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Ben, I'm enjoying your writing more and more. Thanks for emphasizing the human side of what you do.
True story told to me by a well-known figure in broadcasting. When Ethan F. was in the minors, this broadcaster was doing radio, partnered with a well-known ex-MLB player who has a reputation for clowning around in the booth. Before the game, they agreed that there would be no jokes about Ethan's last name - they figured the poor guy had gotten enough guff about it for his life and they would respect him just like they would any other player.
That worked until Ethan came up to bat, and my friend said, without a hint of jokiness, "The scouting report says Faggett likes to go the other way."
Needless to say, they couldn't find any words to say for a few minutes after that.
Let's keep in mind the fact that a player of comparable talent (Miguel Cabrera) has had repeated alcohol related incidents that could have seriously hurt his team (getting s-faced on the eve of a playoff game) or a completely innocent bystander (drunk driving and threatening cops who stop him), but he is not held up to the same standard because he has not had a "public" recovery like Hamilton. In an ideal world, Hamilton's recovery would be private, like most who are in recovery. He had a couple of drinks - he didn't start shooting up and he didn't jeopardize anyone's life. The transgression is between him and his God and his loved ones.
As a Cards fan, I'd rather have the rumored Davis or Niemann/Howell package, but Rasmus was not going to get much playing time. Getting an okay starter in Jackson, a strong left in Rzep, and a floating fourth OF in Patterson (I'm not counting Dotel, who might be worth it if he takes the mop-up role) is a good win-now strategy. I've watched Rasmus play for two years, and his "potential" doesn't seem to be as significant as his flaws (not counting what goes on between his hears or between him and Daddy Ras). K-Mac back to the pen won't hurt, either, and he probably has the "stuff" to close if the rumored Bell/Padres deal doesn't materialize (which it probably won't).
The Cardinals are a slightly better team today than they were yesterday - the bullpen is better, and that was the team's most significant weakness. Let the Jays have Daddy's Boy and his marginal star potential; the Cards have a few months to cash in on the last bit of Carpenter and prove to Pujols that they can make the in-season moves necessary to entice him to stay.
I would pay a billion nickels to listen to Vin Scully. He's performed his job for more people than any other person in broadcasting history. After 60 years behind the mike he is still relatively sharp and focused (unlike other advanced age broadcasters who become fodder for stand-up comedians looking for quick laughs). Dozens of pitchers have equalled or bettered Sutton's pitching statistics - not many, but quite a few. Scully's profile in the game is rivaled only by perhaps Red Barber and Ernie Harwell.
"Besides, the longer season argument appears to overlook one glaring benefit: a longer season. From a baseball fan’s perspective, it’s a strange argument to make that more baseball is worse."
Amen. Personally, I'd rather not have another wild card, but if it happens, it's going to mean some exciting games and series, and it's not going to ruin the game. I have no idea why some of us are so bent on having the results of the playoffs correspond with regular season records or statistical predictions. Why are we so opposed to the element of surprise or luck? And what is wrong with more baseball?
I would suggest "JaMarcus Gwybbons-on-Thames, Jr." Other than that, great article!
What this says, I think, is that Boston improved by a few games - they were already an very-good-to-excellent team marred by injuries - and that the Yankees won the second most games in baseball last year and are primed to do the same this year. What the media is reporting is "omg theo epstein is so hot and he traded for a-gon!" and "yankees suck because they are rich and ha ha no one wanted their money." Boston is the better team right now on paper, but they still have key players coming back from injuries (Ellsbury, Pedroia, Gonzalez), a rotation that played below their potential last year, and three poorly aging everyday pieces (Scutaro, Drew and Ortiz). Gonzalez instead of last year's Beltre might be a sight upgrade (long-term it's a huge upgrade), and Crawford is obviously a key addition - but there are your 6 more wins from last year.
The truth is these are two very good teams with outstanding rosters. But if you go position-by-position, there's not the dominant advantage for the Sox that the casual sportswriter or fan seems to be proposing. I think this is more a case of OVER-reporting than actually considering what might happen on the field for the duration of the season.
Gomes has made an effort to correct the record - as he should, if he was indeed misquoted (which McCoy seems to now be indicating).
Also, being nitpicky, but the correct usage of the term is "cut and dried." http://www.wsu.edu/~brians/errors/cutanddry.html
Colin, very thoughful piece. I've always stated (and no one ever argues with me) that the best baseball player ever is whoever your hero was when you were 12-13 years old. People also tend to overvalue television shows and movies from that part of their life. It's our first full appreciation of the adult world, combined with a very strong desire to define ourselves socially and develop strong opinions.
Shawn - a great article, I'd like to add a little bit of context in terms of the history of television. As a medium, television thrived on "liveness" in it's early years - literally broadcasting as many "live" events as possible, whether scripted, event-based, news, sports, etc. Part of that was technology, part of that was the legacy of the radio networks who were the early models (and operators of) the television networks. Even though that "liveness" essentially fell away in prime time, TV was something that had to be experienced in the moment, until the late 1970s when VCRs introduced the concept of time-shifting.
While the coincident growth of cable television and a multiplicity of "networks" temporarily fractured the audience, in fact people have been watching more TV than ever. The truly live events - sports and breaking news - are the only time we "need" television. In this sense, sports is following what "American Idol" and the other "live" reality shows have carved out as their niche at the top of the Nielsens. I always see a lot of "Idol" updates on my fb status page, as well as "Lost" (which, because of its unpredictable plot, has developed an audience that needs to experience the show "live" at the same time). Luckily, there have been some very exciting sporting events recently that have brought this to the fore. I'm not sure if it will mean too much during the regular season of baseball, but it definitely augurs well for the playoffs; a seven-game series in the post-season could easily surprise those who continue to dismiss baseball as irrelevant (coff sportscenter coff).
I'd add Jeff Weaver to the "Duncan Miracle" pile (and I'll remind everyone that Jason Marquis was not good enough to make the Cardinals postseason roster when he was there, and we were plenty glad to be rid of him by the end of his stint). As a Cardinals fan, I'm hoping that the Duncan mojo rubs off on Brad Penny - who will undoubtedly sign next year with a team that will pay him too much money for too many years. Viva Duncan!
Great work as usual Will, and I do hope that at some point the ethical question is explored a bit, as this is clearly "performance-enhancing" surgery. I'm not suggesting we put an asterisk on Fred McGriff's post-Lasik accomplishments, but one wonders if he would be a borderline HOF candidate if he had been only 5-6 years older. Much like Tommy John surgery, because this medical intervention has been sanctioned as acceptable, then it's unlikely to be controversial, but it's important to consider all factors when discussing the levels of performance achieved by players through medical procedures and protocols not available to players of earlier eras.
And best of luck on your procedure, my 66 year old father recently had some laser surgery done and he's been able to put away his glasses (for the most part) for the first time in his life.
Glad to see so many rational thinking people here. Until I see scientific evidence that the steroid cycle/regimen that a particular player was doing could have given him the skills to be a better baseball player - through recovering from injury, through helping build muscle mass that helps in baseball-related skills, whatever - I can't see how PED's are any more "responsible" for McGwire's numbers than the juiced ball, smaller ballparks, smaller strike zone, use of videotape, etc. Was it wrong? Yes, it was against the law. Was McGwire the only one? Clearly not. McGwire admitted to what he knew - that he did PEDs with a certain rationale, flawed as some of us may think that rationale is/was. But he doesn't not believe - nor does he have any way of knowing - how that may have altered his "real" home run totals, etc. My guess is that in 30 years, certain players will have successfully sued MLB to allow them to take low-level doses of steroids under medical supervision (or perhaps HGH) and cite credible scientific and medical evidence. Then HOF voters who "feel bad" and want to draw more attention to themselves will "revisit" the past and say "Hey, McGwire wasn't doing any more or less than Bret Boone III is allowed to do now," and they will make a big deal about getting him into the Hall when he's about 70, along with Sosa, Bonds, and Clemens.
Godspeed, Joe. Please let us know where you pop up next.
Joe - does Edgar not becoming a regular until age 27 change your perspective at all? I'm not sure why it should, exactly - maybe it adds to your argument. If he had played two mediocre years at 3B at the beginning of his career - giving him another 275 games there, and more in line w/ Molitor or Frank Thomas in terms of defensive presence - would that make him a Hall of Famer?
To be fair, James' "accusation" is very tongue-in-cheek, more a comment on how everyone assumes that a spike in home runs after an off-year "must" mean steroids. He playfully accuses Gary Gaetti in the same sentence because Gaetti "went bald and has acne."
Edgar Martinez did not "choose" to play DH. Paul Molitor is in the HOF largely because of his years as a DH (without them, he is not a HOFer), and if we play by these rules, we should revisit Dave Winfield, Reggie Jackson, etc., and take away their DH years. DH is a real position, just like relief pitcher. If he were in the NL or another era, Martinez would have simply been a poor defensive third baseman or first baseman - but how bad? We don't know. Would he have been worse than Frank Thomas, who should have been a DH for even longer? (Check out their fielding stats - Edgar had about 600 games fielding to Thomas' 900+, and Thomas cost his teams quite a bit in defense).
Thanks for the reconsideration, John. As I mentioned, I don't have a problem with "sentimental" votes on borderline players - if 3/4 of the voters have the same sentiment, well then, by gum, that's a Hall of Famer. But I intensely dislike the writers who defend their sentiment to the nth degree while not questioning their LACK of sentiment for less sexy players (not necessarily you, but the idiots who jump up and down about Jack Morris being a shoo-in while completely dismissing Blyleven, or gush over Dale Murphy while going high-and-mighty on McGwire). You're clearly open-minded enough to openly vote for McGwire (thank you!), and I think when you look at the numbers next year you'll see that Raines, like Blyleven, actually RAISES the standards of the Hall a bit.
Thank you John for posting your ballot and your reasoning. I, too, would ask you to reconsider Raines. Personally, I believe that voters should be allowed room for "sentimental" votes like yours for Parker (or someone else might for Mattingly or Dawson, who seem to need something sentimental to push their borderline numbers towards the "yes" vote). However, I think perhaps you and some other voters make the mistake of looking at each player individually and then not considering what the collective ballot looks like. Raines is clearly numerically superior to almost every player on the ballot, as others have pointed out, and matches up favorably with most current Hall of Famers. While I might be able to rationalize a sentimental vote or two, I'm not sure how I can rationalize the complete dismissal of Raines as a cost for that freedom.
Missed your comment re: above similar question, looking forward to that study!
Jay -- thank you for this analysis, I now have something to refer to when I hear this claptrap about momentum being "the most important factor."
What I am most curious about is the related theory that teams who clinch the pennant "early" or don't play "meaningful games" are a disadvantage than the teams who have a "tough" pennant race. I think this is more what people mean by "momentum" as opposed to recent winning percentage; teams who "have" to win games (and coincidentally do so) are somehow better equipped to handle the "pressure" of October than those who "coasted" to the post-season.
I'd be curious as to how much a team's winning percentage in "meaningless" games (where a team has either clinched or been eliminated) varies from "meaningful" games; or whether teams who play "more" meaningful games have a better record in the post-season than those who coast. The 2007 Rockies (and the present edition) are being bandied about as examples of this theory -- although for some reason no one talks about the fact that winning 21 of 22 "meaningful" and "pressure-filled games" meant absolutely zero in the World Series where the team with "all the momentum" couldn't even manage a single victory.
I agree that it's mostly something for talking heads and lead-with-their-heart fans to talk about -- and I do believe that there is a psychological factor involved, where recent success tends to relax/focus a team. But to suggest that "I'd rather be the Twins, who have had to play for their season, than the Angels, who coasted to the pennant" is ridiculous.
By far one of the best things I've read, very heartfelt and mature. Thanks for sharing this, Chris, and best wishes, Shane, I'm sure it meant a lot to Nick to have someone from home so close to him for this incredible time in his life.
This is a great recommendation, thanks. If pitch count isn't important I like Bob Carpenter's scorebook, it is very generic and has a lot of room. The Big Five scorebooks have pitch count slots, but often very cramped space.
Brewers 5/120 12/3
(with options for 2 more years at 25m per)