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, July 08, 2004

Quick and Dirty

Ok, I'm back but this one's going to be brief. I promise to have one of my lengthy (overblown) posts up first thing Monday (or last thing Sunday). I also promise to get to reader mail (and thanks a ton to all of you have written during our short sabbatical).

I do want to point out a few things:

1. We have reached the midpoint of the season (or thereabouts) and the Devil Dogs are one game above .500 and only 4 games out of the wild card.

2. The Texas Rangers have not had the collapse everyone keeps predicting they will. Now, conventional wisdom (and we all know that conventional wisdom has been about as valuable as a Paul "released by the Devil Dogs" Abbot fastball) says the Rangers will perish in the horrid August heat of Texas. And it is true that the geniuses at MLB, scheduled 17 of the Rangers's 28 August games at home (including a 15-game stretch followed by one day off and then a 10-game stretch ... yep, that's 25 games in 26 days ... way to go MLB!). But opponents also have to play in the same heat (albeit for only three days). My point being that I think the Rangers may have a less than stellar August but I do not think the dog days of summer will be their undoing.

3. I recently heard Mariner's broadcaster Dave Niehaus mumbling that Bobby Crosby is a leading Rookie of the Year in the American League. Poor Dave. Lord knows, I love him and his sweet baritone voice but that man is seriously losing it. Throughout the season, he had been missing calls, spouting incorrect facts, etc. but the suggestion that Crosby is anywhere near a possible AL RoY is just plain dumb dumb dumb. A .271 AVG and .799 OPS is certainly nothing to sneeze at (heck, that just might make him the third best batter in the Mariners's staff this season) but it's not award winning anything. Now, his limited at-bats due to an early-season injury might make him ineligible but for my money, Joe Mauer is the undisputed RoY not only for the AL but for all of baseball. In 94 at-bats (yes, yes ... a relatively small sample size) Mauer is hitting .340/.402/.638 (avg/obp/slg) with an OPS of 1.020. Those are amazing numbers ... and the fact he's a pretty darn good catcher is a big big plus.

4. When Pudge was a Ranger I couldn't stand the guy ... but now that he's been bounced around like a piece of used tissue, I have to admire his drive and determination. It really does excite me to think that we might see a catcher win the batting title. Sure, it's not as dramatic as seeing a record-breaking homerun but I think it really will be one of those once in a lifetime events.

5. There's a lot of hoopla around the fact 21 of the 30 MLB teams are within five games of a playoff spot. The Mariners aren't one of them and, in fact, they are only three games ahead of the AL cellar (currently occupied by the Royals). This is incredible: a team that won 116 games only three years ago is now scratching at the ground floor. Unflipping believable.

6. ESPN has now made Rob Neyer's articles pay-to-view via subscription. Pisses me off. I would do it if there were a host of other writers I wanted to read. While I find the other baseball writers on ESPN entertaining/amusing, Neyer's is the only one I find really engaging and the thought of paying $35/yr just to read Neyer seems a tad ridiculous.

7. We have reached the midpoint of the season (or thereabouts) and the Devil Dogs are one game above .500 and only 4 games out of the wild card. I know I started with this tid-bit but I think it really needs to be said over and over again. I've been on the Devil Dogs bandwagon since the opening of the season and you bet I'm going to pay very close attention to what happens in the Yankees series this weekend.

Torre-ble

I'm not entertaining any arguments about whether Joe Torre is a good manager or not (because no one else gets to manage AL All-Stars all year). I suppose when you work in an inherently corrupt city like New York, where things like garbage disposals in sinks get outlawed in order to keep the mob-run waste hauling business healthy, you find ways to, as they say, manufacture runs.

Predictably, yet another Yankee, Hideki Matsui, is on the All-Star squad. Let's see: Torre chose as the only representative of the then-first place White Sox a guy, Esteban Loaiza, who is not having an All-Star season (8-4, 4.37 ERA, 68 SO in 115.1 IP); Then, he put two guys, Konerko and Thomas, who are having All-Star seasons on the final vote ballot to compete with each other for votes.

Thomas is the obvious All-Star. He leads the AL in walks (64), is second in OPS (.997) and has 18 home runs. He's also going to the Hall of Fame, which warrants mention only because people seem to think that getting in on one's reputation (Sosa, Jeter) is okay if you have a proven track record. If you're of the camp that, because you don't particularly like Big Frank and think he whines too much, thinks that thefore he's not a HOF-er, consider that the top four 100-RBI, 100-walk seasons, all time, belong to Gehrig, Ruth, Bonds and Thomas.

Anyway, so you say the ASG is in an NL park this year, and since Frank doesn't really play 1st base anymore, he shouldn't be in. Fine. Konerko has 21 homers (good enough for 4th in the AL) and a .924 OPS (11th). Which leads us to H. Matsui, who shouldn't even have been on this ballot in the first place. No offense to Matsui, who is a fine player, but his .880 OPS puts him at 19th in the AL, and he has fewer homers than Jose Valentin. Jose Valentin, incidentally, who is always being criticized for his defense, has not allowed a single inside-the-park home run this season (Matsui allowed one in Los Angeles on a play that your grandma could have made). But, Matsui has name recognition (though Chicagoans are still confused about the whole "Matt Suhey" thing), the entire nation of Japan voting for him online (and Torre knows this) and has the benefit of not having a teammate on the same ballot.

The White Sox have a Japanese player, too, Shingo Takatsu, who rattled off a 26 and 2/3 scoreless innings streak this season. That would qualify as remarkable, whereas Matsui's mediocre season would not. Whatever. Joe, next time just name all the Yanks you want as reserves and make a joke that's actually funny out of the final vote.