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September 23, 2005

Prospectus Matchups

From the Headlines

by Jim Baker

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On playing with "distractions"...

One of the story lines that sportswriters and editors seem to love most is the outstanding performance by a player or players who have something else on their minds. If I had a dollar and a quarter for every sports report I read that harped on the personal angst of the participants and how they managed to rise above it to prevail I would probably have enough money to buy this car.

OK, it's not a great car and that's not a significant amount of money but never let it be said that I exaggerate.

In any case, I'm pretty sick of hearing and reading these distraction stories. With that in mind, I'm going to throw a theory out there and see what you think of it: in times of personal distraction, the athletic pursuit itself becomes the distraction from the distraction and, therefore, the athlete actually performs better because of it.

In other words, actually playing the game is a welcome relief from having to deal with whatever it is (hurricane, death in family, etcetera) that is causing concern. I know from personal experience that during the most stressful time of my life I did some of my best work. Why? Because, for those few hours every day I could shut out the bull%*!& and concentrate on what I loved doing. I don't think it's any different for professional athletes. I believe the games are a welcome respite from whatever stress it is they're confronting.

On Ozzie Guillen's impending departure in the event of a World Championship...

You have probably read that White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen has stated he might retire should the fading White Sox go all the way this year. This would truncate his managerial career at just two seasons. According to the Associated Press, he is denying this statement is a motivational tool used to rally his troops. Before we judge Ozzie Guillen too harshly, ask yourself this: what inane things would you say if your team was on the verge of blowing a 15-game lead? I'd come up with some doozies, too, if I were in his shoes:

"If we win it all…:

  • "…I will exhume the corpses of the 1919 Black Sox and have their remains incorporated into our World Series rings."

  • "…I will be naked at the victory parade. In fact, I'm going to get naked right now and stay that way until we clinch. Who's with me, boys?"

  • "…I will take all liquids through my nose."

  • "…no more walking for me. I will dance everywhere I go. No dance in particular, just a kind of bastardized Twyla Tharp thing. Who's with me, boys?"

On the Marlins' Thursday night lineup...

The Marlins went into Thursday night's game against the Mets in desperate need of a win to stay viable in the National League wild card race. Facing Pedro Martinez, they put forth a lineup so problematic that manager Jack McKeon saw fit to bat the pitcher seventh. Dontrelle Willis is one of the better-hitting pitchers on the planet. Not including Mike Hampton, who had a .278 EqA when injuries finished his season after only 29 plate appearances, here are the top EqAs among pitchers with 50 or more trips to the plate:

.276 - Jason Marquis, St. Louis
.259 - Carlos Zambrano, Chicago Cubs
.247 - Noah Lowry, San Francisco
.246 - Brandon Backe, Houston
.216 - Dontrelle Willis, Florida

McKeon used RBI as his rationale for batting Willis seventh, but EqA would have worked, too. Joe Dillon is a 30-year old rookie who, before last night's game, had been to the plate 24 times as a big leaguer and singled three times, walked once and hit a solo home run. Number nine hitter Robert Andino had been to the plate one fewer time and had the same number of hits, three of which were doubles. Their early career EqAs stood at .172 and .212 respectively. It's not that McKeon did what he did, it was that he was in a position where it doesn't look all that crazy that is troubling for a team chasing the postseason. Given the depressed nature of the seasons of regulars Juan Pierre and Mike Lowell, the perennial late season fade of Paul LoDuca and the absence of Miguel Cabrera from the lineup, this could have been a very bad night for the Marlins.

Instead, Martinez didn't bring his A-game (one strikeout--lowest total of the year) and the Mets, for the 21st time since drubbing the Diamondbacks 14-1 and 18-4 in late August, scored under five runs in a game. (They've managed to do so just five times in 26 tries since then.)

It's all academic, though. The Marlins season may well have ended on Tuesday night when first baseman Carlos Delgado was not hugging the line in the 12th inning and Mike Jacobs ripped one over the bag to win it for New York. With a runner on second, though, a single through the 3-4 hole probably would have won it as well, so the hell with hindsight.

On conspiracy thinking...

Here's a tidbit of evidence for you conspiracy theorists out there. Looking at the men who hit 50 home runs in a season, the ones who did so before 1994 averaged 27.9 years of age while the ones who have done so since averaged 30.7 years of age. Considering that the major league careers of even the best players average under 20 years, that's a fairly significant gap. What are we to conclude from this? Do I even have to say it? (One note: if the cutoff date is moved to 1991--the year in which Cecil Fielder became the first man in 14 years to hit 50--the numbers change slightly to 30.5:28.0. You can debate on which side of the timeline Fielder belongs, but I think we all agree he came by his homerin' heft naturally.)

On Kate Moss vs. Rafael Palmeiro...

Are we supposed to be shocked that Kate Moss is a powder monkey?

(Sing with me: "I got a freaky old lady name of Cocaine Katie she embroiders all my jeans/I got my old, gray-haired daddy, driving my limousine…") The woman has the body of a Little Leaguer whose parents send him to bed without supper six nights a week--what did we expect? There's a good deal of hypocrisy on the part of the companies that are canceling her endorsements, though. They wanted a scrawny spokesmodel for their product and that's what they got--no questions asked as to how she maintained her rib-exposing existence. (While we're on that subject, can the fashion industry finally get over its obsession with skeletal display units for their wares? Real women do not and should not want to look that way and real men like women with some curve to 'em. So, essentially, the medical-school-skellington look is one that impresses nobody except, unfortunately, the adolescent girls who go to any means necessary to achieve it.)

I am not condoning Moss's drug use, but let's say this about her: she took full responsibility for her actions. Let's compare and contrast that with Rafael Palmeiro who is in such deep denial about his own situation that the next thing you know, he's going to deny he was ever even a baseball player in the first place. His latest dodge is to say that he was given steroids by teammate Miguel Tejada in the guise of B-12. ESPNews reports Tejada is dismissing this as ridiculous.

Of course, there appears to be some pretty damaging photographic evidence against Moss--evidence that does not exist in the Palmeiro case--so denial is not an option for her. Palmeiro's reputation was already pretty well shot anyway, so why not do the noble thing and take a teammate down with him?

Once you've lied to Congress, it gets easier.

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