Monday, February 28, 2005
This interview recap is, of course, of only slight interest to Nats fans and bloggers (not that the two are mutually exclusive . . . ), but there is this:
JP is fully aware that numerous Bauxites have called numerous times for the acquisition of this or that player during the past few months. “We’re four steps ahead of you,” he said bluntly. The Blue Jays have already tried to trade for some of the players suggested by Bauxites – JP didn’t name
specific players, but Brad Wilkerson, Austin Kearns and Nick Johnson were among the hitters most commonly suggested at Da Box.
Oh no you don't!!!
(Well, Ricciardi has my permission to get Kearns.)
At any rate, the meat of the interview recap is in the notion that a so-called "Moneyball GM" who was one of the first front office types to make himself accessible to bloggers, now has a beef with a blog whose viewpoint appears largely sympatico with his.
The easy answer, of course, lies in the fact that the Blue Jays stunk like month-old tuna last year (and, in light of my prediction they'd win 88-90 games, well, boy did I miss that one!). When an animal gets backed into a corner, it gets a little testy, so to speak.
The interesting point, however, is that Batter's Box itself (well, its writers, more accurately) has turned the heat---such that a blog, even a well-known one, can create---on Ricciardi. I don't read Batter's Box religiously, but it certainly seems like the writers and posters there generally took a pessimistic view of the Shea Hillenbrand acquisition; in light of Hillenbrand's status as a stathead whooping boy, it's more surprising that Ricciardi obtained his services than that Batter's Box would criticize the acquisition. Also, Ricciardi apparently chafed at criticism stemming from his acquisition of Scott Schoenweiss, a thoroughly mediocre pitcher now entering the inevitable "journeyman" phase of his career.
Well, I could go on, but let's cut to the essence. According to Ricciardi, as memoralized by Da Box:
“Over the last year, you guys have lost perspective a little bit," he said You get more excited when we sign a minor-league free agent who has never played in the major leagues than when we sign Scott Schoeneweis, who
we’re trying to make a reliever of – you guys rip it apart. “A team might hit
on one out of ten minor-league free agents,” JP continued, “but when we get a proven major-leaguer to come up here, you guys are disappointed. Every time we spend money, you guys get disappointed. It’s almost like you think we should put the 25 cheapest guys out there and win.”
I suppose it's accurate to say that Ricciardi derides a point of emphasis of the "stathead worldview": the concept of replaceable talent being replaced by cheaper replaceable talent. And you get a two-fer if you insert the word "young." In the late 90s or so, Baseball Prospectus emphasized the point rather militantly.
For example, if my memory serves, BP kept on touting the Minnesota Twins after they reverted to a youth movement---mainly on the basis that the Twins' prospects could get better, while the Indians' veterans could only get worse. In fact (probably a bad choice of transition), I think I recall BP predicting that the Twins could give the Tribe a race as early as 1999. (The Twins eventually improved in '01 and are now three-time defending AL Central champs---such a distinction that may be.)
The point Ricciardi's little dust-up with Batter's Box demonstrates, if I may be so bold as to attempt to glean one, is one that statheads themselves have acknowledged many times over the past decade at least but that still bears repeating: we (stat-oriented fans; internet forum posters; bloggers), by nature, operate in a world of "theory" (for lack of a better world). Maybe our "theory" has a basis in reality; no, certainly aspects of it certainly do, such as the ability to predict major league performance, within a reasonable range, by contextualizing minor league performance.
But when it comes down to brass tacks, we are not the ones making the decisions. What if Ricciardi really is, as he claims, "four steps ahead" of a mere internet blogger? What if the factors he cites really are inhibiting him from getting the guys he targets? (And what if his "stathead worldview" is more moderate than the Batter's Box guys, as it apparently is?) What does he do? He does what he can, and he pleases who he needs to please. Maybe he just acquired Hillenbrand as a sop to those who worship runs batted in. (The other stuff---the "grinder" personality, for instance---just seems like a cover story.) Sometimes you have to do that, I guess.
This is obvious, I suppose, but I want to be sure that I do not miss the practical application: My observation is that statheads/bloggers/what-have-you sometimes demonstrate a bit of a haughty perspective, as if we know better. I am sure I am guilty of this. That's bad.
So, I propose this idea, just for myself perhaps: There exists a presumption that a general manager---such as, say, Jim Bowden---knows what he's doing, within the context of the factors in which he operates. Now, this doesn't mean that:
1) I, for instance, cannot disagree with certain moves; or
2) other bloggers, for example, cannot call certain rationalizations as bull-flop; or,
3) the presumption cannot plainly be removed (see, e.g., Cam Bonifay).
But I think this may assist in defining, for myself at least, exactly the scope of that which I criticize on occasion here.
Bobbing for mail
Nothing tremendously noteworthy (in fact, if there were, that would be noteworthy in itself); couple of head-scratchers.
Now that the Nationals are no longer bound to Montreal, do you think the team should trade some of their valuable prospects for some well-needed veterans?-- David S., New York.
[Ladson:] The Nationals do not have a lot of prospects to give up. They need to rebuild their farm system with quality right-handed hitters, catchers and left-handed pitchers.
In other words, "just about everything."
Now, I'm no John Sickels, but I . . . hey, let's just let Sickels do the talking.
Sickels has Mike Hinckley (a/k/a "The Assassi--", er, what about "The Frequent Flyer"?), not surprisingly, as the Nats' top prospect, rating him an "A-minus." No one else is above a "B" (Bray, Broadway, Harris; Church is rated a "B-minus), and there's a whole big mass of "C-grade" prospects after that. (In the reader "comments" section, Sickels did say his rating of Clint Everts was a cautious one.)
So, to summarize: We've got Hnickley, who is fourth-best among lefty prospects, according to Sickels. After that, we've got Bray, who Sickels appears pretty high on, and then Broadway/Harris/Church, three position players characterized by Sickels as potential "solid contributors" but not potential stars. After that, we've got some rather flawed prospects.
Sickels is just one source, of course; another, Baseball America, is leaking its top 100 list in a mock-suspenseful fashion this week. (I would guess we'll see Hinckley tomorrow or Wednesday, probably the latter.) [Note: In addition, Nationals MLB News is treading this ground right now.]
Still, Sickels' evaluation aligns well with Ladson's estimation that we just don't have many "valuable" (as seen through another team's eyes) prospects to trade.
I'm a huge Jose Vidro fan and a huge Yankee fan. Is there a chance that the Nationals could trade Vidro to the Yanks?-- Shawn P., New York
[Ladson:] It's highly unlikely the Nationals would trade Vidro, who signed a
four-year extension with the club last year. In addition, the Nationals have no one in the organization to replace him.
Not even Brendan Harris?
Now, I don't want to contradict things I've written and quoted three inches above, and Harris is no Jose Vidro, obviously. However, you would think Harris would earn at least a mention, right? I figure:
a) Ladson forgot about Harris;
b) Ladson doesn't think much of Harris; or,
c) Ladson has some information from the inside that Harris's future is not as second base.
You make the call.
Other items of note from the chat? Not much:
---Ladson says it's possible that another pitcher (but not necessarily a starter, as the fan inquired) will be brought in via trade. Who would we get, and who would we give up? If Ladson knows or suspects, he's not sayin'. As for who would be dealt, I guess the unspoken possibility is Terrmel Sledge.
---Matt Cepicky is in the club's accelerated developmental program. Don't know what that is? Neither do I. But Nationals MLB News does.
* URL, because it won't play nice with me: http://washington.nationals.mlb.com/NASApp/mlb/news/article.jsp?ymd=20050225&content_id=950496&vkey=news_was&fext=.jsp&c_id=was
The article's lead states that are "a dozen pitchers are battling for perhaps one or two open spots." Those are odds only Chevy Chase's character in "Dirty Work" would love.
Translation: While a lot of these guys are fairly fungible, Robinson faces a couple of difficult choices, at least to start the season. (I know how he must feel; I faced the same choices when I started a "Dynasty" on MVP 2005 this weekend.)
This article also demonstrates---and please don't take this as a pro-Post, anti-Times slam---that Barry Svrluga is a vastly superior writer to anything the Times has (in this case, Ken Wright). Remember how well Svrluga handled the inevitable "Castilla/Coors Field" article---including not only Castilla's thoughts; not only Robinson's; not only Bowden's; not only the oft-cited "21 road homers, 14 homers at Coors" 2004 statistic; but also provided some home/road context throughout Castilla's career? (By comparison, the Times writer merely averaged all of Castilla's seasons from 1995-2004.)
Well, in today's article, Wright repeats the litany of relievers' numbers from 2004. You know: They started off 1-14, but they went 26-15 the rest of the way. In addition:
Despite last year's disastrous start, the Expos' bullpen finished with a 4.00 ERA.
Yes, but what does this mean? Where is the context?
It means, if you refer to the NL's end-of-season stats almanac provided to periodicals like the Times, or even if you go to a website that has league-wide and team-by-team stats splits (like BaseballDirect.com), that Montreal's relievers actually finished better than the league average in ERA.
Of course, ERA will only tell you so much; then again, why even focus on the won/lost records of relievers? I thought it was pretty well understood a decade ago that relief won/lost records are variable enough not to inform us much of substance. The article, for instance, jokes that there's no "Mariano Rivera" in the Nats bullpen. That's correct. But did you know that of the ten "most similar" pitchers to Rivera (scroll to bottom)---Rivera is rather unique, but these are excellent relievers, all---all of them have/had career records below, at, or just barely above .500? As Paul Harvey would say, iiiiiit's true. (Of course, Rivera is a superior pitcher, I think; on the other hand, none of those other guys---save Wetteland, for one season---pitched for the latest "dynasty-era" Yankees.)
Anyway, let's wrap up this section with a two-word benediction: Rocky Biddle.
---Antonio Osuna-or-late-ah*, speaking of the bullpen, arrived at camp. He had been tending to his 70 year-old father, who has cancer. Best wishes to Mr. Osuna.
* With apologies to Chris Berman, Al Osuna (the original inspiration, I believe, for Berman's nickname), and you the readers for enduring such a lame Berman-nickname reference.
Friday, February 25, 2005
Satellite, my diamond in the sky
I believe that Andrew, the skinny Best Buy associate with the skinny Scott Weiland/"Plush"-era beard, noticed me drooling on the floor. When I got back to the car, I called my buddy Balding in LA; I told him that this is crack-in-baseball-form. It's gotta be.
Any last minute suggestions? Speak now, or my wallet forever holds its peace.
---While in Best Buy, I purchased MVP Baseball 2005. I'm normally "Wayne Knight is officially freaked out"-style queasy about EASports titles---and aside from hearing my old roommate theorize that the play-by-play guy actually didn't say, "Oh Buck, he crushed it!" in TriplePlay '99 (referring to Buck Martinez, of course---right?), I've never enjoyed even one second of EA's baseball. So, as Captain Hypertension, Chris Berman, might say, "We shall see." Besides, I had a $20 gift certificate, and EA's apparently entered paranoia mode in reaction to ESPNGames' decision to slash prices---the upshot of which is that I only shelled out ten bucks. That's worth it, considering I'm getting baseball-crazy again (mmmm . . . XM Radio) and ESPN's game isn't out yet.
Anyway, I'll give it a twirl and post a review by the end of the weekend, maybe. As I said on the Ballpark Guys forum, the rosters are current as of 1/12/05. What's that mean to us? No Loaiza. No Baerga. No Osuna. Perhaps others, too, though I haven't checked.
One more initial note: The depth of this game is impressive. It's got at least our upper level minor league teams (New Orleans and Harrisburg), and the remainder of our 40-man is placed on the Zephyrs. The rest of the minor leaguers appear to be vague composites of real guys, just disguished by strange, amalgramated names. Where else can you find a guy with a Japanese first name and a Latin last name? EA Sports: Your 21st Century Coca-Cola commercial!
Not much time; I'll try to pound this out quickly.
---In the most recent---and least substantive---of my "Nat of the Day" features, I looked at guys who might become the Nats' first star. I kind of started with the assumption that it probably would be Brad Wilkerson, and he's looking like an increasingly obvious choice. He's certainly been the (players') face of the team so far---for instance, he got the 10 minute sit-down interview with Scott Hansen on Comcast SportsNet's "Baseball Preview Show" the other night---and it's a good choice. He's seemingly good natured, is aligned as a team leader, has a sort of charming Kentucky accent, and portrays a nice public persona.
Mark Zuckerman's WaTi profile of Wilkerson (and Brian Schneider) today continues the theme:
They are the foundation of the franchise, and it's no surprise they are the two players club officials want to become the face of this new-look organization. "These are the people you keep and build from and build with," manager Frank Robinson said.
---I don't really know the future of the "Nat of the Day" series, to be honest. Most of this stuff is relatively easy. I'm a really fast reader, a faster typist, and I'm the kind of guy who "outlines in my head"; consequently, I can plop an entry or two in no time. I do this rather than play Solitaire during a dry moment at work, in other words.
But I'd like the "Nat of the Day" series to be substantive and informative and thought-provoking; if I can't accomplish those goals, there's really no point in doing the entries. (I've done six in all and, by my recollection, only one in February.) Aside from issues of scope (just the likely 25-man roster? the whole 40-man? NRIs too? what about management?) I just can't commit the time necessary to do a bang-up for every guy I intend to cover. And, if I can't do it to my satisfaction, then I've got to be kidding---especially given the volume and excellence of fellow Nats' bloggers, their diversity in style, scope of coverage, etc.---if I expect to foist up something half-assed and think anyone else is going to care about it even a thousandth as much as my limited dedication to the project would demonstrate.
Consequently, as far as focused, discrete player profiles as concerned, I recommend and refer wholeheartedly to Rich Tandler's Capitol Dugout site, home of the "Who are these guys?" series. Rich offers rather the same information that I intended to provide (sans the hokey "The Inquirer wants to know" lead-ins), in a more concise and concrete form, and he adds a neat picture of each profiled player as a bonus (free of charge!). Plus, Rich is from Midlothian, VA, the greatest little sprawl suburb in the world. The most recent entry involves Endy Chavez, our speedy "out-making machine."
Enjoy! And be sure to mention my name; two slayed Bulgarians for every referral.
---Speaking of Rich's Capitol Dugout blog, there's other neat stuff there. For instance, Rich previously interview ex-Expos announcer Elliot Price, who was all geeked up over doing Nats games but will apparently remain unrequited to that end. And today, Rich got the skinny on some Nats from Stephanie Myles, a former 'Spos beat writer for the Montreal Gazette.
Way to go, Rich.
---Finally, there's this from Rudy Martzke, whose job as I understand it is to get paid by USA Today to watch television. File it under "Improbable Quotes":
Said NBA Commissioner David Stern: "I don't know if Billy [Packer] knows rap from hip-hop.
As a two-fer, here's our "Corporate Shill of the Week" (no, not Bill Ladson):
Greg Hughes, Turner senior vice president, said, "The [NBA all-star] game continues to be a beacon of must-see events on TNT."
The game scored a whopping 4.9 rating, by the way. A poker game between Judging Amy, Jerry Orbach (RIP), Detective Sipowicz's bare ass, and Marv Albert's defense attorney might come close to that.
I haven't seen such a comical use of the word "beacon" since "Sneakers".
Well, this was a bit longer than I expected . . .
Thursday, February 24, 2005
Every day's been darkness since you been gone
And they're a little peeved. For instance:
Longtime Expos season ticket-holder Albert Saragosi will go to spring training as usual this year, but won't go near Melbourne, Fla. That is now the training site of the Washington Nationals - the team that used to be the Expos - but Saragosi is looking for a new club to root for. "I'm making a point of not even going there," said the Montreal businessman who followed the Expos from their inception as an expansion team in 1969. "I don't like what baseball did to Montreal."
As Holly Generro McClane's secretary observed in Die Hard, "That man looks really pissed."
Or check out a host at Montreal's sports talk radio station:
"We'll have baseball, but over my dead body will there be Washington Nationals games," he said. "The same people who did their best to put the final nail in the Expos' coffin are still there. "Why root for them? They're not the Expos."
Now, as a passionate and persuasive JMadisonIV replied at the Ballpark Guys forum, when you tuned into a Montreal radio station, you got a lot of "They're not the Expos" too, so what does it matter? Or, more broadly, people had stopped coming to their games, so what's the big de . . . aw, we've been over this ground before, right?
Well, yeah, I guess we have in one forum or another. So I'll limit my comments to a simple run-on sentence:
Baseball moving was inevitable be glad it was to DC but don't expect Montreal fans not to be bitter remember 1971 after all and I really hope that baseball builds itself back up there maybe in the minors for a while there's just so much history there and there are still great fans some were loyal to the end and many more got tired of being jerked around but they're come around if baseball wouldn't jerk them around so have patience with our brothers and sisters in Montreal.
Especially now; the Canadiens (the Canadiens!!) have just let off some of their employees, after all. It's not a good time there, sports-wise.
---Totally unrelated endnote: We've got a new highly-recommended blog! Today it's SethSpeaks, which looks to be a Twins/general Minnesota sports/entertainment site. I first discovered Seth's site by happening upon his NL East hitters preview, which is a part of his "Fantasy Perspective" series. So, for you fantasy players out there (I'm a benevolently neglectful player myself; I draft well and then forget about my teams by early May, if that), it looks like Seth will be a nice resource.
So too, by the way, is The Baseball Savant, whose site by happy coincidence I recommended a few weeks ago; the Savant is now writing for the aptly-named FantasyBaseball.com, by the way.
Well, since I'm here now----here's some quick links:
---Barry Svrluga-Nationals Journal update: Well, I'm still kinda worn out from absorbing yesterday's entries, what with the excitement attendant with a Charlie Gibson sighting. I'll narrow it down to one tidbit: Jim Bowden loves nylon warmup suits. I know, it's shocking.
---Eric at Offwing Opinion discusses the duty a commissioner owes as a steward of a league. I'm not much of an NHL (what?) fan, but I'll confess I read Eric's thoughts (and linked to many of the other hockey bloggers) during the run-up to the blow-up of the hockey season. I felt for them, you know.---Ryan ain't buying any puffiness toward Bowden. Go ahead, make his day.
---District of Baseball spotted an all-time caption blunder this morning. Florida Today has fixed the picture now, but Eucalyptus managed to preserve it for posterity. Frank Robinson looks surprisingly appealing for an almost 70 year-old man.
Newsflash: Armas to start opener!!!
"LIVAN!" is still slated for the real one. (Was that right?)
Other notes from the article:
---Carlos Baerga, Vanquisher of Prospects the World Wide, showed up in Viera yesterday. The article noted that Baerga works out with several big leaguers, including Juan Gonzalez. It's Steroids Day at Nationals Inquirer!
---The cryptic "Charlie Gibson in uniform" blog entries from Barry "Hoops Dreams" Svrluga now have context. A native Washingtonian and Senators fan from long ago, Gibson was participated in a personal baseball fantasy camp with the Nats. Must be nice. On the other hand, the article amusingly notes that he "had problems hitting the baseball." A very curteous description by Mr. Ladson, I'd suspect.
---Joey Eischen has "lost 10 pounds in the last three days." Diagnosis: puking his guts out. Also, Francis Beltran has "a slight elbow sprain." Kiss of death.
---Chad Cordero laid down his Juan Hancock for 2005.
Some stuff concerning Sledge . . .
This article has got to be the baseball writer's version of a "clip show." I can envision Alex P. Keaton counting change falling on the floor, wiping to Mallory upset over her aunt's death, wiping to the signature phrase of that Nick guy who was the obvious Fonzie knock-off, to . . .
There is one new insight, perhaps:
But on Aug. 30, 2004, Sledge decided to tap into the brain of Cubs outfielder Sammy Sosa at Olympic Stadium in Montreal. The Cubs were playing the Expos that night, and after Sosa singled in the fifth inning, Sledge, playing first base, decided to chat with Sosa. "I talked with him a little bit," Sledge said. "I said, 'Sammy, what's going on? How do you become a good hitter.' He threw some things out there. . . . How to better conceal your performance enhancing drugs, for one."
Well, again, I'm just kidding about that last part. (And, in light of Capitol Punishment's thoughtful defense of Sledge from this kind of stuff, the joke was probably in poor taste.)
See, this is what we resort to when you give us nothing, "Rocket Bill". NOTHING!!!
* URL, since I always mess it up: http://washington.nationals.mlb.com/NASApp/mlb/news/article.jsp?ymd=20050223&content_id=948914&vkey=spt2005news&fext=.jsp&c_id=was
I can do the hully gully, I can imitate Vin Scully
Charlie Slowes, who once served as a radio announcer for the NBA's Washington Bullets, and Dave Shea, a former announcer for hockey's Boston Bruins, will be named the radio broadcasters for the Washington Nationals' inaugural season as soon as Thursday, sources close to the negotiations said Wednesday night.
I have no idea who these guys are. But the WaPo article does state that Slowes has spent the last seven years doing radio for the Devil Rays; by happy coincidence, my cousin through marriage, DeWayne Staats is the television play-by-play guy for the D-Rays. So maybe I'll have occasion to see if DeWayne can provide some info on Slowes' style.
As Chris notes, the other guy did some work for something called the National Hockey League. Maybe it was a league that operated in the distant past?
Anyway, maybe it's because I grew up admirer a baseball announcer, but I think the announcing team is a very important element of a baseball organization. In many ways, it is the team's public face. As a consequence, aside from its performance on the field, the team's legitimacy is established to great measure by its announcers. (Obviously, one is especially inclined to think this way if one listens/watches lots of games.)
That's one reason why I've focused (okay, obsessed) so much over the radio deal. The act of getting on a good station---and picking good announcers---is a kind of bling-bling for a baseball team.
So, let's hope these guys are good. I was becoming kind of partial to Elliot Price, actually.
A potent Johnson: Secret to our success
So sayeth the Post and the Times.
In the Post article, Barry Svrluga focuses on Johnson's penchant for freak injuries. In addition, it contains this quotation from Jorge Posada, which will give us some morning inspiration:
"If he stays healthy, I'm telling you, he can win a batting title," Yankees catcher Jorge Posada said earlier this spring. "That's how good a hitter he is. He was like Giambi when Giambi was younger -- very selective, very patient at the plate, using the whole field, making the pitcher work. He's a lot like that." Posada then added, "Plus, you know, Nick's on the juice, too."
Okay, I made that last part up.
Dick Heller in the Times treads roughly the same ground, plus adds some insight on Johnson's relationship with his uncle, Crazy Larry Bowa, as well as Johnson's work with Nats hitting coach Tom McCraw
Significantly, both articles start with the assumption (albeit somewhat implied) that Johnson will be the first and, subject to injury or poor play, would eventually be pushed out of a job, with Wilkerson moving over. Good times, Nats fans; good times.
Wednesday, February 23, 2005
Go ahead, extras for all the diners
---Lots of fun stuff in Barry Svrluga's Nats Journal today (and if you spell his last name enough, it gets easy):
* Barry notes the Florida Today dictate-a-column where Jim Bowden pretty much springs it that Nick Johnson is going to start at first.
* Notables, including Charlie Gibson (fortunately not Charlie Gipson) are in Viera.
* Jose Vidro gets the Jordan Rules when playing pick-up ball.
* Gibson is in a baseball uniform; again, it's fortunate that we're not talking about Gipson.
* Robinson implies that late February is a time when MLB hitters are scared of any pitched balls traveling in excess of 40-50 mph. (Well, maybe I'm dramatizing that one.)
* The Nats' taste in music really sucks.
* Ronan Tynan ---> Young MC. As my old English teacher would say, that one lacked a "semicolon-however-comma."
* Barry likes NASCAR, specifically Jeff Gordon. I couldn't care less about Gordon, but we won't hold the liking-NASCAR part against him.
* The Nats' spokesman is an if-they-made -it of a dead folk-country singer and a VIP in the Reagan White House.
* Svruga's got something for Panera Bread. Probably safer than Pantera Bread.
* It's raining, it's pour, Frank Robinson is snoring.
---Speaking of Vidro, it's a good thing he's rounding into shape from knee surgery; he's our insurance policy in case the big Carlos Baerga signing doesn't pan out.
---Here's an article on the eight bidders to design the new ballpark. For info purposes only; the article's been analyzed quite well at the other DC blogs and at the Ballpark Guys Forum.
---"Unsupportable Thesis of the Day" goes to this blogger, who argues that he doesn't "see Barry [Bonds] as the premier player now or ever, juice notwithstanding." You can stop at the next sentence ("Let me tell you why."). He argues the point using BA/HR/RBI, which is kind of like using a Social Security number to evaluate Lindsay Lohan's physique.
Hat tip to Eucalyptus, who even drops a "Roger Maynard" reference (search under "Maynard" on this page for a bit of backstory), the infamous troll from rec.sport.baseball, who's been fightin' the pointless fight there---cordially, as always---for probably close to fifteen years now. Eucalyptus, whose blog is highly recommended, "generally enjoy[s]" the blogger's writing, so maybe I should check it out. He scores dedication-points for attempting to defend the position inside the "comments" section, for what it's worth.
---The Nationals are now Cincy's team, and so it makes sense that we'd care about new special assistant Barry Larkin's Hall of Fame chances.
Look no further than Aaron Gleeman's analysis in The Hardball Times today. The verdict: overwhelmingly qualified. But don't just read it for the punch line; this is one of the examples where sabermetrics is more fun in traversing to the point rather than just getting to the point in the first place. It's a nice---even short---analysis.
Pow-wow with Bow-wow
Anyway, MLB.com's Bill Ladson sat down with Jim Bowden*. (Or maybe they conducted the interview standing up?) Today, Nationals Pastime John implied that perhaps Bowden gets a bad rap from Nats bloggers, so this interview is fortuitous in its timeliness.
If there's one quality that defines Bowden, it's that he is not afraid to be frank. If he's not sure about something, he won't sugar-coat. Recall his comments on Esteban Loaiza a few days ago and then consider that in this interview he frankly states that the team's progress is too early to assess. No propping up a guy after two days in camp, for instance.
Then again, if he's certain about something, he won't hide that fact:
MLB.com: You don't have quality hitters or catchers in the minor leagues. What are you going to do about that?
Bowden: This organization has done a poor job with the bats. I believe in hitters. When I was in Cincinnati, I always went after hitters to score runs. You win the World Series with pitching, but those teams are also winning games because they are scoring runs. You got to score runs. There are not a lot of bats in the big-league level and there's not a lot of bats in the minor league level. That's something we have to work on and it's has to be corrected.
This exchange is further evidence that Bowden's outlook is commendable. He is not foisting undue expectations on the fanbase (he's been quoted as saying .500 would be a nice goal, and I agree), and he is frank and resolute concerning areas he perceives have been neglected. I might not like all of the moves he has made, or even most of them, but I like this.
PS: Note that he refers to Wilkerson a number of times---and always as an outfielder. I don't know if that means anything, but it does correspond with the famous Dry Erase Board.
* URL: http://washington.nationals.mlb.com/NASApp/mlb/news/article.jsp?ymd=20050222&content_id=948269&vkey=spt2005news&fext=.jsp&c_id=was
Negiotiate with a terrorist? Never!
Nevertheless, the Wash. Times editorial staff is unequivocal in its opinion of the irascible malcontent and what MLB should do with him.
The editorial uses alarming language ("Bud Selig is threatening to pull the financial rug out from under the franchise before it plays its first spring-training game"), but the meat of the editorial is this quote from the estimable Andrew Zimbalist:
There are serious questions about whether Angelos is due any consideration. "I don't think they have to pay him any money," Andrew Zimbalist, an economist at Smith College, told the Baltimore Sun. "It's a silly precedent,"
said Zimbalist, who has written several books about the finances of baseball. "I'm puzzled that they are even negotiating with him because they have no legal need to."
I'm no fan of Angelos, but I have been a lifelong Orioles fan; I will continue to be on an AL-basis, though I've developed something of a notable measure of obsessive fandom with the Nats already, of course. What is more, I have many friends who are O's fans; just this morning, in fact, I exchanged emails with a good friend from law school who lives in Staunton and who, while planning on supporting the Nats, has a lot of allegiance for the O's. There are many friends like him, of course.
In my conversations with many of these friends and web contacts, I've challenged them to express exactly what legal right Peter Angelos is due. The answer is invariably something muddled, something perhaps befitting equity, usually expressed in terms of "Bud Selig promised Angelos that 'the franchise would never be hurt'." That's it. No existing right, no bargained-for exchange, nothing. Just a sort of nebulous promise that has been filtered, for good or ill, through newspapers in various cities---including, of course, Baltimore.
That gets me thinking, because I like to torture myself, what theory would Angelos employ if he ever decided to sue MLB? I haven't the foggiest, mainly because---when it comes down to the most relevant details---I really don't know that much about the situation. None of us do; all of this stuff is sort of hush-hush. (Let me clarify: We know the scope of the Baltimore franchise's territorial rights. We don't know all that Bud and Angelos might have agreed to behind the scenes.)
Still, I guess the most compelling theory (not really all that compelling, at that) is some sort of bastardized variant of the equitable principle of laches, which, if you think about it (and as far as the analysis goes, and admittedly that is not far), sort of makes sense.
For years, MLB cynically held Washington, DC in its back pocket as an oblique (and sometimes not-so-oblique) way to blackmail other metro areas to construct shiny new stadiums---you know, the ones with traditional baseball elements such as choo-choo trains and Ferris wheels. But MLB never showed a real, true inclination to move to DC (or NoVa)---until now. It just used the DC threat as a way to jerk other MLB cities back into submission. So the theory might go (and, again, probably not far) that MLB "slept on its rights" to reclaim possession of the DC market and, in the interim, Baltimore reasonably swept in and took the thing for itself for long enough that DC is Baltimore's area (sort of a professional sports version of adverse possession, also, I guess).
Well, like I said, I'm just noodling over possible theories---and over lunch, at that. There are a million ways to pick a hole in this analysis, so keep that in mind when/if you comment. For one, Angelos could never get his damned story straight with regard to DC. One minute it was invaluable to the O's future; the next minute there just aren't any baseball fans in DC. And, make no mistake, there's a reason why third-year law students almost as an afterthought throw a two-credit equitable remedies course into their fall schedule, and I'll let you guess why.
Still, though, I can't help think that MLB, by jerking the DC market around relentlessly, is now hindered in some way by the principle (though not an equitable one, per se) of "What you reap is what you sow."
Just a thought . . .
Blame it on a simple twist of fate
Barry Svrluga brings it hard!
Castilla is the proof of that theory, for his numbers at Coors are starkly better than in all the other parks in which he has played. Though he is quick to point out that he slugged 21 of his 35 homers on the road last year, over the course of his career Castilla has hit .334 with a home run every 14.3
at-bats at Coors, and just .256 with a homer every 24.4 at-bats everywhere else. Last year, even with all the homers on the road, his slugging percentage and batting average in Denver (.575 and .321, respectively) were drastically higher than either on the road (.493 and .218).
Coors Field: Nature's anabolic steroid!
Castilla's quote in the article indicates that, well, he's only in half-denial; according to him, Coors really helps you hit for average.
Bowden's perspective, though typically odd for his position as the guy who signs these dubious performers, is probably a wise one---just assume you aren't getting anything close to what the number indicate:
"Every number in Coors Field is skewed -- every single one," Nationals General Manager Jim Bowden said. "Always has been. Always will be."
The second half of the article devotes consideration attention to the perception that Castilla is a "better hitter" for having left Coors from 2000-03---which is to say, his approach at the plate is much more complete now. Let's give credit to those insights, but let's also keep in mind that his four years away from Coors produced rather serpentine results: horrible, okay, horrible, okay. So it's not like something just clicked sometime in 2001-03. And, really, his 2004 wasn't a stupendous "Coors Field season,"outside of the runs batted in---which, as we know by now, are very team-and-batting-order dependent.
So, yes, I'd still prefer one year of Joe Randa over two years of Vinny Castilla.
[On the other hand, Brad Wilkerson was on "SportsNight" last evening, and he specifically credited Castilla's leadership. Even though I'm not at all a "team chemistry" guy, I don't want to discount that factor.]
---UPDATE: Hey, another Captain Obvious Expose!
This one, in the Wash. Times, appears a bit confused:
The first sentence is a reference to Coors Field. The second sentence references a 14-year career that includes 10 seasons in Coors Field.
The Nationals don't need Castilla to reproduce his 2004 numbers. They just need the 37-year-old third baseman to produce the kind of numbers he
consistently has put up over a 14-year career.
Later in the article, the writer clarifies that he intends merely an average of all of Castilla's numbers since becoming a regular in 1995, expressed in seasonal notation: .281, 29 homers, 96 RBI.Of course, there's nothing "consistent" about those numbers; it's a spackle-job of several Coors-inflated seasons, a couple of okay seasons (see above) and two of the worst seasons by a regular third baseman in the past decade (again, see above).
That said, I think I'd be pretty happy with .281/29/96 from Castilla, yes.
---Update No. 2! MLB.com* completes the Castilla Trilogy today, with a profile that largely covers the same areas that the Post article did:
1. Castilla learned to hit away from Coors.
2. Castilla's a leader.
---Completely unrelated topic: Baseball Prospectus' top 50 prospects list came out yesterday (and it was free!).
How many Nats in the top fifty? Zero.
How many "honorable mentions"? Zippy.
Can't say I'm surprised---but I was rooting for just one, if only to gauge whether Prospectus still calls the team "Montreal."
* URL: http://washington.nationals.mlb.com/NASApp/mlb/news/article.jsp?ymd=20050222&content_id=948370&vkey=spt2005news&fext=.jsp&c_id=was
Tuesday, February 22, 2005
Incorporated by reference
---Since about 9:30 last evening, Capitol Punishment Chris has been bloggin' like a mutha on speed. Considering his outlook on the Great Game appears to be relatively sympatico with mine, I'll just say, regarding today's spring training-related items, go see Chris. (And District of Baseball and Nationals Pastime and William World News and Distinguished Senators and . . . ah, just check out all the blog links on the right. In fact, there are a couple that aren't even on there that should be. Ah, forget it . . .)
---Except I will reserve one item for comment; it's from Bill Ladson's MLB.com mailbag* and should be classified under "Dear God, no!"
Colin M. in I'll-Be-Quirky asks: "I know about the Nationals' leadoff issue, and I think I have a solution. Why not put Cristian Guzman at the top of the order?"
Ladson, furiously wiping his spit-take Coca-Cola from his keyboard, replies: "[That] may happen, but Guzman must improve his on-base percentage, which is .303 for his career. Jose Cardenal, a special advisor to the GM, will teach Guzman -- in addition to Endy Chavez -- how to be a good leadoff hitter during Spring Training."
Uh . . .
[Pause rant: Well, at least they picked a pretty good instructor. In a much less offensive era, Cardenal had a four-year (1972-75)OBP run of .356, .375, .359, and .397. In fact, even in 1976, Cardenal's last season as a regular, his .339 OBP beat the league-average by a good margin. Continue rant.]
. . . I do not intend in any way to advocate a "chilling effect" on Nats' fans expressing their opinions on roster and lineup construction and stuff like that. But if the guy "know[s] about the Nationals' leadoff issue," why in the name of Omar Moreno does the guy want to replace one problem WITH EXACTLY THE SAME PROBLEM???
The choice, as I see it, is whether F-Robby wants to go with a guy (Chavez) who looks like a "traditional leadoff hitter" or a guy (Wilkerson) who really doesn't look like one but at least performs its primary function (getting on base). Guzman doesn't factor into the equation at all.
---Rich Lederer, whose blog for a long while was known as "The Baseball Beat," has now started a group blog called The Baseball Analysts. That's interesting in itself, I guess, but the section near the bottom left of the main page entitled "Web Gems" is what caught my attention.
"Web Gems" links to a lot of neat sabermetric-related stuff, particularly The Baseball Archive's extraction of the Bill James primer and David Grabiner's "Sabermetric Manifesto" from the Usenet newsgroup rec.sport.baseball, written a decade or more ago.
These two items in particular provide interesting reading if you have any inclination in knowing more about baseball analysis (read: stats geek stuff); even accounting for their vintage, most of their points are still tremendously relevant.
* I always mess up the URLs of MLB.com articles. Here it is: http://washington.nationals.mlb.com/NASApp/mlb/news/article.jsp?ymd=20050221&content_id=947088&vkey=news_was&fext=.jsp&c_id=was
Monday, February 21, 2005
Monday, lovely Monday
Just a few tidbits to note on this glorious day . . .
---Jeff Smulyan wants to buy the Nats. I would have to voice a bit of a "Nay" here, if I may. Smulyan is a big-wig in the radio industry; within the baseball industry, he's best known for almost making the Seattle Mariners the Tampa Bay Mariners.
[As an aside, I'll note that "the Tampa Bay Mariners" wouldn't have sounded so bad---unlike the Utah Jazz, New Orleans Hornets, or Arizona Cardinals. Well, that's one distinction on which MLB can hang its hat: when it moves teams, the resulting team names aren't jarringly dissonant.]
This page has a history of M's ownership. The author doesn't appear to think much of Smulyan:
[The firing of Jim Lefevbre, who had just managed the team to its first winning record in 1991,] by Smulyan fueled rumors that he was going to sabotage the team in order to move the team out of Seattle. If the Mariners were too successful, more fans would come to the games. He needed to trigger the
escape clause to find riches in another city. That city was Tampa. Reports began to surface that he was already in talks about a lease agreement to play in their baseball stadium. Then the bomb went off. U.S. Bank called Smulyan's loan on the team. Now he had to come up with the money to pay back the bank. At the same time his 59% interest in radio stations was also on shaky ground. Local officials he was using the M's to blackmail the city and using the money to help support his other investments. The rich person Seattle thought came to town was actually cash poor and had no way to continue as the Mariners owner. It was also a time that the old claims of Seattle not being a baseball town were
chanted. Jeff Smulyan even told the press that he felt Seattle could not support a Major League team.
Far be it for me to make too broad a statement about Mr. Smulyan, but in my experience, guys who joke about not taking care of their mothers in their old age are guys who also torture puppies and ruin baseball teams.
---Important eyes are scrutinizing Mike Hinckley and Darrell Rasner. Hinckley's a fairly well-known guy among Nats watchers; Rasner might not be as well-known (by me, for instance). Marc from Nationals MLB News rates Rasner as the No. 5 pitching prospect in the system (and concurs with Hinckley as the consensus No. 1).
---F-Robby acknowledges the offense sucked last year. Also, the picture caption cryptically notes that Nick Johnson hit 27 homers last season but drove in just 67 runs." I guess Johnson is being confused with Brad Wilkerson; the article notes Wilks hit 27 of his 32 homers as the lead-off guy, and we already know he drove in 67 runs. Whatever.
---The guys behind the new DCNatsFans blog posted a poll in the Ballpark Guys DC forum, regarding whether the Nats need to do anything to engage the African-American community in DC. I won't really comment on the topic or the ensuing discussion, except to say that opportunities for inner-city youths (white, black, Hispanic, Martian, whatever) to play ball decrease every time a 200x300 foot block of land is included in a new Wal-Mart or Target or Friday's or whatever big block retailers are now popping up in environs with more density. I'm not sure if this is feasible, but I think the city should open RFK (and the new owners should open Corporate Park) to kids to play ball on off days. It shouldn't take more than the usual security detail there to ensure no vandalism or fights or whatever.
Then again, I'm not a city planning or a safety expert.
---Finally, there's the last nugget in the Richmond Times-Dispatch Monday media column. The writer notes that the Nats finally have a radio deal and quotes Tony Taveres telling the Post that "we have to build a network . . . extending south to Richmond . . . "
Get it done, Tony. I'm not the only guy who thinks the Nats need to take Richmond, and toot sweet.
Sunday, February 20, 2005
An Esteban against the current . . .
Loiaza will run faster, stretch out his arm further . . . and one fine morning---
In Barry Svrluga's Post article today, Loaiza sounds more than a bit like Jay Gatsby, reliving a fine fling with greatness in 2003, only to lament that it came at the wrong time---much like Gatsby's fling with Daisy Buchanan.
According to Svrluga, that ol' Sport:
Six men stood Saturday morning behind a pitcher's mound in a distant part of the Washington Nationals' training complex here, a half dozen sets of eyes fixated on a single arm [, including] Jim Bowden, the general manager, [who] peered out from behind his sunglasses.
Before I begin, I just have to note the perfect image Svrluga paints of Bowden; the ego practically seaps out of the words.
It makes sense that there will be scrutiny of Loaiza this spring, because perhaps no one on the Nationals' staff is capable of producing such disparate results. Only once in a 10-year major league career has he won more than 11 games, but that one time gives the Nationals' hope, because it was a 21-win season just two years ago. Only once has he struck out more than 137 batters in a season, but that one time came during 2003 as well, when he led the American League with 207.
I ran that paragraph through on Babel Fish, from English to Chinese-traditional to English to Italian to French to Portugese to English to Dutch to English to Korean and back to English and got the following translation:
Now, Loaiza, competitor that he is, will attempt to rationalize his less-than-stellar 2004:
"Being traded to the Yankees, it was probably just a little bit too much for me," he said. "Probably, I have too much concentration. Instead of me throwing the ball, I was really concentrating more."
And, Nationals management, having been the only guys---as Svrluga notes---to give Loiaza a "firm offer" (ugh---gives me bad memories of the Uniform Commercial Code), will aid and abet Loiaza in his attempts to explain last year's suckcosity:
"It's a lot of pressure in New York, and with the Yankees," Nationals Manager Frank Robinson said. "Sometimes, that just affects a person and they put too much pressure on themselves individually. They just can't perform naturally. I think the new surroundings, you're not going to see as much pressure" on him.
But let's not obfuscate, shall we? No matter how quickly Loaiza and others will attempt to revise history a little bit, his problems most assuredly did not begin with the trade to the Yankees; to be honest, he wasn't so hot for about two months prior to the trade. (Loiaza's 2004 month-by-month stats are on this page, which breaks out many more of his stats splits.)
Later in the article, Loiaza notes that he is now a two-time all-star. This is true; he was also an all-star last year. However, the all-star berth was almost entirely a product of his reputation having caught up to his excellent 2003---and obscuring a 4.77 ERA.
Essentially, he rode a fine-but-nothing-special April (3.71 ERA---seven taterific homers in 34 IP; he did have a two-hit shutout) to a 4-0 start that reinforced the perception that maybe he had emerged into a top pitcher.
He was a little unlucky in May (2-3, 3.68 ERA; better peripheral stats) but sealed his all-star credentials in June, going 2-0 to up his record to 8-3---despite a 5.35 ERA for the month. Things got even worse in July.
He entered the all-star break at 8-4, 4.77 ERA. He was only nominally an all-star.
And this was all before the trade to the Yankees.
In all, amazingly, the last time he started a game and made it past the fourth inning with fewer than four runs allowed was June 17.
So, just so we are clear, one cannot ascribe all---or even most---of his troubles in 2004 to Ed Whitson Disease. It wasn't the trade to New York that did him in.
Alright. All of that is in the past now. Looking forward, what can we expect from Loaiza. Bowden, for one, doesn't have the first damned clue:
"You just don't know what you're going to get," Bowden said. "Is he capable? Absolutely. He's done it before. Will he do it for us? We don't know."
Bowden, of course, is the guy who signed Loiaza.
In one of my first posts here, I made a "tentative" assessment of the Loaiza signing, concluding that "I don't hate it" and "[i]t's not a bad move, . . . not one of Bowden's worst so far."
I made two points, essentially:
1. Loiaza might not be a top pitcher, but does anyone really "fluke" a 21-win season with a 154 ERA+? (That is to say, if he's had that good a season, how bad can he really be? Would 2004 actually be more of a fluke?)
2. It's a one-year deal, and if Loiaza pitched pretty well (or was well-supported), he could be flipped for something useful at the deadline. (Or he could be turned into a draft pick if we offered him arbitration after the season.)
Let's focus on the first point; I'll use the Bill James method and find a good comp for Loaiza. His "most similar pitchers" list is found here, but I thought I'd throw out a pretty good one-season comp: John Denny.
---At age 30 (a few months from 31), Denny won 19 games (and a Cy Young Award) with a 150 ERA+.
---At age 31, Loaiza won 21 games (and almost a Cy Young Award) with a 154 ERA+.
Prior to those seasons, Denny and Loaiza were of at least roughly similar quality. Denny had a tremendous age-23 season (140 ERA+), a previous excellent season Loaiza had never experienced, but otherwise they both sort of hung around with seasons of varying effectiveness between the 90s and the 110s of ERA+. (Denny, in the context of a late 1970s/early 1980s run scoring environment, had every bit as many stinker ERA+ seasons as Loaiza had. Denny, of course, struggled with injuries on and off his career, as explored in this article.)
Denny started 1984 (the season after) with remarkably similar pitching (148 ERA+), aside from the won-lost record, but was done in by a radial nerve injury after about 150 innings. He posted two more seasons of slightly-less-than league-average pitching and then hung up the jock. Loiaza posted the aforementioned stinker season of 2004 and is now looking forward, like Gatsby, of reclaiming past joy.
The comparisons between Denny and Loiza shouldn't go too far. Loaiza has been generally a healthy pitcher since sticking in the majors almost a decade ago; Denny, by comparison, fought an assortment of injuries throughout his career. (The fact that starters went deeper into games back then obscures this difference somewhat.) Furthermore, their pitching styles aren't not really comparable. Loaiza is a right; Denny was a lefty. Loaiza---in theory at least---employs a power-pitcher approach; Denny was perhaps best known for a slow, looping curve. And so forth.
The most similar pitcher to Loaiza by age is Rick Helling, who held considerable stature about five years ago, when he won 49 games (including a 20-win 1998) in a three-year span for the Rangers. Helling is, of course, a pretty comparable to Loaiza on a career basis, but Helling has enjoyed no season even approaching Loaiza's 2003.
Nor has Loaiza's all-time best comp, Mark Gardner, who strung together an amazingly consistent string of 90-100 ERA+ seasons in his thirties. Nor has Loaiza's third-best comp, Jon Leiber, who's also had a 20-win season but hasn't made it out of the 110s in ERA+ in a season. Nor has . . . ah hell, none of Loaiza's comps have ever had a full-season like E-Lo's 2003 season, and only a couple (John Burkett, Steve Avery) have come close.
It's a truly bizarre year, almost inexplicable.
And so, maybe we can forgive Loiaza for setting up shop, so to speak, within sight of Daisy Buchanan's house---where he can remember his orgiastic 2003 season, where he can plot for his grand return,
Of course, Gatsby ended up dead; as Nats fans, let's sure hope that Loiaza (so to speak) doesn't, too.
Friday, February 18, 2005
[LATE UPDATE: I just saw snippets of the press conference quoted in the AP article on Comcast SportsNet's "SportsNight." It is clear from the context thereof that Robinson meant some things in jest. Take what you read below with a grain of salt, then.]
AP wire story, picked up by tons o' media outlets today, including here.
Robinson has been reluctant to comment on the steroid issue, and he refused to cite individuals -- "I don't know if Barry Bonds is on steroids. Do you?" -- but he is clearly concerned about the blanket suspicion cast over all players, especially those who have bulked their bodies and improved their games by more natural means. "It's like when they had testing, back when I was playing, for certain drugs," Robinson said. "A lot of players took it as an invasion of privacy to be tested. I said I have nothing to hide. I've love to be tested. I wish we all would be tested because that would clear up the ones that are innocent. When you throw a blanket over everybody, that's mud on me, and I'm clean."
"I've love to be tested." Let's disregard the obvious scrivener's error in the article. (I guess Robinson actually said, "I'd love to be tested." If not, the writer should have written, "I [would] love to be tested.")
Has anyone, even the cleanest of the clean, ever said that---at the time of testing? I mean, lots of good and decent people abide by testing regimes. (I imagine I would, too, if the circumstances arose.) But "love" it? I've (I'd) seriously doubt it. It has to be kind of annoying.
Well, that's a petty point, admittedly. Back to the article:
For decades, Robinson's 586 home runs ranked fourth all-time -- behind Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth and Willie Mays -- before he was passed by Barry Bonds. Robinson didn't link the home run record directly to steroids, but he openly wondered whether the recent power explosion will dwarf his acomplishments.
Yes, he's double-speaking. Which is his right, as a current manager, but let's be clear: it's double-talk.
Probably before I take my last breath, I'm going to be about 99th on the list," Robinson said. "And I'm afraid people are going to say 'Frank Who?' It's going to be such huge numbers up there at the top, they're going to say, 'You must have been a singles hitter that hit a few home runs.' That's the thing that's going to happen to this game. "I wish I had stayed fourth. It's a nice ring to it. You're up there with the elite. You're up there with the top guys in baseball, but as you slip people have a tendency to ignore you or forget about you. It's not a nice ring, 11th or 12th. We think of maybe top 10, but even in the home run category we've never thought about 10. It's always basically top five because there was such a gap.
See, I wish Robinson hadn't mentioned this. Now, he practically hands the writer of the article a different angle than he intends. As best as I can tell, he's expressing his worry about the "steroidal influence" in the game, from the perspective of a veteran, steward, and ambassador of the game.
But, by injecting his personal (read: selfish) interests, he sounds both concerned . . . and bitter. And guess which angle will get more play.
As if to amplify the point, here's the last line of the article. Here's the last impression the reader gets:
"Fourth. Fourth. Fourth. I kind of got used to that. And now fifth, it just sounds a little odd."
Oh Frank, I love you, but stop making a caricature of yourself. You sound crazy. Fourth, fifth: Who the hell cares?
Besides, juiced-up or not, I would expect the thought would occur to him that at SOME point, SOMEONE would pass him. In addition, I hate to say it, but the guy's essentially a footnote already. Prior to McGwire/Sosa/Bonds, people commonly mentioned Aaron/Ruth and then Mays. These were the 600 home run guys. Robinson just happened to be the top guy among the 500 homer dopes (sorry for the Kornheiserism).
Ironically, other people still knew this, and Robinson's stature was in effect increased in the eyes of those who really care about the issue, simply by being a quiet, dignified star.
Stay that way, Frank. Speak out on steroids all you want, but try not to sound loony about your inidividual accomplishments.
In the end, this is all dicta. Get back to the good stuff, Frank. Get back to talking about the Nats.
Postcards from Viera
Among the many items of consequence he chronicles (and it's like "Ball Four"* for reporters):
---Ryan Church is good at fantasy football, and he and some clubhouse guy collected some neat booty---specifically, a "Youppi" doll.
---Livan Hernandez has finally made his massive presence felt.
---So did J.J. Davis, though he's technically early.
---It's windy in Florida, and Esteban Loaiza is a stiff. (Oh wait; his back is stiff. Yeah, that's the ticket.)
---Chad Cordero's cereal of choice is apparently Cheerios. Big fan of alliteration.
I tell ya; we can't live without this stuff. ;-)
* Speaking of which, take a look at this picture and tell me that Tony Armas isn't going to end up as our own version of Steve Barber. ("Uh, yeah. My arm's okay. Just a little tired.")
Well, please tell me that, 'cause I sure hope it doesn't happen.
Yet another reason to catch a Potomac Nationals or Harrisburg Senators (or Richmond Braves or Bowie Baysox, or whatever) game this season: You'll probably get home sooner:
The Playing Rules Committee announced the adoption of an experimental rule for use throughout the 2005 season in all of the Minor Leagues affiliated with Major League Baseball. The experimental rule, designed to encourage an improved pace of play, requires a batter to keep one foot in the batter's box throughout an at-bat, unless certain exceptions apply, in which case the batter must remain within the dirt area surrounding home plate.
Maybe 10 minutes sooner:
With the help of several pace-of-game initiatives introduced over the past several years, the time of the average nine-inning Major League regular-season game has dropped from 2:58 in 2000 to 2:47 in 2004.
I hope these regulations will be adopted in the big leagues eventually. There's nothing more frustrating than guys stepping out of the box, particularly during the playoffs; that's prime time for Tim McCarver, "whooshing" FOX sound effects, and the infamous robot to do their things.
Next up: Execute Scooter.
(Found the link via Baseball Primer, just to give credit where credit's due.)
Add this quotation:
"If Frank wants me to play one position or come off the bench, I'm just going to play my game. I'm going to be me. Whatever works out, works out," Sledge said. "Everybody would like to be in the starting lineup. Frank is going to put the best nine guys out there."
To this quotation:
"I had family and friends contact me, and they said they heard that my name was caught up in trade rumors," Sledge said. "It's not a bad thing.
It's actually a good thing. If a team wants to trade for me, that the business
of the game. I don't know if I'll be here one year or 10 years. Rumors are just rumors. Until it happens, nothing is true."
Maybe I'm reading too much into two (seemingly) non-sequential quotes, but I think Sledge has seen the dry erase board and is keeping one eye on the out-of-town flights (especially since the rumors about him have resurfaced, albeit vaguely). [LATE EDIT: If you cannot link to the MLB.com article, you cannot see the context of the second quote; if memory serves, Sledge was referring to rumors linking him to a Sosa trade, not to current rumors.]
[Related note: Chris, one of the guys to unearth that which makes Wayne Knight uneasy, also cites the dry erase board today, from the perspective of Robinson's state of mind.]
At any rate, taken totally from his quotes and the characterizations of him by writers close to the team, Sledge seems like a farily quiet, team-oriented guy. I don't think he'll start a palace revolt if he's on the bench and not traded.
First things first
Josh's rankings have it:
I can't really disagree.
There's a few points in there that caught my attention. For instance, regarding Thome:
First-basemen don't age as quickly as players in more skill positions, and at
34, Thome will be a force to be reckoned with in 2005.
I wonder if the statement "first basemen don't age as quickly as players in more skill positions" is the writer's perception or if it reflects research on the matter. Just no0dling it in my mind, there are several factors to consider:
a) The first is what Bill James famously (at least in SABR circles) coined "old players' skills," the affliction that limits guys who rely mainly on patience and power early on to solely power and patience later on, and then rely on---well, nothing---at the end. See, e.g., Alvin Davis. Now, I'm not suggesting Thome awaits this or a similar fate (he's already made it longer and better than Davis could have ever imagined), but I wonder if "old players' skills" is terminology or fact.
b) Then there's the thought that, if I were an old lumbering first baseman, I'd want my career to occur mainly within the 1993-present period. So, yeah, I see what Josh is saying.
c) On the other hand, I wonder how well, say, a middle infielder ages. These guys tend to develop nagging foot, ankle, knee, and leg problems, it seems, which would certainly mitigate their effectiveness in ranging to balls, or turning singles to doubles, or taking the extra base, or name your other skills that don't rely upon the ball clearing the fence.
Anybody have any recent research on the subject?
Picking it up again, here are Josh's thoughts on Minky the Met:
This guy's offensive numbers have atrophied since his peak season in 2001. He's 31, and doesn't hit well enough to justify his defensive presence in the lineup.
I think that's right, yeah. Put it this way: The scientist from "The Brain that Wouldn't Die" could reanimate Hal Chase and mate him with J-Lo---who, of course, grabs all the balls she can---and a resulting first baseman still wouldn't be worth 10 games a season, or whatever Omar Minaya just said about Minky.
Thursday, February 17, 2005
Yep, NatZ-104, FEDeral baseball
More gory details here.
The deal will not bring in revenue to the Nationals, a source said. Rather, the team will buy the air time -- terms were unavailable -- and try to recover the money through ad sales.
Washington has a team for the first time in 34 years. It has sold 18,000 season tickets. People lined up outside a freakin' trailer in frigid weather to get Nats gear.
Buy radio time? Brilliant!
Nationals President Tony Tavares said he preferred a one-year deal now "because I don't think we should get locked into anything."
"We're coming into a soft market," Tavares said. "It's soft, in part, because we got going so late on this thing."
Read: Bud and Gang dickered around for far too long. We get Radio Borneo as a result.
Alternate reading: Tony Kornheiser served as our market consultant.
Tavares said he went with Bonneville in part because of the company's ability to promote the broadcasts across its other stations in the Washington area, including WTOP.
Well, that's nice. If only MLB had lined them up, you know, the actual WTOP (and not just the 1500-AM signal).
The process of selecting broadcasters will begin as early as this afternoon, when officials from the Nationals and Bonneville will meet and begin going through tapes.
That Elliot Price guy has posted on the BPG board; he sounds like a nice guy. Sign him up.