Degree of greatness doesn't always correlate to the ability to say farewell.
This past week brought news that the greatest relief pitcher in baseball history has decided to retire following the season. Mariano Rivera broke into the major leagues with the Yankees in 1995. That season he appeared in 19 games for New York, starting 10, with an ERA of 5.51. That was the last season in his 18-year career that he started games and, other than 2007, the last in which he posted an ERA over the 3.00. He may not be a first ballot Hall of Famer, but if not it’ll be due to ridiculousness on the part of the voters.
While Rivera prepares for his graceful swan song, a coda to a certain Hall of Fame career, another all-time great is preparing for a very different postscript. This past weekend CBS’s Jon Heyman reported that Manny Ramirez signed a contract to play with the Rhinos. That would be the EDA Rhinos of Taiwan. The Rhinos play in the Chinese Professional Baseball League, which, I have been informed through a very special source COUGHwikipediaCOUGH, contains four teams. Including the Rhinos.
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Out Of Work Former Big Leaguers Auditioning in the Caribbean Winter Leagues
There are several former big leaguers playing ball in the Caribbean Winter Leagues -- some who have had just a short stint or two in the big leagues, some former All-Stars -- as they try and prove that they still have something left in the tank in order to earn at least a minor league deal with some team. Here are a few that could garner interest over the next several weeks as teams finalize their rosters before Spring Training.
Figuring out who uses or used, when and why, and what we can take from the exercise.
While looking toward the future with our comprehensive slate of current content, we'd also like to recognize our rich past by drawing upon our extensive (and mostly free) online archive of work dating back to 1997. In an effort to highlight the best of what's gone before, we'll be bringing you a weekly blast from BP's past, introducing or re-introducing you to some of the most informative and entertaining authors who have passed through our virtual halls. If you have fond recollections of a BP piece that you'd like to nominate for re-exposure to a wider audience, send us your suggestion.
Without a positive test, is it possible to say which players are most likely to be using steroids? Nate attempted one approach in the piece reprinted below, which was originally published as a "Lies, Damned Lies" column on May 7th, 2009.
How do the Hall of Fame cases of Vladimir Guerrero, Johnny Damon, and Manny Ramirez stack up?
The waning days of a great player's career are rarely pretty, but it's one thing for that career to peter out with a smattering of at-bats amid a late-season farewell tour, quite another when the sudden realization of doneness is reached early in the season, suggesting that the player has taken things a bridge too far. Perhaps because teams have grown more rational when it comes to filling out the designated hitter slot and thus willing to spend less money on aging veterans, this spring found a handful of former star outfielders scrambling for jobs. Once given the chance to see if they have anything left to offer, they struggled. In light of myriad "Is he a Hall of Famer?" questions I've received via Twitter as they pertain to these cooked players, I figured it was time to round up a few for a quick JAWS-based look.
The majority of Michael's VP list turns over this week, but he's got plenty of replacements lined up, including three who picked up their first home run of the year last week.
Statistically speaking, a single home run (like a single hit) is fairly meaningless. It’s the ultimate small sample, showing how one batter did against one pitcher (and one pitch) under one specific set of conditions. But psychologically speaking, when it’s the first home run of the season, it can mean so much more. The hitter feels confident in his swing or relieved at having gotten his first longball of the season out of the way, and it could mean a turnaround is coming. Look at Albert Pujols: in 27 plate appearances since his first jack of the season, he’s picked up 5 RBI—as many as he picked up in the 114 plate appearances before he finally went yard.
Looking ahead to baseball's most significant personal achievements.
Something peculiar happened during the most recent National Football League season: four quarterbacks threw for more than 4,900 yards. An unprecedented event given that two quarterbacks had accomplished the feat in 30 years theretofore. The increased reliance on, and perfection of, the forward pass has led to an assault on the record books, akin to the earlier offensive explosion in baseball. There are no rumblings of wrongdoing in football—at least, around these new levels of performance—but then again, there weren’t during the early phases of baseball’s offensive breakout, either. Even heading forward, don’t expect a congressional hearing, or columnists pontificating about lost innocence while urging a nation to grieve and revolt. Because, as one intrepid—and sadly, unremembered—soul put it: nobody cares about football stats.
The inverse is true of baseball statistics. Anyone reading Prospectus is no stranger to numbers, or to the countless reasons why people are attracted to baseball’s numbers. At some point the large, round numbers became in-built measuring sticks. If a player hit 500 home runs over his career he must have been one of the best sluggers in history. A player with 3,000 hits or 300 wins demonstrated the perfect equilibrium between longevity and quality throughout his career. Exceptions existed before science entered the picture, but these rules were simple—and simple sells.
Making three bold predictions for the Oakland Athletics for the 2012 season, and the introduction of the probability of nothing stupid happening.
Random processes produce many sequences that convince people that the process is not random after all. —Daniel Kahneman
With the Oakland A's struggling recently in the wake of Moneyball and its chronicling of their success despite the odds against them, a narrative suggesting that Billy Beane's strategies no longer work has evolved. The theory is that with Beane's secrets exposed to the world, he has lost the element of surprise in attempting to defeat the big boys and their big pocketbooks. Other teams have become savvier, and Beane cannot exploit market inefficiencies the way he once did because there are fewer of them.
The A's make a Moneyball move with Manny Ramirez, the Yankees round out their bench with Raul Ibanez and Eric Chavez, and the Red Sox finally get what was coming to them for Theo Epstein in Cubs reliever Chris Carpenter
The A's say there is no risk to signing Manny, but there definitely is, especially if fruit cocktail is being served.
He’s a friend of a friend of a relative that I see at family gatherings sometimes, an ex-teacher who is excessively bitter about what seem to me to be his own failings. On holidays, he plays vulture at the table. With dirt caked under his nails, he digs at the serving bowls with his fingers. If he’s before you in the serving order, you will wind up going hungry because he’s fouled the horn of plenty.
When he’s not picking at the food, he picks at his former students. In the greatest statistical anomaly in the history of man, every student he ever had was a total moron. I don’t know where he was teaching—perhaps it was the Secret Kingdom Where Everyone is the Seventh-Generation Product of Inbreeding Between Siblings, in which case maybe he had a point. Otherwise, it seems to me that he suffers from a case of blaming one’s limitations on the supposed limitations of others. It’s not that you can’t teach, but that your students are too dumb to learn.
Knowing this guy, I’m willing to give the students the benefit of the doubt.
Exploring the origins of baseball's unique moral burden, with an assist from Diderot and Jacques Barzun.
Poor baseball. These two words keep running through my mind lately, the way a line from a song gets stuck in your head. Poor baseball. Poor baseball. Oh, pity poor baseball.
It is our beast of burden. We ask the sport to do so much work for us, and when it fails, we beat it mercilessly, often until we are beating ourselves. That is because the work we ask baseball to do is moral, and the punishment for doing it poorly or not at all is severe.