The Newark Star Ledger reported Feb. 10 that George Zoffinger, the CEO of the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority, recently met with senior officials of MLB to discuss the possibility of bringing a franchise to the Xanadu/Meadowlands Sports Complex. Xanadu, which is a planned 4.76 million-square-foot family entertainment, office and hotel complex to be built at the Meadowlands Sports Complex, also calls for the redevelopment of Continental Airlines Arena (current home of the N.J. Nets and N.J. Devils) and is a joint venture between affiliates of Mills Corporation and Mack-Cali.
The idea of Major League Baseball in New Jersey is not a new one. A long-time hotbed of International League and Negro National League action, the Brooklyn Dodgers relocated a total of 15 games to Jersey City’s Roosevelt Stadium in 1956 and 1957 as part of an effort to motivate New York City to give ground in difficult negotiations for a new Brooklyn ball park. The state has flirted with the Yankees for the past 20 years. In 1987 New Jersey was finally poised to redevelop the Meadowlands for baseball when voters soundly rejected the notion, a typical action for a state that pulls in so many directions at once that it’s a wonder that it doesn’t tear along the Pennsylvania border and sail down the Delaware into the Atlantic Ocean.
I was reminded of the game Go when the Red Sox and Yankees got into again over who’s the worst evil. John Henry, who made his fortune trading stocks and commodities on the free market, argued in favor of market restrictions to restrain his rival, while Steinbrenner fired back standard Boss comments. I was thinking of a shicho, where one side, trapped, continues to spend resources as they race towards the edge of the board, where they’re caught and lose everything they expended, and everyone else watches them chase. Curt Schilling to Alex Rodriguez…Jose Vidro next? Then what, Alfonso Soriano to Boston? Can these two teams run up on $600 million in combined payroll before spring training’s out? How would Bud Selig pocket all that revenue-sharing money? Will he have to buy a new coat?
The Astros keep running the same core out there every year, and it just keeps getting older and further from its glory days. This team is starting to remind me of the mid-1990s Orioles or recent-vintage Mets, where the defense was going to hell in a handbasket, the offense was declining, and no one was coming through the system to help. I thought this Astros team was done two years ago, but they keep adding past-prime players in an effort to hang on, and to the extent that “hanging on” is a goal, they’re accomplishing it.
It’s a funny game, though. Larry Dierker managed the Astros to four division titles in five years and was forced out. Jimy Williams inherited basically the same roster, managed it to consecutive second-place, playoff-free seasons, and keeps his job.
Baseball, like life, is not a meritocracy.
Enough setup; here’s what PECOTA has for the 2004 Astros.
In our introduction to the Baseball Prospectus Basics series we wrote, “We always want to improve our understanding of the game–each player, each play, each pitch, each throw, each hit–what does it really mean?” We have a storehouse of data to help us refine our understanding of how baseball really works and how it can be improved. We have a team of performance analysts who help us see things we might have never perceived on our own. But the unrefined essentials of what we use are harvested from the box scores you and I read every morning from April through October.
The title of this essay is misleading: there is no correct way to read a box score. Roto gamers approach a box score like it’s a greatest hits record. Retrosheet’s patrons dust each stroke of agate as if it was an artifact. You pay for the morning paper, you get to use your box scores however you wish, even as fishwrap.
Box scores now tell us nearly everything that occurs in a game. They tell us hot warm it was, the direction and speed of the wind, and how many people came out to the park. We can find out who the umpiring crew was. Baserunning blunders, substitution patterns, clutch hits, high-leverage relief appearances–it’s all in a good box score, along with groundballs, flyballs, balls, strikes, and pitch counts.
The Braves were wise to let their free agent hitters go. The Twins’ pen could stay on top even with the departure of Hawkins and Guardado. The Devil Rays have high hopes for their offense, but remain in pitching limbo. These and other news and notes in today’s Prospectus Triple Play.