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Housecleaning:

  • The case for leaving history to the historians was made stronger last week
    when I botched a
    reference
    to Carlton Fisk in discussing the Hall of Fame.
    While Fisk did split with the Red Sox after 1980, he had patched up his
    differences with the organization before he was inducted in 2000, and chose a
    Red Sox cap for his plaque rather than having one foisted upon him by the
    Hall.

    I was completely wrong, and I appreciate the many readers who dropped an
    e-mail to correct my misperception.

  • Padre fans were up in arms about a comment in June
    13th’s notes column
    that implied the Pads had no legitimate All-Star. Many
    people wrote in to defend Ryan Klesko as a worthy candidate,
    backing up the argument with his stat lines from the past three seasons,
    including this one.

    They’re right. Klesko is right there in a group of players virtually tied
    for the second-best offensive performance
    by an NL first baseman this
    year, and he led NL first basemen in VORP in each of
    the last two years
    (stump your friends!). He’s been a very good player for years, underrated
    thanks to the Padres’ mediocrity and Qualcomm Stadium’s dampening effect on
    his numbers. He will make a perfectly good All-Star, and I shouldn’t have
    dismissed him so readily.

    Evaluating Klesko brings to mind one of the holes in performance evaluation:
    rating the defensive performance of first basemen. By observation and by
    acclamation, Klesko is an awful first baseman because he simply cannot handle
    imperfect throws. Other than errors, which are largely scorer’s judgment and
    often get hung on the infielder making the throw, we have no statistic that
    measures how well a first baseman makes the play on a bad toss.

    Unlike at the other six fielding positions, where the number of plays you make
    on batted balls hit in your area largely determines your defensive value,
    first basemen have to be evaluated on more than just range statistics. Most of
    their chances come on thrown balls, not batted ones, so it stands to reason
    that more of their defensive value comes from their handling of throws.

    We don’t have that data; we have anecdotal information and the assessments of
    skills analysts, but very little hard information on who does and does not
    have this skill. Worse, because of the subjective element here–we’re
    essentially choosing between the first baseman and the infielder making the
    throw for assigning blame or credit–it’s a difficult area for objective
    evaluation.

    Klesko’s bat makes him a worthy All-Star from a team with few candidates, but
    if you’re going to evaluate him as a player, you have to consider the whole
    package. Klesko has a deficiency that sharply reduces his overall value, and
    it’s hidden in an area we really can’t see well from the outside.

  • I’ve received e-mails asking if I’ll be at the Society for American
    Baseball Research convention in Denver next month. I attended last year’s
    event in Boston and had a great time.

    Sad to say, I will not be able to make it to Denver, although it means passing up a chance to meet
    a whole bunch of friends old and new, as well as take in any number of
    interesting and entertaining presentations, including what should be a
    fantastic discussion of baseball at altitude with Rany Jazayerli.

My good friend Jeff Erickson (of Rotowire
fame) is a Reds fan, the second one I’ve ever known. You don’t run into many
of those living in New York and L.A., the places I’ve spent my 30-odd
years.

The first Reds fan I ever knew, though, was my Uncle Jimmy. Married to my
mother’s sister, Uncle Jimmy was about the only person I knew growing up who
wasn’t a Yankee or Met fan; in fact, he disliked the Yankees pretty intensely.
I never did know how he came to root for Cincinnati–he favored the Bengals as
well–but it was as much a part of him as his inability to sit still (he
rocked to and fro when in a sitting position).

I saw Uncle Jimmy just about every day from when I was six until I left for
college. He, my aunt and my cousins lived in the same building as my family,
and to hear him tell it, I had a knack for showing up just around dinner time.
(He was right.) He worked for the Transit Authority for many years, retiring
in the mid-1990s at an age young enough to enjoy it. He and my aunt separated
in 1993, but he was always part of the family; I was thrilled when he traveled
to California for my wedding in 1996. The last time I saw him was the summer
of 2002, when Sophia and I made our way back east for a family vacation in the
Catskills. We even got to play some golf together that week, which was fun for
us, if a bit hard on the course.

On Friday, James McPartland Sr. succumbed to complications brought on by lung
cancer. The funny thing is, it’s like the Reds knew. I was watching them play
the Diamondbacks when I got the call, and at the time, they were up 3-0. I
made some phone calls, and by the time I got back, they were tied 3-3. They
ended up blowing a 5-4 lead in the ninth inning and losing 6-5.

Today, my family is honoring Uncle Jimmy’s life in the way he wanted: a brief
ceremony, a cremation, and then a get-together that’s less a mourning and more
a celebration. He lived; he didn’t exist, he lived, and that’s what he wants
us to do in his absence.

I won’t be there, so I’ll just add two words that I know would make him happy:

Go Reds!