Was Jose Valverde cheating when he faced the Reds this weekend? If he was, his excuse ranks up there with the best of them.
Baseball history is full of cheaters who excelled at their craft. I'm not talking about PED users, for the most part. I'm talking about guys who scuffed baseballs, stole signs, corked bats, and threw games. And the vast majority of these men were never caught, though some, like Whitey Ford and Gaylord Perry, were happy to brag about getting away with it for decades.
But thankfully, baseball is also full of cheaters who were absolutely terrible at cheating, get caught easily, and then make terrible excuses none of us believe. It is into this latter camp, gratefully, that Jose Valverde might fall. Valverde, as most of the baseball-loving world knows by now, appeared to spit into his glove during the ninth inning against the Reds. The video was posted online, and later tweeted about by Dallas Latos, the wife of Reds pitcher Mat Latos.
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Is it too soon to write the obituary for the 2012 Oakland A's?
As an A's blogger, I've considered it a point of honor, my sacred duty, really, to avoid writing in this space about the Oaklands. At this point, though, even after a 12-1 whipping of the best team in baseball on Monday, a whipping that included Jarrod Parker carrying a no-hitter into the eighth inning, the team is so bad that I feel compelled to put my misery on display.
As I write this, in the evening on Tuesday, June 5th, the team with the 11th pick in the ongoing draft sits at 24-31, the third-worst record in the American League and the sixth-worst in baseball. That's bad, but probably not bad enough to justify an essay on a general-interest website of this caliber about their badness. The Cubs still exist, after all.
No Padre has ever hit for a cycle, but as far as interesting achievements go, they've done much better.
Carlos Quentin was playing just his second game of the season on Tuesday afternoon, in the Padres’ eventual loss to the Cubs. He doubled in the second inning, homered in the fifth, and singled in the seventh, which meant that television and radio announcers were legally bound to declare that Quentin was “a triple short of the cycle.” It’s a phrase that, while true and harmless, also (as has been notedhereindetail) has crazily misleading connotations; a hitter with a single, double and homer is a triple short of the cycle in the same way the guy playing Tevye in the community production of Fiddler on the Roof down the street is a Best Actor Oscar short of being Laurence Olivier.
In this case, though, it wasn’t just the announcers taking note of it. It was mentioned on Twitter, and for a brief period was the lead story on the front-and-center scroll at MLB’s website. That’s because in the extremely unlikely event it did happen (which, of course, it didn’t), it would have been the first time in franchise history that a Padres player had hit for the cycle.
We can learn a lot from our most difficult seasons.
Routine decisions are the easiest. I know which coffee I like best, which chair in my living room is most comfortable, and which jeans in my closet are flattering. Medium-hard decisions require more thought, but when pushed I can decide where to go for vacation and what color would look best should I decide to paint the kitchen. But the hardest decisions are the ones that have financial implications, because, let’s face it, a life without money would be incredibly difficult.
There is nothing wrong with being particular if you can afford it. Roy Oswalt can afford to be the Van Halen of baseball—with stipulations that he’ll play only for teams in a particular time zone, and that all the brown M&Ms be removed from the clubhouse bowls. Most of us, though, players and people alike, have to risk venturing into situations that might not be suitable to us so we can maintain mere subsistence, never mind repose in candy-coded splendor.
Just because he might get 3,000 hits doesn't mean voters can't put up a fight.
I like Johnny Damon. I really do. He’s been a perfectly good player, or better, for a lot of years. But as much as I like Johnny Damon, I love the Hall of Fame much more. I love the Hall of Fame even though it refuses to love me back, what with its induction of Jim Rice, its refusal to tell BBWAA voters that PEDs were far too pervasive to ban an entire generation, and its inconvenient location preventing yearly pilgrimages. I love the Hall of Fame, so I will defend it from Johnny Damon.
Johnny Damon's biggest supporter for the Hall of Fame, interestingly enough, is Johnny Damon. Damon told Tyler Kepner, "I think even if you look at my numbers now, how high I am on the runs list [33rd], how high I am on the doubles list [43rd], and you also have to take into account the ballparks that I've played in. I've played in some pretty tough ones for left-handers. If I played in Yankee Stadium my whole career, my 230 home runs turn into 300, easy.” He is also 56th all-time with 2,730 hits. Damon also makes "a case for being a clean player in our generation."
Does the success of Jake Peavy's changeup owe anything to the pitches before it?
Pitch-type linear weights are, let me say right here in the first line of this piece, not a particularly powerful tool for analysis. Hit this link if you don't know what they are, but the short of it is that they assign a run value to every pitch thrown based on whether it was a strike, a ball, an out, a single, etc. This tells you something, I suppose, but you, being a Baseball Prospectus subscriber, can probably see the issues already. They strip context of all sorts from the true act of run-prevention, ignoring the effects of defense, park, and luck. They ignore the abilities of the batters that a particular pitcher has faced. Perhaps most deadly, and yet most intriguingly, they ignore sequencing.
I might go so far as to say that a deep understanding of pitch sequencing is one of the holy grails of sabermetrics. (Will Woods called sequencing virgin territory about two years ago in these pages.) Unlike important but entirely unquantifiable aspects of baseball like a manager's motivational skills, the magic of PITCHf/x theoretically gives us powerful data from which we can work to approach these questions.
It’s been a rough, rough ride for Coghlan ever since his 2009 season, when he hit .321/.390/.460, riding a .372/.472/.523 second half right to the National League Rookie of the Year Award. In 2010, Coghlan had slipped to just .268/.335/.383 in 91 games, then hurthimselfattemptingtohitWesHelmswithapie after a walk-off win, missing the rest of the season. In 2011, he slipped even further, then in June was sent down to Triple-A, where he spent the remainder of the season, He opened 2012 with Miami, but wasn’t taking any time away from Logan Morrison, Emilio Bonifacio or Giancarlo Stanton, hitting .118/.143/.147 in just 36 plate appearances before Monday’s demotion.
If you're looking for a scapegoat for Boston's struggles, skip the manager's office.
Tensions remain high in Boston following the Red Sox’ September collapse, and the departures of Terry Francona and Theo Epstein are still fresh in mind. The Red Sox’ slow start has exacerbated the situation, leading some to condemn the easiest scapegoat: Bobby Valentine. Even if the Red Sox’ season had started on more positive footing, Valentine’s return to the dugout was going to be an uphill battle—10 years is a long time to be out of a major league clubhouse and still have credibility with players who are too young to be aware of your illustrious credentials or too old to care. But in an organization plagued by injuries, struggling pitching, an inconsistent offense, and inexplicable strokes of bad luck, the hostility Valentine has received has been disproportionate to any possible responsibility he could have had for the state of the team.
The team’s struggles have left some nostalgic for Francona, who received a standing ovation and chants of “We want Tito” at Fenway’s 100th anniversary celebration Friday. Those chants are a sure sign of lost perspective: Francona managed the 2011 Red Sox to the team’s worst start since 1945 and an unprecedented September collapse, then departed in the wake of questions regarding his ability to control the clubhouse, and reports of beer-guzzling and chicken-eating pitchers.
There's not much to be gained by ranking across generations.
I have a confession. I suppose it’s not a very juicy confession. But all the same, I feel like I need to confess that I love All-Time teams. Or, at least, I used to love them. I used to make them when I was bored in school in the backs of my notebooks. All-Time Twins. All-Time Yankees. All-Time Guys Named Mike. And I was a sucker for other people’s All-Time teams too. Babe Ruth made a team of what he thought were the greatest players in baseball history back in the 1930s and named Hal Chase and Ray Schalk to it. Walter Johnson, and Rogers Hornsby and Ty Cobb published their dream teams too. Cobb put Buck Weaver at third base, while The Big Train honored both Chase and Johnny Kling. One of my first baseball books I owned as a kid was an old library book from 1963 that listed Pie Traynor as the greatest 3B in history. I’d read any of that stuff.
Which is why I was excited to hear about Graham Womack’s All-Time Dream Project, which asked fans to vote on the greatest players in baseball history and got heavy-hitting writers like Craig Calcaterra, Josh Wilker, and Dan Szymborski to write about them. Graham’s project, which is also raising money to run journalism workshops for kids, is great. And I don’t want to take anything away from it. But in the afterglow, Craig wrote about how the results illustrated that we may be overvaluing the past, saying “We get locked into older things first, and it’s that much harder for us to appreciate more recent greatness…. I think [voters] pick Rogers Hornsby over Joe Morgan because their father said he was the best and because the pictures of him are in black and white and, boy, if that ain’t history, I don’t know what is.”
How valuable must relief innings be to justify converting a starter?
Everybody loves a conversion project, as long as "conversion project" means "turning a reliever into a starter." Why not take a closer like Neftali Feliz and, as long as he possesses the arsenal to handle the move, assign him a position that allows the team to squeeze significantly more innings from his arm? Closers come from the Rule 5 draft, from the independent leagues, and from every other possible route into the big leagues. Competent starters, though, are rare and wondrous beasts. If you have a Feliz, someone who had success as a starter in the minors, it would be folly not to at least consider the possibility of pushing him into the rotation.
For the same reasons, everybody hates "wasting" a starter in the bullpen. If Aroldis Chapman was supposed to be a starter from the day he arrived on these shores, why on earth does Dusty Baker think losing Ryan Madson to injury means that Chapman should move back into relief? Do the Astros really need Brett Myers to close when Houston might not take 25 savable leads into the ninth inning all season? We complain about this on a smaller scale, too: when Alfredo Aceves was named Boston's closer in the absence of Andrew Bailey, the thought that Aceves's multi-inning arm would be wasted in a one-frame role bugged a lot of us.
With Vladimir Guerrero pondering Japan, Bill asks who will be the baseball's final ex-Expo.
A bit less than two years ago, I noted that it had been nearly six years -- a long time, in baseball -- since the Montreal Expos had been a thing in Major League Baseball, and Iwondered who was likely to be the last active player to have worn an Expos uniform. I chose Vladimir Guerrero-- who was in the midst of a momentary resurgence--in a fit of something like nostalgia.
Well, now, in a little more than 24 hours, the team that once was les Expos will kick off its eighth season as the Washington Nationals, and it seems a good time to revisit the question: Do we have a better idea now of who will be the last Expo standing?
Kenny Williams and Teddy Ruxpin or: Why the White Sox can't have nice things.
At age 6, I had my first best friend. I do not remember why I was chosen as companion and owner of this particular Teddy Ruxpin, but he was mine. This robot-bear existed solely to read children’s stories via a tape player tucked in his stomach pouch. But it was easy for me, a wallflower with a stuffed animal obsession, to relate to the animatronic bear on a deeper level. I would rewind his cassette tape with a No. 2 pencil, surgically insert the tape into his stomach pouch, secure the Velcro, and we’d talk. He told me stories, stories I knew by heart, that six-year old me looked forward to more than most things— including, but not limited to, reruns of M*A*S*H, tee ball practice, and riding my Cabbage Patch Big Wheel.
What I do remember is a value that was instilled in me long before Mr. Ruxpin came to live with my family: Taking care of oneself and one’s possessions was of utmost importance. Caring for everything, even toys, was a reflection of something larger. It was indicative of a certain self-possession that always seemed important. Fortunately, caring for Teddy was easy.