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June 1, 2000

From The Mailbag

Wrigley Field, Scabs, and Curt Schilling

by Baseball Prospectus

Wrigley Field

You know, you're absolutely right when you said that the Cubs should have been punished because of the lax security around the bullpen, which could have prevented the brawl. You're right the Cubs shouldn't allow their fans to get hammered beyond comprehension (maybe instituting a "No Beer after the Seventh Inning" rule at Wrigley would work). You're right that this brawl shouldn't affect a playoff race, and it would certainly suck if this became a regular occurrence at Wrigley, where fans tried to goad players into charging into the stands, to get them suspended. And you're right that the Cubs should increase security around such areas where the fans and opposing players are so close to each other and take some responsibility for what happened.

But no Dodger player should have ever gone into the stands. No matter how unruly the fans were, the players should have been professional enough to know that you should never, ever attack the paying public, especially if they just steal your baseball cap. The reason, I think, that Frank Robinson placed such high penalties on the Dodger team was because he wanted to make sure that no other player would feel the urge to start fighting with fans. It's horrible enough that players still fight on the field.

Frankly, there's a line that should never be crossed, and if a player is wearing his uniform, then he should be mature enough to complain about over-abusive fans to the right places, and not take the law into his own hands.

I do agree with you that the Cubs should have been punished, too (but not more harshly than the players), and this episode should persuade organizations to put up barriers between fans and opposing players so that fans can't abuse players, and vice versa. But no Dodger player should have ever gone into the stands.

--JL

I agree with your point about the Dodgers going into the stands, but with adequate security (skip the lame liquor policy for the moment, even if it were enforced or enforceable), the entire situation would never have occurred. The Cubs have a responsibility to ensure the security of the visiting team and they failed. Worse yet, baseball isn't holding them to their responsibility.

What really bugs me about the Cubs' situation is that they're not being penalized in the least, and yet their incompetence or indifference is what has marred the season for fans of every team in the playoff hunt this season. That's unforgivable, every bit as much as the Dodgers making the mistake of going into the stands.

--Chris Kahrl

I agree with your article about Wrigley security. The question I have is if they shut down beer sales in the seventh inning, where did all the beer that was thrown at the players come from? I can't see fans saving beer for three innings to have some in the tenth inning to throw at the players.

--AZ

That's because you don't have to buy just one beer at last call. Despite Cub claims of a liquor policy that restricts fans to two beer purchases each time they buy, you can buy as many as four without a problem, hook them up in the convenient carrying straps the Cubs graciously provide so that you can take your stash back to your seat and drink all the Old Style you can hold.

Now that we know, the Cubs' response--punishing the vendors--is even more gutless than the old baldfaced lies about their security and liquor policies, and a reflection on their unwillingness to take any responsibility for this, or to institute any real changes.

A seven-figure fine plus potentially establishing the precedent that any attack on visiting players leads to an automatic forfeit might be a necessary dose of medicine to force ballclubs to act in a responsible manner. Tough talk in a Frank Robinson memo obviously isn't going to do it.

--Chris Kahrl

Support-Neutral Win/Loss

Any idea when the SNWL updates will resume? I find them the most interesting aspect of the work you do.

--RJ

Sorry for the problem with the reports. There was a hiccup in my source for play-by-play data, and I'm still trying to recover from that. I don't know exactly when I'll be able to get the report back up to date, but I will give you a very non-specific "soon".

Rest assured I'm working on the problem; check back occasionally. Thanks very much for your interest in the reports, and for your patience with this glitch.

--Michael Wolverton

Fonzie Bichette

I realize that Dante Bichette has been the Prospectus whipping boy forever. Bichette, during his Rockies career--like every hitter in the National League who ever stepped into the batter's box at Coors Field--benefited from the altitude and the huge outfield. No argument there.

However, your comment that his inclusion on a "disappointment list" would indicate a "lack of careful analysis" actually indicates a complete absence of analysis on your part.

- Bichette's 3-year *road* BA/OBP/SLG from 1997-1999: .272/.308/.420

- His 1999 *road* stats: .287/.342/.502/

- His current stats at Cincy: .219/.285/.372

This dropoff is in fact disappointing by any measure. No one--at least no sane person--expected him to match his Coors Field stats, but a one-year 130 drop in OPS is significant.

--ES

Thanks for your note about Bichette. I stand by my original statement. First of all, I would quibble with your use of last year's road stats as the baseline for Bichette's performance. The three-year numbers that you also included were substantially lower than last year's road numbers, which leads one to suspect that last year might be abnormally high for Bichette. If you compare his numbers this year with the three-year average, it represents a drop of 071 in OPS. Now for some players--such as the Reds' other big off-season addition--this might legitimately be called a surprising drop, but there's an additional factor here, one I failed to mention. Bichette is 36 years old.

The reality is that it takes an exceptional athlete to continue performing at his previous level once he gets past his mid-30s. While it's impossible to predict exactly when a player's performance will collapse, it's inevitable that it will happen sooner or later and the odds of it happening get better with each year. While it might be foolhardy to predict in advance that it will happen in a given season, it shouldn't be a surprise when it does happen in a situation like this.

--Jeff Hildebrand

Scabs

Can you all point me to a list of replacement players? I can make guesses by way of nameless cards in Strat-O-Matic (Rick Reed, Brian Daubach, Kevin Millar et al.) but I'm also interested in minor leaguers, such as Ricky Magdaleno.

--JP

According to the MLBPA, they don't maintain a list of who scabbed and who did not in 1994/5, at either the major- or minor-league levels. They seemed perplexed by my question of how they sort out if a callup is allowed to be in the union or not, but stressed they don't have lists.

This wouldn't be the first time that I come to the conclusion that the only difference between MLB and the MLBPA is that the union has better lawyers.

--Chris Kahrl

Curt Schilling

Based on the success of Curt Schilling's rehab starts, he seemed poised to come back better than ever. He had all of his velocity back, had developed a change, and seemed to be oozing confidence. It seems that all Schilling is doing is giving up many more jacks than he ever has. Why has he struggled so?

--DS

The most likely answer to your question is that Schilling has been the victim of his manager's inability to learn a lesson. Schilling's problems last year were either caused or brought on earlier than they would have otherwise by Terry Francona's willingness to leave him out there to pitch complete game after complete game. Schilling placed 8th on our list of most abused pitchers in Baseball Prospectus 1999, and last year he was well on his way to placing higher when his injury cut his season short.

This year, in his second start back, Francona let him throw 126 pitches in a complete game against the Braves. Since then he's given up 19 runs in 22 1/3 innings while his strikeout rate is down and his walk rate is up. That looks suspiciously like the consequences of a pitcher being pushed too hard too fast.

To be fair, it is possible that the problem is more involved than that, but that high-pitch-count game is looking like the culprit at this point.

--Jeff Hildebrand

We'd love to hear your thoughts on anything baseball-related at info@baseballprospectus.com. We'll publish the best of what we get every Thursday at www.baseballprospectus.com.
Related Content:  Fans,  Dante Bichette,  The Who,  Year Of The Injury

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