Friday, August 29, 2008

Unintended Consequences

I'm late to the Scott Boras-Pedro Alvarez party, but Neyer and others hit it pretty hard and pretty good already, so my two cents on the incident itself isn't worth all that much. I will say, however, that while some may paint the Alvarez gambit as classic Boras a la the J.D. Drew and Travis Lee business from years past, this strikes me as a somewhat desperate and ultimately self-defeating move on the uber-agent's part.

Desperate because, let's face it, Boras has had a bad year. He bungled the A-Rod opt-out situation, and was basically cast into the wilderness by his biggest client. As the year has gone on, more and more pre-arb players are signing big deals that, on the whole, are probably going to benefit clubs more than they do players, and that's bad for Boras. Maybe worse for Boras than other agents, in that a lot of the guys signing these deals are exactly the types who abandon their original agents for Boras as they approach free agency. Now that they won't be approaching free agency for a long time, Boras has lost both dollars and potential new clients. In the face of his veterans spurning him and his young players bypassing him, Boras, like a wounded predator, feels the need to go after younger, more vulnerable prey: the newly drafted.

But such a move may may be self-defeating in that, as this Forbes piece notes, if Boras is successful in making Alvarez and maybe even Eric Hosmer free agents, ownership is likely to make the draft issue #1 in 2011 when the CBA is up for renegotiation. Sure, they should do that anyway because the draft is kind of broken, but rather than approach it from a "how shall we fix this?" perspective, ownership will no doubt attempt to target Boras as personally as the CBA process will allow.

How? How about by pressing for a strict NBA-syle slotting system, complete with bonus caps and other draconian measures for minor league and younger major league players? You laugh, of course, because rarely in recent history have the owners ever been able to truly get tough. They wanted contraction and didn't get it. They wanted salary caps and didn't get it. There are tons of other things they never bothered trying, because hell, what's the point?

But this time they may have an unexpected ally in the players. Maybe not the union leadership itself, which is duty-bound to oppose the owners at almost every turn, but by the rank and file who has never really had a hard time bargaining away the rights of minor leaguers who aren't at the negotiating table. If you think that veterans who got $50,000 signing bonuses back in the day wouldn't like to reign in those given out today, you're crazy. What's more, you can bet that ownership would be willing to give away some concessions that would largely benefit vetarans if it meant getting the players' agreement on some Boras-screwing measures related to how the draft is conducted.

If such a thing were to occur, everyone would cloak their positions in the language of preserving competitive balance and "saving the draft." And there would be some truth to that. But the fact of the matter is that spite is a powerful motivator. The owners want to spite Boras. I'm sure a lot of players want to spite the young guys whom they feel haven't "earned it" yet. If those two impulses can get together, Scott Boras may rue the day he tried to mess with the draft.

Great Moments In Fickleness

Yesterday, Jason from IIATMS pinged me with this tasty takedown of Jay Mariotti by his former employer, the Chicago Sun-Times. The whole thing should be read to be appreciated -- lengthy juicy quotes from Mariotti targets Guillen and Harrelson -- but here's some fun stuff straight from the Sun-Times' mouth:
Mariotti spent the better part of his first day divorced from the Sun-Times acting like a scorned lover. He wants you to believe there was a greater principle involved -- one that somehow loomed larger than his ego. He wants you to believe that newspapers -- specifically the two biggest ones in Chicago -- are dying. Once again, Mariotti was playing fast and loose with the facts . . .

. . . Not once in the last eight years can I recall seeing Mariotti in the Cubs' or Sox' clubhouse. With a press credential that allowed him access to every major sporting event and every major figure, he hasn't broken a single story in that time. He says Chicago is a weak market, the competitive edge gone. He has only himself to blame . . .

. . . Sun-Times editor Michael Cooke said it best.

''We wish Jay well and will miss him -- not personally, of course -- but in the sense of noticing he is no longer here, at least for a few days,'' Cooke said. ''A paper, like a sports franchise, is something that moves into the future. Stars come and stars go, but the Sun-Times sports section was, is and will continue to be the best in the city.''

Today, it's a little better.

Oh, snap! Of course, one wonders if Mariotti was as bad and as fungible a writer as that column makes him out to be -- and by most accounts he was -- why the Sun-Times gave him a big four year contract earlier this year. The answer is that the paper is just as shallow and calculating and spinning as Mariotti is. If the guy didn't have some audience, they wouldn't have paid him to write the kind of columns they now seem to be repudiating.

The lesson here is that for all of the lofty rhetoric about journalistic integrity, the newspaper business is just a business. Outlets like the Sun-Times will always use the hard work of good, but low-paid reporters and editors as their calling card while gladly using the bombastic and shallow work of columnists as a meal ticket.

And That Happened

Robert Benchley once said "there is probably no more obnoxious class of citizen, taken end for end, than the returning vacationist." He was probably right about that, and for that reason, I will spare you the blow by blow of my little getaway. Suffice it to say that we rented a nice place in northern Michigan, there was bright sun, a cool breeze, crystal clear water, and azure skies, all of which worked to restore energy reserves which were nearing rock bottom. I'm fresh now, but I feel a little ignorant at the moment because I didn't think about baseball for more than five minutes all week. Those five minutes occurred when I tuned in to FSN Detroit to catch some of the Tigers game on Tuesday night, only to see that they were playing the Indians, a team I see almost every night at home and which, at this point of the season, I'm pretty sick of. I clicked the ballgame off and watched the sunset over the bay instead. It was the right decision.

I'm back home now, but I'm still sort of wishing I was on vacation. What's more, as I write these words, college football and an Obama convention speech are dominating the dial, underscoring just how quickly the summer -- and thus the baseball season -- is slipping away. Morning found us calmly unaware. Noon burned gold into our hair. At night we swam at laughin' sea. When summer's gone, where will we be?

Rays 3, Blue Jays 2: At the height of their power mid to late 90s, the Braves would always manage to get into a win-two-of-three groove during the dog days that always spelled death for their divisional competitors. Montreal in 1996, Florida in 1997, and New York in 1999 all, at times, seemed to get hot. To become frisky. To spur talk that Atlanta's stranglehold on the division was in jeopardy. But then everyone looked up and noticed that Atlanta was just calmly winning two of every three, and there's not a hell of a lot you can do about that. Tampa Bay is in that kind of groove right now, and no matter what happens in Boston or New York on a day-to-day basis, it doesn't really matter, because no one is catching the Rays. Of course, as all Braves fans -- and Marlins fans -- can tell you, winning the division with such workmanlike efficiency can be overrated come October. But when you're the Rays, you'll take it for now and figure out those details later.

Cubs 6, Phillies 4: A winning-six-out-of-six groove is pretty tough to beat too.

Yankees 3, Red Sox 2
: Neither of these tarnished titans leaves this series in good shape. New York because they lost two of three. Boston because they may have lost Josh Beckett, who is off to see Dr. Andrews. Joba Chamberlain and Tom Glavine were recently spared the good doctor's typical sentence. Will Beckett be so lucky?

Astros 3, Reds 2: Aaron Harang is the anti-PAP poster child. In his last two starts he has thrown 115 and 106 pitches, and despite last night's loss, has only given up three runs in those 13 innings. In his previous two starts, he threw only 87 and 78 pitches and gave up 16 runs in seven and a third. Clearly, Dusty just needs to let him stretch out a bit more.

Nats 11, Dodgers 2: The cycle for Cristian Guzman, as the Dodgers allow themselves to get swept by the Nats. That's the kind of thing that will get you disqualified from being spoken of as a contender in these parts, and unless and until Los Angeles can string together, oh, six wins in a row, I am going to treat them like any other disappointing pretender, which is exactly what they'd be in any other division. The only reason they breathe right now is because Arizona is mailing it in with comparable aplomb these days, rendering this weekend's series between these two, um, playoff contenders, unexpectedly relevant.

A's 3, Twins 2: A winning streak! It's two, but hey, the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Now, if the A's had anywhere worth going, they'd really be on to something.

Angels 7, Rangers 5: Another sign of fall: this is the first game story in which I've seen the words "magic number" used in an unironic way this season.

Braves 4, Marlins 2: If beat writers insist on talking about the Yankees' playoff possibilities with a straight face, I suppose we have to admit that the Marlins still technically have a pulse. Assuming they don't surge and benefit from a Philly-New York collapse, they can blame their misfortunes this year on not taking care of business against a Braves team the Phillies have owned and against whom the Mets have thus far broke basically even.

Sunday, August 24, 2008


For the first time in practically forever, the wife and I are loading up the Family Truckster and taking off with the ShysterKids for a few days. I thought long and hard about schlepping the laptop with me and blogging while on vacation, but ultimately decided against it. Partially because Mrs. Shyster would kill me, but mostly because I could use a couple of days off. Blogging isn't that tough a racket, but blogging and lawyering at the same time is, and one can only multitask so long without burning out.

Part of me worries that everyone will forget about ShysterBall and the reader count will go back to 12 in the few days that I'm gone, but I want to be fresh for the stretch run and the playoffs, and I think looking at a big lake, breathing some fresh air, and getting a few good nights' sleep will ensure that. The plan is to be back on Friday morning with a new "And That Happened," and to resume a full schedule after Labor Day.

So, like, come back, OK? Please?

Friday, August 22, 2008

Red Sox Nation, Indeed

Fenway Sports Group -- a corporate sibling of the Red Sox -- is opening an office in San Diego:

The reason that Fenway Sports Group, a subsidiary of New England Sports Ventures
LLC, which owns the Boston Red Sox baseball team and the park it plays in, Fenway Park, as well as 80 percent of New England Sports Network — which is similar to ESPN — wants a West Coast hub “is to better leverage their lines of business and create new revenue streams that they don’t have to share with Major League Baseball,” said Pat Connors.

By that, Connors — tabbed this month to be senior vice president of FSG’s local office — means marketing, sponsorships and company acquisitions not connected to the ballclub.
Of course, even if it's not defined as sharable revenue under baseball's rules, its not like the piles and piles of money FSG makes isn't going to the same folks who hold the Sox' purse strings. In some ways, this is an old story. Ted Turner, George Steinbrenner, Anheuser Busch, and countless other previous baseball owners used money from their outside ventures to help subsidize baseball spending.

But there is a difference with FSG, isn't there? In a recent feature story on the business, Mike Dee -- FSG's President and the Red Sox' CEO -- made it pretty clear that, even if the revenue comes from selling ads at Boston College games, NASCAR partnerships, and all manner of other things, FSG's business is really about extending the Red Sox' brand. They're getting the opportunities they're getting because of that brand, and that brand is really part of Major League Baseball, isn't it?

I'm not suggesting that there's anything wrong with this necessarily. Other teams can try to do this too, though I'm sure only a handful have the capital to get such a venture going. But anytime you see one member of a group doing well, you can assume that the response of the majority will not be an emulative one. It will be jealousy, and everyone will want to wet their beaks, as it were. "Why isn't the revenue from a race car with the Sox logo on it sharable?" David Glass might ask. "The Red Sox don't exist without the other teams to play," notes Bob Nutting.

This is all worth watching because, as the years go on, it is apparent that the real business fissures in baseball are not between the players and the owners as much as they are between the big owners and the little ones. That certainly accounted for much of 2002's acrimony, and assuming bad times eventually hit baseball the way they're hitting the rest of the economy, these David vs. Goliath fights will crop up again.

Will the the game itself be affected when a group of the little guys try to make a grab for the FSG money? We shall see.

The Politics of Luxury Boxes

My hometown Columbus Dispatch has a column today in which a woman named Myrna Dupler, the daughter of a noted local architect named Howard Dwight Smith, is interviewed. Myrna is in her mid 80s now, and she's interviewed on the rooftop terrace of her apartment building, which overlooks the construction of the Columbus Clippers' new stadium. She has mixed feelings about it because her father was the architect for Cooper Stadium, the aging ballpark which the new place is set to replace next spring. Smith was also the architect for Columbus City Hall and numerous buildings on Ohio State's campus, including Ohio Stadium, home of the Buckeyes.

The conversation turns interesting when the interviewer asks her about how her father would feel about the new baseball stadium as well as the extensive renovations which were made to Ohio Stadium a few years ago:
"He was very proud of the aesthetics and the utility of that stadium," Dupler said. "It's such a nice place to sit. I've always liked it. There's something about the ambiance about a well-designed building. You just know it's right." . . . Asked what her father would have thought of the Ohio Stadium renovations, she said he would have understood that an updating was needed because "Everything was falling apart inside and they needed more room."

She added, "But he would not have liked all the boxes for the rich people. He was a socialist."

You don't have to be a socialist to lament the way new stadiums are pricing out the little guy in favor of the plutocrats, but it's worth noting that a healthy portion of the stadiums you, your parents, and your grandparents grew up attending were designed by guys who viewed the world like Howard Dwight Smith. After all, like all notable architects, he had like-minded mentors and disciples, many of whom were likely also socialists. As a result of this, our sportsgoing DNA has an inevitable touch of socialism about it that, for better or worse, has a hard time taking to the glittering new palaces of the day.

Yesterday's political post spurred a bit of a debate about whether sports and politics can and should be separated. I think stuff like this shows us that on some level, they really can't be.

And That Happened

Blue Jays 14, Yankees 3: I'm writing this recap right after the game went final and I don't have the benefit of the post-game stories or anything, so when I say "Ponson is going to get DFA'd," that's a bona fide prediction. Here's another: this score represents a reasonable facsimile of what Carl Pavano's grand return on Saturday is going to look like. By then there's a good chance the Jays will have passed the Yanks. New York last finished as low as fourth place in 1992, when Scott Kamieniecky and Bob Wickman were starting games for the Bombers. Both of those guys were better than Pavano and Ponson are, by the way.

Cubs 3, Reds 2
: Carlos Zambrano almost single handedly beats the Reds by throwing seven innings of one-run ball and hitting a dinger of his own.

Indians 10, Royals 3: Grady Sizemore and Cliff Lee almost single handedly -- er, double handedly? -- beat the Royals, with Sizemore hitting a homer, a triple, and driving in seven runs and Lee going seven innings to notch his 18th win of the year.

Dodgers 3, Rockies 1: On Wednesday night Torre was all like "yo, I'd run that Martin at third, Blake at first, Ardoin behind the plate lineup out there again without hesitation!" Then last night he goes back to Martin catching, Blake at third, Loney at first. And Loney goes 2-3 with a homer and a couple of RBI. I'll bet you a finsky he doesn't go with Wednesday night's lineup again all year.

Giants 4, Marlins 3: Emmanuel Burriss advanced to third on a fly to left in the ninth and then came home to win it on a wild pitch, so the whole story of the game is about his aggressive base running. The story goes like this: "During a Giants loss at Atlanta on Sunday, Burriss was cut down trying to steal third after hitting a one-out double in the first. That killed San Francisco's scoring threat and earned Burriss a visit with Giants manager Bruce Bochy, who told his young infielder to stay aggressive but be more selective." I don't know about you, but that sounds like bullshit. The only point to "stay aggressive but be more selective" is "don't get caught." What else can it mean?

Mets 5, Braves 4: Pedro Martinez vs. Mike Hampton. They both even threw over 100 pitches. And it isn't even 1998!

Nationals 4, Phillies 3: I'm happy for all sixteen of the Nationals fans out there, because losing streaks can be tough. This victory is sad for me personally, however, in that I had not even scratched the surface of my "man, do the Nats stink" jokes.

Diamondbacks 4, Padres 1: Brandon Webb (7 IP, 3 H, 0 ER) ensures that that whole Lee-Webb Cy Young thing stays intact. He also took a comebacker off his chest in the sixth only to walk away unhurt, laying a stronger claim to Superman status.

A's 2, Mariners 0: Smith, Devine, and Ziegler combine to shutout Seattle. I don't think it's any coincidence that, on a night-by-night basis, the best pitching performances always seem to come against Seattle and San Diego. Frank Thomas was run out of the game for arguing balls and strikes. I haven't seen the video, but given that the dude has over 1600 walks and a career OBP north of .400, I'd be inclined to say that he probably was right.

Twins 2, Angels 1: Minnesota set up the winning run when Torii Hunter just whiffed when trying to catch a Nick Punto fly ball in the 12th, turning it into a triple. That's simply Ludacris.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Bull Durham, Politics, and Catching Prospects

Rob Neyer (Sorry, Insider only) weighed in on the Hall of Fame's Bull Durham do-over with some uncharacteristic political commentary. Regarding Dale Petroskey's idiotic cancellation of the event back in 2003:

When this happened, I swore to myself that I wouldn't support the Hall of Fame materially until Petroskey was gone. I know that wars often bring out the worst in us, but that doesn't mean we should accept such behavior blindly. In 2003, Petroskey and his ilk equated dissent with treason, which is about as un-American as anything you can think of.

I broke that promise.

The Hall of Fame -- or more precisely, the Hall of Fame's Research Center -- has been too good to me, so I've been a dues-paying member for some years now. But my visit to Cooperstown this summer would have been somewhat less satisfying if Petroskey hadn't been fired a few months earlier. As for Petroskey wishing for a do-over, that's easy to say after the fact. Just ask this former Republican official. Or this one.
A lot of sports bloggers spout off about politics from time to time, but Neyer usually isn't one of them. As such, when he does venture into the political, we can probably assume that his sentiments are about something very important to him and -- given that Rob has an editorial layer above him who answers to a large, controversy-averse media corporation -- you can bet that he had to fight to get those sentiments published.

The point here, is that Rob isn't one to engage in partisan hackery or waste his editorial capital on silly, of-the-moment political stuff. In this case he's talking about large concepts like political expression and patriotism that are more than a little important no matter what party you call home. Nevertheless, some of his commenters had an immediate, negative reaction:

Holy hell, we get it, all you guys are giant freakin liberals who hate republicans. Can we just stick to baseball please?

Yeah, really Neyer, you don't mix in politics with baseball, do you? Making mistakes is clearly something only conservatives do.

Rob, I wished you follow your own advice. You don't do a lot of it, but it has increased a good deal lately. I don't have any interest in reading your politics in your articles, whether its the things I agree with you or the things I disagree with.
There are some defenders in the comment thread too, but these kinds of reactions -- "don't you dare talk about politics in a baseball forum!" -- are pretty common whenever a baseball guy touches on politics. I've gotten similar comments here myself from time to time.

I understand that to a degree. A lot of baseball's appeal is escapism, and who the hell wants real life to intrude? But I can't see how pretending that politics doesn't exist is at all reasonable. Politics is a part of life. Baseball is a part of life. Anyone who overloads on either of them is probably not the healthiest person in the world, but to deny that politics exists within the virtual walls of a given blog is kind of silly. The important thing is to maintain civility, decency and perspective when politics comes up and to remember that even if it's the subject du jour, the primary focus of the forum should remain baseball. It would take approximately 17,000 straight political posts by Neyer for the balance of his blog to tilt even slightly away from baseball content, so let's cut the guy some slack, OK?

Besides, there is something more troubling about Neyer's post than the fleeting intrusion of politics, and that's a criticism of my favorite baseball movie I am not currently prepared to counter. From commenter Amerlis:

Here's the real point. How is it possible that a catcher with power never even made it up for a cup of coffee? It's the premise of that movie. I reject that premise. Therefore I can't stand Bull Durham. It is NOT the best baseball movie ever made. Far from it.
Oh dear. I love Bull Durham, but I'll admit, I have never really considered that aspect of it before. How does a brainy catcher who hits a lot of homers, makes his manager happy, and handles young pitchers with aplomb not stick in the bigs for longer than a cup of coffee? It's one thing to challenge my political assumptions, but man, to go after one of my favorite movies like that is rough, especially when I don't have a ready response.

See? It all comes back to baseball eventually.

Happy Days

No, really. The cast of Happy Days was on hand at Miller Park the other night to celebrate some Fonzi-related thing:

Anson Williams, who played Potsie on Happy Days, was no less appreciative of the adoring fans.“It’s fun,” he said as he signed a Happy Days video. “Terrifying, but fun.”“What’s the terrifying part?” inquired reporter George Mallet. “I’m singing the Star Spangled Banner,” he said emphatically.
He should have thrown out the first pitch to avenge the off-screen loss he took as the starting pitcher for Jefferson High. You know, in that episode where Fonzie played Hamlet in the fundraising play the gang puts on to buy new uniforms for the team? Remember Potsie gave up four homers? Anyone?

/OK, forget I mentioned it . . .

Mmmmmm . . .Soy Dogs!

Nationals Stadium may be green, but Appalachian Power Park is more PETA-friendly:

The home of the West Virginia Power baseball team ranks 10th in a list of vegetarian-friendly minor league ballparks.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals released the rankings. Norfolk, Va.-based PETA says the home of the New Hampshire Fisher Cats in Manchester, N.H., has the top vegetarian fare, with offerings such as veggie burgers and grilled-vegetable sandwiches.
Color me skeptical. I'm from West Virginia, and I can't remember the last meal I had there that didn't involve gravy of some kind.

Chicken-n-Beer > Peanuts-n-Cracker Jack

Torii Hunter is teaming up with Ludacris:

Rapper Ludacris is crusading to get hip-hop fans into baseball. The Disturbing Tha Peace label boss has teamed up with Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim star Torii Hunter to create a new online competition for budding rappers to create a theme song for the slugger . . .

. . . Hunter will promote the initiative by stepping up to the plate at upcoming Angels baseball games as tracks submitted to the competition are played over stadium sound systems.
That sounds like a great idea, though I'm guessing it will cause Bill O'Reilly and Obama to boycott the Angels.

Celebrating The Giants' Youth Initiative

The San Francisco Giants have won a philanthropy award:

Team officials on Sunday will be presented with the 2008 Steve Patterson Award for Excellence in Sports Philanthropy . . .

. . . One major plank of the team’s outreach is the Junior Giants program. The Junior Giants, in operation for 15 years, is a free baseball program that emphasizes self-esteem and scholarship. Each year the program reaches 15,000 kids between 5 and 18 years old living in cities and suburbs in northern California, Oregon and Nevada.
I think this article sells the Giants' efforts short. In addition to the Junior Giants program, Brian Sabean has made it his personal mission over the years to provide millions in charity payments to senior citizens as well.

Simers on Manny

LAT columnist T.J. Simers' usual approach is to insult, bait and pester Dodger players, hoping against hope that they'll spout off in anger so that he can print a juicy quote and follow it up with his "man, what's his problem?" shtick. Which makes this relative love letter to Manny Ramirez all the more surprising. I suppose it's still the honeymoon period and that the torpedo piece will come if and when the Dodgers fall a few more games behind Arizona. It may be difficult because Manny's seeming immunity to the passions and motivations which drive most athletes will make it harder for Simers to get a rise out of the guy, but Simers is a pro, and I think he's up to the challenge.

Anyway, a neat idea came to me while reading this. Manny, as he has in the past, made a joke about there not being a bathroom near left field like there was in Fenway ("I love this place," he says. "Just wish they had a different wall out there so I could go in there and [go to the bathroom]"). If I owned the Dodgers, I'd install a porta-potty behind the wall in dead center and deck it out with big signs and flashing lights and stuff marking it as "MannyLand." They could make a contest out of it in which fans guess which inning Manny will pee, or they could do a tie-in with some prostate cancer charity or something. It'd be great, wouldn't it?

In other news, I've sent my resume to multiple Major League teams and, for some reason, none of them have responded. Huh.

A Maize of Intrigue

This is not baseball, but a huge portion of my readers are on the coasts, and sometimes people ask me what it's like living in Ohio. I usually lie and say that life is free and easy in the Midwest, but I can't keep up this charade any longer. Things are rough here, baby.

And no, I'm not cherry-picking stories for a cheap joke. That place is only a couple of miles from my house, and I had really looked forward to going this fall.

Somebody, please kill me and put me out of my misery.

Team Green

The Washington Nationals collect the only hardware they'll see in years.

And That Happened

Phillies 4, Nationals 0: I'm beginning to think that the Nats have been secretly hired by Major League Baseball to be professional wrestling-style "jobbers" a la Iron Mike Sharpe or S.D. "Special Delivery" Jones. Sure, they look like a baseball team -- they have the uniform and know a few moves and things -- but ultimately their job is to "sell" the moves of the big stars. Really good jobbers -- guys who could make marginal wrestlers who were nonetheless pegged for stardom look good -- were highly respected behind the scenes. I'm talking about the guys who would give a few extra twitches following Hulk Hogan's leg drops. The guys who would pretend that Ric Flair's big chops across the chest actually hurt. In baseball, it would be the guys who make Brett Myers look like a top quality Major League pitcher.

White Sox 15, Mariners 3
: As R.A. Dickey can attest (1 IP, 6 H, 8 ER, 2 BB), it's been a really tough year for knuckleballers.

Brewers 5, Astros 2: Kind of an unremarkable game in every respect. A homer, some sac flies, some minor bullpen drama, then averted. You know, when I started writing these recaps back in April, I was dead certain that I'd run out of things to say about games by the end of May. That hasn't happened, though, which both surprises and pleases me. Sure, most days there are one or two games I mail in like this, but given that there are as many as 15 games a night and many involve teams way the hell out of the race by now, that's not a terrible ratio.

Mets 6, Braves 3: Speaking of mailing it in, this looked like a miserable performance for Atlanta, who went down on twenty six pitches in the final three innings. No one really noticed this back when they won all the time, but if there's one knock on the Bobby Cox Braves is that they seem to shut it down when it looks like it would be hard to get back in a game. It was forgivable and almost understandable back when they were nine games up in the division and, let's face it, needed a rest once in a while, but it's really hard to take on a bad team like this one.

Twins 3, A's 1: Liriano goes to 4-0 with a 1.14 ERA since his callup. I'm kind of angry to see Mike Redmond play the offensive hero. It's nothing personal against him, but he's best known among Braves fans as a guy who inexplicably owned Tom Glavine over the years. Really, his career line against Glavine is .438/.471/.604, and because of that, I can't think of Redmond without thinking of Glavine. Seeing him still out there hitting well on the same day Glavine is sitting in Dr. James Andrews' office waiting to hear that his career is over is just wrong somehow. Update: OK, maybe not over, but the clock is certainly nearing midnight, no?

Reds 2, Cubs 1: The Reds win despite getting only four hits, mostly because the Cubs only got three.

Rangers 9, Tigers 1: Once in a while Kevin Millwood will rip off a game like this one (CG, 6 H 1 ER) reminding you that you once thought he could have been a perennial All-Star. Then he goes out the next time and gives up five runs in six innings and walks too many guys, and you go back to scratching your head.

Angels 5, Rays 4: Garrett Anderson's done it again; Garrett Anderson's done it again; Clackin' that bat, gone with the wind; Garrett Anderson's done it again.

Yankees 5, Blue Jays 1: Derek Jeter is heating up, having raised his batting average 17 points since the sweep against the Angels a week and a half ago. It's probably too little too late to help, but he'll probably quiet the small but growing chorus of Jeter Jeerers who have cropped up this season if he can push the average over .300.

Orioles 11, Red Sox 6: Noting the young pitchers' recent review of video and alleged discovery of some windup and release flaws, WEEI's Rob Bradford asked today "Has Buchholz found something?" Based on this game (2.1 IP, 3 H, 5 ER) I would say that as I'm writing this, he has found a plane ticket back to Pawtucket waiting in his locker. UPDATE: I'll be damned, I was right! We'll, partially anyway. He's being demoted, but instead of Pawtucket, he's going to Portland to be a Sea Dog. Ouch.

Cardinals 11, Pirates 2: St. Louis enters what looks to be the post-Izzy era with aplomb, made all the easier by a nine run need that wasn't really in need of protecting.

Diamondbacks 8, Padres 6: Adam Dunn strikes again. Two walks, a homer, three RBI and a couple of runs. Weird night as ace Jake Peavy and vice-ace Danny Haren combine to give up 11 runs in 11 innings.

Rockies 4, Dodgers 3: Errors all over the place as Torre's desire to rest James Loney causes Martin and Blake to play out of position. The Dodgers are now two back.

Giants 6, Marlins 5: Brian Wilson blows a save when he gives up three runs in the top of the ninth, but vultures a win when Matt Lindstrom gives up a walk, a single, and a couple of sacrifices in the bottom half. Wilson said, "I feel pretty terrible about not being able to hold it for Cainy, but the bottom line is we won." The real problem here is not the blown save. The real problem is the continuing decline in baseball nicknames. At some point in the past decade, players and managers have come to believe that it is acceptable to simply add a "y" an "ie" or an "ey" to the end of a fellow's name and call that a nickname. "Cainy." "Smoltzie." "Hawpey." I've seen all of these, and dozens more. It's lazy and it's sad. If you have a player named Cain on your team and you can't come up with something related to Charles Foster Kane or the film which featured him, I simply wash my hands of you, good sir. What? High school-educated ballplayers born in the 80s do not know and love Citizen Kane? Are you serious? Why, I never.

Indians 8, Royals 5: A scary moment in the fifth as Royals' outfielder Mitch Maier was leveled with a pitch to the face by Zach Jackson. He left under his own power but broke a couple of bones beneath his eye. The Indians better watch out for him, though. He's gonna go with Jackson and Kelly Shoppach to dinner at some Italian place some day to mend fences and then, when he comes out of the bathroom, he's going to have a couple of baseballs that his teammates stashed in there and come out beanin'. When he's done, he'll just let his hand drop to his side, and let the ball slip out. Everybody'll still think he's got it. They're gonna be staring at is face -- so he's gotta walk outta the place real fast -- but he won't run. He's not gonna look nobody directly in the eye -- but he's not gonna look away, either. Hey, they're gonna be scared stiff of him, believe me, so he won't worry about nothin'. You know, he's going to turn out all right. He'll take a long vacation -- nobody knows where -- and the Royals are gonna catch the hell.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Olympic Dream Teams

Many of us have farted around with this idea in the past, but John Donovan takes a crack at what the big four Olympic baseball teams (Japan, U.S., Cuba, D.R.) would look like if major leaguers were in Beijing.

Setting aside the fact that (a) the Cubans would in no way allow defectors to play for their team; (b) the Dominicans would be crazy to put Soriano at second base; (c) David Ortiz recently became a U.S. citizen, so he's listed on the wrong team; and (d) if the Chinese are banning, they certainly aren't letting Milton Bradley in the country, hey it's a pretty good list.

Police Blotter

I love reading the little neighborhood papers that run down all of the recently reported crimes. I live in a suburb full of awful white people, so eight out of every ten of these things in my local weekly involve golf clubs stolen from open garages. Amazingly, way more of these can be found during the spring golf-club purchasing season. Hmmm.

Anyway, the Philadelphia-area RoxReview runs one of these things, and their reports are way more interesting than the ones in my paper. From the stolen items file:

A total of 220 pills of Methadine, 80 Oxycodine, 240 Bextra pills, stimulus
check, two gold rings, two baseball tickets and portable safe were taken from
the 500 block of Martin St. on July 21.
The next Phillies home game after that theft was against the Braves on the 25th. Assuming the stolen tickets were for that game, this crime will never be solved. Why? because Brad Lidge gave up five runs on four hits without retiring a batter in the ninth inning that night, likely inspiring the thief to dull the pain with all of the Methadine, Oxycodine and Bextra he swiped, and then cash the stimulus check to buy some booze. Upshot: no evidence.

Phillies 1, Homophobes, Nats 0

Last night was Gay Community Night at Citizens Bank Park. It was quite a success in that (a) event organizers reported that they sold more promotional tickets for last night's game than were originally allotted; and (b) there was no repeat of the ugliness from previous years. Best part? For the first time in the event's six-year history, the Phillies actually won the game:

I’m not sure if the local right-wing protest group showed up outside the gates,
as they have in previous years (I’m not even going to mention the group’s name —
why give them any more exposure?) but no longer can they celebrate the fact that
the Phils have always lost on Gay Community Night. Sucks to be them, huh?

It sucked to be haters like that to begin with, but yes, anytime someone is deprived of jerk-fuel, the world becomes a better place. Probably sucks worse to be the Nats, though, who (a) had the displeasure of losing the game; followed by (b) getting called "a minor league team masquerading as the Washington Nationals" by's Jocktalk blog.

I've been freaking out a bit lately because I'm going to take a vacation next week and I'm leaning strongly towards not blogging during that time. Maybe I should email the guy to pinch hit for me because in his effortless trashing of the Nats, he sounds like a natural for the And That Happened updates.

We're Sorry. Again.

The Reds issued a letter to their fans yesterday, telling them to hold tight, The Plan is working, glory is right around the corner, etc.

The Sporting News' Chris Mottram notes, however, that this is not the first time they've done that.

Being Bo Belinsky

The L.A. Times' Keith Thursby continues his walk down L.A. baseball's memory lane, this time with a feature on Bo Belinsky. Belinsky had a no hitter as a rookie in 1962, but then became far more notable for carousing and carrying on with sex kittens like Mamie Van Doren, Ann Margaret, Connie Stevens, and Tina Louise.

Upshot: it was pretty darn good to be Bo Belinsky for a while. But only a while, as his baseball career went down the drain and his life was derailed by alcoholism. Of course, whether I'd willingly trade my health and career for a tumble with a mid-60s era Ann Margaret is a close damn question, so I'm not here to throw any stones at Belinsky's legacy.

Anyway, I knew that there was a good biography about Belinsky out in the 70s, but random Googling reveals that Pat Jordan wrote a really good profile about him for SI back in the early 70s as well. I can't seem to find it. If anyone has it, I'd love to see it.

Update: Thanks to Chadillac for reminding me of the SI Vault. Here's the Pat Jordan story on Belinsky, which is a must-read. It's long, but you get passage after passage like this:

Belinsky turns suddenly, and the room is reflected in miniature in his dark glasses. "You know, I played 15 years of baseball and never made a dime off it. I wasn't that interested in success, that's why. I loved the game, Babe, not success. Do you think Seaver or Harrelson play the game because they love it? You bet they don't. They love what it brings them, Babe. I could never give up enough of myself for success. Len Shecter talked to me about a baseball book long before he ever sniffed out Jim Bouton . I told him I wasn't interested. I couldn't rat on guys I'd played with. That's not my style. I was the last of baseball's true sportsmen. I never stashed baseball. You know what I mean? Stash! Stash! Stash!"
Here is another brief "where are they now" update from 2000.

Share Your Essence With The Charlotte Knights

If the seven bucks it normally costs you to get into a Charlotte Knights baseball game is just too steep in these troubled economic times, you're in luck. In exchange for your precious bodily fluids, the Knights will let you in for free:

The Charlotte Knights present American Red Cross Golf Visor Night on Friday, August 22. The first 1,500 fans will receive a Knights golf visor courtesy of the American Red Cross and Time Warner Cable.

In addition to the free Knights golf visor, fans can receive a free general admission ticket for that night's game by donating blood. The Red Cross will have their blood mobile in front of Knights Stadium from 3 - 7:30 p.m. that evening.
The game itself starts at 7:15, so if you time it right, you can walk into the stadium a pint down, which will save you on beer money as well.

Don't Praise the Machine

Umpires boycotted a conference call with Major League Baseball regarding instant replay yesterday:
Umpires say they're unhappy that replay equipment is being installed away from the field in nearly all major league ballparks and say MLB wants to limit the number of umpires allowed to review replay monitors.

They also aren't pleased that MLB wants them to discuss the replays with umpire supervisors in New York before making a decision on whether to reverse a call. They claim MLB may not be able to provide replays for some rescheduled games.

That's well and good, but I hope someone with some institutional memory reminds their brethren what happened the last time the umps took a defiant stance with respect to labor issues.

And That Happened

Rays 4, Angels 2: Should Angels' fans worry that their team has lost five of six? Maybe. Maybe there's something to that whole notion of "edge" and being tested by a fight for a playoff spot. The Angels are up by around 15 games, and given how poorly the A's are playing and how badly the Rangers' loss of Ian Kinsler is going to hurt them, I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that LAA will cruise to the division title by at least that much. I'm sure someone has done this scientifically, but just trolling around, I notice that the last time a team won the division by as many as 15 games -- well, it was two teams given the tie for first between New York and Boston in 2005 -- both of them lost in the division series. Before that you have the 2003 Giants, and they lost in the division series as well. Then you have the 2002 Braves and the 1999 Indians who both, you guessed it, lost in the division series. To find a team that won its division by as many as 15 games who didn't lose in the division series, you have to go to 1998 when the Braves lost in the NLCS, but the Yankees -- God bless em' -- won the World Series. Does it mean anything? Maybe yes, maybe no, but you can bet Angels fans would be happier to see a little more from their team -- a bit of an edge, maybe -- as they play potential playoff opponents.

Blue Jays 2, Yankees 1: The return of Matsui pays no immediate dividends, as A.J. Burnett gives up one run and strikes out 13 Yankees. Not a bad game for Rasner, but when your offense goes as quietly as New York's did last night, that and $59.95 will only get the Yankees a digital cable package with which they can watch better teams play in the playoffs this October.

Phillies 5, Nationals 4: How could the Nats be this bad? Look how awesome they seemed before the season started!

Mets 7, Braves 3: I've more or less gotten cool with the fact that these are basically the 1987 Braves. There are a lot of similarities, actually. They're bad, but not the worst team in the division. As in 1987, they have new uniforms. As in 1987, they had a light hitting centerfielder hit for the cycle. As in 1987, they have an ineffectual Tom Glavine. As in 1987, there is no hope on a day-to-day basis. In light of that, I'm going to try harder to find parallels between the 2008 and 1987 Braves as the season winds down. Today: Jeff Bennett is the 2008 version of Charlie Puleo. Discuss.

Indians 9, Royals 4: Kip Wells has had a hell of a year, hasn't he? His baby daughter had a cancerous tumor removed from her spine. Wells himself had a blood clot that caused him to lose sensation in his right hand which required surgery. When he finally worked his way back, he was DFA'd in favor of Livan "the worst pitcher in baseball" Hernandez, and as soon as he set the suitcase down at home, his wife had another baby. On Monday, he was signed by the Royals and had to leave his new baby and recovering daughter to fly to freakin' Cleveland for some thankless, ERA-inflating mopup duty in this game. Wells has been well compensated over the course of his career, but that doesn't mean that life for someone in his position is easy. Guys like Wells are tough. They work hard. They have to put up with a lot of crap.

Cubs 5, Reds 0: Rich Harden was phenomenal. 7 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 10 K, 0 BB. He did that in 94 pitches and his manager -- the anti-Yost -- decided to pull him even though he only had a one run lead at the time.

Red Sox 7, Orioles 2: Having a pending divorce case agrees with Jason Varitek, as he hit his second homer in as many games and had an RBI double as well. As mentioned last week, the Orioles greeted their 50 millionth fan during this game. They talked up the notion that "special technology" was going to be able to identify the fan the moment they go through the turnstiles. Why do I have this feeling that one component of the "special technology" was a guy who quickly shook his head "no" if the identified fan was wearing a Sox hat?

Astros 5, Brewers 2: Sometimes you get the ace, sometimes the ace gets you. A day after bubkis against Sabathia, Houston touches Ben Sheets for five runs in six innings, keeping the Astros' delusions of contention alive for at least another couple of days.

Pirates 4, Cardinals 1: Ian Snell pitched well enough (7 IP, 4 H, o ER, 8K) to where he shouldn't have had to depend upon a Cardinals' bullpen implosion for insurance, but I'm sure he was happy to have it all the same.

Twins 13, A's 2: Did Kevin Slowey win this one with his two run-12 strikeout performance, or did Sean Gallagher lose it by giving up 10 runs on 11 hits? It's an age-old philosophical question that will vex the world's greatest minds for centuries, because it twists back around on itself in a seemingly infinite loop.

Tigers 11, Rangers 3: The Rangers' pitching staff strikes again. But you gotta love people from Texas. Descended from kin who tamed a savage land and carved out an existence on the frontier, they're an optimistic lot who just know that no matter how bad it gets, prosperity is right around the corner. Evidence? Witness this nice bit of wish casting about the Rangers' pitching for 2009. OK, it's probably satire, but when your pipe dreams are just as realistic as any guardedly optimistic assessment, why not dream big?

Marlins 6, Giants 0: On a night with many excellent pitching performances, Ricky Nolasco was the best, shutting out the Giants on two hits and striking out 11.

Diamondbacks 7, Padres 6: Adam Dunn has his best game yet as a Diamondback, going 1-3 with a homer, two walks, 2 RBI and 2 runs. Dunn said this game, which was his debut in Phoenix, felt like opening day, and that made him nervous: "Probably Opening Day and the opening day of deer season are about the only times I get butterflies." Deer season. And people think this guy is going to entertain offers from the New York teams?

Rockies 8, Dodgers 3: OC boy Ian Stewart comes home and hits a homer and drives in five runs as his Rockies send the Dodgers a game back of Arizona. Phun Pfact: After this series, the Dodgers have 35 games left, 23 of which will be road games. So far this year, they're nine games over .500 at home, but six under on the road.

White Sox 5, Mariners 0: I read this: "Ken Griffey Jr. hit a go-ahead sacrifice fly against his former team," and my immediate, thought-free reaction was "Griffey played for the Mariners?" Man, it's been a long eight years, hasn't it? And not just as it relates to Griffey's career arc. Hasn't the 21st century absolutely sucked so far, on just about every level? Aside from the births of my children, the spread of wireless broadband, the Buckeyes' national championship, and the new Batman movie, has anything worth a damn happened since the turn of the century? They say the Y2K bug was much ado about nothing. I think it was actually a slow-release neutron bomb of a thing that, rather than catastrophically disrupt society, slowly smothered it with malaise, dread, and disappointment. Thousands of people who are now dead shouldn't be. Griffey should have 850 homers and two or three rings. I should have my flying car. That those things are unrealized has pretty much defined my state of mind for the past several years.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Great Moments in Backtracking

Remember that umpire/sex offender from Connecticut who was getting a lifetime achievement award?

Not so much.

Posnanski To S.I.

After years of treading creative water, someone at Sports Illustrated finally got a clue and hired the best there is. From Posnanski:

Starting next week, —, for short — will be reprinting this blog. Don’t even ask how that happened. And, even more thrilling, starting next week I will write one column a week for the Sports Illustrated dot-com — I believe it will appear on Wednesdays.
Awesome news for Posnanski, and even more awesome news for SI, who quite frankly needs him way more than he needs them. He'll still be at the K.C. Star, but the man is so prolific and so damn good that he could be split three or four ways and not be diminished.

Looking for Scapegoats in New York

Newsday's Wallace Matthews lays into the Yankees for their treatment of Joe Torre last year and notes just how lucky Torre is to be out of New York:

Today, Torre's Dodgers sit atop the NL West in a first-place tie with the Arizona Diamondbacks. And in the Bronx, Joe Girardi -- New Joe -- struggles to find a way to keep his $209-million roster alive in August, let alone October. In one sense, it is clear the Yankees owe Torre an apology, because clearly, he wasn't the problem with this team last year any more than Girardi is the problem with it this year. In another sense, it is Torre who owes a hearty thank you to the Yankees, for showing him the way to the door just before the roof fell in on the rest of them.
Probably worth mentioning that (a) the Yankees, for all of their problems, still have a better record than the Dodgers, playing in a tougher division in a tougher league; and (b) I can't think of a single thing that Joe Torre would have done better in New York than Girardi has while I can think of many things worse.

Why is it so hard for some New York writers to simply accept that age, injuries, and a busted bet on a couple of young starters are the reason for the Yankees' troubles this season? There is no villain here. It's the ups and downs of baseball, finally coming to the Bronx as they do all other teams. I suppose that's less sexy of a story, but it's at least an accurate one.

"The sun is shining, the air is warm. Oh, yes."

The NYT's Joe Lapointe has a very favorable impression of the Pirates' ballpark:
. . . a model of intelligent design. The seats in the corners of the field, by the foul poles, are tilted toward the infield. In the left field corner, there are four standing tiers where people can watch the game as if on balconies.

Beyond the outfield fences, the background vista is breathtaking, with the Roberto Clemente Bridge behind center field spanning the flowing water and the downtown skyline above and behind it . . .

. . . As I write these words, 45 minutes before the first pitch, the fans are filing in and the speakers are playing, at low volume, a song by Bruce Springsteen called “The Girls in Their Summer Clothes.'’ The sun is shining, the air is warm. Oh, yes.

I was underwhelmed the first time I went, probably because I was expecting so much based on all of the hype. Contributing factors, no doubt, were (1) a less than ideal beer-waffle ratio based on some poor pre-game dining decisions and (2) a promotion gone wrong. I really need to give that place a second chance, so a road trip is definitely in order.

Kinsler Aching and Probably Out

The Rangers' Ian Kinsler is having a fabulous season, but now it's probably going to end because, of all things, a sports hernia:
A sports hernia occurs when there is a weakening of the muscles or tendons of the lower abdominal wall. It occurs in the same area as a traditional abdominal hernia, but there is often no visible pouch or bulge. It is a more common injury among hockey players.
He has 518 at bats so he could still win the batting title, but you can be he won't be happy about it. Also not happy? Josh Hamilton, who has spent so much time this season driving Kinsler home, Rangers pitchers' who have depended upon the Ranger's prolific offense to bail them out game after game, and Ballpark at Arlington beer vendors who, by virtue of the Rangers' offense-fueled three+ hour marathon games, are having a banner year.

Maddux to L.A

It's still not confirmed if it's happening or not, but I'll guess it is. I'm reminded of what happened the last time Maddux was traded to L.A. His first game in a Dodger uniform was on the road against the Reds on August 3, 2006, and I was there. This is the email I feverishly banged out on my Blackberry to my buddy on the way home after the game, edited only slightly for clarity and, um, sobriety:
From: Craig
To: Ethan
Date: Friday, August 4, 2006 at 12:31 AM
Re: Maddux
So we took all of our summer clerks down to Cincinnati tonight for the Reds-Dodgers game. We're on the way back in the big custom bus now. Fabulous night. Maddux gets traded to L.A. last weekend. Tonight is his first start for them. He's my favorite player of all time, though I've never seen him pitch in person. The stars align, and I get to see him tonight. I buy a Dodgers hat and wear it down just to support Maddux, and admittedly to be a bit annoying to Reds fans.

Maddux has a huge fork in his back. He is done. Kinda hard to watch him the last year or two, but I still root. I expect little or nothing from him.

Game starts. He gives up an early walk and I think it will be a long night. Then he starts throwing bullets. One. Two. Three. Five innings of no-hit ball. It's 1994 all over again. Sixth inning starts. Long fly . . . caught. Another . . . caught. Lightening in a bottle. Third batter comes up and he mows him down too. I'm alone in a ballpark screaming at the top of my lungs. No hitter in effect. I know it won't last. Even in his prime Maddux never threw a no hitter because he's around the plate too much. He can't not throw strikes, even when he doesn't have his best stuff. He gets hit. That's what he does. Still, I think how nice it would be to not see him give up a hit.

As the top of the seventh begins, the skies open up and a deluge falls on Great American Ballpark. Lightning. Thunder. The Dodgers bat, and the half inning ends just as the umps call for a delay and the tarp comes out. Forty minutes. I know that there is no chance that Maddux is coming out for the bottom of the 7th. He's 40. His arm will be tight. He's a Hall of Famer already. He doesn't need the no-no to make him happy. They got him for the stretch run and they need to save his arm.

The game resumes with some kid I've never heard of on the mound [note: it was Joe Beimel. I've since heard of him]. He gives up a hit to the first batter. Never send a boy to do a man's job.

Dodgers win 3-0. Maddux gets the win. I get to see him pitch like he was in his prime again, and got to see him leave before anyone remembered he didn't have it anymore.
If the trade happens, he probably pitches Saturday afternoon against the Phillies on national TV. You can bet I'll be watching.

And That Happened

Brewers 9, Astros 3: CC Sabathia pitched really well through seven, at which time he left the game having thrown 101 pitches and his team sporting a safe 7-2 lead. Ha ha! Just kidding. Ned Yost continues to abuse his rental, sending him back out there for two more innings and 29 more pitches on a night any common mopup man would have done the trick. In other news, Ryan Braun left the game after taking a funny swing to end the sixth and was replaced by Gabe Kapler immediately thereafter. They're reporting an injury, and you have to figure it's an aggravation of the rib cage thingy he just got over. Or didn't get over.

Giants 5, Braves 0
: Every time you think the Braves have reached their nadir, they dip a bit lower. No offense meant to Mr. Zito. I'm sure he's a fine young man who buys war bonds and everything, but there is no excuse for any team north of the Sally League to get shut out by him over the course of seven innings.

Pirates 5, Mets 2: I don't read a ton of Mets' blogs so I'm sure I'm really late on this one, but it tickles me to death that the commenters on Mets Geek refer to the Mets' bullpen as the "lolpen." "Halp! Theyz blowin' mine sayves!"

Rays 6, Angels 4: Tampa Bay has been doin' just fine with Longoria on the DL, running to 5-2 since he was shelved. Two-run bombs from Floyd and Hinske helped. Yet another base running flub by B.J. Upton -- this time jogging out of the box on what he thought was a homer, having it hit the wall, and somehow continuing to jog into second base, only to have Mark Teixeira tag him from behind after a weak, skittering throw into the infield. What else can Maddon do with this guy? I think the only thing that can fix him at this point is the Private Pyle, bars-of-soap-in-the-pillowcase treatment.

Red Sox 6, Orioles 3: Lester (7 IP, 4 H, 1 ER) and Bay (3-4, 2 HR, 4 RBI) go off. Even Jason Varitek got into the act, hitting just his second home run since the All-Star break.

A's 3, Twins 2: Justin Duchscherer had to leave the game in the third with some kind of hip pain. Kirk Saarloos saved his bacon, however, pitching 3.2 innings of scoreless relief and givng the A's a rare win. Oh, and Ziegler gave up another run, but I suppose we're not keeping track of that anymore.

White Sox 13, Mariners 5: With the Twins loss and the Sox' win, the tie is unbroken. Meanwhile, Jarrod Washburn (4.1 IP, 7 H, 8 ER) continues to make the GMs who didn't trade for him at the deadline quite happy.

Tigers 8, Rangers 7: Sheffield ties Gehrig and Fred McGriff on the home run list. The truth is somewhere in between, but probably far closer to McGriff. Curtis Granderson had two triples and four RBI. Granderson is slowly becoming my hero in that he's able to blog and maintain productivity at his day job (.302/.371/.504). I wish I could do that.

Monday, August 18, 2008


Sorry for the slow day folks. A perfect storm of legal responsibilities and, let's face it, nothing really pressing on the baseball wire forced me to act like a responsible law talkin' guy this afternoon. I'll do my best to avoid such a troublesome adherence to priorities in the future.

The Worst Seats At The Game

The previous post has me thinking about the best and worst seats in which I've ever had the fortune or misfortune to sit. The best? Either right behind home plate or first row, upper deck, first base line at Tiger Stadium. The worst: first base line, Municipal Stadium in Cleveland.

It was October 3, 1993, and the White Sox were in town for the last baseball game ever played in the old joint. I had been there a couple of times before when less than 10,000 showed up, but on this day over 72,000 were crammed in to say goodbye to the place hardly any them had patronized during baseball season. My buddy Ethan snagged three tickets so he, his little brother Ben, and I got in my 1987 Cavalier RS and drove up to Cleveburg to catch the game, armed no doubt with a nice assemblage of cassette tapes for the 135 mile journey.

Our seats were way back in the lower deck along the first base line. The upper deck hung low above us, and the backside of some more recent-vintage luxury boxes hung lower still, a few dozen yards in front of us. The effect of all of this was that any ball hit higher than, say, 15 feet in the air was completely obstructed from view, requiring us to watch the fielders to see if we could guess where the play was going to be. It was simply atrocious.

The only upside to these tickets was that we got to see Bob Hope up close and personal as he made his way from his luxury box down to the field to sing "Thanks for the Memories" after the game. When he ambled along the walkway running behind the boxes, the whole section cheered, overjoyed to actually see something interesting. As his wobbly version of his signature song attested, Hope was already circling the drain in 1993, but he lifted up his cane, smiled and gave us a bit of a wave.

The next season Ethan and I took in the third ever game at Jacobs Field. Again, we sat along the first base line, but this time the seats were primo, and the David Cone-Dennis Martinez duel was even better.

What are the worst seats you've ever had?

The Best Seats At the Game

USA Today is counting down what it and its readers consider to be "the 10 Best Seats in Baseball," kicking things off with The Beach at Petco Park:

What you will see: Kids, kids and more kids. They are mostly toddlers, playing in the sand with their plastic shovels and pails, and occasionally throwing around beach balls. The lead usher will frequently play "Simon Says" during the game while the kids scream in delight.

•What you won't see: You can shout at the outfielders standing nearby, but not at the umpires. They're much too far away, and besides, it's impossible to distinguish a strike from a pitch two feet outside at this distance. The rest of the action isn't bad, although you won't be able to see balls into the right-field corner, needing a good view of the large TV in the park to fill you in on the details.

Hey, that sounds great for the Shyster Family, three-fourths of whom couldn't care less about baseball, but I think it stretches the definition of "best seats" a tad. I've been out there before and I can tell you, anyone without kids would go bonkers out there. If and when the Padres return to the World Series, you can bet families will get priced out of there and some suckers will be paying top dollar for what are essentially knothole seats.

Anyway, the series is going to run all week. I'll bet my next three paychecks* that the seats on the Green Monster are #1, but I suppose I'll read the whole series anyway.

*In the unlikely event that I am wrong, I should note that we're betting the blogger paychecks, not the lawyer paychecks. There is, needless to say, a slight difference in their sizes.

Great Moments in Negotiations

Jim Bowden expounds at length on the negotiations that led to the Nationals not signing Aaron Crow, their first round pick. I realize negotiations are complicated pursuits in which people say and do all manner of silly, inconsistent things, but this made me chuckle:
So we then moved our position, we gave them a final offer at 10:30 p.m. last night, we said here's a final take-it-or-leave-it offer of $3 million, which we later moved to $3.3 million. And then verbally at the last minute, we went to $3.5 million.
"Then we told him to pound sand. Then we called him back. Then we terminated negotiations. Then we texted him another offer. Then we said the $3.5 million was the absolutely last offer, but we had our fingers crossed the whole time . . . "

Great Moments in Parenting

From the My Wife Would Absolutely Kill Me If I Even Suggested It Department:
Even years before 7-year-old Wrigley was born, his father Jerry Fields says he'd already decided what he'd do. Coming from a family of Cubs fans and with his particular last name, he decided to name his first son after the Friendly Confines.

Little Wrigley Fields of Lockport will meet his destiny on August 29th at a Cubs' home game against the Philadelphia Phillies when he'll throw out the first pitch at Wrigley Field.
I just weep for little Cinergy Fields' of Cincinnati and San Francisco's little baby 3Com Park (she's Korean) who will never get the same chance.

In a League of Her Own

Dottie Collins -- who in 1945 went 29-10 with 0.83 ERA and 293K's for the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League -- died last week:
She pitched underhand, sidearm and overhand; she threw curveballs, fastballs and changeups; and in the summer of 1948, she pitched until she was four months pregnant.
Remember that, Cubs fans, as you bite your nails over Kerry Wood's blisters.
Collins's greatest contribution to women's baseball may have come when its ball clubs had long been forgotten. In 1987, Collins helped form an association of former players in the All-American league. She drew on her contacts to provide the Baseball Hall of Fame with memorabilia from the league, spurring creation of its Women in Baseball exhibit in 1988. Now an enlarged, permanent collection, the exhibit inspired the 1992 Hollywood movie A League of Their Own.
Like Bob Feller, Collins served as a walking historical repository. Unlike Bob Feller, no one ever made excuses to get away from her boorish shtick at cocktail parties.

A very extensive bio can be found here.

And That Happened

Dodgers 7, Brewers 5: I presume that the two Andre Either home runs -- one of which was a walkoff -- will put an end to the courtesy Juan Pierre starts, but you never know with Torre. Either way, the Dodgers are in first place right now. Oh, and a note from my buddy Todd, who was at the game: "Heading to my seat, I was behind an usher that was delivering a Dodgers t-shirt to a guy already sitting. He looked to be about 26. Kind of an older frat boy looking dude with a girlfriend. As the shirt was presented to him, he pumped his arms in the air a little. I can only assume the shirt was a custom. It had "99" on the back, and above that, it proudly stated "MANRAM." Not sure what's worse: the victory arm pump or the fact that the guy is buying a shirt with 2005's joke on it.

Yankees 15, Royals 6: My guess is that Joe Posnanski won't be able to post a Banny Log following yesterday's start because he's in China and I'm pretty sure they block all Internet users there from accessing porn, filth, Bannister's line score, and anything else deemed obscene.

Blue Jays 15, Red Sox 4: Anyone trying to do a "Becket Blog" from China may have the same issue (2.1 IP, 8 R, 8 H).

Astros 3, Diamondbacks 0: There was a lot of chatter in the game story about whether this was Oswalt's best game all year or in two years or whenever, but if you go by game score, he hasn't had a start this good since April 16, 2004, when he shutout Milwaukee on three hits and struck out ten.

White Sox 13, A's 1: I'd say the five-spot in the seventh inning put this one out of reach, but this is the A's we're talking about, so that three spot in the second was every bit as much a game ender. Oakland, by the way, is thirteenth in the AL in OBP.

Mets 4, Pirates 0: "The left-hander was at 108 pitches through eight innings and had no thoughts about coming out of the game.'He was adamant about going back out there, which is always a good thing,' New York manager Jerry Manuel said." With the way the Mets bullpen has pitched lately, I think Santana would have been adamant about going back out there with anything short of a 10 run lead.

Twins 11, Mariners 8: This one got a little hairy for the Twins -- the Ms loaded the bases in both the eighth and ninth -- but Minnesota wriggled off the line.

Rockies 7, Nationals 2: Washington is only four losses worse than the Mariners, but their run differential is 53 runs worse than the the next worst team in baseball. They've lost ten in a row and are redefining the concept of stinky baseball.

Cubs 9, Marlins 2: Chicago is the anti-Nats. They're only the second best team in baseball record-wise, but they are up 50+ in run differential over their next closest rival. And that gap is likely to grow even more as the Cubs now go home to face the Reds, the Nats, and the Pirates in succession.

Giants 3, Braves 1: The knee, she is fine. Lincecum (7.2 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 10K) dominates the Braves after taking one off the knee last week. As for Atlanta, if before the season started you would have told Braves fans that Mark Kotsay would be hitting .300 as of August 17th, many of us would be inquiring about playoff tickets. I'm sure there are some who are now saying that they saw the Smoltz, Glavine, and Hudson breakdowns coming, but most Braves partisans were more worried about Kotsay's performance in CF than the durability of the rotation.

Orioles 16, Tigers 8: Game story: "The teams combined for 10 runs and 138 pitches in the first two innings, which took 74 minutes to play." I love baseball and everything, but the beauty of the game is that until you hit the playoffs, hardly any single game is worth all that much. I'll be honest: when I'm at a game, my mind often wanders and I'll miss pitches. When I'm at an unfamiliar stadium, I'll willingly miss out on some in-game action to wander around the place. When I go to a game that is less than riveting -- and more are like that than we baseball lovers would care to admit -- I often leave early. I guess what I'm saying here is that I wouldn't blame anyone who left this game after the 2nd inning to go gamble in Greektown or ride the Comerica ferris wheel or whatever, because no one needs this kind of ugliness in their lives.

Reds 7, Cardinals 3: The lone bright spot for the Reds this year -- Edinson Volquez -- gives up nada over seven to win his 15th game of the year and lower his ERA to 2.73.

Indians 4, Angels 3: Travis Hafner, Victor Martinez, and Josh Barfield all start rehab stints in AAA this week. Assuming the DL time helped them all get better, one has to wonder whether Buffalo won't be a better team than Cleveland until those guys are activated.

Rays 7, Rangers 4: B.J. Upton (3-5, 2B, HR, 3 RBI) comes back strong from his second benching in ten days for hustle deficit disorder.

Phillies 2, Padres 1: Nice Morgan moment in the 2nd: Jon Miller sends out birthday wishes to a nonagenarian he knows back in Baltimore. Miller notes that the guy watches all of the Sunday night baseball games but that, due to age, he doesn't watch them until the end. Morgan says something like "hopefully he can watch west coast games like this one all the way though." Miller very obviously starts to make the point that this game -- like every other Sunday night game -- starts at 8pm back in Baltimore, so the game could be coming from the Aleutian Islands and it wouldn't make a difference to his friend back home. He stops himself, though, realizing that even if he could make Morgan understand the concept in a relatively quick manner, getting Morgan to acknowledge his mistake on the air would be an impossibility, so he dropped the subject. This, my friends, is why Jon Miller is one of the best in the business. He knows his limits. Better still, he knows Morgan's.

Friday, August 15, 2008

IIATM's Charity Challenge

Movin' this to the top because it will be more important for people to see this over the weekend than my half-baked ideas about the Yankees . . .

I mentioned this yesterday, but as a reminder, Jason at IIATMS has issued a Charity Challenge, in which anyone giving $100 or more to the Jimmy Fund or the American Cancer Society's Making Strides Against Breast Cancer event will earn themselves a right to a free post.

Jason has inspired me, so I will match the offer and give a free post on ShysterBall about anything you want in exchange for a $100 donation to either of these worthy causes. Wanna call me a jackass? Great. Wanna explain the 57 ways in which the Braves and all of their fans stink? Have at it. Wanna talk about how the government has been stealing your garbage and documenting your comings and goings? Hey, you may be right, so definitely be my guest.

The only rule is that you keep it relatively clean and relatively civil, and I'll consider relaxing that rule if your donation is big enough.

So give up some coin to fight cancer and you can share in the same fleeting, modest, and somewhat pathetic bloggy fame which I currently enjoy. You'll be glad you did!

CLICK HERE and HERE to donate.

Note: Tadthebad has already donated $100, and Jason is giving him a post. Since he helped spur this baby, I'm giving him a free ShysterBall post too. And no cheating Tad: you gotta write something different here than you do on IIATMS, because I plan on linking that one anyway, and I want to maximize my ability to generate posts on the backs of other people's labor.

Rage Against The Dying of the Light

The Yankees are freakin' out:

Coming off a 3-7 road trip and with 41 games to go in the season, the Yankees
are desperate to get back in the playoff hunt. That desperation has apparently
led them to demote struggling centerfielder Melky Cabrera to the minors and
waive first baseman Richie Sexson.

Both Cabrera and Sexson are dead weight at the moment, but it's not liking getting rid of them is going to turn anything around either. Yeah, it's hindsight, but the real move to have made with Melky would have been to package him with Kennedy months ago to get Johan Santana, and the real move to get some kind of production at first base/DH would have been to try and nab Adam Dunn, or an inanimate carbon rod, or something that would have been better than Richie Sexson.
But hey, let's give the Yankees credit for not going gentle into that good night.

50 Million Orioles Fans Can't Be Wrong

Time to celebrate a milestone at Camden Yards:

When Camden Yards opened its doors on April 6, 1992, the Orioles knew their ballpark marked the start of a new era in baseball stadiums. Incorporated into the downtown area, Camden Yards began a revitalization process for the Inner Harbor that has led to a massive transformation of the waterfront in Baltimore.

Seventeen seasons later, the Orioles are now receiving the ultimate affirmation on the importance and popularity of their ballpark as they get set to welcome the 50 millionth fan in Oriole Park history -- the fastest ballpark in the history of baseball to reach such a milestone.
Of course, a good 30 million of them were visiting Yankees and Red Sox fans, but butts in the seats are butts in the seats.

Smoove V.

I wasn't going to post anything about Jason Varitek's divorce filing. Not because I'm above gossip or anything, but because I don't have anything clever, funny, or juicy to say about it.

But David Pinto does!

Great Moments In Lifetime Achievement Awards

So you're a Babe Ruth league umpire, which means you spend a lot of time around boys aged 13-15. Then you get arrested, convicted, and sentenced to four years in prison, 35 years probation and a lifetime on the state's sex offender registry for sexually assaulting teenage boys. What's next on the agenda? Well, if you're in Torrington, Connecticut, you get a lifetime achievement award for the work you did with teenage boys:

Members of a Torrington baseball umpires’ group are defending a decision to present a lifetime achievement award to a convicted child sex offender. Tom Barbero, 58, received the award earlier this month from the Torrington Board of Approved Baseball Umpires. He umpired for the association at area baseball games from 1970 to 1998 . . .

. . . Board members said they knew about Barbero’s criminal record and chose to honor him because his service and work as an umpire deserved recognition.“Tommy was one of the greats. He really was,” Board President Lou Fracasso said Thursday when describing Barber’s umpiring experience.
I'll be honest and say that I am extremely uneasy with the direction our society has gone with respect to people like Barbero. As a father of small children, I support relatively draconian investigation, apprehension, punishment, and incapacitation measures when it comes to sexual predators, but even my emotionally-driven lust for vengeance towards these types pales compared to that of many otherwise reasonable people.

Policies currently in place regarding sex offender registry and notification and restrictions with respect to where they can live upon their release have become so extreme that it's easier for a released sex offender to drop off the grid out of sight of any reasonable support or deterrence system than it is for them to abide by the rules and try to fly right in the clear light of society. There are even people who call themselves Americans who are seriously debating whether we should ever release sex offenders to the public -- even if their sentences have been served -- and even worse, who want to try and identify and incarcerate would-be sexual predators before they even commit an offense. It's madness, I tell you, driven by an unholy mix of hysteria, political calculation, and genuine ignorance, all of which threatens to stretch Constitutional liberties beyond recognition.

But Jesus, do you really think giving a pederast umpire a freakin' lifetime achievement award is a good idea?