Friends, winter has come. An entire set of Meetings in Nashville has been dedicated to ringing in the season. The air is cold, there is no baseball, and it is all we can do to keep ourselves occupied while trying not to be driven mad by the latest Ken Rosenthal rumor about Justin Upton, or Jon Heyman report on Zack Greinke. We are forgiven, then, for turning to food. After all, food is frequently warm, cooking it makes us busy, and it does not require the presence of baseballing men on our televisions or radios.
Which is not to say that food and baseball don't make a natural pair. A bite and a beer, both the eating and the acquiring, can ease the boredom of a slow fifth inning in a meaningless August blowout, particularly as the hot dogs in many ballparks have been supplemented by more upscale options and the available beers have expanded from the usual selection of Bud, Bud Light, Bud Lime, Bud Dark, Bud Plus, and Bud Unleaded. Still, when I say "upscale," I for the most part mean "hamburgers from Shake Shack instead of Carls Jr." As far as I know and have been able to Google, nobody's yet offering escargot in the mezzanine on the third-base side. What I would like to demonstrate for you, if you'll permit me, is that some classic dishes in French cuisine can provide a gateway to thinking about baseball and baseball players while simultaneously making you ravenous.
Do you know what bullpen coaches do? I will be honest with you: I was a baseball fan for a long time before I learned that bullpen coaches exist and are different from bullpen catchers. (They both start with "C"!) It was even later that I learned that bullpen coaches are not merely functionaries employed to answer the phone when the pitching coach gets lonely and/or bored.
Is there a better way to vote for Manager of the Year?
Manager of the Year is stupid. Manager of the Year voting is stupid. Given the former, it's not clear that the latter matters in the least, but indulge me.
Despite the language in the above paragraph, I'm not a 2002 stathead, though I certainly was once upon a time. I can't pretend today that the semi-tangible, semi-measurable aspects of managing a baseball team that fans love to talk about are the most important aspects, because it is highly likely that they are not. Computers and front-office nerds alike (hold the jokes, HOLD THE JOKES) can do an excellent job deciding when to bunt (never), when to substitute a relief pitcher (as often as possible), and how to construct a batting order (Barry Bonds leading off!), yet we've heard more in recent years about the possibility of a player-manager (Paul Konerko) than nerd-managers. (And no, Joe Maddon does not count—he was briefly paid to play the game of baseball, after all, and I'm talking about putting Paul DePodesta or Ben Lindbergh in the dugout, not an ex-minor-leaguer who happens to wear glasses and listen more carefully to his team's analytics department than most dugout men do.) This absence of nerditry would suggest that baseball teams making seven- and eight-figure bets on their personnel and leadership decisions value significantly the immeasurable side of managing that includes dealing with personalities, keeping an eye on low-level health issues, and even actual coaching. Sure, teams can be subject to biases and path-dependency just as anyone else can, and the size of the gamble doesn't mean the play isn't stupid (heyyyyy Wall Street), but we can't go off half-cocked on these teams and demand firing Dusty Baker every time he bunts, either.
Does a change of cities change a General Manager's tendencies?
Do you like sausages? Here's a look inside the sausage. I wanted to start this article by saying, "Boy, general managers sure don't move around from team to team the way players and field managers do!" I proceeded to make a list of all the current GMs who had previously held the top job with a different franchise. That list:
Fewer incumbents have won Gold Gloves the past two years. Is this a sign of a more engaged voting base?
Gold Gloves are bunk. Let's talk about them anyway.
Baseball-Reference, because it has everything under the sun, has the lists of Gold Glove winners for the American and National leagues through history. Like other pages on B-Ref, it uses shading to indicate sequences and thus gives the user at-a-glance insight into how often the award at a given position changes hands. (It's also a feature of, inter alia, team defensive lineup pages, so that a position held on lockdown all year by one player is distinguished easily from a rotating cast or platoon situation.)
Sam asked if I wanted to write a recap of Game One of the World Series and said I could edit and post it myself, too. As I sit here at work, having not seen the game and having only marginally followed along via Twitter, I agreed. Here is what happened in and around and vaguely at the same time as this game of baseball that was played between the Giants and one of the American League teams that isn't the A's:
Last week, our resident San Diegan Geoff Youngreviewed the things he'd written throughout the year as a matter of his own accountability. I think accountability is bunk, but I also think, as a weekly columnist, that it's worth looking back on the words we write when the season ends. I'm more about description than prescription, but plenty of times, even if that's your game, the thing you're describing ends up behaving much differently than it did before you started describing it. I'm fairly certain that there's no observer effect going on, but who's to say? Maybe it really was me who caused the A's to start hitting.
January 6, 2012, The Wisdom of Uncertainty This was a ProGUESTus piece in which I proclaimed that I don't know nothin' 'bout no baseball. Steven Goldman and Ben Lindbergh didn't get the message and allowed me to come aboard as a regular contributor. I've got nothing to add. Have some Operation Ivy.
Raul Ibanez is the first player in postseason history to do what he did. Many of the stories of the 11 men who did it in the regular season are nearly as nearly as fascinating.
Today is one of those days when everybody is alike. One-day-old babies and 103-year-old grandfathers can sit down and converse (well, sorta) about how neither of them has seen anything like what happened yesterday. By which I mean: no manager has ever pinch-hit for a 100-WARP future Hall-of-Famer making $31 million with a 40-year-old late-blooming pretty-good-but-not-really-memorable player and had that pinch-hitter go on to hit a game-tying homer in the bottom of the ninth and a walk-off homer in extra innings of a playoff game. This has never happened, and we should all be rejoicing. (Except Orioles fans. You're exempt.)
Is that perhaps an overly specific way of defining what happened in yesterday's Orioles-Yankees contest as regards Alex Rodriguez and Raul Ibanez? You could say that. If you're the nitpicking type. But fine, I'll broaden the question.
Max Scherzer attempts to close out the A's in Game Four of the ALDS.
Game Three was, in its most visible respects, diametrically opposed to the way Game Two went: Ryan Cook, Sean Doolittle, and Grant Balfour held a close game late rather than blowing it, and Coco Crisp made a miraculous catch, committing grand larceny on a Prince Fielder homer rather than dropping a pop-up. The result was a 2-0 win, another day of life for the A's, and a second home playoff game for the fans.