The Futility Infielder
A Baseball Journal by Jay Jaffe
I'm a baseball fan living in New York City. In between long tirades about the New York Yankees and the national pastime in general, I'm a graphic designer.
Friday, June 29, 2001
George Steinbrenner's decision to start a regional sports network which would broadcast Yankees, Nets and Devils games means the end of their relationship with the Madison Square Garden (MSG) Network. The YankeeNets recently paid MSG a $30 million buyout to end their current working relationship after the season.
The crew which announces the majority of the Yankees games thus finds itself in limbo. Jim Kaat and Ken Singleton are the A-team, with Al Trautwig and Suzyn Waldman in the support roles. Kaat and Singleton are a fine duo--I much prefer them to Fox's Yankee team of Tim McCarver and Bobby Murcer. Whereas McCarver can't resist acting as the know-it-all, and Murcer vacillates between demonstrating his mastery of the obvious and simply being a blatant homer, Kaat & Singleton are a smooth, even-keeled, knowledgable duo. Whereas Fox's blaring production gets old real fast even in the most exciting of ballgames, MSG's low-key approach is perfect for the long haul of a season.
It would be a shame to lose the duo. But Kaat says the MSG team's not succumbing to lame-duck thinking. "I tried to condition myself just as I would if I was still a player," Kaat says in this NY Daily News article. "When you hear trade rumors, and things like that, the only thing I can control is what I do on the field. That's kind of the way I feel in the booth."
Kaat says that being the voice of the Yankees is the best local gig in the majors. Here's hoping he and his partner get to keep that gig on the Boss's new channel.
Thursday, June 28, 2001
I made the mistake of checking the headlines before bed, and the news for the Yankees does not look good. The NY Times and other outlets are reporting that the Yanks are seriously considering trading Chuck Knoblauch to the Seattle Mariners for Al Martin and Brett Tomko, and signing former Yankee outfielder Gerald Williams, recently released by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, the worst team in baseball.
Friends, if ever we need evidence that the end of the Yankees reign as World Champions is nigh, it will be in the transaction lines that seal these deals. While Tomko would be a decent addition to the pitching staff, the moves will leave the moribund Yankee offense with even worse prospects, and go against the tenet around which the Yankee dynamo has been built: get on base.
career OBP 2001 OBP career SLG*OBP 2001 SLG*OBP
Chuck Knoblauch .384 .342 .159 .115
Al Martin .340 .305 .153 .105
Gerald Williams .306 .261 .128 .087
Slugging Percentage times On Base Percentage is a very crude stat I discussed a few days back
; roughly speaking, it translates as runs created per at bat. Knoblauch has struggled this season, but even at his worst he is miles better than the competition at getting on base. If the Yanks plug one of these two cadavers in the leadoff spot, I will personally turn in my membership in the Joe Torre Is A Managerial Genius club card while the Yankee offense dies on the vine.
Gerald Williams hit 21 HR and drove in 89 runs for the last-place Rays last season. But he got on base at only a .312 clip and was as big a reason why the Rays remained the most pathetic offense in the league. He was released earlier this week because he was 66 plate appearances short of vesting a $4 million contract for 2002, and because the Rays seem to have caught on to his incompetence. Williams's agent made some hysterical noises about the release being unjustified, but anybody who analyzes Williams's stats can't help but conclude he's dragging an offense down.
Al Martin's claim to big league fame is that he was arrested for bigamy. As Chevy Chase says, that's illegal, even in Utah. Martin's having a hard time getting arrested on a ballfield lately, to the tune of a 648 OPS. He's a horrible LF as well, certainly no better than Knoblauch, who at least has the excuse of never playing out there before.
Knoblauch's baggage, along with an unconfirmed but long-rumored handshake deal for 2 years at $9 million per, is probably a driving force behind the Seattle deal. It doesn't help that he's in the midst of a 38-for-192 slump (.198). Tomko is a servicable swingman, having shown flashes of competence as a starter but much more consistency as a reliever (4.82 ERA as a starter, 3.64 as a reliever coming into this season). Ostensibly, he would fill the role Ramiro Mendoza doesn't seem capable of filling since coming back from surgery.
For the Yankees, losing Knoblauch at the top of the lineup would be the end of an era. He has never measured up to the player the Yanks thought they were getting from Minnesota in 1997, but his style of taking pitches and getting on base by any means necessary--including taking a pitch in the elbow--particularly in the midst of a rally, have earned him a spot near and dear to my heart. He's the Lil' Bastard Instant Rally Kit, as we say around here. The Yanks could move Derek Jeter to the leadoff spot--he's fared very well there in the past--or could elevate Alfonso Soriano. A month ago this move would have been laughable, as Soriano drew only 3 walks in his first 50 games. But Soriano has started to draw walks and cut down on his strikeouts. His OBP for June is .372, and he and Knoblauch have been swapping the league lead in stolen bases. It would be a huge risk given his lack of established ability to get on base, but the Yanks have already banked a considerable portion of their future on him, and they may believe he's turned a corner.
Still, these moves do not bode well for the Yankee offense, unless Torre can take At-Bats from some of the stiffs in the Yankee lineup. 200 plate appearances by Gerald Williams will not solve their problems, it will doom them.
Site Admin Notes
This past weekend I sent out an email marking the official launch of this site. I've been building it for two and a half months and updating this web log almost daily for about 3 weeks, but I resisted the temptation to tell EVERYBODY about it until certain issues were solved. Unfortunately, some glitches occurred in sending it out (less than half of the people in my ad hoc "focus group" reported receiving the launch letter), so last night I sent it again; apologies if this bothered anyone.
And apparently more glitches are happening; I've been told that emails to me at firstname.lastname@example.org
have been bouncing occasionally. If that happens to you, please email me at email@example.com
Both the home page and the web log page have a small graphic which links to a counter service
that compiles stats about how many people are visiting my site.
I have visits to two brand-new ballparks scheduled in the next month. The first is the new ballpark in Brooklyn, home of the Class A Brooklyn Cyclones farm team. My friend Lille went to Opening Night on Monday and had a great time. She says the new park is pretty impressive. Also on my schedule is a trip to Milwaukee which will include a game at Miller Park, courtesy of my girlfriend's parents (thank you!). I'm looking forward to seeing both of these and reporting back.
Wednesday, June 27, 2001
Pittsburgh Pirates manager Lloyd McClendon, who may have the worst job in baseball, got in an argument last night over a close play at first base. Routine enough, but after McClendon blew a gasket, he then pulled the first base bag out of the ground
and stormed off the field with it. The umps ejected him and the grounds crew supplied a replacement bag before the game continued. There's a streaming video from this page; McClendon's hilarious antics are about a minute and a half in.
I recall reading about Earl Weaver, Baltimore's great spitfire manager, doing a similar thing when he was managing in the minors. This is the first I've heard of a manager doing it in the majors though.
Bob Klapisch reports here that the Yankees turned down a deal for Kansas City outfielder Jermaine Dye. Desperate for a bat to prop up the Yanks sagging offense, GM Brian Cashman nevertheless deemed the price--second baseman Alfonso Soriano and AAA first baseman Nick Johnson--too steep.
The Yankees have won the World Series each of Brian Cashman's three years in the GM chair. Leaving aside for the moment the fact that other members of the Yankee brass have a significant input into his job, the fact that Cashman doesn't have a contract beyond this year speaks volumes about what it's like to work for The Man from Tampa. Still, Cashman refused to pull the trigger on a deal that has ramifications he may not be around to see.
"[N]o matter what happens to me, I don't want to be remembered as the Yankee general manager who sold the future of the franchise down the river, just for the sake of one more championship," says Cashman.
Privately, according to Klapisch, the Yanks brass has acknowledged that 2001 is a transitional year. Next year, shed of Paul O'Neill and Tino Martinez, and probably others, the future is brighter. But it is probably premature to expect the Infield of Tomorrow--Nick Johnson, Soriano, Derek Jeter, and Drew Henson--to be in place by next Opening Day. Still, the Yanks have a strong home-grown nucleus to build around.
Neither Cashman nor Manager Joe Torre have contracts yet for next year. Even if the Yanks don't win it all this year, both of them have track records and commitments to the long-term health of the organization which should be rewarded with extensions. Not to mention the fact that both have lasted longer and held up better under the strains of working for the Boss than anybody ever thought possible. Now that the Man from Tampa has wrapped up his TV plans, he should take care of these fine leaders.
Sunday, June 24, 2001
Sometimes it appears that managers have taken the information revealed by the sabermetric revolution to heart. Falling pitch counts
are one area, the increased emphasis in On Base Percentage is another.
But there's one area in particular where the statistical evidence points towards exactly the opposite of what most managers seem to do. And it's something that often costs them the ballgame. I'm talking about the tendency of a manager to let a tiring pitcher start off an inning in which he will be pulled if he gets into trouble.
First off there's the pitch count issue; the current working theory is that pitches beyond a certain threshold (say, 120 pitches) are more likely to lead to ineffectiveness and injury. That's a topic for another day, however.
In Bill James's 1987 Baseball Abstract, James reported on research done by Gary Skoog with regards to how many runs a team would score based on a certain situation (i.e., runner on first, one out). Here is that matrix:
Expected number of runs 0 outs 1 out 2 outs
no one on 0.454 0.249 0.095
runner on first 0.783 0.478 0.209
runner on second 1.068 0.699 0.348
runner on third 1.277 0.897 0.382
runners on first & second 1.380 0.888 0.457
runners on first & third 1.639 1.088 0.494
runners on second & third 1.946 1.371 0.661
bases loaded 2.254 1.546 0.798
What these numbers mean is that at the start of 1000 innings (0 on, 0 out), teams can be expected to score 454 runs. With a runner on first and no outs, that expectation rises to 783 runs per 1000 innings; with one out and nobody on, that expectation falls to 249 runs per 1000 innings.
The difference between those two states (runner on first, 0 out and no runner, 1 out) is greater than the expectation of runs at the start of the inning. The leadoff batter is THE MOST IMPORTANT BATTER. When he gets on, teams score runs--at LEAST three times as many runs as if the first batter makes an out.
So why in the HELL would a manager risk letting his (tiring) pitcher screw up the start of an inning? I'm sure it has something to do with instilling confidence in your starters (blah, blah, blah), wanting to save your bullpen (blah, blah, blah), or some bullshit along those lines. But unless your only relief options have been soaking in kerosene or are named Bobby Ayala
, this tendency strikes me as an incredibly backward way of thinking.
I realize the limitations of this matrix. Since these are averages, certain situations, such as having Rey Ordoñez leading off your inning (lower run expectancy at 0,0) or Barry Bonds (much, much higher), might dictate a change in strategy. Managers might also choose their pitcher here based on the platoon advantage (righty pitching to righty), but that advantage is only on the order of 20-25 points of batting average. And then there's the disadvantage of bringing in a reliever with men on base: pitching from the stretch, limited pitch selection, wild pitches... so much more can go wrong with a man on base.
I didn't watch Yankees game today, but Ted Lilly's pitch count was nearing 120 as he went back out for the 8th inning. He had a 4-1 lead, and had pitched a good ballgame, striking out 9 batters and allowing only 5 hits. Joe Torre had any number of options to get two innings out of the bullpen, including one of the best closers in the biz, Mariano Rivera. Rivera and setup man Mike Stanton have been overworked, but even if Torre didn't want to use them, he should have put his pen in the best situation possible to finish the game. And that means starting with a clean slate at the beginning of an inning.
Lilly allowed a double to Steve Cox and was done for the day. With the number of pitches he'd thrown, he wasn't going to throw a complete game, so why the hell was he still out there? Brian Boehringer came in, allowed a double and a walk before yielding to Stanton, who, with the roof on fire added just a little more Ronsonol, and when the ashes settled the Yanks were down 5-4.
It's easy to sit here and second-guess an individual set of decisions a manager makes. That's not my intention; Joe Torre has won four more World Championships than I have, and he's a fine manager. But he, and dozens of other managers I've watched since I first read Bill James, keep making this mistake, and it drives me crazy.
[Somebody whose site I discovered ('Rhoids Baseball, whatever the heck that is) in searching for the above table has updated the data based on more current run scoring tendencies. Here is the revised table
. The current values of 0 on, 0 out (0.58), runner on 1st, 0 out (0.98), and 1 out, 0 on (0.31) are all higher, but their ratios are similar enough that they don't change my argument.]
Friday, June 22, 2001
USA Today writer Steve Gardner chooses the best player ever to wear uniform numbers 1-50. One could quibble with his choices (mine starts with the lack of a 56 to award Jim Bouton
), but it's a fun little list.
So long as Gardner filled out spots with managers, he should have at least mentioned the only man I ever think of wearing #1: Billy Martin
, five-time ex-Yankee manager, who's probably running a great ballclub down in Hell right now.
Ray Ratto's columns for ESPN have made him one of my favorite writers. His satire tends to be wittier and less ham-fisted than many of the other ESPN writers (Jim Caple, I'm looking in your direction). This piece on Jose Canseco isn't satire, though.
Canseco's ups and downs since his salad days with the Oakland A's have made him an easy target every time he goes on the DL or switches teams. Road rage, 'roids, and that awful haircut are usually the first places to start. But rather than roasting Canseco, Ratto cuts to the heart of his appeal: "[S]ome folks are just naturally gifted enough to convince others that their gifts can still be mined... All he needs is to get untracked, to find the swing that launched a lot of pitchers' next careers. At least that's the theory the White Sox are clinging to..."
There is something incredibly magnetic about Canseco, like Darryl Strawberry before he reached the Last Straw phase. Both were humbled by health difficulties and the consequences of their arrogance. Both went down to the minor leagues to prove that they still had the ability, on a good day, to hit a baseball further than most of us can even dream about. Both have the charisma to make you believe in them again, even when the rational part of your brain tells you otherwise.
It remains to be seen whether Canseco can do for his new team, the Chicago White Sox, what Darryl did while wearing pinstripes (emphasis on wearing, please). For what it's worth, Canseco did manage to get a hell of a lot more out of his talent than the Straw--his failure to get into the Hall of Fame would set a new benchmark for the most homers without enshrinement (he surpassed Dave Kingman's 442 last season, and is holding at 446). And his life is nowhere near as tragic as Darryl's, a lesson I'm sure is not lost on the man after his tour of duty with the Yankees.
So, cheers to Jose Canseco if he can hit a few more big flies without getting a swollen head. And cheers to Ratto for taking a thoughtful high road when the low one would have been so easy.
Thursday, June 21, 2001
This is a good one. It wasn't enough for two Cincinnati Reds coaches, Ron Oester and Tim Foli (both scrappers in their playing days), to go at it after a loss. They took their fighting back to the schoolyard. Oester "had Foli in a headlock and Foli bit Oester on the leg," according to the article. Now Foli can truthfully tell manager Bob Boone that he has bad taste in 3rd Base Coaches.
Oester, it may be recalled, turned down the job as Reds' manager because the Cincinnati organization lowballed him. Oddly enough, he did agree to stay on as a coach, presumably drawing even less salary. Boone, desperate to prove once again that he could over-manage, took the job. But he wasn't even allowed to choose his own coaches, except for Foli. It always amazes me how penny-pinching teams would rather suffer through their own incompence of their own staff decisions rather than firing a guy and paying him NOT to do his job.
Oester wasn't even the first guy to turn the job down because the money stank; Yanks coach Willie Randolph was. Randolph's gotta be smiling right about now...
Wednesday, June 20, 2001
Salon's Allen Barra weighs in with an interesting piece on Barry Bonds. As we all know, Barry is well ahead of Mark McGwire's 1998 home run pace, having tallied 37 home runs (unless he's hit another since I had my morning coffee) in 70 games. But Barra proposes that Bonds may be on his way to the best season ever, based not on home runs but on another stat.
Barra uses a stat called SLOB, which is Slugging Percentage times On Base Percentage. He details the history of the stat, which was independently developed by two researchers in the '70s. Then he goes on to claim that SLOB "does a remarkable job of calculating actual team runs". So remarkable, to Barra at least, that he moves straight to an assertion that Bonds' SLOB of .4418 means, roughly speaking, that he has "created" .4418 runs per at bat, or 44.18 per 100 at bats.
Whoa, hoss! Let's back up. Over the past two decades, many statistical ways to accurately measure offensive contribution have sprung up. The best of these do a very good job of projecting how many runs a team will score based on certain offensive factors, such as hits, walks, and total bases.
Bill James devised a formula called Runs Created
which is probably the most famous, thanks to James's role as a pioneering sabermetrician (sabermetrics, an acronym derived from the Society for American Baseball Research, is, in James's definition, the search for objective knowledge about baseball). Other formulas include Pete Palmer's Batting Runs, Paul Johnson's Estimated Runs Produced
, Jim Furtado's Extrapolated Runs
, Clay Davenport's Equivalent Runs
, and Keith Woolner's Value Over Replacement Player
Some of these are formulas are easier to understand than others. I've always been partial to James' system for a number of reasons: they are easy to calculate, their methods demonstrate an implicit understanding of the mechanics of offense (getting on base and advancing runners). James's published work always took the time to clarify the details of his methods. But the recent work in the field seems to have moved past James's formula, and even the man himself conceded the limitations of his work.
SLOB actually turns out to be something of a shorthand of James' formula; when you multiply SLG * OBP * AB (the number of at bats) you get a pretty decent estimate of the number of runs a team will score. Looking at the two leagues last season:
SLOB Runs Actual Error
2000 AL 12039 11995 3.6%
2000 NL 12958 12976 1.7%
1999 AL 11798 11725 6.2%
1999 NL 12983 12966 1.3%
As I have a day job which I'm supposed to be doing right now, I'm not going to take this much further except to say that it works pretty damn well for a lazy person to calculate on a lunch break. It's not the most accurate estimate, just a very easy one to deal with, and it also meshes very well with another stat growing in popularity, OPS, which is OBP + SLG. OPS has entered the mainstream thanks to the work of writers such as ESPN's Rob Neyer. It's a handy metric, but this appears to be even better and no more complicated.
So anyway, Barry Bonds, at .4418, is right now second only to Babe Ruth's 1920 season, at .4506. The only other person besides the Babe whose SLOB is in the ballpark is Ted Williams, with .4049 in 1941. That's some pretty good company—the two greatest hitters ever, in fact. It's not likely Bonds can maintain his pace, in which he's hit almost twice as many home runs as singles, but he's got a clear shot at a season for the ages.
The Yankees' tentative deal with the Montreal Expos for reliever Ugueth Urbina has fallen through, based upon the failure both of Urbina and Yankees prospect Brandon Knight to pass physical exams.
The deal would have brought the Yankees some much-needed relief help, at the expense of a pitching prospect they've already given up on once (Knight) and an infielder only a year-and-a-half removed from breaking a bone in his neck (D'Angelo Jiminez). Jimenez is a legitimate prospect, with better plate discipline than current Yankee rookie Alfonso Soriano but less speed. Had he not been injured, in a car accident, "The Dangler" (as a friend of mine calls him) would have started the 2000 season on the Yankee roster.
It's tough to get too heartbroken about the deal falling through. Urbina was once a top closer in the National League, but he's recovering from two elbow surgeries for bone chips, has performed unspectacularly (0-1, 4.45 ERA, 9 saves), and still can't pitch back-to-back days. Additionally, his agent reported that Urbina would be less than thrilled with accepting a setup role (excuse us, Oogie, but they don't call it the World Series just so they can invite Canada). Help like that isn't too tough to live without.
It's worth noting that Urbina's salary of $4.2 million is considerably more than the Yankees would have had to pay Jeff Nelson ($3 mil). Nelson, the Yanks' top right-handed setup man the past three seasons, signed with Seattle as a free agent after a fine season which nevertheless featured a series of high-profile spats (or what passes for them in today's Bronx Petting Zoo) with Joe Torre and George Steinbrenner. If the balance of power in a league can swing around a setup man, this may be the case; Nelson has bolstered an already strong Seattle bullpen on a team whose torrid start threatens the 1998 Yankees pace, while the Yankees have overused Mike Stanton and Mariano Rivera while watching a parade of lesser lights (Carlos "Extra Crispy" Almanzar, Todd Williams, and a less-than-full-strength Ramiro Mendoza) flop in the righty setup role.
This article reports that the Yanks are trying to move 1B Tino Martinez, who is almost literally on the eve of becoming a 10-5 player and thus able to veto a trade. Martinez is in the midst of a 15-for-103 slump, but the market for underproducing 1Bs isn't too robust these days, and Nick Johnson
, Tino's heir apparent, still needs some AAA seasoning.
So it's back to the drawing board for Brian Cashman and company. Hey Brian, call Billy Beane about Jim Mecir, and while you're at it, ask about Jason Giambi...
Tuesday, June 19, 2001
With Clemens' victory over Detroit, he now leads the league in victories, with nine. And since July 2 of last season, when he was activated from the disabled list, Clemens is 18-3. I can't stand Mr.-Texas-vs.-Oklahoma-Every-Fifth-Day, but there's no denying he's getting the job done. In a season where the blueprints for a dream rotation are all but crumpled in the corner waste basket, Clemens is the difference between the current Yankee model and a .500 ballclub. He's gutted out a fair number of wins—three of his nine victories and seven of his 14 starts
don't qualify as Quality Starts (three or fewer runs in six or more innings).
The ability to win without one's best stuff is the mark of a great pitcher. Clemens, much as I dislike him, is pitching like one. He's the winningest pitcher on my favorite team, and on my first-place ESPN Fantasy League team
. (Sigh) I guess I'm going to have to learn to live with him.
I was a preteen baseball stat-head. I actually read the backs of baseball cards, and learned to calculate batting averages before the concepts of fractions or long division were introduced in school. I scored the games I watched on TV, and God help me, I kept stats on simulation games that I played, from a dice game I invented to a computer game into which I programmed entire leagues.
My obsession with baseball statistics was encouraged by my father, who taught me how to decipher the morning box scores. His own active interest didn't go much beyond that, but several times, he mentioned the name of Allan Roth, the Dodgers team statistician (a definition of dream job which still falls just a notch below "major league ballplayer"). I didn't know much beyond the name, though.
As it turns out, Roth is credited with being the first modern baseball analyst. Roth was hired by Branch Rickey, the general manager of the Dodgers, in 1947. Rickey, always a good step ahead of the curve, had already invented the modern farm system and signed the ballplayer who broke the color barrier, Jackie Robinson. Rickey and Roth broke the ground for the analysis of baseball statistics. They invented the On Base Percentage and devised systems of rating ballplayers. Rickey used those findings to build his next team, the Pittsburgh Pirates, who won a championship with the foundation he laid.
But back to Roth. He kept meticulous pitch logs. He tracked individual hitters against each pitcher—a recent book
recounts how Roth just shook his head sadly when asked, as Dodgers pitcher Ralph Branca entered the game, about his matchup against the Giants'next batter, Bobby Thomson, one fateful October day. He presented his data to ballplayers as a means of improving the team. Roth is credited
with helping Sandy Koufax change his style of pitching to left-handers by altering his curve ball.
is a great piece by Branch Rickey, reprinted from Life Magazine
in 1954, which demonstrates the findings of Rickey and Roth, including their formulas for On Base Average, Extra Base Power (slugging percentage minus batting average), a clutch factor (percentage of runners scored) and a good look at pitching stats on a per-nine-inning basis. Rickey outlines his blueprint for building his Pittsburgh team; concluding their ability to get on base is sufficient, he pledges to focus on raising their clutch factor through power hitting. The results may seem elementary, in light of what the world of baseball statistics has taught us, But in a day when baseball executives such as Oakland's Billy Beane are celebrated for coming around to a new way of thinking based upon the analysis of baseball stats, it is illuminating to find one of the game's all-time trailblazers led the way once again. [A good analysis of the Rickey article, written by Baseball Prospectus
's Keith Woolner a few years back, is here
is a great glossary on the definitions of baseball statistics. I'll add this to my links page when I get a chance.
Monday, June 18, 2001
The relationship between a pitcher's workload and his tendency toward injury is perhaps the most controversial area of inquiry among those who study baseball statistics. The studies haven't proven
much, but lots of blood has been spilled among researchers over the matter. The argument has been rather impassioned, primarily because of what's at stake: protecting young pitching arms from overuse and injury.
The prevailing school of thought is that throwing beyond a certain threshold in a single game increases the risk of injury. A study published in Baseball Prospectus 2001
and cited by Don Malcolm in this Baseball Primer piece suggests that above 122 pitches, there is a "moderate risk". The link between correlation and causation seems to be the bone of contention. I'm in no position to summarize the arguments here, being a late-comer to the party. But the anecdotal evidence, especially with regards to young pitchers and repeated abuse, is compelling.
Pitcher workloads, based on number of pitches per game and innings pitched per season, have been in decline for a long, long time. The rise of the relief specialist and the switch from a four-man to a five-man rotation are the two biggest factors in this trend, which results in fewer complete games and fewer innings pitched among starters. It used to be that a superstar starter completed more than half of his starts; today, even pitchers such as Pedro Martinez rarely do. And when a pitcher of his magnitude does, it's generally when he's pitched a relatively economical game.
This piece by Don Malcolm at Baseball Primer suggests that managers and other baseball folks have been taking the research that's been done in the field over the past decade or so to heart. Malcolm compares a handful of recent seasons with regards to the distribution of games of 100+, 110+, 120+ and 130+ pitches. The results indicate a steady downturn in the number of high pitch count (120+) games. In 1988, according to Malcolm's numbers, around 20% of all games fell into this category. By 1998, it was below 14%, and last season around 11%.
Malcolm also compares this season's data with the first ten weeks of the other seasons he's examining. Early in the season, pitch counts tend to be lower; managers don't extend their pitchers to the max as often. This season, high pitch counts make up just 5.7% of all games, compared with around 10% during the same portion of last season, and over 15% in 1988. Malcolm suggests that the redefined strike zone may have something to do with this dramatic decrease, and illustrates a similar one year abberation from an earlier strike-zone change season—in this case, 1963.
The Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers employed a statistician named Allan Roth from 1947 to 1964. Roth is considered to be one of the titans of baseball statistics. You've heard of On Base Percentage? That's his. Roth kept track of batter vs. pitcher breakdowns and is credited with helping Sandy Koufax to change his style of pitching based on his data. Way ahead of his time, Roth kept meticulous pitch logs of Dodgers games. More on him another time. Anyway, Malcolm summarizes Roth's data from the 1962-1964 seasons, and notes a dramatic dip in the 1963 season, when the strike zone was changed. High pitch count games went from 33% to about 26% and then back up to 34% during these three seasons (note how much higher these rates are than current ones). Malcolm proposes that this season may present a similar aberration.
Whether it is or not, there's no denying that pitch counts are definitely falling. The mere frequency of the phrase "pitch counts" on the lips of managers, players, agents, and even the mainstream baseball media shows that somebody has been paying attention. Somewhere amid the considerable amount of data is an idea whose time may have come.
Sunday, June 17, 2001
ESPN has been running a feature on the best nicknames in the major professional sports. The baseball one was mostly a hodge-podge of the obvious ("the Babe," "Hammerin' Hank," "The Spendid Splinter"). Over at Baseball Primer, folks have offered up some more obscure and inspired choices.
I thought about doing a list myself, but never got around to it. But I awoke in the middle of the night with the name Lou "The Nervous Greek" Skizas stuck in my mind—nobody else had mentioned him, so I decided it was time to put together my own list. Not all of these are players I actually saw, but some of them, once absorbed from the Baseball Encyclopedia or another source, are unforgettable.
"Oil Can"—Dennis Boyd (1982-1991)
"Three-Finger"—Mordecai Brown (1903-1916)
"Downtown"—Ollie Brown (1965-1977)
"The Louisville Slugger"—Pete Browning (1882-1894)
"The Penguin"—Ron Cey (1971-1987)
"Death to Flying Things"—Bob Ferguson (1876-1884)
"Mudcat"—Jim Grant (1958-1971)
"El Guapo"—Rich Garces (1990-present)
"Eye Chart"—Doug Gwosdz (1981-1984)
"The Human Rain Delay"—Mike Hargrove (1974-1985, manager 1991-present)
"The Mad Hungarian"—Al Hrabosky (1970-1982)
"Mr. October"—Reggie Jackson (1967-1987)
"Penitentiary Face"—Jeffrey Leonard (1977-1990)
"The Barber"—Sal Maglie (1945-1958)
"The Wild Horse of the Osage"—John "Pepper" Martin (1928-1944)
"The Crime Dog"—Fred McGriff (1986-present)
"Losing Pitcher"—Hugh Mulcahy (1935-1947)
"Stan the Man"—Stan Musial (1941-1963)
"The Only Nolan"—Edward Sylvester Nolan (1878-1885)
"The Nervous Greek"—Lou Skizas (1956-1959)
"The Human Mosquito"—Jimmy Slagle (1899-1908)
"Stan the Man Unusual"—Don Stanhouse (1972-1982)
"Jigger"—Arnold Statz (1919-1928)
"Le Grand Orange"—Daniel "Rusty" Staub (1963-1985)
"Chicken"—Fred Stanley (1969-1982)
"The Old Professor—Charles "Casey" Stengel (1912-1925, manager 1934-1965)
"Doctor Strangeglove"—Dick Stuart (1958-1969)
"Sloppy"—Hollis Thurston (1923-1933)
"The Hat"—Harry Walker (1940-1955, manager 1965-1972)
"Big Poison"—Paul Waner (1926-1945) and
"Little Poison"—Lloyd Waner (1927-1945)
"No Neck"—Walt Williams (1964-1975)
The Texas Rangers find themselves further out of first place at this point in the season than any team in the history of baseball, except the 1953 Detroit Tigers. The Rangers' record is a putrid 23-43, while the Seattle Mariners are 52-14. The cosmic beauty of this, of course, is that Alex Rodriguez shunned the Mariners in the offseason to sign a record-setting $252 million contract with the Rangers.
Pay-Rod isn't the reason the Rangers are struggling; in fact he's off to a fine start (.320, 19 HR, 57 RBI). Texas' woes can be summarized in three words: pitching, pitching, pitching. A staff ERA of 6.01, starting pitchers whose ERAs resemble Boeing airplanes, and a leaky bullpen illustrate the folly of Texas owner Tom Hicks' spending plan. The Rangers' offseason signings included graybeards such as Ken Caminiti, Andres Galarraga and Randy Velarde. Only Velarde has produced, but he's been laid up with a hamstring injury.
Washington Post columnist Thomas Boswell, in an excellent column
a few weeks ago, opined that the Rangers struggles may have done the game a favor. The lesson is that nobody is worth the kind of money Rodriguez is making, no one player is bigger than a team when it comes to fiscal sanity.
is the German word for "pleasure derived from the misfortune of others." Mariners fans, the rest of baseball is sharing that warm feeling with you right now.
Friday, June 15, 2001
This bit of news is so surreal, I can only think it's a set-up for a mob hit. Tony Muser, manager of the hapless Kansas City Royals, has been selected by Joe Torre to be one of the American League's coaches for the All-Star Game.
The Royals currently own a 25-40 record, third-worst in the American League. The two managers whose teams have done worse (Texas' Johnny Oates, and Tampa Bay's Larry Rothchild) are already toast. What's more, Muser is hardly a Felipe Alou type of manager, somebody who draws praise from his peers despite his teams' shortcomings. His career winning percentage in almost four years of managing the Royals is .428.
He is a frequent target of ESPN columnist Rob Neyer, who follows the Royals more than any sane man ought to. Writing about Muser's shortcomings back in April, Neyer noted that several good young hitters have developed on his watch, but that Muser's handling of the pitching was the real problem. "If Tony Muser and I co-managed a Rotisserie team, I would send him out for cold beverages when it came time to bid on pitchers," wrote Neyer at the time. The results (13th in the league in ERA in '98, 14th in '99, 13th in 2000 and a robust 12th as I write this) speak for themselves. But wait, there's more: "Muser's a lousy in-game tactician, too, but that only costs the Royals three or four games per season, which is paltry compared to the other stuff," wrote Neyer (the full columns are available here
. Scroll down to April 19.)
The most insight Muser has shown regarding managing a ballclub in his four years was a comment he made early in May about how the Royals weren't nasty enough to win at a big league level. "Chewing on cookies and drinking milk and praying is not going to get it done... I'd like them to go out and pound tequila rather than have cookies and milk because nobody is going to get us out of this but us." No better managing advice has been given to a losing ballclub since the Seattle Pilots' Joe Schultz told his hapless team to "pound that ol' Budweiser."
Anyway, despite his poor record, K.C. management stands behind him, which only goes to show that Muser's incompetence is symptomatic in the organization. But my point is the last person I'd think of when I think of an All-Star caliber manager is Tony Muser. I don't know what rationale Joe Torre could have used, other than Tony Muser is about to die, and this is his last request. Blindfold and cigarette, please...
Thursday, June 14, 2001
The Yankees have shuffled their roster considerably over the past week or so, in the name of strenghtening their bench. Jorge Posada's thumb injury triggered a veritable avalanche of moves, and it's a sure thing that more changes are to come.
Posada's injury necessitated the addition of a third catcher, who arrived in the person of Todd Greene. Greene was once a hot prospect for the Angels, but injuries have derailed his career. Signed by the Yankees because they offered him the opportunity to prove he could catch again, he was recalled from Columbus and had an immediate impact, with a three-run HR in his first game and three more RBI in his second.
The move apparently made Joe Oliver expendible. I have a soft spot for "Country Joe," as I call him. Amid the hip-hop and classic rock intros which introduce the players for their at-bats at Yankee Stadium, Oliver stuck out with his country music intros. But not the good kind of country; this was the contemporary Nashville stuff which sounds as if Hank Williams were never born. Still, I respected his individuality in that department. Anyway, Oliver is a savvy veteran who's been around the block, and even has a World Series ring to show for it (Cincinnati 1990, with Paul O'Neill and Lou Piniella). I was at the game on Sunday night against the Braves, where Oliver drilled a Greg Maddux pitch into the black "batter's eye" at Yankee Stadium—a rarefied zone which only 16 players have previously reached (Posada had done so the night before, coincidentally).
Now Oliver is as gone as that home run, which is, in my mind, a questionable call. Carrying three catchers gives Torre the luxury of occasionally DHing Posada, who's become one of the Yanks most productive and feared hitters. Greene has some versatility, able to play 1st and the outfield. Oliver had 10 HR and and 803 OPS last year, and he's probably a better defensive catcher than Posada. So I'm not crazy about the move.
The Yanks have jettisoned outfielders Michael Coleman, Henry Rodriguez and Robert Perez, as well. Rodriguez got exactly eight at-bats to make or break a $1.5 million contract—and they traded Glenallen Hill to give him a shot! All Hill did last year was crush a lot, 27 HR in 300 ABs. The move was merely a cosmetic one, to protect the Yanks from having the highest payroll in the game. You can't tell me they don't miss the occasional pop he brings.
Coleman was as useless as bosoms on a pitching coach—a guy who couldn't hit any breaking pitch, had no strike zone judgement (he's got a Soriano like 1:26 walk to strikeout ratio for his career), and was uncomfortable coming off the bench. Like the typical Coleman at-bat, that's three strikes right there.
The Yanks picked up outfielders Darren Bragg and Shane Spencer, and infielder Enrique Wilson. Spencer is a welcome return; he was finally hitting his stride when he tore his ACL last year. Given the struggles of O'Neill, David Justice, and Chuck Knoblauch, Spencer should get his share of at-bats if he's healthy. Bragg brings some speed, and the ability to play CF, which is enough to justify his roster spot.
The other addition to the roster is infielder Enrique Wilson. Once highly regarded as a Cleveland Indians prospect, he was stinking (.186) in oblivion (Pittsburgh). He's not yet 26, can play 2B, SS, and 3B, and he had a 767 OPS last year, so he's not a bad pickup. The move may portend bigger things; if the Yanks find it necessary to trade Alfonso Soriano to get this year's model of David Justice, Wilson is a likely candidate to step in as the regular. Don't be surprised if it happens.
On the occasion of his first managerial meeting with his mentor, Toronto Manager Buck Martinez pronounced Bobby Cox "the dominant manager of his era."
Indeed, Cox is a fine manager. Since 1991, he's led the Atlanta Braves to nine division crowns, five pennants, and one World Championship. An impressive record of success, no doubt. Of course, during that same time period, Joe Torre has trumped him with four World Championships, including two victories over Cox's teams.
Cox is great for the long haul, but his postseason record leaves much to be desired. Besides Torre, he's lost out to Tom Kelly, Cito Gaston, Jim Leyland, Bruce Bochy, and Tony LaRussa. Good managers all, yet none (okay, maybe LaRussa) hailed as the answer to Casey Stengel.
I've been doing a lot of research on Tommy Lasorda
lately, and thinking about his methods in the context of what constitutes a great manager. Lasorda's tactics were overshadowed by his personality, by and large, but one would have to say that he made his personality part of his tactics. What I mean is, when Lasorda's teams showed a weakness, he could deflect attention away from that though his own magnetism, while rallying the troops at the same time. Think of the 1988 World Series, where he won with a cleanup hitter who batted .196, among a patchwork of role players pressed into duty by injuries.
Lasorda's not alone in his force-of-personality shtick. Pepperpots like Billy Martin and Earl Weaver pulled as much or more out of less talented ballclubs and acted as lightning rods for the attention. Their teams were almost always in contention.
Cox, on the other hand, has always struck me as somewhat bloodless. I've seen the man blow up over bad calls, but I also get the sense that he's not one to resort to the kind of win-one-for-the-Gipper pep talk that a team might sometimes need. I know this may sound stupid, when we sit here analyzing statistics and tendencies, but the manager of the team sets the tone. Torre's professionalism, Martin's aggressiveness, Lasorda's B.S., whatever it takes...
Character doesn't win ballgames, but the collective attitude of a team does have an impact on how they play. The Braves seem to lack a hunger to get over the hump at critical times, and in my eyes that's a reflection of the manager. Dominance of the NL East and the National League during the course of the past decade—that I will concede to Cox. But he falls short beyond that measure.
Wednesday, June 13, 2001
A guest writer for Baseball Primer named Jonathan Daly has suggested that pitcher Mike Morgan is the Kevin Bacon of baseball. That is, he can be linked by a few degrees of separation to nearly everybody in the baseball universe.
Morgan has played for twelve different teams over twenty-one seasons, spanning four decades. Daly estimates Morgan has had close to 650 teammates, which is around 4% of all major leaguers who ever played. Each of those players has a Morgan number of 1. Daly doesn't count managers and coaches in his linking.
Here's as close as I'm ever going to get: The only foul ball I ever retrieved was at a rookie league game in Walla Walla, Washington, and was signed by catcher Bob Geren
. Geren eventually made the big leagues and was a teammate of Don Mattingly, who was a teammate of Mike Morgan. Thus, my Morgan number is 3.
Roll over, Mike Morgan, and tell Kevin Bacon the news...
Four days after failing to retire a single batter and leaving the game suffering from back spasms, David Wells pitched seven shutout innings. Okay, it was only the Cincinnati Reds. But the start affirmed that Wells is reasonably healthy, and is capable of pitching well, especially when he's got something to prove.
The win also brought the Chicago White Sox, who have won 14 of 17, to within 4 games of .500. They're still in 3rd place, 11 games behind Minnesota and 10.5 games behind Cleveland for the Wild Card. But the bleeding has apparently stopped, and Wells' performance may, paradoxically, keep him in Chicago.
Or it may just up the ante when the Red Sox or the Yankees or another contender comes calling. The price will be high—lately the Sox have been asking for three big-league-ready ballplayers. But so will the stakes. It's tough to imagine George Steinbrenner sitting on his hands while the Red Sox trade for him.
Consider these stats:
• Wells is 16-8 lifetime against the Yankees.
• He was 2-0 with a 1.23 ERA against them last year.
• In his second game against them, on September 14, he pitched eight strong innings in a game the Blue Jays won in extra innings. The loss was the first one of a 3-15 skid which closed the regular season for the Yankees. Voodoo curse, anyone?
• Wells is 28-9 with a 3.27 ERA lifetime at Yankee Stadium.
If the Yanks don't get him, and Wells helps somebody beat them, the blood of Brian Cashman will be shed. If the Yanks do get him, and they don't win, the blood of Brian Cashman will be shed. Oh, to be young and working for the Boss...
Manny Ramirez has missed Boston's last two games due to illness. Suffering from flu-like symptons, he's been taking antibiotics. And he's apparently lost weight. But when asked about his baggy uniform pants, Ramirez explained that they had been fitted for rotund reliever Rich Garces. According to the listings, "El Guapo" (the Handsome One, en Español) outweighs Ramirez by forty pounds.
Which brings up the question I'd love to ask: "Manny, how did you put on your pants today?"
Tuesday, June 12, 2001
Rob Neyer devoted a whole column to Hampton's hitting, examining it in the context of other great-hitting pitchers. The last pitcher to hit 5 in one season was Bob Gibson, in 1972. Elsewhere on ESPN.com, Jayson Stark
listed the following pitchers who've hit five or more since 1968:
Earl Wilson, 1968, 7
Ferguson Jenkins, 1971, 6
Sonny Siebert, 1971, 6
Rick Wise, 1971, 6
Bob Gibson, 1972, 5
Johnny Odom, 1969, 5
Wilson's season represented the fourth time he topped 5 HR in a season, and his 35 career HRs ranks #2 all time among pitchers to Wes Ferrell (38). Rick Wise's season included a game in which he hit two homers and threw a no-hitter. He had another two-homer game later that season.
At the other end of the spectrum, I believe Ron Herbel
is the worst-hitting pitcher of all time, with a career average of .029 (that's 6 for 206). In his first season he was 0-for-47, then 1-for-49 in his 2nd season. After that 1-for-96 start, he got hot, banging out four hit over the next two years, two of them doubles. Bob Buhl
gets an honorable mention for an 0-for-70 season in 1962, but his .089 career average was much more robust than Herbel's.
I've been fascinated by the hitting records of pitchers ever since Steve Carlton homered against the Dodgers in the 1978 NL Championship Series. The next year, Dodger rookie pitcher Rick Sutcliffe drove in 17 runs, furthering my interest in the subject. Nolan Ryan homered in his first game as a Houston Astro, against the Dodgers, in 1980. Fernando Valenzuela hit ten home runs in his career, as did J.R. Richard. Don Robinson was widely acknowledged as the best-hitting pitcher while I was growing up. In his 15 seasons, he hit .231 with 13 HRs—not exactly Babe Ruth, but good for a couple of pinch-hit chances every year.
My head is filled with this kind of stuff—it's a wonder I can remember where I parked my car. Oh, wait—I live in New York City and don't have a car. Whew...
The New York Daily News' Filip Bondy has an entertainingly hyperbolic piece on the Yankees-Expos "rivalry". According to Bondy, it started with the 1967 World's Fair in Montreal trying to outdo the previous one in New York. Bondy places Expos SS Orlando Cabrera at the center of the current conflict. Cabrera made the final out of David Cone's perfect game in 1999. But last season, he exacted some revenge by homering off of Cone, then flipping the bat towards the pitcher's mound. Bondy's satire runs until the end, when he refers to Montreal as one of the best factory outlet stores in the major leagues. Anyway...
Baseball in Montreal is in a sorry state, with the recent dismissal of longtime manager Felipe Alou, an attendance that has reached five digits only three times since the season's first series, and rumors that baseball will eliminate two teams as early as next season. Having recently visited the city and spent an afternoon in the shadow of Le Stade Olympique, the 'spos have been on my mind. The apathy with which the city views the team saddens me; I would not be surprised to find that I have more fond memories of Tim Raines' career than most Montreal residents.
The blame should be shared by (who else) the team's ownership, which seems to be playing out the string before relocating or folding, and the city's tax base, which is unwilling to fund another stadium to replace the concrete money pit that is the Big O(we).
Montreal is a historic city from a baseball standpoint. Among other things, the city was Jackie Robinson's first stop once he signed with the Dodgers, the year before he broke the color barrier in the majors. At their peak, the Expos had three Hall of Fame-caliber players, in Tim Raines, Gary Carter, and Andre Dawson. Their 1994 team, which featured Pedro Martinez, Larry Walker, and Moises Alou, had the best record in baseball when the strike pulled the plug. They couldn't afford to keep those players once their contracts came up, and the team has never been the same.
Major league baseball is a precious gift to any city. If fans don't support it in Montreal, it ain't EVER coming back. I hope for the sake of the few Expos fans in Montreal that an ownership committed to keeping the team there can be found. But I'm not optimistic.
Monday, June 11, 2001
Over at Baseball Primer, someone has done a tally of every AL and NL game from 1901 to 2000 to find out what the most common scores are. And the winner is... 3-2, beating out 4-3, 2-1 and 5-4.
Sounds like some demented SportsCenter parody now that I read that back. We'll have highlights on Baseball Tonight immediately following this show...
When pitcher Mike Hampton signed with the Colorado Rockies, many people wondered aloud whether he would fall victim to the rarefied air of the Mile High city. They were partially correct: the home runs have been soaring out, but they're off of Hampton's bat. He slugged his fifth of the season yesterday. That's five more than Ken Griffey, Jr. That's more than the regular first basemen of the Mets (Todd Zeile) and the Braves (Rico Brogna) combined. Forget the Rey Ordoñez jokes, that's as many as Derek Jeter has.
Hampton's a great athlete, and even before this season was considered an exceptional hitter for a pitcher (his last three seasons: .262, .311, and .274). But this power surge is unprecedented for him, as he had never homered coming into the season. At this point it wouldn't be surprising to see Hampton drawing the occasional pinch-hit duty when he's not pitching.
Like any complete ballplayer, Hampton has been working on his clichés to go along with his performance. "I'm seeing the ball right now, that's about as far as I can go," Hampton said. "I just hit the ball good and got it over the fence." And those pants, Mike, how do you put them on?
Here's a little chart:
AB HR RBI AVG OBP SLG OPS
Hampton 37 5 10 .297 .297 .703 1000
Zeile 219 2 27 .274 .357 .361 718
Brogna 146 2 14 .267 .327 .363 690
Ordoñez 183 0 18 .224 .273 .295 568
Griffey 12 0 0 .000 .200 .000 200
Maybe the Mets should have re-signed him after all. I'd pinch-hit him for Ordoñez on any day ending in "y".
Sunday, June 10, 2001
Here's an interesting piece on where Randy Johnson fits in among today's elite pitchers. What's more interesting than the result, to me, is the methodology, because it's a useful one to compare any group of pitchers.
Today we hear a lot of talk about how great Pedro Martinez is. And it's true--the man is a great pitcher, and his dominance relative to the conditions of the time is virtually unprecedented. His ERA is less than half of the league's ERA. Last year he won the ERA title by almost two whole runs (Pedro 1.74, Roger Clemens 3.70)!
But what's missing from that analysis is some perspective on how valuable Pedro is compared to pitchers from other eras who put up similar numbers (with respect to W-L and ERA), but who may not have been as dominant relative to the league. Sandy Koufax comes to mind, as does Lefty Grove. What they have on Pedro is that they were starting more games (in a four-man rotation rather than five), completing more games (as was the style at the time), and racking up significantly more innings.
The reason this is significant is that in weighing the value of 225 innings of Pedro against 300 innings of Koufax, you're left with the fact that some other pitcher not named Pedro Martinez has to cover those other 75 innings, and he's not going to be as good. And that needs to be considered if we're putting these pitchers in their proper contexts.
Anyway, this article focuses on comparing Randy Johnson to Sandy Koufax using a measure called Wins Above Replacement. A replacement-level pitcher, here, is one who gives up 20 percent more runs than the league average. In other words, a below-average pitcher. As great as Johnson is, he doesn't measure up to Koufax, which is no embarassment. But the article places him 3rd among active leaders in WAR, behind Clemens and Greg Maddux, but ahead of Tom Glavine and Kevin Brown. Pedro is tied for sixth, but climbing fast.
What I would like to see is a comparison between Martinez, Koufax, Grove, and perhaps a few other pitchers from other eras who sustained periods of dominance along the lines of those three (Mathewson? Maddux? Carlton?). If I had a spreadsheet I'd run it myself, and in time I probably will. For all I know, somebody over at the Baseball Prospectus has already done the work. I'll keep an eye out.
Friday, June 08, 2001
Jason Varitek broke his elbow diving for a pop foul in an 8-1 game vs. Detroit. Once again, the fullback mentality gets the best of the Red Sox.
I think I'm understanding the Sox better after the events of this week. They seem to think that by emptying the tank in June, be it milking another inning out of Pedro or going full-bore for a pop foul with the game already in hand, they can right 83 years of bad luck. In short, the Sox always seem to be pressing.
Insert your favorite quote here:
A. This ain't football, we do this every day.
B. Pennants aren't won in June. But they're often lost there.
C. If every game is life and death, you're gonna end up dead a lot of the time.
Now, permit me to enter the 7 1/2th Floor of Fenway Park...
BEING DAN DUQUETTE
"To hell with Jimy Williams. He hasn't taken our team to the playoffs in... let's see... twenty goddamned months! Holy shit. I've got to fire this guy soon. Fuck. I've got to show that drunk Bob Ryan I'm the boss around here.
"To hell with Felipe Alou. Just because he's free to manage again doesn't mean I have to hire him. Even with our Montreal connection. Even with everything those writers are saying.
"What this team needs is a manager who will come in and establish some intensity, damn it. No one will be caught not hustling. We must not let up for a minute if we're going to beat the pinstriped scourge. We need a few more ballplayers like Jason Varitek. Guys willing to risk everything for a single play. Pitchers who'll take the ball whenever they're asked to do so, no matter how bad their arm's hurt. Rod Beck types, damn it! That's the kind of intensity I need.
"Boy, I sure wish we had a guy like Butch Hobson around. That guy would run through a wall for the Boston fans. I think he did, actually. It's always third-and-long with him. Da-da-da-DA-da-DA! CHARGE!!!!
"Let's see... where's my Rolodex? Hmmmmm.... managers, managers. Billy Martin? He'd never leave the Yankees. And besides, he's dead. Fuck. Dick Williams? Last seen with his dick hanging out, and on the Yankee payroll no less. No, no, no. Earl Weaver? Too old. Too drunk. Sure would get Bob Ryan off my ass, though. Let's see... Gene Mauch? Holy shit, that's IT!!!! He's got to be due for a pennant some time..."
Thursday, June 07, 2001
Red Sox fans always seem to have one hand on the panic button, the other on a mallet to pound on that hand and make sure the button is getting pressed hard enough. Fire a manager in first place, while one of your three superstars has been on the DL all year? That's been a popular sentiment among Sox fans, who can't understand some of Williams' maneuverings. Williams' latest sin is limiting Pedro Martinez to 90 pitches on Monday night against the Yankees, a game which the bullpen ultimately blew. But given Pedro's track record for midseason breakdowns, the move was at least somewhat defensible in my mind. But hey, I'm rooting against them...
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