Postgame Spread
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Tuesday, October 31, 2006

It only hurts when I laugh    

From King Kaufman's NBA preview:

"The 76ers, on the other hand, I know what they're doing. They're heading for the cellar. When you've got Allen Iverson and Chris Webber as your two best players, you've got a shot to contend. For the 2001 championship."

Why The 2006 Cardinals Suck, Part II    

(Flickr user frnch)

Heart? Guts? More like ASS.

Just as that picture sums up my feelings on Eckstein, the hopelessly mediocre shortstop's MVP trophy sums up the 2006 post-season. Eckstein has been canonized by the media because his success has come in spite of his diminutive size. Now he's got an expensive piece of hardware on his mantlepiece... not because he was so dominant on his own, but because none of his teammates felt like earning it themselves. They should engrave "de facto" on the goddamn thing.

First, let's deal with this "overcoming adversity" nonsense.  What "adversity" has he overcome, exactly?  Oh, you mean when he was cut five years ago?  For shitting the bed in AAA?  Yeah, I'm friggin moved to tears.  How DARE they cut him on merit alone! Didn't they see how much heart he had? He hasn't overcome anything that your average journeyman overcomes on an annual basis.

You wanna know what adversity is?  Juan Dixon was unquestionably the best player on a team that won the NCAA championship, after his drug-addicted parents both died of AIDS.  Pokey Reese, who in many ways is Eckstein's injury-prone doppelganger, watched the mothers of his two children both die in separate tragediesThat is overcoming adversity.  Eckstein has overcome jack fucking shit.

But let's assume for the moment that he has indeed "overcome adversity."  He is now a multi-millionaire with two World Series rings to his credit.  He seems to have arrived.  Isn't it maybe about time we take the kid gloves off?  Instead of continuing to make him a goddamn charity case?  Why do all the people who profess to love his spunk keep holding him to such dismally low standards?  If he knocks in a run he's the fucking Gandhi of baseball.  Hilariously, by championing the little guy's survival amongst the big boys, America has given
Eckstein the equivalent of a booster seat.  Training wheels.  A phone book.  Which is exactly how the average person would react to someone they see as preternaturally inferior.

I don't see the American Dream when I see Eckstein.  I see Bucky Fucking Dent, riding the coattails of his teammates and getting lucky.  He's a mascot at best.  Big deal.

Why The 2006 Cardinals Suck, Part I    

(Flickr user incendiarymind)

This has been a rough year.  And no, I'm not referring to the Debacle in Denver or the Abreu Ass-Raping. I mean across the entire world of sports. Every champion crowned since the Rose Bowl has had its title marred in one way or another by circumstance:

  • The Steelers and Heat received their titles with significant help from the
    referees.  (Not so much that America feels ripped off, but certainly enough to raise an eyebrow or three.)

  • The Hurricanes halted, by a hair, what would have been the biggest upset in Stanley Cup history.

  • The Final Four's result was dwarfed by the unheralded run of George Mason University.

  • Team Italy's sublime display of thuggery and mediocrity was outdone by the racism-instigated Zizou headbutt.

As a result, none of those victories resonate. They're overshadowed by either the controversy of the final or the perseverance of the runner-up. They're afterthoughts compared to the events surrounding their championships. And they all happened at once. It's been shaping up as a rough year all the way around.

The win by the 2006 Cardinals is worse than all of them.

The Cardinals were not a good baseball team by any means.  Their 83-78 finish is right on the money.  This isn't a case where the team got hot late and salvaged a disastrous start; that record reflects their skill just about perfectly.  Their hottest stretch was a seven-game winning streak, but they also suffered two eight-game losing streaks.  They were neither proficient nor deficient in any area.  And let's not start in with that phony-baloney hearts-and-guts horseshit.  This blog is an Eckstein-free zone.  Any other year, this team misses the playoffs entirely. This year, they win the whole thing.

I can't get over how little work this team had to do. .500 baseball was good enough to win the Central division, thanks to even worse play from their nearest competitors (Houston, Cincinnati). Their first playoff opponent (San Diego) was no tougher.  The Mets, far superior on paper but woefully short-handed in the absence of Pedro, El Duque, and Clifford "Tits" Floyd, proceeded to lose by a neck in one of the ugliest series in recent memory.  And we've just finished watching the Tigers throw the series away, as literally as possible.  So, just to recap, the Cards beat out three crap teams, lucked past an injured giant, and watched young guns collapse in disaster.  All without having to play "good" baseball even once.  And now we're contractually obligated to refer to them as world champions.

I cannot think of a team that has won a World Series without playing particularly well at any point.  The other notable "soft" winner in recent memory, the '97 Marlins, made a late-season run superior to any other team in baseball.  In other words, they at least did something.  What did the Cards do?  Outlast their opponents?  Use the Jedi mind trick to make Joel Zumaya throw that ball away?  Does anyone think this team was ever pushed?  I sure don't.  That's probably why I find all this "guts" and "heart" stuff to be so laughable: to me, they half-assed it all year and got lucky.  Wow, what an inspiration.

The most damning statement I can make about the Cardinals is that any of the last five Cardinals teams would tear the living shit out of this year's
edition.  If those more-deserving editions didn't win, why reward these chumps?  I guess Cards fans ought to get something, after watching so many legitimate attempts fall short.  It's been almost 25 years since they won, so it's not like a victory means nothing to them.  But it doesn't make their team any better, and I gotta think that in the back of their heads, a lot of them are at least a little bit puzzled.

After living through the aftermath of Super Bowl XXXVI, I know for a fact that winning is not equivalent to respect.  The only way to get people's respect is to earn it.  Winning the game won't shut everyone up, but being the best sure will.  It's hard for me to respect a team that does nothing but find themselves in the right place at the right time.  I'm just not convinced. Time will tell.

Monday, October 30, 2006

MVP? Santana, I guess. Maybe.    

The MVP debate this year has been an interesting, if frustrating, one for me because it's forced me to wrestle with some different ways of looking at these things. If you take Bill James' Win Shares and Runs Created stats seriously, it really looks like Jeter is the guy. On the other hand, if you thought Ortiz deserved it last year, if you jump straight to HRs and RBIs, or are searching for a kind of transcendant quality about your hitter...well, he had a season that would be a trick to classify as inferior to last year's and pretty well nails those other criterion. If you think being the strongest link of a playoff team is the key criterion, you're looking pretty closely at the Twins and trying to figure out which of their players was the most crucial to their success, since they were the most top-heavy of the playoff teams. And it's kind of hard. The easy way out for a lot of people, myself included at times, has been to say well, why not Santana? Waffling between hitters, why not take the most dominant starting pitcher and give starters their due?

The first and most important thing to get out of the way is that the only-every-fifth-day thing is nonsense. I was alerted to this by Tangotiger pointing out that as of 9/21 Santana had faced more batters than Morneau had pitchers. In fact, during the course of the season, Santana faced a total of 923 batters. Zito faced 945, but having pitched less innings that just means he sucks more. By contrast, the league leader among position players, Ichiro, had 752 plate appearances. Jeter had 715, Ortiz 686. So the fact that the situations in which Santana makes his impact are a more concentrated doesn't actually mean that he's playing less (unless you strongly value defensive contributions, even mediocre ones, in which case you're probably sure Jeter is your guy already, or maybe Mauer if defense is really your thing). Moreover, since Eckersley won in 1992, it's worth pointing out that while I don't have 1992 data on hand, none of the top relievers this year faced much more than 300 batters. So if the playing time thing counts against starters it, it should really count against relievers, usual caveats about high-leverage situations aside.

Jeff claims you can't take Santana because this isn't even his best season, let alone a season that stacks up against some of the best seasons of Pedro or Randy. If those guys never won, how do you give it to Santana not even quite at his best? Jim Caple's argument was fairly similar, asking people to compare the Twins this year with the 1995 Mariners trio of Edgar, Buhner, and Randy, each of which arguably had a better and more important performance to lead an otherwise pretty crappy Mariners team to the playoffs. Caple had me for a while, and reminded me about the ridiculousness of trying to name an MVP in general. But it's easy to flip the tables and say, "Well, how can you give it to a DH after snubbing Edgar in 1995?" I don't think that kind of logic really leads anywhere. What is the point of not trying to correct biases? The fact that dominant seasons in the past by a pitcher or a DH have fallen short doesn't mean we should be prejudiced against them now. Plus, Clemens' 1986 can't be the gold standard, since we have Eckersley in '92. While I'm not trying to take away anything from Eckersley in specific or closers in general...well, the bottom line is that I think starters are more important. If anyone wants to take that up, I'll argue it in the comments. Eventually, anyway.

Jeff also claims that you can't take Santana because he only won 19 games. Obviously, he's talking more about MVP voters than himself, as none of us are really the type to overestimate wins in a pitcher's effectiveness. But it also reflects that in any realistic discussion of MVP, you do have to leave some definitions of "best" at the door. Contributions to wins in that sense may be the most important characteristic of a pitcher's value in an MVP debate, but we also know that Santana's contribution to team wins is not captured by his Wins total. We have a pretty good idea as to how much excellent pitching he contributed to a lot of no-decisions this year. Well, the Twins were 8-1 in the games that Santana received a no-decision in, and he pitched at least 7 full innings in 5 of those games, and left before the end of the 6th in just 2 of those cases (and he pitched 8 in the loss). So, if I were to try to more accurate depict the record Santana "should have," I would probably add another 5 wins and not fault him for the no-decision loss. 24-6 gets you a lot closer to an historic season, though of course people who had "real" historic seasons probably got wins sniped from them too.

So let's not underestimate Santana's dominance this year. The Hardball Times stats page makes it pretty clear that 2006 Santana was the second-best AL pitcher of the past three years, after only the 2004 version of himself. And if you toss in the NL, you have deal with Clemens' ridiculousness, sure. But while Clemens was definitely better that year, if you look at the total of innings contributed, more valuable is more of a stretch. I'd be reluctant to make a case either way. Let's stick to the AL, though, and wade through this a little. Take a look:

1. 2004 Santana 2.61
2. 2006 Santana 2.77
3. 2005 Millwood 2.86
4. 2005 Santana 2.87
5. 2005 Buehrle 3.12
6. 2006 Halladay 3.19

1. 2004 Buehrle 245.3
2. 2005 Buehrle 236.7
3. 2006 Santana 233.7
4. 2005 Santana 231.7
5. 2005 Zito 228.3
6. 2004 Santana 228.0

Ks (BBs in parentheses)
1. 2004 Santana 265 (54)
2. 2006 Santana 245 (47)
3. 2005 Santana 238 (45)
4. 2004 Pedro 227 (61)
5. 2005 Johnson 211 (47)
6. 2004 Schilling 203 (35)
7. 2006 Bonderman 202 (64)

1. 2004 Santana 173
2. 2006 Santana 156
3. 2005 Santana 143
4. 2004 Schilling 140
5. 2006 Halladay 119
6. 2004 Pedro 115


1. 2004 Santana 180
2. 2006 Santana 164
3. 2005 Santana 151
4. 2006 Halladay 148
5. 2005 Millwood 145
6. 2004 Schilling 145

1. 2005 Santana 2.80
2. 2004 Santana 3.02
3. 2005 Lackey 3.08
4. 2006 Santana 3.15
5. 2004 Schilling 3.21
6. 2006 Bonderman 3.31

So, Santana was notably better in 2004 than he was this year, but it's pretty close in a lot of the categories. He managed to walk less batters while throwing more inning this year, for example. And there's no real question that Santana has been the best pitcher in the American League for three years--with the occasional challenger, sure, but it's a damn impressive run. I don't think it approaches travesty territory, if you think about it, to put these seasons up against the all-time greats, especially considering the quality of hitters he's been facing (though Pedro probably gets a bigger bump in that respect for playing through what we can pretty fairly call now a 'roided era). And there's no question on the valuable-ness to his team that the Twins minus Santana equals bad. Yankees minus Jeter, much less clear. Sox minus Ortiz would be a huge hit, but they didn't make the playoffs anyway. So if that's a big factor, you're leaning toward a Twin, and I think Santana's the best of them.

To me, this has come down to trying to figure out what I think of Win Shares, Runs Created (RC) and it's newer corollary Pitching Runs Created (PRC). If RC really does incorporate all the different ways you add to an offense better than looking at traditional stats, then Jeter's your guy. If PRC doesn't overstate the impact of pitchers, then you have to take Santana. If they're both pretty shaky, it's a whole lot easier to make a case for Ortiz. But it's not so hard to see that RC is flawed in some capacity. Take a look at RC for NL this year:

1. Pujols 150
2. Berkman 142
3. Cabrera 141
4. Howard 138
5. Beltran 125
6. Reyes 125

I love Cabrera and Berkman as much as the next guy (probably more in the case of Cabrera), but they're probably going to finish ahead of Howard on approximately zero MVP ballots, and that's probably appropriate. So, something's definitely up. Continuing, putting RC and PRC for both leagues together yields this list:

1. Santana 156
2. Pujols 150
3. Berkman 142
4. Cabrera 141
5. Howard 138
5. Jeter 138
6. Oswalt 128
7. Ortiz 127
8. Carpenter 125

So, what does this really tell us? One thing that we can say pretty easily is that it probably overstates the importance of batting average for hitters. Or maybe it underestimates the impact of Home Runs by reducing them to 4 Total Bases when their impact is actually much greater. Some formula that awarded points for bases on a 6 point scale like Single=1, Double=3, Triple=4, and HR=6 might be closer to the truth (or it might be a further distortion, I just pulled it out of my ass, but you understand where I'm going with this). Valuing HRs a little bit more, though, would result in Howard leap-frogging Berkman and Cabrera in a heartbeat, and would quickly close the gap between Jeter and Ortiz, so I think something along those lines must be pretty key. But at the same time, it definitely identifies all the main guys pretty quick (remember, the AL list goes Jeter, Ortiz, Sizemore, Thome, Morneau, Hafner, Ibanez, Dye, A-Rod, Guerrero), so it's not so shabby as it is.

But what about PRC? Does it actually give us a stat that allows to directly compare the contributions of pitchers and hitters? I'm skeptical, but David Gassko's reasoning on the subject is pretty interesting. I'll leave it to you guys to decide whether it's worth a damn (first, you might want to read his follow-up article), but I think it makes a strong case. So, let's stack up the past three years in the both leagues RC + PRC, and see what it gets us:

2004 Bonds 174
2004 Santana 173
2006 Santana 156
2006 Pujols 150
2005 D. Lee 144
2005 Clemens 144
2004 Ichiro 143
2004 Pujols 143
2005 Santana 143
2004 Johnson 143
2005 Pujols 142
2006 Berkman 142
2004 Schilling 140
2005 Texeira 138
2006 Cabrera 141
2005 A-Rod 138
2006 Jeter 138
2006 Howard 138
2004 Abreu 137
2005 Ortiz 136
2005 Bay 136
2004 Sheets 136
2005 Manny 134
2005 Sheffield 131
2005 Giles 130
2006 Oswalt 128
2005 Carpenter 128
2006 Ortiz 127
2004 Ortiz 127

That's still a list dominated by hitters, and the pitchers that even get on the list (Santana, Clemens, Johnson, Schilling, Sheets, Oswalt, Carpenter) are the cream of the crop. So, it looks to me like PRC does stack up reasonably well with RC, or at least defensibly well. And by that measure, Santana looks pretty good, but maybe a little too good. It looks to me like Win Shares probably overestimates defense (or at least position) to some extent (a Jeter-Mauer 1-2 punch certainly makes you wonder). But it's kind of hard for me to say it really underestimates pitching, since it gives Santana 25 WS and my little thought experiment pegged him at 24-6 for a record that more accurately reflected how good he was this year. Probably RC is too reliant on OBP and TB to account sufficiently for HR. I also think using TB without finding a way to add walks back into the TB category might be account for the kind of bizarre discrepency between, say Ortiz's 2005 and his 2006. In 2006 he was better in OBP and slugging, so why fewer RC? Should he be penalized meaningfully for playing in 8 less games? Maybe, but I'm certainly not sure. It's not like the Red Sox had to replace him with an offensive black hole when he was much of a difference that should make?

Again, all of this just points out to me how incredibly subjective all this inevitably is. Ortiz clearly actually contributed the most offense, whatever you think of RC and OBP, as he has a huge RBI lead and only a tiny runs scored deficit despite playing on an inferior offensive team. Jeter's defense has to count for something, though, so the debate is still meaningful. And I think Jeter's basestealing this year really is worth a second look. According to net statistics, he was as valuable in that regard as Jose Reyes, which I don't think that many people would realize. So, again, I say Santana, but the closer I look the easier it is for me to see it going a number of different ways. I would much rather the award go to Ortiz than Jeter, but I don't think it's as ridiculous as all that, really. He did a lot for his offense this year.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Wild cards need love too ... but they gotta pay    

Read this article about doing something about the home-road split to make the MLB playoffs more difficult for wild cards. Seems to me that they're already at enough of a disadvantage, playing fewer home games against the toughest teams. Thoughts?

Thursday, October 26, 2006

I Got My Groove Back!    

By watching the playoffs! That's right, there's nothing like October baseball to get me to STFU about stupid crap.

What? No! I'm not watching TurdFest 2006! I meant this:

Yeah baby!!! I popped in Game 4 of the ALCS about an hour ago, and I've been watching it for real. For example, just now I saw the last significant hit A-Rod will ever have... his 2-run HR in the 3rd inning. (Of course, the first thing Joe Buck did was segue into the story of the botched A-Rod trade.) And remember... I've never seen actaully Game 4 until now. I refused to watch it at the time, out of protest, so this is a momentous occasion. I get to reverse some bad karma and worse trauma.

It's actually a lot more interesting to watch than I expected. I figured I'd get bored and skip ahead, or that it'd be weird to watch the whole thing, but no. Not in the slightest. In fact, I'm even yelling at the TV. I made it into double-digit F-bombs inside the first couple minutes, even. I couldn't believe it. I'm totally acting like it's a real game. Here's an example of Jeff-to-TV conversation from the first inning:

Joe Buck: Rodriguez... out!
Jeff: Fah Q.
Joe Buck: Sheffield is hitting .692.
Jeff: Hey. Fah Q.
Tim McCarver: Terry Francona said bluh bluh bluh I'm too old to talk
Jeff: FAH Q!!!
Joe Buck: Who could ever forget the famous curse, Babe Ruth used to play here in Boston you know
Jeff: FAH!!! Q!!!
Tim McCarver: Brandon Arroyo knocks the puck through the uprights for a three-pointer! Yay!
Jeff: faaaaaaaAAAAAAAAAH........ Q!

It's a lot closer to verbatim than you'd think.

I haven't decided what to do with discs 1-3 of the set. I thought I might co-opt Simmons' idea, in which case Lehr is about to get a package in the mail. Although, I do need me some coasters. (You might be thinking to yourself, "aaah, those jokes are old." Except for one thing. I'm serious.) Regardless, I'm open to suggestions. If anything beats the coaster idea, I'll do it.

You're the GM: Gary Sheffield Edition    

The Yanks just picked up a $13M option on Sheff.

Gary Sheffield:
October 26: "This will not work, this will not work at all," Sheffield told the newspaper. "I don't want to play first base a year for them. I will not do that."

Soo... here are the options:

DH either Damon, Matsui, or Abreu, putting a clearly inferior fielder out there?
Rotating DH, resting everyone occasionally (likeliest scenario)?
Trade Sheffield to someone looking for a 1 year rental?

If you trade him, what could you get?
We've already established that they need pitching.
With an outfield comprised of Godzilla, Damon, Abreu, and with Melky Bartokamus on the bench, you can certainly let Sheffield go.
But what of Giambi and his rapidly dessicating body parts? Do you keep around Andy AAA Phillips or Craig "Big Fish, Little Pond" Wilson as insurance? That's like keeping a bucket of water around as fire prevention, only it's a bucket of gasoline.

Personally, I think you see if you can get anything real for Sheffield, you go for it.

Maybe one of Florida's young starters if they get new ownership in place and want to secure a long-term big name to sell tickets - they'd have to be assured that Sheff would sign a 3 year deal for WAAAAAY too much money of course.

Maybe Scot Shields and some prospects from Anaheim? Would a starter be remotely possible?

Josh Beckett and Craig Hansen?


I Guess I Have Bloodlust This Week    

Jesus Goddamn Christ.  If it's not the MVP race, or the disaster that is the St. Louis Cardinals, it's friggin' sabermetrics.  From the previous post's comments, from The Hardball Times via Jesse (emphasis mine):

Clutch* (only considering players in contention, measured as previously listed above more than once)

1. Thome 7.0
2. Jeter 6.7
3. Dye 4.5
4. Morneau 4.2
5. Manny 1.3
6. Hafner -.3
7. Ortiz -6.3
8. Sizemore -7.0

* From THT: '"Clutch" is the name we've given to the portion of Bill James's Runs Created formula that includes the impact of a batter's batting average with runners in scoring position and the number of home runs with runners on. The specific formula is Hits with RISP minus overall BA times at bats with RISP, plus HR with runners on minus (all HR/AB) times at bats with runners on. This stat is not a definitive description of "clutch hitting," just one way of looking at it.'

Well, unless I've missed something obvious, that "one way of looking at it" is entirely ignorant.  Sir, step away from the spreadsheet, and put your hands above your head where I can see them.

"Clutch," as defined by the ad wizards at Hardball Times, reflects performance with runners on base.  It does not take game context into account.  In other words, A-Rod's RISP dominance during 15-1 blowouts counts towards his Clutch factor.  Bra-fucking-vo.  How long have these people been watching baseball?  Three weeks?  A month?  I wasted an hour and a half on this post because they don't understand what a fucking clutch situation is???!?!?  (I love channeling my inner Bluth.  "I... am going to trial... because you don't understand what a BLOOPER is?!?")

I'm willing to accept that David Ortiz isn't as good as he seems.  It's a situation where success is bound to overshadow failure.  In fact, I remember seeing data showing that Ortiz isn't particularly great after the 7th inning, at least on a year-to-year basis.  I forget who and where, but it directly addressed the question of Ortiz' prominent status as a late-inning hero.  It was an argument.  I don't agree with it, but I at least respect that there was proper evidence behind the argument.

What I can't abide is redefining the question to suit the answers.  If the question is "Is David Ortiz really a clutch hitter," why would a suitable response be "well, he hits poorly with runners in scoring position"?  Call me old-fashioned, but I like folks to answer the fucking question.  If you can, I'll give all due credit.  If you can't, tough titty for you and your spreadsheet.

There are many, many situations that can be described as "clutch."  Two outs with RISP is a classic indicator of effectiveness in a tight spot.  This one situation is what THT's stat represents.  However, down one runs, man on first, no outs in the 9th inning is much, much more clutch in every sense, and it is not represented anywhere in said stat.  Any statistic that claims to be "clutch" needs to reflect, in an abstract sense, a hitter's performance with his back against the wall.  How does he hit when he knows it's probably his last chance of the night to win the game for his teammates?  Stats that don't consider situations where the tying/winning run would be due up in the current inning, which is the 7th inning or later, do not reflect clutch performance.  End of story.

And yet the THT gives its ill-conceived attempt a misleading, all-encompassing name, cloaked with the transparent caveat that it's "just one way of looking at it."  Oh, well never mind then.  Come on!  What's next?  What if someone published a fallacious proof of Fermat's theorem based on simple algebra, but with the caveat "this is just one way of looking at it"?  Or if THT had run similarly half-assed numbers for measuring defensive prowess.  They would be fucking eaten alive by the sabermetric community.  Don't put it out there, with that name, if you're not ready to take it seriously.  You think it reflects clutchness.  It's a complete crock of shit.  Don't backtrack.  Don't hide behind asterisks.  Own your work.

I'm hereby calling for a national moratorium on stats that debunk Ortiz' late-game heroics without limiting themselves to the question at hand: late-game situations where he (allegedly) thrives.  No more RISP-based stuff.  No more two-outs-only.  And for the love of God, no more stats predicated on the farcical claim that game context is irrelevant when it comes to scoring runs.  Please spare me that ignorant shit.  "Guuuuuh, runs in duh furst inning mean duh same thing as duh runs in duh ninth inning, durrrrrrrr."  Go play with your fuckin' toys.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

I Promised Myself I Wouldn't Write About This    

Another promise broken, all thanks to an offhand remark in a previous post:

I still have trouble voting MVP for someone whose team probably would have made the playoffs without him, but he did have a good season and there's no obvious choice so he'll probably get it. Personally, I keep flip-flopping around, but I think I'm back to Santana. Nobody on the offensive end dominated like he did this year.

Yeah, I can't think of any dominant offensive seasons either.  Totally drawing a blank here.  But let's see, what would a totally hypothetical, imaginary baseball player have to do to get people's attention?  Hit like, ohhhh I dunno, 54 HRs and 137 RBIs with a 1000+ OPS?  Offensive numbers are all well and good, of course, so he'd also need to help his team win games in as direct a manner as possible.  Hmmm.  Yeah, nobody did that this year.

Put another way, I'd be curious to know how many times a player with David Ortiz' numbers, relative to the rest of the league, lost the MVP to another hitter.  You know, just to see whether the 2006 anti-Ortiz sentiment is justifiable based on past awards.  Jeter's had a great season, and he does have the pedigree to challenge Ortiz on "clutch" hitting, which A-Rod did not.  But you're telling me a guy can lead the league by 10 HRs, single-handedly keep his team in contention for four months longer than it deserved, and come October he's not only behind, but can't even get a whiff of consideration anymore?  Seriously???  If I were him, I'd blow up too.  It's so fucked up, I'm left with no choice but to consider whether there's something else going on that nobody's talking about in public.

Johan Santana, meanwhile, has no chance.  He's not winning.  Inconceivable.  How are voters going to overcome their oral fixation for Jeter if all they're given to work with is 19 measly wins?!?  Voters may not care about technicalities like "home runs" and "runs batted in," but they sure as hell care about pitchers' win totals.  More importantly, it takes a career season to win MVP, and this wasn't Johan's career year.  His 2004 was better, statistically speaking, in every way.  Even on statistical merit alone, his 2006 doesn't cut it.  It's a standard Cy Young year, by the numbers.  Nothing special.  They can't/won't give the MVP to that.

Ahhh, what's the point?  The guy who hits the most HRs, by far, and is the primary reason for his team's success, whatever level of success that may be, sounds like the MVP to me.  But I'm obviously alone on that, because I'm just a whiny, biased Red Sox fan.  What do I know?  Jeter's obviously got the heart of a champion.

Only a few more weeks before I stop feeling optimistic about the 76ers    

Saw this in a Sixers article:


Iverson said he has told his teammates, both in a joking manner and seriously, that he will be the guy who sets the tone on the defensive end.

"I think it's going to take me sacrificing a lot of things on the defensive end as far as not gambling as much as I usually gamble, and just always trying to be in the right spots on defense," he said. "It's approaching the defensive end of the court like I approach the offensive end of the court. So, the whole thing is going to start with me."



Everything you need to know about basestealing but were afraid to ask    

Baseball Analysts just posted a pretty comprehensive listing of individual and team success in stealing bases this year. It's a great read, and I encourage everyone to check it out. Having a stat like net stolen bases compiled for you is key, and it's nice to know how often it's important to be successful in order to break even in the different situations. Here's what I take from the article:

1) I-CHI-RO! I-CHI-RO! Finally, the best basestealer in baseball this year. I was always hoping that would happen. He had a truly incredible season on the basepaths. He's usually good, but he's never been caught this few times, and I'm glad to see him now effectively tied with '04 Carlos Beltran for most efficient basestealing season of recent years. I already knew how good he was this year, but I didn't realize for sure that no one else was as good. That's nice.

2) Enough of jokers like Juan Pierre, Chone Figgins, and Scott Podsednik. I can't believe guys who get caught this often get so much credit for being great baserunners. This isn't an isolated incident either, though they were worse in this regard than usual. And these are guys who have parlayed gaudy SB numbers into batting leadoff with pretty poor OBP, too. So it's not just fans and fantasy players who get duped by this BS. That said, they do steal well enough to break even. Let me say that again, TO BREAK EVEN. Well, not Podsednik this year, but he was better last year (and legitimately impressive in '04). Anyway...

3) Lehr is right! The Yankees do play a fair amount of small ball, if steals can really stand in for that all by themselves. What's more, they're actually really good at it. Credit the Mets and Yankees actually for having extremely efficient SB numbers team-wide. That's smart managing, at least in this one aspect of the game. And it helps out Jeter's MVP case a little; he was pretty darn good at it this year. I still have trouble voting MVP for someone whose team probably would have made the playoffs without him, but he did have a good season and there's no obvious choice so he'll probably get it. Personally, I keep flip-flopping around, but I think I'm back to Santana. Nobody on the offensive end dominated like he did this year.

4) The guy in the comments is right; this is only a start. Garbage time steals should not be given the weight that high-leverage steals are. The authors came back and said basically "well, why not adjust batting average for the high leverage of the situation then?" But I think that's BS; steals are different. Leverage is a really, really important way of evaluating their contribution (like hitting to an extent) but also how hard it was to do (less like hitting, though I'm sure there's some of that there as well). So, it's important. I however am not interested in thinking very hard about this. I look forward to the day when statheads who care more than me have solved this problem and put a pretty number up on the Hardball Times that I can sort hitters by.

5) I don't know how much it makes sense to combine the offensive net and the defensive net numbers. What does that really tell us? Sure, you know how much a team, overall, was helped or hurt by the total amount of stealing that occurred when they were playing, but the two things are such different skill sets that I don't really see the point. Totally different aspects of roster construction, etc. Kind of interesting though I guess.

Thoughts? Comments? Criticisms?

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Cheating Anecdote    

From the Toronto Sun:

"Dennis Eckersley was on the mound for the A's [against the Blue Jays in Game 5 of the ALCS].

The night before, a clubhouse attendant from Dunedin, helping with the laundry, found an emery board in Eckersley's glove.

When Eckersley finished his warm-up, and with the A's leading 4-2, Gaston approached plate ump Rick Reed asking him to check the closer's glove.

Crew chief Davey Phillips arrived and checked Eckersley's glove. Finding nothing, he returned to Gaston, who claimed Eck put something down his pants.

'I can't ask him to pull down his pants in front of 50,000 people,' Phillips said.

When Eckersley struck out Junior Felix to end the game, A's catcher Terry Steinbach gave the Jays dugout the finger.

It wasn't inspected, either."

Anyone else know any good cheating stories?

Apropos of nothing...    

in preparing my Maurice Clarett costume for Halloween, I of course came upon this famous photo from his most recent crime scene:

Of note is the item in the bottom left corner...
yup. That's a lint brush.

For when you absolutely positively have to look your best while killing every motherfucker in the room.

Diamondbacks Country    

This blog's East Coast bias makes me sick. And I find Jesse's Pacific Northwest bias noxious as well. So: what's up with the Cardinals? Not the St. Louis Cardinals -- I'm fed up with all that Midwest coverage we've been getting (seriously guys, EST or PST. Just pick one) -- the Arizona Cardinals.

Edge, after the Cards lost to the Raiders:

"They warned me about this," James said after gaining 34 yards in 14 carries against the Raiders.

James leads the NFL in rushing attempts but is averaging 2.7 yards per carry.

"I wasn't prepared for this, man, I really wasn't, when making my decision," he said "I don't know what we're doing now."

I think they have talent, but the personnel on the lines, especially O-line, are problematic (no way a team with that much offensive talent should be scoring so little). What should they do? Free agent pickups than could/should have made? Can still make? Fire the coach? Release/trade/bench some players? Move the city to Balitimore in the middle of the night?

Monday, October 23, 2006

Kenny Rogers, Santorum Advocate    

so... media hype designed to create more interest in an (i assume) ignored World Series?
Or legitimate major story.
I'm leaning towards the former, but boy howdy, the Gambler has been something else lately, and if that Frothy Mix on his hand deserves the credit, it's a pretty great story.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Yankees offense TOO good for the postseason?    

An interesting comment from Bill Simmons' most recent mailbag:

[Blah blah blah Piniella bad, firing Torre stupid]...But my buddy JackO (diehard Yankee fan) claims that Torre lost the respect of the team, that the Yankees turned into a passive, business-like team of rich guys who didn't get along, didn't retaliate whenever pitchers threw at their guys or took Jeter out at second base and didn't seem to have any real sense of urgency. I countered that there's something to all of that, but you win in October with good starting pitching, a deep bullpen and clutch hitting; if those three things aren't happening at the same time, it doesn't matter how much money you spent on the team.

Anyway, out of all the Yankee fans I heard from, the most rational argument came from Jonathan T., who sent along the following post-mortem:

"In 1996-2000, it wasn't just that they had great chemistry (which they did), they didn't have nearly as much offensive talent so they were forced to play true October baseball. The current Yankee lineup isn't built for the postseason. You just can't rely on three-run homers with the great pitching in the playoffs, while you can in much of the regular season (especially playing Tampa and Baltimore 38 times). With a great set of contact hitters and speed guys --Damon, Jeter, Abreu, Melky, Cano -- this team should be hit-and-running, stealing at every opportunity, taking extra bases, bunting, etc. However, with power hitters like Sheffield and A-Rod clogging up the end of the lineup (such as Game 4, when A-Rod hit eighth), they can't. There is actually TOO MUCH talent. Are you honestly going to bunt with runners on first and second and no one out with the 25-million-dollar man up? Of course not. But if former eighth-place-hitter Scott Brosius is up, it's a no-brainer. So it's not just their lack of chemistry but the fact that playoff teams thrive off role players. Even if you take a loaded team like the Mets, they still have guys like Endy Chavez, Jose Valentin and Paul Lo Duca. Baseball front offices, regardless of the payroll, should build their teams like baseball teams, not fantasy baseball teams."

I've been starting to think there's something to the opinion of this "JackO", as you guys know, but I also think the real key is Simmons' retort (with mandated caution regarding the notion of clutch). Yankee problems are pitching and defense (two very related problems for the Yankees especially, though each is significant in isolation as well). There may also be a number of other things going on, but pitching is by far the most important, then defense, then whatever weird clubhouse politics and chokeritis or whatever.

That said, the email that Simmons quotes is kind of interesting. I think he's waayyy overstating the importance of small ball (look how many runs the Tigers scored in their wins), but still...well, lets see here. In playoff losses beginning in 2004 (when I believe the current era of Yankee failure began though it may have been '03 against the Marlins or even '02 I suppose), the number of runs the Yankees gave up in each loss:

8 (vs. DET)
6 (vs. DET)
4 (vs. DET)*
5 (vs. ANA)**
11 (vs. ANA)
5 (vs. ANA)**
10 (vs. BOS)
4 (vs. BOS)***
5 (vs. BOS)***
6 (vs. BOS)***
2 (vs. MIN)****

* 4-3 loss. This presents an interesting case because if the Yankees had been able to pull out this game, the chances that the rest of the series had gone the way it did are very very small, in my opinion. Could more small ball have helped? Sound off in the comments.

** 5-3 losses. You could argue this is another case, but I'm going to call it a push. As far as I'm concerned, there's no conclusions that can be drawn from this, except to point out that they gave up 5+ runs to a terrible offensive team in all three of those losses, including that 11 point game. Ugh. Small ball being able to help or not, Yankee pitching sucks.

*** Boston series madness. Clearly a whole lot of other shit was going on here, like Foulke pitching as well as anyone in any single postseason ever, the biggest choke ever, etc. Still, while it's hard for me to say, being able to eek out a single extra-innings run could have meant the series. I'm not sure small ball would have helped them, but I could see someone making the case effectively. Thoughts?

**** 0-2 loss to the best pitcher in baseball pitching his could include this I guess, but I'm not inclined to believe they could have scored those runs by small ball either. It hardly matters since they won the series anyway.

Conclusion: Maybe there's something to all this, but it's also easy enough to describe it all in terms of Yankees pitching pretty much sucking. And I think the Yankees continued perceived need for proven commodities is going to continue to hurt them here. There's so much wear-and-tear on arms by the time they are made available to the Yankees from other teams...I don't see this getting much better. Although, future signings will almost certainly not work out as badly as Pavano or Wright, so they may be able to win anyway. Still, a potentially major drawback to not be able to build pitching from within because of this fear of non-proven players.

And in case this doesn't sate your thirst for Yankees-related schadenfreude, there's this thread about trading A-Rod to the Cubs. It's annoying here and there, but fun speculation too, and I learned a few things I think. Enjoy.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Knicks 2006 Season Preview    

With Basketball season looming, I thought I'd take a quick look at my Knicks, and formulate an estimation of how the upcoming season will turn out. The buzz in New York couldn't be greater.

Boy do I wish I hadn't.

A quick tour through their roster:
Stephon Marbury.

Jamal Crawford

Eddy Curry

Jalen Rose

Channing Frye

Steve Franchise

Nate Robinson

Quentin Richardson

Maurice Taylor

Jackie Butler

David Lee

I can't go any further... I'm spent.

Here's what ESPN's John Hollinger has to say about the guys he ranks as the Knicks best players, including their preposterously inflated overall ranking in the league...

35. Channing Frye
"The Knicks' first-round pick looked like a Rookie of the Year contender before Larry Brown started screwing with his head."

49. Eddy Curry
"The Knicks centered much of their high hopes for the season around their unrealistic hopes for Curry, making a crazy bet by dealing an unprotected lottery pick to Chicago"

55. Stephon Marbury
"And we thought Athens was bad. The pairing of Larry Brown and Marbury didn't work well for the U.S. Olympic team, but it was downright disastrous for the Knicks."

Well, At Least ONE Lehr Decided To Be Evil    

Stay... off... the CRACK.

Friday, October 13, 2006

A Five-Point Plan For Making Alex Lehr My Mortal Enemy    

From Bill Simmons today:

Why wouldn't someone sell framed pictures online of Vanderjagt consoling T.O. on the Philly sidelines last week? It's the perfect joke Xmas present for any friend who likes the Cowboys, right?

Simmons wins the friggin Internet.  That's a fabulous idea.  I never thought I'd say this, but gosh... I wish I knew me some Cowboys fans.  Or at least knew one well enough to waste my hard-earned money on that.  I'd be tittering like a schoolgirl at the framing shop.

But making friends with a Cowboys fan isn't terribly practical.  It's an uphill battle, what with the obnoxious behavior, monosyllabic quasi-sentences, and the constant stream of drool.  And that's before the game starts.  It's too risky.  Clearly, my best bet is to convert an existing friend.

To nobody's surprise, I have selected Alex Lehr for this duty.  You know you could do it, Lehr.  You're already a Yankees and Blue Devils fan, so why not put the Cowboys up there on that mantle?  Besides, you're only a Broncos fan because all those little rat-faced Giants fans traumatized you in 1987, so being a Dallas fan will still piss off all your old buddies.  And you know they'll hoist the Lombardi again in the next ten years; I don't think Shanahan is, not unless he finds a quarterback with better taste in passing lanes.  In short, you'd be the ultimate Cowboys fan.  This has to happen.

But I'm an absolutist at heart.  I believe that if a person does something, that person should do it all the way.  So why stop at Dallas?  The Knicks are a disgrace right now; isn't this the best time to jump ship and sign up with the Lakers?  Their roster is intriguing, and who couldn't love Lamar "Hits From The Bong" Odom?  And given that Alexei Kovalev is in Montreal right now, and doesn't look to be going anywhere, my hockey arch-enemies are another easy target.  With minimal effort, Alex, you could love all the other teams that I hate the most.

In short, you're not that far from being a super-villain in every way.  As such, I'd propose the following plan for making you my mortal enemy.  In the half-marathon of American evil, you're well beyond the 9-mile marker.  These are like five bursts of energy that will propel you past the Kenyans... like Red Bull, except pure evil, not from concentrate.  So, here we go:

  1. Start rooting for the Cowboys, Lakers, and Les Habitants.
  2. Lead a coalition of "concerned citizens" that gets The Wire cancelled in the middle of its fifth and final season, with all loose ends untied, for being "subversive to freedom."
  3. Vote for Rick Santorum.
  4. Get your driver's license, and make it a habit to drive really, really slowly in the left-hand lane on I-95.  In front of me.  (Someday I'll share my rant about how 75% of the people who drive abominably slowly in the left lane, thus causing congestion and mile-long backups, have Pennsylvania tags.)
  5. Blow up the two most important strategic locations in Washington, DC: Nam-Viet, and the Uptown theater.

I could live with these five atrocities, but only if you accomplish all of them.  I bet you could do it in 12 months.  Unless you're... chicken!  COCK-a-COCK-a-CAWWWWW!

Agent Zero Strikes Again    

Thank you, Esquire.  Good story.  And real sports reporting, despite the psycho-analytical conceit of the article.

It's somewhat worrisome that all of his successes are somehow rooted in trauma.  He slipped to #31 in the draft, which led to a hatred of all the teams who passed on him, and all the players who were drafted before him.  Marc Jackson clotheslined him every day in practice, which led to a fearlessness and recklessness when driving to the basket.  Gary Payton embarrassed him as a second-year guy, which led to an almost fear-driven desire to never be embarrassed like that again.  And that's all well and good from an achievement standpoint.  But then I look at his whole sleeping-on-the-couch thing, and wonder what the trauma behind that is.  But that's not really my business.

Anyway, knowing about Gilbert's obsessive-compulsive issues actually makes me respect him a lot more as a player.  He'll shoot thousands of buckets at 10:30 PM on a lark... he can break players down in his mind and approach the game with a measure of intelligence... he plays with such an enormous, irrational chip on his shoulder... and it's all about making himself better.  And it doesn't feel like an act.  It's one thing to tell some doofus talking head on, say, ESPN that you're dedicated to a single goal, driven with the heart of a champion etc.  It's another to show someone your soul and have the pedigree seem self-evident.  Arenas is genuinely weird, and it makes him a genuinely singular basketball player.

The Moment You've Apparently Been Waiting For...    

...isn't coming.

I don't have anything cruel to say about late Yankees pitcher Cory Lidle.  The only cruel shit I've even thought is more about his teammates than about him.  Beyond that, it's not really that funny.  He died.  His kid grows up w/o a father.  And his death has been sensationalized.  (More on that later.)

My personal feeling on Lidle is convoluted, in that I never liked nor respected him as a baseball player.  The guy was a scab.  In his public spat with Arthur Rhodes, I side with Rhodes.  And Lidle was even involved in the Pedro-vs-Tampa beanball game, which was easily the most unprofessional act in recent major league sports history (even when you include the Ron Artest incident).  Lidle wasn't ejected, but I associate his name with that game more than anyone else's, so I must have seen him do something worth holding a grudge over.  (I know, I'm a bad writer for making specious claims about the dead.  This is exactly why people think Harry Frazee sold Babe Ruth in order to fund a Broadway play.  Utter BS.  Look it up.)

Anyway, my genuine lack of respect for Lidle is offset by the genuine tragedy.  He's dead, it's sad, and people will remember him.  But most people will remember him more for the way he died than the way he played baseball.

Enough said on him.  Now for something completely not at all different.

In this month's edition of Shame On ESPN, they get a big fat F- for preempting its programming so that they could let Jeremy Schaap say "we have not heard from the family" for four hours.  Thanks for the update... if only ESPN had some kind of 24-hour news channel where they could have shown this coverage instead.  If Jesus ran ESPN, I'm sure he too would stir up a media whirlwind before the Lidles could be informed that Cory had died; they were on a cross-country plane when it happened.  Of course, that angle was played up by Schaap and ESPN for sympathy.  It brings a tear to my eye that the word "douchebag" falls so far short of the mark.  Shame on ESPN.

Story of the Century    

I'm on record as being a fan of the little league world series telecasts on ESPN, simply because I love that the losing pitcher and the last kid to strike out always, without fail, bawl their eyes out, in glorious extreme closeup HD.
That said, I read this this morning and, well -

Wow. Just... wow.

This guy is the fucking antichrist.
Oh, and have a look - he's a douchebag to boot.
For the record, Dunbar, PA is south of Pittsburgh, in the West Virginia portion of PA.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

The Matsuzaka Bonanza    

So. Daisuke is coming. Regardless of whether you believe the Gyroball to be the greatest development in pitching since the slider, or a total myth, it's pretty apparent that this guy has all the tools to be a #1 or #2 starter for any team in the league, barring an Irabu-size mental collapse. He was utterly unhittable in the World Beisbol Classic this past spring, and since that's all I've seen of him in live game action, that's what's shaping my opinion of him. Since there are more of his peers around for him to utilize as mentors, I see a collapse as less likely today as it might have been a decade ago - just see the Ichiro/Johjima relationship for an example.

Any thoughts on where he'll end up? Seattle or New York, or somewhere in between?
If you're a GM, what's your bid for negotiating rights?
Any opinion on the whole closed bid for rights system?


So I was all ready to post a full diatribe about the David Wells' Assian size idiocy of firing Torre and dumping doRA to the lowest bidder, when news comes down that neither is going to happen, at least not yet.

Ok. Disaster #1 averted- the utter panic move. Bravo, gents. Issue #2, what to do with picking up club option (read: Sheff) will be discussed in a post to come sometime before winter meetings.

There is one situation under which I would accept a Torre firing, and another under which I would be ok w/ a doRA trade, but I won't tip my hand just yet as to what they are, for fear of jinxing them. Suffice it to say that, in both scenarios, a lot of premiere young talent is in motion, and that fire and brimstone is falling from the sky.

Side note- i spent game 4 at a wedding reception, seated next to a fellow Junkees fan, who was getting text updates of the game on his cell. After the game, he was adamant about kicking both Torre and doRA to the curb. As it was the first time meeting the guy, and a wedding, I didn't have it in me to argue and cause a scene. Score 1 for responsibility, and 0 for Alex's nuts. I suck.

But wait... HEY!
The Rangers are in first place!

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

It's Not Fair!    

You can't just tease me with all this "Joe Torre is fired" talk and then back out.  Not cool.  You don't change horses in the middle of the stream.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Terrell Owens wants your children    

... to read his book.
I'll file this one right next to my signed copies of R. Kelly's "Everybody Poops," "Users are Losers" by Darryl Strawberry, and "Lil' Ronnie and his Mystery Wagon of Adventure," by Nate Newton.

I Love The Smell Of Abuse In The Morning    

It smells like... defeat! Ahhhhhhh.

Hey, Lehr! Remember this post? I bet you don't. But I do. And now, the day is mine!!! Let the music play!

So, Alex, I just have a few questions. What do you have to say now that the Yankees have been eliminated from the playoffs?

Ohhhhh! That's too bad! Someday you guys will know what it's like to taste victory. Hey, maybe you'll even know what it's like to earn it. Either way, you're in my prayers tonight.

What do you think about the news that Joe Torre might get fired for having the audacity to take home-field advantage in the AL despite having to rely on the likes of Jaret Wright and Cory Lidle?

Hmmm, I see. It may look like Torre's getting fired for not advancing, but I think it's retroactive dismissal for giving so many at-bats to Miguel Cairo. If I were Steinbrenner, I'd put Cairo on a suicide watch until this thing is resolved.

What about the outlook for 2007 and beyond?

I'm with you there. Not such a good-looking roster meow, is it???

In conclusion, apropos of nothing:

[Ed. note: this post makes no sense.]

Thursday, October 05, 2006



I had no idea!  I's flipping channels last night when I stumbled across Versus, once called OLN... lo and behold, it was a hockey game.  A real one.  And a good one, too... Sabres-Canes, the East finalists from last season.  Didn't watch much (I had homework) but I did see how Eric Staal pwned Ryan Miller in the first with a softie.  However, it alerted me that two games will be on TV tonight.  Once I get home, that's where I'll be.


* In retrospect, though I'm sad the Oilers lost, the Hurricanes probably needed a boost like that.  And they were definitely the class of the East last season.  So, hats off to them.  And to Frank Winslow!

* Anaheim looks pretty good to me.  Unless Ilya Bryzgalov turns back into a pumpkin.  Then they're screwed.  Still, tough to beat a back line of Scott Niedermayer AND Chris Pronger.  Wow.

* Could this finally be the year when the Flyers suck ass?  Cmonbaby-cmonbaby-cmonbaby-cmonbaby....

* The Penguins actually got sold!  Excellent.  Can we move them to Canada now, please?  The new owner's from Hamilton... how nuts would it be for Hamilton to get a team, huh???  Yeahhhhh!!!  Although if I had to pick one Canadian city to get a new team, it'd be Winnipeg.  It just doesn't seem like the NHL without Winnipeg, you know?  I miss the darkly-lit ice.  Really felt like you'd gone into the frozen north, like they don't have as much electricity or something, so it has to be dark like that.  How frigging intimidating would that be?!?  (Very.)

* I put a mini-Bruins preview in the Barbaro Sandwich thread, but here's a more full-blown version.

The best news of camp is that first-round pick Phil Kessel has played his way onto the first line.  Couldn't be happier about that; it means we have six legitimate scoring threats on our front two lines, and it makes P.J. Axelsson one of the most dangerous checking line wingers on the planet.

The worst news is that Hannu Toivonen apparently didn't outplay Tim Taylor after all, as Taylor gets the nod tonight.  I don't like the sound of that.  This is a tough, tough division, with Ottawa and Buffalo poised to contend and Montreal a perennial playoff-caliber team.  They need more than just an OK goaltender if they want to get anywhere.  Taylor and his game (hard work and perseverance, overachiever, scrappy, he's all heart etc. etc.) are more indicative of old-style Bruins hockey; as such, I'd just assume get rid of Taylor.  We don't need any reminders of Harry Sinden.

In short, the forwards are much-improved, and the defense is much-improved with the addition of Zdeno Chara and Paul Mara, but the goalie situation will hold them back.  I bet they finish 9th or 10th in the conference, unless they acquire a better goalie to hold us over until the arrival of Tuukka Rask.

I have to admit, Tim Taylor notwithstanding, it does feel like a different organization.  They have a young, energetic, and apparently competent GM (Peter Chiarelli) who landed the biggest free agent on the market and actually signed a difficult first-rounder instead of playing "hardball."  They have a business-like coach (Dave Lewis) who has no local ties and won't resort to screaming and insults to motivate his team; the first such coach in my 20 years of memory.  And you have a stable of solid players who are more than just "grinders."  I mean, Jesus!  It's like they're a real team.  (Except for Tim Taylor.  GO TO YOUR HOME!!!)

Playoff observations so far:    

Obviously the inside the park home run is pretty cool. More obviously, Torii Hunter screwed that play up massively. The talking heads all said stuff like, “Well, you can’t blame him, he’s being aggressive, and that aggressiveness is what makes him good.” Well, screw that. Aggressive is good, yes, but if you misread a ball, it’s still a misread. He had 0 chance at that ball- it’s not like he missed by an inch. It’s like a defender in frisbee laying out way late and nowhere close to the disc, then getting broken for a 40 score. Aggressive? Yes. And also unforgivably stupid.

The Jeff Kent / J.D. Drew orgy at home plate. Egads, what a play. It was only the second inning of Game 1, and already Grady Little has sent a shot across my bow, making it very clear that there’s no way in hell he’s letting my Dodgers World Series prediction happen. That said, the replay shows Drew barreling around third, stumbling like a frat boy in a keg race, head down. So maybe you can’t blame the coaches. I will anyway. My first reaction was to channel Walton: “That’s HORRIBLE”. Then the ESPN booth went real quiet for a few seconds, and just erupted in a fit of giggling. Bravo, guys. Really really good stuff, and I’m not being sarcastic. Here’s a bunch of ex-players, reacting exactly how you’d expect. No righteous indignation, no proclamations that kids today don’t play the game the right way. None of that. They read the situation as the ridiculous SNAFU clusterfuck of awful that it really was, and had the proper, natural, human reaction – humor.

And speaking of the Dodgers…
Jonathan Broxton has an enormous ass. Michelle pointed this out to me immediately, while I was busy being impressed with his stat chart. Good lord, that thing is large and in charge. It looks like he’s carrying triplets in there. Can someone please put together a ytmnd featuring Broxton’s windup and Mix-a-Lot’s “Baby Got Back?”

Here, by way of comparison, is Mrs. Broxton and the legendary symbol of Matriarchal power, the Venus of Willendorf. I've also juxtaposed an artist's rendering of Jonathan. See if you can decide which is which.

So far, so good, though last night’s rainout sucked. It was an eye opener for me, cause I got really really down when the game got postponed. It made me realize how big a part of my life baseball has been the past couple months, and how down I am on a couple other aspects of my life right now (work, frisbee). Baseball has been a constant source of entertainment, and last night showed, perhaps unhealthily so. But anyway…

Conspiracy theories went around last night, because Verlander came out and stretched pre-game, while Mussina stayed on ice, leading to speculation that MLB told the Yankees the game wasn’t going to start on time and didn’t tell the Tigers. Pretty silly sounding to me. That said, someone really should have told the fans, who sat there for like 4 hours with nothing to do except smell each other’s BO before the game got called. On the plus side, this allowed ESPN to drag Baseball Tonight out all evening, which gave us many hours of Vernon Wells, who is a good replacement for Harold Reynolds. I like Wells’ commentary a lot – he’s not big on overstating matters. I didn’t like the 400 shots of the douche in the stands holding up a sign that read, “Yankee Reign Delay”… hey- assbag – the Yankees lost last year, thus no “Reign”. Ass.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Horse Sense    

So... has Barbaro died yet?  I'm hungry.

Monday, October 02, 2006

The Last Word On Sox-Yankees For 2006    

This edition is more detestable than any in recent memory.  Let's just give them the goddamn trophy now instead of sitting around for weeks of bullshit.  Yeah, I'm aching to see whether Oakland loses to New York or Minnesota does.  Must-see TV.

the whole third-place thing
I just looked at the standings for the first time in a month.  THIRD PLACE?!??!?!?  Bra-vo, guys.  Just when I thought I was done getting punched in the face, I get one last parting shot.  Thanks a bunch, cocksuckers.

First of all, the injuries were staggering.  Wakefield, Clement, Varitek, Manny, Foulke, Fatty Wells... it just wasn't gonna happen.  If you're going to start in with the scapegoat act, you have to bear in mind that you'd be firing people because Varitek got injured.

Second, their reaction is to fire the coaches?  Um, are you goddamn kidding?!?  Yeah, firing a great hitting coach and a great pitching coach is clearly the answer.  You know, because it Papa Jack's idea to bat Coco Crisp in the leadoff spot instead of a red-hot on-base machine.  Dave Wallace got Tim Wakefield injured.  Did I mention that these firings were brought to you by the guys who signed Matt Clement, Rudy Seanez and Edgar Renteria?

jon lester
Poor Jon Lester.  I think his cancer did more to rip our souls out than the Massacre.  As if losing the season wasn't enough, now the future's screwed up too.  Great.

But let's be callous for a second.  Remember the "not on your life!" trade that Atlanta proposed at the deadline?  Coco Crisp, Craig Hansen and Jon Lester for Andruw Jones?  Given that Crisp hasn't played anywhere near his promise, Hansen hasn't done a damn thing to major-league hitters, and Lester has fucking cancer... I mean, kinda seems like they should have done this, doesn't it?  Forget the implications of losing Lester at a time when the team was dying for innings.  The Yankees just proved that it doesn't make a damn lick of difference what your need is as long as you add somebody.  Maybe Jones would have done more good than Lester's absence would have done harm.

2006 in brief
This year, I learned that 2004 changed absolutely nothing.  The Red Sox will always be at a disadvantage, unless they spend as much as New York does.  The fight against the Yankees will always be uphill, and will end in misery more often than success.  If you know it's not fair, and you know it's pointless to try, who gives a shit?  I can't go through this anymore, it's just too depressing.  The high points aren't high enough, and that's keeping in mind that the aftermath of the 2004 championship was one of the best periods of my life.  It's just not worth it to care.

In fact, this whole season has been an absolute bloodbath.  Like any other where the Yankees triumph, everything that generated a lick of joy for other cities (Detroit, Philadelphia, Houston, even the Mets) has been beshatted by injuries, collapses, and too-little-too-latery.  The result is that no team in the playoffs is playing its best baseball, save the Yankees, who can weather any storm by throwing a bunch of money into it.  Oh, then there's the Mets, who bought the NL, only to have their investment peter out.  Now they're shitty too.  Great.  It is flat-out sorry.

I've been anti-salary cap for a long, long time.  (I'm a pro-union guy.)  This season's results have convinced me that you can compete without spending the most, but you sure can't win.  Baseball needs a salary cap.  I'll gladly watch the Red Sox dwindle back to last place as long as the Yankees are coming with.

Thank Yous And Spank Yous    

1) The Redskins, for winning in OT on an S-Moss yardage bomb.  Great game.
2) The Patriots, for peeing the Bengals' rug.
3) The Jets, for suckity-suck-sucking.
4) The Red Sox, for ending my misery.  Third goddamn place.  That's bush.  More on this later.

1) Tigers choked away the AL Central to the Twins.  Have fun losing in the ALCS, Twins.  You fuckers.
2) Dodgers and Padres knocked out the Phillies... without being even remotely talented.
3) The Yankees.  Go fuck yourselves and die.  More on this later, too.

Predictions? This is a Dodge, Yo.    

Quick, ridiculous playoff predictions for the postseason:

Oakland at Minnesota – Minnesota in 5 games (obligatory).
Detroit at New York Yankees – Los Junkees of New Jork, New Jork in 4 (Unit loses to the Gambler in game 3).

St. Louis at San Diego – San Diego in 4.
LA at New York Mets – LA wins in 5 (due to Maddux outdueling Glavine in maybe the coolest matchup ever, and Grady Little outfoxing himself in game 5).

Round 2:
Los Jankees over Minnesota in 7
LA over San Diego in 5

World Series of the World:
Jankee Spankees over LA in 5.