May 12, 1999
AL Central Notebook
Jeff Weaver, young Sox and whiny Royal fans
Sure, everyone's excited about Jeff Weaver, and for good reason. The right-hander has shown outstanding command of very good stuff, he doesn't get rattled and he's surviving pretty well despite dubious offensive and defensive support. But perhaps the happiest thing about his first month in in the majors has been Larry Parrish's patience with him.
Parrish has let Weaver toss 85, 88, 88, 90 and 96 pitches in his first five starts. Yes, it's a generally upward trend, but that's still remarkable. First off, it shows that Weaver's been very economical with his pitches. Secondly, the quality and the economy haven't moved Parrish to leave Weaver on the mound for more than seven innings in a game. If the Tigers are patient, and if they don't put unwarranted pressure on themselves to contend, Weaver should be in good shape for his second pass through the league.
Thanks to Keith Woolner for his research into Weaver's pitch counts.
Much is being made about the White Sox, about how young and inexperienced they are. Thanks to their excellence in the early going, the Sox pen had put up a collective 3.40 ERA through Monday. But is the Sox pen really that inexperienced? Just for fun, let's compare the ages and major league experience of the top four men in the '99 Sox pen (entering the year) to the top four men of the famed "Nasty Boys" pen for the World Champion 1990 Cincinnati Reds:
"Nasty Boys" '90 Reds
"The Kids Can Play" '99 Sox
Okay, so you can make the difference look bigger by forgetting about Tim Layana vs. Bryan Ward. Bill Simas has been around longer than most of us want to remember. Heck, I still had all my hair when he came up.
The point is this: the Sox pen isn't really that inexperienced or young, at least not compared to a famous outfit like the Nasty Boys. As far as making a qualitative comparison, well, I don't think any of us should put Simas, Foulke and Howry up with Dibble, Myers and Charlton just yet. But the Sox pen isn't that wet behind the ears, which is a good reason to believe they're not about to turn into pumpkins.
So the small-market powder-blues of the legions of Royal fans have their next target: the rulers of the AL Central roost, the Indians. John Hart's response was direct and to the point, noting that the Indians didn't get to where they are today because of the big market of the greater Cleveland metropolitan area.
I can understand his being a bit defensive on this point: a decade's worth of hard work has produced a perennial contender, a new stadium, a solid farm system and a near-miss of a World Championship. It has not produced a lucrative local television contract, a super station ("All Tribe, all the time!"), or any of the trappings of big market largesse that feather the nests of teams like the Yankees, Mets, Braves and Dodgers. And more to the point, the Indians have had the good fortune to be an organization that doesn't employ Herk Robinson, and didn't shower any of its initially-limited financial resources on people like Jeff King or Hipolito Pichardo or Kevin McReynolds.
I'm not entirely unsympathetic to what Royals fans are trying to say to the Lords of Baseball, but for every superfunded Yankees squad, there's a bloated Oriole or Angel team that has little chance at contending despite egregious wads of cash being spent on their payrolls. If Royals fans want to take issue with something, they need to take issue with how their team has been run over the past ten years. The Indians have been, and continue to be, an excellent example of how an organization should be run within the current economic system. If you go back to 1991, hey had no material advantage over the Royals when the Indians lost 105 games while the Royals went 82-80.
It's the advantages the Indians have enjoyed since then that have gotten them where they are today: the difference between an organization owned by a Dick Jacobs vs. one operated by a team of midgets since Ewing Kauffman died, and the difference between John Hart and Herk Robinson, and their respective staffs. If anything, I find that very reassuring. The differences between the Royals and the Indians today illustrate a lesson about the importance of individuals, and the power that they can exert on the future. There was not then, and there is not now, some immutable economic factor which inherently makes the Indians stronger than the Royals. The Indians have won on merit, and have stayed where they are on merit. If Royals fans are jealous, they ought to be, because the differences between the two teams have been created by the people who run them.