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April 25, 2008

Prospectus Matchups

Here's What I Think

by Jim Baker

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Dark Ages Park

Before I go on the following rant, I just want to make sure I have my facts straight. You're telling me that a couple of weeks ago, a large corporation authorized the demolition of recently completed construction to remove a piece of cloth from a non-load-bearing area of their new facility? Let me check to make sure this actually happened. OK. Now, let me check the calendar. Son of a gun, it says right here that it's 2008.

You realize what this means, right? It means we are no better at gauging cause and effect than the brother-in-law of the guy who discovered fire. We have, in spite of technological developments that might argue otherwise, no more right to the high ground of logic than the fellow whose job it was to select the proper virgin to be dumped into the volcano to appease the rumbly god therein. We might have gotten over the notion that the world is flat, but that's probably the best thing you can say about us.

Five hours with jackhammers, folks. Five hours! That's not counting the time it took to remediate the damage, either. Please don't tell me it's "all in good fun," either. Good fun is spending $50 to hire an actor to dress like a wizard and put a pretend curse on the other team. This, on the other hand, is the work of people determined to undo what they believe to be a palpable threat to the well being of their enterprise. I have to know: did the Age of Reason bypass the Bronx?

In any case, see you at the goat sacrifice.

Checking the Outrage Gauge

In last night's Nationals-Mets game, Mets catcher Raul Casanova hit a ball about as far as a body can without it leaving the yard. It traveled, with a decent arc, to the top of the wall to very deep right center field. For this mighty blow, he got to travel all of 90 feet. Why did only he get a single? Was it because he is a catcher and is, therefore, preternaturally slow? Had the ball been hit on a rope down the right field line then one could attribute the single base to speed. This thing went a far piece, though, so far that even Ernie Lombardi--perhaps the all-time poster boy for catcher slowness--could have worked it for a double.

Casanova did not stand and admire his hit like one might the black velvet portrait of Bruce Lee. Instead, he watched it fly while jogging to first, concentrating on the flight of the ball more than on the most direct path to the base or the process of simultaneously pumping arms and legs to achieve the best method of forward locomotion. He pretty much missed first base, but still would have never made second at the speed he was maintaining. The Nationals announcers joked that he would be fined by the Mets kangaroo court for his transgression.

I put to you, enlightened reader, this question: how upset should we be about something like this? Is this a crisis or a minor flaw in the national game? We understand that when Manny Ramirez does something of this nature--as he did on Opening Day in Tokyo--it is maddening, but is more than compensated for by his top-tier offensive output. We know that with the very best players, their contributions far outweigh what they cost a team with showboating or lapses of effort. We also understand that a lost base here and there can cost a team a game. When margins of error come down to tiebreakers at the end of the season, it would seem a shame to be able to point to a lack of hustle at a key moment as a dividing line between success and failure.

So, is this simply a matter for the kangaroo court, or is it indicative of a larger problem? How would you gauge your reaction to these sorts of incidents:

  • Who cares?
  • Let the peer pressure take care of it. A kangaroo court fine ought to do the trick.
  • It's a team matter. The manager and/or ownership should discipline the player.
  • It's a Major League Baseball matter. The Commissioner should review incidents of lack of hustle with great care and dish out punishment according to the degree of slackerliness.

It's Not a Slump if You Do It All the Time

David Ortiz, as we know, is off to a bad start. There's a big difference, though, between a bad start and a disturbing trend. Ortiz is coming off his best ever EqA in 2007 (.352). While it's unrealistic to expect him to match it, rebounding to something near his career average of .312 is not. There are a couple of other players, though, whose rough starts in 2008 are coming on the heels of down seasons in 2007. I'm thinking primarily of Andruw Jones (.195 EqA after .259 in 2007), Travis Hafner (.246 after a 50-point drop last year) and Carlos Delgado (.210 after 35 points below career average last year). This isn't to say they're all on the permanent downside--although I happen to think they are--it's just something to ponder when looking at brand name players who haven't come out of the gate well. All bad starts are not created equally.

Multi-Stretch Follow-up

In an Unfiltered post earlier this week, I discussed some of the responses I got to my query about the history of games with multiple stretch breaks. I put a wider query to find out if we could find proof of any 14th- or 21st-inning stretches going back past the mid-1970s. Nobody bested Brian Smith's recollection of the May 30, 1976 game in Anaheim. So, for now, that remains the earliest example on oral record. Perhaps SABR needs to form a new committee to study this further. Or, more likely, I've already given it the full attention it deserves.

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