April 24, 2002
The Daily Prospectus
Not only can I not come up with a column idea for Wednesday, but the baseball game I'm watching for inspiration "features" the Tigers and Royals, who could make an NHL fan out of anyone. This is just bad baseball.
Of course, even a bad baseball game as its charms. The Royals' Chris George looks pretty good, changing speeds and moving the ball all over the place. He worked out of a first-and-third, no-out, third-inning jam by striking out Andres Torres and Rob Fick, and picking off Jose Macias. George looks for all the world like he's going to be a Tommy John type--he's going to get ground balls, not strike out many batters, but also not give up many home runs. These pitchers are dependent on the team around them, so look for George to do well as long as the Royals continue to emphasize defense at the expense of run scoring. I predict that he'll lead the league in hits allowed at some point during his career; in that season, he'll still be an above-average pitcher.
The Tigers look brutal. They followed up the failed rally by giving up two runs in the fourth inning thanks to some awful defense. First, Wendell Magee played a fly to left field by Mike Sweeney into a "double." Three batters later, Magee and Andres Torres played a Neifi Perez single poorly enough to allow Joe Randa to score from first base.
(By the way, are we allowed to point out that Mike Sweeney didn't come close to hustling on the play, costing himself a base? If Barry Bonds--or another player the media doesn't like--had done what Sweeney did, the play would be all over the news. Sweeney, of course, is the nice-guy-who-stayed-in-a-small-market, so he gets the kid-glove treatment.)
The Tigers' approach at the plate isn't much better. George threw just four pitches in the fourth inning, getting three ground balls. When Craig Paquette grounded out to start the fifth, it meant that three straight Tigers had grounded out on the first pitch. The Tigers are 13th in the American League in runs scored, and other than Fick--who has seen 21 pitches in three PAs--none of the them seems to have any plan at the plate. Sure, neither Bobby Higginson nor Dmitri Young is playing, but it's not like those guys are great hitters, either.
The wind in Kansas City is a big story in the game. Beginning with Sweeney's fly, four balls were hit in the next full inning that either fell for hits or were misjudged badly by the fielders. Kauffman Stadium's open construction is a factor here, I guess; so many of the new parks are closed all around (due in part to retractable roofs), so wind plays less of a factor in games.
By the way, anybody who thinks the Royals' problem is Kauffman Stadium is nuts. That is one beautiful ballpark, arguably the best one to open in the 20-odd years between Dodger Stadium and Camden Yards. I guarantee you that if the Royals put a good team on the field, they'll be among the AL leaders in attendance, and the people at the games will have very little to complain about.
You know, I take it back. There is no such thing as a bad baseball game. I think that's one of the game's charms, actually: even a game between two boring teams going absolutely nowhere has enough happening in it to make it interesting. Chris George. Steve Sparks. Rob Fick. The wind. If this is the worst baseball has to offer us, we're pretty lucky to love this game.
Joe Sheehan is an author of Baseball Prospectus. You can contact him by clicking here.