With Opening Day less than two weeks away, the BP staff begins a series of articles, each with their own flavor, that set the scene for the upcoming season. Today, Steven Goldman exposes a vast conspiracy.
Alan Trammell did a good job of mixing parts this year, but employed a few too many one-run strategies, more than this team needed. Over 100 years into the modern game and most managers haven’t figured out what John McGraw knew in 1920, that the era of inside baseball is dead, no matter how poor your offense is. Other than in a sudden-death, ninth-inning situation, giving away outs just brings the end of the game closer. The average American Leaguer reached base 34% of the time last year, and grounded into a double-play in .022 of all at-bats. When you bunt, both percentages drop to close to zero. It’s not a fair trade off.
Current events inspire questions about the game’s history. Steven Goldman has more answers than a box of Trivial Pursuit cards.
Feverish and clogged, Steven plays the role of Roy Hobbs, climbing off the deck for a late-season contribution.
It’s not getting much attention, but Adam Dunn’s unwilling quest to shatter Bobby Bonds’ single-season record for batter strikeouts of 189 (1970) is going to be close enough that Dave Miley is going to have to think about whether he joins the wussy Jeff Torborgs and Al Pedriques of the world and actively interferes with pursuit of a milestone for no good reason. With 12 games to go, Dunn trails Bonds by 14. It will be tight, but four of the Reds’ remaining games come against Cubs flamethrowers. Prior, Wood, do your stuff, lads! GRADE: C-
When Bonds passes Aaron, if not before, there will be a rush to anoint him as the greatest something. Greatest home run hitter. Greatest actor in a non-singing part in a musical. Greatest beer and cheese combination. Greatest baseball player. This would be extremely short-sighted. To displace Ruth as the greatest ballplayer of all time, the aspirant must meet a higher standard. If the greatest baseball player is measured not just in muscles and eye-hand coordination but in his impact on sports and society as a whole, then Babe Ruth owns the title and has never lost it, never wavered in his possession of it, and never will.
Played an old-school eight games and went 5-3, though it could have been a bigger week; Pittsburgh gave them more trouble than they should have. In the three losses in Steeltown, the offense couldn’t get started, though most of the principles did well on the week. The restaurant scene in Pittsburgh is said to be lacking, that could bring a team down… In a reversal of the usual order of things, Brad Ausmus batted .368/.400/.421, but opponents were safe in five of six stolen base attempts. Happy new year, Brad! Life is (a) a bowl of cherries, (b) a beach, (c) none of the above, (d) a mixed bag at the best of times, (e) all of the above. GRADE: B-
Since it’s the Yankees, let’s play six degrees of Casey Stengel. First test: Casey Stengel to “Lord of the Rings” director Peter Jackson. Casey Stengel went to high school with William Powell. William Powell co-starred with Clark Gable in “Manhattan Melodrama,” 1934. Gable headlined “Gone with the Wind” with Vivien Leigh. Leigh was married to Sir Laurence Olivier, who was in “War Requiem” with Sean Bean. Bean was “Boromir” in Jackson’s trilogy.
In his quest to explain the Cardinals’ greatness, Steven Goldman takes a look at some of the super-teams of the past.
Some teams rage against the dying of the light. Some teams just make you want to rage. Or drink. Steven Goldman covers them all.
The American League and a classic American songwriter. If it gets better than this, Steven Goldman doesn’t want to know.
Steven Goldman, angry about being lied to, exposes the truth about Baseball Prospectus Groupies. He also takes some shots at the Diamondbacks, just because.
The Angels and Red Sox had curve-wrecking weeks, balanced out by the latest collapse by the Orioles and a heartbreaking slump by the Indians. Professor Goldman explains his grades inside.
You wouldn’t think that Doug Mientkiewicz would have something in common with Hank Aaron and Mickey Mantle. That’s why we keep Steven Goldman around.
Romping and stomping in the patented Bobby Cox second-half manner. This is no last ride of the Magnificent Seven, because there is no seven. Even the Magic Three (which, I will come right out and tell you, is an entirely relevant reference to Chinese castrati) have been scattered, with Greg Maddux hunting #300 and Tom Glavine burning in the circle of Hell reserved for fools and suicides. What there is, again, is a very successful pitching staff, now tied for the league lead in ERA. Last week the team ERA was 2.18. In seven games, they issued eight free passes and gave up just five home runs. The batters hit all of four home runs. J.D. Drew contributed almost nothing–it didn’t matter. Where do they find these people? How do they “adjust” them? It’s the Stepford Ballplayers, coming to a post-season near you. GRADE: A
When teams rush to pull off a big trade at the deadline, does it really end up helping their chances? Steven Goldman takes a look back at previous trades to sort out what the results really were. This time, the Minnesota Twins.