Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Barry Bonds wore what???

"Reports are that Barry Bonds arrived at Giants camp today in a dark green polo shirt. More on this riveting story as it unfolds in this wildly interesting saga."
-Sunday's Blog

So I'm guessing Barry Bonds saw that, and said, "If that idiot wants to make sarcastic wisecracks, I'll give him something actually worth talking about. That'll show 'em." Why else would he have dressed up like Paula Abdul in a parody of American Idol at Giants camp? For those who haven't yet heard the story, neither you nor I is on an acid trip - the Giants did an American Idol type thing for charity, with Jeff Fassero as Simon, Ray Durham as Randy Jackson, and Bonds in drag as Paula Abdul. Sounds like fun. Damn that Bonds - acting all surly and annoying last week and then going out and having a sense of humor. How dare he be a complex, multi-dimensional human being who can't be pigeonholed conviently and labeled simply as a "jerk," as could a fictional character. Some nerve.

Hot stove season may be over, but second guessing general managers is acceptable all year long! So with that, how about the two insane contract extensions handed out today? While we're on the Giants, let's do them first. Randy Winn gets 3 years, $23.25 mil from SF. Somebody tell Brian Sabean that while Randy Winn is 31 and therefore younger than everybody on that team except the batboy, he's not exactly a youngster by normal baseball team standards. He's also not that good a player. I'm not saying he isn't good, I think most baseball fans like what Winn brings to a team. But he's not $8 mil a year good, I don't care what he hit for the Giants in the two months since being traded from the M's. And you need to factor in the annual decline from being on the wrong side of 30. Jesus the Giants are so old. I feel like one day John McGraw is gonna come back from the dead to manage that team and nothing will seem out of place.

The Pirates gave Jack Wilson a 3 year, $20 mil extension. Yeah, the same Jack Wilson who doesn't get on base, has no power, just adequate speed, and defense that's good but not spectacular. By contrast, Jason Bay got a 4 year, $18 mil extension a few months ago. That was smart. This wasn't. Just insert here the standard rant about small market teams making their situations worse by not having a clue, that will save us all a lot of time.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Team Puerto Rico

I watched a decent amount of TV today, and watched no fewer than three clip show episodes. Friends, Golden Girls, and the Seinfeld finale (which I think counts as a clip show). That's crap. Also, is it a problem that I eschewed the 101 hottest women in Hollywood to watch a bunch of 60 year old women make wisecracks at each other?

Puerto Rico announced its roster today for the WBC. They're a good team, but not as good as I thought they'd be. Their starters are basically Javier Vazquez and Joel Piniero, they have some strong relievers, and a bunch of pitchers I haven't even heard of. They're also not all that strong in the IF. On paper, I'd put them way behind the US and behind the Dominican Republic. But, multiple cliche alert - "baseball is a funny game," and "anything can happen in a short series," and "I'm sorry, but I'm not giving you anything until we get the paternity test results," - wait, that last one got misplaced, sorry about that. Anyway, point is, who knows what will happen, but I was suprised that Puerto Rico can't produce a team as strong as the Domican Republic.

Of course, I don't really give a damn.

Sunday, February 26, 2006


Don Knotts passed away today. I'll miss Barney Fife/Mr. Furley, but not as much as Andy Griffith, who told this to the AP: "I loved him very much. We had a long and wonderful life together." Uhhhh....? Just what the hell was going on in Mayberry anyway?

Got our Mets tickets today. Opening day, Mets-Yankees, and August 8th, which is Mike Piazza Triumphant Return Night. We got great seats; we'll be in excellent position to wave to the passengers on the Jet Blue flights ten feet over our heads. I didn't know there was a row T in the Shea upper deck, but you learn something new every day. The first Mets fan started camping out at Shea on Tuesday. That's what we call, "demented." I can see camping out. But you don't get extra fan points for wasting needless effort on lunacy. You'll still be in line for any seats you want if you come on Saturday night. And that would show plenty of devotion. But the guy who was first got his picture taken with Howard Johnson, Tim Teufel, Sid Fernandez, Mookie Wilson, and, most importantly, Mr. Met, so I guess it was worth it for him.

Kenny Williams had some harsh words directed at Frank Thomas. Thomas criticized the White Sox handling of his free agency, and Williams has now said, ""If he was any kind of a man, he would quit talking about things in the paper and return a phone call or come knock on someone's door. If I had the kind of problems evidently he had with me, I would go knock on his door...We don't miss his attitude. We don't miss the whining. We don't miss it. Good riddance. See you later." Somebody tell Williams that his effort is appreciated, but I think he's too old to be cast on the Real World/Road Rules Challenge, so while MTV may have taken notice of his audition, there's little they can do. Very mature all around folks. Ozzie Guillen, for his part, said, "I won't put my nose in something above me," Guillen said. "He never mentioned my name and if you don't mention my name, I try to stay away from every part of the conversation." Yeah. Tell the folks over at Lack of Self Awareness Monthly that they have a cover man for the next issue.

CBS Sportsline has a bizzaro roto draft - the idea being to assemble the worst team possible. This is a great idea both as an article and as an actual league to create with friends, and I can't believe I haven't seen it before. Check it out here. http://www.sportsline.com/mlb/fantasy/story/9265254

Reports are that Barry Bonds arrived at Giants camp today in a dark green polo shirt. More on this riveting story as it unfolds in this wildly interesting saga.

Brian Lawrence and Kip Wells are both due to miss significant portions of the season with injuries. This is tough for the Pirates, as it may cost them a chance at winning 75 games this year. Wells has gotten worse each of the last 2 seasons, and one has to wonder if he really is the Pirates' future anyway. As for Lawrence, he wasn't assured of a spot in the Nationals rotation, although the more options the better. Maybe Frank Robinson should put Lawrence in his doghouse now and get that out of the way so that Lawrence can be out of it when he comes back later in the year.

Saturday, February 25, 2006


Mets single game tickets go on sale Sunday at 9 am. I will wake up Sunday at about 8:54, just enough time to slap myself around, clear my throat, and get on the phone/internet to try to land seats for opening day. It's tough. If you call at 8:59 you get a recording. If you call at 9:00:00:01 you get a busy signal, and may not get through to a ticket operator until everything is sold out. If I could freeze time and acquire the ability to discern nanoseconds, then the whole thing would be easier. I'll let you know how my ticket search goes after tomorrow.

So we keep hearing about Pedro's toe and his shoe and his foot and his sock lint and whatever the hell else is related. I try not to follow it too closely, basically because I fear that learning about it will give me the reasonable belief that Pedro is going to have a bad year, at which point I will vomit all over myself at best or stab myself in the face with an icepick at worst. Instead, I stick to the reaction I had tonight when seeing the most recent story on mlb.com, along with a picture of Pedro: "Holy crap, I still can't believe Pedro Martinez plays for the Mets. That's insane." I had that feeling with Mike Piazza until about 2003. I think that feeling sums up just how special certain players are; when you just can't get over that they suit up for your team every day. Alternatively, it might sum up that I have a learning disability and need the span of five years to process simple information. You make the call!

Friday, February 24, 2006

3 year time machine

Sorry for the miss yesterday. A combo of getting in late, computer problems, and not having that much to say anyway conspired for my second strikeout since starting the blog. (By the way, I got in late because I was at my cousin's engagement party - Mazal Tov to David Bienenfeld and Abby Rabinowitz!)

I was watching curling earlier today. Could that sport be any more Canadian? Non-threatening, on ice, and boring as hell. Are the guys in the Olympics actually professional curlers? Can you do that? I kind of just picture a group of guys watching the 2002 Games and saying, "Hey, that don't look too hard, we can be curlers too. Call the Olympic committee, get us signed up for '06." What I did like though, about curling, was that it embodied all that the rest of the coverage of the winter olympics isn't. It was live, as, I've argued, real sports should be viewed. Point for curling. And it was brought in its entirety, in context. The prime time coverage has become snippets of one figure skater here, one downhill skier there, without any sense of how it fits into the bigger picture of the competition. With curling, I was watching a sport, not a tv show. A horrible sport that shouldn't exist, but a sport nonetheless.

I pulled out my fantasy mag from 2003 today. Wait, you don't save your fantasy mags each year? Oh, how strange of you. As sick as I am, I do suggest you start saving them, because it's interesting to have a look a few years down the road. I bring you this, for your reading pleasure:

The top 15 prospects in baseball in 2003, according to The Sporting News, were, in order: Mark Teixeira, Hank Blalock, Jesse Foppert, Victor Martinez, Brandon Phillips, Hee Seop Choi, Jose Reyes, Rafael Soriano, Michael Cuddyer, Chad Tracy, Colby Leiws, Marlon Byrd, Kurt Ainsworth, Francisco Rodriguez, and Rocco Baldelli. Interesting. I don't know about you - but maybe I've grown overskeptical of these prospect lists. I was surprised to see that the #1 man has indeed established himself as a star, and Blalock, Martinez, Reyes, K-Rod, Tracy, and Baldelli are at least regarded as pretty good players, if not better for some. So that's 7 of 15, or nearly half, who've panned out. I wouldn't have expected the odds to be that good. But this also serves as a good reminder - don't get sucked in by the prospect hype, whehter it's for your fantasy team or your real life team. Foppert was described as being in a "class by himself." Right now, unless AAA is vacant, that's not accurate. And these guys are the top 15 of a list of 100 - if I included the whole list there would be less than a 50% success rate for these guys (although the bottom 85 includes Travis Hafner at 28, Rich Harden at 59, Dontrelle Willis at 64, among others). Of course, 3 years is a little early to be making conclusive statements about who has and hasn't panned out - but at the very least you can't refute that it's a big mistake to expect a prospect to have an immediate impact.

At each position analysis, TSN also listed the most promising and most overrated youngster at that position. A partial look:
Starting pitchers: Good job by TSN here. Most promising - John Lackey, Brett Myers, John Patterson, Mark Prior, Rafael Soriano. Most overrated - The Awful Dewon Brazelton, Nate Cornejo, Nick Neugebauer, Mark Redman.
Catcher - most promising? Victor Martinez. Overrated? Ramon Castro. It's not that I think Castro's had a great career, but when the hell was he rated, much less overrated?
First baseman - most promising? Hee Seop Choi. Who wrote that, Jae Ahn? Overrated - Lyle Overbay. I would still agree, somebody tell JP Ricciardi that.
Second baseman - Oh, TSN. Whoops. Whoops. Whoops. Most promising? Bobby Hill. Most overrated? Some guy named Michael Young. This ain't an exact science I guess.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Your title here

November 2000: "Juan Gonzalez has rejected the Tigers' offer of $140 million over 8 years. Gonzalez believes he can get a better deal by testing the waters of free agency.

February 2006: "Juan Gonzalez, who is attracting almost no interest on the free agent market, might play independent ball as a showcase for his skills if he's unable to find a job in spring training, agent Alan Nero told ESPN.com Insider Jerry Crasnick."


Evidently the Cubs are pleased with the progress of Mike Prior and Kerry Wood and hope that Prior will ready to go in March and Wood in April. Are we done with Kerry Wood yet? I've been asked if I'm going to reveal my true feelings about players from a roto standpoint in this blog. And I will, here's the truth: one day about two years ago, I was going about my business, when it suddenly hit me - "wait a sec, Kerry Wood isn't nearly as useful to my team as I think he is." Kerry Wood is an acceptable real life pitcher and a lousy fantasy one. In real life, he's never healthy. In roto, he has an uncanny ability to never win games, his ERA isn't all that much better than the roto average (if better at all), and if he's injured, he can't get you Ks. But he's still perceived as a top flight pitcher, which drives up his price. I'd have no problem with Kerry Wood on my team for a buck or a 25th round pick - he's not really doing damage per se the way Darren Oliver or Jose Lima would. But if you run him out there all year with the delusion that you've got an ace helping your team, you'll be unpleasantly surprised.

By the way, Willie Randolph - did you notice who I used as the examples of bad pitchers? Yeah. Please don't bring these guys north, whatever you do.

And anybody else keep hearing about this girl Sasha Cohen in figure skating and wonder when Ali G got into the Olympics?

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

I should go to sleep instead of blogging

I've been deliberating about whether to keep Craig Monroe or Dan Johnson in one of my roto leagues. I've spent about 3 hours today thinking about this. 3 hours spent thinking about that might be reasonable in total. But I can assure you, today wasn't my allotted day for thought about keepers in an otherwise productive winter. No, I started thinking about my keepers in, oh, what's that month that happened far too long ago to have been thinking about roto keepers? Ah, that's it, October. Yeah, I've been thinking about my roto keepers since October. And I will give it much more thought in the three weeks up to the league's keeper deadline. So the 3 hours I spent today are part of a very disturbing lifestyle. Somebody, please help me.

That's a fake cry for help, by the way. If anybody throws out my roto mag or cancels my insider subscription so I can't read Karabell and Cockcroft every day - I'll kill you. Not in the hyperbole kind of way. I'll kill you.

Have we talked about how ridiculous a name "Tristan Cockcroft" is? There's not much to say really. But that's just a terrible name. At least he gets to write about fantasy baseball for a living; that's a good consolation prize. Hell, you could call me Fuckwad McDicklick if you let me write about fantasy baseball for a living.

There isn't much to write about right now. Baseball is filled with the obligatory start of spring training stories about who's ready to make an impression on the skipper. Yes, I know that I expressed excitement just a week ago about news out of spring training. But this isn't really news yet. These aren't genuine progress reports on players and position battles. This is stuff like the front page of Rockies.com, "Torrealba excited for new opportunity." Zzzzzzzzzzz.

Tino Martinez has accepted a job to work on Baseball Tonight. The other day while looking at the still available free agents list, I asked myself, "Is Tino gonna sign with anybody?" Tonight after reading about his new job, myself answered, "Yes, he is. He's going to sign with ESPN." Man, I hate that myself guy - such a wiseass. But I learned my lesson. In the future I will ask myself, "Will player x sign with any BASEBALL TEAM in the capacity of BASEBALL PLAYER." That should clear up any confusion.

For those who don't check the free agent list every day, there are still some players out there who you'd think should have signed by now. Richard Hidalgo is still unsigned. Darren Dreifort is still unsigned. Jamey Wright is out there. Brian Meadows is available, as are Gary Glover and Chad Fox. Not exactly your marquee names. They might even do more harm than good for a team depending on where they're at now, but you'd think that these guys would at least be in camp with somebody. You also have Juan Gonzalez, who hasn't announced a retirement and you'd think would still be looking to play, and Kevin Brown, who hasn't announced a retirement but is probably done. Obviously, the Gary Glover sweepstakes bear close watching and I'll be sure to have an analysis for you as things develop.

No, really. I'm serious.

Monday, February 20, 2006


Hope everybody enjoyed their presidents day weekends. I think we could put a little more excitement into this national holiday by having it honor different presidents on a rotational basis. I know I'm bored of this Washington/Lincoln thing each year. So kind of like how the Chinese New Year ushers in the year of the duck, rat, dog, etc, we could have the president's weekend of Chestur A. Arthur one year, Franklin Pierce the next, and so on. I'm getting pumped just thinking about it.

MLB.com has a good article on the biggest fantasy bust in each year since 1980. There aren't any lessons to be learned from it, unless you weren't aware that a player can look like a good pick in March and end up having a terrible year. But if you needed that lesson, not only should you not be dabbling in rotisserie baseball, you probably shouldn't be trusted to clean and dress yourself each day. Anyway, if you're the kind of person who enjoys having friends ask, "which 1996 Cardinals had played for the A's before that point," then you'll enjoy the article.

By the way, the answers to that question are Dennis Eckersley, Todd Stottlemyre, Rick Honeycutt, Mike Gallego, and Mike Morgan. That's another Avraham Adler original right there.

Curt Gowdy passed away today. Gowdy is a legend, although if you're reading this you're probably my age and have never heard him call a game. So I don't have any Curt Gowdy memories to share. But did anybody see Dick Vitale's tribute article to him on ESPN? It includes this from Vitale: "Leukemia caused Gowdy's tragic death. I have said time and again that we must wipe out the dreaded disease of cancer." Interesting - Dick Vitale is against cancer. What's even more interesting is he's said it many times in the past. Why did the media just brush that under the rug? If only we could have heeded Dick Vitale's anti-cancer message earlier, Curt Gowdy's death could have been avoided. Well I would take up Dick Vitale's call now folks. Speak to your congressman, let him know that you too are against cancer and are in favor of its being wiped out entirely. And don't let those pro-cancer agitators get to you, you be strong and ignore them. By the way, I'm sure Mr. Gowdy's battle with cancer was a struggle, and I'm sorry that his family has had to lose a loved one, which is never easy. But anybody want to let Dick Vitale know that it isn't generally considered a "tragic death" when an 86 year old man passes away?

You aren't supposed to end a haftorah or a megillah a sad note, and I'm pretty sure that some hold that applies to blogs as well. Therefore, I don't want to conclude with Curt Gowdy's death. So, um...bring us back to You, G-d, and we shall return, renew our days as of old. How was that? Hey, it works on Tisha B'Av.

Sunday, February 19, 2006


So Barry Bonds has said that 2006 will be his last season in baseball. Bonds will be 42 in July and is in the last year of his contract, so in a way this is much ado about nothing. There is a very strong presumption that a 42 year old free agent is going to hang it up, so this big declaration doesn't mean all that much to me.

Why else should we be careful making a big deal out of this retirement announcement? How about this quote from Bonds himself: "If I can play [in 2007], I'm going to play; if I can't I won't. If my knee holds up, I'll keep on going." Ah. So Barry will retire, unelss he doesn't. STRONG WORDS there Barry, you sure are making clear that you really, really, actually mean that you'll retire, really, honestly.

I certainly hope Bonds retires. Most of us don't want him breaking Aaron's record, and if he doesn't play past 2006 he probably can't break it. This would be great. Bad enough this guy already won 29 MVP awards.

But man, can Bonds shut up. You want to play? Play. You don't want to play? Don't play. I would love a good explanation of how this guy makes baseball more compelling. I've never seen it. I don't think he's interesting, he's just a pain in the ass. He lost his 40-40 ability years ago. His homers aren't tape measure shots. His record on base percentages are inflated by intentional walks that I've never been sure had any decent justification. He's not a gold glove defender. I have never been compelled to go to a game to see Barry Bonds play. The fact that he's a presumed steroid user who has no clue how to deal with the fans doesn't help. Maybe I'm in the minory, but I'm sure I'm not alone.

Gene Wojciechowski at ESPN and Ken Rosenthal at Fox Sports have articles that basically tell Bonds to just do us all a favor and retire now. They've put more work into their articles than I would into this blog, and I'll allow their words to speak for me more extensively. I think they both did good work. Check them out if you have the chance.

As for Bonds and the hall of fame, I'm skeptical of this as much of a "retirement" announcement, so I don't think we need to discuss Bonds' hall of fame credentials any more today than we did two weeks ago or will four months from now. But my stance remains the same as it does with Sosa and others. If your numbers put you in, you're in. You want to keep a guy out of the hall with 700 homers, 500 steals, nearly 3,000 hits, nearly 2,000 rbi, 7 MVPs, and 8 gold gloves when he has never tested positive on a drug test? Please. Yes, it bothers me too. But I do take solace in knowing that Bonds actually was a great player even before his head grew 550% and probably would have had hall of fame credentials no matter what. I suggest those of you who want him out of Cooperstown do the same. Because as of now, he's going in, pretty much case closed.

Ok Adam, I now open the floor to your stock steroids rant about how all these guys should have their stats deleted from the record books, etc.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Birthdays (yes, that's right)

Happy February 18th birthdays to a few ex-Mets. Shawn Estes turns 33. Kevin Tapani turns 42. And the best ex-Met? Jeff McKnight turns 43. Whenever I'm trying to name a player to highlight the immense suckiness of the early 90's Mets, I go to McKnight. The guy had longish mullet hair and a weak mustache - he looked like he belonged behind the counter of an auto parts store in Fayetville, Indina. And he wore glasses. Not cool Chris Sabo goggles. Glasses. You know you suck when you aren't planning to get enough playing time to make contact lenses a wise investment. Another nugget about McKnight is that he wore 5 different uniforms throughout his Mets career, more than any other Met (thank you MBTN.net - Mets by the numbers).

Ok, that's all we'll do for tonight. Boy, once those pitchers and catchers report there's just an overabundance of news, isn't there?

Friday, February 17, 2006

My bad

An addition to the list of 12. As I told you, I looked at all rosters and assumed that a player with full season stats was on the opening day roster, and if he didn't have full season stats he wasn't. Well, shame on me for not researching further. Mike Lieberthal played in 50 games for the Phillies in 1996, but this was because he was the backup that year. He was on the opening day roster and started a game the first week of the season. So the list is 13, good job by Mr. Adler checking that further, and I'm a horrible person. My apologies.

Albert Belle is in trouble for stalking his girlfriend with a GPS device. Boy, it isn't like Albert Belle to be crazy. Running people over with a car, barreling into Fernando Vina - class act. Nice to see him back in the news though, it had been too long. And I say kudos to him. I think that's pretty clever, and is far more sophisticated than hiding out in the bushes to stalk somebody.

Thursday, February 16, 2006


For those of you not in law school who have images of The Paper Chase and other such things, let me tell you what my day was today. I spent the day contemplating the following question, posed to me by Avraham Adler: How many players from 1996 opening day rosters are still with those teams today. Oh wait, I also prepared my draft worksheet for my Penn roto league draft that will take place in five weeks. I know, I know - busy day. It's usually slower than this.

Anyway, there are 12 such players. Thanks to the Avrahams, Adler and Sinensky, and me for coming up with the players. Adam Cohen also got all 12 but didn't add any we didn't already have. So he's worse. To clarify, a player must not have left the team (eliminating, say, Rafael Palmeiro), must be planning to play in 2006, and had to have been on the opening day roster in'96. If a player played what appears to be a full season in '96 I'm presuming he was on the opening day roster, so if he started on the 15 day DL or something don't kill me. Start thinking and I'll give you the answers at the end of the post.

My professor started today's employment law class by wishing everybody a happy start of spring training, after which he took off his blazer and revealed a Red Sox jersey, in which he taught the whole class. Awesome. The back of the jersey had "Williams 9" on the back. How do we feel about this - Ted Williams, so you know, did not have his name on the back of his own jersey. AC said that anybody should know a "9" Red Sox jersey is for Ted Williams, and if they're ignorant of that then telling them Williams might not make them think of Ted Williams anyway. "Jimy Williams? I thought the Sawwwx fired that guy. Go Sawwwwx!!"

Today is Fantasy Opening Day! Yeah, I don't know what that means either. But go with it. MLB ran some articles, including an "experts" article with tips. Each expert was asked 2 questions - who should be the top 3 choices in drafts this spring and what is a general piece of advice they have. My answer to the first question would have been, "fuck you," and the answer to the second would have been, "don't take anybody seriously who asks the first question." The top 3 choices? Who the hell cares? I need an expert to tell me that Pujols, A-Rod, and Vlad are the top 3 players in roto? "Golly, sure glad I read that column - I was gonna go and pick Jacque Jones with the 2nd overall pick. They really saved me." Everybody knows that roto success comes down to the middle guys - I could have my grandmother draft as shrewdly as Eric Karabell for the first round or two.

Scott Erickson signed a minor league deal with the Yankees. Man, the rich keep getting richer. First Jose Lima to the Mets, now Erickson to the Yankees. Baseball really has to do something about this gulf between the haves and the have nots.

The Marlins are now in talks with Oklahoma City as a possible relocation destination. I still can't believe the Hornets are playing there, and that's temporary. Now the Marlins are considering it as a possible permanent home? A franchise moving from Miami to Oklahoma City. I'm too stunned about the possibility to even try a joke about this.

Ok, the answers to the question. Stop reading now if you still want to figure it out on your own:

John Smoltz, Chipper Jones, Barry Bonds, Trevor Hoffman, Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Bernie Williams, Brad Radke, Jeff Bagwell, Craig Biggio, Garret Anderson, Tim Wakefield.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Rosh HaShanah for baseball - or maybe just Rosh Chodesh Elul

I'm watching The Golden Girls right now. Did you know that in some episodes the opening song repeats the phrase, "And if you threw a party and invited everyone you knew, you would see the greatest gift would be from me, and the card attached would say, 'thank you for being a friend.'" This is news to me. In some seasons they actually deleted this entirely, so I find it interesting that it was doubled in some. Kind of unnecessary, since singing it once made clear the degree to which the best present would, in fact, be given by the singer, and particularly strange in our modern enlightened times that eschews theme songs for sitcoms all together.

Ok then. Happy baseball season everybody! Pitchers and catchers reported Wednesday for 8 teams, resulting in...absolutely nothing. Pitchers and catchers is kind of anticlimactic, isn't it? Sure, it represents the first blossoms of the new baseball season (if we were to express baseball in the most feminine terms imagineable). But nothing really happens that makes things feel particularly different from last week. Is my life affected by Glendon Rusch now being in the state of Arizona instead of the state of California? Not really. But still, after three and a half months of inactivity, it's nice to have taken the first steps towards the new baseball season. In just a couple of weeks we'll have exhibition games, and then, as we watch the NCAA tournament, we'll be rapidly heading towards opening day 2006. Yes indeed, baseball is in the air.

We still have hot stove news, though. Jeff Weaver realized that since his job is "professional baseball player," it would be wise to actually have a contract with some team during the season. So he signed with the Angels for 1 year and $8.4 mil, up to $9 mil if he hits all the performance bonuses. I like this for the Angels. If it had been even less per year over more years, say, 5 years and $40 mil, I wouldn't be so keen on it. But for one year the Angels can afford to overpay a little to reap the benefits of Weaver over Hector Carrasco in the rotation. They aren't locked in and can move on after this year if they want but have definitely made themselves better for 2006. Weaver isn't great but he's not bad and seems comfortable in southern California. And the Angels have a damn good rotation with Colon, Lackey, Santana, Escobar, and now Weaver - important in a competitive AL West. I hope for Weaver's sake that he doesn't have an injury plagued or just general down year, because he will sorely regret not having locked up a multi-year deal this winter when he could have. Wait, what am I saying. Jeff Weaver is rich as hell for playing a game for a living, I don't give a damn what happens to him from this point on.

Sammy Sosa is apparently done now. He was done a year ago; this just means he's made it official and will stop collecting a paycheck for putting on a uniform. Sosa's numbers are excellent and are worthy of the hall of fame. If in 5 years the voters have good reason to take his presumed steroid use into account then fine. That's about all I have to say about Sammy Sosa for right now.

The Mets signed Jose Lima to a minor league deal yesterday. See, I knew that Omar Minaya had a game plan. Sure, he made some curious moves this offseason, but if you were smart, you had faith that he had the big move up his sleeve. And lo and behold, he pulls it off. Jose Lima. OH, and don't forget, Darren Oliver is in camp with the Mets too. Yes indeed, Omar Minaya is quite the general manager.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

More top 25

As we wait for pitchers and catchers to start reporting, we move on to the rest of the top 25 list.

I passed on voting for Tommy John surgery, because, as JP said - it ain't exactly a magic recovery pill. If a procedure can elicit a profanity when you read that a pitcher on your team is getting it, it's not not a miracle cure yet. Yes, it's made possible many careers that would have come to a screeching halt 30 years ago. I don't dispute that it's been important. But it's hyperbole to claim that "everybody" gets it, it adds 10 mph to everybody's fastball, and it's no big deal.

I voted for the bullpen specialization because that has totally changed the way the game is played on and off the field. On the field is obvious - everybody needs his role explained to him, starters don't complete games anymore, a manager expects to have a specialist to pitch against left handed right fielders with a 3 in their uniform numbers, etc. Off the field, it's escalated the demand for and the salaries of all those types of players. $3 or $4 mil a year is nearly the norm for a 7th inning pitcher.

I decided not to vote for steroids because of the way ESPN phrased it, which essentially boiled down to "the use of x led to testing for the use of x." Eh. Obviously the offensive explosion has changed statistics and records. A whole generation of players needs to be evaluated under the cloud of steroids...I don't know, maybe it is a top ten.

The influx of Latin American players has been huge. As it says, 25% of players are Latino including some of the most marketable superstars. That percentage is only going up. Latino players don't necessarily change how the game is played between the foul lines, but they've given us many more great players to spread around. I didn't vote for the Asian influx because that really hasn't had the same impact yet. Would the Mariners have found a player like Ichiro if he had stayed in Japan? Maybe not. But as long as you feel comfortable trying to list all the impact players from a region (which you do with the Far East and you certainly don't with Latin America), it hasn't made enough of a dent to be a top development. But check back in 25 years, I think we'll be talking about the Asian players as we now do the Latin players. Hell, Bobby Valentine beleives the Majors and the Japanese Leagues will practically be integrated by then. I do remind you, however, that this is a man who once got ejected from a game and then returned to the dugout with funny glasses and a Groucho Marx mustache.

I voted for the explosion of retro ballparks because there's no denying the impact it's had. Home run totals have gone up in part because of the bandboxes built across baseball. Teams saw what Baltimore did and in turn threatened their own cities for a park just like Camden Yards. The ballpark became a more intimate setting (ostensibly) and a better baseball experience (ostensibly).

Ok, I've actually grown a bit disillusioned with all this retro park stuff. A few reasons:

1. These parks are built with these huge concourses packed with "family friendly" entertainment and lots of food options. This is great if you want to come to the park, watch a few innings of a baseball game and then have something else to do when the game gets boring. Hey, I have an idea - why don't we cut the game to 7 innings and provide 2 outs per half inning? And let's give the baserunners jet packs! That'll make things really zippy and exciting!!!
It's a ballpark. It's designed for viewing a baseball game, all 9 innings of it, with extra innings if you're lucky. Some of these additions are great (like clean bathrooms), but some are demeaning to the real baseball fan who doesn't need 32 game centers and 64 types of food stations to enjoy a day at the park.

2. Have you sat in the upper deck at Citizens Bank Ballpark? It feels like you're watching the game from the damn Poconos. Not exactly close to the action. In fact, if memory serves, I think it might be worse than the worst seats at the Vet. Maybe they're comparable. Either way, some of these teams are building stadiums nearly as cavernous as the old parks and claiming that the new ones offer great sightlines and a better setting. Tsk tsk.

3. How many "cookie cutter" stadia existed? Cincy, Philly, Pitt, St. Louis, and Atlanta. That's five. And all we heard was there was a proliferation of these horrible parks that all looked exactly alike. Cities were deprived of a charm unique to their own park. Well, how many "retro parks" exist now? Baltimore, Texas, Denver, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Philly, St. Louis, Cincy, Detroit, San Francisco, San Diego. That's 11, with one on the way in Washington. 12. If you want to include Houston, Milwaukee, Seattle, and Arizona, which I excluded because of the retractable rooves, that makes 16. And you know what? These parks all look the same too! Don't tell me you aren't a little bored of a team touting its new stadium that looks just like six others. "Hey look - a red brick facade, haven't seen that before!" Now, I recognize there are some differences among these stadiums (it's too pretentious to use 'stadia' again). And I don't dispute that if you're going to mass produce a look, the "retro" look is superior to the cookie cutter look. But these parks have all grown stale, and the minute a team finds a new model that works don't think that Cleveland won't be lamenting that they need a new park to replace that old, silly looking, outdated retro park Jacobs Field.

That about does it for my thoughts on the top 25. Pretty soon we're going to have real baseball reports to discuss. Think warm thoughts everybody, spring training is about to knock on the door.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Top 25 of the past 25

[Note: I know that what I've cut and pasted below runs into the stuff on the side. It's not worth trying to reformat everything, because I think it's basically legible anyway. Sorry that it's a little annoying.]

ESPN is running an article on the top 25 innovations of the past 25 years. Readers were asked to vote for their top ten choices from this list. Here they are, with the vote totals by readers. My choices are in bold:

85.9%Addition of wild cards expands pennant races and the postseason field
62.1%Tommy John surgery becomes almost routine, prolonging careers
56.7%Internet makes even out-of-town news, stats and scores available 24/7
50.2%Extended highlights of every game on shows like ''Baseball Tonight''
49.7%Bullpen specialization redefines the final innings of games
48.8%Dramatic increase in Latin American players; one in four MLB players now Latino
47.7%Camden Yards ushers in a new era of retro ballparks
46.9%Medical developments speed recovery and improve diagnosis of injuries
45.2%Advent of interleague play
41.3%Cable and pay-per-view packages make almost any game viewable
38.5%Steroids fuel power explosion and force baseball to reform drug testing
34.8%Dramatic increase in offense and power hitting
34.4%Internet makes baseball history easily accessible to fans, fueling research and nostalgia
34.3%Development of the splitter
34.1%Revenue sharing that resulted from the strike in 1994-95
32.6%Development of fantasy baseball, fueled by easy-to-manage internet leagues
29.3%Statistical revolution ushers in sabremetrics and ''Moneyball''
28.2%Younger general managers bring new ideas and fresh perspective to front offices
24.5%Expansion adds the Diamondbacks, Devil Rays, Marlins and Rockies
24.5%Dramatic increase in Asian players makes scouting a global task
20.7%Home Run Derby takes center stage before the All-Star Game
19.9%Day games no longer a part of World Series schedule
15.2%College baseball gains equal footing with high school for high-profile draft picks
14.7%Symbolically fueled by ''Bull Durham'' minor leagues become big business
13.9%Scheduled doubleheaders disappear

Number one is a no-brainer, as evidenced by the large vote total it received. The shift to three divisons has totally changed September. I still think Bob Costas is right that this hasn't totally been for the better - the cost of having more teams involved is a watered down pennant race that generally eliminates the drama of two truly great teams vying for one spot (i.e. the 1993 NL West race between Atlanta and San Francisco). In such a case now the losing team is pretty much a lock for the wild card. If it were ten years ago I might be inclined to discuss the pros and cons of three divisions further, but at this point it's so entrenched in baseball that trying to debate it is akin to lamenting that this newfangled American Football League poses a threat to the NFL.

I view the three "access" innovations as equal and therefore choose all of them. The internet, highlights on ESPN, and the ability to view any game have been a huge benefit to all fans of all sports. The notion that you might have to wait until the next morning to read a boxscore seems flat out insane today. Likewise, today, familiarity with players on teams other than your own is easy and expected of even the casual fan. The one negative has been the migration of an overwhelming majority of games to cable, and yes, there are people who can't afford cable (or kids whose parents can and choose not to get it - poor kids). This is unfortunate, but overall the baseball fan's is infinitely better informed about the past and the present than he was in 1981. This is great.

Likewise, I think the advent of fantasy baseball is one of the top ten. It might not have a direct impact on the game per se, but it creates a demand and interest in the game among millions. Everybody in a fantasy league takes it up a notch - the first timer becomes a casual fan, the casual fan becomes somewhat serious, the somewhat serious fan becomes a serious fan, the serious fan becomes an obsessed lunatic, and the obsessed lunatic becomes...well, me. And other friends I could name as well. All these people follow the games more closely, spend more money on the industry, and may pass on a greater attachment to the sport to pass on to the next generation. Of course, the fact that my life revolves around my roto leagues (I mean, uh, my fiance, yes, that's it) doesn't hurt my view of its importance.

Sorry to do this, but I'd like to go to sleep now and don't want to shortchange the other thoughts I had on this. I'm going to save that for tomorrow's entry. Something to look forward to, right guys?

Sunday, February 12, 2006

This entry is on tape delay

Here's my problem with the Olympics. The tape delay. This whole notion of "folks, if you don't want to know the results of the speed skating competition until it airs six hours from now in prime time for your convenience, better leave the TV now." What the hell? That isn't how sports works. When a sporting event unfolds you check for the result. You don't pretend it didn't happen so that you can watch it comfortably at 9 pm like it's an episode of Will and Grace. When the Mets opened the 2ooo season in Tokyo, my friends and I got up at 5 am and watched the games - we didn't try to pretend that it was really going to take place at 7 pm that night. Now, this doesn't mean I'm saying that everything should be aired only live and screw you if you don't wake up at 3:30 in the morning for the luge finals taking place at 9:30 in Torino. The best events should be shown on tape delay in prime time for those who would like to watch them then. But everything should be aired live whenever it's going on, and the networks should stop apologizing and warning that they're about to "spoil" the results. Say outright, "Apollo Creed Anton Yoko Ohno won today. We're about to show you his victory. Oh, you were trying not to hear the result? Well, it happened 6 hours ago, you're an idiot. Enjoy the show - it's on tape!!!!"

Sammy Sosa is seriously considering retirement, according to ESPN Deportes. (One day a white guy will confide in ESPN Deportes and it'll throw the whole system off.) Some friend of Sosa's had this to say: "Sammy wants to get to 600 home runs, but he's not willing to humiliate himself to keep playing. He feels that the lack of interest in his services this winter constitutes a humiliation." Constitutes a humiliation? No, you see, Sammy Sosa's friend, the way it generally works is that the interest teams have in you is inversely proportional to how washed up you've become. In Sosa's case, it he is a shell of his former self and is rather washed up, therefore causing teams not to be interested in him. This is teams evincing sanity by not jumping for a player who offers 1/100 of what he could in his prime. This is what happens when you get older. Sosa's aging process snuck up on him when the magic juice ride ended, so I understand that he might be surprised to find that he's about as exciting to teams as Danny Bautista. But humiliation? Let's not go nuts here.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Memory trip part 2

Not content with June 1989 as my earliest Mets memory, I decided tonight I had to keep thinking. This is what you do when you've opted to sit at home instead of going out with your friends, and when you're mentally disturbed. And, when you're mentally disturbed and self-involved, you think about these things and then write about it for others to read. Here are my results. Get ready for a sick ride:

Coming into tonight, I thought my first game memory was May 28, 1989. This, I've learned via retrosheet, was the date of a game I remember watching at my grandparents house: Mets-Dodgers, in LA on a Sunday afternoon, Roger McDowell balked home the winning run in extra innings. The Mets sure showed him by trading him three weeks later like idiots. So this was the starting point that I was trying to push earlier.

Then I realized that I remembered getting ready for school one morning, and Good Day New York was on, and Jim Ryan said that the Phillies had beaten the Mets 7-1 the previous night. I remember that I reacted to this as Mets fan, albeit a young one in the pre-internet days whose family didn't have cable and therefore had to find out the results the following morning. I'm positive the score was 7-1, so it looks like this game was April 18, 1989. Ok, we're moving. Then it hit me - I do remember opening day 1989 after all. Well, I don't really remember the game, but I remember something on Good Day New York about the pre-game preparations that morning. I know I'm remembering '89 because I do remember the Cardinals being involved, so it had to have been '89 - the Mets next played the Cards on opening day in '92, which was on the road, and I remember that year far too vividly for it to be in question. (We'll save for another blog why my parents kept watching Good Day New York while we were getting ready in the mornings.) This memory led to another one: Wally Backman. Wally Backman left the Mets before the '89 season to go to the Twins. I know I remember this, and thinking at the time that I liked Backman and was disappointed he was leaving. Not a game memory, but it's something.

And then, it hit me...how could I have been so dumb? I'd forgotten all about it. That game!! That game the Mets played against the Phillies at Shea on a Saturday night!! Of course, I remember that game. I've often thought about that game as one of my early memories, I can't believe I've overlooked it! You know what I remember about it? Steve Jeltz. I remember Steve Jeltz was in that game, always will remember that. Anybody know Jeltz? Terrible hitting ss with a gheri curl? For some reason his presence in that game has always stuck with me. Again, because I'm mentally ill. Jeltz was only a Phillie through 1989 - so I know that game has to have been one of my early ones. So let's just find it. Lo and behold, the Mets and Phillies played a game at Shea on a Sat. night on June 18, 1988. Could that be my first memory? Oh baby, but let's not get too excited, have to check 1989, and...FUCK. Fucking Mets and fucking Phillies played at fucking Shea on a fucking Saturday night in fucking 1989 too.

So there went the easy answer. I then proceeded to stare at the computer screen for ten minutes, talking to it: "Come on, tell me, tell me what game I remember...Jeltz...Jeltz...Jeltz... which damn game was it?....come, help me out, I'm beggin' ya...'88 or '89...Jeltz...hmmm, I'm hungry...Jeltz...COME ON!!!!!" Because the computer refused to help me out, I decided it was best to figure this one out for myself:

The '88 game was a 14 inning game that the Mets won 3-2; the '89 game was a 9 inning game that the Mets won 4-2. I don't really remember too much of the game, so there's no obvious help here. I feel like the game took a while, but who knows if this really means it was an extra inning game. I remember that at the end of the game they were giving away a car, and I kind of feel like they showed the car and said something like, "they'll be giving that car away whenver this game ends," which, if true, would make me think it's the '88 game - but I might be remembering wrong (don't think I've ruled out calling the Mets and finding out if they have a history of all promotions they've run since 1988.) In the '88 game, Jeltz came in as a defense replacement in the 9th and got 2 at bats; Jeltz started the '89 game. If I remember him, you'd think I'd be remembering the game that he started, but, then again, he played 5 innings in the '88 game. I think I remember Chris James in that game - James played in the '88 game and was no longer a Phillie for the '89 game, having been traded for John Kruk several weeks before. But I could be totally wrong about remembering Chris James. Mike Schmidt played in the '88 game, and you'd think I would remember Mike Schmidt. But maybe I wouldn't remember him, who knows. My best problem solver would be the uniforms - the Phillies wore blue road unis in '88 and switched to gray in '89. I was remembering them in the blue unis when I recalled this uniform switch (which I then confirmed on the Hall of Fame's uniform database). So you'd think this would clinch it. But now I'm thinking that maybe it was the gray, I'm really not sure. I could have been thinking I remembered them in the blue just because I know that was the Phillies road uniform during most of the '80s.

Damn. These results are inconclusive. Where's my smoking gun? I'd imagine you'd all like a smoking gun after reading through this. I really can't settle on which game it was. I do have another game that I'm going to research further, but I'm not sure how. Here's what I have: night game, at Shea, Tim McCarver described it as a "bitter cold night," Sid Fernandez was pitching, and he was wearing short sleeves, which I didn't understand after McCarver said how cold it was - why wouldn't the pitcher want to stay warm on a cold night? This may have been a Sat. night but I'm not sure at all, and there's the small matter of me having no clue whom the Mets played that night. Symied again. But I'm gonna get to the bottom of this one, somehow. There's also my memory of watching a game on Mother's Day in either '88 or '89, and it was at Shea. But the Mets played at Shea both those Mother's Days, and since I have absolutely no clue whom they were playing, I have to be fair and say it was probably '89. So that's out. Damn. But I can assure you, together, we will solve this problem. We will discover conclusively a 1988 memory. We're gonna smoke that memory out of its cave.

There comes a point where you don't even know what to say for yourself - I've blown way past that point.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Quick thoughts

Rickey Henderson is going to be in camp with the Mets to teach baserunning. I'm picturing him instructing Reyes now: "Ok, when you steal a base, what you want to do is pick the base up out of the ground and shout that you are the greatest. That cool, Julio?" "My name's Jose." When I was younger I thought Rickey was from some other country because he sounded that incoherent during interviews.

Alfonso Soriano lost his arbitration case and will only receive $10 mil, instead of his requested $12 mil, in 2006. That's a shame.

The Marlins have met with officials from Norfolk about possibly moving the team there. This sounds interesting, but is anybody else skeptical about Norfolk's ability to sustain two minor league teams?

The Winter Olympics begin tonight, with the opening ceremonies. Actually, they've already begun but won't be aired until tonight. You know what's weird about the winter games? The biathlon. Skiing and shooting? Why don't they combine swimming and strangling a guy? Hey, lesser EB - I made that joke up myself. Nope, didn't steal it from Jerry Seinfeld, not at all. I'll take the credit.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

A few things

First up is a non baseball item, the blockbuster trade between NBC and ESPN. ESPN is trading Al Michaels to NBC for partial Ryder Cup coverage, Olympic highlights, Notre Dame highlights, and the rights to Oswald, a cartoon created by Walt Disney in 1927 as a precursor to Mickey Mouse. There are rumors that the two sides originally talked about an expanded deal that would also have included La Bamba from Conan O'Brien, six episodes of Scrubs, and the rights to the Peacock going from NBC to ESPN, with ESPN sending Chris Berman's repertoire of nicknames, every third Bill Simmons column, and a year’s subscription of the Mag to NBC. That part of the deal stalled, however, when the sides couldn't agree on whether NBC would get all of Berman's nicknames or just all football names, as well as when ESPN demanded that the expanded version include NBC taking Woody Page off their hands. Therefore, the sides kept it simple and traded a broadcaster for golf coverage and a cartoon rabbit. Yeah. You couldn’t cook this up if you were on LSD.

Speaking of Disney, the city of Anaheim lost in court today in its battle to keep the Angels known as the Anaheim Angels. I’m not giving into this Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim thing, though. It’s just too stupid and I’m sure it will give way to something else. It’s like when Pamela Anderson married Tommy Lee and wanted to be called Pamela Lee. I refused to do it. Eventually, I said, they were getting a divorce and she’d be back to Pamela Anderson, so why adjust to “Pamela Lee.” And I was right. So who’s crazy now, hmmm?

Continuing the segue game, speaking of the Angels, did you see Bengie Molina’s remarks today? He’s upset at how the Angels handled the negotiations with him. He also had this to say about the Blue Jays: "I took a lot less money to come over here for a reason, and that's to win.” Strange. Can we check on that quote? Is it possible ESPN misquoted Molina, and he in fact said, "I took a lot less money to come over here for a reason, and that's because my agent and I totally miscalculated the market and blew chances to get better contracts, thereby leaving me with no leverage.” Because that seems like a more accurate quote.

Still speaking of the Angels, it’s Vlad’s birthday today. I don’t have much to say about that, but it’s yet another segue, to some other b-days. Happy b-day to two men involved in two of the all time greatest Mets moments. First, happy birthday to Todd Pratt, who’s 39. Pratt, as any Mets fan remembers well, hit the walk off homer that passed just beyond Steve Finley’s reach to win Game 4 of the 1999 NLDS, sending the Mets to a 3-1 series win and on to the NLCS against the Braves. Our other happy b-day goes to Mookie Wilson, who turns 50. If you need me to tell you what Mookie Wilson did, then you’re in the wrong place (or you’re my father/mother/fiancé and I appreciate that you’re reading this – but I still won’t tell you what Mookie did, because you should know too.) Interesting stat nugget about Mookie: he hit exactly .276 in 1983, 1984, and 1985. And while that’s the most striking, his numbers during that part of his career were amazingly consistent - 25 doubles in ’82 and ’83, 90 runs scored in ’82, 91 scored in ’83, etc. Take a look for yourselves. But finish reading this first, because I don’t want you to get sidetracked and never return, which is what I’d do.

Happy b-day also to Bill Veeck, who would be 92. I used something he said as my high school yearbook quote: “It’s not the stars that are expensive; it’s the high cost of mediocrity.” What a shitty yearbook quote, what was I thinking? But I think it’s true. Anyway, Veeck was quite the wacky owner, responsible for publicity stunts like having the midget Eddie Gaedel bat for the Browns and organizing Disco Demolition Night for the White Sox. Veeck was also, I’ve now learned, the last owner to buy a team without having an independent fortune (i.e. – he purchased the team with some procedure I should understand better considering I just took corporations, and owning the team was his actual business, not his side hobby.)

Since I've segued so nicely tonight, speaking of side hobbies, if you'll excuse me...I have to see what's on Cinemax. (Ooooh, he's terrible, just terrible.)

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Searching through my memory

The Reds hired Wayne Krivsky today to be their new GM. Ok, that about covers that.

We're basically still in a holding pattern; waiting for the camps to gear up and for more things to discuss. In the meantime, I'm going to share with you guys a problem I have. It's going to be a long entry, but I hope it's interesting, as I'm sure many of you can identify (indeed, please post your own experiences). Recently I've become very interested in pinning down my very first baseball memory and how I became a Mets fan. I still haven't quite figured it out. I've shared this with a few of you, so if you're one of those who's heard this before, you'll just sit there politely and keep reading, and you'll like it!

Here's the thing. My father is not a sports fan. I'm cool with that; I tease him sometimes with things like, "Hey dad, you should watch this game, you'd enjoy it," or "Dad, why are you gay," or "Dad, you've been a terrible disappointment as a father and I don't love you." You know, just the usual father-son banter. (Hi dad, if you're reading this entry.) Anyway, my father not being a sports fan, I know that I wasn't watching games with him at an age too early for me to remember and being made into a fan of a particular team. This is in contrast to how my kids will be raised - so help me God, I will get a Mets cap into my wife's uterus, no matter what it takes. (I'd love it if we could paint the placenta blue and orange, but that might be too impractical.) Ok, back on track now - my father wasn't planting me in front of the TV to watch Mets games when I was four; at some point I came to it myself. But when? Here's the evidence I have:

I distinctly remember Mets games from the 1989 season, during which I was 7. For example, I remember attending a game against the Expos in which Mookie Wilson tripped between 3rd and home and was tagged out when he otherwise would have scored. I know that game was part of a b-day party in June, so I'm almost positive I've targeted the game as a 2-0 Mets win on June 21 (the play by play backs up that Wilson was tagged out at home in the 5th inning). Once again, thank you retrosheet. I also distinctly remember the Juan Samuel trade that took place days before this game, as well as the Mookie Wilson and Frank Viola trades later in the year. I remember these events through the filter of being a Mets fan at the time, and these are strong enough memories that I'm certain that I haven't let my later knowledge of these events fool me into thinking I actually was aware of them then. I also remember the 1989 playoffs - I remember I was watching the earthquake game at my friend Ilan Hamburg's house. His mother is cousins with Al Michaels, who was calling the game, and I kept saying "hey, you think Al Michaels is dead?" Good to know that I didn't only recently become the idiot you see today. My mother was in labor with my sister during Game 4, and I remember writing down the contractions in the middle of the game. Couldn't have waited until after the game was over, could they? Women. They just don't get it.

Ok then, it's quite obvious that by 1989, when I was 7, I was a Mets fan. But I don't have much of a memory of 1988. I've always had some fleeting, one second memory of watching Kevin McReynolds in the on deck circle at Dodger Stadium during the NLCS. Strange, right? That's all I remember of the Mets in 1988. Don't remember the ebb and flow of the season, don't remember being disappointed when they lost to the Dodgers, don't remember Gibson's home run in the World Series. Just McReynolds in the on deck circle. It's like I'm living in some weird movie like Memento or something.

I do remember one other thing quite well from 1988. That would be my first baseball game. And it was...a Yankee game. Eeeeewww. I actually do remember a little bit of the game. My father took me and my brother (who was 4 at the time and wanted to leave in the 2nd inning after our food ran out) to a Yankees-Angels game. I remember that, I remember that the Angels won big, I somehow remember Brian Downing hitting a homer, and that's about it. FYI, I've since figured out that it was August 16, and the Angels won 15-6. I remember that when my father told me we'd be going to a game, I was excited and also unaware that you could actually attend a baseball game - I thought it was just there for TV. Dumb, dumb little kid. So this would confirm that I'd already had an interest in baseball by then. But my father has said that as far as he remembers, he took us because he figured it was a good thing to do, and doesn't remember me specifically hounding him to take us to a game. As for why a Yankees game, he said he doesn't remember.

One other wrinkle to figuring this out: I remembered a while ago about my Purim costume for 1989. (Purim falls in February or March, i.e., before the baseball season.) I went as Lenny Dykstra. Cute, right? If I was going as Lenny Dykstra before the 1989 season, (on my own initiative, I can assure you) then I must already have been a Mets fan. But then why don't I remember 1988, save that one Yankee game? I won't bother wondering why I like baseball at all; my cousins are baseball fans, and my great grandfather was a big Yankee fan - so I can say there's something in my genes for baseball. But why did I choose the Mets, and when? The answer that we will not accept is "because the Mets were better at the time." That's horrifying; my life can't be based on having been a garden variety front runner. Fortunately, the Yankees went 85-76 in 1988 and had been good for much of the decade, so they weren't so much worse than the Mets that choosing the Mets would be clear front running. Whew. Not a front runner. Good. I don't have to kill myself.

So what to make of all this? As I said, I was excited to go to the Yankee game, so it's safe to conclude that I was interested in baseball by August 1988. But which team, if any? Perhaps I hadn't yet decided on a team but was turned off to the Yankees after they RUINED my first baseball game by losing in a blowout. Dirty Yankee scumbags, no regard for two little kids at their first game. I really don't know. And if I had already acquired an interest in baseball, why can I remember nothing else from the whole season besides that game? I don't have an answer. So, what kind of a bastard makes you read a whole long story with no ending? I guess the same kind of a bastard who in second grade posits that a relative of his friend has been killed in an earthquake.


I made a very dangerous discovery today. Well, "I," "made," and "discovery" may not be accurate. Sinensky informed me of a website today. Actually, that isn't even true. He's mentioned it before but I only decided to check it out for myself today. "Hey guys, look...it's a rambling idiot!" Anyway, regardless of the how one describes my arrival at the site, the website is snopes.com. Have you heard of it? It's a site that address the truth of a zillion commonly heard stories about all sorts of topics. (And Groner, I'm sure I'm not the last guy on earth to check it out, so you just be quiet now please.) What's dangerous about it is I've spent about 5 hours today reading it, including the last 3 consecutively. I encourage everybody to make their way over there; after a few minutes you'll start to feel very superior to those idiots who believe everything they get in some forwarded e-mail. Until you realize it's 3:30 am and you're intently reading about the real reason why the Chevy Nova did (or didn't) flop in Latin America in the 1970s. Oh, and your life exists to write a daily baseball blog. And you've got an empty Double Gulp cup that you finished in about twenty minutes sitting on your desk. Then you'll feel inferior. Verrrry inferior.

Anyway, I thought I'd mention some of the baseball true/false things. First up: For whom is the Baby Ruth candy bar named? I hear you, "For Grover Cleveland's daughter, stupid. Only a retarded monkey thinks it was actually named for Babe Ruth." Not so fast there, son. Turns out it may well have been named for Babe Ruth after all. Grover Cleveland's daughter died 17 years before the Baby Ruth bar was made, which would make it very strange for it to have been named for her. Similarly, the story that she visited the candy factory and the owner was touched by her would be impossible. The Baby Ruth bar debuted in 1921, and it is very likely that the company intended to trade on his name (he had already become very popular and well-known). Since they didn't consult him about it, they needed some other story for the origin of the name. (Ok, who's been following along - what's Babe Ruth's b-day?...That was self-indulgent. I'm sorry.)

Lou Gehrig started his streak by replacing Wally Pipp, who had a headache. True or not? One correction to this that isn't even debatable - this didn't start Gehrig's streak; he pinch hit the previous game. Snopes doesn't say the Pipp headache thing is absolutely, undeniably false, but they come pretty close. I encourage everybody to read what they have - it's like a term paper and very well done. The basic conclusion is that Pipp lost his job as part of an effort to give playing time to Yankee prospects during a losing 1925 season (Babe Ruth was sick most of the year).

There's also a story that I hadn't heard of that Larry Doby was visibly nervous in his debut game and Joe Gordon deliberately struck out horribly to make sure Doby couldn't possibly look bad by comparison. Snopes says this is false. However, Snopes says the story of the Chasidic rebbe who deliberately spilled wine on his tablecloth so his shabbos guests would feel comfortable if they spilled something is true.

Monday, February 06, 2006

The Toronto Juggernauts (or is it Argonauts, in which case, what the hell is an Argonaut?)

Jayson Stark's recent Useless Info article has some very interesting Super Bowl-baseball connected facts, worth checking out. Did you know that Antwaan Randle El and Hines Ward were both drafted in baseball, by the Cubs and Marlins, respectively. I love those players who nearly went into another sport. "Hey, remember Tony Gwynn?" "Yeah, didn't he play point guard for the Clippers for a few years during the '80s?" "Good call!"

Anyway, Bengie "I Fucked Myself Out of Lots of Money" Molina found a home, signing a one year deal with those free spending Blue Jays. "Oh, those Blue Jays are so outrageous, look at them getting all the superstars, move over Yankees and Red Sox!" I have never seen a team get more hype for not acquiring a single true top tier player than Toronto has this winter. Be that as it may. Molina is unquestionably an upgrade over Gregg Zaun, both at and behind the plate. The price is right, as he'll make $4.5 this year and gets a $500,000 if his $7.5 mil option for 2007 isn't exercised. So a good move by the Jays. I still maintain that they're short one more quality hitter, and even with this signing I'm not picking them over the Yankees or Sox. But they did get a little better by bringing in Molina, so kudos to you J.P. Ricciardi.

But wait a sec...the Mets offered Molina 3 years and $18 mil. The Jays are giving Molina $5 mil. Let me do some quick math here...yes, my initial assumption checks out, $18 mil is a lot more than $5 mil. Note to self: DON'T USE ALAN NERO AS AN AGENT FOR MY NEXT CONTRACT NEGOTIATION. And while I'm at it, other note to self: Upon purchasing my own major league team, MAKE SURE NOT TO EMPLOY OMAR MINAYA AS MY GENERAL MANAGER! Mike Piazza just signed with the Padres for $2 mil for a year. Molina has $5 mil for a year. But Checklist Omar showed everybody, he nabbed the immortal Paul LoDuca for TWO years and $6.5 mil each year! And he got to divest his team of one of those pesky things called "prospects." Whew. Nice work there, going with the worst possible option.

A February 6th b-day, another one of those crazy early 20th century names. A guy named Babe Ruth was born in 1895. I looked at his stats, apparently he both pitched and played the OF in his career. Very interesting. A poor man's Brooks Kieschnick you might say.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

A little Super Bowl talk, but not much

If I were to launch into baseball right now, you might as well make me the recipient of the 2006 "Man With The Least Ability To Grasp What Is And Isn't Relevant" Award. So I will not just start rambling about the imminence of Josh Fogg's one year deal with the Diamondbacks, as tempting as that is. But at the same time, I'm going to go light on the Super Bowl talk. After watching the game with a guy who easily rattled off the names of the 4th string wide receivers for both teams (of course it's Hertis, for those wondering), I don't feel particularly suited to provide much of a brilliant post-game analysis.

I'll say this: 1. I'm glad we got a good game this year. 2. The Steelers went 3 for 3 in exciting ways to score a TD, for which I'm grateful. 3. Still trying to figure out what the hell Seattle was doing at the end of the game. 4. Shouldn't Bettis have had an honorary homecoming fumble? 5. It took me long enough, but I finally realized that Mike Holmgren played one of the superfans on SNL (Da Seahawks). 6. Not a great set of commercials this year. I loved the MacGyver Mastercard commercial - it doesn't matter that the "... priceless" tagline is an old one, I thought it was a great application. The prehistoric FedEx one was funny. Clever move by ABC to feature real man's men extolling the virtues of Desperate Housewives. And good job by Ameriquest with the "don't judge too quickly" thing. Otherwise, the Diet Pepsi spots with Jay Mohr were idiotic, the 324 Bud Light commercials were generic (and I'm not going to drink Bud Light anyway), every single car commercial pissed me off, and that stupid ad for giving girls self esteem - WTF - this is the Super Bowl, not the National Baking Competition.

Ok then. Not much to do with baseball anyway. I did want to mention that the Giants once again play in a renamed ballpark. Who caught this? SBC Park, formerly Pac Bell Park, will now be known as AT&T Park. It happens to be that AT&T is a more recognizable name than SBC, but don't you think it's gotten ridiculous when a ballpark that has existed for six years has already gone through three names? Some people change their facebook profiles less often. I think I'm just going to be obstinate and not go along with these name changes. No AT&T Park for me. And I'm not going with Pac Bell either. As far as I'm concerned, the Giants play in Seals Stadium. That'll show 'em, corporate bastards.

I'll give this to the Giants, though. The entire stadium will be equipped with WiFi access. Good for them for blazing the trail on this. I'm sure it won't be long before all parks are similarly outfitted, which is a good thing. Then again, there's something I like about being in the dark at the stadium. Maybe I'm crazy, but part of the ballpark experience is turning to your buddy and asking if he remembers who the third base ump is that game, or who the starting pitchers are in one of the out of town games, or how many outs there are in an inning. These kinds of things are lost if you can just look it up online while you're sitting there. Oh well. Such is progress.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Ode to Eric Davis

Jerry Crasnick has an article on ESPN recapping 6 of the winter's biggest offseason moves. One of them is the Javier Vazquez trade, in which Crasnick states that Chris Young, the prospect Arizona picked up, has been compared to Eric Davis. Now, if you're my age, you certainly remember Eric Davis. I remember him on the cover of the July 1990 issue of Sports Illustrated for Kids. He was in a lumber yard or a forrest or something; lumber = bats = a slugger, get it? The strange thing about that issue was that it came at the very end of May, pretty early for a July issue if you ask me. Plus, it was raining the day it came and it was chilly, so it didn't much feel like July. (Somebody had played tic tac toe on the bathroom door; the x's won, they went diagonally from the top left to the bottom right - if you don't get that reference you just aren't worth talking to anymore.)

Anyway, now that the crackhead convention has concluded, back to Eric Davis. If you're my age you remember him well, but you're not going to remember this:
Year Ag Tm   G  AB  R    H  2B 3B  HR  RBI  SB  CS BB  SO   BA  OBP  SLG
1986 24 CIN 132 415 97 115 15 3 27 71 80 11 68 100 .277 .378 .523
1987 25 CIN 129 474 120 139 23 4 37 100 50 6 84 134 .293 .399 .593

Jesus. You see those numbers? That's just nuts. Who's doing that today? Beltran or Abreu are the closest you'll get, but they're not doing what Davis did in either of those years. When I see statlines like those I think to myself, "Crap, why the hell was I not in a roto league back then? To have benefitted from numbers like that, what a pleasure. Damn it, why did I have to devote so much time to playing in the sandbox and fingerpainting back in in 1986 at the expense of roto leagues, damn damn damn!" Does this ever happen to anybody else? You stumble across stats that make you wish Doc Brown would pop into your house right now with a Delorian so that you could experience having that player on your roto team in that year? Ok, this is getting weird, right? I'll stop. Anyhoo, as we know, Davis fell off this peak level, had a few more very good years, took a huge downturn, had a nice surprise year in 1998 with Baltimore, and retired far from being looked upon as an all time great. I hope he at least had himself as a sleeper in his 1986 roto keeper league.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Tiger Stadium

Very quickly: Did anybody notice the article on ESPN about how Tiger Stadium is going to be used as some party location for the Super Bowl festivities? Strange, right? For those who don't know, there's a debate over whether to restore Tiger Stadium or tear it down. In the meantime, it sits in Detroit getting increasingly unstable structurally. I think this whole thing is a shame and emblematic of what's become of the Tigers. Just like their stadium, this is a once great franchise that is now nothing but an eyesore. Hell, it's emblematic of the entire city of Detroit. They didn't need to build Comerica Park to begin with, and it serves the Tigers right that they had trouble filling it up even halfway less than a year after it was built. But now that it exists they may as well embrace it, and deal with Tiger Stadium as a thing of the past. The Tigers and the city of Detroit should be looking towards the future, because the present is pretty unappealing for both of them, and the past won't do them any good.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Roto talk

Happy Groundhog Day! Just remember - if you wake up and it hasn't moved on to February 3rd, you can try to seduce Andie McDowell but then you need to start doing good deeds. If you do that, eventually, you'll get out of it.

ESPN's feature today is about Jason Giambi. Both Bob Klapisch and Eric Karabell (who has the second best job in America, right after Bill Simmons) wrote that they expect Giambi to follow up his comeback 2005 campaign with a strong 2006. Karabell rates him the 11th 1st baseman for fantasy. How does this sound? I think it's about right. We know that Giambi had some strange health issues (steroid related or otherwise) that slowed him down in 2004. Those seem to be history. I think it's also safe to say that he's not doing steroids and his July surge was legit. Yes, that's right, all of you steroid monitors out there, (Adam Cohen) I think it's safe to say. How crazy would Giambi have to be to be on the juice again? I just don't believe that he is.

But nobody hits 14 homers a month consistently. The good news is, though, looking at the splits, Giambi hit 6 homers in August and 7 in September - both of which project out to very strong power totals over a full year. In each of those months, however, he hit in the .250 range. This is worth paying attention to, as it could point to a trend. My gut is that Giambi's better than that, but he may be done as a .330 hitter. If Giambi is good for a .280 average with 35 homers and 105 rbi (reasonable in that Yankee lineup), Karabell pegged him just about right as the 11th 1B. Those aren't $35 bid, 2nd round type numbers, but certainly solid production you'd want on your team.

My prediction though, is that more people will be oversold on Giambi than will be leery of him. Just a feeling I have. It's easy to figure that Giambi is back and worth a top pick as he was when he was on the juice. As I said, I think he'll be good, not that good. Watch what happens with him in your drafts and don't get sucked into bidding on him as you would, say, Teixeira.

On that note, we have a February 2nd birthday I'd like to mention for roto: Melvin Mora turns 34. I'm one of those guys who never bids on Mora and never trades for him, not wanting to get stuck when he finally comes back to earth. As an aside, you'll never catch me blaming the Mets for this one. Mora was 28 when they traded him and had to that point shown now signs of being a particularly good player. The Mets needed Mike Bordick, with Ordonez done for the year at the time. And Mora didn't even excel for Baltimore for three more years. So this is a fluke thing, and no Mets fan should be too pissed about it. Anyway, back to the point. I think Mora is definitely at the point where the astute roto player avoids him. He's eligible only at 3B now and hit .283 with 27 HR and 88 RBI in '05. That sounds just ok, but it ranked surprisingly well for 3B last year (tied for 5th in hr, ranking 9th in rbi). However, with Mora turning 34, he should logically be on the way down. And let's not forget that he doesn't hit in a particularly good lineup. A slight decrease in those numbers would pull him to the middle to lower tier of 3B. He may help your team, and there are worse players to be stuck with, but be careful on him. I know I'm going to steer clear, once again.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

February is here

Mishenichnas February Marbim B'Baseball. If you are one of my non-Jewish readers, sorry about that. I'll translate. It means, loosely translated, "hey fellow Jews, let's kill the Christian babies and use their blood in our Passover matzah."

Scared yet? Good. But hold off on that pogrom; the actual translation is, "when February enters, we increase the baseball." Far less inflamatory than my first offered translation, isn't it? Regardless, in any language, February is upon us, which means we are in the month of spring training. Now, that doesn't mean that today really feels different, or that there's anything worth discussing specific to today. But it's nice to know that we don't have to turn the calendar anymore to see the date for pitchers and catchers. In just a few weeks our favorite players will be in Florida and Arizona, gearing up for baseball 2006. In just a month we'll get exhibition games. The first step toward the new season begins on February 1st - relish it. We are just weeks away from reports on position battles, who's looking healthy, who's swinging a hot bat, and which non roster invitees are impressing. And just areound the corner, a full season sits ahead of us, waiting to be played, waiting for the drama of 162 games + October to unfold. Get excited my friends.

But let's face it, that doesn't mean there's anything to talk about today. So....birthdays it is!!! Again!!!! One birthday for February 1st. Cecilio Guante turns 46. Who remembers Guante? He was a reliever for the Yankees in 1987 and 1988. The Yankees acquired him and Rick Rhoden from the Pirates for Doug Drabek before the 1987 season, a trade often cited as one of the foolish Yankee prospect trades of the 1980s (Fred McGriff and Jay Buhner the other popular examples). As we know, Drabek won the 1990 Cy Young Award. I remember the 1990 season and remember Drabek winning the Cy Young Award. He had facial hair, and I remember thinking he must have been really old, like at least 50. I mean, facial hair, come on! I was in 2nd grade then, I didn't have any damn facial hair. Well I just checked, do you know how old Drabek really was in 1990? He turned 28 in June that year. I'm 24 now and have friends who are 25, 26. 28 doesn't seem all that old anymore. Which makes me realize: hey, I'm old. Shit.

Ok then, that's what I've got for you. I'm holding off on assessing the big Alex Gonzalez signing until it's official, I'm sure you'll understand.