Moving a top-notch reliever into the starting rotation is neither a new nor a particularly unusual idea. The Indians and Orioles experimented with moving Hoyt Wilhelm into a starting role in 1958, which culminated in a nationally televised no-hitter. Bill Lee and Wilbur Wood began their major league careers as relievers; Goose Gossage received a one-year trial as a starter; Rick Aguilera logged 89 career starts. Derek Lowe, of course, made a successful conversion last year, which may have helped assuage any misgivings on the parts of Bowden and Garagiola.
What’s interesting about this year’s guinea pigs is that Graves and Kim are radically different pitchers. Both were born in the Far East and allow very few home runs; that’s where the similarities end. Graves, statistically speaking, is a finesse pitcher–perhaps the most successful finesse closer since the beloved Dan Quisenberry. Kim is a fire-and-brimstone submariner, striking out a quarter of the batters he faces, sometimes at the cost of allowing others too many free passes.
I’m really having some problems with the story that 16 White Sox players were preparing to “fail” a random steroid test in order to make testing mandatory in Major League Baseball through 2005. First, the players being able to organize some form of protest makes me wonder about the “random” portion; and the idea of a small group of players going strongly against the negotiated position of their union bothers me even further. I’m on record as being against the current drug testing policy, but in this case, I’m unsure that the ends justify the means. In a number of phone calls today, I’m hearing hints that there’s much, much more to the story than just the issue of steroids. I don’t mean to tease, but in potential minefield stories, I want to make sure the facts are correct, double-checked, and that the story is well told. One of the main advantages of coming to BP was that when situations occur where something is out of my wheelhouse, we have someone in almost every area that can step up and do a great job.
The Reds and A’s have a roster crunch of quality arms. Casey Kotchman, James Loney, and Justin Huber will be back sooner or later. And the Devil Rays are a copy editor’s worst nightmare.
Joe Sheehan checks in from Arizona with in-depth looks at the Rangers, Giants, Angels and Padres, with special shoutouts to Ken Phelps All-Stars Jermaine Clark and Mario Valdez.
In the first part of this survey, BP authors were asked to comment about the game off the field–labor, economics and the Expos. The final survey question asked our respondents to take the Bud Selig Prediction Test.
The new Hall of Fame Veterans Committee didn’t elect anyone this year, despite having a number of excellent candidates in Ron Santo, Minnie Minoso, and the always-controversial Dick Allen. Because of this, it’s likely that the rules will be tweaked in the future, lowering the threshold for induction. Never mind the fact that the Hall of Fame has much bigger problems on its hands, small induction classes mean small revenue for the folks in Cooperstown, New York. The more serious issues will have to wait.
And the serious issues I’m referring to? How about the fact that the Hall of Fame needs to tweak its electorate as well as its rules in the future? Comments by some of the voters have made it clear that the Hall of Fame would be better served by new voters.
Brad Kullman enters his 14th season in baseball and his first as Assistant General Manager of the Cincinnati Reds after an off-season promotion. While the Reds stand to dramatically boost their revenue stream with the opening of Great American Ballpark, Kullman hopes to boost his stock as a future GM candidate working alongside General Manager Jim Bowden. Kullman recently chatted with BP about his love for the four-man rotation, the Reds’ proprietary defensive rating system, and the challenges of outsmarting the competition.
As a political animal, I usually find myself on the side of the libertarians. As such, the debate surrounding the ban of ephedra had me on both sides of the argument quickly. While my stated position that ephedra and other performance enhancing drugs–effective or ineffective, legal or illegal–has no place in baseball or any sport, I also know that the market should be free to the utmost extent and that ban or not, players will likely use a substance anyway. Watching “Fear Factor” tonight, I saw not one, but two ads for products–Stacker 2 and Hydroxycut–that are suddenly promoting themselves as “ephedra-free.” This brings up two points: that the market will move from one product to another as quickly as possible when there are widely perceived negatives that could impact sales, and that as fast as we ban one product, another similar product will pop up in its place. As satisfying as it might be for MLB to drop a ban on ephedra at all levels and as good a PR move as it might be, in the end, it probably won’t solve anything. Education, in my opinion, remains our best hope.
The good news is that Tony Womack is healthy!
The better news is that this team is really just two men and that their effectiveness almost completely determines the course of the Diamondbacks season. As much as pitch counts, inning workloads, and almost every other measure of pitcher abuse wants to push Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling to the shelf, they continue to dominate. Given a modicum of support, these two will put up incredible numbers, and there’s no reason to believe that either will collapse. The yellow lights are up there to remind you that at some point, all good things come to an end. One or both might have a spectacular flameout and, like the Red Sox in 2001, a team built around pitching can collapse quickly. Schilling had a slight loss in both velocity and effectiveness at the end of 2002. Surprisingly, he admitted he was tired, but blamed it on a weight increase rather than workload. Schilling looked great in Nashville this winter when he met up with UTK. If anything, the fade late last year might force Bob Brenly to back off a bit. Backing off however might not be possible if the D-Backs hope to return to the playoffs.
Jeff Austin’s journey from high draft pick to Don Gullett experiment. Bruce Chen tries to remember which two teams he hasn’t pitched for yet. Brian Lawrence can now afford that new hammer he’s been eyeing. And Dave Nilsson gets a hearty Chris Kahrl “good on ya, mate.”
That I was wrong just brings the real issue into sharper focus: I’m not
supposed to be making these judgments. Don’t get me wrong, I know baseball. I
played the game, and just about every variant of it, for many years, and I
watch as much of the game as anybody you’ll find. (Just ask Sophia.) But my
talent isn’t in observing, and when I let my eyes make decisions for me, I end
up doing silly things like projecting the A’s to finish behind the Rangers and