Monday, November 20, 2006

Some shady Cubs dealings...

The Cubs have never been known for their shrewd management skills throughout the last five years or so, (and, well, technically, the last 99 years). The Dusty Baker Era/Experiment died a sick and, for us fans of humor, unfortunate death this off-season. But, that's not where the madness ends. I think a little re-hashing would do everyone some good. We're gonna be kind of tricky here and start at the beginning of this off-season, then kind of work our way back.

To start off, Cubs management fired Dusty Baker. Why they did this is, to me, a mystery. Sure, the team finished a game back of the Pirates and 30 games South of .500. The players were soft, and Dusty liked it that way. He is also the worst in-game manager in the history of the sport. His 'strategies' went against every logical rule in baseball - "If you take a walk, most of the time you're just clogging up the bases for someone who can run." And, while this made for one of the most entertaining franchises in the past few years, eventually taking the K instead of the BB will catch up to you, in the W column. So, they canned him. What about his days in Frisco, you might ask? Put it this way - if Phil Jackson's mother was coaching the Chicago Bulls between 1989 and '98, they would have still been amazing, because they had Michael freaking Jordan.

Now, this is what does not make sense. How do you fire Baker, and then turn around and give pitching coach Larry Rothschild an extension? Rothschild is guilty of everything Baker is. This man has done more to keep Wood and Prior on the bench -- or, rather, pitching "more than a bullpen session -- we'll keep counts and outs, stuff like that" -- than anyone else. He kept Wood and Prior sheltered in some kind of Spring Training limbo while the rest of the team struggled through the first half of the 2006 Season with a variety of phantom ailments. And when the guys do come back, they're terrible. Now, this isn't all Rothschild's fault, because obviously he's not throwing the ball. But, if the dude's contract just ran out, and you just fired the Manager, and you had the kind of pitching that the Cubs had last year... maybe it's time for a job search. At the very least, you don't rush to a 2-year extension.

Then the player moves. First off, signing Aramis Ramirez. The dude is a baller, and I wrote before the 2006 season that he was going to go nuts this year, and he did. But is he worth $73 million over 5 years? Either way, if the Cubs are going to even look serious, they had to make that deal. They also signed Kerry Wood to a 1-year, $1.75 million deal. Now, Wood used to be a good pitcher. But he hasn't done a thing in the last four years. Still, if the guy turns it around in 2007, which he won't, Jim Hendry will look like a genius. So, I get it. $1.75 million is nothing.

Obviously, the big one is the Soriano deal. The dude is 30 years old, and he just got inked to an 8-year, $136 million contract. One could say that he had his best year last year. But I promise you that he will never, ever, hit those numbers again. He's a below average fielder, a clubhouse cancer -- depending on who you believe -- and the owner of a lifetime .280 batting average. And now that he got his payday, he's good. To put this into perspective, only four other players have ever signed a contract worth this much: A-Rod, ($252 million, 10 years,) Derek Jeter, ($189 million, 10 years,) Manny Ramirez, ($160, 8 years,) and Todd Helton, ($141.5 million, 11 years.) However, Helton's contract is only worth about $12 million a year, while Soriano's is worth $17 million a year. All of these guys are going to be legends, except for Soriano. The way I see it, Cubs ownership knew that they had to make up for the foul-up that was the 2006 season. They knew they had to sign a big name. Soriano was the biggest name, and the Cubs bought into the hype. Again, I'm going to say the same thing that I've said for, literally, the past three years. It's good to see that that's more important to them than building a solid bullpen.

When are the Cubs going to get it? Post-2003, the Cubs did a lot of pouting, as is the Dusty Baker style. They made no real moves to strengthen their bullpen or their rotation. Instead, they got a hold of the Bartman Ball and blew it up. Cubs Fan explained that if Marlin Fan got their hands on this ball, who knows what could happen? I can't make this up. After the 2004 Season, which was another failure, Cubs fans ingested the remnants of the ball in the form of beer and sauce. Again, no improvements to the bullpen. Actually, the bullpen went backwards in that off-season, shipping off Farnsworth and resigning two relievers that ended up getting the Dusty Baker Arm-blown-off treatment in the first few months of the season. After the 2005 season, the Cubs made the following unbelievable improvements to the pitching: traded away first-rate prospect Sergio Metre, signed Scott Eyre, (who, as you might recall, injured both himself and Team Leader Derrek Lee on the same play last year,) and signed Wade Miller, who pitched in 21.2 innings last year and gave up 11 runs. So far this year, they have resigned Wade Miller, and resigned Kerry Wood. Um...?

Which makes Brewers GM Ned Yost's quote all the more interesting. "They [Cubs] are stacking it," he said. "You look at Soriano, Ramirez and Lee, and they're going to have quite a team. We're not going to be able to match their thump, so we're going to have to have good pitching and defense to compete. They're looking pretty good right now." It must have taken an enormous amount of self control for Ned to get out that whole statement without cracking up. Dude -- they have one more guy, Soriano. And, for a team that struggled to last place in the entire National League last year, Alfonso Soriano is not a difference maker -- no matter how hard Hendry taps his feet, or crosses his fingers, or whatever else he might try. Clearly, all these other moves the Cubs are making aren't awful choices -- it's just that they're overpaying, and they're not getting any pitching. Someone should remind them how the Yankees have turned out the past few years... and the Rockies, who, as you might recall, threw in the proverbial pitching towel and developed their offense.

Maroth, Dusty Baker v. BB, and Marlins - April 26, 2006
David Wright, Aramis Ramirez, and Yankees-Red Sox - March 23, 2006
Thank you, Roy. - April 5, 2006
Cranes, Cubs, Yankees, and DL Notes - April 20, 2006

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

What do you mean, Baker's out?

Who's idea was it to take a team previously managed by Dusty Baker for years and throw Lou Piniella into the mix? You can't find two more different guys. First, we all know that Dusty Baker is probably my favorite topic here. So I'm sad that he's gone. But the Cubs are so soft that when their TV announcers said anything critical about the team, they ran to Baker and complained. They can't take mild, even constructive criticism from their announcers -- how will they take the serious stuff from Piniella? Piniella is one of the most fiery managers in the game, if not the most. Do you remember the start of the D-Rays v. Red Sox Rivalry in 2005? Lou explained away all the hit batsmen by saying, "We didn't throw at guy's heads, but if we're thrown at, we'll defend ourselves." Curt Schilling responded by calling Lou and idiot and claiming that D-Ray players had told him that Lou was the reason they're a lock to lose 100 games every year, and that he makes them throw at guys. Lou responded by saying he's forgotten more baseball than Curt will ever know, he's disappointed that Curt would say such a thing, and he's sure none of his guys would ever say that. Oh yeah, and recall that the 2005 D-Rays had nothing to defend, that they hit three Blue Jays in the next game, and that all those bullet pitches were just pitches that sailed away.

In contrast, Dusty Baker explained away all the walks his pitchers gave out and his batters didn't receive last year by saying that, "walks just clog up the bases." And how about this memorable story?

In a 2004 game against the Marlins, Moises Alou hit a foul ball close to where Bartman was sitting in the 2003 NLCS. After it went into the stands, Marlin's left fielder Miguel Cabrera mocked Alou's angry reaction to Bartman's grab, pouting and stomping around, and basically acting like a small child. Marlin's 3B Mike Lowell said, "It was the funniest thing I have ever seen in my life." The Cubs, however, didn't think it was very funny, and Cabrera got dotted by Cub's pitcher Glendon Rusch in his next at bat. Well, whether or not it was funny isn't up for debate, because it was hilarious. The fact is, the 2004 Cubs are just soft.

And that was two years ago. Nothing has changed. The team whines and cries about the smallest things. In many ways, they're a lot like the post-championship Pistons. In a blog post I saw a few days ago, it was explained that the Pistons lack of success lately is the result of their excessive on-court whining. The only difference is that the Pistons do it because they think they deserve the calls, post-championship as they are. The Cubs, needless to say, are not in that position.

So what's it going to be for the post-Baker era? How's it going to play out? Unless Hendry makes some serious moves, the team is still going to be terrible. But maybe instead of going out on the field knowing they'll lose 90 games and not caring how they do it, they'll go out big. Like, "hey, we know we're still a lock to lose at least 90, but we're gonna be major a-holes about it." So, instead of LaTroy Hawkins pitching in the 9th to protect the lead, but actually giving up the win to Albert Pujols' 3rd jack of the night, (and then, you guessed it, crying about it, in this case attempting to fight Ump Tim Tschida, under "Albert Pujols is good,") we'll just have Ryan Dempster peg Pujols in the skull. The outcome will be the same, but at least they'll have more street cred!

Those D-Rays and Red Sox - May 1, 2005
Yankee OF and Catchup-Part II - May 16, 2006
Red Sox/Yankees, Pujols, and NL West Solutions - May 1, 2006

Saturday, October 14, 2006

AL/NLCS Recaps

I just got back from a Writing Competence Exam that I'm required to take in order to graduate college. You pick one of 10 questions presented to you. I chose the question asking if, since the two teams with the best record in the AL were eliminated in the first round, should we increase the series to a seven-game format from the current five-game format? Let's get something straight - these ten questions were all current event questions to be answered in typical, five-page, persuasive format. There were questions asking about the college's upcoming "Coming Out" week. There was a question asking about Congressman Foley's "deplorable" behavior. Questions of great and worldly importance. And a question about baseball. Well, I think I passed.

Now, look where we are? The Tigers have a 3-0 series lead on an Oakland team that I berated SI for rating as the "2nd best" in all of baseball. Looks like they weren't that far off the mark. Actually, Oakland beat the Twins because, in the all-important Game 3, the Twins sent out tough guy Brad Radke. When your very existence in the postseason is on the line, you don't send out a guy with so many physical problems that, less than halfway through the season, he says "screw it, I'm retiring after this." If he's you're Game 3 stopper, you have no business in the postseason anyway. Taking one step back, the A's made it into the playoffs because, heck, they're in the AL West. If you can take out the pitching-deprived Rangers, the talent-deprived Mariners, and the offensively-deprived Angels, you win. And I know the A's finished with 93 wins, and the Angels with 89. Toronto had 87 wins in a heck of a lot tougher division. If Toronto had played say, eight games, against the Mariners instead of the Yankees, they might have 95 wins. But good job Oakland, I'm sure it means a lot to you guys, even after you get your brains beat in by a very good Tigers team.

This Detroit team is, quite simply, a team that is not going to be beaten right now. This is the kind of team that I play in MVP Baseball 2004, and they make every play. The pitcher will spot every pitch on the corner. The outfielders catch up to every ball. It's like the team is playing on god mode. Now, I'm not saying that the Tigers aren't a good team. They're great. But they're also hot right now, and the postseason is the right time to get hot.

Now, who saw last night's Game 2 of the NLCS? First, let it be known that, in every conceivable way, the NL is a wreck of a league. I simply cannot find the entertainment in any NL Game. There's something about it that just is not exciting. I know it's crazy, but I feel like the parks are darker, the players are more formal, and the excitement level just isn't there. I feel like I'm watching a golf match. (Is it called a match?) I don't expect anything exciting to happen. But when I watch an AL game, I never know what to expect. It's like getting together the 2004-2005 Pacers team; some idiot is going to throw a punch, or fire a gun, or scream at Rick, or freak out at the media. You don't know what will happen, but you know it will be big. In the AL, we have all the drama of Kenny Rogers and the Tiger's bullpen limiting the A's to two hits to go up 3-0 on them and on the brink of a World Series. Meanwhile, in the NL, we have Chris Carpenter pitching as well as John Maine; actually, worse, but only because he was in for one more inning. And then we have a tie game, broken up when the great So Taguchi - who didn't even start - hits a home run. The Cardinals score twice more, and the Mets respond -- as their own stadium empties -- by striking out, and then grounding out twice more to end the game. Fabulous. Did you actually listen to So's Home Run? It was morbid. Shea was silent. The announcers were mildly excited. Now the series is tied 1-1, while the Tigers are about to enter the World Series. It's just boring. However, I won't deny the fact that, since the only NL team I even come close to caring about is the Cardinals, maybe I just don't like it because I don't follow it. Oh yeah, and because every team is awful.

So where do we go from here? Is a well-rested Tiger team better off than a down-trodden, pitching deprived Cardinals or Mets team? The writing is on the wall, people. I just have one question - when is the parade? *Edit, 11-16-08: Opps.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Tigers Thoughts

Well, now that the Tigers have gotten their one big losing streak out of the way for the season, we should be ready for the stretch run. Or, you can take another view. Enter Salgat, a peripheral associate in the world of BHGM. Salgat is another of the few bastions of baseball love where I go to school; another member of the 'Living Through the Void' group. Salgat's thoughts after Saturday's loss were, "Don't worry about the Tigers losing four in a row, it's just God clearing out all the bandwagon fans." Like I said, another way to look at it. But, in all seriousness, this whole season is hitting us diehard fans pretty hard. Before this year, the only sellouts at Comerica were for Opening Days and the first couple (literally) games after the park first opened. Now they're commonplace. It used to be that Kevin and I could buy upper level seats and head down to the outfield box seats around the 3rd inning, where the ushers that we know would seat us in far better seats. There we would watch the game, talk about how if the Tigers ever got good it just wouldn't be the same, listen to all the Pistons bandwagon fans cheering as they watched the Pistons game in the suites, and enjoy a cool night in the beautiful city of Detroit. Anyway, those times have passed. The Tigers are suddenly the Pistons of the summer. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy having a good hometown team. It just feels a little bit weird. Especially when you're the one who supported them through all the bad times, only to have yourself supplanted by bandwagon fans who claim they love the Tigers. I'm not denying that they love a good team, I'm just denying their true commitment to the game. Which, of course, is encouraged by the fact that they have no idea what they're watching.

In any case, the Tigers do have another difficult run ahead of them. Two more games against the Red Sox, four against the Rangers and four more against the White Sox, followed by a three-game gimme against the Indians and a three game set against the Yankees, which brings us to the end of August. Let's leave this issue for a second. We'll be right back.

Let's take a quick look at the AL West. And, for once, I have something good to say about SI's infamous pick for the 2nd best team in the league. If you've read a post here before you probably know that SI did indeed pick the A's as the 2nd best team in the league in their preseason baseball review. I'm not sure why they thought this; perhaps they were trying to stir something up. I really have no idea. Either way, when I look at the standings today I see that the Athletics have finally chased down that .500; they're now a stunning 14 games above. And this leaves the Angels and Rangers both 5.5 games back. Of course, the Mariners have been surprising the most people, only 10 games back of the leader. Spectacular. I would've put them at least 22 games back by now. In any case, the A's have exploded recently - winning 17 of their last 20 - and it's that rocketship which has earned them first place, for now. But, 5.5 games up is not exactly running away with the division, which is a perfect transition.

Back to the AL Central. While the Tigers wade through the aforementioned schedule, the White Sox play the Royals three more times, the Twins six times, and the Devil Rays three times, in addition to the four games against the Tigers. The White Sox are 6.5 games behind Detroit, and if there's a time to make up those 6.5 games, it's now. Hopefully, it's not my imagination thinking that the White Sox have had an awful time with the Twins this season. In fact, the Twins and White Sox have played 10 games against each other so far this season, with each team taking five. That sounds fair to me. But back to the original question - was the Tigers five-game losing streak really just "god clearing out the bandwagon fans," or was it something more?

People have been thinking it all year, and I think they still might be. They think the Tigers are a fluke; the beneficiaries of an easy schedule. Or of a shot in the arm via a new manager, a la 2005 Washington Nationals, (in that case, it was a new city). Few accepted that the Tigers were a legitimate team earlier in the year, and I'm sure there are still some holdouts. They are wrong. First off, this team wasn't as bad as its record showed last year; I said this before the season even started. I noted that, even if the Tigers only did as good as they were last year, and not as they actually performed, they would be a significantly better team this year. With the minor additions they've made, as well as the one major one in Jim Leyland, I predicted that they would surprise everyone by staying in playoff contention through most of the year. I didn't think they would do this good, but many people who had been paying attention to the team had the same feeling that I did. And this year, guys that were notorious for being the third out in a 2-out pressure scenario last year, (Craig Monroe, Vance Wilson,) suddenly started to come up big for the team. And that's how it went - a team that had been under-achieving finally began to believe in themselves and perform at the level they should have been. That's the nice version, anyway. But you get the point.

However, there are a few problems coming up. First is the pitching. Kenny Rogers has always been a first-half man, despite what anybody on WDFN AM1130 may claim. And, the numbers this season have shown this. In fact, in the six games since the All-Star game, Kenny Rogers has gone 0-3. Granted, in his last game - a loss against Chicago - he gave up 4 hits and 4 unearned runs in 7 innings for the loss. But in those six games, his ERA has gone up a half point, from 3.85 to 4.36. Like I said, first-half guy. Since he's almost 50, I can't blame him. He's actually 41 though, right? Next is Verlander. This guy surprised me. Having seen him pitch in person last year, I didn't expect great things from him this year. I knew he would be good, but I thought the Tigers were making a mistake by bringing him up as early as they were into the rotation. Either way, I commented at the time that even if he was successful, there would come a time when his starts would either have to be skipped over or limited to about 6 innings a piece. And that's starting to happen. On the other hand, Mike Maroth (remember him?) should be coming back soon. A playoff rotation would include Bonderman, Robertson, and Rogers, with Maroth probably added as the fourth man when the need arose, if he stays on track and returns in good shape. Verlander will likely come out of the pen. However, if you're going to look at pitching problems, look at Chicago. Their starters have pitched more innings than any other team since some time last year. It was some neat graphic I saw on Sportscenter a few days ago. Either way, look at Buehrle. Garland remembered that he's Jon Garland, and he's fallen back to Earth. Contreras lost a game. They couldn't keep up the miracle work forever.

Meanwhile, a quick update on my man Roy Halladay. A couple minutes ago, Halladay got win number 15, which puts him in the MLB lead. You'll remember that he was my call for the Cy Young Award winner before the season. He hasn't been on like he was last year, however. His 3.20 ERA is a bit higher than the 2.41 he finished with last season, when he only pitched 142 innings before being struck down by a line drive to the leg, (he has 177 innings down so far this season.) Another thing - am I the only person that thinks Toronto has been 7 games back in the AL East for the entire year? Just a thought.

The Tigers beat the Red Sox tonight, and the Royals beat the White Sox. Make that a 6.5 game lead again, guys.

Also, thanks for the comments from Charles and Jason. I appreciate you guys coming back after the long absence - and that goes for everyone else who's reading now too. I move up to school on the 19th, and I've got a lot to take care of before then, but we should see a post or two before then. I would like to talk about Mark Buehrle, who had previously been the model of consistency before, well, whatever happened to him. Suggest some other topics, and we'll see what comes up.

Gameday: Tigers 4, Reds 9 - May 19, 2006
The Tigers dump Pena and re-tool for 2006 - March 26, 2006

Friday, August 11, 2006

How many times can a team take a division with 80 wins?

I was able to catch a little bit of the A's v. Devil Rays game. Not the most interesting of all matchups, and I couldn't find much to tell you about it. Other than the fact that, if one wants to make baseball games more interesting, perhaps they can take after the Oakland Athletics fans, and create their own percussion section at each game. I'm not kidding about this - if done right, you could almost pull off that whole major college sporting event feel.

Recall that last year, the Padres finished 82-80 -- after a hot streak to end the year -- and won the NL West. The fact that the division is terrible is certainly not something new. But here is what's scary - the Dodgers, who have won 12 of their last 13 games, are now in the lead in the NL West. By 10 games? 5, at least? You'd like to think that would be the case, but sadly, it's not. In fact, quite the opposite is true. After Arizona's loss tonight, and pending the outcome of their own game, the Dodgers are in the division lead by exactly one game. However, the Diamondbacks aren't the only thing chasing the Dodgers; so is number .500. Right now, the Dodgers are exactly three games above .500, despite winning - again - 12 of their last 13 games. I don't need to tell you what will happen if a team with any fewer than 85 wins takes the NL West. Well, first, no one besides me will care. At least, not as much as I do. *Edit, 11-16-08: LA and SD both won the division with an 88-74 record. That means LA had to go 40-19 to pull off the win, or 28-18 since this post was written.

We'll have more thoughts tomorrow - in fact, it's quite possible that I will just be watching baseball games all day tomorrow; now that I'm done with work, there aren't a huge amount of things to do for the next week.

The NL West: Citizenship Revoked - March 19, 2006

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Bronson Arroyo and more ruined No Hitters

As most of you know, the season of 'football interfering with baseball' is starting to warm up. I checked out the Worldwide Leader, and I saw another football headline, despite the fact that no one is actually playing football now. It happens every year, right around the time I go back to school - which is in nine days - and I dread it. Football, with the exception of soccer, is my least favorite sport. In any case, a few quick hits for right now, and we'll be jumping back into the normal stuff soon. There is no huge excuse for the past 40 day absence. I simply couldn't spend as much time following baseball and working a full time job as I could during the school year. I know that many readers work full time jobs as well; in fact, I would say most of you do. And most of you would find that something like this is just impossible to do every single day. On that note, you can check Kevin's post in the Chatbox,

KEVIN: rumor has it, reid is planning a great return to the blog. He may say he has been "very busy" but he is lying. He has just been lazy, and has been catching up in watching The Office

Yeah, that's pretty much it. If you haven't seen The Office, you need to watch the entire 2nd season now. It's fantastic.

Former Red Sox Bronson Arroyo decided that, since he hasn't won a game in nearly two years (actually, since June 19th,) that it must be his hair's fault. So, for today's game against the Cardinals he put his hair into cornrows, hoping that whatever black magic "broke" The Boston Curse would bring him a win. It didn't, and he gave up four home runs instead. But it's good to see that spending time with his hair stylist is more important than trying to figure out why he can no longer pitch. Actually, stop yourself, Bronson Arroyo was never a great pitcher. Pre-June 19th, he was 9-3 with a 2.47 ERA. So Arroyo was pretty good for about two and a half months. Nothing, least of all hair, can bring that back.

Last night, I had the fortune of watching two no-hitters get broken up in the 6th and 7th innings, and I was responsible for both. As most of you know, I have a strange ability to stop a no-hitter in its tracks, as soon as I open my mouth to Kevin. Last night was no exception. First case, David Bush on the mound against the Cubs. And obviously, if two months ago you had asked me which of the 30 teams would get no-hit this season, I would tell you the Cubs or the Royals. Probably the Royals, since the Cubs have the Dusty Baker "don't walk, you'll clog the bases" strategy. Anyway, it's the top of the 6th inning and Bush is still running a no-hitter. Knowing my past experiences, I try to tell Kevin why I can't watch the Yankees game. I tell him I'm doing something that involves the letters 'MLB', and that one of the teams has the first two letters of the aforementioned three in it, while the other team has an NFL team in the same city which utilizes the final letter. Alas, the next at bat, Bush gives up a hit to Juan Pierre, of all people. How this happened is less of a mystery than how Pierre's OBP skyrocketed to a lofty .322, with an average of .276. The last I remember, Baker was still plugging him into the leadoff spot with an OPB circa .280.

The next game finds us at US Cellular Field, (formerly New Comiskey, before the sellout.) This one was never in doubt, because after I sent Kevin on the hunt for what I was doing, (see above,) he responded with, "dude no way Johnson is going to pull it off," which is a shotgun blast to whatever chances Randy ever had. I told him to shut up, and about three seconds later Bush gave up his bid. So, I went over to the Yankee game, knowing I wouldn't be seeing anything special, but knowing that if I didn't switch over, I would, in fact, miss something special. The next White Sox up to bat gets a hit. I can't make this stuff up, people. In the past year, I have ruined six potential no-hitters or perfect games, three of which were in the sixth inning or later.

Thanks for holding out - the site has still been getting nearly 100 hits a day - and know that we won't be hearing any talk of football here for the remainder of the season. See you guys again tomorrow.

Good thing I started Jeff Suppan tonight - April 18, 2006
The Hit Streak v. The Perfect Game: Superstitions - April 3, 2006
Maroth, Dusty Baker v. BB, and Marlins - April 26, 2006

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Is the NL in MLB, or AAA?

Tonight I'm just gonna poke some fun at the NL. Everywhere I look, something new and exciting jumps out at me about them. So here we go. The first thing was almost too easy. I checked ESPN's stat page last night, and guess what - of the top five leaders in each of the following categories - HR, RBI, W, ERA, and SV, a total of 50 candidates - exactly four of those come out of the two West divisions. Two of those are from Arizona, one is from San Diego, and the other is San Francisco. The AL/NL West is kind of like NL Lite, and so that gives you an idea of what to expect.

As good as interleague play is for the AL, it's that bad for the NL. The Cardinals just ended an 8-gamer. The Pirates just ended a 13-gamer, (more on that later). Meanwhile, the Red Sox are on the right side (for them, at least,) of a 12-gamer, and the Tigers are on a 6-gamer, and have won 17 of their last 20. Even Minnesota is on a 7 game winning streak, having won 15 of their last 16. And how frustrating must it be for them to go on a tear like that, and go from 11.5 to 11 games back of Detroit. An entire half game in three weeks; utterly meaningless.

G4wybekcAnd while the entire NL has a problem, the Pirates have a more serious problem than most teams. Hell, they may have surpassed PFC Grudzielanek's KC Company as the worst team in the league. The Pirates just snapped a 13-game losing streak. A 13-gamer. And the best part is, when it ended, it was on a stroke of luck. The Pirates played the White Sox tonight, but even in victory they were stinky. In the top of the eighth, up by two runs, Roberto Hernandez blew the save. The Sox tied the score at 6 by scoring two runs. Then, in the bottom of the ninth inning, pigs finally took flight. Some guy hit a walk off home run, winning the game for the Pirates... and they celebrated like they had just won the World Series. It's a big deal for them, because it was really starting to become a problem. In fact, it was so bad that Pirate fans began to boo the mascot, because he wasn't a parrot. It's kind of complicated I think. You can see the video at the bottom of the post.

While the Pirates are looking up -- for the first time in more than two weeks -- the Cubs are still bad. As one blogger recently put it, "Dusty Baker has gone on a one-man crusade to make walk-up tickets at Wrigley a reality again, a crusade which does not involve anything remotely resembling On Base Percentage." As bad as the Pirates are, the Cubs are only three games up of them, and have scored the fewest runs - 308 - of any other team in all of MLB, by a lot. That's 50 fewer runs than the Pirates have scored. Imagine if the Pirates, being as horrible as they are, weren't even the worst team in their division. And here's the thing - it's not looking any better for the Cubs. Anyone who honestly, in their heart of hearts, thought the team would bounce back when Prior and Lee returned is living in the wrong reality. Prior could pitch a perfect game every fifth day -- something he's light years away from doing right now -- and Lee could hit a home run every game, and it wouldn't make a difference. This team is playing like pre-schoolers, and Dusty Baker is the last guy on the planet that will push them to do any better. And the NL is on the same plane as the AL, right.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Tigers, Braves, and Sox

We're going to do things in reverse order today, starting with comments first. Kevin actually came in and surprised me by leaving some legitimate baseball opinions. Regular readers know that Kevin is Part II of this whole baseball thing I have. He's the guy I go to the ballpark with, and occasionally he'll pipe in with his own comments. They're usually something like, "Roy Halladay is not that good," or, "You know you didn't think the Tigers would do as good as they are." And at least once a week he'll send me an IM that goes something like this:

Kevin: Dude
Reid: What's up man?
Kevin: I was on this message board, and some dude just said that (insert stupid comment here, "the Yankees are the worst team in the league," or, "Barry Bonds is the best player ever," or, "Kenny Rogers will win us the World Series,") and I tore him up. He kept saying these stupid things like, "dude no you're wrong."
: Stupid idiots.
Kevin: Haha yeah.

He also has his own blog when he wants to, and he does other stuff like that. According to him, the Tigers will deal for Bobby Abreu, just because Leyland says it won't happen. Like I said, he is strong in his beliefs. Tell him that the Tigers won't be getting Abreu, and you're wrong. Why do we want Abreu now? The Tigers have been building up one of the best farm systems in the league for the past few years. Eventually, it will be time to trade away some of those prospects for a championship run. I don't think that now is that time. Maybe, come July, the Tigers are 5 games up of the White Sox - then, maybe, you make a deal. But if the Tigers are 5 games back of the Sox, that move doesn't happen. But to deviate for a second to what Yuhsing said, the Tigers do have some hidden problems this year. They strike out a lot, don't walk a bunch, and have an inexperienced rotation. However, the team is winning.

But the Tiger's weak schedule has also helped them to their record. However -- and this is important -- like I've always said, bad teams don't beat average teams. What I mean by this is that, oftentimes, someone will say, "Hey, Roy Halladay (or take your pick,) had a 2-hitter against the Angels. But they have a terrible offense, so it doesn't count." While it may be easier to two-hit the Angels than the Yankees, that doesn't make it an easy thing to do in and of itself. You still need to be a good pitcher to do it. Same thing goes with the Tigers -- they have to be good to do as well as they're doing. So maybe the Tigers are a little worse than their record shows us, but they're not bad. Maybe they should have 47 wins instead of 52, for example. Next, Brandon Inge. He's not  the All-Star that some people think he is, (I keep hearing that people think this. Why?) But he just broke up Clemen's potential perfect game in the bottom of the 3rd. Not a big deal for most, except that Kevin invited me to tonight's game (two hours before gametime,) and I declined. If Clemens had thrown a perfect game or even no-hitter, I wouldn't know what to do with myself. On another note, I was happily watching this game on MLB TV, but then the feed stopped. Of course, when I tried to start it up again, I received the black out message. Alright, I accept that I can't watch any Tigers games, but please, don't tease me about it like that, alright?

Now we're going to shift gears to the Yankees - Braves game. As I mentioned in last night's post, the Braves have gone, in the month that I've been in Chicago and Cincinnati, from 5 games back of the Mets to 16 games back. Why? Perhaps it's because the Mets can't be counted on to choke two seasons in a row. They're not drastically different from last year, yet they have 10 more wins now than they did exactly one year ago - and the Braves have 10 fewer wins. Last year, at this time, Atlanta had 42 wins and New York had 37. This year, New York has 47 and Atlanta has 32. Atlanta is worse and New York is better. So maybe the previous theory is incorrect - the Mets are better, but that's not why the Braves are in last, (however, if the Mets had the same record this year as they had last year, the Braves would only be 6 games back, not 16.) Maybe it was the not-so-good start the Braves got off to this year, which they never really recovered from. Throw in a losing streak like this, and look where you end up. But, remember this. The Braves are baseball's version of a vampire. Remember that. Just when you start to throw some dirt on them, they come back and take the division again. All the evidence points to this not happening this year, but you never know with these guys. And they just showed a 'highlight' clip of Jaret Wright getting hit by comebackers. Are you kidding me? I think they showed four, and once he was even hit with a bat. And, I also believe he was wearing a Yankee uniform each time. Considering he's only pitched about three games as a Yankee, I can't imagine how many times the guy has been drilled in his career.

Well, it looked like Buehrle was kicking around the Pirates, surprise. So I jumped to that game, because I like Mark Buehrle. From the moment I turned the game on, here is what happened: Craig Wilson got an infield single, Jose Castillo hit a double, advancing Wilson to third, and then Ronny Paulino walked on four pitches. Then Joe Randa comes to the plate and came about two feet away from the Grand Slam. Mark Buehrle is on my pay league Fantasy Team, and suffice it to say that there must have been some sort of black magic at work there. You know it's time for one of our favorite BHGM references... Black Magic in Baseball?

And they just showed a very distraught-looking Jim Tracy explaining why Oliver Perez has been moved out to the bullpen. He said that you never know which Perez is going to show up every fifth day. You just never know, he continued, and that's just really hard to deal with. You know what else is hard to deal with? A guy that, in the last four years, has only had an ERA below 5.38 one time. Once. That one time was his unforgettable - at least for the Pirates - 2004, when he had his breakout year. He went 12-10, with a 2.98 ERA, and 239 K's in 198 innings. Remarkable. That was the good Oliver Perez. Now, let me make things simple for you, Jim. In 2004, the Good Oliver Perez showed up. In 2003, 2005, and 2006, the Bad Oliver Perez showed up. This isn't a matter of specific games, it's a matter of being good, and that's something Perez hasn't been since 2004. Here's something else that's hard to deal with. Your team has lost 11 games in a row. They have three games with the Defending World Champs, and then they have three games with the team that currently has the best record in baseball. That's what's really hard to deal with. Which brings us to something that BPS has asked repeatedly... "Do these games with the NL still count?"

It's like a turkey-shoot here. I wrote, much earlier, about some possible reasons why the AL is so much better than the NL. The crux of my theory was essentially that a player needs to field in the NL, but not in the AL. Therefore, when a good bat rises through an AL organization, he can continue even if he can only hit, and not field. In the NL, this player would be dealt for another guy. You could say that this makes for a more potent 8-man lineup than the AL, but that's obviously not the case for two reasons. If it was true, the NL would be evenly matched when they played at home. The second reason, which is more likely the ultimate cause, is that the game is so balanced right now that's its impossible to have 8 men that are more potent than 9 men.

Thank you, Roy. - April 5, 2006
AL v. NL, Mariners, Nats, and more! - April 1, 2006

Monday, June 26, 2006

Mid-Season Division Overviews

Finally back from Chicago - this time for good. It was a rough three weeks, really. I haven't been able to follow much of baseball at all, so it's gonna be tough getting back into the swing of things. Luckily, I have four days off* - in a row! - so that should make it a little easier. I haven't had that much vacation time from work and school for more than a year. As for today's post - and we will be back to the normal daily post routines (except for weekends, which are always a little touch and go,) I'm going to talk about a few things that are less-than-current, since, well... as I said before, I haven't been following the game as intently as I should be the last three weeks. But I'm going to try to hit on each division.

*- Not true. Got called in to work on Sunday for 5 hours.

AL Central
How about the Tigers? Are they for real? The White Sox have won nine in a row, and are still in second place in the AL Central. And the Tigers have 51 wins by late June. That's a September number, not a June number. It's looking like, barring a major collapse, the Tigers may be going to the playoffs this year. Shh, it's still early. See, the BPS will tell you that the Tigers aren't going to the playoffs this year because they've had an easy schedule. Here's the thing. The AL Central is already a race for third. Minnesota has won nine of their last 10 games - and are still 11 games back. Cleveland is 17 back with a record of 33-41 - hardly what I expected from a club I said could make a legitimate run at a playoff spot this season. And the Royals... oh the Royals. They're 23-50, good for 26 games back. However, the standings reveal that they've won seven of their last 10. Are you kidding? When I left for Chicago three weeks ago, I don't think the Royals even had seven wins total. What a bad team... Finally, it looks as though -- for now -- we might actually see an AL Central team take the wild card. This is special only because, for the last several years, the Wild Card has been the Red Sox's ticket to the post season. The fact that that this may not happen is, to me, remarkable. Then again, there's a lot of that going around this year, (see NL East).

AL East
Things look pretty much the same as they did when I left. Yankees 2.5 games back, with a bunch of guys still on the DL. The Sox are on an 8-game win streak, and as soon as they drop that and get cold, they can sit back and watch the train go by. Meaning, Yankees fly right into first place. Toronto is just four games back, which is impressive -- considering they have been without one of their biggest free-agent signees, A.J. Burnett. Is he still afraid of throwing the ball, or what's going on with him? Halladay -- your 2006 Cy Young Winner, I maintain -- has been on his usual tear throughout the League. He's 9-2 and has won eight of his last nine decisions. Because I've been away from my computer for so long, I can't offer much insight on the Yankees and Red Sox - like I said earlier, it looks much the same as it did to me three weeks ago. The Sox have won 8 straight and they're only 2.5 games up. That's a 3-day lead. Nothing too special, and it is only June, lest we forget. I hear that Gary and Matsui both received promising news, (whatever that may be,) and as soon as they get back we should start running away with the division again.

AL/NL West
Does it matter what I say here? All the clubs in the NL West had a talk with those in the AL West. 'Look, if you play bad, we'll play bad, and no one will look bad.' All 9 teams in the two West divisions have records below .550, (about 41 wins at this point). The A's (SI's 2nd best MLB team going into the year, as we have ridiculously continued to point out throughout this season) are 41-34, for first place in the AL/NL West. The Angels are last, with a 34-41 (.453) record. In other words, there are no great teams, but there are no immensely terrible teams either. Now, there are a few ways to look at this. One is to say that all the teams are slightly above-average, and so they're just beating up on each other. This is not true. Rather, all 9 teams are extremely mediocre and while there is no runaway, (such as the Tigers or White Sox,) there are no terrible teams either, such as the Royals or Pirates. See, this is pure luck. All the teams happen to be average teams. Great, what's that get you? Average attendance, and below-average performance against the other teams in the league. Spectacular.

But to get into some detail; the Angels have totally collapsed this year. Their offense, which used to be great, (think about two or three years ago,) is now in a complete state of disarray. They've scored 339 runs, 2nd to last in the league - behind, who else, but the KC Royals, with 313. And you can't point to Vlad and say that his numbers have declined, he's aged, he can't carry the team anymore. No one has said it yet, but I'm sure they will before the end of the year. Well, here are the facts - Vlad, who recently turned 30, is seeing some decline in his numbers. So we're halfway through the year, and he has 10 doubles. In 2004, he hit 40. In 2005, when he only played 141 games due to a shoulder injury he suffered while making a stupid slide at home, he hit 30. And now he's on pace to hit 20. But that's all pointless. The truly interesting stats, for him, are his OBP and AVG. Vlad's career OBP is .387, yet it is just .326 so far this year. His average is at .290, down from his typical .322. His slugging is at .490, a significant drop from his career.581. But, back to the original question - is Vlad aging, or is something else happening? I think it's a little bit of both. His numbers - which aren't really that much lower - are probably the result of playing on a poor team as much as they are of being older. And now you say, 'but the Angels aren't that bad.' Maybe not, but they're terrible if you look at their expectations. People are asking questions and attendance is (probably) down. Either way, that makes for a bad vibe in the clubhouse, if you will. And that, I believe, only makes matters worse - it makes it harder to perform when everyone is asking you why you aren't. A bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy, if you will.

Meanwhile, in the NL West, we have... today it is... the Dodgers, on top with a 40-35 record. As has been previously stated on numerous occasions at BHGM, they can pretty much start printing playoff tickets now. 5 Games above .500? That's a mountain the rest of the division really can't climb.

NL East
Well, I'm not sure what's going on here. I know that when I left three weeks ago, the Braves were about 5 games back of the Mets. Maybe, I really don't know. The Marlins were the second-worst team in MLB, behind the Royals. Now, and follow me closely here, they're 8 games back of .500 and in 3rd place. Now, forget for a moment that the Mets are so far out in front that third place (13.5 games back,) second place (11.5 games back,) and fifth place, (15.5 games back,) are all the same. Try to forget about that. Now, the Marlins are in third, and they're 32-40. Seriously, they must have won every game they played since I left for Cincinnati (and then for Chicago,) four weeks ago. In fact, on June 1st - the date I left - the Marlins were 17-34. So, in 25 days, they've won 15 games and lost 6. What a clip! Meanwhile, the Braves went from 28-26 and 5 games back to 32-44. That means they've gone 4-18. How far away is Atlanta from Kansas City, exactly?

NL Central
Well here's another interesting story that I would've liked to include closer to the NL West, but it just didn't work out that way. Regular readers already know what I'm about to bring up, but here goes. Name one of two players the Pirates received when they traded away a fellow named "Jason Schmidt" in 2001. Answer: Ryan Vogelsong. The other player was Armando Rios, who started 55 games for the Pirates. Anyway, back to Ryan Vogelsong. He was never a good pitcher, but he has remained on the Pirates roster. And now, CBS Sportsline has the following to say about him in their nifty fantasy notes:

News: Pittsburgh RHP Ryan Vogelsong, who has allowed at least one baserunner in each of his 20 relief appearances, did not pitch in the weekend series at Los Angeles.
Analysis: Vogelsong should only be active in leagues that reward negative play. Even there, the fact that he is not being used makes him obsolete.

Could you be any tougher on the guy? He's a stud on the negative play team. Great. Then again, his career ERA is 5.86, and you gave up Jason Schmidt to get him. Surprisingly enough, Dave Littlefield, who made the deal to acquire Ryan, is still the GM in Pittsburgh. Now, is there any stronger way for the Pirates to tell their fans they have no desire to win than by keeping Littlefield around? During his five-year reign, the Pirates have consistently been one of the worst teams in the league. In 2001, they rang in the brand new PNC Park by losing 100 games. In 2002, it was 89 games. 2003 was 87, and 2004 was 89. in 2005, in was 95 games. They've gone nowhere, and are currently riding an 11-game losing streak as they head in to play the White Sox and Tigers. At least the Pittsburgh fans have the All Star game to look forward to... that game counts for more than possibly any other game ever played at PNC Park. That is, the AL will be taking home field advantage again.

And how about the Cardinals - they've quietly, (since no one ever wants to gang up on the Cardinals, and for good reason -- how would you feel if you lived in Missouri?) gone on a six-game losing streak. That puts them at 42-32, and only two games up of the Reds. It's interesting that when Derrek Lee went down, everyone talked about how silly the Cubs were for centering their offense around one guy. No one seemed to notice that the Cardinals were centered on the same philosophy. Oh, that's right. The Cardinals have a strong supporting staff for Albert on the bench, and they also have pitching. Unless the Cubs define Kerry Wood and Mark Prior as 'pitching,' there is a difference. Both Pujols and Lee are now back, by the way. However, that doesn't mean that the Cubs' season isn't over, because it still is. The latest news on Kerry Wood - and this is an accurate quote, I didn't make this up - an MRI on Wood's shoulder revealed "no significant concerns or any kind of significant issue or injury or anything like that... the MRI, in Dr. Kremchek's terms, stated it was pristine, that the labia repair looked as if it was completely intact, looked like it had healed nicely and perfectly," said Cubs trainer Mark O'Neal. Yet, 'there is still no timetable for his return.' So let me get this straight; Wood went to the doctor, and the doctor told him he was perfectly healthy, and that everything was in order. In fact, it was perfect and pristine. Yet, no one has any idea how much longer it will be before he pitches again. Is this some sort of joke?

Anyway, that's the wrap up for the divisions. It took me Friday night, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday to write this, so some of it may be out of date - but I did my best. In any case, I'm going to try to get back into the groove. I've got a lot of catching up to do, and I'm mostly running around all day. But we should be completely back to normal in about a week I think. Anyway, that's it for now. It'd be nice to see some comments but I can understand if we don't have the readers back yet.

Mailbag: Cleveland Indians - March 30, 2006
Labels: Kansas City Royals - Various

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Tigers, Bears, and... Fish?

A few things on the agenda tonight. I actually caught a game, from the third inning on, for one of the first times all season. Meaning, I sat in front of the TV and focused on only the game. That game being the Tigers v. Cubs, which is one of those games where... well, you can kind of tell how its going to end before it actually ends. Or a few weeks before it begins. In this case, you're dealing with a Cubs team that has been so unbelievably bad this year, (in case you've missed any of the BHGM-bashing,) that they've found themselves 15.0 games back of the division lead... and one game up of the Pittsburgh Pirates. To be one game up of the Pittsburgh Pirates, who are themselves having an awful year even by their standards, is a lot like... it's a lot like being in the middle of the ocean, on a raft that is quickly sinking. Ironically enough, in this analogy, the Pirates are in this situation and unable to swim. The Cubs are able to swim, but they're still in the middle of the ocean, so it doesn't really matter. To take it one step further, the Cardinals are cruising around in the Queen Mary 2. Tigers and the Cubs played at Wrigley Field today. And the Tigers still have the best record in the major leagues, a full 69 games into the season. That is unbelievable. For months I've been saying that I was sure the Tigers would have a good, surprising, .500 season, but I don't think that's any more accurate than if I had predicted another 80-loss season.

There aren't many ways to take a game 12-3 as the Tigers did today. You're looking at a couple huge innings, right? The Tigers hit eight home runs, and that's really where all the offense came from. Here's the thing about this year's team -- everybody is hitting home runs. Six Tigers have 10 or more home runs on the year, which isn't bad. If I had the time, I would go into Marcus Thames and how he's hit 14 HR in only 150 AB's, while most of the team has between 230-260 at bats. Meanwhile, the Cubs plodded along with three home runs or something. And Mark Prior made his debut. It seems that the information circus is finally drawing to a close on him. But then, there is always Kerry Wood, who will never let you down there. Is he injured? Is he alive? Where is he? Is it his shoulder? Is it his knee? Or is he ok, and throwing "more than bullpen sessions?" Who knows.

Finally, we have a story about the venerable Florida Marlins, a man named Roy Halladay, and a boy named Hanley Ramirez. First, with Roy. As many of you know, Roy has been my pick for the Cy Young since, well, since early 2005. Somehow -- I didn't watch the game -- he gave up 3 or 4 runs to the Marlins, one of the worst teams in the game. Because the Jays only threw in one run to back him up, he got the loss. Not good. But, even more exciting is the fact that Hanley Ramirez -- who was on an 8-game hitless streak, going 0 for his last 27 -- got a hit. Now, that's when you're struggling. If you go up to the plate 27 times and each time come away with an out, (with the exception of two walks that he received in that time period,) you're gripping it pretty hard. You have to think that, for the last 10 at bats of that 'streak,' Hanley was sweating bullets every time he stepped out of the dugout. "Man, I'm gonna make a fool out of myself again. Great. I don't need it today..." That's a tough spot to be in, because the longer you go without a hit, the more it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. But then, you go up there so many times, you're going to have to turn it around at some point. And then you're loose, you hope, and you can go on a streak -- the other, good, way.

That's all I've got time for tonight. I leave for Chicago again in seven hours, but this week I will have my computer with me. And I'll try to pay closer attention to baseball. Now, I know it's been a shaky three weeks here. Visitors have dropped - plummeted in fact. We're at about a quarter of the hits per week compared to three weeks ago. Quite frankly, it makes sense, because there has been nothing to see here lately. But, this won't be a regular occurrence. When I come back from Chicago, be it Friday night or earlier (I hope,) things will be back to normal for good. We'll be back to the nightly post routine. As for Tiffany's invitation to another live-blog -- I'm not sure yet. I know that's a bad answer, but as of now, I'm going minute to minute. I've been home for about four days in the last month, and I've got a ton of things to do. I would like to do another live-blog, especially with the Tigers, but I can't commit to the time right now. However, the Sunday, June 25th matchup (1.05pm) looks good. I think I can do that, but I can't tell you for certain. Oh and... when we get back into the 'nightly routine,' we'll be getting back into the 'good, logical writing routine' at the same time as well. Thanks for hanging in there guys.

Chicago Cubs Labels - Various

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Kazmir, Cubs, C. Duffy, and College Baseball Lying

Didn't have the time to punch out a post last night and so tonight, with a light day in baseball, we're going to cover two nights at once. Lucky treat. On the slate from last night: Scott Kazmir learns to throw - kinda, the Tigers have the best record in MLB, the Cubs are getting balls thrown at them, and Barry Bonds is forced to dodge bullets at the plate. As for tonight: Chris "The Liar" Duffy is bent that the Pirates sent him down to Triple-A. Meanwhile, the Reds are back to their old M.O. - losing games, a minor leaguer attempted to convince an umpire that he was hit by a pitch, while the Angels hand the Blue Jays a game.

Scott Kazmir learns to aim - well, at least he's better at getting away with not doing so.
Now, Scott Kazmir of the Devil Rays has always - since his 2004 MLB Debut - had 'good stuff.' One problem, he can't exactly tell that good stuff where to go. So he walks guys. A lot. In his first full season last year, he walked 100 batters while striking out 174 batters in 186 innings. He also had a 3.77 ERA and went 10-9 on a Devil Rays team. Anyway, Kazmir had a hot start last year, but he started off slow this year - and now he's back. He's 6-2 with a 2.73 ERA, 56 K's and 20 BB's. Despite the fact that he has given up 20 walks - still 3/5 off the pace he was running last year - his WHIP is a respectable 1.375. Not amazing, but pretty good. Especially when Randall is trotting out his shiny 2.00 WHIP in the last seven games or something.

When you have 4 wins in your last 19 games, people are gonna chuck stuff at you
 Cubs_1Turns out, Life Without Lee is just as impossible as Cub fans thought it would be. That is, they can't score runs, and their pitching is still unruly. But on Tuesday, things reached a new low. The Cubs won, 4-0, but that didn't stop a "drunk woman" at Wrigley from slinging a ball at the struggling - I mean, bad - Jacque Jones. The ball missed and Jones escaped without harm. Here's the thing, though. Jones is acting like it's an isolated incident, and he "won't let one incident ruin what I came here to do." But understand this - maybe most of Chicago won't throw a baseball at your head. But most of Chicago is pissed that, while the team's offense, pitching, defense, and base running are all in the tank, you're being paid $16 million over three years for harming the team in three of those areas. You have a .264 avg, a .967 fielding percentage, and you just got doubled off that night and couldn't even think of a post-game excuse for why. Here's the deal; the Cubs are just bad this year. Again. We've talked about why, most recently on Tuesday.

Turns out, cheating doesn't win you any friends.
Barry Bonds got nailed on Tuesday night, as we all know by now. I'll forget, for a second, that it took Russ Springer five tries until he finally was able to hit Bonds. As I said last night, you might not like the guy, but that doesn't mean you can cheer when a pitcher intentionally hits him. The pitch that ended up hitting Bonds was not that far from his head - see above for video. I'm the last guy to stick up for Bonds, and fans can boo him if they don't like him. But it is not ok for a player to throw at Barry Bonds because he doesn't like him, for whatever reason. Especially when you know - as Russ no doubt did - how it would be interpreted by the fans. That is, with cheers. Retaliation is ok, to a point. But to throw a baseball at a guy because you don't like him - that's assault, not sport.

The Tigers have the best record in MLB
Alright, if I've said it once I've said it 500 times - I knew the Tigers would be good, but I didn't think they'd be this good. 27-13? The best record in MLB, 40 games into the season? 4, maybe. But 40? How? Well, tomorrow is my day off, so we'll be taking an in-depth look at what's going right for the Tigers. And then I'll be attending the Tigers-Reds game tonight with Soifer and Kevin. But, for a look at a team where everything is going wrong...

Chris Duffy thinks his .194 average is too good for AAA
Well, besides the fact that .200 is the Mendoza Line which, by definition, is when it becomes not okay to be in the Major Leagues, Duffy might just be in the right here. But the Pirates disagree, and placed him in the Restricted List after Duffy decided not to report to AAA ball upon his demotion. Recall that Duffy single-handedly lost a game for the Pirates earlier this year, and not accidentally. That is to say, he told a fib, and he got in trouble for it. Of course, the kicker will come if Duffy announces that he is commencing Operation Shutdown because, hey, he's never had to compete for an MLB job before, and if there's competition, someone better let him know. If there's competition, they should just eliminate him right now because he ain't never hit in April or May and he never will. Next to the Royals and Cubs, no team has ever made losing this much fun. Ever.

Good, someone found the real Reds.
I was getting worried there for a moment. I thought the Reds might have been a legit good team. I still maintain that they're not the "3rd worst team in baseball" as SI claims; far from it. The Reds might still be 4-6 in their last 10, just 2 games back of first, and have a 24-17 record - but the writing is on the wall. Well, let me have Bronson Arroyo, who lost to the aforementioned Pirates 7-2 last night, explain it to you:

I felt like I was embarrassed to get behind 4-1 early in a game like that. It's not a secret. They don't have a bunch of All-Stars in that lineup... I was embarrassed to be beaten by those guys. That's not to say you can't be beat on any given day, but I thought it was a horseshit outing, especially against a team like that. I mean, they are one of the weakest teams in baseball... This can’t happen, period. If I can’t stand on the mound and feel comfortable against that lineup, then something’s wrong with me.

Bronson... you do know that pitchers have to bat in the NL, correct? Strap on the elbow protector next time you step up to the plate against the Pirates. But the fun doesn't stop here. Last night, the Reds finally went over on the Pirates to snap their 5-game losing streak. But, it didn't start well. The Pirates jumped out to a 6-0 lead in the bottom of the first, (sound familiar, Texas? Minnesota?) only to watch the Reds slowly chip away at that lead as the game wore on. Final score, 9-8, Reds. The AP's Alan Robinson had this to say about the win: "The Cincinnati Reds seemed out of this one early... Then maybe they realized who they were playing." Basically, if you lose to the Pirates, someone is going to get after you for it.

You have to see this - "Unbelievable!"
Your team is down one run, in the third inning. You don't know how else to get on base, so you think that maybe getting hit by a pitch is your best bet. Problem is, the ball has to actually hit you before you get that free base. And if the ump tells you that it didn't hit you - while the fans confirm as much - you don't have the right to threaten him. You've got to love College Baseball. It doesn't look like Mr. Walker has much of anything under control here. Maybe the Cubs will draft him in the first round.

The Angels just handed a game to the Jays
The Angels had this game won. Bottom of the 9th, no outs, 4-4, Chone Figgins on 3rd base. You can't lose, can you? Actually, you can, and they did. The Angels managed to get themselves out of that inning without scoring a run, and then the Jays came back to score 3 in the top of the 10th to pretty much seal the victory. I'm not going to watch the rest of the game, but I'm assuming the Jays will win. Of course, that's what happens when you miss two chances with speedy guys on 3rd and less than 2 outs in the late innings. That also happens when you give the opposing team 5 outs in one inning, which happened when, A) the Angels 1B forgot to pick up the ball when he went to toss it to the pitcher covering the bag, who then collided with him and nearly knocked him down, and B) Vlad catches a routine pop up, but not really, as it rolls out of his glove. The entire night, the Angels gave the Jays every chance they could to win the game. You can't do that if you want to win baseball games. Then again, the Angels haven't been doing much of that lately, so it looks like we're straight. UPDATE: Another ball just flew by Vlad in right field, allowing another run to score for the Jays, 8-4.

Thanks for reading. Sorry about the posting mix up last night. Devin - it's good to see that you've finally got a blog. You're one of the more frequent readers here on BHGM so that's always a nice thing to see. I'll check it out tomorrow. Your comment is reasonable - that Posada isn't exactly over performing as he isn't putting up mind-blowing numbers. I'm just saying that he won't be able to keep that pace up for a whole year, because he hasn't done so in the past, and he's only gotten older. He won't go into a major slump for the rest of the year, he just won't produce at the level he's doing so now. See you guys tomorrow.

Yankee OF and Catchup - Part II - May 16th, 2006
Bonds' chase gets a jolt from Springer ( - May 16th, 2006
'This is our year!' - April 6th, 2006
I guess Operation Shutdown also involves Cocaine - April 22nd, 2006
We scored 14 runs tonight. - May 16th, 2006
Yankee OF and Catchup - Part I - May 15th, 2006
Finals Edition: Abnormal Psychology - May 6th, 2006

Saturday, April 22, 2006

I guess Operation Shutdown also involves Cocaine.

derek bellWell, I couldn't pass this up because it's one of the better baseball stories of all time. That is, when Derek Bell announced that he was commencing Operation Shutdown. In Spring Training of 2002, Bell - who had hit .173 the previous season - made the following announcement:

Nobody told me I was in competition. If there is competition, somebody better let me know. If there is competition, they better eliminate me out of the race and go ahead and do what they're going to do with me. I ain't never hit in spring training and I never will. If it ain't settled with me out there, then they can trade me. I ain't going out there to hurt myself in spring training battling for a job. If it is [a competition], then I'm going into 'Operation Shutdown.' Tell them exactly what I said. I haven't competed for a job since 1991.

In other words, either the Pirates were going to give him a job he didn't deserve, or he wouldn't take it. 11 days after that high-class quote, Bell went AWOL from the Pirate Ship and was released two days later. He was then paid $4.5 million for not playing that year. Operation Shutdown was in its 49th month when Bell was pulled over and the cops found a "warm crack pipe" in the car. Looks like Operation Shutdown just became Operation Go to Jail. As the SuperFreak himself once said, " a hell of a drug." And I'll never miss a chance to work that in.

And you're right, Jason. If Bowden survives 10 minutes under the new Nationals regime - if they ever arrive - I'll be surprised.  And I mean that in a not-joking way; I seriously think one of the first moves new ownership will make is firing him. And Jason also brought in that 5th comment. Congratulations, you guys did it. Five comments, and it only took you about two days.

UPDATE: In transferring this post from BHGM to the Angry Bench Coach, I came across one of the greatest comments I've ever received, from 'Mike.' "I think you're right. Fine Columbian coke is the official recreational drug of Operation Shutdown."

Leiter out, WBC, and some random thoughts - March 19th, 2006

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Johnny Damon, Yankee Pitching, and Kyle Farnsworth

Well, people have been asking what I think about Johnny Damon in the Yankees. I like it. Damon's a good player and he'll do good things. That doesn't mean Red Sox Chick isn't gonna cry about it though. Here, let me explain to the entire Nation why you can't be pissed at Damon leaving you for those big bad Yankees. All you Yankee fans out there, etch this in stone, write it in blood, and send it to all your pissed off Red Sox acquaintances.

Damon left the Oakland A's for Boston because Boston offered him more money. In turn, Damon left Boston because New York offered him more money.

Qf7e8syfThat's it. Now that Damon is in New York, I'm sure he'll help out a lot. He may struggle a little, but I doubt it. He wants the leadoff spot, obviously, and Jeter will be much happier in the 2-hole because now he can finally get some RBI's. Torre might relapse for a couple games if Johnny starts to struggle and throw Jeter in at leadoff, but he'll probably make Johnny sit that game to avoid any speculation; I think he's just weird enough to do that. It would be great if he threw Johnny into the 9-hole for a couple games, noted that it was "the second leadoff spot, we need someone to set the plate, and Johnny is a perfect fit," and sneaked Jeter into leadoff that way too. Either way, I'm sure Derek will be getting some AB's at #1 this year, because there is no way Torre can resist; he just loves Jeter leading off, and he can't help himself. However it ends up happening will be hilarious.

So, the conclusion to the first problem is that the Nation can no longer say how bad a guy Johnny is. You're pissed because Damon's loyalties change whenever money gets involved. Last year he said that he would rather retire after this season than play for the Yankees. He was lying. Get over it.

Now that all of that's been cleared up, let me say that personally I do like Damon. I think he's an ok guy, he has this whole persona he puts on about being a real dude or whatever, and it works for me. He doesn't complain, he works hard, and he gets the job done. He was also part of the Greatest Play of All Time, which obviously gets him points. Damon will help us bash in even more runs than last year.

Think about this - from what I hear, The Nation is weaker than before, although this could be totally incorrect because again, it's hearsay. Anyway, The Nation is weaker, and we're stronger because there's no way our pitching could get any worse, and with Cano and Wang maturing, we'll be better of there as well - hopefully.

As for the pitching - The Redneck, (who I don't get why we signed... wait; George has been after him since that one game in 2001) Wang, and Moose are locks for the rotation. I would still like to see more out of Aaron Small before I throw any true faith in him. I say this because Small is 34, and his career ERA of about 5 just doesn't blend well with last year's 3.20. Maybe the dude just figured it out last year; I'm not doubting him, I'm just saying that before I trust him to go all the way, we need to check up. In any case, he's on the DL for now. Same goes with Carl Pavano, who I will admit has been an absolute disaster thus far. That leaves us with Shawn Chacon, who I like. I think he can really do big things here; he's only 28. And for a young guy like him, Coors Field is probably more psychological than anything else. And even when he wasn't pitching in Coors, he was still on a really really bad team. We've also got Jaret Wright and his career 5.17 ERA. Wright hit the deck again yesterday after trying to field a bunt, which means the spasms are back. Anyway, we've got seven starters. We're set. I'm really not all that worried, because it's not like Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Gary Sheffield, Johnny Damon, Jorge Posada, Jason Giambi, and Hideki Matsui don't know how to score runs.

Lg_fight_apFurthermore, Cashman was smart enough to lock up Kyle Farnsworth, which will be the smartest move he's made since George hired him. With the exception of Andres Torres, Farnsworth is easily my favorite player. I'm not sure how big a name he is in the rest of the world, so let me tell his story. Farnsworth is about to turn 30, is 6' 4", 240lbs, and can hit 100mph at will. In 2002, when he was still with the Cubs, he went 46.2 IP with an ERA of 7.33 while blowing 6 out of 7 save opportunities. That wasn't a good year for him. In 2003, he pulled it together and went 76.1 IP with a 3.30 ERA. This was mostly because, after nailing the Red's Paul Wilson with a pitch, Wilson started walking towards the mound. Wrong move, Paul. Farnsworth, a former football player, charged Wilson and laid him out - football style. According to announcer Steve Stone, Wilson got, "rackey tacked." Paul Wilson was also very bloodied. Check out the "Kyle Farnsworth - Paul Wilson Fight Video" here. -UPDATE- I have found the video. Meanwhile, here is the Jeremy Affeldt v. Kyle Farnsworth fight. Also, here's the article. He was suspended three games, but it would've been more had MLB Brass not been afraid of Farnsworth hunting them each down, individually, and slamming them to the ground as well. He is one mean dude, straight up. Then in 2004, Farnsworth started having more trouble. Fans started booing him when he didn't hit 100mph on the gun, and it started making him mad. Along with LaTroy Hawkins, he set fire to the city of Chicago. One night, Hawkins gave up a HR to Albert Pujols - his 3rd of the game - to lose the game in the 9th, 10-8. Hawkins then tried to fight ump Tim Tschida. Why? He didn't give up Pujol's 3rd jack or even make you pitch to him. Things kept getting worse after that, and after Farnsworth and his fellow arsonists doused the field in gasoline and set it aflame for about the 3rd consecutive night, he returned to the dugout so furious that he tried to kick the heck out of an electric floor fan. This was no wall punch or cooler toss; he tried to beat on a floor fan, and it sent him to the DL. Meanwhile, reporters were asking Dusty Baker why Farnsworth hadn't been showing up in late innings recently, and he basically drop kicked the English language with, "I didn't disappear him, he disappeared himself, right?"

Solution: send Farnsworth to the Tigers. This made me really happy, cuz now we got to chat on an almost-daily basis. Then, one day, I'm sitting at home and I see the most amazing thing ever. That is, Kyle Farnsworth taking out Jeremy Affeldt. I've finally found this video of the Takedown. Here's the video, (Carlos Guillen v. Runelvys Hernandez, Bottom 6th, July 17th, 2005.) Basically, we're in a huge fight after Hernandez drilled Guillen in the head, and Affeldt is yelling at the entire Tigers team. Farnsworth is already walking away, but Affeldt said something to tick him off and he just rushes him. Lays him out on the ground; done for. Farnsworth got suspended for six games for that one, which is about half the time I spent watching that video on my computer and laughing. He ended the year with a 2.19 ERA and 87 K's in 70.0 IP. Then, the Yankees picked him up. My point - not only is he there to back up Dotel and Rivera if they try to pull anything, but he's also Damon and A-Rod's bodyguard when The Enemy invades. And don't worry, Farnsworth can cover the distance from the bullpen to the infield before Manny and Ortiz can climb out of the dugout. Well, nevermind Manny because seriously, who is he gonna light up?

The Greatest Play of All Time - February 28th, 2006
Kyle Farnsworth lays out Paul Wilson (Xuite) - ???

What was Jim Bowden thinking?

sorianobowden Shock of all shocks, Alfonso Soriano isn't going anywhere near left field. I talked about Soriano's refusal to move about a month ago, and now it looks like the National's nightmare is for real.  Seriously, could things have crashed to the ground any harder? Forget for a moment that everyone saw this coming, even more so if you're employed in the National's Front Office. Now the season starts in two weeks and the Nationals need to find someone to get between ball and turf in left. First, if you're National's GM Jim Bowden, why in the world do you trade for Soriano? You traded for the best offensive second baseman, even though you had no intention of playing him at second base. And you thought he would just happily shift to left field? And now, you can't even trade him away because, "we have not had a trade proposal from any team in baseball that we should consider," said Bowden. Note that in the picture to your left, no one is flashing a genuine smile. They already know they're all screwed.

But the most impressive thing is the way it all went down. There wasn't a press conference where Soriano said he was unwilling to play the outfield and would prefer the Nationals reconsider their position. Not a chance; the Nationals took the field for a game, but they were minus one dude. Frank Robinson had to go out and tell the umpire that he was sorry, but he had to change the lineup. In other words, Soriano didn't even feel it worthwhile to tell his team that he had no intention of playing in their baseball game. Not that they would've needed a crystal ball to see it coming, but still, it would've been nice. Now the Nats need to get rid of Soriano in the next two weeks or place him on the disqualified list, in which case they don't have to pay him and pretty much get to wait until someone crazy enough offers a good trade.

The details are out, and basically it happened like this; Soriano showed up for the game on Monday and told Robinson that, while he was sketched into the lineup card for left field, he wasn't going anywhere near it. Robinson told him to shut up, because Vidro was playing second base and Soriano was playing left, and that if he didn't like it he wasn't gonna play at all. The team took batting practice, and then there was another meeting between Soriano and Robinson, along with GM Jim Bowden. This went pretty much the same way, with Soriano asking, "Why didn't you try to talk to me before you made the trade?" Uh, good question. As wrong as I think Soriano is in his handling of the situation, he's not the bad (or worst, at least), guy. He didn't ask to be traded, and if he had, he would've said there's no way in hell.

Think about this from Bowden's perspective. You're in your 2nd year in DC, and you're getting a new stadium, but you cannot make any stupid mistakes. You don't have a ton of money to mess around with, and you can't just absorb a contract if you screw up. That being said, if you need a left200603201138338502 fielder, you go out and acquire a left fielder. If you can't do that, then you sit tight. You don't grab a second baseman to fill that spot in your outfield. And, if you're so high that you're gonna try to pull that off anyway, you make sure that second baseman hasn't publicly said that he'll never switch positions because he's much more valuable at 2nd than in the outfield. If you're still not clued in, and you decide to go ahead with the deal, you make sure that 2nd baseman is in on the plan before he gets shipped out. If he isn't, (or if you don't know because the Rangers won't let you talk to him,) then you call the deal off. If, after all that, you still acquire your All-Star 2nd baseman and he tells you it's not gonna work out, you immediately set about moving him or your current 2nd baseman. In other words, sitting around through the entire WBC with your head in the sand just hoping he'll change his mind was probably a very bad idea.

It doesn't appear that the Nationals are acting logically here. Someone please tell me, did I miss something? Is there something exceptionally weird going on that makes this whole thing ok? Was Vidro not supposed to be back this year? Did Soriano just now become a full-time second baseman? Are the Rangers forcing the Nationals to hold Soriano captive because he's a bad guy, and now that they've cleared Rogers out of the clubhouse they want to keep all the bad energy as far away as possible? I don't understand. Nine out of ten little leaguers aren't going to move from 2nd to outfield, let alone the best 2nd baseman - offensively, mind you - in Major League Baseball. This is outstanding. Way to screw up your season, Jim. Have a nice year.

I also came across the fact that Jim Bowden screwed up the Reds before he headed to DC.

Alfonso Soriano - February 23, 2006
Soriano, Nats at impasse over outfield ( - March 20, 2006
A Quick Lesson on Hiring Practices - March 21, 2006

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

The Greatest Play of All Time

manny01It happened on July 21st, 2004, in the 7th inning, with 2 outs, Baltimore Orioles v. Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park. David Newhan is at the plate against Pedro Martinez, and it looks like Newhan just took him deep until the ball bounces off the wall in center. Johnny Damon fields the ball and throws it in to Mark Bellhorn at shortstop, but the throw is intercepted by a diving Manny Ramirez. "It was a highlight catch," Damon said of the maneuver. For this to happen, Manny had to sprint across a substantial portion of outfield. Never in the history of baseball has a left fielder cut off a center fielder's throw. No manager in the world would practice a triple cut-off to include the left fielder. They'd have Manny practice unassisted triple-plays first. And to make it worse, it was probably his best catch all season. A diving stab. And, as Manny lies on the ground, Newhan comes home, an in the park home run. Only Manny can rise to the bigs without knowing even the rudimentary basics of fielding. "That," Newhan said, "was kind of a weird relay there." Even Terry Francona said, "That was a big mistake and we paid for it."
-UPDATE- I finally found the 'official' MLB Stream. Manny Ramirez cuts off Johnny Damon. Second Update: They seem to have taken that feed down. Leave a comment if you find another video.

Certainly, this has got to be more entertaining than when Manny disappeared into Manny Land, that bizzarro world he found under Monster. It has to be more exciting than Manny demanding a trade, for the third time in four years, and not getting it because his contract runs about $20 million. You can complain about his fielding, but when the dude steps into the box, he mashes. In a game against the White Sox last season - coincidentally, exactly one year after the Greatest Play of All Time - Joe Crede dropped an easy foul pop-up from Manny. 99 times out of 100, you're out. Manny is not gonna get out twice in one at bat, and not a single person watching thought he wasn't gonna jerk the next one out of the yard. Even Ozzie Guillen himself said it. "Everybody did, everybody in the ballpark did." Sure enough, next pitch, home run. Red Sox win, 6-5. Manny might be disappearing into the monster, cutting off throws from center field, and getting picked off while executing routine base running, but you're not gonna get that guy out twice in the same at bat, not a chance.

BallHype: hype it up!