Sunday, November 30, 2008

ShysterBall Has Moved

ShysterBall has moved to The Hardball Times.

You can find me here: http://www.hardballtimes.com/main/shysterball/

The RSS feed can be found here.

Please change your bookmarks and blogrolls and all of that jazz at your earliest convenience.

Thanks,

Craig Calcaterra

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Reminder: Monday is Moving Day

For those of you who missed it -- or for those of you who ate so much pie over the past view days your synapses ceased firing -- a reminder: ShysterBall is moving to The Hardball Times Monday morning. If things go right, clicking your usual ShysterBall bookmark should redirect you to the New and Improved ShysterBall automatically. In the likely event I screw that up, the new URL is:
http://www.hardballtimes.com/main/shysterball
There's only some old junk there now. New stuff should show up early Monday morning.

If even that is screwed up, just go to THT's main page and click on the tab that reads, you guessed it, ShysterBall, which should appear in the wee hours of Monday morning as well.

As I said before, the new ShysterBall will be almost exactly like the old ShysterBall, except it will be different.

See you on the other side.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Giving Thanks

I did this last year and no one complained, so it seemed appropriate to once again give you ShysterBall's official list of the things which teams -- or their fans -- should be thankful for as we head into the deep dark winter of the 2008-09 offseason. Before you read that, however, please go watch this.

That never gets old. Now on to the thankfulness:

Rays
The Rays can be thankful for so many years in the wilderness, which allowed them to have so many recent high draft picks. If guys like Jose Canseco, Greg Vaughn, Travis Lee, and Casey Fossum had been even mediocre, Tampa Bay may never have gotten a crack at the players they needed to get this operation off the ground.

Red Sox
The Fenway Sports Group, which constitutes a big ol' infusion of non-sharable revenue with which the Sox' very bright front office can play. Of course, it may one day serve as the spark of a giant civil war between the rich owners and the poor owners. But I'm a silver lining guy, so my response to that will be "Cool! Two leagues!"

Yankees
The success of the Rays. If their failure to make the playoffs were simply a function of being outspent and out-thunk by the Red Sox, the Yankees would have no choice but to triple down on payroll and free agents. At least now Brian Cashman has an argument that it's better to develop at least a few players in-house. Sure, they may spend a gazillion dollars on free agents anyway this winter and cut bait on Hughes and Kennedy too early, but at least such a course will be the result of a decision rather than some unbending imperative.

Blue Jays
The return of Cito Gaston which, whether he caused it or not, coincided with a stretch of baseball in which the Jays were 14 games over .500. Eighty-six wins was nice too, though in the AL East that may be a curse in that it's not enough to compete but not enough to justify a tear-down either.

Orioles
That the offense came through better than expected. Before the season started most folks assumed that Baltimore would wind up near the cellar in runs scored, and instead finished remarkably mediocre in that category. Yeah, that still amounted to a distant last place, but things looked historically bleak for the Orioles this time last year, so run-of-the-mill crappy is worthy of thanks.

White Sox
White Sox fans should be thankful that the Arizona Diamondbacks gave a dumb contract to Eric Byrnes, which in turn made then feel like they had to trade Carlos Quentin.

Twins
The Twins should be thanking their lucky stars that letting their star centerfielder go and trading one of the best pitchers in baseball for a guy with a sub-.300 OBP didn't result in an utter collapse. Not that luck is the real factor here. The Twins have made something out of seemingly nothing for so long that maybe we shouldn't have been surprised that they were in the race until the waning days of the season. If only they had let Livan go a few weeks earlier than they did . . .

Indians
Injuries. If Victor Martinez and Travis Hafner (and many others) weren't hurt and/or ineffective this year, there's a chance they would have been in the race this summer. If they were, would they really have traded Sabathia and, in turn, received Matt LaPorta? Would they have realized that Kelly Shoppach could be an everyday catcher if given the chance, thus allowing Victor Martinez to move to first base or DH, thus displacing black holes like Hafner and Garko? No, the stars didn't align for the Indians in 2008, but things look pretty darn bright for 2009.

Royals
The month of September. As a result of that 18-8 record, the year ended up looking far prettier than it felt.

Tigers
The financial crisis, the impending collapse of the Big Three, the Lions and the 3-9 Michigan Wolverines. All of these catastrophes combined to quickly erase the memory of the 2008 Detroit Tigers, perhaps the most disappointing and uninspiring squad in team history.

Angels
The A's basically throwing in the towel last season. Sure, the Angels still would have cruised to the division crown, but the lack of any serious competition sure gave them a nice calm September.

Rangers
Their really damn fine offense, which helped balance the worst pitching staff and worst defense in the league.

A's
The icy hand of death. Specifically, the fear of it, which I'm guessing is what has caused owner Lew Wolff to go after Matt Holliday and put the pedal to the metal on the stadium in Fremont. The guy probably realizes that no matter how sound the decision making has been in Oakland during the Beane regime, sometimes you gotta push the limits a bit in order to accomplish something before you freakin' die.

Mariners
New blood in the front office and in the dugout. Both Jack Zduriencik and Don Wakamatsu are breaths of fresh air for a franchise that was damn close to suffocating.

Phillies
A front office team that realized that Geoff Geary, Michael Bourn, and Michael Costanzo were expendable. Oh, and the World Series title was nice too.

Mets
As God is my witness, I can't feature any Mets fan giving thanks for a single thing at the moment. Johan. OK, there's Johan. Other than that, man, it's been two pretty bleak winters in a row, hasn't it?

Marlins
The economic collapse. It's hard to get a publicly funded stadium built in even the most prosperous of times, and when times are tough, you may as well forget about it. But when times are as catastrophically bad as they are now -- when things are so awful that serious-minded people routinely use the word "depression" when discussing the economy -- public officials get all New Dealy on us and decide that a new ballpark isn't a gift to billionaire baseball owners, it's a public works project.

Braves
Jair Jurrjens and Jorge Campillo, who did everything they could to hold the fort after all the grownups in the rotation went down. Braves fans may also soon be able to thank Jake Peavy's representation, who have so damaged the bargaining power of Padres management this offseason that Jake may find himself in a Braves jersey next season in exchange for a package that even a doubter like me can live with.

Nationals
That seemingly no one in Virginia, Maryland, or the District of Columbia gives a flying falafel about baseball. You've seen the bumper sticker that reads "If you aren't outraged you aren't paying attention?" I think that was first made for the the seven Nats season ticket holders. No one is really outraged, by the way.

Cubs
No matter how disappointing the playoffs turned out, Cubs' fans should be thankful for the best Cubs team in, gosh, maybe 73 years. Unlike pre-2004 Red Sox Nation, Cubs fans have always stayed just on just the acceptable side of the line dividing genuine misery from overwrought victimization. Here's hoping that, as the Cubbies achieve greater success, they similarly outperform Yankees' fans in dealing with feelings of entitlement and unrealistic expectations.

Brewers
Carston Charles Sabathia, who took that team, placed it on his back, and carried its butt into October. No matter where he goes in 2009, CC gave Milwaukee fans a season -- well, a half season -- to remember.

Astros
That the success of a season is judged by the team's record in real games as opposed to the Pythagorean record, because they had a pretty good year measured by the former and a pretty bad one measured by the latter. Unfortunately, a team like Houston is also inclined to plan based on the former rather than the latter, which means that it could be a really ugly 2009 for Astros fans.

Cardinals
It's an obvious one, but Cardinals fans are making a gigantic mistake if they don't wake up each morning and thank whatever deity they believe in for Albert Pujols. When the MVP vote causes all kinds of yelling and starts all kinds of arguments simply because your guy's margin of victory wasn't large enough, you know you have a special player in the fold.

Reds
The end of the Ken Griffey, Jr. Era. Not that it's not sad to see player of Griffey's caliber go, but this has been a franchise and, more specifically, a fanbase, that has been unable to take anything that has happened since February 10, 2000 at face value. Good things have been soured by the feeling that they could have been so much better if Griffey had been healthy or 1990s-productive. Bad things have been truly wretched for much the same reason. I usually take Andy Dufresne's side of things, but when it comes to Griffey in Cincinnati, I have to agree with Red: "Hope is a dangerous thing. Hope can drive a man insane." Now that Griffey is gone, maybe the Reds can operate within the bounds of reality rather than lament what could have been and damn what never was.

Pirates
It's a rerun from last season, but once again, Pirates fans should be thankful for Neal Huntington, who just over a year ago cleaned house on the player development side and announced that objective measures of player performance were going to rule the day. The Nady/Marte and the Bay trades may or may not end up yielding Major League talent, but they were the right moves to make. It's a long climb back for the Pirates, but Huntington is the guy they need as their mountain guide.

Dodgers
Management that understands the concept of sunk costs. Sure, they wouldn't need to understand that concept if they hadn't gone out and grabbed Juan Pierre and Andruw Jones in the first place, but better to overpay useless players and trade for Manny Ramirez than wrongly-play useless players and watch the Diamondbacks win the division.

Diamondbacks
Diamondbacks' management should be thankful that most folks aren't that good at math, because if they were, their fans would all be aware of the following depressing little statistic first observed by Matthew Carruth at Fangraphs: "A sad season for Arizona fans as they saw their team race off to a 9-2 start and if they had simply played .500 ball for the remaining 151 games they would have at least tied Los Angeles’ 84 wins." Oy.

Rockies
Colorado should be thankful -- and will be, for many years -- that they won the pennant in 2007, because it probably bought a lot of goodwill for a team that isn't as close to consistent contention as many thought before the season began.

Giants
That they get to watch Tim Lincecum pitch every fifth day. Cain and Sanchez are no slouches either, so after 15 years of BarryBall, San Francisco may soon have a team that contends based on its pitching. That is, if they can find anyone who can hit. You know, just a little bit?

Padres
Family. Friends. The fact that no matter how dark these days may seem, there is someone or some reason worth waking up for and facing the day. That the human race has frequently stared into the abyss and found the wherewithal to not blink, to beat a strategic retreat, and build up its strength for another fight, another day.

What, you think I'd mention something about baseball? This is the Padres for cryin' out loud!

And once again, I offer my thanks to you. I don't write this blog simply to satisfy myself with how clever I am. Well, not mostly. I write it because you guys read it and, unless you're yankin' my chain, you like it. I'd have thrown in the towel a long time ago if you didn't.

Enjoy your Thanksgiving. Enjoy some time with your family, your friends, or if neither of those are around, enjoy the peace and quiet that none of us with family and friends will be getting. I think I'm going to take the rest of today and Friday off and, as per usual, I'll be quiet on Saturday and Sunday too. Tryptophyn, pie, and wine will do that to a guy.

On Monday morning we storm the pages of The Hardball Times. I hope to see you there.

Craig

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Mama Mia!

One of the reasons I can't take the World Baseball Classic too seriously is that even if you take it at face value -- as a battle between nations -- the relatively lax citizenship rules undermine that by giving it a decidedly mercenary flavor. Take Italy, for example:

In 2009, Italy will have a new manager -- Marco Mazzieri, who became manager of the Italian national team in 2007, will replace Matt Galante -- and a new chance to make a name for itself on the international stage. Italy will likely lose some star power with the recent retirement of Mike Piazza, but the team has current Major Leaguers who are willing to participate. Officially, no roster spots have been filled, though several players have made their desires known. Rangers utilityman Frank Catalanotto, for one, wants in again . . .

. . . Angels catcher Mike Napoli, Angels reliever Justin Speier, Astros first baseman Mark Saccomanno, free-agent catcher Paul Lo Duca and free-agent lefty reliever Mike Gallo are also among those being considered by Mazzieri for the Classic club. Rays outfielder Justin Ruggiano, who played for the U.S. in the 2007 World Cup, said he would play for Italy if asked . . . One player who has already turned down the opportunity to compete is Rangers catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia.
Places of birth of the aforementioned players:

Piazza: Norristown, Pennsylvania
Catalanotto: Smithtown, New York
Napoli: Hollywood, Florida
Speier Walnut Creek, California
Saccomanno: Houston, Texas
Lo Duca: Brooklyn, New York
Gallo: Long Beach, California
Ruggiano: Austin, Texas
Saltalamacchia: West Palm Beach, Florida

That's Italian!

(thanks to ShysterBall's European Correspondent, Ron Rollins, for the head's up)

The Heir Presumptive

A nice profile of Cardinals' coach Jose Oquendo, who as I mentioned recently was one of my favorites from back in the day. Good quote in response to a question about the extent to which Whitey Herzog, Joe Torre, and Tony La Russa have impacted his style:

"Each of them had their own way of handling players and handling situations in the game," Oquendo says. "But it's not fair for me to draw so much from Whitey because I was a player then. As a player you view the game a lot differently than when you're a coach. I played for Joe Torre also. He was different than Whitey and Tony. But Torre came to us in a different situation. He didn't have the players that Whitey had early in the 80s. He had the players that were the reason Whitey quit."
Personally, I'm hoping he has more Whitey than Tony in him. I'm also hoping that the Cardinals keep him around long enough to where he can move in to the manager's office once Tony finally moves out.

Krivsky to Baltimore

Former Reds' general manager Wayne Krivsky has been hired by the O's:

The Orioles today named former Cincinnati Reds front office executive Wayne Krivsky as special assistant to Andy MacPhail, president of baseball operations. Krivsky has more than 30 years of experience in baseball operations and will be involved in all aspects of the Orioles' major league operations, including scouting, contracts and other baseball administration responsibilities.
Though Krivsky didn't distinguish himself as the Reds' GM, he is a well respected scouting and player development guy, so bringing him into the fold is a good move by MacPhail.

Heh

Quite the observation from Dave at U.S.S. Mariner:

Well, if rumors are true, Don Wakamatsu’s bench coach is going to be the guy who was in charge of the A’s hitting last year, and his pitching coach is going to be the guy who was second in command for the Rangers pitching. The A’s had the worst offense in baseball last year. We’re hiring their hitting coach.The Rangers had the worst run prevention in baseball last year. We’re hiring their bullpen coach.
Dave's point, though, is a good one, and that's that Wakamatsu is not doing the brain-dead thing of hiring people simply because of recent track record. I'm guessing, however, that some newspaper guy will run with that observation and cast it as damning criticism if and when the Mariners are slow getting out of the gate next spring.

The Hits Just Keep-a-Comin' for Clemens

People keep doing the moonwalk from Roger Clemens:

Roger Clemens has been asked to end his involvement with a charity golf tournament he has hosted for four years as the fallout from the Mitchell report continues to haunt the seven-time Cy Young award winner, the New York Daily News reported in Wednesday's edition.
Let's be clear here: all of the bad crap happening to Roger Clemens in the past year is not the result of "fallout from the Mitchell Report." Lots of guys were named in the Mitchell Report and they aren't becoming pariahs. One of them even gets nice stories written about how cool it would be for him to go pitch for the Dodgers.

Roger's problems stem from holding belligerent news conferences, issuing silly, overly-defensive reports of his own, media whoring, filing a high profile lawsuit against a pathetic nobody of a guy who most people probably would have just let slink away, making a moderate fool of himself in front of Congress, becoming the subject of a criminal perjury investigation and last, but not least, having his sordid sex life come out into the open.

Look, if Roger truly never ever did steroids it would be a real shame for him to be forced to admit that he did. The fact remains, however, that if on December 14, 2007, he had simply said that he shot up once in 1998 because his shoulder was bugging him or something and that he wished he never had, no one would have dug deeper, no one would have held it too much against him, and none of the bad crap of the past year would have happened. That's not a retrospective opinion. Any PR person could have told him that was the smart play at the time.

PR is no substitute for the truth, but a wise man once sang that people don't do what they believe in, they just do what's most convenient, then they repent. We can all say we wouldn't do that, but I'm not sure I wouldn't have done that in Roger Clemens' place.

George Mitchell is Quite Proud of Himself

It's not yet been a year since the Mitchell Report came out, but George Mitchell is giving interviews in which he expresses his satisfaction with both the results of his investigation and the fallout:
“I believe we accomplished our objective of providing a thorough and fair accounting about what we learned about how the steroids era occurred, what happened and what ought to be done about it,” Mitchell said. “In a report of that length, 409 pages, including thousands of details, names, dates, facts and otherwise, I think it has held up quite well.”
Parse that comment carefully. He's not saying that he provided a thorough and fair accounting of the steroids era. He's saying he provided a thorough and fair accounting of what he and his staff learned about that era. Those are two very different things.

As I write in my article about the Mitchell Report in the 2009 Hardball Times Baseball Annual, the famous report didn't learn all that much. It certainly didn't come close to providing anything approaching a comprehensive look at how steroids came to baseball, what they meant to baseball, and what, exactly, baseball was to do with all of this new information after December 13, 2007. All of which, I humbly offer, would be useful stuff to know.

The Mitchell Report was never intended to do that, however. Its primary purpose was to serve as the very public signpost marking the end of The Steroids Era. To give the teeming masses what they wanted – blood in the form of many named-names – while assiduously ensuring that not too many rocks were turned over and not too many apple carts were upset. To highlight baseball’s dirty past in just such a way that allowed people to believe that it was all in the past so that baseball could rid itself of its P.R. problem and look forward to its glorious future.

If Mitchell wants to call the Report a success he can. He should just be accurate about the very specific way in which it was successful.

Commodore?

I'll admit that I don't keep up with tech news, but I had no idea that Commodore was back in the computer business. But they are, and they're offering custom painted cases with your favorite team logo:
Currently, there are only four teams offered--Mets, Yankees, Red Sox, and Phillies--but the press release states that additional teams will be added in the weeks to follow. So stay tuned Kansas City Royals fans.

Since its reemergence, Commodore has offered many custom paint themes, which it calls C-kins. The MLB themes feature standard C-kin pricing: $275 for a full ATX chassis and $210 for just the painted panels, which you would them slap on the Commodore PC you already own.

My Commodore PC? My Commodore was made in 1985 and it doesn't have a case. The CPU is under the keyboard and the monitor is a 13-inch television set. The baseball stuff would look pretty sweet though, especially when I'm rockin' the Lance Hafner and Microleague Baseball.

Invention?

Time Magazine claims that baseball's instant replay for home run calls is the 38th best "invention" of 2008.

That's like saying if I run a line out to the shed in my backyard I've "invented" electricity.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

ShysterBall Moving on Monday

I've been thinking about the future of this blog a lot recently, and I've run into more questions than answers.

What do I want out of it? What do I want it to look like? What do I not want it to look like? Do I want to try and make some money off of it now by taking ads or devoting all of my posts to a paying group blog? Would I rather make a long play and try to get a real job out of it over the next couple of years? Would I be a partner at my law firm right now if I hadn't started this blog in the first place?

Answering those questions in various ways presents all kinds of options, and not all of them are mutually-exclusive. They're all difficult questions, however, and since I can't see the future with a crystal ball, they have become somewhat agonizing questions to consider. Well, not the partner one. I don't think I ever really wanted that.

What I do know, though, is that I want three things above all others: (1) the ability to reach as many eyes as possible; (2) some assurance that as many of those eyes as possible are connected to functioning brains; and (3) the continued ability to write what I want in a space that is mine and mine alone.

Putting those things together led me to accept an offer made by The Hardball Times to relocate ShysterBall to its esteemed pages. The move will be effective sometime in the wee hours of Monday morning, December 1, 2008. I'm pretty excited about it.

So why move? An easy answer is traffic. While I'm pretty proud of the level of readership this here blog has garnered in the 20 months it's been live, the fact is that you sort of plateau once you get to a certain point with a stand-alone blog. THT has many more readers, and given their content, I know that they're smart readers who will be interested in the kinds of things I write.

A less shallow answer is -- and please pardon my use of this awful word -- synergy. As you may know, we simulposted "And That Happened" on THT this summer, and all parties agree that it was a success. There were people who would have never otherwise read ShysterBall reading it, and people who would have never otherwise read the THT Daily post in which it appeared reading that. All-in-all, I think moving the whole kit and caboodle is a chocolate and peanut butter kind of move, with my jackass opinions complementing THT's stats and analysis quite nicely. Both THT and I are interested in seeing if we can't crank the Reese's Cup factor up more.

The beauty of the move is that virtually nothing you have come to know and love about ShysterBall will change. It will still be me and me alone writing it. I'll still be writing the same kinds of things with the same level of frequency. Comments will still be enabled. You can still set it up in your RSS feed or whatever it is you crazy kids are doing these days. The only thing that won't be there is this generic, off-the-shelf Blogspot template. I asked THT's Dave Studeman if we could keep it, but he explained that the code behind it is far too ancient for THT's servers to translate. Alas. If you're curious what it will look like, you can get a pretty decent idea by checking out THT's Fantasy Focus blog. I think my little baseball player next to the blog title will be a batter, however.

As for location, there will be a tab at the top of the main THT page that says "ShysterBall." It will obviously have it's own permanent URL as well, but I'm not going to give it to you now because we're still testing stuff there. Of course, I'm sure you URL hackers can figure it out if you apply yourselves. I'm probably going to have this URL and Shysterball.com automatically redirect to THT starting Monday morning, but I'm a technical idiot, so I'll probably screw that up.

So that's that. I know no one likes change. I especially don't. But I think this is change we can believe in, and my understanding is that everyone likes that sort of thing these days.

Craig

The Padres are Dead in the Water

The Cubs are done playing the Padres' Peavy games:

If there were any lingering questions about whether the Cubs had pulled back from pursuing San Diego ace Jake Peavy in a trade, manager Lou Piniella answered them this week.

The Chicago Sun-Times' Gordon Wittenmyer asked Piniella at an event in Chicago on Sunday whether the Cubs were still pursuing starting pitching in the wake of their four-year contract extension with free agent right-hander Ryan Dempster.

"No," Piniella was quoted as saying in Tuesday's Sun-Times. "Starting we don't need. We're set. We've got six good starters, and they're all experienced. Getting Dempster back was the key. We're in good shape with our starting pitching. Bullpen-wise, [we're looking for] possibly one more experienced pitcher. We've got a lot of young kids out there."
And with both the Cubs and Braves out of the picture, the Padres are experiencing that feeling you get when everything is going wrong at once and all you can do is stand there, dumbstruck and frozen:

The lack of progress in a deal involving pitcher Jake Peavy has had a significant effect on the Padres' ability to address their other roster needs this offseason . . . not knowing if the team can or will move Peavy and his $11 million contract for 2009 has all but left Towers in a standby mode until the future of the 2007 National League Cy Young Award winner is decided.

"That's pretty much it," Towers said. "It's certainly a large sum of money we would be moving. Once that's decided, we will have a better idea of what holes we would be plugging."
I realize that the owner's big divorce settlement has thrown a wrench into whatever the plans the Padres had going into this offseason, but did Kevin Towers really not have any sort of a contingency set up in the event that couldn't happen? Was it not always a possibility -- and indeed, was it not arguably preferable -- to wait until the trading deadline next season and send Peavy off to a more desperate suitor?

2012

As a result of the Norman Braman litigation, the Marlins' new stadium is set to open in 2012:

The Florida Marlins announced Tuesday that the new 37,000-seat retractable roof stadium on the site of the Orange Bowl will not be ready for Opening Day 2011 as the team originally had hoped. Instead, team officials said, the stadium will open in 2012 . . .

. . . The Marlins had been eyeing 2011 because their current lease with Dolphin Stadium expires after the 2010 baseball season. Because of the delay, the Marlins are seeking a place to play in 2011. The team is optimistic it can work out an agreement to remain at Dolphin Stadium for an additional year. Samson said the organization already has begun preliminary talks with Dolphins co-owner Stephen Ross to extend the team's lease.
And if the Dolphins say no, it's the 1899 Cleveland Spiders redux!

Does it Come in a Honda?

For the baseball fan who has everything:

Take the hood of a Chevy Tahoe; bring it to six Major League Baseball parks; have more than 220 players sign it, including the biggest names in baseball today, Baseball Hall of Fame members and future stars of tomorrow; and what have you got? One of the most unique pieces of baseball memorabilia ever created.

Baseball memorabilia collectors and auto enthusiasts will have the opportunity to bid on this one-of-a-kind vehicle on January, 16, 2009, at the Barrett-Jackson Collector Car Auction in Scottsdale, Ariz. A portion of the proceeds will be used to help create future stars, as they will be donated to non-profit youth baseball programs across the United States.

The Chevy Tahoe (Lot #961) will be sold at No Reserve and has been dubbed the Ultimate Baseball Ride because of some special upgrades. In addition to "standard" luxury features like top-of-the-line stereo, DVD player with several screens and custom paint, the SUV features Rawlings baseball glove leather seats and steering wheel and baseball-bat ash wood dashboard, door panel and steering wheel accents.
Good thing that dashboard is ash rather than maple. I'd hate for baseball to have a lawsuit on its hands.

The Crown Room Club

Delta Airlines is now the official airline of the New York Yankees. This wasn't as easy a deal to make as it sounds, however. Before committing, the Yankees demanded that Delta make some changes so that its corporate culture matched that of the Yankees' more closely. Most notably, the Yankees asked Delta to adopt a similar seating strategy to that of the baseball team:

After a backlash from some of its elite fliers, the world's biggest carrier has halted a program on Delta Air Lines-operated aircraft that allowed customers to purchase better seat assignments on certain flights.

Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines Inc. in late October began offering coach customers on certain flights the ability to purchase a better seat assignment in their cabin for $5 to $25, depending on distance traveled and seat location. The "coach choice seats" represented less than 10 percent of all seat assignments available on Delta-operated flights, the airline said at the time.

But in an e-mail last week to elite fliers, Jeff Robertson, vice president of loyalty programs for Delta, said that some Medallion members of the carrier's frequent-flier program were upset that their access to preferred seats without charge at the time of booking was restricted as a result of the new program.
Now that both Yankee Stadium and Delta flights are designed to cater to the desires of the rich and elite, experts predict that the relationship will be a long and successful one.

Baseball's Vigorish to Increase

Everyone talks about the prospect of lower ticket sales cutting into the teams' ability to spend on players and stuff, but there are other factors in play too. Such as the league's big line of credit expiring and teams having to actually start borrowing money like everyone else:

Major League Baseball is the latest sport to confront the harsh reality of the global credit crisis, with the league’s $1.5 billion credit facility set to expire Dec. 8. The NFL last month decided to let its loan pool terminate, automatically converting it into debt with accelerated principal payments. But unlike the NFL, whose first payment is not due until 2011, if MLB does not refinance, it will have to begin making some principal payments as early as next month, finance and baseball sources said . . .

. . . MLB briefed its owners on the situation last week and updated the teams’ chief financial officers a week earlier. Bank of America, MLB’s lead lender, has been trying to refinance the credit facility into a seven-year loan that would push the first principal payment off to 2014, the sources said. That loan would carry rates 2 percent to 3 percent higher than what teams are charged through the current credit facility, banking sources said.
I'm a finance moron, but my guess is that 2 to 3 percent is worth at least a couple of relief pitchers.

(thanks to ShysterBall's Minister of Finance, Pete Toms, for the heads up)

The Feds Are Closing in on Clemens

We've been checking up on the Clemens-McNamee defamation case from time to time, but we must not forget that something far more interesting has been happening, and that's a pretty major investigation of whether Roger Clemens lied to Congress during that comic/pathetic hearing back in February:
Roger Clemens' former trainer gave samples of his DNA to federal investigators trying to ascertain whether the star pitcher committed perjury before Congress, two New York newspapers reported.

The request for a DNA sample from trainer Brian McNamee suggests that investigators found readable DNA on the syringes, needles and gauze pads McNamee turned over to federal prosecutors in January, The New York Times and Daily News reported Monday night.

As I noted at the time, someone was very obviously lying during that hearing, so unlike our friend Barry Bonds' perjury trial, there will be no complicated question and answer parsing if Clemens gets indicted.

Let Her Play

If Major League Baseball is open minded enough to allow Indians with no experience into the game, you'd think that high school baseball would be open minded enough to allow non-traditional Indianans* into the game too:
Logan Young has been playing baseball with the boys for nine years, and she and her parents don't think that should change now that she's in high school. The 14-year-old and her family have filed a federal lawsuit over an Indiana High School Athletic Association rule that prohibits the Bloomington South freshman from trying out for the high school baseball team because she is female . . .

. . . An IHSAA rule prohibits girls from trying out for baseball if their school has a softball team on the basis that the sports are comparable. But the lawsuit filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Indianapolis argues that baseball and softball aren't the same sport, so girls should be able to try out for baseball.
And the plaintiffs are right. Softball is not baseball, and the fact that schools have long treated them as such is an insult to both baseball and softball players. If Ms. Young has the chops to play with the boys, she should be allowed to play with the boys.

*As a Midwesterner, I am well-aware that the only acceptable label for people from the great state of Indiana is "Hoosier." Using the word Hoosier, however, would rob this post of a lame segue from the last one, so it simply wouldn't do.

Widening the Net

People have long speculated whether cricket bowlers would make good pitchers. The Pirates are about to find out:
Dinesh Patel and Rinku Singh, cricket players who had not picked up a baseball until April, on Monday became the first athletes from India to sign professional baseball contracts, agreeing to deals with the Pittsburgh Pirates.

"This is very intriguing for us," Pirates general manager Neal Huntington said. "We are trying to broaden our horizons internationally and to get into some non-traditional markets. I've always been curious about India, knowing they have a cultural passion for cricket, which involves throwing, hitting and running. We want to see how that translates to baseball.
They were found by a promoter of a contest called "Million Dollar Arm." For the Pirates' sake, I hope the signing bonus was well south of that. Of course, according to the article, these dudes have fastballs in the low 90s, so hey, maybe this will work.

(thanks to reader Blaze -- ShysterBall's Asian Subcontinent Bureau Chief -- for the heads up)

Monday, November 24, 2008

Bonds Goes 5 for 14

Though the replay official may change one of those hits to a foul ball:

Barry Bonds, Major League Baseball’s homerun record holder, won dismissal of five of 14 charges accusing him of lying about taking steroids. U.S. District Court Judge Susan Illston in San Francisco ruled today that the charges were redundant, vague or couldn’t lead to a conviction. She refused Bonds’s request to throw out four other perjury charges and a charge that he obstructed justice. The government may recharge Bonds on one count, the judge’s order says, which would leave him facing 10 counts of perjury.

For what it's worth, I went and read the decision. It breaks down like this:

  • Counts 6, 7, and 8 -- in which Barry is accused of lying for saying that he never knew of Anderson giving him PEDs -- were ruled to be redundant, in that he is basically being charged three times for lying in response to essentially the same question. The government can't do that, and so the government gets to choose which two of those three counts it wants to drop;

  • In count number two, Bonds was asked if he had ever taken "anything like steroids" or, to take the government's explanation for it, "anything like steroids that could have led to a positive steroid test." The court found this question ambiguous and thus dismissed the count because, according to the court, "[t]he characteristics that make a substance 'like' a steroid defy ready definition";

  • Count 14 may represent Barry Bonds' finest hour as a grand jury witness. Here, Barry was asked about whether he got flax seed oil in January 2002. Barry's glorious answer was as follows:

    A: Not that I can recall. Like I say, I could be wrong. But I’m – I’m – going
    from my recollection it was, like, in the 2002 time and 2003 season.

    The court dismissed the count regarding this answer because it was ambiguous. Repeat: it wasn't a bad question that got the charge tossed, it was Barry's farkakte answer. OK, to be fair, it was really because the prosecutors weren't smart enough at the time to try to pin Barry down, which the court correctly notes is their job. Still, I love the idea that Barry's lawyers got a count dismissed by saying that their own client made no sense.

    So that's that. Nothing really game-changing here from a legal perspective. Barry's lawyers made several arguments that the questions and answers in play were vague and ambiguous, and for the most part, the court said that issue was up to the jury to decide. Still, the court did note a handful of poorly-constructed questions and possibly non-responsive answers. If it did, the jury may very well too. Unlike the court, however, the jury does not give anyone else the benefit of the doubt on the matter.

    I've said in the past that I think Barry skates, and I'm still leaning in that direction. On the other hand, some smart people I know with a bit of inside information regarding the greater steroid investigation world are telling me that Barry is toast for a number of reasons. They may very well be right.

    All that said, I suppose facing nine or ten counts is better than 15.
  • Sox Offer Tek a One-Year Deal

    That's what WEEI is reporting. No word on how much it was, but I'm guessing it wasn't a lot. I'm also guessing that the Sox have no desire to bring the guy back. I'm also guessing (hoping?) that Sox fans have come to trust team management enough to where they realize that not bringing Varitek back absent an extremely team-friendly, make-good kind of a deal is the right move.

    Only 22,000 Lost Their Jobs When Enron Folded

    Given the news about Citigroup, it was only a matter of time before someone unloaded on the naming rights deal with the Mets. That someone is Anthony Rieber in Newsday, who starts with the premise that naming rights deals are stupid, but then remembers how successful they've been in the past:

    Or maybe naming rights deals really are good business. Maybe Citi Field will become a shining beacon of sports/business synergy, just like Enron Field and Bank One Ballpark and Pacific Bell Park and SBC Park and Ameriquest Field and Edison International Field and Network Associates Coliseum and McAfee Coliseum.
    Great. Now my sarcas-o-meter is on fire.

    But as the latest news suggests, Citgroup may make it out of the woods with the help of you, me, and Uncle Paulson. I think it's only fitting that, in exchange for the public's assistance, the new stadium in Queens should have some very New Dealy kind of name like "Workers' Field" or "Arthurdale Park."

    The Church of Baseball > Kabbalah

    Trouble in paradise:
    Madonna is reportedly furious Alex Rodriguez dropped out of Kabbalah training because he was "bored". The 50-year-old singer - whose divorce from Guy Ritchie was granted last week - has so far failed in her attempts to get her rumoured boyfriend Alex to share her interest in Kabbalah, a mystical off-shoot of Judaism . . . "This is certainly off-putting to Madonna. She did drag Guy into Kabbalah, she's doing the same now with Alex. But he's bored. He's basically a Kabbalah school dropout."
    Sources indicate that the problem stems from the fact that the Kabbalah classes began in October, and that's really not A-Rod's best month.

    More History

    Beyond the Box Score is continuing its survey of baseball history. For those of you who missed it, Part I of the history of the leagues is here and Part II is here.

    Today, BTBS goes into the history of how free agency came to be.

    Like I said last week, it's a lot of stuff you know already, but it's worth reading again.

    What Happens in Vegas . . . is Really the Same Thing That Happens Everywhere Else

    Every time a team has trouble with attendance or their stadium, someone mentions Las Vegas as a potential new home. Well, Las Vegas isn't any different than any other city when it comes to this stuff:
    Developers considering bids to redevelop the site of Cashman Field in Las Vegas have been told by the city that all proposals must include plans to build a new baseball stadium on the site or nearby. The proposals could have implications for the future of professional baseball in Las Vegas, which would likely be in danger if a new stadium is not built . . .

    . . . Don Logan, president and general manager of the 51s, said the team hopes to "hang on" in Las Vegas until it can get a new stadium.
    Though it may seem that way sometimes, they really don't print money in Sin City.

    I'm Confused

    I'm always going to be skeptical about an article in which bold new avenues of player development are explained via the example of former Padres and Tigers' trainwreck/GM Randy Smith:
    For more than a century, baseball scouts have prospected for pitchers who throw high-speed strikes and athletes who could run fast and see well. Those talents are now even more valuable, contend scouts and veteran baseball men such as Giants third-base coach Tim Flannery, a former Padres infielder and coach. Flannery's reasoning, spelled out here last summer and shared by many scouts, is that footspeed and overall athleticism are gaining value as steroid use declines amid testing and increased penalties for violations.

    . . . The Padres, by contrast, aren't known to emphasize those talents to the same degree. For most of this decade and even now, the San Diego farm system draws criticism, fairly or not, for an alleged dearth of power pitching and athleticism. The recent efforts of the Padres' Latin American program, however, offer encouragement to franchise veteran Randy Smith. “We are getting a bit better but still have room to improve,” he said.

    The rest of the article is Smith talking about the Padres' acquisitions from Latin America. That's fine as far as it goes, but the whole intro to the story makes no sense to me. Is it really true that teams weren't scouting for speed and athleticism during the steroid days? Sure, the slow, powerful guys got a lot of press back then, but every team had way more toolsy guys in their system than patient sluggers, and I'm guessing that's always been the case.

    But even if we go with the article's assumptions, wouldn't it follow that teams should increase their efforts at finding legitimate power bats rather than speedy guys? Now that steroids are allegedly gone, aren't those guys more rare and thus, by definition, more valuable?

    IIATMS Interviews Eric Hacker

    Most bloggers don't do interviews because (1) we're afraid to leave our basements; and (2) even if it's a phone interview, when we call the interview subject, there's always a chance a woman might answer and, quite frankly, we don't know how to talk to women.

    Jason at IIATMS, however, has both a real job and a wife, so he's not as afraid of the real world as the rest of us. As a result, he has really started to carve out a nice bloggy niche with his interviews. The latest is of Yankees' minor league pitcher Eric Hacker, who was just added to the 40-man and, when you think about it, probably has just as good if not better a chance to contribute to the greater Yankee good than Hughes or Kennedy. Best line of the interview:
    IIATMS: Do the guys with major league contracts rehabbing in the minors have to buy meals for the team?

    EH: Some guys are definitely more generous than others, but when a big leaguer visits, we know we’re in for a good meal, like Outback. The guys get excited for the steaks and chicken.
    Hit Bull, win steak.

    Sunday, November 23, 2008

    Friday, November 21, 2008

    The End of a Grand Experiment

    In the normal course I would never devote a post to the fact that a terrible, eighth-year pitcher has declared minor league free agency. Most terrible, eighth-year pitchers who declare minor league free agency, however, aren't John Van Benschoten.

    Van Benschoten, as some of you will recall, was the Pirates' first pick in the 2001 draft. The only reason you might recall that (unless you're a Pirates fan, of course) is that the Pirates took Van Benschoten, who was a standout slugger in college, and decided to turn him into a pitcher. I recall reading about that at the time and wondering what in the hell the Pirates were smoking. I'll grant that my surprise was not based on any independent analysis -- I don't know now nor did I know then what truly makes a college slugger or a minor league pitcher great -- but everyone I read at the time who did know about such things thought that the Pirates were doing something stupid.

    Not that stupid moves by Pittsburgh were that hard to come by in those days. Guys like Derek Bell and Pat Mears were getting multi-million dollar deals back in the Cam Bonifay era, and even decent players like Jason Kendell were getting wildly overpaid by a Pirates' team that couldn't afford stupid mistakes like that. The Pirates didn't draft well in those years either (and the good guys they did draft either didn't sign or were subsequently sent away), so when they had a chance to take a stud in the first round, it was important that they didn't mess it up.

    But they messed it up. They made Van Benschoten a pitcher, and while he did OK in the minors for a couple of years, he started getting hurt almost immediately after he made the show. He missed all of 2005 and most of 2006 with arm and shoulder injuries, and by the time he came back in 2007, he was a wreck of a pitcher. This past season was equally horrific for Van Benschoten, and he currently stands as the holder of the highest all-time ERA for a pitcher with 75 innings under his belt.

    Would he have been a good pitcher if he hadn't gotten hurt? I don't know. Would he have been a good and healthy hitter if he had been allowed to go that route? I don't know that either. I do know, however, that the Pirates took a pretty big chance with a first round pick, and as of today, Pirates fans can finally close the book on it.

    A Brief Aside Regarding College Football

    Because I'm an alum who lives in Columbus, Ohio, I've been asked by a couple of people for my thoughts on tomorrow's Michigan-Ohio State game. Here they are:
  • Ohio State should win and win handily. It's going to be cold and I think Chris Wells will carry the ball 30 times, Michigan will stuff him pretty decently early, but then they will tire, fall behind, and because they don't have that dynamic an offense, ultimately die. Sprinkle in some play action and, more likely, some quarterback keepers from Pryor, and I really don't think Michigan has much of a chance.


  • That said, I am not some blind Ohio State homer, and I am fully respectful of both this game and Michigan's program. Ohio State had the better team and was supposed to win in 1969 and didn't. Ohio State had the better team multiple times in the mid-to-late 90s, was supposed to win, and didn't. Michigan had the better team and was supposed to win a couple of times in the Earle Bruce years and during Tressel's first season, and didn't. Anything can happen in this game, new coaches that come to this rivalry not named John Cooper tend to surprise, and somewhere between hubris, weather, and outrageous fortune lies about a dozen scenarios in which Michigan could humiliate the Buckeyes tomorrow, with humiliation being described as a Michigan win of any kind. I know that, and I will be nervous unless and until Ohio State takes a two-touchdown lead.


  • Because it will be cold and because Ohio State is likely to run Wells until his friggin' hamstrings snap, this game is going to be an almost exaggerated version of classic Big Ten-style football. This will drive SEC, Big 12, and Pac-10 fans absolutely nuts. Save it. We know: The Big Ten sucks. Your conferences invented speed and offense. The southern and western schools have better looking women, have more passionate fans, and your players, coaches, and legends both living and dead walk on water, breathe greatness, eat all challengers, and shit glory. We don't care.


  • For the first time in my life I have tickets to The Game, and I look forward to freezing my butt off in Ohio Stadium tomorrow afternoon.
  • That's the last I'll say about non-baseball stuff today, but please feel free to add whatever thoughts you have in the comments.

    Hal Does CC a Favor

    You know, if you're CC Sabathia, you have a problem. It's not a bad problem to have, but it's a problem all the same. That problem is what to do about the gazillion dollar offer from the Yankees.

    This is a problem because Sabathia has something of a conflict. On the one hand, he's a guy who, according so some reports I've read, really does care about his personal contentment as much as money and would thus like to be on the West Coast. On the other hand, some stuff he's said over the years gives me the impression that he's a union man and thus he may very well feel obligated to take the top offer, which will almost certainly be the Yankee offer. Hell, even if he isn't a union man, it may be psychologically impossible to say no to that kind of scratch even if the reasoning side of your brain is telling you that it may not be the best overall decision.

    Enter Hal Steinbrenner:

    "We've made him an offer. It's not going to be there forever"

    For what it's worth, I think that's a pretty empty threat. Sure, maybe it won't be there forever-forever, but I have this feeling that if CC said he needed a few weeks to consult whatever God he believes in, Hal wouldn't pull the thing off the table (UPDATE: Mind meld alert!).

    But maybe he will! Maybe Hal is going to play hardball and force a situation in which CC can say with a straight face to both his union brethren and that emotional part of the brain "hey, I tried. I was gonna take the Yankees' big money, but they rushed me and I wasn't comfortable, so my taking less dough to go to San Francisco is totally defensible."

    If I was a betting man I'd still say that CC goes to New York, but as I've said before, I'd like to see him go elsewhere. Moreover, I don't know that signing CC is in the Yankees' best interests either, especially at that price (ask yourself: have you heard any smart Red Sox fans worrying about CC in pinstripes? I sure haven't). Maybe Hal is even having second thoughts about the giant offer and is trying to walk it back. I have no idea.

    Whatever the case, I'm wondering if Hal's moderate application of pressure is going to create an escape hatch for everyone involved.

    Veeck, Finley, or O'Malley?

    Ray Ratto looks at Lew Wolff's recent moves -- pushing the park in Fremont, trading for Matt Holliday, floating his one-and-done playoff idea -- and sees an owner with an identity crisis:

    It's just a phase he's going through. And no, we're not referring to his age here, so put your lawyers back in their holsters. We're talking about ownership phases.

    He has already completed the first one, in which he comes in as the purchasing hero . . . He has gone through the stage where he is applauded just for walking down the Coliseum aisle with his grandson, or shaking hands with someone as he presents an oversized cardboard check to said someone's favorite charity. He's the good guy. Phase Two is the part where we find out why he's actually in this. It's to build a ballpark village in Fremont . . .

    . . . In addition, he's gone through Phase 2.5, wherein he looks like a cheapskate. Tarping the upper deck to cut down on staffing costs made the park look sort of Tampa Bay-ish, the operation looked dowdy and hand-me-downish when compared to the Giants, and the club's 2008 payroll was cut nearly in half while the revenue sharing check from Major League Baseball more than doubled.

    He is now entering Phase Three, where he realizes he isn't going over well and wants to do something about it (while, of course, still getting what he wants). He wants to seem less skinflinty and more the baseball guy. In fact, with this new idea, which he actually said he would share with Commissioner Bud Selig (yeah, like he hasn't got enough spam on his plate already), he is trying to decide whether he wants to be Bill Veeck, Charlie Finley or Walter O'Malley.
    I'm not a huge Ray Ratto fan, and I really don't care much about what Lew Wolff does, but I find the Veeck-Finley-O'Malley ownership phase matrix to be fairly insightful. Really, those are the options, and it's always good to know where your team's owner falls on that scale.

    "Losing is a disease, as contagious as the bubonic plague"

    Bud Selig called in former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker to put a scare into the owners about the state of the economy:
    He stands 6 feet 7 inches, the size of a slugger, but Paul Volcker is a towering presence on Wall Street, not in Major League Baseball. Nevertheless, Commissioner Bud Selig recruited Volcker, the former chairman of the Federal Reserve, to address owners and executives of all 30 major league teams on Thursday to provide his view of the nation’s crumbling economy . . .

    . . . According to several people who attended the meeting, Volcker discussed what led to the current economic plight and where things might be headed. His assessment was not upbeat, the attendees said.
    Nothing in the article indicates or implies that anyone was unhappy about having Volcker speak to them, but the cynical side of me pictures that scene in "The Natural" where Robert Redford rolls his eyes and then walks out when the motivational/self-help dude is speaking to the New York Knights. Yeah, there are some dolts in baseball's ownership group, but for the most part they're a bunch of millionaire and billionaire businessmen who, one would hope anyway, have an understanding of the state of the economy, and thus really don't need Paul Volcker to explain to them what's going on.

    Thursday, November 20, 2008

    Stimulating vs. Persuading

    Nate Silver got into a tiff with a conservative radio host the other day, interviewed him, and posted the contentious transcript. That's not important for our purposes (I'm in political detox right now). What is important, however, is that today Nate has a post up in which he works through why this particular interview subject was such a problem, and he concludes that it's mostly due to the fact that the guy (whose name is Ziegler) has a radio background:

    . . . the distinguishing feature of radio is that it exists in a sort of perpetual amnesiac state. In a book, you can go back and read the previous page; on the internet, you can press the 'back' button on the browser. In radio, there is no rewind: everything exists in that moment and that moment only . . .

    . . . Moreover, almost uniquely to radio, most of the audience is not even paying attention to you, because most people listen to radio when they're in the process of doing something else. They are driving, mowing the lawn, washing the dishes -- and you have to work really hard to sustain their attention. Hence what Wallace refers to as the importance of "stimulating" the listener, an art that Ziegler has mastered. Invariably, the times when Ziegler became really, really angry with me during the interview was when I was not permitting him to be stimulating, but instead asking him specific, banal questions that required specific, banal answers. Those questions would have made for terrible radio! And Ziegler had no idea how to answer them.

    Stimulation, however, is somewhat the opposite of persuasion. You're not going to persuade someone of something when you're (literally, in Ziegler's case) yelling in their ear.
    Again, I couldn't care less about Nate's spat of the politics behind it, but I am struck by the observation about radio in that it certainly explains why I find sports radio so unlistenable. While the shows -- even the least obnoxious ones -- are cast as conversations about sports, there is no conversing going on. It's all about eliciting emotional responses instead of intellectual ones.

    If I want to respond emotionally to sports, I'll watch Game 1 of the 1988 World Series. If I want to think about sports -- to persuade or be persuaded -- I'll certainly not listen to sports radio.

    Utley Out Until June

    We're about to see just how much Ryan Howard can really carry a team:

    If the Philadelphia Phillies weren't aware before Thursday of how hard it can be to repeat, the World Series champs know that now.

    The team announced Thursday that second baseman Chase Utley will need right hip surgery that potentially could keep him out until the first week of June.

    Utley consistently downplayed speculation about his bad hip during the second half of the postseason. But the Phillies revealed Thursday that since the World Series, he has had the hip evaluated by Phillies team physician Michael Ciccotti, of Thomas Jefferson University Hospital's Rothman Institute, and by Dr. Bryan Kelly, of the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York.
    That, as they say, is major.

    (thanks to Jason at IIATMS for the heads up)

    Mike Mussina Keltner List

    Jason has a breakdown of Moose's HoF chances, but because there's really nothing else to do this afternoon I thought I'd do a Keltner list:

    Was he ever regarded as the best player in baseball? Did anybody, while he was active, ever suggest that he was the best player in baseball?

    Never, nor was he ever considered the best pitcher in baseball.

    Was he the best player on his team?

    Setting aside the argument that a position player has more overall value than a pitcher, I think we can certainly say that Mussina was the best Oriole for a couple of years. 1992 and 1994 spring to mind. There are arguments for other years if you discount Rafael Palmiero's suspected steroid use. He was very often the best pitcher on the Orioles.

    Was he the best player in baseball at his position? Was he the best player in the league at his position?

    Never. There is very little black ink on his resume. It's not his fault that he shared the league with Roger Clemens and Pedro Martinez throughout his prime, but facts is facts.

    Did he have an impact on a number of pennant races?

    He was involved in many after coming over to the Yankees, but I can't think of a single instance in which anyone spoke of Mussina as having a real "impact" on them. His overall postseason numbers aren't terribly far removed from his career norms, but Hall of Fame voters look for someone to step it up in October. He'll also be penalized -- unfairly, I think -- for never having won a World Series with the Yankees.

    Was he a good enough player that he could continue to play regularly after passing his prime?

    This is where his timing is going to help him a lot. In reality, his prime probably ended in October 2003, after which he put up two below average seasons, followed by a bounceback year, an awful year, and then another bounceback year. On the whole, then, I'd say that the evidence shows that yes, he could be serviceable past his prime.

    The story that will be told, however, was that he quit while still in his prime. This isn't true, but when you quit after winning 20 games, you're going to be compared to Koufax and stuff and have all manner of romantic tales told about how you walked away while still on top.

    Is he the very best player in baseball history who is not in the Hall of Fame?

    No

    Are most players who have comparable career statistics in the Hall of Fame?

    Five of his top ten comps are in the Hall: Marichal, Plamer, Hubbell, Griffith, and Bunning. The other five: Wells, Schilling, Morris, Pettitte, get a lot of talk about someday making it. Well, maybe not Wells. None of those ten are strikingly similar, however.

    Do the player's numbers meet Hall of Fame standards?

    As Jason noted, the standards and monitor tests at B-R.com say yes. There are many guys with fewer wins in the Hall of Fame.

    Is there any evidence to suggest that the player was significantly better or worse than is suggested by his statistics?

    If there is, I haven't heard it. He's always been solid and was often excellent, and that's where his reputation lies. If anything, he was probably not given enough credit for many years due to the unfair fixation writers have on the magic number 20. A couple of random breaks and he easily has five 20-win seasons, and everyone's talking about him being Jim Palmer.

    Is he the best player at his position who is eligible for the Hall of Fame but not in?

    Well, he's not eligible, which makes this exercise terribly premature. It's possible, however, that when he is eligible, he'll have Maddux, Clemens, Glavine, Martinez, Schilling, Smoltz, Pettitte, and Randy Johnson as competition within the span of a year or two. That, I think is going to be his biggest problem, and what will make him have to wait a while.

    How many MVP-type seasons did he have? Did he ever win an MVP award? If not, how many times was he close?

    No MVP awards and no close consideration. I don't think he ever had a plausible MVP argument.

    How many All-Star-type seasons did he have? How many All-Star games did he play in?

    He was a five time All-Star, and I don't think anyone would have batted an eye if he were selected for a couple of others.

    Did most of the other players who played in this many go to the Hall of Fame?

    There are several pitchers with more, but the All-Star Game is so tainted by weirdness anymore that I think we should dispense with this as an important factor, especially for pitchers. There are a lot of guys selected who don't deserve it. There are a lot of guys not selected because they quietly signaled to the manager that they'd love three days off. Mussina could have pitched in more, he could have pitched in fewer, and I don't think his case turns on that.

    If this man were the best player on his team, would it be likely that the team could win the pennant?

    Extremely doubtful. It certainly never happened.

    What impact did the player have on baseball history? Was he responsible for any rule changes? Did he introduce any new equipment? Did he change the game in any way?

    Not in any way that I know. Maybe someday everyone will be bending all the way to their ankles when pitching from the stretch and we'll have Mussina to thank for it, but I kind of doubt it.

    Did the player uphold the standards of sportsmanship and character that the Hall of Fame, in its written guidelines, instructs us to consider?

    There have always been stories of Mussina being something of a priggish snob, but I think that has more to do with the fact that he's an educated guy from a serious college, and in the relatively uneducated world of baseball, those sorts of stories are always circulate about guys like that. If there is any merit to those stories, it's nothing that will make a difference. Jim Palmer made the Hall of Fame for cryin' out loud.

    As always, the Keltner list is more fun for conversational purposes than it is determinative of anything. My view is that Mussina will make the Hall of Fame, but that he'll have to wait in line a while like a Jim Rice or a Goose Gossage. If I had to vote today I'd say no simply because I have a hard time getting my mind around the concept of an era's seventh or eighth best starter being Hall-worthy. That said, I can't see myself leading any battles against his inclusion either.

    Mike Mussina was very good for a very long time, and to have strong feelings against such a beast being inducted says more about your feelings towards the Hall of Fame in general than it does about Mussina himself.

    Sabathia Will Have Options

    While CC has said that he will consider the Yankees' ginormous offer as he sups on turkey, stuffing, and pumpkin pie, "a person familiar with the talks" is saying that the Giants are definitely on the scene:

    According to a person familiar with the talks, the San Francisco Giants have been in touch with Sabathia's agent and are planning an offer in excess of the six years, $100 million Milwaukee has offered, though not as high as the Yankees' stratospheric six-year, $140 million offer.

    The Giants "want to show him they're going to be very aggressive," . . . The Giants believe Sabathia would rather pitch in San Francisco than in New York, and they're hoping they can make an offer that's close enough to the Yankees' offer to convince him to go there.
    As I wrote last week, this seems like a good idea. Then again, it ain't my money, so that's pretty easy for me to say.

    Other than that Mrs. Lincoln, How did you like the play?

    People in favor of a new ballpark for the Rays are in the process of trying to find a place to put it. One of the ideas being floated is a beautiful, heavily-trafficked waterfront site. Only problem is that it's an airport:

    People are bringing up Albert Whitted Airport again, and this time they're talking about a baseball stadium. It's owned by the city. It's losing money. It's on the water. It won't be confused as a park. In fact, at 110 acres, Albert Whitted has everything Al Lang Field lacked as a prospective new home of the Tampa Bay Rays. There could even be room for parking garages.
    That somewhat hopeful paragraph is followed by a couple of dozen paragraphs which explain why it would be a bad idea. For example, 80,000 planes takeoff and land from the joint each year. And there's a brand new, multimillion dollar terminal and a new control tower set to open. And that the FAA has poured tens of millions into the place in exchange for the promise that it would be operated as a friggin' airport. And that voters very recently amended the city charter mandating that the land continue to be used as, you guessed it, an airport.

    Despite all of that, the article talks about the logistics of the thing as though it were anything but a non-starter, going so far as to speculate whether the airport can remain open even with a stadium on the property:

    A stadium, if the FAA would sign off, would be bordered by Tampa Bay to the east, the airport to the north and west, and a city sewage treatment facility to the south. Removing the sewage treatment plant would cost $55- to $65-million, according to a 2002 city study.
    Forgot about the sewage plant! For further evidence of how silly this is, simply click through to the article where there is a great overhead picture of the site. Then ask yourself how this can even be talked about. Oh wait, this quote from an astute resident explains how it can be talked about:

    "It's always the politicians and their friends who happen to be real estate
    people who want the property"

    Maple Bats Aren't Going Anywhere

    There is some incremental progress on the maple bat front:

    Major League Baseball's Safety and Health Advisory Committee is scheduled meet in New York on Friday to discuss the routine shattering and exploding of bats during the 2008 season. For those who have condemned the use of maple wood and blamed it for the epidemic of broken bats, it might be time to rethink their position.

    Brian Hillerich, the great-grandson of Bud Hillerich, the founder of the company Hillerich & Bradsby, which makes the Louisville Slugger, said Major League Baseball is not likely to issue a ban of maple bats but it is going to explore specification changes to the models of bats being used.

    "We've been told that they probably won't ban maple, that they will come up with some recommendations for changing what we do now," said Hillerich, professional bat production manager for the company, which has a 60% share of the MLB market.
    The article talks about adjustments to length-to-width ratios and things like that, rather than a simple ban. I don't have the science to know if that will be effective, but I am always more encouraged when I hear people talking about science-based tweaks as opposed to outcry-based bans.

    Mussina

    Looks like this is the end of the road for Moose:
    As expected, New York Yankees pitcher Mike Mussina has decided to retire, according to a baseball source with knowledge of the situation. Mussina informed the Yankees last week he would give them a decision by the end of this week.

    Mussina, who turns 40 next month, spent the last eight seasons with the Yankees after pitching for the Baltimore Orioles for the first 10 years of his career. His 270 wins rank second among all active right-handers, behind only Greg Maddux. In the final start of his career, he pitched six shutout innings against the Boston Red Sox to finish off the first 20-win season of his career.

    As I wrote at the end of the season, it's probably a good political move for him to hang it up, because whereas never having won 20 could have been an irrational liability for his Hall of Fame chances, winning 20 in his last season may be an irrational asset. Now, instead of knocking him for not having attained a rather arbitrary milestone, the writers will credit Mussina for having achieved an arbitrary milestone, all because Xavier Nady hit a three run homer off of Matsuzaka in the fourth inning of a meaningless game on the last day of the season.

    (thanks to reader Chris Lagrow for the heads up)

    All Deliberate Haste

    The sale of the Chicago Cubs has entered the 1,325th round, and should be wrapped up no later than the epoch after next:
    The sale of the Chicago Cubs is progressing toward a second round of bids on Dec. 1, Major League Baseball's No. 2 executive said on Wednesday as the final two-day quarterly Owners Meetings of the year got under way . . . "The second letter has gone out, and the bids are expected [just] after Thanksgiving," DuPuy said, "and Mr. Zell says the team continues to be for sale and that they're moving forward with it and continuing to solicit the bids."
    The process has obviously been complicated by the fact that, when bidding began, there were only 16 owners whose approval was required, but since expansion began in the 1960s that number has increased. Last we heard, however, everyone still believes that Commissioner Chandler's stated wish to have the Cubs sold within 25 years of his death is still attainable.

    Tighten Up

    Baseball is hunkering down:
    Major League Baseball won't increase spending next season for the first time in four years because of the deteriorating economy, the sport's No. 2 official said. ``It's a challenging sponsorship market and advertising market,'' MLB President Bob DuPuy told reporters at the end of the first day of the quarterly owners' meeting in New York . . .

    . . . A budget was submitted for club approval that was flat compared with last year, DuPuy said while declining to reveal figures, and the sport has also put a hold on unidentified initiatives. The last time baseball didn't boost spending was in 2003-2004, he said.
    Baseball has also started packing its lunch each day, buying Safeway Select items over premium brands, and has canceled its Netflix subscription.

    Wednesday, November 19, 2008

    OK, Sure

    For some reason former baseball commissioner Fay Vincent has a column in the small Florida paper that serves his small Florida hometown, and uses his latest entry to talk about the need for Obama to surround himself with the right people.

    I'm guessing a guy who lost his job in a coup has a lot of opinions about surrounding yourself with the right people.

    A Complete 180

    I'll fill you in on a ShysterBall secret: a healthy chunk of the non-breaking news I write about here comes from simply Googling random terms like "baseball" or "ballpark" or "ballgame" or something. It's amazing what kind of stuff you'll find when you do that. Like this cool factoid, culled from a press release in which U.C. Davis announces the appointment of Bruce R. White as the new Dean of the College of Engineering:
    In 1995, for example, he led a project that resulted in a major redesign of the proposed home of the San Francisco Giants baseball team. His recommendation that the new stadium be pivoted 180 degrees prevented a major fiasco by protecting fans and players from the strong winds that had plagued the Giants' former stadium, Candlestick Park.
    I had no idea about that, did you? Seems kind of weird that they'd propose it that way to begin with, no? As-built, AT&T Park looks out over the Bay in a northeasterly orientation. This gives some nice views to the majority of the fans, who mostly sit behind the plate and down the lines. It also has the added benefit of batters never having to look into direct sunlight in the many daytime games played by the Giants.

    If Professor White had never come along and the ballpark were built facing southwest, most of the fans would see, well, not much of anything interesting. That's because the cool bits of the San Francisco skyline sit mostly to the northwest of the park and would thus be blocked by the first base line grandstand. I mean, I had a really great mojito in the Mission District once, but you probably couldn't see that from the stadium. Moreover, batters would frequently be battling the sun as it circles to the south and west of the stadium in the afternoon hours.*

    So thanks, Professor White, and congratulations on your new position!

    *I've only been to that park once and to San Francisco, like, five times, so if my urban geography is off, please feel free to correct me.

    No Country for Old Men

    ESPN's Jerry Crasnick takes a look at the employment prospects of some of the game's old men. Specifically, Jim Edmonds, Garret Anderson, Ken Griffey, Cliff Floyd, Jeff Kent, Nomar Garciaparra, Luis Gonzalez, Frank Thomas, and Mosies Alou.

    The only one I'd even think about on that list is Edmonds, and even then I wouldn't expect anything fabulous. The rest of them? Either guys who have signaled their desire to retire or else pure chopped liver.

    I guess that's harsh, but as Crasnick notes, we're a couple of years past the point when most teams realized that big names and past achievements aren't worth a roster spot.

    Your Dumb Idea of the Day

    A's owner Lew Wolff has a fairly dumb idea:

    Lew Wolff has a way to shorten baseball's postseason: Make the first round best-of-one. "I'd make it one-game-and-you're-out for the first series," the Oakland Athletics owner said Wednesday. "It would be exciting. It would be great."
    This coming from a guy whose team, perhaps more than any other, has been harmed by the depth-penalizing format of short-series playoff baseball.

    Whenever they's a cop beatin' up a guy at a basketball exhibition, I'll be there

    We may all be circling the economic drain, but the Phoenix suburb of Glendale, Arizona is doing just fine thanks to spring training facilities and the wider world of sports:

    Glendale Mayor Elaine Scruggs said the city's emergence as a sports mecca -- with new stadiums for the Arizona Cardinals and Phoenix Coyotes, more baseball teams for spring training and now USA Basketball -- is particularly helpful during these tough economic times. Sports teams bring in tax revenue, she said. "Anything we can do to stimulate new spending in this area, in this state, during these very difficult times is a very positive thing," Scruggs said.

    She said the sports teams draw visitors "and when people come to the Valley -- particularly when they're traveling from out of state -- they're staying in hotels, they're eating in restaurants and they're shopping in our stores." Meanwhile, Glendale leaders hoped to find out Wednesday that the city will host college basketball's "Final Four" sometime soon. The National Collegiate Athletic Association is planning to announce its host cities for 2012 through 2016. Glendale is one of 10 cities in the running.
    If things get much worse back east they'll be updating The Grapes of Wrath. Except instead of displaced Okies getting into their jalopies and heading to California to pick fruit, it will be laid-off investment bankers getting into their station cars and heading to Glendale to sell concessions.

    Great Moments in Trolling for Traffic

    As I mentioned yesterday, I'm quite pleased with the fact that ESPN has apparently freed Neyer, Law, and the others from the subscription prison that was Insider. I don't know what that means for ESPN financially, but it seems to me that it's the right move for long-term readership, bloggy interactivity, and plain old karma.

    It also seems that the ESPN editors who write the headlines are equally savvy about driving traffic to their newly-accessible properties. For example, note the Red Sox Fanboy-baiting headline they tagged Neyer's MVP post with on the front page this morning:


    An exclamation point and everything! After seeing that I could almost hear the thousands of Sullys and Drews clicking through to give old Rob a piece of their Sawxy minds!

    Only problem is, Neyer's post bears no resemblance to that inflammatory headline. While Neyer says that Pedroia wouldn't have been his choice and isn't "the obvious choice," he adds that that "isn't to suggest that Pedroia wasn't an outstanding MVP candidate." He goes on to say that Pedroia "wasn't a poor choice," and acknowledges that if voters are intent to go with guys on playoff teams -- as we know they are -- Pedroia was probably the guy to pick. Well, either him or Youkilis.

    I wonder how many New Englanders saw that this morning and geared up for a fight, only to find upon reading the post that there's really nothing to fight about.

    UPDATE: A couple of people have commented or emailed me asking me if I'm "shocked" or upset by this kind of teaser being placed on Neyer's post. Far from it! In fact, I'm quite happy with it. You see, it's one thing to tease crap with an inflammatory header, but it's quite defensible to tease good stuff like Neyer's writing with such things. Indeed, by doing so it may trick someone into reading something that's good for them, much the way I trick my three year-old into eating his vegetables.

    I'm also reminded of how many really good books were marketed with salacious and plain old crazy cover art back in the 40s and 50s. You know a bunch of them were sold to guys looking for smut, but if a handful actually got something good out of it, it was well worth the deception.

    All in all, I'd much rather have ESPN market Neyer's stuff like this than anti-market it by keeping it behind a subscription wall like they have for so long.

    Short Changed

    Josh Wilker reminds us that Pedroia's MVP wasn't the first time the voters took notice of a little guy over an arguably more-worthy candidate (Josh cites Youkilis, but I think Mauer fits just as well). As an added bonus, he lists his all-time short guy team.

    I'm assuming he got the player heights from Baseball-Reference. I'm also assuming that the heights on Baseball-Reference were based on lies those guys once gave team or league officials in order to not seem so short.

    "Back Back Back"

    Are you ready for an off-Broadway play about steroids in baseball? If so, "Back Back Back" is right up your alley:

    “Back Back Back,” a new play by Itamar Moses about baseball’s steroids scandal, could actually use a little juicing itself. Mr. Moses’ disappointingly drama-free drama does little more than skim the surface of the protracted controversy over the use of suspicious substances by star players in the major leagues.

    The play, which opened on Tuesday night at City Center as part of Manhattan Theater Club’s decidedly shaky fall season (previous entries: “To Be or Not to Be” and John Patrick Shanley’s “Romantic Poetry”), has just three characters, all ballplayers glimpsed at various junctures in their careers. This instant replay of recent sports history, directed by Daniel Aukin, is staged in nine scenes, mimicking the innings of a ballgame.
    One of the three characters is a Mark McGwire figure: a big dude with McGwire's Cardinals-era facial hair. A second is a Latin ballplayer named Raul who, at the end of the play, is revealed to have written a tell-all book. Hmmm, I wonder who that could be. The third is just some young middle infielder type. I'm going to say it's Walt Weiss, not because there's any evidence that it really is him, but because that would make this play far more interesting for me.

    It gets a pretty bad review from the Times here. Though I haven't seen it, I can't see how such a beast could possibly be any good. I mean really, do you think McGwire and Canseco ever had a single coherent, quasi-intellectual conversation about the implications of steroids? About anything?

    Wakamatsu to Manage the Mariners

    Don Wakamatsu, that is, and until being announced as Seattle's new manager today, he has been the A's bench coach. Other candidates were White Sox coach Joey Cora, Red Sox coaches DeMarlo Hale and Brad Mills, Cardinals coach Jose Oquendo, and San Diego AAA manager Randy Ready.

    So what do we know about Wakamatsu? Not a ton in that (a) those of us back east haven't gotten to see a bunch of A's games recently; and (b) even if we had, it's not like a bench coach leaves an impression on fans. To be honest, I hadn't even heard of the position of bench coach until Don Zimmer's telegenic mug started showing up on FOX World Series broadcasts all the damn time in the late 90s. Until someone tells me differently, I will remain convinced that "bench coach" is German for "drinking buddy of the manager."

    At any rate, Wakamatsu has tentative approval from the folks that matter in this, and that's the good fellows of U.S.S. Mariner:
    I still think we should be encouraged by this hiring. Not necessarily because we have any reason to think that Wakamatsu will be one of those few that make a significant positive impact, but because of the way this entire process was handled. I know a lot of you were concerned when Zduriencik was hired that this was just going to be more of the same, with huge amounts of micro-managing from Armstrong and Lincoln, and a perpetuation of old school, 20th century ways of running an organization.

    Instead, we’ve seen Zduriencik clean house in the front office, make his #2 guy a man with significant statistical leanings and empower him to create a department of baseball research, and now interviewed seven managerial candidates with no experience and picked the guy whose reputation is for being extremely well prepared in pregame analysis and comes from the A’s organization. In picking Wakamatsu, he bypassed Joey Cora, who was clearly the guy the suits upstairs had a preference for, and went with the man he felt was best equipped to help this team win.

    So there's that. As for the rest of us, I exchanged a couple of emails with Sara K last night, and both of are pleased that Jose Oquendo wasn't picked. Not because he'd be a bad manager, but because we both like him, we both think of him as a St. Louis Cardinal and a St. Louis Cardinal alone, and that him not getting the Seattle job means that Tony La Russa's doomsday clock can continue ticking unabated.

    House of David

    Scott Simkus has a nice little post about the famous, but largely forgotten, House of David barnstorming team from the early 20th Century:
    Their baseball team (actually, they sometimes had 2 or 3 traveling around the country at the same time), was really a big deal. Up there with any of the big name Negro League clubs in terms of traveling gate attractions, and like any barnstorming team worth its weight in salt, claimed to win upwards of 80-85% of their games.

    They lied. Oh, they had a number of former minor leaguers on their roster (hired to play on behalf of the colony), and a few washed up big leaguers. They even hired Satchel Paige for a few weeks and won a tournament. They had good years, that much is true. But they didn’t win anywhere close to 85% of their games.
    Click through to Simkus' post to see how they really did.