I want to have dreadlocks and make a gazillion dollars a year. I want to have a job playing a kid’s game. Where I can run around and have fun, and oh, did I mention the part where I make a gazillion dollars? And run around and play.
I want to be Manny Ramirez.
Let’s take a look inside the very scary place known as the Mind of Manny Ramirez. I imagine it would go something like this:
"I want to be traded.
Sure, breaking your Boston curse was a fun thing last year, but now I am bored.
Pedro’s not here to play with, and I want to be traded.
Also, I am tired of running. From now on, I would like a runner to run for me when I get a walk or a single. I’ll run to first, and I guess, even to second on a double.
But then the runner.
And then, please trade me.
Plus also, I’d like to not have to field. I still want to go out in the field, though– but just to talk with the fans.
So I will go out in the stands and talk with the fans for awhile, and then come in and hit a homer maybe, and then you will trade me– OK?
Look, Kevin Millar looks silly. He has a shiny thing.
Oh man, I am missing Pedro. And my privacy. You know, off the field. I have my privacy on the field, you know, with the fans and everything. I like to talk to them.
Man, I really didn’t mean I wanted traded. But I don’t want to play for Trot Nixon.
You told me that I had the day off, and I made plans. Yeah, with Pedro. What is the problem?
I think I want to be traded.
Hey, would you tell me if I got traded, because I would look really stupid if I came out in the wrong uniform. But I guess it would be OK, because I’d just come in the dugout after two outs, anyway.
I knew there were two outs. I thought I got traded.
Man, how much is a gazillion? It’s like a lot, it makes my accountant laugh when I say it. GA-ZILL-YUN. Hehe. Pedro would laugh at that.
Hey, could I just bat all the time? Yeah, some one else could run from the other batter’s box. Maybe Johnny Damon. He’s fast. He has funny hair.
Oh man, today I am not playing, I am fooling around with the scoreboard guy, OK? It’s cool, I like to play back there.
OK, then, maybe you’d better just trade me."
I don’t know if anyone in the league office is watching but–Hello, Random Drug Testing? Is the hairdo a hint?
It’s obvious Boston has a deadly combo. You look at David Ortiz’s belly, and Manny Ramirez’ hair. It’s the Manga and Ganga attack.
I don’t think I want to be Manny Ramirez, after all. I’m already losing my short term memory. I think I’ll look into David Ortiz’s mind, instead.
I bet there’s some good recipes there.
But now, I have to actually give them props. And it’s all because of that abstract world of Fantasy baseball.
Or Rotissierre. I’m not sure. I play in a Strat-o-Matic league with keeper rules, so you decide where it falls.
By the way, I never understood how something I put a slab of meat on becomes a baseball league name. But then again, it’s not like I see bikini babes running through Fantasy baseball conventions, either. I guess there’s not much in a name.
The Yankees have gone down to the depths of Hades and rescued one of my boys, and I don’t know how to react. You see, I own Shawn Chacon, and he has been rescued from Colorado in a trade to the Yanks.
Oh vile purgatory of pitching stats, thy name is Coors Field! The average fantasy owner’s reaction to having your pitcher traded, and sentenced to pitch in Coors Field, is as close to the Great Depression stock brokers jumping from windows as we might ever see.
Imagine my joy to have a pitcher removed from that launching pad! I am planning the party right now.
Will this make Chacon a run lower, or maybe a run and a half? The Yankees present defense won’t help him, and neither will facing David Ortiz and the other DHs in the league.
But even if there is only a small improvement– and I have to assume there will be– then it will be worth giving thanks to those hated Yanks. If only for the peace of mind that comes with thinking your pitcher probably won’t have an 8.00 ERA next year. At Coors, you never know.
Cheer the Yankees? Well, maybe when Chacon pitches. But for right now, I’ll just tip my cap and say, "Thank ya kindly, Mr. Cashman."
I was looking over some internet articles, and read somewhere that a certain writer (who shall remain nameless, largely because I have forgotten him) stated that Felix Lopez, the new shortstop for the Cincinnatti Reds, is having the best offensive season ever for a Reds shortstop.
Of course, that is foolishness. Barry Larkin’s 1996 season is the best, and he won MVP for the season before that. But looking up those stats made me think of Barry– of how many gold gloves I thought he should have won instead of Ozzy Smith. And that made me think of Larkin’s predecessor, Davey Concepcion, and all the gold gloves he won, that somehow Hall of Fame voters have forgotten.
Gold gloves often have a ‘dynasty’ effect, with the same person winning repeatedly. Omar Vizquel and Robby Alomar have had the most recent dynasties of the middle infielders. Pudge, of course, at catcher. Scott Rolen and Eric Chavez have beginnings of dynasties going. Andruw Jones is a warlord over his territory. Jim Edmonds has a nice streak.
Who, among the crop of players out there now, could be the next to have two shelves in his house for the golden hardware?
I have a few candidates. Cesar Izturis, out in Los Angeles, looks like he’s got seven or eight gold gloves in his career. Brian Schneider of the Nationals looks like he could rip off three or four in a row. Second base is the guessing place– Luis Castillo has been winning the award by default, I believe. He’s excellent– but is he legendary?
In the American League, it seems wide open everywhere, with the exception of Eric Chavez’s dynasty-in-the-making at third. Alex Rodriguez should get more love there, but Alex Rodriguez should be winning the award at shortstop. Maybe he actually did last year, and just paid everyone hush money to say Jeter won. That’s about the best theory I’ve heard- no one who watches Jeter play shortstop believes he’s gold glove caliber. Oh sure, he’ll dive into the stands. So will that guy from the MTV Jack*ss show- but Bam Margera doesn’t deserve a gold glove, either.
Could Maicer Izturis develop into a winner in the A.L., and begin a brother-brother dynasty with Cesar over the shortstop awards? Not likely, but it sure would be cool. Will Vernon Wells and Orlando Hudson keep smuggling gold over the Canadian border? Perhaps so.
And further into the future– will Andruw Jones win gold gloves into his forties? After playing with Julio Franco this long, he may have learned enough of the ancient’s longevity secrets to win gold gloves in his fifties!
If you have a great rookie defender that you would like to talk about, visit our website, and shoot us an email. Nothing is better than eyes-on scounting, and no one can do that like a local fan. Who’s your candidate for gold? Tell me why you dig them!
The Cincinnati Reds were my birthright. Born deep in Reds Country in Springfield, Ohio, my first memories of baseball were from my grandmother’s house. I would spend the night as a small child, and we would play poker while we watched the Reds on TV. Perry Mason and pizza always followed. Grandma would diss Davey Concepcion, saying he couldn’t hit his weight—which made an inquisitive young fellow like me ask “How much does he weigh?” I wanted to cheer him on towards meeting that measure of acceptance.
And so, I had been a Reds fan for years already by 1970. Of course, we were going to win, I thought. In an eleven year old’s mind, especially back in that more innocent time, your team always was going to win the big game—because they were The Good Guys. The Good Guys Always Won.
Brooks Robinson taught me different. In what is still called the most amazing defensive display in World Series history, Brooks took Cincinnati’s Murder’s Row and introduced them to the ball and chain of his gold glove. He single-handedly shackled Johnny Bench (.293, 45 homers), Tony Perez (.317, 40 homers) and Lee May (.253, 34 homers). And he introduced me to ‘the agony of defeat’ that I had heard about on Wide World of Sports.
But as the years go by, I respect Brooks Robinson, more and more. He was a worthy enemy, who triumphed through superior performance.
1970 was important in another way to an eleven year old Reds fan. It was the year that Don Gullet was a rookie.
What a find Don Gullet was! Young and wholesome, strong like a country boy should be, he hurled bullets from the south side, and confounded batters everywhere. He followed his 77 inning cup of tea in 1970 with a 217 inning season in 1971, with a 2.65 ERA and a 16-6 record. He was our stud lefty.
Through 1976, that is. In 1977, the unthinkable happened. Don Gullett became a Yankee.
It’s not like I hated the Yankees at the time—certainly after Gullet left, but not before. I didn’t see true Yankee hating until I moved to Cleveland, as an adult. No—the true pain was to be blamed on that devil child of Curt Flood—Free Agency.
I am not sure if Gullett was the first free agent the Reds ever lost. He’s just the first I remember. But no cheating woman ever broke a country singer’s heart like Don Gullet broke mine when he donned those pinstripes.
I still hate to see him on the television screen. I hated to see him wear a Reds uniform again—the traitor! Of course, Pete Rose did the same thing years later when he joined the Phillies… but no heartbreak hurts like your first one.
I don’t know if today’s MTV generation can relate to the former permanency of a baseball fan’s affections. Your team did not relocate, your players played on that team forever—unless they were traded. Then you could hate the general manager forever, because otherwise your player would have been there.
Now, I am not saying that pro ballplayers should not have free agent rights. It’s become a fun part of the ambience of the game—who will sign where, who will be traded because they can’t be re-signed.
I am just saying that I can’t forgive Don Gullett. Someone had to be the first, I know. But not you, Don. Denis Menke, maybe…. but not you.
Oh, the many ages of baseball. We look back on the past with a sense of awe at the giants of earlier years. Babe Ruth, Cy Young, Lou Gehrig, Walter Johnson… Names like that make a true baseball fan go off into a little dream world, where hot dogs are a nickel, and every ballpark had a knothole fence that kids could look through, or devise a way to sneak in without paying.
It makes you wonder how the 1990’s will be seen, in retrospect, twenty, thirty, fifty years from now.
When Babe Ruth popularized the homerun, and major league baseball rode the popular wave by making the ball harder, thus traveling over the fence more often—was there a backlash against the new climate, like there is now about steroids? Baseball historians would say yes.
We have the War Years, with Joltin’ Joe’s hit streak set against a war-thinned pool of pitchers. We have Jackie Robinson and Larry Doby, finally breaking the color barrier. And as we look over baseball’s history, why is 1960 an important year? That was the year the Red Sox finally put an African-American on their roster.
Yes, baseball was not fully integrated until 1960. So really, when we have these discussions—how does Rafael Palmeiro stack up against the historical first basemen in the Hall of Fame—why don’t we bring up the fact that he faced the finest athletes from ALL RACES? Lou Gehrig didn’t. George Sisler didn’t. Jimmy Foxx didn’t.
Maybe baseball records before 1960 should have the asterisk (*segregated era)?
And then, after 1960, we entered into a time of change for the sport. The mound was lowered. The season expanded. The leagues expanded. Divisional play. Coast to coast travel, and to Canada, too. Specialized relievers. The designated hitter. Interleague play. The Wild Card.
Maybe history will view baseball as only really being settled after Bud Selig started interleague play, and the wild card. Maybe we won’t be remembered as the generation that lost it’s heroes to the steroid needle. After all, supplements have been around since the beginning of the sport. Do you know what was in Satchel Paige’s ‘snake oil’ that he would rub on his arm after pitching 15 games in a week? Maybe Victor Conte’s great grandfather does. But how often do you hear a derogatory story about it? Never. You hear “don’t look back—someone might be gaining on you!”
Satchel’s classic quote is a good thought for today’s baseball. Why try to live on Babe Ruth’s legacy when it was built on racist segregation thinning the talent pool?
Live in today’s baseball—the greatest era ever. We have seen possibly the all time best in the last 15 years. Maddox, Clemens, The Unit, Pedro. A-Rod, Junior, Robby Alomar, Pudge, Piazza, Helton, Pujols. Vizquel, Andruw Jones, Jim Edmonds.
Don’t listen to the headlines. This is baseball’s new Golden Era. 100 years from now, baseball fans will look at the pre-Wild Card era as we do the pre-1900 era—it was baseball…. But not really.
So enjoy your game, steroid-worry-free. After all, the real key is not how history will view this time, but how you view it, right now. ENJOY!
USAToday.com has just rolled out the latest in what seems to be the never-ending flow of new statistics. They have announced “The MVP Index” and “The Cy Young Index”—formulas designed to rank prospective award winners, in a way that is supposedly devoid of the personal vendettas or preferences of certain sportswriters.
We all know the story of Ted Williams losing the MVP vote when he hit .400 because a sportswriter he had offended left him totally off his ballot. If only Ted was alive today—he could have roughed up the writer, been cited, rolled in for fingerprints, issued several apologies on every known media, fined by Bud Selig AND the local authorities, suspended by Bud Selig, and vilified in front of all of America. Of course, that may not have won him a vote from the writer—but at least he would have got to rough him up. Kenny Rogers says there is some solace in that—plus he can always treasure the video.
OK, Kenny Rogers really didn’t say that, but I bet he thought it once or twice.
USAToday.com’s formulas seem somewhat legit—as legit as defining the criteria for these awards could get, I suppose. And there is a need for better voting—I remember Barry Bonds losing an MVP to Terry Pendleton, and thinking that complete idiots were stuffing the ballot box. Rafael Palmeiro won a gold glove when he played a fraction of his team’s games at first once. And then there was the time A-Rod won a gold glove (that really belonged to Omar Vizquel), and hit 57 homers—but another shortstop, Miguel Tejeda, won the MVP, basically for clutch hits in back-to-back games against a rival in the heat of the pennant race. Sure, I’d take those two wins over a gold glove and 57 homers. Just like I’d hire Jason and Jeremy Giambi to tell kids to stay off drugs.
Here’s what USAToday.com says about these new stats:
“The MVP index ranks each batter in three statistics: Clutch hitting (batting average with runners in scoring position), runs created (estimate of runs each batter creates for his team) and team success (team winning percentage).
The categories are then ranked within the leagues and assigned a total score by adding the three rankings, with the lowest score being the best.
The Cy Young index ranks each pitcher in three statistics: ERA, WHIP (walks plus hits divided by innings pitched) and winning percentage for a minimum of 100 innings.
The pitching categories are then ranked within the leagues and assigned a total score by adding the three rankings, with the lowest score being the best.”
I know their intentions are good. I’ve seen “USAToday.com” stamped into the bricks on the road to the Devil’s Hot Spot, so that clinches it—they do have good intentions. But this concept will never work, for several reasons.
First, we baseball fans like to argue. Don’t think your formula is solving anything. If we could not argue about these things, and feel that our opinions had absolute holy ground to stand on, while the opposing opinion should be given a vidcam, and be forced to stalk Kenny Rogers—well, we’d be professional wrestling fans. They are the ones who believe what they are told. Baseball fans don’t believe anything—if our favorite player’s ERA is high, it’s because of the bad fielding, and the umpires don’t like our guy, and the relievers always let his inherited runners score. We swear by statistics, and yet we always seek a new statistic to prove that the other one—the one that reflects poorly on our opinion—is invalid. I mean, you can find out what a guy hits on the road, against lefties, in a day game, when he bats second in the lineup, with runners in scoring position and less than two outs. And if that stat shows our man has a high average, we say, “See? My guy would succeed if the manager only put him in the right situation!”
So to us baseball stat freaks, another new stat is another chance to ridicule their newly invented process, and exclaim our superior view. Which is what I shall do now, knowing full well that I am swimming neck deep in my own folly by doing so.
First, a general comment: I hate stats that rely on rankings of people. If my guy hits .313, and you have 10 guys ahead of him, but the top average is .320, then I fail to see how a ranking of eleventh is fair to my guy. His average was very close, and should be represented as such.
Next, the MVP index. I like the clutch hitting. I like the runs created. I hate the winning percentage. And that’s all I want to say about the actual formula. But I do have suggestions for MVP voting, in general.
In MVP voting—in any sport, not just baseball—it’s time to consider marketing. Who packs more butts in the seats, home and away? Who sells more jerseys? These things contribute to the bottom line of a franchise, which in turn affects payroll, which really is a huge factor in today’s sports. How can you ignore these things in the 21st Century? Give me a TV face and good ratings, and good road attendance, and I’ll push the payroll budget up $10 million or more.
Cy Young? ERA, WHIP and winning percentage? That’s ridiculous. It’s all about winning games. When you have guys that are close to or over 20 wins, then you look at ERA. And if that’s close, you look at strikeouts, because that is a measure of dominance. And after that, we drink a lot of beers and shout about what an idiot our buddy with the wrong opinion is, and then shoot a game of pool and forget about it.
Don’t let our cherished noble sport be relegated to the abyss that college football rankings are in. The BCS system is a nightmare. Don’t give us a formula for MVP and Cy Young, you Bill James-wanna-be’s. Just put your writers together, and let them argue. That’s a time honored tradition, in a sport that values tradition more than any other.
Dontrelle Willis or Roger Clemens? Halladay or Garland? Ortiz or Manny? Sheff or A-Rod? Tejada or Texeira? That is what I am talking about!
Sometimes, finding the exact answer ruins the question. Good Intentions, USAToday.com. I think the Devil just pulled up for another load of your bricks.
There seems to be a constant dialogue among today’s baseball writers about who is deserving of placement in the baseball Hall of Fame, and who isn’t. Raphael Palmeiro is the latest to endure this scrutiny—and the arguments being made have stirred up my thoughts about the shrine, and the process.
First of all, let’s deal with the REAL glaring issue of Cooperstown—why isn’t Pete Rose in? Oh yeah, that ancient rule about gambling, which owes it’s existence to a scandal that was in an era before TV, radio, cars, ESPN, MTV and microwaves—the Black Sox World Series affair.
Can we assume that Pete Rose made a little more money in his career that say, Shoeless Joe Jackson? That nickname did not mean Joe couldn’t get a Nike contract. It meant that he was so poor when the scouts found him, he had no shoes. And while Shoeless Joe is the name everyone remembers, there were several other poor-as-dirt players who were involved, too. The impoverished player of that pre-Union era was more open to getting extra cash by throwing a game.
The mega-rich players of today are different. Who could bribe, say, A-Rod? Even Bill Gates would have to think twice about laying out the cash that would take.
So was Pete accused of throwing games? No—he was accused of betting on his team. Anyone who ever met Pete knows of his fierce competitiveness (which it turns out was partially fueled by ‘greenie’ amphetamines). In the 1970’s, Pete Rose was the player we were told as children to emulate—an average guy who worked hard and got the most out of his talent. He simply became, in his own words, ‘the greatest singles hitter of all time’. But he is not in the Hall, and likely will never be.
Baseball is missing a great chance to tell both sides of the story, and create a precedent. Why not have a “Hall of Shame’ wing? Put in Pete Rose’s whole story, scandal and all. Put in Shoeless Joe Jackson. And slide that racist redneck Ty Cobb over to that section, too, please. Anyone that thinks Pete Rose had a lesser character than Ty Cobb has never read a baseball history book.
So with all this talk of character, how does Raffy Palmeiro stack up? Great, character wise. Great career stats. One of the classic swings in the history of the game. One of the great on-base and slugging players of his time. A great fielder, too. But today’s baseball writers seem split on the guy who recently joined the exclusive 3000 hit, 500 homer club.
Why is having a great career for 8-10 years good enough for the Hall, but having a really good career for 20 years doesn’t hack it? Should we say Hank Aaron is not the Homer King, because it took him so many more at bats than Babe Ruth to get there? No, of course not.
Baseball is a ‘what have you done lately for me” game, and Palmeiro contributed at a high level longer than 98% of the players ever. Why does longevity disqualify, when it should enhance?
Palmeiro facts: Ten years with over 30 homers, with a nine year streak of at least 38 round trippers. Ten times a slugging percentage over .500 while having an on-base over .370 in the same year, with a peak year of hitting .324/.630/.420 in 1999, his first year with the Rangers. That was the year Baltimore let him walk, because they thought he was done.
So if Raffy is NOT worthy, certain questions arise. It is said his numbers are inflated by Camden Yards and Texas being hitter’s parks. Does that mean no hitter from Colorado will ever be inducted? Should the owners have been warned about that when they paid those expensive franchise fees? Should we start looking at inducting Colorado pitchers? Maybe we should just lower their ERAs by 2 runs, and look them over. After all, if Palmeiro’s performance is skewed due to hitter’s parks, aren’t the pitchers also?
What would Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale’s ERAs have looked like had they played in Coors Field or Camden or Texas, instead of the famous pitching-friendly confines of Dodger Stadium? Lower the mound, stick him in one of today’s bandboxes, and just for fun, add a designated hitter to his opponent’s lineup during interleague play—does Bob Gibson still have a record 1.12 ERA in 1968?
Does this thinking make Roger Clemens’ current year, with around a 1.40 ERA in a hitter’s park that’s smaller than my back yard, the greatest pitching year EVER? Of course, his road ERA is the thing—at this time, it’s below 0.40! This thinking begs another question: didn’t Palmeiro play half his games in other ballparks, too?
It’s time for this new generation of baseball writers to get over themselves. Anyone who only knows Joe Morgan as a baseball announcer, and didn’t see him playing—the greatest second baseman of all time, to all viewers who weren’t drunk on the self-absorbed curse fixation that only infects regular travelers to Wrigley Field, making them bring up Ryan Sandberg’s name—should not have a vote. Anyone who thinks betting for his team to win as a manager disqualifies Pete Rose as a player, should not have a vote.
And anyone who thinks they could do what Raffy Palmeiro has done, at this high level, for this many years… they should not only not have a vote, they should be bound and gagged, so that the rest of us baseball fans don’t have to listen to the preposterous argument that he doesn’t belong in the Hall of Fame.
Did you see the camera work on the ESPN Sunday night baseball, of Hector Luna sliding past Henry Blanco, and tagging home plate like a tag team wrestler who had reached the ropes just before he collapses? Fingers on the plate, a thing of video beauty– the right angle shot, the right play, the right execution by all players involved. Ryan Dempster deserves props for the setup– blowing a two out, two strike advantage by walking Scott Seabol (I know, I said ‘who?’, too), who was then removed for the pinch running Hector Luna. Dempster was curling sliders like he got a bonus on them, but failed to get the save– or intimidate anyone except the Q-Eye crew’s sense of style. Shouldn’t a burly mountain-man looking guy be able to throw a little harder than 88mph? You can’t close games with your Grizzly Adams impression, Ryan– or can you?
Dusty Baker seems to think Dempster can close. To be fair, he is 14-2 on save chances. But I thought it was a good segueway into a Dusty Baker rant, so bear with me.
Dusty Baker is the guy who made a reputation on trotting Barry Bonds out of the dugout, and winning games. Billy Ray Bob Jim Tom Thornton of the new Bad News Bears could do that, even dressed as Bad Santa. Dusty’s glitter has turned a bit rusty in the Windy City, though. His latest exploit? Dropping major prospect Jason Dubois to the minors, and then letting him slip away in a trade to the Cleveland Indians. His excuse? Dubois played bad defense. Wait– isn’t this the same team that had Sammy Sosa in right, and Moises Alou in left last year? The statues in Yankee Stadium have better range than those two. This is the same man that starts Todd Walker at second, and Aramis Ramirez at third. Please, think of a better excuse, Dusty– or just admit that you’re one of those managers that hates rookies, and makes fantasy managers across America cringe when you get hold of one of their prospects.
And what about the way Dusty handles pitchers? He single handedly blew the World Series for the Giants with his mismanagement. Do you blame Kerry Wood and Mark Prior’s injury woes on Baker, or The Curse?
I actually like Dusty- as a ball player, he was a hustler with a great arm. But he’s not the Hall of Fame manager his agent painted him as when they were holding the Tribune over a barrel.
The good news? Neifi Perez cranks a grand slam to win the game in the 10th, so Dusty and Ryan are off the hook for their ninth inning blunders– and in Fantasy Land, Jason Dubois owners (I’m one of them) rejoice. In the next few years, I predict, so will Cleveland Indians fans (I’m one of them, too). The thought of Dubois batting in a lineup with Victor Martinez, Jhonny Peralta, Coco Crisp, Grady Sizemore and the injured Travis "Pronk" Hafner is mind boggling, if they all peak their potential.
My parting words for this inaugural blog?
Don’t trust Dusty. And Don’t Plunk the Pronk.
A week or so ago I had the opportunity to speak with ESPN’s Rob Neyer. I asked Rob to reflect on the first half of the season and to share his thoughts about where things were headed as we moved into late July. Here’s what transpired:
Baseball Digest Daily (BDD): Hey Rob, thanks for joining us today.
Rob Neyer (RN): Sure, no problem. I’m just here to help.
BDD: As we take a look around the league, let’s start in the American League East. The Red Sox have seemed to do ok without the likes of Schilling and some injuries. I’m not really sure where the Yankees are going with their pitching. Baltimore has got to be a surprise, and for that matter, Toronto as well. What’s your take on the division thus far?
RN: Well the division has certainly evened out from the mid 90s when the standings were the same every year in a row. Things changed a little last year and they will be jumbled this year as well except for the Devil Rays who will still be in last place.
It’s hard not to like the Red Sox. The Orioles, Blue Jays, and Yankees…who knows where they’ll wind up. A year ago people said the Blue Jays were a wild card contender and they went on to have a terrible season. Some were then saying that the 2004 season told us how good they were (or weren’t), but really, 2004 was just a data point. It shouldn’t be that surprising how well they have played this year.
BDD: It’s interesting that they have actually improved even after losing (Carlos) Delgado. Is it their pitching that has kept them in games?
RN: They have talented young players. Roy Halladay is having a fine season like he did a couple of years ago. They also have some good pitchers who have done well. But it hasn’t been just one thing. They’ve scored a decent number of runs, and they’ve pitched pretty well. They may not rank at the top of either category but they’re doing well in both.
As far as replacing Delgado, one player, unless you’re talking about Barry Bonds, really doesn’t make that much of a difference. Of course they would be better with Delgado, but you’re only talking about a 3 or 4 game difference. They improved in other places, and Roy Halladay’s performance alone could make up that 3 or 4 game difference. The bottom line is that everything that could have gone wrong for the Blue Jays last year did go wrong. It wasn’t likely that would happen again.
I don’t think that Toronto is truly a playoff contender, although they are certainly still in the thick of the wild card race. Maybe I’m just a little pessimistic. I’m not convinced they will be this good all year long. But this is a team that will continue to get better. I think JP Ricciardi’s plan is going to work. It’s just going to take a year or two longer than people thought it might. I think this is a team that is definitely on the upswing, but they are in a tough division with the Yankees, Red Sox, and Orioles who all have more resources than they do.
BDD: You mentioned Tampa Bay. Is there any hope for Tampa Bay at all? They seem to have loaded up on top prospects and restocked the organization. Why does this club always seem to be in such disarray?
RN: It certainly shouldn’t have taken this long to improve. Here’s why I don’t buy into the Devil Rays. It’s true that because they had so many awful finishes, they have had a number of good picks. It’s true that their minor league system has good prospects like Delmon Young, Jeff Niemann. They also have a bunch of good young outfielders right now.
This is a team that has had some good players over the years, and it hasn’t translated into very many wins. The common thread throughout this time has been that Chuck Lamar has been the general manager. I don’t mean any disrespect to Chuck Lamar. I’m sure he’s good at some things, but running a baseball team doesn’t seem to be one of them.
We’re now in the franchise’s 8th season and we’ve seen no improvement. I do think that at some point, with all the good young talent, that this team can turn in a 70 win season, maybe a 75 win season, and that would be a major step forward for this club. But an 80 win season, 85 win season? I don’t think I can see that happen until they have a general manager who does a few things better than Chuck Lamar.
BDD: Moving on to the AL Central, Chicago has seemed to surprise a lot of us. They have got tremendous pitching from (Mark) Buerhle and (Jon) Garland. They seemed to get timely hitting from just about everyone. Is this team for real?
RN: Well they certainly are going to win that division. I picked the White Sox to win the Central, and I’m one of only a few people I know who did that. I don’t say that to take any credit for it. I can’t claim that I ran some brave analysis that said the White Sox were going to win this year. It was more of a feeling. I felt that they played pretty well the last few seasons and had very little to show for it. Obviously, that’s not scientific. It was just a hunch.
To me, this team is comparable to the 2000 team that won 95 games and had the best record in the major leagues. I think this is a good team with a lot of guys having great seasons…especially on the pitching side. No, I don’t think Jon Garland is that good. And no, I don’t think they’ll get another year out of Orlando Hernandez like this year.
The best indicator of a team’s performance is their run differential. The White Sox run differential is comparable to that of the Red Sox and Angels. But their record in close games (one and two run games) is incredible. Certainly there has to be some skill in winning those close games. But there is also some luck there too!
BDD: How about the Indians? This is an exciting team. They have a bunch of young players…Grady Sizemore, Travis Hafner. They seem to be loaded with energy. Now I hate to mention this because of the negative connotation that comes along with it lately, but we are starting to see this trend of the "Moneyball" guys turning things around. First, Ricciardi, now Shapiro…I mean, fans have to be excited about this club.
RN: I certainly hope so. Here’s a team that has come a long way after such a horrible start. As we speak, they are only a few games back in the wild card race. They have a better run differential than the Twins. They’re not going to catch the White Sox, but they could be in the wild card hunt all season long.
As far as the "Moneyball" side, Mark Shapiro is a sharp guy. To me, it doesn’t have anything to do with Moneyball per se. Look, if you have a choice between choosing a GM who’s intelligent, analytical, hires good people vs. one who doesn’t have those characteristics, I’m going to choose the intelligent guy. It doesn’t mean you have to go to an Ivy League university to be a sharp guy, but it certainly doesn’t hurt either. I think what we are going to see in baseball, is that a lot of highly educated people will start getting hired. Some people don’t think that is such a good thing…probably because it is more threatening than anything. I suppose it is. Look, I never went to an Ivy League school. I never even graduated from college. I know full well that I’m not educated enough to run a baseball team or even probably get a job with a baseball team.
I just think the Indians are doing everything right. In a few years I can see the Twins and Indians running this division because they have so many good young players.
BDD: I’d like to talk a little about Texas. They’ve bounced up and down the division quite a bit. But putting the play of the Rangers aside, what is your take on the Kenny Rogers situation? What was your feeling on the length of suspension?
RN: I was asked if I thought the suspension would be over or under 30 games and I thought it would be under but not by a lot. A lot of the suspension lengths are dictated by the collective bargaining agreement so it’s very difficult to suspend a player for a long time. That said, when you remember that John Rocker was suspended for, I think, 30 games for something he said, and then you look at a guy who actually assaulted someone while in uniform, it’s hard not to expect a lengthy suspension.
BDD: So what is up with him? We saw the worst of him here in New York, but here’s a guy who is 40 years old and having one of the best seasons of his career. You would think these kind of things would go away. Time after time these guys just seem to lose it. It’s amazing.
RN: It is bizarre. I would argue though that the same things in Kenny Rogers’ brain, or for that matter Kevin Brown’s brain, that help make them great pitchers are the same things that also make them do things like assault cameramen.
Everyone wants to say something about players who have negative qualities…"well if he just changed that part of him, he would be even a better player or more fun to be around." Unfortunately humans don’t work that way. Everything works together. If Kenny Rogers wasn’t so intense, he may not be the same pitcher he is now.
BDD: Jumping over to the National League…the story in Washington is pretty interesting and it has to be good for baseball. I mean here’s a team that is 14-15 games over .500 and played extended time without Jose Vidro, now Nick Johnson. There still appear to be a lot of problems with this team, but somehow they are still winning.
RN: The Nationals are the strangest team I have ever seen…at least to this point. This is a team that has a .574 winning percentage yet they have been outscored. It’s almost impossible to accomplish that. I believe that three teams in history have made the playoffs with negative run differentials. I believe it was the ’84 Royals, ’91 Twins, and ’97 Giants. But none of those teams had a great a winning percentage. It’s hard to do. That makes me pessimistic about the Nationals’ future. Then again, that division isn’t all that good except for maybe the Braves. If the Nationals hang on, it would be a great story for sure.
BDD: When you go to the NL Central, it’s the Cardinals and everyone else again. This is a team that cooled off a little, but they still played very well without Rolen. Now Rolen is back. The Cubs have strung some wins together, and the Brewers are improving, but nobody really seems that close to St. Louis.
RN: I agree. I think the Cardinals would try to make some moves at the trade deadline to enhance their post-season chances. They’re scoring a lot or runs again. Their pitching is good…about what it was like last year. This team seems to be a carbon copy of last year. They added Mark Mulder, but he has been good, not great. But again, they’re just scoring a ton of runs. I don’t see the Cubs or anyone else being a threat to the Cardinals.
BDD: In the NL West, on the other hand, we see three teams beating each other up, and nobody is playing particularly well. The Padres have Peavy and Eaton and that should keep them in contention all season. As for the Diamondbacks, are they just pretenders in this race?
RN: Oh the Diamondbacks are just a huge fluke. We talked about the Nationals being outscored, the Diamondbacks have been outscored by 70+ runs. They’ve just given up a ton of runs, and their offense is ok, but it’s not that good. It’s a miracle they have the record they have. Arizona is probably a team that will finish in 3rd place unless Barry Bonds comes back in August and plays everyday for the Giants down the stretch.
BDD: Speaking of Bonds, do you have any sense that he’ll be back this season?
RN: My prediction back in May was that he’d come back in August, and from what I’ve heard that seems possible. However, even if he does come back this season, I don’t think he’ll be a difference maker for the Giants.
BDD: If Barry does come back, do you think he’s coming back just to break the home run record or does he really want to try to help the Giants win?
RN: I don’t think I ever want to try to get inside Barry Bonds’ head. I have no idea why he’d want to come back other than the fact that he’s a baseball player and that’s what he’s done for the majority of his life. If you’re Barry Bonds, you play because you love playing. Even if you don’t enjoy playing the game on a conscious level, it becomes part of who you are. It’s your identity.
BDD: Well that pretty much wraps things up. Thank you again Rob for going around the league with us. We look forward to speaking with you again as the pennant races heat up.
RN: No problem. It’s been my pleasure.
Well if there’s anything we learned from this past weekend, it’s that nobody seems interested in taking control of the AL East. Just when the Red Sox have a chance to bury the Yankees a bit, Clement, Schilling, and Wakefield go out and get hammered. And with the Yankees and Red Sox beating up each other on the east coast, you’d think the Orioles would be able to make up some ground out west against the lowly Mariners. Sorry Baltimore fans, no can do.
Meanwhile, over in the National League, Chris Carpenter is finally making a believer out of me. I admit, I was one of those who didn’t agree with Tony LaRussa’s decision to start Carpenter in the All-Star game over the likes of Roger Clemens and maybe even Dontrelle Willis. But this guy has become a real stopper for the Cardinals.
Remember, this is someone who missed most of 2002 and all of 2003 with shoulder problems. Granted, Carpenter was a highly touted prospect going back to his days in Toronto, but he never quite lived up to his potential in six seasons with the Blue Jays.
Now, at the age of 30, Carpenter has not only resurrected his career, he’s blossomed into one of the elite starters in the Major Leagues. He’s back averaging nearly seven innings a game, and his fastball is consistently reaching the mid 90s. He’s using his size (6’6", 230 lbs.) and strength to generate power and limit opposing hitters to a mere .218 batting average. Carpenter’s walk to strikeout ratio is phenomenal (33 BBs/137 Ks) and get these numbers…since June 1st…64 2/3 IP, 36 Hits, 11 Walks, 68 Ks, 5 ERs!
Over his last 8 starts, he has allowed more than one run just once (3 on June 8). And in his last 6 starts, he’s allowed just 2 RUNS in 51 2/3 IP!!! During that span he recorded 3 shutouts and one near shutout (8 2/3 scoreless innings).
It seems as though Chris Carpenter just keeps getting better. Pretty scary if you think about it.