Comiskey but these were toys that had value (both monetary and personal as well as private and public). No, the problem with the current ownership is precisely that the teams are not toys but rather cold, stark investments.

When, in 1922, the Supreme Court decided to grant baseball its now famous antitrust-exemption, it did so under the theory that while baseball was most certainly a business, it was also a business that served the public good. I’m no legal expert and so I’m not going to fiddle with the intricacies of antitrust law but I will most certainly agree that baseball does and can serve a greater good but in an environment in which the gross revenue is increasingly more important than total wins, one has to wonder anyone (the owners, the players, Bud Selig and his cronies, and maybe even the fans) really cares about the greater good.

I would like to think the answer is yes … at least for the fans. Baseball, it seems to me, has always been held to a higher standard. The current frenzy and outrage over the use of steroids in baseball seem utterly overblown. Barry Bonds is 6’2” and weighs 228 pounds. Brett Favre is 6’2” and weighs 225 pounds. True, Bonds did not come into the league weighing 228 pounds but is it so difficult to believe that someone as driven and determined as Bonds might, in dedicating the better part of twenty years of his life to baseball, commit himself to a strict workout regimen that would over time turn him from a star athlete to a superstar athlete? Unlike those “good old days” when pro athletes had to supplement their income with off-season jobs, today’s athletes can train year round.

This flack over the Spiderman promotion at first seemed to me yet another example of people holding on too tightly to the great sanctity of the sport. I can understand why Nader would be upset about the baseball players wearing advertising patches on their uniforms but then why hasn’t he lambasted the NFL or the NHL for wearing advertising patches on their uniforms (those Nike swooshes and Reebok logos don’t appear out of nowhere for no reason)? Likewise, what about the hallowed grounds of college athletics? Why isn’t Nader busting the NCAA for forcing their players to wear college uniforms that have commercial insignias?

I’m not saying that I think the Spiderman promotion is a good idea because I don’t. I think it’s stupid and it does cheapen the game but, at the same time, I don’t understand why anyone would be surprised or remotely shocked that this could happen. In fact, I’m more surprised it didn’t happen sooner.

And finally (yes, I’m finally at the end of this rather lengthy post), something I haven’t heard anyone mention yet is the ridiculously small amount of money that is at stake here. The Yankees were supposed to receive $100,000 for participating in the promotion. Do you know what $100,000 would buy the Yankees? About six innings of Alex Rodriguez. The league as a whole was to receive $3.6 Million and while that may be a lot of money to you and me, $3.6 Million in today’s baseball economy will get you Randy Winn and some spare change. Sure, you could argue that putting ads on the bases is crass but putting ads on the bases so that baseball can collect $3.6 Million is just stupid business sense. Yes, baseball is a business but apparently it’s a business that’s currently being run by an idiot.


P.S. A more normal around theo horn report coming up this weekend. I promise.

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

My Jeter-Sense is tingling

ESPN reports that the Wall Street Journal reports that MLB will be displaying ads for the new Spiderman movie on bases and on-deck circles during interleague play. After reading the article, I had two thoughts: 1) that's really fucking sad; 2) what the fuck does Jeter have to do with it?

Monday, May 03, 2004

Hat me, baby

A few weeks ago, a friend of mine looked at my White Sox hat and said, "Did you start wearing that before or after Dr. Dre?" That reminded me that at one time Sox gear was actually a close second to Raiders gear amongst the gangsta rap contingent. It looks like the Pale Hose are starting to get national wardrobe recognition again. Sort of (not really). Apparently, Britney Spears is wearing a Birmingham Barons hat in her new video. The Barons are the White Sox AA affiliate. Funny how the writer states that "the reason for her sporting the Barons black and white, classic 'B' logo hat has yet to be determined," even though that's pretty fucking obvious. Britney's no genius, but she does know her initials. Of course, I would love to be wrong here, and find out that Ms. Spears is really a diehard minor league baseball fan. Maybe her favorite player is Tetsu Yofu and she loves manager Razor Shines.

What About Car Talk?

Errata non grata: In a recent post I mistakenly characterized Wait, Wait Don't Tell Me as the most annoying show on National Public Radio. That prompted the following response from the show's host, Peter Sagal, who writes: "What the hell do you mean, the most irritating show on NPR? What about Car Talk?"

Well, as an unrepentant Car Talk fan, I can only answer by saying that I misspoke. The most irritating show on NPR is really The Splendid Table. You know those skits on Saturday Night Live, where they make fun of public radio? Yeah. Anyway, apologies to Mr. Sagal and fans of the show. This also brings to mind that we should probably stop calling everything and everyone "annoying," or "irritating" as we have already done 9 times on this blog: Braves games; the aforementioned "Wait, Wait Don't Tell Me"; Tim McCarver; Alex Rodriguez; the Angels; a sports bar in Minnesota; Jack McDowell; the actions of Curt Schilling; Angels broadcaster Rex Hudler.

Who, exactly? We at Beer and Whiskey are not surprised that Manny Ramirez is fifth in the AL in batting average (.365). We are, however, surprised that #4 is Ken Harvey (.366), #3 is Juan Uribe (.384), #2 is Lew Ford (.391) and Ronnie Belliard is batting .400 to lead the Junior Circuit. Perhaps Tommy's Affordability Index could help determine whether Kansas City can afford to keep Carlos Beltran (though in most corners it's a foregone conclusion that they can't). In the meantime, we are not terribly surprised that Mr. Beltran tops the AL in runs (25), homers (8) and slugging (.721). He also has 7 stolen bases, good enough for a third place tie.

Gerut/stick: Cleveland outfielder Jody Gerut had an impressive rookie campaign (.279, 22, 75) but is off to a relatively slow start thus far, hitting just .258. His plate discipline, however, seems to be improving. He already has 15 free passes in 89 at-bats, compared to just 35 walks in 480 at-bats last year. And, to this point, his K/BB ratio is much improved--11/15 this year vs. 70/35 last season. Add to that the fact that the Stanford grad writes a better blog than we do. Check out his thoughtful reflections on former teammate Milton Bradley.

Making sacrifices: The White Sox are now 9-1 in one-run games and 10 of their 15 wins are of the come-from-behind variety. Toronto starter Miguel Batista allowed only 6 hits in 8 innings against the ChiSox on Sunday, but the Pale Hose executed two sac bunts and two sac flies to make the difference in a 3-2 win. There is ball of the small variety being played on the South Side, and people are calling it Ozzieball. The folks over at White Sox Interactive are now featuring both an "Ozzieball Update" and a "Maggli-o-Meter" in their "totally biased" game recaps.

I'm going down: Yankee's don Joe Torre put a damper on Tommy's ongoing Crosby Show by sending Bubba down in order to make room for Kenny Lofton. White Sox "pitcher" Dan Wright was optioned to AAA Charlotte this week, after failing yet again to give his team a chance to win (3.0 IP, 9 H, 3 BB, 6 ER on Saturday). According to The Southsider, Wright has a career 3.31 ERA the first time through the batting order, which rises to 5.75 the second time and up to 8.90 the third time around. Chicago will go old-school and use a 4-man rotation in the meantime.

Burning bright: Pasco, WA native Jeremy Bonderman pitched pretty darn well against the M's this weekend (7.2 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 0 BB, 2 K), and Ugueth Urbina got his second save with style, doing that swinging-leg half-pirouette thing for emphasis and/or style points. Pudge was on the bench, so no kissing. Talking Baseball discusses Bonderman in some detail here.

Sunday, May 02, 2004

Around the Horn (Finals Week Edition)

Home Stretch: Whew, I never thought I’d get time again to put up a post. It’s finals week where I teach and whatever amount of stress students might be experiencing at having to take finals is matched by the amount of labor professors have to go through grading those finals. Times like this I wish I gave multiple choice exams instead of essays. Anyhoo, so enough of that. Let's get on with the baseball.

All in the Family: Well, the Crosby boys got together earlier this week when the slumping Stoneboners hosted Billy’s Bean-counters and suddenly the Yankees’ bats were alive with the sound of money. Even The Jeter managed to get a hit, breaking his 0-32 slump. Most exciting for the Crosby watch was the fact poor little Bubba got to start one of the three games.

GABAVGOBPSLGBBSOSB

Bubba
1118.222.222.556031

Bobby
1764.203.264.3755260


As you’ll notice, one of the Crosby boys finally managed to get a stolen base and with each update, the two seem to be getting closer and closer in terms of their batting averages. Maybe we should rename the Mendoza Line the Crosby Line. Also, Bobby still hasn’t managed to score a single walk.

No, they really hate Detroit: A couple of postings ago, I mentioned that the broadcasters for the Mariners, Niehaus and Rizz, snickered at the phrase "beautiful Detroit." I later amended this statement when a reader informed me of the ugly history between Rizz and the Tigers. Well, on Friday, Niehaus mentioned that during a lull in the game the Tigers fans were trying to get the wave started. He then muttered under his breath, "Are we suddenly in the 1970s now?" Man, they really really hate Detroit.

I Told You So: Last week I posted the Beer and Whiskey power rankings (and, yes, I will get back to that soon and have an updated posting). If you recall (and if you don’t, the rankings are just a click away), I had the Rangers ranked number one. I know that seems weird and I had to do the math at least three times to make sure that was right and it was and apparently the folks over at ESPN have also seen the light and are beginning to recognize the Rangers are in fact for real … and of course their sweeping the Bridesmaids over the weekend can only make them stand out that much more. Anyhoo, both John Kruk and Tim Kurkjian have articles explaining why the Rangers are so damn hot right now.

I know most stats-oriented folks think this whole team chemistry factor is rather silly (and, sure, you can look at the 1978 Yankees via Roger Kahn’s October Men as proof that you can win games without chemistry) but in a game that requires a good head just as much as it does a good body you can’t help but think that team chemistry must count for something especially when you read something like this:

If you want to know what it means to be a teammate, you need to look at how guys interact when the game is over. When R.A. Dickie came to Texas last year, he brought his pregnant wife with him. What does Blalock do to make him feel welcome? He tells Dickie to move into his place so he can take care of his family. Blalock says he and his wife will find another place to live for a while. He's 23 years old, and he has that kind of leadership? That's a team I root for.


Maybe I’m just a sucker but stories like that make me feel good about being a baseball fan. Don’t get me wrong. I’ll never root for the Rangers. Remember, I’m a Mariners fan first (even though they are really starting to piss me off) and I’ll never root for a division rival. But, still, it’s a nice story. I especially like the fact Kruk takes a nice little stab at A-Hole whose departure helped make this new-look Rangers possible. By the way, R.A. Dickey is the guy who came one out short of pitching a complete-game shutout against the Bridesmaids on Sunday (more details on this exciting game below).

And speaking of A-Hole jabs, here’s the penultimate paragraph from Kurkjian’s piece on the Rangers (specifically on Hank Blalock):

Blalock is not in this for fame or publicity, just to win and to hit, much like one of Showalter's favorite players, Don Mattingly. Former teammate Alex Rodriguez offered Blalock the chance to fly to last year's All-Star Game on A-Rod's private jet after the Rangers' game that Sunday. Blalock respectfully declined, opting to take a 7 a.m. commercial flight the next day with his wife. Blalock said he might never get back to the All-Star Game, and he wanted he, and his wife, to savor every minute of it.


Let Them Eat Cake: For those of you who may not be familiar with the origins of this phrase, this was supposedly a remark made by Marie Antoinette when told that the French peasants were starving and had no bread … and of course Her Royal Majesty was soon beheaded during the French Revolution. So, what does this have to do with baseball? Well, it’s never too early to speculate about which GM or manager is going to get fired first. Since I follow the Mariners more closely than any other team, I’ve become accustomed to hearing the daily rants and ravings of those who want Bavasi’s head (from the first signing no less) and of course with the painfully slow start the Mariners are off to, there’s been grumbling about BoMel. Well, it was certainly nice to take a quick look around the blogosphere and see that even those in Bean land are calling for the head of their manager, Ken “low-fat” Mocha. On the other hand, I’d love to trade GM’s with those Elephants down South. Imagine what Billy boy could do with a real budget.

Rock You Like a Hurricane: Did anyone notice that on Sunday’s ESPN game featuring the Bridesmaids and the Rangers, the P.A. system at one point started blaring a song from Interpol. On the one hand, I think it’s pretty cool that a relatively little-known band on a medium sized independent label like Matador could get played in a sports arena. But, I found this particularly ironic because it was being done in Arlington. You know, where the Rangers play. You know, the Rangers … owned by Tom Hicks … the guy who owns fucking clear channel … you know, the big music radio conglomerate that is destroying the airwaves? Yeah, that guy. Prick.

The irrepressible force meets the unmovable object: Well, it looks like the Texas Rangers just might be for real (maybe). The Boston Bridesmaids went into Arlington in a showdown that brought the AL’s best pitching staff (.295 Team ERA) against the AL’s top hitting team (.316/.362/.501). They say that good pitching usually beats out good hitting and that may be true but pretty good pitching will always beat out mediocre hitting. The Rangers, amazingly enough, have the third best team ERA (.431, right behind Boston and Oakland) while last year’s record-setting offense sits smack in the middle of the AL this year (.260/.349/.417).

While the Bridesmaids got off to a hot start this week with a sweep of the Drays, they apparently forgot to bring their arms and their bats with them when they went to Texas. Apparently the old cliché rings true: “don’t mess with Texas.” Not only did the Rangers manage, in the back half of the doubleheader, to send little Pedro into the clubhouse early (four innings, nine hits, six earned runs) but they also managed to end the 32.1 scoreless innings streak by getting two runs in each of Saturday’s games.

Talk about the passion: Both of Saturday’s games were pretty darn exciting to follow. With the Bridesmaids down 4-2 in the ninth inning, The Passion (a.k.a. Damon) managed to get a double with McCarty on base to make it a 4-3 game. Unfortunately, Mueller struck out immediately afterward and Francisco Corduroy got his eighth save of the season.

But wait, there’s more (as Ron Popeill might say), in the second game, with the Bridesmaid down 8-2, Varitek scored on a Belhorn single to make the game 8-3. A few batters later, along came The Passion with the bases loaded and again he unloaded with a double to make the game8-5 (apparently, Daubach, on first at the time, was apparently a tad too slow to make it home). Mueller once again managed to choke by striking out but this time there was still an out to spare and then along comes none other than The Drama King (Ortiz) representing the tiring run. Wouldn’t it be just grand if he could hit a home run and tie the game? Yes, it would be grand but it also didn’t happen. The Drama King apparently doesn’t have the super-powered “clutch” gene that makes Tim McCarver get so hot and wild.

And just when you think that’s all you could take, well, along comes Sunday’s ESPN featured game of the night. R.A. Dickey held the Bridesmaids to three hits and no runs over the first eight innings. In the top of the ninth with the Rangers up 4-0, Dickey got Ortiz out on a swinging strike and then allowed a single to Money “Just Happy to Be Here” Ramirez. Daubauch then makes the second out with a line drive to right field. Millar then walks and there are men on first and second. Showalter finally pulls Dickey out of the game and puts in Cordero who then proceeds to walk Bellhorn to load the bases and then walk Varitek to score a run. He finally gets Crespo to fly out to shallow center and the sweep was complete.

Curtain Call: Rob Neyer, in his continual pursuit to prove that now is the best time to be a baseball fan, recently had an article on how despite the seeming dominance of the Stoneboners, we are truly in an era of parity. Well, while I certainly would not argue with Neyer on this point, I’d like to zoom in on his argument and say that this last week was probably one of the best weeks to be a baseball fan. There were so many exciting, close games that I felt compelled to go through them. Certainly, none of these games could match Boston’s World Series Game Six -- no, not that game six but the other game six; the one with Carlton Fisk’s arm-flailing, contorted body-english home run in the eleventh inning of the 1975 world series – but for late April baseball, it sure was a fine week to be a fan.

Tuesday: (Cleveland at Chicago) Chicago’s bullpen implodes once again by giving up four runs in the top of the tenth inning to the almighty Cleveland Tribesmen.

(Oakland at New York) In what looked like a sure loss for the struggling Stoneboners, the Bean Counters’s bullpen does a great impression of Chicago’s bullpen and manages to give up six runs in the bottom of the eighth and relinquish a four-run lead.

(Toronto at Minnesota) Trailing 4-3 in the bottom of the ninth, Tori (not Spelling or Amos) Hunter hits an RBI single to tie up the game. Then with men on first and third, Jacque Jones smashes a three-run homer to win the game. Fortunately, there was no pathetic little homeplate dance a la the Cincinnati Reds.

Wednesday: (Cleveland at Chicago … again) Down 8-4 in the bottom of the ninth, the ChiSox return the favor from the previous day by drilling the Cleveland bullpen for five runs. The first runs of the inning came from Magglio’s two run homerun to make the score 8-6. A few batters later, Joe Crede scores an RBI single. Score: 8-7 with men on first and second. The very next batter, Perez, gets a single to tie the game and, most importantly, put a man on third with less than two outs. Then Sandy Alomar, Jr. (who currently has the second most at-bats of any current major leaguer) hits a sacrifice fly to win the game.

Thursday: (Texas at Kansas City) Down by one run, Michael Young hits a solo shot to tie the game at seven. Then, a few batters later, with Hammerin Hank Blalock on base, Brad Fullmer hits a two-run homer to take the lead and ultimately win the game.

Friday: (Seattle at Detroit) Although Freddy pitched one hell of a game (see below) he made the mistake of allowing one run over eight innings since it would be silly to assume that Seattle’s singles-happy offense could actually score more than a run themselves. Leaving the game with the score tied at one, Raw-wool Ibanez hit a two-run homer in the top of the tenth. There was much celebration all throughout the Emerald City since this would mean that, at the very least, the Mariners could count on not being swept. (Much like when I was a student at Berkeley, our football team was so bad that our usual football cheer was, “Beat the spread! Beat the spread!”)

Saturday: (Baltimore at Cleveland) Finding yet another way to blow a wonderful outing by C.C. (again, see below), the Orange Birds scored a run off the Tribes’s bullpen in the eighth to tie the game and eventually go into extra innings. Five innings later (the 13th inning, if you’re counting) Coco Crisp (is it possible to make any sort of pun on this name?) hit an RBI single to score Matt Lawton and win the game.

(Toronto and Chicago … what is it with Cleveland and Chicago and these extra inning games?) A ten-inning affair, the score was tied by the Blays in the eighth inning off of Carlos Delgado’s solo home run. Then in the bottom of the tenth, the ChiSox took back the lead and the game off of Joe Crede’s sacrifice fly.

(Anaheim at Minnesota) Well, this is either a pitcher’s duel or an example of offensive ineptitude. Perhaps both. Aaron Sele kept the Twins to two hits and no runs. The bullpen also allowed two hits and no runs. The Angels, on the other hand, managed to get seven hits and three base on balls over the first eight innings but came away with no runs. Then, in the top of the ninth they had back to back singles to put men on the corners. This was then followed by Chone “my parents can’t spell” Figgins who hit the go-ahead, game-winning RBI single.

(Oakland at Tampa Bay) Down 6-1 in the bottom of the ninth inning, the Drays started an impressive rally that ultimately fell one run short. The first runs of the inning came when Carl Crawford hit a two-run triple making the score 6-3. Juan Cruz, Jr. then hit a home run to bring the Drays within one run. The next batter, Aubrey Huff, grounded out. Then, with two outs and the Drays behind one run, up came to bat Mr. Rocco Baldelli, the future franchise player for the Drays. Really, if you’re a TB fan, this is the man you want especially considering that he was 3-4 up to that point. But, alas, Mr. Rocco flailed and the Bean Counters won the game 6-5.

Sunday: (Anaheim at Minnesota) With the score tied 1-1 in the eighth, Figgins led off with a single and then stole a crucial base that would eventually lead to Guerrero being intentionally walked. With one out and men on first and second, Troy Glass grounded out but moved both baserunners up ninety feet. Jose Guillen then singled to score both Figgins and Guerrero and eventually give the Angels another win.

Now, wasn’t that pretty exciting? I know a lot of people love watching their teams but I have to say that with the quality of baseball what it is today, it’s exciting watching just about any game (except those annoying Braves games on TNT).

Hard Luck Freddy: Last season, Ryan Franklin had some of the worst luck a pitcher could possibly have. Yes, I’m talking about that terrible role of the dice that we call Run Support. Although Franklin’s RS shows up only as the tenth worst last season, his actual run support was much worse (since RS is calculated as an average over nine innings like ERA). In his eleven losses, the Mariners managed to score more than two runs only once. Well, this year’s potential winner for the hard luck award just might be Franklin’s teammate, Freddy “the Chief” Garcia. After all the fuss over his ruptured ear drum as the cause of his down year last season, Garcia’s come back to be the dominant pitcher who in 2002 had the league’s lowest ERA (losing the Cy Young award to a sentimental old fart: the artist formerly known as Retired Roger). Unfortunately, while his devastating change-up may be making opposing batters look silly, his own teammates are doing a fine job of looking silly themselves.

His 35.1 innings pitched over five games puts him fifth in terms of innings pitched while his 2.27 ERA places him second best (right behind C.C. “not from Poison” Sabathia who has a sick 1.61 ERA). So, in those five outings in which he’s given up a total of nine total runs, how many wins does the Chief have? You guessed it, ZERO. In fact, his record is 0-1. I know baseball is a team game and sometimes when a pitcher is not doing well his teammates can pick him up but this is ridiculous. The offense can’t hit and the Mariner bullpen – yeah, you know, the one that used to be good – is just looking sad as sad can be. Perhaps the ghost of Bobby Ayala has returned to Seattle. For those of you not familiar with this particular aspect of Seattle Mariner’s sorry-ass history, let’s just say that last year Ayala was voted the most despised former Mariner by the listeners of a Seattle-area sports radio station.

Of course, one could also make an argument for C.C. to win the hard-luck award since his 1.61 ERA (god, that feels weird just writing it down … I keep having to check and make sure that’s right) has netted him a fantabulous 1-0 record over five starts. Yep, like Freddy, C.C. has pitched 35 innings (giving up a total of 6 runs over those 5 starts) and has exactly one win to show for it. On Saturday, C.C. pitched seven innings and allowed one earned run. When he left the game the score was tied 1-1. By the eighth, the Tribe were down 2-1 (although they did manage to get a win after 13 innings).

Lew Who? Who’s on first? I mean, who’s first in the AL in OPS? Not surprisingly, Carlos “soon to be sold to New York” Beltran. Number two is Jorge Posada. Again, no surprise and it’s also no surprise that Frank Thomas is number four. Oops … I missed one, didn’t I? And it’s an easy one to miss because Lew Ford, of the Minnesota Twins, is currently third in the AL in OPS. This relatively young kid from Texas playing in his first full season (he played 34 games last season), is on a tear. But, aside from his being a relatively unknown, what makes Lew’s presence on the leaderboard so interesting is the simple fact this guy is an utter bonehead … and I mean that in the best way possible. Check out this article from the Minneapolis Star Tribune … just heelarious. Oh, and if you don’t want to fill out the stupid subscription form, you can find excerpts over at Bat-Girl.Com.

A Few Loose Threads: Just a couple of interesting articles I saw in the blogosphere that I thought I would pass along to you folks.

Hardball Times has a good article on K-Rod that argues the young 22-year old lad just may be the best reliever in the American League and possibly the best reliever in all of baseball second only to Eric “the second G is silent” Gagne.

Those crazy Minnesotans over at Bat-Girl.Com have a nice little stab at Oakland. Apparently, in the collective imagination of the Twins Nation, Billy Koch is to Oakland what Fred Merkle is to the New York Baseball Giants.

And finally: Thanks again to those e-mailed us especially those with suggestions regarding the Affordability Index. I was going to post the numbers for ramoN and Magglio but I’ve decided the formula still needs more tweaking. I’ll be taking many of your suggestion into consideration and hopefully will be able to present a more polished version of the formula in the near future.