Monday, March 07, 2005

Many small notes = one post

Scouting around . . .

---Mad props to fellow Midlothian, VA, native Rich Tandler, whose letter was published in the "Sunday Punch" section of the Richmond Times-Dispatch. You can find it on this page; in a nutshell, Rich seeks more Nats coverage in the Times-Disgrace. Sounds good. I've noticed a couple of AP/wire service articles picked up since spring training began, but nothing much. By comparison, the paper devoted a good deal of space to the Sosa trade, and at least a couple of columnists have commented on the A-Braves this spring.

---But, wouldn't you know, there was a columnist who devoted space to the Nats in this morning's local paper. Of course, it was like ten words or less, and it was derisive. From the grumpy Jerry Lindquist's media column:

What was ESPN's Dan Schulman on last week, introducing the Mets-Nationals spring training game with: "Two teams with bright outlooks
heading into 2005."

1. Hey, that was kind of a cheap shot, man. (And, when you've played 104 road games in each of the last two seasons, then, at the very least, a stable home must be considered "bright.")
2. It's Dan Shulman, putz. And he's the best in the business.

---Ryan from Distinguished Senators tries out "Logic by Gammons":

Houston is after a center fielder, but they don't have a good hitter to give up. So instead, they're going to trade for a good hitter from Washington, who wants a good hitter in return. Unless Gammons is suggested a three-way trade, with Houston getting Cameron, the Mets getting Sledge and maybe
Chavez, and us getting a bopper. So, in the parlance of the multiple-choice
test, D) Cannot answer based on information given.

Gammons' column is here. Of course, compare it to the stuff here and, honestly, see if you can the difference.

---The Baseball Savant republishes an article he did for Baseball Primer a few seasons ago concerning competitive balance in the "wildcard era." It's one of those "what would have happened" analyses---similar to one done by Baseball Prospectus around that time, too---that retrofitted post-1994 (and especially post-'96/Yankees) results and grafted said results into a pre-'94 (and pre-'69) context. In The Savant's case, he went above and beyond actual won/lost records or even straight-up Pythagorean records; you can find his methodology in the article, which he's updated in a forward to the article.

First of all, I completely agree with the following sentiment:

I am 26 years old so I do not remember what is was like to have only one division in each league, but I think that it had to be the best of times in baseball because it proved just how far superior MLB was to the other major sports of football, basketball, and hockey. The regular season meant something in baseball. Teams had to go to work day in and day out to secure their shot at a world championship and there was not any coasting into the
playoffs without being the best team in the league.

I think the one thing the "wildcard era" (or, as I call it, expanded divisional era) has killed is the concept of the "respectable season." It just doesn't exist anymore; it's wild card-or-bust, and for those teams with "no shot" at the playoffs at the outset, there seems to be little joy in the little successes that seemingly used to sustain a six-month season. The current state of affairs serves to contradict one of Bill James' best lines (from the 1995 Player Ratings Book, if I remember correctly, concerning Jeff Fassero): "Every season is a revelation, every success a surprise."

Second, it is interesting that, while we all know that the 2000 season is one of the greatest con jobs every (with the Yankees winning the World Series despite the fifth-best record in the American League), the Yankees also (at least according to The Savant's methodology) got jobbed in '97---although the fans were the ones who really got cheated, being deprived of a great three-team race.

Anyway, it's an interesting read, even three years later.

---Between the lines, Mike Hinckley got the holy hell beaten out of him yesterday. There was an outside---and I mean OUTSIDE---shot Hinckley could break camp as the fifth starter, but from the tone of the WaTi article, that isn't going to happen. What happened yesterday? Well, I guess Hinckley should have pitched casually:

"To tell you the truth, I think he's trying to do too much," said pitching coach Randy St. Claire, who watched yesterday's game while the rest of the staff stayed in Viera for Washington's other game against the Houston Astros. "He's trying to impress too much and not just doing what he can
do. "He comes into camp thinking he's got a chance, and he's just trying to sell it too hard. He needs to relax and let it happen for him. He's got a good arm; he just needs to use it."

---According to the WaPo, both Alex Escobar and Ryan Church want to make the team. Go figure. Considering Church has an option left, he's probably in the Mike Hinckley Zone. The article also contains a classic Jim Bowden quote:

Ryan Church was next, and after he lofted a fly ball to the outfield, Bowden said quietly: "Line drives, now. Let's go." Church sent the next pitch screaming to right-center field. "That's it," Bowden said.

I swear, Bowden can do anything, including compel a major league hitter to swat a line drive on command during batting practice.

---R.I.P., Chuck Thompson..

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