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.
The Angels, Twins, A’s and Devil Rays all earned top marks for their work last week. Which team showed up on the other end of the curve? Hint: they’re in the wild-card chase. Steven Goldman explains all this and much more about the week that was in the AL.
Vaughn should have been solid for 1911, but a number of things were working against him. Hal Chase, the gambler, was the player-manager and is presumed to have subverted many games. Vaughn missed a month with an “illness,” and didn’t pitch well when healthy. He opened 1912 the same way, and manager Harry Wolverton–the New York Americans were going through a manager a year in those days–decided to send him to Providence of the International League. Vaughn balked, saying he would refuse to report unless given a small cash bonus and part of the sale price.
This simply wasn’t done in those days. Players were expected to accept their place as chattel. The Yankees waived Vaughn and probably expected him to drift back to the minor league fringes, but Clark Griffith, now managing the Washington Senators, put in a claim and added Vaughn to his staff. Griffith still liked Vaughn’s stuff and thought that Hilltop Park, home of the Highlanders, might have worked against the pitcher. Whether that was the case or not we will never know, but Vaughn found himself in Washington and was never lost again, though it took the scouts a while to figure it out.
Winless on the week, including a three-game series against the Rockies in which they scored a grand total of six runs. The only two players who actually reported to work were the two most likely to be exiled, Randy Johnson (15 IP, 13 H, 2 R, 1 BB 20 K), and Steve Finley (.934 OPS). The rest of them played as if they were Charlie Bucket’s dad, screwing the caps onto toothpaste tubes for a living… One thing that many observers miss about the Yankees is that they are not the only team that can afford to take on salary at the deadline, but may be the only team willing. The difference is that the Yankees’ owner, answerable only to himself, may decide in a given year to take home less money by cutting into his own profit margin (and that of the junior partners, who may take home relatively little as a result). Other teams, particularly those that are components of larger corporations, may fix a profit goal for the year and stick to it at the expense of winning. Most execs of public companies are uncomfortable telling the shareholders that they lost money on the sports operation this year because they decided to gamble on winning a World Series. Thus, if the DBs chose to dump salary and other objects of refuse in New York’s general direction, there’s nothing unfair about it at all. GRADE: F
Not far over .500, if at all by the time you read this, but suddenly looking like contenders in a division that’s aimlessly drifting down the Mississippi River to the Gulf of Mexico–any day now the Detroit Tigers will be the New Orleans Beignets. Travis Hafner (.423/.467/1.077) and Victor Martinez (.379/.419/.517) make a heck of a one-two punch, and they are now joined by young Grady Sizemore, who will be the best Grady since Grady Little (not hard) and Whitman Mayo, the Grady from “Sanford & Son” (tall order). If he takes some plate appearances away from Coco Crisp and Jody Gerut, neither of whom have been the life of the party, so much the better… The bullpen is still the stuff of nightmares, with an ERA that can flirt with 6.00 if you put a couple of drinks in it. You hate to say that a team is one reliever away, because Lord knows we watched Steve Phillips and the Mets chase that chimera for enough years, but the Indians might legitimately claim that to be the case. GRADE: A