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.