Forty Two

Economics can't account for the value of certian things. There really is a pricelessness that can be applied to certian objects, and how many millions do we hit before the word 'absurd' begins to ring in everyone's ears? But is a new pitch really priceless?

Barry Zito is going to be paid a lot of money by someone; so is Jason Schmidt. Other no name starters are going to have their value ratcheted up and feel thankful to the worst man in baseball (Boras). But the bid the Red Sox put in to secure negotiating rights with Daisuke Matsuzaka is nothing short of insane. There isn't a starter out there worth twenty million a year, and very few starters are healthy enough or talented enough to justify a five plus year investment, but that's just the spot Red Sox have pyt themselves in, if they are truly intent on signing the pitcher. I fall more on the side that this was an attempt to outflank the Yankees and keep them from signing the gyroballer.

The one thing that I can say with certianty is this; I can't imagine a more interesting way to really kick off the dealing of the winter months. Stay tuned, sports fans.


Contest Extended!

Okay, maybe the questions were a little too hard. Tell you what, just answer one of them. Email me your answers and address, and on Labor Day I'll get around to drawing winners.


Power Potential: An introduction

While doing research for the Abreu trade article, I pored over salary numbers and payrolls, and a few things jumped out at me. I bounced over to the contracts on the Giants page, and was stunned by the ammount of money that Bonds, Alou, Finley and Durham were making. Their contracts for this year according to ESPN, 20, 7.45, 7 and 7 million respectively, for a total of 41.45 million. With Schmidt as a free agent at the end of this season, that gives the Giants' a payroll next year of around 40 million. Sabean might be dumb enough to pick up Finley's option for 7, and Durham might exercise his player option, but with all these contracts coming off the books, the Giants are going to have a tremendous ammount of flexibility.

The idea here isn't to predict which players teams will resign, but to look at their finance / talent position going into next season.

I was also looking at the Twins payroll and roster. Radke's 9 million will be gone, along with Hunter's 10.75. Stewart is gone for 6.5; several other players have options that may or may not be picked up. This will leave the Twins with only about 40 million committed, although, like the Giants some of this will disappear as contracts ramp up. The point remains that the Twins will also have a lot or room to redefine their team this winter.

The other advantage these teams both have is that they have some good young players coming along, especially in the rotation.

The Twins and Giants will provide the two archetypes for this series, big market teams that have a solid core and many millions to spend, and smaller market teams with a lot of cheap, young talent who clear some big contracts.

I'll profile the outlook for such teams in this series, so keep you eyes peeled for who's got power potential.


World Series DVD giveaway

The nice folks over at A & E are promoting a new line of DVDs, which feature highlights from about the last 200 years (maybe I'm exagerating a little) worth of World Series'. I was sent the one for the 1954 NY Giants vs the Cleveland Indians, which I've linked here. This features arguably the most famous defensive play of all time, "The Catch" by Willie Mays.

Their main page can be found here, and they really do have a tremendous number of these things, going all the way back to 1943.

The reason I mention all this is that I've been given 3 DVDs to give away to my faithful readers. So, we're going to have a trivia contest. There are three questions, and I'll draw randomly among those who get them all right.

  1. What is the Royals record in World Series games?

  2. In Game 7 of the 2001 World Series, what was the Win Expectancy of the Diamondbacks starting off the 9th inning?

  3. Pre-divisional play (which began in 1995), what is the 4 game sweep in the World Series that has lasted the longest, and why?

Either put these answers in the comments for this post, or send an email to me through blogger. The contest will run until the 20th of August, unless there are too few correct answers. So get cracking, and win yourself some baseball goodness.


The Revolution will be SABRized (except it's not really a revolution)

I had a long conversation last night about a couple of issues raised by my last post, and I want to put a couple of things down. Conversations are great opportunities for exchanging ideas, but rarely feature efficient, surgical uses of language.

My last post was spurred by my surprise at how much advanced baseball analysis had begun to infiltrate mianstream media, especially in the form of Expected W-L on the MLB.com site. This is a website that has been in existence for over a decade, is officially maintained by, you know, baseball and decided at the begining of the season to include this stat in their official categories (although you do have to turn the option on).

Now, I was happy about this, and I think all baseball fans should be. This metric gives us all a better understanding of the game, and I think it is therefore a good thing. But, unfortunately, I used the acronym SABR in my post, which among some people in the baseball community has become a bad word ... hell, almost blashpemy.

I'm going to take this slow, so as to be completely clear. SABR, as in SABRmetric (sabermetric), has the following meaning:

The Society of American Baseball Researchers. Keep this in mind as you read along.

Last night, our discussion centered around the difference of opinion on this community. A friend told me that he views this community as incredibly arrogant, and that he feels that their work "takes the fun out of baseball." I didn't agree with that.

I disagreed with a number of things about his arguments.

Firstly, most of the baseball community is quite arrogant. Ozzie Guillen, George Steinbrenner, Mike Scioscia back when we was really winning, Barry Bonds, Ricky Henderson, Roger Clemens, David Wells, A-Rod, Jeter, Curt Schilling, Dusty Baker, Tony LaRussa just to name a very few. Chances are you don't have to think very hard to come up with instances where these men insisted they were right to the point of arrogance, or to come up with another dozen names. Competitive sports are going to draw competitive people, and to single out a single group for arrogance is like singling out a Royals player for incompetence; they're all at fault.

Furthermore, SABR is not what most people think it is, which is why it kind of pisses me off to hear blanket statements about a group that's actually trying to grow baseball in a time where public distrust of the sport is dangerously high, African-Americans are leaving in droves, and postseason viewership continues to drop. SABR actually does a number of wonderful things for the game.

Now, I know I'm not supposed to ever use wikipedia as a source, but there's not a traditional encyclopedia or source I can go to, so I've got no other choice. From the SABR page on wikipedia:
The Society for American Baseball Research was established in Cooperstown, New York, in August of 1971. The Society's mission is to foster the research and dissemination of the history and record of baseball while generating interest in the game.
Members include Bill James and Rob Neyer. SABR, which is pronounced "saber" and whose acronym led to the creation of the word sabermetrics (mathematical tools to analyze baseball), is about much more than statistics.
In fact, only a minority of members pursue "number crunching" research. Rather, SABR offers a community of fans organized in two ways. Research Committees study a particular issue. Regional Chapters are for members in geographic proximity. They are frequently named after baseball personalities relevant to the region.
So sabermetrics is far different than what most people would believe. However, as a statistical discipline it is imperative to get this point across. It is the application of the scientific method to baseball. That way, we don't believe the baseball equivalent of mice being bred from dirty piles of rags in corners.

Secondly, anyone who ever mentions the word "sabermetrics" is immediately asked about "Moneyball." This is the law of firsts, the idea that the first product, idea, or book that identifies a unique product or idea is tied into it with unbreakable bonds. This is why in some places you can go to a restaurant, order a "Coke" and then when you're asked what you want, you order a Sprite, or Root Beer, or something else that is clearly not a Coke, or even a Cola. This is because Coke as the first widespread soda (pop, whatever) with widespread recognition. Moneyball has done this to sabermetrics, to the point that it has become impossible for some to seperate the two in their minds. Let me make this clear, because in some quarters this is still misunderstood. Sabermetrics does not automatically suppose that OBP is the most important stat, that speed is useless, nor does it suggest that all coaches and scouts are deranged. It is, like I said, just the collection and analysis of statistics, leaning heavily on resources such as Retrosheet and Baseball Reference.

This leads into my third point. For me, a greater understanding of the game through stastics doesn't diminish the 'magic' around the game at all. The steroid scandal, yes, the White Sox winning a World Series, yes, but understanding that OBP correlates better with scoring runs than SLG, no. Comparing Milwaukee attendance in their new park to the Twins over that time, controling for variables and concluding that the Twins can expect a huge bump in attendance, given how much higher their winning percentage is, no. Investigating how a steal affects late and close games by using the Win Expectancy calculator, no. All of those things enhance my love of the game, and pull me deeper in.

Yes, sometimes these studies contradict common baseball knowledge, but why should baseball be immune to criticism if it can be proved that it is wrong? Honestly, that too close to the way the adminstration treats the press for me. "Even if we're wrong, you can't criticize, because you're tarnishing a great institution." If we truly believe in our great institutions, then we must hold them to high standards of honesty and conduct, and by giving dumb managers and commentators a pass, we let bad information circulate about the game we love (like the importance of having an pitcher that "knows how to win").

In the end, I took all of this a bit personally, because while I am not an official member of SABR, I've felt a certian affinity for people who are trying to find new and interesting ways to look at baseball, and who may get carried away in their love of the game but always have their hearts in the right places. Yes, at times the style of presentation can be a bit abrasive, and sometimes it appears that they want to tear down tradition, but I think their contribution far outweighs any cost they might bring. Besides, think of all the raidcal changes to baseball in the last fifty years: interleague play, the wild-card, weight rooms, online radio and TV broadcasts, the DH, 73 homeruns, the 4 then 6 divisions, steroid worries, expansion teams, mound distance and probably a lot of others I'm too young to remember.

Sabermetrics isn't just something else the game has to weather, it's a community that is going to do whatever they can to make the game thrive, and try to educate us a bit along the way. This is all just my opinion, which is too bad because I'd love some statistics to back this up (just the SABR in me, I guess).


The Revolution will be SABRized

We've seen a lot of changes in baseball media this year. ESPN is down two in their broadcast crew, and has brought in a circus side show of replacements. They've also revamped their graphics, lost rights to postseason series and decided not to repair robotic Joe Morgan. But today, I'm not going to talk about ESPN.

When Moneyball was published in 2003, it opened the eyes of a lot of baseball fans. I'd had some idea of what was going on, but the only reason was that I was in Oakland in the years previous. I'd seen what Beane was doing, and it was clear he was doing it for cheap. But at the time, I'm not sure I even knew what SABR stood for. I didn't even own a copy of Baseball Prospectus until this winter.

The internet has been a wonderful source for a poor college student (now poor government / political employee) to get information I would otherwise never come across. I've discovered statistics based on math that's too complicated for me that give a whole new meaning to understanding baseball.

The only problem has been how slow major news outlets and media sources have been to adopt these measures. We're finally seeing AVG / OBP / SLG become more common than AVG - HR - RBI, but for the most part, things like VORP, or DER, or MLV have fallen on deaf ears. Mainstream media is proving that they have to be dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st century when it comes to baseball.

Last year, when I wanted to know the Pythagorean Win-Loss numbers for a team, I had to compute it myself with data from ESPN's league page. I've been meaning to mention this for quite awhile, but you can now find it here, at the official Major League Baseball website.

Sure, it's a simple formula, and Runs Scored and Runs Allowed have been numbers that mainstream analysts have used for years, but the use of this statistic is a glimmer of hope that we won't have to cling to the old ways in baseball. Someday, we might all be able to talk about how truly, truly awful Derek Jeter's fielding is, and finally have a way to prove it beyond the shadow of a doubt. It won't be the old baseball way of anecdote and error totals, but range factor, and all the other various deffensive ratings dreamed up by people with advanced statistics degrees and a love of baseball.

The Revolution is coming, and it will be SABRized.


Philly Blues

The blues (as the name suggests) are always sad songs. But it would be incorrect to assume that everyone signing the blues is depressed. The beauty of blues is that you can express yourself, and try to move past the pain of your life.

My second-grade psychoanalysis isn't intended to expose shortcomings in my formal education, but to serve as a template for this post. While I agree with a lot of what was said on the Abreu / Lidle for junk trade at the Confines, I've thought about it, read a number of articles on both sides, and put together an opinion on the matter.

Here's a few facts to set the table
  • Bobby Abreu's 2006 salary: 13.6 million

  • Bobby Abreu's 2007 salary: 15.5 million

  • Bobby Abreu's 2008 option: 16 million

  • Phillies 2006 payroll without Abreu: 87 million

From an ESPN article published today
  • Abreu, who had a full no-trade clause, told the Phillies he would be interested in waiving it only for the Yankees, Mets, Red Sox and Angels

  • When Gillick talks about the importance of "payroll flexibility," he must quietly lament the burdensome contracts negotiated by his predecessor, Ed Wade ... Burrell has a full no-trade clause and is owed $27 million in 2007 and 2008 combined

So the situation is this, pre-trade. The Phillies are a mid-market team with a ballooning payroll. They want trade Abreu and cash in with prospects. We all know that. But it's a little more interesting than that. There's only four teams he's gonna go to. We know what happened with the Yankees. So now we have three questions left for each team.
  1. Do they really want Abreu (or were they just trying to drive the price up)?

  2. Can they afford him?

  3. What would they offer?

First, I'll take the Angels. Their scrappy, small ball character has devolved a bit since their heyday in 2002. They seem to be a team without any philosophy on how to win. That being said, their outfield is old and expensive, so they definitely want a dependable power hitter.

Unlike so many other years, the Mets weren't making desperate deals at the deadline to bolster their chances for the NL Wild Card. Beltran has been a monster with a 1.027 OPS. Chavez and Floyd haven't been great, but the Mets are trying to give Lastings Milledge opportunities to play, so an extra outfielder might meana decrease in playing time. Furthermore, the Mets have held onto their young talent as of late, perhaps learning a lesson from the disastrous Kazmir trade. The Mets are playing well, and decided not to mess with their team at the deadline. Given Floyd's glove and the cost in both prospects and money, the Mets had mild interest at best.

The Red Sox were probably more interested in Abreu to keep him from going to the Yankees than to actually sign him. Crisp has been a huge dissapointment, but a lot of his diminished performance can be attributed to injury. Trot Nixon and Willy Mo Pena have platooned quite well, however, and I'm sure that the Red Sox have no interest in pushing any higher into salary cap territory. Would they like to deny the Yankees a fresh outfielder? Of course, but he's too damn expensive for that. What does Nixon's 7.5 million pay for? For a second DH, behind David Ortiz? True, they could have sent back Crisp, but his stock is about as low as it can get, especially with a contract that rachets up a million or so a year to an 8 million 2010 option. He might be a steal, but he looks like a risk after this half season. Manny and Papi are tearing the cover off the ball, but in a tight division race, Abreu looks a lot better than he otherwise would.

So from this point on, we're going to discount the Mets. I don't think there's any world where what they get from Abreu is what they'd have to give up to get him, and what they'd have to pay.

So now we have to see if the Angels and Red Sox could reasonably afford the added 15 or so million a year. This would put the Red Sox dangerously close to the limit for 2006, while the Angels would be a good 15 million under. Forbes published a list in 2005 of the financial standings of all 30 teams. It's worth noting the five biggest deficits in terms of operating income:
  1. New York Yankees -37.1

  2. LA Angels of Anaheim -30.0

  3. Arizona Diamondbacks -18.7

  4. Boston Red Sox -11.3

  5. New York Mets -11.2

Quick accounting tutorial. Operating Income = Gross Profit - Operating Expenses. This deos not include certian taxes or debt, so it's actually a rosier picture than a full profile. It's important to understand that Theo Epstien is a Beane acolyte, and the whole point of Beane's theories is to win while making money. So is Theo going to put another 15 million on the books already knowing where the numbers are? My guess would be no, since he's smart enough to run the stats and see that Abreu is unlikely to net additional millions in revenue.

So this leaves the Angels who already have a 30 million operating deficit. Vladimir Guerrero is signed through 2009, Anderson through 2008, and Colon is on until 2007. Erstad is the fourth largest contract, and it expires at the end of the season, but it's only 8 million coming off the books. The Angels could make this move, but it could well push them to a 40 to 45 million a year operating loss, so it's a tentative interest at best. The Angels are the only team we're dealing with anymore, after concluding that the deal was far too rich for the Red Sox's blood.

By now we've all heard the deal the Angels offered for Tejada, Ervin Santana and Erick Aybar. Santana is believed to be an up-and-coming ace, and Aybar has hit well in the minors for the last few years. So would the Angels have offered this for Abreu?

Tejada - .328 / .380 / .515
Abreu - .282 / .428 / .439

Tejada - .284 / .341 / .480
Abreu - .301 / .412 / .507

Abreu is about 100 point better in OPS, but is two years older than Tejada, and plays in the outfield. Power hitting SS take precedence over OF for even money. Tejada has been first or second in SLG among SS every year but one since 2000 (including this year) so it doesn't get any better than this. I'd say that they come out roughly even, especially given Tejada's reputation as a clubhouse leader. So this is the other deal that the Phillies might have seen: Abreu for Aybar / E. Santana

So after all this muddling about, here's what we come out with. The only other deal on the table would have been from the Angels, and it would have pushed the Angels much further into the red. I'd estimates the chances of an Abreu-to-the-Angels at 25 percent. Every million the Phillies pay, the percentage goes up by 5.

It's been painfully obvious that the Phillies needed to rebuild from the ground up, and chose a new direction for the organization before they're trampled under the Marlins rookies and Mets superstars. Clearing Abreu gives them the chance to move in that direction. Could other trading partners have offered better parts? Yes, but they were less likely to actually pull the trigger on Abreu without a donation from the Phillies -- exactly what they were trying to avoid. This is one of the few cases when I feel that the phrase 'addition by subtraction' should be used.

So the Phillies could have done better, if they'd got lucky. As it was, they had to send off a man who was using them, running around town, and always takin' their last dollar. The thrill was gone, but now those Phillies can move on.

Sounds like blues to me, but it's no sad voice singing.


Something is Rotten in the State of Pennsylvania..

With my beloved Twins in the thick of the wild card race, I have to admit to paying more attention the Yankee’s acquisitions than usual. So when I read about Sunday’s trade (in the self congratulatory New York Times, no less) I about choked on my breakfast.

Why? Every possible reason why the Phillies might have made this trade crossed my mind. Although Phil’s GM Pat Gillick suffering from early onset Alzheimer’s seems like as likely an explanation as any, I decided ignore Gillick’s health and think the deal through logically.

Say you’re a major league GM at the trading deadline. Your team of chronic underachievers is out of contention (even considering that every team within striking distance of .500 seems to be in playoff contention). You correctly decide that it’s time to build for the future, and move to cash in some chips at the trading deadline.

Fortunately all is not lost, because you’ve got some chips to bargain with. You have a slugging outfielder, who’s relatively young and has a great on base percentage. You even have a couple of serviceable arms which are sure to go for far more than their worth, considering the lack of starting pitching on the trading block.

With so many junior circuit teams searching for another bat, things are looking good. Time to sit back and wait for the best offer to roll in, based on a combination of the trading partner’s willingness to pay some of the salary of the player in question, and offer some prospects with potential for the future.

That would make entirely too much sense. Gillick was probably as giddy as a schoolgirl after considering how many shiny new bats he could acquire from the Yankee clubhouse before deciding that it was just a bit too of steep. So he went for the next best thing: Yankee Prospects.

In trading away the most valuable player dealt at the deadline for a 27 year old LOOGY, a pair of raw Class A pitchers and an unremarkable 18 year old catcher, I finally got a very clear illustration of why the Phillies suck.

I’m aware that the Phil’s dumped a lot of salary here. I’m also aware that Abreu was massively overpaid. However, there is always a right way to dump salary and a wrong way. Many other teams would have been willing to take a large portion of Abreu’s salary while offering prospects. Naturally expecting blue chip prospects for a player with Abreu’s salary is a bit unrealistic. But the Phillies could have gotten somebody. Considering all of the teams in the thick of the playoff hunt, Abreu could have garnered a lot more, particularly when packaged with a serviceable starter like Lidle.

Brian Cashman must really know how to pick em’.


Ozzie Guillen, Man of Eloquence

Following a 3 game sweep that pulled the Twins even in the AL Central:

"For the first time in my life, I'm speechless."

Allow me to explain the only two scenarios that could result from such a monumental event.

  1. World Peace ensues. Dancing in the streets, Middle East accords, lion laying down with the lamb, etc, etc. You should try to run up your credit card bills before this happens, as all debt will be forgiven at the price of a hug. Unfortunately, in this new utopian climate, South Park, the Daily Show and other forms of satire will cease to exist.

  2. Chaos engulfs the earth. Without the demented example of Guillen to inspire us all to run in the opposite direction, rioting, mass lawlessness and conflict erupt. Go buy bottled water. Now. And gasoline. If you have access to a castle and moat, now would be the time to use it.

The Twins have become the most exciting team in baseball, and I couldn't be happier. Well, maybe if the A's weren't playing like two pounds of boiled yams. Well, go Twins anyway.


ESPN has a time machine

And no, I didn't just get ESPN Classic. This is a screen cap from the main MLB page over at the Worldwide Leader.

The only explanation is that ESPN has traveled forwards to Monday, July 25, 2011 and that all these stories are a harbinger of what is to come. It appears that the Yankees will sign a one-year contract extension with A Rod that will explode in controversy mid way through the season.

Most frightening of all is that Joe Morgan will still be conducting chat sessions.

On another tangent, it looks like the other shoe has dropped on the HR story and that the explanation is a sexual harassment charge. I'll leave all the commentary to Deadspin, but it does seem from everything I've read about ESPN anchors, this problem wasn't limited to HR. It could be worse than I would guess, but it seems like HR has been dragging his feet as the network runs itself into the ground. He was one of the few people left who seemed to have a brain left in his head, and maybe this was the excuse they needed to get rid of a malcontent (who was dead right about ESPN).

But now that ESPN has a time machine, it's only a matter of time before they go back and save HR from himself and rescue Peter Gammons from his stroke. They could save the A's from signing Loiaza, but their East Coast Bias is well documented.


Harold hears a WHAT?

I don't know, maybe he refused to do ads for the phone.

Maybe he called Kruk fat.

Maybe he called the network insane for letting postseason baseball slip through their fingers, and be broadcast by the loathsome Buck and McCarver duo.

But he must have done something.

I'm shocked that ESPN would dump someone so quickly, and without any warning signs. I'm sure over the next few weeks we'll find out the truth. I don't have any sources, so I'm waiting like the rest of you.

It is possible that something good could come out of this. HR could go over to FOX or TBS, or even to FSN if he were desperate. Maybe he'll get involved with a club or a college. I've always talked about how much I like Harold's broadcasting style, and the way he never gets in over his head is an admirable trait that I wish Joe Morgan possessed. BBTN won't be the same without him, and if anyone thinks that keeping Kruk over HR was a good move, they should be lobotomized (unless they already are).

The bad news keeps on coming folks. At this rate, next week I'll be reporting on Pete Rose's new tenure as Major League Manager, and the White Sox trading a bag of balls and a box of frozen steaks for Alfonso Sorriano. Said Bowden, "What, I was hungry?"


Who Broke the F#%*ing Mirror?

As if rampant steriod speculation weren't bad enough. As if Barry wasn't in danger of being in jail by the end of the season. As if Ozzie Guillen hadn't resigned his contract with the devil (substituting Jim Thome's soul for his own). As if the HGH story was about to blow wide open ...

As if all of these things haven't nearly killed the game of baseball, we get the worst possible news. Ever. Major League Baseball just signed two

seven-year TV deals — starting next year — with Fox and TBS. Fox stays the lead dog, retaining the World Series and one league championship series — down from showing both LCS in its current six-year deal. TBS gets a TV monopoly of all first-round playoff games, which have been aired in current deals by Fox and various cable TV channels, including ESPN.

Anyone who has ever watched a game on TBS or FOX knows that the next 7 years are going to be nigh intolerable. McCarver and Buck 26 times a season, and non-stop in the playoffs? The brain-dead lethargic announcing of the TBS broadcasting crew? If you were going to kill us, MLB, why didn't you just demand that Stephen A Smith and Stuart Scott announce every game?

Is ESPN insane? Really, are these people completely out of their minds? Or are we going to start seeing mini-camp footage in March and more coverage of the inane marathon that is the NBA postseason (IT'S A WINTER SPORT, WHY DOES IT LAST UNTIL JUNE!)

ESPN has the personnel, the channels and the advertising budget (see losses on ESPN DA PHONE!!)to do baseball right. One of the delights of the last few years has been when ESPN covered the first round of the playoffs and I got to listen to Harold Reynolds in the booth. There are many talented anchors on the network, and why ESPN goes out of it's way to promote those that act like jackasses is beyond me. This was a chance for ESPN to take back baseball, show weekly games on ABC with competent, entertaining broadcast crew and bring the national past time back to prominence.

It's days like this I thank god that we can get any game over the internet, and not a single one has Joe Buck or Tim McCarver announcing. Never has the sound of Joe "Billy Bean wrote Moneyball" Morgan's voice sounded so sweet.


Ozzie Guillen, Protector of the Race

Just when you thought that Ozzie might, might realize the trouble he will be in if he keeps this sort of insane crusade up, when you think someone might have convinced him to shut the hell up long enough to be distracted by the White Sox record, he goes and proves to you that he really hasn't a single shred of sense in his head.

Allow me to quote this article --

Dodgers first base coach Mariano Duncan considered Ozzie Guillen a trailblazer and role model, a Latino who rose through the coaching ranks to become a manager after his playing career ended.

But after Guillen's string of controversial comments this year, Duncan has revised his opinion. And he has a message for the flamboyant Chicago White Sox manager.

"Think before you talk, or you can really hurt yourself and hurt a lot of other people," Duncan said.

"He embarrassed every Latino player, coach and front-office person."

"Ozzie is a hero in his country [Venezuela] and a hero in my country," Duncan said. "We are here in America, where you can speak freely. But you don't say everything that comes to your mind. He has to learn to slow down a little bit. You have to learn how to close your mouth.

"Baseball needs people like Ozzie Guillen. He motivates people. He's a smart guy. But he's got to be smarter than that."

I include all this text to give you the full flavor of Duncan's comments. Sharp, but not inflamatory; harsh, but not wrong, and meant in genuine kindness. Now you all know I'm an old school Giants fan, and that I have trouble feeling for the Dodgers (although the addition of Nomar may be turning me into a softie). But this is great advice for anyone in any walk of life. We all, at times, react too quickly and make fools of ourselves. Hopefully we're big enough to appologize, and to try to learn from our mistakes.

But Ozzie Guillen?
"Mariano Duncan never will be a big-league manager and not because I ruined it for him, [but] because if Mariano Duncan thinks being a manager is making out the lineup and changing pitchers, he is real wrong," Guillen said.

"I opened a lot of doors for Latino managers, a lot, because of the way I am, things that happened in my career as a player, coach and manager.

"I think Mariano Duncan should be the last person that should have an opinion about it, because maybe that will be an excuse for him if he doesn't make it [as] a big-league manager."

Did he open doors; yes, a few that had already been loosened, or opened and forgotten by Felipe Alou, and Tony Pena. These men know that winning, or losing, with class and respect were the real ways to open doors. Acting like a spoiled child with no sense of right and wrong whatsoever does not open doors, no matter if you win 162 games a season.

But let's investigate the most ludicrous part of Guillen's statement: "I opened a lot of doors ... because of ... things that happened in my career as a player."

Really. Is that so? I can only think of one active player, offhand, that your playing career made possible.

Guess who?

Albert Pujols? Not exactly.

Alex Rodriguez? Wrong division.

Jose Contreras? Maybe as a manager. Right city, wrong league.

How about Neifi Perez?

Keep in mind folks, that Ozzie Guillen is one of the absolute worst hitters of all-time. Number 8, Worst All-Time Runs Created Above Average. The idea that Guillen's playing career helped any of his countrymen, or any Latinos, in baseball is demented. If anything, a Latino who played the way Ozzie did would only slam doors in the faces of talented Latinos.

Let's make sure that whenever Ozzie retires (or gets run out of the sport), the whole city of Chicago get together to throw him a tickertape parade. But then Neife Perez should be the worst hitter in the history of baseball. We'll all know who to thank, Ozzie.


Get Well Card

Everyone who cares about the sport of baseball already know this, and I'm sure I don't have anything original to say on the matter, but this is maybe the worst thing that could happen to baseball.

I took a hiatus from baseball during high school, in the period that the Yankees ruled the Earth. The Yankee dominance was the major reason for this, as was the general futility of my old hometown teams, the A's and Giants. When I came back around, Gammons was one of the regulars on Baseball Tonight, and I remember enjoying his performance immensely. He has made so many people on that program look so bad; his talent, wit and wisdom have outshone any person they've ever had in the studio. I know I've never met him, but I've always thought of him as a friend of mine. Best wishes Peter, and get well soon.


Ozzie Guillen, Lord of Tact

I don't even have the energy to comment on anything this stupid. See here

Well, I lied, I do have the energy. Why do we put up with this? Why do we give a man who responds in profanity laced sexual and racial slurs any respect at all?

You want to talk about retaliation Ozzie? You want to talk about protecting your own? I want to see every player from Venezuela throw at your sluggers. I want to see every pitcher with a gay brother, a lesbian sister drill your lineup over and over again, with his hardest fastball, until he gets tossed from the game. Then I want to see the
next reliever do the same, over and over until the entire team is thrown out, and they have to forefit the game. That's how you make a statement about toughness

That's team solidarity, and that's what you deserve.

And furthermore, I would have expected John Rocker to be dead by now, from a combination of a painkiller overdose and mechanical-bull riding injury.


Ozzie Guillen, Master of Subtlety

This is going to come as a shock to all our loyal readers out there, but someone hit A.J. Pierzynski twice in a game Wednesday.

I'll give you a moment to collect yourselves.

Now, it's not like Michael Barrett hit him. Vincente Padilla plunked him on the arm in his first two ABs. Now most teams might accept this as the sort of thing that happens to one of the most notorious loud mouths in the game. Most managers would understand that a player who was punched in the face in a game this year might be looking for trouble, and got what he deserved.

Padilla threw a three hitter against a dangerous offense, with seven strikeouts and nearly finished the game himself. Maybe this was meant to intimidate the Sox, maybe he was just fired up and wanted to show why the Rangers are leading their division mid-June. Maybe this was old-fashioned Nolan Ryan style hurling. Of all the managers in baseball, you would think Guillen would understand this sort of passion, and the smash-mouth style of play. After all, it's exactly the way he instructs his team to play. So did he?

No. Kind of had the opposite reation.
I tell you one thing, if Padilla hit me twice, right now I'd be in the hospital or I'd be dead. But I will fight. I will fight.
If you've ever wondered if Ozzie Guillen is crazy, you shouldn't be after hearing this. The man wants to turn the game of baseball into a street fight (which is, incidentally, the only reason you'd ever want A.J. Pierzynski on you team.) Makes me pine for the days when Pinella was blonde and Bowa was running the Phils into the ground.


God in the (Pitching) Machine

Not long after a rain delay of 101 minutes, Albert Pujols slipped on the plastic on-deck logo that had become dangerously slick while chasing Jose Reyes' foul pop near the Cardinals' dugout in the eighth inning.

Pujols said the thought crossed his mind that the logo was going to come into play just before he slipped. He landed hard on his back and was down for several minutes before deciding to stay in the game. This is, of course, now very, very old news. Pujols' back injury, Grimsley, and any number of other stories have taken center stage. But I want to point us back a few weeks to the ESPN story, replete with quotes from the man himself.

"Right before I called for the ball I knew I was going to step on it, I think, and I knew I was going to have problems with it," Pujols said. "Hey, it happens. I'm glad it only had to happen one time before they took it out."Pujols said his upper back took the brunt of the impact, and he also felt his neck pop, but somehow he avoided banging his head, too. "It could have been worse," he said. "I could have broken my neck, I could have broken my back. The good Lord was watching me."

Ever since this entire nation finally gave into it's crush on Albert, (most waiting until the MVP last season to make it official) information on his squeaky-clean life has been hard to avoid. I know about his charity work, his marriage and his history. This article isn't meant to take him to task, or to spread steroid rumors. Even though the proof on Bonds took my baseball innocence, I won't start a witch hunt with Albert (though I won't ignore the warning signs I've been seeing either).

I'm sure God didn't want any harm to come to Albert, but was he really 'watching over him?' When Americans troops are being killed and maimed in war? When tens of thousands in this country go hungry and homeless every night? Sure, he's a good guy, and you might as well call him the Ned Flanders of baseball, (chiseled upper body, Churchy McChurch) but we need to stop indulging atheletes who think that God cares about touchdowns, home runs, strikeouts and freethrows. God has better things to do than watch baseball.


Twins Stadium Chaos (Part 2.5)

We're on the final debate for the bill in the Senate. Members will make their final comments, and after that, we head to a full vote.

It was surprising that the amendments we not more controvertial. Of those that passed, one banned smoking on both stadiums, two were purely technical, and the final one dealt with a study of the impact that the convention center bundled with the Vikings stadium would have on comparable facilities around the metro. No one tried to split the stadiums, pull the referendum, or tack something onto the bill and kill it.

Senator Marty would be in good company amongst the writers on the Hardball Times (and elsewhere online) who question the sanity of those who advocate no public funding of stadiums. He offered an amendment that failed that would have, well, I'll just copy over the thrust of it:

"It is further found and declared that when public funds are expended for professional sports facilities, taxpayers are subsidizing a private business venture and the public deserves to receive the financial gains from its portion of the funds invested."

The final passage vote is up right now, and it squeaked by at 34 to 32. This doesn't mean the fun is over though, because now we move to conference committee and try to craft a bill that will pass both bodies and get past the Governor. There's a long way to go, but for those of us sick of watching baseball inside of that concrete monstrosity, this allows for that possibility sometime in the not too distant future.

Updates as they hit, from the Capitol.

Twins Stadium Chaos (Part 2.01)

The Twins Stadium bill has officially hit the floor, in the form that includes a retractable roof, a Vikings stadium and entertainment complex, transit funding and it's almost all paid for by a half-cent sales tax increase on the seven county Minneapolis / St. Paul area, which would have to pass a referendum.

I'll update as I can with pertinent amendments and votes. Stay tuned.


Twins Stadium Chaos (Part 1.5)

While I reported on Tuesday the 2nd of May that the Senate could likely have passed the Twins / Vikings bill on Wednesday the 3rd, they proved how unpredictable they really are, declining to take the bill before the end of the week. Our best information is that there will be a full vote on the floor on Monday, but as with everything here, it's up for negotiation.

The Senate also has the clock to contend with. The last possible day the Senate can meet is the 22nd of May, and due to the way the constitution for the Senate operates, the last day it's possible to pass legislation is the 21st of May. That's precious little time to pass the bill off the Senate floor, reconcile the radically different Senate bill with the House bill, and craft a piece of legislation that will pass a House body with a two seat (out of 134) Republican majority, a Senate body with a nine seat (out of 67) DFL majority, and a Republican Govenor who signed a pledge not to raise taxes.

Worst of all, if these don't pass this year, the cost is going to jump which might require restructuring the deal, and the earliest it could come up again is January 2007, when the legislation would have to be reintroduced and start the process from the very begining.

So the most I can say at this point is that on Monday we'll know more, and hopefully be a step closer to moving the Twins out of the worst stadium in baseball. Expect a full update after we get out Monday. Keep your fingers crossed.


Twins Stadium Chaos (Part 1)

Well, as a few of you loyal readers might know, I worked in the Minnesota Senate last year, and I'm back again, having moved up a few floors. We've had a lot of movement on the Twins stadium this session, and a week ago it looked like it was a done deal.

But a little background before I go too far. The original Twins Stadium bill incorporated both private and public funding, the bulk of of the funding coming from a 0.15 percent sales tax on Hennepin county. As you can imagine, both those for the stadium and against it are A) incredibly passionate and B) almost always uninformed about the relevant economic theories. There are any number of sites where you can read commentary and analysis on how ballparks can be funded, my personal favorite being the Business of Baseball report at The Hardball Times. I don't have anything blazingly original to say on that subject; I haven't discovered a secret revenue stream that ballparks create; I haven't found some seedy loophole in the negotiations. But what I can give you is an inside look on the process by which the State of Minnesota is attmpeting to pass this controvertial bill.

Governor Tim Pawlenty, who is notorious for his "no new taxes" pledge had agreed to sign the bill into law. His lack of public profile on this issue has been a matter of speculation, but the safest bet seems to be that he wants to avoid this controversy so close to his run for reelection. It was then assumed widely that once the bill passed the House on April 26th, it would sail through the Senate and the Twins would no longer be doomed to the worst stadium in all baseball.

No one saw it coming. Taxes started hearing all three stadium bills (U of Minnesota Gophers Football, Minnesota Twins and Minnesota Vikings) on the 27th and that night in committee, everything changed. The Chair of the Tax Committee, Senator Pogemiller, announced a plan to fund the Twins Stadium with a retractable roof (which was not included in the original bill), the Vikings Stadium and various transit and highway projects with a seven county half-cent sales tax increase. The author of the original Senate Bill, Senator Steve Kelley, agreed to the amendment. This has not yet left taxes, and hasn't even been voted on, due to procedural technicalities (The Vikings bill is still in another committee, so it cannot be amended into the Twins bill).

This easily trumped the original controversey over whether or not there would be a referendum on the 0.15 sales tax increase in Hennepin county. This, however, is still an issue, as the Senate Tax Committee voted unanimously in support of a public referendum in their May 1st meeting.

Throughout the day on May 2nd, there actions were taken that further muddied the waters. After the Senate had finished everything on its slate, Senator Dean Johnson moved that the Senate go into recess rather than adjourning until the next day, which was what everyone expected. He said that the Senate would reconvene after a newly declared meeting of the Rules Committee, which he chairs.

We spent the rest of that day in speculation. Would Rules add or remove a member to the Tax Committee to break the deadlock? Would they take the bill from the Tax Committee and hear it themselves? Would it die in committee, or on a vote on the floor of the Senate.

Well, Rules did remove the bill from the Tax Committee, a version that included only funding for the Twins and had a .15 percent sales tax for Hennepin County. After that it was immediately ammended to take the Quasimodo-like form we'd seen in takes; a half-cent from the seven county metro area for the Twins and Vikings (and transit funding once both projects were paid for). The vote in committee was close, but still had breathing room. The action on the floor was a different story.

The simple procedure of adopting a committee report, an action that occurs any time a bill moves from one committee to another, turned into a firefight. If this would have failed, the bill would have gone back to the deadlock in the Tax COmmittee. The debate was fierce, with call for the subject of the vote to be clearly stated by Senator Johnson so that the media and the people of Minnesota could "know what he was up to." There were pleas for funding for homelessness, health care and education by Senators from both sides of the aisle. In the end, it survived on a 33 to 29 vote, with a number of Senators asking to be excused.

The Senate still wasn't finished. Senator Johnson recessed the Senate, and called the Rules Committee to reconvene "immediately after" recess. The Rules Committee then voted to send the new Twins / Vikings bill to the floor of the Senate, and as soon as that was done, the Rules Committee adjourned and Johnson reconvened the full Senate. Every bill requires a 'second reading,' basically the second time that a bill is formally recognized by the Senate, when it has cleared all necessary committees. This means that the bill could be voted on as soon as tomorrow.

This morning, no one thought the Twins stadium would even be voted on in Taxes, and now this bill could pass the Senate in 12 hours time. Even if it does pass, however, this story is by no means over; the Senate bill differs significantly from the House bill, and from what the Governor had promised to sign.

We've got a long way to go, sports fans, so stay tuned.


Your Major League Baseball ERA Leaders (Circa 1992)

We're going to ignore John Thompson for a second (hell, why not all season while we're at it) and look at the ERA leaders this season on April 23.

1. Greg Maddux (back in Chicago) - 0.99
2. Some pitcher (in Atlanta, ironic, isn't it?) - something inbetween, just under 1.38
3. Tom Glavine (in New York) - 1.38

Who in their right mind would have guessed this was possible at any point this season? Even if you were told you had to pick one starter in Chicage and one starter in New York City, who would have gone for Mad Dog and his old partner in crime in Atlanta? I had Maddux on my fantasy team for the first three starts of the season and reluctantly parted with him only to fill the gaping holes in my bullpen. It's amazing that both of these pitchers, well beyond their physical prime, are still throwing as well as they ever have.

I know that Glavine had a middling start yesterday, and his ERA has climbed to (gasp) 2.78, but that through one tenth of the season, these two were the best the majors had to offer.

Joe Morgan was asked about what Maddux's legacy should be, in comparison to the greatest pitchers of all-time, and in typical Joe Morgan fashion, he hemmed and hawed himself into incoherence. He would not say that Maddux was as good as, say, Kofax, but he said that he should go down as "one of the elite." For once, you can accuse Joe Morgan of an understatement.


ESPN Watch: Position Upgrade

The first thing I noticed while watching Opening Day on ESPN was the new graphics and transitions for baseball. They've dumped the neon red and blue scheme that matched the SportsCenter set and the new look incorporates an almost cubist simplification of elements of the field and card houses from vintage baseball cards. They've also dropped the segements promoting bands that have some afinity for (but no understanding of) baseball. The crew has also done a wonderful job of showing relevant archived clips throughout the game.

I recently read The Last Nine Innings, which at points talked about using new camera angles and perspectives to enhance enjoyment of the game while at the same time giving a clearer perspective of what's really happeneing. With all due respect, I don't really care if I see Orlando Cabrera repositioning himself for a weak groundout when Bartolo Colon throws a slider down and away. That in no way enhances my baseball experience. But if I understand the way that the game of today connects to the mythic moments I was too young to have seen, I feel connected with them, and that's why we really watch baseball; to feel a connection to a noble sport.

I'm going to do something you readers have rarely seen, laud ESPN. Congratulations for refining a good broadcast into a great one. With changes like this, and K Zone in years previous, you've set a new standard that all baseball broadcasts will be measured by.


ESPN Watch: Morgan & Bonds (sounds like a brokerage)

It was truly depressing watching Bonds in the Giants win last night. His legs are linguini, and he's begining to look like McGwire in his last season, when his power disappeared almost overnight. We've lost something from the game of baseball, and even though it was chemically fueled. It's hard to know what to think of anything over the last ten years. Bonds downfall makes us realize what he could have looked like for the last three years, and what so many other players would have looked like too. I won't fill this blog with the sort of speculation that has become so popular, who did / who didn't, but I've found myself watching games this season, seeing home runs and saying to myself "He used." One shot in particular at PetCo from an aging slugger made me realize that the sport is suspect, especially without testing for HGH. At least the suspensions are stiff enough to put some real fear into players (I hope).

Last night on the Sunday Night Baseball telecast, Joe Morgan unveiled what we all hope will be his last creative addition to baseball broadcasting. Joe Morgan's Swing Analyzer, complete with cheesy graphics and far, far too much analysis of something that people either already understand, or never will. It's not quite as bad as the puppet baseballs that FOX used last year, but it's an excuse to let Joe Morgan talk more (which we can all live without). If someone on the ESPN staff has to do deeper analysis, why can't it be Gammons, who sits on his ass for two hours at the game and talks for about fiveminutes. I want Gammons in that booth, or at least Harold Reynolds.

However, it's amazing how Tim McCarver makes Joe Morgan look like Edward R. Murrow. Here's hoping that ESPN gets the rights to the World Series after FOX's contract runs out.


Incoherent Overreaction Time

Well, we're less than a month into the season, but the wild speculation over which teams are irretrievably broken has begun.

From Sports Illustrated: Early prognosis on MLB's slow starters by John Donovan

Nobody wants to fall out of bed like the Rangers have done this April. Nobody wants to wake up one morning, a week into a ridiculously long and impossibly arduous baseball season, and look into the ugly mug of a 1-6 record, like the Phillies have been forced to do.

Now, one and six is not good, but given the inconsistency of starting pitchers early in the season, there isn't much cause for worry. At one point last season, the World Series Champion White Sox (writing that just makes me feel dirty) had a 3 and 6 stretch. Baseball is a game of averages, and while a well timed streak can do wonders, we don't have to worry about every little game.

I've seen articles on ESPN in the same vein, and in print in the Sporting News and our local daily, the Star Tribune. I would like to enact a moratorium on predictions from a sample size of less than 20 games. By that time, a rotation has gone around a few times, players have settled in as much as they're going to, and we can meaningfully look at what their performance signifies for the success of the team. Fellow bloggers, join mean in signing your handle in the comments and if I recieve enough signatures, I will send them to the Congressional committee investigating steroid use, to see if they can help our noble cause.

Honestly, the Phils do have some warning signs, but they're not surprises. It's the same problems they've had for years, and they've become so common as to no longer merrit doomsday predictions and crazy scenarios that involve a Pete Rose comeback.

Although he could hit in the clutch.


Twins Home Opener

Despite the matchup of Danny Haren, one of Oakland's new "Big Five" (a phrase I just coined) and Brad Radke, a renowned control expert, last night's game was hardly a pitchers duel. 13 runs, 19 hits and both totals would have been higher if not for so good leather work by both teams.

Radke breezed through the first with 2 strikeouts, but the A's three runs in the second muted the sellout crowd (just shy of 49,000), touched off by a screaming homer from Chavez. The A's tacked on one more in the fourth before the Twins rallied. A Morneau strikeout was the only break in a string of 7 straight hits that brought in 6 runs. Danny "Lost-In-Translation" Batista knocked one out with two men on
and two outs in that rally for his second HR of the year.

The Twins added insurance in the form of a Morneau homer, which came in handy after Chavez's second home run of the night, closing the gap to 7-6. This was as close as Oakland would get, wasting a chance in the ninth to take advantage of a uncharacteristically wild Joe Nathan. His ball to strike numbers don't look particularly bad, but he looked very rusty. In a one run game, the worst thing a closer can do is issue a walk. Never give the other team a chance to win the game with one swing.

It was great to see professional baseball again, but I was once again reminded of how truly pathetic the Metrodome is as a baseball stadium. Here's hoping that the stadium deal for the Twins makes it through the legislature. Maybe by the time I've gotten out of this city, they'll have a passable park. That's the way it goes, I guess. Bad calls have always been part of the game.


Fans amuse me. You can have a stadium of 50,000, of which maybe 1,000 have a good enough view to judge a pitch as a strike or a ball. Still on any pitch that isn't in the dirt on a 2 strike count, everyone either sighs or boos. It's just funny to me.


Righty's Fantasy Team: 4/5/2006

I was drafted to fill the last spot in the fantasy baseball league for the Minnesota Senate. You can all follow along with my season in periodic posts. Here's the team in it's current form.

Position Players

B. Molina - (Tor - C)

V. Martínez - (Cle - C)

C. Delgado - (NYM - 1B)

M. Ellis - (Oak - 2B, SS)

D. Wright - (NYM - 3B)

J. Peralta - (Cle - SS)

G. Atkins - (Col - 3B)

B. Hall - (Mil - 2B, 3B, SS)

J. Damon - (NYY - OF)

C. Crisp - (Bos - OF)

J. Gomes - (TB - OF)

B. Wilkerson - (Tex - 1B, OF)

M. Kotsay - (Oak - OF)

Starting Pitchers

C. Zambrano - (ChC - SP)

J. Schmidt - (SF - SP)

B. Zito - (Oak - SP)

D. Haren - (Oak - SP)

J. Blanton - (Oak - SP)

B. Webb - (Ari - SP)

L. Hernández - (Was - SP)

G. Maddux - (ChC - SP)

S. Baker - (Min - SP)

Relief Pitchers

K. Farnsworth - (NYY - RP)

K. Calero - (Oak - RP)

D. Wheeler - (Hou - SP)

It's a ten team league, and I had the last spot, so I had to select two players immediately after one another, and then wait for 18 other picks to act again. I missed out on the early closer run, so I decided to draft strong starters.

Monday was the first day of our season, and I had a horrible day. Zito made it only one and a third, Zambrano went out early, Schmidt did not throw well, and neither Webb nor Livan won, though pitching well. But yesterday my hitters rebounded, and I moved up four spots into a solid fifth.

Expect some real commentary later on in the week, and next week a report on the Twins home opener, which I am attending. Until next time, sports fans.


"The fault, Dear Brutus..."

At the Confines, we've all weighed in on the Bonds issue. You readers know where we stand, and you're aware that I said I wanted proof. That proof has been plastered across the front page of every sports section of every paper in the country. The only possible exceptions are here in Minneapolis and St. Paul where we're mourning a fatal tragedy, not one of character.

I still see genuis in his swing; I still watch his at-bats in rapt attention, but something has changed. I'd held on to my "shadow of a doubt" arguments, and now that they're gone, I don't know what to think of him.

The media blitz has been brutal, and while I agree that the truth needs to be told, I have nothing but contempt for the writers who used this man as a meal ticket for the last five seasons, only to tear him apart now for the sake of a story. Let's be honest, this isn't about the sanctity of baseball, or we would have seen these sorts of accusations and stories in the press during the McGwire / Sosa race. This isn't about the protection of the most unreachable record in all of sports, all-time home runs, or we wouldn't have seen all the fanfare for the tens of milestones Barry has passed in the last few seasons. And this most certianly isn't about a feeling of betrayal, since no one seem to be hurt that this went on.

This is about revenge. Not necessarily the books themselves, although I reserve the right to comment after I have a chance to look at them myself. Most of the articles written are knife-twisting character assassinations. The venom and bile that has been unleashed in print and on the web could fuel a chemical weapons plant. How they've all forgotten that none of them published a damn word detailing steroid use until Jose Canseco wrote a book. As I think the Texas Rangers must have said many times, if we're depending on Jose Canseco, we're in real trouble. The writers were even slower and tamer than Congress in demanding answers from players on the steroid issue. But now they're shocked and appalled by Bonds, damning him as the worst cheat in baseball since the Black Sox. He may go down in history more hated than Pete Rose.

When I look at this, I don't see a chance for revenge against a star who, true, was frosty and combattive in his dealings with the press. I see Shakespearian tragedy. Bonds was a man with enormous talent, a true five-tool player who had already accomplished amazing things. But when he saw the media fall in love with Sammy and Mark, he wanted a piece. He was a better player, a better athlete, fielder, base stealer, runner and thrower. The only thing he wasn't better at was hitting home runs. He's the only 400/400 player in history, and furthermore, the only 500/500 player in history. But those records weren't enough for him.

I thought this article put it all nicely into perspective. Bonds wanted to be the media darling so bad that he was willing to radically chemically alter his body to do so, but it was no worse than McGwire, or Giambi, or Palmiero. He did cheat, but Caminiti put the bar at 75 percent of players. He was not alone. Bonds' competitive drive, that had made him so great was the same thing that brought him down in the end. It's reminiscent of Henry Bolingbroke in Richard II, when Bolingbroke kills and deposes a good king over a matter of pride and percieved injustice. Barry played the game brilliantly for 16 seasons, with nothing more that mortal blood in his veins, and a love of the game in his heart. It was his love for himself and how he played the game that led him away from that. That hubris is classical tragic flaw, and while such subects are treated with great tenderness and understanding by Shakespeare, they are not by mainstream sports writers. 'Tis a pity.

There are a few open-minded articles out there, but most reporters are having a field day, trotting out the articles they've worked on for years, titled "F@*% Barry Bonds (all the way to the bank)." Look, I don't think this guy is a hero, or even a particularly nice person. But I don't think he's the poster child for steroid abuse, and I don't think assassinating him in print is a noble act by the press. The MLB, the Player's Association, the press and the fans covered their eyes and ears. It should have been clear to us years ago, but no one wanted to pull back the curtain.

We now look down on Bonds for taking the easy way out, but didn't we all? His fault lies in himself, as ours do in ourselves. We entered into a confederacy of ignorance with the press and the MLB, that has been falling away bit by bit for the last few years. His fault, and ours, lie not in the stars, they are in ourselves.

You may not believe it, but I didn't realize that this post would go up on the Ides of March when I decided on the title. However, I will end on a note that is decidedly less than Shakespearian. There was a Simpsons episode a few years back where Bart takes a drug for ADD and discovers a conspiracy orchestrted by Major League Baseball. Mark McGwire shows up to placate the townspeople and asks them the following question:

"Do you want to know the terrifying truth, or do you want to see me sock a few dingers?"

Now we all know the answer to that question.


Quick Notes: March 3, 2006

Best Line by a writer this week - from The Hardball Times Offseason Rankings: Middle Third by Ben Jacobs

The only hope for Cubs fans is that Dusty Baker finally realizes that Perez isn't any good, which basically means there's no hope for Cubs fans.

Best Line by a writer last week - from A's Nation The Numbers Game by Blez

11,110: The number of times that the term Moneyball will be used in reference to Billy Beane throughout the season. Seriously, this book is going to be etched on Billy's tombstone.

11,109: The number of times people will misunderstand the general theme of the book.

11,108: The number of times it will be Joe Morgan.

My guess for the other time? Kruk.

Best Line by a player - Mike Mussina, on the DH

"When I lose something off my fastball, am I allowed to pitch from five feet closer?"

Best Award of the week - Sportszilla, Athelete Most Likely to Wind up on a Reality Show

If it wasn’t for the fact Rickey’s been hanging around independent minor league teams, Rickey would have probably already have made an appearance. Rickey can’t get enough of Rickey. That’s why Rickey will one day realize Rickey deserves to be beyond baseball and try Rickey’s hand on TV. Rickey will appear on “Celebrity Survivor: Sri Lanka” just to show the world that a 50 something year old Rickey is more in shape than a 27 year old Sasha Cohen. Rickey will tell her Rickey doesn’t fall on the big stage and will show her Rickey’s World Series rings to prove it. Rickey will win because Rickey is patient and will wait out all the competitors. Rickey will lull them to sleep with uninspired play, then turn it on and show them all Rickey’s boss. Then Rickey will do talk shows and say how if Rickey can win on Survivor, Rickey still deserves to be playing major league baseball. And sadly, since multiple teams will probably be starting a guy with on base percentage around .310, Rickey will be right.

Just a few random thoughts.

People really, really hate Barry Bonds (which he makes very easy to do). The bile that has leeched out of ESPN online in the last few weeks has been blacker and more poisonous that the fluids running through Dick Cheney's heart. Independent of anything else, we've been taught since we were children that is is not acceptable to root for players to be hurt, and this is a horrible message to be delivering to our kids. The steriod message is also bad, but I'm still one of those people who wants incontrovertible proof, and I haven't seen it yet. This is part of a larger trend of the public and sportswriters pressuring aging atheletes to retire. Rickey, above, is another, and the same thing happened to Jerry Rice. Just let these guys play; we owe them that much for everything they've given us.

The WBC is not going to catch on unless ESPN and MLB do a better job of promotion. There need to be team profiles, and for the love of god, announcers on every game. I watched the Korea / China Taipei matchup on MLB.com and there wasn't any commentary at all, not even in Mandarin (or whatever other language it would have been in). If these aren't fixed next year, I won't bother watching anything but the televised games.

Spring Training coverage makes breakfast fun again. I catch some of the rerun in the morning and it's so nice to see the boys of summer gearing up. One month to go.


Finding in Favor of the MLB: Part 1

In the last two weeks, there have been two major court decisions that have found in favor of the Minnesota Twins and the General Area of Southern California and Orange County Angels. Both of htese cases have huge ramafications for these teams, and the Angels case may resonate throughout baseball.

I'll take a look at the Twins case in the first installment. The Twins ruling looks bad for the future of Minnesota Baseball, at least at face value. Hennepin County District Judge Charles Porter freed the Twins from any obligations to the Metrodome, meaning that the team could move to another stadium as their heart desires. However, since there is no party of city known to be wooing the Twins, and the market for relocation is incredibly weak (despite what the Marlins would like the Florida legislature to believe), what this really does is bring the Twins stadium issue to the forefront. The Gophers and especially the Vikings have dominated the stadium discussion, and this gives the Twins a real opportunity to resurrect the talks that ran out of time in the government shutdown that took place last session.

I'd like to take a second and talk about why I feel it's more important, at an empirical level, the the Twins get a new stadium. The Twins suffer from low attendance and this problem affects them for each one of their 81 home games. The Vikings and Gophers have very high attendance, spurred by alumni and rabid fans and by the very limited number of games they play. This limited supply ensures that there is always enough demand for high ticket revenues.

It also seems to me that while baseball attendance is affected by winning (see here, here, and here) it is also affected by amenities, style and ballpark attractiveness. When spent my summers in the Bay Area, all things being equal, I would rather have gone to Pac Bell / SBC / AT&T Park than Network Associates / McAfee Coliseum simply because it was a much nicer ballpark. I also feel like a brand new ballpark here could bring in casual fans who want to find a novel activity for the evening (or afternoon). But a domed, ancient concrete baseball stadium isn't much of a draw. Without the mosquitos, the summers in Minneapolis are wonderful, and let's face it, we all know that baseball was meant to be played outdoors.

The Brewers have averaged over 2 million a year since they started playing at Miller Park, and it is a wonderful park to watch a game in. The last time they had any season as high in attendance was in 1992 when they went 92-70 and finished 4 games behind Toronto for the Al East crown. Their winning percentage in the five seasons in Miller is .4185. So by winning only about 40 % of their games, a team in a city of about 600,000 can draw 2,150,791 people in a year. However, the Twins, who have a wining percentage of almost .550 and draw from a combined Minneapolis and St Paul population of about 655,000.

Let's recap that for those of you in the cheap seats. Positive things will be in bold, negative in italics. The Brewers pull in more fans from a smaller city while they win fewer games. The Twins pull in fewer fans from a larger city-area while winning more games (and making the playoffs THREE STREAIGHT YEARS).

Is there that much of a cultural distance between Minnesota and Wisconsin? Do Milwaukee and the Twin Cities differ that greatly in love of baseball? My guess would be no. Maybe we can call this an entirely new kind of ballpark effect.

Stay tuned for part two, and the naming controversy in So Cal. T-minus 48 days and counting.


ESPN Watch: Central Controversy

After this article, I swear I'll write about something other than ESPN for awhile. However, they've managed to get it all wrong again. Jerry Crasnick published an article yesterday about who he saw as the two surprise teams this year. The Brewers and the Twins. Now I actually think his comments on the Brewers were well thought out, and there is some evidence to suggest that they could be good enough to pick up a Wild Card berth. The Astros lost a piece or two, and will need another starter to stay in contention. The Cubs always find a way to blow it, and the Reds and Pirates suffer from a complete lack of an organizational strategy, and the West and East in the NL haven't been very good, as a whole recently.

But the Twins? The Twins would be a surprise to contend in the AL Central? The Twins who won the division three years running (2002 to 2004)? The twins who added a .313/.348/.489 slugger and a .301/.391/.374 leadoff man? By the way, only three regulars in the offense posted any one stat better than White, and none posted a higher overall line (Mauer and LeCroy had better OBP, Hunter had a slightly higher SLG), and White's one liability, his defense, is mitigated by the fact that he will be playing as a DH. Castillo's OBP is easily higher than any Twin last year, and his career average for SB is almost double the highest Twin total. True, they did lose Jacque Jones, but he hit .249/.319/.438 last season and hit 254/.315/.427 the year before. Mauer should also be better than he was last season, with men on base to drive in and protection behind him in the order. All the intentional walks for Mauer should go down too. Opposing teams took the bat out of his hands last year, knowing he was the only real power threat on the team. Now that he should have more opportunities to hit in situations where the pressure is on the pitcher, he could do some damage.

And let's not forget the 2004 AL Cy Young winner (who was damn close this season as well) and his backup Radke. This is a 1-2 punch that most teams would kill to have. The bullpen, even with the loss of Romero, is rock solid, and should remain so for a long time.

So, no, the Twins don't surprise me, and I think they have an excellent shot to win the AL Central. When you take into account that the White Sox had 36 one-run victories in the regular season (over 36 % of their wins), and if you believe in the Bill James wisdom on one-run games (that they're luck), they don't look that dominant. They're dangerous, as are the Indians, but the Sox aren't the juggernauts they're made out to be, and the Indians didn't do enough to improve. I expect to see a three horse race, and if the Twins come out on top, well, I wouldn't be surprised.


ESPN Watch: More of the same

Don't get me wrong, there is a good deal of accurate commentary on ESPN, but at times they simply don't bother to take enough time to do any real analysis. Sure, Gammons might be doing something, but whatever he's writing is trapped behind the impenetrable curtain of Insider. Another article out today exhibits this almost complete lack of critical thought. Most of Sean McAdam's column (found here) was well written, but in his analysis of the NL West, he seems to have lost it. I've reproduced the worst paragraph here.

The Dodgers (Rafael Furcal, Nomar Garciaparra and Danys Baez) have made great strides and the Giants figure to be more of a factor with Barry Bonds healthier. Then there are the Diamondbacks, who continue to take steps back to contention.

Half true, complete understatement, and completely false.

The Dodgers have taken steps to improve, but I don't really think that losing Milton Bradley, adding a huge injury risk in Nomar and adding Dany Baez are completely offset by acquiring Furcal. They got better, but not much.

The Giants have a solid number two behind Schmidt, for the first time in memory, Bonds proved last season that he was healthy enough to keep playing like himself (see his HR at RFK if you doubt this), and Randy Winn seems to have had a renaissance. The Giants will win significantly more games than last year; count on it.

The Diamondbacks made a trade to make Vazquez happy, and picked up a pitcher who isn't much better, or much worse. But more to the point, I have the two most important statistics from the D'Backs 2005 campaign: 696 runs scored, 856 runs allowed. Using the Pythagorean Win Theorem, they had a predicted winning percentage of less than 40 %, which roughly equates to 64 wins. The Padres, by the way, were at 684 RS and 726 RA. Statistical anomalies do not persist season after season, and the snakes play the way they did last season, they could rival the Rockies for last in the West.

Just doing my part to keep your heads on straight, Confines readers. With the season ramping up, and the Classic less than two months away, expect more in the way of articles, especially with the return of Aho from overseas. Just 54 days until Opening Day.